Sunday, December 9, 2012

How to Wrap a Christmas Present

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

You know what time I mean: the time when most Western-cultured humanoids spend about ten minutes selecting and purchasing gifts for others and the rest of the Christmas season trying to get those presents wrapped without lapsing into a stress-induced coma. 

Maybe stressing about wrapping presents isn't part of the normal holiday experience, but it's certainly always been a problem for me. 

This present-wrapping frustration is mostly due to the fact that although my hands may appear normal, they don't actually function as standard hands should.  They function more like two fleshy stumps complemented with a fanning array of ten differently-sized thumbs, an eventuality which--as you can imagine--makes for some awkward package-wrapping difficulties. (Not to mention lots of good offers to join the circus.)

In the end, my presents often look as if Wolverine helped wrap them.

If you find yourself facing a similar struggle, read on. This highly instructional (and helpful!) four-step blog post will have your package-wrapping issues sorted in record time, leaving you with even more time for curling up under the Christmas tree sipping a hot, spiced coffee (assuming, of course, that you're able to work the coffee maker with all those thumbs). 

How to Wrap a Christmas Present:

STEP ONE: Decide whether or not your gift is actually wrappable.  This may sound simplistic, but depending on what you've chosen to buy for your loved one, you may want to take the hint from Lexus and just plant a giant red bow on top.

If you skip this crucial pre-wrapping step, you could find yourself many hours later, lying in a drift of discarded wrapping paper clippings, your arms covered in small cuts held closed by half-used tape ribbons, weeping softly as your nephew's pogo stick stares malevolently back at you from across the room--still unwrapped.

STEP TWO: Make it square.  If you've been foolish enough to select a gift that is round, triangular, oblong, floppy, or star-shaped, understand that you're making an already difficult task no easier on yourself (and all your thumbs). Short of cutting lots of little oragami-shaped slivers of wrapping paper in order to individually cover all sides of your many-faceted gift, your best bet is to make sure you have a square box handy to shove your present into, thereby ensuring that you'll just need to cover those four sides with one easily-cut swath of Christmas paper and four small thumbs of tape.

Of course, shoving oddly-shaped gifts into giant boxes may lead to the awkward discovery on Christmas morning that a large, much-anticipated box contains nothing more exciting than a collection of fake eucalyptus branches meant to be added to a table centerpiece; however, as that look of disappointment dawns on the face of your loved one, at least you can content yourself that the wrapping job took only moments.

STEP THREE: Choose your workspace wisely. Although it may at first seem like a good idea to spread your wrapping operation across the living room floor, understand that doing so without first vacuuming the carpet may lead to the embarrassment of dog hair, dust bunnies, and (in some extreme cases) small household pets and/or rodents stuck between those unforgiving strips of clear tape and the wrapping paper.

After realizing that you don't have time to clean the house and wrap presents in one afternoon, you will contemplate in turns the kitchen counter (where the avalanche of unopened mail lives), the kitchen table (currently in use by three family members working on various projects), the hallway (too narrow), and the bathtub (too awkward) before coming to the conclusion that it would be much easier just to return all of the presents and just give everybody cash. 

STEP FOUR: Pay somebody else to do it. For every reluctant wrapper out there, at least two high school fundraising volunteers stand ready and waiting in their pilled Santa hats and fake reindeer antlers, eager to do the job for you... provided that you chip in a few dollars for new marching band instruments.

To my mind, paying someone else to wrap presents is more than worth the investment. Not only do I get to support a local cause, but I now also have an excuse for why my presents always look as if they were wrapped by a toddler high on methamphetamines.  Instead of blushing sheepishly when my mother holds up what appears to be nothing so much as a giant wadded up ball of Christmas paper covered with nearly an entire roll of tape, I can say, offhandedly, "Don't look at me. Some kid with cystic acne and a fake Rudolph nose wrapped this."

Then we will all chortle with glee, glad that someone else's questionable wrapping skills are on the rack for once.

And that, my friends, will be a true Christmas miracle.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Shakespeare's Othello, Super-Condensed

For When You Only Have Thirty Seconds to Study

Act I
Desdemona & Othello: *smooch*
Iago: *plotty fingers*

Act II
Roderigo: *eyebrow wiggle*
Cassio: Do'h!


Act IV
Desdemona: *sings* Willow, willow, willow, etc.
Othello: RRRRRAWR!
Desdemona: ??????

Act V
Roderigo: Have at you!
Cassio: What the...
Iago: MUAHAHAHAHA! *stab stab*
Roderigo: *gurgles*
Cassio: Do'h....??

Desdemona: *sleeps peacefully*
Desdemona: Whaaaaa-
Desdemona: -aaaaaat?!
Othello: RRRRRAWR!

*crickets chirping*

Full Cast: *pointing at one another*  Liar! Whore! Slave! Villain! Fie!

O! O! O!

*stab stab*

Othello: *contemplates heap of bodies* I'm the WORST.




Monday, November 26, 2012

How to Be the Most Intelligent Person in Any Room

There's nothing worse than going through life feeling that your talents are unappreciated and that your intelligence is undervalued.

So I've heard, anyway.

The good news is that by following my patented four-step system, you can rest assured that never again will anyone doubt how smart you really are.

How to Be the Most Intelligent Person in Any Room:

Step One: Only discuss important topics. And by "important," I mean topics that you know everything about.  Because, let's face it: if you don't know anything about it, it's definitely not important. This point is key, since it takes constant and skillful conversational manipulation to ensure that the topic never veers toward something trivial (that is, something that you know little or nothing about). Be warned: this requires assiduous concentration and great power of will, but I trust that if you apply yourself, you will be able to accomplish this. 

Step Two: Always talk loudly.  You know what they say: he who talks the loudest, wins.  The fact is this: it really doesn't matter what you say, as long as you sing it out loud and proud.  That way nobody will ever have to stand across the room wondering about all of the intelligent things that you must be saying, because they will be able to hear you even if they made the vastly foolish mistake of choosing to sit way over there on the opposite side of the room. 

Furthermore, following Step Two ensures that even if there may (by some stretch of the imagination) be someone more intelligent than you loitering about, if you're talking loudly enough to drown him out, no one will ever be the wiser. 

Step Three: Routinely hang out with ESL/EFL learners. The beauty of hanging out with English-as-a-second-language learners is that due to their limited vocabulary and stunted range of expression, they're severely hampered in their ability to convince anybody (let alone themselves) that they are more intelligent than you. Forget the fact that they are (at the very least) bilingual and that you are pretty much monolingual: if they can't express it clearly in English, it doesn't count.  Period.  

Besides, it's fun to use obscure idioms and slang on purpose just to confuse them. Doing so will give you a rush of mental superiority that is seldom equaled elsewhere in the natural world and will give you that little confidence boost that you need to pull off Step Four. 

Step Four: Never pass up an opportunity to allow pearls of wisdom to dribble from your lips. No matter how attentively you follow Step One, there still might be a few people laboring under the delusion that they are smarter than you are.  Therefore, as a preventative measure, be sure to talk as much as you can, as fast as you can, to as many people as you can, for as long as you can.  This will leave no one in any doubt as to your intellectual prowess.

The truth is that no matter how hard you try, there still may be someone out there who remains unaware of how glowingly brilliant you really are. 

But that's okay.

You know.

And in the end, that's all that really matters.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why Being in Ministry is Awesome

As I type this, it's Sunday.

All around the world, people involved in church ministry are doing their thing: preaching, singing, leading worship, teaching, playing instruments, directing behind the scenes, and taking charge of a host of other tasks.

If you minister on a regular basis and think that you're already well aware that Christian ministry is awesome and that you could probably write this post yourself with half your brain tied behind your back, you should probably keep reading anyway, because we all need a friendly reminder now and then.  If you are not in Christian ministry, and are just a regular church attender who finds himself looking around and wondering why the rest of us look so happy all the time, this post is also for you.

Why Being in Ministry is Awesome:

1. You get to learn to learn patience. No matter what your role may be, to work in ministry is to work with other people, and you know what that means: the need for bucketloads of patience. Because let's be honest for a moment, shall we? People--even Cristian people--are often annoying and frustrating, and working in ministry does not exempt you from this reality. Since almost all you do in ministry is work together with other people, many of whom will be volunteers (and I'm not knocking volunteers, but sometimes it is true that you get what you pay for), being in ministry will give you plenty of opportunities to exercise patience with others, some of whom will struggle to follow through on designated tasks, will demonstrate the need for constant reminders, and ask many pointless, irrelevant questions.  Just think: if you weren't in ministry, where else would you have the chance to learn such patience?

2. You learn not to put people on a pedestal.  One of the best aspects of working in ministry, especially if you work with the same ministry team long-term, is that you and the people you serve with get to know each other really well. The good news is that getting to know people this well generally aids you in removing them from any pedestal that they may otherwise have occupied in your mind. The reverse is also true: you get to see their feet of clay, and they get to see yours.  It's a mutual dis-admiration society!  Don't get me wrong: it's good to respect those with whom we serve, especially those who are in spiritual authority over us; however, to imbue them in our minds with sinless, godlike qualities that they do not possess will only lead us to eventual disappointment.  This is yet another reason why being in ministry is so awesome: you are in a position to be constantly reminded that nobody is immune to human frailty, even you.

3. You no longer have to wonder whether or not people think you're doing a good job. This is mostly because people in the church are going to tell you pretty much immediately how they feel about what you're doing. Being in ministry isn't like those jobs in which you have to wait all year for your annual performance review. No, being in ministry means that the feedback will be pretty much instantaneous.  For workshop leaders, the feedback comes before the last notes of the closing song have even died away, and that first eager church member comes over to express his strong feelings (either positive or negative) regarding that week's song selection, how the band sounded, why the church should/shouldn't still have a choir, or some other little aspect that seems to be missing from the service that would make everything just perfect. For the pastor, evaluations regarding both your preaching and leadership abilities begin as you shake hands at the door and will continue throughout the week through phone calls, drop-in visits to your office, and occasional passive-aggressive e-mails. On and on we could go through each aspect of church work. The point here is that if you're in ministry, you never will have to wonder how everybody feels about what you're doing, because they're just going to go ahead and tell you.

In some ways, it’s true that just like with any other job, ministry comes with all sorts of highs and lows and that in the end all it really amounts to is just a lot of hard work.

But it's more than that: being involved in church work means that you will not only have to work hard every day to fulfill your ministry, but that you will also face spiritual resistance from forces that desire to see your ministry fail.

So, fellow ministers? Take heart. The responsibility given to you by God is indeed awesome.  See that you take heed to the ministry that you've received from the Lord. Ask for the strength to fulfill it with grace.

And fellow non-ministers? First of all, what are you waiting for? Ministry is awesome. Get involved. You'll learn patience, humility, and endurance. Second, be sure that you're supporting in prayer those who serve at your church. They need it. Third, be sure to take some time today to thank one of your church workers, because no matter how awesome ministry might be, everyone needs a word of encouragement from time to time.

For God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints—and you continue to serve them. - Hebrews 6:10 (HCSB)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Kids are Useful

I'll go ahead and tell you that as a single woman entering mid-life, I'm finding it quite convenient not to have any children. For one thing, I consider any week that goes by in which I haven't had to deal with another person's bodily functions a good week. For another, I can't stand to be talked to before I've had my coffee in the mornings (and occasionally after I've had my coffee as well). So not having any kids underfoot tends to work well for me. 

But I've spent enough time around my family and friends to realize that having kids isn't all bad. In fact, having kids around can occasionally be quite useful.

Why Kids are Useful:

1. Having kids means that you'll never need to set an alarm clock again. Ever. Over the summer, I wound up doing some overnight emergency babysitting which resulted in my sleeping on the couch at my brother's house.  Not knowing quite when my brother or his wife would come home, I didn't bother setting an alarm, figuring that one of them would wake me up in the wee hours by opening the front door and flipping on the lights.  In the end, neither one of them came home until much, much later in the day. But as it turns out, I needn't have worried about setting an alarm clock anyway: my five-year-old niece woke me just before 5:00A.M. by poking me really hard a few times in the spine, breathing snuffily through her nose down the back of my neck, and sucking her thumb at me until I found the presence of mind to get up and pour her some Cheerios.1  Parents of small children deal with these sorts of shenanigans all the time, meaning that they never, ever need to set their alarm clocks. Think of the money that they'll save on batteries (or the energy they'll save by not having to set their phone's alarm function!) because they know that they can rely on being poked, jumped on, steamrolled, or jolted awake from the crashing, banging knocking, and ungodly shrieking of their children in the room next door every single morning.  


2. Having kids means that you won't want for a Facebook status. And I'm not just talking about the pat status updates about the latest adorable thing your kid has said, how many bananas your son ate for breakfast, who is vomiting, and who just blew out a diaper.

No, I'm talking about awesome stuff like this:2

  • You guys know how I sometimes joke about taping my kid into a box for a few hours? Today may be the day it stops being a joke.
  • This just in from daycare: [my daughter] has taught the new girl how to pick her nose.
  • My son graduated to a half size violin yesterday. This has inspired him to practice--starting at 6:15 this morning.
  • Yesterday was made more interesting by [my younger son], who Monday night decided to wrap my keys up in a box and paper and give them to me as a "present." Except he forgot to give them to me, and apparently forgot that he had ever, in fact, seen them. So Tuesday when [our friends] arrived to babysit, I was frantically destroying the house trying to find my keys. [My friend] very graciously loaned me his (manly) minivan for the day. Found the keys later that night when [my older son] knocked the box off a shelf and we heard them. [Younger son] was very excited about presenting them to me at that point as his "gift" to me--so how could I be upset? 
  • My five year old just managed to put her shirt on upside down. You read that correctly. Waist thru the neckline, arms in sleeves, hem around neck. She was very frustrated she couldn't get it to meet the beltline of her trousers.
  • Daughter: Mom, can you twist my bones in? Me: ....... what? Daughter: Can you TWIST my BONES in? Like this: *grabs side and twists at the ribcage* Me: ............. Why? Daughter: So I can do a super-duper-ally-ooper bounce!

And so on. 

The salient point here is that once you have kids, you will never have to sit around trying to think about something to post on Facebook that will make your life sound interesting. In fact, you will never have to post anything about your actual life again.  Well... you will... but only because your actual life is now, you know, your kids.  So... yeah. There you go.3

3. Having kids means that you will stay humble. Unless you don't find the following situations humbling (and in that case, there really is no hope for you):

  • Realizing only once you're already out in public that you have vomit/poo smeared on your clothes (or, in the case of at least one of my friends, a dirty diaper stuck to the seat of your own pants).
  • Having one of your earrings yanked out completely, causing you to shriek bloody murder in the middle of an otherwise rational conversation at church.
  • If you're like most of my female friends, being out shopping and belatedly wondering if you've combed your hair yet.  If you're like at least one of my man friends, being out shopping and realizing that you're still wearing your soft, moccasin-like house shoes.
  • Dealing with the social awkwardness perpetrated by your medium-sized son, who points at an elderly shopper across the aisle and proclaims, in tones so carrying that even her elderly ears can hear, "SHE'S SO OLD!"
  • Resigning yourself to the knowledge that if you have children, your house will never look as neat as you want it to look, reminding you that you are not and cannot be in control of everything in your life. 
  • Acknowledging that the way in which your children won't always listen to your instructions mirrors your own relationship to your heavenly Father, a sobering reminder of how he must feel when you ignore his promptings. It also reminds you of grace, and to be gracious to the children in your life who have much more cause for this sort of foolishness, being much younger and less wise than you are.4
  • Realizing that if such a tiny person as your own toddler can get under your skin and cause you to lose your temper so quickly, you must not be as long-suffering as you thought you were. 

4. Having kids means that you can remove the word boredom from your lexicon. Between keeping them fed, clothed, and away from most hazards that can kill them -- not to mention making sure they grow up moderately well-behaved and non-stupid -- the one thing that parenting is guaranteed to do is to keep you busy. 5

The truth is that even if you--like me--don't have children of your own, you have all no doubt experienced the dubious wonder of being important in the life of a child. If your experience has been anything like mine, you have found it equal parts thrill, hilarity, mayhem, refreshment, exasperation, terror, revelry, diversion, enchantment, and conviction. 

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that kids prove their usefulness in that one point: that they alone bring to the universe that mingled sensation of confusing, glorious bafflement that both tests us beyond measure and helps us to understand that we are, beyond measure, blessed.

1. My confusion at finding myself still babysitting at 5:00A.M. was compounded by the fact that there was no coffee in their house.  THERE WAS. NO. COFFEE. IN THEIR HOUSE.  I fed the kids, dressed them for the day, got them to their Summer Bible Club program, and drove home all without any coffee in my system.  I'm still amazed that nobody died.  
2. Cribbed from some of my friends' actual Facebook statuses.  Because my friends are awesome. 
3. Don't worry. This awkward transition confuses me too. 
4. Special thanks to Holly Dove for this beautiful perspective. 
5. Just because I like it and didn't have any other place to link it, you get this: 27 Reasons Why Kids Are Actually the Worst. Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why You Shouldn't Ask Out Sisters

For a long time, I tried to persuade myself that a post like this wouldn't be necessary.

Mostly because I didn't want it to be necessary. 

See, I like to think that we still live in a world in which some of the more basic common decencies are observed: 1) you don't kick stray puppies, 2) you don't run down pedestrians in the street, and 3) you don't ask out sisters.  

You just don't do these things, people! Or, at least, you shouldn't, because they're all bad ideas.  First of all, if you kick a puppy, it will probably bite you.  Second, if you run down a pedestrian in the street, your insurance premium will go up (and you will probably dent your car). Third, if you ask out sisters, you're opening yourself up for a world of disappointment and shattered illusions. 

So you just shouldn't do it.

Lest you think I just plucked this topic out of thin air, I'll go ahead and admit that this blog post has been bubbling up ever since this happened to me for the second time. Yes, that's right, I've played second fiddle to both my sisters. 

And don't think that I'm bitter about having been second choice both times.1 Because I'm not

It's not that. It's the principle of the thing.

This is a social issue which must be brought to light before more people suffer.

Why You Shouldn't Ask Out Sisters:

1. Know that it sends the wrong message. At best, this sort of behavior sends the message that you are operating under the assumption that sisters are interchangeable--that because they moderately resemble one another, one sister would make you just as happy as the other. At worst, this conveys the idea that whichever sister you ask out second is actually second-best: otherwise why would you have asked the other sister out first? 

Don't think you'll be off the hook if you didn't even meet the second sister until after you'd already been turned down by the first. Unfortunately for you, female logic doesn't really work that way.

2. Realize that sisters compare notes. If you ask out females who just know one another in passing, chances are low that they'll eventually compare notes on you. But in the case of sisters, you should know that the comparing-of-notes has actually already occurred. Before the question is even out of your mouth your current Sister of Choice has already pulled up her mental file on you and ticked through a series of mental calculations regarding exactly how long you pursued her sister, how much time has elapsed since you last asked said sister out, and how this current experience compares with her sister's descriptions of your behavior. You won't notice all of this happening, since it often takes place in under a nanosecond, but based on her mental assessment of the answers to these questions, your fate is decided practically before you are done getting the question out. 

Really, for most sisters the answer is a no-brainer. Unless the sisters are dysfunctional and/or are highly addicted to interpersonal drama, you're doomed.2 

3. Understand that the situation isn't ideal. Even if she says yes when you ask her out and you both wind up wanting to pursue something more permanent, know that there could still be hidden dynamics in play. Relationships can be challenging enough without her having to wonder if you still secretly would rather be dating her sister. 

All I'm saying is that jealousy's a tricky thing that doesn't always make sense and that the dynamics of the sister bond are often inexplicable. So you're better off just not asking out sisters in the first place.

HOWEVER.............If you really feel that you're operating under extenuating circumstances and honestly can't restrain yourself from asking out a pair of sisters, then go right ahead.

See what happens. 

But you should know what you're getting yourself into.  

1. Oh, yes. It's true. But it only makes sense, because not only are my sisters both more talented and attractive than I am, but they're both vastly easier to get along with, not to mention both a bit less weird. But still. That doesn't make this sort of behavior any more acceptable, men!
2. Then again, if they are highly dysfunctional and/or addicted to interpersonal drama, you're still doomed. But you'll probably get a date or two out of it before you realize that you're doomed. So it's sort of a catch-22. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How to be Friends with an Introvert (without driving him completely bonkers)!

Hard on the heels of last week's surprisingly popular How to Be Friends with an Extrovert (without losing your mind completely), I'm now prepared to flip the coin and advise you on how to get along with the introverts in your life without driving them completely bonkers. 

Although to be fair, I should warn you up front that I might not exactly be the best person to offer advice on this subject, mostly because although I'm friends with a lot of introverts and love them dearly, I'm honestly not entirely sure that I don't drive them completely bonkers from time to time.

But we live and learn.

How to be Friends with an Introvert (without driving him completely bonkers)!: 

Step One: Remember that being introverted is not the same thing as being shy. To be shy is to feel a sense of apprehension or awkwardness when meeting new people or when thrust into unfamiliar surroundings.  To be an introvert, however, means to process thoughts and feelings internally rather than externally. Although some introverts may be shy, it would be a gross error in judgment for you to assume that these two qualities go hand in hand.1 

My sister/roommate is a prime example of this. If you have ever met her, you've no doubt found her to be friendly, chatty, warm, and personable. She has no problem trying new things and confidently travels the world enjoying zany adventures and meeting all kinds of new people. She is, however, a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. Her introvertedness does not make her shy, but it does mean that when she's upset by something, she does not talk about the situation until she has everything fully processed. It also means that unlike me, she doesn't feel the need to have a wrap-up chat at the end of the day in order to process the day's events (although she does succumb to these for my sake. Because she's AWESOME).  

Like most introverts, she enjoys what someone has termed "a rich inner life" of deep thoughts, daydreams, speculations, and opinions. She just doesn't feel the constant need to validate them by perpetually keeping the world clued in on what she's thinking and feeling. Unfortunately, to the uninitiated extrovert, this might cause my sister to come across as standoffish and hard to know, when in reality, she's just a very friendly introvert. 

Step Two: Remember that introverts need a break. In the summer of 2010, I took a spectacular two-week road trip with one of my co-workers, someone who also happens to be the most introverted of all my friends.2 Perhaps my favorite moment from the entire trip (other than the fateful day that we climbed to Delicate Arch and saw a man nearly plummet to his death) was the day when, having already driven about half of our 740-mile one-day haul from Salt Lake City to San Francisco, my friend Alissa turned to me and sighed, "You know..... we don't really have to talk the whole time." 

Yes, I'll confess: I probably had been talking for eight hours straight at that point. But in my defense, we'd somehow committed the massively gross oversight of not having packed any music, and the radio was only picking up static for most of that day. In addition, since Alissa and I had just recently started hanging out, I felt that I had a lot to tell her. Like... you know... everything that I'd ever thought or felt. Here we were, cooped up in a rental car while passing some of the most beautiful scenery on God's green earth, and not only did I find myself sharing the experience with a good friend, but I was also simultaneously able to lose myself in a haze of extroverted bliss, half-drunk on the joy of letting loose a torrent of hopes, dreams, and tales of wonder--all the while failing to realize that Alissa desperately needed time not only to process what I was saying, but also to process everything that we were seeing and experiencing that day, something I was making impossible, what with my steady stream of enthusiastic yammering.3

The point here is that if you want to be friends with an introvert, you need to make a concious effort to give him a break at some point.  For example, when I hang out with Alissa now, I compromise by only sharing with her every third or fourth thought that pops into my head rather than every single one

Step Three: Realize that introverts handle problems differently from the rest of us. This is important to understand, because if we fail to realize this, we may assume either 1) that the introverts in our lives are not dealing with their problems, or 2) that because they haven't said anything, nothing's bothering them. 

Neither of these assumptions is correct. 

Remember, introverts do their primary processing internally, meaning that when they've been upset or hurt by something, the last thing they want to do is to sit down immediately and talk it out. That's what an extrovert wants to do, because he needs to talk about what's happening in order to process it fully; however, the introvert needs time to work through everything inside before he's ready to talk about it. Furthermore, there may be situations in which he finds that his internal processing has been sufficient to help him handle the situation, leaving him with neither the need nor the inclination to talk it through at all.

I'm not saying that internalizing frustrations and hurts is the way to go, or--conversely--that letting your thoughts and emotions spew all over the place at a moment's notice is intrinsically bad. I've seen situations in which the former has been emotionally harmful and the latter has been surprisingly endearing. I'm saying that just like the extroverts of the world, our introverted friends are a pile of strengths and weaknesses, and that understanding why they react the way that they do will aid us all in getting along better.  

Step Four: Resign yourself to the fact that we may always drive each other a little bit crazy. If there's one thing this post has made abundantly clear, it's that being friends with extroverts can be a challenge for introverts, but did you know that the opposite is also true? 

That's right. Introverts drive us crazy!  

I mean, we do love you, but you have to understand that sometimes we feel uncomfortable that we don't know everything that you're feeling. We worry that you're upset about things that you're just not telling us (and if you don't tell us, how can we fix it?). We watch you sitting there peacefully, lost in your own quiet thoughts, and we wonder how much is going on in your head that we will never, ever know.

The truth is that more often than not, we find you completely baffling. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What's going on in your adorable little heads?

When confronted with an introvert, most extroverts generally resort to firing off a rapid succession of question upon question in the single-minded hope that if we can only ask enough questions, we will finally be able to puzzle out the secret of what makes you tick. 

This behavior, of course, will sometimes lead to the introvert developing an actual tic. 

But at least we can assure ourselves that we have made an effort to know you, which is not something we think you can say for yourselves. 

In summation, let me state for the record, on behalf of extroverts everywhere, how happy we are that you introverts are willing to put up with us? Because if you didn't deign to mingle with us, we would be stuck hanging out exclusively with each other.  And that would just be... 

Well, I don't know if there's a word in the English language adequate to describe just what that would be like.4

So, introverts of the world? Thank you. Thank you for surrounding us with your aura of peaceful strength and quiet mystery. 

Most of all, thank you for saving us from ourselves. 

God only knows where we'd be without you. 

1. Contrary to popular assumption, extroverts can also be shy. Unfortunately, our failure to recognize this shyness for what it is often causes us to chalk it up as low self-esteem or an inferiority complex. "How to Overcome Shyness" is, however, another post entirely.
2. It's due to her, mostly, that I understand even a smidgen about introverts. Hats off to you, AKB. Thanks for putting up with my bombastic brand of friendship. 
3. I think this is probably a run-on, but I don't care.
4. Although the Chinese have a good expression for it: 亂七八糟.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to be Friends with an Extrovert (without losing your mind completely)

Having spent more than a decade in a teamwork-oriented, socially-focused profession, I've taken and analyzed more than my fair share of personality tests. 

These tests are all well and good as far as they go, but I've noticed that although these assessments often describe the personality types and advise those of differing temperaments in how to work well together, they rarely go so far as to advise us on how to be friends with one another. How to genuinely get along with and understand one another. How to learn to breathe the same airspace day after day without fighting the urge to pull a lever that would drop an anvil down on one another.

You know. That sort of thing.

Never fear, dear friends. I'm here to fill the gap. In an as-yet-not-fully-planned, multi-post blog series of indeterminate length, I'm here to throw myself into the sociopsychological breach. 

You're welcome!

But first, a few caveats. 

One, let me state for the record that I'm a card-carrying ESTJ. (Surely we've reached the stage in social development at which most of us are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality assessment? Yes? No?1) The first time I read my ESTJ profile description2 aloud to my sister/roommate, she listened, wide-eyed and mouth agape in shocked silence, before asking, "Are you sure this isn't just someone who wrote up a description of you?"  

If there were only one change I'd make to the ESTJ profile description, it would be to add that if it were possible to be an Extrovert with a CAPITAL E!, then I would be one of those.

All of this is just to let you know that when I talk of being extroverted, I know what I'm talking about. I am not just one of them, my friend. 

I'm an Extroverted Extrovert with a CAPITAL E!3

Second, allow me to apologize on behalf of my people to all of you who are not extroverts. Allow me to offer a quick blanket apology for all of the ways in which we've caused you to suffer. We're sorry. Really.4

But enough of that.

It's time to quit dithering and teach you How to Be Friends with an Extrovert (without losing your mind completely):

Step 1: Remember that being an extrovert is about more than being friendly and outgoing. Being an extrovert basically means that we process things externally. That means, among other things, 1) that we often don't know what we're going to say until we open our mouths and say it, 2) that we have to talk things out not just to clear the air, but also in order to complete key steps in processing what's actually happening, and 3) that events in our life haven't fully happened until we've been able to tell other people about them.  If, at the end of the day, I find that I've missed out on my chatty downtime with my roommate, I feel that I've missed more than talking to her: I've missed my chance to experience the day fully.  

This means that if you're going to be friends with extroverts, you bear the burden of helping them to process their own lives.  They need you to listen to their stories, to help them talk through their problems, and to laugh at their goofy ideas.  They need you to acknowledge the multiple comments they've left under every Facebook post documenting their stream-of-consciousness thoughts and opinions for all the world to see.

Remember that in the mind of the extrovert, for you to do these things is to aid in validating their existence

Yes, on the surface extroverts may seem like attention-seeking egomaniacs (which, indeed, many of them are), but understand that part of their drive to tell you all about themselves is that doing so helps them to feel that they fully exist. They are external processors. They need not only to know things, but to acknowledge those things externally, and --best of all-- have you acknowledge them externally as well.

They just don't know how to process the world any other way.

Step 2: Bear in mind that being friends with an extrovert can be exhausting (for both you and the extrovert). Extroverts are by nature generally energetic, upbeat, and friendly. Most of them have an innate curiosity about life, especially in regards to the people who inhabit their world. Their insatiable desire to interact with you and learn everything about you may feel exhausting (especially if you're an introvert! I know! I'm sorry!), but remember that this process can be equally tiring for them.

For many extroverts, the brain never shuts off. There are always more things to wonder, more things to ask, and more people to meet. However, no matter how physically or emotionally weary extroverts become, somehow they can't bring themselves not to care.5

Step 3: Forgive them for not being in tune with what you're thinking/feeling. Due to their outgoing natures, extroverts are assumed to be prime friend material; however, sadly, this is not always the case. Extroverts process their emotions externally, meaning that you will never have to wonder what they are thinking/feeling. Although this quality can be a strength, it also exhibits itself in several weaknesses.  

First, external processing means that most extroverts are ill-equipped to mask their emotional responses. Remember, they feel the need to express their emotions in order to process them. This often makes for messy, unfiltered explosions of emotion (ideally to be followed up later with an apology and more balanced response). 

Second, since extroverts are usually busy processing their own emotions externally, they are less likely to pick up on how you are thinking and feeling. 

Unfortunately, some extroverts never get a handle on these weaknesses, meaning that they go through life spewing their own emotions all over the place whilst simultaneously giving the impression that they couldn't give a rip about yours. In fact, most extroverts do care immensely about the feelings of those around them: they just aren't wired well for picking up on those emotions until it's too late. 

Not that I'm saying all of this is excusable, or that because we're extroverts it's acceptable for us to behave this way. I'm just saying that we're a bundle of strengths and weaknesses just like everybody else, and that sometimes our weaknesses get the better of us. However, because we're extroverts, our failures tend to be more obvious, given our penchant for being loud, entertaining attention hogs. 

Yay, us!

At the end of the day, if you can better understand your extroverted friends, perhaps you'll be more willing to put up with some of the more ridiculous aspects of our natures and love us in spite of our weaknesses.

1. You're not? See here.
3. So basically, that means you could take all of the weaknesses mentioned in this article, multiply them by a power of ten, and you would have a fairly good idea of what it is like to live with me.  I know. It doesn't bear thinking! My roommate is a saint, I tell you. A SAINT.
4. For more on this, see here: Open Letter to Introverts of the World
5. Extroverts in socially-oriented jobs will find this especially draining. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How to Make Life ALL ABOUT YOU!

As you spin through your solar system on this tiny blue marble, sometimes it's easy to feel alone.  But you are not alone.  Not by a long shot. According to recent data, nearly seven billion people inhabit the earth along with you.1


That's quite a lot.  

I mean.... think about it. Seven billion other humanoids whose thoughts, ideas, opinions, lifestyle choices, likes, and dislikes are very likely different from yours

I don't know about you, but I find this reality to be unacceptable for a number of reasons.  First, I find it unacceptable that there are even that many people on the plant who don't have access to the impeccable logic and streamlined musings of my perfectly-ordained mind.  Second, I find it unacceptable that there are those among that number who have had access to my thoughts and are now laboring under the delusion that my thoughts and opinions have valid contradictions.

What a travesty!

If you've found yourself to be emotionally paralyzed by the suffocating implications of this predicament, never fear.  I am here to help.  

I offer for your consideration (and ultimate acceptance, since--after all--everything that I think is perfectly accurate and my logic impervious to contradiction) a way to block out this reality and keep life ALL ABOUT YOU.  Just follow these four easy steps.

How to Make Life ALL ABOUT YOU: 

STEP ONE: Talk so much that nobody even has the chance to contradict you. So simple, but so brilliant. This, the first and most important measure, is vital because of its preventative nature.  If you're so busy talking that nobody else ever gets a chance to say anything, then you'll never have to bother even thinking about what anybody else has to say. See? SHEER BRILLIANCE.

STEP TWO: Practice selective hearing.  This may sound complicated, but don't worry. It must be easy enough, because even my intellectually-unsophisticated junior high students manage it all the time. To practice selective hearing, all you need to do is ignore any facts that do not line up with the pre-selected version of reality that you've already decided to cherish.  In this way, if you never actually hear anybody's contradictory statements, you'll never have to do any actual thinking.

STEP THREE:  Practice selective thinking. If by some accident you fail to practice Step Two accurately and you accidentally overhear a contradiction to your thoughts/opinions, be sure that you have bricked up a metaphorical wall of intellectual/emotional obstinacy that will keep you from actually processing the contradiction.  Across this wall, be sure to spray paint this phrase: "IF I DON'T ALREADY BELIEVE IT, IT CANNOT AND MUST NOT BE TRUE."  Be sure to hold the line on this one, because if a stray thought does manage to breech this fortification, you may find yourself in serious trouble. 

STEP FOUR: Sincerely endeavor to live an insular life. BEWARE: the more you're out there mingling with the rest of the seven billion humanoids inhabiting your planet, the more vigilantly you'll be need to practice the above principles. Better to stay tucked safely away at home, spending quality time with the sweaty-haired, megaphone-clutching voice in your head.

Above all, remember: there may be nearly seven billion other people on the planet, but none of them are YOU. Therefore--since none of them are as worthy, as special, and as gifted as you are--their thoughts, opinions, choices, and values must not be nearly as important as YOURS.  

Even if nobody else is enlightened enough to acknowledge it (yet!), you should still feel free to grasp the self-ordained right to be crowned Unacknowledged Intellectual Despot of Planet Earth.  

Go ahead.  Do it. Experience the thrill of knowing that you are an unparalleled intellectual genius. There's no feeling quite like it.

After all...... it's not like you're missing out or anything.


1. It's on the internet. It must be true.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sometimes We're All That Person

Since yesterday was Saturday, I found myself wandering the stacks of my local library.  Due to time constraints, I'd only allowed myself a half an hour for book selection. With the clock ticking, I skimmed spines, flicked open covers to peruse blurbs, and slowly accumulated a trio of books in the crook of my left arm.

So far so good.

Then, suddenly, I became That Person.  

I started off small by dropping a book, which fell to the ground with a sharp thwack! As I leaned to pick the book up, I felt my sunglasses slip from where I'd hooked them into the front of my green v-neck tee.1 They clattered noisily to the floor to join the book that I was in the process of scooping up. Grabbing involuntarily to catch the glasses, I felt the books in the crook of my arm slipping. Instinctively, I brought my left leg up to block them, precipitating a sort of awkward hop, and becoming aware that I was making little grunting noises.

I looked up and gave an embarrassed sort of smirk to the people who had, moments before, been working steadily on their laptops at nearby work stations, but who were now staring at me, concentration shattered, hands hovering above their keypads, waiting to see what I would do next.

I smiled and shrugged in a "what can you do?" sort of way, hoping for a bit of sympathetic commiseration. 

Expressionless, they returned to their work. 

I replaced the dropped book, sliding it one-handed into the empty space on the shelf, stopping at just the right place lest I knock books on the other side of the stack to the floor. 

Snugging my books more securely against my rib cage, I wandered across the aisle to the opposite stack in order to peruse an artful display of new, glossy-covered paranormal teen romances propped up on little wire holders.  Stupid things, I thought darkly. As I lifted one up to flip open the cover and read (judge) the inside of the dust jacket, I heard a horrible clatter, realizing belatedly that I'd failed to disengage the book properly from its little holder. The metal holder, making a horrible clanging as it succumbed to gravity, hit all three metal shelves on its way down before pinging angrily against the floor.

I stooped to pick it up with my right hand, while my left hand lifted involuntarily to block the sunglasses from falling. This, of course, gave the books in the crook of my left elbow an opportunity to make another bid for freedom. 

"Dang it!" I hissed to nobody in particular, fumbling around noisily, for all the world as if I'd woken up that morning with my hands on backwards. 

Taking no chances this time, I set my little stack of books onto the floor and perched my sunglasses on top of them before turning my attention to the display.  Once the book was back in its holder on the shelf, I stepped back with my hands slightly upraised, just watching for a moment to be sure that everything was secure before I backed away. 

I shoved back the corkscrew spirals of hair which had flopped forward over my face during my maneuverings and felt them waving around on their own as they attempted to reach some level of bouffant equilibrium. 

Then I risked a peek at the laptop crew in the work station. True to my expectation, they had again paused working to watch the show, and were now staring at me with the flat, expressionless eyes of true judgment.  

Were I to have glanced down and found the words Hot Mess embroidered in scarlet across my chest, I would not have been at all surprised. 

"Look. I'm really not as much of an idiot as I look. I have a Master's Degree, I'm a published writer, and I've earned full marks for professionalism on every single employee evaluation I've had in my thirteen-year career. Not only do I come here almost every weekend, but I also generally manage to come and go with no mishaps whatsoever. I'm not usually like this! Really!" 

Except that I didn't say any of that. I just picked up my books, hooked my sunglasses down the front of my top, and quick-stepped to the self-checkout with my head held high and my wild hair flapping. 

This has served as an excellent reminder, I told myself as I attempted to get the scanner to acknowledge the bar code on my beat-up plastic library key-chain tag, that sometimes we're all That Person.

You know the type of person that I mean: the one who causes the ruckus, backs up the line, blocks traffic, runs into things, and knocks over displays. The person who can't read the map, who gets stuck in the turnstile, who drives the wrong way up the exit ramp, and who can't figure out how to pay with cash at the self-checkout counter. The one who stops at a flashing red light and then zones out, subconsciously waiting for the light to turn green.  The person who doesn't realize that it's her cell phone going off in the middle of church; and then, when she does, can't seem to figure out how to turn the ringer off.

You know. THAT kind of person.

We like to think that people guilty of these ridiculous shenanigans are somehow less intellectually advanced than we are: that they are just the unfortunate sort of troglodyte that it's our lot to be cursed to walk alongside through this life. 

Most of all, when we observe others having these cheek-warming moments of public, soul-crushing humility, what we like best is to stop and congratulate ourselves that it's not us.

That it's never us.

That, thank God, we are just not like that.

But that's not the case. The truth is that no matter how smart, how smooth, how articulate, and how nimble we generally believe ourselves to be, well... 

The truth is that sometimes we're all That Person.

1. With hair like mine, using anything with hinges as a head band has led to more painful, eye-watering, accidental hair yanking episodes than I'd like to recall.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How to Handle Jet Lag

One of the worst side effects to travel would have to be jet lag1

In the unlikely event that you've never actually experienced jet lag, allow me to inform you as to what it feels like. You will be going about your business in the middle of the day, when suddenly, you will hit an invisible wall.  Words will stop making sense, all of the thoughts you've ever had will fall out of your head, and your skeleton turns to jelly. Even if, moments before, you had been fully engaged in a stimulating activity or an interesting conversation, you will instantly be overcome with complete ambivalence. A feeling of hopelessness washes over you. Nothing feels better than to stare straight ahead at nothing, and woe betide anyone who dares talk to you once this stage is reached.  The best thing for it is a dark, quiet room.

Alternately, you may find yourself awake in the dead of night racked with starvation-style hunger cramps which threaten to turn your abdomen inside-out.  Ignoring this feeling and trying to go back to sleep only results in intensifying pains akin to having your stomach chewed from the inside out by an army of tiny ferrets. Thus, having jet lag tends to feel a lot like having the flu, sleep apnea, insomnia, bipolar disorder, and a spastic colon all rolled into one.2

FUN! ... or not so much.

Over the years, I've witnessed various schools of thought regarding how to deal with jet lag.  Below are some of the more common approaches.

How to Handle Jet Lag:

Option One: Don't go on any trips. Although this solution may be mind-blowing in its elegant simplicity, there are--of course--downsides to this approach.  The most obvious downside to not going on any trips is that you will miss out on actually traveling. And let's be honest here. Traveling is just really, really fun.  

Option Two: Start adjusting your body clock well ahead of time. Beginning at least ten days in advance, incrementally adjust your sleeping schedule to match that of your target time zone. If this requires you to take ten extra days off work so that you can stay up all night and then sleep through the day in order to better prepare for your trip, then so be it. No price is too heavy to pay.

Option Three: Plan to ignore all symptoms and power through. Those of this school like to pretend that jet lag doesn't actually exist. My sister/roommate and I tend to adhere to this approach exclusively, although it doesn't always work out as well as we would hope.3 One trick to powering through is to plan to keep yourself busy enough that even if you hit that mind-melting wall of ridiculous exhaustion, you aren't in a place that actually allows you to succumb.4 Another trick is to keep food available at ALL TIMES.  If you are a guest in someone's home, plan to keep food in your room for emergency, dead-of-night munch-a-thons that won't involve clattering around in the kitchen and waking the rest of the house in your panic to appease the stomach-chewing ferrets.

The honest truth is that some people tend to suffer from jet lag more than others.  The only real way to know how badly you will suffer and how best to combat your symptoms is to conduct some field testing. I recommend a week each in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific in order to gather enough raw data for an effective analysis.

Therefore, I call upon you to turn in your leave-of-absence forms, liquidate your assets, and strike forth to see the world.

All in the name of science, of course.

1. Other adverse side effects include mysterious rashes, occasional intestinal distress, and having to unpack.
2. Or, as I like to call it, Acute Gastroapnespazinomnia.
3. Hence that one night in Shanghai during which she spent our entire dinner out with friends with her head down, fully asleep at the table in the midst of a busy restaurant. And that other time that I accidentally went forty-eight hours without sleep while flying cross-country to start an epic road trip.
4. Ergo our request on our most recent trip that our hostess take us out and drive/walk us around on the afternoon of our 7:00a.m.-arrival day so that we would't be in bed by 3:00p.m. local time and then fully awake and ready for a new day by midnight. We ended up being really glad to be out and about that afternoon, not only because of the lovely walk and chat we had in the beautiful afternoon sun, but also because it was during this walk that we witnessed a city bus drive directly into a bush shelter, much to the chagrin of the bus driver and the shock of the bystanders.

Friday, August 31, 2012

How to Prepare for an International Trip

Many of you in the know are aware that I'm headed overseas tomorrow to attend my friends' wedding.1  My students, however, are in ignorance of this fact. They're blissfully unaware that when they show up for school next week, they'll be greeted by a dreaded substitute.2

With all of the work that must be invested ahead of time for a teacher to miss a week of classes in the middle of the school year (and it's a LOT), I've put off actually doing anything to get myself ready for the trip until right now -- after 6:00pm the night before. 

Fortunately, I'm such a pro at preparing for international trips that even cutting the packing and prep this closely, I still have time to sit down and blog about it before commencing with the actual grunt work.3

How to Prepare for an International Trip: 

STEP ONE: Initiate Passport Protocol. If you are anything like me, your Passport Protocol looks something like this: a few days before the trip, start setting things out in order to save time on the actual packing day. With this in mind, take your passport out of the wooden box on your dresser and set it over on the bookshelf by the luggage where it will be easy to see when you're packing.  Then forget about it. Pile some clean clothes on top of the passport. A few days later, while packing under a time crunch, open the wooden box on your dresser to discover that your PASSPORT IS MISSING.  Start tearing the house apart. Really go for it. Dig to the bottom of your closet, bent over at the waist and flinging everything that you own over your shoulder until it all makes a huge pile in the middle of the room. In a true panic, with a film of sweat coating your upper lip and visions of displeased-looking TSA officials dancing in your head, dash to Google and feverishly type in key phrases such as "EMERGENCY MISSING PASSPORT REPLACEMENT" and "OVERNIGHT PASSPORT RUSH JOB" before suddenly remembering that you've set your passport out earlier in the week so that it would be easier to find while packing.

STEP TWO: Watch your Packing P's and Q's. This means getting past important mental obstacles, such as realizing that 1) all of the clothing that you own is WRONG, that 2) what is not wrong is STUPID, that 3) what is not wrong and stupid is actually FRAYED and/or BLOTCHED, and that 4) everything else is IN THE HAMPER. After a furious and somewhat confusing inner dialogue, convince yourself that it's going to be both more time efficient and financially responsible just to wash, dry, fold, and pack all of your dirty clothes than to go buy an entirely new wardrobe just for this trip.4 Once you've successfully navigated this treacherous mental puzzle, go do your laundry and pack.

STEP THREE: Observe Alarm Clock Conventions.  Since 9/11, navigating airports has become both trickier and more time consuming than ever. It's a good idea to be better than on-time, especially if your flight is international. This means that even though your phone's alarm clock has never failed you once, it's still necessary not only to check at least five times that the alarm is set properly, but it's also prudent to have a back-up alarm system planned.  In addition to your phone alarm, go ahead and dig out that old clock radio that you've been meaning to donate to Goodwill. This way when you have to get up at some horrific hour the next morning to catch your flight, you'll get to wake up not only to an annoying blast of frenetic beeps, but also to the obnoxiously-jovial warblings of your local radio personalities. 

Even with the clock radio as a backup, it's still probably necessary for your body to wake you up every forty-five minutes so that you can ensure that both your alarms haven't let you down. This is only to be expected.

The truth is that getting ready for any trip--especially an international one--is generally the worst part of the whole experience. Once you're finally out there, you will find that all of the pressure of planning falls away, leaving you with a sense of sweet, sweet freedom.

Remember that there's a big, beautiful world out there waiting for a visit from you

Hope to see you out there!
1. Yes, the apostrophe positioning is correct. TWO of my friends are getting married TO EACH OTHER. 
2. Although preparing lesson plans for my sub wasn't as tedious as it usually is, because the girl subbing for me is one of my former STUDENTS who is now a bona fide ADULT with a COLLEGE DEGREE and a HUSBAND and EVERYTHING. Because she was one of my students, there's no need to write out all of my tedious classroom routines and expectations -- she's already experienced them first hand. YAY!
3. Also, blogging when I feel the pressure of a deadline is one of my well-established routines. It's part of my process. Don't judge.
4. Unless, of course, you are a guy. Since guys don't have to try most things on and can also get away with finding one shirt that they like and then just buying it in every color, it would probably be quicker for them to go buy a new wardrobe than to wash what they already own before packing.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How to Respond to the Realization that Your Neighbor May, in Fact, Be a Serial Killer (Formerly Known as a 'Mass Murderer')


You've done your research. You've read the signs. You've figured out that your neighbor shows Serial Killer or Serial-Killer-Like Tendencies! Knowing how vital it is for you to proceed with caution, I have put together this little post in order--I hope--to help prolong your life.

Incidentally, even if you haven't come to suspect that your neighbor may be a serial killer, it's probably in your best interest to take these tips to heart anyway. Because sometimes serial killers blend in. Sometimes they're handsome, intelligent, hardworking professional-looking men who occasionally indulge in seemingly selfless acts such as volunteering at crisis hotlines while also occasionally killing people on the side.1 So you just never know. 

Better to be safe than sorry.

How to Respond to the Realization that Your Neighbor May, in Fact, Be a Serial Killer (Formerly Known as a 'Mass Murderer'):

Step One: Stop Inviting Him to Neighborhood Cookouts. First, it's just not safe to have him around all of those people.  Who knows what/whom he will fixate on next! It could even be you! Second, there's really no telling what he may have slipped into the barbecue. Sure, it may smell like chicken, but... Remember Jeffrey Dahmer?2

Step Two: Hire My Mother to Keep Watch. Okay, so it doesn't have to be my mother, per se. What you're looking for is someone with a keen eye for detail, a lively interest in what's going on across the street, and an ability to remember the usual pattern and routines of others.  In this way, you will be able to keep track of his movements at all times without having to go through the difficult and often frustrating task of attempting to hide a GPS tracker on him without his knowledge.

Step Three: Invest in some giant magnets. Everyone knows that serial killers tend to choose from a limited array of weapons, some of which could be formed of iron and/or stainless steel (i.e. knives, ball peen hammers, certain types of guns). The idea here is to line your driveway, sidewalks, windows, and door frames with these magnets, which will create a safe path to and from your house. It wouldn't be a bad idea to line the walls of your house with magnets, either. Imagine your serial killer's surprise when his weapon sails right out of his hands! Sure, this may mean that you will have to alter your wardrobe accessories a bit (and, if you are an American, never have a working credit card strip ever again) but this is your life that's at stake. Obviously, sacrifices must be made.3

Step Four: Invite him along for a group camping trip to a remote cabin in the woods on a stormy weekend. According to every every scary movie I've ever watched (both of them) there's no better way to force a killer to show his hand. This is a bold move, and I applaud your willingness to go to any lengths to prove to the authorities that your neighbor is, in fact, a psychopathic killer! Just try to ensure that you are one of the last two campers to make it out alive. Otherwise you won't be able to gloat when he finally meets his demise. Unfortunately, in this scenario he probably won't live to stand trial, meaning that he will never be forced to confront his sense of moral responsibility. No, in this scenario he's more likely to be accidentally electrocuted or have a giant oak tree crush him just as he's finished ripping off a creepy laugh.4  But the good news is that the neighborhood will be much safer for those who do make it back from the trip.5

Okay, so maybe Step Four isn't such a good idea... especially if you don't like camping.  

The truth is that every time I'm struck with the horrifying reality that serial killers walk among us, I comfort myself with the realization that hundreds of thousands of people have unwittingly lived in perfect safety side-by-side with serial killers, sometimes for years at a time.6 They've lived near them, shopped with them, attended social functions with them, and waved to them in the street.

Honestly, there are many things in life that I find are easier just not to think about, and the existence of serial killers is only one of them.

It's easier not to think about:
  • how airplanes stay up
  • light being both a particle and a wave
  • the national debt
  • the continuing popularity of Nicholas Sparks novels
  • reality TV
  • string theory
  • RuPaul
  • synchronized swimming
  • boy bands
  • serial killers

1. Um, Ted Bundy, anyone?  But seriously, if you don't know much about his case, I encourage you to drop everything and read this and/or watch this really excellent documentary. Just don't click on THIS if you plan to sleep well tonight.
2. In case you don't.
3. If your serial killer happens to be one of those poisoners or stranglers, though, this will probably be a waste of money. Worse, it will give you a false sense of security. In that case, you can invite him to the cookout, but only to feed him something with iron filings in it. You know, just to hedge your bets.
4. Also, take plenty of flashlights and batteries, because I'm pretty sure the power in the cabin is going to go out almost immediately. And update your insurance, because something bad is going to happen to your Jeep.
5. At least, until the sequel comes out.
6. Judith Ridgeway even stayed safely (if not happily) married to a serial killer for years, claiming that she'd never even had a clue.  But, come on.  I've read a little bit about their relationship.  She should have had at least an inkling that something wasn't right.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Tell if Your Neighbor is a Serial Killer

During the course of my vast criminology research,1 I'm often shocked not only at the gruesomeness of the crimes committed (and what these crimes says about the human condition), but also at how often a brutal killer's friends, neighbors, and even family members lived seemingly in complete ignorance of the killer's true nature.

Hence, the need for this blog post.2

How to Tell if Your Neighbor is a Serial Killer:

1. He is male. You can't argue with statistics. Nearly every single serial killer, ever, has been male.3 Fortunately, this first point is generally an easy one to verify from a distance. Although it's getting harder and harder these days to tell, especially in some neighborhoods.4 

2. He is seen carrying large/sketchy/deadly/mysterious objects to and from his vehicle at odd hours. Although, by this definition, my sister/roommate would be highly suspicious: not only is she often seen lugging bulky items such as saddles, horse blankets, and masses of saddle pads and soiled towels to and from her truck, but her truck is also full of an array of rather shockingly dangerous items including (but not limited to) chainsaws, machetes, both ball-peen and claw hammers, heavy blocks of pig iron, plastic sheeting, animal medications, and (once) a video camera.5 Furthermore, since her schedule is often ridiculously full, she's regularly seen ferrying these items to and from her truck under cover of darkness: both in the wee hours of the morning as well as late, late at night.  So maybe this point is debatable, because for all of her faults, being a serial killer isn't one of them. (I don't think....)  It's okay, though, because I have a few more points up my sleeve.6

3. He always manages to appear on his stoop for a cigarette break every single time you leave for work, arrive home from work, head for the gym, check your mail, come home from shopping, leave to drop off library books, or take off on a long walk.  This means either that he has memorized your schedule or that he just sits behind his blinds with an eye on the sidewalk in front of the building, just waiting for you to appear. We know this type from personal experience, because we currently have a neighbor with this exact M.O.7 It doesn't matter at what time of the day we come or go: both of us have noticed that the minute we walk up the sidewalk, the Staring Neighbor appears on his stoop with a cigarette. However.... come to think of it.... Although this sketchy behavior easily skyrockets him to the top of our colorful list of Creepiest Neighbors of All Time, we have no concrete proof (as of yet) that he is, in fact, a serial killer.8

Okay. Although I will admit that Steps #1-3 haven't been extremely helpful, I promise that my last point will offer some fool-proof serial-killer-spotting advice. 

The best way to determine once and for all that your neighbor is a serial killer is if you notice that....

4. On a fairly regular basis, he kills people. Although this point isn't generally as easy to verify as Point #1, it is the best indicator that your neighbor probably is, in fact, a serial killer.  If you happen to come to the troubling realization that your neighbor is a serial killer (formerly known as a "mass murderer"), it is very important that you DO NOT PANIC.9 Remember that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There is help available. 

In fact, I happen to have a list of some very specific protocols which you should follow.

COMING SOON: "How to Respond to the Realization that Your Neighbor May, in Fact, Be a Serial Killer (Formerly Known as a 'Mass Murderer')"10

Until next time, People of Earth, keep your eyes open... and be safe out there. 

1. Primarily consisting of marathon readings of Ann Rule's true crime novels and occasionally watching Law and Order reruns.
2. I'm all about meeting only the deepest and most obvious social needs. 
3. At least.... the ones who have been caught. MUAHAHAHAH----*Ahem.* Excuse me.
4. Yes, I mean you, downtown San Diego. And also you, Greater Seattle Area. 
5. I am not making this up.  For more on this, see "How to Live with an Equestrian."
6. And by "up my sleeve," I mean "in my brain." Because my brain apparently... wears shirts? (Mostly vintage tees, but sometimes, when feeling especially snarky, a crisp new polo shirt with an ironically-popped collar.) 
7. We, in our vast creativity, have nicknamed him The Staring Neighbor. 
8. Although he does kill off a sense of trust in our fellow man.
9. That will only provoke him.
10. !