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:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<





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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
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or Search by State

Find State Officials
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or Search by State

Contact The Media
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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.)

Quasar
Hyperbole
Amenable
Taciturn
Ennui
Prophetic
Tawdry
Hubris
Ethereal
Syzygy
Umbrageous
Twerp
Sluice
Omnipotent
Sanctuary
Malevolent
Maelstrom
Luddite
Subterfuge
Akimbo
Hoosegow
Dodecahedron
Visceral
Soupçon
Truculent
Vitriol
Mercurial
Kerfuffle
Sangfroid




























 







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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

Slanglish

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?!)

CellStories

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.

Shag

Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto

Jotto




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.


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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
Single/Zero

 
Thursday, January 25, 2007  
It is a small world, after all…

I’ll just jump right into this.

If you are trying out online dating, good for you. It can work. Don’t use my abysmal results as proof that it doesn’t work.

hint of the week

Over the past few years I’ve given out some tips and techniques culled from my experiences and observations.

When I first began this adventure one of my concerns was that someone I know in real life would see my profile. I wasn’t concerned about good friends or some family members because I told them I was going to do this. Some of them even helped me choose men to contact. But. I was concerned about coworkers, colleagues and clients stumbling across my profile. Not that I have anything to hide from these people, not that I would advertise deviant sexual kinks or questionable hobbies on a dating profile anyway, but, you know, I mean, I have to work with these people. I don’t have a lot, but, I do have a pretty good and credible reputation among colleagues and clients. I work hard to keep that reputation untarnished. I am professional and reliable and I want to appear professional and reliable. It matters to me and to the people who hand over large sums of money to me and my company to provide work and services for them. I do not want so much as one raised eyebrow when my name is mentioned in board rooms or offices of clients and colleagues. “Dude, you should see her online profile! There’s a photo of her doing Jel-Lo shots and getting freaky in a hot tub and she says she’s a naughty girl who needs to be disciplined!” If you don’t think it matters who knows that sort of thing about you, guess again.

Right. So. I’ve been careful with my profiles and about whom I contact. I don’t post suggestive or weird photos of myself. And it’s not as if I’m a wild freak with bizarre and perhaps illegal fetishes or kinks anyway. Well. There is that one thing. But. I don’t spring that on men until we’re in an established relationship. So really, no worries.

But.

Still.

Running through the back of my mind is: This is online. On Al Gore’s internet. The worldwide web. Anyone could see this. Anyone. Even my parents. So. You know. There is an ever present element of danger, the fear of “getting caught.”

I try to think of it like I think of resumes: Some pertinent details, a few words which will hopefully separate me from the others and offer insight into my personality and a few basics about what I’m looking for in a job. I mean man.

Long enough to cover the topic, short enough to keep it interesting, as they say in composition 101.

But.

Still.

There is a risk, a very good chance, rather, that someone I know will see my profile. I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to have my parents or the head of my company read my profile. I live my life and don’t lose sleep over the fact that it’s reasonable to assume someone I know has seen my profile.

But.

Still.

The thing is, I don’t expect, or want, someone I know in real life to contact me via an online dating site. Well, I mean, maybe it would be okay if they were just saying hi and giving me a high five or advice on my profile.

But.

Not okay to have them contact me in that “special” way. Especially when they are the barely legal son of a coworker. Or the creepy guy in the IT department. Or a friend’s brother-in-law.

Those are real-life examples. By the way.

The last one, well, that’s a special case. There are exceptions to be made. We’ll get back to that one later.

creep week

The first two, however, are inexcusable. I have been struggling with the first situation for over a month. This has been very difficult for me on a lot of levels. This is a kid, a college freshman, the son of a woman I’ve worked with for several years. I first met him at a company family picnic. He and his sister and his mother and I were paired up as a team for one of the fun events. He was just starting to get into music and I gave him a few suggestions for bands he might like. After that picnic whenever he came to the office with his mother she would bring him to my office to say hello. We’d talk about bands and concerts and his ever changing career choices. All very innocent.

Until last month when he “winked” at me via an online dating site. I normally delete “winks” and emails from 18-year-old boys without a second thought or musing. (If you haven’t tried online dating you may not realize how many young men and women have some serious mommy/daddy issues and “go after” much older dating prospects. It’s staggering to me how many 18 – 20 year-old boys truly want to hook up with a much older woman to gain “experience.” I’ve heard men say the same thing about young girls, although many of the girls are also looking for money to go with the experience. Lucky for me I’m a woman and all young boys want is sex and alcohol.) As I went to hit delete something about the photo attached to the wink caught my eye. He looked familiar. I chuckled over the coincidence of this kid looking so much like the young man whose mother works down the hall from me. I momentarily mused about how sick/funny it would be if someone’s young son contacted me on a dating site. (Insert Psycho shower seen sound bite here.) Okay. Yes. I did it. I was the one who was curious and looked at a young boy’s profile. That is my fault. But he started it. He “winked” at me. I never, ever would have known about his thing for older women if he hadn’t winked at me. But he did. And I looked. And yes. It is the young boy whose mother works down the hall from me. The kid from the company picnic. This Ladlita has an extensive profile and many, many photos. Many photos I think would embarrass his mother. And if the photos don’t embarrass her, the profile certainly will. Or. Well. I would be embarrassed if it were my 18-year-old son. Maybe I’m uptight and Amish.

But. Somehow I don’t think most mothers are really open minded enough to think it’s totally cool that their 18-year-old son is trolling online dating sites looking for “older, uninhibited, experienced women for discreet, passionate and animalistic encounters with a well endowed young stud who can go for hours at a time without Viagra.” He claims he likes older women because they know what they like and are not getting what they want from men their age. He feels he can fill a void in our lonely love starved lives. Oh. And. Go to concerts, travel and enjoy fine wines. Apparently at the ripe age of 18 he’s developed a palate for bold Cabernets and zesty Chardonnays. And indie heavy metal. And yearns to see the world. Oh yes. He’s quite the renaissance man.

Obviously he recognized me when he “winked” at me. Why would he do that? Why would he a) want to “come out” to a woman he knows, and b) want to risk having a woman show his mother his profile? Well, because, that “wink at this member” button is just so gosh darned easy to push. You’ve got loads of profiles spread out in front of you and with the simple flick of the finger you can let these people know you’re interested and send them your profile, your resume, and introduce yourself to them. It’s just too easy sometimes. And this is one of those times. Maybe he thought it would be funny. Maybe he thought I’d think it was funny. Maybe this is a cry for help and deep down he’s hoping I’ll show his mother.

And maybe he has been harboring a crush on me for a few years. I certainly didn’t see any signs of this, but I wasn’t exactly looking, either. As far as I knew he was just a regular kid whose mother works with me.

Any of that is possible.

None of it matters.

He’s put me in the position of learning things about someone I know. Things I didn’t need to know or want to learn. About a boy. A boy whose mother works down the hall from me.

Ewwwwwwwww. Ick. Scream like little girl.

True enough, I did ask for this by posting my profile on a dating site. If I can’t stand the heat I never should have ventured into the kitchen.

However. This kid, disturbing and troubling as it is, is nowhere near as bad as having a coworker contact you via a dating site.

Yep. A guy from work contacted me via an online dating site.

What. Was. He. Thinking?

That after all the years we’ve worked together I’ve been lusting after him but didn’t know how to approach him? That I’ve been coming up with ways to make my computers malfunction just so I could have him come to my office? That I’ve been waiting for him to make his move and now, finally, this is it?

If you’re a guy and you’re sitting there thinking, “Way to go, dude!” you need more help than I can give you. Trust me on this one. Even, even if a woman is interested in a coworker, the last thing she wants is for him to contact her via her online dating profile. Yes, I’m sure there are exceptions, but for the most part, credible, professional, sane, respectable women a) do not want to date men at work, and b) do not want men they know in real life to contact them via a dating site. If you like us in real life, don’t hide behind a keyboard and the internet to let us know. If you wouldn’t let us know in person that you like us then there is no logical reason why it’s okay to tell us online. If you've been playing cat and mouse or just doing a little flirting in real life, taking it online to a dating site is a huge step backward, not forward. The whole point of dating sites is to meet people and eventually meet face to face. Dating sites are just a way to broaden social horizons - the end result is still a face to face date and hopefully a connection that leads to time spent together and ultimately decrease the lonely and isolated hours formerly spent, well, alone and isolated. If you're already flirting with someone face to face why take a backwards step and put cyber barriers between you? This makes no sense whatsoever. (This goes for all relationships - I for one am getting really weary of email and voice mail. Cyber barriers are causing a lot of loneliness and isolation. Yes. We're all busy. Yes. Email and voice mail do help communication efforts, especially at work or in families and friendships where people are scattered across the world. But. If you're friends or potential romantic friends, the point is to spend quality time together building long term closeness and bonds to help alleviate some of the loneliness in life. There's a guy I "met" online who's been emailing me for almost a year. He lives one mile from me and works two blocks from me. We've yet to meet in person. I completely lost interest after six weeks. I like him, I think, he seems nice, professional, intelligent, all those things, but if he's so busy or not interested enough to find time to meet for lunch or a drink after work, clearly he's either a liar, married, not interested in me, or literally does not have time in his life for a relationship. In his case I honestly believe his job demands and consumes almost all of his waking hours. He writes me emails when he's on airplanes or in foreign hotel rooms or unable to sleep at 3 AM. I feel for the pressure in this guy's life, but until he is able (or wants) to make time for personal relationships I'm not interested. Point is: Email is okay, but it's no substitute for the real thing. Too much email and not enough face to face time cause suspicions and disinterest and isolation and loneliness. Don't hide behind it.)

Right. So. You see a woman you already know in person on an online dating site. And you contact her via that site. Huge step backward, dude, and thanks for putting the woman in a very difficult position. Yes. Think this all the way through. By contacting us online you put us in several very awkward positions.

Scene 1: We actually really like you in real life. We’ve been wondering how to make a move and wondering if you will ever make a move. Trust me. If this is the scene, you probably have some hint that she likes you. And you’ve probably dropped a few hints that you like her. Keep the flirting in real life and in real time. I do not recommend office romances, but if Cupid’s hanging around your office, just keep cool, don’t annoy other coworkers and set up a date for one night after work. Do this in person. Not via an online dating site. If we like you and you contact us online, you’ve put us in the awkward position of having to make the first, yes, first move – either reply to you online or bite the bullet and do it at work. You are being a coward and forcing us to respond. Why not be a man and decent human being and confront your hopes and feelings face to face? Don’t risk anger or resentment becoming factors in your workplace and perhaps dating situation.

Scene 2: We don’t “like” you and you know it. We never send any signals whatsoever and in fact go out of our way to avoid you. Sending an online message or “wink” to us will not sway our opinion of you. If we don’t “like” you “that” way there are probably good reasons why. Or we’re simply not interested in you. Or we refuse to be interested in anyone at work. Whatever the reason, if you have never had any real life signals or hints that we’re interested in you, taking it online is not going to spare you any embarrassment or pain of rejection. It’s only going reinforce our lack of affection toward you and worse, it’s going to make us feel gross/weird/embarrassed/creeped out to learn that a coworker is not only watching us online, but thinks we want to go out with him. Why put us in that awkward situation? If you like us so much, respect our feelings and leave us alone. Continue to worship us silently from afar, or, better yet, keep scrolling through those profiles until you find a woman who might really like you, too. A woman who doesn’t work with you.

Here’s the thing. By contacting us on online dating sites, no matter the situation in real life, you force us into the position of acknowledging you. If we ignore your contact we’re being rude and callous. If we send you a “thanks but no thanks” response we’re rejecting you. If we respond because deep down we like you we’re forced to confront the issue, maybe before we were ready to do that with you. Any every case, you force us into the position of acknowledging your desire to know us on a level other than work. This is not usually a comfortable thing to know about a coworker. And by forcing us to respond or ignore you, you are manipulating the situation and making a power play. Every time we see you there’s going to be that, “I know she knows I know” thing between you. There’s no going back to wondering what if. It’s all going to be obvious and in most cases I’m guessing it’s going to be obviously painful and awkward. Don’t do this to a coworker. Respect them and your company. And speaking of your company, no matter what the situation, check the policy on interoffice dating before you make any kind of move.

Fortunately I don’t have to come in contact with my coworker online lothario very often. I might see him in the hall once a week at most. After a few days of ducking and dodging and avoiding common areas, I finally grew up and dealt with the situation. I confronted him. Yes. In person. I printed the email he sent me and went to his office. I put on the best, sweetest, most mature and understanding demeanor I could summon and told him: Hooo boy, this is awkward. You put me in an uncomfortable situation, here buddy. Thank you, but, sorry, I’m not interested in you. I hope this won’t affect our working relationship.

I think we’re cool. I think it’s okay. I don’t think he was really that interested in me anyway. I’ve certainly never seen any signs of it until the online contact. I think maybe it was just a late night musing and he hit that “contact this member” button a little more swiftly than he normally would have and got caught up in the moment of a lonely, bored night looking at dating profiles.

But that doesn’t let him off the hook. There will always be that thing between us. I resent him for forcing me into that position and I’m sure he regrets sending the email. We’ll get over the feelings but the weirdness of the aftermath will always be there.

Okay.

Now.

Here’s a slightly different twist to this issue. I have a friend. Several, in fact. But I have a friend who has been trying to set me up with all kinds of men for a lot of years. She’s well intentioned and some of the guys have been really terrific. But they weren’t interested in me. She got married a few years ago. I went to her wedding. La la la, what fun to be the only single woman at a small wedding with a bunch of couples in attendance. Her groom’s brother was at the wedding, with his wife and young children. The night before the wedding some of us gals took my friend out for a drink. The groom’s brother’s wife came along with us. No one except my friend knew this woman. She proceeded to get very, very, very, very drunk and loudly aired some pretty dirty family laundry about my friend’s soon-to-be in-laws. The next day, at the wedding, the groom’s brother and his very hungover wife showed up at the wedding. 15 minutes into the reception the groom’s brother had to take his hungover wife to their room because she was very ill. He returned to the reception. He and I were now the only unaccompanied guests. We ended up talking and had some laughs and danced a couple of dances. He went back to his room to his wife, I went to my room alone, and we never saw, spoke to or emailed each other again.

Fast forward to now. My friend and her husband are still very happily married and are expecting their second child. The groom’s brother, on the other hand, divorced his loud drunk wife shortly after my friends’ wedding. He’s been single for a while and trying to “get back out there.”

My friend suggested that he try online dating. He wasn’t convinced this was the right thing for him. She said, “There are some nice normal people on there. My friend Trillian, you remember Trillian, from our wedding? She’s been trying online dating for a while. Look! Here’s her profile! See? It’s not scary at all!” So she helped him get a profile together and yadda yadda yadda he contacted me.

He asked my friend to not say anything to me about this, just see if I responded to him and go from there.

He didn’t let on that he knew me in his opening email. But I liked what he said, short, succinct, mentioned a few things about my profile that he liked, a little bit about himself and that was that. I looked at his profile and thought he looked really familiar but couldn’t place him. I responded with an email, he wrote back and then my friend called me and broke the news and jogged my memory about the at the time married man I met at her wedding. She “came clean” about the whole prodding to get him to try online dating. I was a little miffed at first. I’m not sure why but something about the whole thing bugged me a little. Nothing drastic, nothing I could articulate, so no big deal.

He’s a great guy, intelligent, professional, funny, kind, charming, compassionate, the whole deal. And he likes me.

The problem? Because you know there’s always a problem.

We live 6,000 miles apart.

Complete. Total. Nonstarter. He has children and cannot/does not want to be away from them.

I am unwilling to enter into anything which could turn into a long distance relationship. Period. Been there. Done that. Never again.

And that’s what was bugging me about this. It was a total nonstarter from the get go. My friend knew this. He knew this. They know me. She knows me. She knows what I’ve been through and she knows this is not what I need in my life. Yet she encouraged him to try online dating and he went along with it and used me to test the water. And I don’t mean “use” in the malicious sense, but, if it had all been light and carefree they both would have come right out and said, “Trill, brother-in-law here is thinking about trying online dating. You do it, maybe you could talk to him about the pros and cons and help him get set up with a profile.” Instead there was a surprise sneak attack. “Let’s see if she remembers me” kind of thing. Not a big deal, right? Right. It’s not a big deal at all. And after all, I did respond to his email knowing full well he lives waaaaaaay too far away from me.

But. Having now been put in this situation, in hindsight I can advise that it’s better to just be upfront about it from the get-go. I’m not harboring resentment toward either of them, but, I do feel a little like I was ambushed.

So if you’re in a similar situation, rather than ambush someone you already know on an online dating site, drop them an email and say something like, “I heard from our friend that you have been trying online dating. I’m thinking about trying it, too. What sites do you recommend? Would you preview my profile and give me some feedback on it? Do you mind if I look at your profile? Our friend said it’s really good and I’d like to learn from it.”

The way my friends opted to approach this situation very nearly put him in Creep of the Week territory. Had they been honest about it from the start I wouldn't feel "not quite right" and a little deceived by both of them. See how a little honesty can keep a person well out of that Creep of the Week danger zone?

3:16 PM

Tuesday, January 23, 2007  
Words are cool. Communication. It rocks.

It's incredible how letters and words strung together can convey universally understood messages.

They can completely change the course of history. Four score and seven years ago...

A few words put together can invoke great joy and elation. I love you.

Or they can heal deep wounds. I'm sorry.

Or they can launch great dreams. Do what you love, the money will follow.

Or bring a smile. A horse walks into a bar...

Or change lives. Congratulations, you're hired.

Or they can set off a lifetime of therapy. You're ugly.

Or they can kill a soul. I hate you.

Or they can strike fear in the hearts of mankind. The building's going condo.

Yep. There are words which are scarier, sure, words like: this is war, George Bush, fire, we're going to crash. Those are scary words.

But. To the normal Joe or Jane living in a city where affordable apartments are growing more scarce every month, few words strike fear deeper in their hearts. The building's going condo means: Cough up a lot of money to buy a condo which is currently an apartment occupied by one of your neighbors, yes, even the creepy smelly guy in 719, or move.

My building management is being "nice" about this process. We've all been offered "generous" buy-in prices. We've been given three weeks to decide if we want to buy our current apartment or another apartment which may become available after the generous buy-in offer ends. The second option comes with some risk, of course, because if we don't want to buy our current apartment but want to get in on the generous buy-in offer we have to commit to plunking down money for an apartment, erm, condo without knowing where it is or its condition. We could end up in 719 with a suspiciously loose tile in the bathroom and an odd odor permeating the whole apartment.

If we choose to opt out of the generous buy-in offer (or can't afford it) we have a generous leasing option to stay in our apartments through one year after the end of our current lease cycle. Most of us have April 1 leases, so most of us have ~14 months to find another place to live if we decide to opt out of the generous buy-in offer. Or if we can't afford or qualify for a mortgage high enough to rub shoulders with the new Trump Tower. Believe me, if I could afford the price of the "generous" buy-in offer I a) would already own a home and b) certainly wouldn't buy an apartment in that building. For the same price there are much nicer, larger and newer condos readily available throughout the city.

I have befriended a few single women in my building. We all have similar situations: Professionally employed but not professionally salaried enough to pay rent and save money for a down payment. We're all "older," and we don't rely on our parents to pay our bills or bail us out of financial problems. One of these women is far more financially savvy than I am. She knows about real estate. She gets it. She can speak the language. She's set up a savings situation which will put her in a mortgage in 2009. This plan was based on her staying in her current apartment until 2009. Unfortunately she is now forced to re-evaluate and revise her plans. The building's going condo news has forced her to take that fateful step, some more universally symbolic words: she's going to have to move back home to her parents' house in the far-flung suburbs, commute an hour and a half to work every day, for a year, so she can save up enough money for a qualifying down payment.

The other woman just moved in last month. Had she known the building was going condo she would have moved into a different building. She's moved three times in the past five years. She's no stranger to the building going condo situation. This is third time it's happened to her. She doesn't want to buy a condo. She travels a lot for work and is gone for extended periods of time and doesn't want the responsibility of a home sitting empty much of the time.

And then there's me. Sure, I'd love to buy a place. The tax savings would be tremendously helpful. And knowing exactly what my monthly living expenses are going to be every year for the next 30 years is not without a strong appeal. It would certainly make arranging and sticking to a budget a lot easier. But I pay rent. And I'm a middle income single zero so I'm taxed at the highest rate possible for a US citizen. So most of my income goes to paying rent and taxes. The small amount left over is what I use to pay utilities, medical bills, and if there's anything left after that: Food.

I've done the numbers, gone to all the web sites, talked to financial planners and mortgage brokers. And the answer is always the same: You don't make enough money to qualify for a low down payment loan. You need a higher down payment. But. I can't save more money than a meager amount because a huge chunk of what's left of my salary after I pay taxes goes toward rent. And I'm currently paying rent which is lower than the average price for rent in my area.

Well. I was paying lower than average rent.

That generous ~14 month leasing option we've been given? Well. Yeah. There's just one thing. If we opt to sign a lease for the final year our rent is increased by $160/month.

The message in those words is clear: If you're not buying into the building as a condo, GET OUT NOW. WE DON'T WANT YOU HERE.

Unfortunately my parents live five hours away and that would make commuting difficult. The job market is horrible where they live, so finding a job close to them would be difficult, too.

Wait a minute. Wait a stinking minute. I'm an educated, experienced, professionally employed person. Why am I forced to even consider the pros and cons of moving home with my parents to mooch off them while I save money for a down payment or simply because I can't afford to live on my own? When did this become the accepted norm?

And yes. It is a norm. The building's going condo news has emboldened me to ask a lot of people questions about how they either afford their rent or were able to save money for a down payment on a mortgage. Overwhelmingly the answer is: Parents. Parents either loaned/gave them the money, offered a basement or old bedroom to live in rent-free while money was saved for a down payment, help subsidize monthly expenses, or died and left them enough inheritance to bankroll a mortgage. There are also more trust funds out there than I realized. I have two friends whom I knew had trust funds. By casually asking, "How'd you get into your first place? What was your secret to finding a way to save money for a down payment?" I've learned I know seven people who have trust funds. I found that to be a startling revelation. There really are a lot of rich kids out there.

And there are a lot of poor kids out there.

My inquiries also netted some startling results on the other end of the scale: A lot of people worked low paying jobs - low paying enough that they qualified for special housing assistance for low income families. The operative word here is family. If you work a low paying job and have at least one child you qualify for a lot of programs designed to help low income families get out of the never ending rent cycle and into home ownership. They were also receiving tax breaks for those children and were paying a low percent of income tax, so percentage-wise they had more working capital in each paycheck. Turns out I work with two people who figured out it was to their advantage to work low paying jobs for a few years in order to qualify for government assistance and tax breaks so they could buy a house. Once they got their first mortgage they moved to better paying jobs and soon sold their first house and moved to a bigger, nicer house. One of my coworkers laughed and scoffed at the process and US government. "They never once questioned why a guy with a master's degree in finance would be working a minimum wage data entry job. You gotta learn how to work the system, Trill. Make it work for you. I lived with three friends and borrowed cash from my parents for two years. When I got my low income mortgage grants and loan I waited a few months, got a better paying job and gave my parents back the cash they gave me while I was 'low income.'"

Ahhhh. The American dream. Working the system. I guess that's what people learn in graduate courses in finance.

Another woman simply didn't bother to marry the father of her three children. As a lower income earning single mother of three she qualified for a mortgage as a low income single mother. Never mind the fact that her man was pulling in a hefty salary as, get this, a bank manager and the five of them were not exactly struggling to survive on his salary. But it was in their best financial interest for them to remain unmarried until after she secured a low interest mortgage with nearly no down payment. And she pumped out three little tax deductions which further helped her down the road of lower tax rates and higher priority mortgage assistance. They may not bother to get married until their kids are grown because she's getting such generous tax cuts and assistance as a single mother that it's better value for him to take the tax hit as a single zero than for them to get married and lose out on their government benefits because of his high salary.

Oh yes. The American dream at work. Working the system.

I don't happen to have a bank manager boyfriend who wants to have children so that's problematic for me. And I also value the institution of marriage and parenthood enough that I don't want to mock it to get extra tax breaks or mortgage assistance. And I don't happen to have single friends to roommate with for a year or two. And I don't happen to have a trust fund. Or a low enough income job.

I am, as ever, a single zero.

If I could find someone willing to have sex with me I discovered I do have a low enough income to be eligible for housing and food assistance should I become pregnant. I can't adopt or foster a child, though, because I don't earn enough money.

There's a lot of irony packed into those words.

Government agencies deem me unfit to adopt or foster care a child solely because I do not earn enough money. Or own a home.

But this same government will give me housing and food assistance if I get knocked up and give birth to a child without the benefit and income of a husband.

Someone please explain this to me.

Back to the issue at hand. Because I can't find anyone willing to have sex with me, and because of those pesky morals and ideals of mine regarding bringing a person into being, birthing a child is completely out of the question. So I have to figure out a way to pay rent or qualify for a mortgage the old fashioned way: Borrow money from my parents.

Or continue to move every time the building goes condo or the rent increases beyond what I can afford.

Apart from the tax advantage and relative security of a fixed monthly living expense, I really don't want a mortgage. But those are powerful enough motivators to make me need a mortgage. And yes, I do resent throwing money away on rent while landlords laugh all the way to the bank.

But.

Given equal taxes I'd choose to rent. It's just me and a dying cat. I don't need a lot of space or a yard or a huge showplace to entertain loads of friends and family. It's increasingly apparent I have no need for a "home." "Homes" are for families, couples and children. I don't have those things. Apparently I won't have those things. So I just need affordable elbow room, a roof, indoor plumbing and central heat and air. A place to exist and survive against the elements, a place to hang my hat and try to sleep for a few hours at night.

But I do need a tax break and a way to set a reasonable long term budget. And the only way to do that is to get a mortgage. Until then it's the renter's life for me.

Rent is a fact of life.

Unfortunately an expensive fact of life.

And getting more expensive all the time. Because a lot of buildings are going condo. This is not a new phenomenon. But this time it's personal. My building has 820 apartments. Let's generously say half of those people will take the generous buy-in offer. That's still 410 displaced renters out on the streets looking for apartments. Multiply that by the high number of buildings going condo throughout cities across the country and what you've got is a landlord's market where the landlords can name their asking price because there are a lot of renters who, for whatever reasons, can't afford or don't want a mortgage. But for this discussion there will be at least 410 renters in my neighborhood who've been displaced. Presumably they will want to stay in the same or adjacent neighborhood. Are there at least 410 apartments available? What if more than half the current tenants decide to pass on the generous buy-in offer? That's even more displaced renters looking for a place to live. And landlords just sit back with their sadistic "come to papa" smiles permanently spread across their faces.

Understand the fear and concern those words evoke?

I don't care what Oprah! does with her money. It's hers to do with as she pleases, wherever she pleases.

But I was thinking. Maybe she, (also a single zero, by the way) or someone like her, could fund a program to help single zero people who have middle income jobs buy their first mortgage.

I know, I know, this is really cavalier thinking, here. We're talking about people who can't find a spouse. And you know how weird and unreliable those people are. *Losers.* But on the other hand, they also take their jobs seriously. They're earning a middle income salary, very likely college educated, and pay a lot of money in taxes. And no, they don't have children because they've carefully refrained from having children because they don't want to be single parents or feel a child deserves a fighting chance at two full time parents. (Or they can't find anyone willing to have sex with them. *Losers.*) So they pay even more money into the tax system. Many of them pay taxes which directly support schools and educational programs for other peoples' children.

And yet they can't afford a mortgage because they can't save money for a down payment. Because they are cash cows to the US government. Which is why there are no programs to help this huge sector of the population get mortgages. Give single zeros a tax break? Are you kidding? And lose all that money to fund low income housing assistance? And lose those tax dollars for schools they will never take advantage of because they don't have children? Preposterous. If you haven't considered this aspect in the gay marriage debate, think about it now. Forget the debates on morality and Constitutional rights. There are a lot of financial reasons why it's good for US and state governments to ban same sex marriages. Allow otherwise lifelong single zeros to marry and qualify for tax deductions? That's a lot of tax dollars to lose. Think about all the tax dollars gay people have paid over the years because in the eyes of the IRS they are single zero. That's a lot of money being paid into the system with very little payback. HUGE cash cow to the IRS and state tax base. Allowing heretofore single zero gay citizens to qualify for marital tax status could take a lot of money away from the government. Can't have that, now, can we?

Okay. Right. Back to my idea.

You know the whole "it takes a village" philosophy? Well, let's apply it here. Except in a sort of reverse situation. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes a child to get a tax break. So how about using the child to give back a little something to the people in the village who don't have a child?

What if every person who has children in a public school contributed $5/child to a fund to help middle income single zero people get a mortgage? That would be a lot of money in the kitty for single zeros, right? Why should parents cough up $5 to some loser who can't find a spouse or get knocked up? Well. Guess what. The average US tax payer contributes $2,500 to K-12 education.

Parents, on behalf of single zeros, I say: You're welcome. I hope your child is the one who solves the world hunger problem or brings about world peace. That would be the best $2,500 I've ever spent.

You're also lucky we don't have a choice. And that we like children. And that we see education of all children as a vital need.

But. Still. It seems like you could give back to the community of single zeros who so selflessly contribute their tax dollars to the education of your children. Just $5/child. Or, if it's easier to swallow, how about giving single zeros a tax break for not having children? I'd happily contribute $1,200 of my taxes to education. Happily. I want to help fund the education of complete strangers' children. Call me crazy! Really, I don't mind paying into public education. Just not the staggering amount I pay. Give me half that $2,500 to save toward the purchase of a home and guess what?! Property tax revenue! Woo hoo!!!! Even better than income tax because in many areas property assessments tend to increase faster than income and in many communities property taxes are linked directly to school funding! Woo hoo! Everybody wins! Single zeros get a tax break to help save for a down payment on a mortgage, then, they pay property tax to help fund the schools in the community where they have that mortgage! It's genius in its simplicity, right?

I know, I know simplistic and idealistic and not in keeping with democratic or GOP fundamental philosophies. Both parties know the cash cow tax revenue value of middle income single zeros and therefore do not fund or promote programs to aid this segment of society. There's nothing to be gained by helping single zeros. We don't earn enough money to be of any clout or value when it's campaign contribution time. Yet we earn too much money to be of any altruistic value when it's campaign time. We're too poor to contribute money, too rich to invoke sympathy for a social cause. But when it comes to paying high tax rates, we're juuuust right. Clowns to the left, jokers to the right, here we are, stuck in the middle. Alone. And broke. And soon to be homeless.

There's a guy at my company who recently got "caught" living in his office. He went through a divorce a few years ago. There were no children and the settlement was to split the combined assets equally. They sold their condo and split the profit. After paying the fees and taxes involved with the divorce and profit of the condo he didn't have enough money to buy a home so he used his portion of the settlement to pay off his share of the credit cards, buy a used car and move into an apartment. This is a person who has been living a married, two income life for about 10 years. After a year of being single zero he couldn't afford his rent increase and was struggling to live on one income. He couldn't find a new less expensive apartment before his lease expired, so for three months he lived at work. Some of us suspected it. A few of us saw this happen to another coworker a few years ago. Once you've seen it happen once you recognize the tell-tale signs. It's not as uncommon as you might think. Adjusting to the higher taxes and increased expenses after living la vida married is difficult. Very difficult. It's why a lot of people don't get divorces. The marriage stinks but the taxes and expenses of single zero-dom stink worse.

But how can someone live in their office? Really very easy. Our office has a gym, so he simply made sure he was in the gym very early in the morning, about the time the security shift changes, worked out, took a shower, changed his clothes and went to work. At night he'd leave the office, go to his $50/month storage unit, repack his gym bag, hang out at the library or laundromat or drive around the city, then head back to his office about the time the night security shift was coming on duty. He'd catch a few hours sleep and start the process again. Occasionally he'd spend the weekend with friends or go out of town to visit relatives. And of course security was "onto him" for quite a while but apparently they, too, see a lot of this and he wasn't hurting anyone so they turned a blind eye and kept quiet about it. But charades like that can only go on so long before someone blows the whistle. So compounded with his already difficult situation he's had to deal with the embarrassment of everyone knowing he's homeless. All I can feel for the guy is sympathy and empathy. In a few months that could easily be me. Because my building's going condo.

8:50 PM

Sunday, January 21, 2007  
Sorry about the technical difficulties with the music downloads. I think I've got it sussed out and functioning properly. In honor of the new season of Pop Machine, I mean, American Idol, I've loaded a couple versions of Blinded by the Light. Tune in, tune out, drop in, drop out, rock on, whatever.

9:42 AM

 
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