Sunday, March 28, 2010

They don't appear to be in Target.

Where are all the men?

This is a question I ask the universe multiple times each day. Often I'm wondering where the MEN are because I'm surrounded by boys. Toddlers with cell phones. I'm trapped in the movie Big without the giant piano duet. (Please continue to enjoy my topical references from the 1980s.) (I should get out more.)
Other times it's quite literal--where the hell are they? I've been hanging out with the same guys for years. (Who continue to insist that they don't know any tall eligible men, the lying assholes.) I work in a school; the only new men I meet are the fathers of my students. WHERE ARE THEY?

Enter "Where Are the Men?" by Bobbie Mostyn. The Twin found this at the library and thought it would be amusing. As I generally trust her judgment, I gave it a shot. And it has left me rather confused.

To entice the readers, Mostyn's introduction is chock full of statistics. As we get older, the ratio of single men to single women shifts gradually out of our favor. This is used as a scare tactic--go find them before it's too late!! (She literally tells readers that she is writing "with some urgency" because of this.) This put me on shaky ground with the book. I'm much more of the "I'd rather be alone than deal with the wrong man" school of thought. She seems to be on the side of "find a man any man any man will do as long as he will go out with you." However, I pressed on.
She throws out some generic social advice. The kind of stuff that can be located in your average issue of Seventeen magazine. (Don't stand against the wall at a party! Mingle! Talk to people!) I'm sure it's useful to some. Moving on.
Furthermore, she suggests trying new activities. I could possibly get behind this. I'm on board with a push to be social. You won't meet anyone if you don't leave the house. Fair point. Cats may be great listeners, but they don't talk back and you can't go see a movie with them. And you're really limited to how many cats you can interact with, if you think about it. Nobody ever says, "What's too bad is how many friends that woman has!" Cats, though...cats are different. You come close to the socially acceptable limit and suddenly you're the talk of the neighborhood. In a bad, hushed tones over the fence kind of way. My point? Making more friends is not a bad idea.
But the more I read, the more my jaw dropped. This was not what I expected. Oh, no. I'm supposed to do "male" things. I won't meet men doing "female" activities. Apparently it doesn't matter what I actually matters that I find a man before I'm too old and all the men are dead, gay, or taken.
The author lists places "crawling with men"--and sends her readers there, even if they hate that particular activity. THERE WILL BE MEN, she seems to insist. REMEMBER THE PRIME DIRECTIVE. Faking an interest in something to snag a there's a plan with no flaws.
Let's imagine an example, shall we?
Maybe you hate golf, but you know who golfs? MEN. Therefore, get thee to a golf course! Then you can have conversations like this:
Man: "What's your handicap?" (Non-golfers, this a golf term that I've heard my father say and I just googled to confirm.)
You: "Oh, differentiating bad dating advice from good dating advice, mostly."
Man: "...huh?"
Like I said, no flaws.
Why not try new things that interest you because meeting new people can't hurt, especially if you have some shared interests? Why not a wider social circle will help you meet new people? And maybe you'll want to date some of those new people, because clearly the ones you already know aren't working out? Wouldn't it make more sense to encourage single women to venture outside the dating confines they've given themselves?
Nope. GO WHERE THERE ARE MEN. It reads like a map of the zoo, with each location housing a different sort of man.
My real problem with this book is that it is an exercise in gender stereotyping. Mostyn focuses on finding men in their "natural habitat" (the sports bar! Home Depot! rustic hunting lodges!...I am not joking about that one) on the generalization that you would never think to go there, being a woman. As women, our job is to smoke them out of these man caves and glom onto whatever appears.We can't continue to troll our "feminine" haunts...unless, of course, we're ok with ending up alone.
This book was published in 1999. From where I'm sitting, it feels like it's primarily catering to those frenzied women who, just a few years earlier, desperately bought "The Rules" as they felt their ovaries drying up.
I don't like that this advice could fall into the hands of young women navigating dating for the first time. I'm lucky; I was raised surrounded by family members who insisted that I had plenty of time and that I would find someone when it was right. My aunts used to tell me that I was too young to settle down; that there was no sense in being with a man just for the sake of being with a man. To this day, they tell me that I will find someone when I'm not looking.
I was taught to hold out for someone who was worth it. And maybe that man DOES golf, but we'll have to meet on common ground.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A reminder.

Today was a rough day at work. My class was extra chatty and my voice faded throughout the day. It was picture day, which takes forever and is arguably the most annoying thing ever. But yesterday...yesterday reminded me why I love my job so much. And not the pajama day reasons, but the real reasons I went into this field.

During a break from work on Thursday, I covered another teacher's class while she was in a meeting. One of her students is a boy I taught last year, in first grade. A was a mystery. English was not his first language and he seldom answered questions. He was always able to follow directions, though--he was understanding what I was saying to some degree. Super shy, when he spoke it was one or two words at a time. His writing was the biggest puzzle to me...strings of correctly spelled, nicely formed no particular order and with no apparent meaning. Just words. We had meetings, observed him, tried everything we could to help A. It was so frustrating to see this little guy and not know what to do. It was like he couldn't get his thoughts out...I knew he could be doing so much better if we could help him with whatever barrier was in his way. I finally found some tools to help his writing. But he never really talked to me.
While I was covering second grade, though, my heart swelled. (My bitter, blackened heart.) A came up to me and said, "Can I use the bathroom?" A complete sentence, unprompted. He looked me in the eye when he said it. Not wanting to make him self-conscious, I answered him without making a big deal. It took huge amounts of self-control, to wait until I left the room to consider the weight of what happened. It might not be exciting for your average second grader...but for A, it's huge.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's like Christmas Part Two.

This week is Spirit Week at work. Which is my favorite. I love this kind of thing! I view it as a challenge. Some staff members opt out of participating, which I laugh at. Why work in an elementary school if you're not going to enjoy these events?
Monday was Hat Day, which was easy enough once I dug out my cowboy hat. (I didn't think my only baseball hat, a Guinness one, was appropriate.) Tuesday was Crazy Hair Day, but in the Bitter house it was also Buttons Falling Off Pants Emergency Day, so I only had time for a couple braids. (Pants are more important than hair, in a work setting.) And I was mocked! It wasn't crazy enough for some staff members! I was shamed.

I made up for it today. Today, I brought my A game. Mismatch Day. The last time we had Mismatch Day, I was so uncoordinated that one teacher laughed at me all day long. So it was kind of a personal challenge. I'm sure you can understand.

I. Was. A. Hot. Mess. There were too many colors, too many layers, too many prints. (Awesomely enough, my kindergarten friends only noticed that my earrings were different, and thought that was the extent of my participation. I heart them.) It was no problem to walk around like that all day, even though we had an assembly and I'm sure the guy on stage was like, "Wow good job guys."
Then I had to stop at the bank. And...yeah, I endured many Polite Looks. The kind that suggest someone is sort of amused but refuses to laugh because they're mildly concerned that you'll react really badly if they do? I could have tried to fit in an explanation of how I was really just doing my job, but I figured the whole transaction would be over before I finished, and also do I really care what my bank teller thinks? She knows I'm not homeless; she's seen the identification that states otherwise.

I frequently call others out on not embracing the theme. One man at work was appalled when I suggested he hadn't dressed for the occasion. "Why don't any women get it??" His outburst caused me to double back and examine his outfit. Sensing that I didn't see it, he pointed at his tie. His shirt was a light purple with thin blue stripes. His tie was diagonal stripes in purples and blues.
"...You look fine. Normal."
How dare I. "You can't wear a print with a print! They're both striped!!"
I walked away mid-rant. Silly boy.

I don't give a crap who participates tomorrow, though. Because tomorrow is the Holy Grail of Spirit Days. My favorite school day, perhaps. Pajama Day. Say it with me, everyone. Pajama Day. It's glorious. Anyone who has ever dropped by my house unannounced (or frequently, dropped by my house at all, even with a warning) knows that I change into my sweats as soon as I get home, often beginning to change as I'm closing the front door. Friends used to invite me out with the phrase, "and put on some real pants." I've changed into pajama pants in moving cars, in my seat on an airplane, on the phone, and in crowded rooms. I love pajamas.

And tomorrow? I get paid to wear them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A classic.

Alright. Not to go all When Harry Met Sally on you, but I have a question.

Is it possible to be friends with your ex?

I've debated it and mulled it over countless times. Obviously a great deal depends on the individual and the kind of relationship you had. I won't pretend that we can agree on a blanket rule here. But overall, is it possible to really and truly be friends with an ex?
I always say that I am friends with my exes. It's worn like a badge of honor while my friends hiss and spit at the mere thought of men they've dated. Ladies, I've done the impossible...we've broken up but maintained a friendship! Congratulate me! I will also freely admit that I say it with an air of superiority; a smugness that I felt I had earned by being the most freaking awesome ex-girlfriend in history. I'm like the "cool mom" but probably a lot more annoying.

However, recent developments have caused me to reexamine my relationships with exes under a harsher light. Ideally, being friends with an ex would consist of both parties maintaining the friend feelings while moving past any romantic notions, right? But what if one party hasn't moved past that? Does that count? And what about the exes you never really speak to? You know, the ones you catch up with on birthdays. It definitely fits into the friendship category...but is that a friendship to be proud of? (And by proud I mean obnoxiously boastful.)

I'll maintain that I am friends with my ex boyfriends. But it's not your average friendship--it gets a whole new category. It's different. Perhaps I will stop wearing my "World's Greatest Ex Girlfriend" t-shirt. (The back says, "No, seriously. Let's have a beer while you ask for my advice on your new girlfriend.")

So, kids, I ask you. Can you really and truly be friends with an ex?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Or you could send a letter.

All those advertisements for the US Census were not kidding--it does not take long. I spent somewhere around 5 minutes on the process, from opening the envelope to sealing the return envelope.

However. I'm not here to talk about filling out the census. Was anyone else disappointed to find a pre-census letter in their mailbox last week? "Hey America, in case you missed all of our television, radio, and print ads, we just want to let you know we're doing the census! This isn't it, but it'll be here soon, from this same address! Get ready!!!" Seriously? What a ridiculous waste of resources.

On the census form, there is an email address--it's meant for your use in the event that you have concerns about the paperwork. Thanks guys--I do have concerns! Keep an eye out and maybe send an email of your own.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

4th Grade Angst

I spent my day with 4th graders. THE ATTITUDE IN THAT ROOM WAS STIFLING. I wanted to sit them down and say, "Look. You're not even in middle school yet, and that shit is terrible. Maybe you should save all this for 6th grade."

One boy, A, was getting on my last nerve. I encountered him twice today. He was full of attitude. He ran through a battery of surly behavior, including (but not limited to) ignoring me, defying my instructions, talking back, yelling in my face, and doing whatever the hell he wanted. When it came to the yelling in my face, treating me as though we were peers, I very politely offered him an escort to the principal's office** at the end of recess. I mean, was he serious? Since when is it appropriate to yell at an adult? About something as asinine as a football? A FOOTBALL. Nobody was dying. There was no danger whatsoever. (Except A getting a slap in the face.) I'm just saying, that did not fly when I was in 4th grade.
At least he had the good sense to look ashamed and not make eye contact when I returned the offending item and threatened to call his parents at the next hint of that tone of voice. Punk.

Another boy swore casually in conversation today. I told him it was not warm enough yet to be outside in just short sleeves. "But I'm hot like hell!" he blurted out. EXCUSE ME? He said it "just slipped out."
"You shouldn't even be thinking that." (Whatever, yeah I sound like my mother. Shut up he is 9 years old that is not appropriate.)
What I REALLY wanted to say was that he wasn't even using it correctly! I mean heaven's sake boy, if you're going to curse at least have the common decency to do it properly! Clearly we haven't covered prepositions yet.
--Oh wow. For the first time ever, I have a small appreciation for my 8th grade English teacher who made us memorize 100 prepositions and take a test on them over and over until we aced it. It was excruciating. Also a waste of time. But at least I now see a real world application. Huh. Go figure.--

On a positive note, I was the subject of a haiku poem. A, a girl I've known since her brother was in my 1st grade class last year, is wonderful. She's the kind of student you want cloned. And I would have told you all that yesterday.
But today. She brought me a sheet of paper and said, "I wrote you a haiku." Adorned with flowers and a little "I <3>
Allow me to share:
You shine like a star
Your smile brightens the room
You're very pretty
It's the best poem ever. It's a masterpiece.
My day was awesome. Kids swearing, kids giving me shit...whatever. I'm an inspiration.

**Or maybe I raised my voice a tad to suggest that one does not speak to adults in such a fashion. Which might have been followed by the offer of chatting with our administrator. I can't recall.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Rush Limbaugh has said that if Congress passes the Health Care Reform, he's bailing and heading to Costa Rica.

Ok, so he's against it.

But...what is he hoping to accomplish with this stunt? If he goes...that's awesome, right?
What is he expecting? That we as a nation are going to collectively weep with the loss? Will we start an internet campaign to bring him home again; flee to Costa Rica in order to convince him of America's merits? Is this threat, this possibility of a society without Limbaugh, so terrible that we might let it change our minds on an issue of this importance?

Not so much.

I personally would offer to help the man pack, since his absence might mean I could sit through a family function without one particular cousin singing his praise as if Rush himself was paying by the word. One Christmas season without that special headache? Count me in.

I find it odd that Rush didn't do even a preliminary google search before selecting his destination. Considering Costa Rica has a government-run health care system and all.

PS--Hey, Costa Rica...sorry about that guy. Be sure to embrace him like we have!

Monday, March 08, 2010

New low.

It has been ten days since my laptop checked out. It has been seven days since I broke down and turned on my old dinosaur laptop. He's been holding out pretty well! If I don't try to do more than one thing at a time, anyway.
Because of this, I haven't been updating my blog or my twitter nearly as much as I'd like. (I can imagine that this is deeply troubling for you.) Luckily, I've kept notes! (Nerd.)

Things I Would Have Tweeted if My Computer Hadn't Decided to Go on Vacation
-All the snow fell off the front awning of my house. Was vaguely concerned about attacks. Remembered that snow falls. #loser
-My niece and I tried on my grandmother's and mother's wedding dresses, respectively. I only freaked out a little.
-Watched When Harry Met Sally.
-The twin had NEVER SEEN the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice. Not acceptable. Thanks to, this is no longer an issue.
-I hate when the Kleenex box is almost empty and you pull way harder than necessary. #lifeishard
-20 or 30 tweets RE: the closing ceremonies of the Olympics.
-Jane Austen makes me want to sound smarter and more clever. (Good thing I tweet about Kleenex boxes, yes?)
-I missed the first showing of "The Marriage Ref"...I'll be sure to check it out next time!
-I have an exceptional talent for unclogging Elmer's glue bottles. Which is good, considering my line of work.
-Dear Children's Book Illustrators: Why must you draw naked butts of small children? It's more of a hassle than it's worth. Thanks, Amanda
-Cleaned my makeup brushes.
-My life is not very interesting, and twitter does not help to hide this in the least.
-I made cookies for work, and ended up making a huge freaking mess. I had flour and food coloring everywhere. Pink hands, anyone?
-Waiting on the phone with tech support is BORING.

Right around then I decided to stop making notes about my life, as it only served to damage my self esteem. There's no way I could keep it up for another week and still feel good about putting all that nonsense on the internet. (You're welcome.)

Would you like to know my favorite feature of the dinosaur laptop? It won't stay open by itself anymore, so I have to prop the screen against something. It makes the laptop considerably less mobile. I'm facing the wall right now to type. It's just sad.