Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I’d Like You More If You Were Her

Several years ago, during the lengthy dating dry spell that I call “my 20s,” I had a side (unpaid) gig writing blog posts for a movie website that was started by a woman my age named Rushmore. She was basically every average-looking woman’s nightmare: naturally petite, blonde, and thin, smart, funny, personable, legitimately enjoyed and understood sports, and--worst of all--genuinely nice, and therefore impossible to hate.

This was one of the years that I decided to make a New Year’s resolution, and that year I resolved to be more willing to put myself “out there” and meet new people. So during a brief email exchange with Rushmore about her site, while she was spending a year backpacking through South America with her then-fiancée, I mentioned my resolution in case she knew of anyone I could possibly tolerate spending an evening with.

“I actually do know someone you might like. And he does entertainment writing, too, so, if nothing else, you guys could talk about that.”

She said she would do an email introduction to her friend Max and suggest that he and I meet up, but framing it as a networking meeting since, “I’m not sure how he’ll feel about potentially being set up.”

Within seconds of her sending that email, Max replied with an exuberant response that declared, “Great idea, Rushmore!” and “I would love to meet your friend!” and “Wolfie, wouldn’t you agree that Rushmore is just the best?!” (actual language used, not an exaggeration)

He suggested we meet for coffee after work on Thursday, and I agreed. Figuring if we didn’t hit it off on a personal level, my pseudo-date with Max could at least prove beneficial professionally, since I was always on the lookout for a new full-time job or freelance work that would actually pay me. I made photocopies of my of the business cards I had collected from editors and publishers who either declined to hire me or offered me work where “if our traffic numbers are high enough we can pay you something,” since maybe Max would have better luck with these contacts than I had. And then feel compelled to share his network of contacts with me.

Arriving at Starbucks, I spotted Max easily from a Facebook photo I had looked up earlier. He greeted me enthusiastically with that sort of frenetic energy that some people innately have that always throws me off, being a naturally sedate sort of person. He offered to get me my drink of choice while I unbundled myself at the table, absent-mindedly bouncing on the balls of his feet while waiting in line, making me wonder if he was overly nervous, excited, or already too caffeinated.

As soon as he got back to the table he asked how I knew Rushmore. I started to explain but as soon as the words, “…write for her website…” were out of my mouth he was off and running.
“Oh, her movie website? I love that site! Isn’t it so well put together? She’s not even a web person by trade, but she still manages to pull that off. It’s amazing. I met her at a blogger’s networking event; it was kind of lame, but there was an open bar, and of course I got to meet Rushmore, so I was so glad I wound up going. She was working on another website at the time…I forget what it was about. I thought she was absolutely gorgeous, so of course I was devastated when I found out she was engaged. But she’s still awesome, and so smart and talented, so I’ve made sure to keep in touch. Besides, you never know where life is going to take you…engaged ain’t married, after all…”

A 7-foot-tall drag queen with a pink bouffant wig standing behind him holding up a neon sign declaring, “He’s in love with Rushmore, dummy!” would have been more subtle.

Having accepted that this spastic ball of unrequited love was not my soul mate, I tried to steer the conversation toward making some business connections. I offered him the photocopies of my contacts, which he excitedly accepted, promising to email me some of his as soon as he got home; that was over eight years ago and I don’t even live in that city anymore, but I’m sure those will be in my inbox any day now. We also become Facebook friends, but I never heard anything from him, and I never reached out, either, assuming that not being able to provide a direct route to Rushmore’s heart rendered me totally useless to Max.

Almost a full year later Rushmore was back in town, now sans-fiancée. She was throwing herself a party to jointly celebrate her birthday, the dissolving of a toxic relationship, and being back home. I received an invite, despite my only connection to her still being a writer for her site. Unable to come up with one of my many excuses for avoiding social situations, I went to the bar where she was reveling with her new roommate, a collection of girlfriends, and Max.

If Max was there as a guest or as her personal manservant, I’m still not sure. All night long she never saw the bottom her glass without him appearing at her side with a full one, never went to the ladies’ room without him offering to watch her bag, and never tried to sit down without him leaping up to offer her a more comfortable seat.

When I arrived she did a quick round of introductions to her lady friends, and Max stood to introduce himself, offering me his hand.

“Uh…yeah, I know, hi Max. We already met. About a year ago, remember? Rushmore emailed us and suggested we meet? You bought me a peppermint hot chocolate? I gave you pages of editorial contacts…”

A faint light of recollection rolled over his face and he proceeded to make awkward small talk with me while absent-mindedly gazing over my shoulder.

“Oh, right, I thought you looked familiar… So how’s it going? Did any of the contacts I sent you help out?” (no, primarily because that exchange never occurred) “Can you believe Rushmore’s back? And now single?! I mean, you may hope for things like that to happen, but how often do they actually happen? Oh, excuse me, I need to go get her another drink…”

For the next few months his Facebook status updates were a series of cryptically blatant lovelorn messages and quotes like, “People always say that things happen for a reason…now I know why…” and “You have found her, now go and get her.”

In an email chain with Rushmore about some site-related business, I asked her how things were going now that she was back. She replied that it was a bit strange being back and being single again, but that she was pretty happy.

“But Max won’t leave me alone, which is annoying, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.”

Unable to censor myself even in casual emails with casual acquaintances, and having zero tolerance for anything I deem “adolescent behavior” (which can encompass anything from tattling to being too obtuse to acknowledge when someone’s clearly infatuated with you) I rolled my eyes and typed back, “Are you not aware that he’s in love with you? I assumed it was one of those things that everyone knows, but no one talks about.”

She never responded to that part of my message, but words must have been exchanged with Max because a few weeks later he un-friended me on Facebook and I never heard anything from him again. Rushmore and I are still distantly friendly, despite her movie site now being defunct, and she’s happily ensconced in a long-term relationship with a man who is not Max.

And I’m still waiting on those business contacts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Label Making

I can still clearly remember being in middle and high school and thinking how awesome it would be to have someone special in my life that I could call “boyfriend.” And how I would find sly ways to drop that label whenever possible so everyone would know how super-special I clearly was.

“Oh, sorry, I can’t come to your party this weekend; I already have plans with my boyfriend.”

“Actually, I’m saving this seat for my boyfriend.”

“Look at what my boyfriend gave me for my birthday!”

“If you don’t stop staring at my boobs, my boyfriend will totally kick your ass!”

But now, in my 30s and in a position to actually throw that term around, I avoid it like the plague. Because it makes me sound (and feel) like the aforementioned idiotic teenager I once was. And because it implies a temporary arrangement. And because I don’t want to affix the same title to the man I’m in a cohabitating exclusive relationship with as what my coworker’s 15-year-old calls the boy she’s made out with twice in the same week.

It’s kind of mind-boggling that we, as a society, have yet to come up with better terms for heterosexual adults in committed non-married relationships than “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” “Significant other” sounds pretentious and lame. “Partner” implies a same-sex relationship. “Special friend” indicates a fuck buddy. “My better half” isn’t always accurate. “Mate” doesn’t work because this isn’t Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. “Soul mate” is just…no. And other varieties of the already problematic “boyfriend/girlfriend” sound just a juvenile and moronic: “my boo,” “my baby,” “my sweetie,” “my love,” etc. We managed to get “awesomesauce” into the Oxford Dictionaries; we must be able to come up with a more adult version of “boyfriend/girlfriend”!

My workaround has been to simply refer to Remus by name in conversations with new people and assume they’ll use context clues to figure out who he is in relation to me.

“Remus and I went to the movies this weekend and some lady coughed all over us, so I’m not feeling great today.”

“I went to that restaurant with Remus once. It was pretty good, if you think gummy pasta and watery sauce is worth $30.”

“I just dropped a bunch of money buying new furniture for the place Remus and I just moved into.”

Of course I’ll still run into the occasional person who can’t do basic math and will ask, “Who’s Remus?” and I’ll begrudgingly mumble, “He’s my…boyfriend…” And then I’ll want to slam a door and turn my music up way loud because OMG, teenage angst.

When he forwarded me an email chain from work where he was soliciting for vendors for a project I was working on, I discovered that Remus’ solution was to refer to me as “my lady.” To which I asked if he was British in the 1800s.

“No, but it’s way better than ‘girlfriend,’ right?”

While true, I was still less than enthused, primarily because if I used the inverse “my man” in reference to him, I would sound like some desperate woman who doesn’t know how to be alone.

“My man has a good job! My man knows how to take care of me! My man kills all the spiders!”

No thank you.

“Well, what do you want me to call you? You’re not my wife, you’re not yet my fiancé, and you hate ‘girlfriend’ or any iteration of that. So what’s left?”

And then I had a stroke (of brilliance). I was his pre-fiancé, ergo, preancé!

But much like Regina George in Mean Girls, he shut me down. “Preancé is not a thing. I am not calling you my preancé.”

So I’ve conceded to let him continue using “my lady,” and I continue to hate-use “boyfriend,” while looking forward to the day I can retire that label.

Oh, and also because it will be the day that we decide to take our relationship to the next level of permanence due to our ongoing mutual love, respect, and commitment toward each other and whatnot…but, you know…priorities…

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Bed That Magic® Bought

The extent of my knowledge of Magic: the Gathering can be summed up by the fact that I refer to it as, “the bullshit with the cards.”

I vaguely remember it being a popular game (right? it’s considered a game?) with a certain subset of boys when I was in middle and high school in the 1990s. It involved buying packs of cards that resembled mythical creatures or lands or something, and in order to play(?), groups of like-minded young enthusiasts would gather (get it???) in someone’s parent’s basement to attack each other with the aforementioned cards and roll the 20-sided die in order to find the one ring to rule them all. Or something to that effect. I may be mixing my fantasy elements here (I said that all I knew was that it involved cards!).

Remus, however, knows plenty about Magic as it was a rather prominent part of both his childhood and his 20-something years. What I thought was a hobby that ended the day you packed up to leave your parent’s home is apparently still a popular pastime for plenty of adults who do not, despite popular belief, still dwell in said parent’s basement. In one of his past jobs, Remus worked with several people who also Magicked(?), and they would pass many after-work hours playing. Now being a gainfully employed adult, he finally had the funds to purchase the many packs of cards he could never afford as a kid, so purchase them he did.

Several years and a couple of jobs later, Remus was no longer Magicking as he once Magicked and his abundance of cards resided in many boxes that he kept stored in several drawers in an old dresser that lived in his closet. When we decided to move into a new place together and were clearing out the dresser to prepare it for sale on the online garage sale that is Craigslist, we debated on what to do with the many boxes of Magic cards. Our opinions differed slightly.

Him: Find someplace or someone to sell them to.

Me: Throw them away or burn them for making s’mores.

He insisted they were too valuable to just toss, which I found unlikely because clearly I don’t know anything.

After a brief amount of online research, Remus found a gaming store in Seattle that not only bought used Magic cards, but also provided a database where you could record how many of a specific card you had and in what condition, and it would then create an invoice of how much you could expect the shop to pay out for your bounty. The cards and invoice were then mailed out to Seattle and once your inventory was verified, you would get a deposit for their worth into your PayPal account. It couldn’t be easier!

Well…except for the fact that you have to sort and order your collection of cards yourself to determine what exactly you have to offer, which is no small feat when you have 10,000+ cards. Our opinions on this project also differed slightly.

Him: Let’s do it! It’ll take up one weekend—two at the most—and then we’ll have a nice chunk of change to do something awesome with!

Me: Let’s not. And also, I don’t love you anymore.

But with much persuasion I was drawn in anyway. I’m sure the promise of foot massages and head rubs were involved.

And so, for the better part of two weekends, we sat in his living room, going through boxes of Magic cards, separating out the various editions, sorting the Manas from the Creatures, the Spells from the Strategies, pondering if a slightly bent corner would reduce a card from “Very Good” to merely “Good” condition, figuring out where the hell the foils fit into the scheme of value, and me disbelieving what some of the so-called “rare” cards were worth (“Underground Sea cannot be worth $200! It’s a friggin’ piece of cardboard!”).

In the end Remus recouped over $3,000 for his collection and our hours of effort. And that is how we now sleep on a king-size Simmons Beautyrest Recharge Hybrid mattress that features Beautyrest Pocketed Coil Technology with AirCool Gel Memory Foam and feels like sleeping in a cloud that ever so gently hugs you as you sink into sleep. And how I went from referring to Magic: the Gathering as “the bullshit with the cards” to “the bullshit with the cards that bought us a baller bed.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

You Say Potato, I Say Your Taste in Music Sucks

I will freely admit that my taste in music is pretty lame by the average person's standards. My iPod (and yes, I still actively employ my iPod) is primarily made up of showtunes, podcasts, and one massive playlist where I dumped everything else from classic rock, to various '90s movie soundtracks (the Reality Bites soundtrack is really good, yo), to that song I heard once on the radio and thought was catchy. I also have an affinity for classical music that has been ingrained in me since my early years as the quintessential band geek. My knowledge of modern music and artists is pretty poor in that every time the nominees for the Grammy Awards are announced, I'm lucky if I recognize one-third of the names (my, my, that Beyonce has done well for herself since her Destiny's Child days!).

But despite my general modern musical ignorance, I can tolerate listening to pretty much anything, provided it's actually music. Which is where I'm struggling to happily agree to disagree with Remus, who pretty much exclusively listens to stuff like this:


This is a grand mal seizure with a backbeat.


This is where eardrums and retinas go to die.


It has a laser-firing puppy, so there's that, but it's still not music.

Even the folks at SNL agree that this stuff is not music. (Not that SNL has exactly been on the cutting edge of anything for awhile now, but they back up my argument, so I'm going with it.)

Whenever I was asked about my musical tastes in the past, I would usually answer that I could listen to pretty much anything other than hardcore country. But if I had to choose between country music or attending one of these senses-raping "shows" (because they're not "concerts," because they're not music), I would be sporting the shiniest cowboy boots and the biggest belt buckle you've ever seen faster than you can say, "OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS NOISE THIS MUST BE WHAT HELL SOUNDS LIKE!!!"

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How Marc Maron Sent Me On a Craptastic Date

While living in the Washington, DC, area for a brief stint, I went on a handful—from a seemingly endless stream—of pointless first dates, one being with a guy I’ll call “James” (you’ll discover why soon enough).

As with most of my miserable dating experiences, I met James online and we chatted back and forth a bit and he mentioned that he was going to see Marc Maron perform live the following weekend. Being a fan of Maron’s “WTF” podcast, I was also interested in attending his show (and a little bit disappointed in myself for not already knowing he was coming to town, but that’s what I get for often fast-forwarding through his often long-winded intros where he’ll rattle off any performance dates). James sent me the link to purchase tickets, saying that it was open admission, so if there were still tickets available we could meet up and attend the show together. I bought my ticket and we agreed to meet up for dinner beforehand somewhere near the venue. I specifically mentioned that I hadn’t been living there long and didn’t really know the area, so I would be useless in choosing a restaurant. James insisted, “Don’t worry, I got it.”

The day before our date, I checked out James’ online profile again to refresh my memory of what he looked like so I could pick him out in a crowd. So of course that meant he only had one photo posted, and it was a long distance shot of him on a mountain that revealed no characteristics that would make him recognizable to a stranger. I pinged him and asked if he had any close-up photos to share, or did he know what he would be wearing. He replied, “I’ll probably be in a blue sweater. And I look like a young James Spader.” (See? Told you all would be revealed.)

Now, while I would never classify James Spader as a classically handsome man, his younger self (I’m envisioning the Pretty in Pink era) was moderately attractive and had a distinct look, so I figured it would be pretty easy to find his doppelganger out in public.

On date night I’m waiting for James in front of a Vapiano, a restaurant he chose, which I assumed meant he’d been there before, but would soon learn he had never been and just looked up Maron’s venue on Google Maps, saw an Italian place nearby, and figured that would do. If you’re unfamiliar with Vapiano, as I was at the time, it’s a chain that offers mediocre (at best) Italian fare served up cafeteria-style where you take your tray over to whatever line you want to order from (pasta, pizza, etc.) and they whip it up for you right there while you wait. Then you pay at the cashier and pray you can find an empty seat in their clusterfuck of a dining room. In short, it’s probably a fine place to grab a quick lunch in the middle of a work day, but it’s probably not the best choice for a first date (or really any date, if you like the person you’re dating).

After a few minutes a guy comes up to me asking, “Are you Wolfie?” I confirm that I am. “Hi, I’m James.”

Now, I don’t know what era of “young James Spader” he thought he was comparing himself to, because I don’t think James Spader was ever a short, pudgy man with a permanent depressing expression on his face who wore lumpy, shapeless sweaters that he apparently inherited from his dead grandfather. This guy looked like James Spader if James Spader was a candle that melted and drooped a bit after being stored in an area that was too hot. So, OK, he’s no Adonis (who is in real life, anyway?) but way to misrepresent yourself online because you think that’s what the ladies want, buddy.

We head into Vapiano and his first comment upon seeing the various bustling lines of people with trays in hand is a nasal, “What the hell is this?!” (This is where it is revealed to me that he’s never been here before and picked it at random.)

An employee sees our confused expression and explains the various line options, pointing out the stack of trays where we can get started. “Oh, so it’s cafeteria-style,” I reply. “Ugh, this SUCKS!” James declares.

The ordering process at Vapiano involves some sort of card system where the food preparers add whatever you’re getting to a card that you then give to the cashier who has a machine that will digitally tally everything on your card, thus giving you your grand total. It’s needlessly complicated, but most people just roll with it. James insists on knowing why he has to use a card when he’s only getting one thing, so shouldn’t you just know what that one thing costs, and why can’t he just pay the guy who made his food in the first place, and also, this place is stupid.

After we get our food there’s no two seats available at any table (it’s dinner time on a Friday and the place is packed), so we wind up sitting side by side at the bar. The bartender comes by to ask if we want anything to drink, and having already purchased a soft drink with my bowl of lukewarm, gummy pasta, I decline. James announces that there’s no way he’s paying whatever their alcohol prices are after what he was charged for a meal he had to serve himself. It’s around this time that I realize we have an entire show to sit through together after this meal and I start to wonder how badly I really want to see Marc Maron perform.

After a dinner paired with conversation topics like me trying to talk about anything other than the lackluster restaurant he chose and him reciting the litany of faults with the place, we head outside to walk the few blocks to Maron’s show. And it has begun to snow.

“Ugh! I can’t believe it’s snowing! This is going to make getting home a nightmare!”

“Well, it is February…and didn’t you just take the train here?”

“Well I’m going to have to walk through all this shit in order to get to the train!”

I’m really having a wonderful time.

When we get to what I thought was going to be a theater, we discover that it’s actually a synagogue that moonlights as a performance space. So the seats are actually pews, and there are rows of them both on the floor and up in a balcony. Since the event is general admission, there are no assigned seats, and by the time we get there, there’s only seating left in the balcony. And I inevitably know where this is going…

“Ugh, we have to sit in the balcony?! Then I shouldn’t have to pay as much as the people who get to sit on the floor.”

I excuse myself to go find the ladies room in the basement, which I don’t really need to use, but just need a few minutes away from Moaning Myrtle and the swirling vortex of negativity. I’m not even a particularly sunny person myself, but this guy made me feel like Pollyanna.

As I head up to the balcony I’m not seeing James anywhere, and I wonder if he got so frustrated at having to sit up there that he actually left, and while this would technically mean that I’d be suffering the humiliation of having been ditched mid-date, I decide that would be better than the alternative of having to spend more time with him. But he eventually shows up right before the show begins. I ask where he wandered off to, not actually caring in the slightest.

“I went to the bathroom, and then ran into Marc Maron on my way out and we chatted for a bit. He was pretty cool. I guess I could have texted you so you could have met him, too.”

Yeah, I guess you could have.

Maron takes the stage (or pulpit? or whatever the Jewish equivalent of a pulpit is? sorry, I’m not a religious person) and James is blessedly silent throughout the performance, making it the best part of the night. As we exit out onto the street afterward he whines a few times about how crowded the stairwell is and how there’s too many people there. Thankfully, when we get outside it has stopped snowing and the roads are relatively clear.

I figure there’s no way he can think this evening has gone well, but just to be safe and preemptively strike any “go grab a drink somewhere” suggestion, I comment on how I have to get up early the next morning to drive out to my mother’s house (not true), so I need to call it a night. James just shrugs and says that’s fine, as he didn’t want to take the late train home anyway. *Swoon*

He starts walking toward his train, and I realize it leaves from the same station as my subway ride home. Physically unable to take anymore awkwardness (which is saying a lot because I exist with my own abundance of it on a daily basis) I stop and say I have to head in the opposite direction for a different subway line. James mumbles something that could have either been “Nice to have met you” or “A sack of laundry is better company than me,” and continues on his way. I turn and proceed to take a very leisurely walk all around the block until I’m sure he must be underground on his train’s platform and it’s safe for me to head to mine.

If I were James Spader, I would sue that guy for besmirching my identity. And Marc Maron owes me big time.