Category Archives: Observations

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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The Awkwardness of Pseudo-Dates

There are no stupid questions.

But there are damn confusing ones. Questions that beget more questions, filling the listener with untold uncertainty. Something as simple as “Do you want to come to yoga with me this Thursday at 8?” can contain layer upon layer of potential hidden motives and trapdoors which, if you take so much as the tiniest misstep, you will plummet into, and you can bet your ass there will be spikes at the bottom.

You may think dating is the worst, but the true epitome of unpleasantness is almost dating. At least when you’re on a “date,” you can shoot for the stars. Go for that kiss, and when you find your lips landing firmly on the cheek of denial, rest easy knowing that at least you tried. You may not have even made it to the moon, but thanks to the heat shield of certainty, your reentry into the atmosphere of loneliness will be smooth and relatively flameless.

But what about those other times, when you end up doing something fun with a girl, just the two of you, but nothing is ever specified? Is this romantic? Are you just friends? Was that stop to pick up a bunch of heavy objects after dinner truly spur-of-the-moment, or was the whole thing just a set-up to get your burly arms along on her errand?

There’s just no telling! Sometimes you’re on a date and you start to believe in the idea of mutual attraction. But other times one person is into it and the other is totally oblivious, and despite every sign you throw at her, she manages to dodge the hint.

Is her adroitness due to her obliviousness, or is it a concerted effort to avoid leading you on? And is everyone as neurotic about this as I am?

There you are, staying up late in your dorm with the girl of your dreams, just talking, experiencing one another, and it seems like neither of you wants to go to bed. Every lull leads to extended looks, and you can tell the feel of the evening is about to shift, but then conversation picks up again, and throughout it all, you’re too chicken try to take things in a physical direction. You’re good friends, and you don’t want to ruin that with your bullheaded presumptuousness. You’d be crushed if you revealed yourself, only to find out you’d read it wrong from the start. Eventually night drags on to dawn, and the two of you head your separate ways, last lingering gazes held until one of you closes your door.

Of course she’s into you, you dolt! But it’s impossible to convince yourself, and the devastation of being wrong is unthinkable. So instead you’ll let that moment slip through your fingers, and you won’t be able to sleep because the doubt and regret will course through you like a poison, and for the rest of your life, you’ll regret not taking that leap.

At least, that’s how it is for me. To be fair, I haven’t lived a complete life yet. Maybe I’ll have wild, romantic experiences that will get me to stop thinking about that night on the cruise ship when I stayed up with that nurse with the southern accent and watched the sunrise, and somehow didn’t kiss her. Maybe I’ll stop thinking about the time that naked girl called me into the shower to help her adjust the heat, and I did exactly that, then left. Maybe, but I doubt it.

And sometimes you end up on the other side. Someone will come to your apartment with her friend to bake cupcakes, and the friend will mysteriously have to leave, and suddenly you’ll be alone with this person you have no interest in, but now she’s hitting on you, and now she’s opening wine, and now she’s leaning closer, and oh god.

It’s a part of me, this inability to interact with women, to know what they’re thinking and what to say to them. It’s plagued me even longer than my acne or asthma or my ever-embarrassing tail.

My dad did his best to train me in the art of interacting with the opposite sex, but I took to his lessons like particularly inept oil takes to water. I think all of my failures and awkwardness and imperceptions can be traced back to a single moment, one I’ve never been able to live down. My dad likes to tell potential mates of mine the story of how, one morning when he was dropping me off for elementary school, a couple of girls from my class greeted me. Being relatively normal human females, they said something friendly, like “Hi Russ!” But even this simple salutation skyrocketed my scared-and-confused meters off the charts, leaving me too dazed to respond at all. My dad seized the moment to give me some of his point-in-time instruction, which was a piti.

I was a Nickel, and by god, I was going to learn the subtleties of basic conversation. In order to introduce me to the concept of pleasantries, he posed a hypothetical scenario: “Suppose, for example, you noticed that a girl had on a nice pair of shoes. What could you say?”

Ever clever, I immediately came up with the perfect comment:

 

Nailed it!

My father was impressed. Maybe I could catch on after all. So he took the scenario one shoe-step further. “And suppose,” he continued, “you didn’t like the shoes she was wearing?”

This was tricky. I was thinking something negative, and yet, to meet social standards, I was required to say something positive. A puzzle! I gave the situation a lot of thought, imagining where each potential response might lead, before answering with:

 

 

 

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The 8 Types of Annoying Relative (And Tips to Help You Avoid Them)

Disclaimer: Let it be known that this has nothing to do with my relatives. Those guys are awesome! (Oh, and if you don’t enjoy reading words, click here to skip ahead to the pictorial guide)

It’s that time of year again, when bundles of joy are placed beneath the tree, then later remembered and transferred to their cribs, when mice stop stirring throughout the house in adherence to the laws of Christmas, and when breaking and entering becomes an offense not punishable by jail time, but by milk and cookies.

But when Christmas rolls around, so too do the requisite family gatherings, events which unfortunately involve your family. Most relatives are as pleasant as you are, but if you’ve taken Biology, then you know that genes sometimes do stuff, and in their constant mutation, bad seeds take root, growing eventually into bad apples that fall far from the tree and are very much not of my eye.

To help you navigate the dangers of the family-infested holidays, we here at Reasonably Ludicrous have created a list of the 8 types of annoying relative, accompanied by battle-tested tips guaranteed to help you avoid them. Never go into another mandatory holiday gathering blind!

#1

Attack: Bestowing Wisdom

Usually retired, The Advisor spends most of his time enjoying his many hobbies, which range from fly-fishing in the frigid rapids of Yosemite to memorizing trivia so that he can more effectively play along to reruns of Jeopardy. Having led a full life of success and happiness, he worries that you’re skittering down a dangerous slope, and that he may be the only belaying rope left to keep you from crashing to the ground in a heap of debt and drug use. The Advisor will lure you in with a question about your current state of affairs, though he is already well aware, and upon explaining that you’re trying to be a writer, he’ll give you a pat on the back, saying  he’s happy that you’re trying something unconventional, but it’s time you found a career and a good woman. To soften the blow, he’ll tell you not to worry, adding that you haven’t made any mistakes thus far, because mistakes are just “lessons in disguise!”

Defense: Wear a Suit

The Advisor knows the truth about the world, and your personal—and thus wrong—opinions mean little to him. Defending your liberal arts degree and pursuits of passion will only make him pity you further, and his kind heart will never allow him to let such a sorry case back into the world without being properly spoon-fed the rehabilitating mush of hard-earned wisdom. The most effective way to parry his assaults is by donning fine attire. Like the humans of the future in the Skynet timestream, The Advisor is easily deceived by appearances, and a simple suit will prevent him from seeing you for the synthetic-skinned failure-machine you truly are. In his eyes, anyone who has outgrown his flip flop stage is clearly on the right track, and The Advisor will quickly commend you for finally becoming a man, then move on to other targets.

#2

Attack: Putrid Flesh, Uncomfortable Hugs, & Expired Candy

Madame Wrinkles is the oldest member of the family, and despite having lost most of her faculties, she’s still going strong, and, unfortunately, shows no signs of letting up. She never washes, and the smell of old person exudes in a five foot radius. Avoid eye contact at all costs, for the moment your eyes lock, she will surge forward with uncanny speed, crushing you in an overly lengthy hug that forces you into the heart of her stench. She will pinch your cheek with the icy fingers of death, and the second you open your mouth to protest, she will force a ten-year-expired butterscotch candy into it. Once free from her grasp, back away slowly, nodding as if you are still listening to her unintelligible ramblings. Because of her bad vision, she will be unable to notice the increasing distance between you as she suggests for the nth time that you hook up with the hottie in the corner, having long forgotten that the two of you are first cousins.

Defense: Fake a Disease

Madame Wrinkles is about one germ away from turning to dust, so another relative will have been appointed as her personal guard for this event, making sure she interacts with no one who shows even the most minor signs of sickness. Spend the party coughing and you won’t be allowed to come anywhere near her! Or, if you dislike throat pain and accidentally causing cool relatives to avoid you, as a more subtle alternative, you can joke about the fun ways you hope the huge quantities of alcohol you’re consuming will interact with your antibiotics!

#3

Attack: Being Holier Than Thou

The Ascetic just recently gave up drugs and alcohol after the most fun and irresponsible thirty-five years of his life. In fact, he has given up all sins, instead turning to Bikram Yoga, tea, and meditation. He has most likely become religious, though more often than not this will manifest itself in the form of a nudist cult praising the unknowable energy of a certain species of fern rather than any of the more recognizable theologies. One tenet of this cult is recruiting as many followers as possible, and The Ascetic will spend this holiday party convincing you of the error of your ways. As a high-functioning alcoholic, you will find this particularly grating, and The Ascetic’s honest good intentions will only infuriate you further.

Defense: Join a Cult

As you find yourself becoming convinced by The Ascetic’s charm, zeal, and genuine happiness (how can anyone be happy without alcohol?), you’ll know it’s time to enact your plan. Before the main holiday event, you must join some sort of strange cult, especially one that provides members with proof of entry, by say, giving you a laminated name badge or perhaps burning their holy symbol into your flesh with a red-hot branding iron. When The Ascetic corners you, smile pleasantly, and the moment he takes a breath, launch into a spiel about the benefits of your cult. Use every trick the cult leader taught you to persuade him to join, from pleading to threats to offers of free brandings, and within moments he’ll go running, sure that Flurhhooven, the spirit of photosynthesis, growth, and personal change is testing his devotion.

#4

Attack: BABIES!

The Baby Pusher has given birth very recently, and her world now revolves around the squirming hazard-in-waiting strapped to her chest. Immersed in the throes of pure love and the miracle of life, The Baby Pusher will want to share her most profound emotional experience with everyone she knows. It doesn’t matter that you have no idea how to care for children, and the fact that frankly, they scare you, is of little relevance. The Baby Pusher will force you to hold the creature, and more fighteningly, to love it. Though on the outside she appears unrelentingly happy, you can’t help but wonder if it’s a façade, that, if after months of constant exhaustion, she’s simply trying to pawn off the fleshy creature in the hopes of a brief respite in which she can longingly imagine life before “the child.”

Defense: A Sling

No. Not for firing pebbles at the tiny human in a reverse David and Goliath scenario. Remember when you snapped your forearm that one time you tried skateboarding before swearing it off as the devil’s sport? Time to break out that sling. When The Baby Pusher asks you what happened, say it’s nothing—you’re involved in accidents all the time! In fact, you joke, the most ridiculous one of all was when were holding your family friend’s small child and accidentally dropped it. Ruminate, seemingly to yourself, about whether or not that’s related to the fact that poor Johnny’s had a lisp ever since. The Baby Pusher will recoil in fear and keep her child as far away from you as possible.

#5

Attack: Tales of Recent Accomplishments

Often gainfully employed, usually as a doctor or lawyer, The Blowhard will one-up you with stories both trite and extravagant, from tales of his wife’s recent appointment as head of the PTA to his journeys to exotic countries where he rode dolphins whilst eating caviar. His children have either finished or are currently attending University. The older one is likely to have completed a tour with the Peace Corps, and though The Blowhard is somewhat disapproving of humanitarianism, he appreciates his eldest child’s go-get-em attitude, and is reassured by the fact that said child will be attending law or medical school in the upcoming fall. “What is it you’re doing again?” he asks, only half interested, and upon hearing that your blog is enjoying moderate success, you see in his eyes his negative assessment of you, for you’re neither changing the world nor exploiting it, the only two endeavors of any worth. He advises you to consider a career change, then launches into a bombastic recounting of his fulfilling life.

Defense: Puff his Ego to Blimpish Proportions

When trapped in conversation with The Blowhard, you must endure at least one quick story before any effective action can be taken. As he spins a not-so-charming tale of his resourcefulness, like how he outwitted an IQ test or used his medical knowledge to save an unconscious victim on a plane, you must ooh and ahh appropriately, expressing fear and delight at all the right moments. The Blowhard will be lulled into a false sense of security, and once the story has ended, he will look for some sort of praise. And that’s exactly what you’ll give him. More than he’s ever gotten before! You must act as if you have in fact had a revelation, that his bragging has opened up a new world of possibility to you, that this very conversation has Changed. Your. Life! You must immediately proclaim that you wish to someday be as great as The Blowhard, and that you need to write down your new resolution before it leaves you. Flee.

#6

Attack: Magnificence!

The Magnificent is probably only a year or two older than you, proving that if you didn’t waste your life trying to be a writer, you might actually be able to make something of yourself. He’s most likely just completed another world tour, paying his way as a professional snowboarder. Whenever he’s not competing in the Olympics or being the lead singer in a band or enjoying his fame as the star of an obscure sports team, he’s climbing mountains, visiting the Taj Mahal, and boning his incredibly hot girlfriend. She’s a different one from last year—probably the hottest yet. She’s fun, too. And you can’t even hate him cause he’s such a nice guy!

Defense: There is No Defense Against Magnificence

You’ve tried paying a beautiful girl to pretend to be your girlfriend. You’ve photoshopped yourself onto mountaintops and in front of notable monuments. You’ve even tried to compete in the X-games, only to find that your bones were surprisingly crushable. Nothing works. The Magnificent is always genuinely supportive of your endeavors, from your blog to that one time you tried to open a falafel stand, not realizing that that particular street corner was run by the mob. Even his girlfriends have always been nice to you, and The Magnificent gets you free tickets to all sorts of cool sporting events. Why? Why can’t you be him?

#7

Attack: Pointless Stories, Prying into Your Personal Life, and Rumor Mongering

The aunt everyone tries to avoid, The Gossip uses her bubbly joviality to pin down her prey, and once you’ve fallen into the trap, she’ll act as though the two of you are in on something together. Don’t be fooled! The Gossip has no allies. She will inquire about your love life, and when you report that it is pointedly non-existent, she will cluck knowingly, and the twinkle in her eye means word of your failure as a sexual specimen will spread to the farthest reaches of your circle of acquaintances. When she asks about your job and  you explain that you don’t have one, per se, she will chide you with a half-hearted tsk that indicates the news will spread, inaccurately. Amidst friendly bouts of prying, she will attempt to tell you every detail imaginable about your other family members, unaware that you’ve spent the whole event trying to dodge those very people for fear they’ll tell you about themselves!

Defense: Profuse Winking

The Gossip is a fast talker, rendering words an ineffective strategy for escape. Instead, you must rely on body language, and there’s nothing The Gossip enjoys more than a conspiratorial wink. Lean in close, for this indicates the two of you share a profound secret. It is important that The Gossip think others in the room are filled with jealousy at seeing how connected the two of you are, so make it overt. Once you’re good and close, wink rapidly and without limit. The Gossip will laugh nervously at the inside joke she assumes you share and send you on a mission to gather juicy intelligence. Do not return.

#8

Attack: Politics

The Politician never goes anywhere without an agenda. She firmly believes in every policy you think is ruining the world and strongly supports the candidate you want to murder with your bare hands. The fact that you don’t have a job makes you The Politician’s enemy, for it’s people like you who are destroying this country and helping the terrorists win. No matter The Politician’s beliefs, you distinctly do not want to get involved, for you actively attempt to learn as little as possible about the current state of the world. Death tolls and rampant hunger are less fun reruns of The Simpsons, but try as you might to avoid the trap, you will find yourself outmatched, for The Politician spends her life learning how best to bait people into unpleasant conversation and will deftly turn every topic to politics through subtle manipulation or loud yelling.

Defense: Inappropriate Laughter

The Politician’s powers are strong, and the only way to defeat her is to treat all of her heavy conversation topics as silly jokes. Whenever she mentions the dire state of the economy, chortle as though she’s made a clever quip. When she attempts to turn the conversation to the upcoming debate, guffaw as though she’s just spilled something on herself. Follow your laughter by repeating her comment, then adding, “Good one!” Before she has a chance to recover, launch into whatever story pops into your head no matter how irrelevant or embarrassing. Your inappropriate responses will undermine her fervor, making her arguments seem petty, and when you accidentally follow-up with a tale about your failed sexual exploits as a high-schooler, the pity and discomfort everyone feels is sure to lead to a change of topic.

———

There you have it! We hope you’ve found our handy-dandy Guide to the Holidays to be as handy-dandy as we intended. Next time you’re trapped at one of those nauseatingly innocuous Holiday Events, try out a few of these methods! If you’re feeling extra charitable, leave us a comment detailing how it went, because we certainly haven’t tried them! And for those of you non-readers or regular folks who are simply in a hurry, here’s a condensed pictorial guide for your relative-avoiding pleasure.

Click for Full Size:

Merry Christmas!

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