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How to make friends and pick up chicks

Head's up, this is not one of those repulsive "pick up chicks" articles.

Or is it? 

No, it isn't. The title is a joke. It's just me, a living cadaver of an old man, typing some meandering memories. When this page gets boring, you won't miss much if you jump to the last paragraph.

I've had few friends in my life, done very little sleeping around, and had one wife till death did us part. But I am now going to reveal all my secrets for making real friends and finding genuine romantic happiness. Are you ready? Here's all my tips:

  1. Be honest. Be who you are, not who you think someone wants you to be.

  2. That's it. There is no second tip.

Early in my adulthood, I had shallow, superficial friendships with people who accompanied me to movies or ball games or bars, and I had rare and brief relationships with women, but in all such situations I kept my guard up and played defense, so to speak. I'd let them see one facet of who I am — the side of me they liked, the interests we shared — but I'd stay silent about the other parts of me, all the things I suspected they couldn't handle. My basketball friends didn't know I was an anarchist. My church friends didn't know I like furry porn. My lady friends didn't know I was thinking about getting a vasectomy.

All my friendships were neatly compartmentalized, until my mid-twenties, when I slowly started figuring out life. Hey, wait a minute, I said to myself one Friday night alone. How come I'm never really relaxed around anyone? It was hard work keeping up my defenses all the time, and if you know me at all you know I don't like hard work.

Stop the presses, alert the media, call the cops, but here's an idea: What if I let all my defenses down, and was 100% me all the time? Except for work, of course; if you're 100% you at any job you're fired.

So outside of work, I tried being me. My expectation was that 99% of people would be repulsed, but that the remaining few would be people worth knowing, and maybe to them I'd be someone worth knowing, too.

Unexpectedly, my first chance to try Project Honesty came while I was at work, doing data entry on the overnight shift in an otherwise empty office building. Or, I thought it was empty, until the security guard came 'round at 2:00 in the morning to see who was playing rock'n'roll so loud.

I showed him my company ID, and he wasn't an ass about it, so I decided not to be my normal shy, walled-off self. Instead I was simply me. Our conversation went wherever it went, and I said what I thought, about politics, religion, and life in general, just him and me but with no walls, no defenses, no forbidden topics.

He laughed. He reciprocated. He said his name was Brian, and we shook hands. He was interesting and smart and funny, and suddenly Brian was a friend. Within a month he'd moved into my apartment. We shared a flat for years, until he moved out to get married. Lotta years later, I still hear from him 2-3 times a week. I got an email from him yesterday, which is what launched me toward writing this mess.

Honesty scored me a friend for life, and over the years honesty has brought me a few more friends. Not a lot of friends — but to me, that's kind of the point: I don't want many friends, I want good friends.

Next mission impossible: Could being myself get me a ladyfriend?

This was eons before the internet, so to meet women the options were bars, church, or personal ads. I didn't drink or worship much, so I decided to place a personal ad in the local alt-weekly.

Here's how it worked in your grandparents' time: You could buy an ad in the back of the paper, pay maybe 20¢ a word or whatever, and describe yourself and who you were looking for. Most personal ads were mildly ridiculous, with text like,

30-year-old male, single white Baptist, seeks loving relationship with compatible woman 25-35. You and I are both open-minded, free-spirited, and like long walks in the park. Would you like to take that long walk with me? Must be attractive, height/weight appropriate, and cook.

Everyone in these ads pretended to be perfect and sought perfection in return, but most of the ads seemed obnoxious to me. And they all wanted to take long walks in the park, or on the beach, or hike in the mountains. What's up with all that walking?

Personal ads were considered sketchy, but I was lonely and maybe stupid, so I bought an ad. My intent, though, was not to get lots of responses. Quite the opposite, I wanted very few responses, maybe even none — I only wanted to hear from women who might be compatible with a freak like me. I was anti-karma, even then!

It's been thirty-five years, so I don't have a copy of the ad I wrote, but it went something like this:

Fat bearded slob, 25, with bad breath, bad teeth, and bad attitude, seeks woman willing to put up with me. I am employed but cheap, healthy but lazy, and uninterested in long or even short walks. Age and color irrelevant, sleepovers optional, intelligence required. Atheist, anarchist, anti-social, and anti-bullshit. Cats, dogs, issues, or kids are OK, but I'm never going to be any child's father. No Republicans. If you'd like to meet, reply to Box 52.

As expected, the ad did not fill my box. I heard from several people who told me I was awful (but I already knew that), and idiots mailed me ads, Bible tracts, and a bizarre invitation to the kind of party "Momma told me not to come" to.

There were also, however, responses from a few women who wanted to meet me. Very few, but — yippee! Fat bearded slob had dates with several intelligent, funny, interesting women of assorted ages, sizes, and colors, and had second and third dates with some of them. When the dates eventually stopped, I ran the ad again, and for the next several years this was my romantic life. No serious relationships came from it, nor any sex, and hardy even any smooching, but none of that mattered.

What mattered was that being myself brought me friendships, and a romantic life. Some years later, being myself brought me a wife. Being myself also got me fired from a few jobs, when I forgot that honesty is never the best policy at work. Overall, though, being myself has served me well, and I recommend it.

I am me. Take me or leave me. If you don't like me, that's OK. But — I am me.

11/21/2020  
Republished 5/31/2023  

27 comments:

  1. "Unexpectedly, my first chance to try Project Honesty came while I was at work, doing data entry on the overnight shift in an otherwise empty office building [...] He said his name was Brian, and we shook hands."

    Any opportunity to post this again, the greatest scene in all of motion picture history!

    https://youtu.be/N90sl94g7PE

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    Replies
    1. ① It is *inconceivable* that I have never seen this film, but I have never seen this film. Downloading now.

      ② And actually, the conversation isn't too far off from Brian and I meeting each other, @40 years ago.

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    2. What? I thought we had discussed this one - or maybe another of Mike Leigh's excellent films? Highest recommendation!

      Dark as hell but wickedly funny and I can't remember any other film character that radiates so much intelligence while also being so self-destructive - maybe Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces. David Thewlis' performance is mind-bogglingly good, the best male actoring since Brando in Last Tango In Paris.

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    3. Maybe we did talk about it before. NAKED was already on my "to be watched" auxiliary disk, with about 500 other movies. Time I got to it, now.

      LAST TANGO IN PARIS, though — all I remember is Maria Schneider and butter, and of course, this.

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    4. At this point, when you tell joe average (or an under-50 internet movie critic) that you think Last Tango is extraordinary, and that Brando's performance is one of the all-time best, you have to explain to them - as if to a child - that not all art is about identity politics and aspirational character wish-fulfillment. That the world and its inhabitants are complex. And that often a troubling story or performance tells us more about ourselves than PC feel-goodisms.

      Naked is the same way. The character is almost a rapist, almost unbearably unpleasant (by "normal" standards) and the film is scathing. But its alive in a way that nothing else seems to be any more. I doubt Leigh and Thewlis went to the questionable behavioral lengths Bertolucci and Brando did in Tango, but the results are effectively the same.

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    5. I was in high school, maybe junior high, when I saw LAST TANGO, only because word was, the beautiful woman on the poster gets naked and gets plowed. I was nervous they wouldn't let me in, but they did and I wasn't disappointed.

      Obviously, I wasn't there to appreciate the art of motion pictures, and it's been a long time, but as a pimply horny teenager I thought it *was* wish-fulfillment. A kinda bland-looking middle-aged man has an anonymous affair with a gorgeous woman half his age. If I'm remembering right, they don't even know each other's names?

      Yeah, I'm a schmo discussing Michelangelo, sorry. Maybe I was too young, and the film's true meaning was over my head.

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    6. When I say "you" I certainly didn't mean YOU specifically, please understand.

      I meant all the people suddenly losing their shit on behalf of Maria Schneider's it "felt like rape" comments a few years ago, despite subsequent clarifications and facts about filming that scene.

      As for the film itself, I think it's just a perfect encapsulation and reduction of a certain type of hetero male psyche: Narcissistic, childish, animalistic, irresponsible, needy, etc. It's not meant to be realistic, which is the first of many misunderstandings all those critics make. It's a tragic dream, and could even ne construed as feminist, considering the fate of Brando's character.

      It's odd, you'd think with the ubiquitous availability of free porn since the internet's arrival, that critics and viewers would now settle down and re-evaluate "controversial" films like Tango, and try to understand what the creators were attempting to say. Instead, we have two entire generations (post Gen-X) who are essentially prude scolds and pod people, pointing their fingers and screaming like Donald Sutherland in Body Snatchers.

      These clowns could never understand or appreciate the value of reading about a $5.00/hr ass-shaving!

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    7. It's been many years since I saw Last Tango in Paris, but it was art to me. What do I know though.

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    8. Ah, I sure ain't worried about disagreements over a 50-year-old movie. Present-day film cogniziti is busy criticizing or defending a black mermaid, and I'd take LAST TANGO over that.

      I'm kinda tempted to give TANGO a twirl again anyway.

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    9. Modern film criticism is toast. Clayton Davis, critic at Variety, has proudly crowed that he's never seen Casablanca, among others. I don't care for the film, but I sure as hell have seen it, and more than once.

      The incuriosity of so many young people in the arts and media is truly appalling. When I was their age I devoured everything in my path, whether new or a hundred years old, and as you know that was a time when it was an effort to do so.

      But hey, this is the society we have built, get off my lawn, etc. etc.

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    10. Hey, let's celebrate film, not celibate film

      https://youtu.be/cHl6qQ3V1Mc

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    11. https://youtu.be/VBl_gvTBO9g

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    12. https://youtu.be/p6uwjhkFu1o

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    13. https://youtu.be/FED1zl5p-kA

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    14. https://youtu.be/5Roy_KV1WK8

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    15. https://youtu.be/tF9F3TkOzNQ

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    16. https://youtu.be/jDMfIPRm7jY

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    17. I'd somehow never seen CASABLANCA, despite it being a staple on Channel 7's MILLION DOLLAR MOVIES at 3:00 in the afternoon. Then as a young man I lived in that big round fancy apartment building across the street from the Paramount, Seattle big ol' music and stand-up venue. It was often dark between shows, but one night they showed CASABLANCA.

      Weird booking. Old movie. But what the hell, I'd heard it was good. The place seats almost 3,000 and it was packed, and the movie was... well, CASABLANCA.

      I'll always love CASABLANCA.

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    18. INHERENT VICE, eh? Never yet, but you talked me into it.

      I read a long article about Donald Richie once, long ago. Hell of a dude — changed America, at least my experience of it, and left.

      In a new improved alternative universe, Philip Seymour Hoffman said no to drugs.

      ROAD HOUSE with Patrick Swayze (and, I'd forgotten, Ben Gazzara) is very enjoyable kitsch. ROAD HOUSE with Ida Lupino is an absolute frickin' masterpiece of cinema.

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    19. This is what the song sounds like. I'd forgotten that the Dogs did a ripoff version. Gotta have that pumping piano . . .

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1tEQQ8BNSg

      He wrote and sang some gems.

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    20. Sorry, man. Maybe because I've heard it so many hundreds of times, but I prefer Three Dog's Night's take. Randy wrote it, but they improved it.

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    21. INHERENT VICE is great. It's rip on Altman's masterpiece The Long Goodbye, and others. Half slapstick comedy, half existential noir, half California dream story, half just about anything - but wholly great.

      Paul Thomas Anderson is a child of privilege and his films are derivative, but he's talented. There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice, Phantom Thread - few better films have been made this century, at least in America (yeah, that's a low hurdle.)

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    22. If it's even 2/3 as good as that bonus clip you posted, it's gotta be great.

      I'm trying to cut back on my hours at work, so's I can have more time for movies and life.

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    23. Claude Pervert And Proud Of It ReignsJune 17, 2023 at 5:01 PM

      https://crookedmarquee.com/classic-corner-last-tango-in-paris/

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    24. I don't yet know whether I agree with it, but *that* is an interesting and well-written article, thanks.

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  2. Like this one . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91Eb3FiebTs

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