Sunday, April 11, 2010

#37 Cougars

People can’t get enough of Cougars. People consider cougars a hilarious and scintillating cultural development. Cougars! people say with a smile of anticipatory delight, even if no Cougar is around, as if just saying the word is like blowing a high frequency whistle, and one will come running along in short order.

A periodical no less august than Newsweek, in fact, called 2009 the “Year of the Cougar.” We kid you not. That’s some puissant cultural momentum there. Pretty soon Cougars will be bringing so much attitude and middle-age sass they will cannibalize their own metaphor. Little kids will ask, “Why are those scary cats at the zoo named after sexually aggressive, pre-menopausal women?” By the time those kids are teenagers, their won’t even be a first love, just a first Cougar. “Timmy met a forty-year old last night, Frank,” a beaming mom will announce. “Oh, did he now?” the dad will smirk, thinking, that’s my son.

At school, Senior cheerleaders won’t be caught dead with any boy above the eighth grade. College fraternities will bus in divorcees from suburban neighborhoods for Homecoming. Teachers caught sexting and cavorting with men their own age will be fired and exposed on tabloid web pages and Fox News. “What’s happening to our society?” an aged and tear-stained Glenn Beck will ask.

Redox, a cosmetic procedure that introduces fine wrinkles into smooth young skin, will make pharmaceutical companies billions. Frustrated 19 year old coeds will spend whole afternoons sitting on chicken wire, hoping to imprint a simulacra of cottage cheese on their thighs. Any woman older than 35 without fake boobs won’t be able to renew her driver’s license. Pederasts will leer through the chain linked fences around retirement homes and pimply kids will sneak into the midnight showing of Sex in the City 12.

It’s all very different and as Newsweek seems to appreciate, it’s all very exciting. Cougars! They might finally right all the imbalance and longing and soullessness that besmirches our times. In retrospect, the Cougar just makes so much sense. In the 2000 movie High Fidelity, record store owner Rob avers,

Read any women's magazine and you'll see the same complaint over and over again: men...are hopeless ...they are selfish, greedy, clumsy, unsophisticated. These complaints...are kind of ironic. Back [in high school], all we wanted was foreplay, and girls weren't interested...they used to thump us if we tried. ...Between the ages of fourteen and twenty-four, foreplay changes from being something that boys want to do and girls don't, to something that women want and men can't be bothered with. ... The perfect match, if you ask me, is between the Cosmo woman and the fourteen-year old boy.”

The thing about social revolutions, especially ones foreseen by John Cusack comedies, is innocent people get caught in the cross-hairs. In the space between the old and new order there are casualties. For the late twenty something men and women of San Francisco in 2010, who still think in anachronistic terms of dating and then marrying someone roughly their own age, there are frustrations. Our instincts are at odds with our awareness of cultural forces. The idea that a guy should make a lot of money and have a really attractive younger spouse - it’s very 2008, and way outmoded, so much so that stubbornly pursuing it is not just banal and cliche but kind of tragic. It’s Charlie Chaplan making silent movies after the introduction of sound.

But we have faith. We will adapt. We will embrace. Why shouldn’t we? Cougars! As eloquently put by the WTANGISF editors:

The truth is that on balance maybe old-school marital monogamy for all its socio-economical advantages isn't that psychologically beneficial for individuals. Perhaps being married to a [woman] who fantasizes about [Prince William] and resents being stuck with you isn't so wonderful for anyone. Perhaps regular guys are happier being celibate surfers or cartoonists or whatever than emasculated office cubicle providers. Perhaps [women are] happier talking trash with [their] single friends over cosmos and getting [comfort from Tucker Max] nine times a year. It's a different way of life sure but we don't know that it's a bad one.”

Who can argue with that? Rawrr!

Friday, April 9, 2010

#36 "Lisa" from #35 comments

In her comment to posting #35, "Lisa" said,

"I think you're wrong about the guys in bars thing. .. No one invites anonymous serial killers to their wedding. I don't know why people have so much trouble with bay area dating. I moved here from Alabama (smiling and friendly) and met a great guy that my friend introduced me to at a club. ... Be nice, a nice girl will find you. God bless you."

Two points.

First, we like the cut of Lisa's jib.FN1 We suspect she is indeed smiley and friendly. She's from Alabama which isn't a foreign country but sort of is, and so Lisa probably has the frankness and happy spirit of a foreign girl. In addition, whatever our atheistic reservations, a sincere, old-school, Baptist-style, Bible-belt benediction ("God bless you") is just nice, like lemonade on a Southern summer afternoon when we know we shouldn't be having all that sugar. To this add Lisa's optimistic prediction that a nice girl will find us, and well, to be honest, we're crushing on Lisa a bit. She probably looks like Reese Witherspoon crossed with Jessica Simpson.

Even if Lisa is the stuff dreams are made of, however, apparently she already has her "great guy" (and probably calls him "Sugar" every so often, the lucky bastard) so as quickly and magnificently as Lisa appeared, like a parking spot spied on Russian Hill, she is taken from us, and this is WTANGISF.

Second, as to Lisa's point about serial killers, we have some things to say. Let's start with a footnote we edited out of #35:

"FN1fn2: The argument that wedding party is somehow a more "real" and "safe" community probably once made sense but the progressive fracturing of all social groups, including families, by divorce, job jumping, grad school interludes and Facebook-grade friendship, renders it modernly meaningless."

We're not quite sure if this is true. But it's probably true. Take the original example of
Mamacitas on a Thursday. Mamacitas, like most restaurants/bars, accomodates nearly anyone who shows up, however, there are a bunch of infrastructural disincentives to entry - its Marina location, the frou-frou food, the parking difficulties, social pressures to dress and converse in a certain way while you're there - that act as an indirect vetting process of the clientele. The class of people willing to eat $18 Mahi Mahi nachos and get excited about a pricey pitcher of apple chunks in spoiled wine is actually quite small. It's almost exclusively limited to the bourgeouis p*ssies (Holla!) who live in or around one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the world, take Saturday yoga classes at Crunch and earn in the 99th percentile. And all these p*ssies are in some socio-economo-geographical way probably more closely connected (linkedin! Haas! SF Bar Association!) than the random, rag-tag assortment of cousins (there's no way to vet family members - the annoying, the pathetic, the dangerous - they come too) and old, sketchy as hell, high school friends who comprise a wedding party.

The lovely Lisa might argue, however, that certain serial killers, like the infamous Ted Bundy, for example, hang out at places like Mamacitas and SEEM totally normal, with their yoga talk and BR slacks even though behind the urbane facade they're total psychos. They could show up at Mamacitas and no one would be the wiser. And that is true, but you see, the non-obvious serial killers, because they lead double lives, also get invited to weddings. That's the catch-22 with serial killers. No matter how safe we play it, they're going to murder us.

FN1: By the way we also like "lisalisa" (we might even "likelike" her ) from #32 comments who said, "great writing and totally hilarious. you had me laughing out loud all to myself." She seems brilliant and probably has soft skin. Recommendation of this week: chat up girls named Lisa.

Friday, April 2, 2010

#35 The Great White Buffalo

"You created this white monster ... and it seems harmless and puff and cute — but given the right circumstances, everything can be turned back and become evil." - Dan Aykroyd

If you really want to think about it every chick you meet is someone’s ex-girlfriend. However new, bright and shiny the immediate moment, in the form of a smiling barista, a Marina-ite on the morning bus, or even that fleshy, neckless grey-haired woman from the bursar's office who stinks of cigarettes, it always has a past, in the form of an ex-boyfriend, and that son of a b*tch is smirking. He's a lanky dude with an arm tattoo and yeah, he tapped that. It’s like some f*cked up sociological analogue to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle: no matter what skirt you’re chasing, you’ll always be at least ten minutes too late. Some other guy will always get there first. And here’s what really stings: you’ll never measure up to that guy. He’s her Great White Buffalo.

No one knows how many GWBs exist out there. Every woman running around seems to have one - this singular, totally amazing guy who passed through her life for a fleeting but impassioned moment, a man who is part Russell Brand, Byronesque Baroque charm and part narrow-eyed, broad-shouldered Gerard Butleresque confidence, the kind of man she wishes her current man could smell like, a man who for all his absence remains at the center of her consciousness, making you the side-show schlub. She also hates this man and is committed to believing he's EVIL despite not really believing this at all, since she feels in her heart of tear-filled hearts he is WONDERFUL, even though, objectively, from the perspective of a sane person, the GWB is not a real person at all, but rather a messy and well-worn bundle of ideas and memories that have over time become far more significant and invigorating than the realities that were their provenance.

What no one can dispute, however, is that the GWB real enough as far as we are concerned. If he ever comes back in flesh, goateed and unemployed and five foot nothing, we'll still be sent packing; and if he doesn't, well, that's small consolation, since we'll just go on being a vague disappointment, like a used Camry after the Beemer got totaled.

It doesn't make any rational sense, not really, since statistics and probabilities tend to suggest we're GWBs ourselves, just in the imagination of some girl whose name we barely remember and who we aren't hitting on now. Hence the paradox: we can't compete with the GWB even though, theoretically speaking, we ARE that guy.

The probable reason for this is that life sucks and people are morons. Another contributing factor is that sometimes in some situations, like say the city of San Francisco right now, there is a vacuum that exists in the place properly reserved for romantic drama. In San Francisco, dating "problems" are more conceptual than tangible. They aren't about infidelity, or horrible set-ups, or horrible break-ups, as much as the idea of dating. It's like discussing the relative merits of heaven and hell, everyone has an opinion but the question is always open for debate because no one has actually been there. SFers sit on buses and say putatively motivational things like, "The best way to meet someone is through friends, not at a bar or [fill in here a typical venue that exists for the purposes of meeting new people]," and her friend agrees as if this is the most supportable statement in the world, and then silence ensues as they realize that they already know all their friends and know their friends' friends, so that might not be the most brilliant strategy on the planet.FN1

Life generally gets a little precarious when there are no distractions. Too much thinking happens, too much blogging. If you’re romantically uninvolved you fully start to lose your mind. You cyber-stalk on Facebook and sink inward and reconstruct the sorry set of events that made you add Alanis Morrisette’s “That I would be Good” to your iPod. Long untended emotions rise up with the vim of a viper strike. You obsess and keep score and obsess some more and all the while, the legend of the GWB grows.

In this state of affairs, when we approach a woman, we are Bill Murray and the GWB is the Stay Puft Marshmallow. Ghost or not he’s way more powerful than we. Guys have something analogous - “The One That Got Away”, but the effect of TOTGA is different. TOTGA doesn’t render any new girl we meet inadequate. We like the new girl too, just not as much. The GWB by contradistinction exists solely too preempt and destroy us. He is Shiva. He is the atomic bomb.

No one knows all the reasons why the GWB is so devastating but one of them is probably this: the allure of the GWB is not the guy he represents, or even the idealization of that guy. The GWB is instead like a magical mirror that reflects a younger, more earnest, passionate and hopeful version of the girl looking in. The GWB is all the things life was during the era she dated him, before she was disenchanted and weary and had given up in the small incremental ways everyone does as adulthood disappoints one dream after another. Girls aren't in love with the GWB - they’re in love with the person they once were. That's why we can never beat the GWB, not because he has bigger arms but because we didn't know her then and he did.

This is all very touching as analyses go but it’s hardly conclusive. Just for instance there also has to be something to the theory that San Francisco has its share of perennially single people and single people when privately indulging in some good old fashioned self-pity rummage through the sh*theap of their past and hand-pick someone who was the most out of their league and decide retrospectively that it should have worked out with them (even though that person doesn’t for a second ever think about them retrospectively) and then proceeds to hold all prospective significant others to that absurd (and essentially false) standard. Too much perspective can be crippling.

Whatever. Everyone can go to hell. There’s too much thinking in this town, and too much blogging. Why won’t SF ladies try smiling and lightening up a bit? Why do they so delight in labeling every guy who hits on them a “douche”? Great White Buffalo. Great White Buffalo. Great White Buffalo. He’s kicking our a**.

FN1: Something deep and primordial makes women dislike men at bars.FN1fn1 Women like men at weddings. Weddings, as Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson demonstrated cinematically, are the best place in the world to get laid. However, guess where the guys who go to weddings go on weekends when there's no wedding? Bars. It's the same guys, ladies. Tip of the week for SF women: this Thursday, when you're at Mamacitas, visualize one big friendly wedding party and pretend everybody knows everybody else. Because there's no goddam difference.

FN1fn1: The limbic portion of the brain, which governs feeling, considerably predates the cortex, which is the seat of reason. Therapy can help.