Earlier this week, I got back from spending Thanksgiving in Southern California. On Sunday, I was lying on a beach, soaking up the sun and 75-degree weather. On Tuesday, I was back in Denver, where it was snowing to beat the band and cheerful meteorologists were projecting a high of 4 degrees the next day (it turned out to be 9. Woo-hoo?). So if you see a lot of references in upcoming posts how wonderful life is now that I’ve moved out to San Diego, you’ll know exactly why.
SoCal was a learning experience, and not just regarding the consistently pleasant weather. I learned all about more revitalized terms I can add to my lexicon–the last time I’d heard “far out” used unironically was when I listened to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on the drive out.
But I also learned about essential cultural differences in approaches to mating rituals. And no, I’m not referring to the fact that David Bowie may or may not have made sweet, sweet, glamorous music with Mick Jagger. Rather, in spite of the fact that the populace of Colorado and California is overall similar in composition (most people who live in both don’t come from either), men in California–specifically, L.A.–have, shall we say, different approaches to women than men in Colorado–specifically, Denver.
To illustrate, I have two examples from one day when I was visiting a friend in L.A. It was the day of the Broncos-Patriots mashup (may Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s souls rot for all eternity), and as is customary on game day, I was wearing my Broncos sweatshirt.
Now, I will never in any way say that women somehow deserve assholish behavior based on what they’re wearing. But compared to the other women around me who were dressed appropriately for the 70-degree weather in shorts, tank tops, and skirts, the lucky sweatshirt I was sporting is long-sleeved and two sizes too large because I bought it knowing I had tickets for a Broncos home game in November. Weather in Colorado being a bit unpredictable, I wanted to be able to bundle up in layers of ski gear while still being able to proudly my team spirit, which would necessitate wearing the ski gear under the sweatshirt. Hence an outfit that was baggy, shapeless, and bright orange to boot.
To top that off, I haven’t washed said sweatshirt since the season started. To understand why, you would probably have to find hilarity in those Bud Light commercials where a sports fan continues a ridiculous and seemingly insufferable ritual every game day because whenever they do so, their team scores, and you’re laughing because you do have an equally ridiculous and seemingly insufferable ritual that you keep doing in spite of its ridiculousness and seeming insufferability:
I laughed particularly hard at this commercial because of the Broncos connection as well as the memes going around after that pitiful Pats game with screencaps and captions to the effect of, “Should’ve stayed in the basement, bro!”
But on the day of the game, I obviously had no idea what the outcome would be, so I cheerily helped out the Broncos in my own stinky way: I wore the sweatshirt I have not washed in months because it seems like it helps them win.
Apparently three months is just enough time for creep-attracting pheromones to seep through even the thickest clothing, because as I sat down at a coffee shop a few hours before the game to check my email, a fortyish dude sat down next to me, observed me typing, and asked, “So…they got wi-fi here?”
“Mm-hmm,” I tried to reply noncommitally.
“How’d you get it?”
I can’t help but feel like my face must have automatically squinched itself into my just how many times did your mother purposefully drop you on the head as a baby? expression as I replied, “Well, I clicked on the wi-fi button and found the network labeled ‘free.’”
He left it alone for a few seconds, but seeing as how he was still sitting right next to me, and seeing as how I was trying to check my email in peace, I shifted my body so the computer was angled away from his line of sight.
Noting this, he quipped (or I assume it was a quip): “You know I’m totally reading over your shoulder.”
That did it. I gave him a full-on blast of bitchface.
“I’m just kidding,” he hastily added.
I maintained my stare for a full five seconds until he quickly realized that there was a more promising looking seat across the shop and scooted that direction.
I probably wouldn’t have given much thought to it if not for what happened when I went to a sports bar later to watch the game. In Denver, if you go to a sports bar alone and wearing your Broncos colors, guys tend to assume you’re there to–gasp–watch the game and will limit their contact with you to a cheers or high-five for a touchdown.
Not so much in L.A.
“Watching the game, huh?” asked the smarmy man in the Green Bay jersey who sidled up next to me.
“Yep.” And to his apparent surprise, I continued to do so.
“What’cha drinking? On the house.”
I’d been warned by the friend I was staying with that this might happen and I should simply take him up on it because hey, free beer.
“I’m good, thanks,” I managed to get out through gritted teeth. Scoring drive for the Broncos = STFU, everyone else in my book.
He didn’t get the hint. “Oh, come on, let me buy you a drink,” he oozed.
If I let you buy me a drink, you’ll get the impression that it’s okay to continue talking to me during the game, which it’s totally not, I thought, but then the Broncos scored a touchdown, and my distinctly indelicate and unladylike yell when this happened seemed enough to deter him for the time being.
But I guess some guys just don’t learn. Not only did he introduce himself to me twice and receive a curt nod both times because I was way more interested in Peyton Manning than him, he also left to try chatting up a waitress, flub horribly, and come back at the end of the game, when the Broncos salvaged a bad second half by tying the game and sending it into overtime. In sum, I was only watching two of the hottest teams in the NFL in a hotly contested game that was, for the Broncos at least, the first to extend past regulation time this season. I bit my knuckles as the Broncos started to make a slow advance–the first for either team in OT–across the field.
Green Bay FudgePacker fan sat down next to me again. He glanced at me, then at the screen, then back at me.
“Close game, huh?”
It was the second time that day I had deployed the bitchface. It was the second time it worked on the guy at the bar, though it didn’t do a damn thing to deter either Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. I watched helplessly as the Patriots kicked the game-winning field goal that would leave me texting my best friend gloomily, “Well, I guess I can wash this sweatshirt now. Maybe I’d at least have better luck with the guys.”
I didn’t wash the sweatshirt, of course, which clearly helped the Broncos rally last Sunday to defeat their hot-on-the-tail division rivals in Kansas City. But be warned, men of L.A. and everywhere else when I come back, whether for a simple onetime shot of beachface or permanently to avoid single-digit temperatures: if you ignore my lack of interest and keep pushing me, you’re going to make the Broncos lose. And if that happens, I will spend most of my waking nights from then on contemplating what poison to use on you, because stabbing you would get the wrong team colors on my lucky sweatshirt.
So by now some of you have probably realized that I have a real fetish for finding truly godawful crap online related to dating and relationships. Maybe it is misdirected masochism; maybe it stems from the same compulsion that some of us have to watch horror films that are painful to watch because of their gory nature and more so because of the “quality” of the writing and acting (everything I’ve ever been in excluded, of course).
But occasionally, I stumble across articles that aren’t altogether horrible. Obvious, perhaps; as-painfully-as-a-chestburster-birthing-itself self-evident, occasionally. However, these articles have the benefit of doing what good reading and viewing material should set out to do from the get-go, at least if the creator is of an appropriately angsty literary bent: get people thinking.
In the case of an article I found on, of all things, Your Tango yesterday (one of today’s eye-grabbing headlines featured “8 Swoon-Worthy Love Quotes from ‘the Notebook’.” Suffice to say whoever created a Freddy and Jason vs. Nicholas Sparks franchise would get me to eagerly pay movie theater prices, possibly multiple times in one day), an author who’s apparently a big deal but I’d never heard of before, Bo Sellers, wrote about 5 bald-faced* lies you tell yourself during and after a breakup.
*Where did this phrase come from? Was the inventor a werewolf trapper and noted that the hairier species was better at realistic-seeming lies? Is this some kind of jab at ZZ Top-style beards? Also, this was clearly not in the actual article title. I’m paraphrasing a little here for the sake of having an excuse to introduce this particular tangent that’s been on my mind since I last used the phrase during the Broncos game, of all things, two days ago. No, I don’t remember what it was about the boys in orange putting the Chargers in their place that made me say it.
The article itself is hardly groundbreaking. If you need Bo Sellers to tell you that you’re giving in to sheer hyperbole by wailing, “I’m gonna die alone!” then I got some beautiful beachfront property on Colorado’s Eastern Plains to sell you.
But breezing through the list did remind me that it’s been almost a year since my last relationship and that I’m sure I said and thought some things then that, while I might have genuinely believed them at the time, turned out to be not so much lies, but more like inaccurate projections of the future based on indeterminate data points at the time.
1. “I’m not ready now, but maybe in six months or so, I’ll try dating again.”
I was, and still am, insistent that marriage and cohabitation are out of the question, but I at least figured I’d try going on a date or two, just to see if any sparks reignited. Almost a year later, I have still had absolutely no desire to get coffee with anyone who isn’t already in my circle of strictly platonic acquaintances.
2. “Maybe in a few months, I’ll be interested in physical intimacy again.”
Back when I first got into the relationship that dragged on for six years, I wasn’t seeking anything more than friends with benefits. But I was like SOOOO IN LOVE, gaiz, and, like, I just wanted to be with him forEVER and EVER and EVER!!!!
So even though that turned out to be a pretty dumb idea, I still thought that after the shock of it wore off, I’d go back to being my early-twenties, sexually curious self. Nope.
3. “I’ll have to move. A two-bedroom apartment is ridiculous for one person.”
Plenty of couples get by just fine in a one-bedroom apartment. Plenty of couples get by just fine in a studio. Hell, plenty of people, couples and singles alike, get by just fine crammed three or four to a room, if the location is desirable enough. My ex and I moved into a two-bedroom apartment close to downtown Denver because the rent was amazing for the size, condition, and location of the place, and I’d figured that with two bedrooms, we could carve out a bit of private space.
Turned out we needed more space, like two states’ rather than two bedrooms’ worth, and I thought for sure I’d need to look for a new, downsized space once the lease was up. But my landlord seems to like me for some reason–that’s the only reason I can figure why he charges me roughly $150 less per month than I should be paying–and the hassle of finding a new place and paying people to move the piano from my elevator-free third-floor apartment to, well, anywhere else seemed like it’d do more harm than good, both mentally and financially.
4. “I’ll never get to go out for dinner again.”
One of my reasons for prolonging the relationship was the fact that I have absolutely no creativity for or desire to be in the kitchen. The ex cooked and cleaned, I ate and tried to get dishes in the vicinity of the sink. When I realized that those reasons weren’t enough to counteract the fact that I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out ways I could kill him in his sleep and make it look like an accident, I thought I’d have to learn to cook, because going out to eat as a single woman was, like, dangerous. Also scandalous.
Psssh. I live in Denver, not Benghazi. A lot of the places by my house have bars that are ideal for single people to sit and have dinner and, if they bring a book, not get bothered. Plus, if I really feel like eating someplace that’s farther than a few blocks away, there’s the bus. And those drivers do not have time for anyone’s bullshit.
5. “My cat’s going to be so lonely!”
Go ahead, make all the cracks about how much I fit a certain stereotype. But my 16-year-old senile furball was another reason for extending the relationship past its warranty date. My cat likes having someone around, and I knew with my ski instructor job whisking me away to the mountains at least once a week (okay, so most of the time, it wasn’t for the actual job…), he wouldn’t have anyone around for not insignificant stretches of time once my ex was gone.
But then I remembered that he’s a cat. And a pretty tough little hairball to boot–he somehow survived on his own for a good eight days after my mother died! Sure, he likes the warm lap and scritches when I’m around, but as long as he’s got food, water, and a fairly clean litter box, he couldn’t care less if I leave him all alone to go skiing. My ex, on the other hand…
But who wants to think about him anymore? Even though he still invades my thoughts occasionally, I’d like to think that the mere fact that my primary concerns in the immediate wake of the breakup were more about my cat and eating (and definitely not the two in any way together) said that it was time for it to be over.
Especially because it seems so much better, mental-health-wise, if I’m watching Freddy vs. Jason and imagining Nicholas Sparks’ face in place of whoever is the current ass-whooping recipient instead of my ex’s.
Bah, humbug. After tonight, the thin pretense that Ned Stark was right and Winter is Coming will fall away as surely as the leaves on the trees, and we will be invariably thrust into Christmas Season with a vengeance that makes me want to go more Tony in my Stark imitation and don an Iron Man outfit in the hopes of fending off the holly-jolly.
I know we Americans have this little celebration called Thanksgiving in there to properly pay tribute to the Puritans who were too insufferable for England to take, so they decided to come inflict themselves on the Native Americans instead and bring a whole bunch of diseases and other strife in there as well, but it’s been less than two months since Columbus Day, so who wants to think about that depressing shit anymore?!
Basically, however, from here until December 26th (the American version of Boxing Day involves decking other eggnog-rage-fueled shoppers over items that weren’t good enough to gift Great-Aunt Bertha before Christmas, but are totally necessary to one’s household when marked off by 10%), it’s nothin’ but all Christmas, all the time.
And that’s great if you’re into. Which why would people not be? It’s an upcoming excuse to relax with friends and loved ones during the darkest, most depressing days of the year and take a whole two weeks off work to either get shitfaced 24/7 or go on a Caribbean cruise! Or, if you’re not in college anymore, celebrate the birth of one’s Lord and Savior, if you happen to count Jesus Christ as such.
Which would be fine, if it were limited to that. Part of my reason for being a Christmas curmudgeon stems entirely from the fact that it’s not just a day, or a week, or two weeks. It’s two MONTHS of retail venues blasting nothing but smooth-voiced, chirpy singers belting out their love for Santa Claus over a backdrop of sleigh bells (less sleigh bell, MORE COWBELL!); pine-scented everything; and consumers overrunning the stores and roads around them in greater numbers and more of a deadened stare than anything I have ever encountered during all of Denver’s combined Zombie Crawls.
There’s also the idea that everyone must be happy, 24/7. And as someone whose reaction to being told to smile is to give my best death’s-head grin and/or say, “I’ll only smile once you’re tied up in my basement,” I really take issue with the notion of forced cheeriness. The Winter Solstice celebration that none-too-coincidentally takes place right around Christmas is basically a way of blowing off steam from everyone being depressed about the long periods of cold darkness. It acknowledges that this time is depressing. Trying to deny how dismal early winter can be only sends already gloomy souls into a vicious spiral.
And let’s just go ahead and pretend I’m Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair, only this time the chair is taking the name “Bill O’Reilly” rather than “Mr. President.” I absolutely do think there is a War on Christmas. But I don’t happen to think that it’s us devil-worshippin’ atheists (?!) sending more soldiers out to fight. Someday, Mr. O’Reilly, I will tell you straight to your face: I didn’t declare war on Christmas. Christmas declared war on me.
So anyone who refuses to acknowledge that America is actually a wonderfully ethnically, culturally, and, yes, religiously diverse nation made up of many people who celebrate many events in many ways IS going to get a snide “Happy Hanukkah” or sickeningly-sweet “Happy Winter Solstice” in response. And all the rest should be able to piece together that “Happy Holidays” comprises, well, ANY holiday that people might choose to celebrate, whether it’s Christmas, or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or National Atheist Ski Day, or Drink-’til-You-Puke Day, or whatever floats your boat. As long as you’re celebrating it, enjoying it, and leaving me to my own devices, I wish you the best!
If you can get me to come out of my underground bunker for the next two months. Although the eggnog might be worth the occasional foray into zombie territory.
I made the mistake of getting into a debate with my uncle last week. I say “mistake” because my uncle, unlike the rest of my pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, commie-pinko, pot-smokin’ family, is a registered Republican. I, and the rest of my family members, generally try to avoid contentious topics with him because it will only end with simmering resentment and a need to get my father the M.D. to prescribe ever-increasing dosages of blood-pressure medications (no, he will not cut out the middleman and prescribe pot. We’ve been begging for years).
But I think he seems to be sort of ceding ground on some things. As my uncle is the brother to an Israeli woman who is dead certain that “everyone wants kids!” one might imagine what his stance on having kids is. For those who are scratching their heads and knitting their brows in such a way that their faces are in danger of sticking like that, I’ll clarify: “Eh, you’ll like it once you try it,” he once said to me.
After that particular line, I had a good degree of difficulty picking my jaw back up from the ground, but I finally managed to retort: “But what if I don’t? It’s not like babies come with a receipt and a 30-day return policy.”
He shrugged. “You don’t know until you’re holding your child in your arms for the first time. Then you see how special it is.”
Of course, trying to convince someone who bought a first-class ticket on the someone-from-this-younger-generation-PLEASE-reproduce train that reproduction is not the be-all and end-all for everyone is a bit like trying to make a howling blizzard dissolve by standing outside naked and yelling at it, only there’s at least slightly less frostbite of the family jewels involved with yelling at my uncle.
Nonetheless, I do believe my years of adamant tokophobia, comparisons of babies to roadkill and live tarantulas on my personal cuteness scale, and voiced complaints about the younger guests I have had on my roster as a ski instructor that were only minimized by my being able to hand said guests back after a few hours have made him relent a little.
But only a little. When the topic of children came up last week, it was in the context of how his middle son needed to get out and date more so that he could finally get on with his obvious life goal of making my uncle a grandfather.
“But what if he doesn’t want to have children?” I naturally inquired.
My uncle shrugged. “Eh, he does. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
“Maybe the uncertainty means that he does know he doesn’t want them but hasn’t found a way to tell you yet?” I stupidly persisted.
“No, he doesn’t know. He won’t know until he has one.”
“But I know I never want to have one. I know it would be a huge mistake, one that I wouldn’t want to inflict on a child or myself.”
My uncle shrugged again. “Yeah, sure, maybe a woman knows,” he said, demonstrating that tiny glimmer of progress, “but a man? Nah. Men don’t know. They just have to do it.”
I once again struggled to pick up my jaw from the table. I tried bringing up the example of my childfree friend who is so certain he got himself fixed on Father’s Day and took a bumpy Baltimore bus ride home from the surgery. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.
But my uncle merely proffered his go-to shrug and said, “Yeah, but does he have a child of his own? He doesn’t know. He won’t until he has his own child.”
At this point, I had no choice but to abandon ship. The logical quandaries raised in the last statement were overwhelming enough, but it was quite clear I had no way of prevailing upon my uncle’s newfound insistence that every man wants to have children, even if he doesn’t and can’t because he doesn’t.
To be somewhat fair, I suspect there might be more room for men to be on the fence about children than women are. Men, after all, don’t have to suffer through 40 weeks of decreased bladder capacity, back pain, shifting organs, weight gain, heat intolerance, and hair-trigger barfing. They also don’t have to deal with a corporate culture and federal government that penalizes taking time off for any reason, appeasing the neo-cons’ fretting about the future of social programs they want to destroy anyway aside.
And I recall my ex once telling me that if I’d shown any signs of maternal instincts, he’d have gone with them when the time was right. Children weren’t something he yearned for with all his heart by any stretch, but he was willing to at least consider the possibilities.
But then I think about the men who do just know. My friend from Baltimore, for instance. Also another guy I dated who did just know he was going to be a father someday and had no time for trifling around with a woman who couldn’t be convinced of her true nature as an incubator of his precious seed (needless to say, that only lasted three weeks).
Who knows. Perhaps time will have to work its magic on my uncle once again, with years of his son(s) showing no inclination for dating or mating finally convincing him that there are, in fact, men who do know for sure one way or the other.
But it’s most likely that I’ll have to continue nodding and excusing myself to go to the bathroom whenever my uncle lumps his entire gender as one of childish imbeciles. And if I’ve exhasted my quota of bathroom trips, I can always argue about Obamacare. At least the blood pressure meds will be covered.