Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Harmonic convergence

Today’s eclipse might be impressive and all, but it’s really just planets and shadows—a mere parlor trick even Dubya could master. Once he learns his alphabet. And how to tie his shoes. And run a country.

The REAL harmonic convergence occurs April 1. At least it’s scheduled for April 1, but through the magic of being a little more organized than I’d planned, it’s already happened. You see, as an adult of a certain age, my body operates on two different cycles. Neither of which involves bleeding. One is on a three-month pattern and one is on a four-month pattern. And every April 1, they cosmically occur at the same time. Except this year, when they both occurred last weekend. Because they both seemed more interesting than starting my taxes.

Cycle #1: My mattress
I wrote JFM, AMJ, JAS and OND in thick black magic marker on the corners of my mattress when I bought it in 1993. And if you think I did it because they’re the initials of the members of my favorite boy band, that would be a good guess. But you’d be wrong. Because they are actually the initials of months, organized into handy little three-month chunks. And at the beginning of each of these chunks, I rotate my mattress so the appropriate initials appear right-side-up on the southwest corner of my bed. Then I spray the whole thing with Lysol to kill off any residual stench from the dead hooker. And if I had a bedwetting problem, I’d take this opportunity to wash copious amounts of dried pee out of my mattress pad as well, but I don’t have a bedwetting problem, though I wash my mattress pad at these times just to be safe. Because nobody wants to sleep in dried pee. Even if it is hypothetical.

Cycle #2: My credit
Ever since my fun (but mercifully short-lived) little adventure with identity theft last year, I’ve been extra-diligent about my credit cards and reports and ratings. And carbs.

Fortunately, about the time I got hacked, our financially responsible (HA!) congress and the fine folks at appeared on the horizon with their guarantee of three free credit reports a year for everyone in America. You can order them all at once (you get one from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies) or you can space them out over the year. I opted for the latter, and I carefully wrote TransUnion, Experian and Equifax in my calendar on the firsts of April, August and December so I wouldn’t forget.

The reports are kind of long, but they’re packed with interesting information. And if you order one every four months, you don’t get overwhelmed. At least not totally overwhelmed. And it gives you time to correct any weird stuff you might find so your next report will be all the more accurate.

While the credit reports are free, your credit score is not, but you can buy it for about six bucks when you run your report. Just be sure you’re attached to a working printer. The whole process takes under 10 minutes, assuming government agents don’t peek through your cable modem and see how responsible a consumer you’ve been and come swooping in to haul you away to some secret church basement where you’re forced to teach Dubya and the other kids in his playgroup how to balance a freakin’ budget.

Which hasn’t happened to me yet, but I’m keeping my Lysol handy just in case they let me touch their toys.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Good Morning, Starshine!

So I have apparently entered the trannie hooker phase of my home-decorating lifecycle.

I bought these new sheets, see, last month when I was in Iowa for my uncommonly photogenic nephew’s seventh birthday. I wasn’t shopping for sheets; I was just wandering the aisles of Kohl’s when they jumped out at me. They were 400-count primo cotton. They were a masculine gunmetal gray. They came with extra pillowcases (sold separately). They were on sale. (And I had a coupon!)

They were also something called “sateen,” which it turns out is code for “shiny as a drag queen’s eyeshadow.” And it is an all but literal slippery slope from sleeping on shiny sheets to buying a waterbed and collecting Hummel figurines.

But the color! Masculine and confident, my new sheets’ dark gray is the perfect match to the gunmetal color of my bedframe. Unfortunately, they go with the organic oatmeal color of my bedspread the way shiny wingtips go with cotton khakis. And after only two washings, the topsheet has already started to turn a bit aubergine. Or maybe it’s eggplant. Or plum. Definitely plum. (Being gay can make it such a challenge to describe colors with appropriate precision.)

In any case, here’s a gratuitous approximation of what I look like sleeping in my shiny new sheets, which you’ll notice blend so well with the bedframe it’s kind of like I’m lounging in an infiniti pool along the Mediterranean, except without the cabana boys:
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And yesterday I bought a new bedspread* to match my shiny new sheets. I decided to embrace the plum, and I got a quilted blanket in a deep, confident purple—mostly because Linens ’n’ Things didn’t have anything gray … and I had a coupon. (Curse you, coupons! You’re filling my house with shiny purple things!) The blanket matches the sheets and the bedframe OK, but I’m not so sure I love it. Deliberate purple is always a bit of a paradigm shift, so I’m not going to completely unfold it from its packaging just yet, and I’ll wait until my family is here next weekend to give me second and third and possibly fourth and fifth opinions. (The fourth and fifth opinions would be from my nephew and niece, who think it’s OK to decorate in fire trucks and bunnies, so their input, though valued, will be factored in at lower percentages.)

*The bedspread shopping happened as part of a blind date with an exceptionally charming fella. We met for lunch yesterday, and I’d planned to go shopping alone afterward if the date sucked or invite him along if it went well. Fortunately, it went extremely well, and we not only bought a bedspread together (like lesbians do on first dates!) but we also bought shoes. Which is almost tantamount to foreplay in my book.

The rest of my weekend included a delicious steak dinner on Friday night with my very pregnant college friend Kim, who is here for a conference with her delightful (and NoFo reading friends) Shannon and Jason (hi, guys!) and a spa day with Matthew that included a fancy brunch followed by manicures and pedicures (of course, Matthew got the chatty spa clinicians who spoke English and I got the shy, monolinguistic ones who haven’t learned it’s OK for women in America to do assertive things like make eye contact and small talk).

Most exciting of all, though, is my commitment to run the AIDS Marathon this year. Before our spa day, Matthew and I attended a presentation by the AIDS Marathon organization (at the uncivilized Saturday hour of 10:00 am), and now we’re committed to raising at least $1,400 each by July 5. (Watch this space for your opportunity to sponsor me!) Full disclosure: My interest here is a bit selfish; after running two Chicago Marathons completely on my own, I desperately wanted a support group to train with … and celebrate with after crossing the finish line. But instead of joining a plain-old running club, I decided I could convert all my huffing and puffing into meaningful donations. I'll still be running the Chicago Marathon, but I'll be doing it for a far more important cause than my own sense of accomplishment. The training program starts in May, and the begging program starts as soon as I get my donation page up and running.

And the biggest donor just might win a shiny new set of sheets!

Friday, March 24, 2006

My day so far

I woke up to the smell of pee. Or maybe it was rust. In any case, the water in my shower (where I do my waking up) gave off an unsettling waste-treatment-plant whiff this morning as it washed all over my body and deep into my crevices. And since I use unscented, hypoallergenic soap in the winter because I’m a delicate lotus blossom with skin as sensitive as a Dubya draft deferral document, I couldn’t mask the eau with anything. Ew.

And then when I got to work and started guzzling my eight glasses of water, I noticed that even our filtered stuff tastes like what you’d imagine Dick Cheney’s underpants smell like after a long day of drinkin’ and huntin’. So I’m thinking it’s an all-Chicago thing—though I don’t want to bring it up with anyone for fear of developing a Mr. Tinklewhiff reputation.

But that was just the beginning of today’s adventures. Because apparently it’s Bring Your Distracting Pet To Work Day. I spent the morning in an emergency meeting … with a dog. Don’t get me wrong: I love it when people bring their dogs to work. Seriously. It happens pretty frequently, and the dogs seem to fit nicely in our funky-casual office environment. In fact, when we moved into the building two years ago, there was a friendly old yellow lab that used to wander aimlessly around and visit everyone all day. But he disappeared after a couple weeks. We think he got promoted to the corporate office.

The dog today, though friendly and cute, really needed a bath. His smell was so pungent, in fact, that someone else in the meeting actually apologized because he thought he must have stepped in dog poop on his way to work. (I selfishly declined to mention that I’d showered in urine this morning. Again: Nobody wants to be called Mr. Tinklewhiff.)

But! The cloud o’ canine was soon eclipsed by the realization that we had a bird in the office today as well. And it wasn’t just any random pigeon that flew in through an air vent. No! It was a caged bird, which an employee consciously decided to bring to the office as if this were a good idea. And the goddamn thing has been chirping all day.

The animal drama doesn’t end there, because apparently a 250-year-old turtle in some remote zoo died recently. And my boss, who is certifiably insane compassionate (Hi, Kelly!), has been mourning it as though it were a fallen comrade in the War on Christmas. A Baroque zoo turtle! Cut down in the prime of life! The humanity!

Speaking of getting old, I also got an email inviting me to my 20-year high-school reunion this summer. And even though only old people qualify for 20-year high-school reunions, I’ve known this dark specter of imminent death was looming on my horizon for quite some time now. ’Cause I’m pretty good at math.

Which is one of the reasons I totally revamped my workout and drastically reduced my crap-food consumption in January. Because there’s nothing more transparent than a shy, homely high-school queer who feels the need to look hot at his 20-year reunion.

Part of my new workout came in a box of tiny brown gross-tasting pills I got with a 20% coupon at GNC almost two months ago. And today was my last workout on those pills. They’re called Endothil™, the Musculogenic Cell Recruiter™ that promises accelerated muscle recuperation* and growth*, increased body strength*, and greater muscle mass and circumference*. And if you say Endothil out loud, you sound like a total circuit queen. Or Cindy Brady. (That last joke is used without permission from my hunky friend Keith.)

*And when you read the fine print, you discover that not only have these statements not been evaluated by the FDA, etc., but that “to experience the full results of Endothil, the muscle groups must be exercised to exhaustion.” Which is pretty much what you need to do to see any growth in the gym anyway. Which makes me $47.99 (plus tax) poorer but not much wiser.

But it does make me (so far) nine pounds heavier! My chest and shoulders have really pumped up over the last two months (two trainers at the gym have even noticed!), and my quads and butt are slowly thickening to man-like proportions. I credit my progress to the workouts more than the Endothil, but I'm really more focused right now on the fact that I seem to be growing a butt. I’ve never really had a butt, so I’m not sure what I’ll do with it if I actually get one.

But I know what I’m doing tonight: having dinner with a friend from college who’s here on business. It’ll be kind of a pre-reunion reunion. Except it hasn’t been 20 years. And it’s not high school. And she’s six months pregnant, so I won’t be taking her to get punched by Brad Pitt and Edward Norton under the highway, like I usually do on Fridays.

So, to recap: Pee. Dog. Bird. Turtle. Nine. Butt. Pregnant. And, thankfully, not a single Mr. Tinklewhiff.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Got your tickets yet?

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Come for the commandments—stay for the plagues! We’ve taken the story of Moses, thrown in some Monty Python, added a touch of Gilbert and Sullivan, wrapped it all in the pageantry of Les Misérables and created an original musical you’re going to love for 40 years.

And it has something for everyone: epic drama, shirtless men, stories of oppression and redemption, and songs with titles like “A Bad Day to be the First Born.” All our shows are awesome, but this one is mega-awesome, with kick-ass music and a book that's full of some really funny shit. Seriously.

I'm co-choreographing the show, a job that has gotten so demanding that I actually won't be performing in it this time— though I'll be adding extra vocal oomph from the orchestra pit, and I may join in an occasional crowd-of-shirtless-Hebrews-running-across-the-stage scene. If only to justify all the extra time I've spent in the gym (and all the extra denial I've spent in front of the doughnuts) since January.

So get your tickets now—and make sure everything's coming up Moses for you this spring.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Who’s your Hoosier?

I am! I am!

I spent the weekend visiting my formerly-of-Chicago friend Bill in his fabulous new Indianapolis home, with its cool architecture and its multiple bathrooms and its endless supply of closet space. (Bill, knowing the depths of my storage envy, showed considerable restraint by not rubbing my face in his ample closets. So to speak.)

Our weekend was packed with the best kinds of fun, much of which involved lounging around chatting. But we also squeezed in two lovely brunches, an expert driving tour of Indianapolis’ fabulous neighborhoods and museums and historical buildings, and a lovely afternoon in the ultra-cool Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The IMA building is an authoritative structure situated in a corner of the sumptuous Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens. Like much of the newer architecture Bill showed me in Indianapolis, the IMA building has a sense of adventure, achieving its intended purpose with creativity and humor and a little visual experimentation. And the collection inside, while not as exhaustive as the building’s epic scale would suggest, is thoughtfully displayed, with useful information and a logical flow of ideas.

The best part of our tour: The Amy Cutler exhibit in the museum’s Forefront series. Amy (I call her Amy) has defined her own post-feminist genre, commenting on the social and familial experiences of women with a visual vocabulary that’s at once amusing, resigned, earnest and at times unapologetically ridiculous. Her images walk a line between the disturbing grotesqueries of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the oddly pedestrian horrors of Edward Gorey—especially in my favorite of her works, Dinner Party (left column, middle row), which features corseted ladies in gargantuan farthingales fighting each other with antlers made of upturned chairs and strapped-on cutlery.

If you do go to the museum—and you should—take care not to gesture too closely as you point out the carved penises on the wooden chair in the African exhibit. Because you’ll set off an alarm. And a suspicious-looking guard will follow you around and treat you like the penis-obsessed threat to moral decency you are.

One more word to the wise: Don’t go see The Hills Have Eyes just because your friend Bill’s hunky friend Eric wants to see it. Eric will still be attractive if you elect to do something more useful with your time, like organizing your celebrity crushes in the order of who has the prettiest feet.

My bad-movie-dar started beeping the moment Eric suggested it to us, but I was being polite—and for a man who saw all of three movies that got any Oscar nominations this year, I was in no position to pretend I was any kind of cinema authority.

But oh, the pain! With all the production qualities of an early episode of Land of the Lost and the kind of snappy, smart dialogue you’d find in the rough draft of a junior-high book report, The Hills Have Eyes was most definitely NOT alive with the sound of music. In fact, its best feature was its tagline: The lucky ones die first. And it wasn’t even true! Bill and I left soon after the first sleestack mutant desert creature appeared munching on a very unrealistic severed limb, and we learned that the lucky ones leave after losing only an hour of their lives—and get a refund without even a hint of resistance! We figured the road had already been paved for us by armies of equally insulted movie-goers who opted instead to get their money back and head home to watch Dynasty reruns on the Soap Opera Channel. Just like we did. (Maxwell Caulfield … mmm …)

Butt-stupid movies notwithstanding, the vacation was a delight from start to finish, and it ended way too soon. But I did get to enjoy a sunny drive home in the land of 70-mph speed limits. And there were no laughable mutant desert creatures hiding in my tiny closets when I got home.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

People I have seen this week:

Name Unknown, the foreign cab driver who was extremely proud of his hybrid cab when he picked us up at LaGuardia at 12:30 am on Wednesday after a long evening of delayed flights. (The car actually sounded like it shut down when it came to a stop, only to rev up like nothing had happened when he stepped on the gas again. We were pretty impressed by this.) But when New York’s finest pulled him over in a fund-raising sting on the George Washington Bridge (I think) and cited him for his bald tires, he had to ask us, his exhausted business-trip passengers, what that meant. And we were left to wonder how a 2006 vehicle could have completely bald tires, especially when it’s only March.

Name Also Unknown, And Also Technically Unseen, the miscreant and/or drunken asshole who repeatedly tried to get into my room at New York’s grossly overrated Hudson Hotel early Wednesday morning. I heard the key card in the door, I heard the handle jiggle, I was very much awake—and I can’t tell if my heart was racing over the potential fright of it all or from the white-hot anger I felt toward the design tard who decided laminate flooring, with its magical abilities to magnify sound in the middle of the night, was a good idea for a hotel room. (Note to the Hudson Hotel: I know it’s trendy and cool to make your lobby seem like a nightclub, but if your guests can’t hear what the desk clerks are telling them about their bills, then your loud thump-thump music is anything but cool. Besides, “Funky Cold Medina” is what wedding reception DJs play—and what Pat Robertson listens to behind closed doors when he's feelin' kinda sexy. Seriously.)

A giant bald bodybuilder in a T-shirt that would be too tight on me wandering the hallways of LaGuardia before our flight home Wednesday evening. He was notable for his immense size, his extremely handsome face and the fact that there was nobody else to look at in the airport. And because he filled my mind with all kinds of Vin-Diesel-in-the-airport-bathroom fantasies.

Some woman from NPR whose name I didn’t recognize but whose voice I totally did, this afternoon at a luncheon to kick off The Economist’s new Chicago survey. I didn’t realize the event would be a Big Deal, so I wore a foo-foo trendy dress shirt (untucked, just like the gays wear them!) and expensive jeans. Every other man there was in a suit.

Dr. C, the dermatologist who looks and talks like Sherry Stringfield (and if she reminds me of an actress who plays a doctor on TV, she has to know what she’s doing). I had my annual celebrity mole checkup today, and she told me not only that I “did a good job healing” from my biopsy scars from last March (Stop! I’m blushing!) but that I had no new moles that gave her concern. Oh, and she and her nurse agreed that I was in “excellent shape,” presumably for a man my age. (I find it funny that they always make a big production of giving me a moment of privacy to strip to my underwear and put on a hospital gown, only to have me take off the gown the moment they come in to examine me.)

D., the well-muscled fella with the megawatt grin and the ability to inject New Yorker references into any conversation. He makes my calloused, untrusting heart do tentatively bouncy things. And he’s not afraid to give me a peck on the lips in front of his co-workers. We’ve been seeing a (relative) lot of each other these last few months, though neither of us is in the market for a boyfriend.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Weekend adventures

8:15 Go on one of the shortest dates of my life.
(He showed up high. Like ADHD high. I told him he was a loser.) Go home and watch TV instead.

7:00 Wake up at the crack of dawn.
For no useful reason. On my one day to sleep in. Stupid sunshine! Why do you have to peek in my windows and make my bedroom all warm and cheery and wake-uppable? Curse you!

9:00 Get my hair cut. It’s funny how you can go from shaggy fluffball to droopy power fro overnight. I’d reached critical droop earlier in the week, and I had to go to two client meetings looking like I had a nest on my head. So put a visit to the nice hair lady on the top of my weekend agenda. I go to one of those walk-in, no-appointment-necessary, take-your-chances salons haircut stores because 1) I don’t see any reason to spend $40+ on a basic ’do I can get just as easily for $12 and 2) I can walk there from my house. And when you get there the moment the door opens in the morning, there’s (almost) no waiting!

9:45 Pick up dry cleaning. I own nine dress shirts (10 if you count the one that’s gettin’ kinda ghetto), and I’ve been traveling for work (the only time I play dress-up) so much lately I’d completely depleted my stockpile. Now everything’s clean again. Which means it’s gonna be that much harder to make decisions when I get dressed in the morning.

11:00 Begin Journey of Pain. I didn’t realize the St. Patrick’s Day parade was yesterday. I got on the train at 11:00, and by 11:01 I was regretting ever being born. The train was PACKED with drunken college kids in unnatural shades of green. And they all had their volumes set on Shriek. And they sprayed beer on each other. Oh—and there was some kind of problem four trains ahead of us, so we sat on the tracks for achingly long periods of time. Stupid loud, drunken kids. Always after me Lucky Charms.

11:46 Arrive a minute late for my back and upper-arm waxing, thanks to the abovementioned train delays. I don’t mind body hair on men, but I’m not a big fan of it when it’s on their backs and upper arms. And I’m REALLY not a fan of it when it’s on my back and upper arms. And the older I get, the more I seem to devolve into a hairy-back-and-upper-arms monkey-like state. Intelligent Design doesn’t seem to be making it go away, so I have a nice Polish lady who rips the hair right out of my skin for me. She has pictures of her Asian daughter (“she’s adopted”) all over her salon, and she chats away the whole time she’s tearing the flesh from your body. She usually does an awesome job, but this time she missed a few little islands of hair and I broke out in little pimples all over my arms by Saturday morning. Sexy!

1:00 Arrive for my first-ever visit to the Field Museum. I did a one-hour tour of the permanent exhibit (including an emergency meal at McDonald’s) and then met three friends at 2:00 for the last days of Pompeii: Stories from an Eruption. Giggly title notwithstanding, the exhibit is pretty interesting, but I’d hoped for a lot more frozen-in-time bodies and a lot fewer amulets and melted coins. It is well-researched, though—and it does a nice job of helping you understand the staggering enormity of the destruction.

5:00 Do some shopping for birthday cards, Chapstick (except I accidentally bought the Walgreens brand, so for the next couple months people will think I’m too poor to spend an extra 80¢ for name-brand lip balm), and other various and sundry items. Oh, I also bought a gift, because the next adventure on my schedule was:

7:30 Birthday party. My friend Paul had a nice little get-together last night for his 40something-th birthday, with homemade roast beef sandwiches, some shockingly delicious cake, and a nice gathering of men who laughed and snorted together over Stewie Griffin – The Untold Story and drooled together over the shirtless Timothy Olyphant (and the coupling of Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf) in Go. Then we watched a TiVo’d episode of Ghost Whisperer, which is so staggeringly retarded it could almost be elected POTUS. Except with worse dialogue.

8:30 Ruin the ending of Wicked for a friend AS HE’S WATCHING IT. My friend Mike called me from NYC to tell me how amazing the show was, and I—not doing the time-zone math right—thought he'd seen it to the end. So I asked him how soon he figured out that [element X in the show] would turn out to be [surprise element Y in the show]. Then I heard the announcement in the background telling patrons to return to their seats for Act II. And I felt very low. As low as a Munchkin under a farmhouse.

11:30 Aborted trip to the Eagle. I’d been in a skanky-bar mood for a while, so I brought my leather vest and wore my boots and low-slung jeans to the party so I could go trolling afterward. But by midnight I was too tired put myself through all the trouble. And the guys at the party were frankly a little horrified I would even consider it. One of them even used to work there—which was all the decision-making influence I needed.

12:00 Meet Stan for coffee.
We met at a Starbucks in Lincoln Park. Which makes us Trixies. Except we talked about politics and religion and other deeply, profoundly intellectual stuff. And while we did talk about boys for a bit, we never once compared purses or shared the names of our pedicurists. So we’re SO not Trixies.

5:00 Leave for rehearsal. The show is gonna be pretty awesome. Got your tickets yet?

8:45 Dinner at IHOP with Matt. Just like every Sunday.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Business travel tips

Print your travel itinerary the night before you leave. Look at it long enough to give yourself a general idea of when your flight is and what airline you’re on. Leave it at work.

Discover when you get home that you can’t remember exactly when or how you're flying and you can't log onto your business email account or your account with the airline you’re pretty sure you’re on. Go to bed wondering if you’ll lose your job if you miss your flight the next morning.

Breathe a sigh of relief when you learn at the airport the next morning that you guessed the correct airline and flight.

Eat McDonald’s for breakfast at the airport. Feel fat and gassy the rest of the day.

Plop down in your seat on the plane and discover you're sitting next to someone you used to work with. For the second time in a year. Shiver over the cosmic coincidence.

Don’t pee before you give your client presentation. And wear underwear that climbs so far up your ass you can taste it. Discomfort breeds confidence. Clients pay a lot for that.

Arrive at the airport in plenty of time to discover that your return flight is delayed three hours.

Sit for an irritating half hour next to a lound cell-phone talker who actually yells says, "they'll probe you for whatever probative information they can probe out of you."

Travel with a colleague who has one of those fancy VIP-lounge memberships—and enough pull to get your entire party in the lounge with her.

Pee before you find out you can join her in the VIP lounge, so you have no excuse to check out the undoubtedly cool VIP bathrooms.

Wear a dress shirt you got at Filene’s Basement when you’re in the VIP lounge to reinforce your paranoid fantasies that all the VIP members can tell you’re an interloper just by looking at you.

As you’re finally boarding your return flight, get in line right in front of a belligerent crazy lady who will yell Fuck you! at the gate agent who’s double-checking that her carry-on is an acceptable size. Enjoy your front-row access to the gate agent telling her on no uncertain terms how she’s just fucked herself off a very delayed, very overbooked flight. Continue to stand there, now in awkward silence, as the belligerent crazy lady cries and apologizes to the other gate agent and pleads for her very life because she’s apparently missing her grandfather’s funeral as we speak.

Discover on the plane—using only a very innocent (innocent!) scratch of your upper-lip area—that you are way overdue for a nose-hair trimming. Worry that you've had bats in the cave all day. Be thankful the guy sitting next to you is so asleep he's drooling.

Get home feeling fat and lethargic and plagued with dragon breath. And nose hairs. Blog readers pay a lot for that.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

I can't have children.

No, I'm not talking about my shrunken ovary.

I can't have children because I can't stand the noise. And the mood swings. And the noise. And the fighting. AND THE NOISE.

For instance! I'm in Iowa this weekend to help my adorable nephew celebrate his seventh birthday. Yesterday morning I was left in charge of the nephew and niece while my family ran errands. Our time together started out as delightfully as possible; the kids invited me to snuggle under a blanket with them and watch a movie. (OK, it was a Star Wars movie, so "delightful" was relative, but I was bonding so I pretended to enjoy it.)

We were being all cozy and cuddly, and every time there was hand-to-hand combat and gruseome death on the screen, my adorable nephew--who obviously had watched this movie enough to know his cues--jumped adorably up and swung his toy light sabre at his villains and returned adorably to the blanket after all foes had been vanquished.

But! Eventually the niece jumped up mid-vanquish and wanted demanded to use the light sabre. And there was grabbing. And pushing. Then there was crying. And screaming. And accusations that the niece would "never get [her] strength back" after a particularly grievous push to her arm.

And then we decided the movie wasn't fun anymore and let's play a game! But the nephew wanted to play school and the niece wanted to play Battleship (and the readers kindly kept their gender-issues comments to themselves) and Uncle Jake refused to be the tie-breaking vote because neither option sounded particularly fun so a vote was railroaded through by the nephew that we would play some electronic counting game instead but the niece was screaming too loud for the nephew to hear the electronic questions every time he stepped on the buttons. Because pushing the buttons with a finger is apparently how crazy monkeys would play this game. And we're not crazy monkeys! We're screaming children! We use our feet!

And then! And then the niece became Angry Drama Queen From Hell and started screaming like Medea over her dead children and Sally Field off her meds on ER and Janet Leigh in the shower all at once. And she's never even read Medea! (Neither has her Uncle Jake, but he's pretty sure Medea does some screaming after she kills her kids. If not, please substitute the screaming of Oedipus after he goes through his patricide/motherfucker/self-blinding phase. Only in a womanly voice.)

And then it was Uncle Jake's turn to scream, only in a manly voice. And he actually YELLED ANGRILY! at a four-year-old girl. He yelled to STOP SCREAMING! And that fighting over a game DIDN'T MATTER! And WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? And he didn't feel guilty about it. Not one bit.

And then he asked her if she wanted to go to her room. (Bad move; he should have TOLD her to go to her room. But he was new at this. And kind of a pussy.) And through her hyperventilation and gutteral sobs, she said no, she did not, in fact, want to go to her room. But she'd like some money. And after a little sobbing-child-to-English translation it was determined that she actually wanted her bunny. But the little stuffed bunny was nowhere to be found.

And then: the deus ex machina! Uncle Jake's sister came home! And though the bunny remained steadfastly in its hiding place (and could you blame it?), the screaming ended, the sun came out and Uncle Jake went to the kitchen and had a banana.

And eventually he went shopping and came home with four shirts, a new set of 400-count sheets, six new serving pieces for his fancy new dishes and a mountain of kitchen utensils--all on sale and all with an extra 20% discount from a coupon his mom had.

And he loved his new possessions like they were his own flesh and blood. Because they didn't scream.

And that's why I can't have children.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I feel an eating disorder coming on

My neighborhood is pretty devoid of life. We have lots of high-rise and mid-rise multi-family dwellings, so we’re theoretically packed with people. We have a dry cleaner and two banks and two storefront convenience stores and a whole grocery store and a Curves and a dentist and two restaurants and an Enterprise (who promises to pick us up) and we’re a block from the friggin’ beach, so we’re theoretically a hotbed of potential sidewalk culture.

But the people I see on our sidewalks are few and far between. And they’re usually clustered at the bus stops.

Oh, yeah. We have bus stops. Lots of them. One on every corner.

And each of our fancy new Chicago bus stops includes room for two six-foot-tall backlit advertisements.

And the two neighborhood bus stops I walk by the most are covered in six-foot-tall backlit abs. Sexy, flat, rippled, hunka-hunka-burnin’ man abs that taunt me every time I just try to go about my everyday, relatively-nice-abbed business:
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Full disclosure: Google couldn’t find me the exact Equinox ad from my neighborhood bus stop and I was too lazy to go take a picture of it myself, so the Jeremy Bloom image on the left is merely proxy abs.

And while the image on the right isn’t supposed to inspire me to do everything in my power to achieve a body like the one the model is sportin’, the whole no-meth message is lost on me the moment I lay eyes on his sixpack. And by the time my eyes have traveled slowly up to his soft, perky man nipples, I find myself wanting whatever magic substance he’s using to achieve such ripped masculine charms. So: not the best choices by the ad agency.

In any case, this daily, two-pronged absault (HA! ABSAULT!) makes me want to renounce my four-pound jars of Jif and devote my life to the worship of Dysmorphia, the bitch goddess of ridiculous self-image issues.

Which, in some ways, has helped keep me pretty honest in my gonna-be-half-naked-on-stage-in-April workout and diet regimen. Seriously! A trainer at my gym helped me revamp my workout in January, and it’s kept me in a constant feel-the-burn, watch-the-muscles-grow state since then. And I’ve kept my EZ-Bake Oven fired up to cook all kinds of vegetables and egg whites and lean-cut meats, and I’ve been satisfying my insatiable sweet tooth with fresh fruits and sparkling waters and skim-milk puddings. (This diet tastes better than it sounds. Honest.) And everyone knows that low fat + high protein + good calories + ass-kicking workouts = abtastic results. Right?


Well, kind of. While my abs stubbornly remain more ironing board than washboard—which is infinitely better than washtub—my legs and shoulders are showing gradual improvements … enough that two people have complimented me on them in the last week alone. And I didn’t even have to pay them.

In summary: I’m in no danger of dating becoming an Equinox model or killing a crystal meth poster child in my basement. I actually love plain, unflavored steamed vegetables. Jeremy Bloom and the guy he's proxying make me feel fat. In more than one place. And Dysmorphia Pudding would make a great drag name.