You Had Me At Hello.

29 11 2010

Every time I go home for Thanksgiving, I feel like I’m getting exponentially older by the year.  My favorite thing to do in Louisiana on a Friday or Saturday night is to dodge people’s phone calls, pet my dogs and argue with my male-dominated family over what movie we’re gonna watch.

This year, I’m feeling sentimental about my baby 17-year-old brother heading off to college, so I decided I was going to pin him to the couch and force him to watch “Dead Poets Society” with me, despite his insistence that he was going to hate it.  It’s pretty much my favorite movie ever, and I was convinced that he would be able to relate to the story, since it’s about high school boys learning to ‘seize the day’ and defy their parents’ expectations.  Plus, the quality of “Dead Poets Society” is not really a subjective matter anyway–  you don’t decide it’s good, it just is inherently good, and if you can’t see that, then the problem is not in the movie but somewhere buried in the folds of your defective, pea-sized brain.

So the whole family gathers around and we put on the movie and I am giddy with delight, just hanging on Robin Williams’ every word as he teaches these stuffy rich kids to appreciate poetry, looking over at my brother every 30 seconds with a stupid grin on my face to make sure his facial reactions to the movie are conveying a sufficient amount of enthusiasm.  I mean, sure, the story is overblown and contrived, and the music is waaay melodramatic, and nobody actually talks the way these kids talk, but how can you not be inspired by the way Robin Williams gets these rich kids out of the classroom and makes them shout lines from poetry as they kick soccer balls and rip out the dumb introductions to their English text books and stand on their desks and yawp?!

So my favorite scene happens, where all the boys have this assignment to write a stanza of original poetry and read it to the class, and this really smart, but really shy kid (Ethan Hawke) has a horrible fear of public speaking and thus tells the teacher he didn’t write a poem when he obviously did, cause he’s awesome. To pull him out of his shell, Robin Williams points him to a picture of Walt Whitman on the wall and gets him to ad lib an amazing poem in front of the class.

Here’s the scene:

So my eyes actually well up with tears as I’m watching this scene, because I’m a gigantic English dork, and I look over at my brother and he is… wait for it…

texting someone on his iPhone, completely oblivious to the emotional upheaval happening in Robin Williams’ classroom.

And it occurred to me that kids these days are so freaking overstimulated by technology and so accustomed to the 2010 movie, in which either the titillating special effects take the place of a well-crafted story (i.e. Avatar) or the movie is so close to reality that it feels more like a documentary than a movie (i.e. Hurt Locker), that they have all but lost the ability to suspend disbelief for a beautiful (if melodramatic at times), special effect-free, sentimental story.  Now I know how my dad feels when he tries to force me to watch “Laurence of Arabia,” and I fall asleep during the opening credits.

By contrast, my parents and I watched “The Kids Are Alright” with Julianne Moore on Saturday night (big weekend!), which is an all-too-real movie about a modern lesbian married couple with two kids and the complicated relationship they develop with their sperm donor.  There’s a scene where Julianne Moore and Annette Benning, the moms, have this awkward, graphic sex scene while they’re watching gay man porn and the kids overhear everything and then later ask their moms why they’re into gay man porn if they’re lesbians, and my mom looked over at me with her face all squinched up and said, “I feel really uncomfortable and creepy right now, like I’m a peeping Tom spying on somebody’s personal business.”  And I’m pretty sure the director would take that as a huge compliment, because the movie was not supposed to feel written, it was supposed to feel like a reality show. I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Have you ever noticed that all the best movies from the 80s and 90s– Jerry Maguire, Forest Gump, A Few Good Men, Dead Poets Society–seem really, really dated when you re-watch them in 2010 and compare them to the movies coming out right now? The emotional crescendos corresponding with the sweeping musical crescendos and dramatic scenery, like that horrible song “Secret Garden” in Jerry Maguire that plays when Jerry and Zellweger are standing across the street from each other in the moonlight before their first date,  just jab their fist in your face and demand that you shed a tear over the love or grief or humiliation or triumph that is exploding out from the screen.  And you do, or at least I do, and it’s just really fun.

Why do we have this need for movies to represent an ugly, gritty, entirely unsexy reality?  Whatever happened to pure, unbridled escapism?

Just saying.



Dance Floor Revelations

23 11 2010

I feel like dancing means different things to different people, but growing up in Louisiana, it was a kind of cultural currency.  Having rhythm and being able to dance was status quo–  almost everyone could and did do it.  But having really amazing moves and being able to dominate a dance floor made you especially cool, and standing over near the wall bopping your head insecurely and totally off beat make you especially uncool, and it was just kind of understood that that’s how the game of life was played.

I remember going to my first school dance in 7th grade, where the DJ was playing pseudo hip-hop songs from the 90s like “Tootsie Roll” and “Come On Ride It” while my friends had a very heated “back that ass up” competition.  In that setting, the people who could dance easily separated themselves from the people who couldn’t.  I remember watching the really good dancers intently, studying their moves and trying to figure out what it was that set them apart from the mediocre dancers, and then I went home and practiced dancing in front of the mirror until I could back my ass up with as much gusto and variety as they did.

I didn’t realize until I got to UVA, and later to D.C., that the dance culture in Louisiana was not actually a microcosm of the whole world, and that there were tons white people living in other places who actually look like gerbils on quaaludes when they try to move their bodies in tandem with a 50 Cent song.  It’s appalling– just really, really embarrassing and uncomfortable to watch.

I digress.

Now that I’m a bit older, dancing is still pretty much my absolute favorite pastime, but it seems like there are fewer acceptable venues for it. You either dance at weddings, which is like, two-stepping to an old Motown song with your friend’s gay uncle, or you can go to a dance club and subject yourself to a buttload of creepy men who feel like they don’t need any form of permission or encouragement at all in order to shamelessly grope you and dry-hump your leg.

Just when I was thinking that there had to be a happy medium between weddings and creepy nightclubs, my friend invited me to a Cuban bar called Habana Village where he was celebrating his sister’s birthday.

Now, here’s why I plan to become a regular at Habana Village: You walk in, a man from Mexico or South America grabs your hand before you can even take your coat off and asks you to dance, and then instead of trying to cop a feel on the dance floor, he spins you and dips you and moves your hips around in a salsa or meringue or bachata routine that is not only relevant to the actual beat of the music, but makes you look like a great latin dancer, even if you have no clue what you’re doing.

Then, after one or two dances, he drowns you in superlatives– “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life!” “You have the bluest eyes in the world! Where did you get the blue in your eyes, did you steal it from the ocean?” “I think I love you more than anyone I’ve ever loved before, you smell like fresh coconuts and happiness!”– and that is not an exaggeration.  You peel one guy off of you and the next guy is right behind him, ready to tell you that your hair is so shiny his brain is about to explode, and then you dance with him too.

So I returned to this heavenly place on Saturday and was immediately dragged onto the dance floor by this tall Columbian man.  After about three minutes of intensely staring into my eyeballs with a deathly serious expression on his face as I tried not to trip over his feet, he declared that I was the best dancer in the world.  I rolled my eyes and told him he could go ahead and stop blowing sunshine up my ass because, honestly, I was the worst latin dancer in that bar. Then he said the best thing ever:

“I’m not talking about your salsa moves.  I just mean that Louisiana women seem to understand what dancing is really about.”

Hoooooly smokes, if that man had any sense of humor at all I would have definitely given him my phone number and/or hand in marriage, both of which he later requested.  But he didn’t, and it’s probably better that way.

I Haz Bad Dream

18 11 2010

I hate it when people try to tell you about their dreams, because it’s never as cool or interesting to you as it is to them, unless the dream happens to involve you doing something really heroic, in which case it’s fine.  But usually, it comes out something like this:

“So you and I were in this tube.  Like, one of those big tubes in the ceilings of buildings that you crawl through to get away from the cops. Wait, it might actually not have been you, because halfway through the dream you turned into a donkey.  And then we were in the woods, and my mom was there, and she was wearing this big purple tutu…”

YAWN, get on with it.  I really could not care less about all the dumb images prancing through your brain during the five minutes after your alarm went off this morning.

With that said, I’m going to tell you about the super weird dream I had last night.  I’ll keep it down to two run-on sentences:

I dreamed that this guy was trying to kiss me, but right before his face made it to mine, I told him to hold on a sec because I had to take my retainer out.  I proceeded to pull the giant, clunky retainer (which I don’t have in real life) out of my mouth, and then I realized there was another retainer in there, so I pulled it out too, and then I realized there were like layers and layers of braces and retainers, and by the time I got done through ripping them all out there were all these wires sticking out everywhere and the guy just said, “Nevermind.”

Then I woke up.  AAAAAGGGGHHHH! What a horrible, horrible nightmare!

But I feel better having made you all sit through it.

Man Takes A Pistol to Bristol

16 11 2010

Once upon a time (Monday night), as I was quietly munching on broccoli lasagna, a 66-year-old man in a town that is seriously called Black Earth, Wisconsin, was sitting on his couch watching “Dancing with the Stars” with his wife.    Suddenly, when Bristol Palin entered the screen to perform a Viennese Waltz to the Passion of the Christ theme song, the man got really, really, balls-crazy pissed about her poor dancing skills, and this happened:

“Cowan jumped up and swore as Bristol Palin appeared, saying something about ‘the (expletive) politics.’ Cowan was upset that a political figure’s daughter was on the show when he didn’t think she was a good dancer, the complaint states.

Cowan went upstairs for about 20 minutes and returned, demanding his pistols, which had been taken by his daughter about a month ago for safety reasons. He was carrying a single-shot shotgun, which he loaded and fired into the television.

Cowan continued to yell, demanding his pistols. He re-loaded the shotgun and pointed it toward his wife. She left the house and drove to Black Earth, where she called 911. She told police she was afraid for her safety.

Cowan kept sheriff’s deputies at bay outside his home until 11 a.m. Tuesday, when he surrendered without incident.”

I’m sorry, did you say WITHOUT INCIDENT?  The man (whom I will be referring to as “Lover” from here on out) put a bullet in his telly and held himself hostage for FIFTEEN HOURS over Bristol Palin’s dance routine.  Sounds like a pretty goddamn remarkable incident to me.

How angry do you have to be to actually get out of your chair, walk up the stairs, load your pistol, walk it back down the stairs, and fire a bullet into your TV?  Sometimes when I’m watching really bad reality shows, I can’t even drum up the motivation to get up and pee.  Lover was obviously really, veins-popping-out-of-his-forehead upset over this!

As a reporter by trade, I’ve really had to fight the urge not to track him down myself for an interview, or at least call the police department for comment.  I should definitely refrain from doing that, but just in case the opportunity presents itself (ahem), I’ve jotted down a few follow-up questions I’d like to ask him:

1. How was your weekend, Lover?

2. What did you think of Jennifer Grey’s Cha Cha routine?

3. Were you as attracted to Patrick Swayze in the 80’s as I was, or is this getting too personal?

4. What would have had to happen on Dancing with the Stars for you to actually shoot your wife in the face, as you threatened?  Would a really shitty tango by Dick Cheney’s daughter do the trick, or is there something about Bristol in particular that ruffles your feathers?

5. Boxers or briefs? Do you wax your back?

Sigh.  Honestly, I didn’t think there was a man in this country who could possibly be as passionate about “Dancing with the Stars” as I am, and now that I know he exists, I’ll never be the same.

Even Jesus Wants An iPad

14 11 2010

Approximately one day before I was officially hired at my job, the boss spontaneously decided to give the entire staff free iPads.  I was still technically a paid intern on that day, so I didn’t receive one, and it stung. BADLY.

Over the next couple of weeks, I sat in my desk pouting while every single person I share a table with made a huge to-do about his iPad, comparing apps, drawing little pictures of spiders with his draw tools and then passing the damn thing around to show everyone, talking about data plans, etc., and it was all I could do not to punch the whole staff in the face, one by one, for their egregious insensitivity toward my situation.

From that day forward, securing a free iPad became kind of symbolic for me.  It became the Holy Grail of legitimacy, or acceptance, or respect, or something.  Every time one of my co-workers whipped out his iPad to wave it around in my face, I imagined myself as Mel Gibson, riding my little horse around the office with a half-blue painted face talking about iPads and freedom in a bad Scottish accent until they all drummed up the motivation to fight for my rights as a new staffer.

And on Friday, it happened.  I was typing away, minding my own business, when a package was casually dropped onto my desk.  I ripped it open to confirm that it was, in fact, a free iPad, and that it was mine.  I was so elated that I made a little papoose for it out of my scarf and carried it around with me on my lunch breaks and bathroom breaks and to the water cooler.  If I could have spoon-fed it mashed avocados and burped it on my shoulder, I would have.

It wasn’t until I finally got it home and sat it on my coffee table that I realized I had no clue what to do with it.  What are iPads even for?  I literally just stared at it for about 20 minutes, feeling guilty, like I had promised to entertain it or something and was horribly failing to do so.  So I dialed for back-up.

“Mom!” I said. “Guess what?!  I got a free iPad!”

“Ohhhh, I’m so jealous!” she said.

“Yea you are!  So wait, why are you jealous?”

“I want an iPad so badly!” she said.  “It’s like a bigger version of the iPhone that you can carry around in your purse, but you can’t call people on it.”

“OK. I don’t get why you would want a bigger phone that doesn’t call people,” I said.

“Well for people like me with bad eyes, it’s awesome.  Everything on the screen is just bigger!”

Is that what this is?  A super-sized iPhone for old people?  Because I’m actually quite pleased with my normal-sized iPhone that does call people.

I turned to my roommate for a second opinion.

“Jodi!” I said.  “I got a free iPad!!!”

“Woohoooooo!” she shouted.  “Have you downloaded Fruit Ninja?”


“Fruit Ninja– that game where the pieces of fruit fly up on the screen and you slice them with your finger!”

“Um. Ok. But for those of us who aren’t into slicing fruit on a screen,” I said, and then observed the look of profound sadness and confusion on her face. “Nevermind. I’ll download fruit ninja.”

I mentioned my free iPad to about 12 other people that day, and all of them nearly peed their pants over it in the middle of the street, but not one of them was able to give me a solid reason why I should be excited about it.

“You can draw things on it with your finger.”

Cool, I can draw on a piece of paper with a pen.  Next?

“You can store all your pictures and music on it!”

Cool, I already store all my pictures and music on my laptop. Is that seriously all you people can come up with?

So the Holy Grail sat in its little white box on my coffee table, untouched, all weekend.  I was a little dismayed about the whole situation until Sunday morning, when I was awakened at 8:30 am by a text message.  I rolled over, glanced at the text, and then dropped my iPhone face up on my chest as I dozed off again.

When I opened my eyes about ten minutes later, I noticed that there was some light streaming in from my window that was reflecting off the surface of my iPhone and making one of those little light spots on the ceiling that dogs and babies go nuts for.  I was lying perfectly still, but the light spot on the ceiling was jerking about an inch to the left every second or so, in tandem with my heartbeat.  My iPhone was resting on my chest, and every time the blood pulsed through my veins, it moved the phone ever so slightly, allowing me to actually watch my heartbeat projected on the ceiling.

What was cool about this, to me, was that the neatest thing I had ever seen my iPhone do had happened while it was turned off.  It was basic science: light reflecting and refracting, obviously, and that whole phenomenon (I don’t know what it’s called) where the tiniest movement happens in the center of a circle and it projects into a much larger movement around the circumference.  I’m geeking out here, but THE POINT IS, computers are still just physical objects, subject to all the rules of the universe, even when they can do things like throw bananas up on the screen and let you slice them with your finger.  So my plan is to think of all the exciting things my free iPad and I can do together that don’t necessitate him being powered on.

For instance, maybe I’ll slice real fruit on him when all my cutting boards are in the dishwasher.  Or I could use him as a tiny personal yoga mat, and if he wants to play some music while that happens, that’s his prerogative.  Maybe I’ll hang him on our doorknob and stick passive aggressive post-it notes on him for my roommates to find as they’re leaving the house.

…Or I could just give him as a Christmas present to a kid who really wants one, because the truth is, I don’t really have room in my polygamous marriage with my iPhone and Macbook to fall in love with another piece of useless technology.

Why No, I Will Not Marry You When I’m 40.

11 11 2010

Last week was one of the worst weeks of my life.  After returning to D.C. on Sunday from the emotionally draining funeral of an old friend, I screwed up badly on a crucial day at work, my credit card information was stolen and used to buy gas and groceries in Florida, a woman I wrote about sent me about 25 emails threatening to sue me, my team lost our volleyball game that would have qualified us for playoffs and my train to NYC Friday afternoon was over two hours delayed.

Then Sunday night, after I had returned from New York and was just starting to feel ever so slightly less crappy about my life, I received a drunken phone call from a very old friend whom I haven’t seen in almost a year.

“Laura,” he said, loudly and slurring into the phone, “I just want you to know”… **sound of something crashing in the background**…”that you are the only girl in the universe that I would never have sex with.”

I hung up.

He called back.

“Okay, that came out wrong,” he said. “What I meant to say is, you’re my best girl friend, and if we’re 40 and still not married, promise you’ll marry me!”

“What??” I said.  “Dude. No.”

“I’m serious though.  When we’re 40.  I’ll buy you the biggest diamond I can find.”

…Because that’s exactly what I hope to have when I’m 40: a big, useless diamond and a husband who told me when I was 27 and still relatively hot that he would rather sleep with any other woman in the world than with me.  Fan me, I’m swooning.

I swear, if I had a nickel for every time a guy told me he wanted to marry me when I’m 40 and pushing menopause, I’d have like, at least 15 cents.  Do I have a “WIFE” sign on my forehead that’s so big it makes men want to skip over all the good stuff, where you go on dates and get salad dressing on your face and then nervously wipe your mouth the rest of the night until your skin gets all chapped?  Why would you ever want to go straight from platonic friendship to marriage?  I would seriously rather poke myself in the eyeball with Tara Reid’s severed toe.

I honestly think men have a lot more problems than women do trying to sort out their feelings for the women they want to be friends with versus the women they want to have sex with versus the women they want to date, and I wish that schools would offer some kind of seminar for that in junior high.  I’ve already got a multiple choice question for the final exam:

34. In order to have a successful, long-term romantic relationship with a woman, you need to be

A) Sexually attracted to her

B) Close friends with her

C) Satisfied with her cooking/cleaning skills

D) A and B, but not C

E) A and C, but not B

F) All of the above

I swear, at least 80% of the male junior high population would fail this test, and at least 50% of the male adult population.  So I’m gonna spell it out for you guys.  There are four kinds of compatibility you can have with a person: social, emotional, intellectual, and physical.  Any combination of the first three without the last is friendship, and if any of the first three is missing, your relationship is probably not gonna work out.  You must have all four.

So please stop telling your perfectly dateable lady friends you want to marry them after they have spider veins.  You either love them right now or you don’t. Assholes.