Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Loaf of Bread, A Jug of Wine, and Maybe I Can Talk Thou Into Something After The Daily Show

When it's late at night and the scent of magnolia hangs heavy in the nighttime air- a rare occurrence here in Pittsburgh, to be sure, but it happens- often I will rub the sleep from my eyes and listen rapt-wise while the old folks tell stories of the old days.
In the old days, for example, couples always both wanted an equal amount of sex.   Similarly, you could get into the movies for the price of a loaf of bread, although what the theaters did with all that bread remains a mystery.  And late night comedians didn't tell the same jokes twice, hoping to save a lame joke by emphasizing a different word on the joke's re-telling.

That's right, I said it.  I broached what you call a taboo topic on this country.

Movie theaters once accepted loaves of bread?  What did the porn theaters accept, bagettes?  Or for lesbian film festivals- bundt cake?  

But what I'm referring to, of course, is the old folks tale that, at any time in the history of man, there has existed a couple who has wanted, or needed, or (insert your own lecherous or disdainful verb here) sex equally.

Why do couples not like sex the same amount?  Freud probably would have had a lot to say on the subject, if he'd ever have taken that cheap cigar out of his mouth.  It was Freud who famously said, no doubt in self defense, that "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar".  It was probably his rival, Jung, who said, "Yeah, and sometimes a cigar is just a penis substitute, Sigmund.". How those Vienna nights must have just flown by.

Look at it this way.  Probably you've  gone to a restaurant with another person, or, if you're lucky, you and your beloved have gone to a restaurant with another couple.  It took a long time for everybody to order- lots of negotiation, lots of "you order this, I'll order that and we'll each try what the other person ordered" going on.

And this is just about food.

And even before the negotiating began, I'll bet my last dollar-no, I'll bet my husband's last dollar, it's older and more of a collector's item- that not all the  people at the table wanted the same food group.  Let me go back further.  How much effort and negotiation and phone calls and emailing, if not downright begging, did it take to get  everybody available on the same night at the same time?  

And many times did you, as social secretary for this mess, think, "Aw, forget it, I'm just gonna fend for myself.  Let every body else get their own."

Sex is pretty much the same as going out for dinner, except that you spend less time figuring out what to wear.  If you're married, a lot less time.  

Because I have been a foot soldier in the war between the sexes for a quarter of a century-blow in my ear and I'll show you my scars- I have a good idea of what works and what doesn't in terms of convincing/being convinced to do the Horizontal Hora with your spouse.  But that, my good cyber-friends, is another blog, and if you can wait, it's coming, if you'll pardon the expression, next week.

Incidentally, if you're dating, it's not a war.  A war is a situation on which both sides are struggling for a foothold in territory that you both want, in this case, each other.  In dating, you can bolt at any time.  At best, dating is a skirmish.  

As McArthur once told his troops after a  vigorous night with 
Mrs. Eisenhower, "Marriage is hell".

Needless to say, the media of the day cleaned up what he said.

What he really said was, 

"Laying the foundation for an open and honest relationship and negotiating for occasional, beautiful, soul-fusing, I-hear-a-lone-saxophone-in-the-distance sex with the person that you adore in the bargain - and if you are supremely lucky, they are one and the same person- is hell".


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mens Rights With No Punchline

Mens' Rights, With No Punchline

A friend of mine from college, a woman, is a tireless worker for an international group that supports the rights of people who have been imprisoned across the world for intellectual crimes. She believes deeply in her work. At home, she earnestly and without provocation shares her opinion, among her friends, that all men are pigs. She is married with two sons.

Another female friend of mind-you didn't think I had two, did you?- is avid on the subject of human rights abuses, and can hold forth on the subjects of civil rights for gay and trans-gendered Americans with all the eloquence of Churchill during World War II. She addresses her husband as "loser," and not in an endearing way. And not privately.

Talking the talk of civil rights is one thing, and walking the walk is another entirely. If women talked about Americans with special needs the way that they generally talk about men, there would be an outcry that would probably get picked up by the increasingly Gabor-accented Arianna Huffington. If any group used such derogatory terms to describe African-Americans and/or Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transexual Americans, it would be, well, Thursday. But to discuss fifty percent of the country's population using the words "stupid", "useless", and "loser" is only embarrassing for the group doing the talking.

Why are we, as women, seemingly unable to verbally treat men as anything but the enemy? Many of my closest friends are men, and far from being puzzled or hurt by this treatment by women, they seem to accept it as the natural order. "Well, I guess I am sort of a pig," allowed my friend Dan* from college, in reference to his wife's allegations. I have known Dan pretty well for about three decades and asked for proof of this swinishness, which I had never noticed. He wasn't sure of the details, but this hardworking husband , father, and sole provider for a family of six,not to mention Talbots and the Clark Building ,has been convinced that he is both worthless and easily replaceable.

Many of my female friends, even those with sons, were delighted by a tee shirt that was popular about five years ago and featured on it the logo "Girls rule, Boys drool". If the nouns in that shirt had been reversed, the screaming of angry parents would have drowned out the clanging of the cash registers in the stored selling the shirts. But as it was, the mothers of girls were delighted. And if they had sons as well? Oh, well, the reasoning went. Society will take care of my son, because he's part of the elite. I have to take care of my daughter myself. The idea of " taking care of our daughters," which used to consist of teaching them the ideals of honor, truth, respect, and a wicked Half- and Full-Nelson Hold, has now morphed into teaching them the same dislike snd disrespect for the opposite sex that used to be drilled into boys.

My male friends are surprised to hear that they are considered by women to be America's elite class. A few have gone through painful divorces; depending upon which states they live in, they've often automatically lost even partial custody of their children, since in divorce cases some states automatically favor the woman to raise the children. Some of my male friends support families by being self employed, which is a far from elite situation; other scrabble by in jobs in which they do the best work they can and still get castigated daily by bosses who believe that, in an economy like the current one, a terrified employee will work harder. They have families whom they love, parents whom, in some cases, they are beginning to care for, kids heading for college, and mortgages to pay.

And these male friends of mine are generally treated one of two ways. They are treated like underpaid fools who don't have the brains to make a decent living by their wives, and they are treated like overpaid, overbearing lowbrows by women who don't know them.

I know you can't legislate what I'm about to suggest, and I don't think that we even ought to. You can't legislate civility. But how about, just in general, a return to manners? To giving people, even the people that you love, the benefit of the doubt?

Why don't we all just try and accept that, if only for one day this week, that the ones among us who have penises are, just like the rest of us, doing their best?

Friday, March 23, 2012

So, Welcome.

I wasn't sure what to call this blog.

I want it to be about life. which means its going to be a gumbo of a blog, cause if life isn't a gumbo, I don't know what is.

(Gumbo, if you've never had the pleasure, is a stew with a little bit of something and a little bit of everything in it.)

I didn't want to limit myself by being too specific,which meant that the first title, the title that I really wanted to use, wouldn't work. (It's in the blog towards the end. Keep reading.) And most of the really good, non-specific titles (The Agony and the Ecstasy, The Help, The Bible) were already taken. And that meant I had to rely on my own mind, wit, and creativity.


I'm always surprised by people who say that they're bored by life. How? With everything that goes on, just in the course of a twenty-four hour day, how do you manage to to be bored? I would pay good money to be be bored sometimes, which leads me, finally, to the event that I wanted to name this blog after.

A few years ago, my husband and I were eating dinner at a small Italian restaurant in our city, the grand and glorious Pittsburgh. The restaurant, now gone, was the old and great kind where meals could and did take three hours to get through, and the conversations between the diners took even longer. the restaurant's area was small, long rather than wide, and, this is a key point, dear reader, had only one door open to the public.

The husband and I were enjoying our meals and talking quietly when, at a family reunion behind us, the family matriarch, an extremely elderly lady who had been possessed of joie de vivre, a walker, and an oxygen tank, suddenly and without question passed way face down in her linguine. Her family, of course, was frozen between shock and despair, and wailing became the order of the day.

Everyone did what they were supposed to do in that kind of a situation. The owner of the restaurant offered his condolences to the family, dialled 911, and comped their check. We, the other diners, all tried to give the grieving family respect by scooting our tables that one extra inch further away that the restaurant's space would allow. The waiters all brought the bereaved an extra helping of garlic bread. The ambulance arrived fast, bringing with it a crew of dedicated workers and a slew of life-saving medical equipment, which with they proceeded to block the door.

The only exit out of this house of pasta and death was gone. The owner wiped his brow for the hundredth time and comped espresso for the house.

My husband was starting to panic. While nobody in the restaurant was too far from the department, we were the closest, and getting to see up close how a start-you-heart-up-with-those-electric-paddle-thingies isn't his idea of a good dinnertime activity. "What do we do?" he whispered urgently. "We're trapped!"

I thought fast. "Order dessert."

"What are you talking about, order dessert? There is a dead-"

Not for the first time in our marriage, and or the last, I interrupted. "Honey, I know there is a dead lady over there face down in her linguine. But we can't do anything about it. And we are trapped here until the ambulance guys are done. So, I'm having tiramasu. And espresso. And probably wine."

"You don't drink."

"I can't think of a better time to pretend that I do. And look, if I get to choose how I die, I would choose this way. In my late nineties, surrounded by family, just had a great meal, giving a bunch of strangers a night they're never going to forget...."

He nodded assent. "Sounds like you."

"Sure does."

So we ordered dessert, and drank some wine. And all of us got out of the restaurant that night, some of us in better shape than others.

So at first, the title of this blog was going to be "what to do when somebody eating at the same restaurant that you're eating in dies and other quandaries", but it was too wordy. Nobody would ever email their friends to tell them to read this great new blog, because it's simply too many words.

Plus, it wouldn't look good on a tee-shirt. You always have to consider the merch angle.

Some people thought I was cold for ordering dessert when there was a dead lady face down in her entree' less than five inches away from me. I choose to think of it as a cheerful willingness to carry on, for which I thought the French word was sangfroid. My friend Kristine, who speaks French fluently, snorted with laughter at this interpretation of the French word. Sangfroid, she informed me, actually means in French something more along the lines of "icy indifference".

Tomato, tomahtoe, ya know?

So the blog is called That Auld Sangfroid Again. Which means either here comes more cheerful willingness to carry on in the face of adversity, or an icy indifference to human suffering.

And there will be more of it. So stay tuned.

Why I Love Al Pacino

Man, oh man, do I love Al Pacino.

I love him for his decision to wear what looks like a necktie knotted around his head these days. Whether this choice of headgear is edgy or just plain awful, only Michael Corleone could try it and not get arrested for vagrancy.

I love him for for making an entire movie in which he plays a blind man who constantly yells something like, and spelling is not my strong point, "WHO-aah!" every time he wants to emphasize a point. It takes guts to be that annoying for a solid one and a half hours. Just ask Billy Bob Thornton.

But mostly, I love Al Pacino because, as I learned listening to the director's commentary of The Godfather, Pacino didn't learn to drive until he was an adult. For all I know, Mr. Pacino still can't drive either, God love him.

But Suze, I hear you muttering to yourself over your coffee/tea/barely legal substance. Why do you care whether or not some movie star who wears neckties around his head can drive or not? Don't you have a life, even for a blogger?

And what do you mean, "either"?

Let me explain. You're about to discover something about me that only my entire family, a phalanx of good and trusted friends, a handful of enemies, a group of strangers at a party I attended a few years ago, and a former boyfriend who, due to witnessing without warning the reason why I choose not to drive, probably hasn't blinked his eyes in unison since the 80's, know.

But I'm not going to use the real name for this condition because some of my family still fears that I can be hurt by the stigma that this condition still carries.

I say the only good stigma is a dead stigma.

So in deference to my family, I'll give you a rhyming hint.

I have pepilepsy.

Now, mind you, my pepileptic peizures have been few and far apart. Legally, I have been able to drive for decades. But there are downsides to having a reporter for a husband (No! Really?) and one of them is the ability, after several unrelated dinner conversations, to see your worst nightmares in headline form. This nightmare reads:


In a related story to this nightmare, burning at the stake, drawing and quartering, and the guillotine are all unanimously voted into use in the US. In my case, simultaneously.

The problem is that it is relatively easy to explain why you are most things in this country, because this is a tolerant country. (Does not apply in cases where you are, or might appear to be: African-American, African-American, male, young, and armed with smack foods, Middle Eastern, Greek, Spanish, Asian, Gay, Lesbian, Trans-Gendered, Have a skin tone darker than a gramhe cracker, adhere to a religion that is not Christianity, or speak with an accent.)

What you cannot confess to in the land of the free is not knowing how to drive. I have female friends who cheered long and hard when Lorena Bobbitt severed her husband's genitalia clean off and threw it into a field in the middle of the night. These same women regard me as a charity case because I chose long ago not to drive.

It is indeed a dark and mysterious universe.

When confronted with these pro-driving zealots, I used to be honest to the point of pain. I said all of the following, in no particular order: I have pepilepsy. I haven't had trouble with it in decades, I just don't think I belong behind the wheel of a car. No, I don't feel like a loser. No, I don't feel sorry for myself. No, please don't feel sorry for me. No, I don't feel like I have no life. Wow, is that the time? I really should be...No, I do feel like an adult. I do feel free, thank you. I do just fine, thanks. I take buses. Or I walk. Buses. You've heard of buses? Big, loud.... Oh, you're afraid to take buses? Why th- I mean, why on earth are you afraid to take a bus? Of, course, I apologize, that really is none of my business.

In the director's commentary to The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppella repeats a comment made to him by Al Pacino during the filming of Michael Corleone's wedding in Italy. The scene calls for Corleone to dance with his new bride and then get in a car and drive away with her. Before shooting the scene, Pacino said to the director, "I'm from the Bronx, and people from the Bronx don't drive."

So now, when confronted with a a situation in which a driving disclosure is called for, I stand up straight, look my inquisitor in the eye, and say, "Well, originally, you see, I'm from the Bronx...."

Monday, March 19, 2012

"But Of All These Friends And Lovers...."

It's time.

Something needs to be said on a topic too hot to be touched by ordinary bloggers, too controversial for the mainstream media to comment on, but I'll say it.

There are problems with Facebook. You're welcome, America.

I don't mean the problems that you see in the news, like when someone is being followed on Facebook by someone he or she doesnt want to be followed by. How sbout the more subtle problems of the social network, like when one spouse friends or is friended by someone that his or her spouse wishes would burst into spontaneous combustion?

I should make a small but important disclaimer here. I have been happily spoused for twenty-five years, my husband for at least seventeen. (Sorry for that rotten joke, but the opening was too good.).

The point is that we've been together for awhile, and have the kids, dogs, and mortgage to prove it. And yet, even after twenty -five years of marriage, we still find things to disagree about. (Sorry, Mom.). In fact, if you look up the word "spouse" in the original Old English, it means, literally, "one is about to disagree with the next incredibly reasonable thing that you say."

So, we are not new at this marriage game. We are, in fact, old at it. We are lucky enough to have reached the point at which we can argue on fairly hot topics, like who should do what share of household chores or how to reach peace in the Middle East, while we are both reading. And that's without either of us looking up from our books. And it includes swearing. But friending on Facebook is a whole new deal. And it also includes swearing.

This is not, I should add, about one particular person on Facebook. The following conversation has taken place more than once in our hovel. The lead-in is from my husband, who is working at the computer in our bedroom. I am on the bed reading, or on Facebook, because I like to breathe the same air that my husband does occasionally.

The first clue I get that he's not strictly working comes in the form of a question. "You're kidding around with that guy?" I put down the book on Hunter Thompson, whom I presumed dead, look over the husband's shoulder, and see that he's on my Facebook page, looking at who I was messaging with, a male friend from college.

"Oh, well, yes, I was.". Back to Hunter Thompson.

"Why him?"

"Because Hunter Thompson's dead?"

"He's after you. "

"No, he's not. Hunter Thompson is more after me, and he's--"



"I still don't like it."

"I can see why. We haven't seen each other for thirty years, and we've both been married for almost that whole time. A pattern is starting to form."

The husband is laughing. "But he's in your close friends group!"

"That's because he's a close friend..."

"Yes, but," and here we get to the heart of it, "I'm closer."

Which is why, if you look on my Facebook page, you will find a group labelled "Husbands". It has two members, the husband and myself. It is not open to the public, and nobody else can view it.

And, if you're my close friend from college on Facebook-- if you didn't like this blog, it wasn't about you. it was about another of my close male college friends.

If, however, you did like it, it is dedicated to you, and was the whole time.