Friday, February 26, 2010

awaiting reply

Facebook events have gone from being Something I Love (circa 2008) to Something I Find Infuriating. They used to be essentially harmless. You could laugh at the fool who actually thought it was normal behavior to post "Awww, wish I could make it but I have to drive down to Wesleyan for my cousin's birthday :(" on the event's wall for all to see. It was easy to remember what was going on any given weekend because everything was in one place (convenience is so fun!). And sometimes people picked totally ironic pictures for their events that made you feel cool because you understood the joke.

But somewhere along the way, even though none of these things have really changed per se, Facebook events have become more irritating than innocuous. For one thing, there are now like 7,000 of them that crop up every week. Who knew so many people I haven't talked to in five years are involved in plays at colleges I have never heard of?? But that aside, even the stalkerish benefits of Facebook events have been somewhat mitigated. Whereas people used to RSVP at least somewhat regularly, removing themselves from events they definitely weren't going to, and clicking "attend" when they would actually be attending, there is just no way to make sense of it all any more.

People who click "Attending": These are either the BFFs of the person throwing the event (you just know they all got texts being like "Click that you're coming RIGHT NOW so I don't look like a loser")... or people you don't know but whose names sound familiar.

People who click "Maybe Attending": Don't even get me started on these folks. WHY they feel the need to click "maybe" totally escapes me. It almost seems self-important: "I AM JUST SO BUSY I DON'T EVEN KNOW IF I CAN MAKE IT" is what they are saying to me. Really, we just can't bear not knowing - please keep us updated with many status updates.

People who click "Not Attending": Whenever I look at this category, I generally feel sort of bad for whoever is throwing the event (if it's like a birthday party, not if it's some weird "SAY NO TO AMENDMENT #4 ON THE QUAD THIS WEEK" thing) because this grouping typically includes like 4-5 high-profile "cool" people.

People on the "Awaiting Reply" list: THIS IS EVERYONE. This is your former crush, the girl you hate, all your friends, your old TA, some guy you went to camp with that you didn't even realize knew Erin. This is where it's at. And this is also what makes Facebook events so frustrating nowadays: here are all the people you should be prepared to see if you go to this event but who may not actually be there - all in one long list. It's like when teachers used to tell you that you had to memorize ALL the vocab words on the list, but you'd only end up getting tested on five on them.

Monday, February 22, 2010


I was in Boston last month, visiting my friend Jessie at her house on a Saturday afternoon; about fifteen minutes after I'd left, I got a call from her. Typically these kinds of calls mean one of two things: you left something there, or it's a "Oh, I'm sure you wouldn't anyway, but... could you not tell anyone what I just told you about applying to law school?" kind of request.

In this case, it was the former. I had left my watch at her house. It took me like 15 minutes to explain to my mom that I am always taking off my watch and that it wasn't THAT weird (even though, of course, I know it's weird) and it's just this nervous habit I have where I fidget with things. Anyway, I was leaving for New York the next morning and it was determined that Jessie would give the watch to our friend Marissa, who would be seeing her soon before coming to New York.

Well, I still haven't gotten my watch back and - let me tell you something - I've missed it a lot less than I thought I would! Growing up as a neurotic control freak, I was one of those kids who was wearing a digital watch in like 1st grade and timing things that were really just kind of weird things to time (e.g. how long it would take my brother to drink a milkshake) just for the sake of being able to better quantify life. I loved taking the train home from high school because it provided this gorgeous, rigid structure to my days ("Will today be a 3:49 day, or a 5:16er?").

But somewhere along the way, my reliance on my watch has slowly dissipated. I've started using my Blackberry to tell the time; knowing the exact time has started to matter less (the subway just comes when it comes, and everyone's late to everything in New York anyway)... and also my watch is kind of heavy? Being "obsessed with time" is cute and charming when you're 10; but it just makes you seem kind of curmudgeonly when you're older.

Marissa has had my watch in New York for about a week now. In the past, maybe even a year ago, I would have been texting her every ten minutes, overly eager to get my paws on the constrictive wrist wrap. But now, I have no sense of urgency about getting it back; I'll get it when I get it. There's something kind of nice about not being continually reminded that time keeps moving forward.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

situations that irrationally aggravate me

1) You have plans to meet up with your friend Mick, so you've been trading a flurry of texts back and forth to pick a meeting spot... and it's taken like 24 text messages to determine that it's gonna be "that Duane Reade at the corner of 10th and 3rd." So you get there and you're trying to decide whether it's weirder to wait inside the store or outside when you see that he's calling you! You pick up and he says, "So I'm at 12th and 2nd right now." (Why he is chillin' very close to the pre-determined location but not actually at it is a mystery.) "Oh," I say, "OK." "Are you at the Duane Reade?" "Yeah." "How about we just walk toward each other on 11th until we run into each other?" he proposes. Umm, even though "walking toward each other" sounds really fun and efficient, and even though nothing puts me in the mood to embark on some sort of East Village Adventure more than waiting at a Duane Reade for seven minutes and even though I always enjoy wasting an egregious amount of texts on a decision that is blatantly disregarded, I'd actually rather not. "Oh, sure!" I chirp back into my phone, "No problem."

2) You've sent Mary a really solid e-mail that is charming and substantive and manages to both convey a lot of information while also asking like four to five questions that you genuinely are excited for her to answer. She doesn't respond for a day or so (nothing to be concerned about yet), but then she signs onto gchat and chats you "yo" or "ughhhh so tired" or whatever. And she just wants to chat! She might mention your e-mail offhandedly, referencing something in it, but she doesn't respond to any of the content, or answer any of your questions -- she just complains about this weird homeless guy she encountered that morning, or makes jokes about "Dear John." So you've found yourself gchatting with her about the snow or something and you don't want to seem psycho and repeat the questions from your e-mail or be like "So, uh, are you planning to respond to my e-mail?" so you just try to gchat pleasantly but it's really, really hard since you're getting kind of peeved and wondering if she's ever going to bring up the long paragraph you wrote her about Nick and you really want to be writing at her in all caps or in passive-aggressive one-word responses, the gchat equivalents of storming out of a room or giving a dirty look that you're not even trying to conceal.

Friday, February 12, 2010

three things that amuse me about google buzz

1) The aesthetic. Sorry Google, but Buzz is as clunky and fugly to my (fairly) undemanding eye as Gmail is sleek and intuitive. Which makes it all the more weird that Buzz is housed within its sexier parent! It's like if Fergie's face was somehow embedded within Beyonce's face (yeah, chew on that for a few).

2) The shaming. Perhaps my favorite part of Buzz is how, at the bottom of your screen, you can see the names of your friends whose "buzzes" have been CALLED OUT for getting no love. It's a bad enough feeling when you muster the courage to post a link or a "witticism" for the "world" to see... and then no one responds; even better is when that happens and then the program goes out of its way to make sure that everyone notices! (I've blacked out their names here to spare them any further embarrassment.)

3) Self-consciousness. I guess this sort of happens whenever there's a new technological platform (look at me get all jargon-y!) but I love how everyone gets super coy whenever a new "social" avenue like this one is introduced. Should I post something? (Or is that dorky?) Is it weird to comment on a link? (Wait, if I "like" Jackie's post, will Kerry be able to see I did that, even if she's not "following" me?!) I've gotten about eleven "Sooooo, uh, whaddya make of Buzz?" e-mails in the past few days, all written in the same tone as when you're in 8th grade and everyone's like "So... are you going to the dance on Friday?"

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

the fall of a house

Occasionally you'll hear someone say something like "my dog is basically my son" or "when my cat died, it was like losing a daughter" (these are the exact words they say). Typically I will smirk at these sort of claims; I've never really been a pet person. But now I think I can finally understand these inexplicably close familial bonds people can feel towards things that aren't human.

This past weekend, I got an e-mail from my mom that truly shook me to the core. The subject line was "News Alert"; it read: "It appears Chef Chang's is out of business. We found out when we called to order and got a message saying as of 1/31/10, they are no longer there as Chef Chang's and they thank you for 30 some odd years of patronage and goodbye and farewell. Tonight, we are trying China Pearl." Clearly, it didn't take my soulless parents long to move on from the crushing blow, turning to the Pearl without a second thought, but I felt as if, as others might put it, my cherished pet rabbit had just been brutally shot to death.

Chef Chang's House, a Chinese restaurant in Brookline, Mass., was something of an institution for me and my family growing up. Despite the fact that it was about a seven minute drive from my house, we would order in from them about once a week (this is not an exaggeration - we were like the most healthy family ever) and I would always order the exact same thing: sesame chicken and scallion pancakes. Once a year, on Christmas, we would visit in person, typically after an afternoon at the movies, and Chef Chang's was the site of some of our most idiotic family arguments, poorly-thought out ordering choices (the shrimp in oyster sauce debacle!) and weird/memorable fumbles (the time I awkwardly told a waitress whom my dad had earlier berated "thank you for your service" comes to mind).

While I could only offer indignation in response to my mom's e-mail ("IF I HAD KNOWN, I WOULD HAVE ORDERED 10,000 SCALLION PANCAKES AND HOARDED THEM SO I COULD RATION THEM OUT FOR EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!"), my brother was able to put things in context. After the e-mail chain had gone on for a while, comprised of expressions of disbelief and blatant anger, my mom tried to turn the subject to The Who. My brother responded: "Mom, to change the subject from Chef Chang's closing to the Super Bowl Halftime show is the equivalent of segueing from the earthquake in Haiti to how cold the weather is outside."

Friday, February 5, 2010

seven minutes early

Last night I arrived at dinner about seven minutes early, waiting for a (notoriously late) friend of mine, and was greeted by the perky hostess with that question that is always asked and which always stops me in my tracks: "Do you want to take a seat at the bar?"


My options, all really great:

1) I mosey on over to the bar and fumble to a seat amidst the women in black dresses and Clive Owen lookalikes. I decide to order a drink so as to seem less strange than I feel (and appear, I'm sure), clunky messenger bag slung over my shoulder, forehead scrunched up like I am working on an 11th grade geometry test. Somehow I always end up ordering the least suave drink ever ("Do you guys have mojitos?!") and pretty much down it as I continually crane my neck to see if my friend has arrived while simultaneously fooling around with my Blackberry, as if to make sure all these people around me (who I am sure just cannot stop chattering with their friends all about me) know that I've just got so much going on.

2) I sit at the bar and don't order a drink. This tends to be my default decision, but it is fraught with a WHOLE 'NOTHER set of complications. I mean, continually and furtively whipping your neck around while constantly checking your Blackberry like you're Lauren Conrad are ALMOST permissible behaviors when you have a drink in front of you, but when you are sitting there like some sort of paranoid New York City Monster without a drink, it's just creepy.

3) Sometimes I decide to avoid the bar all together and wait in the front. In these cases, especially because all restaurants in New York are like the size of a West Village studio bathroom, I feel especially GIANT in my 6'2" frame. I end up squeezed like on top of the hostess' perch in between two other people waiting for tables, forced to move up into a corner to avoid incoming patrons, accidentally whipping my bag into some large man's arm. The hostess keeps eying me distrustfully, making me wonder if she somehow thinks I am lying about the entire existence of my "friend running late." Should I try to look happier? Should I go sit at the bar?! Or, like I did last night, should I mutter "I think I'm just gonna wait outside" and walk out into the 15 degree air, simply because it's all becoming too much to bear?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

the consequences of "like"

Since the option was introduced, I've been generally weary of "liking" anything on Facebook, due to both my distaste for public declarations of affection and an uncertainty about what exactly "liking" a "Five more days 'til Tahoe!!!" status even meant. Recently though, in an "impulse moment," I took the bold move of "liking" someone's updated relationship status as an "ironic like" (this post really has no business continuing after that invented term). I "liked" and then continued on with my life, getting lost in IMDb comment threads, searching for pictures of Rose Byrne, whatever it is I do with my time. . . when I noticed I had like 27 e-mails from Facebook. Apparently when you decide to "like" someone's status, Facebook interprets that to mean you want to FOREVER be updated on everyone else in the social media worlddd's response to that piece of information.

I mean, just the SUBJECT LINES are enough to make you feel like your life is some kind of constantly-evolving TMZ blog post or something: "Diana Patterson commented on Kennedy Richardson's changed relationship status. . ." That is literally the sentence structure of the subject lines. And the e-mails just didn't let up. I received probably ten more over the next few hours, each notifying me of a new addition to the increasingly inane thread ("OMG u 2 r 2 cute!").

The one productive outcome of all of this is that (even though I personally have pledged never to click "like" again) I now have gained an understanding of the impulse behind those people whose names you see all over your News Feed, "like-a-holics" if you will (don't quit coining clunky terms when you're already behind, I say). Just by clicking a button, they get to lean back and enjoy their very own mini-soap opera for the day, observers of an unpredictable back-and-forth delivered right to their inboxes. And when it has the added benefit of doubling your gmail's daily intake, really, what's not to like?