Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Last Friday was enlightening. I was sitting at the bar, turned toward a few friends on my left, when a rando on my right tapped my shoulder and quite politely, actually, apologized for bothering me, but said he’d seen me walk in, blahdy blah, etc… and then ended his opener with, “So, how is a girl like you single?” UGH. That is maybe my absolute MOST HATED LINE.

I do believe it’s usually intended to be a compliment… but it is, in actuality, an insult. The underlying assumption is that singleness is an unfortunate condition everyone should avoid at all costs. It’s also a rather personal question to ask someone you hardly know. What kind of answer do people expect? “Well, I have daddy issues,” or “Under this makeup I look like a troll”??

But as my eyes began to roll up and I took a deep breath, preparing to launch into my usual speech (actually I find that question rather offensive, perhaps I choose to be single because I quite like dictating my own schedule, I’d rather not be in a bland or dysfunctional relationship, etc.), I realized something. For the first time in over a year, when asked why I was single, I simply answered with an expression that quickly turned from annoyance to befuddlement: “I’m not.” Accompanying an uncomfortable silence, my expression was then reflected back to me in the face of my new friend.

It had never occurred to me before that moment what’s perhaps most infuriating about that dreaded question: the ASSumption that someone is single. Was it because I was sitting at a bar with a group of girls? Was it because I turned toward a stranger when he tapped me on the shoulder? Was it because I was at a $15 all-you-can-drink-and-eat special at Durkins? Oh, maybe that did have something to do with it…

Friday, August 22, 2008

Athletics imitate life

My ex forwarded me this article, “Sex and the Olympic city,” from the Times Online today. From the lead photo (my eyes!), I figured it was just going to be more of the usual inappropriateness that boys like to send around the Internet, especially on Fridays, but it’s actually really interesting. And it’s told in first person by former Olympian Matthew Syed, with personal anecdotes—my fav. Most of the story is simply an entertaining peephole into the Olympic Village, which apparently functions a lot like a co-ed freshman dorm during the first week of college. Who knew? I’ll never watch the Olympics quite the same way again…

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, however, the most interesting part of the article, to me, was quickly brushed over:
“It is worth noting an intriguing dichotomy between the sexes in respect of all this coupling. The chaps who win gold medals - even those as geeky as Michael Phelps - are the principal objects of desire for many female athletes. There is something about sporting success that makes a certain type of woman go crazy … But - and this is the thing - success does not work both ways. Gold-medal winning female athletes are not looked upon by male athletes with any more desire than those who flunked out in the first round. It is sometimes even considered a defect, as if there is something downright unfeminine about all that striving, fist pumping and incontinent sweating. Sport, in this respect, is a reflection of wider society, where male success is a universal desirable whereas female success is sexually ambiguous. I do not condone this phenomenon, merely note it.”
Nice observation, Matthew! I wished he would go on, in his deliciously British prose, but instead he starts writing about athletes’ smoking habits. And the “certain type of woman” comment—I won’t even get into that. So it looks as though we can add one more either/or to female existence: Olympic Champion OR Village Vamp. Meanwhile, Phelps gets to have it all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

“So, what’s going on between you two??”

If a tree falls in the forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it really make a sound? Well in my opinion, it should be up to the tree to decide. Isn’t the tree more aware of its own actions than any outsider? Do things not actually happen unless they’re recognized by others?

That certainly seems to be the case with relationships. Two people can’t simply enjoy each other’s company—after a while, the others start asking questions—and you’re forced to have The Talk. This usually happens after suffering through one too many awkward silences surrounding introductions to friends of friends, when some oblivious drunk jabs his finger at you and blurts out, “Is this your GIRLFRIEND?”

You’d think you could just introduce people by their names, but apparently you can only avoid the G and B labels for so long. The others must know your status! Ambiguity just won’t do! And if you dodge their questions for too long, refusing labels or playing too long in minor league labels, frustration will mount and pretty soon your relationship as you thought you knew it will cease to exist, either because you or your counterpart has caved, or because the others have given up and completely dismissed it.

Perhaps this is why weddings have turned into such a spectacle. They’re really not about the couple or love or commitment at all. They’re about public declaration. They’re about putting an end to answering nosy questions—so you have a big show of it and then you wear around a band of physical evidence so the others will no longer have to wonder. Of course then they will probably start asking you when you’re going to start procreating…

So if a relationship exists between two people, but their friends and family can’t label it, does it really count? Apparently not. And does a turn under the microscope keep you from grilling your loved ones the next time you’re on the other side? Not so much. We all need the entertainment.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Little girls in pretty boxes

I realized tonight while watching the Olympics that I apparently know nothing about my “favorite sport”—women’s gymnastics. (I guess that tells you something about how much I like sports...) First of all, I was completely confused by the new scoring system. Second, I guess the Romanians suck now.

I found the commentators’ conversation about the Romanian team almost more annoying than the F.I.G.’s confiscation of the perfect 10. Basically, the two reasons they gave for Romania's downfall were: 1) Nadia Comaneci no longer inspires young girls (vague and random explanation I didn’t understand until I Googled the issue and found this one, lonely and fairly old article), and 2) the gymnasts are no longer the uber-disciplined robots they used to be.

To elaborate on the second explanation, first one commentator reminisced about how the old Romanian teams never stopped working, comparing them with disdain to the current team, who she apparently saw chatting around the chalk box during practice. Gasp! What lazy wastes of spandex! Then the other commentator mentioned after one of the gymnasts fell and must have been hugged or something by her coach (I was Googling and didn’t see) that in the old days, a gymnast who messed up would never get a high five or hug or anything from her coach (perhaps she would just get an electric shock?). Then he quickly added something like, “I’m not saying that’s the way it should be—I’m just saying…” as an afterthought. Hm.

According to the article I found, Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang, Romanian coaches of the last Olympic team, “faced criticism over their iron discipline and allegations of psychological abuse and demanding cuts from gymnasts' prize money.” Hm. I’m not saying child abuse and exploitation don’t produce champions—I’m just saying… it’s pretty f-ed up.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A night to remember

My friend and I had a chatty cab driver on the way home from the bar Saturday night. The first thing he said was, “Did you have fun tonight? Did you get hit on by a lot of guys?” I think it was his bluntness that bothered me most. Usually people ask things like, “Were there a lot of people out?” or “Did you meet any cute boys?” They usually don’t plop that direct correlation out there so obtusely: Did you have a good night, i.e. did boys pay attention to you, and/or hump your rear somewhat rhythmically to a Rihanna song, and/or invite you back to the frat house?

Whether delicately verbalized or not, this singular idea of what constitutes a successful night appears to be widespread. I can’t even count how many times I’ve been catching up with a (female) friend I don’t see very often when we’re interrupted by some rando who says something like, “Boy you girls are just chatting away!” or “You guys just been sittin’ here chatting all night?” or “You ladies look like you’re having a heated debate!” What about those observations compels these men to cut in? Must be the ASSumption that even though we appear to be having a good time, our situation could only be improved by a representative of the male gender.

Even worse, when having drinks with two or three friends, I’ve been stopped mid-sentence by randos who just waltz up to our table and stand there, staring. “Well, hello there,” one of us is eventually forced to say in an attempt to squelch the awkwardness. But of course it only gets worse because the rando really has nothing to contribute. He apparently expects us to be so grateful to him for saving us from our heinously female night that we will be more than happy to entertain him with spontaneous conversation.

Now, I’m not saying I never go out to perhaps meet a new boy, or maybe run into an old one… but the funny thing about that is when I’m sitting on a barstool, eyes wandering, only sporadically exchanging bits of celebrity gossip with a friend I see all the time, randos seem less likely to physically approach, but instead—if anything—do strange things like send over tap water and kiddie cocktails. It’s as if they feel more comfortable interrupting conversation than boredom.

My point, though, is that there are numerous ways to have a fun night, and they certainly don’t all revolve around getting “hit on.” Why must that be the main measure of success? And why, while we're on the subject, is that phrase so unpleasant? A smattering of events I consider to be equally, if not more indicative of a successful night out:

  • Karaokeing “Manic Monday” with a friend of a friend you randomly ran into.

  • Winning a dance-off with your shopping cart skillz and lifeless robot stare.

  • Hustling a gaggle of Orange County ingrates in beer pong.

  • Making it through a night of multi-level bars without falling down any stairs.

  • Discovering that Ian’s is serving up BBQ chicken pineapple AND tomato pesto pizza. And eating both without guilt.

Plus, you know what they say: You’re more likely to stumble across The One while you’re busy doing the robot, or something like that… actually perfecting the robot and attracting men are usually more of an either/or sort of deal… but nevertheless a choice every woman must have the right to make for herself and her own night.

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