Thursday, September 2, 2010

Clause 13B

In the television series, Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw is a writer whose column in the New York Star is heavily, if not strictly, based off her life experiences in the tumultuous world of dating and relationships. Conceptually, this is makes for not only an entertaining series, but also an incredibly helpful one. In actuality, there was one major difference between Ms. Bradshaw’s upper-side Manhattan romances and my north-side Oakland dating life that provided a substantial road block in the show's usefulness.

None of the guys that asked for Carrie Bradshaw’s number then continued to text her at 3 AM to see if she wanted to “hang out.” It’s three in the morning. That’s when I’m watching Law & Order: SVU marathons, duh.

While Carrie Bradshaw got to concern herself with designer shoes and menus in French, I have been much more preoccupied with establishing the foundations of an exit strategy for times when my seemingly harmless conversations with GenericName O’PotentialStalker go horribly, horribly awry. Ladies of the realistic dating scene need to have plans. They need plans, pass codes and safety checkpoints. On more than one occasion, I have felt the overwhelming urge to shout out, “Send the away team!” only to be met with perplexed, furtive glances from eavesdroppers, and blank stares from everyone else.

So I have developed the contractual agreement that I like to refer to as “Clause 13B.”

Clause 13B is an amendment to the binding friendship contract signed, and mutually adhered to between two “friends.” (intensity of relationship to be defined previously in the contract.) Clause 13B is a particularly precarious one, and isn’t present in just an average friendship agreement. Only contracts of the highest caliber have this amendment, due to the sensitive nature of its contents. Certain experiences and milestones must be successfully met and achieved before this clause is added. And the activation of such a clause is only acceptable in the more dire and desperate of situations.

For example, lets talk for a moment about Tecate Tony. Tecate Tony is named such for two reasons; the first being that he is one of those guys who gets drunk off Tecate, the cheapest beer served in an already exceedingly cheap hipster bar. Secondly, Tecate Tony is so stereotypically sketchy, I have to call him “Tony” because knowing his actual name would just be acknowledging that he was a real person, and it’s hard to live in a world where people like Tecate Tony breathe the same air as I do. 

He is not someone I would ever notice, at least not until I can feel his eyes boring into my skin like some kind of heavy-handed tattoo artist. Even his gaze from a distance is unnerving. He is so thickly coated in grease and sleaze that the reflection of the dim lights of the bar make him glow in a most ominous way.  Tecate Tony eyes his target, and immediately goes in for the kill. I use the term, “kill” because once he starts talking to me, I wish I were dead. He doesn’t make any secret of the fact that he wants to sleep with said target. His opening line is either, “I saw you from across the bar, and I knew I had to at least try to speak with someone so beautiful,” or “Is your man here? No? Well that’s good for me, and too bad for him.” Next, he usually asks if I’m okay, on account of how I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

Tecate Tony is relentless. Tecate Tony doesn’t take a hint. Tecate Tony is so intense and overbearing that once he gets my number because I’ve run out of ways to say no and I panic with the truth, I walk away feeling shell-shocked and light-headed. In the “I was just attacked with a road-side bomb by a bunch of militant vigilantes in the desert” kind of way.

 This is where Clause 13B is useful. Clause 13B is a text message that says, “My battleship is sunk. Send reinforcements to scavenge the wreckage and search for survivors,” or the simple phrase, “I went to Guam once, the forced labor conditions were truly appalling,” uttered loudly enough to be heard by a 5 foot radius of potential rescue workers. Clause 13B distress signals are received, and then met with bathroom trips, cigarette breaks or the ever finite, “Your boyfriend just called me, he says he’s going to work on his motorcycle with his gang of biker buddies who drink whiskey and potentially run a fight club out of the basement of an abandoned meth lab, and he wanted you to pick up his shotguns from the place where they were getting cleaned.”

Result of Clause 13B execution: Tecate Tony is temporarily thrown off his path, and I am able to slip away silently into the night. 

Now, while Tecate Tony’s are easy to spot, or at least smell by the distinct aroma of dollar store cologne, the Smarmy Pete’s are a different story.

Smarmy Pete has game. He doesn’t open with a line, he opens with, “how’s it going?” Smarmy Pete strikes up a normal conversation, and asks a lot of questions. What’s your name? What do you do? Are you a musician? Did you see the A-Team movie? Batman or Spiderman? Come on Pete, is that even a question?

He looks average, sometimes he’s even mildly attractive, but the sneakiest part about Smarmy Pete is his unassuming nature. Where Tecate Tony was creeping me out before I even decided to go out, Smarmy Pete is harmless, and even kind of funny. He doesn’t have lines, and holding a conversation with him doesn’t make me want to gouge out my eyes with cocktail straws.

My problem with Smarmy Pete is that I don’t realize he’s flirting with me. Call me na├»ve, but I still operate under the notion of men and women being able to hold platonic conversations. It’s not surprising when people, ladies or fellas, want to talk to me – I’m an easy person to talk to. I tell stories, I have an interesting job, I make self-deprecating jokes that kill. What gets me are the people that don’t think I’m funny.

*Yeah, I’m talking about you, CargoPants Todd. What’s WITH you?

So the Smarmy Pete’s of the world have consistently eluded me. Because one minute we’re talking shop about analog versus digital recording, and trading phone numbers under the premise of recording an EP sometime, and the next minute, I’m being asked if I prefer Thai or Chinese.  Is this an independent study, or do you work for a national survey group? I only ask because if at all possible, I’m trying to avoid that foreboding ‘Oh, crap,’ feeling.

This is a situation that needs an earlier, unexpected initiation of Clause 13B.

In cases of Smarmy Pete’s, the activation of Clause 13B hinges on the rescuer, rather than the rescuee. The rescuer, as explained in the textual legal document, is morally obligated to alert the other signed party to the hidden agenda unfolding right before her very eyes. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, though one suggested method of shouting out, “THAT ONE IS SMARMY” was officially rejected after a trial-and-error period, ending almost exclusively in error. A text with the phrase, “these are not the droids you’re looking for” or the interruption, “Hey El, remember that time we saw that plastic bag, only it wasn’t a plastic bag, it was a bird and it flew right at you and you were all like, ‘nothing is what it’s supposed to be!!’ Man, that was the craziest thing” are both valid signals.

Result of Clause 13B execution: Smarmy Pete was unable to segue into his inevitable, "can I walk you home?" speech, and before he realizes the bathroom is the other direction, I'm halfway to Taco Bell. 

I accept that most people don’t have problems like I do. I acknowledge that my life is an anomaly, and sounds almost entirely fictitious when recapped. Still, I think most things in my life would run smoother if I had appropriate exit strategies in place. Dating, grocery store trips, wars in the Middle East. Clause 13B is merely an attempt at establishing such safety measures. Maybe it wouldn’t be necessary if my dating history read more like Big from Sex and the City and less like Bender from Futurama, but it doesn’t. I guess that’s the difference between Manolo Blahniks and Chuck Taylors.

Yeah, THAT’S the difference. 


  1. I feel like anything i say here will totally NOT be as funny as your blog, so i shouldn't try to make a joke.

    Can i have permission to use the phrase "these are not the droids you're looking for?" irl. I promise i'll use it if i see anyone smarmy.

    On a more serious note, these past couple of blogs have been amazingly funny and well written and awesome, and you should be exceedingly proud #imjuststaying.


  2. You really should be making a living with your writing skills. Your blogs are funny, intelligent and totally relevant. My friend, Michael McNevin, used to do a weekly column in a newspaper. It was called "Napkin Literature". When travelling to and from gigs, he would eat in local cafes and note his observations on napkins. I would read your column!