Sunday, January 30, 2005

Two Lists

Things my apartment has swallowed recently
My black Dockers
Bottle of Woolite
Roll of Scotch tape
Garden State soundtrack
A pair of black dangly earrings
My GRE scores (set 2)
Blue fountain pen

Stupid things I have done in the kitchen
Forgot a bottle of wine in the freezer, causing it to explode
Dropped an egg and tried to catch it against the cupboard with my knee
Melted a spatula on a burner
Melted Gladware lids in the dishwasher (multiple occasions)
Dropped a tea infuser down the garbage disposal and then fished it out with my fingers (but not before grinding it up a bit)
Whipped softened cream cheese on speed 10 with the Kitchen Aid
Dropped food under a heated burner and allowed it to catch fire not once, not twice, but three times (I blew it out all three times, too. Damn noodles.)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"I'm just the single guy; there are no other guys attached to me."

Married people, I don't know if you remember this from when you were single, but being friends with a couple is nothing like being friends with a single person. Maybe you get a brochure on this when you are married, like, "you will no longer be an independent entity for social purposes; everybody will expect you consult your spouse" and "everybody should be married; mix and match your single friends with your spouse's signle friends." Actually, my friends don't do this last thing. I don't know whether to be grateful or offended. But in any case, the whole ball game changes when you make friends with a couple, or when one of your single friends becomes a permanent member of a couple. Frankly, it's weird in many, many ways.

I'm friends with several married/practically married/"committed" ("Committed"--what is that crap? Be a man! Say the L word!) couples, who, although they are all very dear to my heart, are also an exercise in understanding human behavior. The rules are just different. For example. When I call up a single friend, and say, "hey, how do you feel about dinner tonight?", I get an immediate answer. "Sure," or "I already ate," or "who is this, loser?" Married friends? Always checking with the spouse. I get an answer eventually. Which is fine, you know, but for those of us who are all about instant gratification, it'

And there's the matter of being better friends with one half of the couple than the other. Like, is the other half jealous? Should I make more of an effort with the other half? Do I have to get the other half a birthday present? Oh, my God! I don't even know when the other half's birthday is! At least you can just get them one "couple" present for Christmas. They're a fiscally sound bet that way, at least. By the way, when you tell me your birthday, closer spouse, can you just give me other half's birthday and a list of suggested gifts? Thanks so much.

Knowing one spouse better than the other is also weird because it usually means you know things about Other Half that you're pretty sure you're not supposed to know. Like, for example, that he pees sitting down and his wife thinks it's weird. Or that she can't have an argument without bringing up that time in Miami when he checked out another woman. Or whatever. And then when you encounter Other Half, you're like, I know this thing about you...but you can't know that I know, just in case you don't know that I know, so instead I'll sit here and marvel at how strange you are. I hope that's not awkward for you. And then there's the reverse phenomenon, which is where, as a single, you can be 99% sure that whatever one spouse knows about you, the other one does, too. Even if you've said, "You can't tell anybody about this," it's almost certain that Spouse 1 will assume that Other Half is an exception. So yes, her husband knows that you got a grape stuck up your nose when you were drunk last week and tried to suck it out with the vacuum cleaner hose. He knows, but he can't admit that he knows, so he's just going to sit there and look at you oddly. Aren't you glad that you know the peeing thing now? It's like insurance, almost.

Basically, being friends with a married couple is like going for a hike in a neurosis minefield. And when you're as clumsy as I am...well. Landmine 1: at any given moment, what does Spouse 1 think of my relationship to Spouse 2? Usually this only worries me if Spouse 2 is male. Not that I'm actually concerned that Wife thinks I'm moving in on her man, but still. I also don't want her to think that I want to move in on her man, because I don't, but I do tend to be hypervigilant. Unfortunately, this paranoia of mine leads me to go so far in the other direction that I end up with the Other Half Birthday Panic described above. And in the cases where I'm closer with Husband, the idea that Wife thinks I'm moving in gives me the same feeling you get when you think about kissing your brother or your parents having sex, and then I have to talk to them about football or that noise my car is making or something similarly innocuous until the feeling passes, or possibly I think that Wife needs to chill the hell out because if I wanted to make a move, I would have done it well before she came on the scene and this would be moot. Then I feel bad because I do actually like Wife and want her to like me. It's all very confusing because I'm just not really sure what's going to cause a jealous rage, so let me just issue a general disclaimer: WIVES, I AM NOT AFTER YOUR HUSBANDS. THEY'RE VERY NICE, I'M SURE, BUT JUST NO. THAT IS ALL. As I told one Husband-friend, "not even if you were dipped in chocolate and rolled in cash."

Landmine 2: The Single-Among-Marrieds Torture Session. I think everybody's squirmed through that scene from Bridget Jones where the Smug Marrieds invite her to dinner and she's the only single one there? Yeah, sometimes that happens for real. I mean, not that my married friends are (too) smug, or that they ever try to put me on the spot about being single, bless them. But it does occasionally happen that you will accidentally end up in a group of SMs. If at all possible, I try to put a stop to it before it happens, because really? My ego is fragile enough as it is. I don't need to spend six whole hours being reminded that I go home at night to two mildly retarded cats and a pair of technicolor pig slippers. The worst combination, by the way, is two couples plus you. Like, there is no way to disguise the fact that you are single then, because I promise you those two couples are going to be talking about something couply—vacations they took, a house they bought, whether they want to have kids—and you will have NO input. "Uh...the dog and I went on a great trip to the park last week...." Sometimes in a larger group of couples, you can kind of subtly separate the men and the women, and make everybody functionally single by dint of bringing up how men are clutter-blind and leave the seat up or something, but if it's two couples on one single, you are the living definition of "fifth wheel." This past summer, a friend tried to get me to tag along to a play with him, his girlfriend, and another married couple. I was like, thanks for inviting me to tag along on your double date, chief, but I think I'll pass. I've got a busy night of sticking splinters under my thumbnail ahead, and I just can't spare the time. I thought the fact that the play it was "Taming of the Shrew" was an extra little dig that I could have done without, too.

Landmine 3: Examining Their Relationship. Yesterday I chewed one of my best friends out for not telling me that he and his girlfriend have decided to take the monumental step of moving in together. (This is the "Taming of the Shrew" friend, by the way.) I thought this was rather large news of which I should have been informed directly because when I met him, he was the most serial of serial monogamists due to a severe case of commitmentphobia. Instead I heard about his big news when two other married friends casually mentioned it at dinner Saturday. (See? Couples talk about couply things, and singles are excluded. It's like a secret club.) Anyway, it occurred to me, halfway through my rant, that I actually didn't have much ground to stand on, because here's the thing: when a couple's that committed, you only get to comment on the relationship if invited to do so. Sometimes it makes the one-on-one friendship a little harder to deal with: when one spouse comes to me and says, "I've had a terrible day; I lost my car keys and got in a fight with my spouse," I have to be all, "Oh, do you know where you left your keys?" when, let's face it, who cares about the damn keys? Your spouse has keys! Give me the details of the fight! But I can't ask, because it's their marriage, and I'm pretty sure there's a vow to love, honor, and keep the secret of what marriage is really like from your single friends. I don't want to butt in and then have Spouse 1 feel guilty for telling me, or worse, have Spouse 2 find out that I know and hate me forever, thus excluding me from future married wine soirees, which, as we all know, are classier than the single equivalent, the drunken hootenanny.

So what I'm saying is that marriage is a minefield (and, as Pat Benetar reminds us, love is a battlefield). But it's not a minefield for you, my married friends. It's a minefield for me and every other single person who you have invited to meet that great guy who works with your husband, or who you take home for minor holidays because Lord knows they just going to spend it writing awful poetry about their loneliness otherwise. That being said, though, please keep harrassing us to see "Taming of the Shrew" with you. Your friendship gives us hope. Hope that someday we will get to torture single people with our smug marriedness, too.

Because I wasn't able to work this anecdote in, but thought it was too funny (and illustrative) to leave out:

Postscript: The other day, my friend informed me that "dude" was the most common pet name that she and her husband use for one another. But, she said, "You probably haven't heard us use too many nicknames." I admitted that was true and asked her why. "Well, we don't like to do it around other people. It's too..." I wish I could say that she said "smug" here, but unfortunately it was something like "exclusive" or "cutesy" or whatever. I was amused. I said, "Why? You're married. I'm fully aware that you guys like each other."

I don't know, maybe it's only funny to me, but the idea of them "liking" each other—i.e., calling each other "dude" on the sly and perhaps holding hands where I couldn't see if they're feeling particularly daring and adult in that I'm-twelve-and-soooo-grownup way—was hysterical. Of course, considering what I've written above, maybe she has some room for paranoia, herself.

Friday, January 14, 2005

About the cats, for Jane

Things my cats do that annoy me (excerpt from a running list):

Pick earrings out of my jewelry box and throw them on the floor
Run under the treadmill and get gunk on their heads which dries into a matted hard lump that leaves a bald spot when I pull it off
Knead my boob at 6:30 a.m.
Swat the measuring cup full of cat food when I'm feeding them so that the floor is littered with kibble
Stand on the laptop keyboard, particularly the "Esc" key, which closes whatever I'm working on and makes the computer beep in way that I can hear but they, evidently, cannot
Pull down the bunny ears on my t.v. so I lose reception on whatever I'm watching
Knock the papasan chair off its stand, and then walk away as if nothing's happened
Lick my fingers when I'm not paying attention (v. creepy feeling, actually)
Chase my pens when I'm writing, causing me to make big jerky lines across whatever important document has to be mailed to the IRS like, yesterday

God reads this blog

Early last month, I wrote about church names in Texas and how they're just not okay, really. It amused me, which is usually about the limit of amusement, unless I write something about the cats for Jane. Anyway, I wrote the post and forgot about it until I got this email last week:

We were sitting here trying to come up with a name for our new, NJ church and started rummaging through the internet and found your posting of December 4 last. Being church people we laughed out loud (thanks!) at ourselves and how our church names our perceived by others---at least by one other---you. And we think you represent many others. What kind of name would you suggest for a non-catholic bunch who don't want a religious name? Sure would appreciate a suggestion or two---we're sensitive clergy so be kind---chuck

I was thoroughly delighted. I mean, you know how I love being asked for advice. Love love love. That is because I am a bosser who likes bossing people around.

Anyway, I don't know if you've ever tried naming a church, but it is not easy, my friend. I feel like giving the Texas weirdos a little more leeway, except no. "Church on the Move?" That's just weak.

Chuck didn't make my job any easier, with his "non-catholic, non-religious" requirements. No "St. Bonaventure?" No "Christian Church of Christ?" You're killing me here. My co-workers were no help, either. Most of their suggestions involved some sort of slang, including "First Church of Jesus Is Cool." (In that case, I think they would be the actual first church of that. Which is something, I guess.)

Anyway, I took some time to ponder (and, if we're being honest, to bask in the enjoyment of being asked what I think is best), and then I wrote Chuck back. Here is what I said:

You totally made my day with this email. I'm so glad I could make you laugh.

Of course, now I realize that naming a church is hard, and maybe that's why so many go astray of the sensible values we embrace in Nebraska. I don't know. One of my co-workers suggested "Rockin' Toward Rapture," which might charm teenagers, but is probably otherwise unappealing. Oh! It might be good if you've got a really oustanding gospel choir. Or it might attract a really outstanding gospel choir. Things to consider.

More seriously, I do have one sort of general suggestion that might spark some ideas for you. You didn't mention which religion your church is, which got me thinking about how, regardless of denomination, church is really about one thing: community. It's a community of believers who get together to support one another and strengthen each other's faith. It's very hard to have faith when you're all alone. So if you don't want an overtly religious name, that's what I'd focus on--the togetherness of the community. Something simple like Fellowship of Faith emphasizes both aspects and keeps you from sounding like an Elks lodge.

Anyway, I hope this helps. My core advice is something my father likes to tell me: "You've got to KISS--Keep It Simple, Stupid." It always makes me laugh, but the man has a point.

I'd love to hear more about your church when you decide on a name. In the meantime, I'll be praying for you, and, unless you object, probably writing about you on my blog because I thought your email was so great.

Happy New Year!


I don't know if this is good advice, nor do I know if Chuck and his flock have decided to take it. I hope I helped them. And I hope I don't have to hear about "Chuck's Fourth Church of Bein' Awesome" any time soon.

P.S. My dad wrote a column in his newspaper about this experience after I sent him the email from Chuck and my response. So that's kind of cool. Too bad he didn't include my blog address so I could up my readership from four relatives, two friends, and a pastor in New Jersey to four relatives, three random strangers, two friends, and a pastor in New Jersey. And a partridge in a pear tree.