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May 24, 2006

Must ... Refrain ... From ... Projectile ... Vomiting ...

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Harvard does Yale?

If you thought The Times Weddings & Celebrations pages were bad (and I did) ...
The New York Observer has news for you, which I can basically sum up in one sentence:

You Will Never Be As Good As This Couple. Ever.

I actually wondered if it was some sick joke, given the following ACTUAL QUOTES taken from the article:

"When Sarah Mascareñas, a blond, blue-eyed bombshell Yalie (yes, they do exist), first walked into the law offices of Cravath, Swaine and Moore, where she was starting as an associate attorney, she was prepared for a hefty workload and a big paycheck. She wasn’t prepared for Doğan Perese, also an associate and a dreamy, dark-haired Harvard grad (yes, those exist too!) who couldn’t stop staring at her."

Oh. My. God.

The reporter continues:

"They began furiously I.M.-ing." Later "she BlackBerried him a dinner invitation." (umm ... that's hot.)

Because they work so hard (for that "big paycheck," remember?) the "lusty legals" (YES, ANOTHER ACTUAL QUOTE) missed their reservation.

Awww. What should they do??

Yalie got the bright idea of inviting Harvard to her apartment. " 'It’s so rare that anyone goes crosstown,'" Yalie said. “For you …. I’ll go across boroughs,” Harvard said.

Um, Yalie, listen up. For sex, most men - Harvard or not - would go across GALAXIES.

The story goes downhill from there ... basically, they tried to go to the Hamptons, again they were working too much, they decided they loved each other, they celebrated random anniversaries, then he proposed with a romance novel and a big hunk of blood-diamond while she thought about all the work she had to do back at the office.

They're getting married in September, and will commence planning the early acceptance of their progeny to Princeton, the one Ivy they sort of wished they had on their joint resume.

BTW, the Observer's caption on the photo of "dreamy, dark-haired" Harvard and "blond, blue-eyed bombshell" Yalie?

"Legally Blonde."

Noooooooooooooooooo ...

May 22, 2006

Can't Get a Date?? Sucks For You!

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This week's AM New York column, on VH1's reality show Can't Get a Date ...

In lieu of writing ABOUT the article, I'm just pasting it below. Because I'm that lazy.

Can't Get a Date? Yes You Can!
May 22, 2006

Despite my embarrassing devotion to self-improvement and a fondness for makeovers that rivals Tyra Banks, I've always disliked dating-reformation shows.

The hosts tend to be irritating, obsequious and bland, while the so-called "relationship experts" seem more interested in looking good on camera, spewing one-size-fits-all clichés and touting their newest book (in bookstores now!).

In the end, the lost soul who moronically agreed to let television producers follow his or her abysmal dating life gets nothing more than a new haircut and some lame suggestions. Fantastic.

Um … no.

VH1’s new reality series, Can’t Get a Date, keeps the idea of transformation but chucks the annoying characters.

The host, kept anonymous during the show, is heard but not seen. Like the Voice of God, he guides the lovelorn subject exclusively from behind the camera. The ensuing dialogue is less Simon Cowell – pointlessly mean and utterly unhelpful – and more what your friends would say if they thought you could handle “the truth.”

That truth – along with an obligatory dose of hope – is what Can’t Get a Date is all about. In fact, the host begins the show by explaining that “the truth can be harsh, but dating doesn’t have to be.”

He then answers his own question, “Can’t get a date?” with a firm “Yes, you can.”

Like good makeover-cum-personal-growth TV, it’s all so comforting. The show taps into both our Obsession With Flaws and our need to be reassured that Flaws Can Be Fixed. Sure, you may be a train wreck – but if you let a reality show tell you how to clean up your act, you can find love, too!

Although the idea of helping “real people, with real trouble, needing real advice” (the self-described purpose of Can’t Get a Date) isn’t exactly an original one, the host’s blunt critiques make it refreshing.

That host, a former camera technician named Stefan Springman, also created and produced the show, his first. With an uncommonly melodious and authoritative voice, he counsels like a professional, but insists that he’s not a dating “expert” per se.

“I don’t believe there’s such a thing,” he told me. “I just try to tell it like it is.”

In one episode, he introduces Jim, a hapless poet who has remained dateless since moving to New York a year ago.

While poets are admittedly not #1 on the list of Most-Desired-Professions-for-a-Boyfriend, Springman insists that “Jim’s real problems have nothing to do with poetry.” With that, he matter-of-factly details a laundry list of said “real problems”:

1. short
2. broke
3. bald
4. fat
5. lacks ambition
6. naked exhibitionist
7. Hello Kitty bedroom sheets
8. nasty toe fungus

“It’s enough to keep even a nice guy like Jim alone forever,” he concludes.

How’s that for unvarnished honesty?

“People make excuses for themselves,” Springman explained. “I shine a light on the truth.”

Indeed. Over the course of the show, he addresses each problem with a curt evaluation followed by a solution.

He deep-sixes Jim’s online self-portrait nudes, saying, “The naked photos are not helping you get a date,” and adding sternly for good measure, “Jim, your privacy borders are not well-defined.”

He cleans up Jim’s disaster of a bedroom, chiding him for the Hello Kitty bedspread and rank odor. “Jim, those are inappropriate sheets for a grown man. And it smells rancid in here.”

He takes him to a podiatrist. “Jim, what is wrong with your toes?” (FYI, they really ARE nasty.) He instructs Jim to delete the online list of girls he likes, dubbed his ‘Crush List’: “The crush list makes you look desperate. Detonate the crush list.”

He advises Jim to “leave a little mystery. You don’t want to just vomit your entire personality upfront.” And finally, he tells Jim in no uncertain terms to lose weight.

“What kind of shape are you in?” he asks. Jim, who is as good-natured as he is riddled with superficial flaws, responds with one of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard on Reality TV.

“Bad shape. The wrong shape. Not even ‘shape.’ It’s like more like … ‘shap.’”

In the end, Jim actually follows Springman’s no-BS advice. He concludes the half-hour episode (shot over three months) having lost 30 pounds, redone his bedroom, dealt with the foot fungus, removed naked internet photos – and, yes, gotten a date.

Of course, with a little outside perspective, a bit of common sense, and a team of reality show producers, most people’s relationship problems are easy to ‘solve,’ at least superficially.

Still, Jim seemed genuinely, gleefully, transformed. Sometimes all it takes is someone brazen enough to tell you the truth – and make you do something about it.

Perhaps Mr. Springman is a more of a dating expert than he realizes.

JULIA ALWAYS ENCOURAGES HONESTY – EXCEPT IF SHE’S ASKING WHETHER THOSE PANTS MAKE HER LOOK FAT. EMAIL JULIA@JULIAALLISON.COM

May 19, 2006

Yeah, Bookmark My Column Archive ... For The Kids!

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This artwork (from the front of a now-sorta-lame-cause-it-was-cool-like-three-years-ago "statement tee" I found on the web) is homage to the few people who still occasionally call me a "sex columnist."

I'm an amateur relationship-based cultural sociologist, damn it!! A baby David Brooks, if he were female and twenty years younger and ... uh ... writing a dating column for a subway newspaper. And more liberal. Or at least that's what I tell myself late at night when I sob into my pillow "WHY didn't I go to graduate school so people at the New York Times would respect me????" And then I wake up and realize that there are no such things as PhDs for people who want to write their dissertation on self-help books. (WAIT! Yes there are!! )

Anyway, the entire point of this entry is to point out the new, much more easy-to-remember (cause you're thinking about it all the time, I'm sure) URL for my AM New York column archive:

www.amny.com/datingcolumn

In addition, it's been updated with the most recent copies of every column I've done for AM, so if you literally have NOTHING ELSE to do at work and for some reason you've tired of fantasizing about Britney cutting up Kevin's credit cards. (And his testicles, while she's at it.) Hmm ... this is why I have to stop reading Us Weekly ...

May 17, 2006

Going to the Chapel and We're Gonna Get Pretentious ...

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Tis the season to get hitched – and whether they’re embarking on a starter marriage or tying a new knot after the old one(s) frayed (“Fifth time’s the charm!”), Manhattan brides know that only one thing matters more than whether the groom shows up: did they wrangle a mention in the NY Times Wedding Announcements??

Unless you want to pay – and no one does, that’s tres gauche – clawing your way into that bastion of archaic pretentiousness requires discipline, strategy and dedication to the Art of the Proper Announcement.

Of course, to learn the art, you have to study the art – a true devotee has a range of analysis to make. Since brides, more than any demographic (except perhaps SAT tutors) love checklists, I’ve lovingly prepared the following article for those who wish to embark upon Meticulous and Exhaustive Official NYT Wedding Announcement Research.

This week's AM New York column -
Getting Hitched ... And Announcing It Obnoxiously in the NYT

May 08, 2006

Cheating is Fun. Open Marriages are Funner!

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In terms of couplings, as far as I can tell, here are your only options:

1) Monogamous and Very Very Bored
2) Alone and Very Very Lonely
3) Polygamous and Very Very Mormon
4) Divorced and Very Very Poor
5) Adulterous and Very Very Going to Burn in Hell

or ....

6) Open-Relationship-ous and Very Very ... Satisfied?

Read on for today's AM New York column, on open-relationships and why they might not be the Devil's Work after all.

Okay, I've never heard of them referred to as such, but I'm sure someone thinks that. Somewhere. In (stereotype alert!!) Texas. Or (more stereotypes!) Orange County, California. Or (definitely NOT a stereotype) Fox News.

But never in New York. Because here we're all polyamorous - in love with our jobs and our boyfriends and our manicurists and the guy who delivers sushi in less than 9 minutes.

Especially the sushi guy.

May 05, 2006

Michael Wilbon, God of Sports, a Subject I Do Not Understand

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This lovely photo was taken in Washington DC after dinner last week (April 27th). As you can see, I was getting all the preppiness out of my system in anticipation of my return to the Wear-Black-Or-Get-Mistaken-For-A-Tourist-And-Shoved-In-Front-of-Taxi Capitol of the world. (Hello, do you SEE the baby blue Lacoste polo? The matching sweater tied around my neck? The pearl earrings? The - did I mention Lacoste polo? Wearing outfits like this is the reason why - the ONLY reason why - I love DC.)

None of which has anything to do with The Great Michael Wilbon, however, who has taught me everything I know about sports, which is to say, nothing at all. I know that he understands sports, and that's enough for me.

And no, I will not get you his autograph.

Although for the right price ...

May 01, 2006

Why Henry Needed Power ... Cause This Face Wasn't Getting Anyone Laid

Several visual aids for the last entry on power being an aphrodisiac ... dear-god-he's-ugly!

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Yikes.

Sure, Power is an Aphrodisiac ... Unless You Lack a "Y" Chromosome

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Here's the latest AM New York column - this week about powerful women and why they aren't top on most men's list of "Women to Fantasize About While Having Sex with The Wife."

The article begins:

"Power – and its uncanny ability to inflate (or deflate) one's sexual desirability – has been on my mind lately. It started two weeks ago, when Ariel Levy, author of Female Chauvinist Pigs, told me that Martha Stewart was "hot."

Like, "really hot." Since Levy's book focuses on the burgeoning tendency of young women to equate "hotness" with donning tiny Abercrombie & Fitch skirts and flashing their breasts on Girls Gone Wild, her appraisal of Martha's sex appeal caught me off guard.

For Levy, the domestic doyenne's influence made her attractive. For me, it was just confusing. Keira Knightly is hot. Natalie Portman is hot. Paris Hilton is hot, although I wish she weren't. But Martha? Of all the adjectives I could use to describe her – and there are many – "hot" wouldn't make my top 10.

Later that week, as I was packing to leave for the city favored by homely denizens in positions of authority (that would be Washington, DC), my copy of Details magazine arrived in the mail, the cover headline blaring: "If power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, why don't you wanna bang Hillary Clinton?"

Oh my god, I thought. They read my mind. Why is it I would sleep with Bill – but not Hil? (Other than the fact I'm heterosexual, which is really a moot point, because most women – gay, straight, confined to a hospital bed – would get naked with Angelina Jolie.)"

Okay, screw it. Now that I've pasted this much, I might as well paste the rest of the article ...

Inside, the magazine offered a visual aid – a full page with nine unflattering headshots including Oprah, Martha, Condi, as well as foxes Janet Reno, Margaret Thatcher and Madeline Albright – viscerally reminding men why they haven't been fantasizing about powerful ladies lately.

The article, written by Peter Wells, makes a good point: "If you're the kind of guy who sends shock waves through the stock market every time you clear your throat, Slavic models fresh out of high school will chain themselves to your mattress." Of course! It happens all the time in New York.

"And while politics may be show business for ugly people," Wells continues, "that doesn't mean that the misshapen lumps of flesh prowling Capitol Hill have trouble getting a date." Having worked on the Hill and dated some of these lumps, I can vouch that this is, sadly, the case.

"Ugly men who run the world have no trouble" scoring with women, concludes Wells. "So how come it doesn't work for the ladies?"

Exactly.

Maureen Dowd – a woman who's intimately familiar with clout (both having it and dating it) – believes that "the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men." In her 2005 book, "Are Men Necessary?" she quotes a New York Times friend of hers who, after receiving a Pulitzer, wails that she'll "never get a date now!" Rough life.

Ironically, it's Dowd herself – with both a Pulitzer and a well-documented history of getting dates – who proves this theory incorrect. Indeed, in a New York magazine profile (intriguingly enough, by Ariel Levy), she is described as a "utter and unreconstructed fox … men can't resist her."

Ah-ha! So it is possible to be an influential female with whom men want to copulate. Powerful and sexy need not remain mutually exclusive terms for women.

Of course I see the truth in Henry Kissinger's once-clever (now-clichéd) line about power being an aphrodisiac. And I see the point of the Details article – most men don't aspire to sleep with "powerful women." I even understand why Maureen Dowd believes that a woman with clout can intimidate men.

But all of this misses the point. If Condi Rice looked like Halle Barry, no amount of Secret Service protection could save her from being the most popular fantasy since a threesome with Jessica Alba and Adriana Lima.

In other words, women are turned on by power even absent good looks. Men, on the other hand, require looks above all else.

So it seems that Kissinger's quote could have used a qualifier. Let's try my version: Power, in men, is an aphrodisiac. In women, power may be an aphrodisiac – if they're young and/or sexually attractive, and if the man involved isn't intimidated.

Men would still find Gisele hot if she had Rupert Murdoch's money or Jack Welch's intelligence or Barack Obama's job. They might not ask her out, but they'd definitely want to sleep with her.

Which I guess wouldn't make it all that different from how they feel today."

By the way, I've met Kissinger, and power wasn't quite enough of an aphrodisiac. Then again, in his defense (sort of), he's a little past his prime. Even Bill Clinton wouldn't be a turn-on as an octagenarian.