Monthly Archives: March 2012

I Have No Style

Russ is still sleeping off his post–Spring Break hangover. So this week all you loyal Reasonably Ludicrous followers will have to deal with something different: me, Sam.  My writing style is notably different from Russ’s  in that he is fun and I am not.

That’s not entirely accurate. It’s that Russ can find happy, collaborative humor, the kind that everyone can enjoy together. I can’t do that kind of humor. The only way I can be funny is to point out when there is a problem. Usually I’m the subject of my own humor, because as I have proven time and time again, I am an exceptionally easy target.

I often wonder if this self-deprecation is an inherent quality of my upbringing. It’s not unreasonable to speculate that some few formative experiences molded me into a shuddering mass of neuroses, and that the long institutionalization within the hearth of the American School System fired me into the man that I am today: somewhat lumpy and increasingly fragile. It’s only now that I’m exposed to the cool air of reality that I realize there’s not a glaze in the world that can fix the cracks in the clay.

But you didn’t come here to listen to me sculpt abstractions; you want some concrete. Well here’s the truth, folks. I was, tragically, born without a sense of fashion.

I was doomed from the start. Near-sightedness prevented the development of crucial pattern-recognition, leaving me unable to distinguish the hideous from the complex. My parents, naïve fools that they were, decided to allow me to pick my own clothing. And for whatever god-forsaken reason (maybe because of Todd next door, who was always grilling fish in them) I attached myself to Hawaiian Shirts.

I would wear them everywhere. Their combination of formal and fun made them perfect for literally all occasions:

Parties!

Class!

Church!

The Beach!

Utility has always guided my decisions in some way or another, which was why I also liked to complement my ensemble with cargo shorts (keeps you cool, and so many pockets!).

It took me well in to high school to realize that these outfits were actively hindering my acceptance into the fold of mainstream society. Rather than alluring, peacock-like flair that drew attention towards me, these rainbow colored masterpieces of tessellation were actively alienating me from the opposite sex I had heard so many great things about.

Had I had a traditional childhood, I’d have been blessed with elementary-school bullies who would have stomped my ‘style’ out of me before I had time to grow a collection. But either I went to a particularly nice school or I was too tall to be pushed around, because the only person who told me I looked like an idiot was my sister, and that’s what she always said anyways so why would I listen to her?

So I continued on, dimly aware that I wasn’t exactly ‘stylin’’ but that was okay because I had a style all my own.  In fact, it was that sense of individuality and aversion to peer pressure that solidified my resolve to continue wearing Hawaiian shirts. I wasn’t going to do the ‘cool’ thing, just because everyone (and I mean everyone) told me I should. They were just imposing their conformist ideas of ‘fashion’ on me because they couldn’t handle how unique I looked.

Gradually, however, the social stigma overcame the joy. The joy of integrity is worth only so much to a pubescent high-schooler. At some point I caught on that if I was going to get ahead in this world I was going to have to put the Hawaiian shirts away for good.  So I phased all but my favorites out of the rotation, and eventually those went as well.

I could never bring myself to get rid of them completely. To this day some of them hang lonely in the corner of my closet back home, hoping beyond hope that the next time the door slides open it will be me, ready to take them on a trip. But instead it’s my cat, looking for a damp place to hack up a hairball.

Now this might have been a simple, bittersweet-but-ultimately-happy story about a boy putting away childish notions to become a man. But that’s not the kind of story I tell. My lack of fashion sense isn’t limited to Hawaiian shirts, you see. It’s a constant, malevolent force, just looking for a new way to manifest itself. It worms its way through my psyche, waiting for me to make a choice just bad enough that people will gently chide me for my lack of self-awareness. But the joke’s on them, because that will simply convince me that I should continue on my way, just to show them they don’t own me.

In college I was finally able to grow my hair beyond my collar (I had gone to a Catholic school with a strict dress code against facial hair and hippies), which I overcompensated for by not cutting my hair, at all. This was a brilliantly freeing notion to me, because my hair had always worked against me in high school. It grew quickly and unevenly, and I would comb it into all sorts of terrifying shapes. But now I would embrace my hair and allow it to become what it had always wanted to be. There was a brief phase of white-man afro, after which it collapsed from its own weight and became a kind of shaggy mane. I thought this was awesome. I decided I would grow it out until it was a ponytail. But my normally sprouting-like-a-weed hair-growth rate slows to a crawl right after about 10 inches. I managed to tie it all back, but all I could produce was a little puff ball.

I know what you’re thinking. This is the hair of a bad-ass muthafucka. But my social calendar from that period, if I kept a social calendar, would have told a very different story.

Nowadays my hair is a much more reasonable length. I wear t-shirts with only one funny picture on it once, as opposed to many times over and over again. If I have a formal occasion to go to I have a selection of ties, which have tasteful patterns and no pictures of the Cat in the Hat.

And yet still, I am haunted. Recently I was visiting with Sarah and Karen, these two girls that I had taken a trip with the previous summer. Somehow, I don’t know, somehow they got to talking about how poorly I had dressed on this trip.

Apparently it had been the subject of much hilarity, none of which I had been privy to. I had actually been a source of regular entertainment for them, wondering what eye-gouging ensemble I’d put together next. It had been so bad that our other friend Mark had actively avoided being seen with me in public.

“Remember the jeans shorts?” Karen burst out, and they both collapsed into hysterics.

I made a mental note not to wear my jeans shorts when I saw them again the next day.

Did you know that jeans shorts are a fashion faux pas? Because I sure didn’t. But they are. There’s even a derogatory term for them: jorts.  It seems that Jorts (which redirects to Shorts on Wikipedia) are the kind of clothing suburban moms wear, and only when they’re hanging out around the house, not you know, out. This is apparently common knowledge, and according to Karen has been so since the early 2000’s. I’ve been wearing jeans shorts for the entirety of my 23 years of existence, and this is the first I hear of it.

This does little to allay my perpetual suspicion that everyone I know is keeping secrets from me.

••••

What I don’t understand is, if they felt so strongly about my fashion choices, why not they tell me? Why allow me to repeatedly make a fool of myself in public? Why bother to protect my feelings in the first place, only to reveal the horrible truth to me afterwards, when there’s nothing I can do about it?

“Well it wasn’t really a big deal most of the time”, explained Sarah. “We were out of the country, so you just looked like a tourist.” After all, it wasn’t until we had gotten to New York that Mark began actively avoiding being seen in public with me. He had people to impress, whereas in China everyone was going to stare at the gay black man no matter what he wore, or how unstylish his companions.

So with tact not dissimilar to my fashion sense I will transition into a conclusion about all of this, which is that fashion is context-dependent. You judge what’s acceptable based on perception of surroundings, a mix of conscious and subconscious notions of stylistic relationships and your current surroundings. It’s how you know that something is ‘inappropriate’ for an occasion—style is judged by how something responds to normalcy. There’s a reason they call a sense of style ‘taste’– like taste, style is entirely based on the subjective accumulation of perception.  And if it’s subjective, I can spin it in my favor.

So it’s not that I don’t have a sense of fashion. Rather, I have a limited palate. I’m a ‘picky’ stylist, in that I make choices not based on what other people think when they see it, but rather what appeals to me personally, for whatever formative experiences led me to that conclusion. Sure, my nipples may poke through this shirt like tiny little pebbles. But it’s 100% cotton! Not hanging up my pants doesn’t make me a slob, it makes me a hipster! Hawaiian shirts are cheesy now, but I’ll be hailed as a visionary in a matter of decades! You just wait.

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10 Reasons Going to the Gym is the Worst

If you’re anything like me, you spend most of your time in the ten-foot cube that contains your computer. You understand that fresh air and sunlight are good for you, but before you can justify going outside, it’s important that you learn literally everything on the internet. This goal seems always just out of reach, and as time goes by and food and energy drink–intake continues, you find that your body weighs more than it did the day before. As you get ready to travel to the bed part of your cube, you shut down your computer and see your reflection in the blackness of the monitor. Suddenly you are struck with an overwhelming sense of self-loathing. How could I have gotten my priorities so wrong? How can I spend day after day just sitting here, as if—ooh! Half a Snickers bar!

This continues evening after evening until eventually, you find yourself at The Gym.

The Gym is a terrible place, based solely around your most hated activity: exercise. Usually you end up here thanks to the prodding of some well-meaning friend.

The problem with this is that said friend is going to be somewhat experienced at The Gym and will try to force you beyond your limits, saying things like “one more rep” when you haven’t even managed to do a single rep yet. The friend won’t understand when you feel a weird twinge in your “body area” that is probably your spleen cramping up. And when you refuse to do certain exercises because “the bar is too spiky,” you’ll only invite a second round of prodding.

Which brings me to…

The 10 Reasons Going to the Gym is the Worst

“Bitching Out” is Not Permitted

People at the gym tend to be really into bulking up and being tough. They’re not like you or me, daintily prancing through life, turning our noses at the slightest whiff of physical labor or exertion.  We’ve turned “bitching out” into an art form, but nowhere are our portraits of frailty less appreciated than in a place where the only paint is blood and it’s smeared haphazardly on a canvas of PAIN.

Well aware of this, you have to do your best to conceal your weaknesses. When you pick up those five-pound dumbbells for inclined press and someone scoffs, you tell them they’re to help you rehabilitate your injured rotator cuff, which you presumably injured by having too much sex. That will make them feel abashed, and maybe they’ll even move somewhere where they won’t look at you.

Additionally, when your arms are shaking after two reps, and you know three will be your absolute limit, shout out “Ten!” in the gruntiest voice you can muster. You want it just loud enough to be overheard, but not so loud that it’s obvious you’re lying. If anyone knew how little weight you were actually lifting, you’d certainly lose your man card.

And most important of all, you must wear dark sunglasses. To hide the tears.

Music Selection.

Gyms are always playing music to help those ripped guys get pumped up, but screaming and heavy metal aren’t your idea of a good time. So you load up your iPod with all your favorite hits and head to the bench press. You’re actually doing pretty well; this Disney is getting you in the zone.

But then someone asks you a question and you have to pull out the earbud to answer. You realize it’s blaring “A Whole New World” loud enough for the whole gym to hear. Why did you turn up the volume so high?

Not to mention that whenever a really good jam comes on you can’t help but dance to it. Your head bobs to “What is Love?;” your feet shuffle to “Party Rock Anthem;” and you superman ho’s to “Crank That.” How do other people not do this?!

Yoga Pants

Mother of god! It’s like she’s not wearing anything at all! And every single girl is dressed the same. You try to lift weights, but you find yourself imagining each girl naked. You’d think this would be a good thing about going to the gym, and it is…until you’re  yanked from your wonderful stupor by the realization that you’ve been caught.

That blonde is totally glowering at you. It hardly seems fair; she’s obviously just there to check out the yoked guys in tight tees, which are the male equivalent of yoga pants.

I don’t see why we have to dance around the fact that we’re clearly all working out to try to get laid, and that guys and girls are both wearing outfits in an effort to attract the opposite sex.

Maybe the reason I always get glares is because I’m working out not to get laid, but because of a doctor’s recommendation. Or maybe it’s my excessive ogle-induced drooling, or ’cause girls don’t want some guy who’s not in great shape slavering over them. Maybe I need to start wearing tighter shirts, and potentially they ought to not have puns on them.

Bros

Bros eschew yoga pants in trade for tight t-shirts to show off their “guns,” and their primary exercise is attempting to impress the female denizens. Sometimes they’ll ask you for a “spot.” You might not know what that is, and even if you do, you’re pretty sure you’re incapable of doing it. Or maybe you and a bro will both arrive at a machine simultaneously, and trying to figure out who gets to use it will be incredibly awkward, especially since you both have headphones in and communicating is reduced to a series of non-standard hand signals.

You’ll do your best to convey that you only have one set left, and then the other guy will hand you a stick of gum.

Statistically Induced Feelings of Inadequacy

I have a theory that everyone will always be better than you at everything. Like if you go to play tennis, odds are that everyone there is fantastic, because, after all, they’re at the tennis courts. You’re much more likely to overlap with the people who play all time than with people like you, who only leave the house when you’re out of beer or ramen.

This applies to everything, really. If you sleep with someone, it’s likely they’ll be better in bed, because it’s easier to pull a girl who tends to be looking for some action, and if she wants to hook up with you, well, it’s probably less because of your gym-toned body and more because of her alcohol-induced desires.

So according to this theory, of all the people at the gym, you will be in the worst shape. Now that I think about it, this isn’t really comedy—just sad, sad math.

The Cute Receptionist

Sometimes things look like they’re going to work out. Sometimes you manage to flirt with the receptionist on the way in, and she doesn’t even ask for your name because she remembers. You’ve made an impression! You note that she too is wearing yoga pants, and, inspired by her callipygian figure, you spout a few choice lines at this girl who’s obviously been hired because of her natural endowment. She laughs pleasantly. Victory!

But then you have to pass her on the way out, covered in sweat and hobbling because your legs feel like the jellied embodiment of overexertion. Why did you think you could squat 200 pounds? She says bye to you all cute-like, and you attempt to wheeze out something clever, but your asthma gets the better of you and you simply cough in her general direction, spittle crashing down to the floor alongside your hopes.

The Whole Experience is Gross

Sweat everywhere! Pouring off the fat people, dripping onto the floor, coating the backs of the benches. You’ll be unable to avoid having your skin gain a coating of the sweat of thousands. And once you’re done with the ordeal, your friends will make you drink horrible protein shakes. And you have to ingest all these weird supplements all the time that are only legal in Asia because they’re liable to make your heart explode with pure INTENSITY.

Pain

Soreness? What is this new sensation? Tell it I hate it.

To Look Good, You Must First Look Bad, Young Padawan

So you’ve failed with strangers and the receptionist, but there’s still one category left: people you already know. They’ve gotten a taste of your delightful personality, so you have a little more leeway with them. One shows up to the gym while you’re lifting something alluringly heavy, and she sees your muscles bulging. It’s on. Plus, she’s wearing those skin-tight yoga pants you like so much. She must have put them on just for you. She walks over, smiles, and gives you a hug. Oh god! Not the hug! She didn’t realize how horrifically sweaty you were, and your deodorant seems like it must have worn off a decade ago.

You’re sure that twitch was her smile faltering, and she makes a quick escape. Next time you see her, you try to avoid eye contact.

Why do you always have to run into everyone you know when you look your absolute worst? And how do they manage to sweat the exact right amount to give them a healthy sheen instead of a repulsive coating?

Buyer’s Remorse

Even though you know going to the gym will mean you make a bad impression on somebody, you still feel compelled. You already paid the damn membership! You better make the most of it. Even if you do feel tired today, and even if you did eat a salad this week. If you don’t go, that money is wasted!

Then again, you already paid. What does it matter now? It’s a sunk cost; going costs the same amount as not going, and there’s a Twilight Zone marathon on TV, and your couch is looking extra comfortable, and you’ve really been wanting to try that new brand of microwavable pizza…

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Smooth Moves

Like anyone who sets out to make the most of his or her higher education, my four years of college were primarily spent amassing a vast collection of junk.

Propped up behind the door stood my epic metal DDR pads, worn from years of serious gaming. Beside the fridge sat my 94 remaining cans of Rockstar (I’d snagged them for such a low price!). And there in the corner were the scraps of cardboard I’d saved in case I ever needed to construct more makeshift helmets for another Astrococks and Space Sluttles party.

And who could forget the box of miscellaneous cords that I could hardly discard without sowing mental discord—surely they went to something!

But now graduation was a few days past, and the overlords of residential housing would brook my presence no longer. I needed to transport all my worldly possessions across campus to my summer housing, and I only had the Zipcar for 2 hours! But even faced with this Mount Everest of a task, I couldn’t part with any of my things.

I think it’s the guilt. I spent good money on that ball of four thousand rubber bands! And I poured my time and energy into salvaging that orange rocking chair from the dumpster! I couldn’t just leave it on the street to collect rainwater again. Not after all those months spent painstakingly scraping the mildew out of it.

Guilt rules pretty much every aspect of my life. Whenever my crazy aunt Bertha would give me a fruitcake, I’d suffer through every bite; when my dad gave me a fancy (piano) keyboard, I signed up for lessons from a teacher who believes musicality is inspired by ghosts; and if I were ever given a sloth I’m sure I’d raise it, teach it important sloth skills, and release it into the wild—with some sort of tracking beacon so I could help protect it in case any sloth predators ever got near.

After psyching myself up for the impending ordeal, I went to rent my car, only to find that Zipcar had given me their finest gnome-mobile, which I’m sure was a veritable Winnebago for gnomes but was not very functional for my collection of giant ceramic birds purchased at the flea market. This was going to take some expertise.

Expertise which I completely lacked!

I know this is going to sound a little ridiculous, but I’d never packed a car before.

When I’d moved to college, my dad had done it all. He’d stuffed light bulbs into shoes to keep them safe and carefully taped posters to the windows to prevent them from getting bent. He was a master, transforming the task of packing into the most complicated game of Tetris mankind has ever seen.

As I stared into that puny, insignificant excuse for a trunk, as I thought of the overwhelming quantity of widgets and whatnots in my room, I became convinced that the packing I had seen in the past was an impossibility. My dad must have hidden a bag of holding in there! Or maybe his trunk was an entrance to Narnia.

Still, I had to try.

Trip after trip, I loaded up that car, and trip after trip, friends would conveniently realize they had other plans, satisfied that they had fulfilled their obligation. As the process wore on, I became acutely aware of my burgeoning hatred for stairs. My room was on the 3rd floor, and by my twentieth descent, my calves were aflame with the incendiary heat of sudden use after years of computer-based inactivity. I slammed my elbows into doorways, nearly tripped a dozen times, and dripped sweat over every single one of my belongings.

By the time the last trip rolled around, I regretted having ever been born. Why was I cursed with legs? The things hardly seemed to work! Why couldn’t I have been a tree or something, rooted in a single place for a lifetime? They seem happy enough, what with the growing and the xylem and the photosynthesis.

Nearly all of my friends had abandoned me at this point, and with good reason. But I still had one last bastion of muscle: Blake, the triathlete. We loaded up the trunk with the remainder of my miscellanea, excepting my most prized possession: a life-size cutout of Channing Tatum as Duke from G.I. Joe.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is my favorite movie of all time—a true masterpiece of cinema. Hot girls in tight leather, ninjas dueling in a reactor core, nanomites eating the Eiffel Tower, and endlessly quotable dialogue. And my friend even managed to snag a cutout from 7-11! Because for some reason, nobody else wanted it.

I don’t care how much grief that replica has brought me. I don’t care how often it’s caused people to question my sexuality (though after explaining that G.I. Joe is my favorite movie, people usually wish I’d just said I was gay—at least that’s something they can understand). And it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve woken up screaming because Duke is staring straight at me with his eyes full of acting talent. I love that thing.

But no amount of love makes an object easier to transport. We pushed and crammed and prodded and bent, but there was just no way it was going to fit. That left us only one solution.

The cutout was wider than the roof of the car, but we positioned it as best we could. Too bad I’d already packed away everything that resembled a rope. This was going to be a balance job. Blake hopped into the passenger seat, we rolled down the windows, and we grabbed on.

That was the most miserable car ride of my life.

It was even more miserable than being driven to my first date by my mother, when we picked up the girl and my mom launched into a story about how she’d drunk a boatload of Mint Juleps during the Kentucky Derby while she was pregnant with me and was sure I’d have brain damage. Nothing like the promise of brain damage to get a girl to make out with you.

This time, however, I had no alcohol to numb the pain.

One hand clutched at the steering wheel while the other was clamped down in an eternal battle with the forces of nature itself. Every time the car went over 2 miles per hour, the wind would catch underneath Duke’s head and threaten to send him flying into the air. We did our best to keep him pinned, but his cardboardyness made it impossible for us to get any sort of grip. As our hands clammed up, it became a little easier, the sweat creating a layer of friction-inducing stickiness. But after about two minutes of this, the exertion has created so much perspiration that Duke was slipping every which-a-way.

Not to mention that half the time, the wind would suddenly shift and he’d get blown straight downward in front of the windshield, blocking any view I had of the bewildered pedestrians shocked into stopping in the center of the road.

[Sam, we really need an image here to help break up all this text]
[Yeah, I know, but I can’t think of anything relevant]
[Me either]

I would have gone at a snail’s pace, completely ignoring the accumulating rage of the cars trapped behind me, except that we only had a few minutes before we had to return the Zipcar, and I was not about to incur their absurd overage charges. Every excruciating second further convinced me my shoulder would make a mad lurch for freedom from the tyranny of my socket, and the only music I had to comfort me was the sound Blake and my grunting, which progressed quickly into a chorus of atonal screams.

And yet we persisted, because what would Duke have done? Did he quail in the face of Cobra Commander threatening to erase his girlfriend’s mind with nanomites? Did he quit when he was captured and brought to an impenetrable base underneath the polar ice caps? Did he slow down while literally jumping through a train? No! And I would live up to his example.

And by god, we got there. We might have had to ice our arms for the next few hours, and maybe it took us a few days to fully recover, but Duke now stands proudly in my apartment, and as long as I draw breath, he will go wherever the wind takes me.

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