I Love Hyperbole!

I do indeed love rhetorical hyperbole. Anyone who regularly interacts with me in person and gets me telling stories or otherwise talking about virtually anything will experience my innate excitability and penchant for utilizing phrases like “[superlative description] in the HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE!” Yes, I do indeed talk in all-caps. I’ll have to work on a valid scientific means by which to prove this… I also posses a deep appreciation for alliteration and litotes, but those are devices for another day.

While my boundless love of exaggeration has gone on for years, if not decades, my love for Hyperbole and a Half has only been apparent for the past few days. Mostly because I discovered the blog just three days ago, as I’m quite positive that my adoration would have been similarly immediate if HaaF had entered my life sooner.

I am particularly enamored of Spaghatta Nadle–to the point I was compelled to friend him on Facebook and print out strips to hang at my desk at work. The last inspired a veritable giggle fit, confusing the hell out of my coworkers until they reached the point of announcing that Spaghatta Nadle was only becoming funny because I was thoroughly cracking up! They didn’t get the randomness of Spaghatta Nadle and how that makes him so entirely hilarious, but at least they enjoyed my extreme laughter!

The random sense of humor is so perfectly suited to mine that it has had me reflecting on similar characters of my own born of obtuse conversations in the past. Namely: Dumblings. They were the source of much talk of the creation of comics, and definitely inspired some cute knitting and sewing projects created by myself and my sister. I’ve decided, though, that their comics should no longer be merely a topic of conversation. Dumblings in graphic form need to be shared with the world.

With that, here are Dumblings:

Dumblings OMG!!

If their introduction garners any support, I may be inspired to make them a regular feature. Because Dumblings are so the best characters ever invented in the HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE!!

I am also generally in a super-crazy-silly-excited mood right now, and due to my state of living solo and having no company to speak of at the moment aside from the insect that is probably hiding steathily someplace in my apartment biding its time until I fall asleep and it can take another delicious sample from my arm like it’s been doing the past couple of nights, I am forced to expend some of this random ridiculousness here. Because unless I wanted to bounce around my apartment talking to myself in the dark, I’m sure someone at the gas station across the street would see me and feel the need to do something about the insane woman acting like a giddy five-year-old. And if I did decide to indulge my inner five-year-old in the dark, I’d probably wind up crashing into something and injuring myself because I’m also a total klutz and thus giddiness + darkness = badness!

Clearly it’s a good thing I can easily talk myself out of drinking alone, because if I were to add some of my insane Thai rum to the mix right now as I had been contemplating earlier, the result would surely be Hyperbolic Badness. And nobody wants that. Or maybe they do, but I am totally going to deprive them of experiencing it vicariously right now. Mwa ha ha!!

(I think this is the officially epiphany point I’ve been hoping to reach with this blog revival. It is finally taking a turn for the random! It is totally becoming ME. :D)

Giving a Damn

I’ve signed up for the Give a Damn campaign. Because not only do I hope for a day when other people can be themselves without being judged, restricted, and even harmed by others simply due to who they are, but I’d like to see that day for myself.

I don’t like having to censor what I say here, to think of topics I’d like to discuss and then toss them aside for fear of what certain people reading will think. I can relate to the people the Give a Damn campaign aims to help. It would be indescribably wonderful to be able to write freely at some point, either because I have the confidence to stand up to the judgments and be myself in spite of them, or because–even better–the judgments are no longer passed.

I Give a Damn.

Chivalry vs. Respect

Yet again, a fantastically entertaining and insightful piece by Jill is serving as the backdrop for some of my own musings. The topic of the day: chivalry, its relationship to feminism, and the ever-hilarious Plight of the Nice Guy™.

At this point in my life, I can say that I’ve had both the pleasure and displeasure of experiencing a great variety of points along the spectrum of male-female interactions. I’ve been subjected to both emotional and physical violence, I’ve been treated with traditional notions of chivalry, and I’ve been the recipient of respect.

Given the choice between all of those, I would hands-down chose respect any day or night.

Why discount chivalry so easily, you ask? After all, isn’t that something women so often go on about as a key lacking quality in today’s men? It’s really quite simple why I have no interest in a man professing his chivalrous ideals to me: inherent in chivalrous acts is the belief that women are intrinsically more fragile and delicate than men, thus requiring exceptional support and protection from the men in their company. Essentially what it boils down to is sugar-coated, low-level misogyny. Chivalrous men espouse a view that women are by nature not equal to men on very fundamental levels and therefore in need of men to stand between them and the rest of the world. Which, don’t get me wrong, does lead to a man behaving “nicely” towards women, and quite obviously that means they would not be inflicting the sorts of emotional and physical violence I’ve experienced in the past. I can’t argue that, superficially, that’s not a good thing.

Jill does present an extension of this hypothesis on chivalry that I don’t entirely agree with, though. Unlike her, I do not believe “[i]t always demands something in return.” Oftentimes, yes, it does operate on the assumption that doing chivalrous things deserves a reward. However, some men do extend chivalry without a constant expectation that they will receive a token of appreciation from the recipients of their gestures. I had an interaction with such a man; I never got a sense of expectation from him that his Knightly behavior warranted something in return from his protected Princess, but I did still feel…small, in some way. As though some quality tied to my pairing of X chromosomes left me wanting for certain aspects of being a fully realized human being, and that all I needed was for him to come along and make up the difference. He could insulate me from the terrible effects of my shortcomings, ensuring I am always safe and comforted, and this was such a “nice” thing to do!

Evidently, “niceness” is not necessarily inclusive of respect. And respect is infinitely more appreciable than simply, say, waiting for a girl to broach the subject of coming home with her instead of just inviting yourself. Ahh, the Nice Guy™…always there to listen when their female friends need a shoulder to cry on after their latest escapade with an eternal jerk of a guy, and then also always there to complain after the fact that their ceaseless openness to the tears never culminates in them getting laid by those same poor, damp-cheeked women. Why, oh, why do those girls never realize what a Nice Guy™ he is? To quote Jill’s incredibly appropriate summation of a good, solid Nice Guy™ whinge:

Dear [friend],

Please touch my penis.

Yours,
Josh

See, he says please! Because, you know, by not point-blank taking what he really wants, that makes him an advocate for all the mistreated women in the world! If he wasn’t a Nice Guy™, that’s exactly what he’d do! And since he didn’t, that clearly means he must be Nice!

The only guy to ever openly profess his Nice Guy™ status (along with the requisite whining about how they always finish last and never get girlfriends) is the same guy to whittle me down with extreme emotional abuse to the point that it took me years to recover any semblance of self-respect and to this day has left me with a certain fear of asserting myself in relationships. Thinking about his sense of entitlement thoroughly disgusts me now; by simple virtue of the fact that he asked instead of outright taking, I was obligated to comply. While he didn’t qualify as chivalrous for the fact that after belittling me enough, he nurtured a tolerance in me of blatant abuse and disrespect, he still attested to his membership in the Nice Guy™ Club because of his lack of stereotypical Bad Boy behavior. He never cheated on me, and he didn’t pretend to want a relationship or string me along in that vein. And so, apparently, a Nice Guy™ is defined by virtue of his non-participation in a specific assemblage of negative qualities. Not, you know, by virtue of actually being nice.

Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t believe there are genuine nice guys out there. I wholeheartedly insist that there are, and I have the pleasure of being able to name a few I have in my current circle of acquaintances and friends. For me, the distinguishing mark of a truly nice guy is this all-important respect I keep bringing up.

My second relationship was loaded with it. He was both respectful and decidedly nice. While he would open doors for me if I happened to linger in the car gathering my things long enough for him to get to my side before I got out or if he reached a door before I did, it was always motivated by veritable politeness, and he likewise didn’t think twice of leaving me to my own devices quite confident I could look after myself just fine without his ever-protective presence. He was so entirely respectful, in fact, he was 100% honest with me: the end of our relationship came about when he truthfully acknowledged he didn’t miss me when we were apart. While I wouldn’t say that’s exactly a nice thing to say to someone, it’s actually far better than merely being nice. Rather than sparing me the hurtful truth, knowing that withholding the information was a surefire way to maintain the relationship and all the benefits of it, he gave me the honor of respectful honesty.

If it wasn’t for that fact, I’m certain that after recovering from the pain of that loss, I wouldn’t have been able to move on to consider him a friend as I do now.

To illustrate the nice/chivalrous vs. respect dichotomy quite plainly, I have an anecdote concerning riding as a passenger on motorcycles. For a certain amount of time after first getting a motorcycle license, the licensee is prohibited from carrying a passenger with them. Quite reasonably so, as it isn’t terribly prudent while the new motorcyclist is him- or herself still getting used to riding.

Aware of my penchant for being a passenger, a guy offered to take me along on his motorcycle a few times. While exhibiting a certain level of concern for my safety by ensuring I had a helmet and proper jacket and clothing to wear, I found out by coincidence that he was still on his Provisional license and thus not actually permitted to have me on the bike with him, but only after I had pillioned on more than one occasion. He is quite positively a victim of being a Nice Guy™: under the banner of treating me to something I enjoy, while simultaneously impressing me (*hint hint wink wink* chicks dig dudes with motorcycles!), he also broke the law–discounting my safety while also putting himself at risk of at least getting a ticket and at worst losing his license altogether.

In direct contrast, I recently was discussing riding with another male friend who was completely transparent about not yet having an unrestricted license. In light of the opportunity to take me riding, despite an opportunity to Impress a Chick, he was honest with me about not actually being allowed.

And that is the difference between niceness and respect. It would have been perfectly nice of him to offer the chance for me to do something I enjoy. To take a chick for a ride on a motorcycle, such a stereotype of Bad Boy impressiveness professed to be a surefire way to Get the Girl. But no. He respected my right as a passenger–as another person–to know what I’d be getting myself into. Morever, he paid me this honor so nonchalantly, so naturally, that it carried even more weight; not only was I fundamentally deserving of this respect, it was so patently obvious that responding in any other way just wasn’t an apparent option. That’s simply the only manner in which you behave with another person.

And that feeling like a person thing? It’s a really damn good feeling, and it’s exactly why I think respect is worth entire universes more than chivalry (or supposed niceness).

Tipping in Restaurants

I stumbled upon a blog post by a waitress with regular contributions to Slashfood over the past few days. After perusing the comments on that entry, I was inspired to read the entirety of Hanna’s “What Can I Get You Folks?” series along with most of the comments, and as a result I’ve been left extremely disillusioned with restaurant servers.

The vast majority of industry commenters, and the author herself, express a level of entitlement to a minimum 20% tip that I find absolutely disgusting. While I acknowledge that a vast number of states in the US are permitted to pay their employees below minimum wage (often as low as $2-and-change per hour) and subsequently do literally live off of the tips they receive, there are plenty of states that are required to pay at least minimum wage and those servers still seem to feel they deserve a 20% tip for simply showing up and doing their job. A quick calculation puts their earned income then above my most well-paid job in the States–a job that required of me a level of responsibility holding me accountable for government records and the possibility of testifying in Federal Court. While waiting tables is admittedly no easy feat, it certainly doesn’t impose anywhere near that degree of accountability, and it deeply peeves me that a waiter or waitress would feel entitled to that standard of salary based on tips.

When I worked in a bakery, I would say the level of physical and mental demand of the job was very similar to that of a waitperson, and I made just a bit over minimum wage with no tipping–it was flat out not permitted by our owner to have a tip jar on the counter. Even if it was allowed, I would never have expected tips because my job was to provide a service, and that is exactly what a waiter or waitress’s job at a restaurant is to do. The fact that so many apparently feel entitled to at least 20%–even in the cases where they are already paid the same wage as any other “unskilled” labor–is absolutely abhorrent.

It is an entirely different attitude to view tips as exactly what they are: a gratuity given as a token of appreciation and thanks for a level of service that goes beyond what is expected of the employees at an establishment. There were occasional times when I was handed a dollar bill or other relatively small amount (compared to this expected 20%) as thanks for carrying a heavy cake out to a customer’s car at the bakery; this task was not part of my job, and the customer chose to acknowledge their thanks for my added service with a tip. I always viewed that as a truly genuine gesture, and I never had a problem with helping a customer out by offering the same service of carrying products without receipt of a tip. I did my job because that was expected of me, and I would go beyond the expectation because I enjoyed my work and helping people. I expressly did not show up for work because I expected customers to pay me extra for providing them with the service I was there to provide and more specifically felt entitled to a particular percentage of their total purchase.

Tips should not be an expectation. They are not something a customer service provider is entitled to receive. Waiters and waitresses do not have a right to 20% of my bill simply for showing up for work and doing the job they are paid to do. While I will happily entertain the idea of a 15% tip as a starting point in states like NY where waitstaff are not paid minimum wage (something completely inhuman and worthy of discussion in its own right), that is a baseline for simply doing one’s job there. After being enlightened to the attitude it seems most servers possess, I’m completely disinclined to ever consider leaving a 20% tip anywhere. I’m now also inclined to start at a 0% baseline in states like Oregon and California where the servers are in fact paid at least minimum wage. They can earn a tip by doing more than what is expected of them at their job.

It’s particularly astounding because it is quite clear when one is hired what the wage will be. These people are fully informed and choose to take the job at the rate of pay that is offered. They then expect to be paid more. At what other job is this considered reasonable behavior? Where else can one have the luxury of feeling entitled to more than their offered salary? Nowhere.

Tips are not an entitlement. They are a gift. It would be nice to see these servers treat them as such.

Indefinitely After Un-Relationships

In the course of my usual morning blog-reading on Saturday, I was led to this post by Jill on the winding path of dating when it’s complicated by the fact that you’re a very vocal feminist. While I will be the first to admit I’m (generally, in person) not a vocal feminist in the slightest and quite probably do nothing to help feminist causes at times, there was a particular section that really inspired reflection upon my own path through the world of romantic relationships:

It would be nice to be in a long-term stable relationship, but only in the sense that I would like to find someone with whom I am actually motivated to build such a relationship. In reality, though, I’ve kind of settled into the idea that I will probably not end up creating such a relationship; I feel like maybe that reads as sad or depressing, but it doesn’t feel like that at all. I mean, I’ve never been the person to fantasize about My Ideal Wedding, but I have fantasized about My First Published Book since before I could actually write. … I read all these stories about women my age who are totally anxious about finding The One and getting married, and I keep hearing that women my age have this biological clock thing ticking quite loudly, and even a lot of my friends seem to be feeling like they should be locating their person right about now, and I often wonder if there isn’t something seriously deeply wrong with me not only because I don’t feel any of that anxiety but also because I don’t at all fear A Life Alone. Maybe that will change in a decade — my mother says it will, and then she reminds me that she would be a really great grandmother. But it means that in the meantime, I can get to know a lot of different people without feeling like I’m auditioning them for the role of Jill’s Perfect Mate.

I can distinctly remember declaring to my dad at the age of four that I was never getting married and never having children. Once I got a little older and it became apparent to me that getting married wasn’t the act that created children and it was indeed possible to have one without the other, I began to entertain the idea of getting married as a potential activity in my life someday, but like Jill, I was still never one of those girls who planned out these wonderful, elaborate weddings, dreaming of the day they would walk down the aisle in a gorgeous white dress and recite vows asserting eternal love and devotion.

Instead, I spent hours upon hours going through my dad’s old books of house plans (he at one time owned and operated an incredibly successful construction business), picking out which ones I would someday love to live in: tremendous, extravagant, luxurious homes that would be a testament to my infinite success at whatever occupation I currently saw fit for myself “when I grew up.” I empasize the I in that statement because I honestly only ever pictured myself living in those grand homes. Whenever I imagined days spent in the library reading and writing, hours working out in the dedicated gym room, cooking in the professional-grade kitchen, and lounging on the vast patio by the in-ground swimming pool and landscaped gardens, there was no one else residing in the home with me, partaking of these various luxuries. It was only me, single-handedly enjoying the material fruits of my impressive talents and labors.

While I still entertain the possibility of someday finding someone that is so thoroughly Awesome I can’t not want to share my life with them, just as when I was dreaming of my single life in mansions, I’m not at all put off by the idea of going about my existence “alone.” And like Jill, in the face of supposedly knowing, patronizing remarks about how it’s only because I’m young and doubtless one day I’ll be driven to get married and settle down, just give it about ten years and my biological clock will run rampant and all-consuming, I find myself questioning my lifelong lack of such an interest. Is there something wrong with me that it has never once been an intensely motivating factor and I quite positively don’t ever see it becoming an issue? Is there something terrifyingly strange and powerful that will suddenly turn on out of the blue in about five or so years that will completely change the mindset I’ve had for the past 26?

That last thought frightens me considerably more than the idea of never marrying. I’m quite proud of where my life experiences have led me and the person they have created. I like who I am the way I am now, and I find it absolutely mortifying to think that overnight I’ll turn into one of all the other irrational, unreasonable, and quite certifiably insane women out there intent upon having ridiculously convoluted relationships, marriages, and families. I may not have always been able to articulate exactly what I am after in a potential relationship, but I can assert that the common, expected course of a relationship has always felt artificial and unnecessarily complicated to navigate.

It really disturbs me to think that some Unknown will completely change me. Hell, beyond the whole dreaming of single life in a mansion, even when I played with dolls it wasn’t the traditional Barbie-marries-Ken-and-here-is-their-happily-ever-after. No, I had one Ken doll and about a dozen Barbies. Naturally he never got married, had affairs with all of the Barbies, and–SHOCKER!–sometimes there were threesomes, and some of the Barbies were lesbian! Having children was always a categorically negative thing, and none of my Barbies (or Ken) ever wanted to upset their exciting lives by having to buckle down and raise a child.

And of course, every Barbie had their own expansive, lavish mansion they lived in on their own, but occasionally with whoever was their current fling (or flings!).

These sort of childhood behaviors are what convince me that my lack of a drive to get married and settle down is an inherent, consistent part of me. That the fact that I’m not after any sort of “traditional” relationship is never going to change–it’s not just a phase I’m going through if I’ve been declaring my distinct dearth of interest in it all since I was four! It’s frustrating when people don’t understand how much thought I’ve put into it all, and how if I bring up having a relationship or getting married it is most definitely not because I’ve been bitten by the Insanity Bug and now suddenly want a fairy-tale ending.

I suppose that would be the one thing I am displeased about–the way most women operate has unfortunately set a stage that makes it impossible for me to have an intelligent, reasonable conversation about what I would actually want in a relationship and for what reasons I would actually consider the idea of getting married without the expectation being imposed on me that I’m going to be just as fanatical as every other woman, saying one thing when I really mean the complete opposite. This is probably the main reason I’m not terrified of being alone: I’ve learned it’s much more simple, pleasant, and enjoyable to just never bring any of it up. Why would I bother with the difficulties of trying to convince someone I’m not like all the other chicks when I can enjoy what I have with them without saying anything at all?

Again, I’m sure I’d be thrilled if I met someone who was equally uninterested in all the complicated nonsense people introduce to relationships when they want them to fit a certain timeline and array of specific qualities. Who was so thoroughly, unbelievably Fantastic that my independent, adventurous life would feel somehow less independent and adventurous if they weren’t included. I have the funny feeling, though, that I will wind up quite thoroughly happy with a string of all manner of entertaining, inspiring interactions while I work my way towards that mansion I’ve always wanted…

Go ‘Break a Leg’–Like, RIGHT NOW!

So I met these guys in a bar. No, wait, don’t stop reading yet–this is really going somewhere good, believe me. So, guys in a bar… Turns out they are some of the brains behind this insanely-good Internet sitcom titled Break a Leg. Picture the film editing feel of Goodfellas shaken up James Bond martini-style with well-timed sarcastic humor and a splash of ridiculous comedic moments à la Monty Python. Just the fact that I’m actually watching a sitcom for once since the days of Full House on TGIF should speak volumes of the quality of entertainment bestowed upon the Web by the Break a Leg team.

Go check it out, like, yesterday. Seriously! I’ve been thanking my lucky stars–as I sit on the BART going to and from work undoubtedly receiving curious and confused stares from other passengers observing me laughing at my iPod–I wasn’t so buzzed as to be oblivious to the site address scrawled on a piece of paper for me by these random guys at a bar. I promise it’ll prove stories that start out with “so I […] in a bar…” aren’t invariably lame. ;D