Christmas: The Season of Santa and Strippers

'Tis the season to complain about the season.

Today is December 23 and I was out on the road today. The traffic was horrendous, roads were slippery, drivers seemed cranky, and I felt stressed. There are so many things to complain about during the days and weeks before Christmas, and everyone does complain, and, amazingly, we still find it fresh and new to read about how ironic it is that during this season of giving and goodwill and peace on earth, we are really at our worst.

Remember Christmas in 1983 when Coleco couldn't make enough ugly-faced Cabbage Patch Kid dolls and stupid parents loved their children so much that they would drive 95 mph all night long across multiple state lines to join a mob outside a toy store for a chance to riot in the aisles come 5:00am and bodyslam the nearest store employee/parent/grandmother-with-a-cane who dared get in the way of creating the anticipated and priceless moment under the tree when the hideous yet coveted toy would be presented to a half-interested Veruca Salt?

Ah, those were the days.

Not much has changed, but bedlam in the local Best Buy on Black Friday is not my topic today. My topic today is the Cabaret.

The Cabaret is a 24-hour strip club located along a major route just outside of Boston. And I drove by it today around 5:30pm. And the parking lot was full. Not just full—I mean FULL. There wasn't a single empty parking spot available.

What is the meaning of this, you might ask? Well, I asked myself the same thing as I passed by. My first thought was probably the same as yours: how gross, or how sad, or how pathetic must those men be.

But then I considered how many people were jamming up the roads and the on-ramps and off-ramps to the malls and how they represented the unabashed consumerism of the season. And how many people are hitting the stores at the very last minute to buy gifts, proving that the thought behind the gift counts much less than whether it's 4G or HD compatible.

Let me offer a new perspective on those contributing to the college funds of the dancers at the Cabaret. These guys are relaxing because they have either (1) finished all their shopping early, proving that they are thoughtful and deliberate gift-givers who do not procrastinate, or (2) have shunned the materialism of the holiday, proving that something much deeper and substantial than Christmas consumerism moves them (so to speak).

Perhaps we can all take a lesson from these guys. Maybe it's time to turn away from the stripmall and turn toward the stripclub to find the reason for the season. After all, there's a lot of giving going on in the Cabaret tonight, and isn't that what this time of year is all about?


Teaching Without Tazers: "More Than" vs. "Over"

Don't you hate bloggers who refer to their blogs all the time? It's really just the semi-grown-up, online version of what teenagers do. I am constantly trying to beat it out of my students--you know, this urge to continually write about their writing. I call it writing self-consciously, and I ban it in my classroom. Force of [bad] habit makes teenagers spend a lot of time writing things like this:

In this essay I am going to tell you....
As you can see from what I wrote in the previous paragraphs....
In conclusion, I think I used good evidence to show....

Dentists, last I heard, still hold the dubious honor of being the profession with the highest suicide rate; I contend that English teachers who actually read and grade student essays must be catching up. I can't see how we're not at least giving dentists a good run for that record.

The reason I bring this up is that I am about to do something that I find incomprehensibly annoying when I see it on other blogs. I am going to blog about my blog. But only for a moment, and only as a starting point for a brief yet important lesson on one of my Wild Peeves. Stick with me here; this will be pretty painless (unlike your last visit to Dr. Yankatooth). So here we go with the annoying self-conscious self-promotion:

Earlier today the Happy Dog blog hit the 1,000 page views mark!

So what? Well, besides the fact that I'm pretty stoked to get this kind of traffic after only 39 days, it also gives me an opportunity to school you in one teeny, tiny misusage that gets under my skin.

Imagine I tell you that I reached 1,000 page views.

If you liked me, you would probably say something like, “Over 1,000 page views? That's awesome.”

And if I liked you, I would probably reply something like, “Thanks. Yeah, I'm pretty stoked.”

And if I didn't like you, I would have to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “No, I don't have OVER 1,000 page views. I have MORE THAN 1,000 page views.”

It's a small, small thing, I know. And perhaps I am a small, small person for even caring about this. And I am not even going to look up what the current stance is on this by famous or wanna-be-famous grammarians. Because I don't CARE what they say. Lots of things become proper usage through incessant misusage, and I am digging in my heels against it. Therefore, on the whole OVER vs. MORE THAN issue, let me break it down for you.

In what I consider to be its purest usage, OVER should function primarily as a preposition in a prepositional phrase that shows the relationship between two things.

The horseshoe hung over the door.
(shows current relationship of horseshoe to door)
She spread the chocolate frosting over the cake.
(shows current relationship of frosting to cake)
Your mother is coming to visit over my dead body.
(shows future relationship of marriage)

Yes, you can use OVER as an adverb instead of a preposition, as in,
The smell of your cologne makes me want to keel over.
But even then, OVER is being used basically to show physical positioning and direction. Which way will I keel? Over.

When we are talking numbers, quantities, amounts, monies, I much prefer MORE THAN. That's what MORE is for: to say that there exists a greater number, quantity or amount of something. The following sentences include both OVER and MORE THAN and may be illustrative in showing how and why each serves a specific purpose:

* When Sue discovered Brian had more than one girlfriend, she beat him over the head with a frying pan.
* The thief jumped over the wall and was greeted by more than one pit bull.
* There are more than a few ways to skin a cat, but only one way to serve it: over rice.

Is all this an almost gross oversimplification? Yes, of course it is. But just like your middle school English teacher gave you only the bare bones of grammar until you shook off your teenage angst and acne, I, too, am sensitive to the demands on your time and attention. Suffice it to say that your formal writing and speaking will benefit from using MORE THAN when referring to quantities rather than using OVER, which is informal, conversational, and frankly, a bit lazy when used in those same situations.

Oh, and about the cat thing...I was just kidding, so save your hate mail. It's better over couscous.


Don't Taze Me, Bro...Teach Me!

Hypercorrection makes me hypercrazy. It seems to have reached the point where if one does NOT hypercorrect it sounds wrong. And I don't know who to blame, but I know there is plenty of blame to go around. And plenty of offenders. I have considered packing heat in the form of a tazer for the express purpose of shooting at and paralyzing all those who abuse the language at the wrong time (i.e., when I overhear it and am already in the throes of a serious chocolate withdrawl), but the cons of that plan so clearly outweigh the pros, I won't even insult your intelligence by enumerating them.

Instead, the kinder, gentler side of me—the side that lets my dog lick me on the mouth—has won out. For now at least. I have decided that instead of simply ranting and criticizing and generally freaking out over something that obviously no one cares about but me, I will instead try a more productive approach.

The new approach, unfortunately, does not involve a tazer. As much as I would love to condition the populace at large through the tried-and-true method of electroshock therapy (whose effectiveness I am convinced has been not just underrated but perhaps completely squashed as a result of elaborate conspiracies, the likes of which could only be orchestrated by the ACLU, the Tea Party, or the largely underground My-Kid-Is-Not-A-Menace-Just-Because-He-Tortures-Your-Cat-And-Keeps-Starting-Fires-In-Our-Livingroom-Society), it's not the most feasible solution. It would be fun, of course, to run around tazing grammar felons, but it's more likely to land me in court than to start a solid grassroots movement toward better speaking.

Hypercorrection is not the only problem that needs to be addressed, as you well know. The bad news is that there are far more than 31 flavors of screwing up the English language, most of which you can hear in a single walk through the mall or even after spending five minutes reading almost any blog; the correlative good news is that widespread ignorance, laziness, and the tendency for most of us to have long ago blocked out everything related to middle school English classes should provide me oodles of fodder for future posts.

Oh...I almost forgot. My new approach? Teaching. Not tazing.

Yep, I am going to provide a free and needed service. Right here on the Happy Dog blog. Feel free to leave comments here or on the Wild Peeves page to lobby for a lesson. And check back often for easy-to-understand instruction that will hardly insult you at all. Or better yet, sign up via email and get lessons right in your mailbox. I know it sounds too good to be true, but I'm good like that.


Everyone's a Critic

A few years ago I mentioned to my mom that I had this fantasy where I would sit down with a big canvas and a palette of paint and discover that I have been harboring a latent talent for creating huge, beautiful pieces of art that would grace at least the walls of my own home, inspiring guests to widen their eyes and ask where I got such a great piece and then try to contain their surprise and envy when I tell them the truth that would make them so jealous they could hardly breathe, but would finally breathe, but only to say, “Wow,” because I would be so nonchalant when I would say with a slight dismissive wave of the hand, “Oh, I painted that.”

That was the fantasy.

That Christmas, my mom sent me a bunch of painting supplies, and I sat down and, well, I guess I would have to say I painted. Technically, that's what I did. Squeezed paint onto plastic plates, mixed colors, used brushes to transfer colors onto canvas. The first piece was this curvy, abstracty design, and I kind of liked it. So I tried a companion piece, but gave up halfway through because the design was awkward and the colors reminded me of throw-up. Next I tried a flowerish picture that ended up awfully pink and girly and like something a seventh-grader would make. Only worse.

So if I'm honest, I'm not good. My husband at the time claimed to like two of them, and even though I knew he was probably just being nice, I secretly hoped his liking them meant there could be some modicum of talent there. Somewhere.

I'm not a poet. I'm not even sure I'm a writer. But I know that I'm better with words than I am with paints. And it's not like I'm completely ignorant; I am a teacher of English, after all. So I know about form and meter and sound devices and imagery—I don't even have to look up alliteration or iambic pentameter or enjambment or slant rhyme; I actually know what these are. Impressive, right?

So, when the mood hit me a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a poem. And then I wrote another one. And then I revised them. And I kind of liked them. Actually, I kind of liked them in a different way than I kind of liked the first painting I did. I felt that I had written something that, well, said something. And I was deliberate in my diction. And I was precise about stanza length and line breaks. And I paid careful attention to assonance and consonance and the connotations of the words I chose.

And a couple of people claimed to like the poems, and even though I knew they were probably just being nice, I secretly hoped that meant there could be some modicum of talent there. Somewhere.

So I posted them to a poetry workshop website. There were five levels to choose from, where the lowest level was for the very amateurish poetry and the highest was for big boy stuff ready to be published in big boy books. I read some of the poems at each level, and the reviews and criticism, and all the tips and advice for newcomers.

Level One was home to poems you find on websites where anyone can post anything. You know, the kind of crap fifteen-year-olds rattle off in their notebooks during math class about the adolescent angst they cannot name and the depths of which others can never hope to comprehend:

When you came into my life
You ended all my hurt and strife
I knew the day I met you
You would always be my Boo....

After reading enough of these to kill off as many brain cells as one loses drinking a box of wine, I made what I thought was a well-informed and justifiable decision: I submitted my poetry to Level Two.

Imagine my surprise when, approximately 30 seconds (that's 30 seconds, not minutes) later, I received an email with a canned message saying, “Hey, moron. You think you're an intermediate poet? Wrong. You were supposed to post in Level One. Get a grip, Shakespeare. You suck WAY more than you think you do. I, Mr. Moderator, was able to determine with a mere glance at your verse that you have absolutely no idea what you are doing, and furthermore, that you have a highly inflated sense of self. Did your mommy and daddy tell you to dream big and that you can be anything you want to be? An astronaut? A doctor? Even the president? Well, they lied. Because I know Level Two poets, and you, sir, are no Level Two poet.”

That's a paraphrase, of course, but accurate in terms of message and sentiment. It's been a week now, and no one has bothered to critique my poetry. I guess it's just not landing over there. So I'm working on something new, something more relevant and modern, something that will elicit the kind of high-level critique that I hope will catapult me to Level One superstardom and put me on the path to Level Two where the real poets live. I've just gotten started, but I think the beginning is strong:

When you harshed on my art
You really broke my heart
It meant a lot to me
But you said it just can't be
I didn't think I was Level One
And it sucked when you made fun
From your bullets I want to duck too
But really I just want to say....

This is all I have so far, but when I'm done, I think they're really gonna love it.


Small Sacrifices

He didn't really want to go to the party, but he had agreed weeks ago, gambling on the possibility of a tornado or earthquake or a run-in with poison ivy to save him by the time the night finally rolled around. Anyway, was it fair for her to ask him for things when she was wearing that see-through nightie and standing in the doorway with the light on behind her? She knows I'll say yes to anything when she's wearing lingerie, he thought. In fact, that's how they ended up buying a pink couch instead of the black leather one he wanted. It's why they got a lhasa apso instead of a labrador retriever. It's even why they bought the little colonial three blocks away from her mother instead of the cape two towns over where his commute to work would be five minutes on foot instead of thirty-five minutes in traffic.

Oh well, he mused. Marriage is about give and take. And he could suffer through one party with her friends. He'd certainly dragged her to enough boring work events. And she'd always dressed perfectly, smelled great, impressed his bosses and flattered their wives. She even claimed to enjoy herself, which he knew to be a lie, but a lie that he appreciated and that made him feel like less of a vampire who sucked her will to live through countless evenings spent drinking weak cocktails, listening to stories about people she didn't know, politely deflecting the barely veiled sexual innuendos of the philandering vice-president of marketing, and tolerating random colleagues even he could hardly stand.

She's a good wife, he thought. And she had said there would be beer and food at the party. Bonus. And she had promised to wear that little silky red number to bed after they got home. Double bonus.

As they turned the corner onto the cul-de-sac, he saw a few other couples parking and getting out of cars and walking up to the house. They looked relatively normal. And even if they turned out not to be, he figured he would just keep his mouth full of whatever appetizers they served, and maybe even feign a hearing loss. Oh, that's too bad, they would say, as he would apologize and twist his head awkwardly in whatever direction would make him look as uncomfortable as possible. Left ear, right ear—the bad ear would always be the one furthest from the annoying conversationalist. How did it happen, they would ask with equal parts timidity and eagerness. I don't like to talk about it, he would say, but basically it was a bar fight. Sky diving accident. Birth defect. War injury. The result of sticking hot pokers in my ears and piercing my own eardrums the last time my wife dragged me to a stupid party. Did it matter? As long as he said it with a pained look of embarrassment, any story should deter even the most curious and chatty of guests. And if it didn't work on that one lonely, clueless, socially unaware single woman who seems to haunt every party, he would pull a ballpoint pen out of his pocket and shove it in his ear right then and there in front of her and God and everyone. In fact, maybe he should do it now before he even went in. A preemptive strike against banal smalltalk.

He pulled the car up against the curb and turned off the engine. He got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, and opened the door to help his wife out of the car. She took his hand, and as she stood up, her fragrance followed her and filled his nose with vanilla and honey and that little smell of spice that he never could identify as anything other than just the smell of her. After all these years, she still made it for him. She turned to grab her purse from the car seat, and as he sneaked a peak at her rear end, he decided that she rocked a pair of tight jeans just as well now as she did back when they were first dating. She turned back around to face him, brushed something invisible off the front of his shirt, then reached her hands around his waist and pulled herself into him. Thank you for coming with me tonight, she whispered into his right ear. She pulled away just enough to brush his lips with hers on the way to his left ear where she whispered, I'll be the luckiest girl at the party.

On the way up to the house, he still shivered a little with the thought of her voice low and soft in his ears. He kept one hand gently against the small of her back, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket, grabbed the ballpoint pen, and tossed it into the street.


Come Back, Comma, Come Back

Maybe it's because the sky is a little gray today and the clouds are loitering low in the sky, too lazy to move on or to rain, but I'm feeling a bit melancholy. I tried to figure out where the empty feeling was coming from. Holidays are approaching, family is far away, my African violet is looking sickly. All kind of sad, but none responsible for that little ache inside. You know what's really bothering me? I miss the comma.

Specifically, I miss the comma that used to escort the word too into and out of a sentence, and when needed in the middle of a sentence, stand guard on both sides. He's a small thing, the comma, literally. But symbolically, he's one of the Heavy Lifters in written language—tiny but mighty. I'm tired of seeing the little guy pushed around and evicted from situations where he used to reside not only with purpose, but with dignity as well. Too deserves to be flanked on either side by the comma; a small word itself, too also pulls a heavy load, but without the commas can be glossed over, swallowed up, forgotten.

And please: spare me the whole language-is-constantly-evolving diatribe. I know it is. And I can't stop it, but I don't have to like it, and I will duct tape myself to a tree in protest of the bulldozer of linguistic laziness if necessary. In fact, my complaints about the deterioration of the English language are only just beginning, and I've got a whole list of grievances I'll be filing on behalf of the comma alone. I reserve the right to defend the comma and his other punctuation pals on a pro bono basis whenever and wherever the mood strikes. And don't even get me started on the semi-colon or the emdash; those guys have me on retainer already.

Anyway, that's the whole point of having a blog, right? I get to complain about whatever I want, and you, too, can get in on the action. Agree or disagree, at least we're talking about something that matters.


Suck it up, survivor.

I'm going to keep this short but satisfying and a bit PG-13. Prepare for a Survivorgasm.

Remember Kelly, the nursing student who was so excited about the prospecting of milking her own milk? (See previous post...she's priceless.)

Well, she had another great moment the other day. Wanting to quit because of the hunger, fatigue, and constant bad weather (um, you DID know you were signing up for 40 days in the Nicaraguan rainforest on Survivor and not Rock of Love, right?), Kelly turned to a fellow survivor for support.

Holly, the motherly type, gave her the kind of advice you'd expect: you came out here for a reason, don't be a quitter, and just suck it up. Good advice, especially considering there were only eleven days left. But maybe Kelly was missing home for reasons she didn't want to come right out and say. Her response?

“I've been sucking it up for 28 days. I have nothing left to suck.”

Kelly, Kelly, Kelly. You are blind to the opportunities all around you. The same guys who were surely disappointed they had missed out on a chance to milk your milk are the same guys who would willingly offer you something to suck. That would be one satisfying episode. Survivorgasms for everyone--not just the viewers.


Anyways, it's anyway.

If you are a true logophile, every day, on average, you
-> cringe 16.23 times
-> do a double-take 2.1 times, and
-> bite your tongue/lip/inside of your cheek or dig your fingernails into your own palm 5.5 times
...all in an effort to keep from correcting a co-worker, friend, family member or complete stranger on the grievous misuse of the English language.

One of the frequent causes of my linguistics-tics is the increasing use of the word “anyways.” It's become so common that one may believe that it is acceptable--and maybe even interchangeable--with “anyway” based on personal preference or regional dialect, a la to-MAY-to versus to-MAH-to.

And this is tough to say (because some of my very best friends are anywaysers), but I really think it's time we put a stop to this. Any is an adjective that is meant to modify a singular noun. Just because we decided to take out the space between the two words and make it an adverb (which, incidentally, still means basically “in any way or manner”) does not mean we need to continue to take unnecessary liberties with the language. From an economical point of view, we conserve type space by pushing the words together, and then screw it up by adding an extra letter. Why? I say stop it now, in any way or manner possible.

I am right about this; really, I am. But anyway, any person who has any thought that there is any problem with any piece of logic just presented should feel free to express any disapproval using any method, including leaving any comment desired below.


After the Afterward

[What I like about poetry is the economy of words. There's pressure to say more with less--never my strong suit. This is a sort of bookend to the poem “Afterward” from a previous post.]


Empty was the cold blue room

It wanted warmth so
she invited it in
and it filled the space
and pushed out the cold
with its comforting oranges
and passionate reds
and she was warmed

Too late she noticed the smoldering

Passion turned fury
painting the walls
a palette of hate
flames ate their way
up the walls of her heart
and her soul turned to ash
and scattered the floor
of the cold black room
emptier now
than before


Canadians at Closing Time

So, I'm all caught up on last season of "Jersey Shore." For those of you who have not yet discovered the thrill of a Jersey Shorgasm, let's see if I can give you a hint of what you're missing.

Nights in Miami, or Jersey, or wherever, include lots of time out dancing and fist-pumping at the club, lookin' fresh, scoping out guidos and juiceheads, avoiding grenades, and hoping to smush. As closing time at the club approaches, the guys are particularly eager to seal the deal with someone of the opposite sex, and with tequila-goggles on, start the mad dash to find girls who are DTF, or Down To (ahem) Cuddle. In case you're wondering about how to handle this almost nightly last-call crisis, Vinny says you can just go up and ask a girl if she's DTF, but if you have to ask, she probably isn't.

One night, the guys are scrambling, and Paulie D. finds a couple of chicks with fake tans, fake boobs, and fake blonde hair--the perfect trifecta and they seem pretty DTF. So Paulie D. practically runs to his buddy Mike, AKA, "The Situation," excited to tell him about his big score. Not only are the chicks coming back to the hot tub, Paulie D. announces, but they're exotic, too:

"They're from Canadia!"

No one corrects him even though he keeps saying it over and over. Even the girls from Canadia don't seem to notice until they've been in the taxi for quite a while. Maybe they didn't notice. Maybe they were trying to be polite. Maybe--in fact, probably--they were wondering if THEY had been saying it wrong all these years.

And THAT, my friends, is a Jersey Shorgasm. Go have a brownie.


Hurt People Hurt People: A Lesson My Dog Taught Me

I noticed a funny thing about my dog the other day. He's pretty small, about 19 pounds, smart, neurotic, and a typical Yorkie in every way. He's a lover, not a fighter. He will yank on his leash until he chokes himself silly just to get a little closer to anyone he thinks will pay him some positive attention. Usually he gets it, too, because he's pretty darn cute. And that's not just my opinion; everyone he approaches makes those little ooh and aah noises that are reserved almost exclusively for puppies and babies, so I know he is a likable little guy. I named him Happy, and it's a fitting name, because he seems to give some happiness to every human he meets.

But here's the thing I've noticed. If we are out walking and we pass another dog on a leash--say, a bulldog, for example--and that dog shows the slightest bit of interest in Happy but continues on its way, suddenly Happy shows a different side of himself. He lunges, he barks, he growls, and he doesn't stop. It sounds very aggressive and hostile, and the owner of the other dog usually gives us one of those sideways glances that say why-don't-you-get-your-dog-under-control-before-he-kills-someone.

But like I said, Happy is a lover--NOT a fighter. If you didn't know him, you might not believe it. But I've figured him out. He wants to make contact with that other dog SO BAD. He wants to run over and take turns sniffing butts. He wants to run around in little circles and get chased. He wants to make a new doggie friend. And he thinks he's being rejected. And dogs is dogs, you know? So when I watch the other dog being led away by Ms. Far Superior Owner of a Dog Who Would NEVER Make Such a Scene, I pay special attention to that dog. And nine times out of ten, that dog wants to run and play with Happy, too. He's just not allowed to show it or act on it. And Happy misinterprets it, he feels shunned, and he does what so many animals do--he lashes out in frustration and anger and he scares people. Inside he is whimpering and wanting attention but unsure how to ask for it; on the outside he looks like a rabid, crazy creature, good fer nothin' but a good beatin' and a puttin' down.

I get it. People do the same thing.

In Bra We Trust

Every once in a great while, I come across a cause that I think really deserves attention. Recycling, dolphins, Frankenfish, back acne...these are covered by people with greater influence and personal interest than I can muster. But I can certainly get passionate about things. And you know what has me spitting nails right now? They discontinued my bra.

At this point, gentleman readers, you may want flip over to ESPN.com or go make yourself a sandwich. This here's Woman Talk.

Ladies, I'm sure we've all been here before. We spend hours in the department store, trying on bra after bra after bra. And because it's no longer the 70s and because we are no longer 19 and perky, we MUST buy SOMETHING. So, we pony up more than we should for a bra that gets the job done--barely. And we live with it. That is our lot in life.

But every so often, the heavens open, the stars align, our horoscope promises that we will find what we are seeking, and on that day, we find The Bra. You know the one. It is exactly the right color, and it feels good against the skin. It gives you lift and separation in a way you thought could only be bought from Dr. 90210. And, miraculously, it fits BOTH girls perfectly, in spite of the fact that they are clearly two completely different sizes.

You buy one in every color, go home, and for days afterward, see your tightest sweaters and skimpiest tank tops in a whole new way. You walk around the office feeling like a Victoria's Secret model, standing taller and straigher and with the confidence that comes from knowing You Are A Woman. Weeks, months go by, and you love your body again. And you wish you had found this sooner. You wish you'd known that all it took to look and feel this good is The Bra.

But then, one day, it happens.

You get up, get showered, get dressed. Huh. Something isn't right with The Bra. The elastic is loose, the girls are droopy, and you realize that it's time to make another trip to the lingerie section of Macy's and buy The Bra again. This will be a quick trip. You know your size, you know the brand, and you have your credit card in the holster. In and out, with time for a latte before you have to pick up the kids.

You march right up to the rack where you first discovered The Bra, but it isn't there. Did they move the racks around? No. Wait, did you find The Bra at Nordstrom? No. You were sure The Bra was made by Bali, but maybe it's by Playtex. Or Wacoal. Or Maidenform? No, no, no.


Because it just hit you. The Bra has been discontinued. Some stupid MAN (had to be a man) on the board of directors or in accounting or marketing has decided that The Bra is not bringing in an adequate return-on-investment and will therefore no longer be made. And when you call customer service to find out what they recommend you buy to replace The Bra, they give you three other model numbers, NONE of which is even remotely CLOSE to being The Bra. And you complain. And they don't care.

It's a tragedy, and it happens to women every day all around the world. And frankly, I wouldn't find it so irritating if retailers didn't continue to carry OTHER items for decades on end, often hideous, outrageously ugly and outdated items that have survived far past their fashion usefulness (banana clips for the hair, mom jeans, Christmas sweaters, turtlenecks with little flowers, anything Bedazzled or made of pleather...I could go on and on, but I won't). They don't seem to mind manufacturing and selling the same old unflattering outerwear, so why can't they keep making The Bra?

Ladies, I'm fed up, and I don't want to take it anymore, but I don't know what to do except cry, complain, and finish up the container of Chunky Monkey. What can one do? It's all been done before--PSAs, celebrity statements, sit-ins, rallies, bra burning....hmm. Maybe that's what made the bra makers so flippant about discontinuing designs in spite of who loves them. We burned bras in protest and in public. Obviously we didn't care about them THEN, so maybe they figure we don't care about them NOW.

Why, oh why, didn't we burn denim jumpers and Birkenstocks instead?



[Note: Based on my unscientific research, it appears that all bloggers must write and post bad poetry. Okay then.]


Empty is a cold blue room

cry, scream, curse
sob, weep, stomp

then listen
for the echo
forever listen

for the sound turned blue
icy shards of pain
sucked away
into the cold

the room still round
round and cold
cold and deaf
deaf and blue
still empty is the room

of love
of sound
of salve
of balm

no solace
no sound
no calm


The Empty

* * * * * * * * * * *

Call Me Elaine, If You Must

Another first date. She checks in the rear view mirror to make sure there's no lipstick on her teeth (none) then looks at the door of the restaurant to see who's there (him). She knows the staff and the menu and the quickest route to the door and can be home in less than ten minutes if this goes south.

They get their water and bread. He's relatively attractive for his age, and even though he is ten years her senior, he's held up okay. He never removes his suit jacket even though it's a lunch date and the sun is beating down on them through the glass. She decides this means he's either hiding sweaty armpits or a soft midsection. She feels a bit bad for him, but also thinks it might be kind of cute.

He's pleasant, courteous, generous. Comes from a pretty rough childhood, but has a positive outlook on life in spite of it, or maybe even because of it. She's impressed that he served his country and retired from the air force and now works for a non-profit. Kids? Nope, but still wants them. Good.

When she presses him about why he never got married if he always wanted to, he admits that he had married when he was twenty, but it had lasted less than a year. He's honest, she thinks. Pretty smart, too. And even though the waitress is slow and forgetful, he makes small talk with her, smiling and genuinely unbothered. Three hours they sit and chat and eat and laugh. The chemistry is so-so, but first dates are funny things, she tells herself.

So when he walks her to her car and asks her if she'd like to go out again, she says yes, and realizes it's because she can't think of a good reason not to. He hugs her, goes in for the kiss. She turns her head and he hits her cheek. They both pretend that's what they meant to do. Everyone retreats with dignity.

She hadn't lied when she had accepted a second date. In fact, it's not until she gets in the car that she realizes that she is NOT going out with him again. And she wonders if God will punish her with eternal singleness and childlessness for her shallow and Seinfeldian reason for rejecting him.

The first time it happened was over bread and dipping oil, and she had hoped it was a fluke. The second time it happened was when the salads had arrived, and she had teased him about it, secretly wishing he would take the hint. When it happened the third time, something inside her had clicked, and it was then that she had known--without even knowing--that he was not the one for her.

As she puts the car into gear and pulls out of her parking spot, she is at peace with her decision. Others could mock her, even criticize her, but she was NOT going out again with a man who says "Delish."

[Attention all Jerrys and Elaines! What's the dumbest reason you've ever turned down a date--or even broken off a relationship? Don't be shy. We're all friends here.]


Mommy, where does milk come from?

God has a way of taking all the talents and splitting them up so that--with very rare freak-of-nature exceptions--we all get a little something, which is nice. Some get beauty, some brains, some the ability to tie a knot in a cherry stem with the tongue.

I've always felt more smartypants than hotpants, and sometimes I feel a little down about my looks, thinking I'd be willing to trade some IQ points for a bump up the Sexy Scale. Maybe you, too, sometimes lament the fact that your six-pack-abs are gone or that the days when men stared at your perfect behind are...well, behind you. But take heart in the knowledge that you got brains, baby. And if you need a reminder, you can call your mom who thinks you're awesome in every way, gossip with a friend about the morons at work, or pull out your grammar school report cards and count the A's.

Or do what I do. Turn on some trash TV. I submit that watching idiots on the idiot box can provide a sense of well-being that is near impossible to find elsewhere.

Here's what worked for me today. On Survivor - Nicaragua the tribes were competing for a reward: horseback riding followed by an authentic Nicaraguan farm breakfast with homemade tortillas, cheese, rice and beans, and fresh milk, which the survivors would get to try obtaining themselves from the cows.

Kelly S., a member of the losing tribe and possessor of a face and body that belong on the cover of Shape magazine, was pretty disappointed at not winning reward. That's understandable, as I'm sure she was as hungry as the rest of them. Turns out she was looking forward to more than just the food. She said:

"Reward was for a horseback ride and breakfast and you get to...milk your own milk, I guess. I don't know if that makes sense. You get to milk your own milk, and that sounds amazing. We should have won and we should be be going because that is amazing."

Oh, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly. I agree. Milking your own milk would be pretty freaking amazing. I'll bet some of the guys on your tribe are disappointed that they won't have the chance to milk your milk, too.

Now, not every stupid thing a stupid person says makes me laugh, but this did. And you want to know the best part? Kelly is a nursing student. Yep. A nursing student.

Aren't the layers of irony here positively delicious? And don't you somehow feel better now than you did five minutes ago? Me, too.

Thank you, Mark Burnett and Survivor staff. Your casting and editing choices bring joy to all of us. Well, to all of us who are smart enough to get it.


The Nose on One's Face

[Note: It's definitely been a while since I wrote some pure fiction pulled straight out of the air. Critiques invited by all.]

Big nose. Actually, enormous nose. Big enough to store farm equipment in. The kind of disfigurement that makes you realize why some plastic surgery should not be considered "elective." Sure, God gave it to him, but couldn't one argue that God also gave us rhinoplasty?

Rhinoplasty. Now there's a word that doesn't exactly feel good spilling out the mouth. Rhinoplasty, he thought. "Rhinoplasty," he said aloud, and as he did, he felt heads in the waiting room turn toward him. He didn't need to look around to know that he'd slipped. He didn't need to see their faces to know that his voice had invited them finally take a good look at the monstrosity that had brought him to this place. He had felt their eyes on him when he had first walked in, but they were more discreet then, peeking over opened People magazines, pretending to stretch so they could twist their necks and hide their faces behind their raised arms, dropping things accidentally-on-purpose so they could stare up at him from the floor.

Pathetic, he thought. They are pathetic in their unsneakiness. They think I don't see them. Puh-leeze.

Pathetic, he thought. I am pathetic in my patheticness. I see them. I see them wishing they could get a really good look at me and burn the image of my supernaturally unnatural face in their brains so they will have an interesting story to tell to their spouses at dinner or to their coworkers at happy hour or to their neighbors at the block party about the circus freak they saw at the office where beautiful people go to be made more beautiful. Quidnuncs, he thought. I see them in their smugness, in their silent gratitude that they are, however imperfect, not as hideous as I am.

I see them. I see them see me. I wish I were unseeable, he thought.

He pulled the rim of his baseball cap down a bit. Checked to make sure his sunglasses were still on. Flipped the collar of his jacket up. Yanked his scarf into position so as to cover just a little more of his face. Pulled his iPhone out of his pocket, bent down over his lap, and pretended to be engrossed in whatever it is that keeps normal people attached to their portable technology. But I'm not normal, he whispered. I'm not normal now, but I will be. I will be.

He opened his email. Fourteen new messages since he had checked just an hour ago. All from women. Some he knew, some he didn't. Some old, some young. Some attractive, some super attractive. All of them out of his league. All of them asking him out, calling him sexy, making indecent proposals, describing what they would do to him if given the chance, professing crushes and infatuation and even love. But he knew they were all liars. The world is full of women who get off on mocking the ugly guy. Bitches, he decided.

When the nurse called his name, he didn't notice until the third time, and again, he felt the eyes of the room on him, silently piercing him with their pity, disgust, curiosity. For the last time, he thought. "For the last time," he said aloud, and he got up and followed the woman in scrubs from his old, pathetic life to the beginning of his new, normal life.

* * * * *

He never knew that when the door closed behind him, people in the waiting room shifted in their seats, uncomfortable with the thoughts and wonderings and imaginings that had started in their stomaches and been climbing into their chests and up their throats longing to burst from their individual and collective lips as they had stolen glances at the man in the baseball cap and sunglasses and flipped-up collar and bulky scarf. Everyone made subtle invitations for eye contact with someone across from them or next to them, eager to put words to the feelings they had been holding in silence out of courtesy and politeness.

A woman, unable to contain herself any longer, inhaled deeply, exhaled a sigh that was a curious combination of relief and arousal, then said it first and said it best and without the least bit of irony: "My God, isn't he positively gorgeous?"

* * * * Same Ending, Said Differently. * * * *

He never knew that when the door closed behind him, the waiting room filled with chatter. With the door closed behind him, those waiting in the waiting room finally turned--either to those they knew, or those they didn't--eager to speak the thoughts and words that were ready to burst from their mouths as they had been stealing glances at the man in the baseball cap and sunglasses and flipped-up collar and bulky scarf. With longing and arousal and not the least bit of irony, one woman said it first and said it best and the room agreed with nods and sighs and some licking of lips: "My God, isn't he positively gorgeous?"

* * * Logophiles, which do you like better? Help! Anonymous opinions count, too. * * *


Why I'm Glad I'm Not a Genius

Most people who know me would NOT characterize me as an intellectual, and I would have to agree. I ain't no intellectual. My mom says that when I was very young, I was given an IQ test, and apparently I scored in the genius range, or pretty darn close to it. Now, IF my mother remembers correctly, and IF the test was accurate, and IF there is such a thing as a five-year-old genius (and those are a lot
of IF's), then I'm pretty sure I squandered away that genius potential somewhere along the line.

On one level, I'm pretty okay with being the poster child for Waste of Potential. I make a good living, I try to give back a little by working with young people, I pay my taxes, I support local businesses, and I almost always obey traffic laws.

Besides, I know a lot of people who actually do have genius IQs. And they're no fun. If they're not curing diseases or designing new ways to harness nuclear energy, all they're really doing is working feverishly to complete Sudoku puzzles and crosswords. They're lousy kissers and are socially awkward and are condescending and ignorant about pop culture.

Not my people. At all.

Yep, being a genius is highly overrated. One of the nicest perks of NOT being a genius is being able to watch bad reality TV as much as I want without a lot of judgment, from myself or others. People are often surprised to hear about my fascination with TV shows that can easily be labeled Bad, Really Bad, and Ohmigosh-How-Can-You-Even-Watch-Something-That-Horrifyingly-and-Disgustingly Bad. My students especially are shocked to hear me pontificating about applying Aristotle's theories to the speeches of our founding fathers and segue almost seemlessly into how these same theories are at work on the commercials that punctuate shows like "Jersey Shore" and "Rock of Love" and "The Bachelorette."

These shows ARE fascinating. And if I were a certified genius, I couldn't watch them for fear of destroying valuable brain cells. But I've never smoked pot, so I figure I am ahead of the game in terms of brain cell count, and can therefore sacrifice a few to enjoy gems like these (and this is a direct quote, bad grammar and all from the season 4 premiere of "Millionaire Matchmaker"):

"Everything is going fabulous. I thought that maybe the age difference we maybe wouldn't have as many things in common, but I like alcohol and cheese."
[said during a date by the 24-year-old cocktail waitress matched with the 40-year-old millionaire]

So, let me catch you up. She is 24 and a party girl. She's also pretty smokin' hot and has little to no interest in settling down. He is 40 and rich and has a wicked garden of hair plugs that he has been obviously cultivating for quite a while. He is sexually attracted to party girls (hey, I'm straight, but even I know she's a hottie) but he wants a wife--and wants one now.

He keeps saying to the camera guys that he just doesn't know how this one will end up. They keep drinking, so that's a good sign. And they eat some cheese and share a veritable quesorgasm (kindly consult previous posts and a Spanish-English dictionary if you're lost).

So, booze and cheese. Oh yeah...she also mentions that they both like the Yankees and Stan's Sports Bar. Seriously, folks, don't we all know people who have married and/or procreated (not necessarily in that order) based on fewer commonalities? So maybe these two kids will make it. He's rich, so he can afford to keep buying her Raspberry Stoli and romano cheese and tanning sessions.

Spoiler Alert: They don't even make it to a second date. Even though they share a solid foundation of love for consuming dairy products while inebriated. Shocking and disappointing.

The point? Well, you just can't make this stuff up. Well, at least I can't make this stuff up. It's just SO bad that it is indescribably, deliciously, satisfyingly GOOD. And if it ever turns out that I actually AM a genius, I hope I'm never so uptight that I become unwilling or unable to give up a brain cell or two for a few moments of enjoyment that only trash TV like this can provide.


Let's Talk About Text, Baby: Quidnunc

Prepare for a logorgasm.

Actually, let me stop right there. If you have never had a logorgasm, or you think you've had one but you're not really sure, then, sorry to tell you this: you haven't. Much like the traditional orgasm, when one comes on, it's pretty undeniable. And as long as you're wondering "was that it?"--well, it wasn't.

So, as I was saying, prepare for a logorgasm.

Hold on. Perhaps you don't even know what I am talking about. Well, let me reassure you that you need the exact same skill set to decipher this word as you needed to sort out the bits and pieces of gynonudomania (see previous post).

Log: having to do with words
Orgasm: again, if you're not sure about this, I can't really help you

So, a logorgasm is an intense feeling of pleasure brought on by words. Not just any words though. Certainly not the whispering of sweet, romantic, precoital nothings in one's ear that bring on the pedestrian orgasm of the anyone-with-genitals-can-have-one-if-the-other-person-tries-hard-enough variety. No, no. I am talking about the kind of waves of bliss that come from words. Just words in their purity and all that goes with them: the denotations, connotations, variations, conjugations...ah, THESE are the stuff of logorgasms.

And I had one today, and in fact, I'm still enjoying the aftershocks.

I am home alone and watching a movie that most critics give only one star, and there it is, written on the wall in pink marker: quidnunc (a gasp). And I say it over and over in my head so I won't forget (gasp gives way to stirrings). And then the handsome protagonist in the movie actually goes to a bookstore, finds a dictionary, and looks it up (stirrings become throbbings). And then I look it up online so I can see its many definitions and usages (moan) and I discover that it comes from the Latin quid nunc meaning "what next" (oh yes) and means gossip or busybody (don't stop!). But this is so good, I can't bear for it to stop, so I tell a few fellow logophiles (throbbings approach climax). And just when I think I simply can't take it any more, I share it with you, my growing number of following logophiles for what can only be described as, well, one helluva logorgasm. (If I smoked, this is where the cigarette would come in, but I think I'll have some chocolate instead.)

I can't wait to use it in writing and casual conversation. Its first known use was in 1709, and frankly, I think it is high time we give this little titillator more air time.

And if you found this posting offensive, you probably aren't one of us (a logophile, that is), and therefore, are incapable of experiencing a logorgasm anyway. So spare us your critical comments and your hate mail and go tell someone how inappropriate this post is. You'll be doing what all quidnuncs do; you just won't be enjoying it nearly as much as the rest of us.


Let's Talk About Text, Baby: Gynonudomania

Gynonudomania. I'm not kidding. This is an actual word. Not yet accepted by the Oxford English Dictionary, it is, nevertheless, being used in some circles. At first, one may be overwhelmed by the seven syllables. But break it down the way our high school English teachers asked us to, and see what you can figure out. No need to brush up on your Latin and Greek roots. Trust me.

gyno: Um, something to do with chicks. Got it.
nudo: Sound it out. Sounds like "nude," right? Yep. Got it.
mania: Crazy obsession about something. Got it.

Got it? Gyno-nudo-mania. You're thinking something along the lines of "liking naked chicks." Well, not exactly. You're really only half-way there. It's not the nakedness so much as the method of getting her naked that puts gynonudomania into the category of fetishism. According to my sources (they are plentiful yet dubious), a person who is into gynonudomania is a person who derives sexual pleasure getting the chick naked by quite literally RIPPING her clothes off her body.

Got it. Gynonudomania. Ripping clothes off a woman, presumably (hopefully!) prior to consensual sex. Fine with me. Just warn me ahead of time so I can wear stuff already in the Goodwill bag. And if you do decide to go all gynonudomaniac on me without warning, you'd better be ultra-handy with a needle and thread or ready to hand over your Macy's card afterward. Probably both.

Upon Learning of My Replacement

Sophia will be taking my place. Sophia. A girl I hate. A girl with hips that are too wide and thighs that rub together when she walks. A girl with saggy breasts in need of a well-fitting bra. A girl who wears different shades of brown during the daytime because it is safe and wears all black at night because she heard somewhere that black is slimming. A girl whose muddy dishwater hair is too long for her age and too frizzy all the time, as if it is in the perpetual state of growing out a perm. A girl who wears the same outdated shade of lipstick every day, regardless of the season. A girl who owns only two pairs of high-heeled shoes. A girl who thinks that an inch-and-a-half qualifies a shoe as high-heeled. A girl whose foot-fat squeezes out over the top when she wears these heels on the rare special occasion. A girl who thinks a special occasion is dinner at Red Lobster. A girl who I would pass by on the street without noticing, or would notice only to comment on how sadly unnoticable she is. A girl HE noticed. A girl--no, THE girl--he picked instead of me.

He's not very tall, but I spotted him in the crowd right away. He wasn't alone. But where was my replacement? Where was the dowdy, frumpy, marble-mouthed, moon-faced girl I had already decided she was? Obviously this was the re-replacement. But then he said, "This is Sophia," and I am sure that my mouth dropped open with bottom lip hanging in quite unladylike fashion. "This is Sophia." Did he just say that? "This is Sophia." THIS this Sophia?

But this is no girl. Sophia is a woman. And she is stunning. And her breasts aren't saggy--they are annoyingly, perfectly perky. Her hair isn't mousy brown and frizzy--it's silky and smooth and golden and falls over her shoulders in big, full ringlets that probably smell like vanilla or jasmine or whatever that smell is that makes men lean over and kiss women without thinking or asking for permission. Her skin is flawless and glowing--not covered in the dull, acne-scarred pall I had decided on for her. She is not wearing safe brown or slimming black--her dress is red. Well, not red, but the color of perfectly cooked cranberries, and I decide now that cranberry is probably what her hair smells like, too. She is not fat, and in fact, not skinny either--her feminine curves seem sculpted in softness that even I want to touch. And her feet? Not the graceless, clumping sledgehammers I had hoped for. Instead, her feet are almost dainty and have been slid into delicate satin stilettos adorned with just-the-right-size rhinestone hearts.

"It's nice to meet you," she says, and my eyes jump to her perfect lips and perfect teeth--straight and white and smiling with genuine warmth. "I've heard so much about you," she practically sings, without the least bit of pretention, but I had already stopped listening. My eyes had already met his--no, had TRIED to meet his, but his eyes were already (or still?) on her, and I knew in an instant that he was hers and that he would never be mine, and worse, that the only person who had noticed or would ever care was me.

Overheard: Hitlerism

Me: Now, what was happening in the 1960s that had a profound impact on all of America, including and especially the rural South?

Devon: 9-11?

Me: No, that was less than ten years ago, remember? Something important was happening in the 1960s that you have been learning about since elementary and middle school. [attempt to reactivate a topic that is arguably OVER-taught in the early grades]

Brian: The Civil War?

Me: Well, that happened MUCH earlier, but you are right to be thinking about issues connected to slavery and its long-term ramifications. [attempt to let student save face and hoping to push thoughts in the right direction in spite of the fact that I KNOW the student is not thinking about these issues]

Luis: Hitlerism?

Me: Nope. And that's still not a word. [attempt to remind student that he has used this non-word in multiple situations, none of which was remotely related to World War II or Nazi Germany]

[During a classroom conversation with sophomores in preparation to read Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird.]

Yes, I know it's a terribly important piece of literature for multiple historical, cultural, social, and literary reasons. But somehow I get the feeling this class may suck dry what is left of my already anemic enthusiasm for the the novel. It's going to be a war of attrition. Can I chip away at their ignorance, apathy, and general hatred of reading more rapidly than they can drain my resolve to show them why this book is worth their time and effort? I remind myself (as I so often remind them) that I get paid the same no matter what, which means I can surrender at any time--resort to worksheets and SparkNotes and showing of the movie--and no one outside our little disfunctional classroom community will find out or even care.

I do a quick gut check, take a deep breath, and begin. Fake it 'til you make it. That's my motto. We will make it to the end of the novel and find things to love about it. And I will make them embrace one of the novel's important messages--that human love and compassion are powerful and influential forces for good and can defeat hatred and intolerance and violence--and they will learn this...even if I have to beat it into them.


Don't Let Holiday Relacide Happen to You

[Note: I read somewhere that if you have a blog and you are single, separated, divorced, widowed, or part of the GLBT community, it's practically a law or something that you write a post on being alone during the holidays. In accordance with the aforementioned expectation, I give you the requisite it-sucks-being-alone-during-the-holidays-but-let's-pretend-it-doesn't post. Enjoy.]

Single and alone on Thanksgiving? Look on the bright side. Relative-on-relative homocide rates spike 293 percent on this holiday compared to other days of the year. Okay, I can't back that up with any actual data, but I do know I have personally had to channel the strength of Zeus in order not to shove the big turkey fork into the carotid artery of a particularly annoying relative over more than one holiday spread.

So, besides eliminating the inevitable desire to commit relacide, there are lots of other advantages to spending the holidays alone. And this isn't only for single people; you married folks with annoying parents and/or in-laws should feel free to use one of your sick days to call in and miss today's "festivities." Here's just a short list of things to be thankful for if you must (or choose to) spend today alone:

* If you're a chick, you don't have to listen to the endless droning of announcers and crowds as the relentless sounds of football waft through the air with the smell of burnt rolls.

* If you're a dude, you can have the football games on all day long without fighting for the remote, negotiating for time away from the Macy's Day Parade, leaning around well-meaning bearers of Doritos and pork rinds, or missing important game commentary because of the endless droning of Aunt May about your third cousin's newborn who has colic.

* You don't have to answer the question, "When are you going to get married?" or any of the other [frequently more annoying and distasteful] derivatives (e.g., "You DO like men/women, don't you?" or "Do you think it might be time to lower your standards a bit?" or "You do realize, I hope, that at your age, you are more likely to be killed in a terrorist attack/struck by lightning/attacked by a rabid hyena/commit relacide than get married?") .

* You can drink as much as you want without the fear of letting it slip that Cousin Pete is the ONLY person who doesn't think his toupee looks obviously like a toupee and that when he's not around you semi-affectionately refer to him as Squirrel Pelt Pete.

* You can eat as much as you want without apology, without wishing you'd worn looser pants, without the judging eyes of your grandmother who always said it's a good thing you're so smart because your sister/cousin/niece is "the pretty one." In fact, you can unbutton your pants and slide your hand inside the waistband Al Bundy-style and sit that way all day long if you want. Hell, take your pants off. It's your house.

* If you cook a turkey, you get to pull BOTH sides of the wishbone, guaranteeing wish fulfillment (bonus: you don't have to tell anyone what you wished for).

I guess none of these ideas is particularly unique, and perhaps all are inadequate in staving off the achiness that comes with spending a family-ish holiday alone-ish. But when it comes right down to it, Thanksgiving should be more about personal gratitude than a jockeying for position around the sweet potatoes and big screen TV. That's why this Thanksgiving, I'll be spending a few moments writing down a list of things for which I really ought to remember to be more thankful. Right at the top of that list: the fact that I have family members I love enough to miss today, and friends who love me enough to help me miss them a little less.


Why Victoria's Secret Sales May Skyrocket

Granny panties have never been my thing, but I admit there are too many items in my lingerie drawer that would fall under my mother's don't-you-dare-wear-those-out-of-the-house-because-if-you-get-into-an-accident-the-paramedics-will-see-them advice column. I've typically dismissed this advice under the if-I-get-into-an-accident-I-will-have-probably-soiled-myself-anyway response column.

I've got what I consider to be a healthy mix of undergarments, from cotton briefs to thongs. But based on some new information I have just acquired, I'm going to make a trip to Victoria's Secret very soon and get something special.

Why? Well, I don't want to jinx this, but I feel sure that I am about to let someone make it to third base with me in the very near future, and I want to be ready. I want to feel sexy when it happens, especially because it will likely be a public fondling. In addition, I may have some nearly-nude shots taken, and I really want to look and feel my best. Dieting and working out are too much effort, so I'm going for the quick fix: a lacy new bra-and-panty set (I am considering red or leopard print the front-runners, demi-bra with extra lift and seamless bikini bottom with lycra--again, for extra lift).

How can I be so sure about my imminent frolic? Well, I bought a plane ticket, and I understand the airlines are running a special. Apparently, with each ticket, you get a free x-ray or a complimentary feeling-up. I want them both. I'm sure they will oblige. A free photoshoot AND a groping from someone with a full-time job? That's a better offer than I get from most men. I'll be there early. Just show me which line to get in.

I am very excited about this. I may stop dating altogether and just start hopping little commuter flights for $59 each way so I can try out different folks at airport security. Ideally, I'll get screened by a man, but the idea of gettin' a little sumpin' sumpin' from a stocky female security screener with strong hands and a no-nonsense attitude isn't altogether unappealing. I never did go through that experimental phase in college, so this seems a fairly harmless way to see if I might feel a little spark during the inevitable cupping and rubbing. Afterward, I can treat myself to an eight-dollar Big Mac at the food court, grab a Cinnabon for the ride home, and sleep soundly.

Hey, it's not all about me, you know. I'm just doing my part to keep our country safe. Maybe if you can find a way to put a positive spin on the new security screenings you won't be so freaked out about it. I'm not saying it's time to put a stripper pole in your bedroom, but give your inner prude the day off, spread 'em, and smile for the camera. Your fellow passengers thank you for your cooperation.

Lady Lumps

Okay, I give. Let's change it to "volumptuous." People aren't going to stop saying it that way, and nine times out of ten the word serves as just a thinly veiled euphamism for something between chubby and fat anyway. Women who describe themselves as "volumptuous" OR "voluptuous" usually have plenty of actual lumps under their ill-fitting clothing which, arguably, makes the mispronunciation a more accurate adjective. So I say, let's stop fighting over this one. Let's save our efforts for stamping out "supposably." There will never be a day when society should surrender to that atrocity. But for all the curvy, full-figured, hourglass, healthy, thick, stacked, womanly BBWs with a little boom-pow and some junk in the trunk, I support your bastardization of the English language because, like the guy who stumbled upon Post-Its and made millions, you accidentally invented a word that is better than the original. Long live your volumptuous lady lumps.


Overheard: Cuban Sandwich

Me: Have you ever had a pressed Cuban sandwich?
Students (all aged 16+): What's that?
Me: Doesn't anyone know what a Cuban sandwich is?
Jose: Is that like lasagna?
Beatriz: No, of course not!
Lynette: What's lasagna?
Beatriz: It's cheese.

[During what should have been a discussion about Nora Ephron's essay, "A Sandwich" about what she claims is the best hot pastrami sandwich in the world and which can be bought at Langer's Delicatessen in Los Angeles.]

Cuban sandwich = lasagna = cheese. As if that weren't enough, other points of clarification that needed to be provided to my students included explaining what a bodega is, what you do at a pawnshop, why one might refer to a famous landmark as a "shrine," and why businesses would charge people to use their bathrooms. Suffice it to say that we only got through the first two paragraphs. So much for lesson planning.


Let's Talk About Text, Baby: Differentiate

Education certainly holds no corner market on empty jargon, but we're no slouches either. Schools--especially those designated as underperforming under NCLB (now Race to the Top) after failing to meet AYP for particular subgroups who did not achieve a proficient score in ELA on the MCAS which the Mass DESE says requires implementation of EPPs or IEPs and early intervention through safety nets via the IST which may or may not support the vision of the ILT, RLC, or the PLCs--well, let's just say we are no strangers to jargon. We typically keep a lot of this useless verbiage circulating among the adults, however, preferring to save our valuable time in front of students teaching vocabulary that matters in real life.

So today when I checked the homework of one of my brightest and most diligent students and found that he had used the word "differentiate" in his writing, my English-teacher heart did a quick pitter-patter as I saw a twenty-dollar word gracing the topic sentence. Pitter-patter quickly became palpitations when I realized he had misused the word. Normally, I wouldn't care. Normally, I would just be thrilled that a sophomore spelled it correctly and used it in a context that was in the general universe of its intended meaning.

So, really, it wasn't the misuse that disheartened me, if I'm being honest. It was the particular way he misused it that made my temporal lobe absolutely throb. He had written, "Discipline and abuse must differentiate depending on the situation." Okay, yeah, he's in the ballpark. And when I explained how to use the word correctly, he understood immediately. But in the back of my head, I was remembering how just two days earlier, I had heard a seasoned teacher say something quite similar in one of our [insert acronym] meetings. "The math and science skills will have to differentiate for this to work," he had said, without the least stumble of hesitation. I shuddered with the memory and then did something I usually wouldn't. I said to the kid, "Have you heard this word used a lot lately?" to which he replied, "Yeah." And I said, "Me too. Just be aware that this word is being thrown around a lot, and most people don't know how to use it correctly. Even teachers." And he said, "Uh-huh," and gave me a little grin, and added, "Now that you've explained it, I realize I don't think anyone is saying it right."

"I don't think anyone is saying it right"? Kid, you have no idea how right you are.

So, what does it mean to differentiate? I'll let you pull out your favorite dictionary to get a layperson's definition. But if you want to know what it means within the jargon-rich context of a school like mine, you'll have to ask someone who doesn't work here.

Overheard: The Shotgun

"I hope I have a daughter so I have a good reason to buy a shotgun."

From a 14-year-old freshman who was asked to write in his notebook about how many kids he hopes to have one day and why. Brilliant.


Mr. Big Dog Snob

I have a dog. And when I meet someone else who has a dog, I feel an immediate kinship. We both like dogs. We both are cut from canine-loving cloth. For me, this is enough. Let the bonding begin. Let's talk rawhide versus pigears. Dentachews versus Greenies. Petco versus Petsmart. Crate training, clicker training, obedience training. Many a marriage was built on a shakier foundation of common ground than those spontaneously forged the moment two dog owners meet and circle and sniff one another's proverbial behinds. Fur and sparks fly and all is right in the world.


Look. I like my dog. I like all dogs, actually, but I admit to liking mine best. Still, I can like your dog almost as much as I like my own. I like telling people I own a dog. I especially like telling single men that I own a dog. In the eyes of a single man, I immediately become more interesting, nurturing, and fun-loving the moment I say I have a dog, and for a split second, while Mr. Maybe is imagining that I own a big slobbery lab or a Burmese mountain dog or even a pit bull, he is somehow altogether willing to build a white picket fence around our suburban colonial so our dog (or dogs) will have somewhere safe to play and chase frisbees. But then he asks--and they ALWAYS ask--"What kind?" Don't make me say it. Don't make me say that I don't share my 700-square-foot apartment with a Saint Bernard or a Great Dane or a dalmation. Don't make me say that my dog is a Yorkshire Terrier. Don't make me watch that flash of disappointment darken your face as you feign interest in what you have already decided is more rodent than dog. To the Big Dog Snob, it doesn't matter that my Yorkie is nineteen pounds of pure lean muscle, scrappy, able to outrun a young Bruce Jenner, and once ate an entire bag of Hersey's Chocolate Nuggets (foil wrappers and all) and was none the worse for wear. It doesn't matter because a Yorkie is not a Big Dog, and therefore, inexplicably, not a dog at all. I am fully aware that the moment my lips form the word "Yorkie," visions of doggie hair ribbons and rhinestone-encrusted collars and little outfits and visits to the mall in mommy's purse dance like fermented sugarplums in his head and I have just become a Paris Hilton wanna-be. I want to scream, Wait! It's not what you think! I am not one of THOSE women. I don't think my dog is a baby and I don't dress him like one. I don't give him gourmet dogfood. I don't talk to him like he's a person (well, at least not when anyone is around). I don't have little doggie steps that let him climb onto my bed. If you would just listen, I would tell you that you would like him. I would tell you he's smart, and does tricks, and chases squirrels, and has an attitude, and is no lapdog. I would tell you that he can do anything a Big Dog can do. I would tell you that he is still a Dog with a capital "D" and can hold his own with the Big Dogs at the park just fine, thank you very much, and in fact has humped a 130-pound Rhodesian Ridgeback into submission on more than one occasion. But I know that screaming and explaining and even crying won't help. If Mr. Maybe is a Big Dog Snob, he's no longer listening. He may still be standing there, and if his mama raised him right, he's still maintaining eye contact and nodding and smiling at all the appropriate moments. But gone is the colonial. Gone is the white picket fence. All that remains is the faint scent that lingers after the butt sniffing has ended.


Conversations I'm Tired of Having: The Mobius Strip

Me: Where's your notebook?
Joe Student: I don't have it.
Me: Where is it?
Joe: I don't have it.
Me: I know you don't have it. I'm asking where it is.
Joe: I didn't bring it.
Me: Yes, obviously. Why not?
Joe: Because.
Me: Because is not an answer. WHY didn't you bring it?
Joe: (shoulder shrug plus eye roll)
Me: You don't know?
Joe: Gawhd! Just forget it!
Me: I would just like to know why it is you didn't bring your notebook. Do you have a pencil?
Joe: No.
Me: Why not?
Joe: Forgot it.
Me: But how did you make it through five classes today without anything to write on or write with? Am I the first teacher to ask you to do some work today?
Joe: Man, why do you have to make such a big deal out of EVERYTHING? Just quit talking and go teach.

At this point, I consider my options. Smacking the kid across the mouth with the back of my hand would be the most immediately satisfying action, but carries with it the very slight risk of being fired and/or arrested for assault. I say "very slight" because obviously I would do it when no one else is looking and lie about it afterward. I realize, too, that I might leave a red handprint on his smug mug and I have failed to plan for this inevitable and all-too-frequent moment by leaving all my oranges and socks and home. A quick mental scan of my other options is rudely interrupted by Jiminy Cricket (well, my conscience is actually a talking cockroach named Vincent who now insists on being called Vinny-C since he started watching "Jersey Shore," but this is a story for another time). The point is, I am jarred into reality by a wad of paper flying through my peripheral vision and I remember that I am a teacher, and I value my job and my reputation, and (sigh) I like my kids. Even this one. Yeah, he's a brat. But maybe when he's no longer 15 and wearing his pants down under his butt crack he could turn out alright. And I want to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. He's here; I might as well give him something to do. So I walk over to my desk, pull out a pencil and sheet of paper, shove my ego into the bottom drawer next to the three-hole punch, and walk back to my unprepared, would-be, could-be, young scholar . I place the items on his desk, force a smile, and say, "Okay, let's get started."

How does it end? Does he thank me and get to work? Or fly out of the room in a flurry of righteous indignation while cursing a blue streak? Or roll his eyes and sit in motionless defiance for the rest of the class? Well, that depends. It depends on something. And when I figure out what that "something" is, I will write a book about working with urban adolescents to overcome their task avoidance and self-defeating behaviors. I expect that will make me rich or famous or both. And even though I'll be rolling in the dough, I will keep teaching, because it's a labor of love for me. But I'll tell you this: Joe Smartmouth had better watch his tone, because with my high-paying speaking gigs and the royalty checks from my book coming in, I will be able to afford a VERY good lawyer.


The Problem with Stereotypes: It Isn't What You Think

The problem with stereotyping is not what racial minority groups and the liberal media would have us believe. The problem with stereotyping is NOT that it is a form of unfair and incorrect bias. No, no, no. In fact, if I had their phone numbers, I would personally call Al Sharpton for African-Americans and Anderson Cooper for the differently-abled and Rosie O'Donnell for those with non-traditional sexual orientations and tell them to take a load off, kick off those leather loafers, plop down into their La-Z-Boys, and throw back a forty, or a milkshake, or a Seabreeze, or whatever. They've been working hard alongside their colleagues, fighting for the rights of the unloved, differently-loved, and unlovable, and I dare say that at this point, they've really made some headway. I know, I know...I'm a white, college-educated, middle-class woman. I BARELY fall into a discriminated class, and do so only by virtue of my having breasts. The women's libbers really took it on the well-powdered chin for us girls in the 70s and 80s, and as a benefactor, I refuse to let the lost lives of countless bras burned at the stake go forgotten and in vain. When I find the random pubic hair on my soda can or sit helplessly as a talking head above the cleavage with which my boss is having a ten-minute conversation about how his wife won't let him play golf on the weekends, I'm not offended. I'm grateful that they haven't forgotten I am, after all, a woman. I may have to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, open my own doors, put on my own coat, carry my own groceries, and pay for my own dinner on dates, but at least in the workplace I can count on some ogling, albeit sans groping. Still, it's nice to be objectified once in a while.

But I digress. Stereotyping IS a problem. But not because it's unfair to paint old Asian women as bad drivers, politicians as sleezebags, and the Irish as drunkards. It may NOT be nice to paint them all with the same brush, but it is also NOT wholly inaccurate. And before you get all up in arms about my prejudices, just relax, Senator Eun Joo McNeil. The problem with stereotypes is not that they are inaccurate, but that they are typically SO accurate it hurts. There are enough morons in each demographic slice to keep the generalities going. And herein lies the problem for me--and all of us.

I am a woman. An emotional, PMS-suffering, shoe-loving, baby-wanting, chick-flick-watching, chocolate-craving woman. Without apology, I embrace and embody all that it is to be an XX chromosome bearer. However, I refuse to have ALL female-related stereotypes laid on my back like so much baggage on a packmule without being asked if each applies. In accordance with new baggage restrictions, please consider the following before traveling by airplane or said packmule:

* Just because I am divorced does not mean I'm bitter.
* Just because I am over 40 does not mean I'm desperate.
* Just because I am single does not mean I have cats.
* Just because I teach does not mean I can't do.
* Just because I am brunette does not mean I don't have fun.
* Just because I believe in God does not mean I am gullible.
* Just because I am a registered Republican does not make me evil.
* Just because I watch "Jersey Shore" does not mean I am dumb.
* Just because I read poetry does not mean I am smart.
* Just because I am white doesn't mean I can't dance.
* Just because I am a woman doesn't mean I can't swear, screw and scrap like a man.

The point is, if you are a gullible Christian, a desperate single woman, a bitter divorcee, a boring brunette, or any of the other aforementioned stereotypes, please consider the damage you are doing to all of us by refusing to be your own special kind of stupid or smart or smug. It's hard enough being the imperfect me, but to have to live down all the low expectations that go along with belonging to your clubs is more than one girl can handle. I don't pay dues, so I shouldn't have to bear your charter. And frankly, neither should you.


"You should start a blog," she said.

But I already have one, I thought. Your dating stories are really funny, she said. And I think a lot of people would find them amusing, she said. Some people make a lot of money if their blogs catch on, she said. And I thought, I wonder if MY blog has caught on. I wonder if people have been visiting and revisiting, hoping that my single, sarcastic post was enough to get people to wait for my next installment. Maybe I would find scores--no, hundreds!--of comments from web surfers begging me for more of my wit and promise of wisdom. But I don't remember the name of my blog, I thought. Or my password. Or my login. I clicked on "Sign In" and prayed a silent prayer to the Blog Gods. And it turns out that they listen. The Blog Gods, that is. Because up came my blog. One solitary post. No comments. No visitors. No money. The Blog Gods are listening, but apparently no one else is.