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One Degree Of Separation

"What colleges are you applying to?"
"Where did you get accepted?"
"Where are you going to college?"
These questions were all the rage during the last half of my senior year of high school. Anyone not thinking about attending college was a loser headed for no place special.

College. It's a catchall term teens learn to employ to inform people "I'm going places. I have a bright future". Or to get parents and counselors off their backs. College. No matter that all you're learning is how to execute a proper keg stand or earning your Ph.D in GHB and no that does not count toward your chemistry requirement you date raping frat fuck.

When asked what their goals for the future are, high school students generally respond with what college they hope to attend. But what does that really mean? College simply extends the required education period except instead of being mandated by the government college is mandated by society.

But I went. Because it was ingrained in my brain that the only hope for a bright future was college. I did everything I was supposed to do in college and I was annoyed. Long lines, outrageous tuition, expensive books, irrelevant classes, busy work, boring professors who blended personal opinions with teaching material resulting in confusing lessons. Sure there were a couple high points (keg stands) but what did college really teach me about my chosen career? Or teach anyone, for that matter? I'm assuming you aren't a doctor or lawyer.. but even then, I'd prefer the doc operating on me to have several successful surgeries under his belt as opposed to the fella that aced every single written test.

More and more we're placing too much importance on "education" and too little importance on real world experience and accomplishment. In college, students are certainly educated in many areas but how much do they really learn that they can practically apply toward a career? And at what cost?

Ultimately, college wasn't for me and after two years of bullshit math classes (that I have yet to apply to my everyday life) left me tearing out my hair by the handfull I left. I wasn't interested in why A to the third power = B - C. I was jonesing to apply the tiny bit about journalism I was learning to the real world.

Up until I left, I was earning my degree in broadcast journalism while simultaneously working my way up the ranks of a local television station. Suffice it to say, working at the news station for one week taught me more about journalism than the college did the entire time I attended. Lucky for me, at 23 I was offered the job I would have never applied for until I had that diploma in a frame on my wall. Once I secured my dream job, what was the point of getting the journalism degree? I was making more than either of my parents and I was being infused daily with invaluable on the job training.

I have since come to the conclusion that a college degree is overrated, at best. Not that your degree is for shit.. I'm certain you're a lovely, intelligent individual and most likely, the more prestigious the college you attended the more likely I am to hear about it. I'm just saying that society, our parents, employers base so much importance on The Degree and if you did go to Harvard? Well you simply must be a genius. But a college degree doesn't gaurantee success in the workplace. Some people, myself included, do not belong in college and choose not to get a degree, instead seeking out real world experience. Of course, without that degree, our society downplays their skills and will underpay them or not offer them a job even though they are good independent self-motivated learners who found a better way than "the system" to learn.

After being offered a low-paying job at a local cable channel, after passing the writing test, the New York trivia test, after miraculously passing the drug test, after being told I start tomorrow I was informed this morning the station is rescinding their offer because they noticed on my application that I do not have a college degree. No matter that I've been in the business for nearly a decade. No matter that I spent the past year writing and producing in the top news market in the world, I'm not qualified. But the girl that graduated college a month ago? She is.

Stars: They're Just Like Us!

So Christie Brinkley's fourth, or is it fifth marriage is revealed to the world as a flop. As big a flop as fellow supermodel Cindy Crawford's one and only attempt at movie stardom (Billy Baldwin WHAT were you thinking?) Our gal Cindy has one failed marriage under her belt. She's certainly a couple laps behind Christie who is halfway to the Elizabeth Taylor finish line, if Liz the serial wife is, in fact, finished at eight. Regardless, I must say, news of the collapse of Christie's marriage definitely buoyed my sinking spirits.

Is it that old adage in which snuffing out someone else's candle makes my own seem brighter? The same theory that watching Jerry Springer makes me feel so much better about my own extended sojourn through dysfunctionville? Dunno. All I do know is word of another failed celebrity marriage sends me into raptures. When Renee and Kenny didn't make it I thrilled to my very bones and counted how many months more than Renee The Surge and I had lasted. YESSS! Much fist pumping ensued. When Tom and Nicole called it quits I was giddy. Even when the golden couple Brad and Jen ended their nuptials I smiled through my tears.

Why do the marital failures of celebrities thrill me so? I s'pose I'm the kind of person who revels in the mistakes of others, if only to scrape a bit of success off the fickle shoes of fate. I may throw my wedding ring at The Surge every other week, but I'm still married. Maybe it's because I figure the celebs already seem to have cornered the market on looks, fame, wealth.. Dammit God, give them some sort of bullshit to wade through! Perhaps it irks me that celebs make truckloads of money on an overrated "craft", grace the covers of magazines in impossible to live up to photos that inspire eating disorders the world over AND give condescending interviews that generally make the rest of us feel like scabs.
LARA SPENCER: So I hear you don't have a nanny?
SARAH JESSICA PARKER: Nope, I'm raising little James Wilkie McGuyver Chandler Donavan on my own. Well, Matthew and I have a nanny for when I'm on movie sets, but for day-to-day living it's just me.
LARA SPENCER: That is so amazing. You are so amazing!
SARAH JESSICA PARKER: I am, aren't I? I also load my own dishwasher.
LARA SPENCER: Oh! My! God! You are SO down to earth!
So am I going to enjoy it for all I'm worth when a bit of shit hits the proverbial fan in Ms. Brinkley's ritzy Southampton hood? Hells yes!

It's a bit like the celeb mag spreads showing us those horrific 'Stars: They're Just Like Us!!' photos that I enjoy altogether too much. You know. The ones that depict that thin-lipped, all teeth Keira Knightley pushing a shopping cart all by herself! or that tart Paris Hilton.. wait for it - pumping her own gas! Pumping her own gas? She is so down to earth! I would, like, totally hang out with her! She is SO just like me.

When I saw pics of Brit hoofing it barefoot out of a public bathroom, zits dotting her greasy mug, belly straining through the front of her stained wifebeater I was ridiculously pleased. It's why the 'Stars Have Cellulite Too!' or 'Caught Without Make-up' issues gratify me no end. If they don't have to worry about paying the bills, get to travel first class, receive free couture clothing and travel the world, dammit let some tragedy befall them.. Zits, cellulite, cheating husbands.. SOMETHING! You might have flawless skin Miss Kidman along with your trillions of dollars but I'll be damned if Tom Cruis-azy, gay or not, didn't dump you right on your narrow, blindingly white behind! LOVE IT! You may have a perfect, yoga sculpted body Jen Aniston but your husband left you for a luscious lipped hottie! Welcome to normalville. Happens to the rest of us all the time!

Screw showing Paris pumping gas or Nicole Richie pretending to eat In & Out burgers, I wanna see a Stars: They're Just Like Us! featuring Christie Brinkley crying or Carmen Electra chowing down ice cream as she fills the void left by Dave Navarro.. then, MAYBE I'd think the stars were just like me.

Beat The Heat... Doggy Style

It's hot. Even the air is sweaty. Walking outside is like strolling underwater. Slow motion. Oppressive and difficult. I can only imagine how hot it would be were I to don a black fur coat and attempt to trot down the street. So Max stayed indoors yesterday. Here is an account of his day:




What Max is dreaming about:



Social Distortion

"An hour of anger an hour of love,
This hour of confusion as I look above.
Death life as I've never seen before,
One more trip like that I'm in the mental ward"

-Social Distortion
Hour of Darkness

I am sitting at a chunky, roughly hewn tree of a table. The restaurant is dimly lit. In celebration of the marriage of a well respected friend of The Surge's I am surrounded by several people, many whose names you may recognize. Although I admire their books, enjoy their movies, tonight is my worst nightmare.

Person: So you're from Utah?
Me: (Oh god, Oh god! Small talk! What will I say? It will be awkward! It WILL BE AWKWARD! Answer the question! Be funny! Say something funny!) Yep. But I only have one Mom (ba da boom! Hi-yoh! I'll be here all night and don't forget to tip your waiters!!)
Person: Excuse me?
Me: (shit) Oh.. Um (sweat bullets slip into bum crack) You know, Utahns are known for polygamy? Lots of wives?
Person: So you're a polygamist? That's so interesting (this is said while Person is peering over my shoulder, apparently listening in on the much more interesting conversation underway behind me)
Me: No, no. I'm not. I was just being funny. Stupid joke. So where are you from?
Person: London. Born and raised. (Person pauses as if expecting applause) So is this your first time here?
Me: No. But I love it here. It's so clean (oh jesus I am simply enthralling!. Life of the goddamn party, right here.) The weather has been just perfect (NO! NOT THE WEATHER! ANYTHING BUT THE WEATHER FOR CHRISSAKE!) Not too hot, but not rainy either.
Person: (Searching, I imagine, for something, ANYTHING to slice wrists. A dull butter knife will do!) What's the weather like in Utah?
Me: It's hot. But it's a dry heat. But I live in New York City now. It's a wet heat there. (Like my armpits!)
Person: Oh. What brought you to New York all the way from Utah?
Me: (Okay.. let's jazz this conversation up a bit! Like Emeril, I'm takin' this shit up a notch.) I met my husband. He was on tour in Salt Lake with his rock band. (Person does not seem impressed) We had sex the first night we met. Twice! (BAM!) Married two months later. (BAM! BAM!) And it's a slam dunk for Monica's Social Tourette's!

If I were any more socially awkward I would be, oh.. say.. defacating on the restaurant table. As it is, I am doing everything but. That may be a bit of an exaggeration. but not much. If I thought shitting on the table would increase your esteem for me I'd be squatting at our next get together. I am that desperate for your admiration.

Granted the shit example may be extreme, but the sentiment behind it is not. My social anxiety has progressed long past endearing, left quirky in the dust and has joyfully high-stepped it's way by weird. Along with those marigolds Mom planted in her backyard in spring, my Social Tourette's is in full bloom this summer.

If it shouldn't be said, I say it. The crass girl shouting motherfucker within earshot of that sweet, old bird just trying to walk her little chihuahua? That's me! The girl discussing her sex life as if she wants the entire bar to weigh in? Right here! The girl that endlessly, needlessly, tirelessly compliments strangers in an effort to make them like her? Ahem... over here.

No, NO! I'm not proud of it. It's a strange confluence of not wanting to be noticed and dying for attention. Doesn't seem to make sense, does it? Let me try and explain. I dread social gatherings of more than two people. Engage in small talk? You may as well ask me to pick a stranger's nose whilst he roots around in my nostril. I shudder at the specter of small talk like normal folks fear heights, confined spaces or Joan Rivers.

Where does this fear come from, this dread of social situations?

According to Wikipedia, Social Anxiety Disorder is "referred to clinically as social phobia, it's a psychiatric disorder involving overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People experiencing social anxiety often have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions.

So my self-dubbed Sociaphobia finally has a clinical name; Social Anxiety Disorder. SAD. What an appropriate acronym. I've thought long and hard about this disorder as it has surfaced time and again throughout my life. It isn't consistent. Oftentimes, like a volcano it lays dormant for months, years even. Then, out of nowhere; Vesuvius. I am left socially paralyzed in it's sizzling wake.

I think it started early in life. When I was a member of The Bad Family. The Butlers. Those heathens. They never come to church. "I hear the Mom is divorced and the big brother worships the devil. He skateboards, you know. And has long hair. I saw the youngest one peeing in the gutter just last week! Don't they have a working bathroom?".

As my family's reputation proceeded me, upon meeting people, especially friend's parents, I felt as if I had to prove myself. As if I started as a negative and had to work my way to positve, hence the excessive complimenting of new acquaintences that accompanies anyone meeting Monica Bielanko for the first time. How else does one endear oneself to strangers? Kiss ass, right? Doesn't everyone enjoy a good ass-kissing? Doesn't everyone love to hear sweet nothings about their fabulous hair, gorgeous eye color, cute sweater!and so forth?

I carry the Butler Burden with me still. Unlike my dauntless friend Natalie, who is certain everyone loves her (they do) at first sight (good parenting) I assume you hate me. I must prove my worth through self-depracation and wit even though you have no idea who I am, that I used food stamps or that my little brother once peed in the gutter.

This latest grapple with SAD? Of course, moving to a place where - unlike that famous Boston bar - nobody knows your name can be difficult. Can shake your already fragile self-confidence to pieces. So a mild case of SAD took root. And flourished.

Oh, sure. Nobody enjoys awkward social gatherings. Do they? You might be surprised. I've observed jazzy little things (fuck you) who prattle on about this or that, flitting confidently between groups at parties. Mingling, chatting self assuredly about proper subjects like sports, current events, world politics and J.K. Rowling's latest Harry Potter book.

One could argue these dazzling social creatures detest awkwardness as well, which is why their social skills are honed to sword sharp and ready for slashing through any and all inelegant situations. Sometimes I am that jazzy little thing - generally after the first or second glass of wine. Despite sweaty palms, pits, ass and occasional heart palpitations, I try. And I start out just fine. Problem is, very quickly I become hyper aware of the gargantuan effort being employed to keep the patter flowing.

Soon, like a fat lady on a treadmill, I am sweating profusely with the herculean effort of keeping conversation moving in a forward momentum. It is totally up to me! I think desperately. Or they will think I am a retard! Immediately thereafter the thought what if I'm as boring as the person I'm conversing with? occurs to me. No matter that I think they're boring. Oh my God! What if they think I'm boring?

This dreadful thought niggles it's way to the part of my brain where Social Tourette's is blooming and then--- you get fireworks. I'll blurt out something entirely inappropriate within five minutes of meeting someone, just to keep things interesting and moving along.
Person: Yes, I do like working in Human Resources.
Me: Say.. what's your favorite sexual positon?!
This may be appropriate were I mingling at a swingers convention in Vegas but not at a wedding reception in posh North London. Even folks at the swingers convention may consider this line of questioning a tad premature. The gentleman swinger in the spiked dog collar and assless leather chaps - he may want to ease in with chit-chat about how unseasonably cool the weather in Vegas has been lately.

The upshot? After tiptoeing through the landmine of a party with the aid of several glasses of wine (mind you, landmine navigating whilst drunk is wholly unwise - you're bound to set off one or six) I end up asking inappropriate questions (Social Tourette's!) when the trickle of small talk runs dry. I say Tourette's because I don't ask these questions on purpose, of course. The words just force themselves from my lips (the reverse of anal rape) in an unexpected assault upon party guests.

Similarly, in an offshoot of the Social Tourette's, in my effort to be folksy and self-depracating I foist more information than necessary onto innocent partygoers. This sadly, is just another way of endlessly complimenting so that I might come off endearing. But the small talk, the offering too much information, those aren't the worst of it. The horror? It's the aftermath.

I limp home, as much from the pinched stilettos I employed in yet another gambit to be admired as from the weight of my Social Tourette's. Like touring a bombed out neighborhood in Baghdad, after a party I scrabble through the wreckage left behind. I pick through conversations more thoroughly than my Grandpa sucked clean a Sunday chicken breast. To the bone. I study expressions with a magnifying glass, debating what this person meant with that comment, pondering how that sentence came off, fearing the other person didn't understand my "humor". Did they get that I was being sarcastic? Oh my god! What if they thought I was serious! One moment I think they're all idiots who can't possibly understand my "wit", the next I'm fearing they saw through my socially adept facade to the bumbling idiot beneath the black cocktail dress.

So the ride home is particularly miserable. Especially for The Surge.
"So-And-So hates me." I proffer.
"Why?" He sighs.
"Because I kept complimenting her on her book."
"Compliments are nice." He is familiar with the post party deep tissue massage I require.
"She didn't like me." I am positve that no less than three and as many as eight partygoers are right now! in taxis headed home, discussing what an annoying retard that Monica is. No matter that I didn't particularly enjoy their company - it's what they think of me that matters!

Intellectually I know that no one is as concerned with me as I imagine them to be. Oh, certainly, during the course of my social career a few folks have probably legitimately decided that I am an ass - but not the legions that I am certain are discussing my idiocy on a regular basis.

So I continue to fear social gatherings because I know my perception of them is distorted. I glug wine before each event like a runner carb loading for the big race. But I only have a short window where the alcohol seems to work for me and even then, even when drunk, I know it's a false confidence. And the Social Tourette's loves liquor! Very soon, the liquor will pull a Benedict Arnold and begin working against me, distorting my aleady distorted perceptions which in turn will lead to inappropriate comments and questions. It's SAD. Social Anxiety Disorder. It's a real thing.

The Signal

"I want you to cum."
The instant I pant this last sentence his features transform from near ecstasy to abject disappointment. He knows that like a baseball coach signaling a player to stay at second base, the hit isn't a homerun. He knows the sentence "I want you to cum" means I am not going to orgasm and he should quit worrying about timing, about whether or not it's going to happen and just go ahead and do his thing.
"It's still good, it's still fun. I love it!" I tell him. But it's not the same to him. He is not completely happy. For him, without that homer, it ain't a good ball game.

It's this way with most men. They think they aren't doing it correctly, aren't touching the right spots, pushing the proper buttons. Men from my past would sometimes refuse to accept the fact that I just know when it isn't going to happen. When given The Signal they speed up their repertoire and like a player charging the umpire who called them out - begin to assault me. Only instead of slapping, punching and kicking, they're rubbing, licking and touching so vigorously I can see sparks flying from my goodtimes. As if speed has something to do with pleasure.

Getting The Signal doesn't mean I'm calling you out. Doesn't mean I'm not enjoying myself. Sometimes a girl just knows it ain't gonna happen. Generally, it's nobody's fault (I said generally I have been with some poor souls who just don't know vagina from asshole) Generally though, it's physiological.

Why is it that men think a girl has to cum to have a good time? Oh, I see. It's not about my good time, is it? It's because you think my lack of orgasm is a direct reflection of your sexual prowess? Would you prefer I fake an orgasm instead? When a fella is pounding away.. trying to focus on (ironically) baseball to keep from finishing early and a lady realizes it's just not going to happen for her, she might as well tell you to go for it.

Men, they can orgasm at the drop of a hat.. The most popular question on is how do I solve my premature ejaculation?. "Women, on the other hand, were a different story. A third said they regularly didn't want sex, 26 percent said they regularly didn't reach orgasm and 23 percent said sex was not pleasurable."

God's cruel joke? According to the average male takes less than 3 minutes from the time of insertion till he ejaculates. It can sometimes take me a half hour to 'slide into home'. The moral of the story? Don't charge the ump when she gives you The Signal. It's not failure on your part, it's just another mystery of the female body. And regardless of hitting that homer, it's still a hell of a game.