Ready, Willing, and Unable

Misanthropy is a wonderful thing.  When you stop caring about others, and by extension what they think about you, your morning routine steadily slims down to nothing.  I used to shave my face.  Now, I have a beard.  I used to comb my hair.  Now, I buzz it short.  I persist in bathing, but only because it dissuades the chiggers from taking up residence in the aforementioned facial mass. I am completely unable to fasten a necktie, and contrary to what I have been routinely told, this has yet to have any substantial negative impact on my life’s trajectory.  Then again, I majored in English, a field where the code of professional dress oscillates back and forth between this:

beat poet with beret

And this:

mcdonald's employee

(The moment of oscillation generally occurs upon realizing the beret isn’t edible.)

Be that as it may, all of the above I offer not to prove that I am lazy and/or unpleasant, which I undoubtedly am.  Rather, it is my feeble attempt to solicit pity on behalf of the individual who, in a staggering underestimation of my incompetence, invited me to stand up in his wedding – conditional on my willingness to wear a bowtie.

Or, as turned out to be the case, conditional on my ability to wear a bowtie.  Now, my neck is not abnormal in any way, shape, or form – it is soft, supple, and fits comfortably into the palms of most serial killers.  On its annual performance review, it receives generally high marks and consistently exceeds expectations in terms of keeping my head aloft.  My hands, however…  I swear to god, I do not know what is wrong with that department.  To date, they’ve proven to be useful for exactly two things – opening beer and inputting the thirty lives code for Contra.

the code

So when it came time to turn this:

untied bowtie

Into this:

bowtie tied

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when I ended up with something closer to this:

The Mummy

So, it was time for plan B – swearing and alcohol.  Neither fundamentally altered the state of the bowtie, but I felt a lot !@#$in’ better.

Plan C then – YouTube.

The first video I encountered was titled, and I quote, “If you watch only one video on how to tie a bowtie, watch this one,” which I foolishly selected.  In truth, I wanted to watch zero videos on how to tie a bowtie but was propelled onward by some perverse combination of obligation and inebriation.  Suffice it to say, the video did not take because, at the three-minute mark, they had not made it around to even starting to tie the bowtie, and I had lost interest.

Lost interest, in this context, is code for “passed out.”

When I came to, wiped the drool off my keyboard, and remembered what the hell this mass of paisley was half-assedly wrapped around my neck, I realized it was time to get serious.  So, returning to YouTube, I pulled this bad boy up and resolved to watch it.

However, I quickly determined that ten solid minutes of video instruction from a gentleman with an English accent was above my pay grade, which, as we established earlier in this piece, is approximately minimum wage.  Two minutes in, and it rapidly became apparent I might die of old age before we concoct some form of knot, let alone anything that resembled a properly fastened tie.  That and I was bothered because the entirety of the video appeared to be of his neck.  After a couple minutes, one starts to wonder whether you are watching his Adam’s apple or if his Adam’s apple is watching you.  That and Rule 34 of the internet dictates neck fetishism is a thing, and somewhere there are websites featuring content we won’t speculate about linking back to this video.  Returning to the point, the only thing the video managed to prove was that this old guy who pointed a camera at his neck could tie a bowtie, whereas I – still – could not.

This pretty much takes us to plan D – text groom until he marvels at what a loser he asked to stand up in his wedding and delivers the bowtie pre-tied.

It wasn’t exactly a glorious victory for misanthropy.  Then again, they seldom are.


A Little Off the Top

English majors, more often than not, are catalysts.  While, of course, a few of us may produce raw and original content for one purpose or another, a great many more of us do not.  Rather, we find ourselves positions that involve taking someone else’s “created raw print” (CRaP) and lovingly sculpting those steaming piles into something that makes the purported writer appear as though he or she had a point, a purpose, and at least a vague notion as to proper comma placement.  To come to a point, most of us are communication enhancers but not necessarily communicators ourselves.  In my heyday, I could edit the senior thesis of an education major (CRaP in its purest form) until it was something that would make a grammarian weep with the sheer joy of it.  (I’ll not speculate as to the contents.  That would merit a very different type of weeping.)  But by comparison, and to this very day, I still struggle with how to interact with my hair stylist on a one-on-one basis.  Let me illustrate:

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, my hair is too long.  I would like my hair to be less long.”

Now, in my mind, this is where the conversation should end.  An offer of help has been extended, I have accepted, and I have outlined my needs.  That the coin of the realm will be exchanged in return for attention to my needs really goes without saying.  Thus, when yon scissor wielding maniac continues to jabber queries at my person, it is with great difficulty that I remind myself they are not, in fact, rhetorical.

“How much would you like me to take off?”


“Half an inch?”

“No, half of what’s already up there.  I didn’t measure it before I came in.”

We generally continue in this manner for several minutes, as my stylist wants me to commit to a number, whereas I really don’t feel qualified to render such a judgment.  Undoubtedly at some point during the debate, I grow frustrated and try to reiterate my wants using metaphor.

“There is a tribble on my head.”


“Make it go away.”

Mr. Spock? Set clippers to shave.

This, of course, falls flat, as the stylist in question, regardless of gender, is far too good looking to have had nothing to do last Friday night except catch up on reruns of the original Star Trek…like I did (likely because my hair is so shaggy that my wife refuses to be seen in public with me).  However, if nothing else, my outburst tends to provide fairly convincing evidence that I am both insane and unpredictable.  Thus, in the interest of getting me out of his or her life before I do something drastic, they will often put forward a hair reduction number, in a unit of their choice, that sounds as though it will provide a satisfactory loss in follicle mass.  I accept.  Unfortunately, this tentative and hard fought concession only causes the questions to grow more esoteric.

“Is there a particular style you’d prefer?”

“Is ‘shorter’ a style?”

“…Not really.”

“Then, no.”

They also tend to start asking me about things I don’t entirely understand or want to understand.

“What do you normally do with the bangs?”

“I have bangs?”

“…Yes…yes, you do.”

“Are bangs a unit of hair?”

“For the purpose of this exercise, yes.”

“Can you reduce this unit of hair by a measure commensurate with the other units of hair you have already shortened?”


“Why are we having this conversation?”

“Frankly, I don’t know any more.”

Also, no matter how many times I volunteer that I’m looking to come out of there with less hair than I came in with, they continue to make odd inquiries about what they should do with those scissors of theirs.  Generally, it reaches a point that I am afraid to answer with an affirmative, lest my hair end up in curlers and I leave with a perm.

“Do they usually layer the sides?”

“Should they?”

“It depends.  Who did it last time?”

“I couldn’t even hazard a guess.  Can you just, you know, make the sides…”



At least I have come to understand that when they start offering me a coat of polyurethane, though they usually term it “gel,” we’ve probably reached the end of the cutting potion of the program.

On that note, generally speaking, the stylist usually gets a generous tip for not slitting my throat and having done with me.  Sadly, if there’s any wrath to be expelled, it likely comes from me and is directed at the hapless Taco Bell employee I encounter during my celebratory post-haircut meal.

“Can I help you?”

“In just a minute – I’m just figuring out what I want.”

“Do you have any questions?”

“We’re in a Taco Bell.  No, I don’t have any questions.  Or, wait a minute, I do.  Who in the world thought you needed an apostrophe in ‘nachos’?  Do you have but one nacho?  Is it claiming ownership of something?”


In his defense, I suppose he wasn’t getting paid enough to deal with my CRaP either.

Mansfield Park: Keepin’ It in the Family

Now before the stream of Jane Austen fangirl hate mail starts to flood the inbox, let me offer this disclaimer: As a bona fide connoisseur – yes, a degreed aficionado – of English literature, I heartily admire and hold dear the epitome of all that is truly “great” about Great Britain – most notably the laudable Jane Austen.  Alongside the wit of Wilde, her entire library holds a cherished spot of honor upon the family bookshelves.  The fervent professions of Mr. Darcy still send me into a swoon, and the long-awaited outpourings of Edward Ferrars set my heart aflutter.  With that said, allow me to offer this addendum: Mansfield Park is an abomination.

I take no issue with Ms. Austen’s writing prowess.  As one would expect, the mastery of her pen is apparent upon the page.  Admittedly, the alleged heroine is an insipid wallflower who falls somewhere along the pastel side of the character color wheel, who is even forgettable to the other characters of the same tale.  Take, for instance, the observations of Edmund, the object of her affections:

“‘But where is Fanny? Is she gone to bed?’

“‘No, not that I know of,’ replied Mrs. Norris. ‘She was here a moment ago.’

“Her own gentle voice speaking from the other end of the room […] told them that she was on the sofa.”

Yet the passive, blasé wallflower that is Fanny Price is not wherein my primary complaints lie.  Nay, I instead take issue with the novel’s enthusiastic promotion of cousinly love.  One must first take pity upon the unfortunately – though perhaps aptly – named heroine, Fanny Price.  (Fanny Price?  Not sure, but you might want to check with your local butcher.  It is, however, arguably superior to the designation of her doppelganger, Fanny Pack.)  Poor Fanny – who hands down wins the Crappiest Austen Heroine Naming Contest and whose first name unwittingly summarizes the quality of the plans for marital bliss proposed by her own story.

It should probably be noted that Ms. Austen defines in no uncertain terms that the familial fated and mated pair, Edmund and Fanny, are not such distant, extended cousins that modern notions would consider them unrelated.  No, the lineage is quite defined in that they share a full four grandparents since their mothers are sisters – not in the sense of everlasting friendship but in the sense of everlasting blood relations having shared the same womb.  Thus, “cousin” as it is used to describe their relationship is not some euphemism for intimacy that is merely like that of family – because it is in fact that which can only be shared by family.  If the pun can be pardoned, they wear the same genes.  Dear, dear Fanny – with all of your sharpness of mind, bland and beige though it may be, can you not see that you are casting your marital net in your own gene pool, and that perhaps there are better, less grotesque options further downstream…and perhaps in another ancestral ocean altogether?

The mastery of Austen’s literary brushstrokes, like the majority of her novels, sets the stage for a sweeping, romantic tale.  At least it is intended to be romantic, but it is always just gross.  I can never bring myself to enjoy the romanticism because I am too busy scolding Fanny and Edmund.

Edmund says in a letter to Fanny: “You are very much wanted.  I miss you more than I can express.  […] I want you at home, that I may have your opinion about Thornton Lacey [Edmund’s parsonage].  I have little heart for extensive improvements till I know that it will ever have a mistress. […] Yours ever, my dearest Fanny.”

No! That is something one cousin should NEVER say to another cousin.

“Scarcely had [Edmund] done regretting Mary Crawford […] before it began to strike him […] whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles, and all her ways […]; and whether it might not be a possible […] to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love.”

NO!  Absolutely not!  “Warm and sisterly regard” should never serve as the “foundation” for “wedded love!”  Never the twain shall meet!  Is the island really so small as to necessitate incest for the perpetuation of the English race?  Must the family trees be made to more closely resemble family shrubs?

“With such a regard for her, indeed, as his had long been, a regard founded on the most endearing claims of innocence and helplessness […], what could be more natural than the change?”

What could be more natural, you ask?  Perhaps doing your metaphorical grocery shopping outside of your own family’s pantry?  My regard for my guinea pigs is based upon “the most endearing claims of innocence and helplessness,” but you won’t see me applying for a marriage license anytime soon.

“Having once set out […] on this road to happiness, there was nothing on the side of prudence to stop him or make his progress slow […]; no need of drawing new hopes of happiness from dissimilarity of temper.”

Yes, I’m certain Edmund noticed a vast sea of similarities – in temper, in appearance, and all manner of other things – which tends to happen when you share the majority of your genome with one another.

“Their own inclinations ascertained, there were no difficulties behind, no drawback of poverty or parent.”

Wait – are we counting shared parentage in the “pros” column now? No, no, no!  Don’t you realize your children will have enough scolioses to cause Quasimodo to recoil?  Not to mention the special flap on their pants to accommodate the second nose sprouting from their knee!

In regards to the heroine’s uncle/father-in-law-to-be, it is said, “Fanny was indeed the daughter that he wanted.”  Because “niece” is an insufficient title to bestow upon such a creature.  But why stop there?  Surely additional connections can be forged.  Why not be the uncle-father-husband-insurance agent to his niece-daughter-wife-landlady?

The book remains on my shelf so that I can continue to claim possession of all of Austen’s works.  However, I have not ruled out gluing the pages shut.  Mansfield Park?  More like Trailer Park.