Sunday, June 6, 2004

Faith, Hope, and Clarity

“Jewelry is a distraction, a ruse designed to divert a viewer’s eye from the flaws of the wearer. It is for the realm of the older woman, much like vertical stripes, oversized sunglasses, and hats with their own zip code.” My friend Faith paused from her slurred diatribe long enough to take a sip from her 3rd Bloody Mary. Luckily she wrapped up her babble by gushing how I was far too young and beautiful to need jewelry, so I knew she was still sober enough to buy the next round.

Not need jewelry? Since when does “jewelry” have anything to do with “need”? It is one of the few things that not only doesn’t have a justification, it refuses to acknowledge that one might be required. When Faith says she “simply must have that emerald brooch,” it is not because it holds her scarf together oh so nicely. She needs it because she wants it. To venture further down that “why?” path only invites catastrophe.

Enter the modern male, replete with his invitation. He blinks, stares and shrugs, ensuring his demise. Or worse, he gets it completely wrong.

A long-suffering friend was once asked by her goombah boyfriend whether she preferred platinum or gold for Christmas. Thrilled, she told everyone she knew that he was finally going to get the hint she had been klonking him over the head with and, you know, ask her. Christmas morning, the look on her face was unforgettable as she opened her new platinum blender. It was, he added gleefully to his emotional dungheap, so she could make protein shakes for him.

Clue number one - when the better half is about to launch a key announcement, there is a hitch, a shift in the voice. Sometimes a weighted pause announces that something BIG is in the wind. It is clear from the tone a Woman uses that Man needs to sit up, suck up, shut up, and take notes.

Yes, no one likes to have instructions force fed to them. But for once, let’s look past the initial uncomfortable event. For the sake of argument, let’s say Man took notes and (gasp!) acted upon them. Emerald brooch in hand, he delivers the precious sacrifice to his female shrine. What would happen? After so many, many years of lowered expectations, of phony smiles and broken dreams, a dim light would flicker. Hope would warm the caverns of Womanhood again. And Man would be, well, happy. Men, proceed to your happy spot and remember that feeling. Simplistically, for your sake, jewelry = happy spot. Fair enough?

For a while anyway. Eventually the brooch would get dull and Woman would need a shiny new one to rekindle the light, so off Man would go again, if he knew what was good for him.

“Jeremy is a distraction, a rube designed to divert a viewer’s eye from the flaws of the world.” My friend Faith pawed at her emerald brooch that was a gift from her 3rd boyfriend this year. Jeremy the Man kept Faith very well distracted. For a while anyway. Eventually he would get dull and Faith would need a shiny new one to rekindle the light, so off he would go again, if he knew what was good for him.

Brooch stays, Man leaves. I can dream, can’t I? By this time I’m dwelling in the realm of mystic fiction, but that’s where Hope lives, alone, but with a marvelous collection of jewelry. And this I do know – she welcomes visitors, anytime. Especially those bearing gifts.

The Heeling Process

Guys like simplicity. Sunday = football, one hairstyle for a lifetime (often outlasting the hair), a couple pairs of shoes max…. So why is it that when a guy sees a woman in high heels, his head rotates like an owl spying a limping mouse? Is he marveling at the torque mechanics of such a highly-leveraged load? Is he, like some NASCAR devotees, simply waiting for the crash that seems inevitable? Or is he responding to a trigger buried deep in genetic code? In this case, DNA stands for Do Not Approach.

And what better way to get his attention than to say ‘go away?’ Men have their own secret, daily ‘Opposite Day.’ “Whatever you do, honey, don’t take out the trash.” Ok, that one just might confuse him, but you get the idea.

The higher the heel, the higher the deal. It’s a simple girly warning that screams “I dare you to afford me.” It screams because wearing 3-inch heels can make you do just that – scream. “I’m pouty, but it’s my shoes fault and there’s nothing you can do about it, big guy.” And while we all know guys love dares, this guy’s in over his head. You think he would have learned from his past mistakes, or watching his buddies crash and burn. Touching a lit match once should be sufficient, but as the entranced bug so eloquently said to the bug zapper in “A Bug’s Life,” “I can’t help it – it’s so beautiful.” Zap!

On the flip side, there is no other reason to wear high heels than to attract attention. Sure, they make you taller, and by proportion, thinner. But the trade-off is the odds that at any moment your painted lips will smack pavement. And if you’re lucky enough to have mastered the tilting walk, your calf muscles have probably shortened so much that you’ll never walk flat-footed again, bound to tip-toe Grinch-like through Whoville the rest of your days.

So why do we climb up into these strappy deathtraps? Yes, I admit that I wear them sometimes, and if a guy turns to look, I snarl at the lout. What do I expect? Of course he’s going to look – I’m wearing heels! What I didn’t realize is that heads were turning not because I was the ultimate vamp, but that as a result of jacking my heels sky high, my knees were now making a bizarre clicking noise…

Saturday, June 5, 2004


Struggling with a recalcitrant spreadsheet, I grumbled a few choice words under my breath. A perky head, attached to an equally nosy body, floated its way into my cubicle. “You know,” murmured the head as it slurped its decaf, “Jesus loves you.”

“Jesus?!” I squawked, spooking the head and spilling its coffee. “Thanks for sharing. But right now I could really use somebody who knows Excel.”

“It doesn’t matter,” the head continued its catatonic monotone, “None of it matters. Jesus loves everyone.” The hand attached to the head put the dripping coffee cup on my desk and wiped itself on the head’s pants. Apparently Jesus takes his coffee very hot.

“If Jesus loves us so much, how come he let you get burned by your coffee? How come he didn’t say ‘Yo, don’t go near that chick with the spreadsheet or she’ll startle you and you’ll burn your hand?’” As the words left my lips, I realized my mistake. The head perked up, all ready with a canned reply. I’m sure they teach this comebacker in “Born Again 101.”

The head beamed, “Jesus sent me here to save you. It is God’s will.” I began to wonder how the head had gotten past security.

“I think Jesus would have wanted you to use a coaster.” I was starting to get the hang of this game – hang an aura on your head, and you get to tell other people what Jesus wants them to do. Sorta like “Simon Says,” only with a Super-duper holy guy calling the shots and eternity in hell waiting for you if you screwed up. I assumed the holy melancholy and intoned, “And Jesus would love you more if you and your holy mocha got the hell out of my office.”

It was soon evident that this couldn’t be a two-way game. Only one of us could claim to broadcast the Jesus channel. The other would have to settle in as blind-faith patsy. But I was confident that my Jesus could kick his Jesus’s butt.

“So, you say you know JC,” I sidled up to the head, as much as you can sidle up to a head. “How long have you known him?” First shot fired right across his bow.

“Since May 4th,1998.”

“Well, I was born knowing Jesus,” I strutted, “And after all this time, he’s never once mentioned you.”

The head bobbled a bit, then shot back, “To truly know something, one must first distance oneself from it to gain perspective. Only then can one truly and knowingly embrace it.”

“Fair enough,” I conceded. “Ecclesiastes?”

“Fortune cookie,” he replied. “Look, I’d love to stay here and chat, but my boss will have my head if I don’t finish my report tonight. And I need to get something on this burn.”

“Nothing else matters,” I smiled. “Because Jesus loves you. And I do believe the burn was God's will.”

Head hung low, he sighed. “I’d appreciate it if you don’t mention this conversation to anyone. I’m supposed to attempt a few converts a day. If I fail, I fail. But I don’t need to get my butt handed to me like this.” He hesitated at the door. “Your the third column, 5th row, your macro is missing a paren.” With that he was gone.

A bright light shone upon my monitor, my rows and columns flowed in quiet exuberation, and the left and right lobes of my brain let loose great waves of relief as the truth revealed itself. “Thank God.”

He Said, She Said a Whole Lot More

Ah, the first date. Might as well swallow a bucket of Red Bull and then try to thread a needle. You’re both gonna be nervous, but that’s where the similarities end. They say women are from Venus. Well, guys are from Planet Simple, just past Planet “Huh?”, near the Moon of “Really, I was Listening, Please Give Me Back the Remote.”

For example, preparation – from the moment the date is confirmed, she is nervous and planning. He thinks he’s nervous, but soon realizes that it’s just hunger. A quick corn dog at the 7-11 and he soon forgets that he even has a date. By this time, she has gone through eighty-seven potential outfits to wear on the date, realized she has absolutely nothing to wear, and is at the mall trying to find something suitable.

Shoes! Goodness, what will she do? You can tell so much by her shoes. They can’t be scuffed or worn – that would make her look like she has to work for a living. (Of course she has to work for a living – who the hell paid for the shoes, Santa Claus?) And they can’t be too plain or too vampy – don’t want to convey the wrong impression. When the actual truth is the only impression that needs to be made is that yes, she remembered to wear shoes. And even if she didn’t wear them, he might like that. As for him, he’s all set – he has shoes.

Hair! Don’t get me started, I can do that perfectly well myself. All the wild things we women do to our hair, and the cruel twist is, boys don’t care. Watching the commercial in which two women are fighting in a fountain over a beer’s best attributes, all I can think is, they are totally messing up their hairdos. Guys are thinking, well, let’s just say that guys are not thinking with the upstairs brain.

All night, from salad to main course to remorse, she misreads him, frantically overthinking his underthinking. For some horrid reason, he left the room in the middle of dessert. Maybe, she thinks, she scarfed up the fudge flambee too quickly. Reality is, he just had to pee.

Then, you have the ‘legs akimbo’ possibilities. This is where the vastness of the gender gulf becomes obvious. She wonders if he’ll kiss her good night, and he’s thinking about whether the Cubs really have a chance this year. She wonders if she should ask him in, he’s hoping that she does ask him in because he has to pee again. She wonders what side of the bed he likes to sleep on, and he’s wondering if he should tell her about the booger she’s had hanging off her nose for the last two hours.

Groan Men

Somehow it’s only funny when the joke is on someone else. Grown men - I always liked that oxymoron. That is, until I actually owned an oxymoron.

Liberated, I was too smart to think I could change one. Tame a wild mustang? You bet. Mend a barbed wire fence with my teeth and some macaroni? Piece of cake. Get Gustaf the Hairy to put his dirty clothes somewhere near the hamper? What am I, a miracle worker?

Liberated – from what? From laundry, dish washing, vacuuming, ironing, dusting, grocery shopping, floor scrubbing??? Stop me if you see a chore that has recently become a bastion of male tradition. Bastion being a good thing. Somebody, stop me.

As a secondary option, I was able to train the dog to put “Hairy’s” stinky clothes in the hamper. The only downside was when Hairy was still wearing the clothes. And it became a real issue when any of his sweaty friends visited. On the bright side, visits were kept to a minimum, since smelly guests would usually be forced to leave scratched and naked.

In our early days, possessing a male of the species was considered by most women to be a status symbol. We all just had to have one. “Isn’t he cute?” we’d giggle, like it was a hamster. But a 200 pound hamster quickly becomes a B-movie nightmare - “The Man Who Wouldn’t Leave” starring Gustaf the Hairy and uh, me.

Why didn’t I listen to my mother? “Don’t feed it – it’ll follow you home and you’ll have to keep it. Now excuse me while I get a bib for your Dad.”