I once had a brush with what proved to be a fascinating case study of human behavior.
It was ninth grade. I had a locker. I refused to lock my locker, probably out of some strange sense of teenage rebellion and/or laziness. A friend of mine—we shall call her Beth—asked if she could share my locker because it was closer to her classes than the one she had been assigned.
“All right,” I said, “but I don’t lock my locker. And by now I’ve lost the combo, so that’s never going to be in the cards here.”
Beth said she understood the law of the land. So I agreed to grant her asylum.
But what I really should have passed on was the warning that I thought went unsaid. You see, Lockerville was a dangerous land. It wasn’t that I had any illusions that people wouldn’t try to steal the crap out of my stuff; it was that I only kept textbooks in there so that no one would bother.
Beth seemed to have a sunnier view of human nature. And in her absolutely unwarranted faith in the human race, she decided to leave her CD player on the locker’s top shelf.
That thing sat there for no more than seven measly hours before it was gone with the mother-lovin’ wind.
This, in and of itself, did not surprise me at all. Here’s what did surprise me: in the center of the top shelf, in the exact spot where Beth’s CD player had once sat, was an unopened package of chocolate chip cookies.
These were not Beth’s cookies. They were not my cookies.
There was only one logical conclusion: someone had broken into my locker, stolen Beth’s CD player, and replaced it with cookies.
What a weird honkin’ thing to do.
Seriously, think about what this act implies. The thief opens the locker, sees the CD player, knows that he is going to take the CD player, but must also on some level understand that this is a nasty, unethical thing to do. However, instead of letting that stop him, he thinks, “Wait a tick, I know what will soften the blow!,” and then he leaves us cookies.
Never in a million years did Beth think someone would steal her CD player. I totally did, but never in a million years did I think a thief would be considerate enough to swap in cookies.
We handled the situation accordingly.
Beth was livid. “MY CD PLAYER!” she shrieked to the heavens.
I was pleasantly surprised. “Hey, free cookies!” I exclaimed to no one in particular.
Beth did not appreciate my positive attitude. “Fuck the cookies!” she barked at me. “I had a CD in there!”
I paused for a moment. “So… do you not want the cookies?”
“No, I don’t want the cookies!” Beth screamed. “Why the fuck would I want the cookies?! What I want is my mother-fucking CD player! Who the fuck would steal my CD player—”
This went on for some time. At the end of the day, Beth went home with no CD player, disillusioned with human nature, and I went home with free cookies, feeling a little confused but mostly just impressed.
To be clear, I’m not endorsing criminal behavior. All I’m saying is, if you have to go there, you might as well go there considerately.
Surprisingly powerful words: “I know what you’re thinking, but…”
I have to say, I don’t think I fully appreciated the power of this one little phrase until the fateful night of March 27th, 2013. The night I decided to bake cookies for my boyfriend’s birthday.
You see, when it comes to baking delicious things that are terrible for you, I am quite the aficionada. I don’t get to bake often enough, so when I do, I dig through a trove of blogger recipes to find the perfect dessert for the recipient of my floury-buttery love.
Grant just so happens to love the classic chocolate-peanut butter combo, so when I saw the link for peanut butter cookies with chocolate chunks, I was already 99% sold. Then I looked at the recipe. It looked solid enough, except… EXCEPT: it called for full chocolate bars broken into chunks instead of chocolate chips. For you bakers out there, you know this can be an iffy situation. Chocolate chips have stabilizers that stop them from melting too much when you bake them. Chocolate bars do not.
So, of course, when I saw this, my first thought was, “I don’t know about this. It seems like those chocolate bars are going to explode all over the baking sheet and ruin these cookies.”
But then, as I looked over the recipe, my eyes caught on the phrase, “I know what you’re thinking, but…” The blogger did know what I was thinking and she went on to explain how the melty goodness of the bars really added to the recipe and how they would turn out fine.
“Well, okay, baking blogger,” I resolved. “Since you knew what I was thinking and expressly addressed my concern, I’ll go ahead and make ‘em as is.”
I made ‘em as is. And as I arranged the balls of dough on the cookie sheets, I thought, “Boy, these chocolate bar chunks really look like they’re going to explode out of the cookies and ruin everything.”
But then again, she did say, “I know what you’re thinking, but…”
I put them in the oven.
Eight minutes later I took them out.
The chocolate bars had exploded everywhere, burned, and ruined the cookies.
Did I mention it was 1 am? And that my boyfriend’s birthday was the following day? And that I was meeting him first thing in the morning?
YOU BETRAYED ME, BAKING BLOGGER. I TRUSTED YOU AND YOU BETRAYED ME.
I had plenty of time to mull over the error of my ways as I set about preparing brownies until 2 in the morning. Not only did I realize that it really was that one line that had made me trust her, but also that this had happened once before.
There had been another recipe, some abomination called Candy Chicken or some such thing that called for cooking chicken in a crockpot with brown sugar, soda, and vinegar. “Boy,” I thought, “that seems like it would be way too sweet.” But then the cooking blogger said, “I know what you’re thinking, but…” and explained how it really wasn’t too sweet.
“Well, okay,” I thought, and made it.
WAY TOO SWEET.
So apparently, I will do anything as long as you address my obvious concern with the phrase, “I know what you’re thinking, but…”
And that got me thinking. It is April Fool’s after all. I can’t be the only one with this Achilles’ heel.
Just think of the power one could yield with this. I could start a recipe blog called, “I Know What You’re Thinking, But…”
Then I’d post a recipe for muffins that calls for a whole cup of baking soda:
“I know what you’re thinking: one whole cup of baking soda?! Won’t those explode all over my oven? I know it seems like that’s obviously what will happen. But, no, don’t worry about it. It will be totally fine.”
Or one for enchiladas that calls for twenty-nine Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers:
“I know what you’re thinking: aren’t Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers the hottest peppers on earth? Won’t these enchiladas taste like Sherman’s March to the Sea in my mouth? Well, you’d think that, but no, the baking really mellows out the flavor. Make sure you include all of the peppers’ seeds or you’ll hardly taste them at all!”
Or one for pork chops that calls for a live pig:
“I know what you’re thinking: do I really have to slaughter this pig myself? Won’t that be disgusting, traumatic, and wholly unnecessary? But no, trust me, it’s going to make a big difference in the flavor. Just make sure to lay out a tarp to cover your living room carpet first. If your pig is nervous, give him a Valium. If you’re nervous, take three Valiums yourself.”
Then I’d invite those two bloggers to look at it and disable all comments so no one can warn them.
Of course, I wouldn’t actually do this, because UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE, I understand that with great power comes great responsibility.
Now you have been warned, readers. Beware the words, “I know what you’re thinking, but…” and if you must use them yourself, for the sake of idiots like me everywhere, please be careful.
Because sometimes you just get to thinking, wouldn’t every movie be better with Batman?
Hello, hello, internet friends. I apologize for this post not being up on Monday–I was down and out with a hearty case o’ the death plague. It was no good. But you know what is good?
There are two more Drunken Debates videos from me and Katie’s first session that I’ve been saving for a rainy day. Today was arguably more snowy than rainy, but here they are nonetheless.
You won’t want to miss these, because they are both on subjects near and dear to everyone’s hearts. Should men have chest hair? Should they not have chest hair? Should women have long hair? Should women have short hair? I don’t know why we talk about hair so much, but a friend of Katie’s suggested a number of random debate topics to us and apparently she cared passionately about hair.
Two things I would like to clarify upfront:
1. I don’t mean to say that everyone without chest hair is a young boy, just that young boys don’t have any. This, in drunk speak, does not translate per se.
2. No, I cannot explain that rather inexplicable brain meltdown in the second. Don’t ask me to try. I’ve got nothing.
So, who won? Any future topics you’d like to see us debate?
Also, in case you missed the first batch (blasphemy!), here’s the link: Drunken Debates.
Let’s talk for one moment about ellipses. Ellipses, for those of you who have better things to do with your life than spend them as grammar nerds (I clearly don’t), are colloquially known as dot, dot, dot, e.g., “I don’t feel like ending this sentence with a period or question mark, so… here we are….”
I’m going to come right out and say it: I think ellipses are under-appreciated in day-to-day interactions. It seems to me like the only major play they get is when people try to flirt with each other via text, as per this made up text conversation:
Cindy: Hey John, wanna come over tonight…?
John: Sure, what did you have in mind…?
Cindy: Well, I figured we could have a little dinner and a little dessert, and then see what else we’re in the mood for…
John: Hot dog! I’ll be right over with bells on and my pants down, if you know what I mean…
Cindy: Oh, you’re into bells are you…?
John: I’m into all kinds of things, if you are…
Cindy: Well then, giddy up, jingle horse… See you at 8…
And that’s great. I’m all for that. It stops us from abusing winky face emoticons.
But here’s the thing: I feel like we all, collectively, are missing out on a majorly underutilized function of the ellipsis that writers use all the time in fiction…
Making ordinary sentences ominous as hell.
You know what I’m talking about.
Consider the classic:
It’s quiet… Too quiet.
BOOM. OMINOUS. An ordinary sentence becomes immediately intriguing. This is a game changer. I mean, come on, don’t you get tired of the same old exchange of pleasantries?
We all have this conversation fifty times a day:
Greg: Hi, Beth.
Beth: Hi, Greg.
Greg: How are you, Beth?
Beth: I’m doing just fine, Greg. And you?
Greg: I’m fine, Beth.
BORING. Everyone knows you’re fine. They can see that you’re fine. Now watch what happens if Beth decides to spice this up with ellipses:
Greg: Hi, Beth.
Beth: Hi, Greg…
Greg: How are you, Beth?
Beth: I’m… doing just fine, Greg… And you…?
Greg: Um, I’m good. Are you sure you’re okay?
Beth: I told you, Greg… I’m fine… (thunderclap)
With any luck, this conversation will haunt Greg forever. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of ellipses. Properly placed, ellipses can even make ordinary laughter terrifying. Consider:
Bob: Hey Bipsy, why did the chicken cross the road?
Bipsy: I dunno, why?
Bob: To get the other side!
And compare it to:
Bob: Hey Bipsy, why did the chicken cross the road?
Bipsy: I dunno, why?
Bob: To get the other side!
Bipsy: Ha ha… ah-ha-ha-ha… AH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA… AH-HA–HA-HA-HA-HAAAAAAAAAA!
Bob: God help us, what have I done?
Let’s be clear on something. I don’t mean to deride other marks of punctuation. Periods are a great staple, exclamation marks are delightful, and question marks know how to mix things up. As far as I’m concerned, everyone should bow down to the mighty Oxford comma, and don’t even get me started on hyphens—I adore hyphens.
All I’m saying is, let’s show the ellipsis a little love, too. You might be surprised how many things you can accomplish with an ellipsis… how very many things indeed…
I just read a lovely opinion piece on the Fox News website. Perhaps some of you have already seen it. It’s called, “The War on Men,” and it’s by Suzanne Venker. I’ll include a link below in case you’d like to take a look yourself. Before you do, though, a warning: if you dive into it unprepared, it may make you want to dropkick the illustrious Ms. Venker right in her lady bits. Yet that would be to overlook Ms. Venker’s core insight: all that rage you’re feeling is just a product of bra-burning feminists overheating your lady-brain with their fancy talk. Let’s slow down, breathe deep, and try to benefit from Ms. Venker’s profound wisdom together.
Ms. Venker begins her groundbreaking masterpiece by calling attention to the decreasing number of men who are looking to marry. In her research on the subject, Ms. Venker has found that when asked why marriage has become less appealing, a certain “subculture” of men respond: “Women aren’t women anymore.”
A few more paragraphs down you get the additional treat of reading, “But what if the dearth of good men, and ongoing battle of the sexes, is – hold on to your seats – women’s fault?”
My first response was: No, bitch, you hold on to your seat, because I’m about to slap you out of it six ways to Sunday.
But then I got to the heart of the piece. I’m not paraphrasing this. Here it is verbatim:
Contrary to what feminists like Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, say, the so-called rise of women has not threatened men. It has pissed them off. It has also undermined their ability to become self-sufficient in the hopes of someday supporting a family. Men want to love women, not compete with them. They want to provide for and protect their families – it’s in their DNA. But modern women won’t let them.
It’s all so unfortunate – for women, not men. Feminism serves men very well: they can have sex at hello and even live with their girlfriends with no responsibilities whatsoever.
… Yep. Those words were written in 2012, ladies and gentlemen. Now, at first glance, Ms. Venker’s argument might seem wildly offensive. And when she essentially goes on to explain how a woman is going against nature if she has a career and a college degree, you realize that at second glance, third glance, and dare I say it fourth, it’s not just wildly offensive—it’s a mother-flippin’ catastrophe.
But at FIFTH glance, it becomes obvious that Ms. Venker is on to something. She does make several excellent points here.
Right off the bat, Ms. Venker hits it on the nose: Feminism (a.k.a. that pesky little movement supporting equality) has been nothing but a travesty for women. First of all, it is universally acknowledged that no one wants to be equal. Everyone hates equality. Which is why the United States still has a monarchy. And slavery. Every day we’re thankful we didn’t abolish either of those things. Or let those whiny minorities vote. Boy howdy, nothing says the Land of the Free like soul-crushing oppression.
Furthermore, as to the additional point of men being enabled to have sex with more women these days, again, Ms. Venker, I must applaud you. They really bamboozled us there. After all, it is impossible that women might also enjoy having sex. Thanks to the Victorians, everyone today knows that a woman with a sex drive is suffering from an unnatural illness. Fortunately, her freaky-deaky sexy-time disease can be diagnosed and treated in one of the following three ways: (1) her clitoris is oversized and must be removed via the 100% pain-free practice of female circumcision, (2) the devil is inside her and must be removed via the 100% legit practice of exorcism, or (3) the devil is inside her clitoris and both must be removed simultaneously by shouting Latin while stabbing at her hoo-ha with a scalpel.
Oh, and that last bit about men being able to live together with their girlfriends without having to be the sole provider… Right again! Sweet Jesus, that’s the worst. You mean men and women have the freedom now to choose the balance that makes sense for them, instead of being subject to the crushing censure of society for deviating from gender roles? No wonder men are so “angry” with the situation.
Hell, I’d be pissed too if someone told me I got to have more sex and work less.
But not to worry, friends, the all-knowing Ms. Venker has a solution for us:
“Fortunately, there is good news: women have the power to turn everything around. All they have to do is surrender to their nature – their femininity – and let men surrender to theirs.
“If they do, marriageable men will come out of the woodwork.”
Boy, I gotta tell ya, I’m with her. I don’t know about the rest of you ladies, but I for one am fed up with trying to work in a man’s world all the time when my estrogen makes my thinky-thing so stupid and sleepy. Plus, every time I try to go to my job, my uterus gets all tingly and sends sad feelings into my woman-heart. Then, all the while, I’m busy worrying if my hair looks okay. Even now, I keep staring at it so much it’s hard to finish writing this paragraph! Femininity is some distracting shit, you know?
Plus, I can’t wait to get my soft, delicate hands on one of these “marriageable men” Ms. Venker keeps talking about. I thought I was happy with my boyfriend who loves me the way I am, but now I realize that all I’ve been waiting for in life is a man who thinks I’m no woman unless I give up my power to choose about what’s important to me. Mmm, sweet, delicious lack of agency… My uterus will be so relieved.
In case you want to view it in all its glory, the article can be found here:
Great opinion piece, Fox. I suggest you follow it up with, “The War on White People.”