August 31, 2007

Thoughts on being an asshole

"You're an asshole."

Like an old friend, there it is again. An old friend? No, that would imply some welcome, some celebration at the cessation of a too-long separation. I didn't miss being called an asshole for the period, the all-to-brief period since the last time. When was it, just three weeks ago? Different woman, different location, same tears, same circumstances. "I can't believe you're being such an asshole!" For a moment, the snarky detached part of me wonders however that could be true. Of course you can believe it; this is no more a surprise for you than it is for me. Am I the only one who's played this conversation out before? Isn't this how it always ends? When one person doesn't get what they want, isn't the other person an asshole? I'm not talking by definition, but rather in practice. Sure, in the best of all possible worlds, we all love one another and all that crap. But here. Now. In this lifetime. Does it ever go any other way?

Assholes are not born, they're made. You make them. With every uncommunicated need that I'm not fulfilling, with every unmet expectation you haven't made me aware of, with every grand fairy tale of how it will go this time which you've spun and I'm not privy to, each of these is a hammer-blow, chipping away at the better parts of a man, reducing him, rehsaping him into the asshole that's left over. I didn't pay attention to her the way she wanted me to, as much as she wanted me to.

She keeps telling me how I feel. I really don't feel any of that. I do feel maligned, misused, abused. I do feel like I'm the only one who realizes relationships neither start nor fail in a vaccuum - there's two of us in there, so you have something to do with it too, no? I do feel like you're being an unwinnable game, and yet you're mad at me for losing. I try and maintain my balance. It's not about being right or wrong, she's upset, just listen and let her talk. But it's not fair. Yes, I know, it's not meant to be fair. But what a nice change of pace that would be.

Once again I've disappointed a woman because she didn't get the relationship she wanted. I didn't either. I never do. I never do. I never do. Did someone promise you a relationship just the way you like it? Is it only women who get to have it their way? Or is it my own fault (of course it is) because I never hold them accountable for failing me the way I've failed them.

"You lost interest in me, it's obvious." There it is again. The immaculate relationship. The passive voice. I lost interest in her, clearly I've broken some deal we made. To do what? To never lose interest? Did you break your end of the deal when you told me how boring I was being (twice) last week? How about when you say hello by asking "why haven't you emailed me, you're ignoring me." Our past few interactions have been little more than accusations of how I've disappointed you, and yet somehow my interest in you has waned. It's a baffling mystery. Expectation kills desire. Not just for me, for everyone. Or is it just for me? Maybe it is, maybe that's the source of my mysterious yet apparently inexhaustible supply of assholeishness.

Stay connected... don't bail... Aww, fuck that. That's bullshit. She's calling me an asshole. Over and over. And she's crying. So she must be right. A crying woman trumps a disgruntled man every day. Is she upset I'm not more upset? Another example of how I'm not living up to her expectations.

I don't enjoy being an asshole. I'm sorry you're unhappy. It was and is my fervent wish that I give you joy and not pain. But I'm not at your beck and call. And I'm not a mind reader. And I've neither overtly nor implicityly promised or committed to anything in the two weeks we've been seeing each other, so I don't feel like your critique of my character is warranted. You're not entitled to the amount of me you seem to think you are entitled to. Frankly, you haven't yet earned it.

You won't get my attention by demanding it. If that makes me an asshole, ok. It's not the first time. This month. Ironically, it's not even the first time a woman named Becca has called me an asshole in the month of August, and what are the odds on that? This Becca in front of me has no idea that it was exactly 12 months ago that the other Becca was screaming through a slammed door, railing against nature, her misfortunes, and yours truly in the next room. As I realize I have the makings of an annual tradition, I nearly laugh out loud.

I so need to stop dating. Really. I clearly don't know what the hell I'm doing, practically every time I go near a woman they end up crying and calling me names. I'm like Lennie trying to pet the tender little mousie, and I keep thinking I'll solve the problem merely by finding a heartier mouse.

I know so many things that other people don't know, how is it I never learned how to do this better?

August 29, 2007

Definition of Irony

Pronunciation: 'I-r&-nE also 'I(-&)r-nE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -nies
Etymology: Latin ironia, from Greek eirOnia, from eirOn dissembler
(1) : incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2) : an event or result marked by such incongruity

See or see also:
Burning Man Torched Early; Artist Held
SAN FRANCISCO - Burning Man became Burnt Man four days early on Tuesday, and a San Francisco performance artist was arrested on suspicion of igniting the signature figure of the counterculture festival in the remote Nevada desert. read more
Is there anything more counterculture than being counter- counterculture? This guy exemplifies the spirit of Burning Man! You can tell by the face paint and the nudity.

Though of course I'm not a Burning Man kinda guy, so what the hell do I know?

August 25, 2007

Best show you're not watching

I started watching USA Network's Burn Notice solely because Jeff Donovan was starring in it, and I've been a Jeff Donovan fan since we were in a play together back in 1989. Within the first five minutes of the first episode, before the credits even ran, I already knew this was my new favorite show.

It's on Thursday at 10:00pm, and repeated several times throughout the week, and it's gooooood.

More importantly, it totally cleanses the palette of the last big thing we saw Jeff in...

August 22, 2007

Evening with a Congressman

I was invited to join a regular roundtable event put on by the B'nai B'rith of NY each month, which focuses on politics, government, and diplomacy and often includes foreign diplomats and mission members from the United Nations. This past Wednesday they sponsored an evening with U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel, representing parts of the Bronx, Yonkers, White Plains, and Rockland County.

In preparation I did a good deal of research on Mr. Engel, hoping to find some tidbits I could focus on - how did he vote on the Protect America Act which recently rubber-stamped Bush's warrantless wiretapping, for instance. Yet I was pleasantly surprised to find a Congressman after my own heart - his voting record, the committees he's on, even his campaign finances all demonstrate a man of integrity and commitment to public service, and the more I researched the more I was looking forward to meeting him.

The evening went well, and the Congressman spoke for a little more than an hour. Since his committee assignments and some of the legislation he's sponsored demonstrate an expertise in the areas of hazardous materials and consumer protection, I asked him about the recent recalls of Chinese products. Specifically, I wondered how he and his colleagues might be able to invoke necessary consumer protection laws against the imports of a nation that owns $1.3 billion of U.S. debt and has already threatened economic retaliation on other matters. Alas, the Congressman's answer was somewhat vague and non-committal.

After the roundtable I had a few minutes to speak privately with the Congressman, and he admitted that he felt mine was the question he answered least satisfactorily. "Why is that?" I asked him. He went on to tell me that he felt the need to be intentionally ambiguous on the topic of China. The Congressman said that what many in Washington think and feel about our relationship with China is quite incendiary, and not something they like to discuss publicly. "China will be our biggest challenge" he told me,"economically, politically, and militarily."

I'm not so self-effacing that I didn't thrill a bit at hearing this - not because I'm looking forward to a showdown with China over Taiwan, energy demands, treasury bills, product safety, or trade imbalance, but rather because I've been saying that very thing for several years. To have my private assessment of a particular issue echoed by a 20-year congressional veteran serving on the Foreign Relations committee inspires in me more than a little bit of pride. Not that the threat of China's ascendancy is a some great secret, not at all, but for years as we have focused on the threats of the Middle East and ignored the threats of the Far East, I've felt we were focusing on the short game and ignoring China which is a far greater, though less immediate, danger to our prosperity.

I also had the opportunity to explain some vagaries of the English language to the Ambassador from Argentina, who wasn't entirely sure about the subtle distinctions between Democrat, Democratic, and democratic. Or rather, he understood them fully but the Americans who were using the terms incorrectly did not, resulting in a very confused diplomat. I was able to advise the Ambassador that he was likely a more proficient English speaker than the folks writing the copy that was baffling him, and that when in doubt his Excellency should continue to trust his English language education.

Sometimes I really love living in New York...

August 12, 2007

Summertime Dan

A few years ago I remember telling my friend Adam, after he complained that I hadn't done anything with him all summer, "of course not, it's summer..."

Though the exact start and stop will vary from year to year, essentially from July 1 - September 30, I really don't do things. I mean, sure, I'll do some things if I must, but they have to comply with the the basic rules of Dan's summertime activity: if it's indoor there must be air conditioning, and if it's outdoor, it can't require I dress (or even look) nice.

I've been relatively successful this year, though I must admit against my better judgment I've attended some indoor events with a level of air conditioning that could only barely be considered adequate. Most of my family and friends know my temperature requirements, accept them, even enjoy them as a source for comedy. My great friends Dave and Olivia invited me down to their place in Philadelphia for the weekend, and when I hesitated to reply, she suddenly remembered "oh, right - not till October then..."

I've always been uncomfortably warm. Like my father before me, and I assume our fathers dating back to the very first short, hairy Semite who uttered the first "Oy." It's better this year, having lost quite a bit of weight over the past few months, but I don't suspect I'll ever be comfortable with the temperatures that others barely seem to notice.

This past week in particular was very hot. And next week I'm on a stay-cation, hanging out in my apartment and neighborhood, relaxing before we get crazy busy at work this September. So I decided to do something I've wanted to do for years. I don't know if it will help me stay cool, or if it looks cool, but it sure was fun to do.

What do you think?