Monday, September 17, 2007

Boys' House

Summer 2000

To enter a boys’ house is to enter another world. I’m not talking about a house in which a boy lives with his parents, or his girlfriend, or whomever. I’m talking about a house in which a boy lives with other boys. A house that contains 225 DVDs, three video game systems, and no fresh fruits or vegetables.

To first set foot in my ex-boyfriend’s apartment, I had to throw my purse over the edge of the waist-high fence surrounding the patio, step up on the drainpipe, and propel myself over. This was not the most graceful move I have ever executed, and not one I especially wanted Matt, whom I had just started dating, to see. Why was it necessary? Because the front door’s knob had gotten stuck. Why hadn’t Matt and his roommates called the manager? Because they had decided they could fix the door themselves. I witnessed this show of mechanical expertise, in which one of the roommates and a friend used a butter knife as a screwdriver and fiddled with the door until they were satisfied. When they tested the doorknob, it promptly came off in their hands. So they abandoned the project, leaving a gaping hole in the front door where the broken knob had been. Thus I had to jump over the fence every time I entered the apartment, which resulted in several cuts and bruises, as well as severe annoyance. Matt and his roommate Jeff didn’t get the door fixed until the week they moved out, and by that time I’d grown accustomed to hopping the fence.

Because the front door was out of order, and the screen door didn’t have a key, the apartment remained unlocked at all times. I found this lack of security disturbing, considering the wealth of electronics inside, and I half expected a murderous burglar to be inside the apartment every time I came in. Fueling my fears was a life-sized cutout of The Rock (a musclebound wrestler), which loomed out of the darkness, a hulk staring down anyone daring to enter the living room.

Visiting the boys’ house felt to me like roughing it in the wilderness. Even after I overcame my fear of being mauled by an intruder, I had to forage for food. One night, I was hungry and looked in the kitchen for something to eat. In the fridge, I found a Brita water purifier that no one had bothered to fill, a few condiments, several bottles of beer, and a Tupperware container of chili.

“Is this edible?” I asked Jeff.

“No,” he said, “That’s been there for months. It’s part of us now—we’re too attached to it to throw it away.”

Frustrated, I looked in the cupboard. Nothing was there except Top Ramen and a can of Planter’s Peanuts.

“They’re from last Christmas,” said Jeff. It was August when I found them.

If the food situation weren’t enough to make me feel like I was camping, it was the bathrooms, whose toilets clogged during one out of three flushes. The boys had toilet paper sometimes (usually no one bothered to change the empty roll), the soap (when there was any) lay in shards, and the toilet seat was always up. There was no garbage can in the bathroom, so I had to throw Kleenex into the kitchen wastebasket, which was constantly smelly and overflowing (“It’s Jeff’s turn to throw it out,” Matt told me for weeks). I didn’t dare use the shower, because Jeff had informed me that he peed in it every morning.

“It eliminates a whole step,” he said. “I’m too tired in the morning to lift the toilet seat, pee, flush, then get in the shower.”

This disgusting show of laziness did not bother Matt in the least. “Pee is good for your feet,” he told me. “It prevents athlete’s foot.”

The boys’ house was not only unfriendly to human visitors, but to animals as well. The third roommate, Troy, had moved out a month before my first visit to the apartment, and he had left behind a cat that Matt and Jeff both hated. I heard that poor Maverick had been overweight when the boys first moved in, but by the time I arrived on the scene, he had slimmed down considerably. Matt and Jeff had barely enough money to buy food for themselves (hence the empty fridge and cupboards), much less for the cat they loathed. Therefore, Maverick went from fat to scrawny in a matter of weeks, and when visitors asked about the rapid change, Matt and Jeff would nod knowingly and say, “He’s on a special diet.”

When the lease was up and the boys moved out, I did not envy the person who had to clean the place, scrubbing the smelly corner by the piano where Maverick had peed, and the space under the leaky fridge that had grown green with mold. However, I missed the apartment much more than I thought I would, despite its toxicity and lack of amenities expected by a civilized person.

I didn’t need to feel nostalgic for long, as Matt soon moved into a new boys’ house with two new roommates. I felt an unexpected sense of comfort when I saw the coffee table they had fashioned out of a wooden board laid over two speakers, and when I realized that they had a complete home entertainment center but no silverware. I loved to hang out with the boys, staying up late watching useless movies on HBO and eating cereal out of casserole dishes because there were no clean bowls.

Since I always had fun at Matt’s place and came away with good stories, I wondered occasionally if I could ever move in. I quickly thought better of it. A boys’ house would be intolerable for someone who couldn’t stomach a steady diet of Top Ramen, and who didn’t get fired up by watching Rocky 2 for the tenth time. In other words, it would be intolerable for girls in general. For any girl with basic standards of cleanliness and civilized behavior, a boys’ house is an exciting place to visit, but a frightening place to live.

Application to Date Me

Note, 12/08: When I met my partner Darren in February 2008, I officially closed the application process. Reference the final paragraph of this post and the words "God forbid"...yes, my Monday nights now involve football and much yelling at the TV screen. Coincidentally, they also involve karaoke at the neighborhood pub. In Mississippi. Funny how things turn out.

September 17, 2007

Dating would be much more efficient if interested guys had to fill out an application. I imagine that they would submit it to me with a cover letter expressing their intentions and qualifications, along with a recent photo. I could read these items at my leisure, ask for supplemental materials when necessary, and then make an informed decision. This process would eliminate the majority of candidates without a single forced conversation, saving precious time and sparing me countless uncomfortable moments. It would also soften the blow of rejection. I wouldn’t feel the least bit guilty sending a form letter that read, “After reviewing your application, I have decided that we’re not a strong romantic fit. Thank you for your interest.” It’s much harder to take personally than, “You’re a great guy, but I’m just not that into _______________ (programmers/Young Republicans/carnies).”

Completing an “Application to Date Me” should be standard practice. After all, people have to fill out an application to attend private school, to buy a house, and to be granted with other special privileges. Isn’t enjoying the pleasure of my company in the same league? It’s certainly on par with getting a job at Taco Bell, or at least I would like to think so.

My sister suggested that I create an Application to Date Me when I was newly single a couple of years ago. Having gone on a couple of disappointing dates, I thought this was a great idea. The only thing in question was what this application would look like. If it were going to identify candidates with high potential and screen out the others, I would have to word it carefully.

I decided to call in the reinforcements. I asked my friend Carol, who was also single and a bit exasperated with boys, to come over one night and create a joint application with me. Surrounding ourselves with munchies, we huddled over my laptop and summoned as our muses the many awkward boys of our past. The following is an excerpt from our application:

1) Throw this application in the trash if you:

  • Drip sweat on me while we are dancing
  • Shave the Batman insignia into your chest hair
  • Document your Unabomber phase on your personal web page

2) Delete my number from your cell phone if you aspire to:

  • Wear the most authentic Darth Maul costume at the midnight premiere of the new Star Wars movie
  • Become a Dungeon Master
  • Become a vampire

3) You will spend tonight alone if you:

  • Are skinnier than I am
  • Have delicate, tapered fingers with manicured nails
  • Get misty-eyed when Celine Dion hits the high note in “My Heart Will Go On”

Let me emphasize that these are all based on real-life experiences, with a couple of specifics changed to spare feelings. You can imagine why Carol and I were frustrated with dating. That night, we shared one horror story after another, which inspired us to list six pages of qualities we absolutely did not want in a man. We stopped only because it was after midnight, and we never did get to what we did want.

The first draft of the Application to Date Me turned out to be a tool not to find the man of my dreams, but rather to screen out those who need not apply. I’m sure it would do a great job of weeding out applicants who were perky morning people, spoke to me in baby talk in the presence of others, or had ever watched an entire WWF fight. It would eliminate those who were really into Lord of the Rings, triple bacon cheeseburgers, or death metal. It would also probably ensure that I never went on a date at all, having kicked to the curb most of the candidate pool.

As I’m now 27 and hoping to avoid becoming an eccentric Cat Lady, I’ve decided that I should probably revise my application in terms of what I actually do want in a guy. My Fall 2007 Application to Date Me will give special consideration to those who:

  • find it impossible to eat a quality meal without frequent, contented “mmm”s
  • can quote both Happy Gilmore and Catcher in the Rye in the same conversation
  • are equally at ease playing kickball with my middle school students and drunkenly rapping “Bust a Move” at a divey karaoke bar

The following questions will be included in the application:

1) Who would win in a Saved by the Bell cage match, Jessie Spano or Lisa Turtle? Explain your answer.

Answer: Jessie, of course, powered by her feisty feminism and her secret stash of caffeine pills. She’s so excited…

2) Angelina Jolie is ____________.

a. A dirty homewrecker

b. A resident of Crazytown

c. Skeletor's more attractive cousin

d. A beautiful, savvy ambassador using her star power for social good

Answer: All of the above. Rachel Ray’s response of “a skanky, backdoor c*nt” would disqualify her for inappropriately harsh language. Though let’s hope that Rachel Ray wouldn’t be filling out an Application to Date Me in the first place.

3) What’s the best strategy for dominating in Halo 2?

Answer: The only appropriate answers are, “What’s Halo 2?” or “Who the hell cares?”

I’m aware that My Application to Date Me shouldn’t dismiss all candidates who have different tastes than I do. I know that if I dated the male version of myself, I would never be introduced to anything outside of my comfort zone. I’m grateful for what past boyfriends have taught me, especially when that knowledge scores me occasional points in the Trivial Pursuit sports category. I’m all for being well-rounded, even if I’ve been known to grumble about hiking Big Sur in 100-degree weather, or to threaten breakup if Tom Waits doesn’t quit yowling about getting behind the mule.

I imagine that in spite of all my careful screening, I’ll probably still end up with someone with certain questionable tastes (then he’ll have to forgive me for going to an *N Sync concert at age 21). I may even—God forbid—end up with a guy whose emotions are directly affected by Monday Night Football. Who knows, maybe I’ll find myself glued to the game along with him – but only on the condition that he karaoke Britney Spears’ “Stronger” with me when our team wins. I’ll make sure to include that in the application.