Category Archives: Shady Dudes

Меня зовут Эмма

Unnecessarily fancy hallway
at the LoC

Hello friends! Have you missed my witty jokes and poignant writing over the past two months, when I seemingly fell off the face of the virtual earth? Of course you have! I promise I’ll be better now. As I mentioned before, I started a new job, and my commute got cut in half so now I am living under the (false) impression that I can go out socializing every night after work it’s difficult to adjust to a new schedule and workload! But I am too poor to continue this pattern finally beginning to become acclimated, so I should be back to my writing in no time!

Coincidentally, my dear friend Bright Contradiction also just started working at my new place of employment. Now we spend 8 hours a day together being thoroughly confused about our jobs, attempting to translate things in to French (mauvaise idée), and delighting over the triumph of opening two separate excel files in adjacent monitors (harder than than you think). We see each other allllll the time. So as I was preparing for Friday night via email yesterday, I was surprised to hear K say she already had plans with BC and BC’s boyfriend.

Me: What are you doing tonight with K?
BC: We’re going to this Russian thing. Want to come?
Me: Oh, I wasn’t angling for an invitation. I just kind of expect to know every detail of your life now, and was really surprised that you were hanging out with my roommate and I didn’t know about it.
BC: I know the feeling.

So I went on about my day, until lunch when BC mentioned the magical words “open bar.” And then I quickly decided that yes, I would like to angle for an invitation after all.

Following work, we hopped on the metro and met up with BCBF at the Library of Congress, which should have been my first indicator that I was not fancy enough for this affair. Actually, my first indicator should have been that the event was invitation only and I was to be spending the evening as Emma Templeton, a friend of BCBF’s who couldn’t make it. Then my next indicator should have been that it was held at the Library of Congress, and finally the collection of uniformed valet attendants waiting at the entrance should have been my last warning that I should turn around and go home. But I blazed ahead and picked my name badge at registration.

Totally my fake name from now on. It’s a great name.

Let me paint a picture for you. Yesterday was Friday. Casual Friday. I was wearing ballet flats and slightly-too-big jeans that spent the evening in a perpetual state of falling down, since I recently lost my only functional belt in the squalid pile of unwashed laundry covering my bedroom floor. On top, I had a lightly stained short-sleeved cardigan paired with a pink silk shirt featuring an assortment of holes. My hair was pulled into a messy french braid after not having washed it since Wednesday, when I got caught in a torrential downpour.

Everyone else… was wearing cocktail dresses and suits. Or in a couple instances, full on evening gowns and tuxedos. Even BC looked slightly underdressed, and she was sporting actual business wear as the invitation requested. I was literally the least appropriately attired person there. For someone that normally overdresses* for everything, this was extra embarrassing. K took the opportunity to make jokes at my expense, sneaking up behind me and saying things like, “Ma’am? The Library of Congress closed several hours ago for a private event. I can show you to the exit now.”

*No really. Earlier this month I ruined my favorite cocktail dress running to the train after a US Open match, where I’d worn it on the off chance that we might go out somewhere afterwards requiring a cocktail dress.

No matter. After clamping my new identity to my wrinkled shirt (Emma is so lazy with her clothes!), we went upstairs to some sort of gorgeous, columned atrium filled with fancy food and beverages. We loading up our plates and headed to the bar, which only served top-shelf booze. As I started in on my first glass of (really good) champagne, BC snagged a table for us.

Sometimes, you go to a really cool event, and you think “wow, this is awesome and classy!” and you have a fabulous night that you remember fondly for ages to come. And then sometimes, there is a turning point, from which everything happening subsequently is increasingly preposterous. And that night becomes not just a fond memory, but an epic story that you feel the need to share with everyone you know. Yesterday, that turning point came in the form of a septuagenerian Republican National Committee employee who decided to join us at our table.

RNC was… a character. Every conversation he started was carefully crafted to be as controversy-provoking as possible. “So how do you feel about Putin replacing Medvedev?” “You are all very clean cut. I like that. What do you think about TATTOOS?”  All the while, he kept staring at me with a level of intensity that did not make me strictly comfortable. BCBF said it best. “Every cocktail party needs a creepy old dude. And he found us!”

Finally, K arrived (someone had gotten the memo to go home and change first) and BC and I made our escape to refill our champagne glasses. The rest of dinner progressed in the same fashion, with BC, BCBF, K and I constantly rotating out for more food and champagne at any opportunity of freedom.

Meanwhile:

RNC: I HATE tattoos! I think they are awful! The only exception is that I read about some military men who got the names of their fallen company members tattooed on their arm. I think that sounds real sweet.

RNC (to K): Your eyes are so nice! I want to steal them.

RNC: Are you Jewish, Emma?
Me: Uh… no?
RNC: Isn’t Templeton a Jewish name?
Me: No.

RNC: I’ve never met so many liberals in my life!

RNC: Where are you from, Emma?
Me: South Carolina.
RNC: Oh really? That’s nice. You know, it’s amazing that the confederates did as well as they did during the Civil War. They were really at a disadvantage, but they did well anyway. A lot more confederate women came out to be nurses for their soldiers than in the North, which is real nice.

RNC: You seem really good, Emma. But I guess I’m inclined to think that anyone who looks good is good.

By the end of the hour, we’d made our way through 3-5 glasses of champagne each and BCBF had engaged in a confusing conversation with RNC about contraltos and Amy Winehouse.

Luckily, it was time for a film screening. We processed downstairs to a fancy hallway lined with snack tables and men who looked like bellhops from 1925 (even the bellhops were better dressed than me!). The tables were filled with popcorn, movie snacks like Raisnettes and Junior Mints, and little bags of chocolates. We filed into a fancy theater and listened to Important People talk, such as the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington (want that job title!) and the Russian Ambassador to the US. We made our way through the movie snacks, including some truly bad Russian chocolate bars (“blueberry cream souffée”). The movie started and it was pretty great, excepting a couple of egregious and disturbing instances of blackface.

Afterwards, the Important People invited us back upstairs where would find dessert, two jazz concerts, access to the reading room, and a “surprise.”

My money was on the surprise being a vodka fountain. It wasn’t.

Lost opportunity: combination Vodka Fountain Ice Luge Kremlin.

Yeah, that’s a FUCKING ICE KREMLIN. Sorry for the language, but a GIANT ICE SCULPTURE OF THE KREMLIN IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS deserves some expletives. When you walk into a room and the first thing everyone notices is not the fully-staffed ice cream bar or the tables full of pastries, you know it’s got to be something amazing you’re witnessing instead.

After getting over the shock of the Ice Kremlin, we tried to eat everything in sight. Unfortunately, after gorging on terrible Russian chocolates and popcorn, none of us had much stomach real estate left. We had to move on to the reading room. Prior to this point, we hadn’t taken any pictures because it was the kind of event where you only take pictures if you are a member of the press toting a very expensive camera. But the Ice Kremlin was kind of a game changer, and suddenly everyone at the reception had their phones out.

Posing like the statues up high. Appropriate use of the LoC Reading Room.

Finally, we made our way to another fancy hallway, entered another fancy room, and listened to some very nice jazz music. I was pleased to spot another party-goer wearing jeans and chucks, but even he had on a blazer.

Oh well. If I had been appropriately dressed, I think my head might have exploded from awesome overload.

“Soooo, we’re doing this every Friday night now, right?”

 

Judging a Book By Its Cover: Part 2

You may remember that last Thursday was Teen Lit Day, and as a celebration, I finally started reading an abandoned book from my childhood, The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance by Margaret Mahy. Where we last left off, I’d read the first chapter and was pretty skeptical. Our Heroine had just had some sort of premonition and was trying to convince her mom that this guy who reads romance novels is a witch. I said the book was not badly written, and at the time, I was not lying.
Well, I finished the book yesterday, and I’m here to give you a full recap. Let me start by saying that at no point during this entire novel does anyone glow:

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I feel compelled to say that if this book and I had a relationship,* it would be my abusive ex. I thought that if I stayed with it long enough, I could fix it, and there were moments where I really thought I would. But in the end I realized that this book was bad for me, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was a worse person, too, for being with this book–I shouted at it, verbally abused it, even threw it down and paced around the room in anger sometimes, but I kept going back to it, holding on to the hope that our relationship would get better. It didn’t.

There were so many things wrong with this book, it’s hard to know where to begin, but I’m going to limit my review of this book to two parts: The Supernatural and The Romance. Know now that this is going to be spoilertastic, hopefully so no one ever feels the need to read this book again. Seriously, it’s that bad. I was going to mail this to my sister when I finished so she could read it, but now I’m not going to because I love her too much.

The Supernatural
Let’s start with the plot, shall we? This is the “supernatural” story line, which theoretically should be the focus of the story but is actually just an afterthought designed to get the two characters together. I came to this book with an open mind; supernatural books aren’t really my thing, but I’ve never really tried to read them so I didn’t want to judge. Besides, I really like some supernatural-adjacent things, like Doctor Who or Harry Potter or Runaways. So I do believe that it’s possible to write a supernatural-genre book that I would like. But this was just not one of them.

This was the basic plot: Our Heroine, Laura, picks up her stupidly-named brother, Jacko, from day care. On their way to visit their useless, oblivious mom at her job, they pass some normally boarded up store and now it’s all colorful and friendly. They go inside even though it says on the doors that it’s only open Thursday afternoons and no sort of reputable business operates like that. The man who runs the shop is creepy and old and smells like rotting peppermint, but instead of leaving immediately they stick around and the man puts an indelible stamp on Jacko that he uses to suck out his life-force. Jacko gets really sick and so Laura goes to Sorry who’s a complete asshole (but we’ll get there), but eventually he and his witchy mother and grandmother say they can help. Unfortunately they must not be very good witches, because the only thing they can think to do is turn Laura into a witch (this is the “Changeover”) and then have her approach the Bad Guy wearing dark glasses so he doesn’t know she’s a witch. That is seriously their plan. Anyone who’s ever read anything knows that a plan that relies heavily on dark glasses is absolutely not going to work, except that it does this time. Nothing goes wrong in the plan. Also, Sorry was really concerned about the Changeover, but nothing bad came of that either. Laura’s all happy and peaceful now that she’s a witch, and can even accept the fact that her father left her and her family because he loves his new wife more than her. I’M SO SURE.

My primary problem with the plot is that it was just too easy. There are no twists and turns. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Patrick Ness, but this plot was unpredictably predictable. It was like Mahy wrote the romance parts of this book, then sneezed and the plot appeared all scattered and uninteresting. And holey. There were so many story lines in this book that she hinted at and then completely abandoned. My favorite is that in addition to hyping up the Changeover as super terrible and dangerous (it wasn’t that bad), Sorry keeps telling Laura that his mother and grandmother have some hidden agenda for turning her into a witch. She needs to find out if there’s another way to save her brother without the Changeover. So Laura asks one of them “Do you have a secret agenda? Is there another way?” And she’s like, “I totes have a secret agenda, and there’s no other way.” And that’s the end of that. No further discussion of secret agenda or alternate solutions.

In addition to the plot being dumb, the pacing was just really bad. For instance, this book is about 260 pages long, and Jacko makes his miracle recovery on like page 200. So what do we read about for the next 25% of the book? Not much. In general this book is long stretches of romantic interlude punctuated by the actual plot. I’m all for romance, but this just didn’t make any sense. You don’t flirt with a guy for like 30 pages while you’re brother is off dying somewhere. Which brings us to…

The Romance
There’s an episode of Doctor Who where an alien learns everything it knows about human interaction by reading Agatha Christie novels, and so goes around murdering everyone like it’s And Then There Were None. I think Sorry learned everything he knows from reading romance novels, because he acts like a romance novel archetype: Sexually-harassing, condescending asshole with a tortured past (disclaimer: I’ve only read one romance novel in my life but I’m assuming they’re all the same). She’s all “My brother’s cursed! I need your help because you’re a witch!” and he’s all “I’m an asshole! I’m going to touch your boobs now, but it’s ok because I stammer and had a troubled childhood and am tortured and shit.” “Cool! I see absolutely nothing wrong with that,” says Our Heroine.

He’s also like all the bad parts of the Twilight men mashed up together: Jacob’s overconfidence and overt sexuality plus Edward’s insane stalking skills. There were so many disturbing things about Sorry’s character, but this one may be the worst:

The photographed woman, naked, and smooth as satin, reclined, smiling at Laura just as she smiled at Sorry, but the glance meant something different. To Laura, it was the smile of a sister, not a siren. Pinned to the corner of the poster over the woman’s head was the small photograph she had observed with curiosity nearly twenty-four hours earlier… [she stepped] in between islands of homework to study the photograph. She was staring at herself — made grainy with enlargement –as if a detail had been selected from the the background of some other photograph and blown up beyond the capacity of the image to hold a clear outline… Laura, looking from her own picture to that of the naked goddess extending herself languorously to the left, sighed and shook her head.

INAPPROPRIATE REACTION, LAURA. This is where you run from the room and straight to the police to get a restraining order. Instead, she stays there, to see Sorry standing in the door watching her, and instead of apologizing for being a perv, he’s like, “sorry the picture’s blurry. you wouldn’t stop moving while I was pretending to take a picture of something else with you in the corner.” Then he goes over to her and fondles her. Further proof he’s a sexual deviant:

“It’s too personal, really… like standing in the dark and looking in at someone’s window.”
“But that’s quite an interesting thing to do,” he said. “And harmless, as long as people don’t know you’re there.”

I guess he and Laura deserve each other because, she is kind of a creeper too.

He kissed her very gently. It reminded Laura of the soft but heavy kisses Jacko used to give when he was just learning to kiss, and found it very disturbing, for it seemed as if he kissed her for Jacko in the past, himself in the present and for another unknown child somewhere in the future.

Omg what? Ew. That is not how it’s supposed to work, Laura. The romance part of this book is so disturbing. And it is 90% of the book. I kept hoping Sorry would have some kind of transformative moment, but he didn’t. He took the poster down at the end, but only because Laura asked him to, not because he realizes how creepy it was.

This book was just… ugh. For a book that bills itself as a romance, I wanted to vomit on it several times. In the words of Cher Horowizt, “And like, we’re expected to swoon? I don’t think so!”

*Thanks to Forever Young Adult for making me see all books it terms of human relationships now.

Odds and Ends

After happy hour tonight, I hung around with my gimpy friend R. She recently had foot surgery and still has her boot on, so we waited outside for her boyfriend to pick her up. While we stood and chatted about important things such as Skins: Generation 3: The One That’s Better Than 2, We’re Sorry About That Psychokiller We Admit That Was a Mistake and the position of the moon in the sky, this happened:

Shady Perfume Peddler: Hey Ladies, how are you doing on this fine night?
Us: Fine.
SPP: Do you beautiful ladies ever wear perfume?
Us: Nope.
SPP: Cause I have some real nice samples you could try.
R: We don’t wear perfume.
A: Not ever.
R: Never.
SPP: Well you’re so cute, you should.
I don’t think he meant it to sound the way it did, but I’m not sure implying that your potential clientele stinks is a solid strategy. I have to hand it to him, though–it’s a real talent to insult someone and come off as a total creeper simultaneously.
And while we’re on the subject of men being creepers, there also happens to be a Hooters restaurant nearby where we were standing. This is inconsequential except for two reasons: first, it’s located in Chinatown and ergo has a gratuitous Chinese name that apparently translates to “The Owl Restaurant” which I find hilarious, and two, L’s boyfriend Matt IV just saw this actual ad on an actual television as in it’s actually real:
There are just… no words…

How to Lose a (Shady) Guy in 10 Minutes

So unhealthy, yet so delicious.

On Monday, my friend Pats was in town visiting and wanted to watch the BCS Championship game, so we sauntered down to our Neighborhood Sports Bar.  Upon arrival, we met the most cheerful, friendliest bouncer on the planet who considerately seated us at the best table, right in front of four giant TVs.  I ordered my favorite bar combo, Xingu Black Beer and mozzarella sticks, simultaneously wonderful and disgusting, and we settled in to watch the game.  Pretty soon, though, we had a problem in our midst.  Two guys came in–they looked like they might be a father/son duo–and decided to stand directly in between us and the TVs.  This was really obnoxious, but my quick-thinking roommate L invited them to sit at our table, where we had some extra room.  Problem solved! Everyone was happy!

We started talking to them, and it turned out they were not father and son, but rather coworkers who worked for a branch of the government out in San Francisco.  They were here for the week on business and had stumbled in by chance to watch the game.  Both were very friendly, especially The Younger, a maybe 30-year old guy originally from North Carolina.  The Elder informed us that The Younger was getting married in a mere two months and we congratulated him on his impending nuptials, asking about his fiancée, the wedding plans, his lack of planning the wedding plans, etc.  We all bonded over football, the South, working for/with the government, and a good time was had by all.  At least at my end of the table, everyone was thinking “Wow, what a nice, charming guy!  It’s so nice to be able to just sit at a bar with a stranger and have a nice, friendly conversation!”

Then the beer started flowing and the words started slurring.  Suddenly, our friendly neighbor was hitting on me with increasing levels of aggression, despite my leading questions about his fiancée or any other attempts to steer him back to Friendly Neighbor Territory.  Soon, he was trying to trick me into going on a date to Ben’s Chili Bowl (oh! the romance!).  He even attempted to pay the tab for the entire table, and then, bizarrely tried to deny it and make it seem like the rest of us were just bad at math.  He had transformed from Friendly Neighbor at the beginning of the night into a Shady Dude.

Sadly, this is not a peculiar or unique occurrence for me.  I am a magnet for Shady Dudes.  I’ve been hit on by many more like Shady The Younger (STY from here on out), but also facebook-stalked, groped in public places, received love letters and unwanted poetry from strangers, shadowed by a Punjabi pop star, had a business card left on my pillow by a complete stranger,  followed home from the metro (no worries, folks, that was in Paris and I don’t live there any more; the US is remarkably less Shady than France) and many many other horror stories… Shady Dudes are everywhere, y’all.  They don’t have to be creepy sexual deviants to be Shady Dudes, either.  One of the Shadiest Dudes I’ve ever met was a flamboyantly gay guy wearing a straw hat, kafiya, western-style button-down, skinny jeans, and cowboy boots.  He was seated across from me on the metro and waved manically at me in a fashion that showed little regard for dignity or social norms.  At the time, I was coming back from dance class and was sporting a bizarre mash-up of work and work-out clothes–sweatpants, t-shirt, cardigan, purple flats, and greasy hair.  Our encounter, almost verbatim, went like this:
 
Flamboyance: Hi there!

Me: Uh…

Flamboyance: How would you describe your personal sense of style?

Me: I don’t have one.

I will be very concerned if I ever
see this guy on Project Runway

Flamboyance: Of course you do! I just don’t think what you’re doing is really working and I want to know what you’re going for.

Me: I’m not going for anything. I’m coming back from working out.

Flamboyance: GOOOOOSHHHHH I know but like.  *Long Pause*  I think you should do something different with your hair.  Like, I see what you’re trying to do, but like. Yes.

Me: How so.

Flamboyance: Like you’re totally gorgeous. But it’s like triangular and I think it should be like….more. Vertical. You know what I mean?

Me: I have no idea what you mean.

Flamboyance: Do you mind if I come sit next to you?

Me: I’m getting off in like a stop actually.

Flamboyance:  That’s ok. *moves over to the seat next to me*  So like, I’m like sooooo Project Runway, like I’m going to be on the show but like my specialty is bags so like if I were to like make one of my bags for you which kind would you want?

Me: How do I know which kind when I’ve never seen any of your bags?

Flamboyance: They’re like… geometric.

Me: So am I supposed to name a shape? Trapezoid? Rhombus?

Flamboyance: JEEE-SUSSSS. *Long Pause*  So like, don’t freak out but can I like… try something with your hair?

Me: Actually this is my stop. Bye.  See you around. Or not. Ever.

Flamboyance: Bye. I love you!!!!!!

Miraculously, that was actually my stop.  I was lucky enough to escape that particular Shady Dude by running away.  Unfortunately, fleeing is not always an option, so I’ve compiled a handy list of experiential-based tips for getting rid of Shady Dudes. “But Alix,” you say, “Why don’t you just tell the Shady Dudes you’re not interested?”  Well, my friends, that’s the thing. If there’s one thing all Shady Dudes have in common, it’s persistence.  You’re going to need a little bit of smoke and mirrors to get rid of the some of them.

For Shady Dudes:

  • Do travel with wing-women.  Have a handy signal ready for when you need to be rescued.  If you don’t establish The Signal ahead of time there’s going to be a lot of mixed signals (hah!) and confusion happening in your night ahead.
  • Don’t have The Signal be a super blatant thumbs up or thumbs down (Pats).  You look like an idiot waving your hand up and down like that.
  • Do give out fake names/numbers.  In particular, my friend J suggested handing out your hometown police station’s number.  While I can’t personally endorse that as it seems like a waste of police resources, I do find it hilarious and would laugh a lot if someone I knew tried this one.
  • Don’t make your back-story so convoluted that you get caught in your own tangled web of lies.  I had a friend in college who once went to a party at a different school and pretended she was a student there.  When a guy asked her where she lived, she told him the only dorm she could think of, which happened to be his.  Then she pretended to be suddenly so drunk that she couldn’t remember where she lived.  It was not a winning strategy.

For Shadier Dudes:

  • Do pretend to be a lesbian.  Have a designated girlfriend ahead of time.
  • Don’t pretend to be a lesbian in France.  This will not deter any Frenchman one bit and he will ask you some super-inappropriate questions.
  • Do find some of your guy friends to be your rescuers.  Sometimes another girl will not be enough to convince a Shady Dude that you’re not interested.  Your male friends are great for this purpose!  Sometimes you can even recruit Non-Shady Dudes (NSD) to protect you.  Last weekend, we went out dancing and K was being stalked by a Shady Dude.  We made friends with a NSD, and he went up the guy and said, “hey, I just met this girl, but it’s pretty clear that she’s not into you so maybe you should leave her alone.”  Good work NSD!
  • Don’t rely on your guy friends who are interested in someone else at the venue.  They will be distracted and completely useless and leave you to get groped by a Shady Dude.
  • Do provide some seemingly convincing but actually unreliable form of communication.  This one is kind of hard to pull off, but will work if the Shady Dude is drunk/stupid enough.  Nothing is more awkward than a really eager Shady Dude trying to give you his number on the spot, only to discover that you’ve given him a fake number when he tries to call/text you.  This can be avoided by providing an alternate but unreliable form of communication.  For instance, on Monday, before STY became a Shady Dude and was still a Friendly Neighbor, he had taken down K’s number to put her in contact with some person he knew in Dupont about some thing.  Then later when he was all Shady, he said “So, is K the best way to contact you or should I get your number too?” And I said “Oh no K is way more likely to answer her phone than me. She always has it with her.” Lucky for me, this a huge lie.  There are about a million places K’s phone is more likely to be–as a dog’s chew toy, on the metro tracks, lost in a cab with a guy named Reuben–than by her side, waiting to be answered.
K’s (old) phone plays Anna Karenina on the Metro
  • Don’t give a Shady Dude the phone number of your friend who lives in a completely different state and then send your friend a text saying, “If Carlos calls, don’t pick up!”  You may have gotten rid of the Shady Dude, but your friend will think you’re a moron.

For the Shadiest Dudes:

  • Do throw your friend under the bus.  No seriously, this is a last ditch method that sometimes works! Unfortunately, I’m usually the one that gets thrown under the bus.  At my friend A’s bachelorette party, another friend was getting stalked relentlessly by a Shady Dude.  Her drunken solution? take Shady Dude aside and say, “Let me explain something to you. Taken, Taken, Married, SINGLE!!!!! SIIIINGLLLLE!!! SINGLE!!!!”  Thanks A, you’re a real friend.  When confronted later, she reasoned “I figured Alix would just yell at him till he went away.” Which, to her credit, is pretty close to what actually happened.

So yeah.  When all else fails, yell at them till they go away.