2020 Redux

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It’s the end of January. I gave it some time. I, like my 7.8 billion fellow Earthlings, looked forward to 2021 with good spirits. With the turn of the calendar, we all could usher out the most outlandish year in modern history.

There’s an old Yiddish saying. It goes, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.”

Once again, the joke is on us. 2021 is merely an extension of 2020.

The year started off lamely enough with the announcement of the death of Bond Girl, Tanya Roberts. Normally, there would not be anything unusual about that, except that Tanya Roberts was very much alive. Once this was established, she died for real.

Then there was the dissolution of the marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. As a lifelong follower of Kanye’s work , I was saddened, but not entirely surprised. The divorce was reported a scant two months after Kanye gave Kim a hologram of her deceased father, Robert Kardashian, as a birthday present.

Kim and Kanye, however, were promptly upstaged. The next day, a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, where they broke into Statuary Hall, and proceeded to march around in neat lines within the confines of the velvet dividers. Things descended into bedlam, however, when the invaders began pooping in the hallways.

Out of this stinky rubble, we met a few characters who have since become national folk legends. Most notably, there’s “The QAnon Shaman,” (so dubbed by The Daily Mail) who after donning fur, horns, and face paint for the Capitol siege, has since refused prison food because it is not vegan. Learning this surprised me; if ever there were a group of people I assumed were big time meat eaters, it was the MAGA crowd.

And speaking of QAnon, I’ve learned a lot about this society in recent weeks. Before, I was never entirely sure what the group believed, other than that it was a “loosely organized …community… who embrace a range of unsubstantiated beliefs” (per The Wall Street Journal).

I’ve come a long way since this vague interpretation. I now know that QAnon thinks the Chinese military is massing at the Canadian border, and that furniture company Wayfair uses product listings to send secret messages concerning human trafficking. Supporters also maintain the closely held belief that Tom Hanks is a cannibal.

At a more innocent time in my life, I would have thought all of this totally bonkers. But I now have to give it pause. As of mid-January, there is a celebrity who is a confirmed cannibal, it’s just not Tom Hanks. Multiple women have come forward accusing Hollywood A-List actor, Armie Hammer, of anthropophagy. One former flame claimed he used to suck her blood, another that he branded her, and still another that he designs his own bondage attire. Other screenshots of texts to paramours, allegedly from Armie Hammer, go into detail about wanting to eat them, and not in the traditional way.

I’ve never had the pleasure of receiving a text message from Armie Hammer, or one of his famous requests to remove and barbeque my ribs. Instead, I must settle for my own peculiar correspondence. Not to be gainsaid, a stranger emailed me on Jan. 25 in response to this column, published fourteen months ago. The unsolicited message detailed the many years of life he’s spent in therapy because he likes to wear women’s underwear.

Those of us who expected life to go back to normal at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1 were sorely mistaken. It’s going to be a long hard road back to sanity.

Sarah Brown resides in a bunker in Oklahoma. Only there can she find some godd*mn peace. Clearly, she is forced to check email occasionally, so, if you really must, you can reach her at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

A Year in Cuffing Season

(Elkov Oleg/Dreamstime/TNS)

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I first heard about “Cuffing Season” a few years ago from a friend. She described it as the period during the year when singles hysterically couple because they don’t want to be alone for the holidays.

Originally, I accepted this; after all, everyone wants a date for New Year’s Eve.

On Halloween that year, I received her happy text —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

On Thanksgiving —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

Shortly before Christmas —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

That’s when it got excessive.

On Groundhog Day —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

On St. Patrick’s Day —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

On Earth Day —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

On Arbor Day —

“It’s Cuffing Season!”

When Memorial Day rolled around and it was still Cuffing Season, I began to seriously doubt the truth of this phenomenon.

According to Merriam Webster, Cuffing Season is formally defined as inclusive of most cold months, beginning in October and concluding right after Valentine’s Day. While my friend may very well be practicing Cuffing Season up through National Mahjong Day (officially August 1), most singles will have moved onto other activities.

However, I was forced to reevaluate the length of Cuffing Season this year with the onset of COVID-19. Faced with the insecurity of a pandemic, quarantine, and certain loneliness, singles were frantically trying to find mates well into April.

According to surveys conducted by UK-based company OneBuy, a full one-third of singles reported receiving texts from their exes during quarantine. It seems lockdowns were enticing singles to behave in needy ways, which they would not do under normal circumstances.

It should be noted, this phenomenon was summarized in an article published on tyla.com, a website which also features links to editorials entitled, “How to Entirely Empty Your Bowels Each Morning (1 Minute Routine).” Make of its contents what you will.

That being said, tyla.com may have a point. Anecdotally, I have indeed noticed a distinct uptick in unsolicited Facebook friend requests from unknown men, and unsolicited messages from same.

One, who dubbed himself “BananaMan,” sent me a Facebook friend request, followed by a Facebook message.

“Hello, my name is BananaMan, how are you today?”

BananaMan, I maintain a strict policy of only corresponding with people who have a space between their first and last names.

Then there was my personal favorite, James Campbell (name changed to protect the guilty). James Campbell added me on Facebook, and proceeded to flood my newsfeed with posts, as he does with all of his Facebook friends.

James Campbell would post 24 hours per day in 15-minute increments about one of five topics:

  1. His cheating, b**ch a** of a girlfriend who dumped him during COVID;
  2. His estranged relationship with his family;
  3. Photos of his tummy;
  4. His deep, personal relationship with God;
  5. Vaguely pornographic photos about how much he likes “thicc girls.”

James’ posts could take on any order in true stream of conscious fashion. Viewers were particularly prone to whiplash when the religious posts were immediately followed by the thicc girl posts.

While I never did meet James, I felt that I got to know him well through these five topics; they provided a firm window into his psyche. Thus, it was a surprisingly lonely day when James Campbell disappeared from my Facebook friends list, presumably because his minder took away his login credentials.

As we round out the holiday season in short order, be on the lookout for new relationships. The couplings may surprise and delight you.

Sarah Brown is an old romantic. She can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

Unmasking Halloween

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As with every other extracurricular activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Halloween will assuredly be dampened this year. I am not the first person to note the irony; Halloween is a holiday based entirely on the idea that everyone should wear a mask.

Will Anchorage’s new mayor issue a municipal wide ban on live Halloween, as the old mayor did with live music?

Will anyone host Halloween parties?

Will anyone else attend?

Will families go trick-or-treating?

Is trick-or-treating a socially distanced activity?

Should I just leave a basket of candy out on the porch and call it quits when one small marauder takes it all?

Is bobbing for apples illegal?

Should it be?

Should we wear masks in the water while bobbing for apples?

Will people dress up in costume?

What will be the top costume of choice?

If we assume Halloween will not be stricken from the calendar, and that there will be costumes, and that people will dress up in them, below are the clear favorites for the Most Desirable Halloween Costume of 2020:

For those who remained single before, during, and after quarantine – 

Top Singles Costumes for Halloween 2020:

  1. The Karen – Karen with bobbed hair, crow’s feet, and a bitter expression, has already been dubbed “the scariest Halloween costume of 2020,” by Good Morning America;
  2. Hunter Biden – all you need is a crack pipe and a wire transfer. No shirt required;
  3. Mask-ed Vigilantes – no obligation to separate along party lines here. This costume can be applied to both pro, and anti, mask vigilantes.

For those who managed to find love, despite quarantine –

Top Couples Costumes for Halloween 2020:

  1. Pilots and flight attendants;
  2. A pair of Sheeple;
  3. Donald Trump and Joe Biden;
  4. Amy Coney Barrett and Ruth Bader Ginsburg;
  5. Hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir.

And for the rarest life form of all, those who managed to maintain friendships despite quarantine, and subsequent highly charged political events–

Top Group Costumes for Halloween 2020:

  1. The cast of Tiger King:
    • Joe Exotic;
    • Carole Baskin;
    • Fraudster Jeff Lowe;
    • Pony-tailed polygamist Bhagavan Antle;
    • Stool pigeon Howard Baskin;
    • Victim and tiger feed, Don Lewis.
  2. The cast of General Hospital:
    • Doctors;
    • Nurses;
    • COVID virus;
    • COVID vaccinations;
    • Ventilators;
    • N-95 Masks.
  3. The cast of former Anchorage Mayor, Ethan Berkowitz’s sex scandal:
    • Ethan Berkowitz dressed in a backless suit and carrying a selfie stick;
    • Maria Athens;
    • Molly Blakey, intermittently dispensing booze and cookies;
    • The escort known as Rae – She’s mysterious, so costumes are open to interpretation.
  4. The cast of Current Events, not to exclude:
    • Plague;
    • Pestilence;
    • Exodus (sometimes known as Brexit);
    • The Apocalypse – This can be subdivided into the Four Horsemen, and One Woman, of the Apocalypse:
      1. Scott Atlas;
      2. Alex Azar;
      3. Deborah Birx;
      4. Anthony Fauci;
      5. Mike Pence.
  5. The cast of a Zoom meeting:
    • A baby;
    • A pet;
    • A bra;
    • A toilet;
    • A thermos of vodka;
    • The Mute Button.
  6. The cast of Cancel Culture:
    • Woodrow Wilson;
    • Teddy Roosevelt;
    • J.K. Rowling;
    • The New York Times;
    • Mount Rushmore;
    • Broadway show, Hamilton;
    • And, of course, The Founders.

I myself choose not to rank costumes, but shall instead dress up as everything. On Halloween, you will find me isolated indoors eating cookies and drinking vodka out of my favorite tiger mug. Photos of Mount Rushmore will cycle repeatedly on the television, and I will don my beloved pair of fluffy sheep slippers. I will then promptly miss the mute button as I talk on the phone while doing a highly personal activity.

Every year, Sarah Brown celebrates Halloween with maximum enthusiasm. This year, she can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

Love in the Time of Corona

“‘i saw you on tinder’ Trastevere 2014” by Ithmus is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Dating behavior has changed due to the coronavirus. Singles are now encouraged to pursue socially distanced dating, be that virtually, or through wholesome, six foot spaced walks.  This phenomenon has been a boon to online dating platforms. Bumble, the dating app with the second highest userbase in the United States, saw more than a 20% increase in usage during the early days of the pandemic, and hit the 100 million user mark in July. The app is geared towards women, with females bearing the brunt of messaging matches first. Men have twenty-four hours to respond, or not.

I am a veteran online dater, and have used Bumble specifically. The field of candidates on the app is endlessly fascinating, and the details men choose to put in their profiles is telling. Over the years, I’ve honed a fool proof vetting method for profiles, based on several cardinal offenses. For example, you must have all of your clothes on in all of your pictures. Possible exceptions can be made for beach pictures, but in that case, you cannot have more than one beach picture.

And then there are the Selfie Sins:

  1. One must never post selfies in bed;
  2. One must never post selfies in the bathroom;
  3. One must never post selfies in the car;
  4. If all of the photos in your profile are selfies, I am forced to assume you have no friends, or anyone else in your life who could take your picture.

Bumble does appeal to female empowerment enthusiasts, and in keeping with this theme, users are encouraged to post information on their profile that traditionally would not be discussed in mixed company. Bumble asks users to disclose their political and religious affiliations, and whether or not the user votes. Singles can then filter out matches who do not conform to their preferred affiliations.

You can also filter by the most important quality of all— the astrological sign.

I’ve had dating success on Bumble, with “success” defined as dating people long term whom I met through the app. Those aren’t the fun stories, however. People just want to hear about the disasters.

Not to disappoint, some dates were resoundingly painful. For example, I went out with a college educated, six-foot-seven math major. He was a self-proclaimed Catholic opera lover and cello player, who now worked as a commercial fisherman. Reading all of these specifics in his profile piqued my curiosity; he sure seemed to have a lot going on.

We had coffee at Starbucks for the requisite forty-seven minutes. I asked questions, and he took full thirty second pauses before he would answer each. He would drag on his drink, look off ponderously at some destination just above my right shoulder, and sigh, “You know, I never thought about that.”

A few days after the date, he texted: “My brain hurts from your questioning. Are you always that intense?”

To be fair, I did ask him a lot of questions. Those questions, however, were about deep topics like, “What’s your favorite movie?”

After he sat silently for a time, and then announced he’d never thought about it, I downgraded to an easier level: “What’s your favorite color?”

That too was a head scratcher.

Among a few other life lessons, Bumble’s most persistent impact on me is to be skeptical of people I find on the Internet:

  1. People on the Internet may not be all there. I stopped seeing one man after he screamed about how much his genitalia hurt while we were at the Anchorage Symphony.
  2. People on the Internet do not waste time. Multiple men over the years have asked me to move in with them on the third date. One even asked me to move state lines.

And yet—

3. People on the Internet are flaky. I once had a guy miss our date at eleven in the morning on a Saturday because he did not set his alarm. Willing to give him a second chance, I agreed to meet him for lunch the following week. He texted to confirm lunch plans that morning, and then later that he was on his way.

The trouble was that he texted to say he was leaving his house in the suburbs ten minutes after the date had already started, and it would take him another twenty-seven minutes to arrive. Honestly, waiting around for another half hour would have been the death knell to my dignity.

4. People on the Internet are weird. One man’s profile had a photo of him completely nude, submerged in a bathtub full of royal blue paint. No other explanation or notation.

Sure, online dating can be fun. It can also be the source of a stellar headache. Good luck to all the Single Ladies.

Sarah Brown is the Love Doctor. Write to her at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

For the Love of Kanye

“Kanye West @ MoMA” by Jason Persse is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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I love Kanye West. He is my favorite celebrity. That is, I will take time out of my day to read any news story, or watch any television clip, in which he features.

Given all the cumulative hours I’ve spent researching Kanye, I know a bit about him. For example:

  1. Kanye once spoke uninterrupted on Ellen for nearly eight minutes. Topics included Picasso, bone density machines, shoes, Leonardo DiCaprio, bullying, being likeable, and the universe. He concluded by apologizing “to daytime television for the realness.” Ellen watched on the sidelines.
  2. Kanye once asked Mark Zuckerberg to give him $50 million. Mark Zuckerberg did not respond.
  3. Former President Barack Obama has called Kanye West “a jackass” at least twice.
  4. Kim Kardashian suggested Kanye (her husband) hire a Board of Directors to approve his Tweets. To my knowledge, said Board was never hired.
  5. In a ranking of 1 to 100, Kanye West once rated his own album 100.
  6. Kanye invented leather jogging pants.
  7. Kanye famously protested Taylor Swift’s win for the best video award at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards on stage in the middle of her acceptance speech. Following his public demonstration, he wrote her an apology song and issued a series of apology Tweets. As far as I know, while Taylor Swift did accept his apology, she never performed the apology song. He later took back all of these apologies in 2010.
  8. I confess, I don’t know why he sometimes goes by Yeezy.
  9. Kanye was, at one time, perhaps the world’s unlikeliest Trump supporter. The two, he said, “are both dragon energy.”

Kanye has long been featured on many of my dating profiles. In the world of dating apps, conversation starters can be tricky. But Kanye has never failed me with this classic: “Who is more outrageous? Kanye West or Charlie Sheen?”

Healthy, sometimes even heated, arguments would break out. Rarely would they result in dates, but they have certainly enabled me to hone my debate skills.

I always knew I found a kindred spirit when they would give my question the intellectual consideration it justly deserved.

“Did you know that Kanye once spoke uninterrupted on national television for eight minutes?”

“That’s… just damned impressive.”

“When was the last time you spoke on national television for eight minutes?”

“I blacked it out.”

“Ever watch the tape?”

“No, it’s like when you’re drunk. Best not know what was said.”

Of course, this week we all know that Kanye announced he is running for president in a scant four months. Kanye made the announcement via Twitter in a historic virtual mic drop. But, much like a mic drop, he has not quite followed through. For example, he does not appear to understand, or otherwise care, that he must file to run as president with individual states in order to appear on their respective ballots as an independent candidate. The deadline for much of this has already passed. But perhaps I’m wrong to count him out; Elon Musk has
already endorsed him, along with a minister from Wyoming.

Should Kanye run and presumably vote for himself, it will be his first time voting. Expected to file as a candidate for the “Birthday Party,” he recently announced that he decided to run for president while taking a shower. He went on the record as planning to use “the Wakanda management model” to run the White House. I cannot weigh in on the practicality of the Wakanda model as a leadership theory because I slept through Black Panther. I can confirm I have a storied history of falling asleep through a number of similarly loud movies, including Thor: Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And, yes, these were all on dates.

I don’t know Kanye West. I don’t know whether he is a good person. I don’t know whether he is faithful to Kim Kardashian, or a decent father to his four children, North West, Saint West, Chicago West, and Psalm West. But I can unequivocally say I am glad someone like him exists, and he lives life unabashedly as himself.

Sarah Brown is a narcoleptic Fan Girl. She can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @brownsclose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

Northern Exposure

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Since the onset of the coronavirus, families have lost jobs, childcare, and all semblance of schedule. Barriers are broken, boundaries eviscerated. Days bleed into one another. Friends earnestly text each other, “Happy Friday,” and then ask whether Friday is something we still celebrate.

Most of my fellow Americans have given up decorum. Kids burst into the room and enthusiastically participate in client Zoom meetings. Women pick their feet and noses in the virtual presence of friends. Men pee on conference calls.

All of this, I suppose, was to be expected. Societal structure evaporated overnight. I am certainly not immune. I’ve worn pants with snaps exactly four times in the past three months. Instead, I now do laundry loads consisting only of gym shorts, sports bras, and sweatshirts.

I was mentally prepared for my new casual life. I’ve worked from home for several years as it is, and I live on a quiet cul-de-sac in West Anchorage. The location is perfect. I’m seven minutes from either the airport or Kincaid Park. New houses spring up regularly. There’s talk of another school someday and a fire station. Aside from jet airplanes seemingly landing on my roof every Thursday at 2:30 in the morning, it’s really idyllic.

As quarantine and hunker down recommendations have persisted, however, I’ve noticed distinct changes in my neighborhood; my fellow residents have not taken well to quarantine. Unaccustomed to working from home, they have not built up the discipline to maintain societal codes of conduct during a pandemic.

My first hint that something was off was on my daily stroll to the mailbox at eleven in the morning. I approached the duplex seven doors down from mine.

A large man with a lot of wild hair was standing naked on his balcony holding a chihuahua under his arm.

If the stark contrast of the size difference between the dog and his master didn’t complete the astounding sight, the man was attempting to flirt with the hot mom next door. She was at street level, fully clothed, walking her large yellow lab, and gazing up at him with wide, concerned eyes.

“Aren’t we a funny pair?” he grinned hopefully. “I’m a big man with a tiny dog, and you’re a tiny woman with a big dog.”

I hated to break it to him, but in no universe would he and the hot mom ever be a pair.

I assumed this particular gentleman just had no sense whatsoever of propriety. I shrugged off the encounter as a unique story of life in my cul-de-sac.

That was until the second incident – the lady in the house across from mine began regularly parading around topless. She’s flagrant about it, leaving all of the interior lights ablaze. She lives with a baby and a husband, and neither seem to mind.

I wish I could be that free.

As March faded into April, April into May, and now May into June, I noticed this behavior more and more. There’s one guy who now rubs his nipples vigorously every time he mows his lawn. Another runs around outside his property in his bathrobe and underpants every week on trash day; everything from his clothes on down to his body parts flaps enthusiastically.

I reached my breaking point the day the couple a few doors down threw a wild, and very noisy, party at midnight on a Tuesday.

Having reached peak curmudgeon status, I pulled on my jacket and my mask, and tramped angrily down the street in my pink pajama bottoms, giant eyeglasses, and my hair teased on top of my head.

The door was wide open, and I burst in.

“Hey! Who owns this place?” I shouted over the music.

I received glowering looks from several young women dressed in heavy eye makeup and nothing but their underwear. More guests flitted through the entryway, similarly undressed.

We all regarded each other for a few moments, me in my oversized clothes, and the party goers in their undersized ones.

“Sup?” One young man greeted me insolently.

“Look, I have to work in the morning. I have –”

I paused and spoke the word reverently.

“—A job.”

“Sorry, we’ll keep it down,” he muttered, and turned the stereo down three tenths of a decibel.

I clumped home, and prepared to relocate to my parent’s house. Their neighbors were all over sixty-five years old, and had long since stopped seeing the fun in parties where all you wear is your underwear.

I went up to their house the following evening for dinner, and sat outside on their deck, bathing in the luxury of peace and quiet. The only other humans around were my parents’ neighbor and her friend, both sitting in a hot tub on the neighbor’s deck.

It was a hot evening, and the neighbor reached her hot tub limit in short order. She stood up, hopped out of the tub, and wiggled around the deck looking for her towel.

She was completely naked, and in full view of all of the residents of my parent’s street.

She grabbed her towel, and began pulling it vigorously back and forth, drying her nether regions.

I stared, dumbstruck, for perhaps longer than was polite. What was most perplexing however, was not the prancing naked neighbor, but her friend. The friend was dressed modestly in a bathing suit, and hot tubbing with her nude friend.

I tore myself away, walked inside, and rinsed my eyes out with chlorine.

God willing, COVID subsides this summer. Else, the Municipality may have to declare itself an official nudist colony. Granted, this would give me a legitimate reason to finally live out my fantasy of bunker life in Oklahoma.

Sarah Brown is a Never Nude. She can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @brownsclose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

In Defense of Females Over ‘Fur Babies’

“170219-106” by waferboard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Unlike our forefathers, Millennials do not get married or have children. Rather, we move in with our significant others, eventually move out again, and engage in brutal custody battles over our pets. 

Indeed, in evaluating potential mates, Millennials skip over having human children, and jump right into establishing pet relationship history.

On dating apps, the questions came daily. 

“Tell me about your fur children.” 

“Do you have any fur babies?”

No, no, I do not. And unless you have supersonic genetic material which instills a freakish level of hair on your offspring’s person, neither do you. 

Dogs are treated better than humans in other ways too. Coffee shops offer free dog treats. Where’s my free treat? I actually spent my hard earned wages on the coffee. Dogs poop with wild abandon on the sidewalks. Their owners fastidiously encase the poop in a delicate plastic bag and leave it by the side of the path, ensuring it is protected forever from the elements. Where’s my caretaker to gift wrap my poop as such, gleefully leaving it as a present for my fellow joggers?

I am allergic to dogs. I am also a Millennial. In today’s dating climate, being allergic to dogs is treated with the equivalent level of skepticism as someone with five children from previous relationships, all from different men. 

My would-be suitors rub it in. 

“I couldn’t live without Georgie! Georgie is life!”

To emphasize the point, Georgie would inevitably be brought on the date. Granted, this wasn’t always a bad thing. If the conversation stalled, we could just watch Georgie bother our fellow patrons at the appointed coffee shop.

My suitors sometimes take my dog allergy as a personal attack. One portentous sweetheart leaned towards me and looked me earnestly in the eye. 

“Rocky and I are a package deal. Rocky and I were together long before I met you,” he spat accusatorily. 

What this man did not realize was I had no intention whatsoever of separating him from Rocky. Instead, I was actively seeking a means of separating myself from the date.

“Well, of course. Isn’t that nice,” I looked around wildly for a route of escape. “Aren’t dogs the best?”

We were in the parking lot, and I inched backwards towards my car.

“Rocky’s in my truck! We go everywhere together. Wanna meet him?”

Not really.

“Why of course!” 

Date opened the door to his truck, Rocky jumped out, jumped up on Date, then jumped up on me, his tail wagging frantically.

The man pronounced the whole performance a test. “I want to see how you do with Rocky. Rocky and I are a package deal!”

I didn’t know what to say. Rocky and I are a mutually exclusive deal.

My allergy to dogs frequently outweighs my positive attributes as a partner in life. I have impeccable hygiene. I have nice hair. I’m a sparkling conversationalist. But alas, being allergic to dogs trumps all. My potential matches eventually move along.

Having extensive experience navigating this particular deficiency, I hereby offer moral support and courting tips to my fellow animal allergy ridden sisters at arms:

  1. Make your affliction known as early as possible in the dating process. On your dating profile, put the words “MASSIVE BAGGAGE” IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS – “PROCEED WITH CAUTION. DAMAGED GOODS. DOG ALLERGY. CAN NEVER LIVE WITH A DOG.” That way, any dog fanatic matches can move along to other, better, girls. You will inevitably earn fewer matches on apps, but your heart will be protected from the ultimate break of being sidelined in favor of an animal.
  2. Play up your weak nature. Alas, as a fragile female, your poor sickly lungs cannot abide being exposed to dog allergens on a constant basis. Your body is such a finely tuned machine, one alien particle throws it off its usual ticker. Surely you need a big strong man to help you navigate your daily existence.
  3. Launch a social movement. The dog people have been winning the public relations battle for years. It is time we invalids assert our rights. The next wave of feminism must avow the value of a human woman over the value of an animal.

A dog, while loveable, is unable to bring home the bacon, unless such bacon has been stolen from a neighbor’s porch. Some portion of the glory we have afforded to dogs must be reinstated to more productive beings. 

Sarah Brown is a social pariah. She can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @brownsclose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

Loitering in Lingerie

“VS Pink Angel Wings Switch Plate Cover Single Rocker Switch Cover” by code-100 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

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Why do men insist on dawdling in ladies’ lingerie departments?

To me, the mark of a well-bred man is one who stays far away from these stores.

This model of decorum was perfected by my parents during our family back-to-school shopping trips. Every year, my mother would choreograph an elaborate outing to purchase clothes for my younger brother and me. At the shopping mall of choice, she, like a kind of shopping champion, powered through the clusters of stores, hurling pants, shirts, and shoes at her two children.

Mom would scurry between the clothing racks and dressing rooms, toting around options. She would then try to confirm if there were any outfits that year I found suitable, thereby allowing me to hold off on life as a nudist for another season.

After repeating this process with my younger brother, she would bustle up to the counter, collect her bags, and shoo us out the door.

And that’s when Dad’s role would take the limelight.

My father hates shopping. Beyond hates. It paralyzes him with fear, actually. Not a grocery store trip goes by without Dad calling Mom on the phone, facing a wall of canned beans, or a display of packaged cheese. He then describes every label he sees to her in great detail, attempting to find the specific object of desire for which she sent him out searching. Even then, he gets it wrong as often as he gets it right.

On the days my mother would designate for school shopping, he would cringe, and turn an ashen shade of grey. As Mom would shovel my brother and me through the stores, he would skulk behind and skiv newspapers out of bins. With his new treasures now collected, he would find a bench, sit down, and desperately try to distract himself.

At this point in the spree, my mother would deposit the bags on the bench beside my father. My brother would manfully take his position on the bench, and Mom would lead me off to buy underwear.

But we all learned a lesson the year my brother finally reached an age to be intrigued by the feminine form. He was curious about that inner sanctum known as Victoria’s Secret, and was reluctant to join my father on the bench. Mom informed him in no uncertain terms that never ever was my brother to be found in Victoria’s Secret. 

Dad looked up from his newspaper long enough to watch Mother and Brother squabble loudly before Brother sullenly took up his designated battle station. And, satisfied the men were consigned to their proper place, Mom led me off once more.

A man’s place in Victoria’s Secret is sitting on a bench far away from it.

This idea was further reinforced when I went off to summer camp in Washington D.C. I was seventeen and the camp consisted of male and female counselors in their twenties driving several hundred teenagers around the monuments for hours while lecturing them about history and dates of great importance. We would then be sent out of the bus into the swampy heat of July, and made to run for miles around the monuments.

One night, the counselors took pity on us. Our destination was a large outlet mall, in which we would be set loose for the evening.

The head male counselor seized the microphone to give us the rules for the outing. We had to travel in pairs and be back on the bus by nine o’clock.

“Boys!” he bellowed suddenly. “Do not let me catch you anywhere near Victoria’s Secret!”

This counselor was a superman. Looking back on the sad saps I’ve dated since then, I should have asked for his hand in marriage.

Walking through shopping malls today, I am sorely disappointed by the state of America. The lingerie departments are always so crowded, mainly with people who have no reason to be there. This is not helped by the fact thatdepartment stores have an inexplicable penchant for erecting their coffee carts directly across from the bras and panties.

But aside from this fatal design error, without fail, every time I need to buy new underwear, there is a man hanging about. Be they following their wives or girlfriends, or just lurking in the background, these men do not realize they are committing cardinal breaches of shopping mall etiquette. Where were their mothers? Where were their back-to-school shopping trips?

When I was a regular at Nordstrom and needed to complete underwear-related errands, I would make a beeline for the lingerie floor. With no desire to linger, I would attempt to accomplish my panty mission in the shortest time possible.

But alas. A man and his teenage son were forever magically leaning against the exact bra rack I needed to peruse.

I would walk up and down the nearby displays, hoping they would move along. They did not, and I was forced to rummage through bra sizes in their presence.

There is nothing quite so uncomfortable as attempting to find highly personal items under the curious stare of a complete stranger.

And then there are the drawer cabinets in Victoria’s Secret. These white islands are placed in the middle of the store. Drawers can be pulled out and appropriate panties selected.

And this is where the men congregate, leaning upon them. These ne’er-do-wells watch inquisitively as I open and close the drawers, rifling through the cotton underpants. One day, one of them will offer an opinion on my choice and I will fall dead away through the floor.

Where are the feminists on this issue? Women deserve the right to work through the rocket-science-level calculations of bra sizing on their own, unmolested by men who simply must skulk around. Why are they here? Why?

And then, as I am about to despair of shopping comfortably for underpants ever again, I spot a man and his son sitting bored on a bench, a respectful hundred paces away from Victoria’s Secret.

These men are heroes. Long may they reign.

Sarah Brown is a reluctant shopper and general curmudgeon. She can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

In the Throes of Air Travel

“P1000720” by jayhay2336 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

[See Original Post here]

Air travel is a key component of my job description.

Literally. The description reads, “Expected to travel between 30% and 50% of time.”

Given how much experience I’ve had, you think I would be better at it.

Wrong.

It’s a production to get me on an airplane, all of the extensive accommodations of Alaska Airlines aside. My appearance becomes the physical manifestation of my discomfort. I don my airplane pajamas (aka clothes that are at least three sizes too big). On go my eyeglasses, away goes the flat iron, in goes my night guard. And make-up? Don’t make me laugh.

I then adopt my Very Special Air Travel Expression.

It’s the sort of expression a corpse would have, if the person who once formed that corpse had died in an eternal state of exasperation. The light leaves my eyes, my jaw goes slack. I only alter this deadpan look to glare at all of my neighbors over the top of my glasses.

Once at the airport, I typically throw my weight around. Not that I have the necessary money, power, or status to intimidate people. Rather, I literally swing my shoulder bags from side to side, yanking my suitcases through the air. Any aggressive movement will do. I want strangers to approach on penalty of death.

All of this contributes to a distinctly nasty persona. When people see me hurtling through airports, they figure they know why I’m alone.

If life were a movie plot, travellers would not be like me. Rather, attractive bubbly strangers would be seated next to each other on airplanes with alarming frequency. They would both be single and looking for love. They would bond instantaneously over shared heartbreaks/divorces/widowhoods/insert romantic tragedy here.

In all my years of air travel, I have never seen this happen. Instead, men and women get drunk at airport bars and throw themselves at unwilling strangers.

Take my recent late-night Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle. I was across the aisle from a young woman, who, like me, was wearing her airplane best. Dressed in a sweatshirt and pajama bottoms, her purple hair was in a topknot on her head. She was wearing scarlet-rimmed eyeglasses, and her acne was showing.

Nevertheless, she was being pursued by a young sloper she’d just met in the bar. With the aid of some liquid courage, he adopted all the confidence of Thor, Son of Odin, and was shouting about how he wanted to sit next to her on our mutual flight.

This plan did not excite her.

She walked on to the plane, sat down, threw up into her airsick bag, and flagged down a predictably gracious Alaska Airlines flight attendant.

“Um, there’s this guy. Like, he …”

She trailed off as she tried to bring the flight attendant into focus.

“I, like, met him in the bar. And now he’s, like, trying to sit next to me?”

The flight attendant looked at her pityingly.

“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“Okay, ‘cause, like, I don’t want to sit next to him. He’s, like. Back. There.”

She jutted her thumb over her shoulder, gesturing to the offending sloper, now sitting in his assigned seat.

The flight attendant followed her thumb.

“You know what? He’s asleep. I think you’re okay.”

The three of us turned around and, sure enough, the man was down for the count, his face mashed up against the window.

It’s not just men pursuing uninterested women on airplanes. Women also proactively live out their Hollywood “meet cute” fantasies. On a flight from Anchorage to Chicago, I spied on a middle-age woman sitting next to a similarly unprepossessing middle-aged man. Before my eyes, the woman became hopelessly infatuated with him, for no reason I could portend. She tried every feminine wile at her disposal to attract his attention. She giggled at him, whispered to him, and petted his arm continuously for the first thirty-five minutes of the flight.

That’s when he couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up, told the flight attendant he was moving to another section, and forbade the woman from following him.

If I were the woman, I would have taken the hint. However, I will never be she; I’m too busy throwing my luggage around.

Rather than accept they would not share a future together beyond the constraints of this six-hour flight, the woman grabbed her bags, and made after him. The flight attendant body blocked her like every great bouncer would, and the woman was forcibly returned to her seat, waving madly at the man to come back.

That’s why I don’t bother primping before flights; I’ve seen too many failed attempts by travelers to meet The One.

But then came the day I found myself sitting next to an acceptably cute blonde bearded guy on a flight to Los Angeles.

Alarm signals went off in my brain: “Don’t be weird! Don’t be weird!”

Naturally, the minute I brought my own weirdness to my attention, I immediately began acting bizarre; I tucked my plastic water cup into the hook holding up my tray table.

The cute guy next to me looked over at my water cup, now dangling helplessly from the seat in front of me, and frowned.

“I’ve never seen anyone do that before.”

I considered explaining that I wanted to place my cup out of my way, such that I could continue typing on my laptop. I couldn’t waste a moment’s time, after all, in plotting my takedown of the ultimate universe. And gosh, by the way, didn’t he want to accompany me on said takedown as my sidekick?

Instead, I coughed and grunted back, “Whatever works.”

            My seatmate shrugged, and went back to texting other, better, girls on his phone.

            Alaska Airlines should really cast me in a commercial. I am, clearly, the young upwardly mobile model of 21st century womanhood to whom they desperately wish to appeal.

Sarah Brown is a road warrior and connoisseur of the Alaska Airlines Economy class free snacks. She can be reached at sarah@browns-close.com, and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac.

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