tiaras optional

"My only argument is with those who do not view the world as cynically as I do." Michael Korda

Friday, December 29, 2006

Notes on the Holidays

1. On Christmas Eve, I was having brunch with my in-laws. I noticed that a guy seated two tables down from us had an unusual mustache. It was a Hitler mustache, and you really don’t see too many of them in the post-WWII era. I really wanted to point it out to someone, so I kept making head gestures in his direction, hoping Lord Kissington would take a hint and check it out. Instead, he asked if there was something wrong with my neck. This guy’s stache got me to thinking. Did he choose this mustache because he wants to look like Hitler? Had he been living under some sort of rock where he doesn’t know that his mustache makes him look like Hitler? Or does his mustache just grow that way? Of course, the last questions begs another: if your mustache grows in a Hitleresque fashion, why would you grow a mustache at all? He reminded me of my late grandfather whose idea of a good joke was to take a black comb, hold it above his lips, and give a “Heil Hitler” salute. Sometimes he would even throw in a couple of goosesteps. His jokes were always ridiculously inappropriate and not really very funny if you were over the age of 8.

2. I received my very first graphic novel for Christmas. I’ve never read a graphic novel before, but I very much like the term, as I would not want anyone to think that I got a comic book for Christmas, because it is clearly a graphic novel. My only previous experience with comic books are the Archie comics my grandfather used to buy me. After I had read them, he would come up with weird money-making schemes that involved my 8-year-old self trying to hawk the comic books to other kids. This made no sense to me because (a) they were my comic books, dammit, and (b) is there really much resale value for Archie comics? As you may have gathered from this story and the one above, my grandfather was what we euphemistically call a “character.”

3. I need a new calendar for 2007. Last year, I bought two: a tasteful Gustav Klimt to use for work and a still tasteful but totally embarrassing Orlando Bloom calendar for home use. This year, I have not been very impressed with the selection, i.e., I have not seen an Orlando Bloom calendar anywhere.

4. I received three copies of Son of a Witch for Christmas. Seriously, people, is the concept of the Amazon wishlist that hard to grasp? You look at the list, you click, you buy. I wandered around Borders today, thinking I could exchange my two extra copies, but there wasn’t a single thing I wanted. I got a ton of books for Christmas and when I combine them with the huge pile of other books that I haven’t yet read, I should be busy for the next 2 to 3 years. Also, I have approximately 42 hours of DVDs to watch, so I don’t really need anymore of those. Call me if you’re interested in a Jane Austen marathon: I’ll be examining the relative merits of Colin Firth vs. Matthew MacFadeyn as Mr. Darcy.

5. Lord Kissington got this awesome 80s box set, with all sort of amazing songs on it, so we spent most of Christmas morning fighting over which songs we wanted to hear. It totally disintegrated into a “Mom, she’s stealing my toys!” moment.

6. Every year, my mother freaks out at the last minute and is convinced that she doesn’t have enough presents for me, so she will call me up right before Christmas and ask me if there is anything I’ve bought myself recently that I might want to receive as a gift. Lord Kissington thinks this is totally insane, especially when I took Season 2 of One Tree Hill (Will Nathan and Haley’s marriage survive? Can Dan be even more of a dick?), which I had already opened, wrapped it up in Christmas paper, and brought it over to my mother’s. Actually, he’s right. It is totally insane. Particularly because when I opened it, I screamed, “Oh my God, the second season of One Tree Hill! How did you know I wanted it?” and my mother just sat there with a pleased look on her face, as if she had actually been really clever and somehow figured out that this was the perfect present. Have I ever mentioned that my family is the crazy?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy Christmas, Your Arse, I Pray God It’s Our Last

Happy Christmas, Your Arse, I Pray God It’s Our Last

This morning on my walk to work, I listened to my favorite Christmas song,
“Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues and Kirsty McColl. Actually, it’s not
just my favorite Christmas song, it’s one of my top five favorite songs of
all time*. I first heard it when I was just an impressionable young lass in
1987, and it affected me profoundly, making me think that future Christmases
would be all about doomed love and being drunk (turns out, I wasn’t too far
off the mark). In its own depressing way, it’s the most wonderful Christmas
song ever, combining the miserable:

She: You’re a bum
You’re a punk
He: You’re an old slut on junk

She: You scum bag
You maggot
You cheap lousy faggot

with the sublime:

She: When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

She: You took my dreams from me when I first found you
He: I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can’t make it all alone
I’ve built my dreams around you

Some years later, I was living in Ireland, and I listened to the song on my
Walkman as I looked out over Galway Bay (“And the boys of the NYPD Choir
were sing ‘Galway Bay’…”) shortly before Christmas. It’s a lovely memory,
even if that Christmas was all about the doomed love (and the being drunk).

I thought I didn’t have a copy of the song anymore, my copy of the Pogues’
If I Should Fall from Grace with God having gone missing after a party a few
years back, but then I remembered that I had picked up Kirsty McColl’s
Greatest Hits on a trip to London*, and it’s on that. The Pogues are, of
course, one of the greatest bands of all time, but what really makes this
song work are Kirsty’s poignant vocals. It feels appropriate to remember
Kirsty at this time of year; it was six years ago this week that she was
killed, run down by an out of control speedboat as she pushed her children
to safety. (Those responsible have yet to be brought to justice.) So, when
you hear “Fairytale of New York” this season, please pour out a 40 in
Kirsty’s memory. And check out her Greatest Hits, which contains some of her
original songs (like “They Don’t Know,” a hit for Tracey Ullman in the 80s,
and “There’s a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis”), fantastic
covers (Billy Bragg’s “New England” and the Smiths’ “You Just Haven’t Earned
It Yet, Baby”), and another collaboration with the Pogues (Cole Porter’s
“Miss Otis Regrets”). It’s great stuff.

Posting will be sporadic for the next few weeks (even more sporadic than
it’s been lately, I should say), because of the holidays and some computer
issues (it’s hard to compose a coherent post when the t, g, and keys only
work part of the time). See you sometime in January.

*Yes, I actually make lists like this in my head.
**That phrase sounds ever so pretentious. I was with Lord Kissington, and he
said, “Who’s Kirsty McColl” and I replied, “Oh, you have so much to learn,
grasshopper.” Actually, it’s more likely that I said something along the
lines of, “Dude, you’ve never heard of Kirsty McColl? We are so over.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Notes from a 4-Day Weekend

I attended five parties. One was in Baltimore. Baltimore is really really far away, and we only brought two CDs for the ride (actually, I brought three, but one of them didn’t have a CD in the case. I do this all the time. It’s a really bad habit.), so we had to listen to both of them twice.

Parties are awesome. Less awesome: being the first person at a party and then having to leave before most of the other guests arrived because Baltimore is so far away.

I wrote approximately 30 cards. I wrapped approximately 30 presents. I stood on line for approximately 30 minutes at the post office waiting to mail a package and buy stamps. Seriously, people, five days before Christmas when the line is out the door is not the time to have a 10-minute conversation with the postal employee about the relative merits of 1st class versus priority mail. You’re lucky the rest of the customers didn’t throw their packages at you.

From Friday to Sunday, I ate no real food, just hors d’oeuvres. Approximately 133 hors d’oeuvres. I would like all future food intake to be in bite-sized portions. Rugelach are fantastic and so is June for letting me take home a bag of like 20 of them. Sadly, the fifth party put me into a temporary sugar coma.

I watched approximately 12 episodes of One Tree Hill. It’s possible that the first season DVD may have recently entered my possession. It’s also possible that it was purchased on ebay (New! Sealed! Totally not bootleg!) for the low, low price of $18.99, which someone may have convinced herself was actually cheaper than putting it on the Netflix list. Which is probably true, since we never get around to watching our Netflix DVDs, and they are costing approximately $15 each, and that would be six DVDs times $15, versus $18.99. Or something like that. But now I’m going to come out and stop using the third person here, since why should I be ashamed to admit that One Tree Hill is like my favoritest show of all time*? Nathan luvs Haley 4ever! As one friend said this weekend, when I tried to convince him of the greatness of One Tree Hill, “You really need to get cable.”

*There are actually many, many reasons, far too many to get into here. Still, this show is strangely gripping.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Am I Turning into My Mother?

When I was a child, I really really really LOVED Christmas. Starting at age 8, I would hit my grandfather up for Christmas money (and he gave it to me until I was 18, with an increase each year. Miss you, Pop-pops) and I loved shopping. My mother, on the other hand, was not so into the Christmas spirit. Starting on Dec. 1, I would pester her daily about Christmas:

Me: When are we getting a tree?
Mom: Not for a while. It’s too early. It’ll dry out. You’ll poke your eye out.
Me: When can I wrap the presents? (My favorite Xmas activity. Still)
Mom: When I buy wrapping paper.
Me: When will that be?
Mom: I don’t know, next week maybe.

Finally, one night she would arrive home from work with the wrapping paper and I could go to town. I spent much of my childhood wondering why she was down on my Christmas enthusiasm.

I think I finally get it. My mother was working full time, raising me, and trying to get ready for the holidays. So I can now understand why, after a long day at work, she wasn’t really dying to wrap all the presents three weeks ahead of time.

We bought our tree last Sunday, but weren’t able to decorate it until last night, because we were busy every night this week. The presents are all in a big pile, waiting to be wrapped. The cards are completely unwritten. At least I’m finished with the shopping.

This weekend, I have five parties to attend. Yes, I can just hear you: “Oh, Lady Tiara, your life is so hard. It must be just awful to get invited to parties to too many parties.” And your sarcasm would be justified. It’s just that I feel a little overwhelmed at the moment, and I’m not sure I have the energy for five parties, even though I am looking forward to each and every one of them, and I’m sure they will all be fantastic.

And you know, I get totally overwhelmed by these little things, and my mom had to do all this AND deal with me. She’s made of stronger stuff than I am apparently.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I had an early meeting today, so I set the alarm for a little earlier than normal. I woke up really early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I ended up getting up before the alarm went off. I actually made it to work at 7:50, which is unheard of for me. The world is a different place that early in the morning.

The fog was just dissipating as I walked outside. There were way fewer cars on the road than normal. A man gave me a friendly wave as if knew me. After a minute, I realized that he was the older guy with the funny hat I always see at the beer store. I don’t really know him per se, but maybe this is how early risers greet each other?

The sidewalks were deserted. The approximately 842 little dogs that are normally taking their morning constitutional when I walk to work were nowhere to be seen.

As I got downtown, the fog hadn’t really lifted, so it was a bit like breathing soup. The main door to my office was still locked. I was alone on my floor for at least a half hour. The whole thing was kind of peaceful. Still, I don’t think I’ll be getting up at 6 a.m. on a regular basis.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Numbered Post 87

1. A Victoria’s Secret catalog arrived in the mail the other day. I used to get their catalogs at the rate of approximately 3 a week, but after my last move, they lost track of me. It seems they have found me again. I like that their otherwise cute pajamas promote healthy female stereotypes, like the one that says on the t-shirt:


Also, they have these pink boy shorts that say “Pink and Frosty” on the ass. I don’t get it. Isn’t this a region of your body that you don’t want to be extra cold?

2. I am done with my Christmas shopping. I placed one last order to Amazon this morning. I fully expect this package to not arrive, as happens every December with at least one package from Amazon. Do people see the Amazon label on the box and steal it in hopes of getting some really awesome DVDs or videogames? If so, they must be sorely disappointed with my packages, which usually contain things like A Short History of the Crusades and obscure foreign films. Serves you right, thieves.

3. We got a tree on Sunday. It’s in the stand but not yet decorated. This year, the first lot we went to was entirely unsatisfactory. “These trees just will not do,” I exclaimed. So, we went to a second lot, where they had far superior trees. I realized that I may be turning into my mother, since she has been known to go to five or more lots in search of the perfect tree (usually on the coldest night in December). Given those experiences, it’s actually a wonder that I like Christmas trees at all. This year’s tree is a beauty, but in my quest for perfection, I have turned it around approximately 8 times so far, looking for just the perfect angle.

4. I get a lot of hits from people looking for information about shrinking breasts. I am now number 1 on Google for “shrinking breasts.” I’m so proud. But I really feel like Google isn’t exactly helping those who are desperately in need of information about their shrinking breasts, since I’m sure there are actual medical sites that might give people a clue as to why their breasts are shrinking.

5. Although the majority of my hits are in the DC area, I have regular readers in the UK, Germany, and Singapore (hugs and pinches, kids). Lately, I’ve gotten hits from Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Romania, and Malaysia. I feel so cosmopolitan. Apparently, shrinking breasts are a worldwide problem.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Video Store and Me

I have sort of a weird relationship with video stores. Some years back, when I was living with the former boyfriend I call Mr. Ex, we belonged to a fairly generic local video store. The selection was ok, but a little heavy on gay porn (which is of course totally awesome, just not really what I was looking for). Eventually, that store moved to a larger but much more inconvenient location, and one day, Mr. Ex came home and told me that he had found this great new video store with all these awesome obscure movies and he had joined and “Look, I rented The Sorrow and the Pity for us to watch tonight.” If you have never seen it, The Sorrow and the Pity is this 4-hour documentary about the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. It is totes awesome and as you can imagine really uplifting. Mr. Ex then insisted that I get my own membership to this video store. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t just use his membership and I had to have a second one, but it was one of those issues that really just wasn’t worth fighting over (there were a lot of those in that relationship). I asked him where the video store was and he said, “It’s on X St., next to the sex store.” Then he handed me The Sorrow and the Pity and said “Why don’t you return this since you’re going there anyway.”

I resisted the temptation to throw the tape at his head and trotted off to get my new membership. Once I was on X St., I walked into a video store that had opened a few months before and was right next to the sex shop. I told the guy behind the counter that I wanted to join. He looked sort of surprised, but handed me a form to fill out. As I was filling out the form, I looked around the store and I couldn’t figure out why Mr. Ex thought the place was so great. It was just a few shelves of shitty new releases, and everyone else in the store was heading behind the black curtain to the porn section. When I handed the form over to the guy and gave him The Sorrow and the Pity, I noticed a video catalog behind the counter with a fairly graphic photo on the cover. Since it was two men, I began to wonder if Mr. Ex was trying to tell me something. Then the video store guy told me that the video I was trying to return wasn’t from their store.

Me: “What?”
Video store guy: “This is from Video X, that new place across the street.”
Me: “Oh.”
VSG: “Do you still want the membership?”
Me: “Ummh… yeah.” I didn’t want to seem like a complete idiot (oops, too late).

With my new, never to be used membership card in hand, I walked across the street. There was indeed a new video store, and it was next to the OTHER sex shop. You can understand my confusion. So, I joined that video store, and although in theory, it was really great, it actually was not so much.

Because, you see, sometimes I just want to watch something stupid or cutesy or the latest Chad Michael Murray* release. And this store did not have a good selection of such films. It did have a really great selection of documentaries in Serbo-Croatian, but you know, sometimes you’re just not in the mood for that. Once my friend L and I were in there trying to rent a movie. We had already discounted approximately 12 titles because I knew that Mr. Ex would refuse to watch any of them. We finally settled on a fairly harmless new release, but the store only had one copy and it was out. L said, “Let’s just go to Blockbuster,” and the video store dork #1 looked distraught and said, “No, no, I can find you something great.” So, he asked us a few questions and brought out three movies for us to choose from. Two of them I had to veto (again because of Mr. Ex, sigh), but the third seemed ok, so we rented it. And it completely and totally sucked. So, I was not really trusting video store dork #1. Also, he referred to Katharine Hepburn as KaHep, which I found really annoying. But the worst thing of all was the way he and his fellow employees would sneer at me when I tried to rent Can’t Hardly Wait or asked if they had Never Been Kissed.

Within a year of joining this video store, my relationship with Mr. Ex ended (shocker, I know). I joined the Blockbuster down the street and my visits to the old store became far less frequent, because I was not so often in the mood for Serbian documentaries. I liked the Blockbuster. Sure, the selection was shit, but no one ever passed judgment on me for anything I rented. Sometimes, I would even get a teenage girl at the counter and she would tell me how much she loved Never Been Kissed.

But the long reign of Blockbuster is coming to a close, and Lord Kissington and I joined Netflix almost two years ago. It’s really the ideal situation. They have almost anything you could want to watch, and even if a Netflix employee is sneering at my choice of movie, I don’t have to see them sneering at me**. The only problem with Netflix is that sometimes the movies sit around for ages before we watch them. And often, when I’m in the mood for something lightweight, the next movie is not really appropriate for that. For example, right now, we have a critically acclaimed but depressing looking Tibetan film and Heavenly Creatures. And this weekend, I was looking for something more like The Prince and Me. Luckily, the next item on the list is The Princess Diaries. I can’t hardly wait.

*Totally joking. I have some standards.
**Not that Lord Kissington doesn’t sneer now and then, but how much can a person who owns Red Dawn really sneer at the movie choices of others?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sample Christmas-Related Conversation from the Tiara/Kissington Household

Me: It’s only 21 days ‘til Christmas, and you haven’t bought a single gift.
Lord Kissington: Yeah.
Me: Aren’t you worried?
Lord Kissington (in a bewildered tone): No.
Me: But how can you sleep at night knowing you haven’t done any shopping yet?
LK: Like a baby.

As much as I don’t really enjoy Christmas shopping, I still feel a huge compulsion to get it done (because once it’s all done, I can do the present-related activity I most enjoy—wrapping). Lord Kissington has no such compulsion. Before he met me, he tended to do all his shopping at the mall at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, usually with one of his brothers and there was often beer involved. He has admitted that this method didn’t always result in the best gifts (like that decorative rooster that’s probably gathering dust in his sister’s closet). I could never do this; the anxiety of not having everything in place would make me sleepless and grumpy. Maybe this is why we are a good match: I make sure he’s not roaming around some suburban mall on Christmas Eve and he makes sure that I don’t have a nervous breakdown in the weeks before Christmas. It’s a good combination.

Monday, December 04, 2006

'Tis the Season for Giving

Every year, I find the process of Christmas shopping less and less fun. When I was younger, I used to love Christmas shopping, and I would spend days searching for just the perfect gift for everyone on my list. These days, not so much. I’ve done about 70% of my shopping, and most of that was over the internets.

I try to make things easy for anyone giving to me. If anyone asks what I want, I tell them about my Amazon wishlist or some other easily available items. Yes, this takes the surprise out of Christmas, but it saves me from having to feign enthusiasm for crockpots and Princess Diana commemorative plates.

Unfortunately, my parents don’t seem to grasp the concept of the Amazon wishlist. Last year, my mother told me that she ordered stuff from my list, but from Barnes&Noble.com, because Amazon “didn’t work.” And my dad printed out the list and took it to Borders, because he “didn’t want to get cookies on my stepmother’s computer.” (I’m pretty sure my dad doesn’t actually understand the concept of cookies.) So, I got duplicates of several items. Obviously, this is not the end of the world. One would rather get too much than nothing at all.

One item that both Mom and Dad ignored was the (then) new Madonna CD I had asked for. My father muttered something about “I didn’t raise you on the Clash and the Ramones so you could listen to that crap” and mother just said “Madonna? Really?” in a disappointed voice. At least I don’t need to worry about getting two copies of VIP: The Complete First Season.