Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here:

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<

Trillian McMillian
Trillian McMillian
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Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites
Part I, Your Profile and Email

Part II, Selecting a Potential Date

Part III, Your First Date!

Part IV, After the First Date. Now What?

"50 First Dates"

Don't just sit there angry and ranting, do something constructive.
In the words of Patti Smith (all hail Sister Patti): People have the power.
Contact your elected officials.

Don't be passive = get involved = make a difference.
Find Federal Officials
Enter ZIP Code:

or Search by State

Find State Officials
Enter ZIP Code:

or Search by State

Contact The Media
Enter ZIP Code:

or Search by State

Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)



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9/2/07 9/9/07 - 9/16/07 9/16/07 - 9/23/07 9/23/07 - 9/30/07 9/30/07 - 10/7/07 10/7/07 - 10/14/07 10/14/07 - 10/21/07 11/4/07 - 11/11/07 11/11/07 - 11/18/07 12/9/07 - 12/16/07 1/6/08 - 1/13/08 1/13/08 - 1/20/08 1/27/08 - 2/3/08 2/3/08 - 2/10/08 2/10/08 - 2/17/08 2/24/08 - 3/2/08 3/2/08 - 3/9/08 3/9/08 - 3/16/08 3/16/08 - 3/23/08 3/23/08 - 3/30/08 3/30/08 - 4/6/08 4/6/08 - 4/13/08 4/13/08 - 4/20/08 4/20/08 - 4/27/08 4/27/08 - 5/4/08 5/4/08 - 5/11/08 5/11/08 - 5/18/08 5/18/08 - 5/25/08 5/25/08 - 6/1/08 6/1/08 - 6/8/08 6/15/08 - 6/22/08 6/22/08 - 6/29/08 6/29/08 - 7/6/08 7/13/08 - 7/20/08 7/20/08 - 7/27/08 8/3/08 - 8/10/08 8/10/08 - 8/17/08 8/17/08 - 8/24/08 8/24/08 - 8/31/08 8/31/08 - 9/7/08 9/7/08 - 9/14/08 9/21/08 - 9/28/08 9/28/08 - 10/5/08 10/5/08 - 10/12/08 10/12/08 - 10/19/08 10/19/08 - 10/26/08 10/26/08 - 11/2/08 11/2/08 - 11/9/08 11/9/08 - 11/16/08 11/16/08 - 11/23/08 11/30/08 - 12/7/08 12/7/08 - 12/14/08 12/14/08 - 12/21/08 12/28/08 - 1/4/09 1/4/09 - 1/11/09 1/11/09 - 1/18/09 1/18/09 - 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12/4/11 12/4/11 - 12/11/11 12/11/11 - 12/18/11 12/25/11 - 1/1/12 1/1/12 - 1/8/12 2/5/12 - 2/12/12 2/19/12 - 2/26/12 3/4/12 - 3/11/12 4/1/12 - 4/8/12 4/15/12 - 4/22/12 4/29/12 - 5/6/12 5/13/12 - 5/20/12 5/20/12 - 5/27/12 6/24/12 - 7/1/12 7/1/12 - 7/8/12 7/8/12 - 7/15/12 7/15/12 - 7/22/12 7/22/12 - 7/29/12 7/29/12 - 8/5/12 8/5/12 - 8/12/12 8/12/12 - 8/19/12 8/19/12 - 8/26/12 8/26/12 - 9/2/12 9/2/12 - 9/9/12 9/9/12 - 9/16/12 9/16/12 - 9/23/12 9/23/12 - 9/30/12 10/7/12 - 10/14/12 10/21/12 - 10/28/12 11/4/12 - 11/11/12 12/9/12 - 12/16/12 12/23/12 - 12/30/12 1/6/13 - 1/13/13 1/13/13 - 1/20/13 1/20/13 - 1/27/13 1/27/13 - 2/3/13 2/3/13 - 2/10/13 2/10/13 - 2/17/13 2/17/13 - 2/24/13 3/3/13 - 3/10/13 3/17/13 - 3/24/13 3/31/13 - 4/7/13 4/7/13 - 4/14/13 4/21/13 - 4/28/13 4/28/13 - 5/5/13 5/5/13 - 5/12/13 5/12/13 - 5/19/13 5/19/13 - 5/26/13 6/16/13 - 6/23/13 6/23/13 - 6/30/13 7/14/13 - 7/21/13 8/11/13 - 8/18/13 8/25/13 - 9/1/13 9/8/13 - 9/15/13 9/22/13 - 9/29/13 10/13/13 - 10/20/13 10/20/13 - 10/27/13 11/10/13 - 11/17/13 12/1/13 - 12/8/13 12/15/13 - 12/22/13 12/29/13 - 1/5/14 6/29/14 - 7/6/14 9/14/14 - 9/21/14 9/21/14 - 9/28/14 10/12/14 - 10/19/14 11/23/14 - 11/30/14 12/7/14 - 12/14/14 12/28/14 - 1/4/15 1/25/15 - 2/1/15 2/8/15 - 2/15/15 2/22/15 - 3/1/15 3/8/15 - 3/15/15 3/15/15 - 3/22/15 3/22/15 - 3/29/15 4/12/15 - 4/19/15 4/19/15 - 4/26/15 5/3/15 - 5/10/15 5/17/15 - 5/24/15 5/24/15 - 5/31/15 6/14/15 - 6/21/15 6/28/15 - 7/5/15 7/5/15 - 7/12/15 7/19/15 - 7/26/15 8/16/15 - 8/23/15 11/6/16 - 11/13/16 6/24/18 - 7/1/18

Highlights from the Archives. Some favorite Trillian moments.

Void, Of Course: Eliminating Expectations and Emotions for a Better Way of Life

200i: iPodyssey

Macs Are from Venus, Windows is from Mars Can a relationship survive across platform barriers?
Jerking Off

Get A Job

Office Church Ladies: A Fieldguide

'Cause I'm a Blonde

True? Honestly? I think not.

A Good Day AND Funyuns?

The Easter Boy

Relationship in the Dumpster

Wedding Dress 4 Sale, Never Worn

Got Friends? Are You Sure? Take This Test

What About Class? Take This Test

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away, There Was a Really Bad Movie

May Your Alchemical Process be Complete. Rob Roy Recipe

Good Thing She's Not in a Good Mood Very Often (We Knew it Wouldn't Last)

What Do I Have to Do to Put You in this Car Today?

Of Mice and Me (Killer Cat Strikes in Local Woman's Apartment)

Trillian: The Musical (The Holiday Special)

LA Woman (I Love (Hate) LA)

It is my Cultureth
...and it would suit-eth me kindly to speak-eth in such mannered tongue


It's a Little Bit Me, It's a Little Bit You
Blogging a Legacy for Future Generations

Parents Visiting? Use Trillian's Mantra!

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Mod Hair Ken

Caught Blogging by Mom, Boss or Other

2003 Holiday Sho-Lo/Mullet Awards

Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places

Come on Out of that Doghouse! It's a Sunshine Day!

"...I had no idea our CEO is actually Paula Abdul in disguise."

Lap Dance of the Cripple

Of Muppets and American Idols
"I said happier place, not crappier place!"

Finally Off Crutches, Trillian is Emancipated

Payless? Trillian? Shoe Confessions

Reality Wednesday: Extremely Local Pub

Reality Wednesday: Backstage Staging Zone (The Sweater Blog)

The Night Secret Agent Man Shot My Dad

To Dream the Impossible Dream: The Office Karaoke Party

Trillian Flies Economy Class (Prisoner, Cell Block H)

Trillian Visits the Village of the Damned, Takes Drugs, Becomes Delusional and Blogs Her Brains Out

Trillian's Parents are Powerless

Striptease for Spiders: A PETA Charity Event (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids)

What's Up with Trillian and the Richard Branson Worship?

"Screw the French and their politics, give me their cheese!"

Mail Trillian here

Trillian's Guide to the Galaxy gives 5 stars to these places in the Universe:
So much more than fun with fonts, this is a daily dose of visual poetry set against a backdrop of historical trivia. (C'mon, how can you not love a site that notes Wolfman Jack's birthday?!)


Alliance for the Great Lakes

Hot, so cool, so cool we're hot.

Ig Nobel Awards

And you think YOU have the worst bridesmaid dress?

Coolest Jewelry in the Universe here (trust Trillian, she knows)

Red Tango

If your boss is an idiot, click here.

Evil Cat Full of Loathing.

Wildlife Works

Detroit Cobras

The Beachwood Reporter is better than not all, but most sex.

Hey! Why not check out some great art and illustration while you're here? Please? It won't hurt and it's free.


Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto


Get Fuzzy Now!
If you're not getting fuzzy, you should be. All hail Darby Conley. Yes, he's part of the Syndicate. But he's cool.

Who or what is HWNMNBS: (He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken) Trillian's ex-fiancé. "Issues? What issues?"

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

< chicago blogs >

Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Life(?) of Trillian

Saturday, March 20, 2004  
Sorry, I was a little disjointed yesterday. The online stalking, erm, dating tips have been cleaned up, added to and properly sorted. I believe it to now be the more thorough and hopefully useful guide I intended to post.

8:19 AM

Friday, March 19, 2004  
Now for Today's Post
Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites

(And there are a few lessons us girls can use, too)
Okay single boys, listen up! This is the post you've been waiting for. Or at least the post some of you have been needing.

First things first:
Yes, I have a cat and I like shoes. You can see these traits as either fatal flaws or basic female characteristics. Like boobs and vaginae.

If you don't like cats and/or shoes, or women who like both, move along to the next one. Maybe she doesn't like cats and only owns two pair of shoes. (You might want to check to see if she has boobs and a vagina before you get too emotionally involved, though. I'd be suspicious of any woman who willingly only owns two pair of shoes (or less)) But. Just move on. Why waste the time and energy to write me and lambaste me for liking cats and shoes? Do you think this correspondence from you will enlighten me in ways I've never been enlightened? Especially when your correspondence is degrading, insulting, misspelled and grammatically incorrect? That I will suddenly see the light, view all felines as evil, ugly wastes of dna (as one would-be suitor described them to me) and shoes as only necessary to protect my flesh from the environment? That I will be so wooed by your arguments and insults that I will find you irresistible?


That'll happen.

And I'll suddenly be so interested in college basketball that I'll sit transfixed for hours on end in front of televisions in smoky sports bars. While drinking beer.

In other words: No.

So please. Don't waste your time and mine.




Now, for the rest of you I've got a few gentle suggestions. You know, just in general. Just making conversation. In case you're getting into this whole online dating thing. I want you to be successful. I want you to meet lots of women and have fun dates and fall in love and live happily ever after. I want that for you. I really do.

So please, please, please, for the sake of humanity, please heed my advice. See it not as being too picky or snobby or whatever your current derogatory name is for women who rebuff you, but as good natured advice your sister or best friend might offer.

Your Screen Name.
I know. This is difficult. I have problems with it, too. All the "good" ones are taken. You know how important it is to be anonymous at first, so you don't want to use any part of your real name. Those points are all given. Consequently, none of us really expects a great screen name, nor do we pay too much attention to them. Unless they're suggestive or way too cute. I personally will cut slack for the latter, but never, ever for the former.

Any screen name containing: LOVER, LUVR, LOVR will probably be ignored. (exceptions: wildernesslover, catlover...but even then...probably best to avoid any sexual connotations in your screen name).

Avoid using the names of famous people you think us chicks dig as a way to get attention. I have recently received mail from: BradPitt, TomCruise, MelGibson and, oddly, JWGacey. If you think we're (us womenfolk) dumb enough to think Brad, Tom, Mel and John are surfing internet dating sites and sending us mail, there is nothing I nor anyone else can do for you. Stop wasting your money and join a monastery. Or go back to the singles bar scene where you belong. Because we're not that dumb. And we don't think it's cute. We also think it speaks to the enormous size of your ego as compensation for the inferior size of your manhood. And for me, Brad, Tom and Mel are not my types, and I gave up dating serial killers a long time ago. (Seriously, is that supposed to be funny? Even, and especially, if it's his real name, he can't come up with something a little less death row?)

You may also want to avoid using names connected with Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman or Batman. Or at least proceed with extreme caution. I cut slack on this score, a lot of slack, probably far too much slack. Other women are not as open minded as I am about this sort of thing and immediately delete any mail arriving from: Obi-Wan, Jawa, Jedi, Khan, Riker, Warf, or any of the Batman villains.

All references to your anatomy, particularly your penis or butt, should be avoided in your screen name at all cost. I don't care if you go through 135 names before you find one that isn't being used. Never, ever refer to your anatomy in your screen name. Got it? And yes, your anatomy includes: SMILE, TONGUE, EYES, (this one is open for debate, if everything in your profile checks out okay, EYES in your screen name might be forgiven), LEGS, HANDS, PECS (or PEX as one would-be suitor uses (gag. I'm sure he thinks it's cute, but it looks like part of a long scientific chemical compound))

Your Profile
This is it, the place you get to show the women of the world who you are and what brilliant things go on inside that head and heart of yours.

At the very least, the bare minimum, answer all the scripted questions the online service offers as "basic profile" descriptions. (The exception: Salary. I respect everyone's right to privacy about money, and think it's a little odd every internet dating site has this in their basic question list. If your salary is on the low side you're going to say nothing or lie. If it's mid to high, people are gong to assume you're bragging or lying.)

That's a start.

But if you really want to impress the ladies, take some time, perhaps a lot of time, and write a unique, interesting, honest, sincere, funny (but not too funny) bio on yourself. You know how when that girl at the bar last week gave you that disgusted look and walked away when you tried to hit on her? You know how you said to your best friend the next day, "I know she'd like me if only she'd gotten to know me..." Well, here's your chance to tell her exactly what she'd be getting to know. If it doesn't work out with her, there's a very good possibility another very nice girl will find your profile, will like what you have to say and will contact you. And she's probably not as high maintenance as that girl in the bar last week. (I saw her, later, in the ladies' room, and she was straightening her hair. With an appliance. In the ladies' room of a club. Yeah. I know. You don't need that in your life.)

I know you're all very masculine, "I don't swing that way" kind of guys. So when I tell you: "Look at other men's profiles," don't get all funny and insecure and start talking about rugby. Take a really good look at what the other guys are doing. You might be surprised. There are some really good profiles out there. And I don't mean good in the sense that they have posted photos that look like a GQ spread. They have taken the time to think and write an interesting, thoughtful, sincere, funny profile.

They used spell check. They probably had a few friends read it before they posted it. They put honest effort into this endeavor and it shows. They invested themselves. That alone speaks volumes about them. Whether or not the girl of their dreams is going to find, read and reply to their profile is of course another story, but they're much further down that road than the guys who post the usual text book personal ad drivel.

Guess what guys: "I honestly enjoy candlelight dinners, nights by the fire, walks on the beach, dining, movies, wine tasting and am looking for that special someone to share all this and more..." appears so often in men's profiles those statements are clichéd. Move beyond that. Maybe you really do enjoy all of that, but why not talk a bit about why you enjoy it? Or, I don't know - surprise me. Tell me something interesting.

But not sexual. If you're looking for "that special someone" meaning, the girl you're taking home to meet your parents, grandparents and the scrutinizing eye of Aunt Martha, and potentially the mother of your children, this is not the place or time to brag about the size of your manhood, your unique abilities with your manhood (or any other part of your anatomy) or to disclose that kink you have for being tied to an office chair and whipped with a pink boa. It's especially not the time nor place to go on and on about what you want (or expect) sexually from a woman. Period. Even if the woman who is ready and willing to perform fallatio for three continuous hours and is into threesomes including you, her and her centerfold best friend finds your profile and reads it, by spelling out precise instructions she's going to be a bit intimidated. Or: Turned off and not interested because you claim to be looking for a soul mate, yet all you talk about is sex. Okay, maybe the only thing in your soul is sex, and your soul mate's soul includes nothing but sex. Good luck with that.

Now: A final note on "About My Date" section of your profile. It's good that you know what you like. Very good. But unless you really will only date slim, petite blondes/Asians (but who are also "curvy" which, guys, is oxymoronic) under the age of 24, include a range of characteristics. If you don't do this, you will automatically eliminate 98% of women who see your profile.

I don't know any woman who doesn't get all excited by a great profile, get all geared up with an enthusiastic response, only to can the idea and the guy altogether after reading his list of desired attributes and finds she falls short of his desired physical attributes. Maybe you really do not like women over 5'6", or brown eyes, or large pink nipples. Fair enough. Attraction is important. But you need to decide how important.

If you're posting a profile on an online dating site, chances are you've been falling a bit short of your personal dating goals and hopes. Maybe, maybe this is the time to explore attributes outside your usual (limited) taste. If you're looking for your soul mate, as you claim you are, then it might not matter that she doesn't fall into all of your parameters. Maybe she's taller than 5'6", but maybe that's because she's got the most amazing legs up to here. Maybe she does have brown eyes, but they're the biggest, most soulful, laughing expressive eyes you've ever seen. Maybe she does have large pink nipples, but maybe they're attached to the best set of boobs this side of Swedish porn.

I'm just saying, broaden your scope a bit. Keep an open mind. Remember, she's got a "checklist" too, and she may not be especially fond of men under 6' with hazel eyes and short, stubby fingers. But she might be willing to give a 5'8" hazel eyed guy with paws for hands a chance because of his dazzling smile, sardonic wit and in depth knowledge of organic chemistry.

Your Photo
I don't have an issue with a "No Photo Available." But a lot of women do. It's not that they're shallow, it's just that women like to feel "connected" to a man. They're not looking (usually) for a Calvin Klein poster boy, they're looking to see if he looks "nice" or intelligent, or warm, or open or broody or whatever they want emotionally from a man. Some women even get suspicious, slightly turned off or intimidated by a photo of a guy who is too good looking.

So, what you want to post is a recent, genuine photo of yourself. Fully clothed. You know that photo of you your mum has on the refrigerator? The one she proudly shows all her friends? And they all say, "such a nice boy" and then they all go home and marvel at how well you turned out even after that incident down at the lake when you were 12? That's the photo you should post.

I have a long held opinion that everyone, myself included, should be required to post: A good photo, as well as: Current driver's license photo, high school graduation photo, 7th grade yearbook photo and baby picture. It would keep us all humble and human.

I don't want to dwell on the photos, I could write an entire post on photos. But one final word I have to mention because this is apparently a trend (based on the photos I've seen lately): Do not include any sort of dead animal in the photo.


That includes the one of you on that high seas fishing trip proudly holding up a dead marlin (And yes, in Chicago this is a well worn metaphor, but get over it. Next year is here.) Also refrain from showing that photo of you standing next to any taxidermed animal. No matter how "funny" or ironic. This just isn't the place. Or the one of you sitting around a campfire or spit with that night's dinner cooking in plain view (Most disgusting photo I've seen posted in a profile goes to the guy who posted a photo of himself in Hawaiian style shorts, much to small for him, bare hairy gut hanging over the waistband, holding a beer and pointing to a full bodied pig rotating over a fire with one hand and rubbing his exposed bare belly with the other. Okay. He goes to luaus. He's a "fun" guy. Which is what I'm sure he thought when he posted that photo. But. As a first impression? Maybe not the best choice.)

Spell Check
Your best friend in the world of online dating

I know, I know. I've done it. We all do it. We know how to spell, but sometimes we don't type what we think. I know this. I cut a lot of slack on this, too.

I am not one of those spelling bitches who deletes and forgets a message at the first transposition or misspelling.


If the message is so misspelled I cannot figure out what the guy is saying, it's a problem. Maybe someone can help me out with this. I recently received an email which contained the following sentence: I lick somone who is affekshunate and does'nt sober all over me. I'm sorry if this is your email. I don't mean to publicly ridicule you. Can you please tell me what this means? You're trying to get to know me better, and tell me a bit about yourself. Great. But. I assume you meant to say: I like someone who is affectionate and doesn't slobber all over me. Good for you. Apparently excessive saliva has been a problem in your past relationships and you're sick of it. But is this really the time and place to tell me about it? Or maybe that's not what you meant at all. Maybe you lick Simone, who is affectionate and doesn't sober all over you. Only on part of you. May I drunk all over you? You may be a really great guy, or maybe not. I have no way of knowing because that was the most coherent and decipherable sentence in the email.

Also, for the love of Webster, please spell out words. I like ur profile. U r funny. U r a qT 2, for instance. Would it really take you that much longer to type out: I like your profile. You are funny. You are a cutey, too. I would probably respond to the latter. Never the former. Since you don't know my name yet, you are substituting my name with You. Here's a sales tip: People love the sound of their own name. It's just a fact. I don't mean in an egomaniacal way, but in an "it's just a fact" kind of way. There is a lot of psychology behind this proven fact if you'd like to research it. But I digress. Since you don't know my name yet, it's very important that you use you as if you were saying my name. Therefore, not spelling out you sends the signal that you cannot be bothered to respect my name. Plus it's difficult to read and follow. And not everyone is hip to chat acronyms.

If you're stuck for words...
Breaking the ice is difficult. Really, really difficult. No one expects you to be smooth, cool, witty, charming, affable, humble and intelligent all in three or four introductory sentences or paragraphs.

So don't try.

Because you'll come across as someone you probably are not: A jerk.

From a guy with no photo posted on his profile: I am very good looking, if it is any motivation. That's all he said in his email to me. Looks aren't my motivation, but since it's all you've told me about yourself, it's the only motivation I've got. And right now all I have is your word on that. Your opinion. What do I gather from this brief statement? He may as well have written: I have an over inflated ego. I spend more time primping in the bathroom than you ever will. I check myself out in every reflective surface I pass. In fact, I seek out reflective surfaces just so I can gaze at my own beauty. I drive an expensive red sports car. It's not actually a performance vehicle, but it's expensive and all the cool guys want one. Some people call them penile extensions. I'm not sure what they mean by that. I am also a quick and selfish lover. I use women like cheap toys. Oh. And. By mentioning your motivations, I am assuming you are as shallow and arrogant as I am so we'll hit it off really well. Until I get bored with you. I get bored and tire easily. Because no one is as good looking as me. I'm probably a spoiled mama's boy, too. Then for kicks I checked out his profile. All points conjectured above proven. Because I dislike this person so much, email me and I'll point you to his online profile so you can laugh and ridicule and mock him. You can play along at home. It'll be fun. Maybe we can even start a website devoted to this guy and all he represents.

Compliments Will Get You, Well...
You see her photo. You read her profile. You look at her photo. Again. And Again. Maybe you even print it and pin it to your cube wall, and Photoshop her next to you into family photos. You think she's really pretty. The prettiest girl you've ever seen. There's something about her smile, her eyes, the hint of a left dimple. Which you only noticed when you enlarged the photo 653%. Because you're in love. She is the prettiest girl you've ever seen since that summer you worked at Burger King and that one girl who used to come in with those other girls came in but this time she was with her cousin from out of town, and her cousin was the prettiest girl you'd ever seen. Until you saw The New Girl online. You hem and haw, trying to figure out what to say to her. You wait. Because you're patient. You craft the perfect email. Slowly. Over time. Then, finally, one day, you decide, "this is the day I send that email to the prettiest girl in the world." Because your class reunion is next month and time's running out, you need to make travel arrangements, she's going to have to ask for time off from work. So you write her. Twelve lengthy paragraphs. Telling her how beautiful she is. Over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over. And over again. See how annoying and weird that is? Imagine twelve paragraphs. Feel my pain. Smell my fear.

The point is, yes, of course, we all want to feel desired, and beautiful. But most of us, those of us not on the beauty pageant circuit, those of us who have a functioning brain, like to at least think you are interested in us for something other than sex or as a piece of arm candy. By dwelling solely on our looks, we assume you are not interested in anything we've written in our profile. Or what goes on in that pretty little head of ours. Or what makes those big long lashed eyes light up. Or what produces that dazzling smile. If you think we're pretty, of course you should say so, but, at first, at least, keep your cool, man, take it easy.

In contrast to Mr. I'm Writing My Graduate Thesis On Your Beauty, is Mr. I'm Very Attracted But What Do You Know, She Has a Brain, Too! Opening sentence of email: You are simply: Beautiful.
(dramatic pause)
And you have the funniest profile I've read.
(dramatice pause)
And you use big words.
(dramatic pause)
Who are you and where have you been all my life?
(dramatic pause)
Here's where I am now (link to his profile).

(We're getting married next week, you're all invited.)

Here's another sample first email that does the trick:
Interesting profile. (one sentence comment regarding my profile letting me know he has in fact read it but hasn't spent the past two nights memorizing it) If interested, it would be nice to hear from you. Short, nothing too forward, nothing too backward, spelled correctly, no U's, just a quick hello, putting his name in the hat, showing some interest. The kind of guy you might have a pleasant conversation with while standing in line at the grocery and later regret you didn't have the nerve to give him your phone number. Enter: The true beauty of online dating sites. You can say a quick, correctly spelled hello, make an observation showing personal interest, offer your profile, and casually, politely imply you'd like to get to know her better.

Cryptic Does NOT = Mysterious and Sexy
There is secret stuff only a mature man can appreciate... I can take you places that will open your life experiences. No pressure just a friendly offer... remember to always Believe in magic. I still believe in destiny and good guys do finish last because they take their time to discover the treasuries of a woman. Uh. Okay. Does he mean I've got some secret stuff? So secret even I don't know about it, because it takes a mature man to appreciate it? What places is it that he's taking me which require a friendly offer (with no pressure!) and that I always Believe in magic? I'll be painfully honest: I was actually considering replying to this guy because I got the feeling he's new at this and was really trying hard to be...something. Who knows what. But then I got to the "time to discover treasuries of a woman" bit. Call me picky, but I cannot help but read this as anything other than a major Freudian slip. Particularly when prefaced with good guys finishing last statement. Um, you know the cliché you're misquoting? Nice guys finish last? That's actually not a good thing. It's a sad reflection on society. Not a way to woo a potential mate. Because if you're finishing last, that means I'm potentially stuck with a loser. Not that I care what place a guy finishes, but if you're going to use clichés, at least use them sarcastically or in their proper context. And not prefacing a Freudian slip about looking for a sugar mommy.

So You Saw A Girl You Like and Sent Her an Email
You followed my advice, used spell check, sent her a short, succinct, "hi how are you, I cracked up when I read ________ in your profile. I like _______, too! Here's my profile, maybe we can chat? message. Good for you! I hope she's "the one."

But She Didn't Respond
Sorry. Really sorry. That can hurt. Rejection sucks, no matter if it's face to face or anonymously online. It hurts. I know. And I'm sorry for the way you must be feeling. There are a lot of reasons why a woman might not respond. She's just met someone, she's inundated with email from other suitors, she only has access to the internet once or twice a week, she's away on business, she's on vacation, she's been burned by other first email messages and is a bit gun shy to respond, or maybe she just didn't think you were the guy for her, or more possibly, she didn't think she was the girl for you.

Sending her a nasty email wherein you call her names, cast aspersions about her attitude and sexuality, and otherwise angrily lambast her is not going to help your cause. She will block you. Likewise, continuing to badger her, filling her mailbox with daily or hourly messages trying to convince her to contact you is going to make you look like a pathetic deranged stalker. She will block you. Especially if you've chosen to use the name of a convicted serial killer as your user name. Imagine receiving email from JWGacey every hour. It's swutting creepy.

After a few days (meaning: three or four, at least) of not hearing from her, if you really, really think there's potential for at least a few dates (dig deep into your soul and be honest with yourself) or friendship (for instance you both state a common interest in organic chemistry) go ahead and send her another short, succinct email, revealing just a bit more information about yourself. Do not beg. Do not get sexual. Do not get weird. Do not try out obtuse humor. Just say hello again, "did you have a chance to look at my profile? I'm still interested if you'd like to chat." Leave it at that. If that gets no response, bow out gracefully. And move on.

Next week: So, you've connected with someone online and you're going to meet! Great! A few first date pointers.

Labels: , ,

12:41 PM

Peter has left the building.


Scary things were found on his hard drive in the office.

You never know who you are working with and what they are doing when
think they are doing other stuff.

Except I, and just about everyone else, knew swutting well he was
trouble and doing everything except his job in that



Onto the next one.
alt="Do you want anything from Duty Free?">

When Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven swing through your town, or within a
150 mile proximity: Go.

I don't care who you are, what kind of music you like, or if you've even heard of Cracker or Camper Van Beethoven. Check the tour dates here.

Just go.

(Two great bands, one low price! Incredible guitars, smart, funny
lyrics ("Don't fuck me up with peace and love...", M is for mullet, O is for
the Oil they put in your truck, T is for T-bird, T is for wing-ed
lizard, H is for Haggard, E is for eggs, R and is for... Redneck. And
yes, for those of you who know, they include the classics Euro
Trash Girl, Matchstick Men
and yes, Take the Skinheads Bowling
in the sets. (though I thought they had, and wish they would,
retire Skinheads Bowling, yeah, yeah, it's a crowd pleaser,
but I think it should remain frozen in its place and time, preserved in its
irony and humor and young energy) Still. What are you waiting for? A
chance like this doesn't come along every day! Just GO!

7:04 AM

Thursday, March 18, 2004  
But, You Know, I Really Like U2. Does That Count?
For the record, just so you know, in case maybe you were innocently unaware:
Everyone is not Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

I know, I know, there's that song.

And for some reason, a lot of people do drag out miniscule or fabricated Irish heritage on March 17.


That doesn't mean we all adhere to these rules of celebration.

So when you notice we are not participating in the revelry (read: drinking alcohol), leave us alone. Don't force your holiday on us.

Unless you want a 45 minute dissertation on the history of Britain and Ireland's place therein, the Catholic Church and why it is that those of us who are English and/or Scottish (and some Welsh) are not particularly fond of being associated with Ireland, and especially why we are not keen to join the celebration of St. Patrick.

If that's the case, if you do want to listen to this diatribe, then go ahead, prod, bother, cajole and otherwise annoy the non St. Patrick's Day revelers. Maybe you'll think twice before chugging that green beer or downing that corned beef. But probably not.

I'm guessing these same people would never even consider cajoling a Jew for not celebrating Christmas (To my knowledge there is no Everyone's Christian on Christmas Day song).

Which is what living in Chicago (or Boston or Savannah or any number of other "Irish" towns) is like for those of us who are English. Kind of like a Jewish person being at the Vatican on Christmas Day. Okay, maybe that's an extreme example, it's not as if "our people" walked in deserts for years or have suffered years of tyranny and persecution...and yeah, okay, there was a long period of time when the Sun never set on the British empire. We've had a good run.



Should I (or anyone, regardless of their heritage) be accosted with a rubber stamper branding of green kiss lips by Roger from Financial Services, dressed in an elf hat, adorned with buttons that say things like Kiss Me I'm Irish, or Dublin' Your Pleasure, or Smilin' Eyes? Really? This is okay? Acceptable? I'm trying really hard to not be uptight about this, but somehow I can't quite let it go. Particularly after last night's events. Which I will get to in a minute. If I can remain calm about it long enough to observe and report.

I knew when I moved to Chicago I would endure a lot of Irish-isms. I was okay with that. Figured I could always leave town on March 17 if it all got too much for me. And usually I do leave town. Either conveniently by way of a business trip or an intentionally planned trip to somewhere like, well, somewhere far away.

This year I wasn't able to arrange either.

And so I braced myself.

On March 16, the eve of St. Patrick, I practiced my polite responses to those who might throw "blessings," kisses or beer my way.

"Come on Trillian! Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day!" to which I would respond, "ha ha, yeah. Have a nice day."

"Luck o' the Irish to ya Trillian!"

Response: "Ha ha. Have a nice day."

"Happy St. Patrick's Day Trillian!"

Response: "Ha ha. Have a nice day."

"We're going for beer and corned beef at lunch, wanna come with us?"

Response: "Over my dead and rotting corpse. When have you ever known me to drink beer or eat an animal, much less socialize with you? Why would I start now? On a day honoring a saint from a religion which I do not practice from a country with which my family's country has been at war (or at least extreme odds) with for hundreds of years?"

Oops. Need to work on that one. "Ha ha. No thanks. Have a nice day."

And then there are the militant ones. The ones who wear not only green but "official" combat fatigues so popular among those rakish IRA boys. A few (there's one in my office) even brash enough to brandish IRA embellishments. I keep huge distances from these people. I don't trust myself - one militant word from them about England sucking and I just might give them my 45 minute dissertation on the history of Britain and Ireland's place in it. And I really don't want to do that. Especially at work. And so far, I have not. I keep my mouth shut and my attitude in check.

But there again: I'm guessing if anyone came into work brandishing PLO embellishments there would be a talking to in Human Resources. The politically correct, kinder, gentler HR coordinator would say, "Of course you have a right to believe in Palestine and back the PLO, but you need to be respectful of your Jewish colleagues." They would then be put under round the clock surveillance.

Not so these IRA supporters. Apparently my company is perfectly okay with quite graphic and militant pro IRA sentiment being forced upon everyone who has to walk by Peter's cube on the way to the elevators. Very graphic. Disturbing, even. (Which is of course his point.) Yet there is no "Of course you have a right to believe in Ireland and back the IRA, but you need to be respectful of your English colleagues" conversation. Or surveillance.

So I scrubbed off the green kiss lips Roger rubber stamped on my hand, hid in my office talking with a client for as much of the day as I could, and avoided Peter's cube until it I could leave the office for the day.

Just when I thought I had made it out with sanity in tact, none other than Peter himself appeared at the elevators. Dressed in a military style jacket. (which he always wears, but on St. Patrick's Day takes on a more meaningful look) Peter knows I am English/Scot. Peter also knows better than to talk politics with me. Peter apparently joined the group who drank their lunches. Peter is an idiot.

I smiled that polite smile you smile to people who approach a bank of elevators. That smile which falls somewhere between "hi how are you" and "I'm sorry." Peter and I rarely speak, we're not in the same department and our two professional worlds rarely collide apart from my having to walk past his cube to and from the elevators.

In response to my smile, Peter called me a name. Names, actually. Very nasty, vulgar names relating to my: Ancestry and female anatomy.

I knew he was drunk. I know he's an idiot. I know he's got a big mouth. I know it was St. Patrick's Day. I know he was getting his groove on for a night of more drinking.

So I turned and walked away without saying a word.

I was not a) standing there with him, alone, in the hallway, with that hanging in the air, b) getting on an elevator with him, alone, with that hanging in the air.

Turning the other cheek and walking away. Seemed like the best (and only) option.

Of course young, drunk, militant men are not capable of letting anyone just silently walk away from one of their verbal assaults.

So he yelled at me as I walked back into the office, cursing and calling me more names, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with my ancestry but much to do with my female anatomy, all modified with one overused expletive conjugated in every possible iteration. At one point he used the expletive as an adjective, verb and a noun. Raised cussing to a poetic art form, in the grammatical sense, anyway. That would be an interesting sentence to diagram.

A drunk employee yelling anatomy related insults does not go unnoticed for long. Even in my bizarre dysfunctional office.

A small crowd of colleagues and coworkers still in the office was forming.

I heard Peter slam his fist into the wall. (as young, drunk, militant men are wont to do)

I continued to my office, with several colleagues in hot pursuit behind me.

"What happened?"

"What's up with Peter?"

"What did you say to him?"

Scratch of record.

Incensed look.

What did I say to him? The guy is calling me every derogatory insulting name plus a few the meanings of which I'm not exactly sure, and yet people a) assume I provoked him in some way (and hence I was "asking for it") and b) want to know what I said to provoke such rage.

Am I missing something? A drunk, militant, cussing employee yells derogatory, defamatory names at another employee, and the only thing people want to know is what provoked it? What about his "victim," you know, the one he is threatening with violence because of her ancestry? Yeah, that girl. What about her? Is she okay? Is she scared or upset or concerned for her the workplace?

Maybe someone should check on her.

No, it's okay, I'm fine.

It's just Peter.

He's done similar things before, and probably will again. Never directed at me, though, so you know, this was new.

Except it was too late. Someone, someone who is scared of Peter, someone who watches a lot of CSPAN and had assumed "attack!" position and was cowering under his desk, someone who actually works with Peter and is afraid of him, someone who shares a cube wall with Peter and endures endless tirades and outbursts, someone who has apparently already filed complaints about Peter and is afraid Peter might "do something" some day, that someone called building security.

I know this because within minutes, two security guards ran, I mean Olympic sprinted into my office. Once they established my health and well being along with that of most of the remaining employees on the floor, (thanks guys, at least someone cares) I was escorted to the building security office. Where our head HR guy, chief of staff and the real, actual police were summoned. Peter was being similarly held in a different office. A security video tape was rushed in by the new security kid. We got to watch the whole thing. (Those security cameras don't do anyone any favors. 10 pounds? Those things add more like 15 or 20. Though they are in dramatic black and white, so, you know, there's a very Fellini-esque quality, which is kind of cool.) What I realized is that I gave Peter a much more sincere, nice smile than I thought. Even the police, security, HR guy and chief of staff all commented and agreed that I was very pleasant to him, and seconds after he "went into a rage."

I had to give "a report" of the incident.

Then the thing that I had not even thought about: Do you want to press charges?

Huh? Charges?

HR guy and chief of staff looked panic stricken.

The police noticed this.

They took me into another room for private questioning.

Like an abused wife.

"Never mind what your superiors want or don't want. You have rights. You can press charges right now and we'll take this ________ __________ ____________ down to county where he'll meet some interesting people. Especially tonight, St. Patrick's and all."

I'm not going to say what I did or didn't decide.

I'm not afraid of Peter or my superiors.

It's just not important right now.






Everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day.

9:37 AM

Wednesday, March 17, 2004  
Reality Wednesday
The Constituent

A constituent attempts to vote. You know, exercise her democratic right as established in her nation's constitution...carry out her civic duty...perform her responsibility of freedom...

6:15 AM: The Constituent arrives at her polling place 25 minutes after the polls are to open.

6:17 AM: The Constituent is met by a guy sweeping the floor of the polling place. (the neighborhood field house in the park) "You here to vote?" he calls out to The Constituent.

"Yes!" she proudly and brightly replies, full of patriotic zeal and vigor.

"Thata way," he points to the left of the hall, across from the gymnasium.

"Thank you!" she proudly and brightly replies, full of patriotic zeal and vigor. She is faced with:

Challenge One
No hablo español.

Three rooms, three doors, three wards (or so she assumes, the signs proclaiming the precincts and wards are in Spanish (not the official language of the country in which she is voting)) Undaunted, still full of patriotic zeal and vigor, she pulls out her Voter Verification of Registration, she looks for the room containing Precinct 8, Ward 01, Congressional Zone 4. Her limited Spanish language skills help her deduce recinto means precinct, and sala might mean ward. She thinks it means room, but maybe room/sala loosely translates to ward. Or maybe she's wrong about it meaning room. But she's fairly certain del congreso must mean congress. In any case, she figures if she matches up the numbers she should be in the correct room. She locates 8, 01, 04 and enters.

6: 20 AM The polling "booths" are empty, no one is in line to sign in and collect a ballot. The Election Judges greet The Constituent. "Good morning! You're our first customer of the day!"

"Customer? I know (this town) has a 'history' with voting, but MY vote is not for sale, mister!" The Constituent good naturedly jokes.

Only one of the five election judges laughs. The rest remain silent, blankly staring at The Constituent. The one who does laugh, laughs so hard he chokes on his doughnut and coffee comes out his nose. The Constituent doesn't think it was that funny, but feels kind of bad she made coffee come out the guy's nose. She gives him and apologetic smile and proceeds to the sign in table.

She is asked her name.

Election Judge One cannot find her in his book. "Are you sure you're registered to vote?" he rather too condescendingly asks The Constituent.

"Yes, I am positive. Voter Registration Card Carrying Citizen!" The Constituent produces her Voter Verification of Registration card.

The Election Judges study it with awe. They are amazed. "No one keeps these! No one ever brings these with them!" they exclaim to The Constituent.

"Well (blush) since I've moved here I take my national rights and responsibilities very seriously." The Constituent explains, full of patriotic zeal and vigor. "I AM in the right room? Because I wasn't sure, couldn't quite read the sign on the door, just followed the numbers and assumed..."

No response except semi-blank stares from the election judges. Election judge one speaks again. "You're in the right place, according to your card, but we don't have you in our book."

"Sooooo, what does that mean?" The Constituent asks, a little afraid of the answer.

Election Judge Two has a bolt of inspiration. "Let me check to see if she's in MY book!" she takes the Voter Verification of Registration card, continually spelling out the last name of The Constituent. Out loud. Over and over. Until she breaks her spelling mantra with, "NOPE! Not in my book, either!"

The Constituent checks her watch.

6:32 AM Election Judge One leaves his post at the table to confer with someone in one of the other rooms about the "little problem" with The Constituent.

The election judge who choked on his doughnut and had coffee come out his nose engages The Constituent in conversation about the weather and voter turnout.

Challenge Two
You're From the Wrong Side of the Street

6:40 AM Election Judge One returns with a man. Or maybe The Man. He seems to be large and in charge. "May I see your registration card?" he barks at The Constituent as if she's a 19 year old with a fake ID trying to get into a 21 and over show. The Constituent meekly hands him her Verification of Registration card.

He studies it and then announces to the Election Judges (who are waiting with rapt anticipation, as if he were Moses) "She's one of the one's not in the books. Her side of the street got put in the wrong books." then, turning to The Constituent, "You live on the odd numbered side of the street." As if this explains everything. Why she's not in the books...why she will not be allowed to vote...why she can't meet and keep a decent man...why her hair curls to the left on humid days...

The Constituent, trying to understand how and why her odd numbered address has anything to do with her right to vote, says "What does that mean? 'I got put in the wrong books.'"

"It means you're going to have to go across the street, over to the senior housing, to vote. You got put in those books. Your whole side of the street is over there." The Man explains.

Still confused, still thinking she's missing a few pieces of the puzzle, it dawns on her, "But won't that be the wrong precinct and ward and potentially the wrong ballot? Or at the very least skew the voter turnout data?" The Constituent inquires, smelling an election scam rat and not wanting to have any part of it. Because she is full of patriotic zeal and vigor.

The Man doesn't like these questions. Or her. She can tell. By the look on his face. And his smarmy attitude when he tells her, "It's the same ballots over there. If you want to vote, that's where you have to go. Your vote will get counted and added to any data collected."

"But it won't be counted in my correct polling place. Voter turnout numbers at specific polling places are very important factors in key election and political issues. Politicians and city council members base important decisions on those numbers. It's a major number in the neighborhood demographic chart." The Constituent says, realizing much too late she sounds like Lisa Simpson when Lisa Simpson is being an annoying know it all.

Sighing heavily, The Man impatiently tells her, "You have to go to the Senior Center to vote. Your sign-in sheet and information got put in the wrong books. There wasn't time to change the books. It's across the street. You can go over there and vote, or not vote at all. There's
nothing we can do for you here."

Really bothered by The Man's tone, and that her vote, her precious vote, is being tampered with, The Constituent says, "I'll go over there, because I value my vote. But this needs to be corrected. I, nor any other voter, should be at all inconvenienced when placing our votes. My card says this is where I am to vote. You've got three rooms in this building, for different precincts or wards or whatever, I wouldn't know because the signs are in SPANISH, and yet I've got to go to the senior center two blocks away to vote? How many people do you think are honestly going to leave here, walk two blocks in the freezing snow and rain and vote? And just how did my side of the street get put into the wrong books in the first place? If I didn't know better, (dripping in sarcasm) I'd say something not quite right is going on here." The Constituent gives a squinty eyed stare to The Man. The Election Judges are gape mouth staring at The Constituent for the implication she has just hurled.

Doughnut choking coffee out of nose guy breaks the awkward silence. "Vote early, vote often!" followed by an uncomfortable laugh. No one else laughs.

The Constituent, embarrassed for the Election Judge trying to make nice, says to The Man, "Can I have your name, please?"

The Man gives her a challenging look.

"Do you have a business card, perhaps?" The Constituent persists.

The Man produces a business card and hands it to The Constituent. She wants to say: "How do I know this is you and not some random card you happen to have with you?" But instead takes the card and says, "Thank you." and huffs out of the polling place from whence she has been expelled.

Challenge Three
Find the Entrance to the Revised Polling Place

6:55 AM The Constituent leaves her polling place and walks two blocks, three, actually, to the senior housing center. There are three buildings. Fenced in with tall iron security fences. She cannot find evidence of a polling place. She walks around to the back of the furthest away building and sees a cardboard flag taped to the fence. Normally this would be seen as a faded patriotic decoration leftover from when the war began. Now The Constituent takes this as the last hope that maybe she's found a polling place. She jiggles the latch on the fence gate. It squeaks. She has to force the gate to open on its rusty hinges by throwing her shoulder into the gate. She casts a deadpan look into the camera. "Somehow I don't think this is the place...but then again, given this town's voting history, it doesn't surprise me that the entrance to this polling place would be the never used rear service entrance." Her patriotic zeal and vigor is waning.

7:00 AM The Constituent sees another recinto/sala/del congreso sign on the wall inside the senior housing center. Had she not walked up to the door and peered into the window, she would not have known this was a polling place, that it was even an entry into the senior center. The wind rustles branches of trees. A candy wrapper gets caught on the fence in the gust of wind, the sound of a train can be heard off in the distance. Tumbleweed blows by her. She steps out of its path and somewhat fearfully pulls open the door and steps inside.

She is greeted by That Smell. That Nursing Home Smell. "Oh, now, this is an added bonus to the voting process. So glad millions of people have died saving democracy and freedom and the right to vote for this!" she thinks to herself.

Punctuating that thought, she is greeted by an elderly woman in a wheelchair. She has what The Constituent knows to be a WWII era patriotic ribbon/badge pinned to her cardigan. "You here to vote?" the elderly woman whispers, holding up a skeletonlike hand. (think: Every Horror Movie About the Undead Coming to Life and Opening Their Casket to Feast Upon the Living)

The Constituent smiles, pulling herself out of her all I want to do is vote. Just cast my votes and go to work. That's all. Must I really be forced to endure the trauma, tragedy and neglect of our nation's elderly while I do so? reverie. "Yes, I am voting. They got my name in the wrong book, sent me over here from the Field House. In the park. The Man. Sent me. Here."

Lady in wheelchair, suddenly with a new strength in her voice, rasps, "They told us about you. They told us about your side of the street. We're ready for you." (I swear this is true, I swear I wanted to run screaming out of the building right there and then. sic)

"Oh, good, great, not a big bother, then?" The Constituent tries to pleasantly ask.

Lady in wheelchair raises her hand again and points down the hall, "You go down there. To the left."

"Thank you!" The Constituent exclaims as cheerfully as possible.

7:05 AM The Constituent enters the polling room. The Election Judges greet her. Very different crew than at the Field House.

"I've been sent over here from the Field House, The Man said my name got into your books, that I'm supposed to vote here." The Constituent explains.

From the other end of the table, the apparently oldest of this group of Election Judges says, "Ah yes, they told us about you. Got your side of the street in the wrong books." He stands up assisted by a cane.

"Oh, don't get up!" The Constituent exclaims, "Can I get something for you?"

"I'm fine sweetheart," mock pinching The Constituent with his free hand, and ambling down to assist election judge One with the book.

"What's your name, there sweetheart?" he says as he begins flipping through election judge One's ring binder of name signature cards.

The Constituent tells him, and hands him her Verification of Registration card.

"She brought her registration card!" Election Judge One exclaims to Election Judge Two. The two ladies a little too lovingly smile and look upon The Constituent. Who is getting ever more uncomfortable with this whole process. She is definitely less full of patriotic zeal and vigor than when she set out on her mission to vote.

"Yeah, doesn't everyone?" The Constituent asks rhetorically.

Except all five of the election judges resoundingly answer, "NO! No one ever has them!"

"Okay, then, The Constituent, we'll just need you to declare your party affiliation and sign here. Then give it to Judy here (election judge Two) who will verify your signature." election judge five explains.

Challenge Four
Party Affiliation

The Constituent is already checking the "non partisan" box and signing the form as he says this. She hands the form to Judy. Judy then studies the signature on the paper she has been handed. She then studies a similar signature in her book. Then the signature on the paper she has been handed. Then the book. Again. "Darn these tri-focals!" she finally says, exasperated, shaking her glasses and letting them dangle on their chain, landing on her ample bosom.

"Um, I think that's me, there," The Constituent points to her signature in Judy's book, which is a perfect match to the signature The Constituent has just signed.

"Ah. Yes." Judy says, holding her glasses like a magnifying glass over the signature card, further studying both signatures. "Okay. Gotcha." turning to election judge three, "she needs a non partisan ballot."

"Not participating? What color is that?" election judge three says to Judy.

"I don't know. Maybe it's the yellow one." Judy offers.

"no, no, that's the liberty ticket." election judge three emphatically scolds her. "Not participating..." he says, contemplating this option.

"Non partisan" The Constituent gently corrects him, eyeing the stack of white ballots with "NON PARTISAN" stamped on them. Right next to the yellow ballots with "LIBERTARIAN" stamped on them.

Election Judge Three continues to dwell on "not participating." "If you're not participating, I don't think you need a ballot." he finally announces. (Swear it's true. sic)

"I am participating, I want to vote. I am non part-i-SAN. I don't pledge allegiance to one party. I vote for the candidates, not the party affiliation. I think the white ballot" pointing to the white ballot stamped NON PARTISAN, "is the one I need to use." Feeling the burning desire of her patriot zeal and vigor returning.

The election judges all huddle around the stacks of ballots.

Election judge five suspiciously eyes The Constituent, "You don't vote Republican or Democrat?"

The Constituent, knowing darned well this question is a violation of her voting rights (because she's read up on her voting rights) and maybe even her civil rights, and probably human rights, too, but also knowing darned well she is the first person from outside the senior center to vote in this polling place, ever, and knowing darned well libertarian and non partisan ballots have never been cast in this polling place, and furthermore, trying to be patient and understanding because she's not getting any younger, she'll be elderly one day, too, she answers, "No, I prefer to back individual candidates." as cheerfully as possible, hoping this will be enough of an explanation to get her a ballot, into a voting booth and on her way to work. Because she is trying really hard to be full of patriotic zeal and vigor.

"You can try the white ballot. We can see what happens..." heretofore silent election judge four pipes in, voice trailing skeptically.

The Constituent takes the ballot and heads to a booth. She feels five sets of eyes upon her. And hears election judge three muttering, "if she's not participating she shouldn't get a ballot, she's not participating. Why does she need a ballot if she's not participating?"

7:15 AM The Constituent punches her ballot. She has done her homework on the candidates and knows exactly whom she will punch on her ballot. She does this deftly and quickly.

Challenge Five
The Ballot Box (Ballots and Dimples, and Chads Oh My!)

7:19 AM She walks out from behind her voting booth, rubbing the back of her ballot checking for anything not thoroughly punched. Election Judge Four springs into action. "Okay, let's give this a try. All we can do is try." he says, shaking his head and leading her to the ballot box.

"Now what you need to do is hold your ballot like this, (demonstrating proper ballot gripping technique) and feed it gently into the slot. You should feel it grab the ballot and suck it in. That's when you let go of it. If it accepts your ballot, if there are no dimples or chads, that's it, we're done, you've voted. If there's a problem, it will spit it back out at you and we'll need to start over."

No. Please. No. The Constituent thinks. She's done this several times, she's voted in every election since the 2000 election debacle in Florida, she's viewed and laughed at the on-line voting instructions, she knows the drill, she just wants to cast her votes and go to work. Trying to put on her most accommodating and gracious face, trying to be patient with the election judge, who, after all, is only trying to be helpful, and is doing his job.

All five of the election judges are watching, large eyes in rapt anticipation.

She feeds the ballot into the slot.

It gets sucked into the box (with a force even The Constituent didn't expect).

The election judges are holding their breath, waiting to see if the box rejects her non partisan (NOT PARTICIPATING) ballot.

Nothing happens. The machine remains silent. It has accepted The Constituent's ballot.

Election Judge Four is the first to speak.

"Well, looks like it worked! Thank you for voting!" and holds his hand out to The Constituent. He wants to shake her hand.

She triumphantly obliges, then she turns and smiles to the other judges. They look a surprised and dubious. They begin to make comments about the reliability of the ballot box "machine."

7:26 AM The Constituent, eager to be on her way, wishes the judges a good day, thanks them, and leaves the polling room. Not one other person has entered while she was there.

Out in the hall of the senior center, the wheelchair lady is sitting, poised and waiting at the door for other voters. This hits The Constituent emotionally. This woman is going spend her day sitting there waiting to greet probably a handful of voters. And this is probably the biggest, most exciting day of the year for her. What with all those additional odd street numbered voters being sent to vote here. The Constituent realizes her eyes are watering. She blinks back tears. She goes over to the wheelchair woman and thanks her and wishes her a good day. The wheelchair woman smiles and wishes the same to The Constituent. The Constituent says, "My aunt used to have one of those ribbons," pointing to wheelchair lady's WWII ribbon.

"Oh! Really?! I've had this since The War! One of the other ladies here has one, too!" wheelchair woman, coming to animated life, excitedly responds.

"They must have been popular." The Constituent responds.

"Oh yes. Back then people were much more patriotic. Most of us had men serving overseas." as if this explained everything about nationalism and patriotic duty.

A long conversation regarding The War, men in The War, women keeping the home fires burning, and national pride ensues.

7:47 AM The Constituent makes a polite good-bye, getting on her way to work.

On her way to the train, she passes her usual polling place. There is much buzz of activity around the Field House. Candidates have their henchmen out accosting voters as they enter the polling place. Busy people, obviously on their way to work, dashing in to vote and be on their way. None are leaving and heading toward the senior center.

At the show wrap-up, The Constituent sums up the experience. "I always vote. Always. I take it very seriously. So for me, the whole 'your side of the street got into the wrong book' thing really bothered me. This town is known far and wide for it's underhanded voting scams, and this just really stinks of a scam. I tried to check my polling place information online, to see if it had been updated. On election day, the links to "Where do I vote?" and "View your sample ballot" were dead. Now they are live, but my street is "not recognized." However there is a nice weather update and a live link to the MSNBC weather forecast site. Very helpful. Next time I need a weather update I'll remember to go straight to the Cook County Board of Elections website. Maybe MSNBC Weather has a link telling me where to vote. I sent an email to the Board of Elections, we'll see if I get a response. But, then, in the bigger picture, it made me step out of my comfort zone and into the senior housing center. I went in there concerned about my vote, and came out of there concerned about the people who live there."

9:34 AM

Tuesday, March 16, 2004  
Eat Fruit!

Okay then. My future is clear: Wo chi shuigito. In bed.

Who knew my future would hinge upon my eating fruit?

This is a new low (or something...) in my chinese fortune cookie history. Chinese language lessons? Maybe this is a roundabout way of telling me: You will learn a new language. Or maybe: You pathetic loser, we've run out of stupid introspective pith to tell you so we're just saying anything at all. Next time we'll tell you something like The cement is porous. Leave. Now. Go away. Don't come back here. There's nothing here for you. We've done all we can. Just. Leave.

I suspect this because I always get the "deep philosophical" fortunes in my fortune cookies.


Everyone else around the table gets useful, even exciting fortunes. One memorable evening, in a restaurant far, far away, I dined Chinese with five friends. We had just lamented how fortunes in fortune cookies had become lame and pithy, that the Chinese, rather than taking chances on liability law suits, had stopped doling out "real" fortunes. I was sort of glad to hear this because the deep, philosophical non-fortune fortune cookies had followed me my entire life. I have always been the one to get the fortune that, rather than making the rest of the table laugh or oooh and ahhh, causes a contemplative silence which leads to the divvying up of the bill and calling it a night. Yes. The buzz kill fortune cookie. The one that's not even funny with an "in bed" suffix. Always goes to me. So this new trend in fortunes was welcome news. Finally, I was on a level fortune cookie playing field. The buzz kill, "let's see what the damage is..." fortune could now fall upon anyone (or everyone) around the table.

After that conversation, however, the Chinese Gods of Fortunes and Irony smiled upon us, as if proving points to the table of jaded, cynical far too sarcastic miscreants. The following fortunes were revealed:

To a friend unemployed at the time: "Unexpected income arrives in three days.";

To a friend trying to get pregnant: "One who will change your life arrives in the coming months.";

To a friend just beginning to play the stock market: "An exclusive opportunity will soon be presented.";

To a friend dating a new guy who seemed promising: "Kind and noble acts will serve well in a new romance.";

To a friend constantly at odds with his boss: "Do not trust those in perceived business authority."

To me: "The wise one leads with confidence and follows with pride." What the...? That's not a fortune. That's not very wise. It's not even very philosophical. It's really more an obvious statement of fact. Zig Zigler could do better than that. And just who is the "wise one?" Is this a jab at my little problem with authority? It's not even that funny with the "in bed" suffix. Typical. So swutting typical. So swutting typical that it was ironically funny to my dinner companions. And then the contemplative silence fell over the table, and the bill was divvied up and we all went home.

One of the friends present that evening noted the fortunes. Thinking the fortunes, which landed so poignantly upon us, would provide a "fun" experiment in the probability and statistics of fortune cookies. (I still have the email, which is how I remember the fortunes)

The results? Well, while not staggering or surprising, are open for interpretation.

Unemployed friend got a little more money in his severance package than expected.

Turns out my friend was in fact pregnant. Suspected but confirmed a few hours after that exact meal when she became so violently ill her husband took her to the hospital with suspected food poisoning. "You're not poisoned, dear, you're pregnant," was the ER doctor's announcement.

Stock market friend made some money, (but then lost most of it post 9/11)

The friend with the promising new beau did indeed act kindly and nobly (as she is wont to do anyway) and married him.

Friend with the problem boss: Got a job at a different company, left his jerk of a boss far behind, the company, a dot com, folded about a year later.

Me, well, leading with as much confidence as possible and swallowing pride and following when necessary. As ever.

Draw your own conclusions.

The reigning best fortune I've ever received, still cello taped to my monitor: You are doomed (yikes!) to be happy in wedlock. Oh, swut! I'm doomed! Oh, wait. Okay. If I'm doomed to something, this is probably the best possible option.

Wo chi shuigito.

Penn and Teller have this to say about fortune cookies in How to Play with Your Food :
We never met anyone who believed in fortune cookies. That's astounding. Belief in the precognitive powers of an Asian pastry is really no wackier than belief in ESP, sublaxation, or astrology, but you just don't hear anyone preaching Scientific Cookie-ism.

Bad Cookie offers a fun service, you can send a cyber fortune to anyone with an email address.

Need party favors or business giveaway crap? Fortune Cookie Depot makes custom fortune cookies.

Going to San Francisco? Bored with the wharf? Got an hour to kill before the bars open? Watch fortune cookies being made! Mee Mee Bakery, 1328 Stockton Street, San Francisco. (415) 362-3204. Open 7 days a week.

Yes. I have taken this tour.

Guide says: Maybe not quite what we were expecting...but very enjoyable hour or so off the beaten San Francisco tourist route. Free samples.


1:41 PM

Monday, March 15, 2004  
And You Thought Target Was Boring
I'm generally pretty easy going about trends in kids' clothing. I don't think young children should be dressed up like little adults, meaning, Britney Spears or Sid Vicious. (I've seen both too many times too call it a fluke) But, you know, whatever. Not my kids, not my problem. Until they start turning tricks or stealing cars, which leads to drug problems, which may lead to re-hab, or not, either way, drug abuse is everyone's problem...

I digress.

If a seven year old (or younger) girl desperately wants to dress like Ms. Spears (or whomever is the current "it" girl among seven year olds) no real harm in that. Because if a seven year old (or younger) girl knows who Ms. Spears is and what Ms. Spears wears, it's too late. The child is already a goner. Might as well spare the arguments and buy her the slutty, erm, trendy clothes.

Which won't be difficult because they make 'em. Clothing companies cater to this sect of society.

The sect that allows children much too young to watch videos and read Teen People. Hey. At least they're reading, right?

I'm not a parent. I shouldn't say anything about this.

People tell me because I don't have children I am not entitled to opinions about children.

I do have nieces and a god-daughter. I am fairly in tune with this phenomenon.

Send a kid to school, particularly a girl, and sooner or later they're going to hear about and see these "role models" and see the fashions paraded by their peers. When I was young, in the small necks of the woods I resided, there were only a few such girls. Girls who knew about music and fashion. The rest of us were all more than a little afraid of them. We knew they were "fast." We innately knew our mothers (and fathers) would never approve. We stayed safely pin-tucked into our Polly Flinders dresses, ankle socks and patent Mary Janes, innocent of our sexuality, innocent of anyone's sexuality. I didn't mind, didn't really care. I don't think too many of the other girls did, either. We were too busy being little girls to notice anything other than a "wow, she dresses different" way, let alone worry, about our clothes.

Things are different now.

People blame the media. MTV. The schools. Society. The decline of morality. The FOX network. Anything, anyone other than themselves.

I don't know too many kids under the age of seven who earn an income high enough to allow them to purchase their own: Music, videos, clothes and books. And none have valid driving licenses. (yet - so far the government seems to have a good handle on keeping under seven year olds from that last bastion of adulthood: driving.) So someone is purchasing these items for the children, someone is making decisions for these children. Mum? Dad? Gran? Come on. Fess up and shut up. Children that young are easily led. Guess what? At that age, parents, you still have authority over your child. Your words, and more importantly, actions, have enormous impacts on the children. If you don't allow them to watch Britney or Christina or April, if you DON'T BUY PEOPLE OR TEEN PEOPLE OR US, the kids won't be influenced by them. Sure, there will be kids at school who do see those videos, those television shows, those magazines. And those children will influence the non-poptarted kids. But only in small ways. At that young age, children are still innocent and defiant enough to hold firm to what their parents tell them. (Over age seven, well, things change...)

And no, no, NO, I am not endorsing a Raffi culture of kinder, gentler children. Raffi sucks. No kid related to me in any way has been infected by that particular brand of pabulum. But somewhere between Raffi and Britney is a happy medium for young children. I realize for their own safety, kids need to be more "aware" than in the past (which is a sad reflection on society), but there is a balance in there. It begins by not sending mixed messages. Particularly to girls. Teaching them about "bad touching" is important. But then dressing them like small versions of slutty teen aged icons is bound to send them directly to a therapist's couch in about 15 years.

Parents are pushing this on their kids. Especially their daughters.

If no one bought these clothes, believe me, they wouldn't get made and marketed and sold.

We've all seen these young girls. Girls. Little girls. Little girls under the age of seven. Who a) shouldn't be even remotely aware of clothing "styles" and worse, brands, and b) should only be wanting to experiment with different ideas, dresses? jeans? pink? blue? not concepts of "do these make my bum look big" or "just like Britney wears in her new video!" Yet we see them. They have a trendier wardrobe than we adults do. They have fake pierced navel jewelry (not always fake, by the way) showing off between their croppy tops and low rise flares. They wear heels. Yes. Platforms, wedges and even honest heels I would be proud to wear. All these accoutrement are decorated with little girlish embellishments, an attempt to "tone them down" (meaning: sell to even the most conservative parent or grandparent). Pink flowers and cartoon characters seem to be popular "girlifying" treatments. Glitter and rhinestones and the occasional stud also make appearances.

I see these girls, with their mothers (often dressed similarly) and I sum up their future and life story. Tries first cigarette at age 11. Lets a 15 year old boy "cop a major feel" by age 13 (by now she's up to a pack a day), followed a few months later by her first weed. Learns the healing powers of Smirnoff at 14. Simultaneously becomes proficient at blow jobs. Fully loses her virginity by 15. Pregnant by 17. High school drop-out. Either finds herself at a party where some important record people are and freakishly becomes an international pop icon of the moment in the form of the latest Britney Spears or, for the rest of the 99.9%, move to a trailer park (single wide) on the wrong side of 8 Mile.

But maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe that only happened to those "fast" girls I knew when I was young.

And no, not every sweet little girl under the age of seven who is innocently unaware and apathetic to pop culture and fashion turns out to be a rocket scientist or brain surgeon or even a suburban housewife. (For instance, me)

But why push these girls? Why perpetuate the woman as sex object issue on an under seven year old child?

Did I not get the memo? When, in what Universe, did the terms "sexy" and "girls sizes 4-6X" join and become "okay?"

I've seen this. It scares me. Women shopping in the 4-6X or 7-14 children's departments will hold up a top or dress. A top or dress in a mini-size for a mini-person, otherwise known as a child. They'll scream and coo, "Isn't this adorable?! It's so cute!" What they are holding up to view is an article of clothing that, were it a few sizes larger, for an adult or at least teen-aged sized person, would be called sexy.

The day I'd seen it all: Thongs for 5 year old sized girls. And I'm not talking flip flop beach sandals.

Sadly, that's not what's sent me into this tizzy. No, something much more sinister than thong underwear for a child has got me up on my high horse of feminazi preaching about the dangers of objectifying women.

Hilary Duff.

I've had no opinion on Hilary Duff one way or the other, good or bad, pro or con.

Until now.

I saw something which repulsed me. Which either means I am officially old, or something, somewhere, has gone horribly wrong. The fabric of society is getting a bit threadbare.

And they shall be led by a child.
Move over Britney. You are yet a woman now. With a bona fide divorce to prove it to the remaining few who didn't want to let go of your "innocence." Good luck with that. Your Lolita Come Lately days are over. There's a new slut in teen town. And she's got a new game. She's packaged and hyped and marketed as a fresh, innocent, "nice" girl. A clever faux backlash at Britney and Christina aimed at parents: "Hilary's not Britney! She's a 'nice' girl! Her clothes aren't sexy, they're 'sassy!' She's safe! Really! She's no Britney!"

Funny, the first time I saw a photo of her I thought she was Britney.

So there I was in Target, a place I generally find to be so suburban bland at times I have a hard time allowing myself to purchase socks or t-shirts there, afraid of what it may be doing to my consuming and fashion psyches. Today socks and t-shirts, tomorrow skirts, or worse: Shoes. The Mossimo and Mizrahi lines are watered down, sanitized and suburbanized for their Target market. Which is okay. That's cool. They get more public awareness, maybe some of the Target shoppers will even adventure into their more upscale (and way more updesign) lines. It could be a win-win situation. The designers get notoriety, customers and a fan base, and the suburbs get a little better looking. So imagine my shock to round the corner and see slutty little girl clothes. I mean really slutty little girl clothes. In sizes 4 - 16. Meaning really, really young girls. My nieces, even my very petite niece, were wearing a girls' size four around the age of three.

What got me, pretty open minded about this sort of thing Trillian, so riled up and spouting? See for yourself.

Hilary Duff slutty kid top

You may be thinking, "hey, that's kind of cute, I'd like something like that to wear to the Yeah Yeah's concert next week." Me too. But if you're over the age of 12, you're out of luck.

This is made for little girls. Very little girls. Little girls sized 4-16. Who generally speaking do not wear bras. Yes. Those are fake rhinestone studded bra straps sluttily "peeking out" from under the tank top. The "innocent" pink tank top. If it's pink it's okay, right? That is apparently the Duff Stuff ethos.

I'm a grown woman, who indulges in somewhat slutty attire from time to time, and yet I spend Summers and nights out trying to keep my bra straps hidden, under wraps. (bra straps I need, bra straps holding up a bra which is holding up my grown up woman breasts) Oh sure, I know, sometimes a little peek or tease is a good thing. A little flirtatious. A little come on. I know this. Every woman knows this. We've all used the peeking out sexy bra strap maneuver at least once. Generally when we're on the prowl and looking for "something." Which, please, please, please don't tell me girls sized 4-16 are doing. Please don't tell me they're even aware of what sexual teasing and flirting is other than perhaps some vague notion of mummy and daddy being "playful."

I was bothered by this top, the fake black rhinestone bra straps. Sexy straps. Period. Black bras, with or without rhinestone studs say one thing and one thing only: Sex. Girls, you know what I mean. Guys, ask any woman what underwear makes her feel sexy. I guarantee you it's something black. So the fake bra straps, fake black rhinestoned bra straps, on a top designed for girls under the age of 12. Most of whom do not need a bra, let alone a sexy bra. Let alone the implication that they "need" a bra, a sexy bra, straps seductively peeking out from under their tank top.

Do you really want to see a four or five year old girl wearing this top?


Are you on a "special list" down at the police station?

Yes. I was bothered.

But then I saw The Skirt.

(or here bottom row, third from the left)

A micro mini denim skirt. Pleated, a la cheerleader style. Okay. Fine. Could be cute. Ish. The one I studied was a size 5, made for 5-6 year old girls. There is no way, no conceivable way, this skirt would cover a sized 5 girl's bottom when she walks. Even if she's a shorter size 5, this skirt will barely cover her cheeks.

But that's just the beginning, and what I consider to be the least of its problems.

The skirt comes with a toggle attached chain belt. (Think: dog lead.) Yeah. Kind of an edgy punked up look, could be cute with the top, the one grown-up girls would wear to a beer and grind concert. A chain belt with a "buckle" proclaiming "stuff" in pink script. Perhaps, were the toggle chain dog lead style belt not low slung and strategically placed to fall exactly over the wearer's pubis, her Stuff, I might not have been quite as outraged.

But it does and I am.

What child needs a low slung ornamental chain belt, which incidentally, will get caught on playground equipment, or whip up in her belly if she does any tumbling or running (you know, as under seven year old children are sometimes known to do...) much less one that takes the message directly to her pubis, much less one that directs the eye directly to the pubis and proclaims, like a directional beacon, STUFF? As in, "boys, this is where The Stuff is. Right here. Right under this sign which reads Stuff. Come on in. We've been expecting you."

Perhaps you've been spared the street slang and vernacular. Perhaps you've not seen the Jerry Springer show lately. I'll, sadly, enlighten you. Stuff, as in, "he wanted to get all up in my stuff" is slang for vulva.

So here, at Target, safe, homogenized, suburban cleansed Target, is a cheerleader style skirt, too short to cover any but the tiniest bum, with a chain belt dangling, sexually, over a girl's sexual region, directing the eye and calling attention to that region, and just in case there is any confusion, a large pink metal script charm spells it all out for anyone who sees the girl: Stuff. Here.

This skirt is designed for little girls. Pre-teen girls. Very pre-teen girls. An under seven year old's stuff should be such a non-issue that she is viewed as non sexual. Her Stuff should not be flaunted, advertised, sashayed and teased in front of anyone. Period.

What the swut were they thinking? I, better than anyone, know sex sells. But to an under seven year old girl? To her parents? Really?

Okay. You're right. I don't have children. I shouldn't say anything. I should come down off my feminazi horse and lighten up. Okay. I will. But don't ask me for help, for a donation, for tax dollars, when that weird guy who lives down the street invites her to spend time with him in his basement after school and she disappears. Or when she grows up to be confused, objectified, and completely swutted up over her identity and sexuality. When she lets men treat her like crap. When they get all up in her stuff and never call the next day. When she doesn't understand why men only seem to want sex from her and nothing else.

I strolled over to the boys department at Target. I wondered who was fronting a clothing line for young boys. Frankie Munoz with a Cody Banks line of cool gear? Nope. No one. Basic boy clothes. Nothing remotely sexual. Nothing remotely endorsed by anyone. Accident? Of course not. Boys, young boys, or their parents, are not marketed to in terms of clothing and sexual objectification. Not as pre-teen boys, and rarely as adults. And thus more perpetuation of some very, very dangerous, volatile stereotypes. And money.

The bigger issue I see represented in this blatant sexuality aimed at pre-teen girls? We have not come a long way, baby. It all comes down to enticing men with our sexuality. Glass ceiling? You bet there is. And it's not being chipped, much less shattered. Why?

Not for lack of role models, there are currently some very good ones out there.

Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series comes to mind. Smart, funny, clever, normal. Not dripping sexuality. Somehow I don't think Emma Watson is going to be asked to front a clothing line. A sexy children's clothing line. Which is of course a good thing.


What's the underlying message sent to young girls? Emma Watson, Hermione, gets to cleverly bail Harry and Ron out of problem after problem, doing her homework, studying, and aspiring to big things in her future. Hilary Duff, on the other hand, is so cool she's got her own line of clothing readily and affordably available at Target.

Key words: Readily available and affordable.

Easy and cheap.

Thanks Hilary. Womankind owes you one. A big one right up in your stuff.

10:57 AM

Sunday, March 14, 2004  
It's been a while since I've driven a road trip.

I have been itching to just drive. Away.

Those of you who have to drive, every day, probably don't get this. The want, need, desire to get into a car a just drive. I no longer own a car in the city. I publicly transport myself to work, take cabs, walk. When I need a car, or have that urge for a weekend road trip, I rent one.

I've had the urge for a while. I've been formulating plans.

But what I've just endured was not exactly what I had in mind.

I am not going to write about the events or emotions of what I've just been through. There are not words adequate or appropriate. Feckless.

A very, very dear friend's parents were killed in a terrible car accident. From there you can connect the dots and fill in the blanks.

Of course, I dropped everything, rented a car, got out of work as soon as I could Thursday and drove what turned out to be 8 hours to be at the at the memorial service, to "help" any way I could. Mainly, I just had to be with her.

I mean this sincerely. I hope you never get a call from someone you care about deeply, a close friend or relative, who is suffering so greatly that they are not able to speak. And when they do speak they're so overcome with emotion that they choke out words between sobs, or worse, speak from that distant, remote place which makes voices hollow and unrecognizable.

I speak with Frankie a few times a week, we've known each other for years. We've been through a lot together. A lot. The day Frankie and Benjy (her husband) packed up and moved hundreds of miles away was one of the saddest I've had to endure. Happy as I am for their wonderful new jobs, home and life, there is a huge empty place in my life where they used to be. Months after their departure I still forget and dial their old phone number. Yes. Even though I have their new number on speed dial.

I digress.

For me to not recognize Frankie's voice is something I never would have thought possible.

I nearly hung up, thinking it was Stalker Boy or a wrong number or I don't know what.

Then she sobbed out, "TRILLIAN!! It's - it's - this is - it's - FRA - FRANK - FRANKIE!"

I mention this because a lot of me is still frozen back at that exact moment. The moment before I heard The Horrible Thing. The moment before I knew my dear friend was suffering a horrible shock and trauma that will stay with her the rest of her life. The moment before I would be at a complete loss as to what to say or do or think or feel for my friend. Feckless.

And, sadly, that is one of the ways how you know you have a good friend: You feel their pain.

I felt that kick in the stomach, wind knocked out of you, heart pounding so fast you think you're having a heart attack, room spinning out of control, can't breathe feeling. I'm usually quite empathetic anyway, but this was different. This was/is the kind of empathy you have for a few people in your life. The kind of empathy that seems like The Horrible Thing has happened to you personally.

I am feeling her pain. She's suffering, I know, much more than I am, I don't mean to imply I know, can possibly understand, what she's going through.


Through her, because I know her so well, I think I have a pretty good idea.

I knew Frankie is a good friend. I knew that. And no, I've never taken her for granted.

But unfortunately I learned in a terrible way what a huge place she has in my heart. I learned exactly how much I love her.

After the initial call, I went on auto pilot. Making plans to Get There. Flights were far too cost prohibitive. Bereavement fares are only extended to immediate family. (Feckless) (Which is totally wrong, just unfair and wrong, because sometimes the person you need most in these situations is someone not in your immediate family.) Train? Nope - closest station is an hour from her parents' town, and takes too long anyway. (Feckless) Gotta rent a car. Done. Gotta pack. (see yesterday) Gotta take care of a few pressing issues at work. Then GO!

During all of this I was in contact with Benjy and when she felt like it or needed it, Frankie.

My funny, strong, intelligent, caustically sarcastic, sometimes bitchy, never at a loss for very effective words, always very pragmatic, always able to deal with what life throws her friend was none of those things.

I understand.

But it hurts me to see her hurting. To be unable to find one trace of her. Anywhere. Not one glimmer or spark to hint that she's still in there somewhere.

I left work early, picked up the car and got on the road. For the first few hours of the trip I was in another emotional place. Sort of Road Trip! mode. A new-ish car, just me and radio, rolling down the highway headed for parts unknown. I didn't allow myself to think of the reality of my destination. Oh, I knew where I was going, what was waiting for me at the end of my journey, but I concentrated on driving. Except for a stop for petrol and turns, I think I had both hands gripped at 10:00 and 2:00 on the steering wheel the entire trip. In my haste to pack, I neglected to toss in a few CDs. I played the radio at first, but when I couldn't find anything I wanted to hear, I turned it off. When I pulled into the hotel parking lot nearly 8 hours later I realized I had never turned it on again. I drove 8 hours, stopping only once, gripping the steering wheel, thinking of nothing other than driving, in complete silence.

I realized this only when I got out of the car. It seemed really noisy outside. "Outside," in the parking lot of a small hotel, under a jet black sky, in a small town, at 11:00 at night, when everyone else within 50 miles is asleep or watching the news getting ready for bed. That seemed noisy. My rental car had become my little rolling chamber of silence. In there I was incubated from the world. (Feckless) My cell phone was frequently "out of service area" (Feckless). As I got closer, I was able to reach Benjy, we talked briefly. Other than that, not one word, one song, noise...anything happened in the car.

The "noise" of the parking lot was an alarm clock. "Time to face reality!"

I checked into the hotel where Benjy had reserved me a room. Frankie and Benjy arrived minutes later.

This is where I stop the narrative.

I just can't, shouldn't and don't want to write about it.

Maybe someday. Maybe if/when I can establish a more clear perspective. When I am able to distance myself long enough to understand even a small piece of it, if I have anything valuable to share with the Universe.

This time around I can't observe and report. Feckless.

Someone I care about greatly, love, is hurting because of a horrible, senseless, stupid thing that never should have happened to her parents.

Her parents who both had a lot of life left in them, a lot of things they wanted to do.

I left Frankie and Benjy Saturday morning. Tearful good-byes. Promises to visit soon. Cell phone synchronization. Benjy now, oddly, taking on a slight air of Man of the Family, making sure I had the best, safest route to follow, marking the safe places to stop on my MapQuest printout. I swear he would have slipped me a 20 for petrol if I had stayed a minute longer.

I snigger at that now, even then I was aware of bittersweet humor of it, but I also find it comforting.

Frankie's in good hands

I got into my rolling chamber of silence and back onto the road. This time very aware of the silence. I had been craving it. Me and the road and my silent incubator, viewing the world through windows and muffled silence. For me it seemed the perfect buffer between what I'd just been a part of and the regular world.

And it was.

It was the perfect place to decompress. To mull it all over. To wonder. To hope. To let everything that was starting to sink in take root.

I have always been 50/50 on the purpose of memorial services. The person's dead, for crying out loud, if you didn't say it before they died, well, it's kind of too late now, isn't it?! Feckless!!! I know, I know, they're more for those left behind, and a tribute to the deceased. I respect that.

And I do have a better understanding of that now. I've never fully grasped that side of it, I've always been too close or too removed to understand the subtle things these services "do" for the bereaved.

Having gone through this with Frankie, both with her empathetically, and removed because they're not my parents and my job was to be there for her, I get it. In this case, the memorial was necessary. Real, almost tangible emotional things happened before, during and after the service.

Those words, concepts, I hate so much: Closure. Healing. Usually I find them to be feckless, hollow, overused, inappropriate words for complicated emotional processes. And I still stand by that opinion.


Things happened. Things are happening. Things that would happen a lot more slowly and convoluted had there not been a memorial service.

Before I left, I think I saw a brief spark of Frankie. I'm not certain, but I think I saw a slight roll of her eye when Benjy laid out my MapQuest printout on the hood of the car and pulled his dorky combo pen/highlighter from his pocket.

I rolled along in contemplative silence for about four hours.

I stopped at one of the exits Benjy had highlighted as safe. I put in petrol. Across the street was a McDonalds. I hate McDonalds. I never, ever go there.

Except when they have a sign out front that says, "Shamrock Shakes R Here."

Oh yeah.

Come to mama.

I drove through. I regretted that. The act of rolling down the window cracked a seal in my incubator of contemplative silence. The crackly "Welcome to McDonalds May I Take Your Order" invaded my acoustically pristine chamber. Further tainted it with the "Is That All Today? Would You Like Fries With That?" (no) I got my Shamrock Shake, auto rolled up the window as fast and tightly as I could, as if there were an attacker mere feet away heading for me through the open window.

I motored on my way, safe in my rental anonymity. In my silent world, no one would ever know it was me, Trillian, at a McDonalds.

Back on the highway, driving along, trying to remove the McDonalds auditory taint, I leisurely enjoyed my Shamrock Shake (Swut they're good, every year it pains me to admit it, but swut they're good) I contemplated Shamrock Shakes. McDonalds. Mrs. Kroc who just died. I wondered if she had a daughter. If she nagged her daughter. If her daughter is beyond consolation because her mother won't nag her anymore. I wondered if Mrs. Kroc and Frankie's mother would get along.

And then it came to me. Almost like a vision. Except I heard it. What is it when it's a vision but you hear something instead of see something? An auditory experience? There must be a word for it. The natural counterpart would be "sound" but "I had a sound" doesn't sound right, doesn't imply the same thing as "I had a vision." Yes. Very contemplative times in that car. Back to my auditory experience. My "sound".

One word burned in my auditory psyche: Feckless.

Everything about this whole swutting thing is feckless. How do I feel? Feckless. How does Frankie feel? Feckless. What are my efforts to comfort her? Feckless. The point of The Horrible Thing? None. It's feckless.


A word don't often use, certainly not something in my regular vernacular.

Until now.

Now it seems the perfect succinct summarization for all of it. The whole lot. The Horrible Thing and beyond.

My promotion that isn't: Totally feckless. My broken tooth, pneumonia and insurance coverage accidentally not deducted from my paycheck: Feckless. My payroll, benefits and HR managers and New Boss: Feckless, feckless, feckless and very feckless. HWNMNBS: Well. Yeah. There's a feckless situation if ever I saw one.

Putting The Perfect Word on it satisfied some small need I didn't know I'd been craving. I don't have that need some people have to put a label on everything. It's that this word, spoken so assuredly, so loudly from my psyche describes a lot in my life right now.

And then I wanted to hear music.

I turned on the radio. I hit scan. I played name that tune. (You have to name the title and artist of the song before the radio scans to the next station.) I found a "classic rock" station that actually played rock and not just a bunch of crappy songs from 1973. I yelled along to an AC/DC rock block. I held up an imaginary lighter during the chorus of All the Young Dudes. I said, to no one in particular, "And that is why Eddie Van Halen is the greatest rock guitarist who will ever live!" punctuating the air with my fist like a stoner mullethead. Which scared me, so I scanned onto another station. I found a "hits of the 80s, 90s and today" station. I got there just in time for an 80s super set. "Super" in this case might be a slight exaggeration. I tuned down to the the Public Radio area of the radio. Ahhhh. NPR. "hey!" again to no one in particular, "Mrs. Kroc left NPR a load of money in her will." I toasted what was left of my Shamrock Shake to the radio. Feels like home. For a while. Then I got bored and found a decent low watt college station. Woo hoo! I love good low watt college radio stations! But of course they don't last long when you're just passing through their limited antennae reach.

I was nearing one of the exits Benjy had highlighted as safe. I had plenty of fuel, but was out of Shamrock Shake.

Dare I?

Okay. If there's a McDonalds at the Safe Exit, you exit. But you only get another Shamrock Shake if they have a sign out front proclaiming they have Shamrock Shakes. Because this time you're going in. You're not violating your auditory chamber again. And you want to be certain they have the swutting things. And it will also be a sign that you should allow yourself the sin of another Shamrock Shake.

McDonalds at exit? Check.

Sign out front proclaiming they have Shamrock Shakes? Check.

Right then. This. Means. Something.

It means I am going to park the car, stretch my legs, go inside, use the ladies' room, meekly order a Shamrock Shake and get the swut out of there before someone sees me. One could argue, based on the fat and caloric intake that exit caused me, that it is definitely not a safe exit.

Back in the car and out on the highway, I put the radio on scan for a while, played name that tune. Made it flawlessly to the double point bonus round. Won the undisputed champion title.

Then I slowed things down a bit on one of those "light FM" stations. The ones I never listen to. Not because I don't like them, per se, but because when I want to hear "light FM" style songs I will listen to the "light FM" style songs I like from my own collection. With the exception of Natalie Merchant, of whom it was officially decreed that I find her voice among the top five most irritating ever, I liked and sang along with every song. And that is how I drove back into town and back to life as I know it. Singing light FM songs. Two spent McDonalds shake cups on the floor of the passenger side of a rental car.



7:28 AM

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