Monday, August 30, 2010

Flirting From the Inside

It’s a warm sunny afternoon in 1996. We are wasting time before heading home in our rolled-up Catholic school skirts. I am an awkward flagpole at 13, with my oversized glasses, braces, and messy black hair. My friend Erica is cute and petite, with her Jennifer Aniston haircut, dyed light brown, with dimples, and growing into her new body quite nicely.

“Watch,” she instructs, as she walks next to me on the sidewalk. She sways her budding hips with confidence, and stares at a thirty-something man who is about to walk by us in the other direction. She catches his eye, and then she smiles. It wasn’t just any smile. It was like she had a secret that she was sure he wanted to know. At first the guy looked uncomfortable, but to my surprise, he started smiling back. Then she giggled and looked away as he passed by us.

“Wow!” I said. “How’d you do that?”

“It’s easy!” she said. “You should try it sometime.”

There was no way I was going to embarrass myself by trying that stunt. I was pretty sure I’d get nothing but a weird look in return. But I was amazed at how simple she made it seem.

This was just one of many times she tried to teach me the art of flirting. She encouraged me to get close to a guy I liked and make conversation with him. Once I had him in my clutches, she told me to smile and laugh at his jokes, act impressed by whatever he had to say. I would read all the “10 Ways to Get His Attention!” articles in seventeen magazine (number 5: Wear dangly earrings!). But to this day, I don’t think I ever mastered it.

I never managed to catch a man’s eye from across the room and have him approach me because he just had to talk to me. I never felt the confidence that Erica already had at such a young age. However, almost every guy I ever dated, including my husband, was my friend first, and I managed to win him over with personality alone. Once I’m in my comfort zone, I can pull out my own bag of tricks (i.e. humor, intelligence), and they don’t include flipping my hair over my shoulder. That’s how introverts work: from the inside.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The "Ground Zero Mosque"

A seemingly endless procession of Muslim men and women are walking out of what will soon be the new mosque only a couple of blocks from Ground Zero. People holding signs have been standing outside the doors all week – supporters of the mosque, not protestors as I’d originally thought. One sign reads: America Supports All Faiths.

News reporters and their cameramen record the event. One of them is interviewing a Muslim woman who has just stepped out of the building. What’s going on? I’m not exactly sure. I’m just one of the many passersby who stopped to see what was going on as I was on my way to work this afternoon.

Police cars line the street. There is a tension in the air, like everyone is waiting for something to happen. Besides the occasional driver shouting obscenities at the crowd, though, everything seems to be under control for the moment.

Suddenly, I am transported back in time, feeling like I’m an onlooker in one of those black and white clips you might have seen in history class of when the first African-Americans are escorted out of school during the time of desegregation. We stand there. We watch. We wait.

After a few minutes I leave, not wanting to be late. However, I am left with that tense feeling, and I think about the mosque and all those people who just walked out of the building. How must they be feeling?

I can understand why people are against the mosque being built so close to where the World Trade Center buildings were. The events of 9/11 are still fresh in our minds, like a wound that reopens whenever one really thinks about it, especially for the families of the victims, and especially now that the anniversary is rolling around again. However, even these families are not all crying out in one united force in opposition to the mosque. Even they are divided on this subject.

Some people are outraged. Some people are scared. They believe terrorists will use this mosque as a type of headquarters to plan their next attack. But are we talking about terrorists, or are we talking about Muslims? We must remember that not every Muslim is a terrorist. Some Muslims really do just want to go to a mosque in order to practice their faith.

That being said, it must also be noted that Feisal Abdul Rauf could have decided to build a mosque anywhere in the city. So why, of all places, is he deciding to place it there? He had to have known that there would be controversy due to the location.

Despite the fact that this can be considered a very distasteful business move, we mustn’t forget that America was built on the premise of freedom. We may not always like what people say or do, but it’s still their right to do it. I don’t know why this specific location was chosen, but arguing about whether it’s right or wrong is a moot point. He bought the property fair and square, and he has the right to do what he wants with it. We don’t have to like it, but we’re going to have to accept it because that is what tolerance is all about.

The emotional reaction to the building of this mosque is exactly that: emotional. I’m not denying those emotions. People have expressed their views, both negative and positive, as is their right. However, in this touchy situation, we need to think with our heads instead of our hearts to realize that by opposing this mosque we may end up looking hypocritical, as well as inviting even more animosity from the Muslim community.

Drink Play F@#k: A short book review

I did a double take as I passed by this book at the bookstore. No, it wasn’t the immensely popular “Eat, Pray, Love”, but it sure looked a lot like it. If I hadn’t taken a closer look, it would’ve fooled me!

I immediately took a picture and sent it to my friend. I figured she wouldn’t be the only one to appreciate the irony, so I’ve decided to share it with you all as well.

I couldn’t help it. I bought the book “Drink Play F@#k” by Andrew Gottlieb. I had to know what this guy’s story was. Unfortunately, unlike “Eat Pray Love”, this tale is purely a fabrication. However, that doesn’t mean the book isn’t entertaining. Written by a comedian, it was overall an enjoyable read. Think ‘David Sedaris meets Elizabeth Gilbert’, and this book would be the end result.

The story begins with the protagonist’s wife divorcing him and promptly moving in with another man. Heartbroken, he sets off on a year long adventure where he decides to drink, play, and f@#k in Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand, respectively. Let’s just say he is trying to find himself as only a guy can.

With this type of scenario, I was expecting stories teeming with vulgar descriptions of one-night stands and ridiculous shows of masculinity, but I was pleasantly surprised. This Bob Sullivan character, as fictitious as he may be, is not such a bad guy after all. His story is amusing, and there are even a couple of lessons to be learned along the way. Anyone else care to give him a chance?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Case of the Endangered Angry White Man

Thousands of people have hailed Steve Slater as a hero. He’s the guy who did what so many of us wish we could do: curse out our customers, our bosses, basically anyone at work that treats us badly or disrespects us. When I first heard this story I admit that I felt a momentary surge of inspiration. He had me completely on his side until I saw his face as he walked out of jail.

“Wipe that smirk off your face!” I scolded him, as I watched him on television. After hearing how he had been treated by the passengers, how his mom was dying of cancer, how he was a recovering alcoholic, and how he momentarily lost his cool, as any one of us could, I expected to see some humility. Maybe even a smidgen of regret, but not this arrogant cockiness.

I suppose I imagined that, like any one of us, his euphoria would start to wear off as soon as he realized he was out of a job in these unfortunate economic times. Like any one of us, he might look back, analyze what he had done, and come to the conclusion that perhaps he did overreact, even if these passengers did deserve it. His own mother admits that he had a “small meltdown”. However, unlike any one of us, he now has a countrywide fan base that continues to grow. All this attention has clearly gone to his head.

However, the circumstances for his overnight fame were in his favor. I now pose this question to you: Would so many people be hailing this man and his impulsive actions if he were any race other than white? I highly doubt that thousands of people across America would be buying and wearing t-shirts that say “Free Pedro” or “Free Tyrone”. Not to mention the fact that we should all be praising Allah that this man was not an Arab, or else we would all be crying “Terrorist!”.

Most of us find this type of thinking difficult to admit as the truth. We all like to think of ourselves as perfect people who see each other as equals in every way, but unfortunately stereotypes do exist and we need to recognize them. If Steve were a black or Latino man, he probably would not be portrayed as a hero in all the newspapers. He might not be receiving as much publicity because “as we all know” minority men have a bad temper. Didn’t you know? That’s not news! But a white person losing his cool in such an extravagant way? That’s unheard of! Quick, make sure he makes the front page!

I can understand why he has quickly become the next American idol. He has appealed to the masses, the working class. Many of us know what it’s like to have to swallow your pride and smile in the face of a self-righteous customer in a country where the customer is always right. On August 10th, as America watched, read, or listened to the news, we all lived vicariously through his tirade. But let’s face it. If Steve were a woman, most of us would be blaming it on PMS.