13 September 2006
You have no secrets

"Maintaining some intrigue," says the AskMen Web site, "keeps the spice in dating."

Neil Kramer's wang begs is determined to disagree:

If anything, today is the day of promotion, marketing, advertising. You WANT to have a video on YouTube of you screwing the entire women’s volleyball team. In fact, rather than keeping secrets on the first date, I suggest you hand over a document listing every woman you ever shagged. Even better, try to get testimonials of how good you were in bed. It is asinine to keep a woman guessing. It’s like a job interview. She’ll just move on to the next candidate.

Geez, and I feel uneasy about padding out a mere résumé.

What I don't know for sure is whether the organ in question is serious about these suggestions or is simply dicking around.

(Via Michael Blowhard. Really.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
16 September 2006
So, so true

No argument from me:

Kissing Balls represent romance, friendship and goodwill.

And they're floral-scented, too.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:47 AM)
17 September 2006
Frozen shiddachery

It's called the Stable Marriage Problem, and it goes like this:

Imagine you are a matchmaker, with one hundred female clients, and one hundred male clients. Each of the women has given you a complete list of the hundred men, ordered by her preference: her first choice, second choice, and so on. Each of the men has given you a list of the women, ranked similarly. It is your job to arrange one hundred happy marriages.

It should be immediately apparent that everyone is not guaranteed to get their first choice: if a particular man is the first choice of more than one woman, only one can be matched with him, and the other women will have to make do with less. Rather than guarantee the purest of happiness to everyone — a promise that almost surely would subject you to eventual litigation — your challenge is to make the marriages stable. By this, we mean that once the matchmaker has arranged the marriages, there should be no man who says to another woman, "You know, I love you more than the woman I was matched with — let's run away together!" where the woman agrees, because she loves the man more than her husband. In the spirit of equality, no woman should make such a successful proposal to a man: should she so propose, we want the man to respond, "Madam, I am flattered by your attention, but I am married to someone I love more than you, so I am not interested.'' Is it always possible for a matchmaker to arrange such a group of marriages, regardless of the preference lists of the men and women?

It would appear that the answer, at least theoretically, is Yes:

The matchmaker arranges marriages in rounds, where in each round, he instructs certain men to propose marriage. In the initial round, he tells all the men to, quite sensibly, go out and propose marriage to their first-choice women. Each man then proposes to the woman he loves most.

Each of the women then receives either no proposal (if she was not the first choice of any man), one proposal (if she was the first choice of exactly one man), or more than one proposal (if many men find her to be their first choice). The matchmaker instructs the women to respond to the proposals according to the following rules. If no one proposed to you, don't worry, says the matchmaker, I promise someone will eventually. If exactly one man proposed to you, accept his proposal of marriage: the man and woman are then considered to be engaged. If more than one man proposed, respond affirmatively to the one you love most, and become engaged to him — and reject the proposals of the rest. Surely nothing could be more reasonable. This concludes what we'll call the first round.

After one round, certain contented men are engaged, and the other discontented men are unengaged. In round two, the matchmaker says to the unengaged men: Do not despair! Go out and propose again, to your second choice. While the engaged men do nothing, the unengaged men send out another round of proposals. This time, the matchmaker says to the women: use the same rules as before, with one important change — if you are currently engaged, and receive proposals of marriage from men that you love more than your fiancé, you may reject your current intended, and reengage yourself to the new suitor that you love most. Thus a man who is happily engaged at the end of the first round may find himself suddenly unengaged at the end of the second round.

After two rounds, once again the men are divided into the engaged and unengaged. In the next round, the matchmaker tells each unengaged man to propose to the woman he loves most, among those women to whom he has not yet proposed. Again, the matchmaker tells each woman that she can change her mate, if she instead prefers one of the new proposers. Each time a man proposes, it is with greater desperation, since he begins by proposing to his true love, then his second choice, third choice, and so on. Each time a woman changes her fiancé she becomes happier, because her new intended is someone she loves more! This continues in round after round, until finally there is no one left to propose, or be proposed to.

Suddenly I find myself, um, disengaged.

Here's a Java-based scenario to illustrate how this is supposed to work.

The online-dating service OkCupid has developed something called "The Stranger Arranger", which ostensibly works along these principles:

There's a famous math puzzle called the "Stable Marriage Problem"... It refers to the difficulties of pairing people up in a way that keeps everyone happy or at least trapped.

SO! We've written a program that every Sunday publicly matches people under the constraints that:

  • You're paired with exactly one person, and that person is also paired with you.
  • There's some REASON we think you should talk.
  • Every week, that reason will change, and the system will get smarter.
  • Only singles with pictures qualify, and only those who are seeking dating and/or sex, according to their profile. Even then, some weeks you might not make the list.

The list (which, I need hardly mention, never has included me) actually links to the methodology, based upon the number of questions they've answered and the conclusions that can be reached therefrom. (There are 2300 questions in the pool; I don't know if anyone has answered all of them. I've answered 190.) I suppose it's possible for people to fib, but they say it doesn't help to do so:

You could increase your average match score by picking answers that you think the average person wants to hear, but your matches won't like you as much. Look at it this way: Ok matching effectively sorts people by how much you'd like them and vice versa. Lying doesn't introduce you to better people; it screws the order up. By answering honestly, you'll find people who really like you best for who you are. Cheesy, but true.

And, well, at least it isn't government cheese.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:54 PM)
27 September 2006
All in your head, it isn't

Rebecca Traister reports in Salon.com's Broadsheet:

[A]ccording to today's New York Times, doctors are once again looking for a medical basis for hysteria. And while the Times article works hard to distinguish between new medical research and the crackpot mysogyny of the past, no doubt some knuckleheads out there will take this news as license to sling this term with the same frequency as PMS jokes.

Wait a minute. PMS is a joke?

On the off-chance that they actually might find some medical basis for the term, it seems only fair that there be devised a term applicable to males exhibiting roughly-comparable symptoms, with the same suggestion of reproductive-system origin.

I vote for "testiness," which is a condition with which I am familiar; for instance, I attain a certain level of it when someone mysspells "misogyny."

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:02 PM)
29 September 2006
Time to stop looking

I think I've made something like this argument once or twice:

[L]et's be clear here. You are not going to marry a guy who looks like Colin Farrell, is tough but sensitive, smart, funny, charms every room he's in, and pulls in the big bucks. I know you really want to meet that guy. I wish you could find him. I really do. But there's only like 4 of those guys in the world, and they're already taken. I'm sorry to tell you this, but it's time to think about settling.

I hope he's more successful with it than I.

(WSJ via Pratie Place.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:17 PM)
7 October 2006
Divorce changes people

Though seldom this much:

A Seminole [FL] man is fighting to stop alimony payments to his ex-wife because the woman is now a man.

Lawrence Roach says his ex-wife has had a sex change and is now living as a man with a new identity. Roach says he should be allowed to discontinue $1,200 in monthly alimony payments.

"This isn't right. It's humiliating to me and degrading," Roach said. "You know, I'm a man and I don't want to be paying alimony to a man. If you can't be married to a man legally, how can you legally pay alimony to a man?"

Like writing $14,400 worth of checks a year wasn't enough of an annoyance in itself.

I don't know Florida (or anybody's) law for certain, but I'd bet that the former Mrs Roach's transition to manhood does not invalidate the existing divorce decree. And this could open up a whole new can of worms: if Rhonda Ron [sample name used only for illustration] is still attracted to men, there won't be a remarriage (which presumably would end the alimony payments) under existing law.

The operative word here, of course, is "existing."

(Via Bitter Bitch.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 AM)
9 October 2006
Diffraction effects

I admit to being a sucker for off-kilter love stories — even off-kilter teenage love stories, if they're done with some degree of finesse. Laura Whitcomb's A Certain Slant of Light has so much finesse it nearly slipped away from me, but I was able to maintain some semblance of a grip right up until the only possible ending that made any sense.

"Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you're dead." And so she was, her own life having run out a century before, bound to a succession of "hosts" who are never aware of her existence, final disposition of her case evidently still pending. While looking after "her" English teacher, she's somehow seen by one of his students, and she must find out more.

He, like her, is Light, assigned to this in-between world. Yet he somehow has a body:

"How did you take Mr. Blake's body?"

"He vacated it," said James. "He left it, mind and soul, like an empty house with the door open." He seemed excited to tell me his strange adventure.

"When his spirit left his body, why didn't he die?" I wanted to know.

"His body didn't die," he said, still fascinated by his own luck. "His spirit chose to leave. It's difficult to explain. Instead of the ship going down taking the crew with it, the crew abandoned the ship, but the ship was still seaworthy." Now he looked embarrassed. Something in my expression had shamed him.

"It seems wrong," I said. "Like stealing."

"Better that I have him rather than —" An untold and eerie story flashed by behind his autumn eyes.

"Than what?"

"Well, left adrift, something evil might pirate him away."

This seemed more plausible to me than I thought it would. And eventually the want overwhelms the rules, and she finds an "empty" body of her own:

Jenny’s eyes closed and her hands folded. I decided I couldn’t wait forever. I stepped over the sleeping child and sat where Jenny was sitting. The ringing sound of crystal vibrating was all around me. I felt like I had pressed myself into cold marble. I stayed in her, and in a moment I started shaking. It was frightening, but I wouldn’t let myself run. I tried to see James in my mind’s eye, smiling at me. The ringing stopped with a popping sound. I felt like an ice sculpture starting to crack into pieces. Then it happened. I felt the shape of her, the shape of myself, inside the fingers and shoulders and knees of her. I even felt the snug shoes and the difference between her warm arms inside her sweater and her cool legs exposed to the breeze. I could feel the tickle of Jenny’s hair brushing my cheek. My hand went to my mouth when I heard myself cry out in amazement. I opened my eyes to see every face in the circle turned to me, and then the ground flew up and I was in the dark.

Two people, both long dead, now pretending to be the teenagers whose bodies they inhabit. It's not hard to see where this is going, but it's difficult not to feel something for them, so long deprived — or for the departed youngsters who had no idea what they were giving up. It's a fascinating story, more than a little bit creepy in spots, and, I'd say, worth the extra effort it demands of the "young-adult" audience to whom it's pitched. How did I wind up with this book? I wish I knew.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:16 PM)
11 October 2006
For all those heat-seeking misses

A chap from Edmond is, says Cosmopolitan, one of the "hottest guys in the U.S.", and he'd like your vote in their Bachelor Blowout, as it were.

Josh Walters, 23, who teaches at Summit Middle School in Edmond, represents Oklahoma in the magazine's list of 50 studmuffins, and he looks, well, like this.

And he admits to one bit of puzzlement about women:

I know women have different hormones than guys do, but their mood swings leave me puzzled. I really don't follow how they can change from happy to furious so quickly and for no obvious reason at all!

This, sir, is why you're teaching geography. Mountains and streams don't do things like that.

(Those of you who may be seeking the very antithesis of hot — oh, wait, you're already reading me.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:26 AM)
13 October 2006
I wonder if you still remember

Someone, I forget the name, once said that the essence of rock and roll was "happy songs about sad things," and I filed that away with "jumbo shrimp" and all the other oxymoronic things I'd heard — until the day I realized that those premises weren't contradictory at all.

Exhibit A: The Moody Blues, "Your Wildest Dreams," 1986. Full of bright synth bits, decidedly upbeat, and a major downer:

It's possible that "Your Wildest Dreams" isn't really the saddest song ever written, but man. The entire song is based on him remembering, "once upon a time, once when you were mine," and he never really fills in specifics. Just that he is currently wondering where she is and wondering if she thinks about him. It's very vague and that makes it worse because that makes it universal. You can fill in the blanks any way you like. You don't know why he is wistful and wondering but when his voice cracks on the second line of the song you know you are in for a song that presses down on you.

That second line, of course, is "once when you were mine."

The answer to this, oddly, had come out seven years earlier: the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes," arguably the best thing either Michael McDonald or Kenny Loggins ever had anything to do with. And bouncy and upbeat as it is, the answer is no, she never gives him a second thought:

He came from somewhere back in her long ago
The sentimental fool don't see
Tryin' hard to recreate what had yet to be created
Once in her life
She musters a smile
For his nostalgic tale
Never coming near what he wanted to say
Only to realize it never really was

Still makes me think twice, even today.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:26 AM)
18 October 2006
Arch commentary

Costa Tsiokos remembers a discussion with a fellow with an obsession:

Not just any female feet would do for this guy — they had to be the right shape (not too big, not too small, well-defined), right skin tone (tanned, but not too tanned), right toe structure (length of individual digits had to match up a certain way), and of course, the perfect nail polish (bubble-gum pink). It struck me that the quest for the ideal feet is as much the obsession for these types as is the (improbable) discovery.

I'm as detail-obsessive as the next guy, but there is such a thing as being a trifle too picky (he said as he mourned the official end of the Sandal Season).

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:39 AM)
20 October 2006
Alpha, beta, and so on

Enough, says Capella:

Of course there are people who prioritize status and people who prioritize looks and people who prioritize every other thing you could possibly prioritize, but that doesn't mean the world is inherently divided into strata based on those things. There isn't some final, overarching ranking of how worthy each of us is, and there's no such thing as the "top 25%" or the "bottom 10%" of either men or women. There are just people, a lot of them, and they are all fallible, and what they want is sometimes confusing and sometimes misguided and very often not what they have. The women who look for money and status and the men who search for the prettiest girl — we can call them shallow, and we won't be wrong, but maybe we can also recognize that something in them is deeply not present or wounded if that's the closest they can come to understanding what might make them happen. Judging them and deciding they're lower on some alternate scale of worth is no better than the Alpha/Beta ranking, and it just adds weight to it.

Then again:

Just because most people, both men and women, are unaware of the mechanics of status hierarchies doesn't mean that they don't exist. "Associative mating" is as established a concept in sociology as one could be. Everyone does it, which is why it's extremely rare to see a wealthy man with a plain wife or, as Illka has said, supermodels with homeless midgets. The fact that men and women both engage in associative mating does "mean the world is inherently divided into strata"; laws that govern the world of human beings don't have quite the status of physical laws, but the phenomenon exists every bit as much as say, the fact that Irish Catholics drink more than Baptists or the Protestant ethic is involved with the spirit of capitalism. Wishing that they would go away won't make them do so.

I have often said that if I were any shallower, I would be bas-relief.

I insist, however, that the search for the Sort of Ideal Someone, despite being inestimably more difficult, must take precedence over the search for Anyone Out There, and the suggestion that perhaps my criteria are insufficiently broad, so to speak, annoys me greatly. It's not an itch I seek to scratch; it's a void I seek to fill. Different dynamics (and physics) entirely. Apply whatever Greek letter you like, though I'm partial to σ: it's a very strong bond.

(Thanks to Russell Wardlow.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:44 PM)
24 October 2006
What just happened here?

"Um, I don't know. I guess I just lost my head."

Which, of course, is inadvisable, not to mention not particularly safe for work.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:25 PM)
25 October 2006
Can I get a "Duh"?

It's nice to know Alfred Kinsey's work goes on, despite his being dead and all:

Researchers at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University say most men are always thinking of sex.

A study released Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists found 54 percent of men and 19 percent of women admit they think about sex every day — or several times a day — in a society where they are bombarded with subconscious erotic images.

I rather suspect that if we were not "bombarded with subconscious erotic images," and if all the men looked like Abe Vigoda and all the women looked like, well, Abe Vigoda, the percentages wouldn't change in the slightest.

(Via someone who looks like McGehee.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:22 AM)
31 October 2006
Three up and three down

Sometimes I find myself, much as I hate to admit it, thinking things like this:

So.. my mom is getting married to a awesome guy she met on a dating site ... my brother met his wife on a dating site ... how come nothing cool like that is happening for me? I swear, I'm about ready to give up. Everyone I met either is a horny immature idiot, or lives 300000000 miles away from me.

I'm putting my money on "horny immature idiot," if only because they exist in substantial quantities.

On the other hand, were it possible to live three hundred million miles away, I'd bet Andrea has already done the research on what it's like.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:18 AM)
3 November 2006
Look out, kid, it's something you did

Zimmerman wasn't exactly wroth, but he was definitely perplexed. He didn't mind so much when somebody called "Bobby the Poet" put out a Hardly-Worthit version of "Positively White Christmas" or something like that, and he admitted to a guffaw or two when that Weird Al guy ran backwards and forwards at the same time. In the same song, yet.

But he didn't quite know what to make of Chastity Rome-Sick Blues. Okay, the girl was way cute, if a tad fumble-fingered, and she looked the part. (Johanna? Forget those visions.) Besides, whoever heard of a music video made to promote a book? He shook his head in amazement and pressed the Watch Again button. "Funny," he finally said. "And it beats the hell out of watching parking meters."

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 AM)
Hey, babe, easy on the Plutarch

Neil Kramer reads Cosmopolitan so you don't have to, and finds stuff like this:

Guys are looking to avoid that overeager girl who goes out of her way to show everyone exactly how intelligent she is. If you find yourself using the names Hemingway, Dostoevsky, or Nietzsche more than once per conversation, you may be guilty of academic name-dropping, which reeks of insecurity.

The hottest woman I ever met had a Ph.D. in medieval French literature or some such thing. And you know what? Not once did it ever occur to me that she might be able to correct my misapprehensions (if any) about Molière's Tartuffe, nor would it have bothered me greatly if she had.

I suspect Neilochka is dipping into the Double Secret Irony stash for this:

There's a reason the librarian always TAKES OFF the glasses. We like the woman to be stupider than us. Of course, a woman should read, but preferably material like Cosmopolitan, chick-lit, or maybe a few mommyblogger blogs. Nothing too heady. Men are known to be better in math and science, so please don't try [to] show off any of your math skills. It is a real turn-off. The only mathematical term you should be using in conversation with a man you are dating is "big," as in "My Gawd, you are so big!"

Either that, or he's letting the wang do the talking again.

Now if you'll excuse me, Michel Houellebecq awaits.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:48 PM)
4 November 2006
Peer pressure

Each issue of The Week has a section called "Good Week For..." and "Bad Week For...", usually with four of each.

This is apparently a Bad Week for Men, and here's why:

[A] British study revealed that the average man spends a full six months of his life staring at women in a slack-jawed trance of frustrated desire.

Finally, I'm above average at something.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:23 PM)
28 November 2006
From the Department of Great Truths

"Can't nag with your mouth full."

I'll have to take her word for it.

(And that of Little Miss Attila, from whom I snagged this link. There is at least a measurable possibility that this may not be safe for work.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:46 AM)
Vacant aisle

Marriage — at least the old-fashioned, one man/one woman thing — is apparently dead, suggests Moxie:

[T]here is little reason for any man or woman to get married or date in this day and age.

Liberals and feminists have made it easy and acceptable for people NOT to get married. I could adopt or have a child on my own. I could marry a woman if I leaned that way. I can abort a child I decide I don't want, maybe soon after it has been born, after Nancy Pelosi takes over. Men can get the benefit of marriage from any drunk feminist at a bar.

Perhaps, if I spent days thinking about it, I could find one substantive reason to date men who no longer have a good reason to marry any woman on earth.

Most men in my age bracket are so superficial and selfish, the only reason for marriage and the prerequisite dating, is to preserve conservative values. And there aren't many men around who appreciate that, thanks to Bill Clinton, the nitwit who made it ok to cheat on the ole thick-ankled ball and chain, and made it seem "uncool" to be moral (conservative).

I demur slightly here. Men have been looking for excuses since long before there ever was an Oval Office.

About a year ago, the last really special and promising guy I dated rejected me because I'm a Republican. He wasn't a typical liberal, he was British, living here on a work visa, brainwashed by Jon Stewart and CNN. And in about a month, I'll be one of the few, single, old chicks NOT looking for a date — and instead seeking 7 more cats to complete my collection.

While I may feel awful that my incredible and worthy Parents won't ever have grandkids — the fact that I won't have to deal with divorce, lawyers, deadbeat Dads and joint custody is a reason in and of itself to throw a $40,000 family celebration and wear an expensive designer dress.

Which is probably cheaper in the long run.

I should point out here that while I do have something of a conservative bent, I have no reason to think myself any less selfish and/or superficial than the next guy. (It's that whole humility thing, and I am persuaded that, as Francis W. Porretto once noted, it's "the virtue least practiced or appreciated in our time." God forbid anything should interfere with the propping up of one's self-esteem, I suppose.)

Besides, the Mox is gorgeous and smart, which means that I wouldn't have much of a shot at her even if she lived around the corner instead of across the country. I mention these things in the unlikely event that anyone should think I'm trying to position myself as a Potential Partner.

Update, 8 pm, 29 November: The aforementioned Mr Porretto tells me to get off my ass.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:49 AM)
6 December 2006
The din of equity

As if finding the marriage of true minds hadn't already proven difficult enough, here comes another impediment:

The thirties and forties are those periods when a singleton with some extra income decides to stop waiting for Mr. / Miss / Mx. Right and buy a house. Few singles appreciate the impact on one's marriageability of already owning real estate. It might make you seem attractively stable to potential spouses ... for a while. But beware! If you fall in love with someone who owns her own home, your three-bedroom kingdom might come to seem a ball and chain rather than a comfortable retreat from the wider world.

I note here that I closed on this place the day after my 50th birthday — and that someone would have to be just this side of Beyond My Wildest Dreams to get me to give it up.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:06 AM)
11 December 2006
The G. is for "Glacier"

Beauty, like every other form of currency on the planet, is unequally distributed, and being a fan of going for what you really want, and not being a fan of what passes for egalitarianism these days, I find myself sort of endorsing this manifestly unfair enterprise:

Especially in online dating's early days, "It wasn't always the most attractive people — it was the boldest, the bravest, and the most desperate," says [Jason] Pellegrino, who believes that less than 15 percent of traditional Internet daters are great lookers. "Let's face it — when you go online, you look at photos and the profiles second. I wanted to create a site for a demographic that was being overlooked on the online market."

And that demographic, he says, is comprised of the guys and girls gorgeous enough to cause whiplash.

Here's how HotEnough.org works: Potential members submit three photos, including a full-body shot. If Pellegrino and his silent business partner deem the person "hot enough," they are moved into the voting arena where the 150 current members check them out. In order to win membership, a prospective hottie needs to be rated at least an "8" on the Hot-O-Meter scale of 10 by at least 25 people.

Inasmuch as it would take plastic surgery, or metallurgy, or cosmic radiation, or something, to bring me up to a 3, I'm obviously not a candidate for this service. On the other hand, it won't have any effect on my own activities, or lack thereof — those who do qualify are not likely to have been looking my way otherwise — and I persist in believing that if you're looking for a trophy, the most logical approach is to go to, well, a trophy shop.

(Via Fark.com.)

Addendum, 12 December: Rachel notes that this isn't exactly a new concept.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:29 PM)
13 December 2006
I bet this guy got lots of responses

Seen on the Savannah craigslist by Just D:

I am a big jerk who is totally self absorbed. I would tell you about my job but who really cares. I would tell you about some of my previous life experiences but I think you couldn't handle most of it. I don't fit in, in any situation, and do not enjoy staying at home. I also despise going out for a "night on the town". Laughing is for losers and I see the humor in no situations. I am extremely outgoing at first but then get very shy once I get to know you.

I bring a total lack of respect into any relationship and believe that playing games and deceitful tactics are the bedrock cornerstones of any successful encounter with the opposite sex. When you find out I have been cheating on you the only comment I expect to hear is "Well Played".

I am looking for a woman without any goals in life who is not very smart and would enjoy being in a relationship that is full of lies, cheating and stealing (please bring a large bank account to the relationship or at least a home I could leverage behind your back). It would also help if you have absolutely no expectations of me. And of course hygiene is completely optional.

At this point I was thinking that maybe this was posted under this guy's email address by a former girlfriend as a minor act of vengeance, but the last paragraph doesn't fit well with that scenario:

If you "get" this profile then feel free to contact me. If the words "holler at your girl" with at least one misspelled word (i.e. holla, atcha or gurl) are anywhere in your profile, then please remove the statement before contacting me. I won't tolerate jackasses and the inclusion of this phrase ensures this is what you are.

Then again, this could be just my lack of imagination.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:16 PM)
20 December 2006
Been there, in fact still there

Salon Books turns up this personal ad from the London Review of Books:

Shy, ugly man, fond of extended periods of self-pity, middle-aged, flatulent and overweight, seeks the impossible. Box no. 8623.

I should point out here that I'm not all that shy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:19 PM)
21 December 2006
Long-term relationship, in about an hour

Prompted by this Kathy Shaidle post, I read this Kathy Shaidle poem, and quoted this much of it at the office:

and Tracey said Besides, men are just like contact lenses
cause men can be hard
and men can be soft
but mostly they can just get lost

"And you can throw them away in two weeks," came the response.

Well, yes, I did laugh. (My apologies to the poet.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:28 PM)
26 December 2006
Little diamonds are forever

We've taken this person's concept of love and replaced it with Stendhal's Crystals. Let's see what happens:

My understanding of what he wrote is that he believes that lovers become convinced of the perfection of their beloved, relate every perfection they encounter to their beloved, and that deepening of love is dependent upon fears: First of the beloved not returning their love and then of them not loving them any more. It seems, that in his view a person will not fall in love without these fears and finally that, if the person falls in love, the loss of fear will kill passion but allow for confidence.

I find this to be interesting in many ways; First, I wonder if it is true that one must have fear in order to love. Having never been "in love" I find it difficult to say if this seems likely, but I like to think that falling in love would have more to do with something deeper, more 'real,' than fear of loss.

I don't think that fear is the single prerequisite, necessarily, but I do believe that all the emotions should be in at least working condition for love to have any functionality; otherwise it's just whistling into the wind. Stendhal, at least, was cognizant of the fact that the emotions tend to travel as a pack: "The pleasures of love," he wrote, "are always in proportion to our fears."

But the path of crystallization deals initially with the process of perception: as minor, even major, imperfections become irrelevant to the lover, the desire for reciprocation increases. Fear first manifests itself when one's feelings are not returned; when fear and hope are intermixed, the romantic attraction is intensified. And the fear doesn't always go away when the feelings are returned: this is where thoughts of abandonment kick in.

Maybe I'm paying more attention to this stuff these days because one of my fears — perhaps the only one that matters in the long run — has to do with getting out of here alive, which of course none of us ever do, at least not in a sense that we understand. Stendhal anticipated this too:

A dayfly is born at nine in the morning, during the long summer days, to die at five in the evening; how could it understand the word "night"? Give it five hours more; it will see and understand what night is. Likewise, I shall die at twenty-three. Give me five more years of life, to live with Mme. de Rènal ....

I didn't die at twenty-three, obviously, but I have this sinking feeling that I won't find someone until the day after I discover I've come down with something terminal.

And that's the thing about crystals: incredibly beautiful they may be, but inevitably they have an edge.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:31 AM)
8 January 2007
Coming distractions, maybe

Stuff (2/07) popped this question to some guys: "What song did you lose your virginity to?" Most of the answers didn't seem that interesting, but these two did. First, Teller:

I lost my virginity to Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vocalise in a Volkswagen minibus, parked on a street near Suburban Station in downtown Philadelphia on a bitterly cold January night. I'm such a romantic.

Penn Jillette, unsurprisingly, has a vastly different tale to tell:

I am pretty sure it was "The Black Angel's Death Song" by the Velvet Underground, but if you ask her, it was probably really something by Bread.

"It don't matter to me," reply my remaining readers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:49 AM)
14 January 2007
Geek girl shoots back

One of the more exasperating aspects of contemporary culture is its occasional insistence on credentials of dubious utility. Reb offers this example:

One guy said, word for word, "If you really like Batman, name three Robins." Because hey, I'm me, I busted out Stephanie Brown, in fact, and not Tim Drake. I was then told that I’d forgotten one. ("No, you asked for three and I named three. If you wanted Tim, you should have asked who the three male Robins were.") I was asked who killed Jason Todd. I was asked to detail current storylines.

And again, keep in mind, these were questions to establish that, good god, I really was a living, breathing girl — an attractive one, no less! — who was into something nerdy. One of the guys responded with wonder. The other, who many women at the store have had other, far worse kinds of run ins with, was angry and condescending. (Needless to say, he was the one who hadn't even realized Stephanie was a valid answer to the Robin question.) This all went on for a good twenty minutes (until our break ended, in fact) and through the whole thing I got more flustered and more angry, though I couldn't quite put my finger on why until later.

I later pondered and realized that what pissed me off was the notion that, because I'm female, I need to prove to men that I can join their exclusive club. And once that proof is established, I'm still not really allowed into their clubhouse. In the same way that so many nerds consider jocks to be practically another species, well, women are, too. We are Other. We're confusing and mystifying. And it doesn't matter if we like the same things, if we read the same things, if we discuss the same things. 'Female' is 'Other'. But a female who is into those same things is put into yet another classification — as both female and nerd (especially if you’re attractive) you're now a fetish. You're someone who can share the joy of videogames and comics and science fiction, so he doesn't have to alter his interests to impress you — and on top of that, you might have sex with him. You're not just a girl, you're a dream girl.

Yea, verily. I have a slight tendency toward geekiness, a greater one toward nerdity, and I cherish the few geek/nerd girls I know, but as a general rule, I'm not about to ask one of them to prove herself, as it were: if they have the spirit, it shows easily enough. (And besides, I'm more Marvel than DC; I'd have missed the Robin question.)

My immediate reaction, I must confess, was not so measured; it was more like "So who died and left them in charge of Geek Points?" The very definition of geekitude provides that sooner or later, more likely sooner, it comes out; it's about as useful as asking nuns if they ever thought about, you know, God and stuff. And I am quite vigorously opposed to grilling a possible date, unless you plan to pop the question that very night, in which case may I suggest that maybe you're going a little too fast for your own good.

Apparently, though, Reb's experience is not universal — at least, I hope it's not. For instance:

I am a fairly attractive female, I prefer sci-fi/fantasy to almost any other genre (book, tv, and movie); I loved reading the Sandman and Watchmen comics/graphic novels (not much of a comic reader anymore); I love new gadgets (and used to have a garage full of outdated computer equipment — before eBay); I have worked in technology for 14+ years (sometimes being the only female in the entire department); I play video games (as a matter of fact I used to hang out in arcades to actually play the games); and I have never even once had anyone (male or female) even insinuate that I needed to prove my geek status.

Nor should she have. True geek, like other positive characteristics, will present itself on its own schedule.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:47 PM)
24 January 2007
Tongue depression

I go to the dentist for three cleanings a year: this is a smidgen more than the usual recommendation, but given the generally uninspiring condition of the infrastructure — it's a toss-up as to which is receding faster, my hairline or my gums — I consider it necessary, and I would continue to consider it necessary even if said dentist did not employ a hygienist of considerable charm and only-slightly-muted hotness.

It would, of course, never occur to me to make a move: she's spoken for. And I don't even live in Washington state:

Under Washington Administrative Code 246-16-020, your dental hygienist and your optician are "health care providers." This means that, under Washington Administrative Code 246-16-100, they "shall not engage, or attempt to engage, in sexual misconduct with a current patient." Sexual misconduct "includes but is not limited to" sex, kissing, "hugging . . . of a romantic . . . nature," "suggesting or discussing the possibility of a dating, sexual or romantic relationship after the professional relationship ends," "terminating a professional relationship for the purpose of dating or pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship," or "making statements regarding the patient['s] . . . body, appearance, sexual history, or sexual orientation other than for legitimate health care purposes," among many other things.

Hmmm. I probably wouldn't even be allowed to post this from Washington.

And yes, I understand why they have rules like this:

Of course medical relationships offer room for various kinds of abuses. In some situations, it may be proper to interfere with people's right to marry, and their sexual and romantic autonomy, in order to prevent those abuses. We can talk about relationships between psychotherapists and clients (or ex-clients), or relationships between doctors and current patients, or other circumstances in which the risk of subtle coercion or unprofessional behavior is especially high (which is to say materially higher than the risk of subtle coercion and other harms in any sexual relationship).

But the Washington rules not only throw out the bathwater, they require you to abort the baby.

(Via Dan Collins at protein wisdom.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:05 AM)
26 January 2007
Beware the 14th of February

"Not tonight, darling, I have a haddock."

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:06 PM)
29 January 2007
Forget that "weaker sex" stuff

Nice guys finish ... um, less dramatically:

When an orgasm has been achieved through sex, you can measure theta waves. These are also said to cause the "running high" feeling of euphoria experienced sometimes by marathon runners. If theta waves are taken as a criterion, the entire brain emits theta waves when women reach an orgasm that are close on 10 times stronger than when men climax. So, if theta waves are an indication of an orgasm's strength, then women experience an orgasm that is physically impossible for men to go through. Putting it a little crudely, if the intensity of a woman's orgasm was played through a man's brain, there's a danger that the shock to his system would kill him. That risk makes it impossible to experiment on a man at the moment. And men can never become women.

And if they could, they'd probably complain about their salaries being cut.

Notes:

  • Don't bring up M2F transsexuals. They were women all along; it was just a hardware mismatch. (Or so I am informed.)

  • I have this sudden urge for a Theta Burger.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:19 PM)
5 February 2007
Avoidance-avoidance complex

Believe me, I know from this:

One of the more successful methods, different from mine, that I observe is to refuse to have a real love and/or relationship. I know several people who don't date at all and don't want to. They have their imaginary self, imagined love and their memories. That's it. They never have the rush of a new relationship and a new sex partner nor the high of feeling confident and fulfilled, but they never suffer the fiery hell of a relationship in flux and shambles, leading to a pit of burning lost love excrement up to one's nose. They "win" by not playing. In my opinion, they have put life on hold and in my opinion this is a fate worse than death. It's also the option I believe I am most likely to choose.

It is not a fate worse than death, though it pretty much guarantees you an empty bed, which some people consider the practical equivalent thereof. Me, I am unwilling to be led around by glandular secretions.

I look at it this way: without this particular complication, I am managing to keep my emotional curve just slightly above the X-axis. Why would I want to drop back into the bottom of the graph in the hopes of an occasional half-hearted caress?

Many years ago, for the OAQ File, I wrote that "I will encounter someone of prodigious desirability who wouldn't have me on a bet." I consider this a hazard of life, an unavoidable hazard at that, and indeed I was correct in this prediction. If anything, I underestimated the number of such encounters; if there is any contentment to be derived from having known it all along, I herewith lay claim to that contentment.

I suspect I'll be addressing similar subjects a number of times this month, inasmuch as this month is February, which contemporary culture has inexplicably chosen to dedicate to lovers. By the mercy of the Almighty and the wisdom of the Caesars, it is the shortest month.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:06 AM)
6 February 2007
I figure I can legitimately claim 1.6

This is perhaps an oversimplification of things, though it does reflect the expected bell-curve distribution. Presenting PDB's Five Levels of Attraction:

Level 5 = Movie stars, supermodels, the very elite that is beyond reach to all but a privileged few.

Level 4 = those who are almost as good-looking as the level 5s (and in some cases more so), but haven't reached the same level of fame, social status, etc.

Level 3 = Most of the population. More-or-less attractive, but not to the take-your-breath-away point of level 4s and 5s — often the overlooked "best friend" of a level 4.

Level 2 = Not exactly Quasimodo, but not particularly exciting to look at, either.

Level 1 = Quasimodo

Of course, there's always that eye-of-the-beholder factor to consider, which tends to skew results. But I've got a hunch that no one is going to pay any attention to anyone below 2.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:30 PM)
8 February 2007
Another reason to hate winter

I've covered this before, but I admit I didn't think of this angle:

Because everyone's wearing gloves, you can't spot whether or not there's a wedding band on that otherwise appealing woman standing next to you on the subway platform.

Do I admit that I do look? (Not that it makes the slightest bit of difference, of course.)

And are there any statistics on the success rate of public-transit romances?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:52 AM)
I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink

Excuse me while I whimper in the corner:

"Greater numbers of female partners leads to fatigue in males. They start producing smaller sperm packages," [biologist Sylvain] Charlat said. "Unfortunately, the females ... instinctively know that the packages are smaller and that their chances of having been sufficiently impregnated after mating are lower than usual. This just makes them more rampant."

Dr Charlat was actually talking about butterflies, but this still spooks me.

(Via Lip Schtick.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:39 AM)
9 February 2007
Heart murmurs

The insistence of Forrest Gump's mother notwithstanding, there's rather a lot more to life than a box of chocolates, especially this time of year:

Cupid's arrow will cost consumers a little more this year. The average lovestruck consumer will spend nearly $120 on Valentine's Day this year, up from $101 last year.

In total, U.S. wooers will spend $16.9 billion on their sweethearts this year, according to the National Retail Federation's 2007 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by market research company BIGresearch.

The survey polled 7,703 consumers and found that 63% of them planned to celebrate Valentine's Day, most between the ages of 25 and 34. On average, men will spend $154 on their Valentines, nearly double the $85 the average female will spend on her sweetheart. The most popular gifts men plan to buy to say "Be Mine": flowers (58.3%), candy (42.9%) and jewelry (27.6%).

Inasmuch as this adds up to 128.8 percent, you have to figure that some of these fellows are hedging their bets.

I'm slightly suspicious of that $154 figure, if only because it's far too low to include any meaningful amount of therapy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:31 PM)
10 February 2007
Tales of the unexpected

Heavens to Betsy (not her real name), can this be true? A virtual valentine?

(Found on a blog. In an effort to minimize total embarrassment, I am not providing a link.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:14 AM)
11 February 2007
When you care enough to wring the very most

Philip Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield, sneered at sex: "The pleasure is momentary, the position is ridiculous, and the expense is damnable." I might suggest that his lordship might have been happier had he tried other positions, but his other two premises are well-nigh unassailable.

Now Terry comes forth to assail one of them, and right on time, too:

"Gifting" is considered the salvation of profits, which is indicative of a societal misperception that dollars = devotion. Sure, being remembered is nice, but that's true day to day, not on artificial occasions. A simple "I'm thinking of you" goes much farther than something wrapped up with a bow. If I want flowers, I'll pick up a small bouquet from the grocery store for $5. If I want jewelry, I'll spend a couple of bucks at Target or Shopko. I don't need anyone to prove something to me by buying them for me. I think most women would agree with me. Men need to see advertising for what it is: an underhanded way for the retail industry to weasel money out of their pockets by convincing them that they're unworthy in a woman's eyes if they don't come across with something expensive. Don't believe it.

It probably wouldn't hurt if a few more women had this insight, either, if you know what I mean.

Now does anybody have any ideas to stretch out the "momentary pleasure"?

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:48 PM)
Across a crowded room

There's a technique to this?

So I was watching an old fave. show of mine, Viva La Bam. It was the episode where Bam is trying to teach Vito how to pick up a woman. He asked Vito what he does when he's trying to catch a woman's eye. Bam seemed to imply that there are certain things that definitely let a woman know that you're interested although he didn't elaborate. This made me curious.

Gentlemen, what do YOU do to catch someone's attention and let her know that you're interested in getting to know her? And if she smiles back at you, is that incentive enough for you to go over and introduce yourself? Does the length of the eye contact factor in at all?

Actually, I usually avoid looking in that direction, ostensibly as a safety precaution, but mostly because I figure it's just so much wasted effort, and I'm too tired for that sort of thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:24 PM)
15 February 2007
V plus one

The good thing is: it's over for another year. And it's just as well: for the last two days it's been colder than Maureen Dowd's heart around here.

I did, however, inadvertently hit on a line that actually sort of worked (though your mileage may vary): "Hey, you want to go for a ride in a G35?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
1 March 2007
Where have all the goofballs gone?

I mean, the ones we didn't vote for. Nina wants to know, and she directs her query skyward:

Secretly, I wish I could be more like them. Shallow, self-serving and oblivious. As a woman, I wish I could just look at one, get turned on and have lots of meaningless sex. Why didn't you wire me this way, especially now? But noooo, you wired me to connect emotionally and then physically.

I don't get it and I certainly don't like it.

All I can do is trust you knew what you were doing, hope, pray and beg for a decent keeper somewhere to be found in the pack. Are there any good, non-creepy goofballs left and available?

There are, I am told, women who are wired like men. Are they any happier? I don't know, but I suspect they'd never admit it if they weren't.

And I can relate to this:

Could you give me some hope? Something to hold on to? Or why not take away my desire altogether?

I seem to have followed, quite unintentionally, Plan C: my libido is somewhere between vague and nonexistent. And since that's probably the only place where I can deal with it on a consistent basis — but never mind that.

Sometimes I think we're all just thrown into the ocean: mostly, we're ships that pass in the night, but some of us eventually drown.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
9 March 2007
Karmikaze

Around lunchtime (Whataburger, thank you very much), it finally dawned on me, and while the Fates (Bob and Wendy Fate, of Great Neck, New York) weren't addressing me directly, it sounded like their voices:

"Here's the deal. You've got your own house, you've got better wheels than some billionaires, and your waistline is diminishing week by week. Be content with that."

Which, when you get right down to it, is probably a hair kinder than "No, you can't have a girlfriend."

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:49 PM)
11 March 2007
Micrometer of the beholder

I persist in believing that some things simply cannot be quantified — too many intangibles — but who listens to me? Not these folks:

The researchers, from the University of Gdansk in Poland, studied the vital statistics of 24 finalists in a national beauty competition, together with those of 115 other women. They said that while weight, height and hip ratio were normally used to assess female attractiveness, these might not throw up crucial differences between the super-attractive and others.

For men, scientists said height, BMI, waist-to-hip and waist-to-chest ratios were key measures.

Super-attractive women had a thigh-to-height ratio some 12 per cent lower than other women, giving them a more slender look. Skinfold tests on the calf showed 15mm of fat compared with 18mm in other women.

The study also showed that the average super-attractive height was 5ft 9in, with the waist 76 per cent of the size of the chest, and 70 per cent of the size of the hips. Models built like Naomi Campbell came closest to the ideal.

"Attractiveness of a woman's body is one of the most important factors in mate selection, and the question what are the physical cues for the assessment of attractiveness is fundamental to evolutionary psychology," said Leszek Pokrywka, who led the study.

Well, okay. I will stipulate, for the purpose of argument, that Naomi Campbell looks good. These are the criteria, say the researchers:

  • Body mass index 20.85
  • Bust girth to height 49.3%
  • Waist-chest ratio 1.4
  • Leg-to-body ratio 1.4
  • Calf girth to height 19.5%
  • Height 175cm
  • Thigh girth to height 29.7%

So: just under 5-foot-9, somewhere around 34-24-35, legs that go on for hours, if not necessarily days.

Not that I would look askance at someone meeting these criteria, but I'd like to think I am slightly less superficial than that, and unlike, say, your average Stuff reader, I do not presume that I am somehow entitled to someone with supermodel looks. Of course, if Naomi calls, all bets are off.

Your perfect guy is a Christian Bale type:

  • Body mass index 26.5
  • Waist-chest ratio 0.6
  • Leg-to-body ratio 1
  • Height 188cm

I match one of these, anyway.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
13 March 2007
Fish enjoys bicycling, film at eleven

Let it be said at the top that I'm inclined to believe that there may be at least as many definitions of "feminism" as there are women, and I don't feel qualified to cough up one of my own, what with (1) this Y chromosome of mine and (2) the fact that I have spent very little of my adult life in the company of women and therefore have scant experience upon which to draw.

That said, I'm wondering if there's an answer for this:

Being in love is awesome. Being married is awesome. Sharing a bed with a man means cuddles, sex, backrubs, back scratches, someone to wake you from your nightmares, or commisserate when the alarm clock goes off. Being in a relationship means you have someone you can count on to hold you when you cry, take care of you when you’re sick, run errands and do chores with — and you enjoy doing the same for them. A husband is an ally to make long term plans with. Being coupled makes everything else in life better. It's the frosting on the cupcake.

How does any of the above make me not a feminist? How does the desire for and enjoyment of male companionship somehow make me opposed to women's equal legal rights, control of our own bodies, economic advancement, and general well-being?

Okay, it doesn't sound, you know, independent, but how many of us are really in a position to provide for all of our own needs?

And no, I'm not upset with anyone; I'm just playing darts.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:42 AM)
16 March 2007
Gnome on the range

Let's see if I have this straight:

  1. Buy girlfriend lots of underpants and such online.
  2. ????
  3. Debit!

That's how it looks to me, anyway.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:17 PM)
19 March 2007
Imaginary lover

A reader, not of this site, writes to Aunt Fugly:

I have this great wife — she's smart, she's exotic, she likes to talk about really obscure books while walking around the house naked, and she enjoys traveling and drinking beer. All my friends think she sounds fantastic but because she lives in a different part of the state for work, they haven't met her. But they're doubling the pressure lately for me to introduce them. There's just one problem: She doesn't exist. I totally made her up and it's been three years now, including a successful stint in couples counseling that I couldn't stop talking about, and I'm worried it might be a little bit too late to confess to my friends that she's fake. Apparently I am kind of a douchebag. What should I do? Should I admit to my friends that I lied? ... No, really, give me an actual good idea.

Aunt Fugly's response is here, and there's really nothing that I can add to it, except this: should this mythical spouse turn out to exist after all, consider this a call of dibs.