I am more afraid of ticks than bears

May 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

I recently discovered that I am more afraid of ticks than bears. As FDR said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…and some arachnids.

When you type “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” into Google image search, the first batch of images are t-shirts and cartoon pictures of FDR’s face that read “The only thing we have to fear is FEAR ITSELF…and spiders.” I’d substitute “ticks” for “spiders,” but my best friend S is mad arachnophobic, so let’s just say arachnids are no picnic in general (and yes, ticks are arachnids–at least according to Wikipedia. I checked.)
You can buy this t-shirt at zazzle.com and wear it to your next AA (Arachnophobics Anonymous) meeting.

My mom and aunt came to visit me in Virginia for a week earlier this month, after I finished my first round of grad school finals (Woo hoo! Now my stress is adult!)., and we spent a few days hiking and nature-ing around. One afternoon we were in Shenandoah National Park. We’d already done a fairly strenuous hike (at least to our legs, which were tired from basically climbing a mountain the day before) in the morning/early afternoon, so for our second hike of the day we wanted something short and manageable. Just a few miles. And FLAT.

We ended up on a trail that was less than 2-miles roundtrip–ostensibly very manageable–but that, despite the guidebook’s difficulty rating of “easy,” was all uphill. Through the grass. And weeds. And various other flora. Now, for a while this was quite lovely–tons of bluets and little white flowers and butterflies up the wazoo–until my mom mentioned ticks. She’d read about them in some of our guide literature to the park and another hiker we’d talked to earlier that day had warned her that the area we were in had tons of ticks and that they were particularly prevalent in this type of weather. I don’t know anything about ticks’ weather preferences, but I do know Ew! Ick! Oh my gods get it AWAY from me!!! 

Now, I’m not a particularly scaredy person when it comes to bugs. I find silver-fish terrifying for some reason (loved that recent episode of Up All Night that had Maya Rudolph calling Will Arnett, her best friend’s husband, to come kill a silverfish in her house), and I hate things with lots of legs (like centipedes, shudder), but I deal with even these fine. Spiders don’t especially bother me, or I’ve at least learned to be strong because my best friend S is terrified of them and someone needs to get the things out of the house. Also, since the warm weather started, these ants have shown up in my house here in Virginia and these suckers are like half an inch long. Since I’m used to California ants you practically look at through a microscope, the size of these Giant Ant Beings does make them seem like some kind of demon ants, but I still squish them with my bare fingers no problem. Point: I’m not usually too squeamish.

However, I hate anything that bites. Mosquitos $%*&ing love me for some reason; if there are mosquitos out, I will always get bit. If I’m with my family, usually I’ll have as many bites as the three of them combined, or more. It’s like I’m the Bella Swan to these bitches’ Edward Cullen: I’ve never smelled blood like yours in all my liiiiife.

My body is really sensitive, so as soon as an insect bites me, the area around the bite will turn red and swell up and itch like mad, like normal people’s mosquito bites on steroids (remember the whole steroids-gave-Barry-Bonds-bobble-head-proportions thing? Your mosquito bites are a normal head; mine are Barry Bonds’ head, post ‘roids.) After a few days, the swelling will go down and the general redness will darken to a patchy purple that looks like a cross between a bruise and a really strange, abstract tattoo. Recently, I was sitting at a friend’s place with my legs propped up on something when he pointed to my outstretched calf and said, “Oh, you have a birthmark on your leg!” Nope. No I do not. That is a mosquito bite from two days ago; it only looks like there’s a hickey on my leg.

Oh! And when I was like ten I got bit by a bunch of stone flies while I was in Florida on vacation and the bites swelled up so intensely it looked like I had half a softball shoved under my skin every place I’d been bitten. They itched like mad and it was about 100 degrees with approximately 500% humidity, so I was miserable (which probably means my family was miserable too–sorry, family, usually you’re okay as long as you keep me fed). That may be the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve been in more pain, but in terms of pure discomfort–ugh.

Suffice it to say I don’t like to have any kind of biting insect or arachnid anywhere near my skin, and something that fucking burrows into your flesh? When is the next plane/train/bus/camel out of this hellscape?

Also, I had a friend in college who got lyme disease and that shit is no joke. She had to take our sophomore year off and when she came back, she walked with a gorram cane. Stay the fuck away from ticks.

So we’re hiking. Then my mom mentions ticks. I get a little nervous but am distracted by the fact that the trail is still going uphill and only getting more overgrown and this is not what I signed up for. If this is going to be an Amazon-style adventure, I would like to know in advance so that I am emotionally prepared–and armed with a machete. But anyway, ticks are mentioned and it’s like the foreshadowing in a movie: dun dun dunnn!! If this is an arty drama, you know someone is going to die from lyme disease in the next 45 minutes. I don’t want to be that person.

The ominous music ratchets up when my mom notices a tick on my aunt’s pants. My aunt is totally calm (probs cause my mom is freaking out a tad bit) and able to pick the tick off with a stick, but it takes her a minute because the thing is clamped on for dear life–the way it wanted to be clamped onto her flesh. Oh my gods AAAHH!

Cue the footage of me running. I basically ran for the next mile or so.

Luckily we’d finally reached the downhill portion of the trail, and I took that opportunity to run like the wind, Bullseye. Whilst running I also would shake my arms and legs in what looked like the Hokey Pokey crossed with sheer panic. Or maybe some kind of seizure-related spasm. Regardless, I left my mom and aunt to fend for their own damn selves and hightailed it the fuck out of there, not stopping until I reached the ocean of asphalt that made up the rest stop parking lot, where we’d left our car. Praise Jesus. I never knew I could be so grateful to see a football field’s worth of asphalt. Sometimes they pave paradise to get me the fuck away from ticks.

So now I’m in the parking lot. I run to our car, but as my mom had been driving and it was her rental SUV, not my Acura, I didn’t have the keys. Luckily, Mom wasn’t far behind me because I’d started peeling off my clothes for the benefit of some deer and a trucker fueling his semi across the parking lot. She clicked the SUV open and I sat down on the open back, taking off my shoes and socks and rolling my yoga pants up to my thighs, turning everything inside out and feeling all surfaces to check for ticks. I also stripped off my REI fleece hoodie and a long-sleeved Stanford-emblazoned shirt (basically all my clothing that is vaguely workout apparel says Stanford on it somewhere–when I’m going to the gym I feel like an admissions brochure), so that I was standing in my untied hiking boots–newly verified to be tick free–and a sports bra, pants rolled up past my knees. A some point my mom or someone pointed out that there were bathrooms fifty or so yards away–and that there were strangers next to a car not thirty yards away that were staring at me–so I took that opportunity to 1) pee and 2) make sure every last inch of my body was tick-free beyond the prying eyes of truckers and tourists.

Even though I’d checked my every bodily surface, I still felt like things were crawling on me–ick ick ick–but by the time I returned from the bathroom I felt mostly better.

My mom and aunt verified their own tick-free status–in a much more sedate manner–and we got back in the car. We decided to drive the 50 or so miles to the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park, as the sun was going down and we could watch the sunset from various lookouts and just generally scope things out. I was amenable to this idea, especially once separated from the tick-laden grasses and presented with a bag of dried apple slices. Thus, we drove.

We stopped ten minutes or so later to watch the sun sink below the Blue Ridge Mountains, and yeah, it was pretty spectacular. All three of us we in a good mood once we’d recommenced the drive, so long as my aunt stayed away from grasses and foliage when we stopped at overlooks. She’s a birder and is more interested in getting a picture of or getting a good look at some interesting bird than she is in preventing ticks from clinging to her clothes and entering our tick-free-car-sanctuary–or god/dess forbid, my house. If you bring a tick into my house I will end your life. Unless you are a cute dog, in which case I will help get the tick off you with the tweezers and match and whatnot, but I will say “Ew! Ew! Ew!” the whole time and probably wear rubber dishwashing gloves. This is why I need a real rather than imaginary boyfriend (sorry, Darren Criss) or girlfriend (Lindsay…): so someone else can deal with ticks and I don’t have to!

My mom, aunt, and I managed, however, to return to our SUV asylum without bringing any tiny, horrifying passengers with us. After the sun had set, we set off to finish the last stretch of park before we totally lost the light, and after driving for maybe twenty minutes, we saw something a hundred or so yards ahead of us in the road. It was dark and appeared to be an animal, and then holy hellfires it’s a BEAR. 

No, it’s two bears! It’s a mama bear and a cub!! OH MY GODS STOP THE CAR!!!

My mom hit the brakes car and we inched toward them, staring agog through the windshield (or at least I was agog, mouth open–potentially with high pitched screeches of “It’s a baby bear!!” emanating from it). As we got closer my aunt recovered her senses a bit and was like, “Sweet fuck, BACK UP!” so my mom did so, eventually turning around, pulling off to the side of the road, and stopping the car. My aunt, apparently having used up all of her good sense in the “Back up!” moment, threw open her side door and jumped out with her camera, quiet-running (you know, when you pick up your feet really quickly and look like cartoon mouse Jerry trying not to wake a sleeping Tom) toward the bears. My mom, excited/panicked, whisper-yelled to her to be careful.

Not one to jump off bridges, I would, however, apparently have to say “Yes” to the question “If all your friends ran toward a bear, would you run too?” because I also jumped out of the car and walked/quiet-ran towards my aunt and the bears.

(We were at least 50 yards from them at our closest. We’re not complete morons. Only partial morons.)

My aunt had climbed a bit up the hill at the side of the road to get a better angle on the bears in hopes of seeing them and taking their picture. At some point in all this we realized that there was a mother and not one but two bear cubsHyperventilating with excitement/cuteness overload.

I wanted to see the bears as well as possible, not ever having even glimpsed a bear outside of a zoo, but I also did not want to get mauled/killed/eaten/etc. I knew I shouldn’t get any closer on the road, where the bears still sat, so my only choice was to climb the hill where my aunt was and hope for a better view.

I glanced over at my aunt and saw her standing in knee-high grass snapping photos. Grass = ticks = over my dead body. Evidently I take this last part seriously: since I couldn’t go up the hill, I took a step forward on the road, closer to the bears.

At this point my mom, still manning the car and staying prepared to warn any potential oncoming traffic, whisper-screamed at me, “Do. Not. Get. Any. Closer. Moron.” (The “moron” was implied.)

My body halted and my brain did a quick reality check: in hopes of getting a better view of some wildlife that could eat me, I was more willing to approach bears than to risk getting a tick on me.

Bear, tick. Bear, tick. Potentially angry mother bear desperate to protect her cubs, tick. Apparently, the answer was  “potentially angry bear” because there was no way I was getting anyway near that grass.

I conceded the backwards-ness of this preference. I backed up. A little. And stared open-jawed a bit more before the bears began to walk down the hill on the opposite side of the road and my mom whisper-screamed at us to get our asses back in the car.

Not a half-hour later we saw another mama bear and baby amongst the trees and brush at the roadside. Though we turned the car around once again to get a better look, this time we watched from the (relative) safety of our SUV.

Come to think of it, the SUV was probably a safer bet all along. Faced with plastic and metal and doors, those ticks didn’t stand a chance. They may have pinchers that grab on like a motherfucker, but they don’t have any opposable thumbs.

On Naming

November 9, 2011 § 4 Comments

Tellingly, this banner does not read "It's a chance to let everyone your child will ever meet know how clever her parents are!"

This is the part when I, a childless twenty-three-year-old, give you advice on how to parent – or, more accurately, how not to parent.

Specifically, I’m interested in what happens before the potty-training, before the volcano science fair project, before the eighth-grade graduation, indeed, often even before the child is born: I’m interested in naming, and where the line falls between “creative” and “child abuse.”

Celebrities have made bizarre-ass kids’ names more popular recently. Everyone has heard about Apple, Coco, and Pilot Inspektor. Hell, Nicholas Cage named his child after superman. (His son is Kal-el. Seriously.) The British chef Jamie Oliver, whom I find generally adorable, gave his four kids my favorite totally mad names: Poppy Honey Rosie Oliver, Daisy Boo Pamela Oliver, Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver, and Buddy Bear Maurice Oliver. If you take the naming decision as a joke you get to play on your kid for the rest of his life, don’t do it halfway.

For a humorous collection of the most insane celeb baby names, check out Cracked: http://www.cracked.com/article_15765_the-20-most-bizarre-celebrity-baby-names.html

Now, the fact that a celebrity does something does not mean normal people – or, really anyone – should do it. You don’t see me running around asking for Slash’s hair stylist or Lindsay Lohan’s therapist’s number. But regardless of whether or not Sylvester Stallone chose to name his kid Sage Moonblood (note: he did), there are certain stupid naming practices that will likely persist.

I’ve identified five categories of naming impulses that can lead to appellative chaos:

1. Normal name spelled a strange way. These parents want to give their child a common name but still feel the need to leave their stamp on it somehow, in this case a stamp reading, “If found, return to Psychiatric Wing.” These names sound normal – Rachel, Jessica – but when written, their latent cray-cray is revealed: it’s not Rachel but Raychul, not Jessica but Jessikuh. Spellings with a cultural or ethnic background do not fall under this category; the Jewish “Channah” for “Hannah,” “Shaun” instead of “Sean” or “Shawn” – these are totally acceptable. I’ll even provide a little leeway if a parent wants to spell Jamie “Jaime” so that it’s spelled the same as the French for “I love.” But “Leesa” (Lisa), “Emilee,” “Jorja” (Georgia)? You have got to be joking. The bat-shit fundies on that TLC show 19 Kids and Counting (although apparently the mom’s pregnant with number 20, because 19 children is never enough – it says that right in the Bible) have given each of their kids a name beginning with the letter “j”. Rather than be restricted to names that are actually spelled with the letter “j,” however, they named kid #6 Jinger (like “Ginger”). I hope she’s a redhead. And I seriously wish her name were pronounced “Jinger” like “ringer,” though I doubt it.

2. Normal name pronounced a strange way. I’m not talking about “aw-na” versus “Anna” as in “apple,” nor do I have a problem with ethnically-informed pronunciations. If you’re Latino and say “Da-veed” instead of “David,” no sweat. My problem is the conscious choice to make reading your child’s name aloud difficult for everyone for the rest of his/her/hir life. If your daughter’s name is spelled Divine or Devine but pronounced like “Devin,” that’s too bad because “divine” is already a word. Or, vice versa, if her name is Devin but you want to pronounce it “Dee-vine,” tough tuckus.

3. Foreign word as name. Yes, Reina does sound lovely, but if you are white/Asian/not Latina and you interact with Spanish-speakers, it just becomes a bit awkward. However, if calling you “Queen” makes them uncomfortable, let them know they can always substitute “Your Majesty.”

4. Existing English words as name. Apple. Objects are particularly strange, but abstract words are also quite strange. Traditionally, some (mostly girls’) names have been words that signify positive attributes: Hope, Joy, Faith. Even some of the more ill-chosen, in my opinion, (Temperance, Chastity), still persist. Yes, historical people wanted to burden their daughters with names that were moral imperatives, but they also didn’t know about germs and thought masturbating caused blindness, so I think it’s acceptable to depart from their example. So don’t go calling your son “Brevity.” Also, nouns aren’t the only words that make bad names, though I’d caution against christening your offspring “Panoply,” “Rhapsody,” or “Garden.” “Culvert” sounds like a good idea but isn’t. Verbs (“Scurry”), adjectives (“Antipodal”), adverbs – most existing words are probably a bad idea. Even if you think it’s obscure – “Miasma,” maybe, for your lovely daughter – word nerds like me will be wondering why you wanted to name your child after an infecting vapor.

5. Completely made up name. Throw together any combination of letters and call it a name. Indeed, try out punctuation as well. I’ve heard tell of a girl named “La-a,” and her name is not pronounced “La” or “La’a”: it’s pronounced “La-dash-a.”

I understand the impulse to give your child a unique name; my name is uncommon enough that most people misspell it and many mispronounce it. My best friend has a fairly unusual first name but a downright strange middle name: von Wulfen. It means “from the wolves.” She has hated it our entire lives. I have always thought it was basically the coolest name possible (a perspective likely made possible by the fact that it is not my name). Here’s a hint, then: if you want to throw in some cray-cray along with the family “Thomas” or “Catherine,” stick it in the middle name. Then it’s at least a bit hidden, and your son doesn’t have to spend kindergarten to second grade learning to write “Velociraptor” at the top of his assignments. (Confession: I may or may not think “Velociraptor” would make an awesome name. In theory. In practice, I intend to love my kids, not send them unarmed into the world with a sign saying, “I’m a freak!” My kid will probably be enough of a freak on his/her/hir own.)

In terms of finding interesting names that won’t draw the attention of child protective services, I myself often like surnames used as first names, especially as a means of giving the child a namesake; I had a female friend in college named “Austen” after Jane Austen. I know an English Lit Ph.D. candidate at Stanford whose son is named Whitman, with the nickname “Whit”  – pushing it a bit but ultimately pretty cute, I’d say. However, the surname-as-first-name rule doesn’t always work. My neighbors recently gave their son a family surname: Thorsen, “Thor” for short. No. Dear god/dess no.

Your child is not a pet. If you call a dog “Gobsmack,” or “Fork,” or “Federal Reserve,” it may bring you embarrassment at some point, but it will not stimulate the dog’s peers to make his/her/hir life a living hell. I’m sure Apple’s classmates have never made a joke about having her in their lunchbox, and I’m sure when she gets older there will be absolutely no sexual innuendos constructed around the fact that she’s named after a fruit. I’m totally positive.

Ridicule – you want your child to get less of it, not more. Do your part to make that happen.

My mother grew up knowing three sisters, the children of hippies, who were named Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. If you view this example as inspiration for your own name-creation endeavors, rather than as a cautionary tale, please begin this blog over from the beginning.

Vanity Plates: A Tramp Stamp for Your Car

November 9, 2011 § 6 Comments

I am a new resident of Charlottesville, Virginia, and I have become aware of an epidemic in this town – an epidemic of personalized license plates. I don’t intend to be hyperbolic when I say that, in my estimation, one in every ten cars here has a vanity plate.

While technically not as dangerous as other widespread diseases, such as cholera or the bubonic plague, precautions should still be taken against it. Safe sex practices can prevent against the transmission of HIV, but they cannot prevent against vanity-plate-itis. Before you know it, you could turn out to be dating a guy with this plastered over the ass of his car:

As a native Californian, this specific plate rankles me because Californians don’t usually emblazon their douchebaggery on their license plates; they let you figure it out from their driving.

In Charlottesville, however, vanity plates are displayed proudly, often surrounded  by any number of bumper stickers or window decals.

Personalized license plates present several potential problems:

1) I can’t read it. Is that a zero or an “o”? When do I pronounce the numbers for the sound and when are they just numbers? Sometimes a vanity plate just seems like a purposeful jumble of unrelated letters and numbers, and when I spend a minute and a half at a light without figuring out what it is supposed to say, I will inevitably become pissed off. And we Californians channel this kind of aggression into driving – and into yelling profanity while driving – which does not help me in my attempt to adapt to Virginian driving practices, which are the automobile equivalent of that lovey-dovey couple saying, “You hang up first.” “No, you hang up first! Teehee!” I’m constantly pleasantly surprised by how polite drivers are here, though after the red Taurus in front of me lets pedestrians cross the street for upwards of three minutes, my surprise becomes less delighted.

2) I can read it but I have no idea what it means. I walk the two miles from my place to the UVA campus most days of the week (I like walking), and I always see a parked blue pickup with a license plate reading “KID 05.” You are the fifth kid in your family? You graduated from high school/college/plumbers’ academy in 2005? While your vanity plate may have significance for you, it means squat to me. In everyday life, language is a communicative medium, and since the people most exposed to vanity plates are strangers, I think they should be decipherable to the average person. Otherwise, all the letters and/or numbers translate to is annoyance.

3. I can read it and understand it. But it’s superfluous. You don’t need a license plate reading “LEX RYDE” to let everyone know you drive a Lexus. We already know. Because you’re driving a Lexus.

4. I can read it and understand it. But I still don’t care. I simply don’t understand the need to turn your car into a permanent sign communicating your occupation/field (“ER MED” and “UVA FISIX” are two I’ve seen recently, though I’ve come across quite a few that reference medicine), family composition (“FAB 4SUM”), or general likes/dislikes (I saw “F5 TRN80” this morning; F5 is apparently the highest/most dangerous classification of tornado on the Fujita scale, one of three accepted scales for ranking hurricanes. Okay…)

Now, these are the problems vanity plates provide for me, random driver on the road, reading the sentiment you found so important that you needed to say it everyday, to every person with the use of their eyes, which, to be fair, seems to be only around 90% of drivers.

Let’s consider the problem this personalized plate creates for you, the vanity-plate-haver: it makes you memorable. “But, that’s all that I wanted! To make sure all strangers know and remember that I am a ‘CWBYS-FN!'” since the big football helmet sticker and lone star flags flapping out your windows didn’t do a good enough job.

Sometimes, though, as a driver, you don’t want to be remembered. You cut somebody off in traffic. You make an illegal left-hand turn. You accidentally scratch someone else’s car in the parking lot and just want to drive away and leave it. I’m not condoning any of these actions, but if, per se, one were to engage in such illegal and/or frowned upon actions, one wouldn’t want every person witnessing them to be able to say to the cops, “Oh yeah, I remember the license plate!” – which they will if it reads, “BBR4EVR” (I have not seen this license plate and I pray to god/dess/whatever that no such Beiber license plates exist).

Vanity plates are the tramp stamps of cars. Like a lower-back tattoo of a flower, a sun, or some tribal-ish scrolls, a personalized license plate tells strangers something about you, yes, but not something good.

Please, do the rest of the world a favor and just say no to personalized license plates. They’re called vanity plates for a reason; the thing they communicate first and foremost is their owners’ sense of self-importance.

Can this kind of egotism ever be excused? My best friend once saw a BMW with a plate that read “CAPTLST.” That plate is acceptable. Why? That man is being a douchebag on purpose.

Also, on my walk to campus one day recently, I came across this license plate:

This one is either the pinnacle of irony or a case of significance going so high over someone’s head, it’s at the height of a Southwest airplane (Fly Southwest! Your first checked bag is free!).

Not as obnoxious, by far, as vanity plates themselves, themed license plates offered by the state (showing a whale, a national park, etc. and often donating a portion of their proceeds to the cause championed on the plate) can also be a bit much, especially when a “Kids First” plate is surrounded by bumper stickers reading, “Life begins at conception!” and “GUNS SAVE LIVES!” (I saw that second one on an SUV whose bumper stickers had more text than Herman Cain thinks bills should have.)

This seems like the correct moment for me to admit that I am very tempted to connect the preponderance of vanity plates in Charlottesville with the fact that Virginia is home to many more conservatives than I am used to, but anyone who’s taken a basic social science class knows that correlation does not equal causation, so I will simply note that Charlottesville seems to have a lot of both personalized license plates and conservatives. Also, bagels. There are a shit-ton of bagel places here.

All that said, the one license plate I feel moved to defend can be found below. Using the annoying personalization option to comment on the annoying themed license plate option? I can get behind that.

Apparently the Virginia DMV has revoked this plate. See here for the disappointing details: http://www.popfi.com/2011/01/06/virginia-bans-pro-cannibalism-license-plate/

New Study Confirms Leggings Are Not Pants

November 6, 2011 § 225 Comments

A recent study at Harvard University entirely debunks the popular notion that leggings are pants. Such a firm conclusion was slightly unexpected, according to the study’s authors. “Clearly a hybrid of tights and trousers,” lead researcher Deborah Collins commented, “leggings retained the real possibility of falling on the ‘pants’ side of the dividing line between these two types of clothing.”

Indeed, early in the research process, Collins and her partner in the study, Martin Hilfiger of Boston University (no relation to the fashion mogul), hypothesized that leggings might, in fact, be pants, due to the apparently endless number of women that he encountered daily on the streets of Boston and Cambridge, wearing t-shirts over partially opaque leggings, often with the seeming declaration, “Panty-lines be damned!”

“Of course,” Hilfiger cautions, “the fact that many people believe something has no relation to the likelihood of its actually being true.” He rants briefly about the Young Earth Creationists before returning to the subject of his study.

“As a man, and thus someone who has never considered leaving the house without traditional pants,” Hilfiger notes, “I thought that the women I often saw walking down the street in only leggings might know better than I.”

Upon beginning the rigorous study, however, and abandoning personal suppositions for science, Hilfiger quickly discovered that leggings have far more in common with tights, Spanx, and even underwear, than they do with pants.

“Leggings are pants, but only in the British sense of the term!” Collins laughed. In Britain, the term “pants” refers to what Americans call underwear.

Both Hilfiger and Collins cited as important to their work Catherine Baker’s landmark 1994 study which confirmed that tights are not, and should not be used as, pants.

“Baker’s research,” Collins said, “helped us design a rigorous study, while also laying necessary conceptual groundwork. Of course, her study also allowed me, personally, to have confidence that our current work is important to society.”

Those in the fashion world have reacted to Collins and Hilfiger’s results with the surprise of those reacting to a study declaring the sky to be blue.

When asked if leggings are pants, Anna Wintour simply frowned.

The “Fug Girls,” the two writers behind the popular fashion blog GoFugYourself.com, have long written a series of sardonic responses to celebrity pantlessness called “Look Into Pants.” These blog posts sometimes feature celebrities’ ill-advised substitution of tights or leggings for pants.

Others on the web are contemplating the proper response to such damning new research. The crusaders behind tightsarenotpants.com – whose manifesto states that “The wearing of tights as pants is an abomination” – are currently considering developing a sister site, leggingsarenotpants.com, in response to the scientific verification of leggings’ not-pants status.

Collins reports that her and Hilfiger’s results are entirely conclusive.

“Our margin of error is plus or minus 0.00021%,” she noted. “So no, there’s really no way leggings are actually pants.”

Some within the psychology community, however, question the wisdom of publicizing such a blatant denouncement of wearing leggings as pants. Psychologist Lynn Brockton of the University of Southern California has predicted a higher suicide rate among sorority girls and Lindsay Lohan following the news of Collins and Hilfiger’s study results.

Note on 6 Nov 2013: Apparently literally thousands of people have read this post today. Not sure how that happened, but I’d like to make a few things clear.

Firstly, this entire post is a joke. The studies it cites are not real. The people it quotes are either fake or have never actually said the things they are being quoted as saying. It falls under a category of posts called “The Scallion,” which is a play off the title of the satirical news site The Onion. It’s satire.

Secondly, this post is not meant to be body-shaming.  I think it looks weird to wear leggings as pants if you have athletic legs, curvy legs,  skinny legs, what have you.

Finally, this post is not meant to tell anyone what to do. Lots of people probably think things I wear are weird, and that’s totally fine. For instance, I’m a grown woman who frequently wears a sweater adorned with a fox face made of sequins. You are a beautiful and unique snowflake, and you are free to house your snowflake legs in leggings if you so desire!

The Wingman: How Not to Hit on Someone: “Luke, I am your father”

November 6, 2011 § 3 Comments

There are certain things a person knows by instinct not to say to a someone when you’re chatting them up at a club/bar/bar mitzvah. “I wet my bed until I was 17.” “I went to prison for exposing myself to a minor.” “I think Kings of Leon is a really good band.” Such statements are what we women call “red flags,” as in, “Grab his giant red flag and use it to hail a cab to get the hell out of here.”

When Albert Einstein famously said, “Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former,” he must have been standing in a bar watching his friend tell some woman that she reminds him of his mother, before his mother was committed to the mental ward when he was nine. I am continually surprised by what people will say aloud, but I am continually shocked by what men will say to women they’re trying to have sex with.

The following story brings you today’s advice from the Wingman: if you’re trying to pick up a younger woman, don’t tell her that you have a son her age.

My junior year of college, I was studying abroad in Oxford. One weekend, I ended up in a hotel on the coast of Wales, miles from anything that could be considered a city and at least a few miles from the nearest small town. After dinner at said hotel, my friends and I contemplated what to do for the evening. Being without a car, our choices were to drink in the hotel bar, or to sit in someone’s room and stare at each other.

Upon entering the bar, we heard a ruckus coming from a private room. Walking by, we saw thirty or forty people (mostly men) drinking enthusiastically. A few of them were wearing sombreros. If I were at home in California, it would be odd but not entirely improbable to see a group of drunk men wearing sombreros in a bar, especially if there’s a Chevy’s nearby. In Wales, however, I’d have been surprised if anyone could even identify a sombrero. (A month or so later, I threw a Cinco de Mayo party with a few of my American friends; when we invited some British guys to the party, one replied, “I don’t know what Cinco de Mayo is; we don’t have any Mexicans here.”)

After getting our own table and a pint apiece, six or so of us Americans, the majority being female, were talking and drinking for a half hour or so, at which point a spectacularly drunk Welshman wearing a sombrero threw himself into an empty chair and began to talk at us about I have no idea what. I do remember thinking that I wouldn’t mind wearing a full-body condom: this guy was skeezy, if entertaining. Another Welshman – older, more composed, less sloppy drunk, and more conscious of personal boundaries – also sat down, and we preceded to have a strange conversation with them about many things. (The older one told us that drinking Guinness in Dublin was better than sex. “Oh, my wife will kill me. It’s almost as good as sex.” My friends and I traveled to Dublin two months later.)

Mostly, they wanted to know what we were doing in Gwbert, the “town” the hotel was nearest too, pronounced like a mix between “Gilbert” and “Goobert.” Actually, they wanted to know what “the fuck” we were doing in Gwbert. Apparently, as Americans traveling the British isles, we were getting it all wrong. Even Welshman don’t want to go to Gwbert, our new friends informed us, they themselves were only here for some team-building thing for work that was mandatory.

Last year, apparently, they went to Spain on their team-building trip/reward vacation, but thanks to the economic downturn, this year they were in the middle of nowhere Wales. At this point in the evening, my friends and I discovered the reason for the sombreros: all the employees at this event had been playing a game in which they were split up into teams, with each team representing a country. By this point, many other drunk Welshman had begun to pour into the general bar area, so our only-somewhat-tipsy friend could point out the cowboy hats (the U.S.), canvas safari-type hats (Australia), berets (France), and triangular straw hats (China), in addition to the aforementioned sombreros (Mexico).

Around this time, other Welshmen, on their way to being plastered themselves, tried to join our group, apparently thinking our original two guests had been hogging us – or rather, hogging the five or so young American girls. They were initially less interested in our two male friends, though by the end of the night, they were loving on them too, with an enthusiasm that the term “homoerotic” doesn’t quite capture.

One by one, or in pairs, we peeled ourselves from the table, ostensibly to use the “loo” or something, after at least one new Welshman had become quite grabby.

At our table, the Welshmen had been buying us drinks – pints of cider and beer – girls and guys both. On my way to or from the bathroom, I stopped to say hi to a male friend that was chatting with another Welshman (younger, seemingly less creepy, cuter if not truly cute), and suddenly found myself with another new friend ready to shower me in free drinks.

Turns out that, due to the volcano that had lately erupted over Iceland, spouting veritable tons of ash and grounding all planes, the Welshmen’s boss was stuck in Italy and had not been able to attend the company retreat. This retreat included booze – an open tab with the hotel bar that the boss’s second-in-command, seemingly the most sober of the bunch, was exceedingly lenient with.

Suffice it to say, we all (American and Welsh alike) got plastered; I’d barely have finished off half of a pint before I had three Welshmen trying to order me another. It was even the same for the guys.

Over the course of three or four hours, I had long, hilarious conversations with a number of Welshmen, ranging in age from late twenties to early sixties. At one point, I was standing with a girlfriend talking to this Welsh guy who I believe was named Mike (though we had to retrospectively reconstruct this fact the next day from various pieces of “evidence”).

Mike was in his mid to late forties and was hitting on my friend hard. As this was all progressing, my friend or I made a comment on about the tattoo on Mike’s forearm. It appeared to be letters.

It was, Mike told us. In fact, it was an ambigram (ambigrams always make me think of that Dan Brown novel where ones saying “fire” and “water” get burned onto a bunch of priests’ chests; an ambigram is the script of a word that reads identically if turned upside down). Apparently, this ambigram spelled out the name of Mike’s son, which I think was Thomas but may have been Taylor or something else starting with “T.”

Having a tattoo of your son’s name is a rather sweet gesture, and mentioning this to a girl you’re chatting up could, in fact, win you sensitivity points, as long as you mention that you’re divorced, which Mike immediately did (got one thing right). Yes, the “I have a kid” revelation can work in your favor, provided it is not followed by another.

Mike then told us that his son Thomas/Taylor was a teenager. He may have been sixteen or seventeen, I don’t remember precisely. What I do remember is thinking, “At twenty-one, (Friend) and I are closer in age to your son than we are to you.”

After Mike told us a bit about Thomas/Taylor, during which time I was amusedly silent, drinking my pint, I moved on to another, potentially less creepy group of Welshmen/my American friends.

My friend did not run screaming from Mike. She did not even excuse herself to go to the bathroom and then conveniently fail to return. She actually continued to talk to him for a while, before rejoining the drunken group which, by this point, I believe was singing “Lean on Me” a cappella. We proceeded to sing many things a cappella, including an old S Club 7 song that I was pretty well into at age ten or what have you, until we Americans were wearing the sombreros and berets and swaying in time to the “music,” our arms thrown around Welsh shoulders.

Well, some of us. I was much less about the touching with drunk men I had just met, but generally, the end of the gathering was very lighthearted, a sort of “We Are the World” facilitated by copious amounts of alcohol.

The night in the bar of this Gwbert hotel was – despite the fuzziness-inducing effects of seven or so pints – quite memorable. Even now, though, a few years down the line, I’m astonished at Mike’s decision to throw out, “Oh yeah, so I have a sixteen-year-old son.”

Having a tattoo of your son’s name, okay, that’s sweet, that could win you some points. Noting that said son is almost my age: not so much. This just seems like a no-brainer – you should lie.

If you’re in your mid/late forties and you’re trying to sleep with a twenty-one-year-old American that you met in a bar maybe an hour ago, you’re probably not concerned with establishing a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. This is fine – it’s the contract of the skeezy bar hookup, and if the girl goes for it, she’s not picking out wedding china in her head in the meantime.

Ergo, LIE. You’re “sweet” and “sensitive”? You have a son that you love? Great, say he’s a toddler. Get the most out of this you can. He can be five at the most. Six or seven is pushing it – that’s the age when a kid starts to seem like a person rather than a tiny, adorable talking doll that you can make say inappropriate things.

DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT tell the younger woman that you have a kid almost her age. You do not want her to do the math and realize that you could be her father. That in and of itself is not necessarily a dealbreaker, but if you’re trying to seal the deal, you do not want the girl to be connecting you with her father. She looks at you, she immediately pictures her father: it’s a big mood killer. The kind that requires she go take a 45-minute shower and you go away.

So lie. Tell her about the cute castle that little Tommy/Taylor made with blocks a few days ago. Tell her how he called you “Mama” for two years, because he apparently thought it was a nice all-purpose parent name. Tell her about something shitty your ex-wife did to you, even, if you like. Make up whatever endearing stories you like. Just do not open your mouth and let, “I could be your father” slide on out. She’s not that drunk.

She could never be that drunk.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with Embarrassing at The Snarkist.