Do You Wanna Come Over and See My Leech Jar?

Hello ladies and germs AND Happy, Happy Thanksgiving — or, as I like to call this particular fete —

“What Do We Do with the Dinosaur Egg-Shaped, 40-pound Tofurky Loaf?” Holiday.

Past solutions have included:

Sailboat anchor, anvil, truck-parked-on-hill wheel-stopper, wrecking ball, kettle-bell, canon ball, foxhole barricade, seed bomb, highway median, flood dike, hot-air balloon weight, and shot put:

And now, as the post-gorging coma sets in, let us move onto our sorely missed, regularly scheduled program Mailbag Monday.

Honestly, I would love nothing better than to believe we as humans are MORE than excrement flinging bovines mindlessly following the sound of the same braided bull whip… BUT … I can NOT deny a few universal truths; i.e. as the weather gets colder, the days get shorter, and the nights get darker — the need for a warm body to fill the other side of the bed consequences be damned gets Biblical.

And, judging from my bursting-at-the-cyber-seams, overflowing INBOX, one thing is absafruity clear:

Seasonal Affucktive Disorder (SAD) has already started to spread among the single population north of the Equator.

  • Therapy lamp: Check.
  • Melatonin capsules: Check.
  • Indiscriminate, bar-lowering hook-up with first-interested-party: Check and Check Please!

(The one upshot: Bedbugs generally don’t survive in cold weather)

So, I’m just going to close my eyes and pick a letter from the middle of the stack. Ready, aim, fire:

Dear Nerdy Romantic,

I recently started seeing this guy and all was going gangbusters until around date 5 when he invited me over to his place for a nice, home-cooked dinner. For all outer appearances, this guy seemed as sweet and unassuming as apple pie. He’s a freaking high school Algebra teacher!

When I showed up at his place, I was genuinely taken with the baby blue exterior, wrap-around front porch, and folky yard art. But then he opened the door and it was a death of a thousand Christmas’s. It was like the set of MTV’s Jackass. No lie: He had a slip-n-slide in the kitchen that he kept wet via the sink’s spray nozzle. And while I never actually sat on it, I’m pretty sure his living room couch was inflatable.

Needless to say, 5 minutes into the “tour,” I faked a migraine, went home, and haven’t returned his phone calls. Is it wrong for me to judge a guy by how he lives?


House/Heart Broken


Dear House/Heart Broken. Wow, does this ever make me nostalgic for the good ole days, like in 9th grade when Chris Glass invited me over to listen to his new Gin Blossoms CD. Now, things are so much more complicated. “Hey Jealousy” and a sleeve of Nutter Butter’s isn’t going to get ’em to third base anymore. Am I right!?

Fortunately I’ve learned from my own experiences in this very matter AND in the end, my final decision always comes down to the “3 S’s” of domestic deal break-or-make-rship. (This section will be on your final exam):

1. Stylistic:

This has to do with aesthetic differences. You’re French Country. He’s Frat-house Chic. Your walls are a mix of sunny yellows and soft greens. His walls are covered in black-light posters and flickering, neon Miller Time signs. You have an entire set of LeCreuset cookware and a subscription to Epicurean. He has a George Foreman grill and an award-winning “Special Wing Sauce.”

By no means is this cause to hit the relationship kill switch. You just met the guy for Chimney sake. You’re not moving in together. And even if it does come down to that at some point, think about it: If he’s the kind of guy who uses a camping hammock as a bed, he’s probably not going to dig his heels in when it comes paint-chip-picking-time.

2. Structural:

This has to do with the actual living “conditions.” We’re talking foundation, integrity of floorboards and rebar, sanitation.

  • Is there a condemned “this building is deemed unsafe for human occupancy” sign nailed to the front door?
  • On a scale of 1 to ‘Hoarders’ — is the inside of the house filled with old, untuned pianos and hundreds of electronic fish wall mounts?
  • Use your olfactory sense as well: Does the place smell like moth balls, formaldehyde, or the sulfuric stench of dying dreams?

labrynth3. Statement:

This has to do with signature “statement” pieces. Here, a guy’s living space isn’t just “a place to crash.” It’s a visual extension of his identity. His input alone is behind the interior design, the furniture, art, and accessories. Therefore, this is the most useful “S” for determining whether you and he are actually compatible.

Allow me to interject with a few personal anecdotes:

The best (and worst) example was this guy I dated for about 4 months. For 3 months and 29 days of that relationship, I would describe said guy as hilarious, charming, social, chivalrous, polite and above all NORMAL.  I’m talking wore New Balance athletic shoes with boot cut jeans NORMAL.  The only faint whiff of whackadoo that I ever picked up on was the fact that we always hung out at my place.

At first, it didn’t bother me. My apartment was more convenient to everything (namely, the “Hot Now” sign at Krispy Kreme). But then I started to think he was hiding something: a wife, a meth lab, an exotic tiger. So, on month 3 day 29, i suggested we grab some take-out and watch a movie at his place.

A wife, a meth lab, an exotic tiger — I would have taken any of those things over the truth…

7:03 pm: I knock on a huge, metal door in an old cotton mill-turned loft apartment complex. His is the basement studio right next to the train tracks.

7:04: He opens the door. I walk in. The concrete floor has been painted a dark Merlot red. And on that floor sits a 7-foot long, black satin couch and matching pair of old, wooden electric chairs.

7: 07: Feeling in pit of my stomach starts to sink faster than a mob victim fitted with Tofurky shoes and tossed into the Hudson.

“Where is your restroom,” I manage to squeak out.

“Down the hall, first door on the right,” he answers.

7:08-7:15: While sitting in bathtub, I run through a few rapid-fire, anti-anxiety exercises. “So what,” I reason, “He has an eclectic design sense. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s a super nice guy with a steady job and no drug dependencies.”

I come back out with a renewed can-do attitude. Then, I see a light coming from the room directly across the hall. I go inside. 2, museum style glass display cases take up the bulk of the space. I walk over. Inside are neatly organized rows of antique medical equipment, each item with its own type-set label: (font: Gothic)

Spring lancet. Civil War circular amputation saw. Suppositories. 18th century OB forceps. Chloroform bottles. Cal…

7:19: I hear footsteps and then his voice, “My favorite one of all is the medieval, blood-letting leech jar.”

7:19 1/4th second: Voice inside my head: “Please do not ask me to put the lotion in the basket. Please do not ask me to put the lotion in the basket.”

Outside voice: “You know what? I totally forgot I had plans with my sister tonight. I am so sorry but I have to bail.”

7:19 1/3rd to 1/2 second: Slowly, calmly, cooly walk out of his apartment and back to my car.

Next day: I call him and have him meet me in a very PUBLIC place to break it off.

In hindsight, I definitely think my imagination got the best of me that night. I don’t doubt for a second that that guy IS a genuinely nice, harmless, and healthy person. But the fact remains: His home was a statement, loud and clear. No more or less so than the guy with the bunk beds (COOL!)… With a life-size storm trooper “sleeping” in the bottom bunk (NOT COOL!!).

Or — the guy with the Confederate flag nailed over his headboard

Or — the guy with the 6 plasma television screens all programmed to different sports channels.

These choices are deliberate, defining. They are fundamental to the person’s very being. And if your first instinct upon seeing them is to lock yourself in the bathroom and carve a shiv out of bar of hand soap — it’s probably not a good overall match.



The RETRIEVERS is Reborn

Okay my precious peeps, put some water on the kettle, tuck yourself nice and tight into your Snuggie, pop a NoDoz or 2, and make yourself comfortable BECAUSE today’s Mailbag Monday is going to take a while.

Dear Nerdy Romantic,

You can file this email under “W” for “walk of shame.” About 3 weeks ago, I had one of those unbelievable dates you see in the movies: It started early in the night at a coffee shop and ended with us sitting on the rooftop level of a parking garage sharing our thoughts on the universe till dawn. He kissed me “good day” and we made plans to have dinner and a movie at his apartment that Friday. He mentioned he was the last living soul to still own a VCR so I decided to bring over my VHS copy of “Harold & Maude.”

Crucial side note: This movie was a gift from my favorite uncle Dan on my 13th birthday. He was the one man in my life who encouraged me to pursue my love of art despite its 1-in-a-billion success rate. He died in a car accident shortly after that birthday, but every time I watch that video, I feel his big bear hug wrap around me with love and support.

My date and I barely made it past the hanging scene before finding our way to his bedroom and — well, you know the rest. The next morning, I woke up to the sound of him getting dressed. He acted distant and said he was really “swamped” at work and would try and call when his schedule opened up. I have no clue what words came out of my mouth next BUT I found myself halfway back home when it hit me: I left my copy of “Harold & Maude” in his VCR.

I’ve accepted the fact that he and I are not meant to be. But I can’t accept losing that video.  Every time I try and call him, though, I get tongue-tied and hang up. What do you suggest I do?

Desperately Seeking Maude

Well Mrs. Chasen, the “Computer Dating Services” of our day may still “screen out the fat and ugly.” But they certainly drop the ball when it comes to weeding out the jacktards and dillweeds.

So, “Desperately Seeking Maude” — this is where things get personal, real personal.

It was 5 years ago. I was living in San Franciscone. One afternoon, I asked my friend Chloe if she wanted to ride bikes to the theater and catch a Sunday matinee.

“I’d love to,” she hesitated, “Except for the fact that I left my bicycle at this guy’s office and haven’t had the nerve to ask for it back.”

“What do you mean?” I inquired innocently. “It’s your bike. It’s Mr. Blue Wheels. Why doesn’t he just drop it by your apartment or you go pick it up?”

To make a shlong story short, the last time Chloe saw this guy, she was collaborating with him on a design project at his studio.  After a few hours of work, they took a break at a nearby bar. 5 shots of Jimmy Beam later (4 for him, 1 for her), he proposed they play hide the salami back at his place. She politely rebuffed his offer and the guy proceeded to throw a very public tantrum about her “total bullshit teasing.” Chloe made a mad dash for the exits, hailed a cab home, and left Mr. Blue Wheels in the cold, dark hallway of the guy’s studio.

Two weeks later, and many anxiously aborted attempts to recover Blue, THE RETRIEVERS was born.

— The snack bar is now open for a 15-minute intermission —

The concept: A Repo service for those too embarrassed, hurt, ashamed, etc… to go back for that which was left behind. It started off as a practical joke. For kicks, I wrote the following advertisement:

“Did some bad break-up or awkward one-night stand wake-up have you some lover’s house in a hurry, a frantic flurry, so that you ended up leaving some cherished item behind? Well then, contact the Retrievers.

It could be as small as the left earring stud or as large as a bicycle; a book, boxer shorts, a letter declaring your love, a CD, a DVD, a pet dog? Whatever the item, now the humiliation or shame of the situation makes it impossible to go back and get it; Can’t call for fear of hearing that voice; seeing that face.

If having that object back in your possession is desperately important, leave the dirty work to us. With an address, we will go and retrieve your abandoned keepsake AND return it to an anonymous location of your choice, no questions asked, no appearances necessary.”

Chloe took the extra step of posting the ad in the Missed Connections section of Craigslist, including an email address, just to see if anyone would respond.

What happened next would revolutionize my idea of the isolated suffering of individual heartbreak.

Immediately, our inbox was flooded with these heart-rending, gut-spilling emails: All across the country, from Seattle to Connecticut, story after story of people mourning lost items from the messy aftermath of one-night stands to long-term live-ins.

But they all were experiences in a far distant past, slumbering memories roused again by our ad. The players long since moved on, but the need to retell the incident renewed, along with a bemused wish that “the RETRIEVERS had been around back then.”

Meanwhile — an art magazine reporter requested an interview with the Public Relations department of our company for a story on “Escape Businesses.”

Next — a woman in New York asked if The Retrievers was hiring for East Coast representatives.

And finally, boingboing featured our ad in its June 14, 2007 blog post: (Check it out!)

We struck a chord. The people had spoken. So, Chloe and I decided to try this RETRIEVERS gig on for realz. Chloe designed a flier out of our original ad and we went around the city taping it to lampposts and coffee shop bulletin boards.

retrieversAnd we waited. And we waited some more. But the emails continued to fall into the “Could’ve Used You Then” category. As if the simple telling was a kind of reclamation — redemption for a painful betrayal in the past. But nobody requested that The Retrievers actually recover a lost item in the present…


To “Desperately Seeking Maude,” for you and others like you — Chloe and I have decided to relaunch The RETRIEVERS, part deux, in the spirit of sequels that don’t suck (think: Empire Strikes Back and the Godfather II.) We are bigger and badder and relocated in 2 major metropolitan areas of Atlanta and NYC.

The RETRIEVERS are striking back against abandoned objects everywhere. Our services include:

  • An objective phone call
  • Email
  • Dorm (if in college) visit or public meeting ground
  • OR — the simple cathartic telling of your story.

“Desperately Seeking Maude,” in hindsight, you might come to see that your uncle’s spirit is no dimmer without the video AND that his real gift to you was an enduring confidence to remain true to yourself AND an unconditional love that transcends space and time.

P.S. The RETRIEVERS I’s only real and successful repo mission was the recovery of Chloe’s bike, Mr. Blue, who happily resides now in Brooklyn:


Atlanta contact:

NYC contact:

(IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The RETRIEVERS is not in the business of indulging in any passive-aggressive acts of intentional-object-leaving in hopes of forcing a reunion with thwarted lovers.)

The “WE”-totaler’s Dilemma

Hello my patient and loyal readers. It’s time to remove your jaw-clenching dental guards because the deferred episode of “Mailbag Monday” has arrived. So, let’s not waste another nanosecond on hooey:

Dear Nerdy Romantic,

About 2 months ago I started seeing a guy I met on a popular online dating site. I really like him and think this could be something really special…but for one tiny problem:

In my previous relationships, I’ve been a bit of a “Desperate Debbie.” I go from zero-to-breaking-the-sound-barrier in 60 seconds and within a week I’m buying matching bath towels with our monogrammed initials.

But this time, I’m trying to ease back and get some perspective. It helps (or hurts?) that he requires a good deal of space; i.e. we get together twice or 3-times a week. This is totally unchartered territory and I have no clue how to navigate the time we don’t see each other. Do I call just to check in? I guess my question is — how do you ensure distance makes the heart grow fonder instead of just becoming distance?

Wow, okay. This is a doozy. But it helps that there really is only 1, single solitary place to start answering:

barney“Sharing Is Caring” chants that lovable, Prozac-snorting purple dinosaur Barney. Sure, good, fine. But what his Play-Doh-eating fan base is too young to realize is this:

When you grow up — i.e. start using your “woo-woos” and “fee-fees” for realzies — sharing can also become SCARING the crap out of someone and sending them running for the hills with no forwarding address.

It’s a fine line. And I have to wonder whether you (the self-proclaimed former “Desperate Debbie”) have in fact been on the wrong side of it — OR — whether you’ve just been with the wrong person. The distinction is this:

Door Number 1:

You’ve realized after a life of heart-doodling-around-last-name-sharing that your need to infiltrate every pore of your lover’s existence is rooted in some negative pattern of childhood abandonment that if continued, will either:

  1. Do to any potentially healthy relationship what a blaring siren does to a baking soufflé, or —–
  2. Trap you in a creepy, interconnected, ever-churning cycle of codependency that is the stuff of certain horror movies:

flowers in the atticIt’s safe to say the children of Christopher and Corrine Dollanganger — Cathy, Chris, Carrie, & Corey — would have preferred if their parents had gone to a few Al-Anon meetings.

Door Number 2:

You’re trying to change who you are, fundamentally, to fit who think the other person wants.

Because here’s the thing: There is no shortage of “WE” seeking men out there. Guys whose very dream is a sentence-finishing, bar-of-soap-sharing, iPhone calendar synching, peeing with the door open, pet name giving, kiss-blowing and “I miss you already” saying when you walk into a different room in the same house LADY.

This we-lationship could totally work, So Long As both parties are into it. And then, it becomes this two-minds-melding-into-one symbiosis. Like an angler fish and a bio-luminescence: the glowing organism lures pray straight into the sharp-toothed fish’s mouth, and in return, the fish provides a steady stable home for the bio to live on.

(Enter “Finding Nemo” heart sigh here)

PERSONALLY, I’d rather put my head in the direct path of 2 charging rams than be in that kind of we-lationship — but that’s just me.

This is you we’re talking about. Now, IF — after all of this — you are still sure of your choice in Door Number 1, then let’s walk through it:

You are entering the life of a “WE”-totaler. Cold. Turkey. No more binge-linking your names into one. In this world, Renee Zellweger doesn’t say “You complete me,” to Jerry Maguire. She says, “You complement me, in all my independent desires and separate interests.”  

It’s not about the QUANTITY of time you spend together, but rather the quality. About being comfortable in your own skin and in your own space — AS well as when those spaces converge.

I can’t remember where I heard this story. I think it was in grade school, while learning to distinguish between the different geometric shapes. But I think about it in terms of what I consider to be a balanced relationship. Here goes my greatly paraphrased version:

Sitting at the edge of a steep cliff, there is this giant, multi-sided, rhomboid-like mis-shape; all points askew and asymmetric angles struggling to organize themselves in such a way that the piece as a whole can get to the bottom of the hill. But no matter how hard it reconfigures itself, the shape won’t budge. Finally, it gets so angry and frustrated, that it breaks apart into 2 perfectly rounded circles. Looking at each other from across the cliff side, the 2 circles delightedly roll down the hill together, side by side.

In the end, no matter what kind of relationship you’re in, remember this: “That which is for you, will not pass you.”

If you wanna be My Lover, You Gotta Get with My Friends — or do you? (Take 1)

I hope everyone had a wet and wild Labor Day — you know, the international holiday that celebrates the closing of public pools. And of course, welcome to Mailbag Monday (read: Tuesday). Let us not tarry.

Dear Nerdy Romantic,

I’ve been seeing a guy for about 1 month now and so far, it’s just been he and I hanging out together – on our own. I don’t know about his buddies, but MY friends are chomping at the bit to meet him. How long do you think is an appropriate time for the official “boyfriend” coming out party?

Ah yes, the age-old question of when to merge friends with boyfriend. Believe me, the PROS of NOT introducing your man to your mates far outweigh the CONS: (See list)

new boyfriendAs a matter of fact, I once dated a guy for over a year before introducing him to someone else. And that somebody was my landlady who required his presence to co-sign the lease on our house.

Granted, he and I kept very different schedules:

  • I went to bed at 10 pm to get a proper 8 hours of sleep before waking for my 9 to 5 corporate office job.
  • He kept the hours of an incubus, a.k.a he was a musician who stayed up till dawn watching Jonestown, the Jim Jones documentary and stapling egg crates to the ceiling.

We also had very different lifestyles:

  • I love the outdoors, hiking in nature AND running in the park, all the while eating a healthy, all organic diet of fresh greens, fruits, and free-range meats.
  • He maintained his washboard abs on the 3 “C’s” rock-star regimen: Crystal meth, Chain-smoking, and hepatitis C.

And we definitely had very different views about life:

  • I tried to see the bright side of most things, the underlying lesson in a challenge, the beauty in the banal, and magic in the seeming mundane.
  • He believed from the harrowing moment we are all wombjacked, every second on is just a micro-death of our innocence until we emit our very last breath and finally do die, utterly alone. Basically, he didn’t so much see the glass as half empty, as there NOT being a glass there to begin with.

Okay, so we were utterly, painfully ill matched. Like Platoon vs. Pippy Longstocking ill matched.

Like a jellybean jar vs. the Bell Jar — ill matched.

Frankly, he and I had ONE single, solitary thing in common: A combustible physical chemistry that could split atoms. But what nobody ever tells you is — “mind-blowing” sex (by its very definition) renders the mind, the objective analytical capacity of one’s brain, inoperative.

(To Be Continued…)