Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Men and Women (page 2 of 11)

Which Levi’s Jeans Makes My Ass Look the Best?

youtube

For the last few months, there have been these YouTube advertisements plastered all over the subway platforms, in the subway cars, and even on the subways themselves. They showcase a group of girls who look no more than fifteen years old, and have six million followers each.  I’ve never heard of any of them. Bethany Mota? Michelle Phan? Clearly I’m not in the right demographic.  One aspect that I did notice is that they are “fashion and lifestyle” bloggers.

“I’m doing it wrong,” I tell myself each time I board it a train and see one of these ads. “Why didn’t I become a fashion and lifestyle blogger?”

One morning, not too long ago, as a mariachi band was playing in my subway car, I had a revelation.

“Why couldn’t I become a fashion and lifestyle blogger?” I asked the guitarist wearing the sombrero.  “There are so few middle-aged male fashion and lifestyle bloggers giving advice to other men! The field is completely wide open!”

And that’s how this this post came into existence.  Well, actually, there were two more steps before I get to the post.

First has to do with my dating life.  Or rather it’s lack of existence.  Last week, I was talking to a friend, a recently divorced woman who had already gone on a few dates and was pushing me to join an online service.

Seeking good advice, and trying to change the subject,   I said, “Tell me, and be honest, as a friend. What do women most look for in a man?  Is it his career achievements, his sense of humor, or his intelligence?”

She laughed, saying, “The number one attribute that women look for in a man is — how good his ass looks in a pair of jeans.”

This totally blew my mind.   And then I promptly forgot about the conversation.

This morning, around 10AM, my mother asked if I wanted to go shopping with her at the Macy’s on Queens Boulevard. She received a “Friends and Family 25% coupon” in the mail and she was always up for a bargain.  I hate shopping for clothes, but I agreed, mostly for selfish reasons. Near this Macy’s is a diner that makes a good Reuben sandwich, and there is also a Best Buy across the street, and I wanted to play with the new Samsung phone.

By noon, we were in the department store.

My mother said, “I want to check out some bras,” and I knew this was my cue to go check out the men’s department.

“You know what,” I said. “I could use a new pair of jeans. I’ll meet you back here in a half hour.”

So I went to the men’s department, which is always the crappiest section in every department store, located on the dark and dingy lower level next to the appliances.

I passed by the fancy designer jeans and went straight for the Levi’s against the far wall.   I’m a Levi’s guy.   I mean, other than two brief moments of weakness in my life where I bought other brands of jeans (one was Wrangler in fifth grade and the other was a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt men’s jeans that I would rather not discuss),  I have worn Levi’s all my life. More specifically, I have worn Levi’s 501 jeans since junior high school, never deviating, never changing.

But something changed when I accidentally bumped into this sign.

sign

I had a number of thoughts.

1) Therapy.   Why do I always wear the same style of 501 jeans?   Could my unwavering choice of jeans be symbolic of a lifelong rut,  the equivalent of only eating Cheerios your whole life, or never leaving your house?  Do I need to change up my style of Levi’s jeans in order to change up my life?

2) Dating.  If my ass in jeans was going to be the dealbreaker in any relationship with a woman, I needed as much help as possible.  I wasn’t born with the genes for jeans.   You see, that was clever.   Clever people never have good asses.

3) Commerce.   What if I tried every single style Levi’s jean, making note of which jeans made my ass look the best, and then wrote about it in my first “fashion and lifestyle” post for middle-aged men, inspiring a whole generation to look to me as their sartorial guru?Who knows — by next year, I could be in a YouTube advertisement on the E-train, next to the fifteen year old YouTube stars?

So, that’s how this post was born.  I went into the dressing room, sneaking in every different pair of numbered Levi’s jeans as I could find in the stacks of jeans, dressing and undressing and taking photos under the worst lighting ever known to man , and probably making the men in the others stalls wondering what the hell I was doing in there with all the shuffling and clicking of the camera.

OK, men — so here is what I learned about the various Levi’s Jeans.   Just be advised that your ass might be different than mine.

First up was my old favorite — a pair of 501 jeans.

501

It was important to first try on a new pair of 501 jeans as a “control” subject on which to compare and contrast the other styles.  Every since I entered my first science fair back in the day, I’ve always been very determined to follow the correct scientific approach.

The 501 has an “iconic straight fit,” but as you can see from the photo, it does very little for my ass, and the material by my thigh hangs like the drapes in a summer house.

501_2

I don’t want to badmouth the 501. It is a sturdy, honest choice. And it is the only style of Levi’s jeans with the “signature button fly.”  Sadly, what I once found very cool, hip, and special, I now just see as something that requires extra work when I need to pee.

No to 501. It’s time to move on. Sorry, old friend.

The 505 “Regular Fit” fit pretty good, and didn’t feel much different than the 501s.  Like twin brothers.   The boring twin brother who became the accountant.

505

Described as a “classic, stylish and comfortable straight leg for all occasions,” it felt as generic as the description.  No one ever gets laid wearing the 505s.

No to 505.

The 517 “Bootcut” was the only authentic boot cut that the Macy’s had in Queens, maybe because very few people in Queens ever ride their horses over the Queensborough Bridge to go to Manhattan for brunch.

517

Everything just felt wrong with these jeans. They were too long, and too high, and too much room in the seat. And do cowboys really need so much extra room in the groin area? Maybe now I understand why so many of my female friends have moved to Austin. Unless I was going to attend one of those “City Slickers” dude ranches over the summer, I would feel like a idiot walking around the city in these jeans.

No to 517.

Not unsurprisingly, this particular Macy’s on Queens Boulevard sold every available type of  Levi’s”relaxed fit” style, which I think was a not so subtle way of Macy’s executives telling us that, “You are the Borough of Fat People.”

First up was the 550 “Relaxed,” which is described as “a classic laid-back fit” — and by “laid-back” I think they mean, “jeans for those who used to go to Grateful Dead concerts.”

550

These jeans didn’t enhance my ass AT ALL. In fact, it made it my rear end look even less impressive than it does in real life. This is a jeans for sitting — for an outdoor music festival, for smoking pot with your baby boomer friends, for watching an entire season of Orange is the New Black.

These are not the jeans to enhance your ass.

No to 550.

The 559 “Relaxed Straight” was even worse.

559

These were the worst possible jeans for my build, and the extra room in the rear made it look like I was wearing a pair of adult diapers under my jeans. Not sexy at all.

No to 559.

The 560 “Comfort Fit” continued the slide into denim atrociousness and I imagined old Levi Strauss himself turning in his grave at the thought of his name on these pants.

560

The 560 is roomy in the seat and thigh, but the waist is so high that I could have lifted these pants over my head WHILE still wearing them.

No to 560.

The 569 “Loose Straight Cut” is what I affectionately called “the gangster jeans.” The fact that these pants were the biggest seller in this Macy’s says a lot about the citizens in my neighborhood, and why no one in Manhattan ever wants to come visit me in Queens.

569

I always see young guys on the bus from Flushing wearing these jeans, halfway down their ass, and I never understood how they kept the pants from just falling down around their ankles. Now I know the truth. They don’t keep it up. After taking this photo, the pants fell around my ankles.

No to 569. I don’t want to show that much of my ass.

The 510 “Skinny” jeans gets a lot of press because all the young hipsters wear these in Brooklyn.  I was pretty skeptical about them until I put them on, and you know what – I thought they looked pretty good.

510

Hey, I’m not bragging or anything that I still have “the right stuff.” And sure, I suppose I was a little narcissistic when I climbed on top of the seat, took off my shirt and imagined myself as Mick Jagger singing “Brown Sugar” to the mirror.

And then I sat down.  And the jeans smashed my balls into what could only be described as a vise hold, in what seemed to be a punishment for that #NotAllMen joke I made on Twitter a few weeks ago.

No to 510.

One by one, I compared the jeans.   I was in the dressing room for so long that I forgot about the time. An hour had passed, and my poor mother was wandering around Macy’s looking for me, and freaking out. And then came the announcement, said to the entire Macy’s over the loudspeaker system interrupting the music, “Will customer Neil Kramer please come to the register in the men’s department. Customer Neil Kramer please come to the register in the men’s department. You mother is looking for you.”

So, I never did try all the styles.  I felt bad for mother, and I was hungry for that Reuben.

So, now is the big reveal.   Did I find my Holy Grail of Levi’s Jeans?

And the answer is yes.   The winner was clearly the 513.

The 513 is the “Slim Straight.”  It gives you a bit of the snugness of the skinny jeans, but lets you keep your testicles for future reference.  It is comfortable like the 501, just not as baggy.

513

Look at my ass.  Have you ever seen it looking any better?

I know this post was probably long-winded, something that Bethany Mota or Michelle Phan or any of those fifteen year old superstars would never do in any of their YouTube fashion videos, but remember — this is only my first lifestyle post, so I’m still learning.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

FRIDAY AFTERNOON
VALENTINO’S PIZZA, QUEENS
CONVERSATION WITH BOBBY

Bobby: “What the hell do you talk about for three hours at a time?”

Neil: “We’re in a long distance relationship. All we have at our disposal is chatting and texting. We’re on the phone every day.”

Bobby: “But three hours a day?!

Neil: “We talk about everything. Our lives, movies, online stuff.

Bobby: “Oh, yeah. I forgot about that imaginary online world you’re in where you have 10,000 friends who don’t know that you really live with your mother.”

Neil: “It’s not all imaginary.”

Bobby: “Let me ask you something. Did you really share a room with two hot chicks at that blogging conference, like in Three’s Company?”

Neil: “Yes. It was exactly like Three’s Company.”

Bobby: “You know, in the real life “Three’s Company,” I bet Jack was banging both of them.”

Neil: “Yeah, probably.”

Bobby: “They just never showed you that on TV because HBO wasn’t invented yet.”

Neil: “Note to self. Pitch “Three’s Company – the Real Story” to HBO.”

Bobby: “So, isn’t your girlfriend — all the way in New Zealand — worried about you sharing a hotel room with two mom-blogging hotties?”

Neil: “Nah. She isn’t like that. She’s pretty sure of herself.”

Bobby: “Good. You don’t need another needy woman in your life.”

Neil: “Well, there is ONE woman who I have to be careful about when I mention her. Some blogger in Massachusetts. Marcia Jenturn.”

Bobby: “Why? You banging her?”

Neil: “No, no. It’s just that I love her writing so much that I’m always talking about her.”

Bobby: “What does she write about? Her sex life?”

Neil: “No, mostly about her feeling depressed.”

Bobby: “She sounds a lot of fun.”

Neil: “Oh, but she writes so beautifully —

Bobby: “It sounds like you have a crush on her. Like you did with yearbook editor in high school.”

Neil: “Judy Weiss. Uh, OK. Maybe a little.”

++++

FRIDAY NIGHT
BEDROOM
TWO HOURS INTO A PHONE CALL WITH NEW ZEALAND

Her: “So, anything else new online? Haven’t had much of a chance today.”

Neil: “Oh, you have to read this incredible new post by… uh…uh…”

Her: “Go ahead. You can say her name.”

Neil: “Marcia Jenturn.”

Her: “Yeah, yeah. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. What did she write about now?”

Neil: “She wrote a beautiful poem about a bird. It was like she WAS the bird.”

Her: “Look, she’s single. Why don’t you ask her out already? You clearly like her.

Neil: “I like her writing.”

Her: “I love you, Neil. But this is never going to work out with us living so far away. I give you my permission to ask her out on a date.”

Neil: “I don’t want to date her.”

Her: “Well, she lives closer to you than I do.”

Neil: “Stop it. You’re being silly. I don’t want to date her. She’s not my type. She’s way more talented than I am. It would make me uncomfortable.”

Her: “Wait a minute. Are you saying you the only woman who IS your type is a woman who is LESS talented than you?”

Neil: “No, of COURSE NOT. I mean, I like you. You are very talented. Super Talented.”

Her: “Super Talented in what?”

Neil: “Well, you are very sexy.”

Her: “I am super talented being sexy?”

Neil: Yes!

Her: What a waste. If I knew that was my main talent, I would have gotten a degree in pole dancing, not English Literature?”

Neil: “No, no. You’re also very smart. And kind. Super kind.”

Her: “And what about MY writing?”

Neil: “Well, you are so busy lately, with school and your son. So you don’t get a chance to write much anymore.”

Her: “What about when I do write on my blog? You’re a writer. You know good writing. Is my writing ever as good as Marcia Jenturn’s?”

Neil: “You know, I don’t want to change the subject, but Marcia Jenturn is our biggest fan. She is always telling me on IM that I should stop being a wimp and move to New Zealand. To “follow my heart,” as she said so poetically. She is so wise.”

Her: “You IM Marcia Jenturn — about us?”

Neil: “She understands LOVE so well. You know, she’s a poet.”

Her: “I see. Can I expect you to soon show up at her house to take Instagram photos of her.”

Neil: “Well, actually, in two weeks, we might go on a Instawalk together. Have you seen her photography? Marcia’s has such an eye for bold colors and light!”

Her: “MARCIA, MARCIA, MARCIA! Why do you want to even be with me?”

Neil: “Because I love you! There is no one else like you in this world!”

Her: “But look at Marcia. She is amazing in everything. You say so herself.”

Neil: “Wait, are you jealous of her? Is that what I’m beginning to hear.”

Her: “Yes, maybe a little.”

Neil: “There’s no reason to be jealous of her. She means nothing to me compared to you. In fact, we OWE her for much of our success.”

Her: “We do?”

Neil: “Yes. If it wasn’t for her, I would have never done that “thing” for you when I was in New Zealand.”

Her: “Huh? What does she have to do with you doing that “thing?”

Neil: “Well, earlier that day, I emailed her and she told me that I definitely should try it out if I wanted to impress you.”

Her: “You emailed Marcia Jenturn for sex advice while you were here?”

Neil: “She’s a poet! She understands this stuff!”

++++

MONDAY AFTERNOON
VALENTINO’S PIZZA, QUEENS
CONVERSATION WITH BOBBY

Bobby: “I can’t believe you didn’t speak to New Zealand all weekend? Did you get into a fight?”

Neil: “No. No. Nothing like that. She was just busy.”

Bobby: “Oh yeah? What was she doing? Playing hard to get?”

Neil: “Nah, she was just online all weekend with… Marcia Jenturn?”

Bobby: “Uh-oh!”

Neil: “No, it’s actually quite funny. It seems that after all that, they found out that they attended the same college together back in the 1980s, so they contacted each other, and spent all night chatting online. Now, they’re best buddies.”

Bobby: “Holy shit! You realize that if they become friends, they’re going to talk about everything. And I mean everything.”

Neil: “They are?”

Bobby: “Women, Neil. Yes.”

Neil: “Shit.”

Bobby: “It’s over, Neil. Your little online literary crush with Marcia Jenturn is dead.”

Neil: “Sigh. I know. I wonder if Judy Weiss is on Facebook.”

Text Messages From a Long-Distance Relationship

Linguistics is the scientific study of human language.  Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context. The earliest known activities in descriptive linguistics have been attributed to Pāṇini around 500 BCE, with his analysis of Sanskrit in Ashtadhyayi.

Day One – THEY MEET

Him: (typing into iPhone) “I’m sitting here in McDonald’s, thinking of you.”

Her: (typing into laptop, thousands of miles away) “Oh, yeah?”

Him: (typing into iPhone) “I’m thinking of that comment you made on that Huffington Post article about genetic modified foods. That was so intelligently stated. I wish others were as committed as you in wanting to save the planet.”

Her: (typing into laptop, thousands of miles away) “Why, thank you!  That is such an honor, coming from someone I respect so deeply. I love it when a man is confident enough to maintain such a well-regarded Pinterest board on kitchen utensils!”

Him:  “Where do you live again?”

Her:  “”

Him:  “Wow, that’s far away!”

Day Twenty-Six – THEY BOND

Him: (typing into iPhone) “I’m sitting here in McDonald’s, thinking of you.”

Her: (typing into laptop, thousands of miles away) “Oh, yeah?”

Him: “Why are you so far away?”

Her: “I know. I can’t stand it anymore.”

Him: “If you were here now, I would grab you, take you, and f**k you right on the table here in McDonald’s?”

Her: “Ooh, would there be fries with that?”

Him: “Absolutely. We would be f**king while I feed you fries, one at a time?”

Her: “And would there be a chocolate shake with this f**king?”

Him: “Absolutely. F**king with fries, f**king with a chocolate shake, f**king with two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun – everything!”

Her: “Ooh, that is so hot.”

Day One Hundred and One – THEY CARE

Him: (typing into iPhone) “I’m sitting here in McDonald’s, thinking of you.”

Her: (typing into laptop, thousands of miles away) “Oh, yeah? Wait a minute – why are you in McDonald’s again? Maybe you wouldn’t have to take those cholesterol pills your doctor gave you if you didn’t go to McDonald’s everyday!”

Day Two Hundred and Nineteen  – THEY MISCOMMUNICATE

Him: (typing into iPhone) “I’m sitting here in Chipotle, thinking of you.”

Her: (typing into laptop, thousands of miles away) “Oh, yeah?”

Him: “Why are you so far away?”

Her: “I know. I can’t stand it anymore.”

Him: “If you were here now, I would grab you, take you, and uh… MAKE LOVE to you right here on the table here in Chipotle. But first I would clean off the table.”

Her: “Thank you. Maybe next time, you can even bring a nice tablecloth.”

Him: “I did bring a tablecloth. 100% cotton. And I bought a candle too!”

Her: “How romantic!”

Him: “Let’s make love.”

Her: “I love when you say that.”

Him: “Make love?”

Her: “No, LOVE. I love when you say you LOVE me.”

Him: “Well, actually, I said, “MAKE LOVE,” not specifically “LOVE” as a solo word.

Her: “I love you, too. Are you asking me to marry you?”

Him: “Huh? What? Oh no, my battery is running out of my iPhone. I’ll have to speak with you later.”

Day Three Hundred and Twenty Eight – THEY ARE IN TROUBLE

Him: (typing into iPhone) “I’m sitting here in Souplantation, thinking of you.”

Her: (typing into laptop, thousands of miles away) “Oh, yeah?”

Him: “Why are you so far away?”

Her: “I know. I can’t stand it anymore.”

Him: “If you were here now, I would grab you, take you, and uh, uh… MAKE WHOOPIE with you right on the salad bar.”

Her: “Make Whoopie? What are you talking about?”

Him: “Making Whoopie? From the old Newlywed Game. Didn’t you ever see the old Newlywed Game?”

Her: “No.”

Him: “You’ve never seen the Newlywed Game?”

Her: “You’re older than me. That was before my time.”

Him: “I’m sure they show it in repeats, on the Game Show Network.”

Her: “I don’t want to watch the Newlywed Game. It sounds stupid.”

Him: “I loved that show. I used to watch it with my mother.”

Her: “Well, then maybe you should MAKE WHOOPIE with your mother.”

Him: “That’s gross.”

Her: “Besides, I probably wouldn’t even understand a show called the Newlywed Game, since apparently I’m never going to be a newlywed anytime soon.”

Him: “OK, that’s it. I’m making a decision here. No more of this long-distance thing. I’m packing up everything I own, and flying out there to live with you forever. With my mother.“

Her: “Huh? What? Oh no, my battery is running out of my iPhone. I’ll have to speak with you later.”

Feeling Divorced

run

In 2005, I separated from my wife.

But it wasn’t a real separation because we still saw each other every day.

In 2010, we decided that it was time to file for divorce.

But her father-in-law became sick, so we had to help care for him, and then her mother died from all the stress, right before her stepfather died, so we never had a chance to get a divorce.

In 2011, we did file for divorce with California.

But we filed it incorrectly, and it got them returned to us, and we didn’t touch the paperwork for another eight months.

In 2012, we re-filed the paperwork.   And finally, we were divorced.  We got the notice in the mail.

But it didn’t feel like divorce.  I was still living in the same house for half of the year, and we shared all expenses.   And we were still arguing about the same issues.  It was as if we had tossed away all of the good parts of marriage, only to keep the negatives.  We treated the divorce notice as irrelevant,  as valid as Monopoly money.  It didn’t matter what California said.  We would keep working at this forever.

In 2013, I met another woman online and I traveled to New Zealand to see her.

But even during this budding international romance, I still never FELT completely divorced.  And Juli, the woman in New Zealand, told me so.  I hid from my ex-wife when she called me on the phone.  It was if I felt uncomfortable making a new life for myself without her approval.  I was tied to her, if not like husband and wife, at least like “brother and sister.” It was not healthy, and my ex and I, who once loved each other dearly, were beginning to hate each other.

My last month in Los Angeles was a traumatic one.  I turned in my key.  I removed myself from the phone “family plan.”  I moved my books into storage.  It was tense and awful month, especially coming immediately after the most beautiful one in New Zealand.

Today, I spoke on the phone with my ex-wife about some lingering issues. She is beginning to have her own life.  Her own hobbies and friends.   We argued about some money, of course,  just for old time’s sake, but it didn’t feel the same.  There have been so many changes down the road, that we are different people than when we first got married, wearing that tuxedo and white dress.  We are not husband and wife. We are not brother and sister. I’m not sure we are even friends. Not yet.  For now, it seemed more like a conversation between ex-business partners.

For better or for worse, for sickness or for health, eight years after our “separation” and two and a half years after we first filed the paperwork, I finally felt divorced — that is, emotionally.   And I don’t say that cruelly.  It is necessary.

Our Genitalia are our Friends

cactus

I kvetched about my current man cold on Facebook, and how I was stuck in bed sick, and then felt embarrassed about it. What kind of wimpy image am I presenting to others? So, I updated my status and said that I wasn’t going to be a “pussy” anymore. I was going to get out of bed, go to the Chinese restaurant, and get myself some soup. I didn’t need NO WOMAN to take care of me when I have a cold.

The comments were supportive, but one online friend, Maddie, had this to say —

While not offended I often wonder why being weak is associated with the word “pussy”… which of course is slang for female genitalia… I mean if anything that word should be a sign of strength… not many things can push out a 8-11 pound little human and be ready for use again a couple of days/weeks later!”

He comment blew me away. She was right! I immediately apologized and said I would never use the word “pussy” as a synonym for weakness again. After all, it is woman, not the man, who pushes past the cold and doesn’t cry over a few sniffles. It is the woman who is usually the stronger sex, juggling work and family. Besides, what man in his right mind wants to associate the word “pussy” with a negative trait? Is there anything more gorgeous than a woman’s Holy Grail? Men bow before a woman’s pussy. Men have launched a thousand ships for a woman’s pussy. The most ardent atheist has yelled “Thank you, God Almighty,” when his dreams of a woman’s pussy come true.

Pussies are beautiful and strong. Pussies are LIFE.

When someone holds the door for me when I walk into a supermarket and gives me a smile that warms the very center of my soul, I should be able to say “You, kind soul, are a Pussy,” and both of us understand it as the ultimate compliment of gratitude.

Pussies rock, and we should stop using this word as an expression of weakness or incompetence.

flower

But let’s turn to a more controversial subject — and his name is Dick. We all agree that pussy represents goodness and Life. So why do we continue to continue to associate “dick” with the most vilest of human beings. If a guy is arrogant, he is a dick. If he a cheat, a two-timer, a philanderer, obnoxious, a back-stabber, or just plain unpleasant — we think of him as a dick. Javet in Les Miserable is a dick. That crazy anti-gay pastor is a dick. Lance Armstrong was a dick. Why such hatred for the poor Dick? Isn’t he important too? Why not off-Broadway shows for him on Valentine’s Day?

Much like the female genitalia, the male version is an amazing work of heavenly architecture. It grows. It moves. It does tricks. It impregnates. There are a million dildos and sex toys on the market, but most women would still prefer the human dick. Just like the pussy, the dick SHOULD represent love and affection and procreation — everything that makes life worthwhile.

If we want our boys to grow up to be respectful and loving, especially when it comes to their relationships with women, why continue to see their sex organs as aggressive and hateful jerks rather than George Clooney-types — fun-loving, happy-go-lucky and extremely handsome gifts from Mother Nature?

Let’s embrace our genitalia and see them as friends. Let’s turn our pussies and dicks from insults into expressions of joy and love!

“Thank you, for holding the door for me. You are a real pussy.”

“Oh, no problem. I love that shirt you wearing. It makes you look like a total dick.”

“Really, I’m glad you like it. I bought it at Nordstrom’s, you asshole.”

“Oh, really. They have such nice stuff. Have a nice day, you fucker.”

Now imagine that as beautiful. That is the world I want to live in.

21st Century Romance

laundry

Neil:  So, what do you think?

J:  I, uh, like the idea.

Neil:  You don’t like it. I can hear it in your voice.

J:   No, it is a clever idea. It might even work.

Neil:  So, what’s the problem?

J:   I’m just not sure it’s the WAY I visualized you coming back. I thought it would be more romantic.

Neil:  This IS romantic. This is 21st Century romance!

J:  Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but is it really THAT romantic if Air New Zealand only sends you back because you promised to put their hashtags on your Instagram photos?

Neil:  We’re not just offering them hashtags on Instagram.  We’re offering them Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  We’re offering them to be part of a real life love story. Imagine the campaign “New Zealand is for Lovers!”

J:   I think the State of Virginia already has that one copyrighted.

Neil:  How about, “When in Love, Fly Kiwi!”

J:   Yeah, but the name of the airline is Air New Zealand, not Kiwi.”

Neil:  I’m sure they’ll figure it out. They have a big marketing department.

J:   So, let me understand it — you want us to email Air New Zealand and offer them that we we will hashtag everything we do while we travel around the South Island if only they sponsor it?

Neil:  Well, we have to offer them more than that.   We need to tell them that we will convince all of our readers that THEY should come to New Zealand and find love THEMSELVES — while flying Air New Zealand, of course — the airline of Romance.

J:  But what does this have to do about us?

Neil:  This is all about us!

J:  It makes me feel as if you are only coming back to see me if you get a free ticket.

Neil:   A ticket is $2000!

J:  Well, I suppose this IS who you are.  I think the first post I ever read of yours was about you taking Sophia out to dinner to the Olive Garden, using a coupon.

Neil:  That’s being frugal.

J:   Maybe I’m just worried about what happens if this plan falls through?   Will you still come back to see me as soon as possible?

Neil:   Of course I will.  Soon.   But maybe not as soon as if we were sponsored by Air New Zealand.

J:  That’s not a very romantic thing to say.  Imagine telling your blog readers that’s how you feel.  They all peg you as super sweet.

Neil:  Screw them.   And, believe me,  they LOVE to get free stuff.  You should see them pushing each other and grabbing things at BlogHer.

J:  But imagine this is one of your screenplays. Wouldn’t you want the hero of the story to return to his love interest, no matter what, even if he was so poor that he couldn’t afford a ticket? Wouldn’t he find a way, legal or illegal,  because if he didn’t see her soon, he would die from heartbreak?

Neil:  Exactly, that’s how I feel!  If this was a screenplay, the clever hero — a George Clooney type — would come up with this amazing social media campaign, and get an airline to sponsor him to see her again! Happy ending!

J:  And then what — at the very end of the movie, one of the pilots would do the wedding ceremony at the airport terminal?

Neil:   That’s not a bad idea. Let’s put that down.

J:   I don’t like this idea.  It’s like exploiting our relationship.  Not everything has to be sold through “social media.”  I’d rather you were so desperate to come here, that you became a stowaway on a ocean liner.

Neil:   Sure, I would rather do that too.   But do you know how difficult it is to be a stowaway on an ocean liner nowadays? It just doesn’t happen anymore. They have security, and besides, I don’t like cruising. Too much food.

J:  OK, write to Air New Zealand.  Let’s see what happens.   I’m just happy you want to see me again.  Do you want me to help you write the letter?  I used to work in marketing.

Neil:   Sure. But I’m not ready yet for that.   First, I need to get myself prepared. I read a tutorial on pitching to a brand, and there are a number of steps involved. I have to create a media kit, gather my daily page views on my blog from Google Analytics and Quantcast, chart my daily influence on Twitter, create a Facebook page, map out my Facebook statistics in order to show reader engagement, and lastly, convince all of my friends to give me a +New Zealand on Klout to cement my role as a leadership role on this subject in my community.

J:  That sounds like a pain in the ass. Are you sure it’s worth all that trouble just for trip to New Zealand?

Neil:   Hmm, maybe you’re right. Let me go to the Princess Cruises forum and research “How to Become a Stowaway.”

The Blurry Photo of J

Call me old-fashioned, but I was convinced that she would be the first to crack. Blokes like myself believe women are the sentimental creatures, so I was surprised that, on my arrival at LAX, the first text I received from her read simply, “Going camping with my son for two days.”

Camping in NZ also means “non internet access,” so this also meant that our communication channels were down. So, on this historic day when President Obama was sworn in as President, barriers fell throughout the land. We now have our first two-term African-American President. Gay rights were mentioned in an inaugural speech. And — for the first time ever, smashing centuries of gender roles — a man cracked first, turning to his blog, sentimentality in his heart, while the woman went camping in the wild, a pocketknife in her purse. Who’s the weaker sex? My heart sinks faster than that US Navy landing craft that was swamped by a wave near Paekakariki, NZ ’s during that infamous tragedy in June 1943.

J and I first went camping after Christmas. Her son stayed with his father. I had not gone camping since I was twelve years old. As an adult, I found it fun, but exhausting. One of my Facebook friends touted camping as “sexy.” Uh, no. But if you get your kicks sleeping in cramped tents without bathrooms, who am I to question your alternative lifestyle?

I’m surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. The scenery certainly helped. It was amazing to wake up in the morning and look at greenery so lush you felt like you just rented a room in the Hobbit’s Shire.

Still, after a week sleeping on an air mattress, I suggested (well, insisted) that we spend two nights in a motel in Napier, a Hawkes’ Bay town famous for its art deco architecture.

Our room in Napier — at the appropriately named Art Deco Motel — was nothing fancy; it was a motel room that looked out into a parking lot. But after a week camping, it felt like the Four Seasons. We each took a long hot shower. It was the best shower of my life. J prepared lunch in the motel kitchenette, using leftovers in the cooler or the “chilly bin” as called by the Kiwis. J was wearing a towel from the bathroom, but as she fried up some eggs, the white cotton towel slipped off, sliding to the carpeted floor.

I took a photo of her with my iPhone.

In the photo, J was in the shadows, the light in the background flowing in from the large window leading to the patio. I fiddled around with some apps on my iphone until the subject was anonymous. I created a blurry photo of a naked, curvy, beautiful woman standing in front of a burst of light.

“Can I put this on Instagram?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. “It’s your artwork.”

Wow. My artwork?! How can you not fall for a woman who considers your dopey and salacious photo of her losing her towel while frying some eggs as “artwork?”

The next day, she changed my mind.

“I forgot about my mother.” she said. She’s looking at your instagram feed.”

It’s a fine line between sharing and keeping things private.

“Can you take it down before she sees it?” she asked.

I deleted it from Instagram. And Flickr. And Facebook.

I’m in Los Angeles now. For now. It’s too bad that I can’t reach J. I want to tell her about my night in Melbourne, Australia. I met two Aussie bloggers and we went to a famous local restaurant.

Melbourne is a world-class city with culture and excitement. There are hipsters drinking coffee in converted warehouse districts. The Kapiti Coast of New Zealand — where J lives — is sleepyville. Bars close early. Local excitement is a sheep shearing and bringing home some fish and chips. But never have I seen so much greenery. And as a Pisces, I am drawn to the oceans and rivers and lakes. And then, there is J herself. She is in New Zealand.

I slide my finger along the screen of my iphone, touching the blurred photo of J. The one from the motel. The one that I deleted. It is a tame photo. J is shadowy and heavily filtered. But I understand why she asked me to delete it from public view. I know and adore every curve of her body, even in the dark. And that is very obvious to anyone looking at this blurry photo, despite my attempts to hide it.

The Shoulder

The shoulder is the Mason-Dixon line of a woman’s body. North and South. To the North are her wide eyes and the gentle face, as innocent as a child’s. To the South lies the lusty flesh that is only seen in private, at night, when the soulful music plays.

I think about her naked shoulder, about the smooth curve. I am a man obsessed, who cannot focus on food, writing, or sleep.

She was in my bed that night, and I felt every inch of her electricity for hours. So why does my mind only focus on the shoulder — a utilitarian section of the woman’s body, hardly mysterious or sung about in song? Do I need to Google “shoulder fetish” this afternoon online?

In the morning, when I woke up, she was asleep. I was not alone in my sensation of early morning male ardor. The sun was there too, greedily forcing his way in through the slats of the Venetian blinds. The mighty sun broke through, his goal the same as mine. He went straight for her bare shoulder, like a pulsated arrow searching for the bulls-eye.

Several strands of hair covered our object of affection, teasing us both like the feathers of a burlesque dancer. I brushed her hair aside and kissed the soft nakedness of my favorite spot. I was confident that I could compete with the sun. She awoke, like Sleeping Beauty, and I bit her shoulder hard. I shifted my body towards her, blocking the rays of the sun from view, vanquishing my competitor. Her shoulder was now mine, alone, as was the roadmap to North and South.

I think about her shoulder all day and all night. I am a man obsessed, who cannot focus on food, writing, or sleep.

The Poet at the Genius Bar

Dear Evanline,

Let me drink from your sacred glass
My mouth filled with your wine
The taste of ambrosia on my tongue, so sweet
I am your servant of love
Your messenger of desire

And that’s when it happened. My iPhone ran out of juice.

“Crap,” I said.

It was 2AM. I was drunk, in bed, writing my love poem to Evanline on my iPhone. You see, like many of you, i do everything on my phone. And I mean everything, from making movie reservations, to Instagram, to trying to get Siri to talk dirty to me. I even sleep with my iPhone on my pillow.

I plugged my iPhone into the charger, but it wouldn’t charge. This was serious. My IPhone was dead.

And for the life of me, I could not remember one word of my poem.

The next day, I woke up early, took the subway to the Apple Store and waited on line at the Genius Bar, my iPhone in hand. I was assigned Ed, a friendly hipster dude in his early thirties with curly hair, thick tortoise shell glasses, and a goatee.

“How can I help you?” asked Ed.

I told him that my iPhone had died at the most inopportune time, and I was desperate.

“I’ll see what I can do.” he said, but added a warning — “I might have to reboot everything and you’ll lose your data. Is that OK?”

My heart stopped.

I pleaded with him, “You need to recover my poem!”

I told him about Evanline, and how this was my only chance to woo her.

I told him how I met her, oh so accidentally, in the bookstore at Grand Central Station. She had just stepped off the Amtrak train. It was her first time in New York. I was on my lunch break. We talked about books, about our common admiration for Charles Dickens, John Irving, and Curious George, or George Et le Camion, as she said in her cute French-Canadian accent.

Man, I love Canadians.

I lied to my office and said that my grandmother had died, an excuse I’ve been using since grade school, and spent the rest of the day with Evanline. It was a day I’ll never forget.

We did uptown, downtown, and then, right on 6th Avenue and 52nd Street, not far from the halal meat cart in front of the Hilton, we kissed.

But, alas, as in many lover’s stories, there’s the moment when the star-crossed lovers must separate. She had to return to Montreal, where she had a promising career as a neurosurgeon.

I waved to her as her train left the station, knowing that this might be the end. But maybe… maybe with a poem, I could change the course of history.

“Dude, ” said Ed. “That is the most romantic story I ever heard. I’m going to recover that poem, and after you win her over, I want to be invited to the wedding.”

“Deal, Dude!” I said.

As Ed went to work on my phone, I fantasized about the future. Evanline and I were in bed together, and I was reading her my poem.

“Read me your poem again!” she would say.

“Again?” i would ask.

“Yes, I never tire of it. It’s why I moved to New York to be with you. Read it to me over and over again.”

Ten minutes later, Ed returned, my iPhone in his hand. His expression was difficult to read.

“I have some good news and some bad news,” he said. “First the good news. I fixed your iPhone and was able to recover your poem.”

“That’s great!” I shouted. “So, what’s the bad news?”

“Well, I read the poem.”

Ed said he was a graduate student in the Columbia University Writing Program.

“This poem is awful!” he said, shaking his head in dismay.

“The taste of ambrosia on my tongue”

“Do you even know what IS the taste of ambrosia?” he asked.

“Uh. Is it like licorice?”

“Rule number one of writing — write from experience. Better you describe her taste as a Raspberry Pop-Tart. At least then you have some authenticity. You’re lucky your phone closed down when it did.”

“I see,” I said, wondering if Siri had become so powerful that she could not only find me a restaurant with tomato soup, but close down the phone to prevent me from sending a woman a bad piece of poetry.

“Listen,” said Ed. “Just be YOURSELF. Do what comes naturally.”

“I already tried that with another woman. I did what came naturally. I emailed her a photo of my penis, and she didn’t appreciate it. And it was a very good quality photo!”

“Jesus! Why do men think women want to see a photo of their dicks? To women, our penises look like overgrown one-eyed rats! They’d rather hear language that melts them into putty. Men are visual. But only a woman can have an orgasm from the rhythm of an iambic pentameter.”

“Wow, women are complicated,” I said. “I’m never going to understand them.”

I felt hopeless of every winning the heart of Evanline. And Ed saw the pain in my eyes.

“Listen, I have a solution. There is another way to win the affection of a woman, specifically created for men who can’t write poetry. It’s not as creative, but it is a truly time-honored solution that has been proven to work.”

He slid a $100 iTunes card under my nose and a bejeweled iPhone case.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s called “buying her stuff!”

Best Advice For Men EVER

Early to bed, early to rise,
Makes a man boring until he dies,
Eat the best food, f*ck all the night,
Wear comfortable shoes before a long flight.

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