Sunday, October 24, 2010

"We Have Nothing in Common as Human Beings..."

I have a definite tendency to over-think things. Like if I'm planning a dinner party, I might think that G&T's would go well with the pate I'm serving, so I might ask one of the guests to bring gin and another to bring tonic water. But then I worry that the one bringing gin will buy some crap gin, so I just buy some Henrick's myself. Then I start to worry that the one bringing tonic water will end up bailing and no one wants to drink straight gin, so I buy the tonic water too. Then I worry that someone will want diet tonic water so I get that as well. Then it occurs to me that some of my friends may prefer vodka so I need to get that and lemons, as well as limes for the G&T's. Then I end up with a fridge full of tonic water, diet tonic water, 3 kinds of gin, a handle of vodka, and 50 lemons and limes, and in the end everyone at the party only wants to drink wine.

One of the worst over-thinking traps I tend to fall into involves giving compliments to strangers. See, my view of justice requires giving credit where credit's due to the good as much as to the bad. The more important a quality is to me, the more necessary it becomes for me to acknowledge that quality in another person. Since personal beauty and style are quite high on my list of values, I am an avid compliment-giver. Cute shoes, nice dress, great cufflinks, whatever. Comments like these used to roll off my tongue with ease. Until one day when I started thinking...

I was riding the elevator to my office with a woman who had on a fabulous headband. "I love your headband!" I piped up with my usual alacrity. The woman slowly turned her eyes toward me, looked me up and down, and cautiously drawled "Thhaaanks."

Now, technically she did say "thanks," and maybe that was all there was to it, but what I heard was "I'd really rather not be complimented by a girl with no makeup on who couldn't even be bothered to straighten her hair this morning. Please don't suggest that we have anything in common as human beings."

Ever since, the urge to give a compliment has a triggered a cascade of self-criticism. I see a nice pair of shoes and my brain goes "Oooh, cute shoes. I should tell her. Wait, do I have cute shoes on? What if I say I like her shoes, but she thinks my shoes are gross and wishes I didn't like hers? Maybe my shoes are ok, but what about my outfit? Her shoes are pretty funky, but my outfit is pretty conservative. Maybe she will think her shoes are boring because I look boring. But then I have weird earrings, so maybe she will think her shoes are too weird because my earrings are too weird. Maybe I look fat today and she won't want to be seen talking to a fat girl. Oh my God, what if she's actually an alien and my entire standard of beauty doesn't apply to her? What if...."

 And so on, until I realize that I've been standing on the street corner for ten minutes, the cute shoes are long gone, and I look like a crazy person talking to myself (the kind of crazy person you *definitely* would not want complimenting your shoes.)

Yesterday, while studying in a coffee shop, a very nice but somewhat awkward young woman came up to me and complimented my vest. She wasn't exactly badly dressed, but she was far from my fashion ideal. She asked where I had purchased it, and I was forced to publicly admit that I had gotten it from a pile of crap my mom gave me and that it had probably been purchased at T.J. Maxx during the 90s. I had to say this in front of two other women who were very skinny and wearing a lot of makeup and who obviously did not get their clothes from their parents' garage. I think they lingered for almost an hour just so they could make me feel inferior by contrast.

So even though the compliment was very nice and seemed like exactly the kind of compliment I would give, the entire experience was traumatic and made me never want to give or receive compliments ever again.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Grammar of Signage

Ok, this has really been bugging me, and I don't know the answer. That never happens, because I know everything, so obviously there is a hole in the universe somewhere.

Say you have a sign, with a title ("Strategic Misanthropy," for example), and then you have a subtitle as well (such as "celebrating the species we love to hate.")

How do you properly punctuate and capitalize the subtitle?

It's not a full sentence, so "Celebrating the species we love to hate." isn't right. On the other hand, capitalizing the "C" and leaving off the period doesn't seem right either.

I suppose the correct answer is to capitalize everything in the subtitle as you would for the main title, but I just can't stand being so trigger-happy with capitalization. Rebelling against my German heritage, I suppose.

Since I'm the type of person who would rather be extremely wrong than only partially right, I'm considering going with something like this:

ceLEbrat^inG "THE" speCies' we,:; love TO hATE.!?

I think we've arrived at a very good place, grammatically.

With love,

S. Misanthrope

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Update: Yoga Kills!

I have previously covered the stupidity of yoga (see here? I really did!), but I neglected to mention that, like the brown recluse spider, yoga is also a silent killer. Well, maybe not killer, but if you are a leg, it will fuck your shit up.

One of my yoga acquaintances broke her leg doing yoga. That's right, her leg broke from *stretching*. According to her instructor (who is the one who broke the leg), this is actually quite common for yoga practitioners.

Anyone who still thinks doing yoga means you're healthy needs to be escorted off this planet immediately.

Stupid of the Week #3: National Write a Novel Month

Apparently November is "National Write a Novel Month." The name implies that November is the month for every person in the nation to "finish that novel they've always talked about writing." This is a terrible idea, and here's why:

To begin with, let's assume positive intent. That is, let's assume that whoever came up with this idiotic idea was really, truly trying to make something good. Let's assume they are not a soulless Randian supervillain hell-bent on drowning the world in mediocrity. Maybe they thought it would be a nice morale boost for struggling writers. Maybe they think it will increase the probability of another J.K. Rowling appearing on the scene. Maybe they have cerebral palsy.

If that is the case, whoever thought of this idea really needs to stop and think some more. For instance, they could think about the last pamphlet they received, or the last thank you card that came in the mail, or the last angry note someone left on their car. They could peruse Emails from Crazy People or 27b/6. They could read, oh, pretty much any random blog. They could do all of this, and then imagine a world where the authors of all the pamphlets, thank yous, passive-aggressive notes, crazy person emails, and blogs wrote novels instead.

As Sue Silvester says: horror!

Most people can't write for shit, and most of them are completely, utterly, blissfully unaware of this fact about themselves. And this is fine, as long as they don't write in public. Kind of like how it's okay that most people can't sing since they only do it in the shower or alone in their car listening to Annie Lennox. Our society has even cleverly constructed outlets to allow us to occasionally embarrass ourselves doing the things we can't in a safe environment. Artistic vomitariums, if you will. Sculpture has adult pottery classes, singing has karaoke, and writing has blogs.

It is as inappropriate to encourage some Stephanie Meyer wannabe to write a novel as it is to grab the girl butchering "Total Eclipse of the Heart" in the karaoke bar and put her in Carnegie Hall.

Now forgetting positive intent, there's something bracingly offensive in the idea of "National Write a Novel Month." Maybe it's because I have a number of friends who are legitimate writers with legitimate novels in the works, but I react to the notion of just anyone writing a novel for the heck of it with total disgust. It's insulting both to the people who take writing seriously and write for a profession and to everyone who is not a writer, who is bidden to take a month out of their life to give up their values and write a novel instead.

A novel is not an absolute good. You are not a better person for writing a novel. Novel-writing is a totally optional value, properly done by those who enjoy novel-writing and properly left alone by everyone else. What insufferable arrogance to suggest that one person's values must be everyone else's as well! How equally loathsome to value the art of the novel so little that you would suggest that anyone can and should create one!*

If someone tried to start a "National Perform an Actuarial Reserve Analysis on a Bermuda Captive Insurance Company Day," everyone would scoff, and rightly so: the idea is ridiculous. There are people who specialize in these things. They are called actuaries. There are also people who specialize in selling car insurance (called geckos), in flying airplanes (called my sister), and in analyzing stocks (called "Shit, why did I waste my money on an MBA?"). They do these things because they like to, and because they do them, you don't have to.

There are also people who work their asses off to specialize in novel-writing in more months than just November, and they deserve some fucking respect. So let's celebrate "National Write a Novel Month" by going about our own damn business, shall we?

With Love,

S. Misanthrope

*As Anton Ego says in Ratatouille, "Not anyone can be a great cook, but a great cook can come from anywhere."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Another one that's short


I have a ganglion cyst in my left wrist. It’s not really a big deal. It only hurts sometimes and it just looks like I have an extra wrist bone on the opposite side. But supposedly they do ultimately require treatment and treatment costs money and money I have not.

This is actually Ganglion Cyst Part II: The Return. I had the cyst drained earlier this year. My GP is very nice and cute and probably thinks his glasses make him look young and cool. I asked him how I could have gotten the cyst and we had a conversation that went something like this:

Me: So how did I get this thing?

Doc: Well, the cyst is a pocket of fluid that your body puts out to protect your joints from too much of certain types of motion. This type of cyst is common with glass blowers because they twist their wrists a lot.

Me: Ok, but I don’t blow glass, so how could I have gotten it?

Doc: Mm, it’s usually just glass blowing.

Me: How about typing?

Doc: No.

Me: Cycling?

Doc: No.

Me: Weight lifting? Hand stands? Learning sign language?

Doc: It’s only caused by glass blowing.

Me: …

We sat in awkward silence for a bit, with him peering sideways at me like I was some kind of closet glass blowing deviant. His stare so clearly said “You glass blowing freak, why don’t you just admit it already?” that I actually started to try and think of ways that I might have blown glass without knowing it, like maybe while sleep walking. I left the office not really sure whether or not I was at serious risk of being taken over by a glass blowing version of Tyler Durden in my sleep.

And that’s why I’m really not looking forward to going back.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm posting this because it's short


It might be impossible to market skin care products to me. I’m not particularly inspired by cute teens splashing water on their faces. I don’t care about vitamins or minerals or exfoliating micro-beads. I definitely don’t care about looking younger as I am still carded when I try to use the AMX I’ve had for 5 years to buy a pack of gum. The Oil of Olay logo looks like a terrified woman trapped in an egg to me.

But one advertising strategy in particular will never, ever persuade me to purchase skin care, primarily because it doesn’t even make me think of skin care. These are the ads involving reptiles. Lubriderm (can I just say "ew" to that name, please?) has their “later, gator” commercial and tag line. Some fancier company has posters with iguanas and lizards next to some nondescript pink and white boxes and bottles. Reptilia seems to be the universal skin care symbol.

The point of these ads, I suppose, is to let you know that, if you are a reptile, your skin texture is undesirable and you should go kill yourself so we humans can get back to stroking our smooth legs and arms. Or perhaps it is aimed toward people with fauxhawks, which tend to attract reptiles due their similarity to the nuchal crest. “Tired of reptiles following you everywhere, dropping out of trees and landing on your fauxhawk? Buy Reptile-Away hand lotion and send those pesky buggers on their way!”

Anyway, these ads won’t work on me because my reaction to a photo of a lizard is more like: “Oh, cool, a reptile! I wonder if this ad is for a reptile exhibit at the zoo. No, not the zoo. Maybe it’s for a pet store. No…a movie perhaps? Hm, why are all these bottles next to the lizard? Oh well, I guess I should go buy car insurance now.”

You see, I think reptiles are awesome. My very first can’t-be-without-it-for-30-seconds stuffed animal was a dinosaur. My second was an alligator. My sister’s first was a sea turtle and her second was a velociraptor. So I know I’m not the only person who sees an iguana on a billboard and thinks it’s cute and cuddly and who doesn’t think of skin care at all.

You know what does make me think of skin care? Nuclear reactors. Why? I don't know. The radiation, I guess. Maybe St. Ives should consider putting some of those in their ads.

Hugs and Scaley Kisses,

S. Misanthrope