Friday, July 30, 2010

The Ivory Tower

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my department, which is making some changes to the freshman composition classes. They've decided to add more required textbooks to the curriculum, which means that the students will each have to spend more than a hundred dollars on textbooks for one class. This ranks right up there with the decision made by another school I taught at years ago; they decided to increase the number of pages that the students were required to complete in one semester. Who do the students end up resenting? Me.

If it were up to me, the students would only need one book for my writing classes, because I could just give them articles and other handouts in class for additional readings. And I wouldn't assign so many papers in one semester, because that's just more stuff I have to grade.

Whenever I watch TV shows about people in their twenties, I see people traveling around the world, going to parties and clubs, and hanging out with friends at bars or coffeehouses. But because I chose to pursue a career in academia, my twenties could pretty much be summed up like this:

I do like teaching. I like standing up in front of a classroom full of students and teaching them what I know about writing and literature. I like that "a-ha" moment they get when they finally understand what I'm teaching them. It's nice when they show me books they've been reading that are related to what we're studying in class, because they were so interested in it that they wanted to learn more. I like being able to see improvements in their work over the course of a semester, and it gives me a sense of satisfaction to know that I had something to do with that. I like that no matter how many times I teach the same class, it's never the same because the students are different and always bring something new to the class.

But I don't like being an adjunct instructor. When you work as an adjunct, you're hired on an as-needed basis, which means that you never know how many classes you'll get to teach each year, or if you'll get any classes at all. If the full-time instructors' classes don't fill up, then they get to take the adjuncts' classes. Universities will spend millions of dollars on providing resources for the students and renovating the buildings to attract more students, yet they don't give insurance or benefits to its adjunct instructors.

I thought that once I became a college teacher, I wouldn't have to work minimum wage jobs anymore. But teaching part-time at one school is not enough to pay the bills, so for more than five years I've always had to work two or three jobs at the same time. I usually teach at two schools, and then I work a third job that usually pays minimum wage. It always bothered me that I could get insurance and benefits as a part-time retail associate, but not as an adjunct instructor. Not to mention the pay is not that much better for adjuncts.

Adjuncts have very little say in how the department runs; most of the time, we don't even get to go to the department meetings. We don't get our own offices, either; I taught at one school where one office was shared by more than fifty adjuncts. We had to schedule times when we could use the few desks that were in there, and we had to practically arm-wrestle each other for use of the office computer.

I'm pursuing my Ph.D. so that I can hopefully get a full-time teaching job. Even if I don't get a tenure-track job, I'd be happy having a job where I don't have to scrounge for enough work to pay the bills every month. I'd be happy to be able to just have one job that pays enough to support myself. But I have to admit that I've wanted to drop out of graduate school at least a hundred times.

Grad school is a full-time job, but it doesn't pay enough to live on, which is another reason why I have to work so many jobs. In addition to teaching, I have to work on my dissertation, publish articles in academic journals that are apparently only read by other academics, and present my research at conferences. Grad school is also the reason I can't get a regular full-time job rather than rely on adjunct jobs, because it takes up so much time.

If any of my students were to ask me for advice about an academic career, I wouldn't encourage them to become professors. I wouldn't discourage them, either; if it's what they really wanted to do, then who am I to stop them? But I'd tell them that they have to be prepared to pay a lot of dues. While other people their age are climbing up the corporate ladder or earning enough money to buy houses and travel around the world, they'll still be in school. And even after all those years and all that hard work and effort, there's no guarantee that they'll find a full-time teaching job. No PRESSURE, or anything.

I am a workaholic, and I don't think I'd be happy if I stopped working altogether. I think the fact that I am a workaholic is one reason I've been able to survive academia for this long, because you can't work in this field if you want a job that leaves you with a lot of free time. But sometimes I wish I had chosen a career that didn't make my hair start turning white before I turned thirty.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Looks Matter

I don't get excited anymore when I start communicating with a new guy on eharmony, because so many guys have disappeared by the time we got to the third phase of communication, which consists of open-ended questions and comes right before regular e-mails. I was communicating with one guy this week, and surprise, surprise! He disappeared by the third phase. This is the TENTH time this has happened!

This picture accurately describes how I feel right now:

Another thing that is bugging me about online dating is the large number of guys who don't post any pictures on their profiles; instead, they'll put "request photo" where their pictures should be. Interestingly enough, many of these guys describe themselves as "physically fit".

I started a discussion forum a few days ago on 20 Something Bloggers about whether looks matter in dating, and I asked if anyone would respond to a personal ad without a picture. Pretty much everyone said no, and I have to agree with them. As I've stated in an earlier post, no physical attraction is pretty much a dealbreaker for me.

A couple people on the forum, though, were critical of me. One guy said, "How is this even a question?", which made me feel bad about asking. But I think that it is important, because everyone has their own ideas about physical attraction, and not all of those ideas match up with each other. Another guy criticized me for not putting my own picture up on my blog, but I think that there's a big difference between putting a picture of myself on my blog and putting one up on my dating profile. And I have several pictures of myself on my profile, and I told him so. Although what I really wanted to do was get a wooden mallet and...No. I can't do that.

Anyway, looks aren't everything, but they do matter to some extent. Yes, personality is more important, because even the best-looking guy can turn ugly if he does something like treat a waiter rudely or flirt with another girl on our date.

But let's be honest. When you see someone walking down the street, you don't think, "I bet that person is very honest and funny!" No. You think, "Nice hair," or "Nice eyes", or "Okay, I think I'm going to pass out now, because DAMN!"

What do I find attractive? It's hard to say. I like to think that you don't get to choose who you fall for; it just happens. On the one hand, I do think George Clooney is cute.

But then again, who doesn't? (And if you think he isn't cute, I'm afraid I'll have to get out my wooden mallet again.)

But on the other hand, I also think Justin Long is cute, and he's pretty much the opposite of George Clooney.

And there are a lot more guys who look like Justin Long in real life than George Clooney. And frankly, it's not like I look like Heidi Klum either.

But if I look at a picture on an online profile and feel the urge to run in the opposite direction, then I figure I should keep looking. I do read through each profile, but I've found that the guys who don't put up any pictures of themselves don't have a lot of information written on their profiles either. The guys who do have pictures up often will write several paragraphs worth of details about themselves, and those are interesting to read. But the guys who don't have pictures will use just a few words to describe themselves, and I have to say that in this case, less is not more.

Friday, July 23, 2010

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

I've been reading on more than one site that one good way to promote your blog is through Twitter. I'm probably one of the few people of my generation who doesn't have a Twitter page, partly because I'm prejudiced against it; several of my students update their Twitter pages during my classes and that makes me turn into Professor Angry Face.

Also, up until recently, I wasn't entirely sure what Twitter is. And I couldn't immediately see what all the fuss was about. Why would I want to write brief updates on what I was doing several times a day? I mean, other than the romantic encounters with a guy who looks like George Clooney and my weekly car chases where I go after people who cut in front of me in line, I lead a fairly uneventful life.

If I was to have a Twitter page, it would probably look like this:

Just shoved a guy who brushed his hand against my chest on the sidewalk. He claimed it was an accident.

Yeah right loser. Watch me accidentally push you into traffic.

Having lunch at a restaurant in Wicker Park. Waiter keeps giving me weird looks.

Maybe because am the only one in here without multiple piercings and tattoos.

Stop staring at me stop staring at me stop staring at me WHAT?

Oh. Was looking at customer next to me, who seems to have passed out on table.

And now he's snoring.

Cute guy in restaurant looked at me. Was cool until I choked on my hamburger.

What's IN this? Now cute guy thinks I'm weird.

Got yelled at in grocery store by lady who was blocking my way. She started yelling when I said excuse me.

Oh yeah? Well maybe you should say hello to my little friend. He's called Febreze and I'm not afraid to use it.

Just updated my blog post, "Why My Blog is Awesome".

Got e-mail from eharmony guy I e-mailed more than a week ago. Why so late response?

Feel like telling him to shove it.

Then again, might not. Am curious.

Just got back from gym. Succeeded in not tripping over machines like last time.

Am supposed to be working on dissertation. Watched Law and Order instead.

Got e-mail from student in fall class. Student wants detailed description of every assignment so can work ahead.

Feel like telling him to...oh, can't say it. Too unteacherly.

Unteacherly is a word. So there.

Supposed to be completing projects for website job. Watched Criminal Minds instead.

Maybe should stop watching so many shows about criminals. Maybe should watch show about vampires instead.

What's so sexy about a vampire whose natural instinct is to kill you? Do not get it.

Maybe should try watching Real Housewives.

And now remote control is broken because kept whapping sofa with it every time Housewife said something stupid.

As it stands now, I probably won't get a Twitter page anytime soon. The only reason I'd get a Twitter page would be to promote my blog. I don't think that's enough of a reason to have a page because then I'd probably just get bored with Tweeting really fast. Also, because I hate to talk on the phone and I hate texting even more, I haven't updated my cell phone in years (though I probably should). So I don't have one of those fancy, hi-tech phones that would make it easy to Tweet whenever I want.

One of the blogs I follow, Date me, D.C.! (it's a great blog! check it out!) mentioned the blogger's thoughts on starting a vlog. I finally figured out how to record myself on my web cam. And no, I didn't go all Jenna Jameson on it (I never would, partly because she kind of scares me. Don't know why. I have a lot of irrational fears, including my fear of being kidnapped by clowns); I just figured it might be cool to upload videos of myself as a way to do something different on my blog.

But I don't think I'll do that anytime soon either. Anyone who knew me would probably be able to figure out who I am because of what I write on this blog. But at the same time I'd rather stay anonymous online, at least for now. I like the idea of being (mostly) unknown.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Things We Do for Followers

A couple weeks ago, I received a note from a fellow blogger on 20 Something Bloggers. This person complimented me on my blog, telling me how much she liked it, and included a link to her own blog. I was flattered by the compliment, but then I started thinking. If she liked the blog so much, why didn't she become a follower?

I checked the blogger's profile, and looked at the comments she had left on other people's profiles. As it turns out, she had left the exact same compliment on dozens of other blogs; many of the people were flattered and became her followers.

Somehow, it made me think of this guy who was one of the matches that eharmony thought would be compatible with me. He only had one picture up on his profile; it was a picture of Daniel Craig. I mean, really? It's bad enough when guys don't put up any pictures at all on their profiles (and a significant number of the matches I've been sent don't post any pictures). But if you're going to put up a fake picture to attract people, DON'T put up one of an A-list movie star; everyone's going to know IMMEDIATELY that it's a fake. The guy took down the fake picture a few hours later, but I had to wonder if any women actually responded to him.

I recently entered my blog on blogged and blogcatalog, which are two blog directories that people use to publicize their blogs and promote their own writing. One blogger from blogcatalog posted a thread in one of the discussion forums; it went something like this:

Stay AWAY from the blogger who writes about Beanie Babies; she is a LIAR. She said she would follow my blog if I followed hers, but she DIDN'T and now she's going to HELL because she LIED and even though all 5 of my followers think that I am simply FASCINATING, this person is a LIAR and she should be banned from the blogosphere FOREVER and...

Ok, so the blogger didn't actually write that. But his message was pretty much the same. He was very angry that the person whose blog he was following didn't return the favor; incidentally, this angry blogger happens to be from my hometown.

I've gotten several messages from fellow bloggers on and blogcatalog who leave messages like, "Check out my blog; follow my blog and I'll follow yours." But the people who have contacted me through these directories have blogs about stuff like technology and politics, neither of which interest me very much.

There have been several discussion threads about this on 20sb, about bloggers who are trying to figure out how to get more followers; there was a discussion thread recently about whether people followed other people's blogs in order to get them to follow theirs. Although the discussion forums on 20sb are meant to promote discussion topics on everything from grad school to dating to jobs, many people will simply create a discussion thread to promote their own blogs. Although I have met many awesome bloggers through 20sb, I have to admit that the self-promotion that other bloggers (not the ones that I think are awesome) do on this community does get a little annoying sometimes.

I follow several blogs, but not as many as some people do. The number one reason is that I don't have a lot of time to read everyone's blogs. I found the blogs I'm following now from other people's blog rolls. They stood out because they were funny, interesting, and the bloggers wrote about stuff that I could relate to. But if I choose not to follow someone's blog, it's nothing personal. I can't explain why I don't follow someone's blog, because there isn't always just one reason. And I don't think I really owe an explanation anyway. If someone reads my blog and likes it enough to be a follower, then great. If not, oh well. And either way, I'm not willing to follow someone's blog just so they'll follow mine, you know?

What about you? What makes you decide to follow someone's blog? Have you ever unfollowed anyone? How do you get more people to follow your blog?

Friday, July 16, 2010

First Date Anxieties

The thing about being neurotic is that I worry about EVERYTHING. I can't help it; I've been that way ever since I was a kid. I'm not quite sure why.

Before I go on a date with someone for the first time, I go into full-on freakout mode, because I'm never quite sure what to expect, especially if the date is with someone I met online.

I'm standing in front of the mirror, examining my reflection. Is that a zit? I didn't see it this morning. Oh, jeez, the stress of this impending date is making me break out. What if I end up looking like the "before" picture in one of those pimple cream commercials? What if he takes one look at me and runs in the opposite direction? What if he starts laughing when he sees me, and says, "Yeah. This is NOT going to happen." What if he takes a picture of me with his camera phone and posts it on a website titled "Girls you should NEVER date"?

My nose feels like it's running. I reach for a Kleenex to blow my nose, and OH DEAR GOD, my nose is BLEEDING! The blood is just GUSHING out of my nose! Now it's getting on my clothes! I look like I should be in a horror movie! I'm one prom dress away from being Carrie!

Thirty-seven tissues later, my nose finally stops bleeding. I wash my face and change my clothes. Is what I'm wearing too revealing? Is it not revealing enough? Maybe I shouldn't button my blouse all the way up to the neck. But I don't want to give him the wrong idea. Maybe I should wear a blouse without buttons. Or maybe I should just cancel the date altogether.

It's a good thing I agreed to meet him at the restaurant. They always say you shouldn't let the guy pick you up on the first date, because he might turn out to be a stalker. What if he is a stalker? What if he got my address somehow and is lurking outside? I better check. Oh no! Is that him across the street? He's WATCHING ME right now and I have to call the police and I'm just going to stay single FOREVER and....oh, wait. That's not him. That's an old woman with her dog. Well. In the dark, it KIND of looked like him.

What if he doesn't like me? What if I don't like him? How long should I let the date last if we don't like each other? Is twenty minutes enough? What are we supposed to do after dinner? Do I suggest drinks? But I don't like to drink alcohol. I can't take him to a bar and only drink soda. Or can I? Maybe I shouldn't drink soda during the date; I'll just end up getting even more hyper. But what if he wants to go to a bar? What if we get to the bar and he dumps me for a go-go dancer? What if he expects me to know how to dance just like a go-go dancer?

I'm ready to go. I just have to put on my shoes and OOPS! I just fell over. I was walking too fast and I tripped on my shoes and what if I do that in front of him? I better not wear a skirt; I don't want to end up revealing TOO much if I do fall over. Then I would DEFINITELY give him the wrong idea.

Okay. Stand up, dust myself off. I can do this. I can spend the evening with a complete stranger who may or may not be some kind of freak who will try to brainwash me into joining his religion where animals rule over humans. Stop. He might be nice. But then again he might be the type of guy who makes me seriously consider joining a convent.

I start walking towards the place where we agreed to meet. What if I show up too early? Maybe I'll just walk around the neighborhood until we're supposed to meet. But then what if he shows up early and sees me walking up and down the street and thinks that I'm trying to ditch him? What if he ditches me? What if he ditches me for the waitress who just happens to moonlight as a go-go dancer?

As I get closer to the restaurant, my hands start sweating and I wipe them off on my clothes. Hopefully that didn't leave a stain. Maybe I shouldn't eat anything. Then I might stain my clothes and he'll think I'm a messy eater and then he'll never call me again. Or maybe he'll be a messy eater, like that guy who sprayed pieces of his salad at me on the last date I went on.

I open the door to the restaurant and look around. What if he doesn't show? Wait...he's here!

He's sitting at a table by the window, and he stands up when he sees me. He holds out his hand. "Hi!" he says.

"Hi," I say. And at that moment, all I feel is....


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dating Deal Breakers

I haven't been communicating with anyone on eharmony lately, because almost all of the matches they've been sending me lately have made me run away in terror. Okay, well, that's not entirely true. But I have been cringing a lot when I read the profiles and look at the pictures, and that's not really a good thing, is it?

I'm thinking of switching back to when my membership expires, but I like the way that eharmony works. I like that I don't have to comb through a bunch of profiles, and that eharmony just sends me the matches. I like that I haven't gotten any creepy e-mails from creepier guys. I also like that they don't have the IMing feature on this site, because when I was on okcupid I kept getting IMs from guys who kept "suggesting" stuff to me that included four-letter words.

Maybe I should just take a break from dating. But I'm 29, which is practically 30, which means that soon I'll start talking about mortgages, which means I'll have to buy a house so that I can get a mortgage, which means that in eleven years I'll be 40 and start saying things like "When I was YOUR age", which means in 21 years I'll be 50, which means that eventually I'll be auditioning to be in one of those skin cream commercials, which means that in 31 years I'll be 60, which means that everyone else will be visiting their grandkids while I'll still be single, which means AHHHHHHHHHH!!!

My experiences with online dating thus far have made me come up with a list of "dating deal breakers", as in "things that make me go, 'GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU LOSER!'"

1. Condescending: I once went on a date with a guy who insulted me at least five or six times during the course of the evening. He put me down because he was making six figures and I was making minimum wage. He made comments about how I didn't dress up enough for our date. He got mad when I interrupted him at one point during the conversation, and then refused to go on with what he'd been saying until I apologized. When I refused to go out with him again, he blamed the bad date on my behavior.

2. No physical attraction: He doesn't have to have the body of a physical trainer. (Although I will admit that I did, um, go out with a personal trainer. But it wasn't because of his looks! Really! I, um, only cared about his mind!) After all, I definitely don't have the figure of a trainer either. Most of the guys I've dated have been pretty cute, but I'm not with any of them anymore, am I? On the other hand, there has to be some physical chemistry. And call me superficial, but if his man boobs are bigger than my chest, it's not going to happen.

3. Dishonesty: What bugs me about a lot of the online dating profiles that I've seen is that a lot of the guys lie about themselves. I once went on a date with a guy who ended up looking ten years older, twenty-five pounds heavier, and three times balder than he did in the pictures on his profile. (I'd like to say his personality made up for it. It didn't.)

      It's one thing if he's older and bald; that's not the problem. But don't try to pass yourself off as someone you're not, okay? Guys will often describe themselves as "physically fit" (even if they definitely don't look that way in their pictures), but what that usually means is that they expect the girls to be physically fit. Also, guys will often claim to be younger than they actually are. I don't have anything against older guys. But if you claim to be 30 but it's clear that you're in your 40s, don't lie about it. And yes, some people do look older than they actually are. But I've found from experience that some people just lie about their age in order to get more dates.

4. Cheapskate: Although Millionaire Matchmaker is the one reality show that I watch regularly and actually like, I wouldn't want to actually be on that show. Not only because Patti Stanger would find about fifty things to criticize about me, but also because the millionaires on that show fail to impress me. A guy doesn't need to plan a dinner at a five-star restaurant or a thousand-dollar-a-day spa in order to make it a great date. (If anything, I think that'd be putting too much pressure on both of us.) I'd be just as happy eating pizza and going bowling if the guy was nice and we had chemistry. And besides, most of the guys on that show are jerks anyway, and all of their money doesn't make up for that.

   But on the other hand, I wouldn't want to date a guy who's a total cheapskate. I once knew a girl who said her date took her to a Mexican restaurant but wouldn't let her order any food; he said they could just eat the free chips and salsa. I don't expect the guy to pay every time; I'll offer to pay for at least some of the dates. But it's another thing altogether if the guy is cheap or cheats business owners.

   I was at a coffeehouse yesterday, and I saw a guy come in and take up a table for more than an hour, but he didn't buy anything. He just came in for a place to hook up his laptop for free, and it bothered me that he wouldn't spend a few bucks on a cup of coffee for the right to an empty table. I tried to picture myself going on a date with a guy like him, and I couldn't.

5. Inconsiderate: I wouldn't want to date someone who's always telling me about the fun things he's been doing with his friends without inviting me along, or who only calls me when no one else is available.

     I also wouldn't want to date someone who's insensitive to my feelings, the kind of guy who thinks it's okay to wait for several weeks after our first date before he calls me again (and yes, this has actually happened more than once). It's like, when did this become okay? I figure if I don't hear from him within a week, then I probably never will hear from him. (And yes, I have made the first phone call after the date before. But that's not the point.) But it's not okay to call me several weeks (or months) later and expect me to still be waiting for you, as if I'll say something like, "Oh, you finally called me! I KNEW you were the one!"

I know you can't choose who you fall for; it just happens. (Except wouldn't it be easier if we could just choose?) But I think it's okay to make a list of deal breakers, because it helps me figure out what I don't want. And I don't want a guy who possesses any or all of these personality traits.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why, NBC, why?

A few weeks ago, I threw myself to the floor and started kicking and screaming. I did that upon reading  the news that my favorite TV show, Law and Order, had been cancelled.

I started watching Law and Order (as well as its two spinoffs, SVU and Criminal Intent) when I first started working as an adjunct instructor. This was back when I was teaching at two schools and working a third job in retail, so I had very little free time. As a result, I didn't have time to keep up with the character-driven shows like Desperate Housewives or Lost. I tried to sit down and watch Lost once with a friend, but I ended up feeling lost.

Me: So why are they on that island?
Friend: Their plane crashed.
Me: Why can't they just build a boat and get themselves off the island?
Friend: It's more complicated than that.
Me: (looking at Matthew Fox) So is he a bad guy or a good guy?
Friend: Just watch the show. You'll see.
Me: So why are all these people hooking up with each other? Wouldn't their time be better spent trying to get off the island?
Friend: (exasperated) That's what they're trying to do!

I started watching crime dramas became most of them were plot-driven rather than character-driven. That meant that I didn't have to watch the shows regularly, which was good, because I didn't have time to watch TV every week. I could miss several episodes of Law and Order and come back to it weeks later and still enjoy it. I didn't have to figure out who was having an affair with whom or who was fighting with whom.

I have to admit that I'm not completely immune to character-driven shows. One semester in college, I actually scheduled my classes around All My Children. I was totally sucked into that addictive soap world, and forgot about how different it was from the real world. Then I got caught up with other things for a few weeks and missed out on several storylines, so that by the time I came back I realized that maybe it wasn't totally normal for people to get divorced and remarried a bunch of times, and in real life people didn't pause and give evil monologues to the camera about the person they were planning to stab in the back (literally or figuratively).

I watched the other crime dramas too, like CSI: Miami, and I did like them. My favorite character was Horatio Caine, even though he always spoke each word as if it was a complete sentence, as in "That. Is. The. Question." I liked him because of how compassionate he was with the victims, and how he devoted himself to his work.

My problem with the CSI shows was that at least two-thirds of the cast all appeared to be the same age and looked like supermodels (I've never been in a workplace where there were so many good-looking people; maybe I should go into law enforcement), and the characters often seemed to focus more on their hookups rather than on the crimes themselves. Okay, so it's natural to get crushes on the people you work with, though I have to admit I haven't really had a crush on any of my coworkers since I was in high school. But I think that there is more to life than romance. I also think it is possible to go to work and actually care more about the work itself than anything else.

Also, I didn't get how the female CSIs got away with wearing skimpy tank tops to work. I once worked in an office where you could get sent home for wearing khakis; I just assumed that the dress code was even more strict in law enforcement. And did you notice how in almost every CSI: Miami episode, there is always at least one scene of girls in bikinis? It usually doesn't have anything to do with the case itself; apparently it's just necessary to show women in skimpy clothing when solving crimes.

Law and Order, on the other hand, rarely focused on the characters' personal lives (with the exception of SVU). I don't think there was ever an episode that showed Jack McCoy at his apartment. They were always at the office, working on a case. My favorite character was Jack McCoy, played by Sam Waterston, because of how passionate he was about his work. I loved how angry he always got at the suspects, because prosecuting criminals wasn't just a job for him. (And I have to admit that I have a little crush on Sam Waterston, even though he's been married for more years than I've been alive.)

And it was interesting to see the outrageous defense strategies that some of the lawyers and suspects came up with; at first I thought that no one could get away with that in real life, but then when I read stories about real-life criminals and heard the crazy excuses that some of them gave, I realized that it could happen.

Watching shows like this one made me feel like it wasn't such a bad thing to be a workaholic, because here were people who devoted themselves to their work and no one criticized them for it. It's no coincidence that my favorite shows are about work and workaholics. The only other show I watch regularly aside from the crime dramas is House, M.D. because Gregory House is the ultimate workaholic. Yes, he's a misanthrope and treats people terribly, but he's so funny and likable you can't help forgiving him for it. (But I definitely wouldn't want to work for him.)

I've heard that there's going to be another L & O spinoff which will be set in Los Angeles. Until then, though, I tried watching other shows that are popular. There was a marathon of The Hills this weekend, so I decided to watch a couple episodes and see what all the fuss was about. After all, these were single girls pursuing careers and love in the big city, right? It couldn't be too different from the chick lit novels I love so much. Surely there was something positive to be said for these shows, right?

After a couple of hours, I had the urge to destroy my TV so that I never had to watch an episode again. Sorry to all the people who like The Hills, but I just don't get it. But then again, I seem to be one of the few people who doesn't get what all the fuss is about with Twilight, either. I think that Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart kind of look like they're brother and sister.

Why exactly are we supposed to care about Audrina Partridge and Kristin Cavallari? From what I could see of the episodes I watched, their lives seem to be focused on clubbing, dating guys who treat them badly, and gossiping about their friends behind their back. Then there's always a scene where they get into a girl fight and start screaming at each other. And let's not forget Heidi and Spencer; their awful behavior towards other people made me realize why so many people dislike them. But overall, watching those shows bored me.

I tried watching The City, and it was even worse. All of the girls were so catty and mean towards each other, and it was hard for me to like any of them. And I can't watch a show if I don't like at least one of the characters.

I couldn't relate to any of the people on those shows. Maybe it's because I don't have the money to go to expensive restaurants or buy designer clothes. Maybe it's because I never had the chance to work with beautiful celebrities or work for popular magazines. Or maybe it's just because I can't stand any of these people's personalities. This is what I've been missing? People would rather watch this than Law and Order? (And yes, I know that The Hills is ending. But still.) And why does MTV do that thing where they gather a bunch of young people after the show to analyze the episode that just aired? Is that really necessary? Is this what TV is coming to? Oh, the humanity!

Maybe I'm just mourning the loss of my favorite TV show. Yeah, that must be it. I have to go cry myself to sleep now.

What about you? Any cancelled TV shows that you were sorry to see go?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Don't Judge Me for My Groceries

I am a terrible cook. I can't heat up Pop-Tarts or frozen pizza without burning it. I can't even make Easy-Mac right, because somehow it always ends up tasting like crunchy cheese crumbs; I don't think mac and cheese is supposed to be crunchy, or is it? I've tried following recipes from a variety of sources, but almost every time I cook, I've ended up coming this close to setting the food/the kitchen/myself on fire. And since I live alone, that means I'm stuck eating leftovers for the next several meals.

So I usually buy the prepared meals at Whole Foods. This grocery store is pricier than Jewel-Osco and Dominick's, but I really like it there. Their produce is really fresh and delicious, and their employees are always helpful and friendly. And their prepared meals are really good too, and it's usually cheaper and healthier than buying takeout every night.

On the other hand, I get this complex about shopping for food, because I feel like the cashier is judging me for my groceries and can tell that I'm single since most of the meals would only feed one person. You could argue that the groceries that a single person buys is similar to the food that a workaholic buys; after a long workday, the last thing I want to do is spend an hour standing in my kitchen cooking and cleaning up.

Also, when I go to Dominick's or Jewel, I feel self-conscious because I often buy M&Ms and Froot Loops. Not the healthiest choices, I admit, but I figure it's okay as long as I eat everything in moderation and exercise regularly. But I always feel like the cashier is silently judging me as he or she rings up my junk food.

But then I remember what it was like when I was a grocery store cashier back in high school; I couldn't care less what people bought. All I cared about was getting each person through my lane as quickly as possible. I didn't remember people's food, but I did remember the customers who argued with me over prices. I also disliked the customers who treated cashiers like a bank, particularly the ones who demanded fives and tens (which I never had enough of to begin with) for their change or paid for a fifty-cent gum purchase with a five hundred dollar bill. Guess what, people: cashiers have a limited amount of cash in their drawers, so when you treat us like a bank like that, it slows the whole line down because then we have to get more change.

Anyway, yesterday I went to Whole Foods to stock up on some food for the week. I went up to one of the employees.

Me: Are you going to be selling lasagna again anytime soon?

Employee: No. We're probably not going to have that available until the fall. Now that it's summer we're serving lighter foods. Would you like anything else? (looks pointedly at the kung pao tofu and the grilled vegetables)

Me: (distracted by the brownies and cupcakes in the pastry section) I'm sorry, what?

At Whole Foods you can get a 10-cent refund if you bring your own bag for your groceries. I used to just get their paper bags, but then I felt environmentally incorrect about it; I eventually caved in and bought one of their bags.

Cashier: Thank you for bringing your bag with you today! Would you like to keep your bag refund or donate it to charity?

Me: Say you want to keep it! Thirteen bag refunds equals one iTunes, which equals that new Miley Cyrus song you haven't bought yet! But then if you keep it, the cute cashier will think you're greedy because you just spent all this money on groceries but won't spare a dime for charity! You can donate it.

Cashier: (finishes ringing up my groceries) Will this be cash or credit?

Me: (distracted by the cute guys in other lanes ringing up and bagging groceries) What? Oh, um, cash.

Check out this funny video from Improv Everywhere (their videos are on Youtube and they're hilarious!). Maybe if this kind of thing happened in the grocery store, it might make shopping more fun.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Scooter Smackdown

I flew back to Chicago yesterday, and when I got to my neighborhood I was so happy to be back I almost kissed the sidewalk. I would have too, if there wasn't so much trash on it.

Ever since my scary subway encounter, I've been thinking about alternative ways to get around the city. Walking is out, because it's usually too far to get from one place to the other. And taxis are out too, because they're expensive. I took a cab from the airport back to my building, and the driver broke one of the wheels on my suitcase because he was so careless with it. I didn't notice it, of course, until I tried to drag the suitcase inside. That must have been why he drove away so quickly. I would've called the company to complain, but this was the one time I didn't pay attention to which one I was taking and what the cab number was. Fan-tastic.

I could buy a car, but seeing as how I'm a broke grad student/website employee/teaching assistant/adjunct instructor (you'd think that working multiple jobs would mean I'd have more money, right? Ha! You'd THINK), that's out of the question too.

I also thought about getting a bicycle. Then I'd save a lot of money on train/bus fare AND I'd get a lot of exercise. And then maybe I'd go down to a size 2 and I could laugh in the faces of all the guys who ever ignored me. And maybe run over their shoes with my bicycle tires.

But seeing as how it's only warm in Chicago for less than three months a year, it'd be hard navigating a bicycle around the city when it's cold/rainy/icy/snowy out. I've seen bicyclists out during the winter, and I don't understand how they're able to ride around without screaming, because that's what I would be doing. I'd probably be all, "Mayday! Mayday! Neurotic girl on bike coming through! AHHHHH!" And then I'd crash into a lamppost or something.

In Chicago, you're supposed to ride your bike in the street, but many cyclists disregard that rule. And I'm not talking about little kids, because come on, who's going to make a five year old ride their bike in the street? I'm talking about adults who take up all the room on the sidewalk while the people on foot have to move to the street to get out of their way.

Once I was walking to the grocery store when I saw a woman riding a scooter on the sidewalk.

She managed to stay out of the way of most people, but apparently one woman had a problem with her and stood in her way, blocking her from riding any further. She said something like, "I can't believe you have the nerve to ride that on the sidewalk." I pictured that woman sitting down to write a letter to Dear Amy or Dear Abby later to complain about people who ride their scooters on sidewalks (side note: do you notice how a high percentage of the people who write to those advice columns often aren't asking for advice; they're just complaining about people who piss them off? I'd probably be like them if I didn't have this blog. The annoying ones are the ones who write the indignant-and sometimes vicious-letters to the advice columnists to tell them that they gave the wrong advice). The two women then started arguing, and I wondered if there was going to be some kind of scooter smackdown right then and there. I didn't stay to find out. Like pretty much everyone else, I crossed the street and walked away quickly.

There is a lot of anger in the city. If I had a dollar for every time I witnessed a public argument, I'd be able to afford one of those fancy bikes. Or maybe even a motorcycle. In my old building, I saw two women in the laundry room get into a screaming match over some laundry that one of the women had left in the washing machine. I was at a coffeehouse once and a customer got thrown out because he kept cursing out the baristas. He then proceeded to walk back and forth in front of the window, screaming obscenities until the police showed up. And it's common to see people screaming at each other (or at nothing in particular) in the street.

I am ashamed to admit that I've yelled in public too, usually at drivers who come this close to running me over and then curse me out for being in their way. Before I moved to Chicago, I would never have imagined yelling at strangers like that; there was definitely anger in my hometown, but people usually talked about each other behind their backs rather than to their faces. But on the other hand, I did get into more than one standoff with kids who picked on me when I was in school.

Sometimes, I worry that a lot of the rage I've witnessed has transferred onto me. And that maybe that's why minor annoyances often get the best of me. On my flight back to Chicago, for example, it bothered me that this girl sitting across from me took up nearly an entire overhead compartment with her instrument case, and wouldn't let anyone else put their bags up there. The flight attendant took her side, for some reason, and made me put my bag on the floor even though we're not supposed to; as a result I had no leg room. I tried to lean my seat back, but the guy sitting beside me kept shoving it forward and refused to let me push my seat back. And I had to bite my tongue to keep from screaming.

But then something happened on the plane yesterday that made some of that anger start to dissipate. Another woman who had to put her bag in a compartment several seats back couldn't reach it, so several people passed it along to her rather than just cut in front of her and make her wait. And somehow, that small act of kindness made me feel better.

Even though there is a lot of anger in the city, I still see small acts of kindness every now and then. Whenever there is an elderly person, a pregnant woman, or a person carrying a bunch of packages on the train or the bus, I'll always see at least one or two people offer their seats to that person. I've seen people give food to the homeless, and if I happen to drop my gloves or my hat during the winter, there's always at least one person who will pick it up and give it back to me.

Seeing stuff like that inspires me to do the same thing. One of my teachers in Catholic school said we should try to do at least one good deed a day, and I think she's right. And at the very least, it makes me just a little less angry.

What about you? How do you de-stress yourself from the daily annoyances?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Maybe the next time I go on a date...

1. I won't dress like an uptight old maid from the 1900s, only more conservative.

2. I won't mention that I read a dating self-help book. (He's Just Not That Into You changed my whole mindset. Its message is basically common sense: if a guy doesn't call, it means he's not interested. And this whole time I'd been thinking, "I'm sure as soon as he gets out from that boulder he's been trapped under, he will TOTALLY call me.")

3. I won't describe the e-mails and winks that I got from weird guys on okcupid, including one from a guy who was married (and had a picture of his wife on his profile) but was looking for "new friends" who were "open-minded".

4. I won't order noodles or salad, so that I don't have to spend the whole time wondering if I have food in my teeth.

5. I won't mention how many other guys I've met and gone out with through online dating (I'd rather not say how many on this blog, because the number is just depressing at this point).

6. I won't say that everyone else my age is getting married and having children, and then give him a meaningful look.

7. I won't get the directions to wherever I'm meeting my date from CTA's website, so that I won't end up in the wrong neighborhood and walk up and down the streets while muttering, "Where am I?"

8. I won't watch a crime drama right before the date, so that I end up being several minutes late because I just had to find out if the criminal got away with his "my iPod made me do it" defense.

9. I won't walk really fast to get there, so that I end up panting with my tongue hanging out when I show up for the date.

10. I won't say, "Gee, this chicken is making my tongue feel all garlicky..."

11. I won't vent about my temptation to drop anvils on my students' cell phones when they use them in class.

12. I won't keep checking my shirt to make sure I didn't spill anything on it.

13. I won't drink a lot of soda, so that I end up being hyper from the caffeine and sounding like my conversation is one long sentence, as in "Wow, this is a really cool neighborhood there are so many people here that food smells good how's your food taste gee I think I'll order more soda...."

14. I won't run in the opposite direction or duck if he leans in to kiss me at the end of the date.

Did I actually do all of these things on previous dates? I'm afraid so. I've been reflecting on the dates I've been on, and trying to think of what I can do better so that if I do end up liking any one of the guys, he won't be turned off by how weird and neurotic I can be sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean all the time). And also, I've been thinking of what I can do differently so that the guys I don't like will never call me again. Do you ever do that when you go out on dates, or, if you're married/in relationships, did you ever think about these kinds of things when you were single?

But then again, it may be a moot point as far as I'm concerned. Aside from the two guys I met through eharmony and went on dates with a few weeks ago, I haven't been having much success with online dating lately. Three more guys on eharmony disappeared by the time we got to the third phase of the guided communication (which is the phase right before we send regular e-mails); it's like, seriously, what is UP with that? Two of them closed the match, blocking off any communication, and one of them had initiated contact with me first!

I guess I should keep trying, but dating is hard work. And even though I'm a workaholic, sometimes I wish I could just retire. For some people, finding someone seems to come so easily. But to be honest, I'm tired of it. I know that I shouldn't give up, and I don't intend to...yet. But I've come to realize that I've always felt at least a little bit lonely when I was dating, even if it was with someone I actually cared about. It just always felt like something was missing.

I don't feel lonely when I'm writing, when I'm teaching, or when I'm doing graduate work. Is that a bad thing? I don't think so. Maybe it's just that I haven't met the right person. Or maybe it's just that I'm meant to take a different path in life.

And I know what you're going to say. "Don't give up yet." I haven't given up, not yet. Or, "You have to have something in your life besides work." And I know, and I do. I have other things and people in my life that make me happy. But I don't think it's such a bad thing to be a workaholic, especially since it is such a central part of many people's lives. And my work is important to me, and I don't think it's a bad thing to say that.

I'm just wondering if that thing that millions of other people have written songs, novels, and poetry about will ever happen for me, and if it would really be the worst thing if it didn't.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Fish Out of Chicago

My mother is overseas right now, so she asked me to look after her two dogs, a sheltie and a Bolognese. (I'd post pictures of them, except I don't have a digital camera and my parents don't have a scanner.) My father is at work most of the day, and they don't want to put the dogs in a kennel. They live in a different state, so I am staying at their house for a couple of weeks to dog-sit. In order to protect the dogs' privacy, the sheltie shall hereafter be referred to as Jane Dog and the Bolognese shall be called Neurotic Jr.

I took my flight from Midway, and can I just say that airports seem to bring out the rudeness in people? Every time I go to the airport, people always cut in front of me. One time a lady accused me of cutting in front of her, when she was the one who cut in front of me! Hmmph! I wanted to yell at her, "Oh, it's ON now, lady!" But I didn't.

Before I took my flight, at least four people cut in front of me; two of them cut in front of me when we were going through the security checkpoint. Since I had already taken my shoes off, I wanted to whap both of those people over the heads with them. But there were a bunch of security guards there, and I figured that starting a fight in an airport might not be the best idea. I'd probably get Tasered or something.

Also, do you notice how all the food and drinks in airports are totally overpriced? I bought a little bottle of milk that was almost two dollars. For two dollars, I expect the cashier to serenade me while ringing up my purchase, preferably something from one of Lady Gaga's albums. And of course, the milk was warm, because apparently the people in the airport believe that it's a security risk to serve cold milk. I managed not to cough up the milk on anyone, though. I almost spit it at some ladies who were looking at me disapprovingly, because I dared to eat M&Ms at eight in the morning. What? It's not like it's alcohol. And if I want to eat M&Ms, I'm going to! Sheesh.

Then I got on the plane, and this lady stole my seat! I said to her, "Um, excuse me, that's my seat." Her family was sitting beside her, so she wanted to keep my seat. I let her, but I was mad because I had reserved that seat months ago; I also paid extra money so that I could get an aisle seat. Ok, so it was only about six dollars extra, but when you're as broke as I am, six dollars is a lot of money! And I ended up in a window seat instead, and I had to sit in front of someone who apparently took a political stance against showering.

Also, the window seat is unpleasant because I have a slight fear of flying. I don't like looking out the window because that lets me know how far up we are. And really, I don't need the pilot to tell us how many thousands of feet in the air we are, because that's how many thousands of feet we could FALL; just tell us when we're on solid ground again, okay? I couldn't find any of those barf bags to breathe into, but somehow that doesn't make me calm down anyway. It just makes me nervous. And then it makes the people sitting next to me nervous.

And so now I'm in a medium-sized town far from Illinois, and in the entire time I've been here I've only heard a police siren twice. In Chicago I hear sirens every hour. And there aren't any people yelling in the street! What's up with that? And people actually drive the speed limit, or even - gasp! - below it! I'm seriously in a parallel universe right now.

When I take Neurotic Jr. and Jane Dog for walks, people actually say hello and good morning to me! Don't they know that we're not supposed to talk to each other? In Chicago the only time a random stranger talks to me is if he/she is trying to sell me something, hit on me, or convert me. There have been several people in Chicago who have unsuccessfully tried to convert me to their religion. I've been told I'm going to hell at least three times. Apparently I have the kind of face that makes some people think I'm damned.

In Chicago people do a lot of walking, but everyone drives here. I only drive the two or three times a year I visit my parents. Whenever I drive, I say "EEEEEPPSSS!!" a lot, like when I turn a corner or try to fit the car into a parking spot. That's why when I'm driving I often have this expression on my face that's similar to the one that people have when they're riding down a roller coaster (I avoid roller coasters, too, because I have this fear that I'm going to fall out of one). As a result, I've gotten a few weird looks from fellow drivers. I can't imagine why.

To occupy myself while I'm here, I've been doing a lot of reading. I read Allison Winn's Scotch's The One That I Want; I won a free copy from Rebecca's (aka the Virgin Novelist) contest a couple weeks ago, and it's great! And I won the Versatile Blogger award again, this time from Catherine (check out her blog, the Writer's Notebook; it's awesome).

Also, I started writing my second novel. I'm still revising the first one, but my experiences with online dating have given me some good ideas for another story. I just couldn't resist starting the second book. I'm not even sure what'll happen in the story, but I'm looking forward to finding out.