Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lady of the Evening

Thought you were going to get a truly confessional post, there. Naughty, naughty.

"Lady of the Evening," I understand, is the name of this plant. Pretty Lady is inordinately fond of hers, both for thwarted maternal reasons--she grew it herself, from a cutting, given to her last May--and because it is so very strange. She finds herself hovering over the windowsill at odd moments, wondering what it will do next.

This plant is said to produce large, exotic blossoms which open only at twilight, hence the name. Mine has shown no sign of coming across with the goods, thus far. If anyone out there has a notion of how to encourage it, I am all ears.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The one you've all been waiting for

The Pundit has a suggestion:

Make the rules a bit less obscure. For instance, when a guy pulls a bone-headed stunt like I did, maybe the girl should say to the guy "My, that was a bone-headed move. Are you a jerk by choice or by accident?" A girl could learn a lot about a guy from how he responds to that.
Pundit, you surprise me. The rules are not at all obscure; they are merely contingent. In any case, if a lady knows a gentleman well enough to speak to him thus freely, he has already passed more tests than he himself knows.

So far, we have been addressing merely the initial screening processes a gentleman undergoes, when vying for a place in a lady's affections. One of the common mistakes made by a man is in assuming that women's standards in general are as rough-edged as his own. He takes a look at a girl, thinks, "yeah, I'd do her" and that is that. A lady's mental processes are far more complex, and in the initial phases of an interaction, there are innumerable gross errors a man can commit which will eradicate him instantly from further consideration.

As they say in the software engineering business, "Assumption is the mother of all f*ckups." I shall now address a few of the major and erroneous assumptions commonly made by non-gentlemen, using as an illustration, Pretty Lady's Worst Date Of All Time.

(Aren't you fortunate. When Pretty Lady tells her male acquaintances the story of this date, initially they all tense up, ready for another interminable and humiliating session of man-bashing. As the story progresses, they visibly relax and become more expansive, with louder and louder shouts of incredulity, until by the end they are openly crowing with glee. "At least there's somebody out there more clueless than me," you can hear them thinking.)

So. On with the show.

Erroneous Assumption # 1: When a lady accepts a date with a man, this means she definitely wants to sleep with him.

The Truth: A lady's acceptance of a date means she intends to devote a couple of hours to getting to know you better. No more, no less.
Pretty Lady initially met the Egregious Fool (hitherto referred to as E.F.) at her job in the graduate research library. She was the checkout girl, he was the third floor stack supervisor. Pretty Lady has always had an artistic eye for mild eccentricity, and when she ran into E.F. at the periodicals desk, the thought crossed her mind, "that guy's kind of dorky. But possibly attractive, in an obscure sort of way." So she smiled.

E.F. was not a slowtop; he was on top of that smile like a duck on a junebug. He pranced, he cavorted, he presented her with a Stephen King novel done up in white paper, he invited her up to the third-floor stacks for a peep at a rare Codex. He asked her to dinner and a party on Friday. With some reservations, but in a spirit of exploration, Pretty Lady accepted.

Erroneous Assumption # 2: Ladies do not talk to their friends about their weekend plans.

The Truth: What else would we talk about?
On Thursday afternoon, Pretty Lady casually mentioned to her co-worker, Badgerina, that E.F. had asked her out. Badgerina dropped this into conversation with her housemate, Leila Darling. Leila Darling happened to be E.F.'s then-girlfriend. Or at least, she had been sleeping with him all summer, which in her mind amounted to the same thing.

Pretty Lady found out later that fifteen minutes before E.F. was due to pick her up, Leila Darling telephoned him and read him the riot act. Which explains a lot.

Erroneous Assumption # 3: The question of who pays for a date has something to do with the relative incomes of the persons involved.

The Truth: You do the inviting, you pick the restaurant, you pay. If you're broke, pick a cheap one. Duh.
By the time Pretty Lady and E.F. reached the Mongolian Barbeque, Pretty Lady was already beginning to regret the interaction. Eccentric is one thing, spastic is quite another. E.F. seized a plate and said, "This is a physical thing," meaning that we had to choose our own food, buffet-style. Pretty Lady's 'arrogant user' radar went into high alert. At the cash register, E.F. turned to her and declared, "Since we both know how much the other makes, do we go dutch, or do you treat me next time?"

Thoroughly unwilling to commit herself to even the ghost of a possibility that she might have to go out with this man again, Pretty Lady coughed up. Her budget was minimal in those days, and the price of the meal cleaned her out.

Erroneous Assumption # 4: If a lady is on a date with you, this definitely means she is out to get you, and is capable of doing anything to force you into a Serious Relationship.

The Truth: See #1.
Over dinner, E.F. opened up the conversation with, "You know, I'm dating Leila Darling. Someone named Badgerina has been gossiping. She told Leila that I was chasing you."

I suppose that Pretty Lady could, at this point, with perfect propriety, have thrown the plate at his head and walked out. The reasons she did not do this were 1) her grocery budget for the weekend was already shot, and she needed to stock up on the calories; 2) she did not want this twerp to get the impression that she cared enough to make a scene; 3) she didn't have a way of getting home.

So she said, "Oh, really? How is dear Leila?"

She doesn't remember much of the conversation after that, except that she was looking forward to being around somebody--anybody--else.

Erroneous Assumption # 5: When a friend of yours throws a 'party' at a commercial establishment, there is likely to be an open bar.

The Truth: Get another set of friends. If they'll have you.
When E.F. and Pretty Lady reached Scholtz's Beer Garden, there were a couple of fellows sitting around drinking Coronas. "Is the beer on you?" inquired E.F. The host shrugged blandly and said, "First round."

Since she had no more cash with which to anaesthetize herself against boredom and discomfort, Pretty Lady nursed her Corona and desperately awaited reinforcements. E.F. fidgeted. Eventually some housemates of an acquaintance of Pretty Lady's arrived; she greeted them like long-lost cousins. E.F. said, "I'm going to call Leila."

"See you," said Pretty Lady.

At this point in the story, the male acquaintances are generally aghast. "You mean he LEFT you there?" they say. The truth is that Pretty Lady infinitely preferred the humiliating task of cadging a ride cross-town from a minimal acquaintance, to getting back in a car with that idiot. Even his driving was spastic.

Erroneous Assumption #6: If a date goes badly, one has the right to ask for the return of all purported 'gifts' bestowed before the disaster.

The Truth: As if any doubt remained.
Yes, he did. Actually had the gall to send a note, asking for the return of that wretched Stephen King novel he 'loaned' me. Some co-workers and I went through it with a red pen and a highlighter, marking seemingly random but creatively insulting phrases. Then we sent it to him through inter-office mail.

Erroneous Assumption #7: A lady is 'playing games' when she makes a simple, direct request.

The Truth: Very often, we mean exactly what we say, only more so. "Please brush your teeth," then, translates as "I am totally grossed out; you have not brushed your teeth for a week, your teeth are covered with the same pinkish slime that accumulates on the toilet bowl, and if you try to kiss me again I may very well chop you in the throat."

Or: "I don't accept phone calls after 10 PM," means "I don't accept phone calls after 1o PM unless a relative has died or a close friend is in crisis." Thus it is terribly unwise to call a lady for the first time at 11:15 PM, and say to her answering machine, "I hope it's not too late to call. I just got in."

In the case of E.F., the statement "Please leave me alone," meant "Please leave me alone, you psychotic nincompoop."

In summary:
The worst, bar none, worst thing you can possibly do in any situation is to project your own crass, irresponsible and squirrelly behavior onto another person. It is both unspeakably rude and monumentally stupid to ask a lady out and then get defensive, while she is doing nothing but sitting there, regretting that she ever met you. This is the sort of mistake that not only shoots you in the foot with the lady in front of you, but with everyone who knows anyone who knows her.

The male of the species continually seems to fall prey to the delusion that other people ought to have an interest in preserving the state of his ego. Why should this be so? Particularly when the gratification of his ego depends principally on abusing the bodies, minds and emotions of others?

As a postscript: in Latin countries, where Pretty Lady has spent a considerable amount of time, it is considered a badge of upper-class manhood to be a flagrant womanizer. However, even there it is seen as a terrible breach of decorum to hit on the friends of one's girlfriend. It is only in the so-called 'liberal' echelons of American society where such idiocy is seriously defended. Pretty Lady puts this down to the utter inability of the untrained male to envision the collateral consequences of his actions; but this is a discussion for another day.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

How to be Sexy

Pretty Lady has decided to give the boys a break. She was considering writing a treatise on "How to Screw Up," complete with lurid examples from her colorful past, but she has it on reliable information that this sort of thing is making the gentlemen's heads hurt. (Sorry, dear Mr. Nelson. You KNOW I consider all my champions to be superior examples of their gender, by definition.)

Instead, she has decided to offer some overwhelmingly upbeat advice which, she hopes, will additionally be simple and easy to follow. This advice applies equally to humans of all genders, anthropological classifications and orientations; in fact, many of the more obstreperous fellows around here would do well to take a few lessons from the Dandy. ;-)

Simply: Be Dave Matthews.

Not literally. More simply: Know thyself; and OWN it.

Pretty Lady is using Dave Matthews as an example, not only because his sardonic, quizzical smirk causes her higher intellect to momentarily cease functioning, but because his career is a perfect example of how to become wildly successful by accident. Dave himself has confessed that he doesn't understand how a band which specializes in fifteen-minute saxophone improvisations came to be packing stadiums in the late 1990s. Not only that, but Dave is a poster child for the Sensitive Individual who is Nevertheless, Mind-Bogglingly Charismatic.

Who was it that said that a gentleman must repress his feelings in order to be attractive to the opposite gender? This person has obviously never listened to Dave, abjectly growling out the lines:

Oh, have you no pity?
This thing I do
I do not deny it
All through this smile
Crooked as danger...
I would leave you now
If I had the strength to
I would leave you up
To your own devices
Will you not talk?
Can you take pity?
I don't ask much
But won't you speak
I must admit, the gravelly alto helps quite a bit. But the thing that makes it sexy is the way he is, figuratively, standing in the spotlight and confessing, "here I am, being hideously pathetic now. Got a problem with that?"

One knows that a man like that will move along through it presently. He will not wallow for decades, leaning on his closest companions and slowly draining them dry. Even in the depths of hopeless misery, he is both occupying the emotion and witnessing it. In a larger sense, then, he takes conscious and complete responsibility for himself, exactly as he is.

Hmph. Wandered off into esoteric rhetoric, there. I do apologize.

So, think of it like this; your task is to become so much yourself--quirky, odd, or pathetic as this may be--that you unwittingly assemble a cult following of hard-core fans. Do not think of how to please the masses. The masses have notoriously terrible taste. Notice the dumbest things about yourself, and cultivate them; nay, flaunt them. Occupy your territory.

Once you have this down, it is important to become comfortable enough within your unique star quality to be able to open up, and perceive the star quality within others. Surely everyone here is familiar with the comments of that lady who was fortunate enough to lunch with Messrs. Gladstone and Disraeli on consecutive days; when asked about her experience, she declared, "When I was with Mr. Gladstone, I was convinced that he was the most fascinating person in the world. With Mr. Disraeli, I was convinced that I was the most fascinating person in the world." The Disraeli technique is known as 'charm,' and this is what truly makes the world go round.

Related posts:
How to Ask a Lady Out
How to Ask a Gentleman Out
How to Pick a Lady Up

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How to Ask a Gentleman Out

So, why would you want to?

Pretty Lady believes, truly, in the interconnectedness of all things. If any lady is considering asking a gentleman out, and feels a strong compulsion to do so, then go ahead, by all means. Your gesture will undoubtedly perpetrate reactions far beyond your ken. You may very well give the gentleman the necessary courage and self-confidence to pursue the woman of his dreams.

This woman will not, of course, be you. So long as you understand that.

Really, girls, if a man has met you, and spoken with you--been subject to the indefatigable brilliance of your presence, in other words--and has not yet had the wit to ask you of his own accord, what could be the reason for this? Pretty Lady can think of several.

1) He is married or otherwise attached.
2) He is perverted or gay.
3) He is the type of arrogant twerp who waits for women to come to him, then uses their initiative as an excuse to avoid any emotional, practical and financial responsibilities which might arise from the liason.
4) He is (unaccountably) Not Interested.
5) He is shy.

Can anyone out there think of other options? I will be happy to entertain them; these are the major ones which occur to me at the moment.

So then, presuming we have most of our bases covered--in which of these circumstances would a lady taking the initiative be a desirable thing? Obviously, asking a man out in cases 1-4 will only lead to extended misery, humiliation and heartbreak. Under all of these circumstances, the gentleman is to be greatly commended for restraining himself. Why would any sane lady want to force the issue?

But then, there is always option 5, which is not to be ignored.

Pretty Lady is not precisely an expert on bashfulness in men, but she DOES have a brother. She rarely discusses her brother in public, out of deep respect for his privacy. In this case, however, and with all suitable cloakings in anonymity and altering of salient details, her brother may serve as Exhibit A--the Bashful but Highly Desirable Man.

Well, of course he's desirable, he's Pretty Lady's brother, with all the genetic superiority of looks, intelligence and character which this implies. Pretty Lady could go on for days about the excellence of her brother, but his characteristics are already too well-known in private circles to require comment. In fact, her brother requires more protection than advertisement--since the age of thirteen he has been plagued by the more aggressive and clueless brand of female, throwing herself at his head. In his quiet discrimination he has kindly and politely parried these overtures, only occasionally with discreet telephone screenings by watchful female relatives.

Unfortunately for the women, however, Pretty Lady's brother is shy. He is also a bit of a workaholic; what with his undemanding Buddha nature and 80-hour workweeks, he may very well remain single for the next twenty years or so. This would be a tragedy for the advancement of the species. That is why Pretty Lady is breaking silence now; in the interests solely of the redemption of mankind, she will offer a bit of advice on how to ask her brother out.

The correct phrase is, "Yo! Dude. Why don't you take a break already, and come mountain-biking with me this weekend."

Note the salient characteristics of this phrase; its seeming casualness, confidence, lack of emotional pressure, and activity-oriented content. One can imagine the type of lady who could effectively deliver it--one who is comfortable with herself, one who knows my brother well, one who can take yes or no for an answer without any significant adjustment of ego-identity.

Should this lady be so fortunate as to receive an answer in the affirmative, she must continue to comport herself along these sportsmanlike lines. Her behavior must be calculated to help my brother feel at ease in her company. Warm, confident smiles, casual jokes, wide-ranging interest in both sporty and intellectual pursuits, a palpable lack of emotional pressure or fractious tantrums are all a must. Also a considerable amount of patience, and detachment from outcome. In fact, the lady must outmatch my brother's Buddha nature, in order to have a chance of success with him.

Pretty Lady is exhausted, just thinking about it.


You Are a Cappuccino

You're fun, outgoing, and you love to try anything new.
However, you tend to have strong opinions on what you like.
You are a total girly girly at heart - and prefer your coffee with good conversation.
You're the type that seems complex to outsiders, but in reality, you are easy to please

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How to Ask a Lady Out

Pretty Lady had to chastise the Pundit, once upon a time, not so long ago, whilst the Pundit was still single and actively chasing females on Nerve.com. He complained to her, "I get chatting with a woman, and everything seems to be going fine until I give her my phone number. Then things just trail off."

Hello? Pretty Lady was momentarily speechless.

The Pundit, she thought, had little excuse for this. Pretty Lady met the Pundit once upon a time on Nerve.com, in fact, and he was one of the very few gentlemen she accepted into her inner circle. The Pundit is a Real Man, a mature and intelligent soul, and he knows how to treat a lady. The fact that Pretty Lady did not marry him herself in no way reflects upon his qualities as a mate; they simply didn't suit. Like a true gentleman, once his amorous overtures were regretfully declined, he gracefully continued to be her friend and champion, and she in turn was one of the first to embrace his lovely bride. This is how civilized people behave.

This is why she was so shocked. "Once you give them your phone number?" she inquired.

"Yes, I don't want to ask for theirs, lest they think I'm stalking them," the Pundit replied. "That way they can decide whether to call me or not."

Gentlemen, I respect your delicacy, but listen to me: never do that. Please.

The poor Pundit was falling into a trap made of false liberalism. His motives were pure; unfortunately, too many of the motives of those who went before him were not. Thus I had to explain to him what these women already knew; that a man who gives a woman his phone number is generally either 1) insecure, submissive, passive-aggressive and pathetic; or 2) an arrogant user who sows phone numbers as seeds for booty calls. In effect, such a man is saying, "I don't want to get entangled, but if you want sex with no strings, give a buzz and I'll oblige you. If I'm free."

So what's an honest gentleman to do, in this confusing day and age?

The method is very simple. When you meet an attractive lady, either online or in person, get a piece of contact information. This could be a phone number, an email address, a Blackberry text-messaging thingamajiggy, whatever. In our society this cannot anymore be construed as 'stalking'; gracious, anyone who knows Pretty Lady can Google up her entire life story in six seconds. Relax already.

Then you wait a decent period of time. The minimum should be two days, preferably three; the maximum a week and a half. More time and the lady may well have forgotten who you are; less and she will assume you have no life. The only exception to this rule is if you met Pretty Lady on New Years' Eve and are leaving for Ecuador for three months on January 2, and want to be sure she remembers you upon your return. (Craig, darling, the sushi was wonderful.)

When you contact the lady, via phone or email, a few simple rules must be observed. Keep it short, casual and friendly; ask her to do something which will engage her interest but not impart an undue amount of pressure. Invite her for coffee, or biking in the park, or to hear a garage band made up of your own acquaintances. This first meeting is for the purposes of discovering whether the two of you have enough in common to make it through a dinner date. Pretty Lady can attest to the fact that there is nothing more draining than sitting through a two-hour meal with an individual who has not cracked a book since 1987.

On this first short date, do: pay for the coffee. Listen. Ask reasonably intelligent questions. Show up clean, sober and dressed. Depart gracefully after an hour, two at most, twenty minutes if the lady is a psychotic nightmare. Kiss her on the cheek, in a non-invasive way.

Do not: whine. Insist on going dutch. Show up in yesterday's sweat-stained farming clothes. Talk endlessly about yourself without letting her get a word in edgewise. Ignore her cross-legged, tight-lipped body language and offer to jump into her lap. Pretend to be an insane person because you think it is funny. Slobber on her face. (These things have all actually happened to Pretty Lady.)

You cannot possibly get into trouble if you follow these rules. If there is instantly, obviously no chemistry, you have not wasted a lot of time and the price of a meal; if there is, you surge confidently ahead and ask her out for the works. If she's a cool girl and you do not suit, you have made a friend--and girls have friends, too. Since you followed the above rules, you will surely come recommended. At the price of a cup of coffee, this is an incredible bargain.

Coming up next: How to Ask a Gentleman Out (or not).

Monday, February 20, 2006


The time has come to decide the crucial question. Which version of "Ne me quitte pas" is more likely to reduce the listener to helpless tears: the Jacques Brel original, or the Ute Lemper version?

A straw survey, conducted in Pretty Lady's living room, has revealed a distinct gender divide. P.L.'s cuñado is of the opinion that Jacques Brel sounds like "a smooth-ass lounge singer." He was deeply moved by Ute's rendition, which conveyed the impression that "he's already left, and she's singing to herself in the kitchen with the tequila."

Pretty Lady found this deeply perceptive, as she herself has not been immune, in days not so distant, to a certain amount of wallowing, and an only semi-ironic preoccupation with AMC's classic album "Mercury," particularly "I've Been A Mess." Perhaps it is out of a certain over-identification with tequila-drenched melodrama, then, that she initially found Ute's version to be a bit histrionic. Mr. Brel, on the other hand, conveyes to her a sense of manful, post-ironic restraint in the face of overwhelming heartbreak.

Jake, however, agreed with el cuñado; he likes Ute, too. Pretty Lady finds this rather comforting. It's nice to know that flamboyant misery is not always and entirely a turn-off, to the opposite gender.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

What to do in NYC

If you are still taking requests, we are planning to be in NYC next summer, sometime during July, visiting my husband's sister and her family.

Do you have any suggestions as to what two families with four children, 10 and 7 year old girls, and 3 and 2 year old boys, might find to do? My older son watched the first two acts of the Nutcracker at Christmas this last year, and enjoyed it enough that he still talks about the battle betweeen the soldiers and mice. The younger one hasn't yet done that, but he can be fairly still and quiet during church. Not good enough for inside an auditorium, but perhaps there are some outdoor theaters or some good museums?

My, my, what a splendid mother you are! Pretty Lady only wishes her own dear mama had had the resources and foresight to plan a trip to NYC when she was small. She might have gotten a jump start on life.

First, some blanket advice: 1) Plan your day and 2) split up, taking a stroller for the small ones. There will be some places and activities which 7 and 10 year old girls will find enthralling, that will cause 2 and 3 year old boys to become restless. Also, you will want a break from managing. Be sure to take plenty of time to sit in one place and watch the city go by.

If you plan to use the subway, a free subway map can be obtained by asking the person behind the glass for one. They will not tell you this. Also, when entering a subway station, one must read the signs above ground to ascertain which direction a train is going. This is not Paris or London, where one can simply find a station, go down into it, and plan one's itinerary. Stations labelled "Downtown/Brooklyn" are going, generally, south; those labeled "Uptown/Queens" are going north. Metrocards can be obtained from machines, using a credit card. It is wise to get an unlimited pass if you do not plan to lose it.

Taxis can sometimes be a smart investment, and sometimes a time-consuming and expensive one. In general, during traffic jams, it is far preferable to take the subway.

Now. For families with small children, the American Museum of Natural History is a must. Planetarium, dinosaurs, whales, wolves and infinite delights abound. It is also one of the few places in NYC that is not only child-friendly, but child-centered. Plan to spend most of one whole day there.

My own dear mother has fond memories of being taken to the Central Park Zoo at the age of four; I believe there is both a playground and a petting zoo, also a duckpond with water lilies and turtles. Close by the zoo is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is probably the most fabulous museum in the world, in my opinion. Pretty Lady's first introduction to this wondrous place was through the classic children's book, "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler," by E. L. Konigsburg; if your girls can be persuaded to read it before coming to the city, they will be well on their way to becoming truly cultured young ladies.

(Another little-known fact--admission at the Met is a voluntary donation. One can pay one penny, if one's family is financially strapped.)

One can obtain half-price tickets to Broadway shows, if one is willing to stand in line on the day of the show and take what comes. This may be an option for the girls, while the boys are having a nap. I think "The Lion King" is still playing.

During the summer, there are free art and music events happening downtown nearly every evening, at the River to River Festival. Pretty Lady is on their mailing list, and she highly recommends it. Some of the outdoor auditoriums are right on the waterfront, and a family can have a picnic on the grass while watching the boats go by and listening to live salsa, for example.

If your family is interested in getting to know more about the city than can possibly be imagined, a trip to the Museum of the City of New York is in order. For an overaweing churchgoing experience without having to fly all the way to Europe, one cannot do better than the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, although perhaps the cavernous vastness of the building would frighten a small child. You will have to use your discretion.

Some general financial tips--do not go out to dinner in Midtown. The prices are geared toward investment bankers on expense accounts. Try the Village or the Lower East Side; you can obtain an NFT (not for tourists) guide which will provide excellent maps and price guides, or get a Frommer's or a Lonely Planet. In fact, for wandering aimlessly, window-shopping, and finding frequent cafés for sitting and relaxing with a cappucino and a pastry for an hour or three, you cannot beat the East Village. It's not dangerous anymore.

Do not miss the opportunity to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and/or take the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The walkway on the bridge is a boardwalk which runs above the traffic, affording a priceless view. The walkways on the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges are miserable in comparison.

If you care to escape Manhattan for an afternoon, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden is quite extraordinary, and heals the soul. Tuesdays are free. You are likely to find Pretty Lady in the water lily garden, or lying on the grass watching the butterflies.

This is only a small preliminary list, but is likely to be enough to occupy at least a week. I have not bothered to mention the Guggenheim, the Whitney, the Frick, the MoMA, the aquarium and amusement park at Coney Island, Jones Beach, the Brooklyn Museum, the Noguchi Museum, Grace Church, St. Thomas' Fifth Avenue, the New York Public Library, Times Square, Chelsea, the WTC site (quite depressing, still) or any number of other things. It is best to pick a few things, enjoy them to the utmost, and rest when anyone shows signs of crankiness.

WEAR GOOD WALKING SHOES. Pretty Lady almost forgot to mention this, as it seems over-obvious, but she had one guest who brought nothing but three-inch heels. It boggles the mind.

Bon voyage!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Teddy Girls

Some of these photos remind me of the occasion that Pretty Lady attended a Halloween party in the Castro, dressed as Humphrey Bogart. Her costume was greeted with such impassioned, drunken approval by the boyfriend of a friend of hers, that she suspects it had something to do with the subsequent demise of that particular friendship. Some women do not handle their competitive instincts at all honestly.

Dan agrees with me

Quite an in-depth interview with Mr. Savage, in celebration of whatever commerical holiday this is:

I feel so sorry for straight guys. Because their sex lives are a terror, and are really circumscribed by straight guys policing the behavior of other straight guys—"Hey, you're a fag"—and by gay guys policing their behavior, and straight women. Paradoxically, straight guys run the world, but sexually, they're so imprisoned and it's not just a prison of their own creation...There's a problem with straight-male sexual identity where it's just a mass of negatives. It's not defined really by anything positive. Being a straight guy is not being a fag, not being a woman, and not doing anything that fags or women do, like have feelings or sit-ups or anything.

Perhaps it is becoming tedious of me to continue linking to Jamie's essay, but I do so love it, and it makes the same point. Perhaps the boys would be nicer to us ladies if we got off their cases for awhile.

The more life experience I collect, the more it is apparent to me that women have a great deal more power than perhaps we realize. Part of this has to do with political pendulums. I recall-- several years ago when I was troubled by an individual at work, who could not be convinced that his passion for myself was both inappropriate and hopeless--that my primary concern in resisting his advances was not to expose him to any more humiliation than could reasonably be expected. It was clear to me that should I protest too loudly, he could lose his job. Thus I kept my mouth shut for, really, a couple of years. Eventually I got tired of his surly ingratitude, and ranting and sulking and gratuitous personal insults, and put a stop to it. But I did give him fair warning.

Some of the power we have, we would do well to claim more often. I have become very bored by female friends of mine complaining about things like construction workers hassling them in the street. It never seems to be clear to these ladies that it is their choice whether to be offended, flattered or amused by such behavior. I have rarely heard of any lady being set upon in broad daylight, in a populated city, and gang-raped by a pack of construction workers at lunch, simply because she nodded and said hello.

In fact, nodding and saying hello is frequently all it takes to shut these fellows up. Oftentimes, when importuned lasciviously by large groups of Mexican gas-tank delivery boys, Pretty Lady pretends she is Princess Diana in a cavalcade, and treats them to a gracious wave of the hand. She has never been subject to personal violence on these occasions. Invariably, the pack of them applaud, and commence talking about something else. It's the single men in alleyways that you have to watch out for.

All women need to understand that our identities as ladies and human beings are internally determined, not defined by the vulgar behavior of someone else. Thus it is proper to reject any sorts of external power conferred by the notion that we are victims of the world around us. It is permissible to ask our boss to keep his hands to himself, and take appropriate action if this request is not respected; it is contemptible to claim excessive psychological trauma when a man makes a coarse remark about our bosom, and use this as leverage for a malicious lawsuit. We must get it firmly in our minds that his remark merely reflects his vulgar and myopic point of view, and has nothing to do with our competence or respectability.

Once we come into the understanding of our own unique and irremovable power, then there is room for compassion. Ladies, do you realize that those same hormonal surges which are responsible for PMS meltd0wns, attacks of blind rage and chronic snarkiness, are experienced by the male of the species, three times a day? One is surprised that the dear fellows get anything accomplished at all. In many ways, men are weaker than we are--less able to express themselves with grace and finesse, less able to envision the collateral consequences of their actions, more a slave to their biological instincts. It is proper to insist that a man shoulder responsibilities which belong to him. But we must be equally willing to assume our own.

Shocked, shocked I am

Perhaps this explains why yours truly has had such difficulty in settling down. I always wondered why the other girls seemed to have so little of my pathological aversion to boredom.

Deeply humbled

Wasn't anyone else as impressed by this as I was? It must have been some deep intuition that caused me to turn on the television at 11:10 PM last night; I caught the winning Russian performance, by the pair that recovered from a drop and severe concussion two years ago, and then the Chinese silver medalists, who possibly impressed me even more.

Less than a minute into their program, they attempted some fabulous move that has never been done in competition before; the commentator said "They've been doing this very well in practice, with a 40-50% success rate." Forty to fifty percent? That seems long odds to Pretty Lady.

The ensuing blow to the knee, sustained by Zhang Hao, looked to be comparable to the injury sustained by Pretty Lady in Tahoe a number of years ago, when she took a blue-diamond slope at an unjustifiable speed, hit a large bump, sailed goodness knows how many feet into the air, and landed upon her right patella. The two Frenchmen who accompanied her found this all very amusing.

But Pretty Lady was not getting up again to skate any Olympic-medal-winning performance after that, you can be sure. She sat at the top of the hill while the Frenchmen finished their run, and limped carefully home. Even the weight of the ski pulling her leg down while sitting on the lift was excrutiating.

The thing about pain and adrenalin is that there has to be a whole lot of the former to trump the latter. Pretty Lady has had the experience of having her head slammed, maliciously and forcefully, into an asphalt surface, by some random persons who intended to knock her unconscious and rape her; the salient detail which she noted at the time was that this did not hurt at all. If Zhang Hao was hurting badly enough to double over and stop her programme after that fall, you can bet that it wasn't a mere tap. Pretty Lady did not expect her to get back on the ice after forty-five seconds of consultation; when she did, Pretty Lady expected to see an even more dramatic catastrophe. She was chewing her hands, verily she was.

And lovely, lovely Zhang Hao and her charming partner sailed gloriously to a silver medal. Pretty Lady cannot imagine why bells are not trumpeting all over the city this morning.

Taking requests

Pretty Lady woke up feeling thick today. She perhaps unwisely took a late-night stroll to the Barnes & Noble, to catch up on the latest titles, and fell into a couple of six of those deep slushy puddles that accumulate at corners. This morning, which is already afternoon, she has a sore throat, a slight fever, and no creative imagination whatsoever.

So does anyone have any questions, such as might spark a feverish outpouring of archaic wisdom? The more trivial, the better. Please take Pretty Lady out of herself.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Superintendent? What superintendent?

Pretty Lady has not even STARTED wondering how she will get her car out from under all of this. It looks like home laundry delivery service will be a good investment this week.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Less than goddesses

Ah, Betty. Life is short, but love is long.

Pretty Lady is perplexed by the variety of media output pondering the concern, "What Should Women Do?" This strikes her as a ridiculous question. Women do what we do. We should do our best, of course--and the vast majority of us are doing it.

Pretty Lady's copy of The Feminine Mystique has gone the way of most books published in paperback, during the second half of the twentieth century, printed on non-acid-free paper with double-fan-adhesive binding; it disintegrated, and she had to throw it out. When she read it, back in college, it struck her as both obvious and a tad over-researched.

But then, Pretty Lady had both the privilege and the misfortune of growing up in that most un-mystical of places, a suburb. She experienced firsthand that floating, glassed-in sensation of Being Trapped, Permanently, With Toddlers. She loves children, of course, as she loves most humans; she is the kind of lady who persistently engages the attention of babies in airports, and supermarkets, and on the street, occasionally relieving a long-suffering mother's burden of whimpering, by the simple expedient of widening her already large eyes to the size of tea saucers. Babies find this mesmerizing.

However, the conversation of toddlers, and nothing but toddlers, fourteen hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year, drives Pretty Lady Right Out Of Her Tree. When she lets her hair down, Pretty Lady is given to using words like 'solipsistic' in casual conversation, and quoting bits of Shakespeare in a breezy, ironic way. Toddlers tend not to appreciate this. At other times, she engages herself in focused creative activity for six to twelve hours at a stretch, and is inclined to be short when interrupted.

Thus, Pretty Lady feels that the best circumstance for engaging in the arduous and important task of motherhood is to be geographically surrounded by a vast number of friends, neighbors, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents, and cousins, who are all available at times to pick up the slack, when she feels she might be going insane. She has seen this in the South of France, and it strikes her as the only civilized way to live.

But that is only Pretty Lady's personal experience and opinion, which must be dissociated from the sociopolitical, for the purposes of deeper introspection. Sociopolitically, dear Betty's book was a bit myopic, as is so elegantly pointed out in this article, as well as in a ruminative post by the Dandy:

The problems facing, for example, millions of poor, working women or non-white women -- oppressive working conditions and low pay, racism, and the burdens of a double day -- barely register on the radar screen of The Feminine Mystique. As Rosemarie Tong remarks, "Friedan seemed oblivious to any other perspectives than those of white, middle-class, heterosexual, educated women who found the traditional roles of wife and mother unsatisfying."
"I tried to read her culture-altering Feminine Mystique many years ago and tossed it aside after a few chapters. I had no idea who she was talking about. Quite simply, I had never met an upper class, highly educated, suburban housewife. The choices and restrictions she was discussing had nothing to do with my life. "Choose to work" outside the home? Hah! As if! I'd been working and supporting myself since I was 17---I HAD no other "choice".

Well, there you go. One can somewhat understand the vitriol that is occasionally spewed by the upstanding, conscientious, self-employed male, who has poured forth the sweat of his brow to rescue his princess from a life of unremitting toil, only to have his contributions thrown back in his face with the words, "I'm bored with this." One can understand if one empathizes to a certain point, and no farther.

But it is still futile and absurd to prescribe a set of rules for how another, unrelated person ought to behave, in an unrelated set of circumstances, based only upon one's personal need to be the king of the homestead. I am sure that all these lovely men are committed to doing their best, within the parameters provided; do they mean to tell us that as women, we should stand aside helplessly and wait for them to rescue us, instead of taking whatever action seems appropriate? That Pretty Lady ought to let her rent go unpaid until her current swain proposes? Or that Francesca should let her baby starve because Pablo is drinking himself under the table? Surely not.

Pretty Lady does understand the meaning of reductio ad absurdum, of course. Economic imprisonment is a particularly harsh reality, next to which the concept of spiritual imprisonment seems self-indulgent and flimsy. But in her experience, self-empowerment is both the only reliable means to economic freedom, and a psychospiritual continuum. One aspect of freedom leads to another. This appears to be true for human minds of any gender. Once the bills are paid and the kiddies are in bed, the next human impulse is to Build Something Neat. Why deny any soul that joy and satisfaction?

So, darlings, on all sides of the political spectrum, let us let our Betty rest genuinely in peace. She was as earnest, and as flawed, as any of the rest of us. Like a baby becoming conscious, first of his fingers, then of his toes, then of playpen and back yard and Mommy's face, Betty saw what was around her, first. She grew up a bit and expanded her opinions. If her view did not become all-encompassing within her lifetime, who is to say that theirs is larger?

The peerless Reese

Recently viewed: 'Just Like Heaven,' with Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo.

Verdict: Buy this movie. Now. Put it in the DVD player on a repeat loop and do not stop playing it for the rest of the week. Two-day rental from Blockbuster is Not Sufficient. You must experience this movie in depth over a period of time.

Points which induced delighted guffaws and rolling on floor:

Bar scene, where spirit of Reese successfully prevents Mark from consuming a double whiskey, and the actor Mark successfully proves that he is Jim Carrey's equal in terms of kinesthetic comedy.

Any scene containing that guy from Napoleon Dynamite.

Punch in jaw in hospital.

The line about moving bodies.

Most of the others, too.

Points which induced actual, copious weeping:

The Backward Glance.

The Roof.

Probably some others, too.

Perhaps Pretty Lady is merely in a hormonally delicate state of mind, but she doesn't think so. She can't imagine how this movie could have received a dismissal from whatever pretentious New Yorker critic reviewed it. It proves the validity of her artistic philosophy; careening wildly between the sublime and the ridiculous can be the best way to touch the soul.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How to Make Tea

All Americans, please listen closely. Particularly if you own a restaurant, or are employed by the restaurant industry in any capacity. Not that I will be visiting you with any greater frequency, but it is absolutely absurd that when I do, I cannot obtain a decent pot of tea for love or money.

1. Acquire china tea pot.

2. Acquire decent tea--Jackson's of Picadilly, Fortnum & Mason's, and Yorkshire Gold are the preferred varieties, but Lipton will do.

3. Acquire tea balls and tea strainers.

4. Acquire a kettle.

5. Fill the kettle with filtered, purified water, or spring water, or water that in other respects is lacking in chemical or sedimentary adulteration.

6. Bring the kettle to a boil. You will know that it is boiling when steam issues forth in gusts, not little trickles. If the kettle has a whistle, it will be whistling ferociously.

7. Warm the china tea pot with boiling water. That is, add some water, swirl it around, empty the tea pot.

8. Keep the kettle boiling.

9. Add tea to the teapot--one teaspoon for each tea drinker, and one for the pot.

10. Add boiling water to the teapot, on top of the tea. Cover teapot with a cozy and let it steep for at least 5 minutes.

11. Serve in china teacups with half-and-half on the side. Pour through a tea strainer. Sugar optional.

You will notice, in the above instructions, that there is nothing at all about tea bags, aluminum single-serving pitcher thingies with tepid water in them, slices of lemon, or artificial sweeteners. Nor is there anything about skim milk, non-dairy creamer, powder, or styrofoam.

So stop being complete idiots. Stop offering Pretty Lady a smorgasboard of colorful envelopes, next to an empty cup and the abovementioned tepid alumium pitcher. When the water is no longer boiling, it is Already Too Late for a cup of genuine tea. The tea bags, at that point, are a mere mockery.

Pretty Lady has been wanting to get that off her chest for a long, long time. Now she must go lie down.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Gentlemen, I regret to say that both of you are sadly incorrect

Oh, the tragic ditherings of the long-suffering male, in his endless attempt to understand the female. One must empathize. One must feel his pain. And one must pat him kindly on the head and tell him he is wrong. But thank you ever so much for trying.

Sweet little VD, in his noble attempt to talk sense into Gamma boys, takes issue with a well-meaning post by darling Scott Adams, wherein Scott advises all seekers of domestic harmony to agree meekly with their mates.


If you want your relationship to have a chance, defer all decisions and interpretations of fact to the person who cares the most. In practice, this will mean that women will make 98% of all the decisions and be “right” 98% of the time. Compared to men, women care more passionately about just about everything.

...the man who accepts female abuse in pursuit of pleasure will soon find himself left to his own devices.

For the sake of peace and fair-mindedness, I will omit all of VD's personal slurs on the subject of Scott's purported non-attractiveness, on which I have no opinion. I love and admire Scott's work immensely, and, after often mistaking the work for the man in the early years of my career, and regretting it, I am content to leave it there.

I will say, in all fairness, that each of these dear boys holds a portion of the truth. Women do not respect a doormat; and they do not like to have their passionately held opinions steamrollered without a trial. What is missing in both arguments is, first: subtext, and second: subtlety. Not generally a surprise, when dealing with the masculine mind.

The thing is, boys, when a woman holds an opinion on something, and shares it with you, she is sharing a portion of herself. Her taste in home furnishings, her notions on the deeper mysteries of the Holy Spirit and the illusory nature of reality are all a part of her intricate and fluctuating sense of self-identity. Thus, when she expresses an opinion, she is not talking to prove dominance, or to fill up dead air. She is allowing you the privilege of Getting To Know Who She Is. If this woman is your lover, and you want her to stay that way, you had better pay attention. Close attention.

However, only an immature idiot expects her lover to agree with her on all issues; this is horribly boring, and annoying, and frustrating. What she wants is challenge and conversation, superimposed upon a bedrock of mutual harmony and understanding. Thus, the two proposed responses: "yes, dear," and "you have got to be out of your freakin' MIND, bitch," are equally unacceptable. The only difference between the two is that, after the inevitable breakup, she will remain on friendly terms with the former man, and file hostile lawsuits against the latter.

Cases in point: twice in my life, I have handed a man a Very Important Book, with the words, "This book changed my life, and helped to shape the very nature of the way I see reality." (The first time, the book was 'Grace and Grit' by Ken Wilber, and the handee was an emotionally abusive Buddhist monk with whom I was having a long-distance affair; the second time, it was 'The Holographic Universe' by Michael Talbot, and the handee was--oh, God, don't even get me started. I prefer to remain polite.)

The recipient of Ken's book glanced at the liner notes for less than ten seconds, and declared, "This guy thinks he knows what he's talking about, but he's wrong." The recipient of Michael's book actually bothered to read it, I think; he handed it back to me with the one-word comment, "Horseshit."

Ladies, a show of hands, please? What is the matter with the above responses?

Yes, indeed. There are two major difficulties with these reactions: 1) lack of fundamental respect for the mind of the woman who loved the book, not to mention of the author, and 2) lack of cogent, reasoned and informed arguments to support their opinions. The latter, in fact, implies the former. In both cases, the man retained his ego dominance at the expense of the good opinion of the female. I regard these two men, now, with undisguised and immutable contempt. If that is a price you are willing to pay, then go forth in peace.

However, if I were to hand either of these two books to a man who instantly devoured them, and returned them with the words, "Oh my God, I think the same things TOO, exactly, we must be MADE for one another," I would run screaming into the night. That is creepy and un-masculine. Or if, as per Scott's advice, he put them on the coffee table and said "yes, dear," I would have a very strong suspicion that he was Not Paying Attention. After a couple of years of this I would (and have) wander off to another country and have an affair with a charming lunatic who challenged my mind.

Gentlemen, long-term relationships require engagement. They're not just about guaranteed sex for the rest of your life. They're about actually getting to know a person who is (gasp) different from you. The long term result of such a process of engagement is spiritual, emotional and personal growth.

I realize that this notion gives most of you hives. That is why there are prostitutes and easy women. Our gender is, in the long run, infinitely accomodating.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Come away with me, my love

Absolutely could not resist this:

I know, I know, it is low humor indeed.

Style, fashion and thrift

Pretty Lady had occasion to buy a new pair of jeans, recently. She wandered into a tony boutique on Fifth Avenue, and was swarmed upon by an officious helper. She mentioned her interest in jeans, and was soon supplied with a large stack and a dressing room.

(As an aside--what IS it with this ridiculous 'hip hugger' look? The affectation does not flatter any woman but those with the figure of a twelve-year-old boy. She has even seen them doing severe damage to the figures of girls who DO somewhat resemble twelve-year-old boys. They create unattractive pooches at the hips and belly where none were originally, and give the general impression of badly-stuffed sausage. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only style currently available.)

So Pretty Lady tried on her stack of 'hip-huggers,' further adorned with patches and embroiderings, in the style of late-sixties do-it-yourself flower children, which she does not much object to, though it is not one of her favorite eras. She found a pair that did not distort her excellent figure too terribly badly; the sales helper pronounced them "cute." Then she looked at the price tag, and laughed. Pretty Lady does not pay one hundred sixty-five dollars for a pair of jeans.

She emerged from the dressing room and politely returned the stack. "Aren't you going to get those jeans? They are so cute on you!" insisted the helper.

Pretty Lady insisted right back. "Jeans do not cost one hundred and sixty-five dollars," she informed the dear girl, kindly. "Jeans cost twenty dollars." She thereupon left the boutique, went to Old Navy, and paid twenty dollars. Really.

It is a tragic misconception that a lady must spend large sums of money in order to be stylish. It is an even greater misconception that being stylish has anything to do with being fashionable. Style and fashion are, in fact, oppositional concepts. A fashionable person is a shallow individual with the conversational half-life of a chimpanzee. A stylish person may give the world of fashion a passing glance, out of artistic curiosity and appreciation, but selects only those items which fit both her internal sense of self and her pocketbook. Her clothing is thus unique to herself, and never goes out of fashion, for the simple reason that she is wearing it.

A stylish woman knows both her eras and her temperaments. She may have many of each, and they may overlap, but she never attempts to stuff herself into a mode which does not fit. For example, Pretty Lady has a fifties figure and a forties outlook, with the occasional dash of gypsy, grunge, witch or princess. (It is now to be stated that Pretty Lady did NOT follow the 'grunge' craze of the early nineties; the 'grunge' craze followed HER. Hmph. She was walking the streets in flannel plaid, black t-shirts and paint-stained army fatigues, years before anyone had heard of Kurt Cobain.) A stylish woman purchases an item only when she adores it, and it suits her coloring, her figure, and at least one of her temperaments.

Thusly, Pretty Lady's wardrobe is an organic, evolving entity, with items being cycled in upon discovery, re-accessorized as season and whim dictate, and retired only upon irremediable physical deterioration, not the ludicrous notion that they are "out of fashion." She obtains many of these items at sample sales, clearance racks, thrift stores, the Salvation Army, and barter among her designer friends. (One of her most prized collections is a series of classic designer hats, obtained at barter from the artist she showed in her own gallery, about a year before this artist was co-opted by Barney's Fifth Avenue; no girl of Pretty Lady's income level will ever be able to afford these hats again.)

So, to those girls who feel swamped, overwhelmed, and utterly confused by the world of fashion, she offers a few words of advice; forget about it. Go Within. Ask yourself what kind of woman your six-year-old self dreamed of being, and follow her dictates. Did she wish to appear at kindergarten and dazzle her classmates as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North? Then what is she doing in a tweed suit? Throw out the tweed and troll the Goodwill for fouffy taffeta skirts, or at the very least, soften the tweed with a Bavarian crystal necklace or two. Did she fancy herself as Pocohantas, chasing a deer fleetly through the jungle, bringing it down with a single shot of her powerful bow arm, and carrying it home on her well-defined shoulders to feed the tribe? Then put those high-heeled pumps in the back of the closet for weddings and church services, and go to work in that scrumptious pair of knee-high fringed mocassins, for mercy's sake. Nobody will fire you.

Or if they do, you didn't want that boring old job anyway. Start your own enterprise, and be at one with your true nature.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Such wealth

The Christmas cactus has bloomed!

Also the oncidium:

A note to would-be admirers--Pretty Lady does not like daisies. Well, she likes them, of course, but she PREFERS flowers as exotic, multi-dimensional, intricate and lavish as herself. Her favorites are--heavily scented roses in shades of peach and lilac, sweet peas, lilies, freesias, gladioli, tulips IF they are healthy and in season, and, of course, orchids.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Temple whores

Dear Jamie has finally got round to posting one of my favorite sections of his essay, "Peep Show":

As soon as I shut the door and slipped my first quarter into the slot, she would come right over, say a soft, smiling hello, and begin to dance for me. Eventually she would kneel down, to be at my eye level, and just look at me and hold her breasts in her hands and faintly hum. Through the glass, I could never make out what she was humming, just that it wasn’t the Jane’s Addiction or Prince song playing through the PA. I was never sure if she knew I could hear her, but the humming was just the sweetest, sexiest thing to me. And best of all, she looked at me as if she were actually seeing me, as if she inherently knew and was happy to give me what I needed: acceptance, forgiveness, release. I had found my ideal confessor.

Pretty Lady has never been quite economically desperate enough to employ herself in a strip club--nor, to be honest, is it particularly her style--but she has had, hmm, three, four, five--well, let's just say that many of her friends have done it. She has nothing but admiration and respect for these women. Like any other job, stripping can be elevated to an art form, if it proceeds from the heart.

Shame is murderous. It destroys men and women alike; it leads to more perversions, repressions, and ultimate brutalities than any other emotion. And as Jamie so eloquently points out, the twenty-first century male has been saddled with more than his share of it.

Perhaps it is time for all powerful ladies to give these gentlemen a break, and love them anyway.