"In vacant or in pensive mood..." I am: Bekah; 24; Law Student / Favorite Things: Carbs (so there!), Johnny Damon, Smiling at babies, Grilled cheese, Comfortable silence / Favorite Supreme Court Justice: Brennan / Favorite Wilson: Owen by an inch / Today's Special: Song: Elliott Smith, "Bled White"; Quote: "You know, there's like a butt-load of gangs at this school. This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bowstaff." Please love me: email@example.com
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Monday, March 31, 2003
My law school's little tagline (or is it a motto?) is "Something More." It definitely took a bunch of lawyers to think that one up. Not "More Exciting" or "More Prestigious," but "Something More." Nice and ambiguous, just the way lawyers like it. It's so ambiguous in fact, one might even venture to say that it's ultimately meaningless. When I was narrowing down my overwhelmingly large pool of possible schools to attend, that "Something More" really stuck out. Back then, I interpreted it as "We'll Pay You a Hell of a Lot More," and that was good enough for me. After spending almost a year here, I now know the real reason for the ambiguity: My law school offers so much "more" of so many things, they just wanted to cover all of the bases. For example: gay men. Here's one valid intepretation of that elusive "Something More" that could have been brought to my attention prior to enrollment. Naturally, the obligatory "not that there's anything wrong with that" goes without saying. But the truth is that there is something wrong with it, namely that there is not a decent straight man to be found on this godforsaken campus. Another valid interpretation would be more exposed flesh. Now, I know my Dad reads this page, so I apologize in advance for this description, Daddy. Today in Spinning I was accosted by a girl on the bike in front of me wearing spandex pants (down low) with a gold thong (up high). If there's one thing in life that I'm sure of, it's that when I signed up for "Something More" I wasn't banking on more ass cheeks in my face, thank you very much. My fellow law students will recall that when statutes are ambiguous, courts look to the legislative intent to figure out how to interpret the unclear phrases. In the interest of future students, I propose that we do some research, find out what the hell the school administrators were talking about, and clarify things immediately before "Something" causes irreparable harm to anyone else. Now I'm going to go sit in a corner and rock back and forth until that traumatic image is erased from my memory.
Saturday, March 29, 2003
(Brotherly) Love and Basketball
I watched the Kansas game tonight and cried actual tears of joy. My tears were not shed because it was such an amazingly good game (which it was), or because the Jayhawks came through like champs (I did want them to win, but only because my roommate had money on the game). I cried because I was overwhelmed by the sheer wonderfulness of the players hugging each other and the intensity of the emotions in college ball. Now, I don’t consider myself to be an overly sentimental person. Movies don’t often make me cry (although Dead Man Walking had me hysterically sobbing—maybe it was just a bad day), and human interest stories don’t usually affect me deeply enough to generate tears. Nevertheless, I do tend to cry when male athletes hug. There is something so powerful about ballplayers helping their opponents stand up or embracing after a big shot. I honestly believe it brings out everything good in humanity. Love of the game is just the beginning. These players love each other. And if our society is at a stage where heterosexual men only feel comfortable showing their love on the court, so be it. We’ll take things one step at a time. All I know is that the ball court (or field) is one place where men don’t have to smack each other on the back and say, “I’m huggin’ ya, but I’m hittin’ ya.” No side hugs or impersonal fisted thumps here. Just full frontal hugging with no apologies. Beautiful, adorable, sweet, inspiring...and definitely not "gay."
Friday, March 28, 2003
I have a lot of friends with fun and amusing eccentricities, and my friend Anna is one of the cutest. Anna likes to copy random lines that she likes from this site and send them to me over IM. Then she’ll add a little comment like “so f’n true!” or “omg, i def feel you about the futon!” You see, Anna is the master of the abbreviation. If there is a possibility for short form, Anna will find it. Her emails are like e.e. cummings poems:
where are you?
tell me ev. about school
omg, is it f’n hard? ick
def write me
A few days ago, Anna and I were chatting on IM, and the conversation turned to my futon (the love endures). Anna asked me if I was sitting on it at the moment, and I answered, “Yeah, you know I’m on the –ton. That’s futon.” Anna just said, “i know. no need to use a dash with me.” Rebuffed. I had underestimated the powers of the abbreviation goddess and had dared to attempt her art. I looked quite foolish. I am sorry Anna; I will def try harder in the future. This f'n MM’s for you. (That's Mixtape Marathon for those not in the know).
Thursday, March 27, 2003
A few weeks ago, I wrote a general guide to quoting. Now I want to address something even nearer and dearer to my heart: The art of the mixtape. I cannot stress my seriousness about this subject enough. The mixtape and its modern incarnation, the mix cd, are two of the most constant joys in my life.
Several attempts have been made to describe the essence of a good mixtape. Most memorable for me is the scene in High Fidelity when Rob suggests that you have to start off strong to catch attention, then take it up a notch, and then cool it off a notch because “you don’t want to blow your wad.” The Promise Ring also offer some insight into the subject in their aptly titled song, Make Me a Mixtape: “Make me a mixtape / Something old and something new / Something I said or that we did that reminds me of you / Make me a mixtape that makes me yours / Don't leave out Husker Du / Put something on that The Cars did in 1982 / It makes me yours.” This explanation is even more effective than the one in High Fidelity because it vividly describes how personal mixtapes should be. (Incidentally, this song makes a good, strong addition to a mix in its own right. I used it as the second song in a cd I made for my sister in order to give the mix an energetic punch right at the beginning. When she was listening, she probably thought, “Hark! I should pay attention now, for this shit is going to be good.”). Keeping these foundations in mind, I will now unveil my somewhat comprehensive guidelines for making the perfect mix.
1. Tape or cd? Make an educated choice. Although cds may appear to have completely taken over the market, there is a strong subculture of nostalgic, die-hard tape fans. The decision for the mix-maker is one of purpose. If you are making a mix for someone who is a little earthy, drives an old station wagon, or hasn’t gotten into “the whole cd thing,” go with the tape. If you are making a mix for a tech-savvy hipster, a “sound quality” snob, or someone who doesn’t remember what a walkman is, go with the cd. These are just general rules: sometimes a tape is more personal; sometimes a cd is more practical. Go with your instinct. Personally, I make tapes when 1) I don’t have the means to make a cd, 2) I am making a road trip or exercise mix (see rule #7), or 3) I am in high school. Note: The third category is no longer viable.
2. Live by the three F’s: Fusion of Form and Function. A mixtape should be a cohesive unit. There are no requirements as to what type of music to include (as long as it doesn’t suck—see rule #4), but it is important that the songs you do choose fit with each other, and that they uphold the function of the mix. This is not to say the mixes cannot be eclectic, including both Blackalicious and Whiskeytown, Radiohead and Hot Water Music, or even The Shins and Jefferson Starship. I merely remind you that if you do choose to illustrate your varied musical interests, do so tastefully. The rules that follow will elaborate on this basic tenet.
3. Visualize a craggy mountain range. A good mixtape is not a plateau or a gradual incline. We are not climbing Mt. Everest here: no one wants to wait until the end of the tape for the climax. A good mixtape is like an interval workout. It has anywhere from 5 to 10 summits, all interspersed over the duration of the tape. I usually think of summits as what I feel are the strongest songs on the tape. This doesn’t have to mean loud or upbeat—a strong song is one that you have solidly adored for some time, or that would cause an acute ear to perk up. These songs anchor the mix, and allow for some underdogs to make safe appearances. A balance of slower and faster songs is also key, although it should not be a predictable alternating pattern. I usually like one or two slower songs at the end as a little bit of a fade out, but I wouldn’t go so far as to make that a black letter rule.
4. Do not include bad songs. Seems simple, right? Wrong. Sadly, most mixtapes and mix cds violate this rule in anywhere from one to all of the songs. And sadly, this is the one rule that is hardest for me to articulate without operating on a case by case basis. If you have to think about it, the song probably sucks. If you wish to procure some advice, I or one of my trusted colleagues would be happy to inform you as to strength or suckage of your particular choices.
5. Tone down the ego. This rule is only true if you’re making your mixtape for someone else (which really should account for most of your mixing time). A mixtape should always give the recipient an idea of the maker’s personal musical atmosphere. The all-important caveat, however, is that the maker should always anticipate what, within that musical atmosphere, the recipient would enjoy. You want to appeal to what you know they like, and introduce them to songs you think they would or should appreciate. News flash kids: It’s not all about you.
6. Never guess or lie. You know the drill. Everyone’s talking about a particular song or band. You want to be in on the action. So even though you don’t really like a song, you put it on your mix to look artsy and cool. Bad idea. People will realize quickly that there is something off, and believe me, one off song can ruin the whole thing. Also, never ever think to yourself, “Well, I don’t like this song much now, but maybe if I put it on the mix I’ll grow to like it.” You’re not fooling anyone.
7. Embrace thematic mixes. Themes can be a welcome source of inspiration for a mix. They can refer to the activity the mix is for (e.g., a road trip or exercise), the topic of the songs (e.g., songs about rain), or the person/situation occasioning the mix (e.g., “senior year” or break-up mixes). I’ve been known to make R.E.M.-themed mixes, which are obvious exceptions to rule #8 below. Working with a theme narrows your song options, but still allows for a good deal of creativity.
8. “Re-mix” sparingly. Re-mixing refers to two distinct practices. The first is using the same artist more than once on the same mix, which is rarely acceptable. If the band has had a long and diverse musical career, it is sometimes ok to put a representative song from two different periods. Also, if the lead singer of a band goes on to do solo work, it is ok to represent both phases of his career (like Pavement and Steven Malkmus or Old 97’s and Rhett Miller). The second meaning of “re-mixing” is giving the same cd to two different people. Making a cd for one person and then giving it to someone else later is sneaky and impersonal, but if you’re careful you can get away with it once in a while.
9. Avoid most live recordings. This rule has several exceptions, but I list it anyway because there is nothing more disruptive on a mix than a two minute long interview or long, drawn out applause. The songs need to flow, and live songs can be a huge distraction. If the applause and talking are minimal, it is ok to use a live song on occasion, especially if it is a better or more interesting version than the original. But a 20 minute version of Phish's Dog Faced Boy is totally unacceptable.
10. Remember that there is a huge learning curve. Don’t be ashamed if you feel that your mixes are less than stellar. I don’t like to admit this, but it wasn’t so very long ago that I included The B-52’s and Shania Twain in my mixes. (Think of those tapes as Bekah: The Lost Years). I am still honing my craft. The perfect mix is a moving goal: You may never reach it, but if you keep improving, you can get pretty damn close.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Retraction (Or “In Traction”)
Yesterday, I reported that my guardian angel got her wings in the Dillard’s shoe department. After the day I’ve had, it’s taking every ounce of restraint in my body not to go back there, pin her, and rip the wings off of her loathsome, trembling carcass.
Today was my oral argument for my appellate brief. I woke up early this morning to get dressed in my new suit and new shoes. I walked from the parking garage to the law school building, noting that my heels hurt quite a bit, but not thinking much of it. When I got to Con Law, I noticed a small dark patch on my pants. To my (and my friend Kate’s) extreme horror, I lifted my pant leg to find a pool of blood. Actually two pools. My feet, which until today included useful things called “heels,” were reduced to gory, mangled stumps. Kate, bless her, helped me clean up and gave me her flip-flops. I spent the rest of the day proving that plastic turquoise footwear is the best complement to navy pinstripes. How, might I ask, am I ever supposed to be an intimidating trial attorney? What am I going to do, bleed on opposing counsel?
A Long Day’s Journey into Fright
The shoe debacle was just the beginning. Today was one of the longest, most emotionally challenging days of my life. You see, I have a morbid, clinical fear of public speaking. The fact that I was in danger of bleeding out in Con Law didn’t even faze me in comparison to the thought of giving a five minute oration in front of a panel of professors and writing fellows.
There is absolutely no rational explanation for my phobia. It’s hard to explain the severity of performance anxiety to people who don’t have it. Basically, when I am faced with the prospect of speaking publicly in an academic setting, I actually want to die. I am not exaggerating. In my panic, the entire universe caves in, and I feel like the only thing to do is crawl into a hole and hide until I am safely out of the spotlight. The fact that I can’t hide or run away makes me feel scared, angry, and out of control. Life becomes an impossible responsibility. So bloody heels are a walk in the park. Except for the whole not being able to walk part.
When 4:30 finally rolled around, about 200 years after my fateful hike from the parking garage, it was time for the argument. I gently slid my shoes onto my poor feet, promising them a nice soak if they could just make it through the next twenty minutes without getting bloodstains on the floor. I sat and listened to opposing counsel give their arguments. Then my co-counsel gave hers. When it was my turn, I somehow made it to the podium, but I don’t remember the walk. The words just came. I felt like I was channeling someone; like I was looking in on the room from the outside. I answered the judges’ questions and tied them to my argument. I said “Thank you, your honors.” And then it was over. The minute I finished speaking, I felt like a wet blanket had been lifted from my body. The universe was no longer a stifling, hateful place.
As I walked home in those turquoise flip-flops, I held my head high. I had conquered a first year rite of passage, and had the battle scars to prove it. Law school, no matter what you take from me (including my heels), you can't take away my dignity.
Monday, March 24, 2003
Ooh, Heaven is a Place…Called Dillard’s?
For me, being forced to buy a suit for interviews and oral arguments is at the top of the law school trauma-meter. I do not enjoy being told that my daily uniform of jeans, flip-flops, and band t-shirts is unacceptable attire. I also do not enjoy the prospect of speaking publicly under any circumstances. Thus, a suit has always been a physical manifestation of all that I fear and abhor about law school.
That being said, buying my suit was surprisingly painless. My friend (and fashion guru) LaCosta accompanied me to Ann Taylor, where the first suit I tried on was perfect: a navy pinstriped pantsuit. Professional, yet stylish. Practical, yet not frumpy. Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined? Wait, that’s something else...Anyway, needless to say, I was pleased. But the shoes, I knew, would be an issue. That night, my friend Melissa asked me what kind of shoes I would wear with my suit. “I suppose I’ll have to find some navy pumps,” I heard myself say.
“Can I please quote you on that?” she asked in amused disbelief. She too sensed the sheer absurdity of the situation. Pumps, indeed.
Yesterday I drove out to the mall (cringe) to begin my shoe search. There I was, in my favorite jeans and a t-shirt, conspicuously inspecting a table of designer heels. It was painfully obvious that I had no idea what I was doing. I felt everyone’s eyes on me. Even the 4 year-old boy playing dress up in pink stilettos was passing judgment. I picked up a Liz Claiborne shoe that seemed like it could be navy, and eyed it inquisitively.
As I was considering how close the distinction between royal blue and navy could really be, I heard an angelic voice ask, “Sweetie, can I help you with something?”
I turned, and there she was. A petite Asian woman with cute glasses and a bun with a pencil through it. She was looking at me, not reproachfully or condescendingly, but with genuine concern. I said, “See, I have this navy suit—“
“It’s not that color navy, is it honey?” she asked, glancing disapprovingly at the shoe in my hand. “It’s black-navy, isn’t it? Follow me.” And so, as if in a dream, I followed her as she glided between the tables and shelves and led me to a lovely collection of professional shoes, including a beautiful black-navy pair of heels. She saw the joy in my eyes (I had been in the mall a total of 10 minutes at this point—bliss!) and immediately set out to find me a size 7. When I slipped the shoe on my foot, a heavenly choir burst into song.
And so it came to pass that yesterday, in the shoe department of Dillard’s, my guardian angel got her wings. And I bought my first pair of grownup shoes.
Saturday, March 22, 2003
Back to Square One
Yesterday in Property my worst suspicions were confirmed: I have reverted to infancy. Yes, that's right. In my 23 years of existence, I have already come full circle.
Last year, as a senior in college, I felt like I knew some things. I wrote a thesis, participated in some organizations, and took great classes. I felt like a moderately intelligent or at least educated person. Law school has taken this simple assumption, ripped it to shreds, pooped on it, put it in a blender, and thrown the foul remains into the pit of despair. I've been generally lost and confused all year, so before Property yesterday I had already pretty much accepted the fact that I knew nothing. But I always thought that this placed me on at least an 8-9 year old intellectual level. This was far too generous an extimation. I'm now fairly certain that I'm operating with the mental capacity of an eighteen-month-old infant.
I was sitting next to my friend LaCosta. As the murmurings of the professor began to grow ever more distant, my attention turned to the brightly-colored drawstrings of my red hoodie. I looked at them with fascination, as if seeing them for the first time. I put one in my mouth. I touched the plastic coated ends and used my associative powers to make an incredible connection.
"LaCosta!" I said, eyes wide, "They're just like shoelaces!"
"Yes sweetie, they are. That's very good," she answered, patting me encouragingly on the back. She refrained from offering me some mushed carrots or wiping the drool from the side of my mouth. Later in the class, I began to get irritable. I felt a range of emotions, but the only ones I could identify were "tired," "hungry," and "go potty." I contemplated crying to express all three.
Friday, March 21, 2003
You Know Who I Am, You Bastard!
It’s the first day of law school. You don’t know anyone. You’re looking around with professed intention, absorbedly trying to locate your imaginary group of friends and/or boyfriend. You run into some random kid, introduce yourself, and end up talking for a while. By the end of the conversation, you know where this kid is from, what kind of dog he has, and the name of his 2nd grade teacher. Then you part ways. When you see him in the hall several weeks later, you barely get a nod. In a month or so, you only receive a blank, unresponsive stare. He passes by with his head down so as to avoid the dangerous prospect of eye contact.
This scenario is just one of the infinite permutations of a phenomenon that threatens to be the downfall of American civilization. I like to call it the “I Don’t Know You” fallacy.
For some reason, people often feel the need to hide the fact that they recognize each other. This isn’t only true in situations where it might be embarrassing to acknowledge whatever previous interaction you had with someone. In those situations (you know what I’m talking about, nudge nudge) it is perfectly reasonable to bow your head in shame and run away. What I’m referring to now are people who have no reason at all not to know you. And yet as they walk by in the hall, their cold, glazed-over expressions say, “I don’t know who you are, and even if I did I wouldn’t say hello.” For people who are supposed to be so smart, they have a suspicious defect in memory when it comes to other human beings.
I’ve decided that there are two basic explanations for the existence of the “I Don’t Know You” fallacy. The first is laziness. People don’t always feel like getting into a conversation, and pretending not to know someone is a surefire way to avoid one. I have been guilty of this when I’m studying and don’t feel like dealing with anyone. I pretend to be too absorbed in my book to notice people, and if anyone happens to see me, they pretend not to. So we sit there in mutual denial, two tables away, each refusing to acknowledge the other’s presence. The other explanation is self-absorption. Nowadays, common decency takes a back seat to the urgency of our own daily lives. Instead of saying good morning to each other, we plow to class or work like linebackers. This is no way to live.
I propose that we take a stand against this debilitating social illness. The next time someone pretends not to recognize you, point at them and scream, “You know who I am, you bastard!” You’ll have a crowd gathering around at this point, so you can follow up by giving a verbatim account of the conversation you had with them at the beginning of the year, or by telling everyone in the vicinity their 2nd grade teacher’s name. (“Tell Mrs. McAllister I said hello! Oh, and give Skippy a kiss for me, asshole!”) Mercilessly berating these people in front of their peers is the decent thing to do. They might be a little embarrassed to be called out, but they’ll thank you later.
And more important, they will always, always remember you.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Has anyone else noticed that the word “meander” is seriously overused? I think it has become the official “big word” of America’s youth. Instead of just walking around like normal people, those who are well-read and cultured have to meander. I really don’t understand why the prospect of ambling and/or winding has people so excited. Maybe they think it’s a good word for the way they move through life, just wandering along, hoping for direction. Still, I think the word has taken on definite pretentious connotations, and I am officially boycotting it. Meander meander meander. There. It’s out of my system. Also out of my system is attaching “esque” to anything. If the word is “statuesque” or the like, I’ll allow it. But bothersome constructions like “Marlon Brando-esque” or “Hemingway-esque” have just got to go. Other words and phrases fast approaching gross overuse include but are not limited to: bling-bling, “no-brainer,” ideology, true dat, and “thinking outside the box.”
The Velour Jumpsuit: Evil Incarnate?
JLo is currently heading up a Velour Conspiracy that is sweeping the nation with unprescedented speed. The outbreak is entirely uncontained, and is causing serious and quantifiable harm to myself and others. There is absolutely no excuse for any outfit composed of velour, in whole or in part. One would think that we learned this lesson well enough in the 70's and 80's. I would not feel so injured if JLo and those like her were the only people allowed to wear these so-called "suits." Then at least the only eyesore would be the appearance of the fabric itself. But the situation is exascerbated when those who have no business wearing anything tight, clingy, or light pink prance around in velour sausage casings. People, just look at yourselves! The danger is clear. JLo could successfully market garbage bag prom dresses and shoes with sandpaper soles. Someone has to stop the madness before she convinces everyone that horse hair soaked in pigs' blood is the new black.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Not a Basketball Player
I went to the gym yesterday and ended up walking in behind three women's basketball players. They were about 17 feet tall, wearing warmups and holding a bunch of basketballs, water bottles, and other equipment. The guy behind the counter swiping cards looked at them and said, "I guess you girls are on your way to the courts. Go on in." They didn't have to show ID. So as they walked through the turnstile, I strained on tiptoe to hand my ID over the countertop, cracked a smile and said, "Yeah, I'm not with them." The guy looked at me for a second, handed my ID back to me, and said, "No...heh heh." He was still laughing to himself when I walked away. And I was happy that my deficient stature could bring someone joy.
Both of my parents are professors, so I have a little bit of perspective on the breed. While it's sometimes hard for my friends to imagine that our professors have families and lives and interests beyond their job, I know from experience that they are actual people with actual human flaws. They are not one-dimensional figures who appear for an hour and fifteen minutes twice a week for the express purpose of driving fear into the hearts of law students. Professors also take their five year old daughter to My Little Pony movies and win gardening awards and listen to punk rock. So when a professor starts to intimidate me in class, I just think of his twelve year old daughter making fun of his pants. Who's so tough now, scary professor man? Bring it!
Sadly, even my superior knowledge of the inner-workings of academia wasn't enough to prepare me for the encounter I had at the gym a few weeks ago. There I was, minding my own business in Spinning class--the one time of day when I can actually get away with not thinking about law school--and who should walk in wearing biking shorts and a tanktop but one of my professors! Not a young female professor. Not a young male professor. But an older male professor in his late 60's who looks a little bit like Santa! I am ashamed to say I averted my eyes. Now, I know my parents go to the gym, and I think that's great. But my parents are not my professors. This was like my professor reading my mail or asking me if I'm seeing anyone at the moment. It was just too personal. Needless to say, I don't go to that Spinning time-slot anymore. I feel far too violated.
Speaking of professors, my Con Law professor is wonderful and brilliant and I adore him. I would even adore him if he didn't bear such a strong resemblance to Mo Rocca from The Daily Show. A few days ago we were discussing what judges do when there isn't any text in the Constitution that backs up their arguments. My professor explained that the judges have to "flail around" for arguments in that situation, basing them on structure, history, etc. Anyway, the point is that he put his arms out to the sides and said, totally deadpan, "I'm flailing. This is flailing. Look at me flailing." It was priceless. Nothing quite like a law professor doing physical demonstrations. It would have been even better if he'd gotten the whole class to stand up and flail in unison. That would have been magical. Like that scene in Angels in the Outfield.
Monday, March 17, 2003
The Politics of the Grownup Table
At large family gatherings, there usually isn’t enough room for everyone at the main dining table. To compensate for the missing seats, the adults set up a “kids’ table”: some sort of foldable number like a card table or a playskool carpenter’s bench. Around the kids’ table are the folding lawn chairs, the bathroom stepstool, and the living room ottoman. Underneath the kids’ table is a makeshift tarp of some kind, perhaps a garbage bag. The top of the kids’ table is littered with any combination of the following: gallons of grape juice (hence, the tarp), sippy-cups, Snoopy plates, diced carrots, mushed up Matzo balls sans broth, a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, and/or fluff.
The adults’ motivation for the kids’ table is clear. No one wants a five-year-old knocking back Manishevitz anywhere near grandma’s thousand-year-old tablecloth. But I think the kids’ table/grownup table partition causes some serious developmental issues. Issues that vex me to this day. The pivotal question is:
At what point does one get promoted to the grownup table?
As a kid, you’re psyched about the kids’ table. You don’t have to sit with your mom, and you can get away with not eating the broccoli without causing a scene. But then the fun is over. When you reach the age of thirteen or fourteen, adolescent discontent makes you resent being placed at the kids’ table. You spend these formative years trying to dissociate yourself from children, and then Passover comes and brutally shoots you back to childhood. So you sit at the kids’ table and fight with your sister about who gets the Snoopy plate.
By the time you’re in high school, you are actually offended when seated at the kids’ table. You have a blowout with your mother about how no one respects you and you’re always treated like a child. And then you sit silently at the grownup table, listening to discussions you don’t understand about leftist politics or something interesting your uncle read in Scientific American. And you yearn for the Snoopy plate.
In college, you come home and end up volunteering to supervise the kids’ table, because, frankly, you feel grownup enough. But you still feel slightly miffed at the idea, and your ears perk up when you hear the discussion about the new exhibit at the Met. You want to participate in the conversation so everyone can hear what you learned in Art History 101.
Now that I’m in law school, I’m more confused than ever about where I belong. My grandmother invited me to dinner a few days ago and explained that it was just going to be my aunt and uncle and me: “just us adults,” she said. But this only confirmed my suspicions. It was as if she wanted to assure me that I am now worthy of the grownup table. It was too forced. When I truly belong at the grownup table, that fact will go without saying. And so, I remain in perpetual limbo. At this point, I think getting married might be the only way to break through the grownup table force field. Or maybe I should just settle this once and for all by having kids and making my own kids' table. No one can expect me to sit there!
Sunday, March 16, 2003
I think I have an unhealthy relationship with my futon.
Before my futon and I got together, I enjoyed sleeping as much as the next person. In high school I got very good at sleeping late, sometimes well into the early afternoon. Coming from a family of morning people, (not "Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays!" morning people, but close), I was made to feel that 12-16 hours of sleep a night was somehow abnormal. My theory was, if I'm up in time for dinner, who's really getting hurt? In college I started cutting down on the hours and perfected the art of the power nap. I must confess that my friend Maureen taught me everything I know on the subject. Her method is simple: drink a cup of coffee immediately before your nap, then set your alarm for 20-25 minutes later, right when the caffeine hits. Boom! Rise and shine. It's a beautiful thing. My dad once told me that I was the only person he knew who could get out of a bad mood by taking a nap. And it's true. Sleep makes me so happy that after a nap I forget about whatever it was that was bothering me. These days, what with my mandatory early-morning study dates at the coffeehouse, I very rarely sleep late. The guilty law student feeling of "I should be doing something productive right now" always wins out. And unfortunately the nap isn't really an option anymore either. I have more to do, and I no longer go to class four steps away from my bed. But the 6-7 hours of sleep I get every night are more blissful than ever before. The reason? My futon.
Futons have come a long way in the past decade. They used to be stiff and obtrusive. Not so anymore. My futon is more comfortable than any bed I have ever slept in. It is soft, but not too soft. It has a foam core. It calls to me when I'm in class. When I go out for the night, I gaze at it longingly, thinking about how long it will be before I can go to sleep. At bars or social gatherings, my thoughts return to my futon. I think about how my time could be much better spent with my futon. Unlike the bar-goers and their empty chatter, my futon doesn't need to speak. We communicate on a much deeper level. On the rare occasion that I can't fall asleep right away, I lie in my futon and think about how lucky I am to be consciously appreciating the beautiful qualities of my futon longer than usual. I take those opportunities to thank God for blessing me with insomnia. I often set my alarm early, just so I can have the satisfaction of returning to my futon for another hour. My futon is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and it is always here for me. I am starting to think that I will never achieve this kind of companionship and mutual understanding with anyone other than my futon.
This dependency is beginning to trouble me. When you start to devalue human contact because of your relationship with a piece of furniture, I think it's generally understood that the time has come to seek help. This is a big step for me. There's clearly only one thing to do. I'll sleep on it.
Friday, March 14, 2003
I am having a crisis. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated. I cannot decide who I am more in love with, Owen or Luke Wilson.
I feel like I need to make pro and con lists for both of them, but there are just no cons, and each brother has a pro that balances out the other. They are both so endearing, so funny, so subtle, so damn good looking. Let me parse this out a little. First, take Luke. Luke is the more traditionally attractive of the two, with his strong jaw and earnest eyes. His appeal lies in his sweet and sometimes clueless demeanor. Luke is funny, not because he is especially witty, but because he is so unbelievably precious and bumbling in his comic roles. He's what women hope men are, but know they could never really be. I need only point you to Blue Streak, his cameo on the X-Files, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, or the latest venture, Old School, in which he sticks out like a sore thumb among the fraternity assholes. I didn't even think any less of him for waking up next to that high school girl. How can you not forgive that face? Now for Owen. Owen is one of the best and smartest comic actors around. An absolute natural. He has a confidence about him that makes him extremely physically attractive as well. Not to mention that he has a great mouth. Owen takes roles of an entirely different kind--not usually the shy or nervous sweet guy, but instead the cocky ex-boyfriend or a caricature of the tortured artist. Think of Kevin in Meet the Parents or Hansel in Zoolander or Eli Cash in The Royal Tenenbaums. His sense of humor is so fine-tuned, so dead on, I feel like he might actually be a genius. Owen can deliver a line like no one else: he can make anything funny, and he can be a total ass and still have my undying devotion. I saw Shanghai Knights and became more obsessed. No one else can use the phrase "ass soup" and remain irresistible. Luke and Owen both have such great voices...basically the same, wonderfully distinctive voice. Does it have to come down to a blonde/brunette decision? I couldn't possibly insult them that way. Is it better to spread the love between them, or to ditch one of them so that I can spend more time worshipping the other? I am torn. How can I be expected to handle law school with this emotional dilemma weighing on my heart and my conscience? If only I lived in Utah. Then I wouldn't have to choose...
Thursday, March 13, 2003
They say that blindness and deafness heighten your other senses. In compensation for whatever sensory deficit you have, the functional senses develop more completely and seem stronger. I think the same thing happens to me when I’m tired. Mental and physical exhaustion make me exceptionally attuned to the sounds going on around me. I am not talking about some sort of cool superpower that allows me to hear butterflies flitting around in a rice field in China or something pleasant like that. The sounds I hear make me very, very angry, and things I wouldn’t usually notice start to drive me slowly insane.
For example, I realize now that the reading room of the library, which I used to believe was one of the few silent havens from law school chatter, is actually the loudest, most exasperating place on earth. The girl next to me is clicking away at her infernal laptop like the raven rapping and tapping at my chamber door. A man in the corner is sniffing every few seconds and coughing like he has consumption. I want to tell him that this is America, and we have people called doctors who fix you when you’re coughing up a lung. No speaka?? The girl with the flipflops is barreling through like a goddamn tank, people are screaming about the reading for Con Law, the guy at the next table is chomping on his fingernails, a million highlighters are squeaking in terrible harmony, and the cell phones are all chiming in with their ghastly electronic Oh Christmas Trees. The dissonance is absolutely deafening and it makes me want to pull my hair out. I need someplace quiet...someplace I can think. Maybe the construction site next door has a study area. Or perhaps a helicopter landing pad. Christ!
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
I watched Flatliners a few weeks ago, and it really freaked me out. I remember seeing it at a slumber party when I was younger and not really understanding it enough to be scared. But I got something out of it the second time around. Something more than an appreciation of the dramatic transformation Julia Roberts' eyebrows have undergone over the past 10 years. The movie is about these med students who kill themselves and then bring themselves back after 2-5 minutes, to test the limits of medicine or to get famous or something. But when they come back, they are all haunted by people from their pasts. Like Kiefer Sutherland's character is haunted by the ghost of a little boy he accidentally killed by knocking him out of a tree with a rock. So, naturally, I get paranoid about all the things I did when I was little that could end up being my eternal torment. And I remembered something.
When I was in third grade, my teacher sent me down to the parking lot with a friend to get a cake she baked out of her car. I think she actually baked it for her paramedic boyfriend's birthday. So we were carrying the cake back toward the school, and I was holding it like a waiter, trying to be cute, when I started to lose my balance. Moments later, my friend and I watched as the cake landed, slow motion, face down on the pavement. I was too shocked to have any immediate reaction, but this "friend" of mine couldn't stop laughing. Evil, maniacal laughter that burns in my ears to this day. She thought it was just hilarious that I had dropped our teacher's "special friend's" cake. The tragedy happened about 3 feet from the cafeteria door, so we decided to bring the cake to the kitchen ladies and see if they could fix it. They cut off the top, and handed us back a lopsided, gravelly monstrosity, which we then presented sheepishly to our teacher. I think I actually said, "See, they fixed it in the kitchen. They got most of the rocks off of it." Did she laugh it off? Did she deal with it like a normal adult? Oh no. In fact, she burst into tears in front of the entire class. Between sobs she said, "I guess...I'll just...buy a cake instead. I was up all night baking that. Sniff." I just stood there feeling ashamed and confused for making a grownup cry. Obviously the entire ordeal scarred me for life. So after seeing Flatliners I feel like I should make amends, but I have no idea where my teacher is, if she's still dating the paramedic, or if she's still emotionally unstable. All I know is that I will be less than pleased if I'm haunted by my 3rd grade teacher in the netherworld.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
Since I've been spending so much time lately making jokes at the expense of others, I've decided to let you in on my very own top 5 all-time dumbest moments. I think the pain that it gives me to reveal my idiocy is proportional to the pleasure my loving readers (all three of you, God bless!) will take in hearing about it. And so, I am willing to sacrifice my dignity for you. And of course, as always, for the children.
1. Flammable vs. Inflammable. This experience will haunt me for the rest of my life. Last year, because I was co-chair of the Philosophy Student Advisory Board, I was invited to go out to dinner with the Philosophy faculty and a guest lecturer. We went to an Indian restaurant, and it was great. The profs were getting pretty sloshed on Kingfisher and heatedly debating such popular dinnertime topics as the mind-body problem and Kantian metaphysics. Somehow the conversation turned to England and the English. So I, totally sober mind you, decide to pipe up about my studies abroad. "Oh, I had such a great time studying Marx and Hegel...Oh yes, I agree, the food is terrible...Oh, can you believe this? Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing there! Those silly English people put 'inflammable' on things that are flammable!" Silence. One of my professors then said, "flammable and inflammable mean the same thing here too." I just had time to say, "Oh, right. Is that a fact?" before someone had the decency to change the subject. I couldn't sleep for a week.
2. Bon Jovi. For a long time, I thought Jon Bon Jovi was a Classical composer.
3. Nintendo Game Cube. I was at the movies with my sister, and a commercial for Nintendo Game Cube came on. It showed a boy sitting inside of a cube, and the inside walls showed different angles of the video game. Like he was inside the game. I thought that was pretty neat: "Hannah! They actually make those!" Um, no. No they don't.
4. The Clash. During my freshman year of college, I wrote a review in the college paper of From Here to Eternity, a live album by The Clash. I had no conception of this band at the time. Like how they're one of the great punk bands, with a huge huge following, and how they influenced pretty much every band who came after them. I think I actually referred to them as that 80's band who sang "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and classified the album as "boring." Rolling Stone, here I come.
5. Nelson Mandela. I don't know if my dad remembers this, but we were watching the news one day when I was little and a picture of Nelson Mandela came up on the screen. My sister said, "Who's that?" I responded, "Just some idiot." Dad was pissed.
Monday, March 10, 2003
Oh dear. I almost forgot how much I hate "the tan ones." Those kids who come back from Spring Break golden brown and about 10 pounds thinner because they've been on some beach in Mexico living on Corona for a week. They're like a little group of demigods walking among the unfortunate pale mortals. But I can't hate them just because they had a great, sunny Spring Break. That would be completely unjustified and mean. Good thing I have a back-up reason to hate them: the way they shamelessly prance around and shove their tanness in my face. Like a girl in my class this morning who wore a neon tank top for the express purpose of accentuating her tan. You may think I'm being overly critical. Perhaps it was just what she happened to put on, right? Wrong. I watched her strategically pull her sweatshirt off of her shoulders and look around the room with that, "Yeah, there is something different about me" look on her face. The nerve of some people.
I saw someone blowing leaves off the sidewalk this morning and realized, as I looked out into the ungainly mass forming in the middle of the street, that leaf blowers are illustrative of American society. Not in our backyard, we say! Get those unsightly leaves out of here! But where, pray tell, do the banished leaves go?
Sunday, March 09, 2003
A few days ago at the cd store I got stuck behind someone in my browsing path. It was infuriating. I have a system for these things that requires moving in strict alphabetical order at a pace that is methodical, yet not leisurely. When I walked in, some guy was standing in front of A/B, so I poked around the front of the store waiting for him to move on. When he finally did, I started in, but his tempo was very erratic. He stood in front of the C's for an obscenely long time. I wouldn't swear to it, but I think he was looking at The Captain and Tenille. It's not that I needed a C cd. That's precisely not the issue. The issue is that in my universe I have to look through C to be able to move to D, or everything goes out of alignment. I hovered. I loomed. I did everything I could to make him uncomfortable, but this guy wouldn't move past Phil Collins. Damn you Su-su-ssudio! I skipped ahead and waited by the M's until he was a safe distance away, but by the time I resumed my perusal, it just felt off. Later in the day it started to rain, I got a bad headache, and my sister missed her flight home. Coincidence? Oh, I think not.
Friday, March 07, 2003
Wild On: Spring Break
I just spent a week in sunny Florida for Spring Break and, as you may have guessed, I experienced nothing less than unbridled mayhem and debauchery. As this is a family publication, I will try to keep it clean, but I make no promises. I have my integrity as a writer to uphold.
If you think the shiny new gated communities of the Sunshine State are reserved for thrill-seeking octogenarians, think again. There is more for a fun loving law student to see and do inside those sturdy (yet somehow always open) gates than you might have guessed.
Take the constant construction going on next door. Talk about eye candy! Those fellow spring-breakers may not be conventionally attractive, but they don’t let that stop them from going shirtless. They’re out there every morning at the crack of dawn (crack being the operative word), hammering and yelling away. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a more pleasant way to be awakened while unwinding from the stress of law school. They were even nice enough to cheer me on with yelling and whistling as I went by on my morning run! Perhaps they wanted to hang out later and share a few of those Natty Lights.
I have a lot of really great friends, but this Spring Break I made even more! See, in brand new gated communities, it’s easy to meet new people. Every telemarketer known to man has your name, address, and criminal record on file, and they all enjoy calling to chat at their convenience. I got more calls in one day before 8 a.m. over Spring Break than I do in a week back at school. The party just never stopped!
And the weather! Those crazy kids who came up with the name “Sunshine State” have such an endearing sense of irony. I didn’t see the sun once! But really, who needs sunshine when you can have a blanket of suffocating humidity and hot, sticky rain every day? Besides, when I moved the party indoors, it just led to more Spring Break depravity. In a final moment of reckless abandon, I decided to catch up on some of my reading, and I have to say that Property Law can get pretty intense. I read one case about a dispute that arose when unmarried same-sex cohabitants decided to break up. Guys, hold on to your seats. They were lesbians! Wooohooo! Yeah, Spring Break!
Thursday, March 06, 2003
I just found out from a reliable source that number two in my top five great movies disguised as chick flicks was way off. And, while I still maintain that guys should be able to sit down and appreciate Sense and Sensibility, I am willing to make an amendment. Strike Sense and Sensibility, and replace it with Clueless, starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd. This is a guy-sanctioned change. See for yourself:
Micahbhart: the list was 5 they could see and not be upset
Micahbhart: and im saying, no way in hell do they see that and not think crap chick flick!
Micahbhart: not to mention boring period piece!
BekahPage: alright, you're crossing the line here!
BekahPage: it was GOOD
BekahPage: ok, well, 4 out of 5 ain't bad
Micahbhart: i suppose- but now i am becoming a little obsessed
Micahbhart: i have got to think of another example!
BekahPage: it's hard
BekahPage: because most chick flicks are bad
Micahbhart: so true
Micahbhart: so very, very true
BekahPage: painful even
Micahbhart: hmmmmmmmm- this cant be right, and i'm debating this as i say it- but clueless?
Micahbhart: i feel like i didnt hate that one
BekahPage: You like Clueless!!!
Micahbhart: but i had to have, right?
BekahPage: No, it's great!
BekahPage: It's Jane Austen!
BekahPage: It's based on Emma.
Micahbhart: i mean, i love alicia silverstone, maybe thats why i didnt think i hated it- yeah, i know
Micahbhart: but now i feel like i did hate it
BekahPage: you can't back out now
Micahbhart: hey, i said i wasnt sure!
BekahPage: Too late
Isn't it painfully obvious that the students in the audience on "Inside the Actor's Studio" are just never going to be moviestars? Every show, some homely theater kid in a Cosby sweater asks an actor like Jude Law about method acting and what the secret to his on-screen earnestness is. Kids, I'm sorry to tell you that flawless bone structure and riveting blue eyes are no secret, and you're definitely not going to learn those talents from Mr. Law or anyone else. I would say that Hollywood is materialistic and often overlooks true talent, but as long as I get to see Jude Law I'm not going to raise too much of a stink about it.
In somewhat related news, here's a new top five: My top five great movies deceptively packaged as chick flicks. I enjoy the same movies as my guy friends (like such testosterone-driven classics as Snatch, Three Kings, and The Big Lebowski), so I know we have similar taste. And yet, there are some movies guys just won't see, won't admit to seeing, or won't admit to enjoying when the do. I think it's time for them to suck it up and expand their horizons. These are not saccharin Walk in the Clouds or Maid in Manhattan abominations, which I hate as much as the poor guys who get hauled to the theater every weekend. These are movies that should be given the unqualified credit they deserve from both sexes. So guys, don't be embarrassed to rent these on your own. You might even learn something.
1. Possession, starring Aaron Eckhart and Gwyneth Paltrow, based on the book by A.S. Byatt. A perfect movie about two academics and two Victorian poets. (The book is great too). This movie was my reason for even writing a top five. I promise that, despite the premise, it will not disappoint even the manliest of men.
2. Sense and Sensibility, starring Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant, based on the novel by Jane Austen. Sometimes I forget how good this movie is. So it's British--deal with it. Women love a man who appreciates the subtleties of Jane Austen. And Alan Rickman is in it, so you can pretend you thought you were renting Die Hard.
3. Much Ado About Nothing, starring Kenneth Branagh, Denzel Washington, and Emma Thompson. One of the funniest movies I've ever seen, thanks to some great acting and a pretty talented playwright. Also there's a little bit of nudity.
4. The Princess Bride, starring Carey Elwes and Robin Wright Penn. Much like little Fred Savage, many guys are uncomfortable admitting how wonderful this story/movie is. ("Is this a kissing book?"). I'm sorry, but you just don't have a soul if you don't like this one.
5. Say Anything, starring John Cusack and Ione Skye. I don't know a girl who's not in love with Lloyd Dobbler on some level. Take notes.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
The term "pig out" used to call to my mind two distinct images: the pie-eating contest in Stand by Me with the projectile vomiting, and the scene in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure when Napolean finishes the huge sundae. Salad bars, however, didn't really scream "gluttony" to me. Friends, I was blinded by ignorance. The tale of how I learned the truth isn't pretty, but it needs to be told. For the children.
I hadn't eaten much all day, and by dinnertime all I wanted was a big salad from Whole Foods. If that statement is annoying or "girly" to you, it's only because you don't understand what a Whole Foods salad means to a vegetarian. Tomatoes. Chick peas. Yams. Smoked tofu. Feta. Wheatberries. Chinese noodles. Olives. Corn. Sesame sticks. Cucumbers. Pumpkin seeds. Little fancy dried things I don't know the name of. This salad is the filet mignon of vegetarian cuisine. I'm not even sure if it has lettuce. If you still don't understand, don't be too hard on yourself. It's normal for all that meat to have an adverse effect on your brain.
By the time I got home, I was going through withdrawals. I found a fork and took the first bite. It was good. I took a few more in quick succession. And then I heard it. A sound few women dare to own up to. A sound unmentionable in civilized society. I emitted a distinct snort. It wasn't loud. You probably wouldn't have heard it if you'd been sitting next to me. But I definitely snorted. And at that moment I understood the meaning of "pig out." It was like when Helen Keller finally understood the meaning of "water" when she put her hand under the pump and Ann Sullivan spelled "w-a-t-e-r" out in sign language. Except that was an incredible triumph of the human spirit, and my experience was really more of a let down. You see, pigging out has to do with trying to breathe and put food in your mouth at the same time. Like when pigs eat from a trough and snort a lot because they're too intent on stuffing themselves to remember to breathe. I was disturbed.
Later that night, I confided to my friend Melissa how shocked and appalled I was that you could actually pig out on a salad. She said, "Oh Bekah, believe me, you can pig out on anything!" I take some comfort in that.
Tuesday, March 04, 2003
I had a completely surreal dream a few weeks ago that I want to make permanent before I start to forget it or start to think I made it up. Sorry to those of you who already heard about it.
I'm at the mall with my dad and my sister. We're walking around, looking at the stores, and suddenly I look up and there is a huge deep purple sign above the door of one store that says BEKAH PAGE in big gold filigree, with a large BP shield-type insignia. I turn to them and say, "Oh wow guys, someone opened up a store with my name!" We walk over and start looking around. Apparantly, "Bekah Page" is a clothing/home supplies store exclusively for unemployed people. I speak to one of the salesladies, and she explains to me that their object is to make everything look really nice so that unemployeed people don't feel bad about themselves. My sister is happily browsing through some blazers at this point. So I turn to the saleslady and say, "My sister is unemployed, but my dad is not. Is she still allowed to shop here?" And the saleslady says, "Only in the shoe department." And then I buy a hiking backpack.
I'm still upset about Mr. Rogers. On my drive home a few days ago I heard an NPR report about him that hilighted two of his interviews. One was from 1984, after he'd already been working in children's television for 30 years, and one was conducted just a few months ago, before he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. It was strange to hear so much backround about him and find out that he was a real person, with a wife and kids of his own. An ordained minister even. I got the weirdest feeling when the report switched over to the interview, and I heard his voice. I hadn't heard it since I was a kid, but I recognized it immediately, and lots of things about the show started coming back to me. He said he was sick in bed a lot as a child, so he made up characters and voices to entertain himself. And he said his mother used to knit him a sweater every Christmas, which is where all of the sweaters on the show came from. And the speedy delivery man, Mr. McFeely, was named after his grandfather! Not creepy at all. The cutest part of the interview was when he described a conversation he had years ago with a little boy who told him he was scared of being sucked down the drain in the bath tub. So Mr. Rogers did a whole show (and a song) about how "You could never go down the drain." He told the interviewer, "Adults might have found it silly, but I think there were kids across the country who breathed a sigh of relief." I think I was probably one of them.
Monday, March 03, 2003
It has come to my attention that I am a judgmental person. For this I am not at all sorry. It is important to be moderately judgmental, because there is nothing more irritating or more dangerous than naivete. There is a point, however, at which a person can cross the line from judgmental to bitter, hateful, and self-involved. I don't ever want want to make that jump.
In High Fidelity (movie version), John Cusack says "It's not what you're like, it's what you like." My initial response was excitement at such an accurate and perceptive statement. Of course it's what you like! Look at my hundreds of fantastic, but only marginally "popular" cds! Look at my superior movie collection (including, of course, every Kevin Smith movie ever made)! Check out my glorious bookshelves and marvel at all of the important and highly esteemed books I've read! I like all of it!
It's true. You meet people, talk to people, and like people based on shared interests. And yet, there's something not quite right about Cusack's words, and I think it has to do with what "it" is. What exactly is "it"? It can't, for instance, be "the measure of your worth as a person." "The measure of your worth as a person is not what you're like, the measure of your worth as a person is what you like." That doesn't seem to make sense. At the end of the day, I don't think I am any better than people who appear on Dr. Phil's show or who collect Mariah Carey cds, especially if they also volunteer at the homeless shelter every Saturday and do fundraising for the Special Olympics. Or do I?
Is having good taste more important than being a good person? Most of us would probably say, "Obviously not!" and feel a little dirty for even asking. But answer me this: Why, then, do we base our decisions about who we're willing to be friends with on the former? I'm not saying you can't have good taste and be a good person, but the two are certainly not necessarily linked. I know a lot of real jerks who like what I like. The devil himself might even think Michael Stipe is a genius. Am I excluding some really wonderful people, or even my own personal growth, by defining myself so strictly by my tastes and interests? I think it's time I sat down and did a little soul searching...or maybe some volunteer work. I really do. But first, I think I might go rent Igby Goes Down. (It was critically acclaimed, but only seen by a few "artsy" types). I loved it!
Sunday, March 02, 2003
I hate it when people say that the first thing they look for in people they date is a sense of humor. And I don't only hate it because you and I both know that's not the first thing anyone looks for. I hate it because the phrase "sense of humor" is meaningless on its own. It's like saying your number one priority for prospective mates is that they have a nose. Or that they like to eat sometimes. It is so nonspecific that it's ludicrous: everyone finds at least something in life amusing. Even expanding the phrase to the all-encompassing "good sense of humor" doesn't really get you anywhere. Some people might think a good sense of humor involves appreciating the lighter side of entemology, or drawing lewd pictures in subway stations, or even killing someone in an outlandish or silly way. Those things are not very funny to me! And yet, there are people out there who are referring to such practices when they describe a good sense of humor. Now, I realize that when people say that they look for a sense of humor in a mate, they mean a sense of humor compatible with their own. I just think there should be some sort of bottom line test to set out so people can get a basic idea of where other people are coming from. Like, "If you don't think Fletch is funny, let's not waste each other's time." Or, "If you don't know what it's like to laugh at Ralph Wiggam until you pee, we're not right for each other." Or, "If you're not comfortable enough with your masculinity to read Oscar Wilde and love every wonderfully hilarious word the man wrote, it wasn't meant to be." The sad thing is, the only person I've ever met who has a sense of humor virtually identical to my own is my sister. Maybe I should start making a concerted effort to find humor in King of the Hill and Mr.Bean. That would have to open a few doors, right?
Saturday, March 01, 2003
I admit it. I like quoting people and songs and movies for effect in conversation and writing. Someone once said that quoting is for people who don't have anything original to say. I have two original responses to that. The first is to point out that I had to paraphrase that statement because whoever said it wasn't memorable enough to quote by name. And the second is to argue that there is often a subtle difference between quoting and quoting well. Most people, I'm sorry to say, are sub-par quoters. For example:
My girlfriend just broke up with me, and I'm totally devastated. I mean, the way I feel about her is so deep, it's hard to put in words. It's like that Edwin McCain song...
Ok, that's enough. This is your garden-variety method of quoting, and it is totally ineffective. Not only was this guy about to quote an unacceptably insipid song, but he was going to use that song (without any ironic or satirical intention) as a substitute for a personal attempt at explaining his situation. Generally speaking, people quote for three reasons: To help express what they're trying to say, to lend credibility to what they're trying to say, and/or to make themselves look smart for finding such an on-point quotation for what they're trying to say. To that end, there should be certain guidelines to help people be the best quoters they can be. Here are a few:
1. Never quote a person, song, book, or movie that clearly sucks or is painfully overrated or overused. Such sources include: Scott Stapp of Creed, Thomas Edison, Ghandi, Dead Poet's Society, Oprah, and Dr. Phil. The only exception to this rule occurs when you are quoting for comic value, as in exposing George W.'s sheer idiocy.
"I think if you know what you believe, it makes it a lot easier to answer questions. I can't answer your question." - George W. Bush
2. Know your audience. Only quote a movie that you think at least 3/4 of the people around you have seen. If not, you will be received with uncomfortable silence and awkward shuffling after ordering "a bloody mary, a steak sandwich, and a...steak sandwich" at dinner. Note: It's ok to make a few mistakes in this department. If you're lucky, people will think you are quirky and off-beat, and may even think you are smarter than they are. You're not, but it's fun to pretend.
"Come, let us dance like children of the night!" - Mike Meyers, So I Married an Axe Murderer
3. Be choosy. Before you quote, think: Would people benefit from or find humor in this quote? Your quotes don't just say something about a topic you're interested in or intrigued by--they say something about you. You wouldn't be caught dead in tapered jeans, so why quote someone or something that might make you look just as ridiculous? Shop for quotes as discerningly as you'd shop for clothes, and you'll find something that fits you.
"Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile!" - Kurt Vonnegut
4. Always reveal your sources. It's good to be a little mysterious with quoting, but if someone asks, you should always let them know where you got the goods. This is beneficial for you, and for the person/work you're quoting. People like you for finding such a funny or profound quote, and the people quoted by you like the attention. Sometimes quoting is a good way of advertising or talking-up a book or movie that you like and think other people should like too. It's an educational tool.
"To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, to hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour." - William Blake
5. Know when to quit. No one likes too much of a good thing. I once ate an entire wheel of Brie as a baby when my mom wasn't looking. Big mistake. Like Brie, a good quote should be an appetizer, or a garnish if you will, not a main course. Man cannot live on quotes alone. The most obvious offenders in this department are Simpsons fans. Once you get them started, it's like a quoting war, no holds barred, until someone can't think of what Chief Wiggam said to Homer in that episode with the tennis match.
"Everyone has problems. I dropped my cookie." - Chief Wiggam