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Monday
Jul172006

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.
Friday
Jul142006

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 askmen.com 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 askmen.com 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.
Thursday
Jul132006

Some Favorite Photos From London



To check out more fun photos click here
And London from a tourist's point of view
Tuesday
Jul112006

The Kiss... And Not Rodin's...Oh So Far, Far Away From Rodin's

I'm in the midst of a complex strategy to disentangle myself from a Kiss Hello program I've somehow entered into. I didn't sign up. There was no application. No opportunity to refuse. There was no agreement, no handshake. Oh that there were handshakes instead of all the kisses! One day we were casual acquaintances nodding our hellos, the next we were engaged in awkward, herky-jerky kiss hellos.

I don't know the gentleman in question very well. I see him at my neighbourhood bar. (HA! Look at that - neighbourhood. I am sooo British. Like Madonna, I'm currently speaking with an accent, you just can't tell because I'm typing. I figure I'm qualified for the accent now as I've just been on holiday in England) Anyway, back to the Kiss Hello chap in question - I know him from the neighborhood, see him at the bar, the subway platform and occasionally on the street.

Apparently, kissing is now not enough. Not only am I on The Kiss Hello Program, but I've managed to be included in The Kiss/Hug Hello Program as well! Somewhere in the middle of June our man decided his standard cheek kiss was simply not enough and pulled me in for a tight squeeze as well! No, before you ask, he isn't the sort trying to cop a feel, although there are plenty of those types 'round these parts as well - he's just an older, lonely sort of fellow - a friend of a friend, really - who is SUPER EXCITED! to hang out.

Most recently, The Kiss/Hug Hello Program was less than satisfactory, just not enough kissing and hugging apparently, and the fellow cornered me into a kiss/hug goodbye. Dude, I'll probably see you, like, tomorrow I'm thinking to myself while my intestines were being squeezed upward, through my espophagus.

Suffice it to say, as a part of my strategy, when I see this fellow coming I've suddenly got to tie a shoe, adjust my belt, pick my nose, whatever it takes. He'll make the rounds, kissing and hugging his way through the crowd.
"What's up, guy?" I'll say cheerfully while carefully adjusting my fish nets, rearranging chairs... You know - I'd just love to kiss you hello but I'm extremely tied up here counting the change in my pocket. Anything to avoid the unavoidable. I'm hoping to derail his program yet every time I see him again he goes in for the big squeeze.

It isn't the germs I'm worried about if that's what you're thinking. I just ain't into all the gladhanding. It's always bungled, floundering. Awkward. I'm already as socially retarded as Busta Rhymes at a proper English tea party.. I don't need the extra hassle..
Just kiss the guy hello for Godsakes! I can hear you thinking. But where does it stop? An intercourse hello (Seinfeld knows of what he speaks). Recently my friend Alexis stopped by the bar on her way home from work. After the requisite kiss/hug hello she decided she wanted to change into some jeans and ran to her home a block away. She was back in less than thirty, rolling her eyes at me over Dude's shoulder during her second kiss/hug hello in less than an hour. See!? My raised eyebrows told her in response. We're a few Kiss/Hug Hellos away from a Kiss/Hug/Ass Grab hello.. And then what?!

After my burdensome and seemingly insensitive strategy attempting to get off The Kiss/Hug Hello Program you can imagine my horror at spending the weekend in London, bungling the entire business with the inventors of The Kiss Hello, the Brits.

We Americans... well, we hug people we haven't seen in awhile.. The Brits, they're huge fans of The Kiss Hello, HUGE! You know, that high societyish double kiss.. Mwah, Mwah.. So of course every time I was introduced to someone there was the bobbing and weaving of heads, more awkward than two zit-faced teens with braces going in for their first smooch. Which side? WHICH SIDE! For the love of God, could somebody please tell me which side I'm supposed to kiss first? After the initial head dance was over and I'd committed to one side or the other I was left wondering if I should go in for the other side or just leave it at the one? Everyone's playing by different rules!

I'd mangled every introduction by the end of the week, trying every combination. After fucking that all up I finally decided to abandon The Kiss Hello and just tried to give the bride at the wedding a congratulatory, one-sided sort of hug. A shoulder squeeze, really. Chummy, but not too huggy. No chance of messing that up, right?

I bungled that, of course, because after going in for the squeeze I had to abort at the last second, realizing she was going for the kiss, so I ended up feeling her up then kissing her nearly on the mouth even before the groom got a chance at her on their honeymoon.

"Which side first.. And how many times?!" I asked my friend Kate after ranting about The Kiss hello in frustration.
"The French do it three times. One cheek, than the other, then back again." She replied.
"Well that's a fucking commitment, isn't it?" I muttered. "I could be finished with the obligatory small talk by the time they finish kissing hello."
"It's no coincidence making out is called french kissing" Kate replied breezily. "The Frenchies love them some kissing."
"Well, which side do I go for first here in London?"
"I don't know." She answered in an exaggerated English accent. "I just commit to a side and go for it. It usually works out all right. You just think too much about it, that's your problem." She took a drag on her Marlboro light and exhaled through expertly puckered lips.
"Well, yeah.. I think too much about everything. But The Kiss Hello is a social retard's worst nightmare. It's right up there with Small Talk."

My conclusion? The Kiss Hello, like it's American counterpart The Kiss/Hug hello or any other form of kissing and hugging hello is wrought with peril. And I'd just as soon forgo all of it. Unless, of course, we've hung out more than three times and it's been at least seven full days since I last saw you. Otherwise, I'd rather shake hands and swap poop germs. Bacteria, I can get over. Social awkwardness eats at me, leaves me more flush than the rash you may potentially pass me through a contaminated handshake.

Oh.. My hair is not brown anymore. Very, very far from brown. But if I told you what color it is now I'd have to kill you. Really, I would because the color, well it's.. it's.. eesh.. Let's just say if I told you I'd have to kill you so you could never, ever tell anyone.
Wednesday
Jul052006

Identity Crisis

I am standing on the edge of a rather high cliff.. below is water. Yes. There is water. But it's a long fucking jump, yo. Will the water be warm? Will it be ice cold? Shocking my system into paralyzation. Or action? Will I flap about vigorously in my frantic effort to get somewhere or will I sink like a stone? What to do. Knowing me, I'll sit around on this here cliff, sometimes dangling my feet over the edge, but mostly laying about, occasionally peeping over the edge, often talking about leaping off the edge.. but never jumping. But maybe I will. You just never know.

The computer doctor says my hard drive is terminally ill and is, for all intents and purposes, brain dead. That's why there have been no photos as of late. Which is not to say I haven't been taking any. I have a slew of goodies from the 4th and am sure to take a bunch in London this week... Eventually I'll resurrect the poor computer with a hard drive transplant.. Not now though, I only have one day here in Brooklyn. We leave for London tonight.

I am seriously contemplating moving from NYC. It's nice, yes. Interesting. Fast paced. But I want wide open spaces. Grass that I can call my own. Lakes close enough to walk, or at least drive to. Here, I have drank more alcohol than I did in my entire life previous to moving cross country. Here, I spend much of my time with acquaintances in bars. Acquaintances with whom very occasionally we accidentally stumble into meaningful conversations. That's different from real friends who share their troubles and fears, who don't anesthetize the hurt of life with liquor. I don't know. Perhaps I am depressed and blaming it on my location instead of myself. Grass Is Greener Syndrome. If I don't feel so suffocated in my neighborhood maybe I'll be happier. But when I get my own plot of grass and bitch about having to mow the lawn. Again, who knows?

I don't know who I am. What it is I'm about, what I want.. Some days I want to live in the city among creative people, write a book, and follow The Surge's band to Europe. Other times I want to move to the mountains, start a garden, walk my dog and yes, maybe even have a baby.

I feel crowded all the time. In my apartment, on the sidewalk, at the park, on the subway. I miss space. Driving my own car. Activities with friends that don't include drinking. Maybe I gave up and am just not making the most of all this city has to offer. I could forge my own lifestyle here instead of going with the flow. I can explore on my own. Then I think, for the rent I'm paying I could afford an extremely nice house in cheaper climates. I could make a home for my family. No, I don't want to live in the suburbs. I want to live where where I can't see the nearest neighbor for all the trees. I know places like that. I miss places like that.

London, soon. Must go pack.