A Vermont woman named Christine Billis recently pled guilty to manslaughter after she intentionally drove her car into a tree, causing her husband’s death. Ms. Billis would have gotten away with it, but shortly after the accident, she joined the online dating website okcupid.com, then confessed the deed to a prospective beau. The guy decided to go to the authorities instead of pursuing a relationship with her. It seems wearing a wire and becoming an undercover informant is preferable to finding love for some people.
No one will dispute that it’s wrong to hasten the demise of your spouse by driving into a tree, no matter how much he snores over there in the passenger seat. The old “thou shalt not kill” credo is pretty standard. In her defense, Ms. Billis later claimed her husband was controlling and abusive. Mental note: If you’re controlling and abusive, you should do the driving.
What’s glaringly apparent to me is that Christine, and possibly others, need some guidance in the dos and don’ts in the world of online dating. Being an old guy who’s been married since Moses was a pup, I’m clearly not the most knowledgable about dating in these modern times, much less the new-fangled internet variety. Despite my lack of expertise, I don’t see anyone else volunteering much advice for you folks, so here goes.
Do – be honest about yourself, particularly in the “Likes and Dislikes” portion of the initial questionaire. If a potential love-interest doesn’t enjoy scrap-booking, it’s better to find out right away.
Don’t – admit to killing your husband by driving his side of the Ford Fiesta into a sugar maple. Save that story for when the guy doesn’t want to see you anymore. He’ll think twice about breaking things off – especially if you’ve gotten the Fiesta repaired and on the road again.
. _ . _ .
Do – bend the truth a little bit when describing your best features. A little creativity can’t hurt. Who hasn’t accidentally dropped five years off their sentence or twenty-five pounds off their derriere for the sake of embellishment?
Don’t – go nuts on the fabrications. Describing yourself as looking like a young Meryl Streep when you look more like an old Merle Haggard will make for an awkward first date.
. _ . _ .
Do – realize that there’s going to be a bit of fabrication on both sides of the ball. If the guy describes himself as “an outdoorsman”, there’s a chance he lives in his car.
Don’t – rush to judgement. Living in a car has its upside, especially if you haven’t gotten the Fiesta fixed yet because the twits at the insurance company are fussing about that pesky manslaughter charge.
. _ . _ .
Do – post a picture of yourself if the website requires it. Try to find a shot which highlights your best features while minimizing the negatives.
Don’t – use video-stills from your trial. Also, very few people have complexions which are complimented by orange prison jumpsuits, so consider a black and white shot.
. _ . _ .
Do – agree to meet in a public place for your first date. It takes the pressure off and keeps expectations in line.
Don’t – worry about the presence of onlookers, or as some people call them, witnesses.
. _ . _ .
Do – come up with a cute, catchy screen name for yourself, which reflects your interests and personality, like “CatsMeow21” or “iLuvSunsetz365“
Don’t – choose a name which might have a negative connotation, like “DeptOfCorrexuns3167239” or “iMakeLicPlates4u“
. _ . _ .
Those are just a few of the thoughts I came up with so far. I hope people find them helpful. Hopefully by the time Christine gets back out on the dating scene, I’ll have a more comprehensive list of tips ready for her.
I’ve been giving some thought to all of the cool stuff I made or bought for my Dad on Father’s Day over the years.
The love behind the gifts was unconditional of course, though the range of what the an 8 year-old could fashion out of modelling clay and pipe cleaners may have been somewhat limited. In those days, you could make your Dad a coffee mug. Even if he didn’t drink coffee or tea, it didn’t matter, because the mug would usually be comically lop-sided and as leaky as a sieve. Dad could use the mug to hold pens and pencils on his desk. Hopefully, the desk had ample room for the paperweights and ashtrays which you had made for him on Father’s Days gone by.
When I got old enough to hit my mother up for money and a ride to the store, I’d get Dad a tie.
I look at the world these days and wonder what kids could possibly be cranking out to give to Dad today. The coffee mug is still a classic, but with the advent of computers, I don’t know how many fathers really need all that much pen storage. Similarly, the paperweight is all but obsolete. Who needs to hold down papers in paperless cubicle? Everyone knows how politically incorrect ashtrays have become, and using one to hold paperclips would require an office with papers in it.
Casual workplaces and tele-commuting make neck ties about as relevant as a new needle for the Victrola. The opportunities for many Dads to wear ties are rarer all the time. Dad won’t want to hurt their feelings, but perhaps someday the youngsters will understand why he can’t wear that nice NASCAR necktie they gave him to Aunt Tilly’s funeral.
Madison Avenue has been bombarding us with ads for power tools, golf clubs and European sedans as ways to honor our Dads. Despite the efforts of advertisers, it’s doubtful that many in the 10 and under set were out buying Dad a radial arm saw or BMW this past week. As nice as it would be to have a new toy, Dads know better than to pin those wishes for a day like this. That’s what mid-life crisis birthdays and inheritances are for.
I’m not sure what has become of the various ashtrays and coffee mugs which my own kids made for me on Father’s Days gone by. I can still picture what my daughters and son must have looked like as they wrapped up their school year and finished the projects they’d made for me. I suppose as long as I have those pictures in my mind, the actual lump of painted clay doesn’t matter all that much.
We don’t need papers to appreciate a nice paperweight after all.
A week or so ago, Prawn and Quartered took a brief respite from her “A-Team as a metaphor for life” campaign and described blogging as something of a substitute for formal psychotherapy. I realize that she is not likely the first person to suggest that there are other sources for therapy beyond laying on a sofa and telling some guy all of your fears while he tries to stay awake. In fact, I’m almost positive I’ve seen a motivational poster on Facebook espousing a much less expensive form of therapy involving the use of bubble wrap.
The thought stuck in my head (apparently there are a few sharp corners inside my skull and all sorts of crap gets snagged there). I don’t quite see blogging as a substitute for psychotherapy, not that I’ve ever experienced formal therapy myself.
My personal brand of therapy tends to involve me talking to someone (anyone – who are we kidding here?) while looking at the swirling forms in the bottom of my tumbler of scotch. As in the realm of professional therapy, the biggest challenge is for the listener to stay awake.
For some subliminal reason, I couldn’t stop thinking of blogging as a different type of therapy.
In my opinion, blogging seems especially well suited to take the place of colonic therapy. Not that I’ve ever had colonic therapy either, but you need to give me a little creative license here. As long as we’re splitting hairs, I’m not sure putting a garden hose where the sun don’t shine necessarily makes the practitioner a “therapist” either. Forgive me for putting you readers in such a shitty role in this process, but I keep day-dreaming about it.
In my mind, I travel to California, home of any- and all-flaky ways to cleanse ones mind and body of the toxins of the world. My trip takes me, via an aged Subaru Outback which now runs on used vegetable oil, to a nondescript town in the northern part of the state. My stomach tightens briefly when I see the sign, written in hippy-dippy, Grateful Dead script for the “ Freed Spirit Center for Blog Cleansing, High Colonics and Organic Deli “. We turn off the main drag and soon our ride, smelling of falafel, is bumping along the ruts of a gravel road, winding through the countryside.
The building comes into view, looking reminiscent of a house I once saw in a documentary on the Manson family. There is a dusty VW bus out front and some well-worn mountain bikes. A couple of scruffy dogs look up briefly from the porch, but dismiss us when it is apparent that we have no tennis balls.
A woman glides from the front door to greet us. The dogs don’t pay any attention to her either. She wears a gauzy pile of pastel colored fabric which may have once served as mosquito netting before being tie-dyed and cut into more manageable sizes. Her feet are clad in some sort of sandals which make Birkenstocks look like Italian pumps. Despite looking like what would pass for “eccentric homeless” in just about any other corner of the country, she glows with a healthy vigor which makes me feel even more middle aged and suburban than before. A little voice cries out in my head, telling me there is not likely any scotch in this place. I briefly chastise myself for not stashing a few airline bottles of some single malt in my luggage.
She introduces herself. Her name is Lisa and she’s the blog cleansing coordinator and spirit guide. I’m amazed by her name, as I was fully expecting something more along the lines of “Summer Meadow” or “Goddess Queef”. She takes my bag and dismisses the driver as we head into the house. I cast a quick glance over my shoulder and suppress the impulse to chase after the lumbering Subaru.
The place is remarkably spare of decor, looking almost institutional in its lack of artwork and papa-san chairs. To my surprise, there is no trace of incense, just the faint fragrance of Lisa’s patchouli. As we move through the main hall, I catch a glimpse into a room with a couple of padded tables with hoses and various jugs and funnels lining the shelves on the walls. I recite a silent prayer that it’s a colonic room and not part of the organic deli.
We move deeper into the house, passing closed doors until Lisa finally pushes one open. Inside the tiny room is a computer on a desk, with a rather hi-tech, cool looking office chair. The room is devoid of windows or even a light, other than the blue glow of the computer screen. As my eyes get used to the gloom, I can make out a bare mattress on the floor and a commode in the opposite corner.
“Try the chair, ” Lisa says.
I sit in it and am amazed at how comfortable it is. I swivel it to the computer. Once the chair is facing the screen, the rotation stops and the chair locks there. I hear Lisa over my shoulder, her voice has lost some of its health food co-op softness.
“You need to start the purging process,” she says, “Start typing, and don’t stop to worry about quality or topic. Bare your soul and don’t concern yourself with what people will think when they read it.” She continued, ” Don’t waste time commenting on the state of the world or kids today with their wacky iPods and gizmos – Andy Rooney is gone and need not be replaced.”
I try to glance up at her, but her hand gently but firmly turns my face back toward the computer. I place my hands on the keyboard and tentatively type a few words about myself. I keep it fairly light, describing the year and place of my birth, as I’m self conscious about Lisa looking over my shoulder. I stop typing for a moment and cautiously turn my head to face her, but she’s gone.
Suddenly, her voice coos in my ear from speakers in the headrest of the chair. “David,” she says, “you must write much more than that and don’t think this standard demographic stuff is going to effectively work as purging. You will be able to use the commode once an hour and the mattress is available for you to sleep briefly every 30 pages.”
I smirk to myself and start reading between the lines to figure out how to satisfy the requirements without actually doing the work. I’m starting to feel creative and energized at the idea of putting one over on these “therapists” when Lisa’s voice comes back into my ear.
“Don’t bother trying to make stuff up either, we’ve read your blog about art school psychology and we’re well aware of your penchant for creating wildly exaggerated scenes from your childhood. By the way, ” she continued as a chill passed through me, “I just finished going through your bag and I’m surprised you didn’t pack yourself any scotch. Not that it would have mattered, alcohol is strictly prohibited at the Freed Spirit Center”
I turn back to the computer, shaken to the core. I start typing, slowly at first, about my childhood, my eczema, my shyness, my tendency to cry too easily as a child and too slowly as an adult. The words pour out of me with greater ease and soon the first 30 pages are done. I don’t even glance at the bed, as my pages cover the awkward teenage years, the awkward college years and the awkward years of my 20’s and 30’s. Sweat trickles down my temples as the words spill out through my fingers. The dams of my subconscious are a distant memory now as my thoughts and feelings can’t be stopped from rushing out of me onto the glowing screen.
I speed through my life, all the way up to resenting Lisa’s laundry basket attire and and my lack of foresight in the scotch department. I describe my distaste for cars which smell like fried food instead of exhaust. Finally, after outlining my thoughts and fears for my ever-shortening future and doubts about life after death, I stagger from the computer and collapse on the mattress. Even with my eyes closed, I can still see the words of my massive blog-purge dancing around in my brain. The lack of windows has left me disoriented, my internal time clock has lost its main spring.
When Lisa opens the door, I flinch and cover my eyes from the painful glare of the mid day sun. She informs me that two days have passed since she last saw me in person. I don’t doubt that she’s been looking at me through some sort of spy cam throughout the process.
She strolls over to the computer as my eyes continue to get used to the daylight.
“I’m glad you embraced the blog-purging dynamic”, she says, “You’re not the first one to come here and resist the truth and effort required to truly rid yourself of toxins via blogging ” she said, looking at me with something bordering on compassion.
“How do you feel, now that it’s over?” she asks.
I think about it for a moment. I’ve been so busy typing, that I’ve lost touch with my feelings for the here and now. After a moment of consideration I tell her. “I feel empty” I say, surprised by the croaking sound of my own voice.
“That’s fairly common” says Lisa. “We have a nice vegan meal prepped for you out in the deli. Before you eat, you can take a shower. Earth Sun will back with the Subaru in a couple of hours to take you back to the airport”
With that, she turns and faces the computer. Before I can utter a sound, she deftly deletes every word I’ve written. She turns to me and sees the look of shock on my face.
“We may look like counter-culture oddballs to you, David” she says, “but we still flush when we’re done.”
I’ll admit it, I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of trends.
Take for example, the fact that “The Hunger Games” movie came out the other day, and I’m just starting to read the book. Actually, I’ve been reading the book for a while, it’s just that between blogging and working and drinking, there isn’t too much awake time left for paperbacks of “The Lottery” meets “A Coalminer’s Daughter” meets “Futurama”.
I’m not a literary critic, so I’ll try to stop that.
When I started reading that book, I couldn’t help but notice that the words on the pages were echoing in my head in a British accent. If I’m reading a P.D. James mystery or Thomas Hardy novel, the same thing happens. I’m not sure if it’s due to my knowing that the authors are from jolly old England, or if it’s because they write in a British style – I just know what the narrator’s voice in my head sounds like. For the record, when I read the works of Stephen Hawking, the voice in my head takes on the automated sound of computer generated speech. I know who wrote the piece, and it adds to my reading experience. Besides, it adds an element of entertainment to the chore of reading the otherwise incomprehensible work of a mega-genius.
As for the accents, it’s usually my voice, but a decidedly British version thereof. If I close my eyes I can practically see the Brit version of myself, sitting in a wing-back chair with a snifter of something brown on the table next to me with a doily beneath it. There’s a tasteful lamp barely lighting the dark wood library behind me. My pipe sits prominently in it’s holder next to the snifter. My legs are crossed in the more feminine vertical fashion and I appear to be wearing some kind of Hugh Hefner/Don Draper smoking jacket. I tilt my head slightly in an intellectual fashion and smile gently at the camera, revealing my crooked yellow teeth. A dusty, leatherbound edition of “The Hunger Games” is open in my lap. I regard the camera one last time, put on my trusty wire-rimmed reading glasses, look down to the pages and start reading. You could practically smell the steak-and-kidney pie and scones baking in the nearby kitchen.
I needed to confirm my suspicions that the author of “The Hunger Games” Suzanne Collins, was originally from England, or had at least spent some serious time there. I looked for a quick explanation, flipping my paperback over to find the usual all-about-the-author blurb. You know how those go:
“R.I.P. Skippy – We Miss You!” is David Lovett’s 4th blockbuster novel. He lives with his wife and several beloved pet iguanas in a small cabin in the Azores. Born in Illinois and raised in the hard-scrabble streets of suburban New Jersey, he attended several American Universities earning degrees in fields which he eventually abandoned in favor of writing blockbuster novels. Look for his next action packed novel “A Hangover Dissected” hitting shelves in Early 2013.
I was unable to find anything on the book cover and had to look online to find out whether Suzanne Collins came from Oxford-Hamptonshire or Hastings-On-Kent. I was amazed to discover that she doesn’t appear to have a single tie to England whatsoever (She did work as a writer on the Nickleodeon show “Clarissa Explains It All” – which may or may not explain why she wrote a series of books about teenagers hunting and killing each other).
I was stumped. The British voice in my head was still there. Was it the bleak, Dickensian setting of “The Seam”? Was it the weird names the characters had? One’s named Katniss, one is Peeta – her bio says she’s adopted feral cats – are we surprised? Anyway, back to the voice in my head. I was having a hard time enjoying the book, because of reading each sentence multiple times. The first time would be in a stiff, formal British Parliamentary kind of tone, the second would be more on the Cockney side (Eh Guv-nah?), then the third would be in my own glorious American accent. By the time I’d read a given sentence three times, I’d have to go back and read it a fourth time because I was too busy affecting an accent to actually absorb the meaning of the words. If you’ve read the book, you know these are not generally sentences which improve with multiple readings.
Luckily for me, lots and lots of people have read the book. Even people who almost never read seem to have read all three of “The Hunger Games” books. I began asking people who I work with whether they had had similar experiences with the whole British accent thing. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that not one person understood what the hell I was talking about. Despite being rabid fans of the books, almost all of these people wanted to drop the topic of Katniss and company and talk instead about the voices in my head. Many of them became convinced that I have some kind of paranoid schizophrenia and a few seemed a little frightened of what the voices might say to me.
“Is the voice in your head a man’s or a woman’s?”
“When the voices speak in accents, do they tell you to hurt yourself?”
“Does your dog ever tell you to do things?”
After a day or two of this, the voice in my head told me to stop asking people about the voices in their heads. It went something like this: “I say old chum, it seems these blokes think you a bit daft. I suspect you’d be better off not chatting them up about what I say to you. Wouldn’t want them committing you to some sort of ‘looney bin’ as you Yanks like to say, what? Now then, let’s not tarry, we’ve got rope and shovels to buy and a list to finish”