#FlashbackFriday — How To Grow Your Very Own Nerd

Since I skipped yesterday’s #ThrowbackThursday post due to my newly-written post on Derek Jeter, I’m doing this instead this week, in my continued effort to migrate some of my old Facebook writing to this blog. Original post was from February 21st 2010, during my freshman year of college.
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This week’s Creative Writing assignment involved writing a “How-To.” Rules: must be in second person, must include 4 lines of dialogue, must be based on a starter given by the teacher, one of which is “How to grow your own_______.” I think it’s supposed to be in story form, but it’s not. Sue me.

 

 

How to Grow Your Very Own Nerd

 

 

If you are reading this manual, you are almost certainly a nerd, interested in raising a child to be every bit as socially incompetent as yourself — an admirable aspiration. Given this fact, it is probably best to begin, gently, with a caveat that no nerd wants to hear: This is not an exact science. Surely that statement makes you want to tear your nerdy hair out and rant and rave that “Yes, it can be broken down into neat little categories with clever little labels! It can and it must!” But never fear. There are some basics you should follow, and when the going gets tough, just remember: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”

 

That quote actually has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand, but it does tend to sound quite knowing and impressive in almost any situation. Like, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Absolutely useless in normal conversation, but still deliciously quotable. Lines any nerd should know.

 

Which is as good a place as any to start.

 

Tip #1: Show the little guy some movies. Make that, lots and lots of movies. Quote your favorite lines to him until he starts quoting them back or threatens to bash your head in with a rock. Don’t panic that he’s too young for grown-up nerd movie lines — Toy Story’s “YOU are a child’s PLAYTHING!!” and The Lion King’s “They call me MISTER pig!” will suffice until he’s old enough for the real stuff.

 

Tip #2: Get him obsessed with things. True mark of nerdery is obsession. You know exactly what I’m talking about — math nerd, science nerd, movie nerd . . . It doesn’t matter which one, the approach is the same: It’s your field. Know it inside and out. Master it. Get it right.

 

Tip #2 Corollary: Fandom of some kind is, ultimately, negotiable. While some are considered fairly universal—Star Trek and Star Wars, for instance, and don’t mix them up; BIG rookie mistake—none are absolute. It is possible to be a nerd without fandom, because nerdiness at its core is an attitude, a mindset. But if you wish to cultivate a household where the terms “mostly dead” and “flux capaciter” are as familiar as “Mom” and “Dad,” then you should cover your bases. Recommendations: “Firefly,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel,” for starters. Teaching him the axiom “Joss Whedon is the second coming” would be a plus. Also, steer clear of Twilight at all costs. The additional axiom of “Stephenie Meyer sucked all the awesome out of the vampire genre” would not go amiss.

 

Tip #3: Raise him on British humor. For some inexplicable reason, not everyone appreciates it, so best to start young. Recommendations: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Princess Bride (honorary British).

 

Tip #4: Make sure the first songs he learns are useful, like the Animaniacs’ Presidents and capital cities songs. No need to pressure him into learning Klingon, but if you’ve got some instructional tapes or CDs lying around, pop ‘em in once in a while. Because, you know, nerds are smart.

 

Tip #5: When it comes time for him to start attending birthday parties, allow him to choose the gift he will give. It’s important for your kid to have an illusion of control. But make sure the wrapping paper he uses is the kind that says on it “Happy Birthday!” in every conceivable language including binary and hexadecimal, and teach him that this is the epitome of cool.

 

Tip #6: Be aware that he may notice that he is not like the other children. Learn to respond to such ridiculous sentiments as: “But everyone else in my nursery school watches Barney!” with a firm, “Yes, but can any of them carry on a conversation about Heisenberg Compensators with a fully-grown adult?”

 

Tip #7: Lastly, it is good for your child to have some intersecting points of interest with non-nerds, i.e. the common folk. It is perfectly all right to introduce the kid to sports, but remember — obsession is key. Before he’s big enough to play anything, be sure that he knows the history, famous players, records, and names of statistics of his chosen sport. Some nerd elitists may scoff, but in my highly informed opinion, “sports nerd” is a worthy subcategory for a nerd in the modern world.

 

Well, there you have it. 7 handy-dandy tips and 1 corollary to get you started on growing your very own nerd who will, if all goes right, be unable to get a date to save his life. Good luck to you. Live long and prosper.

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REVIEW — “Dollhouse” Pilot

 

Keeping this review fairly spoiler free so that people who haven’t seen the show can read it and hopefully join in our madness.

 

Commissioned post: 3 of 8 so far.

 

An anonymous donor donated anonymously, as anonymous donors are wont to do, and requested that I review any episode of any Whedonverse show — i.e., any television by the renowned nerd-cult-leader-gone-mainstream-because-Avengers, Joss Whedon.

 

Well, as you may know, that doesn’t narrow things down much. I could choose from Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, or even Doctor Horrible (Agents of SHIELD doesn’t count), which all add up to approximately a bazillion episodes. Somehow I decided I wanted to do Dollhouse because I think it was the least popular of all the Whedonverse shows, and I have a curiosity about unpopular things made by brilliant people, and also because I really liked a lot of Dollhouse when I watched it years back. I don’t remember all that many of the specifics, but there are very vivid plot points and character moments that I do recall, and to me, television is often more about the moments than about the overall picture, so if a show has that many moments that have stuck with me for this long, it counts as a good show in my book.

 

I know that a lot of people couldn’t stomach it because of the consistent theme of sex trafficking and issues of consent, but for some reason that never bothered me in a visceral way when I saw the show, so I always found it more fascinating than disgusting or disturbing. And I’m pretty sure people complained that they found certain leaps in the show’s logic to be irritating and unrealistic, but again, not a problem that usually bothered me. And even if it had, the awesomeness that is Enver Gjokaj would have outweighed it ALL.

 

This dude’s talent is off-the-charts bonkers.

 

I’m going to do this review in two parts: first a little background on the first time I saw this episode and what I especially liked, and then I’m gonna watch the episode again, see if it lives up to my nostalgia, and write part two. This is my blog, so I can do that if wanna.

 

 

PART ONE

 

I first saw the Dollhouse pilot during the year I spent in Israel between high school and college in 2008-2009, when I went to visit my brother for the weekend in Yeshivat Har Etzion (aka Gush). On Saturday night we ordered Burgers Bar hamburgers (I think it was the only time I had Burgers Bar the entire year) and he sat me down in his dorm room to watch this new show he’d seen, refusing to tell me what it was about. I was confused for exactly as long as the show wanted me to be confused before it revealed its premise: the Dollhouse is an establishment that wipes people’s personalities and reprograms these “dolls” to whatever specifications their insanely wealthy clients request — a lover, a companion, a weapons expert, a master negotiator, etc. (This is where the logic complaints came in — “If you have the oodles of money necessary in this fictional universe to buy a reprogrammed human doll, why would you do that instead of paying for a real weapons expert, master negotiator, etc?” Which, fair point. But we’ll ignore that because PLOT.)

 

For me, what sticks with me and what sold me on this show was one particular exchange: I don’t remember the wording, but when Echo (the main character doll played by Eliza Dushku) is programmed to be the aforementioned master negotiator, one of the characters asks Topher, the amoral genius programmer of the Dollhouse, “Why does she need glasses?” Topher had programmed her persona, Eleanor Penn, to have worse vision than Echo actually has — and he explains that the poor eyesight was necessary, in order to give her reprogrammed personality its edge. According to Topher, excellence must be balanced with flaws and imperfections, and people who have to work harder to overcome inherent disadvantages in themselves and their lives are therefore stronger, more driven, more successful, so he couldn’t just make Eleanor Penn this brilliant negotiator with no inherent flaws because the personality just wouldn’t work. (He also gave her asthma. Thanks a bunch, Topher.)

 

I know that this is basically pop psychology at its finest, but I think it’s ingenious and I loved it. I love it. It told me right away that this show was going to be an exploration of the human condition and the nature of what makes us who we are, and that’s all I needed to know.

 

I’m not going to go into more detail about the plot or what else I remember because that’ll be covered in part two. Now I’m gonna go find my brother so we can rewatch it together. Symmetry.

 

PART TWO

 

Well, that was even better than I remembered.

 

It was a very interesting experience the second time around, because, having seen the entire show, I know the arcs of each character and who is a traitor and who is not what they appear to be and what certain seeds lead to down the road. That adds a whole new layer to the viewing, which of course could not be there for anyone watching the pilot as it was meant to be watched: as an intro to this world, with no knowledge of what’s to come. And it also confirmed for me that one particular twist was in no way planned from the start and was pulled out of the writers’ butts near the end of the series just because. But a lot of the other ones were set up from this very first episode, which is nifty. So if you like shows with an overall arc, rest assured that this one has that — but it starts to really get going about five or six episodes into the season, which may be why some people who shall remain nameless but not blameless got impatient and stopped watching.

 

I’m not going to talk about the arc plot or the plot of the pilot because spoilers, and besides, almost all episodes of Whedonverse shows have decent, well-paced central plots and that’s not what makes them great or less great — the characters and the dialogue do that. And I think this was an excellent pilot in that regard, because something interesting was being said in just about every scene. And even the scene which introduces the FBI Agent Paul Ballard, which I remembered as being weird because it crosscuts between a conversation he’s having with his bosses and some random boxing fight that has zero plot relevance, but upon a second viewing, it was pretty emotionally effective in communicating the beats of that conversation and Ballard’s ultimate intentions.

 

Eliza Dushku did a very good job in this episode, I thought. Echo is an incredibly challenging role, and over the course of the show’s run, I didn’t always feel like Dushku was up to that challenge because she doesn’t always completely disappear into her multiple character personas the way other actors on the show do, like Enver Gjokaj and Dichen Lachman. Those two are fantastic. (I don’t know if this is a politically correct thing to say, but sometimes I wonder if it’s because as a white person, I am not as used to reading faces of people who are very visibly of certain other ethnicities, so their characters seem more distinct to me and I don’t notice common tics between the different personas the way I might with a whiter-looking person. But mostly Gjokaj and Lachman are just insanely talented and chameleonic actors, and Dushku is slightly less so.) Either way, the slight cracks in her performance don’t start to show until future episodes, and she was very solid here.

 

As I suspected, the characters played by Gjokaj and Lachman don’t get all that much to do in the pilot, and the major character played by Miracle Laurie (who is fantastically talented and gorgeous and also happens to be bigger than a size zero) wasn’t in the pilot at all. And Amy Acker WAS in the pilot but her role was so small that I almost forgot about her. Which is to say that as good as this pilot is — and it is good and you should totally watch it if you haven’t seen it and if you have, you should rewatch it because it’s worth it — as good as the pilot is, the show gets even better as it goes.

 

Also, the theme music is awesome.

 

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Agree? Disagree? Want more reviews like this one? Consider donating and commissioning more, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading! And you can keep up with me on Twitter @FloatingSpirals and never miss a post 🙂

 

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On Responsibility to the Community — Sexism, Intermarriage, and Other Fun Stuff (Part 1)

Commissioned post count: 2 out of 8 requests so far.

 

Elissa G. donated and requested that I write about my opinion on “an individual’s responsibility to his/her community. For example, a person may not commit “X” crime, but by not speaking up and being proactive to change things, that person may be silently contributing to an environment in which “X” crime is considered an accepted thing. What can/should an individual do to take responsibility for bad things in his/her environment? How far does the responsibility reach?”

 

She acknowledges that this is a seriously broad topic, but I’ve elected not to have her narrow it down so that I can just write whatever I want. And since this post got away from me a bit, it’s going to be a two-parter. Brace yourselves.

 

I’ve decided to start this impossibly broad discussion with 4 instances where I encountered sexism, to varying degrees, and did nothing about it. (I’m defining sexism here as roughly: “degrading or demeaning remarks and/or actions toward a woman or women that probably would not be said or done to men.” I am not addressing thoughts because I am not the thought police. Your thoughts are yours to deal with.)

 

Incident #1: Degree: pretty minor.

 

Dragon*Con. September 2013. Waiting in line to see George Takei speak. (I was number 976 on the line, fyi. And it’s not like there was no other major panel going on; I’m pretty sure William Shatner was speaking in the same time slot. He had a different line. The lines wrapped around several blocks, crossing each other a couple of times which was in no way confusing.)

 

As one is wont to do while waiting on an infinite line at Dragon*Con, I struck up a conversation with my line-neighbor. I don’t recall exactly what we talked about, aside from basic fandom affinities and speculation about his odd accent (he was from Georgia [the state, not the country] but his accent was a bizarre mix of US southern and some kind of British or possibly Australian and even he didn’t know where it came from). He was a big man, probably in his 40s and I was probably a head and shoulders shorter than him and maybe a third of his width, but he seemed perfectly nice and non-threatening, albeit not terribly well-educated despite the accent.

 

Anyway, at one point, he asked me what I was dressed as. For reference, here’s what I was wearing that day:

IMAG1817

(The shirt is blue, by the way. For some reason it looks black here. Oh well.)

 

I told him it wasn’t actually a costume; I’d just had a bunch of weddings to attend over the summer and bought a bunch of cheap ballgowny-type dresses and now was wearing them all in succession on the 4 days of Dragon*Con. Because as every Con-goer knows, even an unseasoned Con-goer such as myself, fandom is the only place where you never have to ask: “But when would I wear that?”

 

“But,” I added, “I figured that if anyone asked, I could just tell them I’m Inara from Firefly.”

 

“The whore!” he exclaimed.

 

“Companion,” I corrected, using the Firefly term for Inara’s job.

 

“The whore!” he repeated loudly, oblivious. “You’re the whore! I knew it! As soon you said you said you liked Joss Whedon shows, I was thinking, ‘She’s the whore!’”

 

I didn’t object again, or say anything about how “whore” is an extremely disrespectful and derogatory word (as is discussed within the show itself) and if he absolutely must, I’d prefer to be called “space prostitute” because SPAAAACE, and I didn’t say that using words like that to refer to people, fictional or otherwise, contributes to slut-shaming, also violence against sex workers, rape culture, etc etc. I knew that a) he didn’t mean it maliciously and b) someone who very loudly refers to a young woman as a whore in front of an infinite line of people is probably not self-aware enough to bother with nuances of word usage.

 

So I shrugged and changed the subject.

 

Incident #2: Degree: a bit worse, I think?

 

Brooklyn College Radio station. Sometime in 2013. Horsing around by the computer nook outside the sound studios with some of the other radio people, waiting for our turns to go on the air.

 

I confess, I don’t remember the conversation leading up to this at all, but there were three girls there, including me, and one guy. Everyone was bantering and joking around, and for some reason the guy returned a remark made by one of the girls with something like, “Oh, you know it, sugar-tits.”

 

The girl just kind of made an incredulous noise and said in disbelief, “Did you just call me sugar-tits?!

 

And the guy, who looked sort of embarrassed and was not quite looking her in the eye because even he knew that that kind of comment was not warranted in this semi-professional setting or in this totally non-sexual conversation, laughed and slapped his knee, “yeah, yeah, I did.”

 

And of course I knew that going off on some kind of feminist rant was absolutely not what the situation needed and would just make everybody involved even more uncomfortable, plus I was relatively new to the radio station and did not need to get a reputation as a humorless feminazi, plus the guy was higher on the authority totem pole than I was and was actually mostly responsible for me even interning on my show in the first place, so I just said, “Hey, if anybody’s the sugar-tits around here, it’s me.” Because, well, yeah. And if I couldn’t properly defend the other girl from that kind of attention (which was clearly uncomfortable for her even though she tried not to show it), at least I could take the focus off her and package it in a way that gave me some control over it. And thus began an argument between us girls wherein we debated who was the true sugar-tits in the room while the guy just sat there in his shame.

 

But no, I did not call him out on it.

 

Incident #3: Degree: A bit worse than #3, owing to slightly greater power imbalances and potential safety concerns.

 

Heading home the afternoon after enrolling in the automotive school you may have heard me talk about. May 2014. I was semi-lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, trying to find the bus I needed to transfer to because holy moly are there a lot of buses in that area and none of them were mine.

 

Walking just ahead of me down a street lined with little shops was this tall, gorgeous African American girl. She was wearing high heels, blue ones with studs, the kind of shoes that look more like a sculpture or work of abstract art than actual functional shoes, but she was walking in them so they were clearly impressively functional.

 

Something like this. Except with little square studs.

 

They also caused her already impressively-shaped backside to jiggle quite noticeably as she walked, although it should be noted that that probably would have happened regardless of her shoes because anatomy + physics. None of her clothes were in the least suggestive, by the way — she was wearing a fairly high-necked white t-shirt and light blue skirt that went past her knees, but like I said, she was hot stuff and it looked great on her.

 

As we walked by, there were, of course, catcalls and wolf-whistles and “Would you look at THAT, I like THAT”s from the peanut gallery, by which I mean the boys on the street, and narcissist though I am, I knew that for once they weren’t catcalling me. It was broad daylight so nothing was going to happen beyond catcalling, but if the same thing had happened at night, yikes.

 

The girl didn’t even seem to notice or hear them at all, but once we were out of earshot, I felt compelled to say something dignity-affirming to her, something to make her feel like more than just a piece of meat. So I turned to her and said, “Those shoes are awesome,” because they were, and (tip to those who don’t know) complimenting a girl’s clothes or shoes isn’t usually objectifying because what you’re really complimenting is the fact that she has good taste.

 

“Thanks!” she said with a smile, and I grinned back, and, both of us smiling, we went our separate ways.

 

But no, I didn’t say a thing to those boys.

 

Incident #4: Degree: Depends who you ask.

 

Monsey. The weekend before a cousin’s wedding. About a month ago. We were visiting the very religious and somewhat isolated enclave where my cousins live. It was what we call an “aufruf,” a huge get-together of extended family and friends giving the groom one last send-off into married life.

 

My cousin, the groom, asked me to speak. I was shocked, because public speaking by women in front of men is not done in this community; women don’t even sit with men at the formal meals. Sometimes they even go so far as to have separate tables with a divider between the men’s section and the women’s section. This includes separation of husbands and wives as well as brothers and sisters, by the way. I had of course not prepared a speech, but the prospect of giving one was exciting and I felt honored.

 

But when I told my mother, she urged me not to speak, on the grounds that it would not be well-received by this particular community and would make them uncomfortable at having their accepted norms violated. I knew she was right, and rather than make a fuss, I told my cousin that I would write up a speech for him and post it on facebook for him. After all, it was their community that was welcoming us and their community’s hospitality that we were enjoying, and it would have been obnoxious to rock the boat and thumb my nose at their customs. Even though I strongly disagree with those customs and do think that they can ultimately be harmful to young girls and their self image, as well as the ways in which they relate to men and men relate to them. That was not the place to get up on a soapbox and make a nuisance of myself. No one would have listened, anyway.

 

[Postscript: We wound up hosting one of the post-wedding celebration meals at my house, where men and women sat together, and I spoke there. The speech was very well-received; it got a lot of laughs and several people came up to me afterward to tell me what a great speech it was. Huzzah!]

 

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My point in giving you all these stories is simply this: Standing up for what you believe is right is complicated.

 

There is no blueprint on how and when to do it. Every situation is different, with its own unique set of calculations. There are concerns involving safety, practicality, receptiveness of the listeners, and so on. Often you have to decide whether it’s worth it to stand up for something on principle, or if you should choose your battles carefully and pick spots where your standing up will actually have a chance at having an impact. If you go full throttle on every little thing, no one takes you seriously.

 

This is an issue with Jezebel — while I applaud many of their efforts to point out sexism and social injustice and often agree with them, and I am absolutely glad that someone is doing that, I also know that many people tune them out because they’ve become white noise, blaring at a constant volume. So I don’t have to be Jezebel; I try to add a different voice and not take vocal umbrage at all injustice. Because hey, the world is full of injustice and being upset about all of it all the time is just too much, and I don’t think that anyone should feel responsible for doing that or for fixing all of it.

 

You do the best you can and don’t beat yourself up for not doing more. That’s all I got.

 

There are other aspects of communal responsibility that I want to talk about, but they will have to wait until Part 2.

 

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Social Experiment Time!

 

Recently, I went on a non-date with a complete stranger from the internet.

 

How did this happen, you ask? Well, it definitely started with that online dating profile I made a while back on a site built around proposed date ideas from its users (see here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/sm-rosenberg/my-online-dating-profile-ish/10151702070783186). As you might remember, after a day of poking around the site, I concluded in that piece that I had no intention of using it for dating, because it just compounds the main problem I already have in real life, i.e., being clearly incompatible with almost everybody and having to turn down pretty much anyone who expresses interest. Involving the internet just increases that number. And I’d have to pay for the privilege.

But like any well-marketed site, it sends you tons of emails trying to get you to give it another shot. I get an email every time someone expresses interest in my date idea. I get emails offering me special deals on membership. And I get emails suggesting possible dates in my area.

I usually ignore/delete all of these, but occasionally I open one or two of the suggestion emails to remind myself that my decision not to get caught up in trying to date through this site was definitely the right one, since most of the suggested date ideas are either (a) lame and nonspecific, e.g., “Let’s do something fun,” or (b) specific but unappealing to me, e.g., “Let’s go to [insert name of non-kosher restaurant here]” or “lets go to this bar i know and get totally wasted haha.” (It’s the “haha” that lets you know that guy’s a real winner.)

But a little while ago I checked one of those emails, and one of the nine potentials presented to me was, “Let’s find a sports bar and watch some postseason baseball.”

 

And I was like, you know, that actually sounds like a lot of fun. Never done it before, but why not? Always wanted to. If nothing else, there will be playoff baseball.

So I clicked the guy’s profile to check for obvious signs of serial killerness or other red flags, and didn’t see any — he was around my age, working as an artist’s assistant, hoping to open his own gallery one day. As expected, he’s not relationship material for me, since he (a) identifies as a Christian and (b) says he wants kids someday, but otherwise seemed fine.

I believe I mentioned in the last piece that if you don’t pay for a subscription on the site, you have no access to its messaging center. So there was a very good chance that I would be unable to communicate with him, regardless of how okay I deemed him to be. Fortunately, a lot of people have found a way around that wrinkle by including an email address in their profile, and Sports Bar Boy was one of them.

I mulled it over for a moment or two, then sent out this email:

“Hey,

So this might be a little weird, so I’m going to be totally upfront — I don’t date anyone who isn’t Jewish. I also don’t drink. But I saw your date idea about finding a bar and watching some postseason baseball, and even though the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs (alas, t’was a miserable season), I would love to hang out with someone in a place like that and just have fun talking baseball. Not as a date, just as friends. Or bros. If a girl can be a bro. Whatever. I totally understand if that’s not what you’re looking for. I mean, it is a dating site, after all.

Let me know?”

I realize that as a girl, I have a weird kind of advantage in a situation like that. If a random guy sends you an email like that, most girls would probably regard it as pretty suspect and wonder if there’s an ulterior motive. At least, I probably would. But for a girl to say something like that to a guy, I think, is a little less sketchy for some reason, mostly because there isn’t that widespread worry that a girl is going to take advantage of getting a guy alone in this type of scenario. Not that girls never do that — it’s just not, well, expected, whereas for guys, it sort of is because of how often it happens. Pretty sad.

He responded not long after:

“Hello! No worries about your upfrontedness, that is exactly why I posted my email address on my dating profile, haha. [Note the better usage of “haha.”] I’m also fine that you aren’t interested in a date. I have lots of family in St. Louis and grew up a Cardinals fan, so I am pretty amped for the postseason. I’d definitely be open to a watching partner sometime, so maybe we can plan something, bro to bro. How’s your schedule look this coming week?”

I have to admit, it was the “bro to bro” bit that sealed the decision. Felt like, yeah, this is a guy who gets it.

And it evolved from there, with scheduling and the Cardinals winning and losing and winning again, pushing themselves into the second round and giving us a chance to coordinate a night that worked.

 

I told a few friends about it, mostly for the purposes of, “I want some people to know where I am and possibly check in on me periodically to make sure he hasn’t ax murdered me.” Sensible precautions and whatnot. Sad that they’re necessary, but whatever, you do what you gotta do.

The day of, I very briefly considered dressing down, oversized t-shirt, totally casual, but who are we kidding. I got dressed nicely because (a) I like looking good, (b) you can actually learn a lot about the kind of decency or values a guy has re: women when you show up looking good vs. looking shlubby (more on this later), and (c) I’d just gone to Amazing Savings that day and come across some cheap new makeup and really wanted to try it out. What can I say; I’m an extremely girly tomboy.

I was a bit apprehensive that we’d have nothing to talk about, so I looked over the Cardinals’ and Dodgers’ rosters beforehand and noted some key stats — such as the fact that Adam Wainwright’s strikeout-to-walk ration is ridiculous — just to have them in my back pocket in case things lagged. (One thing about being a baseball fan who hasn’t followed a team in a while — you don’t have to know all the stats on every player by heart; you just have to know what to look for when you’re looking at a stat sheet, what’s notable. Like that strikeout-to-walk ratio and the fact that the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter doesn’t steal bases. Interesting factoids that give you context and tell you what to expect.)

 

Getting there was a bit of an adventure. I mean, the bus and trains were fine, but once I got out, no one I asked on the mostly deserted streets seemed to know where I should go, and I could not for the life of me orient myself on the map on my phone. I texted Sports Bar Boy that I was a little lost but on my way. He asked where I was, I told him, and he texted back the score.

I liked that. He didn’t offer to come find me or anything chivalrous like that — I wasn’t some girl he was trying to woo or impress; I was a bro and we were here for the game, so that’s what he texted me. I liked that.

So I finally found the bar by process of elimination, having gone in every other possible direction first. (Again, not my fault! I asked for directions twice.) The bar was well-lit and mostly empty, because most New Yorkers don’t give a darn about a Dodgers-Cardinals playoff series, and I had a feeling I knew which one of the guys sitting at the bar was him, but I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, so I sat down in a booth by the door, and texted him. He looked up, we waved, and I came over and sat down on the stool next to him.

Another almost unconscious assessment that I made as a girl, whereas guys generally don’t have to: He was a small guy. Bigger than me but not by much. I could totally take him in a fight if I had to. (No offense to him.) I didn’t even realize I’d made this calculation until much later; it’s just automatic.

 

We started talking, and it was extremely casual and chill. He updated me on the game, which was playing right in front of us with closed captions and no sound because there was an equally silent football game playing on the screen right next to it. I warned him that I was slightly rooting for the Dodgers because (a) Mattingly and (b) it would be a much more interesting series if the Dodgers put up more of a fight than they had so far.

I also told him I’d looked into how many serial killers are from St. Louis to see if the statistics were in his favor, and he was slightly shocked and a bit amused.

“But I’m not from St. Louis. My dad is; that’s why I’m a Cardinals fan. But I’m from DC.”

Crud. A whole three-second Google search for nothing. Unrelated: Did you know the only serial killer from St. Louis is guy named Maury Travis?

He was an easy conversationalist, and so am I, so the conversation flowed fairly constantly with a minimum of awkward pauses, and I want to say this: He never once broke from our bro-to-bro agreement. Again, it’s sorta sad that the bar for guys is so low that I’d base a character assessment on what he doesn’t do rather than what he does, but here we go — He never stared at me, never said anything about how good I looked, never attempted physical contact of any kind, never made any sexually-charged remarks, never looked at my chest (well, maybe he did peripherally, can’t say for sure, but definitely not overtly), never asked why I don’t date non-Jewish guys, never asked why I don’t drink, never acted like or implied that me being a baseball fan is unusual or sexy because I’m a girl.

The fact that I’m a girl barely came up at all in conversation; everything was thoroughly gender-neutral, except for at one point when he brought up the question of “Why aren’t there any female umpires?” To which I responded that there was one once (you can read about her here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pam_Postema) who made it all the way to Triple-A ball, but eventually left, possibly because the harassment was too much. And then we joked about me switching career paths and becoming an umpire, which prompted me to google when I got home and turn up this info sheet: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/official_info/umpires/how_to_become.jsp

 

I want to be clear that none of these things I listed above that Sports Bar Boy didn’t do would, in themselves, have been offensive. I like compliments and being appreciated for my femininity as much as anyone. In a dating situation, those are kind of non-negotiable; you’ve gotta think I’m sexy or what’s the point. But in a very clearly specified non-dating situation, it’s often unnecessary and uncomfortable, and it was so refreshing to spend hours with a guy and be treated purely as a person and not as a girl, regardless of how good I looked.

(Aside: I know I looked good because (a) I have a mirror and (b) I got hit on before I even got out of the subway, by some dudebro with whom I accidentally made eye contact for half a second from the other side of the subway car. He tried to catch me when I got out, and that conversation was over pretty quick:

Dudebro: “Excuse me?”

Me: *keeps walking*

Dudebro: “Excuse me!”

Me: *accepting that he’s not going to give up unless I answer* “Yes?”

Dudebro: “What’s your name?”

Me: *muffled exasperated laughter* “Sorry, no.”

Dudebro: “What, you don’t have a name?”

Me: “I have a name, but I’m not giving it to you, sorry.” [Note to self: invent a name to use in these situations. Miranda, maybe. Or Ashleigh. Or Buttercup.]

Dudebro: “Hey, it’s not like I asked you for a kidney.”

Me: “No, I know, I know, you’re just trying to start a conversation, but I’m sorry.”

Dudebro: *scrambling for a way to continue* “It’s – it’s just that you look familiar.”

Me: “I have one of those faces.” [I do, I really do. A former sex worker I met at a reading in the city told me a few weeks ago that I looked familiar too. But the “you look familiar” line is such a line. Forgive me if I’m skeptical. I was so not in the mood. And he got the message and dropped it.]

Anyway. Just saying, I’m sure I looked nice enough to hit on, but Sports Bar Boy respected every single boundary without making any deal about it. Kudos to him.)

 

He’d ordered some food (mini cheeseburgers and fries) and some beer, and ate while we talked and watched. I’d told him ahead of time that I wouldn’t be eating since the food wouldn’t be kosher, but the nice bartender lady kept me well-supplied with ice water.

Conversation bounced effortlessly from topic to topic. We discussed the pros and cons of the designated hitter. We commiserated about how weird it is to realize that professional athletes like Yasiel Puig (last name pronounced “PWEEG;” it is super fun to say) are younger than you are. We laughed how much more hilarious slow-mo Cialis commercials are without sound. We pondered the fact that superstar ballplayers don’t seem to become managers very often, and would anyone turn down a Cal Ripken Jr. or a Derek Jeter if they said, “Yo, I want to manage your team”? We discussed the Machete Order of Star Wars viewing and how he needs to watch Firefly.

We exchanged baseball stories — for instance, he told me that Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny had been singled out as manager material decades ago by his college baseball coach, so much so that the coach, who was in charge of scheduling all his players’ classes, made Matheny take Spanish courses so that wayyyy down the road, he’d be able to communicate with Spanish-speaking players, and voila, here he is as a manager of a team with several Latino players, including star catcher Yadier Molina, fluent in Spanish. (Isn’t that awesome?) And I told him about the game I went to where Mariano Rivera got his 500th save against the Mets, and how because of lineup switches and flukey rally circumstances, Rivera was forced to actually hit (which he’d done like once before in his career), and how the Mets, being the Mets, walked him with the bases loaded. His only career RBI. Classic.

We taught each other some stuff we didn’t know. Like I told him that originally uniform numbers in baseball were meant to signify the player’s place in the lineup, which is why Babe Ruth was #3 and Gehrig was #4 and DiMaggio was #5, etc. And once we’d gotten off on a sci-fi tangent, he became the first person who has ever satisfactorily explained to me why Boba Fett is such a fan favorite character despite having next to no onscreen character. (It stems from a couple of moments in the movies where there are indications that Darth Vader himself is wary of Boba Fett, which provided the impetus to fans to speculate and develop their whole Boba Fett mythos.)

The only time things got the teensiest bit awkward was when we moved from a discussion of Twilight to Mormonism, and I got a little defensive of Mormons because people like to pile on and insult them when any religion could easily be picked apart for the same sorts of reasons, and that’s not cool. So yeah. But we skated past that, no problem.

I went to the restroom once, and it occurred to me that I was leaving my glass of ice water unattended and that I’ve been told a billion horror stories of what could happen if you keep drinking from a cup after you’ve left it unattended. But I made a judgment call that Sports Bar Boy did not seem like a guy who carried GHB in his pockets with the intent of spiking girls’ drinks, and I continued drinking from that glass once I got back. And . . . I survived. Anticlimactic, I know.

 

The whole time, I had several friends I was in touch with, via facebook chat and texting. I explained to Sports Bar Boy that it was a precaution and that I wasn’t trying to be rude, and he seemed perfectly understanding. One of my friends was awesome enough to actually check in on me every half hour or so, which was good because I kept forgetting to text her since I was having a good time. Those checkup texts evolved eventually into references that I would complete — “It could be bunnies!” and “They forgot they were cows inside,” to which the only responses are, of course, “Or maybe midgets!” and “But then they remembered!”

One of my friends had forgotten that I was doing this that night and texted halfway through the game to make sure I was still alive. I replied, “He’s nice! Too upset about how the Cardinals are playing at the moment to even attempt to ax murder me!”

Another friend messaged me to gloat about the Dodgers finally playing well and that Sports Bar Boy could suck it.

Me: “My friend the Dodger fan is laughing at you.”

Sports Bar Boy: “Girl friend or guy friend?”

Me: “Guy.”

Him: “Tell him to go to hell.”

Me: *types he says go to hell* “My phone autocorrects ‘hell’ to ‘help.’ It’s very kosher. What would you have said if it was a girl?”

Him: *considers briefly* “Probably the same thing.”

Me: “Egalitarian. I approve.”

The Dodgers eventually won, to Sports Bar Boy’s chagrin. We carried on chatting for a little while after the game ended before shaking hands and splitting off.

*

I do things like this, not necessarily to Step Out of My Comfort Zone, but rather to expand it, and know for the future that something like this is definitely within my comfort zone. And I’d say it is — I met a fun, interesting, articulate person, had an evening full of no-pressure conversation and companionship, bro to bro.

Social experiment: Success. I’d definitely do it again.