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. * * *