Thursday, April 10, 2014


Today, I aspire to a job in an environment in which a comment on my attire is not the standard way to open a conversation.

The first conversation I had this morning went like this: 

Me: "Good morning, [Professor X]."

Prof X, disapproving: "Hello, Lauren.  You look very school-marm-ish today."

Me, cheerfully: "Oh!  In a good way, I hope!"

Prof X, doubtfully: "Well I don't know... I'm really not sure about those shoes."

For Pete's sake. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

An Open Letter to Our Unwritten Open Letters

Dear Unwritten Open Letters,

The other day I stumbled upon a hilarious time-suck of a website: Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency.  It is but one creative outlet for the many excellent authors associated with McSweeney's Publishing of San Francisco.

Among the varied and delicious aspects of Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency is a column entitled Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely to Respond. Here are a few titles from the column, sufficient in and of themselves for eliciting the sort of chuckle-fit that can drive an officemate to madness.

An Open Letter to My Ex-Fiancé About My Recent Arm Amputation

An Open Letter to the Man On Who Emailed Me to Fix a Grammar Mistake On My Profile Page

An Open Letter to My Toddler Regarding His Use of My iPhone

An Open Letter to the City and County Inspector Who Fined Me $500 Even Though the Weeds in My Front Lawn Were Well Under the 6” Regulation Height

An Open Letter to the Gentleman Blow-Drying His Balls in the Gym Locker Room

An Open Letter to the Glorious New Couple That Rose Like a Phoenix from the Infernal Failure That Was My Last Relationship

An Open Letter to Undated Yard Sale Signs and the Yard Sale Purveyors Who Make Them

An Open Letter To The Inanimate Objects In My Apartment That Just Sat There While I Was Heartbroken

An Open Letter to the Gym Shorts That Are Not in My Gym Bag

And so forth.

Scanning this column left me convicted, dear Unwritten Open Letters, of the fact that you were still, at present, unwritten. You see, when L and I first came up with the idea of creating you several months (years?) ago, we had been eating very good food and drinking very good caffeinated coffees wiling away good times in good company in a good city. And we had every good intention of carrying out these plans to draw you up.  But then the caffeine wore off, we waved adieu to each other and the city and the delicious coffee... and the business of life once again requisitioned our time and creative energies.  That, and we couldn't agree on the appropriate font.

Among the list of your envisioned kin were:
An Open Letter to Married Friends
An Open Letter to Friends With Kids
An Open Letter to Church Leaders on How To Incorporate Non-married Persons

A proper list, to be sure, and topics that deserve attention.  But fear not! Despite our negligence in bringing you to fruition, other people have gone ahead and done it for us -- put in the hard work of writing on these topics, and doing so brilliantly.

For example, several months ago My Lovely Sister-in-Law made me add to my intentionally spartan Bookmark Bar a link to an interview conducted by her pastor, the now-Bishop Stewart Ruch. It's all about how to preach Celibacy. I just now read it (sorry for the delay, Sis-in-Law!) and it is outstanding.  All that's left for me to do now is provide the link. Here is the link.

In summation, dear Unwritten Open Letters, you are for the present to remain as such. But who knows what the future will bring?

Yours in spirit, if not letter (see what I did there?)
E & probably also L

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Possible Theories As To My Interminable Singleness

Theory #1:  I Just Haven't Met the Right Guy Yet

While having the merit of being most likely the correct theory, it is nevertheless wanting in terms of entertainment value.  Thus I propose alternate theories, all of which contain hypotheses already thoroughly and successfully subjected to empirical verification...

Theory #2: My Uncontrollable, Frequent Bouts with Klutziness are Not As Charming As I Think

In moments of greater confidence in my physical appearance (typically corresponding with moments spent in the presence of good girlfriends, and typically in conjunction with an abundance of finely distilled whiskies) I used to joke that there was a Hotness Conservation Law (yes, I frequently make jokes involving conservation laws; cf. Theory #3):  the hotter a person is, the klutzier he or she has to be. In other words, being the cause of numerous, nominally awkward social situations is necessary in order to, you know, make it up to the rest of the universe for having been, through no real design of his or her own, the receiver of a physical appearance our culture deems "hot".

I no longer hold to this conservation law, based on years of research:  I manage to exhibit profound unawareness of the spatial properties of proximate objects on a daily basis (walking into walls, stubbing toes on steps, tripping on sidewalks, clotheslining self on tree branches) yet this large number of klutz incidences cannot be balanced in terms of hotness or I'd be getting a lot more dates.

Granted there are logical gaps in the above reasoning, to wit-- assuming that the better looking I am, the more often I'll get asked on dates.  But whether or not we want it, this is a pretty darn safe assumption, is it not?  Guys just don't approach strange women for date-getting-purposes unless they find them attractive.  Since I'm an "extended tourist" in my current city, a majority of my daily interactions with men are with men I hardly know and who hardly know me. I haven't been asked on a date since October, so you do the math.

But that's boring, and the point of introducing this theory was really to tell a self-deprecating anecdote confirming this theory. One of many possible such, I am afraid.

Yesterday I was on my way to giving a 2-hour lecture at The University At Which I Am A Visiting Research Fellow on ... well, I won't say, but see Theory #3 again.  I had some last minute prep to do, but it was a gorgeous sunny day and so decided to tackle said work whilst eating outside at a brand-spanking new, very hip café not far from the campus. Before taking a seat in sunshine, I went inside to ask if they had English menus. The owners (a lovely, sweet woman and her son -- very handsome, tall, about my age or a bit older, from this part of the world and therefore exuding that lovely and mysterious foreign je ne sais quoi -- you know what I mean, ladies) explained that they were still working on a translation of their menu into English.  The son then talked me through their entire list of offerings, made excellent suggestions and helped me place my order all the while being adorable and flirtatious (even with his mother smiling at us from the corner -- gotta love that confidence).  I asked if carrot juice was on the menu, and he said no but he'd make a fresh glass for me anyway.

During the meal the mother came outside and chatted with me a little.  Wise businesswoman. She told me a bit about how her son had lived in America for a while, and when she asked what I was working on and I told her, she smiled and said: "Wow! A woman like you, so young? That's really amazing!" (To which I responded, in my head: "I know! Tell your son!")

When I'd finished devouring the extremely fine meal, I packed up my nerdy academic-ie things and headed back inside the little café to settle the bill. As I stood there shamelessly flirting with both the mother and son (let's be honest, you gotta win over Mom), that warm bloom of confidence began to build up inside me -- the kind of confidence that unfailingly leads to my doing something awkward, and probably involving limb flailing.  Sure enough, as I handed over the money I knocked over the son's full glass bottle of Coca Cola, which then splashed its contents onto the mother's mint-green cardigan and trickled down into the cracks between the brand-new counter and the brand-new shelves and soaked into the brand-new decorative upholstery pastry board before crashing to the floor.

I froze, mortified. The mother said repeatedly, "Don't worry! Don't be embarrassed!" while I proceeded to do both those things.  I didn't even collect my change -- dashed out of the café and across the street, and then had to stand there in full view of the café and its patrons and - most crucially - in the line of sight of both mother and son - while I waited a full 13 minutes for the No. 7 bus to whisk me off to the university.  I tried burying my face in the book I was reading, but I'm pretty sure they could still see me from across the street.

Oh, and guess what?  Tall, handsome, dark foreign entrepreneur with excellent maternal relationship did not, in fact, ask me out on a date.

It was such good food, too. That part I really lament.  When is an acceptable time for me to revisit the café? Because even if I ain't getting a date, I sure as speckled robins' eggs ain't gonna forsake good food on account of my klutziness.

Theory #3: My Uncontrollable, Frequent Self-Exposure as ÜberNerd is Not As Winsome As I Think

More on this later.  Oh, so much more...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The note I never wanted to write

I have a tendency, I fear, to blog only when I'm riled up about something, or upset about something.  This probably gives the impression that things are worse than they are, when in fact so much of life simply consists of putting one foot in front of the other and simply doing one's work, with perhaps a little irritation that requires blogging thrown in on the side.  But every once in a while, the floor drops out.

I mentioned R a few months ago.  Pancreatic cancer is doing what pancreatic cancer does, and today my colleagues and I found out that she's been admitted to hospice.  We were asked to write her notes.

I don't want to.

I don't want to say goodbye to a young woman, a bright woman, a marvelous teacher, a tenacious and fierce scholar, a wise and gracious mentor.

I don't want to write a note.  Simply saying "thank you" seems totally inadequate, and I can't figure how I could possibly say goodbye.  

But not writing a note is a thousand times worse than writing a note.  And of course, I see the irrelevancy of saying that I don't want to do it; what I want to do or don't want to do has exactly no bearing on reality.  None.

Nine years ago, I lost another mentor, another kind, ferociously intelligent, savvy woman.  The world is immeasurably poorer for her loss, and I think of her often.  She died in the springtime.  I have a vivid memory of walking to the train on my morning commute when she was ill, passing through a grim development of Communist-inspired apartment blocks, thinking in time with every clack of my heels on the sidewalk, "I don't want to.  I don't want to."  There was an enormous old cherry tree in the middle of the buildings, and its blooms were the most audaciously beautiful thing I had ever seen, this bright splash of life and beauty in the middle of the grimness.  I was struck by the sheer nerve of the thing to bloom, to have so much gratuitous beauty, when someone I loved was suffering and dying.  But yet there it was, waving branches and spilling blossoms like the living thing it was.  When I think of her now, I think of the tree.  I didn't want to do any of it--the grief, the loss, the pain, the beauty, the polite conversations at a funeral--but not doing it would have been a worse choice.

And so much of life seems to be doing what we don't want to do.

I'm going to write a note.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day

Thoughts on International Women's Day from Friend Of This Blog C:

May we one day not only hold half the sky, but half the wealth, the board room jobs, the parliamentary seats... and hold only half the violence statistics.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hunh? (Faculty Edition)

I have had these conversations about my appearance this week:

Faculty Person 1: "That's a nice dress.  In fact, that color actually looks GOOD on you!"

Me (in tasteful --- albeit very green --- dress): "Thank you."

I am pretty sure that this person was trying to compliment me, but the shock and awe in the tone of voice undermined that intention a bit.

Faculty Person 2: "Even in the twenty-first century, a young female theologian should look non-threatening... and be wearing rather less lipstick than your good self!"

Me (in black turtleneck and grey slacks, with a swipe of a color called "pure red" on the lips): "Well, fortunately I'm not a theologian!"

And I am pretty sure that this person has, as my father would say, all the social skills of a charging water buffalo.  But really?  Really, folks, is this the best we can do?