I recently came across an article entitled 9 Signs You’re in a Gay Bar. The article pointed out that there is no women’s room, but there are drunken bachelorette parties and something called cruising.
It mentioned some chap named Nick Jonas and his rock hard abs, and loads of other clichéd, yet ubiquitous, features of a gay bar.
But the 10th sign that you’re in a gay bar is that I’m there and I look confused.
It’s not what you think.
Well, maybe it is what you think.
How the hell do I know what you’re thinking?
It’s momentarily cool to be thirty years old; fifty years old is too inconceivable, and sixty is basically dead. But forty, that’s the dreaded combination of middle-aged, and in the not-too-distant future.
Despite the fear that is struck into the heart of those twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings who are staring forty in the face like a blind date who is getting drunk and belligerent, there are some good things about being forty.
I know, I know. Impossible, right? But it’s true. I’ve gotten to know my doctor so well that I got a personalized Christmas card. I am also perfecting the craft of gaining ten pounds in one weekend.
But the best part of being forty is that I know myself pretty well. I have a very clear understanding of what I like and don’t like. I have an intimate relationship with my limitations and what resides outside of my comfort zone. And I am very OK with the fact that I am uncool.
I am waiting outside of a room in which approximately seventy students sit, worry, and sweat. They are about to take an exam. My boss – the head of the department – gives instructions and hands out tests. I am in some meditation.
I hear the boss tell the students to start and now she comes towards the door. I get ready, take a breath.
Fact of life: students cheat. They always have, they always will.
When I first came to the university, students were blatant about their cheating, to the point that they reacted with annoyance if interrupted. Leave me alone, can’t you see I’m trying to cheat here?
Once, upon demanding a cheat sheet recently stuffed into a bra, I was truly caught off guard by the woman’s query as she fished around her C-cup: “But how else am I supposed to pass?”
And yet in my first year at the university, I found a talent I never knew I had: catching cheaters. Anywhere. I can spot a mobile stuffed between thighs from twenty yards away. I can look at a person and know which easily accessible particle of clothing his cheat sheet or phone is stuffed into. I can split up pairs before they even sit down, point one of them to the front of the room amid a flurry of curses in Kazakh. I have walked into a Spanish exam only to deliver a message to the teacher and on my way out broke up a twelve person cheating ring in the back.
I am good.
In fact, I am the chosen one.
Well, if they designated chosen ones for this sort of thing.
It’s occurred to me recently that idioms must be one of the most confusing areas of learning languages. This is never more evident than when grading second language exams, because students screw them up all the time. Common mistakes include: it’s been raining cats and frogs all day, he’s a pork-fisted oaf, and he’ll fight at the drop of a shirt.
Fortunately I had Ouzo to help me grade. As I tried to award points for creativity and unintentional humor, I thought about where these idioms came from. And then, as more Ouzo seemed appropriate, I felt that as a language teacher, I should post about the origins of these idioms.
Now, with no time to research and an awful lot of Ouzo, I relied more on my own intuitive powers of linguistic prowess.
A person who does something ham-fisted does it like a goon with no finesse. Where does this come from?
Well, as you surely know ham comes from a pig and pigs are hideous animals that spend their time rooting through mud and shit. But did you also know that pigs have very poor hand-eye coordination? In a study done by the University of Arkansas, scientists threw baseballs at several farm animals in order to ascertain which were the most coordinated.
Testing period. Every university teacher loves and hates it. On the bright side, no students and classrooms for a while and my battery will get a much-needed recharge. Moreover, my left eye will stop twitching.
On the downside, for the next month I will be buried in tests and papers. My fingers will be dyed red and my right eye will start twitching.
And somewhere right in the middle of the bright and downsides is that I’ll work from home for a while.
Work from home. The phrase elicits a variety of reactions. If you have never worked from home you imagine a pajama-clad man waking up at the crack of whenever he wants, then drinking coffee in bed with a laptop perched on his groin.
If you have worked from home you have a far more realistic picture of how it goes.
I can’t count the number of times that my mouth has gotten me into trouble. And I’m not just talking about being a jerk, though I seem to have that capacity down pretty good. I am talking about the instinct to be funny.
When I am confronted with a situation, whether stressful, frightening, or otherwise, I make a joke. It’s my go-to reaction. Others bitch, others snap into decisive action, I joke.
There are times I need to quell this instinct like a facial tic. Students in a second language classroom come out with some deliciously hilarious accidental statements. As a teacher, I am sworn to help, as a comedian, I am biting through my cheek to avoid making a joke. Despite the mind-boggling tragedy of a plane crash, my brain can’t help but make a hundred jokes about the term black box.
The problem with being a funny person is that we tend to piss people off. A comedian’s job – whether he or she is paid to do it or not – is to see the funny side of something and to report it to those around them. We need to make people laugh. For good or bad, it’s the way we enter the world.
Go ahead. I’ll just hang on here a second while you judge me.
Even if you’re not judging me, I think you are. It’s not that I don’t see the pragmatism in online dating. I have made all of the rationales in the last weeks. I don’t have time to meet new people, I’m set in my ways, etc.
No matter how I try to convince myself that it’s OK, I feel a bit sleazy. Like a guy who’s slipping out the door of an erotic masseuse with a stain on his trousers and a deliberately vague receipt.
The holidays are done. That means the cheer, warmth, and fun of the holiday season is just behind us. It is a memory of ecstasy – less work, more fun, encouraged gorging – that now mocks us. Alfred De Musset said it best: “there is no greater sorrow than remembering happiness.”
Sing it, Brother Alfred.
In addition, the months ahead of us are dark, gray, and cold. January and February are the Morrissey of the year’s months. And like listening to Morrissey, living in a northern locale in these months does encourage fantasies about leaping in front of trams.
What’s more, work is piled up. In the waning days of 2014, you might have said “I’ll deal with it after Christmas.” And there was no better phrase because “after Christmas” was a whole year away.
But it was only two weeks away. And it’s now. So in addition to peering at the dark months we have to get through in order to reach, you know, a day with sun, we have a lot to do.
But before you reach into that cupboard, pull out a Nick Drake album and pour a shot of Drain-o, don’t despair. There are some fun and weird holidays to celebrate in January, ones that might help you get through this terrible, dark, and cold month.
It is the first day of 2015. On this day countless people are embarking on life changes, resolutions, and goals. They are gazing blearily at a list of health food, dusting off the treadmill, or throwing away the half-empty pack of cigarettes.
And they are miserable.
If you brought in the New Year in a similar fashion to me, your only resolution is to get through the day without your eyeballs exploding. Therefore you are incapable of latching onto any real goals or resolutions. All I can muster this morning is a few small items that I’d like to attain throughout the year. My 2015 bucket list. This bucket list isn’t necessarily about exotic locales and experiences; it’s more about seeing if I can pull some of this shit off.
To the chagrin of my comrades growing up, I would choose to voice this belief as they were leading me on some poorly-advised expedition into some ominous locale.
This could have been one of many of our adventurous utopias: the pond, the farm, the woods, the deep woods or, if we were feeling particularly adventurous, the deep deep woods.
The conversation usually went like this:
“Let’s go to the deep woods and poke that wasp hive with a stick.”
“I’ll get in trouble.”
“Nobody’s going to know you big (enter juvenile barb here).”
“My mom will.”
“She has a crystal ball.”
You can fill in the blanks on what happened after that. Needless to say, there was no end to the mockery that ensued. Of course in this case my mom wouldn’t need a crystal ball if she was driving me to the ER to get 100 wasp stings treated.
I wasn’t just a kid terrified of his mom’s wrath, though that could be epic. She had a way of knowing when we did bad things. Every curse was overheard, every fight at school known about before I stepped into the house, every 6-pack of beer found. She is and has always been a seer.
It was insanely frustrating.