Protected: “The Pickin’s Be Slim, Ma” – A Brief Memoir of Dating in 2017

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Halfway Adulting

Everyone talks about “adulting” like it’s this big deal that by the time you’re in your twenties, you are paying bills and working and being a responsible and self-sufficient human.  And that just seems kind of pathetic to me, because a few generations ago there were 15 year-old boys going off to fight Nazis, and now this (my) generation is complaining that we have a 9-5 job that doesn’t allow naps or nose-piercings while we’re at work.

welcome to adulting

But then I have weekends where I sleep in too late, miss church, cook Walmart-brand frozen waffle fries for breakfast while wearing only my superman underwear, have to hand wash all the dishes because I forgot to buy dishwasher detergent for a week straight, and then take a nap at 11am because being pathetic is exhausting.

So, you know, I’m not one to talk.

And while I’m all for personal development/self improvement/being a better human, I also realize that in our current culture and economy, being a fledgling adult can be hard sometimes.  Mostly because being an adult means paying for all the bills and all the things, so it’s really just an endless cycle of realizing how poor your are. I’m starting to realize, as I land solidly in the “late” part of my twenties, that being an adult doesn’t always feel like being an adult.  What it actually feels like is a lot of high-stakes bullshitting (“Oh, yeah, I totally know how mortgages work…”), scraping by (“Ok, if I go to bed now, I can probably get a B on this paper with what I’ve got so far, I’ll get 6 hours of sleep, and I’ll only need 2 cups of coffee to survive work tomorrow…”), and panic veiled in a guise of responsibility (“Just paid rent and I didn’t cry this time, now I’m going to look at my bank account – please Jesus let me have enough money left for groceries…”).

you is adulting

I don’t know about the rest of yall, but for now, I fall fully into the category of halfway-adulting, as evidenced by this highly scientific list of symptoms that I found on WebMD.*

Signs That You Are A Halfway Adult

You have some sort of indoor plastic furniture.

Some of your indoor plastic furniture is not actually furniture, but another plastic item that you have repurposed as furniture due to lack of space for its original use and/or need for additional furniture.  (For example, my nightstand is actually a plastic storage box full of books.)

Your Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, or Amazon Prime accounts are actually your parents’ accounts, and you have the passwords.

One or more unframed posters are part of your home décor.

Your friends are envious of the fact that you own your own printer.

You split your Costco membership with someone else.

You dream of being able to afford a full Costco shopping cart of merchandise and having a home with enough spare space in which to store it.

Your parents or other family members routinely ask if you have enough to eat, if you need money, etc.

You own enough bath towels for yourself, but not enough for guests, so when you have company you have to tell them it’s a BYOB situation – bring your own bath towel.

You deliberately avoid owning any clothing that requires ironing or – God forbid – dry cleaning.

If clothing does get wrinkled, rather than breaking out the ironing board you’ve owned for two years but never used, you hang said clothing in the bathroom to steam while you take a hot shower.

You park your car outside the carport when the forecast calls for rain, in a desperate attempt to save the $5 you’d have to spend on a car wash.

You can’t afford your own dog, nor do you have the time or space to care for it, so you try to convince your parents to adopt one for you.  To keep at their house. But it would still be “yours,” you know?

You sometimes do your grocery shopping at Walmart.

You hang more things on the walls with thumbtacks than with nails.

You buy clothing from the children’s section because it’s cheaper and you’re the relative size of a 6th grader.

You sometimes hope to get in a very minor, injury-free, fender-bender type car accident, because you could really use the insurance money.

Your friends give you their hand-me-down clothing to pick through before they take it to Goodwill.

You call your parents for information on how to properly cook steak and repair furniture.

At least half of your kitchenware has been culled from former roommates who moved out and left thing behind to haunt your shared living space like the ghosts of roommates past…and like a suburban pirate, you cling proudly to these Kmart treasures you have plundered.

You always bring homemade cookies to potlucks – homemade, because you can’t afford to buy a tray of cookies; cookies, because you baking skills are still rudimentary enough that a pie-making attempt would be a high risk/low reward situation.

Your home first aid kit consists of half a box of generic bandaids, generic midol, cough syrup, and cough drops. (If someone needs a tourniquet, that’s what electrical cords are for.)

You clean your floors regularly, but also when you’re home alone, sometimes for fun you roll around on the floor like a human bowling ball – picture something along the lines of kids’ gymnastics class-meets-bag lady tripping on acid.

You didn’t get excited about the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale because no sale changes the fact that you are on a Target-clearance-rack kind of budget.

You sometimes have popcorn and diet cherry coke for dinner…but you also gag down a bowl of frozen green beans you zapped in the microwave, because vegetables are important or something.

You make an “iced mocha” (which is really just glorified grown up chocolate milk) by mixing Hershey’s syrup and milk into your coffee and throwing in some ice cubes, and then you think, “Damn, this would be good with some Kahlua.”

You don’t actually add the Kahlua to your coffee because it’s only 9am…and you can’t afford Kahlua.

***

Maybe eventually we become “adult” enough that we actually feel like we’re full grown adults, or maybe we just get better at hiding it.  For now, I’m going to go buy some damn dishwasher detergent…and maybe go take a nap

adult cat

*Fine. I didn’t get it off WebMD. I made it up based off my own life experience.

First Anniversary

Happy (almost) anniversary to me.

That’s right – to me. Just me. Singular reference to a single lady.

crazy single singing lady gif

Tomorrow marks a full year since I lost about 170 lbs by saying “Sayonara, sucker,” to a certain ex-boyfriend.   I’ll spare the gory details, but it was a crappy relationship, and I was glad to see it finally end.

since you been gone gif

There were some negative feelings mixed with my (significant) relief, to be sure, because as happy as I was to be done dating an asshole, I don’t exactly take pleasure in causing other people pain (no matter how much they might deserve it).  In the year since then, I’ve come to realize that ending that relationship was one of the best things I ever did for myself.  It turned out that July 22 was less an ending than it was a beginning.  Sure, that toxic relationship did end, but even more importantly, my life began to change in tremendous ways for the better.

Over the past year, I’ve had a chance to invest in myself in ways that I never had the courage to do so before.

treat yo self gif

A week after dumping that breakup, I moved to a new city 400 miles away; a month later, I started a master’s program.  In the year that followed, I challenged myself (as did my classmates, supervisors, and roommates), I pushed back against self-imposed limits and arbitrary expectations, and I built a new life for myself and became bolder and more independent than ever before.  In hindsight, it’s clear that standing up against someone who was manipulative, degrading, dishonest, and contemptuous made me realize I could stand up against other fears and overcome other challenges.

brave neville gif

This past year has been spent putting that theory to the test, and I’ve come out the better for it.

In addition to investing in myself, I found myself able to invest more in other important relationships in my life. Without the distraction of dating someone, I’ve found that I know my family better and feel closer to my siblings and parents than ever before (even in spite of the distance following my move).  I’ve also enjoyed rekindling some friendships from my undergraduate days, and cultivating new friends from this chapter of my life.  While the people I consider truly close friends can be counted with two hands (or maybe just one), they make my life tenfold richer.

harry potter friends gif

They are positive individuals, who invest in themselves and prioritize growth, who hold me accountable, who share in my joys and share theirs with me, and who will tell me the truth even if it’s the last thing I want to hear.  In turn, I do my best to do the same for them.  They are the kinds of friendships you want to hold dear for a whole lifetime, and had I not been single this past year, I may not have had the time or energy to invest in them.

weird friends gif

The past year has also given me ample opportunity to reflect on my past relationship and learn from it.  The most glaring of those lessons is that a red flag is a red flag is a red flag is a red flag, no matter how well you rationalize it.  Ignoring red flags in a relationship seems to me now quite similar to ignoring the double yellow lines on a two lane highway – do it long enough, and eventually you’ll find yourself in a head-on collision, and the carnage will be ugly.  I also came to learn that the viewpoints and values you allow to influence you will have a profound impact on who you are and how your life unfolds.  If you are selective about this (or just strikingly lucky), you will never regret being discerning in this regard.  Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned not to be afraid of letting go of things that are not right.  Now that I know how much stands to be gained on the other side of that loss, it’s made it easier to let go or say “no” to things that I know are not right (or not right for me).

cousin violet say no gif

And yet, as wonderful – and challenging, and exciting, and confusing, and growing, and memorable, and rewarding – as this past year has been, there’s also much that I’m looking forward to in the coming year and beyond.  Given all that I’ve learned and the ways I’ve grown, I’m looking forward to sharing that with someone…in a healthy relationship marked with mutual respect.  In being single for a full year in a city full of strangers, I’ve met a lot of guys and been on some memorable dates.  Memorable, it should be noted, does not mean “good” (more like “mortifying”); if anything, the dates I’ve been on over the past year have just reinforced my choice to be particular about who I let into my life and how I spend my time.

standards gif

(I’ll be sharing more about all that in an upcoming post that lays out all the hilariously gory details of modern dating…just be aware that it involves grown men in penis costumes.  That is not a typo.)  Having tested the waters perhaps more than I needed to, I’ll be the last to tell you that good men are easy to come by…but I know they’re out there, because I’m lucky enough to know some of them.  And I’ve realized from both dating an asshole and meeting plenty more of them after him, that I would much rather enjoy the single life than bide my time in a mediocre relationship.

snarky set on fire gif

On top of all the things I’m looking forward to enjoying and accomplishing over the next year, I’ve got a lot of significant changes on the horizon just by default – graduating with my master’s degree, getting a full time job, starting to work towards my license, potentially moving again.  A year ago, I had no idea that this is where I’d be 365 days later, so it’s pretty damn exciting to think about what life will look like a year from now.

And in the meantime, I’m going to do my best to keep up the momentum of learning and growing from the past year.  If nothing else comes from this blog post, I hope you’ll think about this: There’s something to be said for learning from your mistakes, but there’s also something to be said for learning from someone else’s mistakes. So maybe you can learn from my 170lb mistake, and maybe if you do, you’ll decide join me in making this next year the best year we’ve ever had.  I hope you will.

Over the next year…Do the scary thing and the hard thing.

scared joey gif

Challenge yourself, and choose to face head-on the things that intimidate you, because those are the kinds of things that are hard as hell and beyond worth it.

Over the next year…Listen to your intuition.  Listen to logic and information that you’re rationally processing, too, but don’t ignore your intuition.  Those “pit of your stomach” senses, where you know without knowing how, are not just figments of your imagination.  Don’t ignore your intuition when it’s screaming – incorporate it into your decision-making, alone with reason and logic and quantifiable facts, and give it its due say in the process.

Over the next year…Let go.  When you need to let go, let go.  Whether it’s a toxic relationship, or a habit that is draining you rather than adding value to your life, or a belief you now know to be false, just let go.

hell naw gif

You have no idea how much you can gain by doing so.

Over the next year…Allow others the dignity to experience the consequences of their actions. This one is something I picked up at Al-Anon. Literally – at the third meeting I ever went to, they passed around a box with all these slips of paper, each of which had a reminder of one of the Al-Anon principles on it. Mine had this, and I still have that slip of paper a year later. (For those who are confused, Al-Anon is a support group for the friends, family, and loved ones of alcoholics; Alcoholics Anonymous, or “AA,” is the support group for the alcoholics themselves.)  The aforementioned ex-boyfriend was an alcoholic, in addition to being an overall less-than-wonderful human, and there are a lot of addicts that I know and love and happen to call family.  I started going to Al-Anon two days after ending my relationship, and it was hugely helpful for me not only in sorting myself out after that breakup.  Not only that, but it (along with my faith) helped me in healing and moving on from a lot of the more subversive damage that relationship had left.  This little saying has been circling in my head over the past year, and more times than I can count, it’s given me the gift of freedom – freedom to be responsible for myself and only myself, to control what I can control, and to let others live as they see fit.  We all have the beautiful gift of free will to use as we please – at times, we use it well, and at times, we use it dig our own graves.  But that’s the thing about free will: It’s makes us free, but we can’t make others free. If someone’s using his free will to dig his own grave, you can’t jump in and take his shovel away.  It doesn’t work. What ends up happening is that you end up giving him your shovel, and you get buried alive.  So embrace that free will the good Lord gave you, and live your life as best you can while you let others lead their lives as they see fit, and allow them the dignity to suffer the consequences, good or bad – it really will set you free.

do you booboo gif

(And now this is turning into it’s own little Inception-type blog-post-within-a-blog-post, so I’ll probably write more in the future about addiction and recovery and enabling and all those skeletons no one likes to talk about, because apparently I’ve got a lot of thoughts on that, and yall didn’t come here to read War & Peace, Volume 2.)

But for now, I’m going to celebrate by kicking back by the pool tomorrow with an ice cold protein shake (because I’m too poor to buy alcohol).

single lady gif

Happy anniversary to me.

Why Food Blogs Are The Worst

Food blogs are terrible.

There. I said it. We were all thinking it, right? They’re just the worst! Sure they have photos of delicious looking food that makes you start feeling warm and fuzzy, and suddenly you’re drooling on your keyboard and tripping over your house slippers as you rush to the kitchen to concoct this glory that is whatever the food blogger has presented.  But don’t let yourself be the victim of this tom foolery, amigos.  Food blogs may seem like God’s gift to the generation that thinks nothing of photographing their every meal, snack, and beverage…but in all reality, they are but sirens waiting to lure you to your death.

And by “your death” I mean “you sitting on your kitchen floor in a puddle of flour and eggs and self-loathing while you sob tears of frustration into a mixing bowl.”

pretentions pb&j

And this is why…

Metric measurements all over the place:
I know, I know, that’s how, like, real chefs measure stuff, but this is America and the pilgrims didn’t come over here just so we could bake our cakes the same way they do in Buckingham Palace.  Now please tell me how much flour I need in freedom measurements, and preferably the kind that don’t require bringing a food scale into the kitchen.

Tiny ass portions:
This is more a problem with “healthy” blogs. Whether it’s “healthy cooking” or “healthy living” or whatever the hell else you’ve decided to “healthify,” so many of these blogs do the same thing – they provide recipes that make one or two servings of a dessert, side dish, or what we peasants might call “a damn snack.”  Like hey, that’s cool that you like to eat pigeon-sized portions.  You do you. But some of us who would like to use your recipe would like to be able to get more than one and a half servings of tofu cheesecake or whatever.  It’s that whole efficiency thing, cook once but eat four times, something like that? There are two options here: A) These “healthy” food bloggers assume that the rest of us are gluttonous savages who will compulsively shovel the entirety of the finished food product down our gullets, not unlike a great white shark snacking on a sea lion. Or B) Said bloggers believe their readers are unemployed and have their bills paid by the Utilities Gods and Phone Gods and Insurance Gods and Rent Gods, and therefore have all their waking hours free to pan-fry tofu and pulverize fresh macadamia nuts and shop for organic aged cheeses just to make one serving of some healthy “dessert” that will last all of two bites.  No, if I’m going to spend 12 frackin’ hours in the kitchen, I better have some damn leftovers.

ridiculous breakfast parfait

Weird ingredients:
Why does every food blog recipe seem to require at least one or more things like “organic unpasteurized cheese made from the milk of 100% grass fed cows pastured in a Swiss meadow and fermented by blind virgins.”  What is so terrible about some plain Jane middle-class cheese that I bought at Kroger or Costco? Because according to my wallet and my tastebuds, that peasant cheese just perfect. And also why do we have to put chia seeds in everything. They have the texture of premature tadpoles and they taste like teen angst mixed with the emotional emptiness of a trophy wife.

Putting a novella before each recipe:
It stands to reason that most people with “major” food blogs (i.e. the people who have ads or an e-book or a print cookbook or otherwise make some sort of income from their food blog) understand that people are there for the food.  We want the recipe, and maybe a couple of photos of said food so we can have an approximation of how the end result should look.  What we do not need is 23-paragraph wall of text through which we have to scroll before getting to the damn recipe.  There is a reason most of these folks are writing food blogs and not, you know, bestselling novels.  There is one exception I will make, and that is Jessica at HowSweetEats.  I have read her food blog for going on SEVEN YEARS now, and I have not made a SINGLE recipe. The reason I read her blog (almost daily) is because her writing is hilarious, I love her “voice,” and we would totally be friends if we ever met in real life.  (Also I now love the beauty product roundups she started a few years ago, but I digress…) But really, for every other food blogger in the world, none of us really have a rat’s ass to give about the poetic thoughts they have regarding the “luxurious lightness of the fresh-whipped cream laced with flecks of vanilla bean” or whatever it may be.  It’s whipped cream with vanilla bean in it, and I will be well aware of that in 10 minutes when I finally scroll to the end of the page, and I don’t need to read your dissertation on the history of whipped cream to understand that.  (And to be quite frank, it will probably end up being cool whip with vanilla extract stirred in because I’m poor/not a gourmand.)  Just give us the recipe and save all the prose for your diary.

The total kitchen destruction that each recipe requires:
It takes me 36 dishes and 17 hours to complete this recipe and then clean up the nuclear wasteland that is now my kitchen.  Sure, now I’ve finished cooking your organic agave-sweetened mini-muffins (all FOUR OF THEM, because you’re a sadist with no sense of normal portion sizes) but I no longer have any clean spoons or bowls in my kitchen, and I can’t find my way to the silverware drawer because a mushroom cloud of gluten free flour has enveloped me and the kitchen appliance-equivalent of a 12-car pileup has exploded on my counter.  The glory of that muffin (which is dubious at best, given my tendency to disregard baking directions in recipes and the tendency for food bloggers to lack normal, middle-class tastebuds) does not nearly outweigh the hazmat-level horror that will await me in the kitchen sink after completing the recipe.

fancy diner food

I like freedom:
I like capitalism, and firearms, and red meat, and America, and freedom.  This includes freedom in the kitchen – which, coincidentally, is a place I’m happy to be, because there’s food there and I’m far from being a feminist and I make a mean sammie if I do say so myself.  This is why I suck at baking.  I freeball things when I cook, and that doesn’t turn out so well when you’re trying to find that perfect balance between precise measurements of things like baking powder and flour and egg whites and butter to make something finicky (albeit delicious) like a lemon meringue pie.  Hard pass, but thanks. I’ll stick to my method of cooking, which is usually cooking some sort of meat and cooking some sort of vegetable (maybe together) and throwing on a combination of seasonings that I already know that I like…and then chopping up said meat and vegetables, tossing those suckers in a bowl, and consuming it with great gusto. Probably with Frank’s buffalo sauce on top, because my tastes are delicate and refined and my spirit animal is a long haul trucker.

ron swanson meat tornado

Exciting Ways to Entertain Yourself This Summer

Alternate title: How I’ll Be Spending My Time Between Now and September

Currently I am experiencing this glorious thing called “grad school.” It’s kind of like high school meets The Hunger Games meets British boarding school, if you know what I mean.  The cool thing is that I went back for a graduate degree three full years after completing my undergrad, so this whole “summer break” concept is particularly exciting because it’s been a hot minute since I had one.  Even though I’m taking a summer course, I am making the most of this summer.  After all, if you live in the morally-bankrupt, traffic-filled, smog-scented hellscape that is LA county, your only two options in the summer are to
A) embrace this triple-digit purgatory
or…
B) slip into a crippling depression and slowly die in a puddle of your own sweat

As you’ll see, I’ve chosen option A.

summer dog

Let’s be clear – summer is not my favorite season. I live for looming grey clouds, below-freezing temperatures, icy winds, and snow.  But when you are an adult who is also conveniently once again a college student, summer also means freedom. And when you have one year left in your grad program, summer means the last time you will ever have three months of sweet freedom like this unless you fail to find employment when you graduate, or if you get fired and then become chronically unemployed, or if you get knocked up and your millionaire baby daddy convinces you to become a stay-at-home-mom but that’s not really freedom because then you’re just on booger-and-butt-wiping-duty 24/7 with no end in sight and now this is depressing so let’s move on.

ANYWAY. The sweet, sweet freedom of summer has thus far been glorious, and I figured I would share some ideas for fun summer activities in case anyone else is reliving their childhood, in grad school, unemployed, or just playing hooky.

10 Fun & Exciting Summer Activities

  1. Be naked. Summer is all about hot weather, and what better way to be the heat than be naked as much as possible.  This obviously works better if you do it indoors and only when your roommate is out of the house, but who am I to keep you from being a revolutionary?
  2. Freeze things.  Again, this boils down to beating the heat.  You can freeze all kinds of snacks and it automatically makes them fun summer foods.  You can freeze grapes. And watermelon. And pineapple. And chocolate peanut butter cups. And wine.  But don’t stop at food! You can freeze other things for more summer fun, too, like underwear and hairbrushes and your neighbor’s yappy little rat-dog.
  3. Channel your inner lizard. And by that, I mean lounge in the sun with your tail out (or at least in bikini bottoms).  You can lube yourself up in SPF50 if that helps you believe soaking up all that vitamin D is less terrible for you that way.  But you must be absolutely sure that when you are lounging like said lizard, you are fully channeling your inner lizard.  This means lying there in luxurious stillness, basking in the feel of that great ball of fire in the sky shooting its cancer-rays at your nearly-bare buttcheeks.  The only appropriate excuse for movement in this scenario would be to lift your iced beverage of choice to your lips or roll into the pool to cool off.  This is, of course, a much more comfortable endeavor if the pool your are lying by is not also occupied by several middle-aged dads who brought their small children out to swim, and/or if you are not wearing a swimsuit that is best described as a “decorative wedgie.”  But you do you, boo.
  4. Step up your instagram game.  That is, if people still use instagram. I can’t keep up with the times – I still have (and regularly use) facebook, which makes me about 82 years old in pop-culture years.  But I think people are still on instagram, and what better excuse than summertime for gratuitous photos of you in a bikini, you at a country music concert, you on a trendy swan-shaped pool float, close-ups of your beer right next to your boobs, close-ups of your butt in a bikini, and the classic (not to be confused with classy) over-the-shoulder bikini butt shot.  Not to mention all the lighting, angles, and filters that need to be perfectly applied.  So many selfies, so little summertime.
  5. Play games with fate by going hiking.  See, hiking is normally a wonderful and fun thing to do. I genuinely love it, wish I could go more often.  But hiking in the summertime is particularly exciting because there’s always that one big question – will I survive?  Normal hiking, in normal climates, is relatively low-risk unless you fall off a cliff or get eaten by a bear or run out of snacks and have to Donner Party it up.  But in the summer, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game, especially if you live in the hot nasty hellscape that is Commiefornia (heat makes me grumpy, but I stand by what I said).  Hiking becomes a game of questions: Will I run out of water and shrivel up into a dehydrated pile of bones and ash?  Will I encounter a rattlesnake and end up succumbing to its venomous bite because I’m nowhere near agile enough to leap out of the way?  Will I find myself face to face with a mountain lion and end up on a local news station with my pitiful 911 call being played and pictures of my mauled body being hauled away by park rangers? NO ONE KNOWS AND THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT SO EXCITING. (PS I really do love nature. I’m just also terrified by it.)
  6. Become a bartender.  By this, I mean, add tequila to every beverage imaginable, and call yourself a bartender.  Really, what better time than summer to experiment with cocktail-creating? It’s hot, you’re already thirsty and sweaty, and you probably have people over for a bbq.  Even if you’re not hosting a bbq, surely you have some feral cats in the backyard or some stoner neighbors who are frequently passing around both bongs and beer bottles on their front porch (If not, then we have wildly different living situations.), and surely they would be glad to act as taste-testers.  Plus, summertime is when stores like Trader Joe’s come out with fun juices like “jalapeno limeade,” which are basically just margaritas in their infancy.  So take some of the frozen things from Fun & Exciting Summer Activity #1 (the edible things only, unless you’re into weird stuff and have a digestive tract of steel) and throw them in a blender with your alcohol of choice, and you’ll basically be Don Draper.
  7. Take a vacation.  I’ve heard this is what adults do in the summer, and mostly I’ve heard this from pinterest.  So find a good deal on tickets and explore some corner of the world you’ve never been…preferably one with palm trees and oceans and tan natives with coconut bras.  If you can’t afford a vacation, just drive around town for 4 hours then come home, make yourself some fruity-ass drink, and take a bath while you play ocean sounds on your phone. It’ll feel like a road trip to the beach.
  8. Perfect the art of doing your own bikini wax.  You’ll save money and avoid the hassle of shaving, not to mention the beauty of being bikini-ready for weeks on end! It’s the best…Just kidding, don’t do this, I tried it once and spoiler alert: It ends with you sitting spread eagle on the floor, sweating in pain as you rip half-dried wax off your lady-parts in tiny little pinches while you laugh hysterically to keep from crying.  Honestly, masking tape probably would have been more effective.  (So the really fun thing to do is go pay a stranger $50 to rip out all your pubes because they are professionals who actually know what they’re doing.)
  9. Go to a country concert.  Ok, to be fair, I haven’t ever done this.  And probably won’t be doing this anytime soon, unless I can find a sugar daddy to sponsor such an activity, because country concerts are really expensive.  Which is kind of weird to me, because these country singers are usually folks who grew up in a double-wide trailer behind the Circle K in some podunk Mississippi town, and they learned to play the guitar and type II diabetes and all that, and then they went on American Idol and finally made it out of Dodge or whatever their hometown was called.  The point is Lord knows that they wouldn’t have been able to afford $200 concert tickets back when they were getting started, so why are they charging their loyal fans – to whom they owe their successful careers in the music industry – that damn much? RIDDLE ME THAT, OK, KENNY CHESNEY?  But don’t worry, the broke-bitch alternative to a country concert is simple and sweet: Set up a lawn chair on your front porch, crack open a cold one, and sit there in your underwear and cowboy boots while you blast your favorite country songs from your phone.  Hell, invite your stoner neighbors to join, they probably can’t afford tickets either.
  10. Read all the things.  Really, read all the books and articles that you “don’t have time for” during the rest of the year when you’re swamped with school/work.  Take a full day to pack up a bunch of books (and probably lunch and snacks, too, if you’re a hungry monkey like me) and take yourself to a coffeeshop and spend the day there reading. JUST FOR FUN.  Ugh, I’m getting all tingly just thinking about it.  And let’s be clear, no email checking or instagramming or tinder-swiping is allowed when you’re reading! (And really, if you’re still using tinder, what is even happening in your life? Go get a therapist, some hobbies, and an STD test.) I want to say audiobooks count, but that’s mostly because I think it would be hilarious to play the 50 Shades audiobook really loudly in a crowded coffeeshop and see what people say.  But I don’t want to get arrested, so I’ll let one of the braver souls out there give it a go.  Do report back and let us know how it goes, ok?

summer swim trunks

No Longer Undercover

Hey yall, so it’s been a hot minute, yeah?

See, I spent this spring applying for a position that was really important to me. Basically it would be the launch pad for my ideal career. No big, except if you know me at all, you know that I’m an HR nightmare. I’m the least politically correct or appropriate person ever…and sometimes usually, that includes what I write here, too.  But this job was really important to me, so while I was applying and interviewing I decided to go off the radar.

At least, in terms of social media.  I still used the internet and had running water and coffee and whatever else is required for being on the radar. But the blog went off the radar, and all my social media accounts became private af.  Aint’ nobody got time to lose a potential job because of all the offensive jokes they make on the internet.

Apparently it paid off, because spoiler alert: I got the position.  I’m thrilled (obviously), and while I haven’t started yet I’ve gotten to know the head of the department a bit. So far she seems to really like me and I’ve calmed down enough that I figure it’s safe to take this old blog back on the radar without too much risk to my current position or future employment opportunities.

Which is great, because there are so many things I’ve wanted to write about.  Some stuff funny, some more serious, some kind of off the wall.  More on that to come throughout the week.  (But of course, if you have ideas, hit me!)

For now, just know that this broad and this blog are back in action, and it’s about to be poppin’ up in here.

Or, at least, you know, it should be.  Last week I splurged and bought myself a bottle of tequila* and a 19-pound watermelon, so you know my summer has been off to a great start.

marg time

Basically me. At 3pm. On a Monday.

*Said tequila has thus far been used in the making of the delightful little summer treat called the ghettorita.  A ghettorita is a margarita, but ghetto style, because you’re poor as crap and buying the tequila was enough excitement for your wallet and you don’t need to be shelling out another $8 for a bottle of green margarita-flavored koolaid to mix with your tequila.  Plus making your margarita ghettorita from scratch is much classier and probably healthier. Fresher. More natural. One of those marketing buzzwords you see in Cooking Light magazine. I think.   Except the people in cooking light magazine probably aren’t mixing their clearance rack tequila with key lime flavored sparkling water and lime juice and trying to pass it off as a homemade margarita. But I think I’m going to name my ghettorita “The Slumdog Sipper.” (You know, in honor of my current apartment. Which is kind of ghetto and we call it Casa de Slumdog.)  It has a good ring to it, don’t you think?

I don’t know yall. I drink whiskey. This tequila stuff is hard.

batman marg

How I look trying to make margaritas and pretending I know what the hell I’m doing.

The Chaos of Doing

I’m sitting in a crowded Chick Fil A right now, sipping on iced coffee and mowing down a cold bowl of oatmeal I packed for breakfast.  This particular Chick Fil A franchise offers free small iced coffees (truly free – no purchase necessary) every Thursday, and God bless them for it, because that weekly tradition is a huge blessing to poor, sleep-deprived grad students like myself.  And as I sit here sucking down that sweet, sweet caffeine, I should be basking in the relief of having just slaughtered a midterm exam in the best way possible.  

I should be excitedly making arrangements for my weeklong trip home that starts this weekend.

I should be enjoying the fact that today is my last day of class before spring break.

I should be taking advantage of the huge chunk of free time I have between my midterm and my next class.

I should be texting friends and family and planning adventures for when I’m home.

I should be cracking open textbooks and catching up on the reading that I so often neglect in favor of sleep.

I should be blogging, since I haven’t updated this little corner of the internet in ages.

I should be, I should be, I should be, I should be…

But what am I actually doing?

I’m flipping back and forth between my laptop – where I’m switching between news websites and two separate email accounts –

…and my phone – where I’m going from my text messages to instagram to facebook to snapchat and back –

…and one of three notebooks, where I’m writing out to-do lists and packing lists and reminders for emails to send and appointments to update.  

office-620822_1920.jpgNeedless to say, this is anything but what I should be doing.  But this is what I almost always do.  As I’ve told a couple friends recently, I can’t remember the last time I did just one thing at a time. Unless sleeping counts, but even then, half the time I end up taking clothes off or rearranging my pillows or doing something besides letting my REM cycle do its thing.

So why is it so hard to stop? I don’t think I’m alone in this.  Most of us living in the 21st century, and especially my millenial generation, have a hard time slowing down. I love being busy, I love working, I love having a full schedule, and I love going full throttle 24/7.  But this isn’t busy, this is chaos. Not the good chaos, either.

Good chaos is a family reunion where conversations overlap until you can’t make out anything but laughter and hugs.

Good chaos is Christmas morning in your parents’ living room.

Good chaos is your first day at college.

Good chaos is graduation day.

Good chaos is the starting line of a marathon.

Good chaos is that first whiskey-flavored kiss.

Good chaos is a full of excitement and joy and laughter and butterflies in your belly and your heart in your throat and light in your eyes.

But this?

This is shoulders hunched up by my ears and feet tapping incessantly and having to straighten my posture and stretch every few minutes.  Already twice since I got here an hour ago, I’ve had to literally remind myself to breathe, because I catch myself unintentionally holding my breath.  This is not productive, and it’s not the kind of work I crave. It’s not what “full throttle” should feel like. It’s not a full life, it’s a life full of busyness.

Isn’t that the plague of our generation? We’re too busy, doing too many things, to actually accomplish anything of meaning.  

HS2297

We can cultivate multiple social media accounts and build significant followings on those platforms without cultivating any significant relationships with individuals we know in real life.  We can acquire multiple degrees and certifications and extensive resumes without actually building any kind of real career or doing significant work.  We can spend our days doing so many things without actually doing much of anything.

And I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I want. Because as much as I love working hard, I love it because I want that work to count for something.  When I’m busting my ass, I want it to propel me somewhere. There are miles to go and goals to be met, but all too often – like this morning – I find myself spinning my wheels without ever leaving the parking lot.  And why the hell is that?

Why can’t I focus?

Why can’t I let go of the nonessentials?

Why can’t I monotask?

Why can’t I slow down?

Why can’t I dive into something and be fully present in the work?

Why can’t I do as the psalmist said and “Be still and know…” (Psalm 46:10)?

And I realize this is getting kind of existential for a post that started out about free coffee.  This is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, though, and I’d venture it might have crossed your mind a time or two as well.  I know that I am as type-A as they come, neurotic as hell, and I struggle with OCD and anxiety, so my experience with this soul-sucking busyness might be different than others’.  But that hollow “busyness” that does and does and does and does without actually doing anything of meaning is something that I reckon most of us have known a time or two. I want to explore that in a series of posts, and you’re invited to join in. In fact, I hope you will join in. I don’t want this to be a lineup of posts about being too busy or how we need to do less in order to do more – I want an ongoing discussion of what it means to work deeply and do things well and be both goal-oriented and present in the moment. It’s a lot to tackle, and I’ve got a lot of questions I want to crack open, and it’s probably going to get messy.   

But I have a feeling that will be the good kind of chaos.

I hope yall are ready to wade through the messiness with me.

If any of this resonates with you or piques your interest, I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

 

 

Dating: A Commentary According to a Puritanical Male (GUEST POST)

Ok amigos, after yesterday’s spicier (some might say “salacious”) post – which was also slightly hyperbolic – I figured we should balance things out with something equally fun but a touch more appropriate and poignant.  And that’s the background on how I roped my friend Drew into writing a guest post for me.

Drew is one of my good friends from undergrad, but I’m going to spare everyone the embarrassment of a picture of those nerdier years (let’s just say we’ve both become significantly more attractive since then).  We are weirdly similar, even down to the same Myers-Briggs personality type (INTJ club for life), which has made him a great wingman and sounding board for guy problems. The main difference is that Drew manages to make his neuroses and social oddities much more charming. So we have a lot in common; he’s just definitely a better person to write a Valentine’s day post that consists of more than just a bunch of jokes about ballsacks.

(What can I say? A part of me has the same sense of humor as a 12 year old boy.)

Itty bitty disclaimer: I supplied the graphics here, so don’t judge Drew for the tasteless valentines within his post.

And with that, I’ll let Drew take it away…

********

barack-valentine

Dropping the Ball

Our first date included both the itinerary of bell-ringing for the Salvation Army, dinner, and watching Anchorman 2. Despite that, we continued to go on dates.

It was our third date when we went to a New Year’s Eve party with a large group of her friends. Our group was large and required several tables; she and I sat with the couples (wink, wink). Afterward, we went to someone’s house for a party where people were playing card games and casually chilling on the couch. It was great, but if there was ever a death knell to a potential relationship (which honestly I was completely wrecking anyways), it would be realizing that when the ball dropped in Times Square you were nowhere near her and were instead screaming while hiding under a table playing “murder-in-the-dark” with strangers. Granted, this shouldn’t have come as a total surprise because when I initially asked her out I failed to give a time, place or activity and had to reapproach her to give her the pertinent details. Honestly, at this point I need someone to guide me through the dating process.

Since you, the reader, now see that I am essentially the perfect male specimen and a hybrid of Gosling and Bond’s suave charm, I should probably explain a little bit about myself, given who I am is frankly the crux to my perspective.

Great Expectations

I am a remarkably average twenty-five year old male. When I say “remarkable” I mean: I frequently get called “Kevin”, “David”, and “Josh” by complete strangers, people hand me their things (e.g. stroller, puppy, or laptop) while they run to the restroom, and my students like to guess which clique/stereotype I fit into during high school while running through an exhaustive list of guesses (answer: I did nothing). Ah, yes, I am also a high school English teacher; which means I leverage synonyms, have exceptional patience, and “an extraordinary gift for hope” (Fitzgerald, 1925).

I should also preclude any discussion about my perspective on the dating process by confessing that I have really terrible expectations and motivations. Is it too much that I assess dating prospects by “ETA until couple’s Halloween costumes”, “does she like spicy food enough to eat my stir-fry”, and “will she duet with me to my Disney playlist”?

Dating Failures

Another date ended when the girl insisted we get snow cones instead of food, so here I am looking like the Joker while she struggles to make conversation. Our conversation nearly ended in my choking to death out of shock when she made the next comment. She noted she saw me reading one time, I explained in less than 10-seconds I was reading a Stephen King book (which really is a minor miracle with me). She then said, “I don’t know, I see books and think- reading is a waste of time.” I was incredulous, clearly she doesn’t know and doesn’t think. I love fiction and in fact, I am an ardent supporter of the 2nd Amendment; the right to bear false witness. The conversation went downhill fast when I learned she was casually suspicious that my church was a cover for an underground drug operation. So that one isn’t necessarily my fault.

donald-deport-valentine

How about a first date I called off once the girl pointed at an item and commented how nice it would look in our future home? Oh wait, that’s right, I didn’t call it off. Instead our noontime lunch date ended after dinner and dessert at 9:30 PM because I didn’t know how to politely end it. The deal-breaker, for me, was that she confused Schmee (Captain Hook’s left hand man, get it!?!) with one of the Seven Dwarfs as we walked past a Disney themed painting. I realized then and there that I need a girl who can at least appreciate my nerdy trivialities and someone who can’t even recognize The Jungle Book certainly won’t be as hyped as I was for the latest Pokemon game or Lego Batman movie.

Needless to say, I am inexperienced and have gone on few dates. I even consciously decided that January was enough effort (3 whole dates) that I deserve a month off. So I understand completely that my perspective does not anywhere match the norm.

Trust me, I do know some red-blooded males, but they probably refrain from sharing all but the Rated-PG content with me in the same way some priests wouldn’t even voice their proclivities with me in the confessional. No joke, in a moment of weakness I turned to reading Yahoo Answers to determine whether to hold hands on a third date… I may have also said as much to my date. “I have decided,” I announced, “that we should hold hands and walk under my umbrella.” During our stroll she may have been looking to see if I had a Lightning Port. This is the date that died from awkwardness when during the entire length of Finding Dory my arm fell asleep wrapped around her, I tried to fight through the sensation until it felt like my arm was on fire and I had to ask to reposition her resting head into my sweaty armpit. So, yeah, you could say I have some “game”.

Don’t even get me started on the date where we met at the Applegate Park Zoo in Merced, CA. You know, the one with the raccoon exhibit or the sign advertising the “domestic cat”.

“Swiper, No Swiping”

There is likely an issue when Coffee Meets Bagel suggests I either become less picky or increase the mile radius for potential matches to 250 miles. I read research on Tinder, as one does, which suggested women “swipe approvingly” on a third of matches while men swipe on half (quotes may be exaggerated). I definitely swiped “sure, why not?” on three of one hundred, before quitting. By “quitting”, I mean: swiping “no” as fast as possible and taking screen shots of the funniest profiles to send in a group text because what am I if not a hypocritical jerk.

For the ladies, these were my thoughts on Tinder profiles:

  1.     Snapchat filters:
    •     Lead me to assume the worst case scenario: you have some weird Pirates of Caribbean flesh-eating black-spot on your face
    •     Or, you are likely to ask me what I mean when I say “conceivably” or any other word with more than two syllables (never said I wasn’t pretentious)
  2.     Shots including magically both front and rear cleavage:
    •     Positive: you are really flexible and dedicated, likely taking several attempts at that picture
    •     Negative: you think they are your best assets
  3.     To the Woman handling a newborn calf coated in fluids/better moustache than mine/who looks like the girl from The Ring:
    •    It is okay to not date online

Now, to be fair, I definitely am not photogenic and chose what essentially are the only four decent pictures of myself (one actually looks like I possess biceps, so even if it’s not good, I still use it). But, I labeled each with a warning that I do not have selfie game. See, some self-awareness.

barack

Playing the Dating Game

I have learned this: dating is the world’s largest and most complex massively multiplayer role-playing game. We all take into consideration our attributes and bravely quest to find the correct life partner.

The trouble is the role-playing. I don’t mean kinky Fifty Shades stuff, but rather that people strive to put their best foot forward and make positive impressions. As someone who really could be characterized as C3-PO, Spongebob, and Kuzco from The Emperor’s New Groove mashed together, it isn’t easy.

This is hard to maintain, particularly when it means someone like me also has to feign affection. I approached a dinner date with as much professionalism that my date commented, “Wow, this feels like an interview.” So now, I am so conscious of my body language and follow-up questions on a date I feel like Hannibal Lecter, minus the sociopathic tendencies.

But the great thing has been the growth and development I have seen in myself, as I grow more open to this reality; dating requires vulnerability and a good deal of awareness. The more I have put myself out there, the more I learn about myself and what I find necessary or unnecessary in a date. I have learned to listen more, lean forward and appreciate the uniqueness of each woman without comparison to the previous. I think I may have even begun to break down the Disney-programming that there is “one” for me, but rather that God will provide in due time the right person who does not need to be perfect but is perfect for me.

That all said, clearly I have a lot of work I need to do on myself. Maybe the right woman is one patient enough to walk me through it.

hillary-valentine

********

PS: Drew is hilarious on twitter. You should stalk him.

The 13 Most Romantic Things You Can Do For A Girl

This one goes all for all my dudes out there. Well, not my dudes. I’m not polyamorous.  I don’t have a boyfriend right now, let alone enough for a little lady-harem love tribe.  But I mean “my dudes” as in my amigos out there reading this. Or, you know, strangers out there reading this.  Or, quite possibly, my dad, who is one of the two people who read this blog (the other one being my mum).  

Let’s start over: This is for all yall men out there who have a lady you want to impress this Valentine’s day.  I know we womenfolk have a reputation for being finnicky and difficult to please, so I figured I would make it easy by giving you a comprehensive list of the most romantic things you can do for a girl.  And since I know you fellas tend to wait till the last minute to plan anything, this should be coming right on schedule for yall.  To be clear, if and when you put any of these suggestions into play, you assume all liability. Risks include driving your girlfriend’s friends into fits of jealousy, making your girl pee her pants with happiness, causing her to spontaneously ovulate, and dropping panties so hard there’s a hole in the floor from here to China (and trust me, nobody wants to deal with the legal issues that go with that).

hey-girl-burrito

And Dad, if you’re still reading, you might want to skip this one.  It’s not quite PG.

The 13 Most Romantic Things You Can Do For A Girl

A Comprehensive List

  • Take her out for her favorite food. Girls love food. If they say they don’t, they’re lying. Our undying love for cheese and bread (and their various combinations) makes up approximately 50% of what we talk about when we’re together, and the other 50% is split between guys we like and crude eggplant emoji jokes.  So buy your girl some food, and never trust a girl who doesn’t eat.
  • Show off your giant….vocabulary.  Seriously. When it comes to words, size matters. And if you know how to use those big, beautiful words? Well, your girl’s going to want to have your babies.
  • Take her grocery shopping. This might just be me, but grocery shopping is practically a hobby for me. Eating is my other hobby, so it balances out (at least in my head; the scale is a different story).  But if ya girl likes to cook and likes to eat, take her to her favorite grocery store and buy her favorite foods for her. This will work especially well if she’s a graduate student and/or poor, which are basically the same thing.
  • Cook for her.  Yes, I realize these are basically all about food. I’m not sorry. Food is a universal love language.  The key here is to find a meal that your girlfriend enjoys and that you can cook well.  For example, if her favorite meal is chicken cordon bleu, but you can barely toast bread without creating a catastrophe, you might want to go with toaster strudels and orange slices rather than chicken cordon bleu.  Likewise, if you can cook a mean rack o’ ribs but your lady is a vegetarian, you might want to gather some leaves and berries from the forest instead of frying up a delicious animal carcass for her. (For the record, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that should you find yourself dating a vegetarian, you should really reevaluate your life choices.) But seriously, cook for her. Bonus points if you pour her a tumbler of whiskey (or, you know, a glass of wine if she’s a lightweight) and order her to to take a bubble bath while you prepare a meal that’s going to knock her socks off.  Don’t worry about making her favorite dessert – grab some edible panties, and your dessert is taken care of…and she won’t remember her last name, much less whether you whipped up any tiramisu.
  • Squeeze her bum. We love that, you love that, everybody’s happy (and possibly horny). I even heard they’re updating that book, “The 5 Love Languages,” to include ass-grabbing as the 6th love language. I’m not talking a half-assed “pattycake” type spanking, either. You grab that sucker like it’s a liferaft and you’re floating the middle of the Pacific and you don’t know how to swim.  Hold it like it’s the cuddliest little bulldog puppy you ever met, and he just happens to be shaped like a couple hobbit-sized beach balls. (Full disclosure: I was going to say “canteloupes,” but usually people use that melons to describe tits, and I didn’t feel like mixing metaphors would be a great idea when it comes to body parts. But do you know how many comparably shaped/sized objects there are in the world that can be used in an analogy for asscheeks? Not many, amigos. Not many at all. That’s why you should appreciate your girl’s bum, in all it’s bouncy spankable glory.)
  • Procure her favorite kind of alcohol. Allow her to consume said alcohol and get all tipsy and adorable. You have to keep your shit together, though, because you have to take cute videos and to show her the next morning how adorable she is when she’s inebriated.  Also you might want to plan to take her out for a nice greasy diner breakfast, depending on how hungover she gets.
  • Talk about politics and current events.  Doesn’t matter if you agree on everything or not, just get a good discussion going. Articulate why you think what you do about domestic and foreign affairs, and challenge her to do the same.  If you can hold your own and show that you take it upon yourself to stay educated on what is going on in the world and in Washington, your ladyfriend is going to lose her panties before you can say, “laissez-faire.” (And that’s not an alternative fact.)
  • Vacuum her car for her. Maybe it’s just me, but that is one of the least enjoyable chores.  Washing the outside of the car is fine, it’s fun, it can be a good excuse to put on a bikini and cover yourself in soap suds. But vacuuming out your car requires contorting yourself into weird positions and getting tied up in extension cords…it’s generally a loud, hot, slightly sweaty affair, but not in any of the fun ways. So vacuum the poor woman’s car for her, and then put that clean backseat to good use.
  • Write something.  Sure, some people will say that you should write something poetic and poignant about your relationship or your love for her, but I don’t think it needs to be that way. You could write out the lyrics to Sir Mixalot’s “Baby Got Back” on a Denny’s napkin and frame it, and the right girl will be brought to tears.  Hell, you could even just scribble both your names on some construction paper and draw hearts around it. She’ll love it, just like your mum loved your crappy little crayola-sketches back when you were little enough to need help wiping your own butt. Except you can wipe for yourself now (for the love of Abraham, let’s hope you can) and she’s not your mum, but, you know…aside from that, it’s basically the same thing.
  • Get her a gift card for a massage.  We’re not talking some bitchass massage at those little mall kiosks. I mean a legit massage where she might actually cry from pain but it’s actually a good thing because she’s had those knots in her back for years and it’s high time some freakingly strong Swedish lady ground them to smithereens with her bare hands. And yes, sure, you could give her a massage, but it will be nowhere near as good. In theory it sounds nice, because you could set up candles and dim the lights and play some Kenny G or Boyz II Men or whatever the cool kids listen to these days, and it would be romantic as hell, right? Wrong. We both know that 10 minutes in you’re going to be sporting a partial, and in your excitement you’ll start knocking things over, and then you’ll end up spilling coconut oil all over both of you – but not in a sexy way, like a “porpoise caught in an oil spill off the coast of Argentina” kind of way – and it’s only a matter of time until someone tips over a candle and everyone ignites in a fiery blaze of passion and grease fire. In the end, it’s one giant, slippery, coconutty, fire hazard.  Plus, let’s be real, unless you’re a coal miner from Appalachia or a professional Russian wrestler, you probably don’t have the grip strength to really give your girl the kind of massage she needs. Let’s leave that to the masseuse with the foreign accent and forearms the size of your thighs, ok?
  • Surprise her with a trip to Disneyland. This is a little dicey, and potentially a logistical challenge to make it a complete surprise. I realize that, and I only recommend them because I think you have the cajones to pull it off. The payoff is not that you’ll be at the happiest place on earth with the girl you’re crazy about, although that’s the icing on the cake, if you’re into that, I guess. The real payoff is that you’ll be at Disneyland, which is a place that turns any reasonable grown woman into a giddy little girl and transports her to a time when she was carefree, wide-eyed with wonder, and magic was real (and not just something her creepy uncle pretended to do at children’s parties for his latest side gig.)  Bottom line: When you retreat to your hotel room after a day of making her feel like the luckiest little girl in the world, she’ll be all too happy to call you daddy while wearing nothing more than a pair of Minnie Mouse ears. Also, I hear they have really delicious churros there.
  • Buy her the yoga pants that you would love to see her wear. Girls love yoga pants – and if they say they don’t, they’re lying – so she’ll be thrilled. You get to see her in yoga pants, so you’ll be thrilled.  If you’re lucky, you can even convince her to actually do yoga in said yoga pants – buy her a yoga mat and some kind of pilates DVD, though, and you just might make it happen. (Just don’t set up the tripod and camera where she will notice them.  That’s a rookie mistake.)
  • Pick her up, pin her against the door, and kiss her like you want to put a baby in her.  Self-explanatory, and yes – sometimes it really is that simple.

hardware

And there you have it – all the insider tricks you need to make sure your favorite girl enjoys the most romantic Valentine’s day ever.  Ladies (or dudes who’ve developed extraordinary prowess in the art of wooing women), if you there is anything I missed, holler at me in the comments below!

If you’re one of the fellas who doesn’t have a lucky lady in your life, well, you can call up your local Domino’s. They deliver.  And unlike a girlfriend, the delivery boy shouldn’t mind if you answer the door wearing nothing but your underwear, a baseball mitt, and a Camelbak filled with Jack Daniels. 

stuffed-crust-pizza

OPORD: COSTCO (A Survival Guide)

Costco: It’s one of the only places where you can get a TV, a recliner, a rain jacket, organic spinach, 12 pounds of roasted almonds, Viagra, your Christmas card photos, and a hotdog all in one store.  

In other words, the American dream.

costco-meme

Of course, as we all know, “dreams don’t work unless you do,” and Costco is no exception. Going to Costco is a thing. It’s an ordeal. A mission, really. You need to prepare – physically, mentally, tactically. You need communications systems in place. You need a QRF of sorts. You need your TACSOP. You need a civilian guide to translating these abbreviations.  

The one thing you don’t need to worry about is snacks.  Because those sample ladies with the hair nets – bless their hearts – will be coming at you with little paper cups of mini-sausages and crackers and cranberry juice like manna from heaven.

So here we go. This is your Costco OPORD. We’ll walk through the mission step by step, and by the end, you should be prepared to make it through this capitalist mecca with minimal casualties.

Well, except for your wallet. That poor bastard’s on a kamikaze mission.

PREMOB:  This mission, like any other, requires diligent preparation.  You need a list of what you’re planning to get. You need to assemble your team, because this is not a solo-mission. Grab your offspring, spouse, roommate, best friend, or the homeless guy down the street (he’s acting as a contractor here, and must be fairly renumerated with a hotdog and a frozen yogurt).  Assemble the troops and review the OPORD. Don’t forget to hydrate, gear up (you want layers – that refrigerated section is colder than being wedged up in the Abominable Snowman’s asscheeks), and make sure that everyone is up to date on their vaccinations.  

APPROACH THE TARGET: First, there’s parking.  The main principle here is cargo accessibility.  You have legs (or prosthetics, or a wheelchair, whatever you’re working with), so you can hump it half a mile from BFE to the warehouse entrance. What you really need to keep in mind when parking isn’t distance from the front of the store, but how well you’ll be able to access your trunk to pack in the mass quantities of canned goods, frozen meats, and giant boxes of multivitamins and tampons that you will inevitably acquire.  

BREACHING ENTRY:  When you arrive, on foot, at the front of the warehouse, be prepared with your Costco card. This is your VIP card, and also your only way to access the target. No card, no mission. Have that sucker accessible early, and be ready to flash it at the guy guarding the entry (the card, not your tits – this is a bulk warehouse store, not a nightclub in Jersey).

PREPARE FOR ENEMY FIRE: Now, every Costco is different, but one thing you can count on remaining consistent is the barrage of people trying to sell you television and cell phone services within 50 yards of the entrance. This is one of those sure things in life, much like the lithe, black-clad, sexually-ambiguous Eastern European men who come at you aggressively from their shopping mall kiosks, trying to convince/intimidate you to buy the curling iron/cubic zirconia/personalized license plates that they are peddling.  These people do not seem to be as lithe or as Eastern European, and they have less of a predatory vibe and more the approach of an overly-zealous Jehovah’s Witness on your front porch on a Saturday afternoon.  Regardless, you must stay vigilant.  Your best defensive strategy is to circumvent the potential danger by taking a circuitous route that leads you out of range (or at least out of what they believe to be earshot, when they inevitably start hollering at you asking about what television provider you have).  Alternatively, you can also go directly through that enemy territory while acting like you are engrossed in a serious conversation on the phone (the person on the other line may be real or imagined) or with your shopping partner (this one should probably be real, talking to imaginary friends in public as an adult is frowned upon these days).  

ACQUIRING TARGETS: This part seems straightforward – move throughout the store, secure the things you need, and GTFO. But really, it requires strategy, because at some point the bastards in Costco management decided that it was a great idea to move their merchandise around every night. This means that anytime you visit Costco, there’s no guarantee that you will find what you need in the place you found it last. In this way, your Costco purchases are much like the Taliban, stealthily moving between secluded hiding spots under the cover of darkness high in the Afghan mountain ranges.  (No, really. The graveyard shift is the one that moves all the crap around. It’s literally under the cover of darkness.)  You need to be prepared to do some recon, and again, this is why it’s crucial to come to Costco with a team and be prepared with solid comms systems (meaning make sure your damn cell phones are charged). Then you can send people out to do recon, secure targets that may be geographically disparate within the warehouse, and then coordinate pickup with the motherbird (…or, you know, whoever has the cart or flatbed).  

EXIT STRATEGY:  This part is dangerous. The checkout lines will always be long, and it takes an experienced Costco-er to be able to intuit which lines will move faster.  This deduction requires more than merely looking into the carts of those ahead of you in line; you also need to be able to read the cashier at the head of your respective line. Is he competent? Is he efficient? Does he look like the kind of schmuck who will have to call a supervisor every five minutes? Same kind of intel needs to be gathered on the people ahead of you in line. Is that soccer mom the kind that wants to get out of here fast to make it to her hair appointment at 1300? Or is she the kind that will complain about not being able to find her favorite brand of organic milk, request a price check on the premade specialty salads she picked up, and then demand to speak to a manager about God-knows what? These are the things you need to know. Consequences of choosing the wrong line can mean waiting 30 mikes that feel like 50, which also means you risk being lured back into the jungle to “look at” some things. Of course, this invariably ends up meaning that you bring back no less than $50 worth of contraband and possibly malaria and an illegitimate lovechild*.

REDEPLOYMENT: Now you’ve got a giant flatbed or cart packed full of boxes of dried fruit, frozen vegetables, mass quantities of meat, gallon bottles of lotion and multivitamins, and half a paycheck’s worth of impulse purchases.  You made it out safely, and you just want to get your troops home.  At this point, your crucial task is making sure you make it home without leaving any men (or cargo) behind.  Also, if you want your cargo to arrive home untampered with, you’ll need to plan ahead to provisions for the road. This can be pre-packed snacks or as simple as grabbing a hot dog from the food court on the way out the door.  Whatever you do, you don’t want to end up at your home base with half your rations mysteriously gone and a mountain of crumbs and protein bar wrappers in the backseat.  

Of course, once you arrive at your destination, you have to unload your cargo. That’s always a cluster, no way around it.  All you can do is embrace the suck.

Go forth and buy in bulk, comrades.  And remember…

Leave no sample behind.
costco-chart

*Ok, fine, you really only risk the contraband (aka bulk boxes of organic snacks).  This is Costco, not ‘Nam.