Monthly Archives: February 2012

Oscars Recap: Vive La France!

Last night, approximately 39 million viewers tuned in for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Many gathered in the homes of family or friends, enjoying a spread of delightful finger foods, bountiful enough to sustain them throughout the three and a half hour broadcast. Others gathered in bars, a tradition I don’t really understand as I feel they are confusing this pageantry of film artists with some sort of aggressive, high-stakes competition. I don’t find that the Oscars evoke the same kind of rabble-rousing you experience with say a Super Bowl or a NCAA Championship. It’s kind of more like, “Good for her. She won! Ohh, and she’s crying. Good speech, good speech” And then you take a bathroom break while they announce the winners of all the shorts. I don’t know, it just seems like going to a bar to watch the Kennedy Center Honors.

Maggie and I have our own tradition of going home to watch the Oscars with our Mom. And asking our Dad to make us bow tie pasta for dinner. An Allen family favorite, bow tie pasta—made with penne pasta, so the name pretty much describes nothing about the dish—combines roughly chopped whole peeled tomatoes, Italian sausage, and cream to make the most amazing sauce you’ve ever had in your life. Throw in a couple bottles of red wine, and it feels like vacation. There’s something about being in the comforts of my childhood home that relaxes me—makes me feel like I don’t have to multitask while indulging in a nearly four hour television show that actually contains approximately 45 minutes of relevant content. Also, our mom is a delight to watch the awards with, as she has the critical eye and sharp tongue required for dealing with things like Glenn Close’s blazer-ball gown look.

Throughout the show, Maggie and I made what I would consider a successful first attempt at joint-live-tweeting. For the best insight into our opinions of last night’s charade, we invite you to check out our twitter page.  Surprisingly, there are fewer references to Jean Dujardin than you would expect (5). We really could have incorporated him into every single one, but we didn’t want to ostracize those who think of him as “just another actor.” But for real, you guys, is there anyone in the world who looks so handsome with not so great teeth? Tais-toi, mon cœur.

If you like what you read, continue to follow us @thnxforasking. Keep in mind, this is different than our initial handle, we first mentioned here. @tfablog was not sitting well with me. For some reason it just sounded like it was promoting a blog about airports. I’m still experiencing a love/hate relationship with Twitter. Mainly because as I’m reading Michael Ian Black’s tweets, I think for a moment that he is reading mine, and then I remember that our Twitter relationship is strictly one-sided. Even though I really think he would have enjoyed my burn about Brian Grazer’s face. It’s ok. My mom said it just takes one tweet to make your mark (As long as you keep it clean, she said).  Before we know it, we’ll have achieved the fame of the “Charlie Bit My Finger” siblings. That’s a pretty dated reference, but we do have home video of Maggie rolling over my body with a four-wheeler when I was approximately 11 months old, so the comparison is a sound one.

I hope you all enjoyed the Academy Awards as much as we did. In all sincerity, we found it to be a surprisingly entertaining show minus whatever the hell stunt Jennifer Lopez, her areola, and Cameron Diaz tried to pull off during the award for Best Costume Design. I would also like to mention that I received an 18/24 in my office Oscar pool, along with a special mention in today’s company-wide results email for having the wherewithal to predict Meryl Streep as the Best Actress winner.

Below are my final, overall  assessments of the broadcast, brought to you in award-form. How fitting.

Quote of the Night

“You’re only two years older than me darling, where have you been all my life?” –Christopher Plummer, to Oscar, upon winning for Best Supporting Actor

Presenter of the Night

Emma Stone. Although Chris Rock made me laugh harder, we expect that from him. Emma came out with confidence, class, and great comedic timing to boot. Additionally, the wink to Superbad co-star Jonah Hill was a nostalgic delight. It’s an impressive feat, two young, comedic actors arriving at the Oscars under such great acclaim, when only 4 years ago they were saying things like, “Hey, man, I was doing some research for next year and I think I figured out which website I wanna subscribe to. The Vag-Tastic Voyage.”

Dress of the Night

I’ll take Joan Rivers’s word for it, whatever she decides tonight on E!’s Fashion Police. In all honesty, I can’t think of a single look that stood out among the rest, and deserves to be crowned the winner. Michelle Williams and Tina Fey were equally delightful with their peplum skirts (a word I just learned last night), but I don’t know, the best? Honestly, I think my favorite look of the night belonged to ABC red carpet co-host Louise Roe. Sleeves and all people, sleeves and all.

Pre-taped Bit of the Night

As much as I enjoyed the montage of actors listing obscure titles as their favorite movie from childhood (instead of keeping it real and just admitting it’s The Goonies), the clear winner here was the Christopher Guest troupe, and their spoof on a Wizard of Oz focus group. “Was someone green?”

Disappointment of the Night

They found a way to incorporate Justin Bieber into the ceremony. Isn’t the rule with tween heart throbs that we stop paying attention to them once they get tattoos and start making out with other tweens on balconies?

Skinny, pre-pubescent arms freak me out.

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Bachelor Recap: Almost Married

**Below is the original opening to this post, which I wrote on Tuesday morning with the intent to publish later that evening. I can’t bring myself to delete it because I find it so cute how confident I was that I would finally follow my self-imposed deadline.  At least you know I really do have the best of intentions.

Look! It’s a Tuesday-Day-After-The-Bachelor miracle! The post is up, and I don’t have to hate myself for the remainder of the week for falling behind on my responsibilities. [ed. note: I hate myself.] Maybe I’ll reward myself this evening by starting season 1 of Downton Abby or taking a nice bath in the tub I cleaned yesterday. [ed. note: I did not do either of these things. As punishment.]  How was your President’s Day? I cleaned my bathroom and ate more than one bowl of ice cream (two). It was everything I wanted my day off to be. If only I didn’t have to bruise the good mood by tuning into last night’s all new episode of The Bachelor. But alas, I have made a commitment to these recaps, and if I’m not there to dissect what goes through someone’s mind when they start screaming “THIS IS WHY I DON’T LOVE!” then I fear we will never get to the bottom of it. So onward we go.

Last night Ben Flajnik traveled across the country to the four hometowns of his remaining suitors. Four places I hope never to find myself: Ocala, Florida, Clarksville, Tennesse, Fort Worth, Texas, and Scottsdale, Arizona. I feel like these towns are filled with the kind of people who voted for Scotty McCreary on American Idol. Even Ben seemed to have trouble ratcheting up enthusiasm for this high-stakes episode. He presented the kind of ho-hum personality we have come to know and resent, but would leave any loving parent, upon introduction, with a great deal of concern for their daughter’s future.  In Ocala, Florida, Ben and Lindzi were reunited for an equestrian-themed adventure. In homage to the first night they met, Lindzi greeted Ben on horseback, though this time in the more appropriate ensemble of jeans and spurred cowboy boots. Giddy up! Ben admits, “I’d like to say I’m more familiar with horses, but I would be lying.” Well your honesty is appreciated Ben because if my mother taught me one thing, it is to never lie about your knowledge of horses. In the past this has prevented me from attending Kentucky Derby parties and talking through Seabiscuit. Lindzi is really excited for Ben to see her in her element; “Horses have been my life since before I was born. I learned to ride before I learned to walk!” According to a quick Google search, I am told on average, a healthy child will take its first steps between the ages of 10 and 15 months. I don’t mention this to pick apart what was meant to be a light-hearted anecdote, but rather to take a moment to picture what it would like if a tiny baby was riding a horse. This is how I get through the show. After Lindzi and Ben rode around in some horse-drawn, buggy-Gladiator-chariot contraption, they sat down for a picnic. At one point, Ben leaned in for a kiss, and you guys, I tell you my gag reflex kicks in just thinking about it. A mere moment before kissing her, he stuck his tongue out, licked his lips, slurped his tongue back in, and then leaned in to kiss her with his mouth open. I started screaming. When they arrive at Lindzi’s parents house, Lindzi introduces them to her “boyfriend” (oh, Lindzi) and her father immediately gets things moving in the right direction, announcing, “I have some wonderful, chilled chardonnay.” Now there is a man after my own heart. There is more gratuitous chariot racing, before the foursome settle down around a fire, drinking wine out of glasses that appeared to be mason jars glued to wine stems. During a private moment, Lindzi confesses to her mom that she is falling in love with Ben. This concerns Mrs. Lindzi, who explains she doesn’t want to see her daughter heartbroken, should Ben choose someone else. If I were to interpret Mrs. Lindzi’s concern on a deeper level, I would say it served more as a reminder to be wary of falling in love with someone who is unwilling to reciprocate the emotional commitment you’re offering. It’s kind of like marrying a guy who proposed to you only after you gave him a deadline.

Despite the listed concerns from Mrs. Lindzi, both parents offer Ben their blessing, telling him they would be honored to have him as their son-in-law. Really? You just met the guy and he’s dating three other women. Isn’t that putting the cart before the horse? Yes! Come on, it’s Lindzi. Horse puns are encouraged, if not mandatory! As the Oscala date comes to an end, Ben tells the camera that he might be falling in love with Lindzi, in a tone on par with one thinking he may have solved 15 Across in the daily crossword. You got him, Lindzi! Hook, line, and sinker!

Next up, Ben visited Kacie B. in Clarksville, Tennessee! I picture an Old Prospector at the town border, there to greet you when you enter. But the kind of prospector who has sinister intentions, like Kelsey Grammer in Toy Story 2. Kacie B. welcomes Ben to Clarksville with the saddest rainy day parade you’ve ever seen. Members of a high school marching band accompanied Kacie B. on a damp field, while she twirled her baton in front of Ben, for the second time this season. I’m a little confused as to why she thinks talents honed in high school are the way to keep a man. Though I have been tempted in the past to perform a monologue from The Mousetrap on a third or fourth date (I played Miss Caswell my junior year—a strange, aloof, masculine woman), I’ve always managed to hold back. Ben applauds, the way you applaud for a toddler who has just finished reciting the ABC’s, and then the two sit down for a sad, rainy day chat. Kacie B. tells Ben that the field she performed on was actually named after her grandfather, with a story that felt a bit tired—even to those of us who were hearing it for the first time. So far Kacie B. is 0 for 2 on this date.

Before heading to her parents’ house, Kacie B. warns Ben that her father is a federal probation officer who doesn’t drink. “Well that’s great! I’m a wine maker and my business is booze!” Name a really bland, doofy cartoon character. Ben is like that person’s duller brother. The front door opens to Kacie B.’s home, and we meet her parents: MARTHA and DENNY. You guys, those are MY parents’ names. Except the only people who are allowed to call my dad (Dennis) Denny, are his childhood friends. He has a huge problem with adult men who still have a “y” at the end of their name. He also has a huge problem with bachelor men who can’t keep a tidy bathroom, so he’s pretty much my hero. Poor Kacie B., nothing about this date went smoothly, as her parents spent nearly the entire time reminding both of them how serious marriage is, and if they moved in together before they got married, they would pretty much be burned at the stake. And not by God–by Martha and Denny themselves. During a private conversation with her father, Kacie B. admitted that she had fallen in love with Ben, to which Denny responded, “If he were to ask me if he could marry you, I would say no.” Kacie B.’s timid frustrations tell me she spent the first 18 years of her life under her father’s thumb, then started to assert her independence when she moved out of the house and added the b-word to her vocabulary, but continues to cower under his disapproval whenever they are reunited. Just a thought. Ben appears discouraged by this family dynamic—perturbed by the ruling that an engaged couple should not live together, but rather spend lots of quality time with each other outside a reality show setting, before tying the knot. Dictators! Ben says goodbye and I imagine went back to his hotel room and watched some indecent adult pay-per-view. Just to remind himself who’s boss.

Fort Worth, Texas was the next stop on Ben’s itinerary, and there, was welcomed by a very, very eager Nicki. “Last time I brought a man home under these circumstances, I married him! And now I’m bringing Ben home under these circumstances!” I would not be surprised if Nicki had a life size cut out of Ben in her bedroom. And by bedroom I mean, tucked under the sheets of her bed with smeared lip gloss all over his cardboard face. For the Nicki-planned portion of the date, she decided to take Ben shopping for cowboy boots and cowboy hats. Did Ben pull off this look? I’ll let you be the judge:

But the answer is no. He looked like he was playing The Cowboy in an elementary school variety show titled “The Prairie Valley All-Stars Present: Hold Your Horses!” They stroll over to a local watering hole (is that Texan for bar? I don’t feel like looking it up—but I mean bar), order a couple of drinks, and Nicki continues to act like a pageant kid hopped up on Pixy Stix. A lot of big eyes, superfluous gestures, and way over-the-top laughter: “HAHAHAHAHA!” Doesn’t flirting that hard give you a headache? I know I have one. At the tail end of their afternoon date, before heading to her parents’ house, Nicki admits that she doesn’t want to beat a dead horse with this whole “I’m divorced” thing, but, it’s really important that she keeps talking about it so that everyone is clear she is worthy of marrying again. “People think I gave up, BUT I DIDN’T.” Ahh, its ok! We know! Lots of people get married more than once! No judgment, Nicki. Just settle.

The actual meeting of the parents was a bit of nonevent. Sure you had your typical, “Oh Mama, I really think he’s the one!” mother-daughter moment, but by the third hometown visit, all of this begins to feel stale and so I started online shopping for a desk. Ever since coming across this image on Pinterest, I have decided my life would be more fabulous with a desk in my room:

It will require having a bedroom that fits more than a full size bed and a dresser, but I figure I could buy a desk, and then apartment shop around it. Anyway, the Fort Worth, Texas date really started to pick-up steam at the end, when Nicki pulled Ben into a bedroom to lay all her feelings on the line. Nicki expresses these feelings in vague assertions like, “When you want that and you know you want that, that’s when you know you really love someone.” You said that perfectly, Nick. Whether or not Ben is starting to develop similarly aggressive feelings for Nicki is irrelevant, as I would say this final interaction was more about Nicki guilting him into keeping her around one more episode. What’s the harm right? It’s all just a game that ends in the proposition of marriage. This show is turning me into a greater cynic than I already was.

The final stop on this whirlwind tour is Scottsdale, Arizona, where I think we the audience were more excited than Ben to learn exactly what kind of environment someone like Courtney came out of. The fact that it’s Arizona already says volumes to me. I imagine the people who choose to live in Arizona are the kind of people who get Cheesecake Factory carry-out at least once a week. So I can’t say I’m surprised someone as humorless and unimaginative as Courtney grew up there. Arizona’s cultural shortcomings aside, I come to find out that Courtney’s parents and sister are all perfectly lovely people. It makes you wonder how Courtney turned out to be such a manipulative twit. She’s doing wrong by the Roberts name, I tell you! Courtney’s dad was my personal favorite, sitting poolside, dressed in a crisp, white button down shirt paired with an argyle sweater vest—but keeping it real with blue jeans on the bottom–and sipping a glass of chardonnay. In a proper wine glass, mind you. None of that hobo mason jar, build-your-own wine glass we were introduced to in Oscala. Rick Roberts gave a toast, welcoming Ben into their home, and I longed for the return of summer when I too can sit around a colorful patio table, enjoying a glass of wine, and admiring the cacti-themed tablescape in front of me. Courtney’s sister cut right to the chase, asking Courtney if she is falling in love with Ben, or already in love with him. Only in the world of this show do people ever concern themselves with this discrepancy. Does it really matter? Isn’t the question we’re really trying to get answered here whether or not she plans on accepting a proposal from this bozo? Courtney clarifies her feelings, stating that she likes/loves Ben and somewhere Nicki’s head is exploding from this noncommittal response. Courtney’s mom Sherry, always the skeptic, tells the camera, “I would be very surprised if she was in love with him.” GIRL, WE ALL ARE! But in a private conversation with her mom, Courtney assures her that she and Ben are happy together and this gives Sherry “a newfound appreciation for new love.” That sounds like something a Drew Barrymore character would say in a movie called The Hidden Love Flower’s Treasure. Outside, in awkwardly placed lawn chairs, Rick and Ben discuss the travails of marriage. Now, here is where Rick and I do not see eye to eye. He tells Ben, “Marriage is life’s greatest gamble. And there’s only a 50% chance of winning.” No! I’m sorry, you don’t enter a marriage with a 50% chance you’ll get divorced. That’s not how it works. If two people make a thoughtful and confident decision that they would like to get married, and then spend their marriage working on sustaining the love and respect that their relationship was built on, then they will stay married 100% of the time. If something happens during the course of the marriage that causes one or both adults to decide that they should no longer be married, then they get divorced. But whatever the end result is, it wasn’t happenstance. It’s not a scratch-off ticket, for God’s sake. But to get myself back in Rick’s corner, I agree that, should Ben and Courtney get married, it would be a gamble, and there would be a 98% chance that they would get divorced. So good on you, Rick, for bringing this to young Ben’s attention.

After the Roberts said goodbye to Courtney and Ben, the two headed over to Courtney’s favorite park in Scottsdale. A beautiful, green park, to my surprise, as I imagine all landscaping in Arizona to consist entirely of rock, dirt, and concrete. Courtney explains that this is a popular or perfect place to get married. I can’t remember exactly–my mind wandered over to the home décor section of the Anthropologie website at this point, so I was no longer listening for details. The point is, Courtney staged a wedding in this park so that she could tell Ben she loves him in the proper setting. The proper setting being a WEDDING. They walk over to the dozen or so chairs that had been arranged for all of the guests that had not been invited to the faux-ceremony and Courtney pulls two notebooks out of her purse so that she and Ben may write their vows. She also rummages around in there long enough to find two homemade rings, and a bow tie for Ben. After a few minutes of free-form vow brainstorming, the two reunite under the makeshift altar, and the officiator proceeds with the ceremony. Again, I was pretty tied up looking at sheet/quilt combinations, but I managed to transcribe this much of Ben’s vows: “From the moment I saw you, you took my breath away. Is this too good to be true? The answer I found in Belize was, no. I find myself falling for you more and more.” Better still was Courtney’s reaction to these words: “You just wrote that?!” Um, yeah Courtney. Those sentiments just fluttered out of his brain and onto the page in mere moments. Magic, huh? Courtney’s vows were straight up plagiarized from the Sex and the City series finale when Carrie tells the Russian, “I’m looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.” Unfortunately, she kept going, adding, “I want to treat you right, every day and every night.” There’s nothing like throwing in a bit of Dr. Seuss to show a man you’re serious. This whole charade goes as far as having each person say, “With this ring I thee wed…” before the officiator laugh-mumbles that this not a real wedding. I had started to hope it was real and then the show would be over and we’d all be out of our misery. The two were carted off in an SUV, with “Almost Married” graffitied across the back windshield. I like to think that the two of them sitting in the backseat of that car played out similarly to the final scene of The Graduate.

All four women and Ben arrive back in LA, returning to The Bachelor chateau for the first time since their journey began. Chris Harrison sits Ben down in his study, for a round-up of the four hometown dates. All of this rehashing feels extraneous as we know Ben has made up his mind and Chris Harrison saying things like “They literally rolled out the red carpet and marching band for you!” is just delaying the inevitable. The rose ceremony begins and I am all but certain Nicki is going home. The first rose goes to Courtney—duh, they’re married. Next is Lindzi. And then, in a moment that had me gasp and slap my hand over my mouth, Nicki’s name is announced, leaving Kacie B. rose-less. I. Was. Shocked. Nicki and Lindzi immediately turn to console her, while Courtney slightly edges her body near the group, before stepping away entirely, and looking at Ben like, “Sheesh, what’s her problem?” Ben escorts Kacie B. out of the house, while she meekly tells him “It’s fine!” for totally leading her (and America!) on all these weeks. Once she gets into the limo, things quickly go downhill, revealing an ugly cry I haven’t seen since I followed Farrah’s story on Teen Mom. “I had no clue this was coming. I’m so upset…This is why I don’t love! What the fuck happened? WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED??” It quickly spiraled out of control, going from a Bachelor: Diaries of the Departed moment, to an Intervention: My Family Betrayed Me moment.

So Kacie B. is gone and the final three move on to Switzerland. Just one step closer to the inevitable moment when Ben proposes to Courtney and she responds, “Umm, I don’t know if I feel the same way.” That’s my guess, anyway.

Until next week!

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My Good Deed For the Day: Online Shopping

As Catherine mentioned, our “State of the Blog” meeting earlier this week devolved into a tutorial on how she should be using Pinterest (I have a pin that’s been repinned over 400 times. Not to toot toot, but I’m pretty good at this.)

I have no idea why this pin was so popular. I mean, it's a cute outfit, but still...

One of the good things that came out of this meeting (other than the Valentine’s Day Starbursts she gave me) was her showing me these shoes she bought:

Which are so fecking adorable, I just ordered the exact same pair for myself. We have a pretty lenient policy in my family towards copycat dressing. After an incident when I was in 5th grade and Catherine bought the same black fleece vest from Express that I had, and I pouted for a week, we’ve been pretty forgiving when one person buys something the other has. Because imitation is the highest form of flattery! So she and I have, among other things, the exact same winter coat. And Sperry Top-Siders. And sunglasses. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. We probably get this from our mother. First of all, she liked to dress us alike when we were little.

Just kidding. She was not responsible for dressing us in matching crushed velvet leotards. This was for a dance recital. Here is us actually dressed alike, probably from Christmas:

Also, she is also the worst offender on the copycat front. My mom is the only person I like to go shopping with, because she has great taste and, as mentioned before, I am a terror to shop with and she is the only person who doesn’t make me feel guilty for taking an eternity to decide what I want to buy. However, our shared tastes and shopping trips have resulted in her copying many of my purchases. Off the top of my head, I know we own the same pair of white jeans, a pair of capris and a skirt from Anthropologie, as well as numerous blouses and dresses from Ann Taylor. Which presented a problem mainly because, up until recently, we worked in the same building. And would go get Diet Cokes together most afternoons. And after the first few times we met in the lobby wearing the exact same outfit, we realized we had to start planning this a little better.

The best part was, most of the time she wouldn’t tell me she was buying the same thing as me, and would instead go back to the store and pick it up surreptitiously, and then try to hide it from me for as long as possible. For example, we were once shopping in Talbots (yes, Talbots! They pulled an Ann Taylor and are having a resurgence. Trust.), and while she was in the dressing room, apropos of absolutely nothing, she says, “Maggie, I have to tell you something.” Which naturally I assumed was going to be either that she was dying or divorcing my father, because I am a maniac and that is immediately where my head goes. Instead it was to tell me this: Remember the raincoat I had bought at the after-Christmas sales in December? Well, a few months later, she accidentally on purpose bought the same one, and had been hiding it from me. Literally. She once saw me outside of our office building in my coat when she was wearing it and HID FROM ME so I wouldn’t know she had bought the same coat as me. Needless to say I did not care, although it did add another level of complication to our Diet Coke dates from then on.

Anyways, the TOMS shoes are backordered until at least April 10th, which means when they finally arrive I will have totally forgotten about them, and it will be like getting a special gift from a secret admirer. And it will be spring and I will wear them everywhere and be so, so happy.

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Bachelor Recap: Maybe I’m Realizing It’s Really Real Now

I’ve been on a losing streak lately, in terms of getting these Bachelor recaps to you in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, my intention is always to have them posted by end of day Tuesday, when memories of Ben’s tank tops and vacation hair are still fresh in your mind. But for the third week in a row, I’ve had after-work commitments almost every night that have deterred me from reaching this goal. Not to say that my ranks as a Chicago socialite are on the rise; this past Wednesday, for example, my sister and I had scheduled an evening blog meeting, which turned into a two hour lecture on how I need to start operating my Pinterest account with more discretion. I’m sure you can understand why, after that lengthy discussion, I just wanted to eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup and go to bed. But this is why I take thorough notes on Monday nights, so that when I finally do sit down to write these recaps, I can transport myself back to exactly how frustrated and flabbergasted I felt during the show. And so we begin!

This week, Ben traveled to Belize to meet up with the six women still contending for his heart. This episode, that brings six contestants down to four in preparation for the at-home dates, is now officially my least favorite episode of The Bachelor season, as it calls attention to the most inherent flaw of this program: this is not a show about finding true love, it’s about winning a competition. And the more these women receive confirmation that they are more desirable than the women around them getting sent home, the more motivated they are to keep pushing until they are crowned the winner, and take home the top prize. In this episode, you can see each woman scrambling to come up with the right thing to do or say in order to guarantee herself a rose. For most, who have already employed tactics like laughing at his jokes and pressing their chest against his when giving him a hug, this means raising the stakes, and announcing to Ben that they are falling in love with him. The fact that Ben (and all other Bachelors that have come before him, mind you) takes this proclamation at face value, not questioning for a moment the sincerity or probability of such a strong emotion forming in such a short period of time, only encourages the women to believe what they are saying is true. And then suddenly, one of them is engaged to a man that has never dated her monogamously, he rolls his eyes when she asks him to text her when he’ll be home, and suddenly their break-up is splashed across the covers of tabloid magazines.

But I’ll try and put my cynicism and smugness on the back burner for now. Ben is in Belize, where the culture is slower, and allows more time to reflect on his experience so far, and prepare for the journey ahead. Really? You haven’t found anytime in the past few weeks for reflection? The beaches of Puerto Rico were too fast-paced for you? Ben is also wearing a tank top while he is telling me this, so I am feeling particularly irked. The only time a man should be wearing just a tank top, is the ten seconds it takes to place a regular shirt over his undershirt. That’s my opinion, but I think we’d all be in a better place if it was shared universally. [Ed. Note: I feel strongly that a man’s shirt should always be thick enough that there is no need to wear an undershirt beneath it, and therefore the only time a man should be wearing a tank top is if it is a beater and he is a sexy fireman. ~Maggie] Chris Harrison announces that while in Belize, there will be three intimate one-on-one dates and one group date. This added description of “intimate” turned out to be a bit superfluous, as the most intimate thing that happened on any of these dates was the likely wedgie Lindzi received when she jumped out of a helicopter into the ocean.  Before we get to the first date card (which arrived 2 minutes into the episode), Kacie B. confessed to the camera that she is as in love with Ben as she can get, which, even for this show, feels a bit early to plateau in a relationship.  Despite her eagerness, Kacie B. was not the first recipient of a one-on-one date, that honor, instead, went to Lindzi. No one took the news harder than Nicki, who tearfully told the camera, “Maybe I’m realizing its really real now.” Hopefully you’re realizing a couple of other things about yourself in this moment, Nicki. Lindzi’s date card read, “Two halves make a whole.” This reminded me of last week’s episode of 30 Rock when Liz and Criss go to Ikea and she finds him shopping in the Valentine’s Day section:

“Look salt and pepper shakers. You put them together, they make a heart!”

‘Take them apart…two, red sperms!”

Exactly, Liz Lemon. Exactly. Ben escorts Lindzi onto a fucking helicopter and I double-check my DVR to make sure I didn’t select last week’s episode. He takes her to the most special location in Belize, which to my surprise was not just…Belize. They arrived at the Blue Hole, an area of the ocean that is surrounded by coral reef—a popular locale for scuba divers and reality television show location scouts. The challenge portion of the date required Lindzi and Ben to jump out of the helicopter as it hovered above the Blue Hole. Now, I’m big on safety—I’m the girl who will push and shove my way into securing a seatbelt for myself when crammed in the backseat of a car with five or six other people—so I was alarmed to see neither of them were wearing a life jacket. Lindzi played the damsel in distress role surprisingly well (I had higher hopes for you, Lindzi), which only perpetuated the idea in Ben’s head that he is some sort all-knowing Brawny man. Lindzi summons the courage to jump, telling us, “He’s worth the fall!” Him? They jump, Lindzi draws a comparison to falling out of a helicopter and falling in love with Ben, and phase one of this date is complete. Back on land, all freshened up for an evening of love confessions, Lindzi and Ben walk along a dock until they come across an array of pillows, blankets, and candles. “Oh, is this us?” You really have to ask at this point? Lindzi tells Ben that she is really falling for him, which led to this conversation:

Ben:I feel like if we can continue down this path of every date getting better and better…….its great!

Lindzi: Yeah!

God, why won’t those two just get married already! Ben did not have a rose to offer Lindzi as roses are not allowed on the one-on-one dates this episode, but its safe to say he’ll keep her around for at least another week. They did jump out of a helicopter together, after all.

The next date card arrives in the lady room, and Courtney assures us that if it is not addressed to her, she may not accept a rose at the rose ceremony. I love when people promise me they might not do something. It sends a chill up my spine. Emily is invited on the second one-on-one date with a card that asks, “Do you Belize in love?” Not anymore I don’t. Ben greets Emily with two bicycles: “We’re going to ride some bikes through town. I have some other stuff planned, but we’re going to start with the bikes.” I have a sneaking suspicion that Ben is the kind of guy who explains why a joke is funny immediately after he tells it. Once they hit Town Square, they ditched the bikes and spent the rest of the day trying on rings and inviting themselves into a game of pick-up basketball. Americans are the best. Later, as they strolled the streets of Belize, Emily and Ben stumbled across a man down in the water, preparing fresh lobsters for dinner. His had already been assigned plates, so if they wanted to have lobster for dinner, they would have to dive in and capture two themselves. I was waiting for Ben to say something like, “If Emily is willing to capture a lobster, it shows me she’s willing to capture my heart.” But I think he was too distracted by those slippery little fellas making him look like an ass. After they successfully captured two, Emily and Ben sat down for dinner, where Ben posed “the hardest question of the night.” Is she ready for him to meet her family? Emily, flustered, can’t find the words to answer his question, so she begins by talking about Courtney. Perfect. Emily expresses her regret for the umpteenth time–how sorry she is for talking about Courtney (SO STOP), but how happy she is that she was able to really focus on Ben today. This is great, because it is such a huge step in a relationship to find peace with your boyfriend dating other people. Emily extends a formal invitation to Ben to come home and meet her family and Ben gives her the “maybe I will, maybe I won’t” look of a man who is drunk with power.

Back in the hotel room, the final one-on-one date card arrives and Courtney assures us that if her name is not on that invitation, she will NOT accept a rose at the rose ceremony. For real this time, you guys, seriously. Courtney is in fact the final recipient of a one-on-one date, and shows no signs of embarrassment for acting like a pouty baby up until the moment she got exactly what she wanted.  Kacie B. said it best, “It’s not because I’m jealous of her, it’s because she’s the shittiest person I’ve ever met in my LIFE.” Yes, that didn’t sound jealous or threatened in the least. On her way to meet Ben, Courtney tells us that this date will be really telling for her; where things are with Ben, etc. “I need more and he knows that.” And I need so much less of both of you. Ben and Courtney walk through the jungle until they come across the temple that they will be climbing in order to reach their picnic basket at the top. Once they get settled up there, Courtney immediately starts rambling to Ben about how hurt she was that he selected Emily for a one-on-one date when he knows how awful she has been to her, and if he hadn’t chosen her for the final date, she would have gone home, and gosh, she’s just doesn’t have that spark anymore! “I lost the spark babe!” You can see the panic in Ben’s eyes, “I’m starting to fall for this woman and maybe she’s not feeling the same way! I would be crushed!” When you read that sentence, don’t you hear his voice cracking? Me too. Ben pacifies Courtney’s doubts and fears by telling her how amazed he is that she’s been able to hang on and how hard it is for him to not be able to console her. If Courtney invited Ben into her house made of gingerbread, how long would it take her to convince Ben to climb into the oven? During dinner, Courtney continues to focus on the other girls and what wretches they are to live with. “From day one I’ve tried to be nice to everyone and get to know them…They’re so vanilla and they’re very into themselves…It’s exhausting when you don’t enjoy someone’s company and you have to spend every day with them.” That sounds like the attitude of the warm, generous person you’re looking for, Ben! Ben, oblivious to all the puppet strings Courtney has tied to him, decides he needs to back off his inquiries before he upsets her even more: “When I bring it up she gets really defensive and I don’t want to keep pushing it because I don’t want her to think that I’m attacking her.” Really? What happened to, “I suggest you try and focus on us. And tread lightly.” Is that not how we treat models? Only PhD students? Noted.

Finally it’s time for Kacie B., Rachel, and Nicki to go out on their group date with Ben. This time there will be a rose at stake, so everyone better be on their best behavior and hope that they’re Kacie B. because we already know, of the three, Ben likes her the most! Ben surprises the women by waking them up at the crack of dawn and telling them to get ready. There is a mad dash to shave armpits and legs, before throwing on a swim suit and meeting him down on the beach. Ben surprises me by wearing a tank top again, and I believe we’re up to three this episode. Seriously, I’d rather see you in a turtleneck. On today’s date, Ben will be escorting the ladies onto a boat where they will eventually swim with the sharks. I’m so tired of these outdoor challenges being used as some scale to determine how dedicated each woman is to Ben. If a man was like “Climb this mountain to prove that you can overcome any obstacle with me,” I’d be like, “I’ll do it for any other reason.” Rachel has a convenient fear of sharks and is able to steal most of Ben’s attention for this reason. Nicki and Kacie B. felt a bit of frustration over this development, which seemed silly to me, as Rachel is the most obvious contestant to go home this episode. After the shark adventure, the foursome came back to the hotel patio and Ben carved out some one-on-one time for each lady so that they could effectively confess they’re falling in love with him. Nicki seems most excited by this, telling us, “Not long after we got here I said the words “falling in love” without spazzing out…I’m falling in love with Ben and I told him that!” No, that was pretty spazzy Nicki. Kacie B. receives the rose (duh) and we move onto another “beware of Courtney” conversation, this time lead by Nicki. Ben looks legitimately concerned, but not concerned enough to actually do anything about it.

At the rose ceremony, most of the women have adopted a more somber tone, knowing that nearly half of them would be going home that night. Save Courtney, who insisted everyone relax and have a drink, “Ben is not the only guy in the world!” Not exactly traditional Bachelor talk, but Courtney is clearly not a rules girl. Chris Harrison arrives and tells the women there will not be a cocktail party this evening, Ben feels confident he has made his decision. As the women line up, Ben arrives and asks to speak to Courtney privately. As much as the producers wanted us to believe that Ben was strongly considering what the other women had said about Courtney, and he was genuinely checking in with her to see if she was in this competition for the right reasons, Ben was clearly just doing his due diligence here. She could have said, “I mean, I don’t know if you’re my type, but maybe that’s because Emily is so annoying!”, and he would have thought, “See! Everything is fine.” Courtney receives a rose, along with Nicki and Lindzi, and Rachel and Emily are sent packing. Rachel cries to the camera, “I feel very rejected. It’s another disappointment. I’m really tired of disappointment.” Well if that’s the case, I would like to retroactively advise you not to go on a show where you are competing against 25 women for one man. Emily holds it together pretty well, and I admire her for it. In fact, I imagine as Emily watches this season unfold at home, she is relieved that goon never made it to her parents’ house.

Next week we travel around the country to visit the four remaining contestants in their home towns! How soon into his visit will Lindzi get Ben up on a horse? What will Courtney say about Ben to her parents? How many times will Nicki cry when her divorce is brought up at the dinner table? Thanks to this late recap, we’re only two days from finding out!

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@thnxforasking #howdoesthisworkagain?

Thanks For Asking is now on Twitter! So far we have one follower (it’s actually Maggie on her personal account) and have tweeted three things! All of which have been deleted because they all fell along the lines of “How does this work?” and “Am I doing this right?” and “How does our handle look when we do this?” It’s a slow going process. But we encourage you to follow us, even if you think Twitter is only good for passive aggressive celebrity feuds and keeping track of which Fashion Week shows Rachel Zoe is attending/running late for. I myself was tutored in Twitter for the first time tonight by Maggie. Although she has been on it for a few months now, it still felt a bit like the blind leading the blind. Every third question I had was met with a huffy, “I don’t know!” But we felt it time to increase our exposure, and offer even more pop culture perspective than we can provide in a blog setting. This should include live blogging of some of our favorite–or least favorite–shows, general musings, and re-tweeting every time Mindy Kaling shares a photo of her latest manicure. We love her style. It’s accessible yet totally enviable. So check us out! You can follow us here, or by searching for @thnxforasking. Hopefully there will be something to read by morning!

I’m not selling this very well, am I?

I’ll also share a pic when I’m wearing something like this. But that’s a given.

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My Date With a Jehovah’s Witness: A Valentine’s Day Story

So, it’s Valentine’s Day. This is not a holiday that incites any strong feelings on my part, in one way or the other. I save my excitement for real holidays, like Christmas and the Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day. And my resentment towards festivities that are only fun for couples is aimed at weddings (Just kidding! I love weddings! Didn’t you see my Pinterest board?)

But, I’ve been looking for an excuse to share the story of my greatest date with you guys, and I figured this heart-shaped holiday was as good a time as any. A few years ago, while out celebrating a friend’s birthday, I was approached by a gentleman at a bar. He cut to the chase, asked me out, and because I was flattered and have a hard time saying no to people, I said yes. Also, he was cute! Why wouldn’t I say yes!?

What happened over the course of the few hours we spent together was so awesomely weird, I had to share it with everyone I knew. So the next day I summed up the entire thing in a NYMag-style +/- index and sent it to my friends. Here is that email:

  • He suggests going to the Reagle Beagle. -1 for the CTA ads like this that make it look like a hole-in-the wall grease pit. But +3 for it being a legitimately nice establishment.
  • The place is empty: -1
  • But they have half-price bottles of wine! +2
  • He is not wearing the fedora he had on the night I met him +5. Instead, he is calmly attired in jeans and a t-shirt +1. But he is wearing that awful cologne that guys have that makes them smell like an Abercrombie store -1.
  • Conversation is flowing smoothly. This isn’t so bad. +3
  • Conversation hits a bumpy patch when he basically asks me to detail my entire dating history (how often I date, how many relationships I’ve had, how long they have lasted). Minus only 1 for the question, but -3 for him repeatedly insisting that I answer, after I politely, and then less politely, demurred.
  • He has an interesting and respectable sounding job managing a computer system at a hospital. +2 And is starting a business/IT master’s program in the fall + 2. He also mentions, in a non-braggy way, that he got a job with a bank and they basically paid for him to go to college. So he must be smart +5.
  • He explains a “business plan” to me that involves creating a social network that people pay to belong to. Huh? If people won’t pay to join Facebook, they won’t pay to join your sad start-up site. I was an English major, and even I know that. -3.
  • At this point we are sitting at a high-top, alone at the front of the bar. Then two guys come in and sit down at the table right next to us. We are clearly on a first date, and therefore I am mortified. No points awarded or deducted. Just awful.
  • While turning my head to get something out of my purse (Chapstick?), I see him lean over and put something down in front of me. What are these? Business cards? (-1, because no one likes a braggy show.) Playing cards? Is he going to do a magic trick? (-1, because no one likes David Copperfield.) Oh no, it is so much worse. He has handed me a stack of about ten cards that are the size of business cards. They are laminated. Each card says something different. He asks me to pick the card that best describes how I am feeling about the date at this point. Some of my options are:
    • You seem interesting
    • Lame
    • The chance that I will go on a second date with you is 80%…and rising
    • I’m not listening to anything you’re saying because all I can think about is covering you in chocolate M&Ms
    • The chance I will go on a second date with you is 50%…and dropping
    • You have the looks and personality of the Greek god Zeus
  • WHAT!?!?! -20.
  • I pick the Zeus card. I don’t know what else to do. He seems genuinely flattered, which is kind of cute. +3
  • He causally mentions that he used to be a Jehovah’s Witness (-8), but he left that awhile ago (+4).
  • Because he was forced to go door-to-door selling religion as a child, he has developed a very friendly personality that draws people to him +4. This allows him to go out by himself, and still be able to meet people. + 2, because that’s a good character trait, but -1 because it’s also weird. And -3 for my realization that he was probably by himself when I met him. At a bar. On a Saturday night.
  • Oh my god, the cards are back. -20
  • This time I pick the one that says “This is fun, but don’t order another drink because I’m going to leave soon.” He takes it pretty well. +1
  • The bill comes. He laughs off my attempt to pay. +3
  • I hail a cab and he gives the cab driver money. Swoon. Also, +5

I realize the fact that I compiled this pro-con list may make me sound like a judgmental wench, but I think I gave him a pretty fair grade. He was very sweet, and a gentleman, but even this couldn’t save him from from the awfulness of the date rate cards (which, to be clear, he made himself).

Can you top this? Because there is nothing I love more than bad date stories. Leave yours in the comments section-this will be so fun!

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Pop Culture Weekend Recap: We’ve Had a Death In Our Family

I took a trip up north to the suburbs this weekend to babysit for the kids I used to nanny for full-time. I still sign-up for the occasional weekend gig with them because, one, I nannied these children for three years and I like to carve out time from my busy life to nourish the relationships I built, and two, every four to six days I find myself broke as jokes and the supplemental income helps a great deal. I was also lead to believe I would be receiving the Girl Scout cookies I ordered from the oldest and was sorely disappointed to learn they did not have time to pick up the orders that day. I recovered from the loss by eating deep dish pizza last night, so, don’t worry you guys. I generally try to avoid being on or near my phone while babysitting because in the past when I’ve had it out and about, the kids fight over it and it comes back to me with so many grimy fingerprints on it, I start to resent them and, well, it’s just a situation worth avoiding. So after I put them to bed on Saturday, I came downstairs and discovered six missed calls, two voicemails, and a single text message from my friend Meg. “Whitney Houston died?!?!?” I immediately flipped on the television and was met with commercials on every news network I could find. AT A TIME LIKE THIS?! Shortly thereafter, the news returned and there, in bold, block letters at the bottom of the screen, was the sad confirmation I was seeking: Whitney Houston was dead. By the way, the six missed calls were all from my boyfriend who was not taking the news well. He really loves The Bodyguard.

Now, what many of you do not know is that I have an oddly emotional reaction to celebrity deaths. And I’m not exactly a sappy or sentimental person. Those who claim to cry at Hallmark commercials are like my least favorite people. But I’ll never forget when I was at my aunt and uncle’s lake house for our annual family reunion and opened the paper to discover Tim Russert had died. Or when I was in high school and learned of John Ritter’s death. I was left with this sadness that felt disproportionate to how I regarded these celebrities when they were alive. I certainly wasn’t an active 8 Simple Rules fan. I could count on one hand the number of times I had watched Meet The Press, but for some reason it really got to me, that these pop culture personalities, faces that flashed in and out of our lives as quickly as we could change the channel, had left our world too soon. No one understands this more than Meg, who was with me when I found out Bernie Mac died. In fact, she knows me so well I think she has developed an unspoken competition to be the first one to tell me when a celebrity dies, and then inevitably makes a Tim Russert reference which just gets me all riled up.

With confirmation that Whitney had died, I changed the channel and avoided the 24-hour news cycle for the rest of the evening. I have a general disdain for the way cable networks handle breaking news. The way they begin spewing information before they even gather it, “Whitney Houston has di—hold on guys, my producers are telling me something. Sorry for stopping in the middle of a sentence. Ok great! We’re actually going to go to Kim now who has more information on the story. Kim? Kim, hello? Kim are you there? Alright well I guess I’ll keep mov….YES I’M HERE! HELLO!” I mean, Christ. But even worse is the way they wallpaper their programming with images of the fallen star, sewing together every piece of stock footage that returned in an archive search of “Whitney Houston.” I have an averse reaction to this style of journalism, as I find it insincere and reactionary in a way that is not at all professional or informative. I think cable media could realize a more credible practice by simply asking, “How would Jim Lehrer handle this story?”

Through all the confusion and unanswered questions that came out of this tragedy, one thing was certain. The Grammys would be airing the following night. I’m sorry, this may sound a bit callous, but is there a better time for a music superstar to die suddenly than the night before the Grammys? I don’t think that broadcast ever went more than 60 seconds without mentioning Whitney Houston’s name and the tragedy that befell her the night before. Just as Whitney would have wanted. Host LL Cool J welcomed the artists gathered together at the Staples Center last night–industry legends, influential new artists, and Snooki—before growing sullen, announcing that there is no way around what he must address. “We’ve had a death in our family.” And in that moment, I have never wanted to be a part of LL Cool J’s family more in my life. He said it with so much love, with so much understanding of what people were going through that night. God, can you imagine if Taylor Swift had been hosting? She probably would have started singing that song she wrote about Kanye West being mean to her.  LL Cool J led the arena in a prayer–not a bow your heads for a moment of silence prayer, but a for real, “Heavenly Father we thank you…” prayer–before treating us to a clip of Whitney’s 1994 Grammy performance of “I Will Always Love You.” Sometimes I forget the magnitude of her talent, since, in the last decade, she has become more of a punch line and less of an icon, but in light of her death, we choose to focus on the good–the unequivocal beauty of that voice we came to cherish so deeply.

I only watched about an hour and a half of the broadcast before turning on Moneyball, which, by the way, Jonah Hill? You carry that “Academy Award Nominee” title with pride, my friend! That was not some Jennifer Hudson “since when do we hand out Oscars for singing well?” bullshit. That was a fine performance and I hope you continue in this direction. Fantastic. But I was relieved to hear that a soulful, inspirational, stupidly talented diva like Adele won the night. Because wouldn’t it be just the worst to think that on music’s biggest night, we came together to honor and say goodbye to a talent like Whitney Houston, and then gave Bruno Mars a Grammy for Best anything? That would have been tragic.

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Pinterest: A Love/Hate Story

Did you guys hear the big news this week? Pinterest hit 10 million U.S. monthly unique visitors in nine months. Which makes it the fastest growing standalone website. Ever.

For the unfamiliar, Pinterest is an image sharing website where you can save images from anywhere all in once place, and can organize your pictures (or “pins”) on different boards. When I first signed up for the site last March (or rather, when they deigned to accept my request to join), Pinterest had a decidedly design-heavy slant. For instance, I used it to keep track of images of different types of wallpaper that I would one day like to use in my powder room. (Reality, and the fact that I am 5 to 10 years from living in a place with a powder room that I am allowed to wallpaper, is not really an issue at play here.) However, as the site’s popularity soared and more and more people joined, the flavor shifted from design and style to, well, pretty pictures. Pretty pictures of babies. Pretty pictures of cupcakes. Pretty pictures of braided hair. Pinterest has turned into such a lady cliche, I can hardly stand it. Going to the site feels like going to a scrapbooking convention-you get the sense that you are surrounded by a lot of crafty DIY types who would happily spend four hours making a chandelier out of old Christmas ornaments. I still enjoy the site, and continue to use it to pin countless variations on the all-white bedding that I want. (And that I will never be allowed to have, because I am the clumsiest person alive, and as soon as I had all white bedding I would probably manage to spill coffee, Diet Coke and red wine on it all at once.) But it is impossible to not acknowledge how ridiculous Pinterest has become. One woman I follow has an entire board dedicated to pictures of petit fours.

Herewith, I present what I have deduced as the top five category trends on Pinterest.

1. Wedding Inspirations

Pinterest’s bread and butter seems, inarguably, to be as a site where women can organize their wedding inspiration photos. For those who are actually engaged, this is an understandable and acceptable way to keep track of your ideas. Those of us who are not engaged have to get a little more creative, so that it is not immediately clear to all of our followers that we are very much putting the cart before the horse and planning a wedding even though no one has  expressed any interest in actually marrying us. My board for this creepy behavior is called Tablescapes. Because technically, I could throw a party with beautiful place settings and lush floral arrangements at any time. Like, I just pinned this picture because I like the candles. No big deal.

Pretty subtle, no?

2. Animals and Babies

Pinterest users also love pictures of babies and animals doing seasonally appropriate, adorable things. In the fall it would not be unlikely to find a picture of kittens inside of a pumpkin resting on a bucket of apples, which was itself on an autumnal pile of leaves. Or this one, for the winter holiday season:

Why would you put your baby in a jar!? Come on, people.

 3. Closets

Pinterest is, on the whole, a site for wishful thinking. People pin pictures of sprawling plantation-style homes with giant wrap around porches and label them things like “A porch I would like to have someday.” (Me. I did this). And, well, good f’ing luck with that. But nowhere is this “Dream Big” mentality more evident than in the pictures people post of closets. I don’t know anyone who is so wealthy that they have the extra space and money to convert an entire room into a glamourous closet/sitting room/beauty parlor/speakeasy (seriously, the way they decorate these rooms you would think ladies are having cocktail parties in there). But these kinds of pictures are all over Pinterest. In fact this is one of the top ten most popular pins from the site:

A girl can dream.

4. Desserts

Xojane.com already wrote an article addressing this issue, but there seems to be some sort of unspoken rule among Pinterest users that you cannot post a picture of a dessert unless it is actually three separate desserts that have been forced to mate and create one brave new dessert. For example, here someone has taken popsicles, brownies and cupcakes, all delicious treats that can stand on their own two feet, and made this:

It’s hard to spend any time on Pinterest and not wonder “Who has time for this?”

5. Words of Inspiration

Lastly, people take Pinterest’s function as way to organize inspiration pretty literally; there are always tons of pictures of motivational words, phrases and sayings. You know how at least half of the girls you knew in college had “Live. Laugh. Love” in the bottom of their AIM profile? And then AIM went away? Well, this is where women come to get that same instinct for cheesiness and cliche out of their system.

That’s right, girl! Just because he stopped calling doesn’t mean he wasn’t loving you with all he had.

Finally, lest you think I’m a total crankpot, please enjoy this hilarious picture of two hamsters. I’m embarrassed to tell you how long I laughed over this:

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Bachelor Recap: I Think…Maybe I Need Therapy

This week The Bachelor took us to Panama City, Panama for however many days it takes Ben to decipher which three women he would like to send packing. Realistically, I think Ben could have executed this decision at the airport, and then spent his time actually enjoying the culture and beauty of this Central American country with women he regards as wife-worthy. But however many salsa lessons he wants to take before realizing a 34 year old VIP cocktail waitress is not for him, I say go after it. And so began their stay, with 9 women gathering in the lobby of a Panama City hotel, anticipating the arrival of the first date card. This must be such an ego trip for Ben, to simply walk into a room and have a gaggle of girls receiving his entrance with such over-the-top fawning. He’s wearing flip-flops, you guys.

Kacie B. was the lucky recipient this time around, much to the dismay of Blakely who thought her pronouncement to Ben at last week’s rose ceremony that he is changing her life and she’s not afraid anymore!, would secure her some one-on-one time. The date card requested Kacie B. bring along three items. I tried to think what I would bring, should I find myself under similar instruction. For sure booze. Probably a bottle of wine. Do cheese, crackers, and salami count as one thing? Lets say, yes. And sunscreen. I’ve gotten a sunburn riding in a car so I have to take a lot of precautions. Also, none of these things are to share, correct? Ben picked Kacie B. up at the hotel and took her around back for, what else, a helicopter ride. Could the repetitive nature of these dates make a girl feel any less special? Its like when two girls find out they’re dating the same guy and one says, “And then he told me I’m the first woman he’s ever met who he would consider settling down for!” and the other girl says, “He said the same thing to me two months ago!” And then they scheme to contaminate his body wash so that his pubic hair falls out. Except with The Bachelor contestants, these women have signed up for this kind of treatment, so they just spend their time together drinking wine, trying not to think too hard about their self-worth. Anyway, Kacie B. and Ben enjoy a nice helicopter tour of Panama City, before landing on a deserted island. Where their ability to survive TOGETHER would be put to the test. Kacie presents Ben with the three items she selected: a lime green stuffed monkey, a Swiss army knife, and a bag of candy. This seems like an opportune time for me to note how much I loathe adults who give and/or enthusiastically receive stuffed animals. Seriously, if I were ever gifted with a teddy bear on Valentine’s Day, it would be grounds for dismissal. What do you want me to do with that? Ben presented Kacie with his own items: a machete, a fishing net, and matches. Let it be known that I had to rewind three times in order to write down what he was saying. He kept pronouncing fishing net, “fchknytnnehhight.” Just say it normal! This isn’t the time to be schticky!

It was the ultimate metaphor date, where just about everything those two did together, they compared to the challenges of a real-life relationship. Here, a smattering:

  • Sometimes couples don’t survive when it’s the two of them alone.
  • Relationships are all about overcoming obstacles and fears together, and overcoming hurdles.
  • It all depends on partnership.
  • If we can do this today, we can do just about anything.
  • Watching Ben cut into a coconut is so hot.

In what reality are you living in when you think hanging out on the beach and making dinner for each other is the ultimate relationship test? I am not having this. Why don’t you simulate both of you losing your jobs and then taking a second mortgage out on your home so that your child can continue with her private ice skating lessons? That’s a test. At their real dinner later that night (apparently one small fish grilled in aluminum foil was not enough to sate them), Kacie B. told Ben that she is really looking forward to experiencing the day-to-day stuff with him. Like going to the grocery store, and exercising, and cooking. Ben’s non-reaction to this implied that he had let his mind wander to images of a nude Courtney frolicking in the ocean. And if you really want to know what life with Ben will be like after the show, Kacie B., that right there is a great example. Kacie B. reveals she had an eating disorder in high school and receives a rose. Because lord knows you can’t advance in this competition without revealing extremely personal details from your past to the man you’ve known a few weeks. “On a scale of one to wonderful, today was fantastic!” What scale is she using?

At the hotel, the group date card arrives and Emily, Nicki, Lindzi, Casey S., Courtney, and Jamie are all invited to meet Ben on the bank of a river for a day of fun with the natives! I’m sure it will be a real immersion process for all of them. The women head down to the Chagres River, where Ben awaits them in a really long motorboat. “I don’t necessarily look for a woman who wants to ride on a jungle river. What I do look for is someone who can go with the flow.” Like a river. My patience is wearing so thin. As they travel along, they spot a group of young children playing soccer and realize there may be more to this country than just the green boat they’re sitting in. Nicki tells us, “We kind of stumbled across this village!” which is hilarious because you don’t stumble across anything on The Bachelor. I wouldn’t even be surprised to learn the village was half comprised of extras from LA in order to fill out the shot. The women of the village offer our ladies native garb to wear–beaded tops that are traditionally worn without anything underneath and sarong-style mini skirts. While most of them make the prudish choice to keep their bathing suits on under the loosely threaded beads, Courtney adopts a “when in Rome” attitude, and we are forced to sit through 20 minutes of Courtney raising her arms above her head and shaking her chest at the camera. In case any of you were wondering if Courtney is a woman of many inhibitions, she is not. Throughout the group date, Courtney kept doing that annoying girl thing where she acts surprised that other women are intimidated or turned off by her sexually aggressive approach. Courtney criticizes the other women for not trying hard enough and making it too easy for her to get alone time with Ben. This reminds me of my experience rushing a sorority, when I went into what was considered one of the top houses and I had to sit in a room with members of the sorority and other potential new members, and have a conversation that would determine if we were worthy of their taste. One girl dominated the conversation, fawning over everything the members did and said: “Ohmygod these pretzels are so good, where did you get them? You remind me of a skinnier Jessica Simpson.” It was exhausting and I thought if she wants it so badly, I am happy to bow out and let her shine. I just couldn’t muster the energy to compete. So, maybe, Courtney, it wasn’t that the women didn’t know how to trump your skills, it was that they found them so exhausting, they simply didn’t want to try. Would you want to lower yourself to finding a tactic more obvious than painting on Ben’s back “B + C = <3”? No, you would not.

Later that evening, during the networking portion of the group date, everyone was on high alert for Ben’s attentions and affections. Emily continued her back peddling and assured Ben for the third time that she is no longer distracted by Courtney and her antics. She also made a cheeky joke about how there is a new man in her life and it’s pretty serious and it’s the tribe’s chief! And it’s funny because she’s not really interested in a portly, loin-clothed man. They kiss like two junior high kids matched up in a game of spin the bottle, and Emily has officially redeemed herself. In a brilliant display of manipulation, Courtney fusses to Ben how she’s starting to lose sight of their passion, and special moments like the skinny-dipping night are slipping from her memory. Which is funny because she has told the camera multiple times this episode how confident she feels about Ben, for no other reason than he’s seen her naked. But Courtney knows that if she tells Ben her interest in him is fading, he’ll snatch her back by practically begging her to take the group date rose. WELL NOT THIS TIME! Ben in fact offers Lindzi the rose and Courtney is left to stew in her insecurities just like the rest of them. Before moving on, I should mention that poor Jamie finally took a swing at getting to know Ben on this date and it was disastrous. It was like she gathered every private thought she has had since she turned seventeen and shared it with Ben, in under four minutes. Way to hold your cards close to the vest, Jamie. Things are not going well.

Next up on Ben’s Panama City itinerary was the infamous two-on-one date. This is when Ben takes two women out on a date, and will have to choose one to send home by the end. This would only make good TV if he selected two women who we knew would actually force a tough, climactic decision. Like Kacie B. and Courtney. But to choose Rachel and Blakeley just means one will go home that night, and he’ll send the other home next week. Not exactly a game changer. The date began with salsa lessons, where Blakely and Rachel changed into the same dresses worn by Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow in Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. Blakely proclaimed that she was the essence of salsa dancing, very sexual and very sensual, and so for her, the competition was in the bag. Note to readers: anytime a reality show edits footage to show one contestant assuming her victory, it means she is going to lose. It’s like the reverse psychology parents use on toddlers. After the dancing lessons concluded, the three sat down for dinner, interrupted almost immediately by Ben, who invited each woman to step outside with him and prove their love. Rachel did this with kissing and a baby voice, while Blakely offered Ben a scrapbook detailing the history of their “relationship.” I hope in the The Bachelor: The Women Tell All special, the producers release never-before-seen footage of Blakely putting this thing together. It looked like the collages I made in middle school with magazine cutouts of skittles, the word “teen,” and James Van Der Beek. Blakely was sent home (which I have already indicated twice in this post, so I don’t need to go into detail), and her exit was juxtaposed with b-roll footage of a homeless cat roaming the streets of Panama City.  How I would hate to be that cat.

With all of the dates finally out of the way, we were treated to the story behind the Casey S. meltdown we had been teased with in last week’s previews. Here’s the thing. This whole scenario was so ridiculous and I have been working on this recap over the course of three days, so I’m just going to cut to the chase. Chris Harrison pulls Casey S. outside and tells her he has received multiple confirmations that she has a boyfriend back at home. According to Casey S., she does NOT have a boyfriend at home…but there is a man she wishes was her boyfriend as she is madly in love with him and the only reason she’s not with him is because he refuses to marry her. Healthy! Chris Harrison takes Casey S. up to Ben’s room so that she may confess her sins. Ben listens to her sob story, and then tells her, “I don’t sugar coat things. I think you should go home.” Ouch. It’s getting a bit prickly down there in Central America, eh Ben? Chris Harrison escorts Casey S. out of the room and tells her she’s not a bad person–everyone wants to find love! And then she began to cry so hard, upon seeing this same scene last week in the previews, I actually thought a relative had died. “I still have to go, and that other guy doesn’t want me either!” Yes. This is what we call a lose-lose-lose situation. Because your current “boyfriend” dumped you for liking your old boyfriend, who also doesn’t want to be with you, and it all played out on national television. My thoughts go out to you and your family during this difficult time.

So off she goes, and we arrive at the rose ceremony with only seven women left in the competition. I can see the light! Jamie, still on a quest to make up for lost time, pulls Ben aside and tells him she’s ready to start being more aggressive with their relationship. You’ve been warned, Ben.

Here, a taste of what it sounds like when Jamie decides to become proactive, and woo Ben with her sexuality:

I feel as if, um, I haven’t really shown you I like, I feel like I tell you all the time. But I don’t show you! I think about you often and things I’d like to do with you. I had really big plans. Want me to show you? My intention was to be like “Ben I have a really big surprise for you!” And then I was going to sit on your lap. And then I was going to ruin my dress! I don’t know. I feel like I don’t want to be that fancy with someone…unless I really like him…I could get fancier. Ahh I can’t stop laughing!

Ben tries to calm her down by offering to kiss her, and from there it only got worse. Again, here’s Jamie:

Ok mouth open, now mouth closed. No, now your mouth should be closed. Closed! Closed! Closed!

It was so painful I almost had to leave the couch and go outside for fresh air. The poor girl just needed to take a breath and remind herself that chemistry means there is a natural bond between the two of you, and if you have to take a man through step-by-step instructions on how to kiss you, it’s not meant to be.

As if we even needed the pomp and circumstance of a rose ceremony, Ben hands out each rose, until Jamie is the only one left standing empty handed. He escorts her to her limo, and to be honest, by this point, I had stopped listening. When Ben abruptly stops kissing you and tells you he just can’t take it anymore, the episode is over.

Next week they head to Belize and Ben pulls Courtney aside for a confrontation during the rose ceremony! Probably to tell her how beautiful and model-y she looks. Leave any observations, issues, predictions I may have missed in the comments section!

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Super Bowl Half-Time Show Recap: One Step Closer to World Peace

In a follow-up to Maggie’s post yesterday, I would like to say that I did watch the Super Bowl last night. But she was correct in her assertion that she and I value professional sports as much as we value reality programming centered on the travails of little people. Which is to say, very…little. It was probably the longest a football game has ever been on in my apartment. But I quickly jump on the bandwagon for any event that encourages consuming a variety of dips while watching it. My roommate and I invited a few friends over and I put myself in charge of making guacamole and bleu cheeseburger sliders. When it comes to potluck style parties, I generally volunteer to make whatever it is I’m craving that day, and considering I have a craving for guacamole at least 3 out of 7 days a week, that was an easy go-to for me. The sliders I had never made before but it felt like an important protein contribution for a menu that was shaping up to be mainly chips.

I went to the grocery store after my 9 am spinning class (I include that only so my efforts are validated), and was disappointed to discover that they did not have any slider-sized buns. I know that these exist. Strangely, the only place I’ve ever been able to find them is Target. So to all those small businesses that complain about how big box stores are destroying local commerce, maybe you should reevaluate your inventory and provide the community with what it needs. Just saying. I’m someone who has a hard time deviating from a shopping list, so when I can’t find something I need I tend to just stand in the aisle with my shoulders slumped. Yesterday I was with my boyfriend, who has a glass half-full sensibility about him, and he suggested I buy regular buns and cut them into the shape I needed. I countered that suggestion with staring at the mini bagels hoping they would magically turn into mini hamburger buns. I left the store with two packages of regular buns and a chip on my shoulder, but hours later, as I was preparing all of my ingredients, I announced, “I think I’ll just cut the buns!” He has to be so, so patient.

The evening was a success–marked by the veggie platter being the most untouched offering on the table. Not to say it wasn’t delicious. My friend Lara created a lovely and colorful spread, but eating vegetables on Super Bowl Sunday is like exercising on vacation. Don’t be ridiculous.

The game itself was a solid four hours of average entertainment. From what I could tell, The Patriots and the Giants have the same colors, so it kind of felt like watching America vs. America [ed. note. My friend Meg made this same joke last night, and I forgot! I am not a fan of joke stealing so I would like to offer credit now. Hi Meg!]. The last five minutes of the game had some excitement behind it, which as a non-fan, is all I can really hope for. I liked when that guy scored a touchdown by kind of falling into a seated position in the end zone—the same way I get from a chair to the floor when I have to play a board game with a child or something. Other than that, all I really want to talk about is the Madonna half-time show. Because if I know anything about the Super Bowl, and I don’t, it is that when the field is covered with male models dressed in Trojan costumes, carrying Madonna who is dressed like the Pharoh from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the game itself is just the opening act.

There has been a lot of talk in the papers and the interwebs today discussing whether or not Madonna’s performance was a success last night. Lucky for you, you’re reading about this on Thanks For Asking where personal opinion is interpreted as fact, and I am here to tell you that it was the most fantastic combination of underrehearsed and overproduced I have ever seen in my life. Before I go into detail, I would just like to say upfront that I have absolutely no issue with the paradox of Madonna’s age and her agility. A lot of people were hating on her today for being 53 and still dancing so enthusiastically with her crotch, but I frankly admire her for having so much strength and energy.

Because you know what’s worse than a woman in her 50s who’s still got it? A woman in her 20s who lost it. So be grateful.

But no matter how well Madonna can pull off leather, she still fell flat when it came to putting together a successful and comprehensible show. Here is a list of noted complaints. I have included a video of the performance, and time marks so everyone at home can follow along!

  • The sound (throughout). It was like a fan in one of the skyboxes was playing a Madonna CD from his boom box at half-volume, and then down below you had Madonna trying to sing along. The lip-syncing was so painstakingly obvious, I felt like muting the television and playing my own music, just so I didn’t have to hear her pretend to remember the lyrics to “Hey Mr. DJ.”
  • The bleacher fail (3:27). Here Madonna attempted to climb up onto a bleacher in her insanely high leather boots, and fell right back down again. Can you imagine how troubling this scenario would have been if she was simultaneously responsible for singing? Yeesh.
  • The assisted acrobatics (5:45). I have already made it clear that I support Madonna, at 53 years young, doing whatever that insane body of hers is capable of doing. But performing dance stunts outside of her wheelhouse on a public stage, makes me so uncomfortable, I would rather close my eyes and play Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away over and over again in my head.
  • The pom pom dancing (6:17). The way she crossed downstage with that gallop-skip, while shaking her pom poms, was so hokey and uncoordinated, it was like watching a spoof of a Toni Basil music video.
  • Cee Lo’s sparkly black robe (10:33). His presence in general felt like nothing more than shameless promotion for The Voice on NBC’s behalf. But on top of that, they dressed him in a Boystown’s makeover of a Darth Vader costume.
  • The “Like A Prayer” choir (10:27). Not to say I wouldn’t kill to be a part of it, but it felt a little first come, first serve. Like a school bus went around the suburbs of Indianapolis and asked anyone who liked to sing and knew the lyrics to the song to come on board. Here’s a robe! We found one woman to resemble Meredith from The Office, with shorter hair.
  • The final message (12:35). After Madonna hit her last note of “Like a Prayer,” the camera panned over the field to reveal in gold, glittery lights, “WORLD PEACE.” This would be like if, at my birthday party, I put together a slideshow of pictures of myself on tropical vacations, and then concluded it with the message, “FIGHT AIDS.” It’s a bit unaware, no?

I’m late to start watching The Bachelor and that left over guacamole is calling my name! Leave any additional observations in the comments below!

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