Tuesday, June 28, 2005
CHICKEN OF THE SEA DONKEY
Today, on the Salon Letters page, a Salon reader writes, "[I]n Heather Havrilesky's latest column, she refers to Ms. [Paris] Hilton as a "slut," a "whoring sea donkey" and a "skanky slut monkey," which are all amusing word pairings, but A) lazy writing and B) frankly, offensive."
So, is this person trying to say that Paris Hilton is not a whoring sea donkey? Is she, in fact, asserting that Hilton is neither a skanky slut monkey nor, quite simply, a slut?
Just so you know, there was a point to all the name-calling: I was comparing a mother on "The Jerry Springer Show" who called her daughter out for being a big slut with Kathy Hilton, whose big-slut daughter won her her very own reality show, "Who Wants To Be a Hilton?" Let it also be known that I'm one of the world's most outspoken advocates for the slut lifestyle. Remember: Sluts' dreams really do come true. Come on, slut monkeys. Repeat it over and over with me until it's an old adage. Sluts' dreams really do come true. Sluts' dreams really do come true.
Then another reader accuses me of unfairly insulting "Six Feet Under," a show for which I unpacked my fawning adjectives this season, last season, and the season before that. This is where I would write something like "Do your homework next time, buddy!" except I'm not a blowhard and don't expect everyone on the planet (or anyone, really, even my mother) to be familiar with my oeuvre. (That's pronounced "Eww!... vre." As in "What about Brett Fah... vre.") Plus, I did sort of sound, in my column, like I hated the show. I didn't make it clear that I love the show like a mother loves her troubled, violent red-headed stepchild. I just hate Nate. Let me be clear: Peter Krause, I like. But Nate needs his teeth kicked in.
Now, back to me. Speaking of my motherfucking oeuvre: If you were a huge fan of Suck and you have the patience of a saint and like reading the histories of obscure/insignificant little publications that died years ago, you might want to check out "The Big Fish" by Matt Sharkey on keepgoing.org. He spent almost an hour interviewing me a few months ago, and I assumed he was just humoring me. Not so! He was working on an obscenely detailed history of Suck's rise and fall.
Now I know what you're thinking: "Why?" "Huh?" "Whatever for?" I thought the same thing. But just wait until you hear how signficant Suck.com was in the nascent years of the web, as told by the people who were directly involved in its creation! You won't believe how deeply important and groundbreaking we think we were!
My favorite part was when Ben Schwartz recounts how a bunch of us were hanging out a few months after Suck went under, talking about "some disaster that was on all the cable channels. Some miserable disaster. It was some horrible crime where a mom had killed her kids or an avalanche. Just horrible. Nothing funny about it." Um, yeah. We were talking about 9/11, actually.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
NEXT STOP: LAMEVILLE
I saw that you're giving free advice again, so I thought I'd share my fucked-up little story.
Many years ago, at college, I took on a protegé of sorts. She was fresh out of high school and wanted to work for the campus newspaper, which I was sub-editing. She was witty, outspoken and sharp, so I was happy to hire her. I helped her get a good room at my dormitory, guided her around campus and introduced her to all the right people. Over the following years, we created award-winning journalism together and organized some legendary dorm parties.
Now, she had just turned 18, I was turning 24. To me at that time, the age gap seemed huge. So I never even thought about asking her out, even though she had considerable good looks to add to her aforementioned resumé. Instead, she sort of became the kid sister I never had. Yeah, it's as lame as it can be, I know. But you have figured out where I´m going with this, right?
A few years down the track, my feelings for my star reporter/ dorm mate/ placebo sister had, well, become somewhat "incestuous." She regarded me as her totally asexual friend, whilst I secretly just wanted to whisk her away and make sweaty, noisy Kama Sutra-esque love to her. Instead I wrote her a sonnet and a villanelle, but never gave them to her. I was too concerned about messing up the wonderful friendship, or the professional relationship, or whatever.
And as we travel at a rapidly escalating speed down the road to Lameville, it´s sooo easy to see what comes next: that moment at that party where we're both too drunk and I blurt out my eternal love for her in a incoherent and creepy manner, and she tells me ever so nicely the we'll always be friends but perhaps we shouldn't see each other for a while. All pretty cliché stuff, perhaps. But all that's just the start. Because the following week there was a horrible unexpected death in her family and she dropped out of college and off my radar totally.
Flash forward roughly two years, and I've graduated and got myself a job that includes lots of travel and temporary accommodations. On one assignment I return to the city of my university and decide to grab a beer at one of the old hangouts. Guess who's there, looking as stunning as ever? She hugs me and tells me it's great to see me again. I ask her how she's doing and she tells me she hangs in there, she is working at the paper again and writing her thesis. I tell her I've missed her. We catch up on old times. More people from the old gang show up at the bar. She tells me she's still single and
complements me on my career. I go to the bathroom and when I return she's out on the dance floor, her tongue way down the throat of one of the flabbier guys. I recognize him from the reject files of my sub-editing days.
So I pay for my beer and leave, and then after procrastinating for a week I write her a letter telling her that I think she was behaving in a rather inappropriate manner towards me, all things considered. She responds by phone, telling me that she wants us to be friends, just friends, and that I have to put all that infatuation stuff behind me. I answer ok, if that's how it's gotta be.
Flash forward three more years and we meet again at some college paper reunion party, seeing each again for the first time after just communicating via email, phone and christmas cards. I've made some career changes and been though some short term relationships, all of them disastrous. She's looking as beautiful as ever and is changing her major at the university.
She hugs me, tells me she's missed me and asks me questions about my failed relationships. I complement her dress and she complements my new hairstyle. I buy her a drink and she asks me to watch out for her if she should get to droopsy, like in the old days. We order more drinks and immerse ourselves in a long animated discussion about Old media vs New media. She
tells me she's missed my jokes. And then I go to the bathroom and when I return she's slipped off and left the party to have a one night stand with one of the really old comical undergrads - a balding, overpretentious character we used to make fun of back in the "old days."
Now, there is obviously some sort of a pattern here, but I can't for the life in me understand what all this is really about. It's not even as if she would try to piss me off by passing me over for some more successful or fuckable alpha male, so where the hell am I in this equation? If she doesn't give a shit about my feelings, why can't she use me as her disposable sex toy?
The worst part is that I'd probably do it, with relish. After all this time and all this shit I still want her in whatever way that is available.
Does that make me come off as pathetically infatuated or as a really creepy stalker guy? And if so, can you point me towards a support group?
Oh my god, she is really playing with your head, man! The way she told you, straight up, that she wasn't interested, and then stuck to that, without fail, year after year? The way she was still willing to be your friend, because she likes you, even though she doesn't want to sleep with you? But what really got me was the way she made it perfectly clear that it's not a matter of her being a prude. While she's more than willing to fuck random guys, she's absolutely not at all interested in fucking you!
Women really are nuts, aren't they? Here's the truly weird thing about women: They won't sleep with you if they don't like you!
Crazy, huh? Men, on the other hand, will not only sleep with you if they don't like you, they'll go out with you for a few years. If the sex is good enough, they'll never break up with you. That's why women have to buy books like "He's Not That Into You." Women get confused when, after a few years of spending every second with the same man, he acts like they just ran into each other at the corner store.
It's precisely because this girl gives a shit about your feelings that she's unwilling to use you as her disposable sex toy. Fuck, man, you're all confused and reprimanding and scoldy at her for just being nice to you! How belligerent and accusatory do you think you'll be after she actually fucks you? She sounds like a very smart girl.
You know what you really need to hear, more than anything? A word that I'm guessing you don't hear very often:
As in: Dude. She's not into you, dude. You gotta move on, dude. Dude! She fucked that other dude, dude! Were you not there? Did you miss that part, dude? Dude, what's there to be confused about? Forget her, dude. I'm not kidding, dude. Dude. Don't be an idiot, dude.
This is the main purpose of male friends: They tell you when girls don't like you. For some reason, it takes four or five men to determine when a woman isn't interested. I mean, sure, it takes the same number of female consultants to weigh in on the total dead-enditude of a woman's relationship with a flinchy guy. But look, that's more difficult work. I mean, he's there in the morning, brushing his teeth. He's going to couple's therapy with her. Everybody has enjoyed his company for years now. But still, something about the way he refuses to discuss the future, something about the way he flirts with the girl at the pizza joint... Maybe he doesn't like our girl! Maybe it's time our girl gave him the slip.
You have it easy, though. She's just this girl you know who doesn't like you romantically and never has. She's made it clear for you. So stop wasting your time. Make some male friends who are familiar with the word "dude." Open your eyes to some of the other women around you. Take a few hints from your new dude friends on how to proceed from there. I'm not suggesting you act like a dick, I'm just saying, you need a little help from your comrades. And, dare I say, you need to get laid a little more often. But as long as you prefer wishful thinking to the facts in front of your face, you won't have much of a chance to be someone's a) disposable sex toy b) sweetheart or c) both.
Good luck, dude.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
A MUTE POINT
Let me preface this by saying that I am fully aware that I am a freak when it comes to boys. If I had a marketing tagline re: relatiionships it would be "Sexually Aggressive. Emotionally Withholding."
So, I have been seeing this guy for coming up on two years. He's married. (I like married. They don't get possessive, you never have to have icky 'where is this going' discussions, and I don't ever have to take the blame for fucking it up--it goes south, diagnosis: he was married!) That's not the problem. The problem is that I really really fucking love this guy. Like the fact that he exists makes me happy. I simply don't do the love thang (see tagline). But I love him. So about a year ago this amazing guy tells me he loves me. I don't say anything. He tells me a few more times and I just go catatonic. (each time I think 'next time I'll say it back!') Eventually he stops saying it. I tell myself that he KNOWS I love him. This dude can read me like a flashcard. He must know it.
So the other night he's leaving my apartment and he bends down and scratches my cat on the head and says "I love you, [cat's name]. I do. I really love you." Um? I say to him "Great. You love the cat." Full disclosure: I guess I was hoping he'd say THE WORDS again and I could finally bust out my pathetic and extremely tardy "I love you too." But no. He walks past me, toward the door and says "Animals are easy to love. They have to love you back." Ow.
Can I fix this in the short term? Is it too late? Does it matter? There is no happy ending for the two of us, but I don't want to regret for the rest of my life that I loved him in this mind-altering crazy-ass stupid-happy way and he never knew it. Furthermore, wtf is wrong with me? Okay, maybe I'm asking too much on that last one.
Please help me Rabbit.
Mutey the catatonic love-monkey
I had a cat I really loved once. She would sit on your lap, or, if you were at a table, she jump on the table and put her face right next to your face and purr.
She liked everyone, including our neighbors across the street. They would say, "What a great cat you have!" and we'd agree, yes, she was the best. Soon, though, our cat wasn't coming home very often. One day my mom asked our neighbors if they'd seen her. "Oh, she's been hanging out over here," they answered. Turns out they'd started to let our cat into their house, and she'd been hanging out there for weeks.
And who could blame them? Other people's cats are the best! They don't get possessive, you never have to make any icky trips to the vet, and you don't ever have to take the blame when they eat out of someone's trash or whatever.
You see, there are lots of people out there who like to have power over other people's things without taking the risk of ownership. If you feed a cat and give it affection, but never throw it in a little crate and take it to the vet or wash its tighty whities or nag it about leaving the toilet seat up, you'll be more admired and adored than its owner will. If it tells you, "I love you," of course it's best not to respond, since doing so would put you on equal footing and leave you vulnerable to being abandoned.
Far better to manipulate fickle affections and create the illusion of love by remaining slightly out of reach! After all, by stoking lust and unrequited love in someone who doesn't really know you, you can continue to feel like a powerful, desirable, unconventional woman, and no one will ever have to see that soft, scared, needy, flawed girl that hides inside you. You're no dummy! The guy you're with now doesn't like girls like that, or you would've told him you loved him a year ago.
Only those with the courage to present their full, flawed selves to someone else get to have the kind of love that people write songs about. The rest, the ones that would prefer to hide, to borrow other people's things, to stay out of reach, to foster illusion, are destined to hear statements that they know are empty. They hear the same love songs, and like to think that such sweet words apply to them, but they know deep down inside that they don't. Their lovers are not the ones who look into their eyes and say, "I love you, flaws and all." Their lovers mutter their devotion as they walk past them, toward the door.
Can you fix this in the short term? Is it too late? Does it matter? Here are my answers, in order: I don't care, I don't know, and no, it doesn't. When you really care about love more than you do about power, when you give up on this illusion you've created for yourself, this story about how "not being into the love thang" makes you strong and cool and better than other women, then it will matter. Then, it'll be worthwhile for you to talk about love. Until then, we might as well talk about the shadows that float across your walls at night.
Look, I know you don't like that soft, scared girl that hides behind your falsely brave statements about yourself. Why would you? No one else does. You're so tough on the outside that you attract men who don't ever, ever want to see your soft, chewy center. You haven't had the experience of being accepted for who you are, and if you did, it seemed distasteful because it meant you had to show those parts of yourself that you've worked hard to hide for years. Also, you probably thought any guy who gave you real love was a big pussy. But I'm telling you, that soft, sad girl is worthy of love. She deserves to be loved.
The tough, powerful temptress you've constructed? You're not fooling anyone with that act, outside of the married guy you're fucking, and he's someone who's looking to be fooled. Look at the people around you - family, friends, coworkers. I guarantee you, they think you're a wreck, and not in some cute or sexy way, either. The irony is that you think you need all that bravado to make up for your flaws, but the second you drop the act, that's when the good, trustworthy people in your life will take a real interest in you, and show you real respect.
Forget love for a second - you will only win self-respect and good friends and good things in your life when you drop the cool-distant-girl bullshit, show your vulnerability (which is always particularly vast in people who have a driving need to seem tough), embrace it, and learn to rely on other people, people who you aren't fucking and who don't want to fuck you. You need to build yourself a life that feels whole and real and pretty, so that you can feel like every part of you - the soft part and the parts of the hard shell that work, that don't diminish you or that aren't based on lies - deserves real, lasting love from people who can actually give it.
Friday, June 03, 2005
I can't believe I haven't see this site, Query Letters I Love, until now!
My favorite so far:
"Only the powers of a beautiful, frightened psychic can rescue five doomed prisoners from certain death on cell block 12. All of them expendable human bait in a corrupt government's twisted paranormal investigation. If sadistic guards don't murder them for sport... bloodthirsty vengeful spirits soon will -- slowly and horribly!"
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
WELCOME TO FUBARBIA
I have a problem of not wanting to be with the person that I am with. I wonder if this is something that will follow me through the rest of my life. For as far back as I can recall I have cheated on every guy I have ever dated. I have been married for over five years and still continue to cheat, though only occasionally. (I know it doesn't make it any better.) I have a child who is five + and is in love with dad. On top of all of this I have met someone else who is sixteen years my senior, lives a hundred miles away and in sub-standard living conditions. He is the messiest man I have ever met. I know that most advice is to do what makes you happy and to follow your heart and all the happy horse shit but, in this situation with a kid in the middle is that really the best answer? Should I wait until they are older and can understand easier? I feel like a complete fuck up. Like the shittiest person ever. My husband is great, better than I can say to you. Why do I sabotage my own happiness? Am I doomed regardless of what I choose? I could explain in better detail but it would take eons to describe, I think that you get the jist of it. What do you think?
You fucking hate yourself and have no respect for anyone who loves you. Your husband can never sustain your interest because you believe, deep inside, that he's a huge loser for being so good to you. You clearly see yourself as worthless and pathetic.
Unfortunately, when you believe that you're worthless and pathetic for long enough, eventually you become worthless and pathetic. As a child of divorce, I tend to feel that kids are better off with happy parents. But it doesn't really sound like you'll be happier with the old messy guy. Maybe you like him because he treats you with the ambivalence that you feel you deserve.
Now, I'm not the biggest proponent of therapy in the world, but you seem to have some pretty huge issues on your plate and very little self-awareness or understanding of their causes and effects. First and foremost, though, you have to decide that you deserve to spend an hour or two a week talking while someone listens. It's expensive, it's indulgent, it takes time. Sometimes I think the whole thing is really about as good as anything that you give yourself that's expensive, indulgent and takes time, from a massage to a trip to Belize. But that's the yuppie consumer deep inside me, dying to bust out and start spending. Don't let me make this about me, though. This is all about you! I'm no therapist, but I can try to give you that, for at least a couple of minutes or so.
But you know how, when you try to stick to a budget, eventually, something inside you rebels and you just want to go out and buy stupid, idiotic shit that you don't need? Like whimsical tchotchkes and big expensive flowers and huge plastic tumblers (so summery!) and - I don't know, I can't even remember, it's been so long since I shopped for anything, let alone a bunch of pointless, foolish shit. But tomorrow is my birthday, and my mom sent me some money which it would really be nice to spend on a good, weird pair of shoes or some large, odd piece of jewelry that screams, "I'm fucking OLD, goddamn it! It feels GOOD to be so goddamn old!" But I know I won't spend it on anything like that. I'll probably save it, or worse yet, spend it on something really practical or useful, like a new sprinkler timer.
OK, the joke here was going to be that I ignored your problem completely, the joke was going to be that I would, essentially, cheat on you as an advice-seeker by wandering off into my own empty, self-indulgent honky landscape. But I think I've stumbled on your problem instead: You buy sprinkler timers when what you really want is large, odd pieces of jewelry. You don't want the messy old guy, you want to be the messy old guy. Your messiness is always in the closet. How can you really be intimate with your husband, when he has no idea what a fucking freak you are, or how totally wrecked your head is? Maybe he shouldn't know right now, necessarily, but someone should. I really do think you have to come out to someone about your insanity, someone besides me and the guy(s) you're having affairs with. It could be a therapist, or a friend (Do you have friends?). You're cultivating intimacy with people who a) are a wreck and b) have disdain for you when basically you a) are a wreck and b) have disdain for yourself. What if you just let some of your messy, wrecked self out a little bit more in your daily life? Is all of it totally unlovable and scary? I don't think it is.
People aren't very good at being themselves, I've noticed lately. Most people are hiding, whether they're fully aware of it or not. So they take these parts of themselves that they see as hateful or unworthy of love, and they offer them up to relative strangers. That's sort of sad, isn't it, though? To give the rejected parts of yourself - which, let's face it, often add up to the essence of your most intimate self - to someone you hardly know. Doesn't your partner and the father of your kid deserve to at least have contact with that self?
I sort of hit the wall with a boyfriend once in this way. He was getting on my nerves, but I kept hating myself for being bugged by him. He was such a nice guy, after all, that I felt that these annoyances must've been a reflection of my own lameness. I trusted him, though, so I gently explained the whole picture: You've been annoying the shit out of me, and I fucking hate myself for feeling that way about you. In the process, I opened up about how easy it was for me to turn small things into Bad Head Days. While these days used to take the form of "Why Are So Many People So Fucking Lame?", I'd more recently distilled them down to their essence, which turned out to be "Why Am I So Fucking Lame?" Sometimes, even when you feel fantastically confident overall, it pays to listen closely to the little voice in your head - you know, the one that sounds just like a nagging schoolmarm, only a little less capable of empathy.
Anyway, once I revealed all this shit that I felt was pretty fucking embarrassing and awful (and I talked to a few close friends about it, too, for good measure. I know, I know - you're feeling grateful that you're not my close friend. I don't blame you.), all the annoyances somehow dried up and blew away. My then-boyfriend didn't think less of me, and in fact recognized how hard I was on myself, which allowed him to understand me better. And, overall, it brought us closer together. "Being honest about harsh thoughts brought you closer together?" Yeah, sounds like one of those nightmare scenes out of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." But it was good.
My current feeling is that it really pays to be completely, entirely out of the closet about who you are as a person. I've always been pretty fucking shameless and even a little too wiling to put myself out there. But still, there's some pride in there somewhere, and sometimes it really stands in the way of being direct about what you think and feel and who you are. You can anticipate the reactions of the people who, when you are exactly who you are, won't like you one bit. You've encountered people like that before. It's tough not to take it personally, after all, when people don't fucking like you.
But at some point, you understand: The more I express my true self, thereby thumbing my nose at any attempt to embody the mild-mannered, non-threatening, polite, predictable behavior that people expect of me and everyone else, the more it will be apparent that lots of people don't like me. Sure, that part sometimes sucks. But then, the more I express my true self, the more I can give to other people -- give them my empathy, my time, my concern, my energy, my appreciation, my love. I don't know how messy and fucked up you want to be, FU, but until you try to accept who you really are, and imagine that the scary parts of you might not be totally unlovable through and through, until you give other people a small peak at who you really are, you won't be able to treat your husband or your kid or yourself or anyone else in your life with the love and honor and respect that they deserve. You won't have anything to give anyone else, because you'll have nothing but disdain for yourself. You will remain hidden: unacceptable, hateful, scared, full of shit.
It sounds self-indulgent, I know, but it lands in exactly the opposite place, eventually. Do you deserve such attention and love, FU? Maybe not now, but you will, if you take a leap of faith and believe that you can change. When you wonder if this problem will follow you for the rest of your life, the real question is whether or not you believe you're stronger than your weakest moments. It's really your choice to believe that you can do it. You just have to make the choice to believe, and make the choice to give yourself things, and just decide, "I deserve it." Maybe it'll be the first time in your life when you really decide that you deserve anything good. You'll give yourself the gift of self-respect and love for the first time ever, and then, eventually, you'll be able to finally give respect and love to those who gave you respect and love. You won't think their gifts made them losers, because you deserve those gifts, finally.
I think I've begun to run very fast in a very small circle now, and I should stop. See, when you get very old and wizened, it's important to know when to shut the fuck up. Maybe the big, odd jewelry serves as a visual reminder to shut up. You know, when you're wearing ass pants, you think you have a right to talk forever, but when you're wearing large flowing smocks and big odd jewelry and comfortable scandals, they all serve as a reminder that you're big and sad and insignificant.
No, I'm not that big and sad and insignificant just yet. I'm just auditioning for the role, so I can slide comfortably into it like a big, soft hippie slides into the gourmet cheese aisle at Whole Foods.
Anyway, the short answer is: Yes, you're very fucked up. Break it off with the smelly old guy. Find a therapist. Talk to your friends more, or make some friends. Express your inner messy self. Cultivate a little love for even the ugliest, lamest parts of yourself, so you can slowly build up a little bit of self-respect and concern for your own welfare. Decide that you, and the people who've stood by you, deserve better. Read "Soulmates" by Thomas Moore. Or "Care for the Soul," same author.
OK, now everyone out there who doesn't hate themselves definitely can't fucking stand me.
Me, glorious me! Hot mustard and me me!