Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I've updated...

"Things that you wouldn't think would still be necessary...", three or four posts down.

Why can't I tell you exactly how many posts down it is? Because this entry and the one about my grades keep switching places because they have the same time stamp. Weird Blogger fun. I wonder if you could create a blog that constantly reshuffled all its posts if you just gave them all the same time stamp? (And yes, I could fix this problem by changing the time stamp, but it's amusing me.)

It's "I wish I knew how to quit you!"

  • I can't quit you!
  • I don't know how to quit you!
  • I wish I could quit you!
  • Why can't I quit you?
  • I'd kind of like to quit you, but I can't.
  • I want to quit you!
  • Why won't you let me quit you?
  • I'm not a quitter, but I want to quit you!
  • etc. etc.
This makes me nuts. What's good about the line is the double impossibility in it, and the reason that's good is that it echoes the theme and mood of the whole damn film.

Respect Larry McMurtry, people. The exceptionally tortured dialogue in Brokeback is a serious achievement.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Awkwardly thrust into the role of sexless crone.

A couple of weekends ago I made the mistake of going to a party hosted close to campus by one of the younger members of my section.

Remark: I got to know my friend S (Not Ms. S, another S) about the time she was 35 and I was 28. At the time, she complained a lot about being around younger people and finding herself thrust into this unpleasantly asexual "wacky crone" role. I realize now that this is a big downside of law school parties for me, and that I don't think I'm approaching it with the same degree of insight S did.

It's very annoying. As a feminist analysis might predict, the persistent and unspoken denigrations of the youth are far-ranging, because many people value women are primarily for their sexuality, so once you're thrust into the sexless crone role, you're pretty much devalued across the board. I don't know why this should surprise me, or frankly, why it should hurt, as it's just another layer on the whole devaluation I've experienced for decades as a not-thin-enough, not-breasty-enough, not-x-enough woman.

It's hard to explain how this manifests in conversation. It's things like not being listened to, or beyond that, getting a kind of "why are you here, why are you speaking, why do you exist" reaction. Annoying.

Things that you wouldn't think would still be necessary...

But are.

Today I went out to lunch with M from my study group, and while discussing my ongoing irritation and exhaustion with my Torts professor (about which more probably later, after things gel), I mentioned that another student had started keeping track of the number of sexually inappropriate remarks he made, the number of times he tells stories in which women are victimized, generally as a means of evoking some kind of ethical discomfort in the class. (I think for those of us already sensitive to these things, he's quite literally wearing on our nerves.) I mentioned a discussion I'd had with a fellow 1L at a meeting of the women law students' group (she finds herself similarly exhausted/dismayed by the prof), and M asked how the group was, whether it was valuable.


And I find this surprising.

And probably shouldn't.

M said she's been thinking of joining the group as a way of finding/creating some kind of community that's supportive of a different way of "doing law." I think that's a good idea, and a real possibility. It's funny, because our class is well more than half women, as are the classes ahead of us, but it's apparent that the men in our class have a much easier time connecting with the institution, playing its games, and living out its visions. I meet all of these interesting, compassionate individuals who are charting different paths for themselves in the law, but as far as the overall atmosphere of the school is concerned, it's like they don't exist. The whole is less than the sum of the parts.

I was joking with M that I didn't join the women's group initially because I wasn't sure how necessary it would be, but after a quarter in school, and after spending some time over break looking at law firm web sites and seeing little group photos of 4 male partners and 1 woman, 5 male partners and 1 woman, 8 male partners and no women, 15 male partners and 1 woman...sign me up.

I'm sure I'll have more on this later.

It's later. So now here's more on this.

In the Comments, Wordzguy says, "Not so different in high tech. Have a review of the top management at MSFT, Google, et al. See any women? (If so, are they other than Human Resources?) Boys Clubs, all."

To which I say, absolutely. But imagine if 60% of your programmers were women. Imagine if 60% of MS-level computer science degrees were going to women. How much weirder would that boardroom picture seem then?

There's been a bit of research work done on this, but no one's coming up with any great answers (except that yeah, it's an old boys' club that's remarkably flexible about retrenching itself in the face of change). Lani Guinier published a piece based on survey data from University of Pennsylvania Law School back in 1994 ("Becoming Gentlemen," 143 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1). That article includes information like:

"Despite identical entry-level credentials, this performance differential between men and women is created in the first year of law school and maintained over the next three years. By the end of their first year in law school, men are three times more likely than women to be in the top 10% of their law school class."

"[M]any women are alienated by the way the Socratic method is used in large classroom instruction, which is the dominant pedagogy for almost all first-year instruction. Women self-report much lower rates of class participation than do men for all three years of law school. Our data suggest that many women do not 'engage' pedagogically with a methodology that makes them feel strange, alienated, and 'delegitimated.' These women describe a dynamic in which they feel that their voices were 'stolen' from them during the first year."

There have been a number of studies about law school classroom environments being hostile to women, but that's not what I'm experiencing: it's more like what Guinier describes. A blanking-out, a muffling-down, a shutting-up. It's delegitimation of my career goals, my way of going about things, my approach to life. And on top of that, there's a real sense (adopted by many of the older women in the profession) that you shouldn't complain, you shouldn't change things, you should instead "prove yourself" by sucking it up.

I dunno. Law's institutional history with respect to gender is kind of weird. One of our profs started law school in her early 40s. She had considered it in 1971 when she was in her early 20s, but when she talked to someone in the admissions office at her state's law school, she was "reminded" that if she got in, she'd be taking a man's place, and taking away his draft deferment. She didn't apply.

But I think the real thing is more like: law is very good at legitimating its own fucked up culture, which is not particularly surprising, since rationalizing is basically what lawyers do.

New Dog v. Old Dog*

Small child, observing Miz Biz: "Oooh. That dog is so cute! I like you, little dog! So fluffy!!"

Small child, observing my old dog Bailey: "What is that? Is that a raccoon??"

* I thought this entry wasn't about law skool at all, but then this title flew out of my fingers. Sigh.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Which reminds me...

Clearly, I've abandoned the old "Tort of the Week" idea. I'm lazy, and it takes too long, and I've actually found Torts kind of dull lately. Even though we are talking about Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. (Outrageous!)**

However, I'm unexpectedly fascinated by my Property class. Today was all about "Adverse Possession," which is a doctrine, valid in most states, that allows you to keep property if you openly occupy it for some number of years. Usually 7 or 10 years. Wild!

One of the cases (Nome 2000 v. Fagerstrom) was from Alaska, and involved a Native American couple who had adverse possession of some land that bordered their deeded land. (In this case, they weren't knowing squatters--they thought it was theirs. I think.) The land was in an area not suitable for year round habitation, so they mainly stayed there in the summer, did some fishing, berry gathering, kept reindeer, other seasonal subsistence activities. Eventually they built a small cabin. Basically, they used the land about as much as you can use land that's north of Nome. During the trial, the deeded owner (Nome 2000) had an expert witness testify that by such use, they weren't really "occupying" the land, because Native Americans have different conceptions of property, blah de blah. How this reconciles with the fact that these Native Americans with no conception of property are there in court defending their property rights, I don't know. The court rejected this argument, and the Fagerstroms got the land.

What strikes me about this case is how casually the weirdly racist argument is offered and dispensed with. This may be an anomaly in Property Law (since dispossessing Native Americans is the whole foundation of real property in the US), but we also had a case in Torts where there had been a bar fight between Native American and white patrons, and the opinion was written with all of these jokes about "braves on the warpath" and whatnot. And the casebook didn't say a peep. And the casebook didn't say a peep here either. But when we've read cases that have racist elements with respect to African Americans, the importance of the racial context will generally be mentioned. And we simply don't have cases where the judge makes offensive jokes about African Americans. Weird.

**OK, see, this is a dumb Restatement of Torts joke, because the part of the Restatement that talks about IIED talks about the conduct being such that a reasonable person in the community, if told of the defendant's acts, would exclaim "outrageous!" Which is funny for a couple of reasons. First, it's trying so hard to build toward something at least quasi-objective, and then so totally fails. And second, it's so archaic! "Outrageous!" Today, wouldn't it be more like, "Dude, that is *so* fucked up!"? (OK no, that would have been in the 80s. Never mind.)

My brand new bizarre and tenuous theory about my Torts professor.

Tonight I got an email from a classmate speculating about whether our Torts professor is a Buddhist, to which I replied something like "Duh! I knew that in week 2. I mean, how many times has he said 'life is suffering'?"

This little discussion prompted me to do some Googling (insert obligatory NSA joke here) along the lines of:

name-of-Torts-professor buddhism
name-of-Torts-professor buddha

In addition to various items regarding said professor and his work (told you so!), this search turned up a brief news item about the trial of someone with the exact same name as Torts professor, back in the 1950s, for some kind of liquor-related tax evasion during WWII. That news item led me to a Federal case cite, and the appeals case on LexisNexis had a partial account of the facts of the case. As near as I can make out, same-name-fellow had been either a bar owner, a bar part-owner, or a supplier of liquor to bars, and had charged the bars and others a cash premium above the official price for liquor. He didn't pay taxes on this premium, he says because it wasn't profit, as he used all of it to pay suppliers black market prices and ensure a steady supply of liquor during those difficult times. He lost the case, with two circuit court appeals and a denial of cert from the Supreme Court.

So of course my new theory is that professor is actually related to tax evasion guy, and that perhaps this was some kind of formative traumatic childhood incident, and may account for professor's current, frequently odd, behavior.

Unfortunately, I can't quite work the Buddhism angle in there...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Ethicist

Dear Ethicist:

A few months ago, I cancelled my Sunday NYT subscription because I'd found the magazine deadly dull for several weeks and I was sick of seeing all those smug rich people in the wedding announcements. However, for the past four weeks, the NYT has appeared on my front porch every Sunday, just as if I had a subscription. I've checked my credit cards, and I haven't been charged. In the past, the NYT subscription weasels have annoyed me by calling me up to four times a day to see if I wanted to upgrade to 7 days a week, and they've also failed to credit me for a few missed papers. Should I call and tell them about the mistake?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My dog is maimed! And has no teeth!

I'm not even going to take a picture of this because it's simply too horrifying. Today Miz Biz went to the vet for what I suspect is the first dental cleaning in her life. Her teeth were truly horrifying, and her breath was unbearable--kind of a cross between normal bad dog breath and some awful metallic undertone. As I anticipated, she had quite a few teeth that were infected, abscessed, eroded, etc., and they had to take about 10 of them out. She has stitches in her mouth and is still bleeding a little. And bled quite a bit in the cage at the vet, which, because she is white, left some rather shocking stains around her mouth and around her head and such.

I also had them take off the big mole/tumor thing on her nose, so she's got about three or four stitches and a shaved patch there.

So, now I'm cooking "doggie congee" for her (rice, dry dogfood, and chicken broth (because I didn't get to the store to get her some soft food)) and waiting for her to start feeling good enough to growl and grumble instead of whining and whimpering. She's started barking again. That seems to be a good sign.

Poor old girl. I hope this was worth it for her as well as me. (I know I won't miss the deadly breath.)

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I stumbled on this in all innocence...

...while looking for Ganesha line art.

Blotter Art Gallery

Wow. God bless the internets.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I Group #!

One of my study group pals had a party tonight for our law school section, Group #. (For those of you who aren't in law school, the key thing to know here is that most law schools assign all 1Ls to small groups of 30 or so. You have your small-section class with these people, your legal writing class with these people, and every other class with these people too. Basically, you're trapped with these people.)

As far as I know, the school assigns groups more or less randomly, but over the year, each group develops its own norms and personality. For instance, my carpool buddy's group, Group Other#, is known as a party group where a lot of folks are hung over on Fridays because they go out on Thursday night.

Group # doesn't play that. We can barely be bothered to attend our own social events. We seem to have embraced an identity as "The Laid Back Group." Especially compared with whatever group it is we're paired with for Property, we seem to have a lot of folks over 30 and a lot of international students. Of the youth, many have spent time overseas, and very few are straight out of college. All of us work pretty hard, but none of us really seemed to freak out at finals, and none of us are real yappy-dog gunners. There's not a lot of toxic ego crap in Group #. As a friend of mine was saying tonight, most of us seem pretty inner-directed.

I ♥ Group #. We should make a T-shirt. I'm thinking with Ganesha, because he vanquishes that prideful little mouse guy.

I am in a painfully foul mood.

And I'm not sure why. I suspect the components include:
  • Getting my legal writing grade back.
  • Not enough break in my break.
  • Dirty house.
  • Having to be around law students again.
  • The fact that law students, at least in their/our schooly interactions with one another, are notably lacking in humility and a sense of humor.* Self-deprecation? Bah! That's not funny! That's for weaklings!
  • Feeling kind of raw and therefore finding other people's egos both tiresome and painful.
That last bit seems to be related to something I've been noticing for the last couple of years. I've become weirdly sensitive to primate ego posturing. I keep having these moments where I'm interacting with someone, and they start doing that, and it's like I suddenly see a schematic of the person's weird psychic machinery, and it makes me feel sad and disconnected and odd. I'm having a hard time describing this. It's like I'm Keanu in some kind of psychological Matrix. Time even seems to slow down a bit. Very disturbing.

As to the legal writing grade, for this 25% of the year's grade, I'm somewhere in the B+ zone. Which is fine, given the (very low) level of (non-)effort I put into the class. But I am finding it frustrating that although we had about a million stupid little required (but ungraded) assignments over the course of the quarter, this is the first time we've been given any substantive feedback on anything. I'm also annoyed because the points I lost, I lost on format and on legal writing conventions. Which I'm having difficulty internalizing. Why? Um, could it be that over the entire quarter, we were shown ONE example of the kind of memos we're writing? Could it be that we never workshop student writing in class? Could it be that we have no idea of the audience we're writing for? Could it be that we don't write enough to actually learn anything? Could it be that the course's instructional goals were never mentioned prior to the end-of-quarter "self reflection" exercise? Could it be that this course ignores every major principle of writing pedagogy AND of instructional design for adults? Yeah, that might be a factor. (Along with my disengagement, which I'll own.)

Without experiencing this format as a reader (as a member of the discourse community) and seeing how it works, it's not really possible to adopt it as a writer, except in a "because I said so" way, which isn't particularly effective. As a former writing instructor, I can think of about a dozen ways get this stuff across better. None of which will ever be attempted in this course. Sigh. But for myself, basically, if I put more effort to starting drafts very early, and just kind of phone it in on the silly ungraded assignments (most of which don't require any meaningful writing), and make some effort to scrounge up about 8-10 good memo examples to see how they work, I'll be fine.

*Do "humility" and "humor" share a root? Perhaps with...human? Just wondering. This guy suggests they derive from "humus," since we all rot.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

And yet another nightmarish date story...

...has been added to Not Available in Stores, below.

Elements are beginning to repeat.

Now with more links!

I've added links to some other law student blogs over there on the right. ----------->
And also some other blogs. ------------>

There are about a squillion law student blogs, but these are amusing, rarely talk about sports, and themselves have near-comprehensive links to other law student blogs.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Two more horrifying date stories...

...have been added to "Not Available in Stores," two posts down.

I have a slight crush on Abraham Lincoln.

After reading that Lincoln's Melancholy book, I have a little bit of a crush on old Abe. I mean, what's not to like? He's honest (not some kind of sunshine-blowing salesman jackass), he's tall, he tells hilarious stories, he's got that dark, depressed edge that I like so much...

Next crush: Joan Didion.

Not Available in Stores

My New Year’s Resolution is to stop attempting to date via the online personals because doing so only exposes me to insanely piggish and routinely awful behavior, thus increasing my misandry and making me ever more unattractive as a human being and a date. (In this decision, I’m only a couple of weeks behind the trendsetting Ms. S.)

In three years of doing the online personals on and off, I have had innumerable ridiculous email interactions, only slightly more numerable bad coffee dates, and sporadic relationships of varying quality. I've also made two good male friends, for whom, don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful, but it’s not worth it.

(On a side note, both of these guys are a few years north of 45, an age by which most men can be depended upon to have grown up if they’re going to. ( <-------------- See what I mean about the man-hatin'?))

Other bad things about the online personals:
  • Lack of meaningful social context or “informal sanction” as they call it in contract law (aka “shame”) leads to rampant rudeness. Don't get me wrong. As the examples below prove, I do this too. But that's just my point: it doesn't feel good to be part of this Hobbesian universe.
  • The piggish behavior already mentioned. I’m particularly galled by the demanding of multiple photos. In doing so, guys generally do one of two things, both of which piss me off:
    1. Disavow their piggishness with false protestations of regret: “I hate to be shallow, but…” Yeah, bub, if you hate to be shallow, then how about just NOT DOING IT? Or are you somehow not in control of your behavior here?
    2. Go for some version of the “Darwinian” argument: “Men are visual creatures, it’s my hard-wired evolutionary nature, blah blah.” Toward the end of my personals journey, I actually started asking these guys for their tax returns. Because you know, evolutionarily speaking, aren't women supposed to be looking for a good provider? So why would you find it shallow or cold or offensive for me to just act out my hard-wired nature as well?
    3. Actually, some guys combine 1 and 2, which are highly compatible, both being variations on the theme of “I’m a pig, but it’s not my fault.”
  • For people in their 30s, the personals tend to reinforce the freakish pickiness that so many of us already suffer from. After all, if there are 2564 eligible singles online now, why shouldn’t you toss back your current fish and go for someone absolutely perfect?
  • Again, for people in their 30s, the personals reinforce the tendency to see potential dates as lifestyle accessories. You don’t need to change. You don’t need to be open to another person or learn from them. They need to fit.
  • Again, for people in their 30s (and 40’s, actually), the personals reinforce a tendency to eschew actual dating in favor of subjecting potential mates to a job interview. Now, if you just read the Newsweek or whatever, you might think it’s only women who do this. You would be wrong. I can’t count the number of times I’ve unknowingly applied for the position of “future wife and mother of my children.” This approach is particularly prevalent among well-off geeks in their early 40s, who face their own kind of biological clock issue: if they want to reproduce, they must either find a semi-age-appropriate woman NOW or manage, at some point in the future, to attract a much-younger (yet still brainy and cool and in all other ways perfect) woman, this despite the fact that they've never actually had a girlfriend. There is some panic involved, and it does not lead to the smoothest social interactions.
Anyway, for your enjoyment, here are some highlights of my delightful experience with the online personals.

"That's not my rap" (December 2005, email to friend, previously featured on this blog):

Have you read my blog? I had a drinks date Tuesday night with that guy from the personals. He was...annoying. I wanted to like him, but he was annoying, and kind of an asshole. Kind of an annoying asshole, yep. For about the first half of the date, I would ask him questions and he would give me the kind of evasive, general answers you give to someone who you don't think is smart enough to understand what you would really say.

Me: So what kind of psychology do you do?
Him: I teach, I consult, that kind of thing.
Me: That doesn't really tell me what you do.
Him: I teach, I consult, I told you what I do.
Me: I'm asking a different question than you think I am. I'm not asking whether you have a job. I'm asking what approach you take to your work.
Him: ??
Me: You know, like, are you a Freudian? A cognitive psychologist? Gestalt? What?
Him: Oh. I take a process-based approach that's kind of loosely Freudian as opposed to cognitive. Let me lay this on you: The therapist is like a jazz drummer: a good one can keep the time, a better one can shift the time.
Me: OK...you're going to need to explain that.
Him: What do you mean explain that?
Me: I mean: you're analogizing therapy to jazz drumming. The therapist is the drummer, something else in the therapy is the drum or the drumsticks, and something else in the therapy is the time. I don't know enough about psychology to really guess what those are.

It just got worse from there. (And yes, I did use the word "analogize" on a date. What's your point?)

He actually had this conversational tag line that he used repeatedly:

"That's not my rap."

At one point, he said "Introspection, that's not really my rap," and I thought: that's got to be the line of the evening.

Generally, he was a pretentious fuck with a psychology PhD, recently divorced, underemployed, and still in some stage of life where he wants to think of himself as an artist/poet/whatever. Ugh. (He, on the other hand, is probably relating a disturbing tale of his date with the goddam wannabe lawyer who interrogated him...)

Actual Worst Date Ever (July 2005, email to friend):

Oh yeah, and Sunday morning I had what may quite possibly have been the world's most awful personal ad date, which was mercifully short because about 10 minutes into the thing I said, "I'm really not enjoying this conversation, and I'm going to leave now," and did just that. This guy showed up to a very small cafe on Queen Anne with a printout of my ad, started off with a TOP VOLUME and somewhat pointless rant about Karl Rove and "the media," then moved on to QUIZZING me about the interests listed in the ad ("OK, so you say HERE you enjoy the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder..."), again at TOP VOLUME, and throughout this all was frighteningly impervious to any sign that I was uncomfortable or bored by how he was proceeding. He lacked all normal intersubjective sense. My attempts to detour the conversation into something less excruciating became increasingly strident, and were entirely disregarded, even when I said things like "I don't know if you can tell by how I'm responding here, or my demeanor or something, but I would really prefer to talk about something else." I began to feel like if I didn't leave, everyone in the cafe (all of whom I'm sure could overhear the conversation) would lose respect for me. So I left. It was good. I felt very free. My friend J was like "Between the loudness and the obliviousness to social cues, it sounds like he was mildly autistic. Do you think he was all Aspergery?"

The Toxic Geek (January 2005, email to friend):

I've refined my taxonomy of problematic men to include a fellow I call "The Toxic Geek." He works at Microsoft, he's spent his entire life having everyone (first his mom, then Bill Gates) tell him he's very smart and very very special, he's never had a relationship longer than 4 months, he's in his early 40s, and he's absolutely certain that he's only single because he "just hasn't found the right girl yet." If you treat him like he's not good enough for you, he might think *you're* the right girl. If you're nice to him, he thinks he can do better. He feels that his money entitles him to date a woman far more attractive and interesting than he is. Oddly, he spends a lot of time complaining about "gold diggers."

"Fax me your tax return" (Late 2003, email to friend):

OK, I wrote some dork on the personals, and when he writes back the first thing out of his mouth is a request for "a photo or three." I've honestly just been too lazy and creeped out to take and post a new photo (And besides, last time I had a photo up I got email from some guy who wanted to be spanked and said I looked "commanding."), but now I'm thinking the photo-less ad is an interesting litmus test. Asking for a photo immediately is tacky. Asking for a photo immediately while lamenting one’s own unfortunate superficiality (as this fellow did) is...weird.

him: I do admit, though, to an outward facade of superficiality; sad to say, looks matter. I guess I look maybe, sorta, perhaps (?) acceptable to you. Would you send a pic or three to see if I feel likewise?

me: Three pictures? THREE pictures? Oh good lord. You know, I talked to a good male friend about your request today, and his take is funny enough to quote: "Three pictures? Yeah, send him like, an up-the-nose one and a crusty-heel one. Zoinks! He should fax you last year's tax return." So there you have it. No pictures. Nice doing business with you.

him: "a pic or three" probably doesn't merit such vehemence. There are three in my profile. I'm sniffing a bit of assymetry. [sic] Sayanora. [sic]

me: Bah, two are identical, the third I could have done without. It's perfect symmetry, no? In our Darwinian little universe, guys care about looks, girls about money. I don't know why you should be so offended. Fax me the tax return and we're in business...

him: Well I would, but I keep having to file extensions because I can't get the tax info from all the offshore corporations I'm a partner in. I'm starting to wonder if all those seven-figure checks come from nefarious sources. I guess it doesn't matter. I can just spend all the money on gorgeous women without a lick o' sense, and I'll be happy! Speaking of money: do you rent your attitude, or are you on a purchase plan?

me: It's bought and paid for, baby.

Red Robin? Red Fucking Robin?? (sometime in 2005,never written about before):

This Ukrainian architect guy (who it turned out designed large assisted living communities, a job that would make me want to kill myself) suggested we meet at a bar down on one of the piers. Normally, I avoid the waterfront because it's...well, it's tacky and awful and full of tourists, but we'd had a work happy hour at the place this guy suggested and I knew it to be bearable. Just. So I'm waiting out front, and this guy shows up, says something like "Shall we?" and makes a beeline for the Red Robin that's next to the appointed place. I don't know what was going on here. Was this was a case of him seeing me, finding me unattractive, and deciding I merited no better than the "Dead Robin?" Was this guy just pathologically cheap, but socially savvy enough to know that no woman would actually agree to meet him at the Red Robin? Because he hadn't just suggested meeting at that particular pier. He had suggested meeting at that particular restaurant. I should have turned on my heel right then and there, because even if this guy had been interesting (he wasn't, except maybe like a sad character in a short story...a sad character with a lot of weird contempt for women), there was no way for him to recover from that Red Robin bullshit.

The one time I was actually scared (early 2004, never written about before):

This guy seemed smart and interesting and funny on email, and as a result I didn't insist on talking to him on the phone before meeting. I came to regret that. We met for coffee at Victrola on Capitol Hill. In person, he was anxious and strangely empty. He maintained a nearly compulsive schedule of groups and activities: readings, singles movie nights, etc. In an email, he had mentioned something about having "dating horror stories" so, anticipating something like what you've just been reading, I asked him about that. His "dating horror story" went as follows: he had joined the discussion board at some web site called "QuirkyAlone," evidently devoted to odd single people. There's also a book. The book's author was trying to promote February 14 as "National QuirkyAlone Day," and sent out some press releases, which drew a local, female, Asian-American TV news reporter to the discussion board. This guy started emailing with the reporter, evidently serving as a valuable informant about the QuirkyAlone lifestyle, and when the "National QuirkyAlone Day" story fell through, he kept emailing her, even though she didn't really seem to have time to pursue a friendship due to her "busy, glamorous life" (this said with some venom). Eventually, he persuaded her to have coffee with him and "She was really charismatic, like people from television ARE!" (At this point in the story, it becomes apparent to me (and probably to her) that this guy is creepily obsessed with the newscaster, and that he's furthermore so unhinged from reality that he doesn't realize that he's not telling me a "dating horror story," he's telling me a "stalking horror story.") Anyway, after the coffee, she never emailed him again. "She has her busy life and her busy job and her busy friends, and she just doesn't care about me." (This said with a truly chilling blend of hatred and self-pity.) After this date, I started referring to the phone call as the "real-time psychopathology check."

Quadrafecta! (nutty shrink, entitlement issues about womens’ appearance, "it's not my fault I'm a pig" move, and problems with expectation-to-time ratio) (May 2005):

Here’s an example where the date itself was not so awful, but the post-date behavior was both baffling and execrable. This may also support Wordzguy’s theory (in the comments to this post) that part of what’s wrong with the personals is “the absurd expectation-to-time ratio.” This guy was a couples counselor of all things, mid-40s, originally from LA. We emailed and he seemed reasonably insightful. We exchanged photos, we talked on the phone, he seemed like he wasn’t nuts, so we made arrangements to get some sushi.

The dinner was…OK. He had lied about his height by an inch or two, but I had gotten to where I almost expected that, although I found it kind of odd that he’d even told me his height at all, as I hadn’t asked for it. He was a little bit pedantic and self-involved, but that’s a common first-date tic for geeky guys, so I was willing to overlook it. Generally I felt like, “OK, I'm not in love with this guy, but it seems like he’d be worth getting to know.”

Anyway, we wrap up the dinner, and then since his car was parked right outside the restaurant, he suggests giving me a ride to my car a couple of blocks away. Since it was starting to rain and he was not a psycho, I accepted.

Big mistake. Once I get in the car, he wants to sit there and “process” the date WHILE WE’RE STILL ON IT. Unfortunately, I can’t remember much exact dialogue from this 20-minute conversation, but I do remember him saying something like “It seems like you really don’t feel anything for me” and me saying something like “You seem like you’d be worth getting to know, and in this context, that’s about as good as it gets.” I also remember saying something like “What conversation are we having here? Are you just processing? Are you wanting me to say I want to date you? I like you, but you seem to expect something else. I’m finding this very confusing.” Anyway, eventually the conversation wound down (helped along by me saying “You know, I really don’t feel comfortable processing the date while I’m still on it”), we agreed that he should just email me later, and he drove me to my car.

A couple of days later I get the following email from him:
My thoughts since Sunday are that I did not pick up any sign of attraction from you, and that something along those lines would be necessary. I may not have genuinely conveyed much attraction to you either. I try to charm, but sometimes it covers for a sense of deficit of one sort or another. You don't seem to want to charm, perhaps for some good reasons, authenticity for one.

I'll admit that I did not find you nearly as "cute" as you described yourself. I regret that the physical attraction is that much of a factor for me. In some ways, I know better than to factor that into my judgment very heavily.

So, I am content to leave things as they are, meaning no further contact.
I would like to take this opportunity to note that my ad had said I was "Kinda cute, but no great looker," which is accurate (if not self-deprecating). My dark side would like to take the opportunity to note that the same description would be charitable if applied to my date. In addition to being short and lying about his height, he was a pointy-headed bald guy with unfortunate granny lips.

My reply:
Oh good lord. First the surprise processing in the car, now this. Listen, I'm sorry if you didn't think I was attracted to you, but that really doesn't give you license to bag on my appearance and then try to win some kind of "good guy" points by going on about how regretful you are about that. That's pretty much across the line.

Good luck falling in love on your next first date.

What gets me about this one is that he takes the whole "I'm a pig, but it's not my fault" thing a step or two further. It's not just "I'm sorry I'm so superficial." It's "I'm sorry I'm so superficial, and by the way, you don't measure up, and I'm going to tell you this even though there's no earthly reason to do so, but I want you to know that I'm self-aware enough to know that I'm acting like a jerk."


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