Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Hit on a Woman (If You Want to Stay Single Forever)

It's not that women don't like to be noticed. It's not that they don't like to be found attractive. It's not even that they mind being talked to by strangers, necessarily.  

It's just that the experience of being hit on is often so awkward and fraught with ridiculousness. Actually, whether you're the one being hit on or the one attempting the hitting, I'm sure you would find little to quibble with in that last sentence. Barring rare occurrences, hitting on someone and being hit on generally provide for awkward, ridiculous stories to tell later. Although we may enjoy telling the stories, we rarely enjoy suffering through the actual events.

But never fear, men. Lest you instantly feel emotionally demoralized, I bring glad tidings: there is a way to strike up a conversation with a woman successfully, and I will eventually tip you off as to what it is.  But first, I must warn you of mistakes that will most likely keep you single for a long, long time.1

How to Hit on a Woman (If You Want to Stay Single Forever):

#1: Assume that life operates under the same parameters as a romantic comedy. Sure, some might think that it would be romantic for a handsome stranger to plunk himself down in the seat next to a woman in a waiting room and ask, "Do you know why you're here today? You're here because we were fated to meet!" But in real life, such a non sequitur at the very least will cause a woman either to come close to cracking a rib trying not to laugh at your farcical behavior or (worst case scenerio) to be genuinely creeped out. Especially if you're one of those people who doesn't believe in personal space.

#2: Assume that direct physical overtures will work. If the woman sitting next to you on the plane is shivering, do not--I repeat--do not offer to keep her warm with your own body. Even if you mean it as a joke, it is tacky. Direct physical overtures almost never work on women because women are wired to respond more readily to emotional overtures.2 So cut this sort of thing out immediately.

#3: Assume that it's in your best interests to invoke the will of the Almighty.  I'm not saying that God can't lead you to pursue a woman, even a woman that you barely know. He can, and sometimes he does. But to saddle her immediately with the information that you think God is urging you to pursue her is a message that carries with it two subtle riders: A) it took an act of God for you to notice her in the first place, and B) if she rejects you, she's going against God himself. You may mean this line as a compliment, and you may actually mean it sincerely, but to a woman, this feels like thinly-veiled spiritual blackmail. If you genuinely think that God wants you to pursue a woman, then by all means, go for it. If all goes well, tell her about God's hand in it a little bit later on.  If all does not go well, leave her alone.3 

#4: Assume that talking about ex-girlfriends/wives/flames will make you seem more desirable because these topics hint that other women have found you attractive.  It just makes you seem tacky and boastful. Cut this out.

So........ with all of these options stripped away, what alternatives are actually left to you?

First, you need to stop hitting on women and start talking to them.  As dubiously flattering as it is to be hit on from time to time, it's much more flattering for us to be found intelligent and  interesting and to feel that a man has genuinely enjoyed talking to us. Don't use pre-prepared lines. Don't use sleazy come-ons.  Don't immediately ask us if we are dating or married, as if our potential singleness is the most important precursor to your enjoying a lively conversation with us. If the woman in question does happen to be spoken for, then you will find at the end of the conversation that you have lost little more than twenty minutes or so from your seventy-year life, and that instead of feeling let-down or rejected, you may find that you may have actually gained some valuable information or secured a potential new friend.

Second, please stop using pick-up lines. Although this point is mentioned in the paragraph above, I feel that it is important enough to warrant its own clear delineation. Now, men, it should be no surprise to you that women rarely take anything that you say at face value. Women do hear the actual words that you say, but they often ascribe their own meaning to what they believe (albeit often mistakenly) are the meanings behind your words. 

For your edification, I've included below two commonly-used lines and how they scan to most women:
  • What you say: "How is it that a pretty girl like you has never been married?" What she hears: "There must be something really wrong with you if you can't find a man to marry you even though you're pretty." Also, this line implies that you think that attractiveness is the sole prerequisite to marriage. It likewise implies that you think that there is something inherently wrong with singleness. Neither one of these implications will get you very far with most of the  single women I know.
  • What you say: "You're in your thirties?! I thought you were only about seventeen!" What she hears: "I'm a middle-aged creeper who will knowingly flirt with teenagers."
See? You need to stop using lines.  If you absolutely cannot think of anything interesting to say, your best bet is to keep your mouth closed and hope that she finds you mysterious, aloof, and/or intellectually alluring.4

The best thing that you can do, men, is to talk companionably with a woman. If you find her interesting, be direct without being creepy. We're talking the kind of direct that comes out and says, "I'd like to talk to you more some time," rather than, "We were fated to meet. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.

The truth is that swimming against the cultural tide and living as a single adult can be tricky sometimes. The least that we can do to make the exercise more effective would be to stop falling into these unintended whirlpools of flirtatious ludicrousness.5 So before strapping on your floaties and diving into the foam, remember that unless your goal is to stay single for the rest of your life, you need to stop hitting on women and start talking to them. 

1. All examples are drawn directly from life: no imagination taxed here.  They've all either happened directly to me, around me, or to friends of mine.  Truth stranger than fiction indeed.
2. I tell you this not so that you can emotionally manipulate them, but so that you can begin to understand, dimly, at least a smidgen of their motivations.  And also so that some of you will stop being such creepers.
3. Until God clues her in, of course.
4. I, for one, constantly assume that quiet people are busy thinking something very, very deep. I shudder to think what quiet people assume about me. Probably nothing, because I tell them every thought as it occurs to me in real time.
5. Really going all out on the extended swimming metaphor here. Work with me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

This Is Just to Say (II)

another response to William Carlos Williams1

I have doodled
the photo
that was on the counter

and which
you were probably
to grandma

Forgive me
you were vanilla
too plain
and too smug

In response to This Is Just to Say

Monday, July 9, 2012

Why Florida Is Weird

We all have to live somewhere.  

Just as I found myself approaching the tail end of grade school, my parents decided that it would be a good time to throw even more major life changes my way (as if puberty weren't enough), so they moved our entire family to South Florida.

Mind you, since we had visited at least once before we moved here, I had an inkling of what to expect. I had already learned the hard way about fire ants.

We moved in Jaunary, leaving behind frozen, slush-filled gray for mild, sun-lit blue.

Initially charmed, I realized very quickly that Florida wasn't just beautiful: it was also deeply strange.

Why Florida Is Weird:

1. Nobody who lives here is actually from here. Barring a few minor exceptions, (most of whom live in North Central Florida, and all of whom will comment telling me how wrong I am) if you were to move to Florida tomorrow, you would find that most of your neighbors (the ones who speak English, anyway) are actually from New Jersey. They've moved here for various reasons: they've retired; they've divorced; they've gotten a new job; they've always wanted to live some place warm.  Whatever the reason, they're here now. Because of this phenomenon, many things in Florida tend to work backwards. Take the holidays, for example.  When we lived in the North, we found that the holiday season was the time of year that the churches were the most packed. The reason? It's obvious: everyone would come home for the holidays. The North was the place that everyone came home to. Florida, on the other hand, seems to be the place that everyone goes home from, meaning that even with the twice-a-year attenders out in full force, Christmas makes for slim holiday services.  

2. Floridians aren't real Southerners. At least, not in the expected sense.  For one, hardly anybody in Florida speaks with a Southern drawl. Remember, most of the residents are originally from New Jersey. And those who aren't from New Jersey are more likely to speak Spanish or Creole than to talk like a modern-day Scarlett O'Hara. Even native Floridians (Crackers1) don't drawl with the syrupy cadences generally expected of Southerners -- instead, they twang.  If you're looking for the stereotypical sweet-iced-tea, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth, fried-chicken-and-biscuits, yessir-yess'm, corn-pone-and-boiled peanuts South, we suggest that you look a little further north.2

3. Sometimes our headlines say say things like this:

You know. 

4. Summers here aren't as hot as you might think.  Since we live closer to the equator than most of you, you might assume that the weather here is naturally hotter than the weather where you are. This sounds reasonable, but it's not true.  Take this week, for example. While twenty-eight states are experiencing record high temperatures (many of them topping 100+ degrees Fahrenheit), we here in Florida find our thermometers skimming the bottom half of 90. I'm not saying that it doesn't get hot here, but that the heat works differently. It isn't something that gradually inches its way to a peak mid-summer before inching its way back down in the fall.  Florida heat is something that suddenly appears toward the end of April. One day the weather is beautiful, and then--BOOM!--it's hot. Just as abruptly, the heat vanishes during the first week of October.  The five intervening summer months may be hot, but they're a consistent heat that is easily manageable.3

5. The wildlife really is wild.  Living in Florida means that you will encounter huge spiders, alligators, large snakes, panthers, and wild boar (or, if you will, hawgs). It's helpful to know some of the most unexpected things, such as how to deal with wolf spiders. Using a can of bug spray to rid yourself of a wolf spider is preferable, because if you swat at a female wolf spider with your shoe, any babies that she may be carrying on her back will scatter everywhere4, an alarming situation which will perhaps cause you to pee your pants... which is embarrassing. Remember that anywhere there is water, there could be an alligator5, and that running in zig-zags will just slow you down. Learning that panthers do not only live in the forests and swamps of Florida, as Wikipedia misleadingly states,6 but that sometimes they also go wandering through suburban areas, scaring the housewives and (hopefully) eating up all of the small, yippy dogs. 

To summarize: Although Florida may have lush beaches, exciting theme parks, and year-round sunshine, it isn't necessarily the picture-perfect paradise that postcard makers would lead you to believe. The truth is that Florida is actually quite a strange place to live. If you haven't yet experienced this for yoruself, feel free to pop by any time. We (the transplants and the Crackers and the spiders and the snakes and the alligators and the panthers) would love to have you.


2. Although we do, thank goodness, drink sweet iced tea.  We're not complete savages. 
3. You will know this if you've ever visited: it's not the heat that's bad. It's the humidity.
4. Behind this link are pictures of wolf spiders with babies on their backs. You have been warned. You'll probably regret clicking on this one, too, but I'm going to put it here anyway: Florida banana spider.
6. See?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

This Is Just to Say

a response to William Carlos Williams1

I have guzzled
the coffee
that was in the carafe

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
it was ambrosial
so rich
and so hot

1. In response to: This Is Just to Say

Monday, July 2, 2012

Why You Should Road Trip

I'd like to say that the urge hits me the minute that school lets out for the summer, but the truth is that it starts coming on much earlier than that. Possibly January. 

You know what urge I mean: the urge to ROAD TRIP. 

Some of you need no convincing. You get it.  You already understand the sudden compulsion to throw a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and a stick of deodorant into a backpack, sling it into the back seat, put the top down, and head out for parts unknown, with only you, the road, the radio, and your map for company.

Sadly, if statistics are to be believed, some of you may not get it.  The idea of driving for days to a destination reached easily in a few hours by air is as ridiculous and time-wasting to you as the thought of crawling on your hands and knees to work.

If this describes you, keep reading. You're my target audience.

Why You Should Road Trip:

1. Road trips combat ignorance. We've all seen the videos and read the articles featuring Americans who think that Europe is a country, who can't find their own home state on a map of the U.S., who don't know the difference between Australia and Austria, and who think that North America is the northern part of the United Sates. And for all of the so-called emphasis on multicultural education in public schools, you have the the ones who still believe that the language of Latin America is Latin, that Yasser Arafat is a rapper, that the Dalai Lama is the newest addition to the San Diego Zoo, and that Chile is a dish best served with corn bread. 

Perhaps part of the problem (and we're truly talking tip of the iceberg here) is that fewer than one in five American children claim to have access to a world map.1 Don't allow yourself (or your children) to be on the lean side of that statistic. 

A good place to start is to get acquainted with a map, and the best way to be acquainted with a map is to be totally dependent on it.  

No one has provided a better example of this spirit than Herman and Candelaria Zapp, the Argentinian parents who have built their family during the course of an eleven-year globetrotting road trip of staggering proportions.

"'What better way is there for my children to be educated than to see the world?' said Herman."2 

Well said, Herman.  Well said.

I'd bet my travel-sized pack of moist towelettes that each of the Zapp children can locate the various countries of their birth on a world map.

2. Road trips teach delayed gratification. As society moves more toward an era of instantaneous fulfillment, delayed gratification is becoming a lost art.  And it may be a more important skill than we think: some studies have shown that the ability to delay gratification can be linked to higher SAT scores, better relationships, a lower body-mass index, and more successful careers.3 

What better way to practice delayed gratification techniques than in whiling away the tedium of a cross-country drive?

3. Road trips are for dreamers. Ever get in trouble for daydreaming during school? Well, dreamers, have no fear: road trips seem to be custom made for you.  Each day offers hours of prime daydream time. Each bend in the road offers new vistas of daydreaming possibilities. While driving through the American West, it's hard not to imagine yourself as an early pioneer hoping to beat the odds and make it to California without dying of cholera first.4 

4. Road trips encourage good bladder control. Self-explanatory. 

5. Road trips provide unparalleled memories. Wrong turns. Dark alleys. Burnt-down rest stops.5 That time you coughed a Skittle into your sinus cavity and had to wait for it to dissolve. A flat tire changed alongside a highway that other motorists must have mistaken for the Daytona Speedway. Driver-navigator communication errors that result in time-consuming unplanned side trips. That time Laura wasn't paying attention and backed the car directly into a stone wall. Accidentally getting locked in the truck stop bathroom. Running out of gas. Seeing George Clooney's doppelganger wearing a camouflage baseball cap at an Alabama Hardee's. Spilling 32oz. of sweet tea in the back seat.  Driving for a half an hour before realizing that it's a little too quiet and that you're missing one of the children.

These are the stories that will be told for years to come.

6. One word: SCENERY. 

Cabrillo National Monument



Explorer Ruth

Painted Desert at Sunset

Hello from the Desert

Reflections of AKB

On the road in Utah

Bonneville Salt Flats


Feeling Small

Tourist Ruth Discovers the Pacific

Big Sur

Through the clouds

The truth is that like any form of traveling, road trips include both positive and negative aspects. It is my assertion, however, that since the positives far outweigh the negatives, you should stop putting it off. 

Grab your keys, brew a cup of sweet tea, and hit the road.


4.  While driving through the American West, it's also hard to keep yourself from imagining how you will handle your rental breaking down in the middle of one of those vast stretches of desert. But maybe that's just me.