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The best $20 I ever spent

May 19, 2009

DISCLAIMER: At this point I think I have more male readers than female, so let me warn you boys right off the bat, this blog posting is about a "lady" subject. I've either piqued your curiosity or freaked you out. Either way, you were warned.

Dating in DC is near impossible (as if I haven't conveyed the point clearly already). For me it's been many flops with very few [stomach] flips, and really, what's the point of dating if you don't lose a few pounds from being so excited/sick you can't eat?

After a year of batting my eyelashes, flipping my hair, and letting my dog, Noli, run up to handsome strangers then declaring, "Oh my, I am SO sorry!", I decided to try a modern approach at dating and joined If I had started this blog back in January when my new dating plan went into motion, you would have laughed your head off and vowed never to join a dating Web site. After three months of blind dating (with only one second date) I gave up on the Match thing. What I took away from it was it got me dating again and I got some practice on my conversationalist skills (and sometimes I got no practice because it turns out some people like to talk even more than I do!). I did, however, feel pretty hopeless. With my membership over, I was doomed to another summer of walking Noli alone.

Then something amazing happened. I haven't been shy about my recent weight gain, but all I have done is bemoan it and complain about how none of my clothes fit. Summertime in the South (which spans all the way to Maryland, I recently found out) is no time to squeeze into things that don't fit. It's uncomfortable, and you risk not being able to get out of them if you swell in the heat. For my birthday I got a gift certificate to T.J. Maxx, so I bought a maxi dress with built-in cups (no bra necessary!) for $19.99. One afternoon I walked home in my suit and had drenched my silk top in sweat by the time I arrived at my apartment. Noli was going nuts, and with the opening of a new dog park three blocks away I thought it might be nice to take her over to play. I peeled off my layers of work clothes and slipped the maxi dress over my head. Ahhhh...breezy and light...perrrrfect.

I grabbed my sunglasses and stepped outside. People were trickling home from work, walking from the Metro, and they all seemed very friendly. Hmm, must be the sunshine, I thought as I said hello to a guy walking by me with a big grin plastered across his face. When I got to the crosswalk I saw my neighbor across the way, decked out in his suit and carrying his briefcase. When he saw me he stayed put instead of crossing. Once I had made it to the other side he greeted me with, "Hi! You just get better looking every time I see you!"

Heh heh...huh? "Oh, well thanks!" I replied awkwardly.

"Where are you off to, looking so hot?" he asked with a smile resembling that of the last four guys I had passed.

"Um, heh heh, the dog park."

"Mind if I join?"

Seriously? If I had been burning up in a skirt, I couldn't imagine how he must feel. But if he really wanted to...

"Be my guest."

Once in the park, Noli was being a little scaredy-cat, so I had to walk her around because she would not leave my side. Halfway around I passed a man who had brought his much larger dog.

"I hope my dog doesn't jump on you!" he said in my direction. The dog was lying in the grass under a tree, so I just ignored the guy.

"It looks like you just came from a wedding! I hope my dog doesn't ruin your dress!" he tried again.

"Oh, I'm sure it's fine. It's just a maxi dress, anyway, no big deal," I assured him.

"You're so dressed up for the dog park!" he said. Dude, why are you so fixated on my dress?
"It's a cheap maxi, really, it's a summer dress. It's fine."

"Oh, well let me tell you about every random fact I know about everything I can think of for the next 20 minutes to keep you standing there so I can freely ogle your breasts."

Okay so that's not exactly what he said, but you get the point. And it was in that 20 minutes of me zoning out and murmuring, "Uh huhs" and "Oh, wows" that it hit me -- I had forgotten and despised my own personal commodity -- boobs!

The next few days I told my girlfriends about my discovery.

"Could it really be this easy?!!" I would exclaim, and I got the same answer from each one of them.

"What kind of guy do you want to attract?"

Aww, c'mon! But, alas, after more consideration of the subject, I realized they were right. That kind of attraction may have been okay in college, but now I'm a "serious" girl. Gosh, I might as well start calling myself a "woman." Oh BLAH.

Feeling all alone in my quest for love again (actually, I would take sort-of-like at this point), I was happy that the new season of The Bachelorette was starting and I could at least watch someone on TV who had it easy. The 25 guys were introducing themselves to Jillian one by one, and then one of them stepped out of the limo and I had the weirdest feeling. I know him!

I watched closely for the rest of the episode and somehow knew that I had not met this guy before, but he must be a celebrity of some sort because I had seen his picture. I was relaying my weird feeling to Joanna the next day when it hit me -- and her -- at the same time.

"Was he one of your matches?" she asked as I thought OMG HE WAS ONE OF MY MATCHES!

So at least I'm not the only one having trouble with the whole dating dilemma. In case you're wondering, my match, who I never went out with, is Juan, and the more I watch him the more I think he is super lame. Here's a quote from David, one of the cooler guys, that pretty much sums it up for me: "He's breaking man code left and right." Thanks, ABC, for saving me from a guy who breaks the man code. Whatever that is, I'm pretty sure it should be adhered to.

The fashion crisis is worse than I realized

May 13, 2009

I've been pretty haughty lately about what a great dresser I am and how frighteningly horrible everyone else dresses around here. Turns out I was really, really, ridiculously wrong.

It all started last Friday. My current fave author, Jen Lancaster, was in town for a book signing for "Pretty in Plaid". On her Web site she had encouraged us to dress up in 80s garb since her latest book is about how 80s fashion changed her life. (Why didn't I think of that? Genius!) I took the preppy route and wore a pink polo with a plaid sash in my hair that I frizzed out, and I accessorized with big metallic hot pink hoop earrings.

You wanna know how many other people dressed up 80s? Two. And their outfits looked like something I couldn't afford. The rest of the crowd, though peppered with women in dire need of Stacy and Clinton, was generally dressed quite nicely. And they were all generally quite skinny. And generally had nice hair. And leather, designer purses. And Tory Birch shoes. And expensive jewelry. And nails done professionally. And makeup immaculate. And I wanted to hide in a corner and disappear.

I felt a little better when, after waiting two hours to have my book signed and watching gorgeous girl after gorgeous girl walk up to Jen, she seemed pleased to see someone else in preppy 80s (okay, three people dressed up), and I figured the event just attracted all the pretty people because Jen is so fabulous. The handful of people in the entire DC metro area that are well dressed must have congregated in Barnes & Noble that one night, but I was probably still better dressed than the DC population as a whole.

The next evening was Ashmi's birthday dinner. I squeezed into my Michael Kors black satin mini dress (didn't I lose 7 pounds since the last time I wore this thing?!!) and thought I looked pretty good. I was in Michael Kors, after all. How high fashion am I?

We had reservations at Oya for 9 p.m., which I thought was awfully late already. However, this place was so amazing and exclusive that we weren't seated until 10 p.m., and the restaurant was packed even when we left two hours later. So I had a good three hours to observe where all the beautiful people hang out. I wondered why I didn't recognize anyone from the book signing. Could it be possible that there are more of these fashionistas? I thought, stealing glimpses of my reflection in the window whenever possible. I had rushed to throw my hair up, and the dress really didn't look all that great on me anymore. But everyone around me had perfect hair with amazing highlights and the cutest swishy dresses paired with adorable little sandals. And of course they all were petite and tan. I am the palest I've ever been in my life and also (My father would disagree with that statement. He says I am borderline overweight. Thanks for self-esteem boost, Dad-with-unnaturally-high-metabolism.)

A few nights later I was traveling on the Red Line to Dupont for a women's contemporary fiction seminar (formerly known as "chick-lit" -- apparently that genre has gotten too fluffy and now if you want to write such a book it has to be deep, which basically means someone has to die. Hoorah.). I was coming after work, and I had on basic black trousers (with I can eat thank you very much), and a springy green short puffy sleeved button down with a little black vest (had to wear a vest because the buttons kept popping -- I bought the shirt pre-the-donut-crazy-binge days). As we neared the Metro stop, I noticed that the people coming on the train were really good looking. I mean, outstandingly, modelesque good looking. It wasn't just the females -- the males were just as pretty. At one stop the seat beside me became vacant, and I was hoping the yummy Brazilian guy with a touch of face scruff would decide to sit down. He glanced over but maintained his spot standing in the aisle. Instead an older professor type reading a book filled with stick-on tabs sat down beside me. I rolled my eyes, expecting him to look over and wink at me or something, but even he did not seem interested. Then I realized I still had on my tennis shoes (walking around in this city in heels is no longer an option -- as Jen Lancaster has said, Carrie Bradshaw is a liar). Embarrassed, I slyly exchanged the tennies for my pointy black heels.

I thought I'd figured out the problem, but I had been salivating so much over all the European male model types that I had forgotten about the trendy girl competition. And that I was in Dupont, the gayest area of DC. But until I remembered the whole GAY thing (well duh, no wonder Gorgeous Brazilian wasn't all over me), all I could do was compare myself to every other person on that Metro. Once I got to my stop it was even worse. It was a perfect spring evening, and people were everywhere -- walking their dogs, riding their bikes, going for a jog, eating on the sidewalk -- and all looked amazingly stylish and beautiful doing it. I half expected the homeless people to snicker at me and say, "A dollar, please? Or maybe you're too poor for that."

What I don't understand is how all these 20- and 30-something girls can afford all these designer duds. Maybe they are all so skinny because they can't afford food? I don't know. I just know that on the way home I felt very happy getting back in my Yellow Line comfort zone where all the defense industry people must live and where I look cute. Or am I kidding myself? OHHHHHH NOOOOOOOOO.

In memoriam of the perfect black patent leather peep toe slingback

May 10, 2009

I realized last week that my blog is titled "Cupcakes and Shoes," yet I have rarely written about shoes (and regularly write about the cupcakes I eat, hence the five pounds I regained overnight on Thursday). A shoe eulogy is not how I would like to incorporate the topic into my blog, but it is the sad truth.

As I mentioned a few days ago, I had a date with a lawyer last week. I've never dated a lawyer, but I didn't want to make snap judgments -- like he was going to be arrogant, sleazy, dress much better than me, etc. -- so I kept an open mind. (Plus, many lawyers in DC are different than corporate lawyers since they're fighting for non-profits or government agencies. This also means they're not filthy rich but still have to pay off those student loans -- yet another reason I don't understand government types.)

Since we were meeting up after work, I had to make a little more effort that day. Joanna and our other co-workers, Tai and Matt, had discussed the day before how to do my hair. (No, Matt's not gay, he just interjects himself into our conversations. He used to try to discuss Battlestar Galactica with us, but we would turn around in our chairs and blatantly ignore him, so I think he's trying another angle now.) Despite the humidity (as great as my hair is, two straight weeks of rain had taken its toll), I curled small sections and fluffed it out then sprayed it with hairspray -- just enough so it would still look soft and bouncy -- and vowed not to touch it for the rest of the day. I was wearing a peacock blue blouse with billowy sleeves and a gray pencil skirt with black patent leather peep toe slingbacks. I looked pretty ab-fab, which was so great because it happened to be the day I ran into Humanitarian in the hallway.

I was coming back from lunch with Megan when I turned a corner and saw a congregation of about eight Air Force guys hanging around by my door. It took me about three and half seconds to realize they were actually hanging by their door and Humanitarian was among them. Half a second after my realization, Humanitarian noticed me and began to squirm. I tried not to laugh (which I do when I get nervous -- see "DUI wasn't drunk!") and then thought, Oh what-EV! He's the one who made things awkward! Anyway, I look fabulous and he's in a stupid uniform. Although he does look really cute in his uniform...Mary El! Focus! Smile a no, too much...better...I am just thinking about how fabulous my life is and how I have a fabulous date with a fabulous lawyer tonight and everything is fabulous. I need to read a thesaurus. My vocabulary is really limited if I can't think of a word other than "fabulous" to describe everything. What about "terrific?" But the derivative is "terror," and that's not really how I want to describe my life. How about...

"Hey! How are you?" he said, way before I was ready to converse. I was only halfway down the hallway. Now I was going to have to chit chat till I got to the door.

"Oh, hi, fine, you?" I almost sang, trying to sound fabulous.

"Good! I finally moved into my condo!" he said like I care.

"Oh good for you," I said, reminding myself to smile. I was nearing the door, so I took out my badge to swipe for entry into my office.

"Yeah, I bought a sofa, but it's too big for the space," he continued.

"You didn't measure?" I tried not to sound mean. Of course I never measure, but if I bought a condo on U-Street I'd like to think I would.

"No. Oh well. So, I've been doing some weapons training for the past few weeks down in southern Virginia." Is this supposed to excuse you from ignoring me? Too bad, buddy. This time when you ignored me it did not make me be in love with you (see "I'm in love with a mediocre guy because he's ignoring me").

"Oh? Okay," I said. I was finally at my door so I lifted my arm to swipe my badge, but he moved closer to me and blocked me. WTH???

"So, I'm finally getting some media coverage of my Robin Hood mission!" he switched subjects again.

"Oh?" I repeated. Is he a schizophrenic humanitarian? And am I supposed to be impressed by him referring to himself as Robin Hood? Ugh why is he so cute in that stupid uniform??? AHHHH!!!!

I moved closer to the door, but so did he, blocking me again. "So, uh, we should get lunch sometime next week," he said. I fought the urge to have a hissy fit.

"Uhh...sure," I said through my big, fake grin. Then I pushed past him, swiped my badge, and flashed the smile at him once more before fleeing into my office. And then I had a hissy fit.

Joanna, Tai, and Matt were there to support me and agreed that he is deranged. They also pointed out that I looked hot that day and thank goodness I was going on a date later.

After the Humanitarian incident, I was super hyped to go on a date. I got off a little early, so I decided to perform a test while waiting for the Lawyer. I sat at the bar, legs crossed and posture straight, ordered a glass of wine, and worked on a crossword puzzle. My friend Brian had told me to try this as it will make me seem approachable. Hitting on Mary El Season is open, boys! I thought, swinging my beautiful, shiny shoe-adorned foot. But they were all more interested in the anorexic Asian female bartender.

After my test flopped, Lawyer showed up and ordered a beer. "Do you want to get a table?" I suggested, not wanting to spend the evening looking sideways at him.

"Nah, I'm fine," he shrugged. Ooooooookay. I'm glad you're fine. I already have a crick in my neck. "So what do you do?"

"Media analysis," I started, ready to give him the spiel I give everyone who asks. But he was watching the TV, so I figured I was already boring him. "What kind of lawyer are you?"

"Government." He said more, but honestly, I doubt you would be interested, and I don't need to waste your time explaining it to you. But if you want to know more, I can give you many, many details, because he talked about it for the next hour. That is, until his phone rang and he talked about something else with a friend of his for a few minutes. Then promptly at 7:15 he announced he was meeting up with some friends but we should get lunch sometime.

I was close to the mall and had coupons, so I figured I might as well make the most of the evening and go shopping. On my way over to Victoria's Secret (like I need any of that stuff) I got a text from Jamie: "What are you doing? Come to Chinatown and let's meet boys!" After having two glasses of wine and no food, that seemed like a brilliant idea. I hopped on the Metro, and when I emerged from the underground tunnel into the bright lights of Chinatown (which is actually Americatown but with Chinese subtitles on everything), I checked my phone for Jamie's location . "Wallet stolen. I'm at Hooters" the text read.

Great, more anorexic competition. I strolled in and found Jamie sitting at a table with a plate full of hot wings and two guys.

"Hi, what happened?" I asked, sitting down, eyeing the taller one.

"Ugh I think it was stolen!" she frowned. "I'm babysitting my friends' boyfriends, by the way."

"Ohhhh, hi," I said, shaking their hands.

"We hung out at the bar for a while, but no one turned it in," the cute one explained. "It's gone."

"But I want to go out!" Jamie cried.

"Maybe we should just call it a night," the other one said. "We all do have to work in the morning."

I was liking that idea. My wine buzz was wearing off, revealing the pain of my throbbing feet. My shoes were pretty, but they were also tight after wearing them for 12 hours.

"What if I go get my passport? Yeah! Let's go!" Jamie exclaimed, jumping out of her seat and motioning toward the door.

We drove to her apartment, and while she looked for her passport I exchanged my shoes for a pair of her flip flops. When she found her passport I stuffed my heels into my purse and we were on our way, while the guys decided to turn in.

We ended up at Marvin's on U Street, and I was delighted at how many young, good looking guys were there. I sidled up to the bar, hoping to order some french fries. I still hadn't eaten and I was feeling faint. Immediately a guy nearby began talking to me, but he quickly switched his focus from me to Jamie. (Joanna told me later that Jamie is like a rockstar when she goes out, leaving little hope for others around her to be noticed. I can't blame her -- her platinum locks look oh-so-vibrant in dim light while mine fade into the background.)

"Mind if I smoke?" the guy asked.

"No! In fact, I'll have one too!" Jamie chirped.

"If I start coughing it's just because I'm coming off a 6-month bout with bronchitis," I Debbie-downered.

"We'll just walk over to the deck," the guy offered, nodding at Jamie.

"Okay, so we'll be right back!" Jamie said, getting up.

"No! Wait! It's okay! I like smoking! Y'all should smoke here! Please smoke! Yaaaaaaaay smoking!" I lied. I really did not want to be left alone to get not hit on again. But they were already walking to the outdoor deck.

My french fries arrived shortly after and I couldn't have been happier to see them. At first I daintily chewed them, hoping someone might notice how pretty I look eating french fries.

"You know," a deep voice to my left said. "If you gave me your number I could put it in my phone."

Is that a real pick-up line? What does that even mean? I turned to see who the cheese belonged to. He looked like a giant toad in a 90s clubbing shirt. I took a handful of fries and shoved them into my mouth, making sure I chewed with my mouth open, just like my mother taught me not to do.

After 20 minutes I was feeling pretty tired and lonely, so I went to find Jamie and the guy. I found them talking to some other people on the deck.

"I'm leaving. Nice to meet you. Bye!" I said then turned to walk out.

Jamie ran after me calling, "Wait! I'll come with you!" Then the guy called after Jamie, "Wait, I'll come with you!" I didn't know at the time, but he had turned possessive. Apparently smoking a cigarette together these days means you're a couple.

Jamie and Possessive Crazy trailed behind me to the Metro, and when I arrived I leaned down to take off the flip flops and put my pretties back on. I took off the right flip flop and put on one shoe, then I reached in for the left one...for the left one...uhhhh...where's the left one?

"What's wrong?" asked Jamie.

"I can't find my shoe!" I squeaked, frantic.

"We'll go back to the bar and look for it. Just wear my flip flops home and I'll get it to you later, okay?" Jamie offered.

I nodded and said good-bye, but after her wallet experience I had a sinking feeling it wasn't going to be at the bar. Her text later that night confirmed what I had suspected: "Shoe wasn't there. I started talking to another guy at the bar and that guy got mad! I'm sorry, are we dating?"

Well, I didn't suspect the second part. Anyway, the worst part about the whole thing is I have one shoe, and someone has the other. Therefore, no one will ever enjoy them again. At least if they were both gone I'd know some poor girl somewhere was wearing them and feeling pretty!

And now let's take a moment in remembrance...

Cheese in the Time of Boredom

May 4, 2009

Since nothing terribly exciting has happened to me in a while, I thought I'd give you all the rundown on how I spent this past Saturday.

7:30: Dogs whose combined weight equals the weight of my hair wake me up wrestling and pushing me off bed.

8:15: Take dogs out to do their biz, terrified of running into hot redheaded neighbor while wearing no makeup and hair a mess.

8:30: Debate making pancakes, scones, or just eating cupcakes.

8:45: Make scones -- a happy medium between a lot of work and being fat and lazy with cake.

9:00: Order "Slumdog Millionaire" from Comcast on Demand (the price of my monthly Netflix membership, but worth it).

9:15: Still getting used to the accents and teeny subtitles, I rewind movie to beginning.

9:30: Yes, they are Muslim. Okay that makes more sense. Moving on.

11:30: Hungry. Consider eating cupcakes. Eat another scone instead.

Noon: Put on cute casual workout type outfit and throw hair up in loose bun. Take dogs out for biz again. If nothing else I'll look athletic if I run into Hot Neighbor.

12:45: Throw dogs in bath. Rain has made leech creature things come out in grass and dogs are covered in them. Now leeches are crawling around in my bathtub being goopy and gross.

1:00: Play Mafia Wars. Wish there was Slumdog Millionaire Wars, where you start off as a kid trying to make a buck at an outhouse and escape mean blue Hindu child only to end up in child slave camp but escape with your eyes and work your way up to gangster. Decide I am insensitive and probably shouldn't invent the game for Facebook so as not to advertise my American arrogance. Also have close Indian friends and do not want to offend them. Even though they've never been to India. And are Hindu.

1:30: Paint toenails.

2:30: Attempt french manicure.

3:30: Scrub dried leeches off bathtub. Rinse. A lot. Soap and scrub and rinse again. Bubble bath and Bridget Jones's Diary on Netflix Instant Play.

5:00: Use foot potato peeler apparatus to shave of foot skin. Fight urge to mold dead skin into shapes.

5:30: Eat a third of a block of Wisconsin white cheddar cheese from Trader Joe's.

6:00: Panic attack -- am I supposed to be working this weekend? No.

6:15: Scroll through Netflix Instant Play for more movies. Settle on Made of Honor.

7:45: Made of Honor was a waste of my time. Super predictable and pretty much My Best Friend's Wedding but not as interesting or realistic. And yes, My Best Friend's Wedding is realistic.

8:00: Megan comes over, fresh off the Gold Cup bus, which I missed because I
A) am cheap.
B) am broke.
C) would rather eat cheese alone in my apartment.

8:15: Eat day-old pizza and start Slumdog Millionaire again. Hey, I have it for 24 hours, might as well make the most of it.

9:15: Megan is falling asleep and leaves. I feel tired as well. Eat lemon curd cupcake.

9:30: Put green face mask on and change into PJs -- bright pink striped pants and raspberry striped top. I am a giant, mismatched pink stripe.

9:45: Noli is whining and needs to do her biz. I sometimes wish she would just revert to her puppy years and go on the carpet so I could clean it up later and not exert energy taking elevator downstairs. But I've trained her well so she whines like a good dog. I get her leash and she goes nuts and jumps up in the air, making it impossible for me to latch it on her harness.

9:50: She finally calms down. I grab a poop baggie and we are out the door. And there is Hot Neighbor Man. "Hey, how's it goin," he says, all cool and bulgy muscly with tattoos. "Oh hey how are you fine okay bye!" I blurt out and scurry around the corner to the elevator.

10:00: In my bed. Mortified.

4:00 am: Dream I am Britney Spears' personal assistant.

On another note, I would love to read your comments! Some people's comments haven't been sticking, and I wonder if you have to be a member of some sort? You can use your Gmail account as a member name, btw. I'll try to figure it out. Have a date Thursday, so hopefully I'll have something interesting to share this weekend! Stay tuned...

UPDATE: Hmm, so there's a "Comment Moderation" tab that I haven't been checking. Never mind. Comment away!