Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Gauntlet

"Inappropriate truth-telling is, to her, a way of turning that around. 'I'm not going to lie to you,' she'll say, forgetting that another option is to simply say nothing."
--David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
There are two kinds of people in the world (aside from "people who say there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't"): people who like everybody indiscriminately unless given a reason not to; and people who don't like anybody unless given a reason to change that. My friend Linda is in the former camp. I am in the latter.

"Don't like," should not be confused as synonymous with "dislike." Not-liking is a very passive thing. Inertia's a powerful phenomenon, and liking and disliking both take a lot of energy, and I don't have any to spare. I might not actively like all that many people, but I don't actively dislike that many either. There are only a few I hate (one and a half to be more accurate -- the Half is mostly despised by association), and maybe half a dozen or so that rise to varying levels of dislike. Unfortunately, I ran into all of them this weekend.

It's the kind of thing that can make for an awkward date, because as much as I don't like conflict and confrontation, it isn't in me to be phony. The well-mannered part of my raising doesn't permit rudeness, but the compulsive truth-telling side of my personality won't let me feign unwarranted and undeserved niceness either. That means there's a fair amount of dodging and weaving that goes with any affair I attend, so I can just avoid the whole mess.

This is what my date this weekend referred to as The Gauntlet. He proved very adept at spotting the UnFriendlies and giving me a heads-up so we could either re-route, or I had time to at least turn my back; put my head down; and avoid eye contact (coincidentally, those are the exact same instructions I used to give everybody who had to meet my mastiff, Martha).

There's that whole Biblical Book of Ruth thing that's something about Moab or Boaz along the lines of "and your people will become my people" (obviously, I don't remember the exact details). And sure, that is all well and good. But more importantly, the way I look at is, my Hate must become Your Hate.

This Gauntlet is further complicated by the number of ex-es I'm likely to encounter at any given social gathering. Factoring in 25 years of dating in this town, there really aren't that many (and only one I parted on really bad terms with, which is kind of miraculous). But if you happen to be out on a date with me, my guess is there are enough. I never know exactly how to handle it, so I always just go with bare and minimal disclosure. We only ran into one this weekend, and all I said was, "oh, there's an Ex.... and Wow, is his date really unattractive or is it just me?" I needn't have worried about any potentially uncomfortable conversational exchanges, because this particular Ex spotted me, and turned right around and bolted out of the room. Which seemed a little extreme, mostly because I was standing right in front of his favorite bourbon.

As far as I know, we didn't part on bad terms. He was an interim boyfriend who came right after a really serious heartbreak, which I recall my friends handling with great sensitivity by constantly greeting him with, "are you our new Daddy?" But in truth, we dated so briefly and so long ago, I'd barely even qualify him as an Ex, were it not for the fact that there are a lot of pictures that put us in the same place at the same time, and maybe half a dozen columns (I'm not sure blogs had even been invented back then, and I definitely didn't have one). We had a nice summer, a good football season (I think it was the first time I ever tailgated...and that's not a euphemism), and then he failed to take me to his Office Christmas Party and as far as I was concerned, that was the end of that.

I've run into him a few times since and I can't recall any unpleasantness, but I'm pretty sure his reaction this weekend wasn't in my head since it was my date who pointed out, "MAN, he got outta here in a hurry." He would've made a clean getaway too if his date hadn't grabbed my date and corraled him into a conversation I didn't hear, because I have learned whenever a girl screams his name and pulls him aside for cocktail chatter, it is best to keep walking.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beauty Pageant Loser

I am not watching Miss America, but I am glancing at the tweets and it's bringing back fond memories of my days as a Beauty Pageant Loser 27 years ago.

Our Production Number involved 99 cent black light bulbs from Spencer Gifts and a dance routine to "Waitin' on the Robert E. Lee," ... with tambourines. Where our teeth glowed in the dark.

I always insist my "talents" were sword swallowing and stripping tobacco, but the sad truth is: I had no talent. Mostly, I just wanted to ride in the parade and throw candy, which I did, but in one of those "be careful what you wish for" moments, the clutch went out in the vintage convertible Caddy I rode in (which reportedly once belonged to FDR). This meant Mr. Taylor, who owned the car, stowed his two little boys in the back seat, UNDER my ample tulle skirts, with strict instructions that they were to each grab a leg and hold on to me so I didn't slide off the back of the convertible everytime he popped the clutch enough to get it to jerk forward the requisite few inches parade traffic required. I found "beauty" to be hot, sweaty, panic-inducing work.

Asked occasionally if my skills from then are transferable now, the only answer I have is: bear in mind, I lost.

You Asked.

While I don't always expect unequivocal enthusiasm, I am unaccustomed to the restrained choice of adjectives that are the preference of my designated straight.

It really doesn't matter if it's an outfit, or a meal, or moments involving a more...personal investment in outcomes -- about the best you're ever going to get outta him is "nice." He has a perfectly developed vocabulary, he's just more reserved than I am. Me, I just like more (and more specific) feedback, so I give him an endless hard time about it.

He says he intends it more like the Michelin stars. "Nice" certainly means "great job." "Real nice" would be more synonymous with "extraordinary," and I don't exactly know what "right nice" means, because I've never gotten one. (Not even after the Potatoes Anna.)

So today when I wondered out loud what it would take to hear this high level of praise, I asked (rhetorically), "it doesn't involve inviting another girl over does it?"

And his answer, without pausing for one second was, "depends on who it is."

I'm sorry.  


Not a moment of hesitation.

That was, of course, the wrong answer.

And he should've known that because his response (as always) was clearly outlined for him in the format of the question itself-- "it doesn't involve another girl, does it?" -- Suggested Answer: "It certainly does NOT. I can barely handle YOU."

(For example, if we're out to dinner, I'll "ask" him "You don't mind if we make it an early night, do you?" Which he always understands is his cue for "Let's go home!" So don't bother feeling sorry for him, because he is familiar with the verbal process.)

Then he dug a deeper hole. "Not anybody we know." (1. Yeah. Reassuring, and 2. Thank God I don't have a sister.)  He elaborated, "Like a celebrity."

I said, "oh, so like Alec Baldwin?" -- who I think only got sexy once his waistline expanded and he got a sense of humor about his looks. He said Alec Baldwin wouldn't even fit in the bed.

But of course I already knew his selection (long before he mentioned her by name) would be Amanda Peet, or the younger model of Amanda Peet, Lake Bell. I could not be less his type. He just loves those amazonian horsey girls. Yeah. Good luck with that. Hope it works out.

Because even in Fantasy Land? Nope. Veto.

I countered with Reese Witherspoon. (Who everybody knows is my straight-girl-crush.) Take her or leave her. It's Reese or Nobody.

He didn't need to be told my choice was Sam Shepard. (Though I certainly reminded him.) Which is admittedly a slightly different and less-fair proposition than Amanda Peet or Lake Bell since Sam Shepard is in town all the time and you have to go outta your way not to run into him.

Many more exchanges like this one, and his job will be to run down and get me Sam Shepard for Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Good-Enough Entertaining

Last night, I cooked the Food Gay birthday dinner. When anybody in this crew has a birthday, the rule is they get to pick a Menu, and pick a night, and I will make whatever dinner they want (within my culinary skill set -- I don't think anybody wants me to make them Pâté).

While this is a tradition leftover from my childhood, in adulthood, it was revived by my friends Mare and Kimmy. Mare (who now lives in Oregon) used to make chicken n dumplings for my birthday (which I love, but can't make) and Kimmy makes me lobster (which I love, but won't make -- I get the better deal because she only wants Sweet Potato soup, which is easy, and doesn't involve killing any prey). Last night was Pot Roast -- and as specified, I didn't tart it up one bit -- it's more or less the exact same pot roast my grandmother would've served you 50 years ago -- cooked from 8 am to 6 pm. (I did throw in a leftover glass of wine that was sitting on the counter, and she was Baptist, so that would be about the only variation.)  Chef Tom brought along this gorgeous concoction, because he and Michael obviously know you can't arrive for dinner without bringing along lunch for your hostess for the next day.

I used to be a little afraid of cooking for Food Professionals (ChefBabyBrother being a notable exception -- the poor kid ate my home ec "Oscar Meyer Casserole" experiment and survived to go on to culinary school), but I forced myself to get over it around the time I met my friend Kate. She cooks for everyone from Sheiks and royalty on down (and once named a cherry-vanilla rice pudding after me), and while she always gets invited to all the Swanky McSwankerton stuff in town, I worried that people (like me) left her off the more casual guest-lists -- like say, Sex and the City Sundays, or Superbowls --out of intimidation).

We've always lived just a few blocks apart, so eventually, when I'd run into her at the Disco Kroger, I'd start saying, "Kate, there's a pot of chili on the stove if you want some," and eventually, she started coming over. The food was never fancy. Sometimes the house was a mess. Often, the dogs were busy killing something in the yard (which might put some guests off their appetite, but Kate's English, and hearty). And it wasn't unusual for a major MoneyPit repair to be in process, complete with exposed wires, or slate roof tiles sliding onto the porch, or a Bobcat noisily digging a ditch for a new sewer line or water line or some other line that never ever involved the new kitchen/bathroom facelift I always wanted to put money into, but never got to.

And that was the paradox of that house -- I bought it, at least partly, if not mostly to accommodate the big group of friends and family that I knew and loved and wanted to surround myself with -- and then I didn't want to let them in it. Because, even though it was huge, it was never good enough (in my mind, not theirs). Along the, way I met friends and boyfriends who were intimidated by it, and others who were positively embarrassed by it -- it was still the same house. My standards were profoundly internalized (and fairly ridiculous, looking back).

From the moment I moved in, I had these great ideas for how it should look -- and then I would have everybody over, and wouldn't they be impressed. Last weekend, my designated straight was looking at a collage of pics my friend Scott made me and I noticed the photo of me in that frame is from my 30th birthday party -- which I hosted in my backyard, mostly because, again, I didn't want to let anyone in the house. (And I had lived there for years by the time I turned 30.)

In fairness to me, the place really was a fixer-upper -- it was a hundred years old for Chrissake -- but its bones were solid. I just always saw it for what it needed rather than what it had.

Kate was one of my relatively early experiments where I began to force myself to remember that people were there for good company and good food and they didn't care if I served it with the right silver or the right dishes, or if we ate it on the right furniture. I realized if I waited til I had all the right stuff to accommodate these fancy theoretical people (who bear no resemblance to the kind, generous, non-judgmental people I know), I was never going to let anyone into my life (much less my house).

It takes a long time to fill up a house that big, and get the feel of it, and about the time I did, I sold it, and moved to this place (about a third the size). And the process just started all over again. The kitchen's too small, I whine. The Hot Sorority Visigoths next door make way too much noise; it sounds like a frat house half the time. The old living room furniture didn't fit into this new living room, so there's really no place to sit, and so on. In reality, then, as now, nobody cares.

Because, in looking something up for my Mom last visit, I was going through old photo albums and ran across an Easter Brunch photo from right before I bought the last house. That place was a one-bedroom, shotgun style apartment, with mauve carpet and linoleum. But you don't see any of that in this picture. In this picture, what you see is about 20 laughing, happy people crammed onto a deck that is way too small to even accommodate their combined weight, crowded around card tables in folding chairs -- eating ham. They sure look like they are having a good time.

I suspect they all believed it was good enough. And it probably was.

Atypical Ocular Migraine

I don't really think I have an "atypical ocular migraine," that's just what the eye doc called it yesterday when I went in cause on Sunday, my vision went out in my left eye. [that's my eyeball, not my boob, in the pic]

I've only had two migraines in my life and they weren't typical, but they started out with losing speech, not vision. (Did I need a television, or a telephone? What's the name of that race they run first Saturday in May?) After that, both episodes got very average -- I couldn't stand light; I needed to lie down; that kinda thing.

This was nothing like that. I was on the phone and my left eye just blurred over. After I cleaned my glasses at least three times, I realized the blur stayed even with the glasses off. My gay husband (who's a doctor in his spare time), came right over to double-check and make sure I wasn't having a stroke, and gave me some aspirin (just in case I had amaurosis fugax) -- and then I could see again. It was a miracle.

The eye doc said I wasn't a good candidate for amaurosis fugax because it's more the kinda thing he's seen in overweight, hypertensive, diabetic smokers. He said atypical migraine ("atypical" just means "no headache," -- it's nothing exotic or dramatic) was more likely in "women your age," which he stressed, is "very young. Very, very young."

I was very glad to not be having a stroke, but it was extremely creepy to be that scared to death by something so innocuous.

My Awful Wedded Wife

I just ran across this Op/Ed in the New York Times, My So Called Wife.

In it, Sandra Tsing Loh out-earned her last husband and current boyfriend (or girlfriend... she says "partner," so I can never tell), and fantasizes a little about a 50s style life where she could be the Don Draper breadwinner and come home to the BettyDraper who has a pot roast on the table and a Manhattan chilling (I don't really know if Manhattans are supposed to be cold, but she talks about bourbon, and I know that goes in a Manhattan).

It's the kind of thing I used to write about a lot in my 30s when I worked in carpetland, but not so much in my 40s, where there are probably homeless people who out-earn me, and I've actually paid a lot (of money and labor and time) for the privilege of doing a pretty costly, expensive (but generally fulfilling and rewarding) job. I may be the only person I know who plans to retire into teaching... where I'll probably make more money for vastly less stress. (And I taught college freshmen for several years, so I'm fully aware of how underpaid and over-stressful it is.)

In my 30s, I dated the Poor (grad students), the Broke (bass players), the Rich (surgeons, captains-of-the-universe types), and the In-Betweens: lawyers, architects, and a positively statistically improbable number of engineers. I still don't even know exactly what engineers do, but I think it has something to do with whether or not buildings, bridges, or roads collapse (and nothing to do with trains), and that's all the more embarrassing considering the fact that my first job out of graduate school was working for an engineering firm. (It's ok though, I was in "communications" which was a glorified title for "making coffee" and I don't think anything fell down because of me. Mostly, we worked for the Navy... so it is possible people died because of me...but not likely, unless it involved too much Maxwell House).

As my friend Tad observed back then, money wasn't an issue -- we were a tight-knit group post-college, and even though our jobs ranged from social work to trust fund babies, we all lived fairly comparably -- one house per person/or couple, one car per person, etc. There were those who picked up restaurant tabs, and there were those of us who cooked -- but that was most always based on skill set, rather than income. (And there were a few who never did either; rest assured, everyone remembers who they are. I was in charge of administering Social Probation, and I still have the List.) I started cooking Sunday Suppers as soon as I got my first college apartment -- and trust me, no one at that school had less money than I did. (I have the student loans to prove it.)

The first time I remember Income really getting to be an issue among the couples was when my grad school roommate kept trying to force her boyfriend into law school (he was the heir to a pretty sizeable old-school firm, but this kid had artsy non-profit written all over him). It created a big rift among all us womenfolk because -- as we pointed out -- she was far better suited to law school than he was (smarter, with better logic skills and grades), but she was having none of it. What she wanted was the lifestyle his dad's firm would've afforded them. She just didn't want to do any of the actual work. She was happy to consign him to that, but she wanted to toil away in her groovy little $12,000 a year arts administrator job. (They eventually split up  and last I heard, he'd gotten to the top of the artsy field he'd ended up in and even ended up making a good living at it.) She had no interest in being a Corporate Wife -- her job was way too hippie-esque for that -- but she sure wanted that Corporate Husband.

Personally, I would looooooove to have a Wife (the stereotypical kind). But I'd have to go back to working in carpetland to afford one.  In the meantime, I can do it all -- make a living; get dinner on the table; maintain a household in keeping with board of health standards; and come up with proper attire for mucking a stall and then attending an inaugural ball -- everybody just has to understand that I can NOT do it all at the same time. You can get a good meal at my house anyday -- as long as you don't mind me serving it in yoga pants. Or, you can come over to a spotless house -- but if it's spotless, that's only because I didn't cook anything in it that day.

I know I would be a better Don Draper than Betty Draper and that's a fact. I just need to take up drinking.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Savage Brangelina Glee

"Love may be blind, but the neighbors ain't."

I hated Brangelina like they lived down the street from me and left a sofa on the porch and a car up on blocks in the front yard -- like they were awful neighbors who actually disrupted my life in some way -- I hated them like I knew them. I don't really know why.

Maybe because he left his first wife for her about the same time I got cheated on -- and I had heard all the same rationalizations the two of them made in the press. ("Oh, nothing really happened until I was out of that marriage," and "that relationship was already 'over" and "you know, no outsider can destroy a strong relationship. It was probably already broken." OK. Well start with defining "nothing." All I know is, in my case, the Piece on the Side knew an awful lot about my personal, private life and that it was the result of endless long discussions the two of them had had about me. I knew this, because he had a bad case of "mentionitis" where he would compulsively drop her into the conversation, along the lines of, "well Shelly thought it'd be a good idea for your Mom to put some tea tree oil on those roses for the aphids." Now, there's nothing about my mother's flowers that would constitute a national secret, but everyday details about my Mother -- and her flowers -- were part of the quotidian intimacy that I shared with him, everyday. They were not this girl's business. She was not my friend. In fact, she was the theoretical girlfriend of a good buddy of mine -- and I thought even he was too good for her, and he was a Musician. These regular innocuous mentions were why I suspected he was cheating on me.

I didn't know it for sure til I walked in on the two of them in a restaurant, holding hands. Which I would argue was a thousand times worse than walking in on the two of them having sex, though I have friends who've been through both scenarios and disagree. Whether he did, or did not have actual physical intercourse involving direct penetration prior to that Sushi? I don't know. I don't care. I do know he cheated on me. Anything else is semantics and you can save it for your priest. The two of them sure ruined the California Roll for me for quite a few years.)

But this isn't about me of course.

I never liked Brad Pitt. I don't even think he's cute. I have no interest in pretty boys. I also think he's stupid, and it irritates me when people who are widely considered attractive develop complexes that involve them trying to convince the rest of the world they're smart too. His obsession with architecture? Please. Try community college first, and then tell me all about it. He knows about as much about architecture as I do -- which is precisely what I get from Dwell Magazine -- i.e., I appreciate it, and know what I like, but don't ask me to design your garage unless you're really not especially attached to your cars.

I liked him a lot less when he cheated on his wife. Once he started rubbing her nose in it (I got W Magazine at the time... I don't now), I hated him like he'd done it to my sister.

I didn't like Angelina Jolie either. Trust me, neuroses don't make you interesting or mysterious -- if they did, I'd have a PhD. Odd doesn't much bother me, but the adoption compulsion wore me out. Again, when people who are widely considered attractive try to convince the world they're deep too, it irritates me. Charity's a beautiful thing, of course, but it is literally, the least any of us can do. If you have more, do more, that's the basics of humanity -- it won't make me like you -- it's just the bare minimum. Stealing another girl's husband made me dislike her a little more intently -- again, I don't know why.

Maybe because my Dad left my Mom for another woman after 20+ years of marriage in a not-unusual bout of Middle-Aged Crazy following his first 40-something heart attack. That did not go well. For either of them. Marriages don't have to last forever -- as I pointed out -- but if my parents were having irreconcilable problems, the way I saw it, it was time to move out and move on. Not introduce a third party. My Mom moved out and moved on, and her second marriage has worked out reasonably successfully. Dad's: not so much. We get along ok with the third though.

So when the Brangelina Breakup news scrolled across The Twitter last night while my gay husband and I were curled up in bed watching Sam Shepard blow stuff up in Black Hawk Down -- momentarily interrupting my endless Rainman-like verbal cataloging of all the munitions and hardware ("the Stingers first went missing in Afghanistan, and it was later that RPGs became an equalizing force....") -- he asked me if I was experiencing a bout of Savage Glee.

I tried so hard not to.

Really, I did.

I know it's wrong to take delight in the misfortune of others no matter how reprehensible you might find them, and have both a Catholic and Karmic aversion to it (see also, not rubbing Anniston's nose in it).

So I just had to leave it to MichaelJansenMiller, "now that Brad has a beard, he no longer needs one."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Straight Wife Duties

I was perched on the fireplace of a local restaurant tonight -- dropping by a friend's birthday gathering -- when this emergency text came in: "gay husband booty call," followed by the elaboration, "movie scary, ambien early, jammies soft, pepsi diet."

The Gay Husband Booty Call Sleepover Kit: blue fuzzy woobie, 14 BluRays, cajun carryout, Ambien, $48 dollar candle -- all in a Louis Vuitton carry-on.

I think I'd actually already broken my Straight earlier in the day. All I know is when he left post-game, I'd already lost my voice and it's possible he'd suffered a small stroke or seizure on his right side. (He seemed fine to drive tho.)

So he limped home to his children and tagged out with my gay husband who arrived with cajun carryout, candles, movies, and a big fuzzy comfort woobie that smells like a weimaraner (that's a good thing, btw).

We hung out in the kitchen rolling up the meatballs I'd started earlier in the day, and putting the finishing touches on the tomato bisque soup started yesterday. A.B.C. is one of the Straight Wife requirements -- Always Be Cooking. (Bear in mind, we were both eating Cajun out of carry-out containers, over the sink, while we prepped the Real food we'll be eating later in the weekend.)

And then came upstairs to relax with some TooMuchSexy Sam Shepard in Black Hawk Down.

We kept looking for the shower scene, but Nick now thinks that was from that other classic, "Black Cock Down."

A Taste of Romance

Here are the Potatoes Anna that I made earlier this week for my Designated Straight's Birthday.

I could tell you how I made them -- in real time --and sometime tomorrow, you would have the recipe. I shaved potatoes through Chef Tom's $487,000 mandoline (at considerable constant risk of amputation); soaked each wafer in heavy cream and sprigs of gently-hand-rubbed thyme; and then built maybe 13 concentric circles, layer by painstaking layer of these wafers, alternating with drizzles of  butter and cream; salt and pepper; and then topping with gruyere (not too much, it's an oil slick). I did this in a springform pan; baked for the requisite one hour; after which they were not done. Frantic texts to Food Gay Chef Tom yielded the solution: whip up froth of half cream and butter then braise the potatoes for an additional half hour at 400 degrees. (It worked.)

I am not sure I could've saved the dish, or the birthday dinner, or frankly, the relationship, on my own. (Don't ask about the Cake. It's another story for another day.)

I've been blogging our Saturday brunches for awhile now, and have been the first to say his culinary prowess is fully equal to my own. Today was another one of his perfect omelets (I did sausage biscuits; sausage gravy; and bloody marys).

He was, as usual, due to leave in time to watch the game at a buddy's. But didn't. It is possible that is because I implied that however well his buddies might be stocked on chips, dips, and beers, there were certain acts of a private nature that they were unlikely to perform at say, halftime.

So....for whatever (ultimately unknowable) reason, he stuck around to watch the game. At which time, I served this.

When the guacamole Pringles come out, Romance and Passion's days are numbered. Or as Michael Jansen Miller puts it, "Little Debbie Nutty Bars are next."

Well, what can I say?
We gave it a good run.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Plus One

I just RSVP'd for three fundraisers as "Banjo, Plus One." (I'm hoping it'll catch on as a nickname. No luck so far. Will keep experimenting.)

The thing is, I had to cross through the space after my name (which usually arrives pre-printed or filled in), because they've now added a line where they want to know who I'm bringing. Why? Do they think I'll bring livestock?

"None of your business, that's who" or, how about "you'll know when I know."

I can see why they'd expect me to have made up my mind about, maybe, tomorrow, but a lot of invites I'm getting now are for Derby for Chrissake. If I was married, I still doubt I'd be able to commit to who I'll even know in May.

Thank GOD my pal Brooke just posted that she's going to the big Valentine fundraiser I'm always expected to attend. That's ONE person who'll still be speaking to me by then. Probably.

I have always acknowledged that "Banjo" really does need to go with two more names (in the Texas tradition of Ray Wiley Hubbard and Willis Alan Ramsey), to which, Aunt Ronni responded,
"Romantic that she is, Banjo went all the way in her first two marriages and took her respective husbands' last names. But after Ray ran off with a lap-dancer/roadie and then Willis opted to search alone for God in west-Texas rest stops, she said, 'The hell with marrying musicians! Just put me on the permanent guest list.' And once again she was known far and wide as Banjo Plus One."

Emergency Backup Straights

An Emergency Backup Straight's car should parallel-park itself and shoot grainy porn video at the same time.

In addition to a wide variety of Gays (Food Gays, Power Gays, Junior Gays, et al), every Gal needs a few Emergency Backup Straights (or Str8s, if you're on Twitter and conserving characters).

Sometimes the Gays would really like their own Date night out without a third wheel for example. Sometimes your own Designated Straight will have to work, or have childcare duties, or be InTROUBLE and need a TIME-OUT.

I had to use my Backup two nights last week -- back-to-back -- which is a little beyond the call of duty. Who knows what payback will entail, but I'm envisioning some painfully dull summer weddings or perhaps an office retirement party. It's ok. I'm as capable as the next guy of closing my eyes and takin' one for the team.

The job of Emergency Backup Straight is that of plain Friends, with NO benefits though, so it's not one just anybody will sign on for. There might be a free meal or an open bar involved, but that's it. It's not a booty call. But at the same time, they have to commit to Monogamy until the end of the Date (not necessarily the evening), and that's not easy for everybody -- though I have signed my Backup Straight over to various girlfriends at the conclusion of various events, as he reminded all the girls at the table after last Thursday's scheduled programming. I didn't mind; he'd completed his duties, and after that, they were welcome to claw each other's eyes out, though I don't think any of them did.

Up until then, I'm very proprietary and am not above busting out the look that says, "This is mine; that's yours." Because what I am having is always better than what they are having. I don't waste much time coveting my neighbor's anything. That's the beauty of the Emergency Backup Straight -- impeccable manners, perfect clothes, and a cool car are all that's required -- you don't have to take them home where it matters what they read or say or think or watch, or wonder how they voted in the last election. It's better if you just don't know.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pie Stories: World Pie Day

“Pie represents comfort, purity and simplicity...It’s the perfect antidote to today's high-tech, stressed-out world. My mission is to heal the world, one pie at a time."
---Beth Howard, "TheWorldNeedsMorePie"

I agree strongly with the statement The World Needs More Pie and so it was serendipitous that I ran into my friend Denise (who I barely know, but instinctively like) on Upper Street while I was getting a haircut and she was walking dowtown from class. From this blog I learned, January 23 is National Pie Day (and that there is such a thing as the National Pie Council, which determines such things.) On National Pie Day, lots of bakers hand out a free slice of pie, but I have not yet heard of any local efforts on this front.

Denise had met the author of this "Pie Blog," Beth,  a year or so again and expected a book/maybe/movie deal was on the way. The first time Denise handed me Beth's card, I put it into the BlackBerry, which promptly crashed. We had a fabulous chat about architecture and she waltzed me right into an old cigar warehouse that's under a Dwell Magazine style renovation to take a look around. She knew the crew and they just let us wander around. I was glad to run into her at A Single Man where I could ask again for the pie blog.

Denise is one of those few people I know in real life, and only in real life. I think I first met her back in the 90s, possibly in Investment Club -- or maybe just hanging around with the girls I knew from Investment Club. Though I'm terrible with names and faces, I always remember her, because she's practically a foot taller than I am, AND she's from near my homewtown, with a similar rural/farm background. I never see her on Facebook, or Twitter, but I do run into her once in a while (her house is near my office, and we share a lot of friends-in-law). When I asked her at the movies how she actually kept up with communication without all the "traditional" means (facebook, twitter, etc) she gestured between us and looked me in the eye and said "like this.... see....? in person!"

I hardly knew what to make of it. And then I tucked a small carrier pigeon into her purse when she wasn't looking, with my phone number rolled discreetly around his little claw.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Single Man: it's like MadMen for Gays

A Single Man is very unfortunately titled in that it's much too close to the Coens' A Serious Man, and people can only keep so many indie-titles in their head simultaneously. (It was ridiculous that Resevation Road came out within a year of  Revolutionary Road -- and consequently, my mother won't watch either when they come on HBO, because she thinks she has seen them both, when in fact, she has seen neither.)

While the movie is very TomFord and I am not a TomFord fan, it is still a heartbreaker -- like MadMen, for Gays (give Sal a whole movie). 

It's the kind of film that everyone ought to see on MLK day. I try to never take any freedoms for granted, but I am occasionally guilty. I don't want to get married, for example, and never have, but as a token straight, I know I could (presuming a prospective spouse could be secured, and held down long enough to get the Preacher). My Food Gays have been together TWENTY SIX YEARS, on the other hand, and while we all think of them as married, legally, they are not. My Junior Gays are just kids really, and they haven't been together very long, but if they want to grow up and get married, by God, I want to throw their Wedding. And why can't my Gay Husband marry my Gay Husband-in-Law so that I can be their Best Bitch, or Bitch of Honor? Anyone looking for a stimulus package? Meet the GayZillas.

That should not be up for a vote. As my friend Ian points out, if we put interracial marriage on a ballot today, it would not pass in this state. I suspect suffrage wouldn't get very far either.

I never blog politically here, but what the hell kinda Faerie Princess and Designated Straight Wife would I be if I didn't bring this up and make people as uncomfortable as I possibly can, as often as I possibly can?

Public Displays of Affection

Margaritas for lunch are (almost) never a bad idea.
Throw in the Food Gays, a birthday, the faerie princess margarita wand, and a holiday, and it's a recipe for success.

This particular photo of the two of them was part of our ongoing mockery of the new trend of Public Displays of Affection in Facebook and Twitter profile pictures. (Maybe it's not that new, but we're just now noticing it.) We disapprove.

I'm (by no means) a prude. There is a time and a place for such things -- like the privacy of one's home, office, car, or perhaps a darkened movie theater (with the popcorn box that has the fake bottom, for example) -- but public profile pictures that your Mom can see are not that time and place.

And this is where I would normally insert an amusing conversational anecdote from college recounting the opinion StanPetter provided Dean Mount about PDAs the summer we all worked together in StudentLife -- but I can't, because I just used his real name.  I haven't seen StanPetter in about a 100 years (everyone used his fullname -- much like they always did with mine; I never heard anyone call him Stan; I didn't know him terribly well, but he did have a cool dog), but I think the story's really only amusing if you know his name... and honestly, if you know him. (The  same could be said of Dean Mount.) So that was a pretty worthless digression. (And if it turns out he went into Law, I guess it'll be deleted soon anyway.)

But his position -- as I recall it -- was pretty much the same as mine: a little hand-holding here and there is perfectly acceptable, but for any more than that, one ought to retire to a room of one's own. Of course, we didn't have BlackBerries and iPhones back then, so we would've had to chisel our images on the cave walls of our dormitories, but you get the general idea.

Though I will say, in my old age, I find myself eating more and more of these words, very publicly. My designated Straight came to lunch with us today, for example, and I must confess (because if I don't, the Food Gays will), that it is not unusual for us to cross the line -- not across the boundaries of good taste, much less pornography -- but to a degree that I think is surprising to anyone who knows me. (Or even, who does not.)

It would be fair to say that I'm not known for expressing affection, in public or otherwise -- probably because it is generally presumed that I have never felt any. I have seen people visibly flinch and recoil if he goes so far as to put an arm around me, and I think that's just because they like him, and fear for his safety. (I can picture what they want to do in these circumstances, which is wave their arms wildly in slow motion while screaming, "Nooooooooo-ooooooo-ooooooo...!" It's written all over their faces.)  In general, he is terrible for my Image, because all the things I'm known for (I never sleep, I never cry, I never sweat, I never hug) he is in a position to suddenly refute outright. (Actually, I don't think he's ever seen me cry, and unless I've been physically injured, he's not all that likely to. I don't think he's seen me sweat either, come to think of it.)

I do worry that this whole crew likes him. I fear that no good can come of it. One of them has already expressed to his wife with wistful resignation that while it would be great to have another guy who can golf in this social circle, he knows better than to get attached. Chef Tom gestured to him at some point during lunch as we were planning our next brunch menu, and I think what I said was something like, "oh we don't even know if we'll still know him by Valentine's Day." (I think what he said was something like, "I. Can. Hear.")

While everyone likes him, the Gays are especially enamored, and were visibly thrilled to see him today -- because he was InTROUBLE last week (the BFF named this time, "The Sadness"), and they had their doubts. He, of course, never even knows when he's InTROUBLE and if he does, he is almost always wrong about what he's inTROUBLE for. (To be fair, those two had maintained a modicum of faith throughout "The Sadness" and ChefTom had said with great conviction, "don't you worry honey. That man knows which side his brioche is buttered on.")

They are very sweet and honest and open and they just told him outright today they were glad he was back, and his very sweet and honest and open response was that he didn't realize he'd been gone.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mom Does Know Best

She knew what my mother did not: either you want a clean floor or you want to use a mop, you can't have both.
--David Sedaris 

I made the mistake of bragging to my Mom earlier today about how much housework I had gotten done today, on top of a looooong day at work (that New Year motivation? -- not a resolution/more of a theory, about not working on Sundays hasn't gone so well). Two loads of laundry, two loads of dishes, etc.

The thing is, maybe I implied earlier in the week that I had some complaint with the way she judges -- and I really don't. Today, I did the laundry the way she told me to, and I think the whites are whiter and the brights brighter. The dress she picked out for me this week is, in fact, better than the dress I picked out this week.  It's lucky I got both. I shoulda led with that, and quit while I was ahead.

But I had to mention the dishes. "How do you even do two loads of dishes?" Well, I explained, while I was running the first load, I went through her room and the living room and found an array of glasses I didn't even know I had, which I stacked in the sink, and then ran later.

"Really? Because, why are YOU allowed to stack dishes in the sink? You don't let ME stack dishes in the sink. Everytime I do it, I get a lecture: 'this is how people get bugs,' and 'do you think we have magic elves who are going to transfer the dishes from the sink to the dishwasher?'" (It's funny how she can do my voice exactly.)

So I told her, "well Mom, as long as you are under my roof, I guess you're going to have to live with my rules. And in this house, we don't leave dishes in the sink."

That is just the payback she gets for grounding me from Chico and the Man that one time.

Bringin Sexy Back

I don't think I'd ever had corned beef hash till we made it for brunch yesterday. And by "we," I mean I pretty much muddled the lime and horseradish for the Bloody Marys and that was about it. That's not the usual circumstance in my kitchen, but I gotta admit, I kinda like playing the sous chef once in awhile.

We needed some quality food-bonding time after a couple revelatory evenings double-dating with my gay husband and husband-in-law where their conversational digging managed to unearth the fact that my sometime cooking partner not only does not eat leftovers..... he also doesn't really like other people eating off his plate, and he definitely doesn't eat off anybody else's.

This was an admitted blow.
And not in a good way.

Yeah, yeah, he did get food poisoning once, BUT it's not like he got it from either leftovers or sharing food, so it's not like this is a public health crisis. (Though nobody appreciates an irrational neurosis better than I do. Just grazing the tip of my own Crazy Iceberg is a fulltime job.) But the man eats mayonnaise for chrissake (my personal kryptonite), thereby forever forfeiting his vote on food-borne illness.

He and Joe don't understand why Nick and I take this sharing reticence so personally, arguing that, particularly in restaurants, it's not like we even MADE the food. "It's not like it's an extension" of us.... Ohhhhhhh, but. it. is. And as for the hygiene argument they have against eating and drinking after other people? Please. I can understand how he might not wanna sip a community latte, but he perfectly well knows where my hands and mouth have been (...and that they don't necessarily have to make any repeat visits). Let's not get coy.

So we needed a little kitchen therapy this weekend. The corned beef hash came up as a menu item because one of our friends asked everyone at dinner Friday what we would all have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if we knew it was our last day on earth. We never did get past breakfast. And corned beef hash made several lists -- though Nick admitted he actually liked the Alpo version straight out of a can. I'd never had it, and we had all the stuff, so it quickly became the next morning's agenda.

Though I can't take any credit, it was delicious. It formed a perfect crust (which I now understand is integral to a proper corned beef hash). The potatoes had a slight crisp and retained their texture without mashing into the corn beef, and the side of sour cream with a few sprigs of thyme on the rye toast brought it all together. While I've always said I don't think there's anything sexier than a man who can cook, I was wrong. There is.

And that is a man who cleans up the kitchen afterwards. The dishwasher was unloaded and reloaded (if you can imagine... because my Mom hadn't loaded the top shelf to his rigorous standards earlier in the week) and the pots and pans were actually washed. By hand.

We do have admittedly different styles (as we do on about everything). I'm a clean-as-I-go cook, and he sorta leaves it all to the end. But the rule heretofore in my house has always been that the person who does the cooking doesn't have to do the cleaning. (I made that rule, cause it's my house, and cause I have always been the one doing all the cooking... and, it goes without saying, making all the rules.)

I haven't figured out how these new adjustments work, but this is what's known in this family as a "a high class problem."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mom's Parting Shots

My Mom does more before 8 am than you will do all day. In terms of sheer mothering velocity anyway.

First up, on waking, eyes barely open, "do you have any food?" (seriously?)  "I just need, maybe a bite of something? an old cracker even? just to take my medicine with? I might have a piece of that breadstick leftover from the restaurant? Did I put that in my purse? Check my purse honey. There's probably something in there." (Now...Every cupboard is full. Every shelf is full. And there's not one, but two, fully stocked fridges. For breakfast options alone, there's bagels, donuts, English muffins, and toast -- or, if she wanted it, bacon/sausage/eggs and biscuits, which I would be glad to make for her, and offer her every single morning. But when she goes home, I think her friends will imagine something out of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? when Bette Davis serves Joan Crawford a silver platter of rats.)

Then as I was walking through her room gathering up towels and sheets into the laundry basket, "here Baby, do you have a piece of paper? I'm gonna write down how to keep your whites from getting so dingy. I'll bring some Shout and some bleach next time I come and then I'll go down to your basement and we'll see if we can't get your clothes clean." (Apparently, I am walking around in dirty clothes. I am admittedly clumsy and do often end up wearing whatever I'm eating -- but I swear I start OUT the day clean.)

Which brings me to.... "so I guess you're not going to take a shower? I brought my own towels, but I didn't want to use all the hot water... but I guess if you're not planning to take a shower today it doesn't matter?" (I actually do bathe, and there are two bathrooms, I just usually wait till houseguests are outta the house because the hot water heater really doesn't keep up with multiple showers in a one or two hour period. Also, I do have towels. Apparently, they are not clean, but it's not a gas station restroom. There are towels here. Guests aren't really expected to bring their own.)

And with a tone of great resignation and disappointment, "have you started smoking again? You can tell me. I won't get mad." Sigh. "You know it wasn't living around all that smoke that caused this disease that's going to kill me. You know they don't know what caused it." Wait. What? Again?  I have never smoked. Maybe one pack of cigarettes -- total -- over the course of my college career, mostly because it gave me something to do at parties when I wasn't busy washing dishes (which is what I usually do to stay occupied when I'm feeling socially backward which is 100 percent of the time -- I would like to take it up again, but I can't muster the commitment). I was also known to smoke a bit ...recreationally... senior year, but that didn't last long. One panic attack, and that was the permanent end of that. I couldn't even stand to go to concerts for years, the smell brought back such horrible associations. So no, I haven't smoked anything in this house. Ever. A few guests may have, here or there, over the years -- with open windows of course (prompting everyone to think the BlackBerry has finally died for good and I'm sensibly resorting to smoke signals)-- but I don't think even her bloodhound tendencies would be able to detect that.

As I was cleaning the stove this morning and pouring her juice, I swept up (with great horror) a few grains of rice -- which I showed her: "Mom, I was cooking with BLACK RICE this weekend..." (I just knew she had seen them; said nothing; but quickly adjudicated the fact that my home is mice-infested.) What she said instead was, "oh? I didn't notice that, but I did notice this olive oil expired. You know you're going to keep on till you poison somebody to death?" (Maybe. But that won't be the how or the why.) 

And finally, "so I guess you're not going to work today? Taking a little vacation? That's ok honey, you've earned a little time off." No, I wasn't taking time off. I'd already edited two stories on the netbook while simultaneously answering email on the blackberry; sent out a proposal; and finished most of a presentation due for a big lunch meeting tomorrow. I was, of course, still planning to get to the office.... just not till around 8 am -- admittedly, a pretty slack day -- but hardly the life of a trust fund baby.

It's true I did get slowed down a little when my usual Monday cleaning company went out of business last month (Clean Sheets Day just doesn't have the same ring to it when I'm doing it all myself at midnight after a 12 hour work day), but I have been keeping up as best I can. I am the first to admit that it is very hard for me to A. look good, B. cook good, C. put together a good looking home, and D. get a good-looking job out the door. I can do it all, I just can't always do it all at the same time. I am impressed by people who make it all look effortless, but I am not that person. You might get a good meal and a sparkly house and some decent reading material, but I will probably be in yoga pants and an apparently dingy t-shirt.

Still, it is not exactly an episode of Hoarders. Which I know is the image my Mom's friends get in their heads when she describes her visits here. Her farewell words she shouted this morning as she walked down the deck stairs? "Next time I'll bring my mop!" (I am sure the neighbors needed to hear that.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bed Bath and Beyond the Circle

My parents take great joy in the post-holiday sales and who I am I to say 'em Nay... but shopping (like collecting Santas) skips a generation in my family. I do, however, love spending time with my Mom and if that has to happen in a Mall sometimes, well that's just the way it is.

The woman is a machine though.
By the seventh or eighth store, I'm getting lightheaded and just want to lie down -- but there will be none of THAT on her watch. By the time we got to Bed, Bath & Beyond, I think I was tugging on the hem of her coat and actively whining that I wanted to go hooooooooome. She finally had to distract me with something shiny (I never thought to accessorize my linens with leather, but I will now.) I am not sure I am someone who could pull off leather bedding --- but preliminary online polls suggest I should give it a try. (That is my new dream bed, pictured above.)

And while I don't enjoy shopping (at all), I do admire Art, and my mother can turn any trip to the Mall into one. I honestly think she could walk into Neiman-Marcus with nothing but a few baubles and pox-infected blankets and walk out with their entire inventory in trade. She is both tenacious and slick. And no one ever sees her coming. My only job when I accompany her on these expeditions is: hydrate; wear layers; and periodically go to the car to exchange her O2 tanks. (It is seriously a little embarrassing to be repeatedly lapped at the Gap by someone who is rolling an oxygen trolley -- and if you get in her way, she will roll it right over your toes.) I usually think of Bed, Bath &Beyond as adorable but overpriced (it goes without saying we do not pay retail in this family), but wait'll you see the little demitasse set she scored for me. I'm not even sure they sell demitasse sets there, but she honed in on this one in about three seconds ("wasn't somebody just asking you if you had one of these at Brunch?" -- well, yeah, Chef Tom mentioned it... I don't know if he thought we needed it, per se, or was just asking...) Within two minutes, she had a price check and had recounted enough imagined flaws that I'm pretty sure they paid us just to take it off their hands.

By the time we had moved onto clothing, I was sitting in the store windows pressing my face up to the glass (possibly rocking myself... and maybe whimpering, but probably not audibly) waiting for her to bring me dresses. Yeah. OK. I'm not proud of this. I just sat on the floor and pulled them over my head far enough to see if they would basically fit.

She forced me into the dressing room for the last one -- a thoroughly adorable cocktail number that was about 180 percent off -- and then made me come out and show it to her. She was obviously immediately sorry, starting with, "well, if you're looking for a dress that says Nude 2010, this is it" (and that clearly wasn't intended as a compliment). I just clutched it closer. Then she pounded the nail into the coffin: "you know if you gain one OUNCE between now and Friday, that dress will not fit."

So I bought it anyway. And then I ate pie for dinner. Right in front of her. Hey, she needs a reason to live, and I am glad to give it to her.