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Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day, everyone!

As a social blogger, I would be remiss if I skipped over February 14th. So happy Tuesday!

Lite Brites + chocolate and funfetti cookies = BEST morning surprise for the roomies

I’ve always been single on Valentine’s Day, and it’s never ruined the day. Yes, it’s an over-commercialized American-invented holiday– but then again, so is Halloween, and that is my FAVORITE holiday of the year. So I don’t let that get in the way of me appreciating chocolate, plushies, and terribly cliche cartoon Hallmarks.

Like I said: I’ve always been single on Valentine’s Day. Mostly by chance, but a few times by choice. The pressure of the season isn’t just felt by skittish guys. One year, I’d come back from a weekend visiting a college friend the week before V-Day. We’d always had chemistry, and let’s just say the underlying potential had finally sparked into some memorable fireworks.

What's a girl to do?

After getting back, I hadn’t realized what week it was until reading a text from him asking my exact address on campus. I remember my roommate laughing about it being Valentine’s later that week, and how maybe he was coming to visit as a surprise. I managed to evade his hints that he could visit from DC, already freaking out from intentions way too serious for my level of interest. But I did wake up the morning of the 14th to a package at the door from an impressively professional florist with rather breath-taking tulip buds that would bloom throughout the day. The personalized message: “You truly are one-of-a-kind”.

Yea, I was a bit of an idiot to let that slip by, but no regrets. I was still young and stupid at that point, and pretty clear from the beginning that long distance isn’t my thing.

Story of my life.

Every other year, though, it’s been platonic-love-only. I grew up with my dad giving each of my sisters and I presents along with our mother, so he’s always been the first man I think of along with Valentine; I’m happy with that. In school, they had everyone give everyone cards, to promote inclusion. Later in high school, since I never really dated anyone, it was very friends-focused. College wasn’t much of a change, since I didn’t do the ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ thing very often. My most committed relationships were my friends.

And that’s how I like to celebrate today. Lovers come and go, but in my world, friends have made much more lasting marks. All relationships are transient in the end, so I prefer the ‘carpe diem’ approach and be grateful what I have when I have it. Don’t get me wrong, the people that say “V-Day sucks, every day should be a celebration” are right, too. I do random acts of appreciation year-round. [Ask anyone that’s gotten one of my absurd handmade cards, they’re great.] But there’s something about putting aside one day where you blatantly and ridiculously go out of your way to show people you care that gives me warm fuzzies. I don’t see anything wrong in smiling at the thought.

So I baked cookies tonight. Everyone at the restaurant was a bit on edge [apparently the current conferences in town think that tipping their servers is a distasteful extension of the welfare programs their Tea Party wants to cut; fuck them]. The servers could definitely use some cheering up. My housemates have been cleaning a bit more than my schedule’s allowed lately, and I’ve been planning on baking anyway, so tomorrow’s perfect. I knocked out God knows how many cookies, frosted and sprinkled them, and had gotten to work on writing out a message for my roomies to wake up to on our nifty Lite Brite boards when one of them came home.

I felt like Santa caught halfway up the chimney! I’d planned on it being a surprise in the morning, to come down with three packages of cookies to bring to work in front of the glowing Lite Brites, but that sneaky boy got a jump on the presents. It’s okay, though, because I got to see the happy smile on his face and a big hug with ‘you’re the best roommate ever’! Everyone loves appreciation, even this failure of a Valentine’s Santa.

Cookies, cute humor, and the suggestion to acquire vodka is all I need for a happy V-Day

So I’ve already gotten the day off to a happy start. I’m now looking forward to a double-shift of making other’s dates go smoothly at my restaurant, getting servers to smile, and definitely snagging a molten chocolate cake from the kitchen. And if by the end of the day, I’m not exactly cheery, I know I have a few great friends to call up.

And that’s what makes me celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I leave you with these words of wisdom, from the ultimate guru, Liz Lemon:

A Washington Wallflower

I’ll admit, this whole relationship has been getting me down lately. It’s not that the honeymoon phase has worn off or anything—I’m still just as in love as the first day—but this constant rejection is getting to me.

Washington DC is making me feel like I only went to college to get my MRS. degree, and I don’t appreciate it. I studied for a purpose, thank you, so stop getting in my way.

Yes, the rat race is beginning to upset me. (Sometimes literally; those mutant rodents in my back alley would eat you alive if given half a chance, much like their political counter-parts.) A solid university degree apparently isn’t worth [the tens of thousands it cost] as much as it used to anymore.

I’m tired of being a wallflower here; that’s what it feels like. I‘ve been waiting to be old enough to attend the party, practiced the steps for years, and now no one wants to dance with me. Never mind that I have excellent ballroom skills, or the fact that I’ve been assertive and sough out opportunities on my own countless times. I simply don’t seem to have good prospects.

*le sigh*

It’s a tough experience to endure, especially when it seems to be so easily handed to others. This city is chock full of debutantes literally bred for the privilege, their dance cards full and the entire night laid out so attractively for them. Some had even been courted or engaged to before they even arrived at the dance.

I’m not the type to sit about moping “it’s not fair!” But frankly, my dear, this is absolute bullshit.

I’m accomplished. I have a well-rounded education, and several impressive specializations. I interned under a few incredible mentors who trained me well. I’m well traveled, cultured, diplomatic. I plan on graduate school eventually, but wanted to gain real-world experience before going further into debt. A year into alumni life, I’ve learned one lesson damn well: don’t ever leave school.

Interview invitations only, please!

Entry-level jobs in DC are now asking for Master’s degrees, and requiring 3-5 years experience. (I call it ‘job inflation’; everyone was downsized during the recession, so the job market is flooded with higher-qualified employees being hired back for lower-level jobs us newbies normally would get. It’s a bitch.) Internships are unpaid (unless you’re an engineer; in that case, you chose the correct major, and I hate you), but the cost of living is high and unforgiving. At this rate, it looks like my jokes about living in Rock Creek Park with DC’s other homeless when I first struggled with my housing hunt last year might end up becoming true.

Occupy Dante's Inferno?

I’ve gambled with my internship choices since coming here, and lost the bet. Rather than going to the Hill like I should have, I selected to provide my overqualified and unpaid labor to an organization more in my field of study. The general deal being that I work a few months pushing their papers and going by the wrong name to their oblivious executive board, and then they connect me to actual job opportunities. I had some money from a grandparent to supplement my restaurant/unpaid internship schedule, but burned through it without the promised pay-out. This is what I imagine working the stock market feels like; no wonder Wall Street windows don’t open any more.

So I keep tapping my toes to the beat, looking longingly at Washington glide through my favorite dances, and try to stifle my shame at being left out.

Because that’s what it is, at the end of the day. It isn’t loneliness, or frustration, or even disappointment. It is a soul-wrenching, heart-breaking shame. The goal I’ve longed for since a little girl (yes, I was a mad nerdy little politico-kid, what of it?) is within my reach. It’s within my grasp, just there on the dance floor, but passes me by with each turn. All I’ve worked for, groomed my intellect and acquired skills to fulfill, doesn’t want me.

Me on the right, all by my lonesome.

Yes, I burn with shame against my wall, as everyone else asks, “So, who is your escort?”

“I don’t exactly have one yet… But this is such a lovely event.” The smile plastered on, my mask such a painful ornament at this twisted masquerade. I tire of wearing it, and drink liquid courage to bolster my nerves. It doesn’t really help, but it helps me forget to cry.

I haven’t stopped flirting, of course. Whenever I see an attractive chance (or at this point, even a vaguely suitable match), I pounce. What I want to know is at what point does it become desperate, or simply futile. When should a girl give up and move home to be a spinster working at the village bakery?

The only validation I’ve received lately is from this blog, little though it is. Though I may not seem attractive to suitors professionally to jumpstart my career, this Washington wallflower at least gets the “but you’re so funny, why wouldn’t anyone want you!” platitude.

Most days, it’s a joy to just sit back and listen to the music. ‘Accept what you can’t change, focus on what you can’, and all that. But every now and then, it’s too painful to be surrounded by dancers when every fiber of my being is vibrating to join them. It’s where I belong; why won’t anyone give me a chance?

I promise I won’t step on your toes…

Trans-living in the USA

My darling DC has all sorts of people; it’s something I love most about my new home. At work, I’m constantly approached with ‘I have a question? Explain this for me please, yes?’ It makes time fly by with frequently hysterical cultural-bridging convo’s. This week’s big-ticket topic was trans-gender issues.

A lot has been going on this week, and most of our conversations have been on equality and how to treat people anyway, so it was great timing. A women’s health charity hypocritically tried to pull funding from the number one organization actually helping real women. Hundreds of people that managed to survive a revolution were injured or killed at a football game in Cairo. And Mr. Soul Train, Don Cornelius, passed away after a lifetime crusading for equality and understanding.

I’ve talked about my Middle Eastern restaurant before– it’s a damn fun place to work, and I adore it. I’m also the only white girl there, and have become a sort of Urban Librarian for everyone. I’m called upon to explain everything from whatever the hell the Republican debates are talking about to the meaning of the term ‘rain date’. [I’ll have to explain that one later, it was an adorable conversation.] Our customers are always the best source of topics, though. We serve people from all kinds of backgrounds: political, social, national, linguistic, sexual. The staff are all generally accepting, but sometimes they still manage to surprise me.

The other day, I went to find a server to tell them he had two women at a table of his. Three of them were discussing something when I walked up, and they turned, looking thoroughly confused.

“Is that woman a man?”

I knew it was coming, obviously. When I first seated her, I could feel it building. She was an older woman, in a skirt-suit and sweater any other 50-something woman in DC would wear, and possibly still in the transition process. The only reason I noticed it so clearly was to start forming how to explain it to a few of the guys. It didn’t take long for the conversation to come.

I smiled at the guys and shook my head, “No, she’s a woman. She’s trans-gendered, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t female.”

The server that had brought them drinks and was the one to ask in the first place shook his head. “No, I know that, I just meant… was it alright that I called her ‘ma’am’? Because when I asked ‘would you like anything else to drink, ma’am?’, she gave me a weird look.”

That took the wind out of my sails– here, I’d assumed I would have to explain what ‘trans-gender’ means, and then work through some cultural barriers and stigmas. They had no issues with it, and just wanted to know which pronoun to use before approaching the table. As one of the managers likes to say, ‘Sorry, Charlie! No bananas!’

So I told them that maybe she’s still new to post-transition life, and was just reacting to being treated the way she always should have been: as a woman. She still had a very deep voice, which definitely threw the servers for a loop, but I was sure of the correct pronoun. When the other woman had arrived, she said “I’m meeting a friend– oh, she’s already here!” So I admit, I was cheating a little bit. But from what I’ve learned, the general rule of thumb is go with your gut reaction– the first perception is probably who they really are.

What made me smile the most, though, was how chill the guys were with it all. I have plenty of good-hearted friends that believe in LGBT rights and fight for civil rights in general. They’re American, and I’m sure they’d be just as confused as my Moroccans with how to interact with some transpeople. So this high comfort level among my co-workers just gave me all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings inside. I call them my DC family often, and it’s times like this that make me proud of the association.

I’d like to link everyone to a fellow blogger I tripped over and follow religiously now, The Adventures of Transman, “Just another middle-aged guy raising a family… except I gave birth to mine.” His perspective as an in-transition transman and parent is breathtakingly profound, and without a doubt will have you crying with laughter. Since I found him on here, I thought it was perfect timing that I had such a conversation at work and felt compelled to make it my post today. Happy reading!

In honor of Don Cornelius, Transman, and my wonderful LT family, let’s boogie:

Shit Charming Guys Say

I’ll admit, the “shit people say” trend is cracking me up. I’ve ignored most of them, but a few snuck by and stole a few giggles. What I’d love to see one for, though? Pick-up lines. They’ve been on my mind lately.

Who am I kidding? That’s always on my mind. I’m what you’d call a pick-up line connoisseur. I blame Night at the Roxbury; those SNL goobers instilled a love of the ridiculous in me at a very young age, and I’ve never recovered.

For me, the more absurd the line, the better is works. My theory is that a guy with the guts to walk up to a girl he thinks is pretty and knowingly make a fool out of himself deserves at least a drink. (Note: key word being ‘knowingly’; guys that pull those lines thinking they’re smooth are just gross. It’s a fine line to walk, so please know you can pull it off before opening your mouth.)

Last Saturday, my group was out in Dupont Circle. We like to start the night at a sushi-place-turned-nightclub because some friends work there and great cocktails should be enjoyed while still sober. We ended up befriending two men that had been at the end of the bar and looking our way awhile. The attractive Lebanese one seems to take to one of my friends pretty well, and joined us for our night of club-hopping. [This eventually led, once the other guys went home, to me spending the later part of the night with two couples.]

At one point, though, the new guy told me that I looked like ‘someone he used to know’. I could tell by his look that he was genuinely being appreciative, but I still replied with a raised eyebrow and “I’m not really sure how to take that. Who?”

“Don’t worry about it. But it’s a good thing.”

Look, guys, if a girl looks like an ex- and you want to compliment her appearance, just tell her she looks pretty and leave it at that. Don’t try to be clever– because ‘someone I used to know’ makes me feel like I look like I’m your high school girlfriend. No woman wants to be a walking reminder of teenagehood– it was all pimples, hormones, and angsty confusion. At least I don’t; but maybe because it’s still in my semi-recent past? Weigh in on this, ladies.

A friend at work says that his approach is simple: if he’s out and thinks a woman is beautiful, he walks right up to say hello and ask if he can buy her a drink. (Full disclosure: working at a Middle Eastern restaurant means that my ‘friends from work’ are foreign, charismatic, and possessing those great accents that trip over the English language in an adorable way. This man is no exception.)

I’ll also say that if this man walked up to me at a bar and asked to buy me a drink like that, I’d find myself in a deep conversation about the beauties of Morocco before I could blink twice. He’s confident, naturally charming, and very comfortable in his own skin. Chalk it up to age, but he’s grown out of the younger-man’s conviction that having game involves complex approaches. You don’t need battle tactics, boys, we aren’t a football game. It’s tennis: volley an opening our way and wait for a response. Simplicity! And this is the advice of an anything-but-simple girl.

Don’t get me wrong, ingenuity has its rewards, too. If you have a unique way to make contact, then go for it. After migrating to our favorite DJ-established vinyl-and-bands lounge and then spending enough time with the two couples, I grew tired of 5th wheeling it and went to the dance floor to listen to the jazz band.

I could tell that a guy nearby was looking, but wanted to see what he’d do. What can I say? I’m a curious girl. To his credit, it wasn’t a long wait. A guy in front of us was blatantly taking up too much room, flailing about like an idiot, and kept knocking into me. I was happy enough listening to a great band, so it was more amusing than anything. In this guy’s favor, it made me back up several times, and the last one that almost knocked my Manhattan from my hand was the last straw. Cute boy went from a smile to busting out laughing and leaned closer to my ear to suggest I fight back.

Threaten my whiskey at your own risk, buddy.

Sure, such romantic comedy opportunities are rare enough outside of Hollywood, but it’s extra-special when a guy is clever enough to take advantage of it. We went on to have a great conversation over jazz, music, and eventually the fact that he claimed to know how to dance. Naturally, I asked him to prove it. I was far from disappointed.

So sure, sometimes things that would otherwise seem trite actually do work– if you can back them up. And the absurd might pan out, if you’ve the humor to play to the right audience. But the best way to go really is the easiest.

Because in the end, the most charming guys aren’t the ones with the most interesting pick-up lines, which take a deal of contrived forethought and are likely recycled. No, you want to know the shit charming guys say?

They say, “Hello.”

Big D and the Kids Table got it right in their stroll song, A Kiss A Week: