Monday, October 19, 2009

Curiosity Killed The Annoying Bar Patron

I have some bad habits. For example, if someone shows the remotest interest (or if they make the mistake of being a polite listener), I will hold forth on subjects like:
  • Farm subsidies
  • GM Corn
  • Confined Animal Feeding Operations
  • What a carbon analysis of our hair might reveal
Wait, wait, wait. I need to set the stage for you. Did I mention we've been drinking? And we're at a cheerful bar on Saturday night--a birthday party, more specifically--while I'm delivering a sermon on what too much conventionally-produced dairy did to the participants in a controlled study in Sweden?

Meanwhile, my husband is looking at me like, Why can't you just do too many shots and jump out of a giant cake in a bikini like Jeff's wife just did?

Anyway, I decided to switch conversational gears later in the evening to avoid traumatizing anyone else. First, I was introduced to the singer of a local band and his adorable new girlfriend. Turned out it was her birthday, too. Unfortunately, the singer in question was spectacularly drunk--so drunk you could nearly see his liver glowing through his shirt--which made him quite the Flirty Gertie, all handsy and stinky and stumbly. So I decided to switch to Interviewer Mode to divert his attention back to Lucky Girlfriend, where it belonged. Here's what happened:

Me, to the happy couple: "So how long have you two been together?"

Drunk singer: "Oh, I don't know. Four months?"

Lucky Girlfriend: "We started dating on June 21st."

Me: "So how did you meet?"

Singer: "She was at one of my shows."

Me: "What first attracted you to her?"

Singer: "Oh, her Dad was hilarious. Her family is great. I just love them."

Girlfriend: *Smile beginning to fade*

Me: "But you saw her and thought she was the prettiest girl in the room, right?"

Singer, after a long pause: "Well, not really. You know, as I get older, I'm so much more interested in what's INSIDE a woman, as opposed to the OUTSIDE."

Girlfriend: *Dirty look*

Me, laughing out loud: "But she's adorable! I'm sure you thought she was beautiful."

Singer, leaning in to cup his girlfriend's face: "But it's what's on the INSIDE that matters, right?"

Girlfriend: *Glaring at boyfriend now*

Singer: "I just..I don't know...her family...they're GREAT!"

Me: *Backing silently away while their fight broke out.*

Well that was a disaster. So I decided to switch conversational approaches again. May I just say that attempting to act as Life Coach to a burly, recovering drug addict at 2 in the morning is only going to lead to tears? For him? The good thing is, you'll walk away thinking, Well, my family may not be perfect, but at least my mother never locked me in a cage when I was a kid.

Maybe I should just keep it simple, I thought. Make people laugh. Get back to my roots.

Me, after eating 6 Bloody Mary garlic pickles, to a girl I've only met once before: "Hey, doesn't my breath smell kind of like a casserole?"

So if anyone would like to learn more about factory farming or the giant mass of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean, I'll be at my cousin's wedding in Appleton this Saturday night. Dinner will be served at 5, annoying lecture to follow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Giants Win the Penance!

When I was a young girl, I attended Saturday morning CCD classes, all of which were punctuated by mass, and some of which were punctuated by confession. And in that musty, confined space, a sweaty me usually confessed the same laundry list of sins (fighting with my brother and sister, talking back to Mom & Dad, lying about something, putting a recyclable in the general refuse bin, murdering a homeless man and burying his body in the crawl space ...). And was assessed the same penance, nearly every time. One "Our Father," and a "Hail Mary" or two, depending on how honest / bored I was feeling before the moment of semi-truth.

It occurred to me the other day that if I were to attend confession NOW, nearly twenty years since my last one, my penance would probably be to say the rosary over and over again while running the Chicago marathon barefoot, with a sack of ceramic garden gnomes on my back.

But the more you read the paper or simply mingle with the general public, the more you realize your own sins are probably pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Of course, it helps to live across the street from The Jerry Springer Show, but not everyone has that luxury. I truly feel blessed. Every day I can look out the window and say, "Thank GOD I'm not keeping up with the Joneses."

Also, from the weekend: "Thank goodness I've never been called a Butter Face, especially now that I know what it means!"

And: "Thank heavens my doctor has never pulled a jalapeno seed from my urethra!"

(Oh, there's a long story behind that one, and it's going in a book one day, for sure.)

So, there really is a lot to be thankful for. Including the fact that you can grow up and never go to confession again, if you don't want to.