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Category Archives: Cheesy Guys

I Drink Wine and Bitch About the Patriarchy.

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Ah, pick-up artistry. How awful you are.

This Hugo Schwyzer article on negging is characteristically excellent (minus the crack about gay hairdressers, which, what?–come on man, you’re better than that). But the comments are something. They’re mostly fine over at Jez, which isn’t surprising, but over at the GMP—and on Schwyzer’s own blog—well. You know.

My own feelings about negging are not complex: I just don’t think it’s very nice. I don’t understand what would possess a person to walk up to someone they presumably find attractive and make a derogatory comment. Why would you do that? Why would you think that’s okay?

Well, I suppose you’d think it was okay if you had no respect for women, and didn’t quite believe we were people, and if you were too embittered to consider other alternatives. I guess you’d be alright with negging if you were the kind of person who refused to really analyze your failed relationships, if you perceived every rejection as some kind of undeserved slight against You As a Human, if you believed you were entitled to a woman’s time, energy, and body. And if you lacked basic human empathy, that would help too. But nah, clearly the problem is that Women Are Mean.

Here, PUAs, let me explain something to you:

I am a bitch because I need to be. Because I am harassed in some way pretty much daily. Because I’m The Girl Who Walks Everywhere, and people think they know me, and that they’re entitled to my time. And I have heard everything already. I have had people take it upon themselves to figure out where I live; I have had salespeople call my cellphone after I leave their stores; I have had customers call my place of work and ask me out while I was on the clock. I have been pestered on the street, on staircases, on sidewalks, in restaurants, on the job, at home, and in class. I have heard pretty much any line you could imagine.

I say this not to make some arrogant point about how awesome I am (I’m really not that great), but to stress that my bristlyness is a learned behavior. I used to be friendlier, but it complicated my life, and now I’m a little standoffish. According to the PUA literature, this makes me one of those women who “needs to be taken down a notch”—except, no. No I don’t.

In fact, I basically have the self-esteem of a teenager, and although negging won’t hurt me as much now as it would have a couple years ago, it certainly won’t help. When I was twenty, negging could make me start or extend a fast, literally punch my body, or have a panic attack; now it won’t make me do any of those things, but the words will sit in the back of my head, chanting. They don’t just slip through me—they cling.  Remember the Nickelodeon amusement park slime machines?

Those kids look miserable.

Negging, for me, is like standing under a slime machine, only the effects are harder to wash away. I wish I were the kind of person who could just let those comments roll right off, but I’m not, and it’s taken me a long time to realize it, but: nobody gets to demand that I be that person, because nobody has the right to make those comments in the first place. Strange men shouldn’t be taking it upon themselves to “take me down a notch,” regardless of how insecure they are themselves. And chances are, if I’m being pestered, I’m not feeling confident; I’m feeling uncomfortable. I’m feeling cornered, and anxious, and irritated. What you’re reading as arrogance is likely something else entirely.

So yes, negging is mean. It’s a shitty way to treat another person. It suggests that you don’t actually consider me equal on the human scale, which makes you objectively terrible. And yeah, it might be effective sometimes—but it’s generally effective with people who were already vulnerable, whose insecurities are easier to locate and exploit. (I say this from personal experience.) And if you’re deliberately seeking out, and taking advantage of, vulnerable people…well, again, you are terrible, and you shouldn’t be dating anyone.

But, you know, the PUAs have complaints. They always have complaints. The most common of these seems to be “I haz insecurity and bitchez be mean!” I’ve no doubt there’s some truth to that, and to a degree I sympathize—but that’s a very small degree, because there’s no excuse for being a misogynist asshat. I mean, I’m sure it is, at times, ZOMG so hard to charm to laydee folk. But my answer to that is, well, duh—the patriarchy hurts men too.  Any system that attempts to force people into narrow, prescribed roles harms everyone involved. And that sucks for you, PUAs-in-training, it really does. It saddens me. It saddens me so much, I’m drinking a monstrous glass of wine to cope.

But it’s not my problem.

I have similar feelings about racism, so let’s start there. I personally feel that racists harm themselves, not only because they’re setting limits on what they will experience, and how they’ll feel about what experiences they do have, but also because, while we in no way live in a post-racial society (lollerskates!), there are usually some social consequences to blatant racism. Subtle, underhanded racism, not so much—in fact, it can often benefit a person—but someone who casually tosses out racial slurs will likely face some repercussions. So yeah, racism hurts racists. But it would be ridiculous to suggest that people of color bear the responsibility of reforming racists. (I’m sure that someone has tried to make that argument at some point, but whoever it was deserves a punch in the face.)

Coming to terms with your privilege isn’t pleasant. Realizing how much I benefit by being thin, white, young, cis-gendered, and able-bodied wasn’t fun. But you need to do it, and you don’t have the right to demand that other people drag you up into the light and make it all feel better. If there are people kind and compassionate enough to assist you in that realization, you’re lucky—but you’re not entitled to their help.

Similarly, women are not responsible for correcting the damage done to men by the patriarchy; men are responsible for that. I’m sorry, PUAs, if the pressure to conform to a narrow definition of masculinity has led to insecurity and resentment, but it’s not my fault, and I can’t fix it.

Sex and dating can be hard. It’s harder if you’re a dick.

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I Traveled, and When I Traveled, I Did Things

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Dear Imaginary Pen Pal,

In the past week, I’ve spent about three full days on some kind of bus. My fucking neck hurts. My ass hurts. My shoulder blades are, I’m pretty sure, lodged in my ribcage somewhere. But I did sleep a lot.

I went to Ithaca College, which was rain-drenched and lovely. I ate at a place called The Waffle Frolic, which, why the fuck aren’t there more of these places? One of my heels broke while I was at a ridiculous bar called Moonshadows, so I danced barefoot and ultimately found myself drunk and shoeless in downtown Ithaca, waiting for a taxi. I presented my paper on depictions of sexual violence in young adult literature to a gaggle of people, including a former professor at my university who I hadn’t seen since I was sixteen. I went over the fifteen-minute time limit while reading my paper; when I saw the student moderator at the back of the room holding a sign that said “STOP,” I audibly muttered “shit,” skipped half a paragraph, and sped through my conclusion. I ate Mediterranean food. I ate Mexican food. On the way home, I ate Denny’s. I dealt with a surly bus driver who just didn’t want to drop my roommate and me off at the Econolodge, regardless of whether it was on his goddamn route. “I’ll drop you girls at the Ramada,” he said, as though we were Ladies of the Ithaca Night, for whom one hotel was as good as another. I matched his surliness well enough that he eventually took us to the correct hotel, claiming that “I was just kidding,” and then he complained about “all those pigs from the Econolodge who bring their food on the bus and leave their plates under the seat.” I also declined an invitation to “room with” a psych major who greatly overestimated the aphrodisiac effect of his Extremely Blue Eyes.

I watched a terrible presentation about C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, in which a bouncy, bright-eyed undergrad tried to argue that the numerous claims of misogyny in re: Lewis’s writing are totes unfair, because he’s just writing in a literary tradition, and also, at least the mean women in his books are powerful! (Dude, what?) I watched a nervous guy speed read a paper about punk music and William Blake; I suspect it was a good essay, but he read too fast for me to tell for sure. One of my classmates gave a pertinent presentation titled “Do Less Clothes Equal More Tips?: The Effect of Attire on Tipping,” because, that’s important! (Personally, I’m more interested in the effect of misogyny on tipping, but whatever.) Another fellow student, who looked like a blood-starved, pissed-off vampire, slouched around complaining about everything. I listened to a guy who looked like a disturbing amalgam of Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill—not one of my classmates, thank fuck—complain about the spiral staircase leading up to the Ithaca College library, not because he had a disability that made it impossible to ascend stairs (if he had, there was an elevator), but because “I like normal staircases.”

I saw my gramma the morning we were set to leave, but had to cut the visit short due to the capricious time-changing of our faculty accompaniment. (I’m still pissed about that.) My gramma gave me contraband cookies and polish liquor to smuggle on the bus. When the bus finally unloaded, I was in such a rush to get out that I left my mom’s birthday present on my seat, and the guy who found it had to run after me and breathlessly hand it over. I walked home with my massively heavy bags and immediately jumped in the shower, and then I went to Pepper’s house, ate hamburger helper, and made fun of Scott Adams.

And that’s my excuse for not blogging lately.

Love,

Paprika

The Pissy Guide to Hitting On Ladies

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I have heard many a delusional man wonder: how do I hit on a lady? If it’s not appropriate to approach them in grocery stores, where can I approach them? Why are you all such uptight bitches? Why can’t you understand that it’s just a compliment? Seriously ladies, whassamatter?

Alright, dude-bros, this is what you need to understand:

When a lady is busy doing something not directly connected to you, it’s an inappropriate time to hit on her. If your behavior could be construed as stalkerish, it’s time for you to go away. And if you try to talk to her, and she seems less than enthused? Stop.

Or, more specifically, adhere to the following guidelines.

How Not to Hit On a Lady: The Obvious

Don’t: figure out where she lives and knock on her door

Yeah, I had this happen once. A guy in my old apartment building tried to chat me up at the mailboxes; I was polite but distant; he memorized the apartment number on my mailbox and showed up at my door a few hours later. Thinking it was my pizza (that’s all I ate in those days), I opened the door wearing a hoodie and boxers printed with pictures of crabs, at which point he introduced himself and asked me out to dinner. I was a shy teenager who didn’t know how to reject people, so I grudgingly agreed, and we had a couple stupid dates. He was pretty hot, actually, until he revealed the American flag tattoo on his chest. (Also, he thought Stealth was a great film, which, no.)

Anyhow, this shit? Not an appropriate method for wooing the ladies. And I’ll tell you why.

Dude, all I initially wanted to do was get my damn mail. And then I wanted to eat my pizza. Alone. In my boxers. While listening to Deep Blue Something and thinking about my future. (Or whatever.) And using your deductive powers to find my apartment and then harassing me there is fucking creepy as shit. What the hell, man?

The creepiness of this particular encounter was compounded by the fact that I was 19—and looked it—while he was almost 28.

But then, age doesn’t really matter, because if a woman doesn’t willingly give you her address, you should not take it upon yourself to seek it out. Ever. You goddamn creepy bastard.

Don’t: use your child

I was once walking down the street when an adorable little girl waved at me and said hi. I returned the greeting, and then I heard her dad pull her over and say “ask her name.” The little girl looked confused, so he repeated it and pushed her forward. She waved at me again and asked for my name, so I made something up, smiled, and started to walk away. Her dad yelled a farewell after me, but I just ignored him because…I’m a huge bitch.

But c’mon, man. Using your kid? That is beyond manipulative, and it assumes that I’m some kind of domestic goddess in training sure to charmed by your precious crotchfruit. Yeah, your kid is cute, but you would have to be absolutely spectacular in every possible arena of life for me to even consider you as an option for anything.

Children: I like them in small doses, but not as dominant players in my life. (And lest my use of “players” seem dehumanizing and creepy—no, that’s only creepy when you try to use your kids as pawns in the tension-laden chess game of lady-harassing.)

Don’t: follow her to the gas station`

I once knew this guy I’ll call Creepy Kirby, because he is creepy, and Kirby is his name. He’d never had a real conversation with me, but for whatever reason he thought I was terrific. One day he noticed me walking to the gas station, fell into step with me, and walked me all the way down to the c-store, rambling stupidly while I rolled my eyes and wished he would go the fuck away. Once I got to the store, I saw a guy I knew and immediately went after him: “hiiiii, I haven’t seen you in ages, how are you?” Incidentally, I ended up exchanging numbers with that guy and dated him for two months, during which time he stole my broken laptop, so…thanks for that, Kirby.

This really shouldn’t ever need to be said, but here goes: don’t attach yourself to a woman and follow her around. It’s annoying, it’s creepy, and—believe it or not—it feels a little stalkeresque. I know, it’s crazy, but there you have it.

How Not to Hit On a Lady: The Should Be Obvious, But Aren’t


Don’t: at her work

I’m in a class about the films of Wes Anderson (American Modernism was canceled, okay?) and a few nights ago, we watched Bottle Rocket. Oh, Bottle Rocket—in which Luke Wilson charmingly follows a motel housekeeper from room to room, awkwardly injecting himself into her life sans invitation. Because there’s nothing creepy about that.

Look, guys of the world—if you see a woman at work, and she’s nice to you, chances are it’s because she’s at work. Where she’s required to be nice to everyone. Because work sucks. And taking advantage of that woman’s work-mandated pleasantness is a real dick move.

I used to work at a bookstore, under the direction of a crazy woman named Sharon. One day, some skateboarding douche named Josh came in to the store and hung around bugging me. Sharon was there when he came in; she left for a couple hours, and, when she came back, there he was. Bugging me.

Her response was to threaten to fire me, because “you should have told him to leave.” Yes—a guy came in, harassed me for hours, and I was threatened with the loss of my job. Of course, had I rebuffed him, I still would’ve gotten in trouble, because, customer service!

So anyway. This is an asshole maneuver because by going after a woman in an environment that demands she behave in a certain manner, you are effectively backing her into a corner, and because it could actually get her in trouble. It also suggests that you don’t respect her or her work enough to back the fuck off, but whatever.

Don’t: at your work

I know you’re bored, weird thirty-something waiter, but “Hey, you live on [redacted] street, right? In the little yellow house?” is a wildly inappropriate question. Especially since you were right about the street. The building, not so much—you thought I lived in my landlord’s art studio—but still, you were creepily close.

Like I said before: if a woman has not willingly told you where she lives, then where she lives is none of your damn business. This means that you shouldn’t find out on your own, you shouldn’t ask other people, you shouldn’t make a wild guess and then ask for her confirmation—whatever. I remember once walking through a park and bumping into some balding dad figure who asked “hey, you live in the [redacted] apartments, right?” That was the very first thing out of his mouth.

I just stared at him, then said “no.”

“Really? Are you sure?”

Well no. No I’m not sure. I might live somewhere else and just not be aware of it.

Look dude, either you’re wrong about where I live, or I’m lying; either way, leave me the hell alone.

Anyway, the point is that, again, figuring out where your dream ladylove lives is creepy, and that your place of employment is no more an appropriate place to hit on me than my place of employment.

Also, as much I hate to be That Asshole, if you don’t back off, I will talk to your manager.

Don’t: at the airport

I, like much of the world, hate the airport. If I’m in an airport, I’m probably pissed. So don’t even try it—and really, why are you bothering? You will never see me again. This is an extremely brief moment in the time and nothing more, because life is not, in fact, a rom-com.

I can only think of one time that I saw, in real life, someone I met on a plane. I was flying home next to some burly guy who was reading Twilight (yeah, I don’t fucking know), and sat quietly next to him, reading my own, less shitty book. The next day I was at work, and he walked in with his mother, stopped, looked confused, then said something like, “hey, were you on my flight from [redacted] yesterday?” We then proceeded to have an awkward conversation about what an unusually turbulent flight that had been, while his mother stood off to the side and beamed.

Nothing came of that encounter.

Anyhow, the airport. I’m busy in airports. I’m busy worrying about the status of my connecting flight, safeguarding my luggage, and imagining a world that isn’t O’Hare. That’s what I’m doing in airports. Don’t bug me please.

Don’t: at the grocery

This is a prime example of “lady busy doing something that doesn’t remotely concern you.”—and, for most people, something that isn’t especially enjoyable. Please don’t try to strike up a conversation with me about my purchase of lemon-scented Green Clean. That’s just my inner granola elitist coming out; I can’t help it.

Don’t: when delivering her pizza

That’s just awkward. Plus there’s the added creep factor of “ugh, now he knows my phone number and where I live.” Yeah, I had this happen once, got suckered into going on a date with my horribly awkward pizza delivery guy, and a few days later he left a gift-wrapped CD outside my apartment. I never called him again, and he was apparently so traumatized by the incident that he refused to deliver my pizza for an entire year. One time there were only two people working at the Pizza Hut when I placed my order, and he was so adamant in his refusal to drop off my pizza that his co-worker had to lock up the restaurant and deliver my food herself.

I actually feel a little bad about it, because I think he was more awkward than creepy, but again…don’t corner a woman in her home. Especially if she’s giving you strong “all I want is my damn pizza” signals.

Don’t: at the Laundromat

Sock-folding and pickup-lines don’t mix. That’s all I have to say about that.

And, okay, sometimes people do end up meeting in quirky places. People in coffee shops write each other’s phone numbers down on the inside covers of their moleskine notebooks; beautiful twenty-somethings bond at the deli over their mutual love of prosciutto; whatever. But as Pepper’s husband (a dude) pointed out, you can tell when someone wants to talk to you, and you can tell when they don’t. I think he added something like, “and if you can’t, you’re fucking stupid.”

And if you’re not getting obvious signals, if there is no obvious desire to chat, if the woman you’re blatantly eyeballing is just standing at the baggage claim looking panicked…just don’t.

Paprika’s Do’s and Don’t’s for Writing About Your Penis

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Pepper and I recently came across this article. It’s the worst article in the world.

And it’s terrible for a lot of reasons, but I’m going to focus on the writing itself, on account of the fact that this rambling inarticulate asspandadouchecanoeclown has published something that vaguely resembles poetry (but not really) with something called Muumuu House.

And also because I work at the Writing Center, which I genuinely enjoy, but which also requires that I gently instruct people on how to fix their shit writing without actually saying, “wow, this is total shit, yo.”

So. Brandon Scott Gorrell. Did you know that Pepper and I have decided to systematically bring you down from the blogging lectern of douche from which you currently pontificate?

Well, we have.

And this is my imagined Writing Center session with Brandon.

Paprika: Hi Brandon. You look like a giant douche, and it’s great to meet you. Please have a seat.

Brandon (disaffectedly): Ok.

Paprika: So what are you working on today?

Brandon: Uh, well, my publisher–they also published my book of poetry, Inane Ramblings of a Complete Fucking Asshat–thought I should have my newest article proofread or whatever. But I don’t need much, just confirmation that I’m totally super badass and that you would personally like to see my penis. It should only take a few minutes.

Paprika: Sounds great. What’s your article about?

Brandon: The compartmentalization of identity, and also, my penis.

Paprika: Ok, well, why don’t we start by having you read your paper aloud, so that you can have the pleasure of listening to your own voice and I can pretend I care.

Brandon: Sweet. Check this shit out: I think my girlfriend sees me as a person that is reasonably smart but to a limited, predictable capacity. For about the first two months of our relationship I perhaps had her fooled that I was deep and mysterious and the owner of some logical capacity so complex that the unpredictable creativity of my worldview appeared constantly referenced and proven by intensely meta or seemingly non sequitur-ish (but poignant) metaphors or ‘takes’ on the situation at hand.

Paprika: Huh.

Brandon: Pretty awesome, right?

Paprika: Well Brandon, I do have one question.

Brandon: Is it about my penis?

Paprika: Kind of. You know how some penises sort of, you know, curve?

Brandon: Yeah. You wanna know if mine curves?

Paprika: No, it’s just, you know what also curves?

Brandon: Other penises?

Paprika: Commas.

Brandon: I don’t like those. I don’t like separating my clauses from each other. I prefer to let them flow together, much the way my sperm flows from my–

Paprika: And also, to be perfectly honest, I kind of doubt your girlfriend ever thought you were–

Brandon: Of average intelligence? Yeah, I agree. I think I was selling myself a little short there.

Paprika: …Right. Do you want to continue with the paper?

Brandon: Sure! (continuing to read from espresso-stained recycled off-white page) But like all good things, this came to an end after some normal amount of time, probably as the result of a build-up of instances in which her logic simply defeated mine and I either responded by making something up that further implicated my logic as shortsighted and altogether full of disconnects or admitting defeat and unintentionally showing the shame I felt.

Paprika: Alright, Brandon. You remember how we were talking about commas?

Brandon (exasperated sigh): Yeah.

Paprika: Have you considered that adding commas would be tantamount to adding penises between your clauses? And that this could be a way to incorporate visual penile aids into your writing?

Brandon: Huh. That’s not a bad idea.

Paprika: Just something to consider. Carry on.

Brandon: (rambles on about his mighty mighty intellect versus his girlfriend’s pretty pastel ladybrain)

Paprika: (has a pleasant, refreshing nap)

Brandon: Another difference between how my girlfriend sees me and how my friends see me is that my girlfriend knows the size of my penis and other sexually-oriented information. As she has seen it from perhaps many angles and in many situations and environments, I think she is intimately familiar with the majority of aspects of my penis – it’s color, shape, size, regularities and irregularities. She also knows how long on average it takes me to achieve an orgasm over a wide variety of sexual acts, what my face looks like during sex, the sounds I make, which positions I’m used to, and how much sex I typically want to have (daily).

Paprika: Oh, fuck off, dude.

Brandon: (stares blankly)

Paprika: Seriously, why are so few people able to use the word “aspect” correctly?

Brandon: But–but what about my penis?

Paprika: Well, apparently it make you use the wrong form of “its.” “It is color, shape, size, regularities and irregularities”? What the fuck? Your penis is color?

Brandon: My penis is the world.

Paprika: And also, I kind of doubt that your girlfriend has studied your penis as if it were some kind of magic glitter pony carrying a basket of eggnog cupcakes with bourbon caramel cream cheese frosting.

Brandon: But it is. I mean, metaphorically anyway.

Paprika: No, it’s not, and dude, of course she’s “intimately familiar” with your penis. That comes with the sexin’ territory. So what, exactly, is your point?

Brandon: Uh, penis?

Paprika (audible sigh accompanied by massive fucking eyeroll): Ok, what else have you got?

Brandon: But friends have hardly any of this information, while probably having, at one point or another, wondered about the size of my penis or idly explored a curiosity about what my face looks like while I have sex. But as far as I can remember, there has not yet been an occasion in which my penis has been exposed to any of those I call friends. I don’t use public showers i.e. in gyms or swimming pools that require a membership and prefer not to piss openly in front of others (actually I can’t) so any penis ‘flashing’ my friends might have been subject to has been merely coincidental and unintentional and left unmentioned.

Paprika: Brandon?

Brandon: Yeah.

Paprika: I don’t think I can do this anymore.

Brandon: Wow! You sound just like my girlfriend!

Paprika: I just–

Brandon: Look, honey bunches of of penis envy, I know this is probably making you feel a little sad and, dare I say, inferior, but just listen a little longer, ok?

Paprika (reminding herself that this is her job, and damn it, she’s gonna do her job): Ok.

Brandon: I have not had sex with any of my friends (except maybe a few who were girlfriends at the time or who I had sex with in a sort or ‘trial period’ in which we were assessing whether our ‘thing’ would become longer-term) so unless an ex-girlfriend of mine has taken the time to describe my sexual behavior and mannerisms to a current friend, my friends remain clueless regarding this information as well. I do not foresee myself ever discussing with any friend, comfortably, the aesthetic aspects of my penis or things like my facial expressions during sex, any time in the future.

Paprika: (combusts)

Brandon: Ooh. I think I’ll write a poem about this.

And Now For the Magic Basket of Awesome I Was Going to Be

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Pepper and I could have been roommates. I wanted beaded curtains too.

But mostly I wanted to be quietly, transparently soulful, with simple clothing that hung off my shoulders and hips, with naturally dewy skin, with eyes that Said the Things My Mouth Never Could. I would be insular, withdrawn even–and yet people would see the depth. They would look into my impassively clear face and they would sense the intelligence. I would have a dull surface, but my sparkling wit and constantly-moving mind would light me from within.

I would walk along bridges, stare out over the grey polluted water, and contemplate the future. Somewhere not too far away, a slightly malnourished band boy with glasses would pine for me in verse. He’d say he wanted me to take him home, but really he’d want love, because, after all–isn’t what that what everyone wants?

For reals, yo.

And he would give me quirky-pretty gifts, like glass swans and dark cherry coffee tables engraved with poetry. And we would share umbrellas, and feed ducks, and talk about Important Things.

Our lives would be scripted by the writers of the Levenger catalog.

I would never have to explain anything. I would never have to hatch from the shell of my loneliness, because my bespectacled band boy would chisel the shell away himself. Music would follow us everywhere. It would rain, and always be fall, and the air would smell like wet leaves and spices.

My apartment would be quirky too, kind of charmingly inconvenient, with steep winding steps and a stupidly-placed mailbox. (Blocking my doorway, perhaps.) I would have some kind of awful waitressing job that I hated, but then one day…

There my guitar-strumming lovely would be.

We would get each other. Or something.

Because, you know, as a quiet, thoughtful girl working in the service industry, I’d have seen a lot. I’d have seen the sadness and desperation of humanity, that all-consuming longing for companionship. I’d be able to separate the ones worth saving from the ones worth disregarding. And my scruffy scrawny college boy and I would save each other. (The saving would involve copious amounts of red wine and some nice fleece blankets.)

Mmhm. Well, ten years later, I do have a delightfully quirky apartment with steep steps (and almost no straight walls–God I’m awesome). I have a crappy waitressing job that does nothing to restore my faith in humanity, and currently, it is fall.

But it never rains here, and the bridges are lame, and guys are morons, and I play my own damn guitar. My life is scripted by Jerry Seinfeld, and that’s okay.

Pepper Nagged Me to Blog, and I Caved

This is how Pepper and I look during class.

Everything today is pissing me off. My addiction to Rolos is pissing me off. The inconstancy of Pepper’s internet connection is pissing me off. The fact that my rage could be rightly attributed to PMS pisses me off even more. But you know what pisses me off the most? Staggeringly stupid, greasy-haired, anti-feminist mansplainers who give natural redheads a bad name.

That’s right—Pepper writes about important social issues; I bitch abut some douchecanoe from my women in lit class. This pretty much sums up our friendship.

Really though, the next time that raging ginger asspanda snickers while I’m talking, I just might snap. And I wouldn’t really feel too guilty about it either. Pepper warned me about him when we first learned he was in the class, but since my previous contact with him had been minimal (he once held a door open for me in a spectacularly douchey fashion, swinging it with a positively Hancockian flourish), I underestimated exactly how awful he would be. Now, though, I sit behind him in class, watching his back muscles twitch ragefully when his raised hand goes ignored, and wish that there were anybody else with things to say about Toni Morrison.

And it’s not just him. Here are some cramazing quotes straight out of that bastion of WTFery:

“Well, I think that like…[the black African working for a psychotic white dude in an absolutely terrible book we had to read] just like…knows his place. And he’s okay with it. You know? Like he just accepts it, and he’s happy.”

“This rape made him, you know, so violent. And willing to just, kick ass. It made him stronger.”

“The Africans in this book just seem, like…really violent. Like they just have so much anger and they can’t control their emotions.”

Yeah, well, speaking of people who can’t control their emotions…*keyboard splinters under furious pounding of fingers*

(I know—finger pounding sounds like a cheeky euphemism. It isn’t, but it probably should be. Trendsetters, that’s your next task.)

So Pepper and I sit there in class, exchanging looks of OH FOR THE LOVE OF THE RELIGIOUS FIGURE OF YOUR CHOICE WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE, and sometimes she’ll talk, and on rare occasions I’ll toss out a sentence (which is also our blogging technique), but mostly we just let the rage boil until it spills out into raised-voice conversations at Perkins that attract massive side-eye from senior citizens. Which is pretty fun, actually, and I highly recommend that everyone engage in this activity. One time we sat there pontificating about communism in vague but glowing terms—like so:

“You know what’s great? COMMUNISM.”

“Oh, I completely agree. Communism is awesome. I don’t understand why more people don’t embrace it.”

“The world would be so much better with a little Communism.”

“Woo, Commies!”

“I need to find me a Commie man.”

“You really do. Let’s go to Russia.”

It’s all very delightful, almost as delightful as talking about Satanism within earshot of Pepper’s obnoxious evangelical neighbors. Unfortunately, social mores dictate that we sit respectfully in class with our rage contained, so we do. But I’m pretty sure my fury-face shows through at times—for example, when a married, unemployed woman from a wealthy background claims that she’s “never felt oppressed. I LOVE being a woman!”

Well, thanks for the anecdata, but that doesn’t erase the experiences of, you know, every other woman in the world sharp enough to recognize that no matter how much she achieves, how smart she is, how put together and accomplished and intellectually gifted, there are always going to be men for whom she is nothing more than…whatever misogynists see when they encounter a ladybrain. Probably some kind of fuzzy koala peeking out above a field of daffodils. Which would be cute as hell (if a bit geographically confusing), but is not a stand-in for 51% of the population.

Women who refuse to identify as feminist annoy me, and while I could offer a thorough and well-reasoned explanation for this, I don’t really think I should have to. It should be a given by this point.

So I pretty much end every school day thinking, seriously, defiant stupidity is not going to get you through college, just quit already. (If you’re an el ed major it will, my mind shoots back. My mind is a snarky little bastard.) And so I stew in my feelings of superiority, eating candy and drinking copious amounts of tea, and then I fall asleep on my couch, and I wake up thinking, ugh. I have a hangover from the stupid.

If I’m lucky, maybe some greasy mansplaining asspanda will put me in my place.

How Paprika and Pepper (Should’ve) Met: First Edition, Part Two

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I found him in a health food store. He was barefoot and ankleted, surrounded by shelves of herbal supplements. His careless facial scruff and cloud of unwashed hair suggested nights of near-catatonic yearning and countless viewings of High Fidelity—and yet he held himself with what I initially considered a regal bearing, in the way that cavemen without clubs sometimes look civilized.

I was young and strobe-light-addled, a rave girl cliché with an addiction to rainbows. I wore candy necklaces, pleather everything, and hoisted my pigtails above my ears with a full spectrum of scrunchies. My pink lipstick and blue hair fought like two siblings on a roadtrip. As you might have guessed, health food stores weren’t exactly my scene, but my vegan roommate had sent me on a mission for carob chips—a task I would normally have scorned, but which I felt guilted into performing after accidentally feeding her cat MDMA.

He shuffled sensitively across my path, then back again, cradling eco-friendly laundry detergent and kava kava in his hirsute arms. I suspected him of macrame. Eventually he made his approach, peering up from beneath his furrowed unibrow to ask, “what’s your real hair color?”

“What? I was born like this,” I answered. “I was conceived amidst toxic waste.”

He blinked. His eyelashes were long and oddly clumped; they looked like tassels.

“Your jokes are a cover for your insecurity,” he said, then punctuated his statement with a nod.

“Okay.”

He asked me to dinner. I said yes. At the time, I considered it a social experiment; now, I can only look back in shame.

He took me on a tour of the street vending community, where he filled my arms with felafel, corn dogs, and ice cream cones that melted down my spandex-sheathed arms. It wasn’t quite dinner, but it was whimsical. He tried to hold my hand as I shuffled along, but ended up twining his fingers within a pretzel. He massaged the salt right off; it drifted like snow in the chill night air.

“Would you like some nectar?” he asked. “It’s home-brewed and potent.”

My gag reflex activated and the corn dog I had been eating shot out of my mouth. He chortled and shook his head.

“You misunderstand,” he smiled, and, with his free hand, unscrewed the cap from his faux-Navajo canteen. “I make my own mead. It’s kumquat-infused and peyote-spiked.”

He held the canteen to my lips. I tilted my head back and imbibed.

I can’t explain the taste. It reminded me of wet, congealing laundry—of rotting, bug-infested fruit—of mold. It slithered down my throat and lay coiled in my stomach, waiting to strike. My mouth filled with the taste of impending vomit, but I choked it down and sucked a scoop of ice cream off a waffle cone in desperation.

“It’s layered with so many notes,” I said. “How did you get such depth of flavor?”

He laid his hand across my breastbone. “It’s all in here,” he said. “You have to put your heart into it.”

“But that’s not—the location—never mind.”

We kept walking. He ran his hand down my spinal cord and whispered Dave Matthews lyrics in my ear (hike up your skirt a little more, and show the world to me). I was cold and entirely too sober, so I suggested we go to a rave. He acquiesced, but looked unsure.

I took him to my favorite spot, a former-slaughterhouse-turned-nightclub with bouncers dressed in latex fetish gear, who handed out free ring pops and glow sticks. P and I shuffled around on the dance floor, until he dragged me off to the side and gazed deeply into my drug-blurred eyes.

Strobe lights divided his face into neon triangles as he said, “I get it now.”

“Get what?”

“Why you are the way you are.”

“And?”

“You’re afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“Of being who you are.”

And there was so much noise. So many lights. The pretzel rhetoric abused my already chemically-bruised brain. I couldn’t think straight.

Don’t judge, alright? We’ve all done stupid things. And sometimes, those things are people.

His apartment was oppressively warm and thick with the smells of beef jerky, Drakkar Noir cologne, and crisp mountain waterfall. Half-melted taper candles waved jauntily from the necks of old Reisling bottles; the candles were curved in an oddly phallic manner, making the white drips that had solidified on the bodies of the bottles suggestive at best. He poured me a tumbler full of peach Arbor Mist, a shot of Black Velvet for himself, and insisted we toast to Fidel (may he rest in peace). His frayed, white lace curtains added a touch of maudlin poetry to the scene.

In his bedroom, a brass Buddha watched us with solemn, heavy-lidded eyes. I saw our faces reflected in a dozen crystal balls, and then he whispered, “I can see your future in them. I can see the bliss.”

Bliss in this case meaning ice cubes and refrigerated massage oil.

I don’t know what made him think numb skin would be sexy. I don’t know who gave him the idea or why his ice cubes were shaped like chrysanthemums, but the moment that frozen flower began its slow descent down my forearm, I leaped away with a ferocity that made him jump and ultimately resulted in my knee to his manbits. In the background, Cat Stevens crooned his sympathy.

“You prefer warmth?” he mumbled.

“Doesn’t everyone? Jesus fuck, man.”

“I’m sorry.”

I wished he wouldn’t talk into my neck.

“You want me to warm you back up?”

“If you can.”

And thus commenced the least fulfilling massage of my life. He started with my ankles and moved to my knees—then my ribcage, then back to my knees—and, after a brief detour to the parallel islands of my ears, ended at my knees. Even now, when I look at my knees, I sometimes hallucinate thumbprints.

Anyway, after about ten solid minutes of vigorous erogenous-zone-missing, he sheathed his mancandle in a creepy spiraled condom that transformed it into something vaguely resembling a corkscrew, looked at me quizzically while I explained that Vaseline does not in fact work as a lubricant, and assaulted my cervix with a fervor usually reserved for prom night. Over his shoulder I caught the cold dead eyes of a stuffed frog; it judged me silently, like the nuns who scolded me for wearing combat boots with my school uniform.

I apologized to Jesus. P mistook it as praise for his technique and thrust unrhythmically on.

The nuns were right.

I awoke the next morning to the smell of scorched marmalade. I found him in the kitchen, attempting to fry toast (he didn’t have a toaster); his scrambled eggs bore a crust of wheat germ, and lily pads of mold floated in his coffee pot. He presented me with a breakfast collage—random bits of food, oily and congealed, thrown together on a chipped mauve plate. I swallowed without chewing, as Che stared down with silent contempt.

“I have to go to work,” I mumbled. “I need to—things. There are things. So many things.”

He took my hand. “Last night was beautiful for me,” he whispered. “I want to give you something to remember me by.”

“Just so long as it’s not sperm.”

He ignored that, but grabbed one of his Reisling bottle candleholders from the shelf above his sink. “I made this,” he said, “while daydreaming of a girl like you.”

At which point I took the bottle and ran.

That night, suffused with shame, I posted a rant on Craigslist. “Drakkar Noir? Really? And Cat Stevens? FUCK YOU.” I fell asleep at my computer, P’s candle dangling limply beside me.

In the morning I found a message from Pepper: “Fucking crystal balls.”