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Archive for November, 2009

I was minding my own beeswax reading a magazine on the subway recently when I noticed all these teenage girls staring at me.  They whispered to each other, giggled and pointed.  Finally, I caught my reflection in a window and figured out the cause of the hullabaloo. 

Robert Pattinson, the vampire dude from Twilight, was on the cover of my Vanity Fair.

What’s the big whoop?  Sure, Pattinson is lovely in a James Dean knockoff way.  But because of him, legions of adult women and their daughters are fantasizing about waifish boys flying down from the skies to fang them in the craw.  Boggles the mind.

Maybe the vampire thing doesn’t do it for me because I have trouble getting turned on by scenarios that could never happen.  Or maybe because I actually dated a vampire.

Ivan was a darkly handsome Eastern European I met in Spain.  As a doorman at Madrid’s skankiest dive bar, he was first in a long line of dumb romantic choices I made whilst under the Iberian moon.  I had no solid proof Ivan was a vampire, though there were tell-tale signs.  His hometown was right next to Transylvania.  He slept all day in a room with the curtains drawn and only lived his life at night.  He liked meat cooked so rare it could’ve sung show tunes before he ate it.  He pronounced “I want” like “I vant,” as in “I vant to suck your blood.”  Eerie, eh?

But the strongest evidence of Ivan’s vampireness was how possessive he was, how his affections invaded my soul, how determined he became to drain the life out of me and make me his forever.  He needed to see me all the time, needed to pick at every seam of my psyche, needed to share all his demons with me.  Ivan was an energy sucker, a soul sucker.  A blood sucker.

Ivan also had a secret life which, like the dweeb in Twilight, he knew would put me in danger should it be revealed.  And so, our love could never truly be. 

I assume the whole forbidden love malarkey is what gets chicks all giddy about this latest vampire tale.  Screw that.  You know what’s romantic and sexy?  Falling madly in love with someone and having the chance to be with them without constantly battling obstacles.  Like werewolves.    

Or mafias.  This was Ivan’s secret.  He was in the friggin’ mob.  I found out when he got a call in the middle of the night then left to “do a job” that required brass knuckles and a crow bar.  He sort of admitted his mafia ties when other irrefutable evidence presented itself.  And I was the numbskull who stuck around for a while to enjoy the thrill of it all. 

We like to believe there are deeper layers to life, hidden worlds where incredible passion and danger lurks.  If we’re special, the creatures inhabiting those other worlds will let us in, thus leading us to our own dark and sexy places. 

I lingered in Ivan’s world of intense ardor and danger because I wanted to become more alive.  With him, I got a tour of my own depths, saw how fiery my feelings are, how impassioned my soul can get.  Ivan led me to my own dark and sexy places, but they were mine to discover.  And I haven’t left them since. 

I certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone go looking for a mafia boyfriend in order to self-actualize.  But I do pose a dare to all these Twilight fans.  Go a little deeper.  Maybe put down the book and step out of the theater.  Gut-wrenching passion, spine-tingling eroticism and soul-stirring intimacy don’t have to be consigned to fantasy.  You don’t need a vampire to make your blood hot.  You just need a little courage.

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There must be something horribly wrong with me because Johnny Depp has always left me cold.  Sure, if he snuck into my bedroom begging for some lovin’, I wouldn’t tell him to take a hike.  But here he is, People’s Sexiest Man Alive again and I’m like, “whatev.”

I never agree with People’s choices around beauty and sexinessBoring Pierce Brosnan?  Frat Boy Affleck?  Two-time Sexiest winner Brad Pitt’s another hunk about whom I’ve always been lukewarm.  I was down with former Sexiest Men Denzel and Clooney, and still consider JFK, Jr. one of the sexiest men to have ever walked the planet.  But the rest of People‘s choices…yawn.

So what better thing to do on a cold Sunday afternoon than sit around deciding who the sexiest men in the world are.  Here’s my list. 

Edward Norton – He’s scrawny and has a receding chin, but Edward deserves the clichéd “best actor of his generation” title.  Ol’ Ed must have something in the sexiness department considering he scored babes Rosario Dawson in 25th Hour and Salma Hayek in real life.  Anyone who can make a neo-Nazi hot definitely deserves to be on some list.

 

 

Barack Obama – Nobel Prize winner.  Devoted family man.  Coolest American president who ever lived.  Obama is the epitome of sexiness.  Now, if he can just pass health care.

 

 

David Letterman – Yep.  Dave.  In high school, I had a major crush on him.  He doesn’t offer much in the looks department but the dry, quirky, somewhat mean-spirited wit adds more to his appeal than a pretty face ever could.  Plus, you can see in the way he flirts with female guests and fawns over Julia Roberts’ mouth that there’s a love monster within the geek’s body.  This latest scandal only proves my point.

 

Javier Bardem – I saw him a couple times in Madrid and he came off as one of those “serious” actors who think smelling bad is a sign of artistic depth.  Seems he doesn’t bathe.  Still, Javier’s intensity is the stuff of dirty dreams.  His fights with Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona made you believe co-dependent, mind-fucking romances are the way to go.  Even with that weird Coen brothers haircut in No Country for Old Men, Javier’s the bee’s knees.

 

This Guy Who Rides My Bus – I really need to get over my attraction to tattooed, messily gorgeous meatheads who chain smoke and work in sandwich shops.  The one who rides my bus every morning was recently reading a Dummies guide on raising ferrets.  Upgrade, Laura, upgrade.    

 

Ewan McGregor – He wears makeup and skirts, sings in musicals and shows his butt all the time in films.  Ewan is the cute, wacky class clown who just happens to be easy on the peepers.  While his sexier peers have fallen off the cultural radar (Jude Law anyone?) Ewan keeps showing up and giving his all in decent flicks.  He ought to instruct his friend Jude on the finer points of career longevity and how not to shag nannies. 

 

Djimon Hounsou – Remember how great Janet Jackson looked in her black-and-white music video, “Love Will Never Do Without You?”  I don’t because I was too busy staring at Djimon Hounsou.  He’s one of those lucky bastards who gets to look incredible and have talent.  Only a god like Djimon could distract anyone from the sexy powder keg also known as Leo DiCaprio, but he did it in Blood Diamond.  Then he had to ruin it and marry that Kimora Simmons witch.  What a loss…

Lenny Kravitz – When I lived in New York, a friend of a friend was subletting an apartment in Soho.  Lenny Kravitz supposedly lived across the street.  For a time, five of my girlfriends and I were seriously considering taking on several jobs and living in the cramped place together just to see Lenny walk by the window in his Calvins.  Though he hasn’t made an interesting album in a decade and his lyrics are kinda dumb (“my mama said that your life is a gift/my mama said there’s much weight you will lift”), not much more comes to mind when looking at that face than sex. 

Don Draper – A handsome as hell, emotionally remote, psychologically tortured cad who can’t keep it in his pants?  What a dreamboat!  I refuse to read articles about or watch interviews of Jon Hamm, the actor who plays him, because I have a feeling he’s actually a likeable and even shy person.  I prefer scumbags like Draper.

 

Freddie Ljungberg – He’s a Swedish football player.  He did ads for Calvin Klein underwear.  If there’s any confusion as to why he’s the sexiest man alive, please refer to the southern portion of the aforementioned ad.

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I want to be a man.  If only so I can feel good about myself when reading magazines.  

I’m a smart, confident woman.  I subscribe to the Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair so I can stay abreast of liberal politics and sit in my “garden-level” apartment pretending to be an elitist, East Coast blueblood.  Lately though, I’ve been keeping up with women’s magazines for blog ideas.  And I gotta tell you, reading them makes you feel like dog doo. 

First are all those supermodels and actresses with their awesomely toned bodies, shiny hair and perfect skin.  Their photos are surrounded by tips on how we can achieve the look as if none of us have jobs or families to attend to.  Did you know Jennifer Aniston had two rice cakes and a teaspoon of peanut butter for breakfast?  When she wants to splurge, she eats bread.  Wild woman.  

Women have been kvetching about the impossible beauty standards set by ladies’ mags for ages.  But to me, the articles are the killers.  In the past month alone, I’ve found out my hair is unsexy (because it’s curly), stress may cause infertility and men’s midlife crises now start at thirty-five.  I read an advice column that screamed, “Help!  My Internet Boyfriend’s a Bisexual Cross Dresser” and another offering, “5 Signs You’re a Bad Co-Worker.”  And I thoroughly enjoyed reading the masterpiece, “Why I Stole My Best Friend’s Guy.”  As if skyrocketing unemployment and endless wars aren’t scary enough.  Now we have to fear our best gals mackin’ on our dudes.   

‘Course, in these mags, men are a bunch of selfish, untrustworthy hound dogs who either game-play their way into women’s undies or must be manipulated into relationships.  “Make Him Stay” and “Why Men Cheat” are constant titles, while the slew of articles meant to guide women through human relationships could be summed up by the headline, “Ten Things Women Do to Screw Up Their Relationships (and, basically, their lives…idiots).”  

The best article this week was a stunning piece of investigative journalism entitled, “Did You Know Your Vagina Can Fall Out of Your Body?”  Must be one of those secrets the medical industry keeps from us.  I can only imagine the conversations that’ll now take place across the nation: “You hear about Gwendolyn?  She was running to catch a bus and her vagina just popped right on out!”  

Ladies, we’re doomed.  If you believe women’s magazines, we’re all a bunch of horribly unfit, unlikable, deathly ill losers who no one will ever love.  And we can’t trust anyone.  Not men, not our friends and certainly not ourselves.  

Keeping oneself centered in the midst of life’s challenges is quite a feat, though usually I stay fairly balanced.  But now I find myself asking, “why don’t I look like an oiled-up Eva Mendes in my Calvin Klein skivvies?  Will the sunflower seeds I eat be linked to a healthier heart or leprosy?  And who really cares if stress causes sterility if your vagina’s gonna fall out anyway?”  

Ah, but men’s magazines.  What beacons of hope!  What tidings they bring of reassurance and good cheer!   

There’s Maxim, an orgiastic handbook of gadgets, cars, sports and half-naked starlets.  Maxim is like a guy’s frat brother urging him to have another beer (it won’t kill you), and offering tips on how to sneak out of the house or get his girl to shave everything “down there.”  

Then there’s Esquire.  I enjoy this one because their well-written articles treat readers as if they might have brains.  Tailored suits, expensive watches, fancy cars, high-end scotch and disrobing A-list actresses – Esquire’s world of men rocks.  No matter how chubby, boring or unsuccessful a guy is, reading it will make him believe he’s awesome.  They present cover boys like Matt Damon and Bill Clinton as buddies, and offer comforting words for men’s failings.  Romantic ineptitude, professional failure, erectile dysfunction – no worries, Esquire’s got your back. 

Reading the October issue, “The Feel Good Issue,” left me positively glowing.  Even before you open the darn thing, they’re already throwing roses at your feet.  The headlines on the cover offered readers the “Sexiest Woman Alive,” “Encouraging Words from President Clinton” and finished off with a “You Look Great, By the Way.”  Sure beats Shape’s, “Scary Truth about Germs.” 

Inside was a “Box of Permanent Joy,” which included ‘70s sitcoms and Mahler symphonies.  There was “A Guide to – and Celebration of – the Ablutions, Unguents, and Bathroom Rituals that Make Us Men.”  Wow, even their grooming practices are worth celebrating. 

Really, I love being a woman.  Though I love peeking into the world of men, I prefer taking on life as a female.  I only wish my magazines liked me as much as I like myself.

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Halle as Catwoman“You know what your problem is?” asked Dave. 

Boy, do I love conversations that begin with this question.  Nothing’s more fun than having a know-it-all friend instruct you on the failings of your existence.  

Fortunately, I wasn’t on the other end of Dave’s question.  My friend Kim was.  She was complaining about her romantic life and asking our friend Dave for advice.  The issue was sex appeal and how Kim simply oozes with it.  Men are drawn to her like she’s a hunk of steel and they’ve got magnets in their pants.  She has few limits, no fears and porn star levels of experience.  On the outside, she’s a minx.  

But on the inside she’s broken-hearted.  Kim feels deeply and wants something real.  But few men she meets see her as relationship material.  Thus, Dave was educating us over a bottle of scotch. 

“Your problem,” he said.  “Is that men are intimidated by sexually assertive women.”  

“How is that my problem?”  She asked him and nervously lit a cigarette.  “Sounds like their problem.”  

“You know what it’s like?”  Dave took a sip of scotch.  “Batman.” 

“I see your point,” Kim said.  “Kind of…not at all.”

 “You’ve got Batman, right,” he said.  “Batman’s strong, he’s successful, he does good in the world, he’s got his life under control.  But see, there’s this other side to him, this dark side where all his sensuality and weaknesses are.  We all have a dark side, but Batman thinks he has to fight it.” 

“Did I ever tell you how much I love Val Kilmer?” asked Kim. 

“Then you’ve got Batgirl,” Dave continued.  “All she wants is to take direction from Batman, y’know, she looks up to him and never steps on his toes except in cute little sassy ways that really don’t threaten his power.  Most men really want Batgirl.” 

“But what about Catwoman?” I interjected.  “He wants her too, doesn’t he?  Catwoman can defend herself.  She has her own agenda and doesn’t need any direction from Batman.  He wants her because she’s sexy and strong and tempts him to his dark side.  He wants her as much as he fears her.” 

“Catwoman’s evil,” said Dave. 

“Only because no one will let her enjoy her own power,” I told him.  “Batman can’t handle Catwoman because she’s sexual in her own way, and if she’s sexual in her way and not his, then he has to satisfy her and he may not be able to.  How can he dominate a woman he can’t satisfy sexually?  How can he control a person who has her own agenda?  How can you tame a wildcat fighting for her own survival?” 

A trail of smoke poured from Kim’s lips.  “I totally need to see that movie again.” 

Dave and I glared at each other.  He was just about to attack my Catwoman theory when Kim flailed her hands in the air as if she’d burnt them.  

“Oh my God,” she shouted.  “I’m Batgirl.  I just realized I’m Batgirl.  I wanna be Catwoman but I’m really Batgirl.  Oh God, who else is there?  Pick somebody else.  I don’t wanna be Batgirl!” 

“You’re not Batgirl,” Dave assured her. 

“I’m totally Batgirl,” she whined.  “Oh God, this is terrible.” 

“Well, even if you were Batgirl, it’d be okay,” I said.  “She’s the one Batman loved.” 

“No, Batman loved Vicki Vale,” Kim whined.  “And she didn’t have any power at all.” 

According to Dave, lust and admiration were mutually exclusive concepts for some men.  Apparently for these guys, the two-hour conversation a woman had about the implications of Derrida’s quasi-transcendental thinking on modern deconstructive theory was erased by the image of her boobies jiggling as she grinded him into the box spring. 

And so what was a woman like Kim supposed to do?  Deny her desires and be the Madonna dazzling a guy’s romantic vision, or give into them and become Magdelene getting flicked off the hem of his robe? 

Kim wasn’t interested in smothering her sexual passions and didn’t really buy Dave’s Batman analogy.  However, she did come to one conclusion.  Whether she was Batgirl or Catwoman, she had to stop knockin’ around with jokers.

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Holding handsA member of my family was just in the hospital for an out-of-the-blue medical emergency.  For a couple days things were dicey and the whole lot of us was concerned.  It’s hard to worry about your career, love life or even your soul when a person who used to change your diapers and sneak you Twinkies when your mom wouldn’t let you eat them, is lying unconscious in a hospital.

Lately, I keep coming across articles and essays, surveys and polls, how-to books and talk shows about how to be happy.  I even wrote about it last week.  Supposedly, America is one enormous pool of misery and the majority of us are swimming in it.  

My kin got through the emergency and safely made it home.  When I heard, I raised a glass to him and thanked the universe, God, Oprah, anyone who would listen.  And then I realized what all those happiness polls get wrong.  They ask about work, political progress, structural hierarchies both professionally and personally.  What they should be asking is, ‘how are your relationships?’  ‘How are you and your peeps doin’?’  For most Americans, the answer would probably be, ‘pretty crappy.’  

Tell me I got six weeks to live and I promise you I wouldn’t spend those last days in an office, a new car or a shoe store.  I wouldn’t be poring over stock prices or fawning over the gradual rise of my salary over the course of my career.  Though politics is crucial and entertainment is fun, I don’t think I’d regret missing out on seeing whether women get equal pay or if Jennifer Aniston ever finds a soul mate.  

On my death bed, I’d probably recall the first time I saw Grease and realized the world was bigger than my Ohio hometown (yes, Grease!)  I’d think about seeing Michelangelo’s David in person.  And there’s this pizza I had in Chicago I know I’d be thinking about when I take that last walk through the tunnel toward the light. 

But what I’d really remember is my grandmother’s laugh, the birth of my first baby sister, special moments while babysitting my second.  I’d think of watching Mickey Rourke movies with my best friend in high school and meeting my first real love in college.  Christmases, weddings, even office parties.  And vacations!  Prague with Jackie, Istanbul with Leah.  I’d thank Andrew for running across Madrid to comfort me during low expat moments, Eric and Carl for talking me down from heartbreak during calls in the middle of the night, Trina and Chris for putting up with my drama.  Thank Dan and Stepha for just being Dan and Stepha.  

Women, especially, always receive a roll of the eyes when they worry about relationships and make them central to their lives.  But relating ain’t just chick stuff.  Yeah, by the end, I hope I’ll have had a beautiful house with a garden.  A kickass literary career.  Piles of ticket stubs from travels around the world.  But I know what it’s truly all about.  People make the world go ’round.  People are happiness.  Sure, people can royally suck sometimes, too, but I suppose that’s the nature of the beast.    

So, I guess this means we really should be playing Monopoly with our kids and reading them Dr. Seuss every night.  After we get married, we have to make sure not to lose contact with all the other people who meant something to us before the big day.  We gotta get along with our crazy relatives and work shit out with our parents.  And finding someone we can love deeply then work hard to keep loving them once we do?  Yeah, we need to make that happen.  

I mean, all this other stuff is fab, y’know, the job, material success, art, social change.  But it all means jack squat if working so hard at it keeps us away from each other. 

I can feel all the cynics out there gagging over this giant schmaltz fest of a blog post.  I can see them flipping me the bird and suggesting I go write greeting cards.  I could be a miserable American and tell them to bite me.  But I could also say, go hug your mom. 

And be happy.

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