Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Wasn't Prepared For This...

Awhile ago, while drinking in the shower, I had a giant glob of shampoo fall into my drink. It was then that I realized that there are moments in life that I have not been adequately prepared to deal with. I'm not implying that my education and upbringing wasn't a good one. I'm sure my parents and teachers did the very best that they could to prepare me for life, and I'm sure some of the lessons they taught me will be helpful once I actually reach adulthood (any day now). It's this in between time that I'm feeling unprepared for.

This week I've decided to share with you five of the things that I wish I'd been better prepared for. The list was originally going to be ten, but I got wordy (lazy) and decided to share half now and continue in a later post.

1. Interpersonal Communication

We all had public speaking classes, and they really did teach me all kinds of things about communicating (that I should feel shitty every time I say "umm," for instance). But I've never come across a situation in my real life where I've been asked to give a 5-7 minute informative speech. I have, however, been forced to chit chat every damn day of my life. I never mastered the art of one-on-one conversation with strangers. Usually it's not an issue, I'm perfectly fine sitting in silence while I get my haircut. I don't really care if people think I'm rude for not making small talk when shoved into awkward situations, I've got nothing at stake here. The only time it becomes an issue is when it's a stranger that I'm interested in banging.

I'm sure much of it stems from being a gay teenager and not getting the practice that my peers got with flirting in high school, but I'm completely hopless at it. I don't know how to approach guys, and when a conversation is actually started I haven't the faintest idea how to keep it going. For instance, there is a guy who works at a store that I frequent that I'm completely infatuated with. I stop in there once every few weeks, and he always strikes up a conversation (by conversation I mean he talks, and I laugh excessively, avoid eye contact, and then leave). This has been going on for around two years now...and I have yet to learn his name.

I'm not saying we should have spent a whole semester covering flirting, but a few role playing exercises couldn't have hurt (maybe with a hunky member of the football team).

2. The Dangers of Social Media

Social media was born after I'd already left high school, so my generation is really the one that has had to suffer through all the embarrassments that come along with it. It is our responsibility to share our humiliations with the next generation.

Some tips from personal experience:

- If you have to ask a friend if your status is inappropriate before you post it, it is. It's hilarious in the bar when I talk about wanting to do 78.3% of the bartenders, but my teenage niece definitely doesn't need to see it.

- Always be aware of where your thumbs are in relation to the "Like" button when browsing from a smart phone. Sure I can unlike the shirtless picture of the guy who graduated two years after me that I've never spoken to, but that notification has already been sent. Too little, too late.

- Following that cute guy you made out with the year before at Pride on Instagram at 2 in the morning is only going to prove to him that you were creeping on pictures of him at 2 in the morning. Look at your life, look at your choices.

- If you're going to call someone out for poor grammar, be sure that you've proofread your response...twice. Or maybe just don't do it, you're better than that.

- Don't look at your ex's profile. Just don't.

3. Creative Writing for Your OK Cupid Profile

Is there anything more awkward than writing about yourself in an online dating profile? Where is the line between highlighting your good qualities and bragging or between self deprecating and self hating? Is it fine to have pictures with a drink in your hand (and, more importantly, why am I holding a drink in every picture)? From looking at other profiles I can tell that I'm not the only one who has had issues with this. I'm going to lose it if I see one more About Me section that just reads, "Ask me" (bitch, make me want to)!

I loved my Creative Writing class (and not just because I believe that class's teacher is among my readers). I probably had more fun co-authoring a murder mystery play than anyone has ever had doing homework, but I feel like a week spent perfecting our personal sales pitch probably would have been helpful.

4. Dealing With a Break-up

I've made some pretty poor decisions when getting over a relationship. I always think two bottles of red wine and sappy movies is the answer, but then it's over and I'm not only sad and alone, but I'm also depressed that  the technology to "Eternal Sunshine" someone out of your brain doesn't yet exist (plus there's nothing less cute than waking up with red wine stained teeth after passing out on the couch with your hand in a bag of Cheetos). 

So maybe we could just provide our high school graduates with a pamphlet with their diploma listing do's and don't's for breaking-up and moving on.

- DO spend time with friends.
- DON'T spend time with your "Friends" DVD's. You don't need to be dealing with that Ross and Rachel shit right now.

- DO go out dancing!
- DON'T YouTube piano ballad covers of Robyn's "Dancing on my Own." 

- DO listen to Britney!
- DON'T listen to that one super sad Britney know the one.

- DO give yourself one weekend to stay in, not shower, and wallow.
- DON'T forget to change your underwear. You're sad, but there's no need to be gross.

- DO remember to be the bigger person.
- DON...actually, f#%! that, burn their shit. Do what you gotta do, gurl!

5. Caring for a Drunk Friend

Remember that fake baby everyone had to take home for a few days for that Family Planning class? I was amazing at that assignment, but I was really more focused on ensuring that no one saw the baby in the same outfit twice. I think high school seniors should be required to take an adult sized, animatronic, drunk friend home to take care of for a weekend (just by typing this I'm getting myself worked up about Terminators). You'd have to wake up every few hours to make sure they're still breathing, change their shirt for them when they puke all over themselves, and feed them Taco Bell at three in the morning followed by a bottle of water before bed. Taking your eyes off of them for more than thirty seconds would result in the next hour of your life wandering around surrounding bars looking for them with only slightly coherent texts to guide you.

"Where the f#%! did you go?!"
"am by teh wall"
"What wall? Where?!"
"come 2 hre"
"Come where?!"

*twenty minutes pass*

"r u mad at mee"

If I'd known just how ridiculous caring for a drunk person was, it might have stopped me from ever drinking in the first place. Or it would have just reinforced what I currently do when I drink, get the drunkest, the fastest, and then you don't have to take care of anyone.

I realize it's not entirely logical to have these things taught in school, but some sort of warning about just how ridiculous being a twenty-something can be would have been nice. At least make graduating seniors watch the first season of Girls or something.

Side note, I may have struggled writing my OK Cupid profile, but the finished product is kind of perfect.

A sampling:

"Above all else I believe in being a good person, treating everyone I meet with respect, and that life is too short to drink cheap vodka."

Crushed it. Line up, boys.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

In the Kitchen With Chris

I've developed a list of things that make someone a grown up in my mind. I won't bore you with all of the traits, but most of them are food related. For instance, every grown up I know always has eggs, butter, and bread in the house. A grown up always has a clean pizza cutter. They always know how much sage to use without measuring (thanks for that complex, Mom). Grown ups drink milk before the expiration date, and a grown up can go to their refrigerator and make a meal from the contents.

I'm not talking a culinary masterpiece here, but eggs, butter, and bread sounds like it would make a damn good sandwich. My fridge on the other hand...well, let's just take a look:

1. Booze (mine...and empty)
2. Booze (not mine)
3. Booze (not mine)
4. Club Soda
5. Club Soda
6. Club Soda
7. 17 Taco Sauce Packets
8. Pickle Juice

The pizza is still good (I think?), but other than that there aren't any meals coming out of this refrigerator. I count nine things that are expired (and that's if you're not counting the 6 bottles of flat club soda). There are two different empty packages, and for reasons I cannot fully explain I save the pickle juice every time I finish a jar. I blame an especially strange (and kind of unsanitary) trip to Dreamworld Skating where they served frozen pickle juice cubes, thus imprinting in my mind that pickle juice is food. Although, I did recently hear about Pickle-tinis, so I think I'll hang on to those (just in case).

It's just so much easier to stop at the grocery store on the way home and buy a box of 25 mini tacos that I can microwave and eat in one sitting than it is to prepare an actual meal. The problem is, it's also much more financially irresponsible. So I'm going to give this grocery shopping thing a try. Instead of a vending machine muffin for breakfast, I'll bring a piece of fruit from home. Instead of running out to get something to eat for lunch every day, I'll bring a sandwich along. And instead of the mini tacos (the delicious, delicious mini tacos) I'll prepare one real (and nutritionally balanced) meal that I can eat leftovers of throughout the week.

I found the perfect recipe to get started with. Dorito Crusted Chicken Fingers.

Seriously. Let that sink in.

Dorito. Crusted. Chicken. Fingers.

Those of you who know me know just how much I love anything coated with orange cheese powder, so I was ecstatic to give this a try. Now, I haven't breaded chicken since my years at Rick's Foodcenter in high school (and I wasn't terribly good at it then). So I decided to keep it simple, sticking with what I know for side dishes and make red mashed potatoes and corn.

I figured the cooking would be a disaster, but what I didn't account for was my inability to organize even a simple grocery list. I made my first stop at Wal-Mart. I say first stop because I ended up going to five different stores before I had everything I needed. When I was leaving the parking lot (marveling at how far under budget the trip ended up being) I realized I'd forgotten two of the major things that I needed.

I remembered that I no longer had a cookie sheet (it got thrown away one day when cleaning it seemed just positively exhausting), and I also need some aluminum foil (to put on the cookie sheet so I wouldn't have to clean it). I crossed the street to Shopko to get both items. I got the aluminum foil, but I need a smaller than normal cookie sheet to fit in my oven (it's roughly the size of an easy bake oven), which Shopko did not have. I decided to just swing into the Dollar Store to grab a cookie sheet (I probably could have gotten the aluminum foil there too, but am I the only one who feels like people will think I'm stealing if I leave a store without buying anything?).

After the Dollar Store, I thought I was done. I proudly surveyed my purchases and realized I didn't buy the potatoes to make mashed potatoes. One more stop at Cub Foods, and luckily they have a liquor store. I was gonna need to get some wine (because at this rate the evening was obviously going to be a  f#%!ing disaster). I was in and out of Cub Foods in under five minutes and was almost home when I realized I didn't have the wine. A stop at the Walgreen's Liquor Store across the street from my apartment, and I was home.

The cooking itself went surprisingly well, and the recipe was really easy to follow (check it out here). I had no idea how fine the Doritos were to be crushed, and the recipe said to use a food processor (yeah right). I figured that there had to be a way to crush shit up before food processors were invented, but unfortunately I do not own a mortar and pestle. I do own a bowl and the blunt end of a bottle of pomegranate chipotle sauce though. Good enough. It was recommended that the finished product be the texture of panko (is panko a thing that normal people just know about?).

The finished product was fantastic! The only real issue while cooking was when I blew a fuse (every damn year I forget that the microwave and air conditioner cannot be used at the same time). Everything tasted delicious, and there were plenty of leftovers that I could stretch out to make more than one meal!

I feel like knowing the term "egg wash" gives me grown up points.

Apron is courtesy of my friend and fellow blogger, Emma. A freebie she got for her blog, Cheapskate4Life, check her out!
Watch for me next season on Top Chef
Let's take a minute to get real here though. I cannot fathom how people cook on a regular basis. This was a fairly simple meal, and it took me hours of prep time (plus now I have buttermilk that I don't know what the hell to do with). I mean, the food was amazing, but I think I could achieve the same level of awesome by sticking a Dorito in the middle of a chicken mini taco. If this little experiment was supposed to make me want to cook more, then it has failed.

Plus, it's the month before Pride. The month where gay men across the country celebrate how proud they are by starving themselves for their annual Pre-Pride Crash Diets. 

Such poor timing on my part. 

I'll definitely (probably) start this whole eating healthy, balanced meals thing next month though.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bills, Bills, Bills

I've struggled with how personal I wanted to get with this blog. I can either use it to tell funny stories that ultimately don't reveal too much of my actual life, or I can use it to help make some real and necessary changes. And since my current money saving strategy is freezing my debit card in a block of ice, I figure it's about time to get f#%!ing real.

So this week I've decided that we're going to delve even deeper into the depths of my irresponsibility. Let's all agree not to judge me too harshly, I really am a basically together person. I just have some seriously self destructive tendencies. So here goes, confession time.

I haven't opened my mail in well over 11 months.

Do you guys know what's in that mail?! Bills. Lots and lots of bills (and some coupons too probably, but mostly just the bills). No thank you!

It's not like I throw it away, or make a conscious decision not to open it. But when I bring it back to my apartment I usually just set it down to be looked at later. When that later never comes, and it's time to clean, the mail gets shoved out of sight, you know, just until I get time. But that old adage rings true, "Out of sight, you'll never think of that shit again (or something like that)."

So now it's nine months later, and this is the situation I am facing:

It's not great, guys.
You see, my philosophy has always been, "Why do today what you can ignore until somehow it magically takes care of itself?" For instance, did you guys know that if you don't pay like all of your taxes, they'll just take it out of your return the next year? Or say you never paid for your last semester of college, after awhile they'll just take some money right out of your paycheck every two weeks. No muss no fuss. And you can put off paying your electric bill for a shockingly long time without it getting turned off.

I'm already feeling the future judgement as I type this, come back to me everyone. Don't forget, you're on my side. 

Starting immediately I was going to stop ignoring the problem and face it head on. After I prepared myself for the task at hand of course. 

I started off by taking my pants off (mostly just because I'd been home for nearly twenty minutes and hadn't done it yet). I didn't want to rush into anything, so I put in the episode of Buffy where she can't afford to pay her bills, dipping my feet into the waters of financial ruin. As I watched, I realized just how much I was relating to Buffy in the 6th season (and anyone who watches the show can tell that 6th season Buffy is not someone you want to be relating to). I was drawing parallels and making comparisons, and before I knew it the episode had finished 30 minutes before, and I was YouTubing that sad cover of "Wild Horses" by The Sundays. Time to get back on track.

I dumped all of the mail out on the floor, grabbed a letter opener, put in a Michelle Branch CD, and got out a bottle of vodka and a shot glass (just in case). 

Once I settled in and started it went surprisingly fast. I separated it between the different places I owe money to, and then ranked them by how badly they seemed to want my money. Most of the letters were identical ones sent out once a month...every month (it's like, take a hint folks). I got out a notebook and made a list of the amounts owed, the companies, and their contact information. Putting it all in one place made the idea of paying them off one at a time seem a lot more manageable.

I was totally right about the coupons too, I was missing out on a GOLDMINE! I received a travel guide to North Carolina (which I can only assume was ordered after a few too many glasses of wine and episodes of Dawson's Creek). I'd missed out on all kinds of political flyers (this guy, Mitt Romney really wanted me to vote for him).  Apparently I was also chosen to be a Nielsen household too (so it's probably my fault that 'The New Normal' was cancelled)!

The whole process took me about an hour and a half (not a single paper-cut either, so I feel pretty good about that). I realize there's a big difference between opening your mail and actually paying your bills, but I really do feel good about the progress that was made. For the first time in a long time I have an idea of what needs to be done, even if I don't know exactly how to do it. Next step? Getting my credit score. Shit.

Also, the Nielsen people included $2 for me to do their survey. So I made money from this.

The vodka helped too. 

Destiny's Child Dance Party, anyone?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Desk

I often get wild ideas that all I need to get my life together is to spend my money on one item that will change my whole outlook. I can't tell you the number of cute planners I've purchased. I buy those cash register cook books at least once a month, "'250 Easy Chicken Recipes'?! OMG, I LOVE chicken!" "Tear out recipe cards?! SHIT, I gotta get a recipe box!" I've spent days trying to decide on the best wine rack to organize my bottles of wine. But planners get forgotten, recipes require grocery shopping (like, regularly), and I've never in my life had a bottle of wine in my apartment for more than 48 hours.

These are the things I should have thought about when I was buying my dream desk, but I was blinded by the clearance sticker ($15 from $150). I was dizzy with thoughts of all the bill paying and blogging I could do if I only had a desk! I had visions of myself spending hours doing responsible things at my desk that I'm sure grown ups do all the time: balancing my checkbook, working on my resume, and...well, those are really the only two grown up things I can think of (get off my back, I'm new at this). I couldn't resist!

Two months had passed and this is where my dream desk was:

The gym bag and tennis racket hadn't moved in the same amount of time.

I'd somehow forgotten that every inch of my apartment is full of stuff. I don't have a lot of space, but the space that I do have is used. the f#%!. up. Putting in a desk was going to take some serious organizing, and not to mention, some serious construction. I was going to have to assemble, and probably screw some stuff, and maybe even use a hammer. I was going to need to take my glitter nail polish off and use up every butch point I'd acquired (and I don't have many).

I knew my first challenge would be to clear out the corner of my apartment where I get the best stolen WiFi. I'd need to clean out my bedroom closet to make room for my "dresser." I was also going to have to clean out my kitchen closet to make room for the things that would be displaced by moving the drawers into the bedroom closet. Cleaning out my closets is a task I've attempted many times (in fact you can see the garbage bag from the last time I tried to get clothes together to donate). I've never succeeded because of the sheer volume of crap I've saved and also because I'm completely irrational about what should be saved and what should be thrown out (but what if I NEED a travel sized Light Brite one day?!). The last three times I've moved I've simply thrown everything in boxes and totes and then never touched them again. It was going to take some time, and I was in for some serious nostalgia.

Let's all agree to ignore the irony of me trying to grow up when I have a stuffed pink unicorn in my bedroom (the walrus and raccoon are totally mature), and also clock the makeshift desk I'd been using.
(Buffy wouldn't be going anywhere.)

I found old homework. Yeah, that's a paper for my Sociology of Death class written about an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Crushed it). I also noticed a major flaw in the organization of my notes. You'll notice 3 classes, 3 departments, same day, same notebook. It's a wonder I was able to study at all (holy epiphany, Batman!)!

I found articles of clothing that I would never again need. Like the denim jacket I wore in my senior pictures (now three sizes too big),

the feathery pink tiara from my 21st birthday, 

the smock from my high school job,

and a hat purchased at the birthplace of John Wayne in Winterset, Iowa (that I'm DEFINITELY keeping). 

I had a Brokeback Mountain calendar from 2007, an entire collection of Fear Street books (that I can. not. wait. to read), three nametags from Shopko (not even my name), and an old cell phone filled with pictures I'd forgotten existed (like a drawing of Kerra and I from an especially unproductive evening in the MSU Library). 

When I was done, I'd filled four garbage bags and emptied out three totes. I'd also filled a garbage bag with clothes to donate (because I'm sure the needy will be psyched to wear my old "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" t-shirt). My closets were cleaner and more organized than ever, I was exhausted, and I still had a desk to build.

I got out my trusty pink tool kit and opened the box to assess the situation. I took one look at the instructions, and I decided it really didn't make sense to be doing this late on a Friday night when I had all day on Saturday to finish the job. So there my desk sat...for about a week and a half.

My father had to use these tools at one time, and for 3 Christmases after he tried to get me to add a tool kit to my list.
After stubbing my toe on the thing one too many times I got down to business. It was even more ridiculous than you are imagining. I'm sure for anyone remotely competent at following instructions it was a simple project. I'm not that person. I flashed back to being asked to build patio furniture to be put on display at work. My boss came into the back room after an hour and found me sitting on the ground, in near hysterics, surrounded by parts and tools with only one chair built (and it was SUPER wobbly). 

The wood glue included in the packaging was a single gelatinous mass that came shooting out at me when I squeezed the tube. The only other thing I had was Elmer's Craft Glue (which was clogged), so I just dipped the wood dowels (is that a real carpentry term?) into the open container of glue and made a sticky mess out of the job.

And as if the mess I was making didn't make me feel inadequate enough, the instructions were super condescending about how single I am.

My inner monologue, "Okay, well I've got, like, super long arms, so  that's probably, like, the same as two people."
#forever alone
An hour later, with my confidence shaken but my spirit not broken, I had a desk.

Cute, right?!

With all of the excitement, however, I'd forgotten something kind of important...

I don't have a desk chair.

Perfect for spending an entire day in bed watching Lifetime Movies!

So that backfired...


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Wake Up Call

The night of my 26th birthday I received a call from my mother. I was two bottles of wine and one showstopping karaoke performance of Paris Hilton's "Stars are Blind" into the night and thrilled to receive yet another call thanking me for my existence. The call didn't go as planned...

Me:  So Mom, how does it feel that your little boy is 26 years old?!
Mom:  It makes me feel like you should probably be grown up by now.
Me:  ....

I'm certain she was trying to make the same jokes that I'm always making about myself, but hearing my mother give voice to the insecurities that I'd been feeling shook me a bit. I ordered another bottle of wine and signed up to sing a sad James Taylor song, vowing that night that it was time for me to grow up. I was going to start paying my bills on time, I was going to start feeding myself from more than just the Cheetos and Gummy Bear portion of the food pyramid, and I was going to quit hiding from adulthood.

It was a nice thought, but I'm the first to admit I'm kinda slow on the uptake. I've just passed my 27th birthday, and I haven't really done anything to change my life (unless you count a complete overhaul of my hairstyle...which I do). I'm still choosing boxes of wine over my electric bill. I'm still crash dieting for weeks to slim down rather than visiting the gym regularly. And I'm still spending more time concerned with the problems of fictional characters than I am fixing my own (but seriously, Ally McBeal needs to get her shit together). Now that I'm officially in my late twenties, it really is time to make a change and grow the f#%! up.

What's to keep me from falling into old habits though? Obviously I can't be trusted when left to my own devices. That's where you, my adoring friends, family and inevitably tens of new followers from the interwebs, come in. I'm going to chronicle my journey into adulthood here for you all. Hopefully this will provide me with the accountability that I'm going to need to make any real changes to my life. I'm sure I'll slip up (hopefully in quirky and hilarious ways), but as a favorite internet meme of mine once said, "If Britney Spears can get through 2007, you can handle your problems." Of course, there's also an added bonus of (hopefully) getting the online validation that every modern twenty-something seems to crave so desperately.

What can you expect to read here? Who the hell knows, I'll probably give it up within the week. If I do stay focused, however, you'll hopefully see all kinds of personal growth. I've started a new diet plan this week (that I then immediately failed). I plan on starting to cook real meals on a regular basis which will (fingers crossed) solve the problem of the perpetual orange cheese powder stains under my fingernails (holy hell I love orange cheese powder). I'll likely have tons of new tips and tricks that I've learned to help save money (I'm sure I'll be SO good at it once I try). And just maybe you'll get to be a witness to Chris finally growing the f#%! up.

Probably not though.

Sorry, Mom.

(On a side note, after naming this blog post I remembered when Hayden Panettiere released her music video for the song of the same title. It's 100%'s reggae influenced, she raps, she wears disguises. Also, I over-drafted my bank account by downloading it on iTunes a few years ago. Worth it.)

You're welcome.