Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Music is a good example. Once upon a time, I listened to cassettes. Usually, I would listen to specific albums all the way through, and if I wanted to hear a particular track, I had to patiently fast forward or rewind to the right place. Then CD's came along and, after much resistance, I started buying them. As begrudging as I was about the newer technology, I did like the convenience of being able to skip over undesirable tracks and the more streamlined appearance of the compact disc, which was neat and slim to its chunkier cassette counterpart. I swore CD's would be it for me, and gradually upgraded my collection, which today still has gaps in it (the fact that I have Nine Inch Nails' first album on tape only is a travesty).
Then Napster came along. Regardless of the legality/morality of downloading songs, five or six years ago I started doing it. I still do it once in a rare while (and I really don't want this to turn into an ethics discussion, because most of what I download are isolated songs I would never pay for or albums I end up buying down the road--plus, I go to lots of concerts to support bands I love, which is where they make more of their money, anyway). MP3's made music even more disposable. Don't like a song? No need to skip over it; delete it! There was no more fuss with going to record stores and fumbling with jewel cases and queing up CD's; any desired song was a few mouse clicks away.
It took two wiped out hard drives full of tons of downloaded songs for me to value my CD's again.
Until the iPod.
Once again, I resisted. I would not become one of those zombies on the subways with the pale wires flowing out of their ears. I would not be immune to my surroundings by plugging into a machine the size of my palm that contained thousands of songs. Hang on a second. A machine the size of my palm that could fit thousands of songs? That sure was a lot more convenient than dealing with my discman. Plus, I had an hour commute to and from work every day, which made it a justifiable investment. Then, a couple of years ago, I was due for a hefty tax return and splurged on my own 40G toy. This also changed the way I listened to music, because for a while, I had it set to shuffle all songs. Which turned my audio collection into a randomized jukebox and hurt my ability to enjoy a full album for a while. Why bother, when I could hear the best songs any time I wanted to? Why be patient with tracks that take many listens to build and develop an appreciation for when I can skip right over them?
I did regain my love for albums and more patience with less desirable tracks, but then, several months ago, my iPod battery started dying a slow death. It still has some life in it, but I haven't touched the thing in over a month because I am in denial and reason with myself as long as I don't listen to it the gadget is still functional. My main source of music has been Pandora.com, a great site (part of the intriguing "music genome project") where you can customize radio stations based on song and artist preferences. This has been a terrific source of new music, but not so great for my musical attention span. It has gotten to the point where listening to an entire Tom Waits album, which I'm doing as I type this, has become a novelty. I keep experiencing a certain amount of surprise at the consistency of mood and style of the music playing in the background.
I may be stretching the point here, but the reason why all of the above concerns me is because it seems like there are all of these different elements in society (technology being only one of them) that conspire to make us lazier and less patient. I get suckered in along everybody else and absolutely love convenience, but I also know that it sometimes makes for less satisfying experiences when things come to easily. Also, how long is it before the disposable mentality spills over into more important areas. Don't like your new friends? Dump them and get some new ones. Same with that boyfriend. And job. Right now we shuffle through songs and stations, but how long is it before we shuffle through people and experiences?
Or maybe we're already there?
Friday, August 25, 2006
I read the ebook when I was single and still skim the newsletters from time to time today-- the key word here is "skim" because Carter has a frustrating way of taking 1,000 words to say something that can be said in two sentences. I have found a few useful nuggets of wisdom, but most of it can be boiled down to:
* Don't sleep with him too soon!
* Be self aware!
And, everybody's perennial favorite:
Now what distinguishes Carter and the self-helpers, who coach you on if he's not into you or you're not into him, is that there are rumors that Christian Carter is an alter ego for David DeAngelo, creator of Double Your Dating and one of the biggest pickup gurus out there. In fact, Catch Him Inc., Carter's company name, is allegedly owned by Double Your Dating.
I know there was a big discussion over on Thundercat's blog a year or two ago about the ethics of having possibly the same man preach conflicting advice to men and women. I mean, a man's goal is to get the woman in bed as quickly as possible and the woman's goal is to resist his advances as long as possible, in order to develop an intimacy and emotional connection.
One one hand, if someone is a relationship expert, there's no reason why they shouldn't be able to advise males and females, right? I don't see a problem with that. Yet when the advice to males is to get over her "anti-slut defenses" as quickly as possible, whereas a woman is advised to wait at least a month if she wants to develop a relationship, that seems a bit contradictory, doesn't it?
Of course, whether or not David DeAngelo and Christian Carter are the same person or even under the same umbrella company is speculation, even though...
They have IDENTICAL long-winded writing styles.
Full of SHORT paragraphs.
That go ON and ON. And take forever.
To actually get to the POINT.
As frustrated as I get with Carter's way of communicating, there is some useful advice to be found about being poised and secure and living in the reality of a situation instead of the unrealized ideal. However, I have read newsletters that take some digs at pickup artists and preach some of the same exact advice that PUAs in training get: don't buy gifts, don't be too nice, create lively banter and a fun, challenging atmosphere. Boy, with everyone being told not to be too nice, I sure hope all the single people out there don't follow the advice too closely and become assholes!
Personally, my best advice is if you're going to read the ebooks and newsletters, read the ones aimed at both men and women, to get a rounded view, so that you know what the opposite sex is being told to do as well. Take everything with a grain of salt then get out of the house and stop focusing on your single status. These newsletters are so focused on talking to people and building rapport and flirting, but none of them focus nearly enough on what might be the most important thing of all: HAVING A LIFE. You know, getting out of the house and developing skills and interests that aren't necessarily centered around getting laid or finding a relationship.
I realize a lot of people out there need guidance when it comes to dating and courtship. But nothing is better than disregarding all the advice (including mine, if you absolutely must) and following your own path. Even if it means being nice.
Just don't forget to be confident!
Monday, August 21, 2006
There are a number of posts I want to write soon, but I need to take this week to work on revising my book proposal, so I may go quiet for a bit.
It's odd working on the sample chapter, because it feels like I'm reliving the experiences with TV Tyler and Arty Adam as I write about them, except that I'm fleshing them out and going into greater detail and depth, so the memory is heightened, more acute. There's kind of a sense that in order to write well about it, I have to feel all of it over again, which can be draining considering the time compression. Also, even though all of this happened six months ago, it feels like it was years ago. I pass the block where TV Tyler and Film Felix live nearly every day and sometimes I still cringe at our last awkward encounter, at how frustrating and unsatisfying things became with both of them.
It'll be a relief to finish writing this chapter...
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
After surviving the film's glacial pacing and tedious dialogue (Isabelle Huppert, how you let me down!), we looked for the restrooms before taking the subway back to my place.
"They're downstairs," one of the movie theater workers pointed the way. "However, there are people having sex in the ladies room," he looked at me apologetically, as if he was the one who put the salacious duo up to it, "I don't know if you'll want to go in there..."
I raised my eyebrows and looked all how dare people have sex in public and potentially impede my bathroom-going experience! Then, as soon as the theater clerk turned around, BF David and I booked it down the stairs. I giggled, eager to witness some of the action. I hurried down the hall, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
There were about six stalls in the bathroom, across from a row of sinks. As I walked in, a girl who just finished washing her hands was coming out. Her expression said, yup, there's really some sexual activity going on here, and I am deeply uncomfortable because of it.
The second stall was occupied by a couple, the woman clearly on her knees giving a blowjob to the man, who was sitting on the toilet seat. Mind you, these were the toilet stalls with the huge gaps between the door and floor and also between door and doorjamb, so not only did I get a quick peek at what was happening as I walked by, I saw enough to know that the woman was blonde, barefoot, and wearing a gypsy skirt. Not exactly discreet, these two.
I decided to give the aroused pair some privacy, so I chose a stall a few doors down. What I found hilarious was how they weren't trying to hide what they were doing at all. They made no attempt to muffle their soft groans and seemed completely lost in their lusty world.
While I was in my own stall, peeing and eavesdropping, a female theater clerk came in.
She stood a moment, the very picture of hesitation. The moaning continued.
"Are there two people in this stall?" asked Captain Obvious.
"Uh... yeah," the woman came up for air long enough to reply.
"Okay... well, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
"In about two more minutes." A pause, then the heavy breathing resumed.
I exited my stall and washed my hands with slow precision. I didn't want to miss a second of this.
This is my favorite part of the whole scenario. The theater clerk actually waited a minute! She stood around awkwardly, fidgeting beside the paper towel dispenser. It wasn't until I was drying my hands (mind you, I was taking my sweet time here) that the clerk finally said,
"If you don't come out right now, I'm going to have to call security."
I went back upstairs and relayed the story to BF David.
"Do you want to stick around until they come upstairs?" he asked.
We pretended to look at film flyers until the duo came staggering up the stairs, looking trashy and trashed. They teetered over to the movie theater's adjoining bar/cafe, clearly at the point where another drink could hardly make much of a difference.
BF David and I left the theater, shaking our heads. Those guys were amateurs, we agreed. When we had sex in a public bathroom, we'd make sure it was somewhere with floor-to-ceiling doors. If you're going to do these things, might as well do them right.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Sean and I met via the online personals, a breeding ground for ambivalence, promiscuity, and ambivalent promiscuity. What attracted me to him initially was his reformed bad boy persona. This guy toured with a band years ago, had his share of drinking and drugging (and, I imagine, groupies), but was now clean. The only visible remnant of his wild days were the tattoos visible in one of his profile photos in which he was wearing a wife beater.
[This is where I acknowledge both the fact that tattoos do not always belong on "wild" or "bad" people and that "wife beater" might be an incidiery term, but it stays because "undershirt" has a dorky ring to it.]
In the beginning, Sean Pennish was actually all gentlemanly and proper. He paid for dinner and took me to the movies and even uttered the words, "I'm trying to court you." The first two dates contained nothing more than light making out and hand holding. I liked the idea of this rocker-turned-computer-administrator being on his best behavior, even acting a little nervous around me.
Then the third date happened. I made the mistake of agreeing to come over to Sean's place under the pretext of watching a movie. Once upon a time I could actually go over to a man's house where "watching a movie" didn't involve getting naked shortly thereafter. Maybe it was Sean's innuendo and flirtatiousness that did it, or the promise of getting a good look at those tattoos. Maybe his streak of naughtiness and former hedonism made me want to reply in kind. Either way, I made the mistake that oh so many women make. I slept with him and then got emotionally attached before terms for the relationship (or lack thereof) had been established.
Any female who claims she can have sex with a man without getting the least bit attached is either on the rebound, lying, deeply emotionally fucked up, has a penis, or is a robot. I say this as a non-robotic, non-penis-owning female who has been able to have casual sex, but not often, and usually when my emotional core was about as impenetrable as Fort Knox. It can happen, but I believe that more often than not, a bond is created, thanks to our bodies' chemistry. Sadly, it is usually one-sided; even though males and females both release oxytocin during orgasm, it's the fair sex that tends to get attached.
Back to Sean Pennish. While I initially hoped he might be my boyfriend, it wasn't long before I realized how very little we had in common, how few our sources of conversation were, how mismatched we were intellectually, and how he was interested in having sex with me and nothing more. I could take it or leave it. I decided to take it, from time to time. Every few months I would unblock him from instant messenger, get a surprised greeting from him, and take a late night taxi or subway over to his place.
I liked the idea of having sex with him more than the deed itself. I mean, all Sean Pennish needed to complete the bad boy stereotype was a leather jacket and motorcycle. There was something gratifying about doing it with someone I'd have misgivings about bringing home to Mom, even if the sex was mediocre. He wasn't into much foreplay, was rarely able to get me off and wasn't a fan of cuddling (which nowadays is pretty much a dealbreaker). People have asked why I bothered sleeping with him if it was so unsatisfying. Truth is, it was more about maintenance, "cleaning the pipes" as they say, feeling like a normal person after an extended amount of abstinence. Sean Pennish broke a few celibacy streaks for me, one nearly half a year long. The last time I saw him was a little over a year ago, less than 24 hours after being dumped. I spent the afternoon and evening getting sloppy drunk and took a cab over, still buzzed when I got to his place. Not long after that I realized just how unsatisfying the encounters were. This booty needed to do some branching out.
Why this reminiscence all of a sudden? The other day, on my way to work, I saw Sean Pennish on the subway. I nearly didn't recognize him in glasses, a prim button-down shirt and sensible navy trousers. He was reading a book and looked downright nerdy. The other passengers in the car would never suspect that beneath the corporate exterior was a toned body covered in ink with a sex/drug/rock 'n' roll-fueled past. Looking down at my own business attire, I wondered if I looked equally chastened. Who knows, maybe every suit and pair of sensible shoes hides tales of hedonism and unrestraint.
Sean Pennish got off at the next stop. I sighed in relief, grateful that he didn't see me and that I no longer feel the urge to take cabs to outer boroughs, tipsy and emotionally cold, for a cheap hookup.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
BF David and I came back to my place, a little tipsy, and I jokingly told him he was welcome to look at porn while I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. I even loaded a website of free porn clips for his amusement. What started out as kidding around turned into curious browsing. We took turns showing each other clips from some of our favorite categories and BF David even showed me some "alternative porn" which is pretty much like regular porn except that the "actors" are hipsters with tattoos and the women don't have fake boobs. We got so into looking at various clips that we ended up staying up for hours and were nearly too tired to do the deed ourselves (key word being nearly).
My relationship with porn goes way back to when I was a teenager watching late night cable. I'd wait for something steamy on Skinemax, maybe something starring Shannon Whirry (anybody remember her?) or an episode of Red Shoe Diaries. Sometimes the programming gods were against me and the channels would yield nothing better than a Dolph Lundgren explosion-fest. Other times, my patience would be rewarded and I'd see a pouty, sleepy-eyed gal giving a come hither smile to a square-jawed, barrel-chested Ken doll of a man. The soft-focus, slow motion grinding that ensued was a bit dull (who the hell has sex at such a snail pace?) but was erotic in its own way. Softcore didn't get any softer than this. This was the easy listening of porn.
Years later, my parents got a cable descrambler. Now I was able to access both the Spice and Playboy channels. The latter was rarely interesting, favoring clips of posing Barbie girls (sometimes in live call-in shows where they--lord help us all--actually spoke) with few movies involving sex... with men. Spice Channel was better in that it consistently showed fucking. Even then, however, the formula got a bit dull. Ugly greasy guy meets plasticy girl with enough make up to make RuPaul jealous, bad dialogue ensues until we are put out of our misery by the removal of clothing. She goes down on him, he goes down on her, they have sex (usually he takes her from behind), he grunts, she moans in a way that belies her poor acting skills even more than the stilted dialogue preceding the action. If the film is of particularly poor quality, the moaning will be poorly dubbed and the humping scenes looped. Also, instead of the really slow fucking of softcore, there is really fast, jackhammer fucking (great, now I sound like the Goldilocks of pornography). Again, it does the job but is ultimately a yawn.
The best porn I have seen is the kind featuring real-looking people who look and sound like they are truly enjoying themselves. Years ago, Mom went out of town and I found her porn stash, including some gems from the 70's and 80's featuring actual pubic hair on women (*gasp*) and Ron Jeremy. Like most people with working retinas, I don't exactly consider Mr. Jeremy to be particularly good-looking. I'll go one step further to say that there's something rather, well, icky about Ron Jeremy. But I can see why he became a porn star, other than being well-hung. The guy is at ease in front of the camera, comfortable in his skin, funny, enthusiastic, and puts the women he's about to have sex with at ease. I mean, nothing short of chloroform would ever make me be able to do it with that guy, and I don't find his sex scenes particularly arousing, but I'll give credit where credit's due.
Personally, I have never owned porn. I like variety and brevity when it comes to erotica (I have never watched an entire porn from start to finish, but then who has?) as well as variety, so I much prefer the odds and ends available on the internet. There are tons of free clips available if you know where to look, and it's a great way to see some of the really wacky stuff out there. It's also a useful way to discover if you may have a particular fetish--or definitely do not. For example, I know without a doubt that balloon, midget, and granny porn do absolutely nothing for me. I mean, I pretty much knew that before, but now I conclusively, really know. I also discovered that I much prefer to participate in bondage and discipline than watch it.
In general, I view pornography much in the same way as I view vibrators: a quick and easy way to get off, but ultimately synthetic and not always very satisfying. It also makes me a bit concerned that we rely on other peoples' visual interpretations of sexual fantasy instead of doing the work ourselves. That's why I sometimes prefer to read erotica than view it: I can use my imagination to conjure at least some of the imagery. I try to retain my own ideas about what I want sex to look, sound, and (most importantly) feel like.
I know there's quality porn out there. I'm curious to see some of Candida Royale's work (made for and by a woman) and I like the trend of alternative porn, though it's going to take more than pasty skin and a few piercings to turn me on. In a way, I'm glad I haven't seen any pornography that I really, really love, because this way it can be something I keep as a minimal part of my sex life.
(This is where I'd tell you how much better the real thing is, anyway, but you already know that.)
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Then I decided to shake off my hesitation and see what all the fuss is about. Earlier this week, I got a Rabbit in the mail. It has gotten so much good buzz over the years (pardon the pun--or don't, but there are going to be plenty of them in this post so get comfortable), so I figured that would be a good one to start with.
Once I knew it was en route, I got excited (no, not that kind of excited... though the heat and all the working out I've been doing lately has certainly bolstered my libido). Would it be the most mind-blowing orgasm ever? Would I get so addicted that BF David would have to woo me back to the real thing? And what about the experience itself? Should I take myself out to a nice dinner, light some candles and play sexy music, tell myself how beautiful I look... or should I just watch some porn (I'll let you decide which seduction technique I opted for).
A few days later, I got my box of treats in the mail. Hooray! I couldn't wait to go home and give that Rabbit a whirl. BF David is in rehearsals for a play he's in this fall, so his schedule is a bit hectic during the week. And you know what they say, when the cat's away, the mice will play with their new sex toys. Or something like that. Except that I had to spend a few hours with my parents after work, which was nice, but I this vibrator was burning a hole in my totebag. I waited all these years to try one out, so every moment leading up to it felt ages away.
Finally, back at my apartment, I tore into the box and pulled out my new pretty pink friend. It was a bit smaller than I expected, which was fine-- in fact great, because it was a good size for a beginner and the thing was already not measuring up to my boyfriend, which meant there was no way I could get overly attached to it. For some reason, I got it into my head that the vibrator would run on AA batteries, which was awesome because I have rechargable ones. Of course, I didn't actually check until I received the package and noticed it took C batteries. Damn!
I rushed around the corner to the nearest bodega and asked for two packs of C's.
The shopkeeper turned around at a glacial pace and pointed up. "D's?" he asked.
Grr! Didn't he realize the urgency of the situation?
"C's," I reiterated, trying to keep my facial expression more I-really-need-these-for-a-flashlight than I-need-these-for-my-brand-spanking-new-orgasm-inducer.
I paid for my batteries, smiling at the Energizer bunny on the packaging. We'll see if they kept going and going.
"Did you hear there might be a blackout tomorrow?"
Yeah, well, if there was a blackout, I'd still be able to come in the dark.
Back at the lab, I got everything ready and familiarized myself with the switches. There was one for the whirling pearls at the base and there was another for the bunny-shaped clit-stimulator. I promised myself I wouldn't go too high on either setting, because I heard about how using a vibrator too much can desensitize a woman. A cautious plan and one that went right out the window when I was in the thick of it. Within a few minutes of the initial buzzing, I was satiated. Though a little later I tested it out again, just to, you know, make sure it worked properly and everything (it does).
Impressions? I had nothing to worry about. The real thing is always going to be better, not only because there's a person attached to it, but because the sensation of genuine, warm skin can not be replicated. I mean, I've got to have kissing in the mix. Also, while the vibrator buzzes at astounding speeds and is almost guaranteed to get you off, there's something about the experience that feels synthetic and mechanical (gee, I wonder why). At the same time, whether in a relationship or not, the real thing isn't always available, and even if it is, this toy is a great supplement. Plus, you can roll over and fall right asleep afterwards without hurting its feelings.