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How to Make a Bed: A Visual Guide for Men

January 11, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Personal Growth

Many women complain that the guy in their life never makes the bed or cleans up after himself.  They say things like “He doesn’t do a thing to help out around the house” or “He’s such a slob” or “He doesn’t even notice when our apartment is a mess.”  But let’s give men the benefit of the doubt for a minute.  Maybe they want to make the bed in the morning but they don’t do it because they simply don’t know how.  

This blog post is a special treat for all the men out there.  A visual guide that you can follow the next time you see those sheets and pillows in disarray:

Some Questions Aren’t Meant to Be Answered Honestly

January 5, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Personal Growth

Honesty is the best policy…most of the time.  But when you get into an elevator and a coworker asks “How are you?” you know you aren’t supposed to launch into a story about your mysterious itchy rash or dysfunctional relationship.  It is widely understood by almost everyone that the question, “How are you?” is not meant to be answered honestly. 

Unfortunately, other questions are a little more ambiguous, so sometimes people respond with the truth.  And the truth can be pretty darn creepy.  Whenever I hear someone ask “Why are you so tired today?  Did you have a late night?” or “Isn’t her baby just the cutest thing?” or “How is your husband doing?” I have to cringe because there is a decent chance the conversation is about to take a turn for the worse.  I’m just waiting for the person to answer “I’m tired because my boyfriend and I were up late, you know, doing stuff….” or “The baby is actually kind of hideous.  Poor kid looks just like the father, doesn’t it?”     

Recently, I overheard a woman in an elevator ask another woman a question that should be barred from public conversation:  “Why are your lips so chapped?”  Would you ever really want to know why someone’s lips are chapped?  Aren’t there a million reasons why someone’s lips could be chapped that fall into the “holy shit that’s weird” category? 

We ask each other questions all the time without even thinking about the potential social disaster that awaits us.  Most of the time, the other person gives us a mundane, typical answer without revealing much about their life.  But every once in a while, we get an answer that is weirder than we bargained for.  Copyright 2010 © Alison James.

Long Overdue Tips for Guys Who Love to Catcall

September 20, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Personal Growth

These days, it is easy for men to find information and tips on how to be a better golfer, how to build their pectoral muscles, or how to behave on a date.  But if they want to learn how to catcall, there is a surprising dearth of data and guidance out there. 

Whether a guy is working at a construction site or playing basketball with his friends, when a woman walks by and he feels the urge to say something, he’s on his own.  There are no helpful hints available, no where he can go to learn how to whistle, hoot, and holler properly – until now!

Here are a few long overdue tips for those men who love to catcall:

1.  Be self-aware.  Gentlemen, if you are missing teeth, have a tattoo of Satan on your arm, and you are carrying a giant saw, you are better off keeping your mouth shut entirely.  Your comments will scare the crap out of any woman who walks by.  Your goal is to flatter a woman, not to inspire her to invest in pepper spray and a high-tech security system.

2.  Geography matters.  While it might be proper to say “hello Ma’am,” in the South, if you are North of the Mason Dixon line and you call a thirty-something woman “Ma’am,” you might get punched in the face.  “Ma’am” is akin to saying “Hey old lady.” Always use “Miss” in a catcall. 

3.  Think about the words you’re saying.  It is simply not in your best interest to say things like “Oh baby, I wanna take you home to Momma.”  Women perceive a comment like this one as a threat.  She does not want to meet your mother – ever. 

4.  Don’t play favorites.  Do you have to yell at the scantily clad nineteen year-old woman when the rest of us are walking by in our baggy frumpy work clothes?  Your comments serve as a painful reminder that we can no longer wear short shorts because we have bigger buns than Cinnabon.  Remember: when you whistle at that girl, you gain one friend, but you make a thousand enemies who will never forget your face or the fact that there is a sledge hammer sitting three feet from you every morning.

5.  A woman is not a giant pork chop.  What is with the food sounds? Slurping, drooling, or whispering “delicious” in a creepy voice is not flattering to any of us.  We are women, not a juicy slab of meat.  When we hear these sounds, we can’t help but wonder if you are about to chase after us with a bucket of marinade and a steak knife. 

6. Keep dating.  Chances are you will not meet the girl of your dreams by yelling at random women from the top of a scaffolding platform.  Perhaps you’ve already figured this one out, but it is worth mentioning again here.

There comes a time in every woman’s life when she is thrilled if a dirty guy standing in a sewer calls her “yummy,” but none of us are there yet.  So, please stick with the standard catcalls like “Hey beautiful,” “Smile honey” and the like.  When we hear these comments, we can go on our merry way feeling flattered that you noticed us and, you can go about your day knowing that you’ve done a good deed for womankind.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James


A Special Thanks to the Older Lady Wearing the “Got Beer?” T-Shirt

Every year on my birthday, I can’t help but wonder if my look and style are still appropriate for my age. I ask myself questions like “Do I need to cut off my long hair? Am I looking haggy? Can I still wear sexy clothing? If I put glitter on my face for a party, will I look like the old person who is trying too hard to be cool?”

This year, I came to the realization that my concerns are unfounded. Anything can go at any age, as long as you have the attitude to pull it off. And I have this woman below to thank for my revelation. She has to be at least 60 years old and here she is, running errands in a t-shirt that I haven’t seen since college. I want to thank this woman because she reminds us that we are never too old to show our flair for fashion and our love of alcohol.  And we are never too old to ask the truly important question “Got beer anyone?”   Copyright © 2009 Alison James



I Want to Tie Down Skinny Women and Force Feed Them Donuts

June 26, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Diet & Fitness, Personal Growth

donut1I was reading the news coverage of Jon and Kate’s divorce and I feel really bad for those eight kids. The whole situation will definitely take a toll on them. But I am also a little embarrassed to admit that their story made me breathe a sigh of relief. When I read about someone’s marriage on the rocks, celebrities doing really stupid things, and all the problems other people have, sometimes I get this odd sense of personal comfort. It is not that I am happy that others are suffering. I don’t want to see other people in pain (unless I get to pick the person and do the deed). These stories make me feel relieved because they remind me that I’m not alone in this world, that my life isn’t the only imperfect life out there.

The Germans have a word for this phenomenon: Schadenfreude. Wikipedia says it means “pleasure derived from others misfortunes.” I hate to inform the Germans but we’ve had a term for this state of mind for decades; it’s called “being a bitch.” Their word sounds more official, but ours is much easier to understand.

Nonetheless, the German definition sounds a little sadistic. I wouldn’t say I derive pleasure from other people’s suffering, like the kind of pleasure I get when I eat a cupcake or win on a slot machine. It’s more like a “reduction in anxiety.” I feel a little more comfortable when I know I’m not the only one out there with problems.

For most of us, these feelings stem from insecurity. It’s tough to see other people succeed in life because it makes us question our own abilities. When they screw up, we feel affirmed, like we’re not doing so badly after all. We struggle to get to that point where we no longer compare ourselves and our lives to the world around us, where we derive our self-worth from within.  But getting to that place is a long, tough journey. 

I know I am not there yet. Even though I want to be happy for the gorgeous, skinny woman who marries a hunk with a million dollars, I still have the urge to tie her down and force feed her donuts until her thighs look more like my own. I just can’t help it; I’m human, I’m insecure, and I want to share my love of baked goods with others.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

Just When You Thought Your Ex Was the Craziest Man Alive…

June 23, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Personal Growth

Iran-electionYou might not expect to see a political or news post on a blog like this one, but when something so big happens like what is going on in Iran, I have to write a thing or two about world events.

In case any of us were uncertain before, it’s pretty clear now that Ahmadinejad is a total psycho. You think you’ve known some crazy men in your life? He makes all of them look normal. Even my craziest exes look charming next to that guy. When he came to New York City in 2007 to speak, the NYPD should have dropped him off on Tremont Avenue in the Bronx and let him find his way to Columbia University on his own. That would have fixed his ass. Living under the current regime in Iran must be hell on earth for so many people to want it to end.

When I was watching the protestors on television, I felt so much admiration for them. Publically protesting a regime that is repressive and dangerous is the ultimate act of courage.  But I also couldn’t help but wonder, “If I were in their shoes, would I have the personal strength and will to fight for what I believe in? Would I scurry away and hide or would I stand up against a regime like that one?  If I can’t find the courage to tell my friend that I think her boyfriend is the Devil, how in the world would I tell an insane dictator that I want to see him gone?”

I hope that I would have it in me to fight that fight, but I don’t know if I would. I guess none of us really know what we are made of until life puts us to the test. But whether the tests you face are big or small, I commend you if you stand up for what you believe in, especially if your beliefs are unpopular. We all need to defend freedom and remember how lucky we are to have the right to express dissatisfaction with the actions and attitudes of our government.   No matter how annoying someone is, or how much we think their opinion sucks, we should be happy they have the right to express it freely.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James


How Too Many Choices (and Cheeses) Can Drive Us Insane

June 12, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Personal Growth, Reviews

It was the day of my first ever wine and cheese party and preparations were going great. I snuck out of work early, cleaned up my apartment, brought out a few candles that I had been saving for the perfect occasion for about a decade, and had the plates and stemware ready. My friends were bringing the wine and they were entrusting me to supply the cheese, snacks, and 80s music mix (a different type of “cheese”). My plan was to make a run to the grocery store about two hours before the party so everything would be fresh. I assumed that would be plenty of time to buy cheese for twelve guests. How hard can it be to buy cheese, right? I was about to find out.

When I arrived at the cheese section of the grocery store, I saw before me not just a few basic brands, but shelves upon shelves of cheese. Every type of waxy yellow ball you can think of piled up like a giant shrine to the Dairy God – Swiss, Pepper jack, Provolone, Brie and not just Cheddar but Vermont Cheddar, Wisconsin Cheddar, Grafton Cheddar, Canadian Cheddar, and Irish Cheddar. It looked like a cheese bomb exploded dropping cheese from every part of the globe into the Food Emporium. How the heck could I pick 6 or 7 different types of cheeses out of thousands? I stood there in awe, completely overcome with indecision. Even if I ruled out fifty percent of my options because of the price (I’m pretty cheap), I was still left with so many to choose from that I had no idea where to start.

How do you make a decision when you have a thousand options? Do you graph them out on a piece of paper? Do you close your eyes and just grab at them and hope you pick the right ones? Do you pick cheeses out of a hat? Or do you call your parents and ask them what they would buy (and end up with Kraft American Cheese slices)? Do you go for the ones with the most sophisticated sounding names or the ones that are packaged in the coolest looking colors? Or, has it really come to the point where you need to research cheeses on the Internet for ten hours before a party? The sheer number of options was paralyzing me. I wish I had done my cheese homework.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that choice is good when it comes to cheeses, meats, and men. We are very fortunate because we are not limited by a lack of choices today. We have access to information, we know what products are out there, and we can make more informed decisions as a result. We can try different career paths, date lots of people, and select from hundreds, if not thousands of items at the store when we go shopping.

But what we often forget is that having too many choices can be just as limiting as having too few. And no, this is not some twisted way of rationalizing scarcity. Think about it – if we are plagued by indecision when we are doing something simple like picking out cheese, how the heck are we supposed to pick a spouse or a house or decide what our values and beliefs really are? Have you glanced on Ebay lately? There are about a billion things you can buy on there without even venturing into the store. You can search a database of men on some of these dating sites like you are looking for curtains.

Barry Schwartz has a really interesting book out right now about this very issue called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. He points out that we are far more satisfied with our pick when we’ve selected one out of a few options than we are when we have to pick one from a pool of hundreds or even thousands. And it makes sense because when we have too many cheeses to choose from we fall into the trap of questioning every choice we make. We ask “What if there is something better out there? What if I’m missing out on another option that would have been more appropriate for me?”

When we can’t find a way to compare and contrast every alternative so we feel chronically worried that we made a bad choice. Or worse yet, we don’t make any choice at all. But “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” (Yes, I just quoted lyrics from a Rush song) You have decided to remain stagnant.

We need to remember that though it is nice to have options, we can’t let them paralyze us. At some point we have to make decisions despite our anxiety. We have to close doors, leave options behind, and take our chances on the one we’ve picked. And of course we won’t always make the absolute best choice. In fact, sometimes we will make terrible choices. (Doesn’t that make you feel a lot better?) But any choice is better than none at all because at least you are moving in some direction. The real mistake is not in picking the wrong cheese; it’s in standing there staring at your options and ending up with no cheese in your life.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James




The Grass isn’t Greener in NYC – In Fact, We Don’t Have Grass At All

May 12, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Personal Growth

Some of my friends that live in smaller towns tell me that they are jealous that I live in New York City. They say their weekends are boring and there isn’t enough excitement in their life. In response to their dissatisfaction, I would like to say “I was born in a small town…and I can breathe in a small town.” (John Cougar Mellencamp)

In New York, there are so many people and cars and smells that I can’t breathe at all. I’ve lived here for 12 years and I think I’m going to die of the Black Lung from the pollution or at the very least, catch some kind of respiratory disease from the constant barrage of odors coming from the garbage room in the hallway of my building.

Imagine sitting in a cab for 40 minutes and going five blocks because some weirdo is lying in the middle of the street blocking traffic. Imagine waiting in line to buy coffee for 15 minutes in the morning because everyone in front of you is ordering a grande-sugar-free-mocha-soy-double-latte-no whip. Imagine living in an outrageously priced apartment the size of the crawl space where they hid the bodies on the last episode of 48 Hours Mystery. Those are just a few of the lovely experiences you have to look forward to if you are moving to New York City.

Now, don’t get me wrong, New York is worth visiting. I would even suggest you live here for a couple of years if you get the chance. There is truly no where else like it in the world – the high-rise buildings, the lights in Time Square, and the total freak show every single day all around you. In the past year I have seen (a) a guy running in a full leotard up and down Second Avenue; (b) a guy watching television on the sidewalk with his TV balanced on a garbage can; and, (c) several men who are prettier than I am. With entertainment like this, who needs Broadway?

The bottom line is that there are trade-offs to living anywhere and you give up part of your sanity to live in New York City (or maybe you have to be a little insane to move here in the first place). So, if you are living in a small town and you think the grass is greener in the Big Apple, remember we don’t even have any grass – unless you count the little tufts peeking up through the cracks in the sidewalk or the kind the shady guys sell in Tompkins Square Park.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James