Friday, June 13, 2008

Advice Column #23

Hey Bartender!

My ex and I are both going to a hippie love-fest where either one or both of us may meet someone else. It'll suck. It'll hurt. But there's nothing I can do about it and we both need to move on. What do I drink so I don't have to think about it too much?

Awesome. I'm glad you're done with the feelings part, and that you're ready for some new action in your life. You'll grow a new heart a little slower than your liver regenerates, so let's beat on the the organ that can handle it. I would suggest drinking as socially as possible, and by that I mean, never drink without toasting each glug, and never toast alone. Besides making you re-ignite positivity with every swig, you'll have a fun evening of naming all the wonderful things in your life and the lives of those who drink with you, and universal themes of stuff worth drinking to. How you drink (happily) isn't always what you drink. Since you are going to be consuming vast quantities out of nervousness (you'll find in life that progress can cause stress or nerves, which make you speak quickly and drink quickly), you might want to pick something less potent than four fingers of bourbon. I'm going to suggest the gin gimlet. It's lime juice, simple syrup, and gin- but every bartender can make a decent one, and it's easy to tell when you've had your limit, because you can't say "gin gimlet" without saying "gim giblet". At that point, switch to lemonade, which will taste similar, and refresh you. Ask the bartender to hook your lemonade up with some fresh mint, so the new positive "someone else" that you meet will appreciate your amazing breath along with your insistence on toasting to his pretty face.


Hey Bartender!
I am in the process of buying furniture for new my apartment. I am trying to go with the most environmentally friendly options that also satisfy my deeply rooted need to be stylish and my limited budget. What's a girl to do?

It's true, furniture production and shipping are a drain on the world's resources. Yet, we desire to live in a pleasant home, where we have a table to eat from, a chair to sit on, and a bed to sleep on, not to mention end tables, ottomans, wet bars, dressers, bookshelves, and more. Our inner conflict appears unresolvable when the "environmentally friendly" products are so far from our price range, and the products in our price range have traveled so far (wasting gasoline), are made of questionable materials, and just aren't pleasing to the eye. Don't beat yourself up about every detail. No one will hate you for buying that new mattress because you're afraid of bedbugs, or picking up that best sofa ever at ikea because it fits in your budget and your living room perfectly. Since you're willing to try to greenly furnish your new place, let's discuss the many options.

There are lots of ways to organize your space without importing tons of prefab plastic from overseas, without skinning animals, without cutting down rainforests, and with style. The first rule in loving the environment is to stay local. Shipping things far distances often causes more harm to the world than the products cause themselves. Great places to find neat stuff include local antique and thrift stores, yard sales, craigslist.com, freecycle.com, and asking your friends on facebook. Freecycle itself is a great resource for not only finding free stuff that is in great shape, but getting rid of the stuff that you don't use without trashing it. There was a time in my life that I would have advocated dumpster-diving, but having lived through the bedbug epidemic in New York, I'd suggest buying things or getting them from people who aren't throwing them on the curb. It's safer, and usually cleaner. Just remember the age old adage: reduce, reuse, recycle!

Before heading out to the thrift stores, antique shops, and freecycle pick up places, make a list of the things you need, and measure the spaces you have to put them. Also measure door frames and ceiling heights, so you can be sure that things will fit into your apartment. Make sure you don't see any bug problems on the furniture, checking inside drawers, backs, and bottoms for evidence. Buy or take stuff that you see potential in: you might not find the perfect pink overstuffed chair, but that ugly brown one can be reupholstered, and has a nice shape to it. If you like the dresser but hate the drawer pulls, you can replace them later.

So now you have a ton of cheap or free old furniture from local people and places. Step two to the cheap, stylish, eco-friendly furniture problem was the "stylish" part. Style is in the details, and is personal: maybe you like metal feet on everything, maybe you like only dark woods, maybe you want everything to be white or purple or covered in flowers. I wouldn't be opposed to you ordering a box of metal feet off ebay, or taking a sander to everything and staining it all mahogany, or buying a few colors of paint, and after priming the new stuff with Kilz spray-primer, painting it with two light coats of whatever color matches your eyes. You also might want to think about consulting the guru's of DIY decor: instructables.com, ready made magazine (readymademag.com), make magazine (makezine.com), and the old stand-by, Martha Stewart Living (marthastewart.com). If you need some ideas, or want to buy from artisan (and affordable) merchants, check out etsy.com for their on-line marketplace and keen trend setting. Keep in mind that Martha's country crock stenciling projects might look like something in your grandma's house, but her technique is premier if you're painting silhouettes of sparrows and tree branches along the sides of your freshly painted pale yellow bookshelf that you got from the salvation army. (Look to xeroxes of bird sighting books for the best silhouettes, copy them larger, trace onto clear plastic stenciling sheets.) Mixing aesthetics and techniques from several sources will make your home look uniquely yours, and projects are fun.

Invite your friends over to help you with a project-craft day, and some celebratory drinks! Do anything with power tools before the drinking starts; power sanding, drilling holes for new sofa feet or table legs. Get all the structural stuff done sober, or you'll end up with nightmarish pieces later, or worse- at the hospital. Paint in well ventilated areas, or make it an afternoon outdoor affair to be followed with some drinks. Lately, I've been reading the Houston Junior League cookbook from 1968, which gives great home-making recipes. The Velvet Hammer, a blender favorite from Bette Naylor, is made putting 1 package of frozen strawberries (10 oz.), the juice of two lemons, and 1 cup of light rum in a blender, turned on for a few seconds. Then fill the blender with crushed ice (approx. 1 tray of ice, crushed) and blend the mix until it is of an "icy, mushy consistency". Another delightful junior league drink from the '68 special is the single serve "Glendorn Orange Fandango" from Julia Leary. Mix 2 ounces of gin, 3 tablespoons of orange juice, and 1-2 teaspoons of sugar and pour it over crushed ice. "Powerful" says the Houston League's Drink section, just like you, who has the power to save the earth, furnish your apartment, and serve a great drink all in the same eco-friendly gesture.

advice column #22

Hey Bartender!

I broke up with the woman that I'd been seeing for a little over three months. I really tried to want to date her more, but my heart wasn't in it. She was already integrated into my social network before we dated, but strengthened her role with all my friends while we were together. I don't want her to go away- she really is a great person- but she keeps making these underhanded remarks in group conversations. Her remarks are little cuts at me. There are so many layers to it that I can't just call her on every comment, but they all hurt. I did break up with her, so I guess a little of this is understandable, but it's been weeks. When is this going to stop? How can I hang out with everyone and not feel like I'm being attacked? Is there a way to get her to stop without blowing up at her in front of all my friends? I can't take this anymore
.

Sounds like you bruised her ego pretty badly, not to mention her little heart. That aside, public ridicule can only go on for so long before it becomes unacceptable. Oh no wait, it's always unacceptable, but people get a pass among friends when they're hurt. So she thinks that she's a victim of your cold cold heart and can stab at you, evil ex-boyfriend, until you retreat or realize that she's the greatest and you want her back. Maybe she's trying to hurt you, and she thinks public humiliation is a perfect course of action for her closure. You humiliated her by not falling in love with her, so she things she's playing fair. Regardless of what she's convinced herself is acceptable, she needs to learn basic social decorum before she alienates you and all of her shiny new friends. Being in pain is hard, and I hope you can realize she's reacting to that pain. However, she would be happier to either remove herself from your immediate social life or learn to not react so publicly to the trespasses on her heart. The intimacy of pain is similar to the intimacy of love- private.

It is rather gracious of you not to try to pull rank on her, and make your friends pick sides. Also, shame on the friends for not noticing that fighting is progressively escalating in front of them, and they're doing nothing to stop it. You can rarely rely on your friends to help you clean up messes, but what they sometimes lack in leadership potential they usually make up in audience participation. You'll have to harness their reticent behavior for your own benefit.

At the next impasse of mean little comments, make a 'wincing in pain' face, turn to her and say in your most nonchalant voice, "Easy there tiger." Then get up, walk to the bar (because I assume you and your friends are at a bar), and order two beers. Your friends will take a moment to think about stepping in (but they probably won't), and she'll wonder if she went too far this time. You're speaking then leaving will cause tension and anxiety among the table. You, at the bar, need to take a deep breath, and return as the calming hero to this table. Hand her a beer, a mild peace offering, and say, "you seemed to need another one". Then sit back down, the victor, and start a new conversation about something that isn't your relationship with the woman of a thousand tiny cuts. You don't want to talk about the reasons you couldn't love her, and she doesn't want to make the same social mistake again. Effectively, you are putting her in her place, and saying enough is enough. But you'll do it as a gentleman, not as the jerk she's trying to portray you as. You have to act like you want her to act, as if nothing ever happened.

What beer to order? Oh yes, I knew this would come up. For you, I would recommend the Dogfishhead Raison d'Etre (trans. reason for living). It's a mahogany ale brewed with green raisons and beet sugar, and weighs in at about 8% abv. A delightful elixir from Dogfishhead brewery in Delaware, it may be hard to find on tap. If your local watering hole doesn't have Raison d'Etre, ask your bartender for something strong and malty. You need to keep that sweet taste in your mouth, and remember that you're trying to kill this problem with kindness. For her I'd also suggest something sweet. Keep everything sharp away from her, even the hops. This time of year, there are a ton of craft brewed Maibocks on draught. I would suggest the Stoudt's Maibock from Adamstown, Pennsylvania for its honey taste and 7% alcohol. Remember, by the time she finishes that beer, you want her to be happily chatting about whatever, not thinking about smashing the glass on the edge of the table and cutting your heart out. Don't worry, she'll move on soon enough. So will you.

Advice Column #21

Hey Bartender!
So I am friends with this really great guy. He has been dating someone for awhile and from what I understand they are pretty serious. Two weeks ago we were hanging out at this bar and we got to talking about relationships...and how everyone I like seems to have a girlfriend already. The night ended up with me sleeping over at his house, in his bed. Things happened. We haven't spoken since. We agreed at the time that we wouldn't let the situation become awkward, but it has. Why won't he call me back? Can we be friends again?


Usually I would give you a drop shot of "what did you expect" in a frosty pint of "let this one go", but perhaps that simple solution won't help you figure out what is going on. What were you doing sleeping over his house? Do you want to date a guy who will go outside the boundaries of his relationship and violate the trust of his girlfriend? Why are you attracted to men who are not available? What do you expect to come of your awkward friendship? But it takes two to tango. If he's in a serious relationship, why did he let some other girl sleep over?

First, I want you to stop sleeping over boy's houses when you know they have a girlfriend. Whatever your excuse to yourself was, you need to know that this was a mistake. Any boy who would hurt his lover to have you isn't a boy you'd want. Getting some booty is no excuse for damaging someone else's heart, and no one in this tragic triangle can really feel good about it. Sure, it's his problem, his relationship, and his guilt- but you don't want to be spreading ill will around the cosmos, and you don't want the reputation of being a home wrecker.

I'm sure his recent avoidance of you is symptomatic of his guilty feelings about the things he can't tell his girlfriend, or did tell her- and the fury, sadness, and frustration that ensued. I'm not sure you can be friends again. I'm not sure you ever were before. Certainly if he did tell his girl about you, she's not going to want him to hang out with you. And if he didn't tell her about you, he might not trust himself around you, or you around her. Those are all reasonable reactions and fears. The moment you got into his bed, you decided that he was worth less to you as a friend than he was as a fling. That fling was going to end whenever he decided, and it seems to have ended much earlier than you would have liked. Maybe you could be friends with him, but he might never be able to face you. With the fateful night, ended your friendship. So now you have to let it go. Stop calling him.

You can either remorse that this fling and friendship have ended so quickly, or you can try to learn from your own actions. What about men in relationships draws you to them? What don't you like about men who are not in relationships? You need to do some soul searching and figure out if you're acting on a past experience: did someone cheat on you and now you are casting yourself in the role of the other woman? are you only allowing yourself to fall for men you can't have because you don't have time for anyone in your life right now? Don't spend this time, as so many women I know would, trying to figure out what he's thinking. Forget him. I mean it. I don't care what he's thinking. He's thinking about himself, and so should you. You don't want him anyway; you want the unattainable or to be the harlot. You need to ignore what he needs and think about yourself more. You weren't thinking about his best interests when you got into that bed, and you need to think about yourself to get your mind out of that bed. You can find a new friend, and there are thousands of single men out there, but until you know yourself well enough to know what led you to his sheets, you won't be able to have satisfying relationships with any of them.

Your goal, as a dater, shouldn't be to break up a happy couple and steal the man of your dreams away from someone else, but to have a happy trusting relationship with a drama-free man who only wants to be with you. You aren't going to get the latter from the first. So when you meet a guy in a bar, and he tells you about his girlfriend, ask him to be your wingman. Go talk to other dudes until you find a cute, available one. If you wanted to be the one night stand, he wouldn't have to call you back. If you didn't, you picked the wrong set of pajama's to untie. You made this bed, darling, and you need to get out of it. Practice, practice, practice.

So what I'm going to suggest is this: go to a bar and order something dark on draught. Why? Because men on the prowl (read single men) are strangely drawn to women with dark beers. I don't really know why, but go with it. Otter Creek Brewery in Vermont makes a caramel rich, malty porter called Sea Otter Baltic Porter. I read somewhere that Sea Otters float on their backs and use a rock to crack open the shells of crabs and other catches, using their own chests as the tables of their destructive food preparation. You should know that the otters who don't die from shark attacks eventually develop palpitations in their hearts from all the beating, and die from heart attacks. I think more of you than guts and blood spread shoulder to shoulder, and nothing but a broken heart to show from it all. I know you can find yourself a relationship that will make you happy, a night of conversation that doesn't beget loneliness. You need to cut your losses and dive back into the sea for a new catch, one with less attachments and more nutritious value. What's done is done, and you need to be done with it too.

Advice Column #20

Hey Bartender!
One of my oldest friends got out of a long-term abusive relationship about eight months ago. Since then, she's fallen for a sleazy bartender at a dance club- and has become convinced that he's "the one". He'll give her the time of day to drunkenly make out with her, but he tells her that he's really not into relationships right now. She seems to think that if she falls more and more in love with him, that when he is finally "ready" for a relationship, he'll realize that she's also the one for him. I think she's gone off the deep end. What should I do, or say, or drink?

Oh dear, she is really delusional. There are three things that can happen between her and this dude- it can work out, it can suck and not work out, or he could use his position of power over her to really, devastatingly hurt her. What you need to realize about your friend is that she's in a cycle of abuse- she's cruisin' for a bruisin'. The abusive ex-boy was probably not the first abusive person in her life, and will probably not be the last. She's convinced this scum bag is the one, because she's sub-consciously looking for someone who can hurt her more than the last boy. Why? Because the more it hurts, the more she thinks she's in love. Pain is the most comfortable emotion for her.

In all likelihood, she thinks the cycle will end differently this time, that pain will lead to pleasure. But no matter what could happen, the outcome will always be another abusive cycle. If the sleazebag dance party bartender turns out to be a saint in black jeans who truly loves her with all his heart, she's going to push any buttons he has until he becomes every other jerk she's ever dated. That's what people in patterns like this do. The repetition is stronger than their will to change it, if that will even exists. Their greatest comfort is that they make whatever has happened before happen all over again, and they can anticipate the feelings, so nothing scary and new happens.

In the case of dealing with such confused friends, you need to realize that when she figures out that you are not supportive of her messed-up routine, she's likely to turn on you. You have to know this in advance so that when it happens, and it will, you will realize that she only knows these two roles- to be the victim or the aggressor- and until she learns a new way of loving and responding, the lashing out has little to do with you, and everything to do with her. So be patient, and don't take her venom to heart.

Obviously this new Romeo has no intention of making good on his smooches, and your friend will be totally blindsided by his lack of good intentions. Even though it's obvious to us that she should cut and run, she will not be able to hear any reasonable advice that you give her. You can take solace knowing that if she survives the harsh indignities of her love, that she will always remember you as supportive when you said nothing (or nothing terminal), and will show up when she needs you to say either nothing or something else.

Only in her most vulnerable state can the most subtle real advice be given. This will come months from now, when her bruised heart is splattered all over the floor behind her. Then, you can agree with her that the jerk was a jerk, and you can compare his jerk-dom to the previous boy's jerk-dom. You can ask her the first time she remembers someone making her feel that way, and let her talk it out until she sees the pattern that she's been repeating. Maybe she'll have a break-down, and you can get her into therapy to discuss all the negative cycles in her life. That's the patented New York way of moving on, with the help of true professionals.

It's totally reasonable for you to tell her, now, that you hope things work out and that she's worthy of someone loving her the way she loves them. Boost her esteem in any way you can, so she can be strong to fight the battle she's going to pick with this useless boy. But you don't have to watch the bloody slaughter. Getting her back, and being a good friend, doesn't mean you have to hold her hand while she makes her own mistakes. It means you have to be willing to buy her a drink and talk to her when she's ready to listen. Become scarce for a while, she'll call you when the time is right. Until then, make yourself busy.

When the time comes, go to a bar, and order yourself something distinct and strong like a Sazarac. This strong old classic (like the classic old twisted love patterns of the abused) has disputed variations on ingredients. For you, order it with the following: an old-fashioned glass with a lump of sugar soaked in Peychaud bitters, a cube of ice, a dash of absinthe (or Pernod if the bar isn't adequately stocked), a twist of orange peel (your comfort), a twist of lemon peel (your candor), and a jigger of Rye. I'd suggest Pikesville Rye, but that's entirely up to you. With this serious drink in hand, deliver the good news- that he wasn't the one. Then try to offer your friend a way to talk to someone more professional than you, her entirely judgement soaked friend (they all are), get her to an impartial, good therapist. A therapist can teach her how to get out of that rough cycle, and to learn that abuse is not love. Only then will she bring home a boyfriend that will be worth meeting, worth her patience, and won't make you want to stab his eyes out for how she's treated.