Saturday, May 5, 2007


"Why don't you have a boyfriend?" This question was recently posed to me out of the blue by a well meaning young woman that I work with. I get asked this question frequently, and I never know what people expect me to say. It's a rather impertinent question, simultaneously implying that there is something wrong with me because I'm single and that there is something that I am aware of that causes me to be single. One day I'd like to answer "I'm part of a secret society of library nuns who've taken a vow of spinsterhood in order to dedicate their lives to showing people how to use an online catalog and the photocopier." However, as she seemed genuinely perplexed by my singleton status (which I took in a complimentary manner) I controlled my snark and told her I didn't know.

Usually when this query is put forth to others and you force them to provide more of an answer than "you got me," they inevitably end up saying that I'm too fill in the blank. Over the years I've pretty much heard it all. Too smart (is that really a bad thing?), too bitchy (in my defense that was in high school), too independent, too clingy (those last two were from the same guy, clearly he was "too stupid"), too emotional, too attached to my family, too quiet (ha!), too serious, too classy (is there really such a thing?), too normal, too weird (I can't be both!), too pretty (oh come on!), too intimidating (because of being too smart etc.), too accomplished, too distrustful, too intense (I get that one a lot), too demanding (because I expect to be treated with respect), too uptight, and too picky, just to name the most often and/or recently cited.

Never mind the fact that I've seen girls who were prettier, smarter, weirder, meaner, more accomplished, and way more high maintenance than I am get married, the majority of these characteristics aren't things I can really do anything about. The exception being "too picky." This comment was supplied by a friend who told me that clearly my standards were too high. Sour grapes from another single woman? Hardly. This statement was issued by a happily married man. I refuse to believe that my standards are too high because I know plenty of women who fit them, so it is ridiculous to believe that there aren't any single men who fit them.

But that's not really the point of this. The point is, people clearly see in me what they want to see, as opposed to seeing me. And there's not a hell of a whole lot that I can do about that. In reality, I'm a little bit of all of those things. (Although too pretty? Are you serious? Would you like a trowel for that load of crap you are spreading? I mean, I don't frighten cattle or anything, but "too pretty" are words used to describe the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, not librarians with pixie haircuts. But I digress.)

Friday, May 4, 2007

intense vexation

There seems to be a disturbing trend among the decision makers at my place of employment to try and be all things to all people. (I can't decide if this is a lust for power consolidation, an eagerness to please, greed, short sightedness, or a martyr complex. The motivation is different for each person that I am thinking of.)Then they turn around and complain about being spread too thinly. Or, as the case may be, the people who their decisions actually affect are forced to be spread too thinly. News flash! When you try to be all things to all people what you end up being is half of something. Nothing gets done in a timely fashion, if it gets done at all. Everyone gets stressed out, and no one is happy. There is a saying that no one can use you as a doormat unless you lie down and let them, but lately people keep signing others up to be doormats. This is grossly unfair. I realize that life is not fair, but just because that tenant is true that doesn't give everyone the right to make it more unfair than it already is.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

From the shelves

I belong to a book club. I know, you are all SHOCKED by that statement, but it is an important piece of background information for what I am about to write. I enjoy this book club, and it does force me to read books that I, in all likelihood, would never have read. That being said, it never ceases to amaze me how many of the members suggest depressing books for this club. Not occasionally, but consistently, every year. This also doesn't seem to be unique to my book club. Two of the most well-known nationwide book clubs (Oprah's and the New York Times) also select a disproportionately large amount of heavy reading.

It isn't that I disapprove of somber or serious reading material. There is certainly a place for it, just as there is a place for other forms of literature (well, maybe not V. C. Andrews.....). I just don't quite understand the desire to want to curl up with such unpleasantness. (And incidentally have you ever noticed the types of movies that air on Lifetime? Oh yes! Let me watch movies about women being brutalized in myriads of ways! What is it with people? But I digress.) Humorous literature seems to suffer from the same lack of respect that comedic movies do. Just because something is funny it doesn't mean it lacks merit, and just because something is serious it doesn't automatically mean that it is worthwhile.

Basically, this was a long-winded way of saying that I'm starting a new feature to this blog. At the beginning of each month I am going to post a book suggestion with some (hopefully) pithy comments about why I enjoyed it and why you should read it. This is not a book club in the traditional sense. I am not going to later post fun facts about the author or the subject, or discussion questions. I will post a query for comments on the book at the end of the month though, in the event that anyone takes me up on my suggestion or wants to add their own.

Right! So let's begin. The first book I am going to suggest in The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. (Yes, it is the same Hugh Laurie that is better known to most Americans as Dr. House. Yes, I agree it is most unfair that one man should be blessed with so much talent, but there you go. It's not as if we don't get to reap the benefits of his work.) I discovered this book while viewing Christopher Moore's website, an author whose work I only recently discovered, and who will be profiled later in this series. So why should you read The Gun Seller? It has an interesting and, most unusually given it is a novel of intrigue, a feasible plot. The main characters are fully formed, (there are one or two peripheral characters who, as I recall, weren't flushed out very well, but then if they had been they wouldn't have been peripheral), it is full of witty dialogue, and the premise actually makes you think. It addresses one of the issues raised in V for Vendetta although not in such a dark and disturbing manner. Just how much complicity is there between the media, the government and the weapons industry? Just how far will greed drive people and what sort of atrocities will they commit in the name of "public service"?

The Gun Seller should score highly in the area of appeal to men as it is action packed and plays out in a rather cinematic mode. However, ladies, you should not be discouraged by this. The scenes of violence are not particularly graphic and tend to be quite brief and the hero is quite dashing. So find, read, and enjoy! (By the way, for those who know me personally, our local public library actually owns this book! I know, you are stunned and amazed, but it is true.) To close, here is my favorite line: "My God! My life is ebbing away in this room!" I keep hoping for a chance to actually say that out loud......I certainly think it often enough.

Monday, April 30, 2007

We're just a bunch of cuddle monkeys

I hadn't intended to blog on this, ever really. Somehow it is just on my mind.

In the 1950's a researcher named Harry Harlow conducted an experiment with baby monkeys to see which of these needs they would choose to fulfill: food or comfort. He built a wire "mother" that provided milk, and a warm, cloth covered "mother" to provide comfort. All of the monkeys clung to the cloth mother and only went to the wire mother when absolutely necessary. They would then hurry back to the cloth mother. He deduced that because the monkeys chose something that they "liked" over something that they "needed" that attachment to your mother isn't based upon your needs being met, but rather on something more complex.

In my opinion (that's a bit redundant isn't it?, after all this is my blog and who the hell else's opinion would it be?), while Harlow's conclusions make sense (but duh! what kind of idiot can't tell that attachment is more complex than being fed?), I think he has a fallacy in his scenario. Never mind the fact that it strikes me as unnecessarily cruel to torment baby animals in this manner, it does, but that's not the point. He assumes that physical contact, comfort and warmth aren't needs. Bollocks.

Now, I realize that you aren't going to die if you go three days without being touched. I know that it isn't on the same level as food and water. But when you think about it, physical contact isn't just something we enjoy. If you look at the tragic situations in the Russian and Romanian orphanages you can see definitive proof of this. This need doesn't stop once we leave childhood, but with each passing year it gets harder and harder for us to meet this need, unless we are in a romantic relationship. (Or perhaps have a lot of touchy-feely friends). Part of this has to do with the awkwardness of adolescence, and the desire to distance oneself from "childish" things. Part of this also has to do with the fact that the older we get the more we are conditioned to view physical contact as synonymous with sexual contact. However, these aren't one and the same. (Just like every square is a rectangle but not every rectangle is a square. Yay Geometry!). But for many people they end up being the same, because that's all they can get.

So, if you know someone who stays in a relationship with someone despite the fact that it is clearly toxic (either emotionally or physically), remember those baby monkeys. Remember that they were damn near willing to starve themselves in order to have someone to cuddle with. It is a powerful need and one that is sorely met for too many people. Hug someone you know today.