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Thursday, February 28, 2013

145

The Girl Next Door

Hi! I noticed you in this Starbucks and thought I’d introduce myself. That may seem a little forward, but you’ll soon find I have a lot of “girl-next-door” qualities: I’m laid-back, quick with a joke, into baseball, and at every home you’ve lived in for the past 11 years, I’ve moved next door so that I can better surveille you and deduce if we’re a good match, which I just know we are!

Leaving already? I’ll walk out with you. Where to, our block? Oh, I see; now the exact opposite direction. Whatever, I’m up for meandering — like I said, I’m as easygoing a gal as you’ll meet anywhere, whether it’s outside your law firm on 194 Braddock Avenue, at the gym where your intramural dodgeball team meets Tuesday nights, or in the waiting room of your allergist at 10:45 tomorrow morning.

Still reading The Sun Also Rises, which you were up to page 137 in last night? I’ve been reading along with you, through my infrared telescope and a concatenation of angled mirrors I’ve positioned to enable maximum visibility of your bed. Your marginalia have been very illuminating — makes me miss reading your essays in college from my remote keyboard-monitoring software!

Looking forward to catching up on the rest of Mad Men with you, too. I’m so glad you finally made the jump to Hulu Plus. It’d be great if you tilted the TV a few degrees to the right. It’s really tough to adjust mirror 12A.

Whoa, slow down, Usain Bolt! I’m cool with sprinting, but go easy on me — I started jogging only a few months ago, when you did, to trail you on your runs. Couldn’t do it without the motivation from my iPod playing, on repeat, a remixed recording of you saying, at different times, the sounds “I,” love,” “you,” “Jen-,” “ni-,” and “fer.”

My name’s Jennifer, by the way. And I’ve already legally changed my last name to yours, so no worries there. I’m just a regular, simple girl who’s happy to take on her future husband’s surname, as well as his middle name, Stanley. 

Hey, look, an Indian restaurant — I wonder if their chicken tikka masala is as good as the one you whipped up last week, when I could practically taste the savory tomato sauce from the smell wafting through the microscopic plastic tubing linked from my home, via an underground passage, to a series of tiny holes I’ve drilled into your flooring. Incidentally, the new deodorant’s even better in person!

I know you must have some reservations about long-term relationships after Lauren. I think the main issue with you two was communication, based on the live-feed from the bugged devices strategically located around the house and, when the conversation was inaudible, my hired lip-reader’s transcript. Know that I’ll always put your needs first and listen to you, be it during a busy workday as I stand watch in my rented warehouse on 196 Braddock Avenue or in the middle of the night as I gaze from close range at your sleeping, drugged body, reaching out my hand to nearly, but never quite, caress your rugged cheekbone.

Oh, God, there’s Jared. Look, I know you’ve been friends with him since that party on August 5, 2005, but you wouldn’t be so eager to defend him if you’d heard some of the things he’s said about you from his home on 1229 Washington Street, apartment 4C.

Is that an inside joke with Jared — “Call the cops quick, I’m serious”? I don’t remember it from any of your public or private correspondences. But I'll consult my logbooks.

That reminds me, your mom asked if you’ll be coming home to Milwaukee this Christmas — I accidentally deleted her voice mail. I hadn’t seen any flight purchases on your credit-card statements, so I assumed the answer was no, and emailed her from both your work and personal accounts. Next time you talk, please send my regards to Harriet. I just adore spending time with your family, like when we all went to see Avatar that time in Milwaukee and I sat behind you guys in the theater and then grabbed a seat adjacent to your booth at Applebee’s and then watched you all play Trivial Pursuit, while suspended upside-down from an oak tree, in camouflage, through a pair of high-powered binoculars. What a fun night, even if your sister was such a dolt at trivia and doesn’t deserve to be the female who shares the most genetic material with you!

I trust you’re not thinking of going back to Lauren, like you wrote in your diary last week. My miniaturized military-issue reconnaissance drone began having difficulties with its fine-motor activities, so I wasn’t able to read what you’ve written recently. But, hey, what do you expect out of a $43,000 piece of robotics that’s designed for mine detection and investigating enemy-combatant strongholds and not for unlocking bedside tables and doctoring drinks?

Also, Lauren’s car brakes look like they’re faulty and I wouldn’t be surprised if she got in a serious accident sometime soon.

Good idea, flagging down a taxi in the middle of the street. I’ll share it with you—

Ha-ha, what a hilarious prank that was, opening the door at 40 miles an hour and rolling out at an intersection!

Ah, home sweet home. I’m referring to yours; I think of mine more as a “command center,” what with the bank of video screens, wax-figure simulacra in various outfits identical to yours, and the two-foot-diameter ball of your hair.

Sure, see you later — feel free to double-lock the door like that, I’ve got keys. And in case you put the chain on, my trusty hacksaw’s in my bag. See you, and those rugged cheekbones, tonight!

Teddy Wayne is the author of the novels The Love Song of Jonny Valentine and Kapitoil, for which he won a 2011 Whiting Writers' Award.



145 Comments / Post A Comment

Genghis Khat

This seems kind of sexist, she unfunned.

To explicate: ladies are crazy! Especially when it comes to dudes! Stalking is hilarious when the target is a dude!

iceberg

@Genghis Khat I thought it went over-the-top enough to avoid that, but what it made me think of is that nearly every woman roughly in my age group has some story of a boy/boyfriend who got at least a little stalkery if not terrifyingly so, and I hear very little of the same stry with genders reversed, so - anecdata anyone?

fondue with cheddar

@iceberg There's that college professor. I don't know any stories personally.

Genghis Khat

@iceberg I feel like I am constantly hearing guys talk about women being "too into" them or "stalking" them, by which they usually mean looking at their facebook too much. Fatal Attraction exists as a film. There are blog posts about putting Tabasco sauce in used condoms so women don't steal your sperm to make babies.

The cultural meme that women will do anything to get a man and that they have been driven crazy by dependence on men is certainly prevalent.

That's why relationship books for women "gently" inform us that men are "just not that into [us]" and we don't have a stereotype that women are commitmentphobes or that we should just give love a chance. The cultural messaging certainly comes down on the side that we are too obsessed with love.

And that extra sucks because you're right, the majority of "romantic" crime is certainly going the other direction.

And that's why I think this is sexist.

Hot Doom

@iceberg This is more along the obsessive lines, but when I was a (female)teenager, my ex-boyfriend's then current girlfriend started calling me and IMing me all the time (ie. several times a day), and also started mailing me little things and letters. She and I were never friends, but she had gotten my information from the ex, and when I started ignoring her, she'd come up with new names and voices for the phone to speak to me (like if my mom was answering the phone). Finally, she started fabricating stories and events to elicit a response from me, and it stopped when I changed my phone number and got offline (this was circa 2000). She sucked.

ETA: This is pretty much the only anecdote I know of not involving a dude going after a female. With that in mind, plus the tired 'bitches are crazy' trope, this piece made me roll my eyes a bit, even with the obvious over-the-topness of it.

highfivesforall

@Genghis Khat I dunno, I think this would have worked pretty much the same with the genders reversed, only you wouldn't get to use the girl-next-door pun, and the already-changed-last-name joke wouldn't work as well. I think we have enough cultural narratives about both men who stalk and women who stalk for this to not have a "women in particular are crazy stalkers" message. Stalking is not hilarious no matter who the target is, but I think this piece is funny because it is, like iceberg said, so over the top. I'm also kind of a fan of "one side of a conversation" as a story-telling method, so maybe that's why I'm defending it.

fondue with cheddar

@Genghis Khat Also, the flip side of "Stalking is hilarious when the target is a dude!" is "Stalking is only scary/dangerous when the stalker is a dude and the target is a lady," which is so not true.

pajamaralls

@iceberg The first thing that came to mind was the Donald Glover bit where he talks about how every guy has a crazy girlfriend story, but women don't have crazy boyfriend stories, because "if you have a crazy boyfriend you gon' die"

Emby

@highfivesforall My internal wiring is pulling me in several directions. On the one hand, I do feel like it's clever and amusing and I do like the language quite a bit. On the other hand, I'm cognizant of the fact that the reason I get to enjoy it on that level is because I'm coming from a place of relative privilege, and that someone who legitimately fears stalking—or alternately is just bored to tears by the "women be crazy" narrative in our society—or both—won't enjoy it on that level. In a total vacuum of context, I think I'd be quite comfortable defending the story as a piece of wit. Knowing the context of the real world, I don't feel comfortable doing so.

martinipie

@highfivesforall But....being "so over the top" doesn't get to excuse things that are problematic and scary for people. Like, if this were a story about someone being racist, but it was "so over the top," no one would be laughing, because it would still be racist!

fondue with cheddar

@martinipie And if you reversed the roles, this story wouldn't be funny at all. It's funny based upon the assumption that women are harmless, and that assumption hurts everyone.

highfivesforall

@Genghis Khat Okay so, I did not refresh before posting my comment. You are right about all that stuff, for sure! I guess I just saw this as an extension of "what if 'girl next door' which is already a kind of dumb idea actually meant she was 'next door' no matter where you lived?", and I didn't think it relied on, or at least wasn't trying to rely on, the meme of women being crazy and doing anything to get a man for its humor. Unfortunately, by existing, it is contributing to that cultural narrative - and also I can't know the author's actual intent.

Additionally, I think that despite being a lady and having many lady friends, I don't have any of the stories iceberg was talking about from people in my life, and I haven't really heard dudes complain about women "stalking" them or acting crazy, so it was not at the forefront of my thinking - I had that privilege when reading this. So basically, I agree with Emby.

Jaya

@Genghis Khat Genuine question meant without any snarkiness! Would we all be reacting the same way if it were written by a woman? I think I'd probably be feeling the same mix of things but honestly, who knows? Thoughts?

emmycantbemeeko

@Genghis Khat

I got a front-row seat to the unpleasantness of a male roommate's stalking by an ex-girlfriend, which was pretty scary with several violent outbursts towards him (coming at him with a knife and once using a piece of furniture as a bludgeon), her following him and creating scenes that led to the police being called on his behalf by bystanders, and a lot of credible threats of self-harm if he didn't comply with various demands. One of the things we as his concerned friends said to him was "If the genders were reversed, you would clearly see this as the dangerous and abusive situation it is, please be careful."

Just one anecdote, but yeah, ladies are capable of violently inappropriate relationship behavior, too. I think there's a certain amount of social pressure against men admitting to it, though- "ladies be crazy" is an accepted trope, but "ladies be physically threatening to me" is something many men are reluctant to admit or even acknowledge.

martinipie

@Jaya That is a good question. I am trying to imagine what I would feel like if the byline said "Mallory Ortberg" instead and I think I would still feel uncomfortable by being asked to think it was funny? But it's hard to speculate about things that haven't happened, and thanks for asking this Good Question!

Genghis Khat

@Jaya I think I would. I mean, there's nothing about being a woman that isolates you from cultural influence.

To be clear I don't think the author is a bad person or even a bad writer--there is a lot about the style I find highly appealing-- I just find it to be a problematic joke.

MoxyCrimeFighter

@pajamaralls I was going to post that exact thing! I love that bit so much, and I quote it whenever I hear guys talking about how girls are crazy and guys are so chill.

fondue with cheddar

@emmycantbemeeko "ladies be crazy" is an accepted trope, but "ladies be physically threatening to me" is something many men are reluctant to admit or even acknowledge.

And even if they do, people are less likely to take it seriously because men are supposed to be strong and able to defend themselves against a woman.

emmycantbemeeko

@fondue with cheddar

Yep... which made the situation even more delicate. She was a large person, very tall and strong, and with mental health issues that left her with little regard for her own safety. He was able to defend himself against her physical attacks a few times, but he was afraid that she would wind up hurting herself or being hurt when he defended himself against her, and then the legal and social position for him would have been even more precarious- how many people are going to believe the man was the victim in that situation? Not a lot. It was a crappy, frightening situation and probably not one I would have believed if I hadn't seen it play out myself.

fondue with cheddar

@emmycantbemeeko Geez, that's horrifying. How did it all end?

My boyfriend was married to an abusive woman. She was emotionally abusive far more then she was physically, but there were definitely altercations in which he was injured, and there were death threats (I will stab you in your sleep was a common one). He was afraid to defend himself for the same reasons, but he also is very strong in the "a man should never, ever hit a woman" camp, so when she came at him he would try to get away, put something between them, or grab her wrists. He tried to get a restraining order against her several times, but the judge would never grant it.

evil melis

@martinipie Oh man, I definitely get that, but I think there are so many different veins of humor to be mined in "clearly escalating one-sided conversation" than just "I follow you a lot" said in thirteen different ways. Without even getting into the psychosexual politics of stalking!

emmycantbemeeko

@fondue with cheddar

Her life, as you might imagine, was not going awesomely on other fronts as well, and she wound up needing to move away to recoup. By the time she was back in our geographic area, she seemed to have gotten a little healthier mentally, or at least some of her demons under control, and did not resume the stalking.

It was nuts, though. She started out as a very casual acquaintance of mine for several years, and then after a chance encounter with my roommate she almost overnight became my Best Friend(tm), dropping by with cookies unannounced sitcom-style and things of that nature. She and Roommate eventually wound up dating for a while, and then breaking up badly when he found out she had been engaging in surveillance not that different from what's described in this essay since *the week they met*. She snuck on to his computer early in their friendship, pre-dating, and set it up so that his various accounts would send any password changes to hers, and used the information from his email and credit card accounts to follow and manipulate him (including showing up to sabotage dates with other women before they dated, and trying to isolate him from friends by claiming to have been anonymously sent upsetting-to-her information that "only they could have known", which she had actually read straight from the source at his inbox). The relationship was when most of the physical violence happened, although she did come at him with a heavy speaker stand while he was moving things out of her apartment, breaking his glasses and prompting a neighbor to call the police.

And then after the breakup, came several months of the stalking, which spilled over in to his school, work, and peripheral friendships as well- her showing up to make scenes, contacting his friends with bizarre/threatening messages, leaving dozens of voicemails any time he didn't answer the phone... it was ugly. I was very nervous while this was going on, as she has 8 inches and close to 100 lbs on me, and I was apparently a target of her paranoia and jealousy for the entirety of our "friendship". It has definitely left me with a sense that you can be really easily deceived in the sanity of friends and lovers, and a reluctance to trust with things like keys, laptops, and passwords until very deep in to a relationship.

I hope your boyfriend is recovering/recovered from his abusive marriage. I recognize that statistically, women are more likely to be victims in DV, but that doesn't make it any less horrifying for male victims.

teebs

@emmycantbemeeko I have had experience as a woman being stalked by another woman. My ex-girlfriend became obsessive and harassed me, harassed friends, friends of friends, she followed me, followed me, threatened suicide unless I had sex with her, spread harmful rumors about me through my department. The police were involved, as were the campus police.

It took a long time for me to admit to myself that it was abusive behavior due to other histories I have regarding abuse with men, and it took my best friend saying "what if she was a man doing this?" for me to really look at the behavior apart from the context of her gender. Women can be abusive too, and physically threatening. It was scary and not at all funny.

emmycantbemeeko

@teebs

That's awful, I'm so sorry.

I think a lot of the denial of the reality of domestic violence comes from people underestimating the physical advantage provided simply by being willing to hurt someone, and that someone being unwilling to hurt you. You don't have to be a burly dude with neck tattoos to be terrifying and dangerous if you're willing to be violent or destructive to someone who loves you.

Springtime for Voldemort

@iceberg I did have the ex-girlfriend of my (then) current girlfriend stalk me. And she apparently had just gotten out of jail for beating some guy's head in with a crowbar.

pampelmuse

@iceberg to add my story to the "THIS HAPPENS" chorus, yes, it happened to my husband (and me, i guess) in a way sort of similar to what's described in the article. in fact, when i hit the name change part, i got a little nauseated and quit reading, because THAT happened too. it was weirdly enormously upsetting, having decided for all my own reasons to tack his name onto mine after marriage, and six months later she has a bad day, an idea, an obsession and suddenly she's the third person in our city with that last name. there was a ton of actually (not symbolically, i mean) menacing stuff, too, of course, and we found that we kept having to suggest a situation in which the genders were reversed to get a reaction out of anyone in power (dean, local judge, etc.) to do anything significant.

dancemeep

@Genghis Khat Is anyone watching the Jodi Arias trial? It definitely happens.

fondue with cheddar

@emmycantbemeeko Wow, that's a horrible story and I'm so glad she seems to have gotten herself on a better path. I'd hate for that to happen to more people. And thanks for the kind words. He's doing pretty well, but he and his ex have kids together so she's always going to be in his life. The physical part of it is over since they no longer live together, and she's trying her hardest to keep a hold on him mentally. But he's made great strides in that respect. I'm really proud of him.

@emmycantbemeeko That's so true. A tiny woman can physically abuse and even intimidate a big, burly man so long as that man is unwilling to lay a hand on her.* And even if my boyfriend had been willing to fight his ex wife, that still wouldn't have prevented her from stabbing him in his sleep like she so often threatened.

*Case in point: I was nearly strangled by a four-year-old I was babysitting.

martinipie

I....did not like this? I dunno, after Seth Macfarlane's ridiculous Zero Dark Thirty joke I am over obsessed-girl tropes. Sorry Teddy.

olivebee

@martinipie Yeah...I kept wanting to like it because the actual writing is in a style I usually like (highly visual, clever details, etc.), but about half way through, it dawned on me that if the genders were reversed, this would be considered a horror story and not humor writing. I mean, it's horrifying either way, because: stalking, but this reads as humor because of the whole "women be crazy!" thing that permeates our culture.

wee_ramekin

@olivebee I also really liked the style. I haven't read anything else he's written, but this dude is a pretty good writer.

With that said, I have been wondering what was the point of posting a piece like this on the Hairpin. To me, it leaned way too heavily on the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme to be funny to a group of women who view most popular culture through a critical feminist lens.

In other words, if I wanted to read a funny piece about how Crazy Bitches Be, I'd probably just take myself over to FHM. I'm kind of uncomfortable with the fact that we're expected to laugh at a piece like this in our "safe space".

leonstj

@wee_ramekin - I'm not 100% sure I agree with this, but I have a thought in my head on the subject. Again - not saying this explicitly, but wanting to work out the idea w/ people smarter than me.

Whilst "Overly Attached Girlfriend" is a horrible stereotype that leads to negative things, but I think the context of a story like this on a 'safe space' can help - to me, reading a story like this in Esquire would be terrible - because, while I generally like Esquire, it can definitely go TO0 FAR a few times per issue - so I'm less willing to give something with multiple readings the more charitable one.

But here - a website catering primarily towards a "Ladies First" readership - I think it's safer to assume that the intent is "Here is a tale about a particular person who is crazy", and the the craziness of a person in a story is not a byproduct of their gender.

Maybe I'm being too charitable. I don't know that I completely by the above, but I think it's one possible interpretation.

MoxyCrimeFighter

@olivebee Hm, see, I had the same thoughts but a different conclusion:

"it dawned on me that if the genders were reversed, this would be considered a horror story and not humor writing. I mean, it's horrifying either way, because: stalking, but this reads as humor because of the whole 'women be crazy!' thing that permeates our culture."

To me, it works as humor rather than horror not because it's playing on a stereotype but because it's inverting the very, very real male-on-female pattern of this sort of behavior. You're right, stalking and violating people isn't "funny," but I think this is more successful as humor because it seems more absurd/unlikely than a gender-reversed version would be.

martinipie

@leon s I don't know, I was thinking the exact opposite--this is the kind of stuff that seems really un-"ladies first," and the kind of stuff I come here to generally avoid. It might have been kind of fascinating to see this story with no gender information at all and see what people did with it.

wee_ramekin

@leon s Hrrrrrm.

Personally, if I were to go off of the assumption that "...that the intent is "Here is a tale about a particular person who is crazy", and the the craziness of a person in a story is not a byproduct of their gender", as you say, then the above story loses any sort of humor at all.

I think that any humor that is derived from the article - other than from the turns of phrase, which I do think were funny ("Slow down, Usain Bolt!" LOL) - comes from the author's riff on the popular "Bitches be crazy" concept. Without that background, this story doesn't really make enough sense to be humorous.

oboe-d-amore

@olivebee I get all the (general in these comments) criticism, but at the same I felt like this *was* horror? I mean, it's humorous, but in that kind of candy-coated Stepford creeping horror way.

allendaniel

Much love to you@a

melmuu

I <3 Kapitoil! So good. I loaned it to a friend and told him he could only take it if he promised I'd get it back, and then we got into an argument about a youtube video and don't currently speak. I need to go buy another copy.

wee_ramekin

On the upside, that's a really lovely picture.

iceberg

@wee_ramekin I love you so much wee one.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@wee_ramekin Nice doors, yes.

Emby

I both enjoyed this and simultaneously realize that it's problematic for me to have enjoyed it.

toastercat

@Emby I read it as a mockery of the term "girl next door" as he sets up in the beginning, and less as a "haha ladies are so crazy and stalk-y." But if the "girl next door" title and intro para were missing, it would certainly be problematic. I enjoyed it as well although recognize the issues.

olivebee

@toastercat Very true. That's why I found myself liking it a lot until its problems dawned on me halfway through. The send-up of the Girl Next Door thing is a funny idea...many of the things she does in the story are funny (the tubes used for smelling things, etc.), but the end result just kinda rubbed me the wrong way.

whizz_dumb

@olivebee There's posts I stay away from because I don't want to criticize and there's posts I stay away from because I feel like a dude crashing a lady's night (ladies' day) get-together. This one I would invoke the former reason but nobody has said they didn't care for it because it was just slightly different exaggerated hyperbole over and over. While creative, a third into it I thought, "Oh, I see where this is going, this shtick." See, now I feel bad for being critical. I don't see any harm in it, it is a fun idea that doesn't lend itself to a lot of outcomes. I have written things that you all would've had better reasons to get mad at me for and I'm glad Edith didn't green-light them.

iceberg

@whizz_dumb "it was just slightly different exaggerated hyperbole over and over" well, I didn't want to say it, but yeah, that's kind of how I felt.

whizz_dumb

@iceberg Well "exaggerated hyperbole" is redundant so who's not creative now? Me.

thebestjasmine

@whizz_dumb I think if there had been some interesting twist midway through, or something surprising happening, this would have been fun, and the "just another bitches be crazy!" thing wouldn't be an issue, you know? Because when it's just "oh, but you see, it's just an OVEREXAGGERATED bitches be crazy!"...that doesn't make it interesting or better.

D.@twitter

@toastercat I thought it was clever, but it went on too long. I was like, okay, OKAY I GET IT.

rimy

I feel like I would have preferred an actual account of a real-life creep-o terrifying stalker, instead of this silly little story. It's cute, I guess, but eh. I got the gist after paragraph 2 and then there were zero twists to shake it up.

iceberg

@rimy yeah I think I was expecting a twist that never came too.

PatatasBravas

@rimy I thought it was really scary, actually, and was really expecting to find the Bones theme start playing at the end.

Verity

@PatatasBravas Same, actually - I didn't read it as humour at all, just found it very disturbing.

thiscallsforsoap

I was hoping this would be about two doors in love.

wee_ramekin

@thiscallsforsoap

Two doors, both alike in dignity
In fair Williamsburg, where we lay our scene...

SuperMargie

@thiscallsforsoap Oh bless you! <3...things were getting far too serious.

raised amongst catalogs

@wee_ramekin
"Make the doors upon a woman's wit,
and it will out at the casement;
shut that, and 'twill out at the key-hole;
stop that, 'twill fly with the smoke out at the chimney."

tea sonata

@thiscallsforsoap Doors instead of Penises?

raised amongst catalogs

@raised amongst catalogs
"...I stalk about her door,
Like a strange soul upon the Stygian banks
Staying for waftage."

Lily Rowan

@tea sonata It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a door?

Priscilla Peel

@raised amongst catalogs
"I was a door and she was a door,
In this complex by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love,
I and my Apartment D."

tea sonata

@Lily Rowan It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good penis, must be in want of a door.

oranjello

I LOLed. It was far enough into bizarro world to not get hung up on the idea of girls be crazy cliches. Also love the photo. Would love to know what the story behind the picture is.

rosaline

@oranjello Me too! I loved this.

JessicaLovejoy

So that happened.

What shall we do next?

iceberg

@JessicaLovejoy I'd just like to say well done everyone for pushing my triplet story to 333 comments. <3 y'all.

laurel

@iceberg Quick, close comments, quiiick!

piekin

@iceberg I noticed that and squeed, but I didn't want to comment for fear of tipping!

Verity

@piekin Same! It would ruin it.

iceberg

@Verity Haha we are tipped over now, so if anyone has any more questions, go ahead & ask :) it was pretty awesome though.

leonstj

Maybe this makes me a foolish person, but I would be willing to accept a lot from a woman who used the word "marginalia" so casually.

(I just remembered I don't write in my books, and I'm not chagrined to realize I will never hear, "oh leon, i adore borrowing books from you, if only for the marginalia!" ((all people, regardless of my gender, are fancy-pants southerners inside my head-stories)))

iceberg

@leon s "Oh Mr. Leon, you do go on" *coquettish glance*

wee_ramekin

@leon s (Which is hilarious, because aren't you from Brooklyn?)

leonstj

@wee_ramekin - Well, I've lived here long enough that it feels like it. But if I was from the South, I imagine everyone would sound like Vinnie Delpino in Newsies.

fondue with cheddar

@leon s I'm trying so hard to make some kind of joke about sharing your marginalia with someone special but nothing's quite working.

Emby

@fondue with cheddar And your comment has me endeavoring to make a Fermat's Last Theorem joke about "a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition that this margin is too narrow to contain," but it's eluding me, as well.

iceberg

@fondue with cheddar
i'd much rather share your marginalia
than smoosh together our genitalia

fondue with cheddar

@iceberg THANK YOU ICEBERGIE

highfivesforall

@Emby "I have a truly marvelous joke about marginalia that this comment box is too small to contain"

martinipie

@iceberg omg perfect!

Emby

@highfivesforall You've solved it! :)

Anninyn

I enjoyed the writing and all, and other people have said better stuff about the underlying issues than I could have, but I do have to be the 100,000,000,000,000,000th person to dogpile on about the whole cultural meme of crazy stalker man-obsessed desperate women and how much I loooooathe it.

I'm sure it's not what you meant, but nothing we write or say can be divorced from our cultural programming which is inherently sexist. Also, having been stalked I find that making it funny - even darkly funny - leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

And I say this because as a writer I've always found it useful not just to have my skill critiqued, but also to have the (always-accidental) stereotypes that creep into my work to be pointed out to me.

So... I hope the writer doesn't take this too hard, if they read it, and take it in the spirit it's meant.

Ten Thousand Buckets

Well, I liked it. I thought it was just over-the-top enough.

iceberg

@Ten Thousand Buckets thank you for saying so! I feel kind of bad for the writer!

rimy

@iceberg Me too! Pretty sure he wasn't trying to start a controversy! It's just a funny story, ya'll.

wee_ramekin

@rimy I doubt he was trying to start a controversy. I also haven't seen any character attacks or insults lobbed in the author's direction, so other than the fact that some of us didn't like his contribution, I don't feel too bad for him.

I think a number of people found the story less funny than the author intended, and we feel comfortable enough to share those feelings in a place like the Pin. I hope the author reads the comments of people who weren't enamored of his story and at least considers their viewpoints.

No one's assembling a Brute Squad to go knock down this guy's door; we're just reacting, politely, to something he published.

fondue with cheddar

@wee_ramekin This. I do not think the writer is a bad person! I think he just didn't occur to him that anyone would have a negative reaction to it.

rimy

@wee_ramekin I agree that it fell flat. But it didn't trigger any umbrage from me, just general meh-ness. Ah well. Step it up, author!

wharrgarbl

@Ten Thousand Buckets I liked it, but I liked it for the same reason I liked that one Ask a Spider. There's a contrast between the tone (light, chirpy, and optimistic) and the subject matter (terrifying express to horror-ville) that, for me, produces humor.

I think some of the "haha bitches be crazy" thing is sidestepped (to some extent, anyway) by the way the narrator is completely balls-out about it. There's no slow reveal or space for doubt or room to argue with the victim about whether or not he's over-reacting or mistaking her behavior for anything other than dangerously psychotic.

fabel

I thought it was cleverly written & amusing---although yep, definitely uncomfortable. Not to mention that I kept thinking of this http://media.steampowered.com/steamcommunity/public/images/avatars/c5/c5424c8396ca4091da85ef02e45d8e8ffb5fe1cd_full.jpg

fabel

anddd inserting an image did not work. Oops.

Lily Rowan

@fabel Put that URL in brackets with a code like this: img src="URL"

I mean, that whole thing should be in the brackets.

fabel

@Lily Rowan [img src= http://media.steampowered.com/steamcommunity/public/images/avatars/c5/c5424c8396ca4091da85ef02e45d8e8ffb5fe1cd_full.jpg]

fabel

Annnnd, okay. There's my failure for all to see.

(guys: it's that "psycho girl" meme. The wide-eyed girl with the face.)

wee_ramekin

@fabel That's actually helpful, because now we can tell you where you went wrong and help you fix it.

Okay, first, you need to use these brackets: < >
Second, you need to put quotation marks around the URL.
Also of note, you don't need any spaces (you didn't put any, I'm just saying in case you were wondering).

Do that, and it should work!

Lily Rowan

@fabel No, that is totally my failure as an explainer!

Hurricanoes

@Lily Rowan @wee_ramekin I just wanted to tell yall that it always warms my heart to see commenters here supportively and lovingly teaching each other HTML. It is almost as if...you think of each other as real people and want others to be successful in life? The attitude comes across in so many comments, of course, but I consistently find the mini HTML lessons just completely delightful.

Internet Etiquette A+!

Flies in my eyes

@wee_ramekin THANK YOU! I always envy people who know how to do internet stuff...Seriously. Nice of you and @Lily Rowan to give instructions :)
@Fabel To me you were brave for trying to post a pic and the sequence of events are exactly what would have happened to me!
@Hurricanoes I agree! Love the Pin. Everyone here has the best internet etiquette!

Miss Maszkerádi

1. Too long and needed a plot twist.
2. After studying at two extraordinarily left-wing colleges I still reflexively cringe when I read or hear the word "problematic."
3. Respectfully disagree with the characterization of this as sexist and (ugh) problematic. Because I have the crotchety old soul of an ink-stained heretical abbess instead of a properly educated modern third wave feminist, I really dislike the critical approach of reading a text as necessarily "political" or necessarily intended by the author to be in some way didactic or categorically descriptive. And I'm probably missing a point somewhere because literary criticism isn't actually my field? But it seems to me that I hear very often things like "female character X is basically non-functional without a man, this author must think all women are incapable of independent thought." "Female character Y has no sense of humor and a very large ego. This author is therefore portraying women, in general, are castrating bitches." And I mean that's exaggerated wording, but the general assumption that (especially) female characters in fictional works must necessarily be allegorical representations of all womankind is definitely something I see frequently and it just...bothers me. If I write (in my great unpublished garbage dump of sentimentality and overwrought cleverness) a dysfunctional character, I'm not trying to ascribe her dysfunction to all members of her particular sociopolitical class, I'm playing around with an odd character and trying to explore her, individual, psyche.
4. All that aside, this piece was really weak. Too many words for too little substance.

Jaya

@Countess Maritza Agree with a lot of this, but I generally don't think most criticisms make accusations against the author's character. If this piece came off as sexist (which I'm on the fence about), I do not think it is because the author is a sexist, or believes that all women would act like this in a given situation. I think it's because the author might not be seeing some of the triggers that we're used to seeing.

martinipie

@Countess Maritza I totally see where you are coming from, as someone educated at a super lefty college, and a person who writes fiction. But it is different to write a character as a unique and interesting being, even if their actions might be "detrimental" or "not-pc," as long as that person is a fully fleshed-out being and the author is aware of the cultural norms and tropes that may or may not be in play. This piece is lazy writing about an offensive joke that is overplayed to the point people accept it as true--"bitches be crazy." The character, such as she is, is in service to the joke, while it should be the other way around.
God sorry everyone in the thread I must have put on my crankypants today! I STILL LOVE YOU ALL, PINNERS.

Anninyn

@Countess Maritza

It's not so much that, and more that nothing we say or write can be divorced from the culture in which we live. Nothing.

So you may not intending something to be an allegory on *all women*, but when you write something that - intentionally or not - ends up referencing a wider social implication it is very hard for people to NOT see it that way. Your character may happen to be an *individual woman* who just happens to display these traits, but when it is a trait that wider society decides all or most of women have...

I think it is important to think critically about how we portray people, even in fiction, and to question whether we are inadvertantly buying into and supporting oppressive and controlling attitudes.

Just because someone doesn't intend a piece to be sexist, doesn;t mean it can't be.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Anninyn ok, but what's the alternative, then? Obviously it's an extreme example again but the end point of it could easily be something like Socialist Realism, which is the most godawful, painfully didactic, literature-as-social-engineering garbage I've ever had to read.

Also I do wonder if it's an author's responsibility to police themself against any possible (mis)interpretations of their work.

aphrabean

@martinipie Crankypants are my favorite kind of pants!

queenofbithynia

@Countess Maritza

2: if the word "problematic" were a person I would murder it in violently sadistic ways whose detailed descriptions would be far too problematic to risk writing down. At best it is a fuzzy and placatory screen for the far more bold and precise "sexist" or "racist" or what-have-you; at worst it is a signal that the speaker does not have any clear picture of what the problems actually are; he or she only perceives dimly that there might be some.

3. all well-educated modern feminists make a point of saying nothing about the intention of the author except, sometimes, (as here) to insist -- without evidence -- that they know the author had nothing but the best intentions despite the, ahem, problematic nature of the text. The critical approach they take is not the one you describe; it is best caricatured with reference to the catchphrase "intent is not magical," which feeble but true piece of rhetoric is widely used everywhere I go.

Lit crit is somewhat about finding patterns, learning to see them and developing theories about what they mean and what they imply, and I would say that this is a worthwhile and interesting thing to do. Even the most apolitical and old-school of literary critics don't talk about each book and story they read as if it were the only one in the world; drawing connections between repeated iterations of the same fundamental narrative isn't an unrigorous feminist invention.

I am not a lit crit person either; I am (ok, was) a Classics person, and we don't even have any heretical abbesses to look to. But even without any specific formal background, I would say that 90 percent of feminist lit crit is just good sense.

3.5 I am told we are well into the fourth wave, which is good if you hold with wave theory, which I don't. The fourth wave is done with lit crit and is all about yelling and violent resistance. I am sure everyone is glad to hear it; I certainly am.

MissMushkila

@Countess Maritza I get what you are saying about not all characters representing an entire social group, and DO think criticism sometimes veers into that direction. For me personally, with full books, I usually have more of a problem with patterns. For example - if all of your female characters fall flat, and yet you have varied and interesting complex male characters, I am going to be annoyed and bored.

At the same time, this was not a detailed character sketch of a complex personality. This was just a lot of repetitive exaggeration that feels very much like it's only possible premise are jokes I don't find that funny or true (bitches be crazy, women are harmless - so isn't making one a stalker HILARIOUSLY ABSURD).

@queenofbithynia Your comments are always the best.

Miss Maszkerádi

@queenofbithynia I will join you in problematically slaughtering the word "problematic!" Can our battle-cry be something sanctimonious about "intent"? :-D

I'm slowly beginning to realize I'm making a massive deal out of a tiny piece of writing that's not worth all my hand-wringing, but blah, I needed to exercise my brain muscles this afternoon (and thank you all for indulging me in my ivory-tower puffery.)

And fair enough about lit crit - it seems that I've simply had to deal with not just feminist criticism, but particularly BAD feminist/lefty/identity-politics-centered criticism over the last few years. So, grumble and pass the headache meds. (My favorite anecdote from a rather painful class I took once, we were looking at "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti, and everybody was getting extremely worked up declaring their readings that the sisters in the poem were actually lesbian lovers, that the villainous goblins were personifications of the threat of male sexuality, etc. etc., steadily sliding downhill from the unorthodox-yet-plausible to the straight up unsupportable and dumb, and when I dared to timidly raise my hand and present my interpretation that it was not lesbian separatist radicalism but a fairly transparent and obvious Christian allegory (self-sacrifice and redemption, etc), the reactions I got ran the gamut from horrified/disgusted stares, derisive snorts, accusations of being a tool of oppression and the patriatrchy, called brainwashed and shockingly ignorant, etc. My experiences with "feminist" criticism have been almost uniformly frustrating to say the least...) But anyway I'll take your word for it that not all feminist-aligned criticism is that terrible.

Fourth wave feminism is about yelling and violent resistance, though? Great....

thebestjasmine

@Countess Maritza Okay, here's my thing about the "don't call this sexist because he didn't mean it to be sexist" thing: Yeah, and the dudes who designed and green lit this Business Week cover probably didn't mean it to be racist either. But it's still racist. They didn't mean it to be political or viewed in the light of the sub prime mortgage crisis being blamed on people of color and these exaggerated caricatures looking so much like other racist caricatures of people of color, but if you know all of that, it's impossible to view the cover in any other light.

rosaline

I thought this was humorous and clever, and I'm sad about all of the dismissive criticism.

stonefruit

@rosaline Can you say more about that? I certainly get disagreeing with the criticism, but I feel like it's been anything but dismissive.

MissMushkila

@rosaline I swear I'm not being snarky, and that I mean this as a genuine question:

Why did you find this funny? What made the humor work for you?

Humor is so personal/cultural, and maybe I/we are not getting the joke? (I am not getting the joke...)

rosaline

@stonefruit I am trying to answer your question but find it hard to characterize exactly. I suppose it is that some people were offended by the premise and then found many other reasons to criticize it in a way that, to me, read as disdainful. Maybe not how they meant it, but that is how I read it. I'm not really interested in pointing fingers at specific commenters; my comment was meant as a general statement about multiple things that had been written.

rosaline

@MissMushkila Part of it is that I didn't pick up on any undercurrents of sexist tropes about crazy women (and still don't after rereading). Had I, it certainly would have been less funny. I agree with what several people state upthread--it was too over the top for me to read it as a commentary on stereotypical behaviors of one sex or the other.

Mainly, why I found it funny was that I enjoyed the irony of someone presenting themselves as a girl next door yet being so wildly out there--I particularly liked the bit about the $43,000 drone. It was multi-layered and built upon the original joke. It was very dark humor, and I know I have a streak of that. In real life, ABSOLUTELY it wouldn't be funny. As a fictional essay in which no one is physically harmed and obsession is satirized beyond the real-life extreme, I think it is funny. He's not in danger--she's revealed the depth and breadth of her obsession, and they're still in a public place, so he can take that taxi to a police station. I wasn't worried about the stalkee, so I was free to enjoy the story.

Also, I liked the one-sided conversational style--it let the story develop without spending words on sentences like, "He hurriedly waved down a taxi." It left room for the imagination.

Everything seems less funny after being explained, so I don't know if this explanation will be very enlightening for you, but I hope this answers your question.

Flies in my eyes

@rosaline I agree with you about the story. Although I did get swept away with the comments and then felt a little guilty for finding it funny. But I think I shouldn't. I have tried to express the back and forth I am having; between the support i have for the comments (I love that hairpinners think sooooo much more about what they see and read than commenters on the average website) and that I enjoyed this piece and thought it was a well written, dark humored story. I can't quite articulate myself. But after the whole "the Oscar's were full of sexist jokes" thing that was everywhere on the internet, I have been thinking about "humor" too much lately. I don't think that we should censor jokes. But I also don't think we should be complacent with sexism/racism in humor. It is often a lazy, unintelligent, and less funny way to be funny. I did not get that feeling from this article. Stalking is a sensitive topic and anytime you venture into such territory, you will inevitably annoy/outrage someone. But the world would be a less entertaining place for people like me, if the funny people never ventured into the macabre.

Better to Eat You With

@Flies in my eyes No one is censoring this, though, nor are they censoring the terrible Oscars jokes, or any other "humor" they respond to. Far too frequently, intelligent critical response is labeled censorship, and it's a real problem, as it implies that such responses shouldn't take place.

Generally, when people use the term "censor," they need to look it up: Only a government body limiting discourse in a public forum is censorship, and censorship is perfectly allowable when it's found to be justified (i.e. the seven words you can't say on TV; the distinction between network TV and cable in terms of obscenity illustrates the "public" element). The choices that get called censorship, such as excluding material an audience may not enjoy due to its content on a privately owned outlet, are editing and curation. And what's happening here is legitimate critical response, which is usually the case when people start throwing "censorship" around.

rosaline

@Better to Eat You With Fair point on the meaning of "censor," although I wonder if @Flies in my eyes meant "censure," as in "a vehement expression of disapproval."

Flies in my eyes

@rosaline I wrote a long response and I guess I took too long and it didn't post :(
Anyway, I did mean censor. But I thank @Better to Eat You With for pointing out that I had perhaps misused the word and this skewed my point. But brought up something that is important to what has been turning in my head lately about these issues. So thanks!
Basically I am having a hard time articulating my feeling/thoughts on such matters. I just thought it was good that @rosaline was one of the only people defend the article. I myself chuckled when I read it, then after reading the comments felt a little ashamed I did not pick up on the same issues most others did. I LOVE the debate and critical response to this article and the sexist jokes at the Oscars.
But I think I have put more thought into the "I saw your boobs" song than seth did when he wrote it...and I didn't even see the song, just a clip or two. Was it a comment on the sexualization of actors by the industry/media/audience, which often becomes more of a focus than the actual content of the movie? Or just a cheap trick to get laughs? Most likely the later...but is the joke ok if it was the former?

Flies in my eyes

@Flies in my eyes edit *latter not later

Flies in my eyes

@Better to Eat You With I keep thinking about your clarification of my misuse of the word "censor". I meant "censor" yet didn't realize how much I actually did not at all. I did technically know the definition, but still completely misused it AND you make such a valid point about legitimate critical response being labelled as censorship. Not at all what I intended to do. This is an example of word policing which was really effective! You kind of blew my mind!

rosaline

@Flies in my eyes I know what you mean; I've been thinking about this thread all yesterday and today! I am grateful for the debate that happens on the Pin as well. Sometimes responses to pieces swing pretty heavily to the negative, and I feel like I (or others) need to comment to make sure that alternate viewpoints are represented. That happened in this thread and in others on this article, which makes me glad.

MoxyCrimeFighter

Sometimes people are weird and gross exclusive of their gender, and it can be funny? I don't know.

Onymous

The first paragraph is an okay and wellish structured joke although "That may seem..." should have been re-written so the punchline, "and at every...", was a separate sentence.

The following 16 paragraphs ruin the joke by overstretching the punchline's twist, taking it from a joke into a meandering sketch of a bullshit trope.

rimy

@Onymous I agree, this was like a showcase for his attempts at clever joking/pop-referencing more than an actual story.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Onymous Blargh, exactly. It's like someone took a mildly funny two-line bit from a larger sketch about something else, and stretched it out like silly putty so long that it ran out of substance and got very very thin.

AnalogMetronome

As someone who has been stalked, this was not very funny to me. I understand his intent, and I get that it's over-the-top to the point of bring ridiculous, but when you're being stalked you imagine the stalker doing all kinds of crazy things to get to you, things that are beyond the realm of possibility, because the truth is you have no idea what they will and won't do.

That said, I know I'm really over sensitive about this particular topic, so maybe I'd be better off keeping my mouth shut and accepting that what some people find humorous others will find painful.

rimy

@AnalogMetronome I would like to hear about your experience if you'd like to share it although it sounds like it was serious/scary so I won't pry.

honey cowl

@AnalogMetronome Girl I have been there & I know what you mean.

lue
lue

I did think the writing was funny/clever, there was something about the upbeat, innocent voice of the narrator that made it less creepy than it might otherwise have been...but, as someone who has been the subject of, let's say 'light stalking,' it did make me feel a little UGH.

thegirlsleuth

Teddy Wayne wrote something that is gender tone deaf? After his piece a few years back in Salon on "The Agony of the Male Novelist" in which he explained how hard male novelists have it, this is not surprising.

moonshine

I just skimmed the comments, so I don't think anyone else mentioned this, but I did not read this as a story about an "obsessed" female. I read it as the "girl" being the collective population. We are putting way too much information about ourselves out there, and telling the "collective" things that once were private. Most people don't seem to think about what they write online, when before someone would have to have a serious stalker to find all this information out.

I realize I am a minority here, but just wanted to put out another perspective on this piece.

cupcakecore@twitter

I think there's too much "it's funny, it's totally fine" going around this week. We don't need any more. It's not funny and it's not fine, okay?

Also in addition to the great, thoughtful comments about stalking/obsession and gender roles, I think that a humor piece that uses someone's obsession/mental illness as the focal point is inconsiderate and ableist. Look at this person, aren't they funny! Chemical imbalances and neurons working incorrectly are TOTES HILARIOUS!

cheerful

I thought it was funny, he's not saying she's stalker-y because she's a girl.

pampelmuse

@iceberg to add my story to the "THIS HAPPENS" chorus, yes, it happened to my husband (and me, i guess) in a way sort of similar to what's described in the article. in fact, when i hit the name change part, i got a little nauseated and quit reading, because THAT happened too. it was weirdly enormously upsetting, having decided for all my own reasons to tack his name onto mine after marriage, and six months later she has a bad day, an idea, an obsession and suddenly she's the third person in our city with that last name. there was a ton of actually (not symbolically, i mean) menacing stuff, too, of course, and we found that we kept having to suggest a situation in which the genders were reversed to get a reaction out of anyone in power (dean, judge, etc.) to do anything significant.

pampelmuse

@iceberg to add my story to the "THIS HAPPENS" chorus, yes, it happened to my husband (and me, i guess) in a way sort of similar to what's described in the article. in fact, when i hit the name change part, i got a little nauseated and quit reading, because THAT happened too. it was weirdly enormously upsetting, having decided for all my own reasons to tack his name onto mine after marriage, and six months later she has a bad day, an idea, an obsession and suddenly she's the third person in our city with that last name. there was a ton of actually (not symbolically, i mean) menacing stuff, too, of course, and we found that we kept having to suggest a situation in which the genders were reversed to get a reaction out of anyone in power (dean, cops, judge, etc.) to do anything significant.

D.@twitter

Has anyone ever seen "À la folie... pas du tout"? This reminded me of that, and left me w/ the same overall feeling: whaaaaaaaat, okay. o_O *laughs uncomfortably*

Oh, squiggles

I love that instead of just reading and walking away, a lot of people come down to the comments to parse the article. It's identical to taking a college course and having to analyze a reading in a class discussion or online discussion board. So it's great to do this with all of you wonderful folk, and I have reaffirmed my nerdiness for myself in seeing how much I love doing this.

Not only do I come down to the comment section to share my opinion, but to read the opinions of others. Frequently this is helpful when, in a case like this, I'm just not sure what to think. Here's what I've got so far:

Like other commenters, I originally thought this was going to be a funny take on the common phrase 'girl next door'. Then it quickly turned into an over the top look at stalking. I too expected a plot twist that never came. If this was intended to be humorous it fell flat. I'm not up to the task of assessing it for sexist ove/under-tones. The detailed description of a stalker, while I understood that it was purposefully over the top for the intention of humor, actually ended up leaving me with such a feeling of anxiety that I didn't get any enjoyment out of the piece at all.

I guess at this point I'm just wishing I knew what the intention of this was.

desjardins

I took this more as flipping the "perfect girl-next door" trope on it's head. Like it was making fun of the girl next door stereotype. And thus, it was funny.

alamakota33

this sounds rather crazy psychopathic. you see I have known a psychopath, one of the clients I have worked with. You don't want to get involved with them, go and watch some movies where they describe the situation to see by yourself.
It can scare you wynajem samochodów Kraków

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