2. Brand Awareness (The Gray Area)

Joanna loves Eclipse Ale. It’s the best beer in the world. She has boxes of Eclipse memorabilia. She regularly wears Eclipse baseball caps. But on one rainy night, Joanna discovers that this happy relationship (along with the relationship with her boyfriend) is not what it seems. Why can’t she remember what her boyfriend gave her on their second anniversary? And why doesn’t anybody know about Eclipse Ale? (Running time: 28 minutes)

Written and directed by Edward Champion


Joanna: Eileen Hanley
Greg: Charlie Harrington
DJ: Peter Coleman
Sam: Marc Eliot Stein
Ignacio: Kilgore Lehrer
Receptionist: Zachary Michael
Leslie Stevens: Lauren Shippen
Bar Background: Hans Detlef Sierck, Jan Jensen, Sam Lowry

Edited by Edward Champion
Foley Sources: Edward Champion, PlooQ (CC), lebcraftlp (CC), Sandermotions (CC), Leandros Ntounis (CC), LG (CC), magnus589 ()CC), GowlerMusic (CC)

Theme Song: Pachyderm, “Never Knew Me at All” (licensed through CC, found at Free Music Archive)

Music: Milton Arias, “Gracias,” Valery & The Greedies, “She-Wolf,” Jahzaar, “Scenes from the Zoo,” Ben Sound, and Kevin MacLeod, “Carpe Diem,” Ben Sound, “Funky Element” (all licensed through CC, found at Free Music Archive, Ben Sound, and Incompetech)

Art: Claudio Sepúlveda Geoffroy (CC)

Special thanks to Sacha Arnold, Austin Beach, Matthew Boudreau, Jason Boog, Christopher Byrd, Kate C., Christian Caminiti, Claudia Berenice Garza, Pam Getchell, Jon Grilz, Jen Halbert, Gabriella Jiminez, Pete Lutz, Philip Merritt, Pacific Obadiah, John Osborne, Rina Patel, Michael Saldate, Raia Savage, Alex Schawrtzberg, That Podcast Girl, Georgette Thompson, Jack Ward, and many others I may have inadvertently forgotten for their invaluable help, feedback, kindness, inspiration, and support during the production of this episode.

Please be sure to also listen to Philip Merritt’s Lost in Williamsburg, which gave me a major editing idea that completely altered the bar scene, Jon Grilz’s Creepy, and Pacific Obadiah’s Lake Clarity.


placeholderThe girl broke his heart. Just like the previous one had. And the one before that. But it was meant to be this way. This was his lot in life. He hadn’t intended it to play out like this, but it always did. And he was helpless when it came to the horrible side effects of his strangely appealing character. Three years from now, he would discover that the latest girl who broke his heart would be married to somebody else. A man less photogenic on Flickr, some Romeo who wrote blog posts and tweets that were inarticulate (to put it charitably), and yet the new man was somehow meant for the girl. He’d stumble onto photos of the happy couple and he’d see her snuggling up to the new man in the same way that she had once snuggled up to him. And while this hurt, he knew deep down that the new man, the right man, somehow fit better.

He wondered why he was always doomed to be this temp chip on the felt. He had done everything right, sending roses at the right time, alternating between surprise and routine, and lending an open ear over so many silent hours. But he was always the unappetizing appetizer. The sampler before the main meal. The one year prerequisite course before soulmate. The previous girls had called him soulmate. They lied. Or maybe he was and they had been wrong. Or maybe he wasn’t and they had been right. Feelings were fickle and subject to change. Still, all these endearments were meaningless in the end. These girls needed him because for some reason he lifted them. He empathized and listened and walked them home. Then he’d loosen his own feelings and the girls would accuse him of selfishness. And he’d read all the emails frozen with those telltale time-date stamps of a soul locked in development and he’d see confusion instead of solipsism. But he couldn’t blame these girls. It may have taken two to tango, but the dance of blame didn’t require a partner and was often harsher.

And just when he thought he was finished with girls, another would come. Some unexpected fuck blooming into a full-fledged relationship. Sometimes they would make the moves. They smelled his nascent shyness and sniffed something in him. And since it always played out the same way, he wondered if they had always anticipated his inevitable role as placeholder. They would sometimes approach him after the break, sponging his heart and intellect, hoping to grab a few more bits.

He was thirty and he already felt like an old man. But he wouldn’t be a placeholder forever. He would learn, like most men waking up just before the midlife hill, just why he had been a placeholder and his chip would slip from the green.

If you are a placeholder right now and you are reading this, please have patience. The wheel turns after you stop paying attention to the clock.

I Need a Husband!

About six months after I continued to remain happy and childless, I saw a woman sitting with her son on a blanket. Her name, I later discovered, was Lori and she was there with her friend Caitlin. It was a sunny summer weekend, and there were parents and kids picnicking nearby.

The day had been going fine, until Lori started checking out my ass in a really intense way. Which was odd, because I have an okay ass. Nothing to write home about. I guess it was an ass you could settle for. Of course, when pressed, I can shake my booty as well as anybody else. Still, it was somewhat disheartening to have someone checking out my ass without even having the courtesy to introduce herself.

“Excuse me,” said Lori. “Are you married?”

“What? Why, no,” I said.

“Do you shout ‘Bravo!’ in movie theaters?”

“Sometimes. When it’s an action movie.”

She introduced herself. She then asked if she could smell my breath. I told her that I needed one minute to suck on a breath mint. She told me that breath mints weren’t necessary. I informed her that her request was quite unusual. And she then grabbed the roll of BreathSavers out of my hand and stomped my mints into chalky powder. She insisted that I had halitosis. This was not true.

“Hey, you owe me a buck for those BreathSavers!”

“I want a husband,” she said.

“What for? What do you really long for?”

“An angle for this Atlantic article I’m writing. Well, actually, a husband. I’m very worried about that. Every single woman I know feels panic about this. I need to marry and reproduce.”

I then noticed that she was taking notes.

“You know, you don’t need a husband to be happy,” I said. “Mr. Right often comes along when you least expect it.”

“I need a husband now.”

Lori didn’t blink as she said this. I was starting to get an Ira Levin vibe.

“Yeah, and I’d love to write for The New Yorker. It’ll probably never happen. But that doesn’t stop me from writing or living.”

“You don’t understand. I need a husband now.”

“Well, if that’s the case, go get one.”

I started to walk away. I considered calling 911. Lori was starting to give me the creeps. There was a wild look in her eyes.

“Will you be my husband?”

I was unnerved by Lori. I knew many well-adjusted single women in their thirties and forties who were living fantastic lives. And they were doing this entirely without partners.

“Are you The One?”

“No!” I shouted.

She then consulted a complicated Powerpoint presentation on her laptop. There was a red text box with the words MUST MARRY MAN NOW! flashing in bright white text.

“Are you my soul mate?”

“Look, Lori, I don’t know you, but I think you need help.”

“I need to marry somebody. Someone who can help me pop out 1.2 children from my uterus. Will you marry me and help me pop out 1.2 children? I have one son. I need 1.2 more so that I can live the perfect dream. Are you Mr. Good Enough?”

“I’m Mr. Champion.”

Lori then complained to her friend Caitlin that I wasn’t cooperating. Caitlin suggested that they should go home and watch the final episode of Friends to get some additional ideas for Lori’s article. And that was the last I saw of them.

I didn’t understand Lori’s problem. If only she would stop with the whole “I need a husband” nonsense and accept that life happens when you make other plans, maybe she might get her wish.

But it was good to meet someone who wrote for The Atlantic. I was pretty sure that Lori would read a few books on the subject, talk to some noted experts on relationships and human behavior, cite a few studies, and write a very thoughtful article without a single generalization about gender. After all, The Atlantic was a respected magazine that attracted only the best writers.

Or Maybe These Bozos Just Lack Basic Humility

Greta Christina: “It’s hard to know what exactly is going on with these guys. Is this some macho thing — the men get freaked out because men are supposed to be the sex-crazed ones who want it all the time, and if your woman wants it more than you do then that somehow makes you less of a man? Is it just a generic ‘blame your partner for your problems and differences’ reaction — you know, the classic ‘we want different things, I’m perfect, therefore my partner must be fucked-up’ logic? Is it something else entirely?” (via The Other)

Justin.TV: Hardly Exhibitionism

Justin.TV Guide: “Admit it. When you first heard about Justin.TV, your curiosity quickly wandered toward the scatalogical [sic] and the sexual. Justin has obviously had no qualms about the former, but the latter seems to have presented a line he’s not willing to cross. We’ve covered moments in the past where Justin has unplugged or pointed the camera away, so it’s perhaps no surprise that this landmark moment would similarly be censored. It’s still disappointing.”

Who Smiles at the Smilers?

New Scientist: “Women found the men who were being smiled at suddenly more attractive, while men who apparently elicited no such smiling approval were pronounced less attractive. Men, meanwhile, behaved in a strikingly different manner. They rated men who had been smiled at as less attractive. ‘Within-sex competition promotes negative attitudes towards men who are the target of positive social interest from women,’ the researchers conclude.”

7 More Questions

The Gray Lady has helpfully drafted a series of questions that couples should ask each other before marrying. I don’t know anyone who would base such a pivotal life choice on an article that could be easily clipped to the refrigerator, but in the interests of furthering many happy marriages, I present seven more questions:

16) If I were to take up a dangerous hobby like knife throwing, would you support me and possibly be my assistant? Even if it meant taking a hit on our life insurance rates?

17) Am I your sugar daddy/mommy? If I do not provide enough cash for your hobby/pipe dream, what might I be able to expect in the way of makeup sex?

18) If times are tough and we have no other way to get by, would it be okay with you if I put our five year old daughter on the meat market?

19) My inner sociopath is likely to kick in the minute you say, “I do.” Various sentiments that were fashionable during the Eisenhower administration might be in the cards. Still want in?

20) One of us is likely to gain weight shortly after we get hitched. Are we both committed to endless Lenten Dialogues and considerable pretending on the other’s part that we’re still physically attracted to each other?

21) There will come a point in which one or both of us will have an existential meltdown. Are you willing to help me emotionally and financially with my midlife crisis? Even if it means enduring an outdated muscle car parked for months in the driveway?

22) Would you marry me solely because I answered every question in a silly New York Times article?

Maybe It’s Wise to Maintain a Bachelor Desktop Model

Girlfriend 6.0 vs. Wife 1.0: “Wife 1.0 installs itself such that it is always launched at system initialization, where it can monitor all other system activity. He’s finding that some applications such as PokerNight 10.3, BeerBash 2.5, and PubNight 7.0 are no longer able to run in the system at all, crashing the system when selected (even though they always worked fine before). During installation, Wife 1.0 provides no option as to the installation of undesired Plug-Ins such as MotherInLaw 55.8 and BrotherInLaw Beta release. Also, system performance seems to diminish with each passing day.”

Schlotts and Coupling: An Uncredentialed Take on Human Relationships

If, like me, you are a Single Bipedal and Sentient Mammal Over Thirty (to which I shall apply the term “schlott,” if only to abridge such a pesky mouthful to a clearly ridiculous and monosyllabic term), inevitably there comes a point where a certain fatigue sets in. Schlotts of all ages experience a certain malaise, not exactly a hopelessness per se, but a lengthy moment in which the warm, witty and wonderful entity that a schlott has established themselves to be is compromised by the fact that their warm, witty and wonderful advances are wholly incompatible (often mistakenly perceived as incorrigible) with the fellow schlotts they flirt with – in short, the act of being rebuffed despite multiple attempts. This is what’s known in the retail world as the law of averages: the expectation that 10% of everyone you pitch will in fact buy something (read: go out with you) regardless of what you have to say. (See Figure 1.)

But what happens in the dating world, alas, is something more diabolical and complex. The law of averages does, in fact, apply. But what often happens is that, no matter how soundly hygienic, complimentary, scented, or scintillating you are, the fish, so to speak, often do not bite in any predetermined order. Meaning that it is possible for a schlott to flirt with 90 prospects, only to discover that the remaining 10% who will inevitably fall for the pitch, regardless of how frequently you flub your compliments or mangle your language (aided, no doubt, by nervousness and the ascension of intoxicants in some settings), resides at the end of the long and winding road. It is the inevitable moment of success which cannot be accounted for. Or the moment that arrives when a schlott finds someone, only to see his voicemails runneth over with other prospective ex-schlotts and somewhat embarrassed explanations to the compatible spirit and warm body who was kind and/or attracted enough to lie next to the initial schlott that the relationship is still nascent and exclusive, that there’s nothing here to worry about, and that the recently ex-schlott in question is the apple of the eye, the cat’s pajamas, the cream in the coffee, insert your affectionate term of art here.

But where the salesman often has a carefully selected list of leads at his disposal, the schlott, by contrast, only has eyes for the type of schlott he’d like to mate and cohabitate with at any particular moment. And his targets are often occluded by any number of failings (the amount of liquor imbibed, the veritable randiness which shows no sign of abating, and, in some schlotts, a telltale desperation) – in short, an arbitrary concern for aesthetics which often overrides the more common goal of finding someone nice to be with for a while or more.

Indeed, with a schlott, there exists a certain question of standards. If the schlott has sufficiently rebounded and pulled his act together after a bad breakup, then initially these standards work against the law of averages, while simultaneously operating in tandem with them. This may sound somewhat self-defeating of my basic hypothesis, but allow me to explain. As Figure 2 illustrates, in the early stages, where the schlott has perched his head like an groundhog affably surveying his surroundings on February 2, he may feel initially quite confident, settling for only the very best (i.e., to carry the metaphor further, the lingering shadow of his confidence may in fact allow that initial drop between the 10 and the 7 to abstain from effect for about six weeks or so; this is assuming, of course, that the schlott does indeed see his shadow). But perhaps the groundhog…er…schlott is possessed of certain delusions of grandeur. Rising above and beyond the sensible all of realistic expectations, he looks only for the potential 10 and completely abandons the more reasonable 7.

But in settling for the 10, the schlott precipitates his drop into the 2s. Because he is only setting himself up for disaster. Further, there is the question of whether the schlott’s overestimation of his own appeal may contribute to his decline and inevitable desperation. This certainly goes against the established law of averages. Thus, we have a situation in which the groundschlott should probably be more reasonable in his expectations or thus fall asunder.

But enough of these moribund dating projections! I am an uncredentialed scientist and I am already contemplating my own potential slide into the abyss. I blame the people who encouraged me to probe deeper into human coupling. And frankly, I try to leave my feelings out of these analyses. No doubt someone is having a laugh at my expense! Let us turn briefly then to the process of attraction.

Figure 3 illustrates the importance of first impressions. In some cases, a schlott may approach another schlott and fail to consider that his aesthetics should be thoroughly optimized to ensure maximum conversational potential. If the schlott has had too much to drink or is allowing a minor depression or abstraction to interfere from his initial conversational approach (sometimes referred to as “a pickup line”), then his likelihood of meeting the schlott law of averages will dramatically decrease.

Such is considered the norm at any rate. But there are often fluke scenarios whereby the “bad” impression may in fact yield a positive outcome, particularly if the other schlott shares in common the abstraction, depression, or, most likely, a high inebriation level. Experts in schlott social dynamics often refer to this as “the drunken rebound one-night stand” or the “mercy fuck,” but, more often than not, the sheer preternatural outcome of it all cannot be appropriately accounted or tabulated, save through the carnal biological impulses embedded within schlotts (and often married bipedals) which cause them to consummate with anything that moves.

Indeed, it goes without saying that the schlott dilemma is an overlooked and often depressing subject to dwell upon. Which is why the Society to Further Schlottism has asked me to not only produce these statistics, but provide a rosy bow with which to wrap this informational bauble. Yes, human beings need to procreate. Yes, they need companionship and affection. Yes, they need to break out of the misanthropic isolation chronicled in Mr. Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone. But for the schlott who is inhabiting the lower-right hand area of Figure 2, we have one bona-fide piece of advice to offer: Never underestimate the immediate benefits of masturbation. Also, if it’s time to lean, it’s time to clean.

(NOTE: This study has been paid for by the Society to Further Schlottism, in collusion with a grant from the Department of Half-Baked Empirical Research.)

Oedipus the Chat King

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A team of archeologists have unearthed an unfinished work from Sophocles entitled Oedipus the Chat King. What is particularly amazing about this excerpt is that it seems to closely match recent, but by no means confirmed, events. Return of the Reluctant has obtained an exclusive translation of Sophocles’ one act play. Please bear in mind that this is very rough and by no means a complete portrayal of Sophocles’ text. But we offer the rough translation in an effort to promote the humanities and give scholars a first look at this astonishing discovery.]


Here too my dialup has often lagged, for twice
At Creon’s instance have I called tech support
When losing a flirtatious email


My liege, beware! The prophecy! The prophecy!


These warnings I disregard, for she is sensuous
Well prepared to wear a hot pink tank top
To match the noble lips, two sets I’ll kiss upon the beach.
Her name: the beautiful Jocasta, jumpy and jocose
Willing to hole up in a Ramada Inn with room service
A fan of reenacting scenes from pornographic pay-per-view
With the nimblest fingers and a malleable mouth
How can I, Oedipus the Great Chat King, lose in the deal?
I know not her age, but she says she’s older
Experience, let us not forget, is a virtue.


Methinks he walks into the Venus Flytrap of anonymity
Whom thou art be careful with, given trannies
Sad sacks, stalkers, DSM-IV exemplars and liars
But this, O Noble Chat King, is not worth your while
Do not be blinded by a titilating faceless JPEG
Thou hath not seen her visage nor engaged in real-world chitchat
Beware, your highness! You’ll never live this down!


The chorus, despite my many bribes, is stentorian
Have they no respect for royalty?
It took me five years and many X-rays
To become the Great Chat King
This woman then, who hopes to shift in the sands
Is the most flawless type I have come across
But no more! Hark! She comes near now


Yoohoo! Chat King? Come closer so we might liplock
And take our sandy tangos to a hotel suite


The girl of my dreams! See her white shorts
Her trim legs. I cannot wait to sink my teeth
Into her bosom. Come nearer, Jocasta!
Let me taste your saliva and stroke your thighs


O Chat King! Your talk pumps the blood
In my varicose veins. I want you, Chat King.
I want to smell you and feel you close to my —
Dear lord!


But what is this astonishment, my love?
My — oh fuck! I wanted pizzazz, but —
Mom, could it be you? Ewwwwwwwwwww.


Let us speak nothing of this, son. It never happened.
It can never be uttered by —


The lights! The black and whites on the beach!
We’re done for!


Now, son, before you were born, I did many things
To talk my way out of a ticket. Indeed, talking was
The least of my worries.


Mother! Stop! They’re leading us away!
This terrible tale, foretold by the soothsayers,
Will be spread across the Internet!
I’ll never date again!


Hush hush, dear son. One-time Prince of Pleasure.
You trusted my poetry. Now trust my gift of gab.

[Here, the text ends. We leave our audience to judge what any of this means.]

They Abolished Slavery Thirty Years Before Us. So It’s Not Much of a Surprise.

BBC: “Under the law, couples who want to form a partnership must register their intentions with local councils. Unlike marriages, the signing of the legal partnership papers does not need to happen in public.”

In 1833, Parliament banned slavery across the British Empire.

The United States abolished slavery with the 13th Amendment in 1865.

So if we do the math, then we’ll see same-sex marriages legalized here in 2037.

In Short, God Dictates That Marital Conflicts Are Best Resolved by Fucking Your Spouse’s Brains Out

Mr. Jared Wilson may be my sworn rival, but this link of his is too unintentionally hilarious to pass up. Under “2. A Sexually fulfilled husband is a scriptural mandate.” (directed to women):

If the marriage is a satisfied one, both parties will see the other’s side. The man may realize his wife needs her sleep and, because of his love for her, lets her get that sleep. Or the wife may sacrificially decide that giving her body with joy to her husband is more important than those few minutes of slumber.

Some of these interludes, although they may start off rocky, can end up being great. But in so many marriages, when a spouse gets turned down, the seeds of bitterness are planted to the point where, later that day, the wife asks the husband to go to the grocery store and he says, “No, I can’t.”

“Why not? You’re just watching the game.”

“I’m busy.”

“You don’t look busy.”

“I don’t care what I look like, I’m busy.”

What’s going on here?

It’s a delayed reaction. Admittedly, while it’s a cheap shot, it happens all the time. The husband thinks, If she turns me down, I’ll turn her down.

And there’s this advice directed to men:

Good sex is an all-day affair. You can’t treat your wife like a servant and expect her to be eager to sleep with you at night. Your wife’s sexual responsiveness will be determined by how willingly you help out with the dishes, the kids’ homework, or that leaky faucet that drips.

This is difficult for many men to understand, in large part because we remove sex from every other part of our life. We think sex fixes things on its own—but it doesn’t do that for a woman. The context, the history, the current level of emotional closeness—all that directly affects your wife’s desire and enjoyment of sexual relations. A good lover works just as hard outside the bedroom as he does inside it.

Husbands, do you want a wife who has less stress, who’s more appreciative and respectful of you? Learn what pleases her sexually.

Who knew that Eisenhower-era views of marriage and sexual “empowerment” could all be tied together in one happy bow of naive resolution? Whacked out, to say the least.

Stop the Illegal Marriages in Texas!

The people of Texas have spoken. They have passed Proposition 2, which states:

This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

The time has come for Texas to form the Marriage Police to enforce this law. We need to see special forces units bursting into homes and tearing husbands and wives apart. All marriages must be annulled! No more marriages can happen! This is the will of the Texas people and the letter of the law.

Since sodomy was legislated as a misdemeanor (until State v. Morales, 869 S.W. 2d 941 overturned it), and there is a spirit among Texas voters to legislate against any unsual sort of sex outside of marriage, and since, after passing Proposition 2, there is likely a considerable sum of illegal marriages now being practiced among some 20 million Texans, we must therefore conclude that sex within marriage is the only acceptable form that Texas supports. Of course, since Texas can no longer “create or recognize any legal status identical to marriage,” the time has come to arrest any Texan copulating with someone they may identify as “spouse.” There shall no longer be any marriages in Texas and there shall no longer be any fornication outside of marriage. Which means, in short, that there can no longer be any fornication at all!

I trust the majority of the Texas people, who have always been a pigheaded and law-abiding sort, to enforce this law fully, starting of course with George and Laura Bush, who were married on November 5, 1977 at the Glass Chapel of First United Methodist Church in Midland, Texas. Give this “First Lady” her marching orders right now, George. Your Texas marriage is no longer recognized and you are, as a result, living in sin. In the White House no less! Or marry her in another state, if you truly want to preserve the legal status of your marriage.

Lovebirds in Prison

If, like me, you’re looking for that special someone, it’s always good to keep your options open. But if you’re the type to play with fire in this department, thankfully, the shady folks over at Meet an Inmate have set up what may very well be the 21st century’s answer to the mail order bride (particularly given increasing incarnation rates). If you are a red-blooded male, for only $3 each, you can obtain the contact information for a prison inmate of your choice. (Male addresses are free. So you’re in luck, ladies!) Match.com, schamtch.com! The site has categorized the inmates by age — all of them featuring a picture. For each entry, you’ll find out the release date and what “activities in prison” each inmate is involved in. But, strangely enough, you won’t get the answer on what the inmate’s doing time for. (Well, I suppose you need to maintain enigma somewhere.)

If you’re willing to accept a potential lover’s “ruthless past”, into girl next door types who aren’t into shortcuts or you’re a 50-60 year old man into Geminis who work out, then the sky’s the limit!

Sure, your potential sweetheart might have stabbed someone in the back (literally!) or might be able to give some video game junkie-cum-romantic the real definition of “grand theft auto.” But if Hollywood treacle is any reliable indicator of life, then I think we can all agree that “love conquers all.”

Single Men Over Thirty, Couples and Kids

Here is a theorem for single men:

Where subvariable (s) = single, subvariable (c) = coupled, and T = frequency of talking:

M(s) = [T(c)/45] + [T(kids) * 722]
M(c) + F(c) = [30 * T(c)] – T(kids) ad infinitum*

Equations assume 35 > M(age) > 30. M(c) + F(c) need not have kids, but variables need have participated in stable relationship for at least two years in order to qualify. See notes below.

* — T(kids) in this equational context excludes talk and M(c) + F(c), if applicable, looking after one’s own children, which, if properly caluclated, is T(kids.own) multiplied by negative six billion.

* * *

For those of you too addled from the weekend to do the math, let me explain.

Every so often, I go to parties and social occasions to meet people, check up on friends and ensure that they are doing okay, and that all is right with the universe. But I’ve found that something quite interesting has happened at these affairs. Namely that I am, for the most part, the only single man there.

Oh, sometimes, I’ll bring a girlfriend along. But because I am not engaged or betrothed in some vaguely Judeo-Christian way to said girlfriend, because there hasn’t been any “life partner” status assigned to the relationship (with the apparent imprimatur only detectable by those who have met the accepted prerequisites, which is two years of stability and other ancillary variables best not revealed here), it usually does not count. The relationship, by dint of being under the two year mark (which seems an especially interminable time to obtain this social credibility), does not permit single men to legitimately socialize with bona-fide couples. After all, these couples are the ones buying the homes, starting the families, having the babies, and undergoing incredible neuroses which genuinely pertain to burgeoning careers. What are single men over thirty doing? Flirting with women, drinking beer without a life partner enforcing Stasi-style regulations over the precise quantities imbibed, not yet giving up on the more obscure offerings of contemporary music (and, in some gloomy cases, console video game systems), and perpetually delaying that moment in which they’ll eventually have to settle down. These aren’t bad things, per se. But compared with the couples, these lifestyle choices are rather pedantic by comparison. Not in the single man’s mind, of course. Then again, one can’t imagine revealing these so-called “accomplishments” to one’s family without getting back serious reservations, let alone interminable titters.

What does happen, however, is that if I am one of the only single men at a party, inevitably I find myself surrounded by kids. And not only surrounded by them, but actively engaging them in conversation about the nature of the universe and contemplating some harmless Dennis the Menace-style mischief. I am not sure if these children look at me and say to themselves, “This guy is fun. He can be trusted.” I am not sure if it is because I talk to them as if they are my peers, often scaling down my ten-cent words to ensure that they’ll understand what I’m talking about (strangely, a substantial cluster of adults are prepared to speak belittlingly to kids at every opportunity and I’ve never understood this, given that kids are often capable of the most original perceptions). I am not sure if it’s because their young and nimble minds perform the pivotal arithmetic, seeing Single Man Over Thirty negotiating the tricky waters (read: trying to transmute beyond third wheel status) of a conversation with an M(c)+F(c) coupling or three, and immediately ascertaining that they are going to be a more effective draw.

Whatever the reasons, I generally end up talking with kids.

I really don’t mind this, as I remain a bachelor and an urban dweller. In my neighborhood, if I see a child, he is often strapped down, whether by a seatbelt or by duct tape only the parenting experts can say, in a moving vehicle, with some vigilant parent urging the child not to look at the glitz or the riff-raff and remain focused, no doubt, on abstractions related to domestic well-being. In other words, if I do see kids, it is not generally in their native environment, which involves curiosity, play and the formation of associations. I see children congregated in the backs of MUNI buses, remarking on the latest hip-hop prodigy or that boy they like or that bitch getting all the attention in fifth period, or, particularly at cultural functions, under the martinet eyes of protective parents hoping that this restriction will make the experience of processing art somehow enlightening and favorable upon the child.

I should point out that I am not adverse to kids (far from it), that I am not jealous of other couples who are together and happy, and that I am quite happy to be single. I am merely bemused by this all.

Almost the minute that I turned 30, all of my friends suddenly revealed themselves to be married. Never mind that I had attended weddings. Six year old kids appeared out of nowhere, as if they had been quietly kept from my knowledge, presumably locked in closets like feral children from the wild that are only just adapting to civilization. Perhaps the fault here is mine, given that the endless well-wishes and gifts I offered over the years were, indeed, more seminal than I estimated. But the kids eventually grew up and, in turn, these children began seeking me out as if I were the 21st Century’s answer to the Pied Piper. And it all happened almost immediately after I turned thirty. At twenty-nine, the couples still talked to me, perhaps finding some explicit disparity between the lives they once lived (single) and a living exemplar of such (me, a single man). Perhaps thirty served as the line of demarcation. Any unmarried and unattached man beyond that mark was either an embarassment, had little in common with these pristine and hermetically sealed family lives, or was left to flail his arms on his own in the cold and choppy oceans of singledom.

Now for those of you who paid attention to the initial equation, you may have noticed the thirty-five cap. This is because once one’s hair has mostly receded, and once the flecks of gray in one’s hair are more promiment, there is apparently a detente in relation to the previously unabated struggles in talking with couples. One has marched long and hard into the jungles and emerged from the other side, mostly unscathed and certainly with far too many empty scotch bottles behind him. The post-35 single male is either “eccentric” or mature enough to be talked to by other couples. Keep in mind too that there are inevitable dissolutions of some of these relationships, meaning that a 35 year old single male is a hot commodity among divorcees of the same age and those looking to set said divorcées (and, for that matter, divorcés) up.

Presumably, at 35, there is also some change in the relationship between single men and kids. Since single men over 35 are suddenly more palatable, the kids now pass this type of single man over. Being well-adjusted (har har), the kids look towards the fresh meat of single men within the age of 30 and 35.

The rest of us pre-35 single males must then either find a mate, certifiable as a “life partner” for the appropriate peers and authorities, or must contend ourselves with children, the latter certainly not a taxing proposition. Until, of course, we then have to clarify to certain unscrupulous couples that we are, in fact, not gay, despite living in San Francisco, our love of showtunes and our apparently quite strange single status.

An Open Letter to Fake Squealy Women

Dear Fake Squealy Women:

First off, allow me to distinguish between you and your counterparts: specifically, those genuinely squealy women or women with naturally adenoidal voices. I have no specific grievance towards this particular population cluster. Because they are, at least, authentic. Rather, my beef is with you.

Here’s the way it works: Every so often, as I listen or otherwise get my tongue tied up in knots over you, you open your mouth and begin to talk back, thus beginning an amicable colloquy. With most women, this is quite pleasant and intoxicating — particularly if you are smart, sexy and playful. But, with you, fake squealy women, what transpires during this rejoinder is something infinitely disheartening. You see, instead of responding with a natural voice, you decide to adopt a squealy and nasal air, as if the entire world has somehow transformed into helium and entered the confines of your skulls. There is a decided effort and highly noticable inflection in the words you speak. There is often fake laughter directed at statements we make that are not, in fact, jokes but sober ruminations that we are intending to share with you and feel you out on. Yet somehow you think that we have absconded with Oscar Wilde’s throne. What you put on here is clearly a performance. And yet you insist that this is the way you naturally talk. Little do you realize, fake squealy women, that despite being male and relatively clueless, we are not dumb. We do in fact talk with your friends and ferret out the truth.

Even in non-dating circumstances, fake squealy women, you still do this, particularly if you are employed in the public relations or human resources department. Why is this? Do you want to perpetuate this heinous gender divide? Do you want to sustain the atavistic notion that women are somehow dumber than men? Do you not realize how unbecoming and unattractive these faux oxygen-sapping vocal inflections are? Do you not realize, fake squealy women, that when you are over thirty and still doing this that you come across not as cute but sad?

My obsession with sex and the female anatomy is no less ineluctable, juvenile and boundless than that of my colleagues. Nevertheless, there is a clear line of demarcation between putting on a funny voice for a bit of adolescent fun and objectifying yourself by completely coming across as an idiotic airhead (when you are likely smarter). I’m hoping that I can appeal to all of you to stop this damn nonsense and speak with your genuine voices. When you have a conversation with a man longer than five minutes, I should point out that the man is not a policemen and this is not a speeding ticket that you are talking yourself out of.

Or perhaps, fake squealy women, you’re terrified of being yourself.

Very truly yours,

Edward Champion


Heather Harvrilesky has the perfect response to a passive long-distance relationship:

This is how you find the man/woman of your dreams, stupids: You refuse to waste time on the man/woman of your loneliness-fueled spreadsheets. And if you can’t get worked up over anyone… well, Jesus, what is wrong with you? Can you get worked up over anything at all? Here in LA, lots of people wax romantic about movies, but when it comes to their real lives, they’re fucking numb and alienated and don’t see the raw thrill, the breathtaking drama of every little minute. Blahblahblah boringcakes, motherfuckers! The girl who made you your coffee this morning has beautiful green eyes, and she paints weird portraits of her customers and keeps chocolate and rope stashed in her nightstand and she reads books about gardening and she knows what she wants. You could spend the next two months in bed, honkwinders, getting tied up and eating chocolate and watching old movies in the middle of the night. You could be swooning and sighing and feeling like the world is opening up like a flower. So why are you watching “Survivor” with that guy who bores the shit out of you, and pisses you off, and doesn’t give a flying fuck about how you feel, ever, and mostly just wants you to get to the point and stop crying? Why are you heating up canned soup and wondering about the long-term viability of negotiating a reasonably satisfying coexistence with someone 3,000 miles away?

Match.com — Maintaining the Status Quo Since 1995

Well, if Haggis can do it, so’s can I. The Match.com Physical Attraction Test, purportedly millions of dollars and years in the making, is a disturbing image-oriented Flash thing that asks you such terrible questions as “If these were the only five women left on Earth, who could you tolerate?” Now how the hell can any vaguely humanistic-minded person answer that? Well, dear readers, you’d be surprised by how quickly you cross into darkness. Particularly if, like me, you’ve seen The Omega Man and Logan’s Run more times than medically recommended.

Make no mistake: This test is fucking evil. The phrasing of questions makes this test perfectly designed for nihilists, pyromaniacs and armageddon enthusiasts. Namely, people like me. Worse still, it’s all visual. Never mind if the lady I was sharing a sleeping bag in a post-apocalyptic Times Square could quote Robert Burns or engage in mischevious banter. There was a stage in this that reminded me of Press Your Luck, whereby you’re supposed to single out women you can’t stand. Except, in my case, I was concentrating on the women that I’d have no problem spending six lifetimes lovin’ and found it difficult for my libido-charged mind to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.

The results would indicate otherwise:

The choices you made in the test suggest you have strong, automatic preferences for certain types of women. You made your choices quickly suggesting you have clear physical instincts.

Uh, maybe because I’m a dude and I’m more visual-minded, mayhaps? Or I was clicking desperately on the choices to make this hard Hobson’s choice objectification stop? You make the call, Match.com. You evil bastards.

But onwards.

My Favorite Features:

  • Your photo choices suggest a woman over 55 is probably getting a little old for your tastes (Seems a sick Freudian joke to start this out with.)
  • You seemed interested in dating a woman at least 30 or older (Yeah.)
  • So-called “Ecto-Mesomorphs,” with narrow chins and nicely angular faces (What the hell is this, Ghostbusters?)
  • Blue eyes (Oh, don’t get Kristallnacht on me, muthafuckas.)
  • Light brown hair (This morning, maybe.)
  • Wavy hair (Yeah.)
  • Straight hair (Yeah. But doesn’t that contradict my previous choice?)
  • Medium-length hair (Not quite.)

Unique Traits:

  • Sometimes, you like younger women, by a good gap. (Saturday night after a lot of Jamican rum? Yeah, a roll in the hay with an undergrad ain’t bad.)
  • Sometimes, you like women over 5 years older than you. (Damn straight.)
  • More unique than “mainstream” appeal (Fuck Maxim, anorexia and silicone implants.)
  • Thin, angular faces with a classic or refined look (Bingo again, but only if they look like Liz Scott or Ann Sheridan. Not that your culturally amnesia-charged minds would know anything about that.)
  • Cute, button or small noses (Cute? Fuck no. But I do like interesting noses.)
  • Glasses and the sophisticated and smart look that goes with them (What can I say? Me like smart women.)
  • You appreciate someone with a few extra pounds (As opposed to, say, the starving waifs you presented me with? Jesus, does “plus size” these days mean anyone who has more than one meal a day? If so, count me in.)

Not Your Type:

  • Women over age 55 (Again with the Freudian shit.)
  • Women under age 30 (Maybe because I might have, you know, specified this at the beginning of the test?)
  • High “mainstream” appeal, with little unique flair (We’ve covered this, I think.)
  • Long and narrow “rectangular” faces (Only if someone paid me to kiss Bruce Campbell.)
  • Thin lips (Yup, labia latitude’s a plus.)
  • Black hair (No. Anyone who knows about my obsession with Jennifer Connelly will testify to this.)
  • Curly hair (Not necessarily.)
  • Women of Black/African descent (Oh, bullshit. You want to play the fucking race card, Match.com? I clicked on hot mommas of all ethnic dispositions, as your “Maybe” photo collection, asking me why, will attest. Maybe because they’re, uh, hot? You didn’t exactly present a lot. Something like ten out of 100?)
  • Hispanic or Latino women (See above.)

How You Compare to Other Men:

4% Very attracted to women my type
14% Attracted to women my type
21% Somewhat attracted to women my type
61% Not at all attracted to women my type

Yeah, mofo! How you like me now, Match.com?

Body Types:

One body type that seems to appeal to you is scientifically called “Endomorph,” which roughly translates into solid, “plus-sized” women. She’s not overweight, but her big bones and large frame make her hard to miss. Endomorphs are definitely curvier than the other body types, with hips that are wide in proportion to shoulders. Although she is prone to gain weight over her lifetime, at this point she doesn’t have a “pot belly” or “love handles,” just nice womanly curves! As she ages and puts on weight, she usually carries it in her hips and butt. This type usually makes up 7% of single women. Telling signs of this body type include wide and curved jaws, round faces, “chubby cheeks,” a girlish look, a very short and wide neck, plus larger legs and butts.

In other words, the kind of woman that people had no problem with in 1962, but that carries a stigma today. Or as Elizabeth Hurley once said, “I’d kill myself if I was as fat as Marilyn Monroe.”

Breast Size:

While you may enjoy looking at different breast sizes, based upon the choices you made, you prefer a well-endowed woman with much larger breasts.

And while you’re conveying this earth-shattering piece of news, why not expound on the Third Law of Thermodynamics while you’re at it?

My Ideal Match:

matchcom2.jpgReese Witherspoon? I must confess, I like her as an actress. But, dear Match.com, you clearly do not understand the kind of women I fantasize about while I’m jerking off. As such, you have proven your test, purportedly millions of dollars and years in the making, to be irrelevant and silly.

But there’s a far larger issue here: Within seconds of taking the test, you sent me a list of profiles of women who “matched” my purported ideal. That may be fine and dandy with the Sears catalog set, but that disturbs me on multiple levels, Match.com.

So I have to ask, Match.com. Since you’re in the business of profiting off of instant objectifying of the opposite gender, how do you sleep at night?

Hustle Cussler Outta There

Clive Cussler has sued a production company over an unauthorized script. My hope is that he wins. Not because of the suit’s merits (or lack thereof), mind you, but a quiet $10 million payoff may stop Cussler from writing novels. That would be a truly philanthropic act.

More on Rushdie. He’s got a movie deal lined up. The Firebird’s Nest is a romance between an older man and a younger gal (even starring Rushdie’s girlfriend, a younger gal), but this is not — repeat, not — based on Rushdie’s life. (via Bookslut)

Ken Kesey’s 1967 jail journal will be published. It includes “two dozen color plates of collages Kesey made from ink drawings entwined with his handwritten reflections laid down in notebooks smuggled out by a buddy who got busted with him.”

The Elegant Variation demolishes the 2 Blowhards’ movie/book people argument (in fine satirical form, natch): “By the way, do you notice that (at least based on the movie people we know), he hasn?t really described your average movie person, but rather your average video store geek? And I?m willing to bet that if he?d been seated beside Tarantino at a dinner party before he?d made it big, he?d have found him an annoying little pest.”

Nell Freudenberger has compelling words of wisdom: “But then, ignorance is no excuse. It?s obvious to me now that you can do a terrible thing by accident.” Yes indeed. There are lots of things you can do by accident. Such as turning in a silly Yank-centric piece to Granta without so much as a major observation on Laotian culture, history or behavior. The essay, ironically enough, is part of Granta‘s “Over There: How Americans See the World” theme. But I’ll take J. Robert Lennon’s goofy piece over Freudenberger’s any day. Paula Fox has a essay up too, but you’ll have to pony up the clamshells for the hard copy.

And Rachel Greenwald believes that you can snag a husband with a push-up bra. But she fails to account for the fact that some men (myself included) assess the goods (if they can be called that or given a pronoun) naked and in private, conditions when said boobies are unhindered by faux, painful support, and that boobies, while spiffy, are a fringe benefit, rather than the chief draw. (via Sarah)