Tag Archives: Life

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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Lightning Never Strikes In The Same Pla—Ahhh! Lightning!

When I was but a wee lad, I was somehow tricked into joining the Boy Scouts.

Try to remember a happier, more innocent time. I can't either!

I think it had something to do with a free pumpkin, which is, in retrospect, well, just as compelling as it was then. I could so go for a pumpkin right now. I would carve the shit out of that thing, probably into a likeness of my favorite Game of Thrones character (may he rest in peace), and when I was done, I’d make pumpkin bread out of its sweet, sweet innards.

Oh no! Now every time I see a pumpkin I’ll think of episode nine. What have I done? Ok. Moving on. After many years of ice camping, forced marching, learning knots, forgetting knots, and sitting through brain-manglingly tedious meetings, I found myself at the National Boy Scout Jamboree. There’s a joke in there, and I’ve spent quite a while dancing around being PC in an attempt to phrase it correctly, but I’ve finally given up. Now it’s time to pawn the work off on you, with Russ’s 1st

Ludicrously Reasonable Challenge!

Take the following elements and form them into a light-hearted and negativity-free joke!

  1. The Boy Scouts of America are known for being homophobic.
  2. At the Jamboree, over 40,000 young boys spend 10 days together in cramped quarters.
  3. Jamboree is defined as “noisy merrymaking.”

Anyway, I’m in this giant camp that spans miles and miles, and supposedly we’re there to learn things, so, in the name of pretending to gain knowledge, my friend Nick and I sign up for what we’ve heard is the easiest activity: Electricity Merit Badge. We hike an hour out to this little hut that’s divided into 10 stations where some bored adults usher us in and make a halfhearted attempt to teach us something about stuff. The first and most valuable station taught us the art of positioning light switches in the most logical part of a room whilst taking into account maximum reachability and minimal effort, an important skill by anyone’s standards.

As we powered our way through the next five stations, the wind began to surge around us. The air switched speeds, whipping through the tent, tearing the canvas from the poles, and generally sparking fear in everyone. Confusingly, the rain, just a sprinkle moments before, was currently a shockingly fierce torrent pummeling the ground, and suddenly the adults in charge are generating a panic by cutting class short and conducting everyone outside. Positive that we should bolt, Nick and I impulsively decide to grab the bulb by the horns and head for home.

We start sprinting back to camp, but we’ve got a long way to go. I guess we were the last ones to get nature’s memo, because the camp is completely deserted, and by this point, every minute or two lightning strikes so close that it’s literally right there on the path with you like that annoying girl who has a crush on you who you can never quite seem to shake. You get the feeling that she’s hiding in the bushes just to watch you go by, but you can’t say anything because she kicks ass at trivia night and your team has an image to uphold at the local pub, damn it.

We finally pass a troop leader who asks us what the hell we’re doing still outside when there’s a tornado brewing and we’re this close to being blown half a drug trip from Kansas, but thankfully he’s on a mission and doesn’t have time to deal with us. Fueled by the invincibility of youth and a healthy portion of hunger, we veer out of our way to see if the snack shack is open, and hot dog, it is! Soon enough, we’re twiddling our idiot fingers underneath the overhang, waiting for burgers while a light show of death plays all around us.

We eventually get our food and resume our run, but another adult grabs us by our neckerchiefs and drags us into this little tent. It was like something out of a sci-fi apocalypse movie where the resistance sees you on the street and pulls you into a safe house then tries to recruit you. There’s hundreds of people huddled into this tiny tent which is somehow blisteringly hot, and we’re so squished that we can’t get the burgers to our mouths—a serious problem. The leader of the resistance stands up on a stool and starts this epic speech about how dangerous the world is out there, but that we’ll be safe as long as we stick together and don’t leave the tent (it’s got a lightning rod!), and the whole time I’m just looking down at my burger with salivatory sorrow as I watch it growing cold.

Nick looks at me, and  the mutual understanding of childhood friends passes between us. We nod and both make a break for it, dodging a guard and slipping out the back of the tent to freedom. Now all we have to do is run across a wide open field that’s about a quarter mile long and we’ll be back to the safety of our own camp where we’ll have both friends and playing cards, two things obviously worth risking your life for.

I remember pausing at the edge of the field, finishing the last bite of my rain-soaked burger, and wondering, for the first time, whether this idea was any sort of good, but hey, it was too late to turn back now, so Nick and I just set off into the open. As I’m running, I turn to see him panting away and realize that he’s a good six or seven inches taller than me, so if lightning’s going to hit anything, it’ll be him. I breathe a sigh of relief, which is immediately cut short by lightning striking a tree at the edge of the field.

We made it back to camp to cheers and hugs, and proceeded to play cards long into the night.

The next day, we found out that four scouts had been hit by lightning.

Don’t worry. They were all fine, but only because everyone around them knew a crapload of first aid.

Oh yeah, and remember Station 7, the one we didn’t quite make it to because of that giant lightning storm? The one that we were literally 5 minutes from completing? That’s right–it was Lightning Safety.

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My Lack of Craftsmanship Stops a Thief

When I went to college, I bought a mini-fridge. We went through a lot together, Stinky Pete and I, like the time I left Bagel Bites in him over winter break and had to carry him down three flights of stairs so I could hose out the large, circular clumps of mold that were assaulting my nostrils with their pungent death spores and, more importantly, trying to steal my friend from me.

Every summer apart from Stinky was a hardship. After I’d said a quick goodbye to my roommate and girlfriend, I’d spend the evening with my fridge, trying to sneak in just a few more hours before the inevitable. I knew how lonely he’d be, unplugged and unused, and I did my best to comfort him.

Then, one fall, I got back to school, pulled Stinky Pete out of storage, and opened him up, only to discover that all his shelves were missing!

What could have happened to them? I racked my brain, but could find no answer. Before long, the lost shelves began to haunt my every waking moment, and when I slept, I dreamt of those perfectly sculpted pieces of glass. I forgot to shower, to eat, to hope, and my life became one downward spiral of shelfless horror. Do you know how inconvenient a fridge without shelves is? Food storage quickly became nothing more than a twisted, unending game of perishable Jenga, and I was too scared to try to actually remove anything from the precarious fortress.

When you find yourself in this sort of situation, there’s only one thing to do. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never picked up a hammer before, it doesn’t matter if every time your dad tried to make you help with home projects you ran screaming, and who cares if you aren’t even aware that a hammer probably isn’t a relevant tool for constructing a glass shelf. My fridge needed me, and I couldn’t turn my back anymore.

I went to the local shelving store and asked for their finest piece of shelvery, but they didn’t really have any of that because they were a Home Depot and those places scare me, so I bought a piece of shelf-looking glass and invested in a glass cutter, which is about as safe in my hands as two putty knives in the hands of a child.

I combined the glass cutter and glass in the only way I knew how, namely in the middle of my floor and with a great deal of trepidation. Turns out you’re supposed to be pretty sure of yourself and make one clean stroke, but like a first-time headsman, it took me quite a few tries to hack my way through, which led to a lot of thin lines of glass on my floor and an edge that was as jagged as the shoreline of my love life.

I had no reasonable way to sand the death trap, so I took it outside and just rubbed it on the cement for a long time, pouring water on it as I went because I know water has something to do with erosion, and I figured erosion was like slow-paced sanding. Pieces kept chipping off and making it worse, but eventually there was a pretty long period without chipping, and I figured that was about as smooth as I’d get it, so with great ceremony, I put it in the fridge.

Flash forward: it’s 2011 and Stinky Pete has been enjoying his new shelf. We have some friends over, including this guy Nick. He’s the kind of badass who’ll punch a bear just cause “it was asking for it,” but I guess he’s not particularly shelf savvy, so when he reaches into the fridge to grab a beer, he jabs his hand right into the thing, and suddenly he’s bleeding all over the fridge and the floor and just staring at his hand in shock.

He was pretty tough about it. In fact, this was another one of those utterly emasculating moments. He just walked to my closet, grabbed a hot glue gun, and sprayed the burning stuff all over the wound, wrapped it up in duct tape, continued playing beer pong…and won. But at some point, the wound opened back up and became a mini Niagara Falls of bleediness. I’m on the verge of fainting because I hate things that remind me of Niagara Falls, but some other people who have fewer negative associations take Nick over to our neighbor’s house who’s more medically prepared and less faint-y, and while we’re all out of the apartment…

A thief sneaks in!

Since we’re a trusting, naive bunch of blokes, we’d left a brand new Macbook Pro, the Holy Grail of opportunistic temptation, sitting just inside the door. The thief promptly scoops it up and high-tails it out of there.

We’re all too busy trying to staunch my fridge’s handiwork to notice, but somehow Nick sees the guy, jumps up, and sprints outside, hurtling toward the thief like a gigantic boulder of fury. We think he’s just in the throes of a blood frenzy, but before we can even give each other accurately confused looks, he’s out of sight.

Apparently, Nick chases this guy through the entire apartment complex and out into the street. He’s gibbering like a madman and waving his bloody hand everywhere, and it’s spraying like crazy. The thief takes one look behind him and freaks the hell out, so the guy, in an attempt to save himself with a well-timed distraction, hurls the laptop through the air. Nick’s split-second-animal-instinct brain determines that saving the laptop is the highest priority and makes this epic dive for the thing, soon-to-be hand-stump stretched to its absolute limits—

And falls a couple inches short.

The laptop shattered, but it’s ok, cause Apple gave us a new one for free! All thanks to my fridge, because who knows if the thief would’ve chucked the laptop if he hadn’t been so terrified of Nick’s gruesome hand, which was only as frightening as it was because of my shelf-building skills…but then again, I guess we wouldn’t have been out of the apartment if the fridge hadn’t sliced him up, and then he wouldn’t’ve had to go the emergency room, and he wouldn’t have that hideous scar, and I wouldn’t’ve had to spend the night bleaching blood out of my carpet like a serial killer, and I wouldn’t need to keep going to therapy because I no longer feel safe in my home…

Maybe I should try to improve my craftsmanship skills.

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Filed under Stories