Tag Archives: Girls

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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Oops, I Got an English Degree!

This morning, I woke up to a horrible realization. Actually, that happens pretty much every morning, the realization being that I’m awake and no longer in the blissful world of dreams.

But on this fateful day, I came to recognize a much more devastating truth: I had spent four years of my life studying English.

You’d think kids who get into Stanford would be smart enough not to pursue their dreams, but I’ve always been quixotic (and as an English major, I can tell you that word’s based on a character…from a book!), so I studied what I loved, future be damned! My parents, idealistic saps that they are, actually encouraged me towards this! They said, “Russ, you can do anything if you put your mind to it!” Can you believe that?

So I kept at it. I enjoyed my major, and I’ve never been one to deny myself any desire, no matter how whimsical or potentially hazardous.

And it was just so easy. Wait until the final paper is assigned, read (or skim) a single book, then write an eight page treatise on the main character’s Oedipus complex. How could I turn that down?

Unfortunately, it just so happens that people in “real life” expect you to have these pesky things called “skills,” and for some reason, nobody mentioned them to me until it was too late. All my computer science friends had these amazing resumés, and I didn’t have an iota of work experience. I assured prospective employers of my vast intellect and chronicled all the fantasy books I’d read, but still I didn’t receive a single call from any of the companies to which I’d applied. Didn’t they see how well I’d praised myself? Didn’t they understand how my comprehensive knowledge of potential post-apocalyptic scenarios could come in handy?

Suddenly it’s graduation and all my friends have moved to San Francisco and New York to do important work, so obviously I have to pretend that I have my life together too. I decided to take a year off to “find myself” and “work on my writing.” They seemed like good excuses at the time, but then it turned out that finding myself was hard to do when there was so much good TV on, and working on my writing was nigh impossible when you end up joining a fraternity that’s always throwing booze and women at you (not that I succeeded with the women). When I was working toward my degree, I didn’t mind the distractions, but now I was starting to realize that without an outside force giving me a series of easily attainable goals, I had developed some sort of weird conscience/guilt complex that made me feel horrible about myself.

It was terrible! Before this year, I’d always loved myself (heck, somebody had to!), but now my life was a travesty of my ill-formed childhood plans. I was supposed to be a multi-billion-dollar writer person who lived on the moon.

Sure, living in San Luis Obispo is nice, but it’s no the moon. Now, I could blame the lack of lunar accommodations on the government, but there was no excuse for the unearned billions. Clearly, I had to start doing something that would get me paid, or laid, or anything really. And with that, we’ve returned to the head of this ouroboros* of a conundrum: I have a degree in English. Where could I find people crazy enough to pay me for that?

*It’s a thing.

And then it hit me: the internet!

There are plenty of people who make money on the internet, right–plenty of people who are (presumably) a lot less “qualified” than I am? If they can earn a living by remorselessly spewing out their life stories and pointless observations, why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I enter this modern-day gladiatorial ring and battle my fellow English majors for the love of the wealthy masses. After all, it’s up to us to stave off the ennui of conquering the known world, and if we’re good enough, somebody might pay us.

On the web, everyone can put themselves up for examination, and if they’re pretty or funny or ugly enough, never have to do any real work. And in the end, isn’t avoiding real work what being an English major is all about? That’s why I’ve started blogging. Even if I can’t achieve anything real, I might at least become internet famous. So here goes. This is my blog and my chance to show my parents that their money wasn’t wasted, or that it wasn’t quite as wasted as they previously thought, and that I’m not quite as wasted as I was five minutes ago. Funny how that works.

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