Saturday, March 31, 2012

Downton Arby's

I love the PBS series Downton Abbey, so when I saw this spoof I could not stop laughing. You guys HAVE to watch it. I dare you not to start cracking up too, hahahahaha! (Side note: I heart you, Richard Kind!)

Monday, March 26, 2012

How to (Not) Meet the One

Recently I came across an article titled "How to Meet 'The One' While Running Errands". Naturally, I read it, because I've been taking a break from online dating for the past several months, ever since one of the guys I talked to on okcupid insulted me because I wasn't comfortable with his assertion that three is not a crowd (cough, cough). I could go to bars, which is where a lot of guys hang out. I have two female friends who used to go barhopping often to meet guys; they called it "hunting". I went with them a few times, but I just called it "lame".

All this time I've been focused on just getting my errands done as quickly as possible without head-butting anyone who gets in my way. But I could have met my soul mate, at least according to this article.

One errand that is good for finding "the one", according to this article, is grocery shopping.  It says, "When you see a hot guy pushing a cart filled with family portion style meals, forget him. He's not single. He's likely to be a well-trained husband. Single guys carry baskets and hang around the frozen pizza aisle!"

The only thing is that I've always been a morning bird rather than a night owl, which is why I prefer to get my grocery shopping done before 10 A.M. I'm able to do this since I usually teach in the late morning and have office hours in the afternoon, and my website job is done in the evenings and on weekends. Most of the people shopping at the supermarket when it's that early are elderly people. I don't want to sound like too much of an ageist, but I really just don't want to date someone who's at least fifty years older than me, you know? I just don't know how all of Hugh Hefner's girlfriends deal with it (And I'd rather not know, frankly.).

I suppose I could go grocery shopping later in the day, when more guys are getting off of work and are stopping in to buy dinner. I tried that in the past, and one of two things usually happened. I became impatient and stressed out by all the long lines and people cutting in front of me, to the point that I would have whapped them in the head with my box of Froot Loops if I had any less self-restraint.

The other was that I'd often see couples and groups of people shopping together; they'd be buying lots of food for meals that they'd cook together, or they'd be buying beer and junk food for parties. I always felt like they could tell that I was alone because of the single-serving meals that I bought, and it just made me feel lonely. Of course, there's loneliness in the morning crowd too; some of the elderly people will stand in line and chat with the cashiers for a few minutes. I'm less impatient with them holding up the line than with the younger people; I have the feeling that they strike up conversations with the cashiers because they're lonely. I might end up like them someday, a lonely old woman who just wants someone to talk to. 

The article said that you could also meet a potential mate at the bookstore; it said, "While you're browsing, check to see if there's more than a bestseller you fancy devouring!" I did go to Unabridged Bookstore recently. It's a really great bookstore that's in East Lakeview, my favorite neighborhood in Chicago (I wish I could afford to live there).

However, East Lakeview is also known as Boystown, which means that a gay guy is more likely to meet a potential match at Unabridged than I am. Not to mention I'm happiest in bookstores; it always thrills me to be in a room filled with other people's words and ideas. When I'm at the bookstore, I'm usually more focused on finding an interesting book to read than anything else.

But there was a guy at Unabridged who caught my eye that day; when he looked at me, he suddenly looked up and then looked away. So I looked up too, and I realized that I was standing in the erotica section, as evidenced by the book covers featuring pictures of half-naked people. Oops. (I don't read erotica; I know it's a legitimate and popular genre, and a lot of people do enjoy reading and writing it. But I always fear that if I buy one of those books I'll run into one of my students or one of the nuns from my church at the same time. That's also the reason that I feel self-conscious when shopping for new underwear.)

Another tip the article gave was this: "Wherever you go, walk the walk! Men find a woman's walk sexier when she adopts the natural human stride, a loose, gentle gait and swinging arms." But I happen to be a total klutz. The last time I tried walking like that, I ended up running away from a dead rat and nearly knocked over some guy in the process. So that one's a no go as far as I'm concerned.

I figure I'll try online dating again in a few months, but not anytime soon. Right now I still need to focus on my dissertation prospectus; I wrote a new draft and gave it to two of the people on my committee. I'm hoping they'll like this new draft better this time so that I won't end up feeling as devastated as I did the last time I turned in a draft; I was devastated because my mentor said that I'd done it all wrong. Also, even though I really do want to meet someone, I kind of like being on my own right now.

What do you think? What do you think are some good places to meet potential matches, other than online dating sites? If you've already found "the one", how did you meet him/her?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

This Blog Is Brought to You By...

Occasionally I get e-mails from advertisers asking me to promote their products or their websites by including a link to their sites on my blog. Once I was contacted by a company that makes - er - "toys" for women. (I just kept thinking of all of my former Catholic school teachers and how they would react if they found out about that. Maybe lightning really would strike me down for displeasing God.) Several advertisers have found my posts about online dating and want me to link to their posts/websites. Some of those advertisers/webmasters have obviously never read my blog, because they ask me to link to articles about how bad it is to be a workaholic. These articles typically say stuff like, "The Way Workaholics Live is WRONG", "Why being a workaholic is worse than being on an MTV reality show", and "Workaholics Will Die Alone".

Obviously, these aren't the real titles, but the message of many of these articles is pretty close to them. It always bothers me when I get an e-mail like that, because I don't like being criticized for being a workaholic. I know that the advertisers don't mean to criticize me, but at the same time I'm not going to promote an article that describes all the reasons why my lifestyle and my identity are completely messed up. Though there have been some negative consequences (which I'll write about later) that occurred because of my obsession with work, at the same time my life is not solely about work. But being a workaholic is part of who I am, and I'm not going to apologize for it.

Some of the advertisers have actually offered to pay me, anything from small sums like ten dollars to Amazon gift cards. It would be nice to earn a little extra cash, but the problem with those ads is that I'm not even sure how long I'm supposed to keep them up. What if it's for as long as I have this blog? What if I get tired of seeing them up there and I want to take them down? Will I even be allowed to do that, or will I have to give the money back? And there are some products that I'd rather not advertise anyway, like those articles about how bad workaholics are.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with including ads on your blog. It's your choice and your blog, so you have the right to include what you want on it. I also don't think that the advertisers are necessarily doing anything wrong by trying to persuade bloggers to promote their products. Obviously, the advertisers have caught on to the fact that they can now reach consumers not just through TV and print ads but also through social networking sites, especially since so many people are on these sites.

But if I did include ads on my blog, I'd be tempted to throw in my two cents rather than let the advertisers have the last word. Here are a few examples: (Side note: the products listed below aren't from companies that have contacted me.)

Peanut M&Ms: the #1 reason that I will NEVER be a size 4

Who cares what the new iPad does? You'll still be cool for having one!

Dance Moms: A heartwarming show about the devil and her minions!

What about you? Do you include ads on your blog? Why or why not? Have any companies contacted you about advertising? If so, how have you responded?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Using Your Blog to Make Money

I think that a lot of bloggers dream of being able to make money through their blogs. Maybe they hope that a literary agent or editor will come across their blog and offer them a book deal. There's nothing wrong with that, and one can dream, right? After all, it happened to Jen Lancaster (who originally blogged about being unemployed), Julie Powell (who blogged about her attempt to cook her way through one of Julia Child's cookbooks), and Angela Nissel (who blogged about being a broke college student). But I think they got book deals not only because they are all great writers, but also because they started blogging before a lot of other people did, not to mention their writing focused on specific themes.

You may also dream that the book deal will lead to a movie deal, where A-list actors like Ryan Gosling and Elizabeth Banks will clamor to star as the fictional leads in the story that you wrote. Ryan Gosling will fall in love with you just because he's so amazed by your talent; he'll say, "Who needs an A-list actress who looks like a Victoria's Secret Model when I could have you?" And you'll say, "Sorry, Ryan, but writing will always be my first love."

And then you may dream about becoming so rich that you can buy a helicopter. That way, you can travel in the helicopter to your high school reunion, like that guy did in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion. After all, showing up rich and successful to your high school reunion (in a helicopter, no less) is every high school nerd's DREAM. When everyone comes out to see you arrive, the mean girls' dresses will fly up over their heads, just like in the movie, and the mean guys' toupees will fly off and they'll have to go running after them. Meanwhile, you will climb back into the helicopter and fly away, but not before yelling, "See you around, LOSERS! Eat my dust, HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!"

Wait. Am I the only one who has this dream?

When I first started blogging, I didn't really think that a literary agent would come across my blog and offer me a book deal, but I thought that it would be good writing practice. I also thought that maybe I could take some of my favorite posts and put them into a book, or I could use the posts to get ideas for stories. I  wanted to share my writing with other people, because up until then I'd kept my writing hidden away in my journals. But I do think that some people are hoping to get book deals through blogging, which may explain why several of the comments I read on agents' blogs say stuff like, "Oh, you are SO RIGHT about EVERYTHING! Why didn't I think of that? I bow down to your utter wisdom and glory."

Even though I'm not a member of 20sb anymore, I still check out their discussion forums every once in a while. I read one where a blogger wrote that he was asking for donations on his blog; he was going to use the donations to buy a car. However, most of the other bloggers reacted negatively, criticizing his actions. When I looked at one of his recent posts, he said that after a year of collecting donations and saving his own money, he had enough to buy a used car.

There have been  people who asked other people on the Internet to give them money, like Karyn Bosnak, who started a website asking people to give her money so that she could pay off her $20,000 credit card debt. It worked; thousands of people gave her money as well as gifts and care packages. AND she got a book deal and a movie deal out of it.

I think what Karyn Bosnak did is very different from the guy who wanted money to buy a car. She included a lot of fun stuff on her website, like  "The Daily Buck", where she wrote about the things that she did to save or earn money each day. That's why I think that she was kind of like those street performers that I often see dancing, singing, or playing instruments around Chicago. Recently I saw a girl perform with a hula hoop. Once I saw a guy who danced while doing tricks with yo-yos; he advertised himself as a college student trying to pay his tuition. He got several donations from people who stopped to watch.

Even though Karyn got a lot of hate mail and death threats from mean-spirited jerks, a lot more people were generous enough to help her. As she wrote in her book (which is one of my favorite reads, even though I cringed at some of her purchases, such as how she once spent more than seven hundred dollars on lingerie. For me, a "splurge" means buying brand name cereal.), many people can relate to what it's like to be in debt.

I think that Karyn came up with a pretty imaginative way to pay off her debt, but I don't agree with that other guy's actions. It's one thing to get a book deal because of your blog; it's another thing to ask people to give you money just so you can buy a car. I wouldn't mind having extra cash to buy a new car, or enough money to buy all the coffee and chocolate that I want (because then I can be wired ALL the time and work as much as I want, bwahahahaha!). But I'd rather earn my own money to pay for those things. The guy who was trying to get people to pay for his car claimed that he was a full-time college student with not enough time to work multiple jobs. But as someone who's worked multiple jobs while attending graduate school full-time for the past several years, I have no sympathy for him. I also think that what he did was wrong. Next thing you know, he'll start trying to get people to buy him a helicopter.

In my next post, I'll write about including ads on your blog to make money, but I'm curious to know what you think. What do you think of people who use their blogs to ask other people for money? (Side note: I'm not referring to bloggers who ask readers to donate to charity or some other noble cause, like a medical operation, because that's different.)

Monday, March 5, 2012

What Not to Ask Single People

I was recently invited to two weddings: a college friend's wedding at the end of this month and a cousin's wedding next fall. As I was looking over the wedding invitations, several questions went through my mind: What should I wear? What kind of wedding gift should I buy for the happy couple? Can I eat more than one slice of wedding cake, or would that be as rude as the people who drink too much champagne and end up passing out on the dance floor?

I also know that at my cousin's wedding in particular, I'll have to answer several questions from random relatives and guests (I know this because I've been asked these questions before):

"So when's your wedding?"

"Why are you wearing that?"

"You didn't come to this wedding alone, did you?"

"Is it true you're not dating anyone? Because I know someone I can set you up with."

"You're still in school? What, are you too afraid to work in the real world, or do you like being a professional student?"

"Don't you know that it will be more difficult for you to get pregnant as you get older? Don't you want to give your parents grandchildren?"

In many chick lit stories I've read and romantic comedies that I've seen, single women like me have to answer those awkward (and sometimes invasive) questions from people who can't understand how some people can enter their thirties without getting married or having kids. And that is the thing about being single as you progress through your twenties and enter your thirties: you have to go to more and more weddings and baby showers of several other people your age (or younger). You watch them moving on to the next phase of their lives, and you wonder if you'll ever have what they have.

It's not that I don't want to get married or have a family, because I do. It's not like I haven't tried to meet someone, as several of you know from reading my posts about online dating. But what am I supposed to say? Tell them that all the good guys are not on the online dating sites, at least none of the ones that I went out with? (Side note: Yes, I do know that there are plenty of good guys on those dating sites. It's just that all the not-so-good guys tend to eclipse them.)

I know that they (usually) mean well and/or are just curious, but I can't help feeling tempted to respond in a way that will make them stop asking me those questions:

"I'm sure my wedding will happen eventually. That Cathy character in the comic strip got married, so I'm sure that means there's hope for me too."

"I'm wearing this dress because my bullfighter's costume is at the cleaners."

"Yes, of course I came to this wedding alone. Didn't you see the movie Wedding Crashers? Those guys are my role models."

"If the person you want to set me up with is anything like your spouse, then forget it."

"Yes, I'm still in school. Maybe I am a professional student, but at least I haven't turned gossiping into a career like you have. I bet that you and Perez Hilton are besties."

"I had no idea that it would be more difficult for me to get pregnant once I entered my thirties. Thank you for telling me. By the way, you should steer your kids away from the candles that are arranged on the reception tables. They're trying to set the centerpieces on fire."

If you are/were single, what kinds of annoying questions do/did people ask you about your single status? What kinds of things would you like to say (or did say) in response?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Too Bad I'm Not a Millionaire

I recently filed my taxes, and when I was looking over my return, I thought, "Wow. I did not make a lot of money this year." I did work three jobs in 2011, but none of them paid very much; not to mention the government took a big chunk out of all my paychecks. Hmmmph.

I did, however, get my tax refund. It wasn't very big, but it was a nice little sum that I definitely needed. When the money from my federal and state refunds were deposited into my account, for one moment (okay, for several moments) I was tempted to spend it all on fun stuff that I don't really need. Here are a few examples:

I've never been to a real spa before, a place where I could get stuff like a facial and a massage, preferably from a really cute masseur. (And when I say "massage", I don't mean that in a Lifetime movie of the week kind of way; I mean an actual massage.) I think that getting a massage would be a good way to relieve stress.

But the only problem is that I think I am physically incapable of getting one. I once got a back massage from a masseuse who was doing them for free at Jamba Juice (jeez, now I don't just sound like I'm in a Lifetime movie; I kind of sound like I'm writing a letter to Penthouse). But I kept giggling because I am extremely ticklish, and the masseuse kept saying, "Just relax. You're tensing up." And all I could think was, Relax? Telling me to relax is like telling Superman to stop flying around and just take a cab! 

My passport expired a few months ago, but I didn't bother to renew it because I haven't traveled anywhere (except to visit my parents, who live in a different state, twice a year) in more than ten years. I don't really have the money or the time to go anywhere. But if I did, I'd love to visit New York City, because I've never been there before.I've heard that it's a lot more metropolitan than Chicago, which is a big city, but sometimes it feels like each neighborhood is a self-contained small town. I've read so many stories that are set in New York that I want to go and see the places that I've read about in person. I also have the feeling that if I went to New York, I'd be just like one of those tourists that sometimes (read: always) annoy me here in Chicago, the ones that lean their heads back and remark, "Wow! Them buildings sure are tall around here!"

I rarely go shopping for new clothes, unless the clothes or shoes I already have are literally worn out, or if I have a special event to go to, like a wedding, and I can't wear my jeans and T-shirts to it. I don't mind having to wear the same outfits again and again, at least not most of the time. But every once in a while, I feel envious of the women who can afford to buy nice clothes and shoes whenever they want. I don't really care about designer labels, but I do wish that I could buy nicer clothes, so that maybe people won't keep thinking that I'm a lot younger than I am. (You'd think that people mistaking me for being younger would be a good thing, and it is sometimes. But one reason I look young is that I don't wear sophisticated outfits like a lot of thirtysomething women do.)

I was walking by a store the other day, and I looked in the window and saw a really pretty purse that I wanted to buy. It was actually a messenger bag, the cool kind that would have room for stuff like my journals, wallet, and M&Ms that I eat when I need a sugar rush or when I want to fling them at annoying people. I was so tempted to buy it, but it cost sixty dollars. And for me, splurging on a new purse means buying a bag at JCPenney's post-Christmas sale once a year, for less than twenty dollars.

But of course, I didn't get any of these things. I followed personal finance journalist Donna Freedman's advice and spent most of my tax refund on sensible things: my Roth IRA yearly contribution (I don't EVER intend to retire, unless they make me do it, because really, what will I DO with myself if I don't get to work at all? That would just be MADNESS, I tell you! But I still figure it'd be a good idea to have my own retirement fund, even though it's still pretty small right now.), new contact lenses (I'm also going to use some of it to go to Lenscrafters for an eye exam, since I don't have regular health insurance), and credit card payments, and a chunk of it went into my emergency fund.

I did buy one "frivolous" thing, though: a new iPod. The last time I got a new one was six years ago, and I think you're supposed to replace iPods every three or four years. So my old iPod kept breaking down and freezing up even after I recharged it, to the point that I kept breaking down every time it happened, shrieking, "Why won't you let me listen to Britney, darn you!" (My new iPod works very nicely, which means I'm a lot less likely to start sobbing over pop music now.) And I need an iPod because I do a lot of commuting; I don't have a car, and when I run errands without using the bus or train, I walk. Being able to listen to music makes that stuff less tedious, and it also soothes me. That way, I'm less likely to start flinging M&Ms at annoying people when I go out.

What about you? What do you plan to spend your tax refund on?

Side note: Check out this song by singer Meiko; it's called "Stuck on You". I came across her music by accident when I was procrastinating on the Internet, and I really liked it. Her music is not only good to listen to; it's also good to write to.