Latest 3 Things

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

3 Ladies' Laments

I’ve always said that I’m more a lover than a fighter - but most of those who know me well know that’s really more wishful thinking than anything else. I have a lot more fight in me than I sometimes know what to do with. As a matter of course, this colors everything from my writing to my personal demeanor, from my practice to my personal life. And so when it comes to the opposite sex, while there can be no doubt that I love the ladies - looking on the group as a whole with a mixture of wonder and curiosity - I’m also no more frequently disappointed, disgusted and otherwise disenchanted by any other group of people. So while I would freely admit that women are more intelligent, more mature, and generally more socially aware than us men, it makes those instances where they fail to live up to these obvious advantages that much more shocking and terrible. And so, in the hopes that one of my many lovely female readers can offer me some kind of explanation, here are 3 inexplicable things that women do:

1. Foot Show. There was a time when I truly did not understand that almost genetic fascination that women have with shoes. To my adolescent mind, the variety and volume of footwear that most women coveted seemed useless at best and maddeningly wasteful at worst. But as I grew, I started to get it, and ultimately came to appreciate how much more fantastic a woman could look in the right pair of shoes. Unfortunately, as magic as they might seem, there is nothing in a great pair of shoes that change the way your feet look, and like certain other fashions that are more privilege than right (e.g. miniskirts, bare midriffs and tight jeans) just because you can display your bare feet to the world doesn’t mean that you should. Aside from a few fetishists amongst us, I think we can all agree that the average foot isn’t the most appealing thing. And come on, you know if you’ve got the kind of feet that no one really needs to see. But if you don’t, here are a few simple tests: if your toes point in five different directions, if your heel looks like an overcooked biscuit, if your toes look like they’re grabbing something when they’re not, or if you’re more than twenty pounds overweight - you need to avoid flip-flops, sandals, or any other kind of footwear that’s going to kill the appetite and faith in humanity of anyone unfortunate enough to glance down at your feet. I mean, seriously, it’s cool if you’re big - but when you’re big, the part of you that suffers the most is the last part of you that I want see flaunted in front of me. Do us all a favor and make sure that great pair of shoes you’re wearing out are actually shoes.

2. Aging Gracelessly. Look, it happens to the best of us. We’re getting older. And while I can appreciate better than most, the want - the need - to fight it every step of the way, I also appreciate the value of those who wear their age well. I’ve said many times that while I’d love to have back some of the superpowers of youth that I’ve lost over the years, I definitely wouldn’t trade all the wisdom and grace I’ve gotten in exchange to have them back. Besides, no matter what mass media tells you about the ideal woman being 22 years old, I can personally vouch for that being a load of hooey. All the little things that make a girl a woman are usually found long after the eat-what-you-want days of youth - the way she walks, talks, dresses and even smiles are carefully crafted over years, not gleaned from an issues of Cosmo. But the one thing a grown woman can screw up is not gracefully accepting this fact. Lying about your age is just plain stupid. A year or two doesn’t make that much difference, and anything more than that will be as obvious as the skin on the back of your hands. And dressing like you’re 25 when you’re 35 is pathetic and silly. Which is not to say that you can’t show a little skin, be a lot sexy, or just plain cute - but the word you’re looking for is elegance and you can’t locate it in Forever 21, Wet Seal or Abercrombie. If you’re over 30 and shopping in a place like that, you’d better be with your niece/daughter.

3. Kung Fu Pandering. Women are, as a rule, notoriously good BS detectors. After all, they don’t call it “women’s intuition” without good reason. I’ve stood in front of many a young lady who I was quite certain looked right through to the heart of me. It seems that there is just something in the female DNA that allows for a nearly effortless perception into the motivation behind almost anything. Given all of that, I am utterly baffled by the manner of media that women allow to be peddled to them. And not only do they fall victim to this shameless pandering, on many occasions they actually defend it. Take, for example, the formulaic “chick flick” where an impossibly good-looking, wealthy, humorous and intelligent man falls for the girl next door, sweeping her off her feet, and whisking her away to a storybook life of love and happiness. Despite the fact that these stories couldn’t be any less realistic if they were animated, women flock to these screenings in droves, cry when they’re supposed to, and walk out of the theater lamenting that their man isn’t anything like that. Even worse, grown women - apparently unfulfilled by the offerings of the modern adult romance genre - have adopted a poorly-written young adult offering about transparently gay vampires and werewolves seducing teenage girls as a romantic zeitgeist. And worse yet, I hear women defending this mindless smut as vigorously as they do equality in the workplace and defense against domestic violence. How can it be that women’s intuition seems to be so finely tuned on one hand to reality and yet completely ineffective against fiction?

* * *

For the most part, I’m a big fan of the enigmatic nature of women. It is, after all, that unsolvable mystery which provides us with the lifetime adventure of getting to know one of them, and the beautiful frustration of falling in love. But some mysteries, I suspect, are better off solved, explained or debunked. As we’ve become accustomed to a nearly ubiquitous equality of the sexes, we’ve also become wary of ever leveling any gender-wide criticism - lest we be cast out as a holdover from a time since past. To avoiding this type of criticism against women, men keep quiet, and women are left to police themselves; fixing the problems from the inside out. After all, there can be no protests of “you just don’t understand” when the trigger man behind both barrels of aspersion isn’t a man at all. And so when the familiar lament of women being their own worst critics is raised, perhaps it isn't the problem we’ve located - but rather, the solution.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

3 Reasons to Come Back

As many of you have no doubt noticed, Three Things has been on hiatus of late. The intervening time since the last published piece has been punctuated by some of the most troubling times I can recall, with the majority of my time and effort spent on survival rather than the relatively leisurely task of bringing you three things each week. I have to admit, I thought about walking away - even titled my farewell piece (“3 Final Things”) - and began to walk this project into the proverbial sunset. But with the help of friends, family and the catharsis of good work, I found a reason to turn Three Things back from the abyss, and, at the very least, finish the year we’ve embarked on. In fact, I found three. And so for you, dear and faithful reader, here are the 3 reasons Three Things is back.

1. D-Spite. I’d like to be able to tell you that all the reasons I came back for are positive, sunshiney things; hearts, flowers and puppy dogs that turned my frown upside down and gave me reason to get back to this keyboard. But as a person who has always, at least in some part, been powered by vengeance, anger and spite, I would be lying to paint such a rosy picture. No matter how colorfully it’s painted, at the core of each rant is at least a kernel of hatred, and nothing seems to drive me to action quite like being wronged by someone. And so, it should come as no surprise that both a significant amount of the pending strife and the strength to pull myself out of it owe to someone rather than something. Of all the turn-the-other-cheek style advice that is peddled around to discourage revenge, the only bit I’ve ever found to be true is that success is the best version of it. And all that nonsense about how revenge won’t make you feel any better is ridiculous. Revenge, and especially revenge via success feels fantastic. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a better feeling than letting someone who didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t believe in me know that not only did I do great without her, but that I did it because I was without her. And so, in the interests of letting her know just that - I’m back.

2. Laughing to Keep From Crying. You can call it catharsis, but I think that this project accomplishes something both more and less profound. Whether it be me, my age, outlook or whether it’s actually true - we appear to be living in a time of unparalleled ignorance, indifference and indignity. And while May 21st came and went with only a subtle burp from an Icelandic volcano, one might argue that we are trundling through a Second Dark Ages - where the only apocalyptic “rise” is the rise of the purposefully unenlightened. In these dark times, where education has apparently become a tool of oppression rather than a tool to rage against it, those who have retained, against all odds, the ability to reason, logically evaluate and objectively learn, have a duty to keep their voices heard. It would be easiest to hole up in some kind of intellectual compound; walled off from an increasingly paranoid and foolish proletariat in the hopes that their decay into mindlessness ultimately results in some kind of cannibalism (or at least a tendency for self-destruction and/or violent insurrection) and allow the educated few to repopulate the wasteland they leave behind. But because I have not only promised to do otherwise, but as Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” - I will carry on. Even if my “do nothing” is only to offer a little insight, humor and sanity to a world increasingly devoid of each.

3. For You. Dear readers. For every moment that I have spent staring at a blank screen with a blinking cursor, wondering if I’ve exhausted my inspiration, vocabulary or simply my utility as a writer; for every time I’ve looked back in horror on something I wrote before I thought I knew how to write; for every critic and criticism that makes me want to hang it up; and for every moment I’ve wondered if I’ll ever amount to anything more than just another navel-gazing hack who's better off keeping his musings in a private journal - there have been countless moments where all of you have made it worthwhile. You’ve laughed, cried and ranted right back at me. You’ve praised, panned and passed along the things I’ve written. You’ve been inspired, provoked and pissed; embarrassed, tickled and reminded. You remind me that I’m not shouting into the abyss, because the abyss doesn’t shout back. You give me the greatest gift of this era, with each passing word - your time, and you carry on a tradition passed on from time immemorial by reading my thoughts to inform your own. And because I’ve yet to repay any of you in any small part for all of this - I’ll endeavor to keep trying to do so.

* * *

After over a month spent away from this keyboard, there’s a lot of catching up to do. Thankfully, the world continues to frustrate and amaze me in equal measure, whether I write about it or not - so inspiration abounds, and I suspect I’ll be caught up in no time. I can only hope that in my brief time away, you haven’t filled up the precious few minutes each week that you used to spend with me, with something more entertaining, more blissfully caustic, or heaven forbid, funnier. But on the off chance you have, I’ll make you a deal: if you come back and don’t find yourself laughing, nodding or head-shaking harder than you ever did before, you’re free to go with my blessing and the only good three things to ever come out of a “boy band”: Bye Bye Bye.

As for the rest of you, hold on to your screens - it’s gonna get bumpy.