Friday, February 26, 2010

Don't Expect Me To Be Mature About the Olympics

I adore the Olympics: the drama, the grandeur, the petty squabbles, and the unexpected triumphs. I get sucked into everything from curling to cross-country skiing and spend two weeks pretending I can talk intelligently about Shaun White's halfpipe skills. But you know what I love the best about the Olympics? Mocking foreign countries.

Okay, disclaimer: I love the world, boom de yada, etc. I enjoy traveling, I have friends around the globe, and my favorite part of my last job as a copywriter at a vacation company was learning new and cool stuff about other cultures (none of which I could use, sadly, because tourists want to hear about New Zealand's snorkeling opportunities, not traditional tattoo designs or historical treaties).

But I also love me some broad humor, as does my husband, so it's been like the Catskills up in Daisy Razorville this past week. The jokes boil down to a pretty simple formula: Pick a country, then list the first three or four things that pop into your head about that great nation. No matter how much you know about the place, I guarantee your first few associations will be completely absurd. Like for New Zealand, I would not say Maori culture and world-class sailing. No, I would say hobbits, sheep, and Karl Urban. I just realized that I don't even know if New Zealand has a Winter Olympic team. Oh, they do! Somehow, I am surprised Karl Urban is not on it. Moving on.

Next, run with your ridiculousness! Roxy and I were discussing Sven Kramer from the Netherlands, who was disqualified for a lane violation from a race in which he'd not only won, but also set a world record. Tough break, especially for him, since apparently speed skating is SERIOUS BUSINESS for the Dutch. That their national sport involves athletes wearing body condoms is silly enough, but the rest of what Holland is known for, according to Roxy and me? Flowers, dikes, windmills, clogs, and hookers. Meaning it must be great to be a famous speed skater in the Netherlands, what with all the free tulips and clog-dancing whores you could ask for.

Sometimes the athletes make it easy. When the Israeli ice dancers came out for their traditional/folk dance, I started singing Hava Nagila, like the insensitive jackass I am. Then their program started and it wasn't a joke anymore--they really skated to Hava Nagila. Mr. Razor cracked that for their free dance they'd be kicking it to Fiddler on the Roof. I don't think even he would have tried a joke involving what turned out to be their actual, no kidding, free dance music: the soundtrack from Schindler's List.

Lest you think we're complete xenophobes, believe us, we mock the Americans too. But it's not as absurd since we're not on the outside looking in. Other countries don't have that problem. I still snicker about the time a guy in a London pub asked me where I'd left my gun and cowboy hat. Apparently the British think all U.S. citizens hail from Deadwood circa 1880. And you know what my friends in Ireland say when you ask them to list four things about the US? Paris Hilton, Cops, Brangelina, and deep fried twinkies. Those are our exports, people!

All right, I thought I'd get to the end here and have some sort of deep thoughts on celebrating our differences through humor and how laughter is the universal language or something, but really I just want to make another dumb joke. Ready? My baby daughter is French-Irish-German-Greek-Syrian. I can already tell you three things at which she'll excel: Drinking, fighting, and insulting people's mothers. Thank you and don't forget to tip your server!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Don't spend your life stuck in your smartphone

Just a minute...

I know, believe me, I know. Your iPhone is so cool -- it has all of these apps! You can find anything on it! There's Yelp and Twitter and Facebook and a million games and even books. Oh, I'm sorry, you have a Blackberry? I bet you love it just as much! It has apps too, and comes in fun colors, and constantly buzzes with emails and texts coming in. I know, it's hard to keep yourself from looking at it every thirty seconds. But HELLO, HI, HII, IT'S ME OVER HERE, ACTUAL PERSON, TRYING TO TALK TO YOU. No, not one of those imaginary people coming from inside of your phone, but a real flesh and blood person right in front of you trying to talk to you. Please, people, don't spend your life stuck in your smartphone.

Look, people. This man was on his iPhone while giving his child a bath. Playing CHESS on his iPhone, okay? Enough is enough. Now, I understand the need to escape from normal life sometimes, and I totally understand loving the ability to catch up on blog reading on Google Reader or play Scrabble with lots of people on your commute. I love my iPhone too. But when you're doing things that could, you know get your children killed, it's time to put the phone away. I've given baths to small children, and they're pretty hilarious, with the splashing and the babbling and the bubbles and the bath toys.

And it's not just when you're doign something dangerous when you need to be detached from the phone. At a dinner party? Out to drinks with friends? Put the phone away and be with people. You know, drink a beer, chat about your day with people instead of just writing messages on their walls, flirt a little, laugh a lot. Aren't those times fun? Isn't that more fun than pulling your phone out of your pocket every 30 seconds to see why it's buzzing, or hitting refresh on that website, or playing WOW?

But you could be missing something! No. No, you're not missing anything except for that cute boy over there who is trying to catch your eye and just gave up, or your friend's funny story about seeing that celebrity fall down. Needing to see Doc Jensen's recap of Lost the moment it goes up, or be FIRST! to comment on that blog, or see the next poetic tweet of Ruth Reichl is a little pathological. (Okay, maybe not that last thing. Did you see her story about the oysters on the snow? Wait, I digress, I blame that short attention span on my iPhone). When you care more about seeing every bit of media that can come by and knowing a tiny little bit about everyone on all of your social networks than your actual friends, soon your only friends will be the people who live inside of your computer.

And also, please, stop being so rude. Didn't anyone teach you manners? Sure, sometimes people are boring, but the thing to do then is politely listen to their story and excuse yourself to get another drink, not ignore them while you check to see who was fugged today. And if these are people that you actually like, it's not a chore to pay attention to them instead of getting your new Foursquare badge. I have been tempted more than once to smack the phone out of someone's hands when it was obvious that they were not just telling another friend of ours where to meet us, but in their own little world. Keep doing that, and I promise, your friends will hate you.

So the next time your friend is telling you that piece of juicy gossip and you just want to pretend that she's a TiVo and press pause while you casually check your email, just stop, think about how you really don't want to be knocked off that barstool by an annoyed friend, and don't do it.

Thanks to Nora for the inspiration. No, she didn't do this, I promise.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday Quickies: Olympic Edition

Welcome to Don't Do That's weekly link round up, in which we bring you everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Why? Because Tuesday is the lamest day of the week, and we could all use a quickie.

Don't mock the Norwegian curling pants, for they are awesome:
Norwegian curling pants: If you can't beat 'em, blind 'em (Seattle Times)

Don't pretend 'O Canada' isn't a kick-ass anthem:
Canadian fans sing 'O Canada,' Canadian curling team wins (Yahoo Sports)

Don't forget to practice safe sex, hottie Olympic athletes:
Cold days, hot nights: Olympic village secrets (MSNBC)

Don't like sports? You can still get into the Olympic spirit with Etsy's Olympic-themed crafts:
Etsy Finds: Who's your Olympic favorite (The Storque)

Don't you wonder why the medal bouquets are green? Now you know:
There's quite a story behind the Olympic flowers (Yahoo Sports)

Don't mispronounce 'Kikkan' or she'll ski you down:
Kikkan Randall interview (Baby Names Made Easy)

Don't underestimate NBC's commitment to schmaltz:
Olympic sap-o-meter (Slate)

Don't skip meals, especially if you're an athlete:
New muscles and pounds fuel Tanith Belbin's ice dancing (New York Times)

Don't look at your sister like that, it creeps us out:
How ice dancing siblings handle the ick factor (WSJ)

Don't try to tell us Johnny Weir isn't hugely frickin awesome:
Johnny Weir answers questions; red carpet interview; with Stephen Colbert!!! (NBC)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Don't Talk Yourself Out Of Being Awesome

So, I just spent the weekend with my husband's brother and sister-in-law and our two nephews, who are four-almost-five and 16 months. My sister-in-law is kind of my hero. Not only has she helped introduce her oldest to the wonder of Lady Gaga with only a little bit of shame (he asked, by name, for "Just Dance," "Poker Face" and "Bad Romance" and then knew good chunks of the words), she has also recently gotten involved in roller derby. She just passed her skills test last weekend, and will be drafted at the end of the month. She's kicking around derby names (Jabba the Slut, Princess Slaya, Yid Viscious and Gaza Strip are all in the running - your votes are welcomed!) and says she doesn't think she's ever enjoyed anything in her life as much as she enjoys this. She's a 35-year-old lawyer and she was also absolutely terrified going to her first practice all by herself.

If you're like us, you've spent the last week and a half watching incessant Olympic coverage, crying at all the heartwarming human interest stories and wondering what life would be like as an elite athlete. If you're like me, you've continued to sit your ass on the couch and just marvel at that kind of dedication, feeling a little bit bad that you're not more motivated. But you know what? It's not necessary to leap into 8-hour training days and an 8,000-calorie diet to be awesome. You can be awesome in a thousand other ways that may not have even occured to you.

Brownie, for example, swam a mile for a women's cancer charity about three months after she started swimming regularly. Daisy tried out for Jeopardy! and qualified (she didn't make the show - turns out they might not like it if you swear when you miss an answer). Between the three of us, we have friends who have travelled around the world alone, learned a foreign language at 40, started competing in marathons and triathlons and quit their well-paying jobs to start their own business. We know and love people who've learned - as adults - go-go dancing, belly dancing, a musical instrument, aerial silks and how to roller skate. And they all have one thing in common - they didn't talk themselves out of it, no matter how scary it was.

It's easy to doubt yourself, to not go to tryouts or the intro class, because you think you're too old or not in good enough shape or that you lack rhythm. I'm doing it right now, in fact - the roller derby league in my city has drop-in nights every Sunday, and I'm making every excuse I can think of. It's too far away. It's ten whole dollars. I don't know shit about it. I'm not tough enough, not cool enough, and I haven't been on skates in a thousand years. But you know what? I've wanted to do it for what feels like ages, my friends and my husband - not to mention my sister-in-law - are encouraging me, and I just might love it. If I don't? That's okay. At least I will know that for sure, instead of just deciding that I won't love it without ever trying it. And so next Sunday? Look for me at Drop-In Derby Night. I'll be the terrified-looking one in the rented skates attempting to not fall on her ass.

As for you, take a moment, and think about it. Think about the thing that has always sounded interesting to you but that you've always dismissed for whatever reason. Cooking school. A walkabout. Glassblowing. Whatever it is, the next time it comes up, just stop, think about the balls it takes to cut through your own bullshit and go for it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't Have a Baby If You Value Your Mind

The trickiest thing about parenthood is that it's so easy to start to believe you've got the hang of it. You go, Hey, she's been sleeping through the night for two months! I'll start a blog!

And then the kid develops Olympic Fever and refuses to sleep for more than two hours at a stretch for five straight nights.

Which is to say, no post from me today, which stinks, because I was all excited to tell you guys how going on vacation by yourself can be awesome. Next week, I promise!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to letting the baby watch curling.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don't hesitate to cook something delicious for yourself

Nigella treats herself

Whether you live alone, your husband or wife is away, or your roommates are out of town, all of us have those nights where we want to eat something super delicious, and we're all alone. And you know what? Too many people use being alone as an excuse not to make something super delicious for themselves. I understand being too tired to cook for yourself on some nights, or wanting to curl up on the couch with some Indian takeout and a full TiVo. But one thing that I often hear from people is wanting something fancy and fussy, but "I don't want to go to all of that fuss just for myself" or that it's not worth the hassle to shop and cook just for yourself. And to that I say, don't say that! You are completely worth a great lasagna, a slow roasted prime rib, or a fantastic chocolate cake. Don't think that there's something wrong about cooking something fantastic for yourself, because you could not be more wrong.

First of all, cooking for just you is a chance to experiment. That wacky recipe with that ingredient that you'd never heard of? The cheese souffle that everyone says is easy but you just know you'll make it fall? The lemon curd that you want to try but you just know will turn into scrambled eggs? Make it for yourself! The worst that can happen is that it doesn't turn out well and you end up eating canned tuna for dinner, and no one has to know about the failure. But if it turns out great, then you have a fantastic new thing in your repertoire, and the confidence to know that you can make it again and again.

Secondly, cooking for yourself is a time when you can eat anything that you like, without paying attention to someone else's preferences or food issues. You love stinky cheese? Indulge with it stirred into a risotto. You adore the salty, briny flavor of anchovies? Add them to a fantastic pasta. You've always wanted to try that chicken with 40 cloves of garlic? Now is the time to do it. I have a friend who rushes to the kitchen to cook and eat a whole crab for herself as soon as her allergic to seafood husband goes out of town, and another who makes spaghetti carbonara when his non pork eating wife is working late. It's fun for food to be just for you sometimes.

And, hey, cooking for yourself is kind of like masturbation: sometimes you just need to please yourself. Sure, sometimes you wish you could share it with someone when it's fantastic, but then again, sometimes you don't want to have to think of someone else's needs, just your own. Hey, we all have needs, it's better to just be upfront about it. Those molten chocolate cakes are sometimes even better when eat them all just for you, and can ooh and ahh to your heart's content.

If you're in need of a cooking just for you primer, the woman who discovered Julia Child recently wrote a book all about that, so you're in excellent company, and there's a fun food column in the Washington Post all about cooking for one.

So the next time that you look at that recipe for crab risotto and think that it's not worth it to do all of that stirring just for yourself, just stop, think about how pleasing yourself is just as important as pleasing other people, and get to cooking.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Quickies

Welcome to Don't Do That's weekly link round up, in which we bring you everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Why? Because Tuesday is the lamest day of the week, and we could all use a quickie.

Don't Leave Your Teddy Bear Out In a Snowstorm:
Snowmageddon in Time Lapse (Buzzfeed)

Don't Blink During This Video:
T-Shirt War (Laughing Squid)

Don't Buy Designer Clogs (Really? CLOGS?):
Clogs the New It Shoe (Stylehop)

Don't Spend $2000 on a Trash Bag:
Louis Vuitton Raindrop Besace Bag (Tom & Lorenzo)

Don't Look at This Macabre Mechanical Conan O'Brien Before Bed:
Robo Coco (Bostonist)

Don't Expect Too Much From Your Politicians:
Elect Me Governor of New York: I Don't Cheat On My Wife (True/Slant)

Don't Forget to Make Sure The Source You're Citing Actually Exists:
Bernard-Henri Lévy Quotes Fictional Philosopher

Don't Pretend A Trampoline Net In the Guggenheim Wouldn't Be Awesome:
Experiencing the Void (Design Boom)

Don't Make A Twinkie Wedding Cake (with pictures!):
Twinkie Wedding (Hostess)

Don't Buy a Bacon Bra:
10 Sexy and Weird Gifts That Will Make Women Beg You To Take Off Their Underwear (InventorSpot)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Don't Bitch About Being Single

So, yesterday was Valentine's Day. I hope you spent it doing something interesting and not lame. This post would have been more timely last week, but I wasn't motivated to write it until this weekend, when so many people's anger and bitterness about being single came bubbling to the surface.

Believe me, I have been there. I’ve had a lot of stupid and shitty relationships that I stayed in just simply because the thought of not being in a relationship was awful to me. I’ve had my drunken hookup phase, my staying home with Ben and Jerry’s phase, months of contemplating lesbianism or becoming a woman of the cloth. I’ve started many a conversation with, “Can we talk about how much men suck?” and gotten caught way up in negativity, directing it not just at men, but at about anyone (ANYONE) in a relationship.

Case in point: I spent a semester in college hating my roommate because she had a boyfriend, forgetting that most of the time he was an emotionally abusive asshole. In that moment, that was just a tiny detail – she had someone, while I had a drinking problem and the guys from downstairs. Cute, yes. Good for procrastination purposes, absolutely. The loves of my life? Not hardly. And while that was okay at 19, it got to be much less okay with me as I hit my mid-twenties.

That’s to say nothing of the ill-advised engagement in my early twenties. Here’s a hint, y’all. If your friends hate him and your family Is Concerned, if he proposes three weeks after a conversation about what a terrible idea it would be for you to get engaged right now, and if every single thing about the proposal and the ring itself is the complete opposite of who you are? Saying yes is not a good plan. I know that it feels like settling now is a better plan than still being single in ten years, but settle now, and I will bet you cash money that in ten years you’ll be single anyway. Except now it will be because you’re divorced, having realized that you’re better than that.

And hey, you know what else is bad idea jeans? Spending all your time complaining (in embarrassing detail) about how miserable you are and how the whole world is against you. It's not going to do you any good to stay in your apartment, watching terrible TV and complaining in your blog and on message boards about how miserable it is to be single. What might do you some good is to LEAVE your house. Talk to people. Put yourself out there, have conversations with human beings. Get set up! I know, it sounds awful, but maybe it won't be. And if it is, that just means you have better stories to tell on the blog and the message boards.

I know it’s a cliché for me to say the bit about how things happen when you’re not looking, or in ways you’d never expect. But it is true. As I write this, I’m also running back and forth to the kitchen, making dessert for a really wonderful guy – that I happened to meet at 1:30am in about the grossest bar in town. Daisy’s daughter just turned six months old, and she and her husband met online. And Brownie? Brownie spent her Valentine’s Day at brunch with friends, hanging out with her sister and then watching the Olympics, drinking wine and eating cheese – which, if you’ve read her bio, you know is about as good as things get as far as she’s concerned.

Are our lives perfect? Of course not. And if you find the love of your life, yours won't be either. The world doesn't work like that. Having a significant other isn't going to solve all your problems, and being single doesn't automatically doom you to a life of misery and woe. One of the best things I've read this weekend, in response to all the Valentine's Day craziness, is from someone who was single for a long time and eventually got married in her late 30s. Her point? She had figured out how to be happy by herself - and with herself - before she could really be happy with someone else.

So start there! Take that Italian class or those piano lessons you were too young to appreciate the first time around. Paint your apartment, host Grilled Cheese Nights with your friends. Try the new class at your gym that sounds interesting and terrifying. Chat with the cute girl who's always in front of you in line at Starbucks, or try out for roller derby. But do something. The next time you find yourself ranting - AGAIN - about the unfairness of life and how no one will ever ever understand how wonderful you are, just stop, think about how awesome you ACTUALLY are, and don't keep that from the world.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Don't Tell Parents You Hate Their Baby's Name

All right, I admit my title is a bit misleading. I can't imagine you'd actually tell parents you hate little Eukanuba Iditarod Smith's name when the babe is nestled in his mother's arms. But if Mr. and Mrs. Smith tell you the name before little Eukanuba's birth? I know you will be extremely tempted to say, "I don't love it, actually," or "Do you have a back-up?" or "That certainly...has a lot of letters." Don't do that. Because while you may see yourself as the good Samaritan who helped a mother-to-be realize the error of her ways, to a pregnant woman you're just a dick who insulted something she put a lot of time and effort into.

I know: what if it's a really awful name? Most people will agree that life for young Audio Science Clayton (Not made up!) would be easier if someone had sat his parents down and explained the difference between a proper name and randomly chosen words. But let's be honest, unless you live in Hollywood and/or hang out with people who really love drugs, you aren't going to come across anyone who is going to name their child Jermajesty.

But you could run into someone who really wants to name her kid "Gertrude." And when she says, "We're naming her Gertrude Mildred Smith," the correct response is not, "Ug. I had a really mean aunt named Gertrude, and Mildred makes me think of mothballs." Your pregnant friend does not care about your mean aunt, nor does she want to play word association games with you. She has enough crap to deal with (back pain, peeing 23 times a day, assholes who won't give her a seat on the bus) to care about your issues with her baby's name. So shut your yap and tell her you love it.

You may think you're doing a service to point out something a mother might have missed about the name. Believe me, there is nothing she missed. When I told my mother the name my husband and I had chosen for our daughter, she said, "That's a long name. She'll never be able to spell it." (This was funny coming from a woman who gave me a name so unusual that not only can no one spell it, no one can pronounce it either.) It is true that my girl's first and middle names total seven syllables, but she has a three letter nickname and I can teach her her full name to the tune of "Camptown Races." See? Moms think of everything.

Then, of course, there's the argument that you're just looking out for the kid, since a ridiculous name will no doubt doom a person to a life of failure and shame. I don't buy it. I mean, in 1971, David Bowie named his son Zowie Bowie. "Good gracious," you're thinking, "That poor fellow must have become, like, a slime mold collector or something." No! He in fact went of to direct the acclaimed sci-fi indie flick Moon. Of course, he now goes by Duncan Jones, but that just brings me to my point: Even people with crappy names have free will. I have four friends who changed their names in college--two legally, and two just by introducing themselves by the name they wanted to be called. And their names didn't even suck. Biology is not destiny and neither is linguistics.

I guess I'm particularly cranky about this issue because, as I mentioned above, I have an unusual name. And while I understand that yes, there are terrible names out there (a friend mentioned that her sister ran into a girl named Jennaysayqua, pronounced "Je nais se quoi." It seems appropriate that the poor child's name translates into "I don't even know."), how boring would the world be if we were all named John and Anne? I love my name, unpronounceablity and all, and I'm exceptionally glad that no one talked my mother out of giving it to me. So the next time a friend or acquaintance says to you, "Well, we're thinking of naming her Harley Quinn," just stop, think about how someone else's name is really none of your business, and don't say anything but, "It's lovely."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ask Us!

Here at Don't Do That, we know the world can be a scary and confusing place. Luckily, we're here to help. From time to time, we will be answering your questions on anything. Absolutely anything. Don't believe us? Check out our first question:

Hey Don't Do That Girls!

What are your thoughts about work pooping? Especially in a unisex, single toilet, bathroom that everyone shares? I just left the bathroom and was unfortunate enough to have followed a foul work pooper, and it always seems that around 2-3 pm every damn day I end up going to pee in a gas chamber. I say DON'T! Pooping is a private bathroom sort of thing (unless you had bad Taco Bell for lunch.) And in addition I am terrified I will leave the bathroom and someone will be waiting to go in and think it was ME!

Love the site.

Please Poop in Private

Daisy: OK! So what is our opinion on this very important matter?
Brownie: I have strong feelings that no one should feel like they can't poop at work. That's just not good for you to hold it! However, I think that if you stink up the joint, and it's one of those single stall shared bathrooms, you could just stick a "Being Cleaned" or "Toilet being fixed" or something sign on the door for about 10 minutes.
Failing that, try to make sure there are a few matchboxes in the bathroom, and everyone should strike a match when they're done. It gets rid of the smell like magic.
Roxy: Yes to all of this. And for heaven's sake, leave the fan on. It's not as if you don't know you stunk up the place, and it's just polite.
Daisy: Or bring in one of those odor neutralizers and leave it on the counter. Or! Find a hidden bathroom, which is what I did when I worked at a hospital. There was one at the end of a dead-end hallway that I think only the cleaning staff and I knew about.
Brownie: Yes, that is another idea. Though, sometimes you don't know what's coming! I have had some surprise poops, okay?
Roxy: And if there's air freshener to spray, please oh PLEASE don't overdo it. The only thing worse than poo smell is poo smell with Country Garden scent over it. Talk about unpleasant.
Brownie: Oh yes.
Daisy: Oof, that's why they should go for the neutralizers, which have less of a heavy scent, to avoid it being two bad smells.
Roxy: My friend Kastarbuck also suggested the hidden bathroom - she works in a hospital and heads to the basement. But in a smaller office building like the one I'm in, you have exactly two options. My office is about four feet from the lesser of the two staff bathroom evils, and I don't have a problem with work poopers. UNLESS they don't leave the fan on or they spray awful awful air freshener (or Lysol, which is even worse) on top of the stinkiness. Then I get cranky and sad.
Daisy: And hey, if all else fails, there's always the option of sneaking into another office/building. Make yourself a ninja pooper!
Roxy: Bonus points for stealthy costumes.
Brownie: Love it. However! No one should have poop shame. Pooping is normal! Everyone does it! It's not a big deal if your officemates know that you pooped. You just don't want them to have to smell it.
Roxy: Yes! No poop shame. In fact, I just had a conversation like this with a coworker this morning. Another person went into the bathroom right after she came out, and she had a moment of poop shame, before the second coworker assured her it was fine - and that she'd grown up with four brothers. We then decided that Everyone Poops should be mandatory bathroom material. Of course, someone else I work with makes her officemate drive her to the officemate's house if she has to poop during the day. And, you know, Marshall Eriksen would check into a hotel.
Daisy: That officemate is going way above the call of duty (or 'doody,' if you want to be juvenile, which I am stunned we have mostly managed not to be.)
Brownie: Heeeee
Daisy: Yeah, also, if you have a baby? Poop becomes a complete non-issue. Like, we actually praise the baby when she poops. Not that I'm suggesting you do this with coworkers. Probably.

OFFICIAL DON'T: Don't be afraid to poop in the office bathroom, but don't forget to leave the fan on and de-smell-ify as you see fit. Within reason.

Do you have a question for Don't Do That? Email us at, or ask your question via Twitter, Facebook, or the comment section. The links are right up in the sidebar. Don't be shy! And let us guide you. Please.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Don't leave your host in the dark


This weekend, a friend and I were sharing the cooking duties for a Super Bowl party, and had more or less figured out what we were going to cook. And then a monkey wrench was thrown into the plans -- some of the guests for the party let my friend know that they were newly vegetarian. But you know what? As frustrating as it was to scrap our shrimp and sausage gumbo idea, having a two chili (one meat* and one black bean) menu was just fine, and we were both really happy that the people who came all ate and enjoyed the food. And afterward, we talked about how awful it would have been if the vegetarians hadn't let us know.

Almost all of us have a food that we won't or can't eat, either because of allergy, religion, health, morals, or just plain dislike. We have all learned how to deal with this at restaurants, by scouring ingredient lists for the dreaded cilantro (which I happen to love, but once went to lunch with a friend who insisted on leaving the restaurant because she didn't see anything on the menu without it), asking detailed questions to the waiter about whether that veggie burger contains mushrooms, or steering your friends toward the bread pudding instead of the creme brulee for the shared dessert. And it's easy around your family, because we always know about our sister's unusual hatred for chicken, the uncle who doesn't eat salmon, the vegan cousin, and dad who doesn't eat cooked apples. But what about when you're going to a dinner party with people that you don't know that well? Well, we are here to tell you, don't leave your host in the dark.

I love to cook for people, and I do it often. When I cook for people, it's not just to experiment with something new in the kitchen or impress with my cooking skills (though, sure, that's part of it), it's to make food that someone else will enjoy, and to have a happy meal with friends around a table. So when someone comes to my home, I want to please them, and I absolutely do not want to serve them anything that they can't or won't eat. If you are a vegetarian, I will absolutely make sure that there is a vegetarian main dish and appetizer for you, if you are lactose intolerant, well then I'll scrap that cheesecake for dessert, or maybe have two desserts. But for the love of God, don't be shy about this information, because then you'll be sitting around hungry, and I'll think that you either think that I'm seriously rude, or that my food is disgusting, and that's a recipe for a sad ending to a party.

Now, I'm not saying to email your host in advance with a list of your food preferences, or ask to approve the menu, because that would make us devote six or seven paragraphs to your behavior here on Don't Do That. But if you're not sure that your host knows that you're allergic to shellfish, please tell her, because she could be making clam chowder from scratch. If you don't know if your host knows that you don't eat beef, please tell him, because he could have already started smoking the brisket for dinner. The point of this is not to make you into the center of attention, or act like everyone should be catering to you -- honestly, would we tell you to do something like that? The point is that if you get to someone's home, and they're serving you food that you can't eat, any good host who discovers this will be mortified, and will wish that they had known.

This does presuppose that your host is someone who cares more about their guests than themselves, and I'm sure that many of you have had the opposite experience. So hosts, don't ignore your guests! I understand if you really want to make that crown roast of pork, believe me, I understand. But if four of the eight of your dinner guests don't eat pork, you might want to either make a beautiful roast chicken instead, or have two main dishes so that you can please everyone. And if you don't get any guidance from your guests, unless you know them really well, please ask them if they have any dietary restrictions, and try your best to satisfy them. Now, if someone says that they're gluten free and kosher, you may want to ask them if they could maybe bring a side dish, but generally, it's not that hard. And let me tell you, it feels so nice when someone is excited about whatever special meal that you prepared for them, it makes your frantic google searches all the more worth it.

So next time that you're planning to go to someone's house without telling them about your allergy to all nuts and seeds, just stop, think about how the secret ingredient in that amazing salsa that they've talked about could be pumpkin seeds, and don't do it.

* I know, it's Martha Stewart, not the source that you would think of for an amazing chili recipe, but oh my God that stuff was good. Do make that. You know, if your guests aren't vegetarian.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tuesday Quickies

Welcome to Don't Do That's weekly link round up, in which we bring you everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Why? Because Tuesday is the lamest day of the week, and we could all use a quickie.

Don't gloat before your team wins the title, Aaron from Corvallis, Oregon: Bill Simmons' Mailbag (ESPN)

Don't pay for punctuation: Yeah, Right (Boston Globe)

But don't be afraid to use a semicolon: How To Use A Semicolon (The Oatmeal)

Don't panic, but the aliens appear to be on the way: Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

Don't Do That, put politely: Please Stop Doing That (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Don't EVER use the phrase "speak nanny": How To Speak Nanny (NY Times)

Don't visit this site somewhere you can't laugh out loud: Snacks and Shit

Don't believe that buying shit makes you manly: Super Bowl Ad Flowchart (LaurenWick)

Don't judge Daisy's embarrassing celebrity crushes: David Cook interview (EW)

Don't...actually there is nothing negative we can say about this: Puppy Cam! (Ustream)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Don't Be An Asshole On Public Transportation

I like the earth. I like breathing clean air. I turn off lights when I leave the room, I recycle, I don't let the water run when I'm brushing my teeth, I use cloth bags at the grocery store. I try to avoid being too terribly trendy about it, but sometimes I just can't help myself. And I take a lot of public transportation. Now, this has less to do with being a thoughtful environmentalist, and much more to do with being someone without a driver's license. (Yes, seriously. No, I've never had one. Yes, I will get one eventually. Yes, it annoys my husband on occasion. Any other questions?) But the benefits to the environment and the economy are the same, whatever my reasons.

There are lots of other reasons I enjoy taking the bus to and from work. It gives me time to catch up on my reading, for example. And podcasts! Riding the bus is about the only time I can concentrate enough to really enjoy podcasts. Plus, A+ people-watching, no stress about traffic or other drivers, and plenty of time to do some quality staring-into-space. Yes, it takes me longer to get places, and I'm at the whim of schedule changes, but overall, I really don't mind it. What I do mind? Assholes. And yes, there are assholes everywhere. You have to deal with them on the road (I have some backseat road rage of my own), and I have to deal with them on the bus. So Don't Be An Asshole On Public Transportation, yet another thing we thought we wouldn't have to say, but apparently we do.

I know how important you are, Jackasses On The Bus/Subway/Train/Lightrail. You are so important that it is impossible for you to hang up your cell phone and move your ass out of the way when there are not one, but TWO people in wheelchairs trying to get on the bus and settled into the very small and limited space that they have. You are so important that, even though the hand rails are FOR EVERYONE, you must give people like Brownie the stink-eye when they try to share one with you while attempting to not fall on their face. You are so important that you have to lay your briefcase and coat over the handicapped seats next to you so you can have both hands free for your PDA, moving them only when a seven-months-pregnant Daisy - after walking halfway down the aisle and back - shames you in front of an entire busload of people. You're also the person who chats loudly on their phone for the entire 40-minute ride while the rest of us bond together in hatred through eye rolls and head-shaking. You're the one who sits directly in the middle of the two seats and scoffs when someone asks you to move, the one who clips your fingernails, flosses your teeth (alas, I shit you not, dear Reader), and listens to terrible music loudly enough for us to hear it (and then judge you). You're the one who smacks me in the face with your messenger bag and doesn't apologize, making the HIGH SCHOOL KID standing in front of you look like the mature one when he steps on my foot, says he's sorry, and calls me m'am. (Okay, that last part made me wince, but the rest restored my faith in The Children, albeit briefly.)

So the next time you decide that it is imperative that you do personal grooming, eat a three-course meal, take long and involved phone calls, or enforce your personal space (while encroaching on others') on a vehicle of public transport, remember that this is not your car. Nor is it your office, your bathroom, your bedroom or your kitchen, and the people around you are not your close friends or your family, your doctor, or your waitstaff. We're just minding our own business, trying to get to work, to school, to appointments or to somewhere actually fun, and we'd prefer to do it in peace. There are some really basic rules of conduct for existing in public - let the pregnant ladies, the old folks, and the disabled sit in the seats that were meant for them; get out of the way when people are getting on or off a bus; and keep your damn voice down. And when you get so pleased with yourself and how awesome your life is that you forget those things (hey, congrats!), just stop, think about the fact that you are not a special snowflake to the rest of society, and don't be rude.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't Take Sex Tips From Cosmopolitan

Warning: Adult content and more bad words than usual. Yeah, even worse than the vagina bedazzling post. Sigh.

I got my nails done this weekend, and as I was waiting for the Russian Navy to dry, I (very gingerly) picked up the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. "99 Sex Moves!" the cover promised in bold font, and I thought, Well, it might be nice to find an opening line that isn't, "Hey, the baby's asleep," so I flipped to the appropriate page. I read a little and then checked to make sure it wasn't actually titled "99 Sex Moves From People Raised in Convents." Example 1: "Warm up your hands before touching his penis." You don't say. Example 2: "Keep sparkling water in your mouth as you give him a blowjob." What? Also: ouch.

So of course I went to Cosmo's website to read all of their sex advice. I found that the tips above are a good microcosm of all of their advice: either patently obvious or completely insane. And because, honestly, I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that going a little slower or using a pillow to change positions are new and exciting sex ideas, I'm going to skip the obvious and just cover the insane.

In the article 14 Sex Tips You've Never Heard Of, it quickly becomes obvious out why you've never heard of them. The first involves putting satin panties in the freezer, microwaving a damp washcloth, and using them in ways frozen panties and hot washcloths should never be used. First of all, that's a lot of running back and forth to the kitchen. Secondly, there's nothing in the tip that mentions warning your boyfriend that his genitalia is about to be used as an impromptu thermometer. I am not male, but I imagine that would be more terrifying than arousing.

There's no warning suggested for tip number five either, which suggests wrapping a fake pearl necklace around a dude's penis. Geez, I can't imagine that going wrong at all. Other than, you know, your boyfriend thinking you're trying to strangle his dick, jumping out of bed, and locking himself in the bathroom for the rest of the night. I feel like the natural reaction to both of these tips is less "ooh, baby" and more "YEEEEARGH!"

Then, as if cold underwear and fake pearls weren't random enough foreign objects with which to torture your boyfriend, another tip advises you--I am not making this up--to wrap a half a dozen scrunchies around his bratwurst and pull them off with your teeth. This was the point where I began to suspect that Cosmo staffers just got baked and started coming up with the craziest things they could think of, hoping some poor souls would try them and send angry letters that the staff could then dramatically reenact at the Cosmo holiday party. It's the only vaguely logical theory I could come up with, because otherwise I think we can all agree that the words "scrunchie" and "penis" should never, ever be mentioned in the same sentence.

The theory looked even more probable as I got to tip #12, which suggests you and your love "Take a really long piece of sturdy plastic wrap (long enough to fit around your body about eight times). Then fold it in half, twist it into a long rope that fits snuggly [sic] around both of your bodies twice, and secure it with a knot at your waist so you're locked together. " No! Don't do that! Unless, of course, one of your life goals is to be able to end a story about a sexual encounter with, "And then we had to wait for my roommate to get home and cut us free." In that case, go right ahead. Supposedly, this cheap-ass bondage trick "not only increases the intimacy but also the fun factor." Yeah, spending ten minutes figuring out how to roll over is totally my idea of sexy fun times.

Look, the next time you find yourself saying, "oh, yeah" but thinking I wonder if Taco Bell is still open? Don't go to a magazine that thinks hot pink tube dresses are the height of sophistication for solutions. Try something I didn't see Cosmo suggest anywhere and talk to your partner. It might be scary and uncomfortable in the short term, but I guarantee that in the long run it'll lead to better sex than setting up a bedroom flying trapeze.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Don't cheat at games at Chuck E. Cheese


People. This goes on the list of things that we never thought that we would have to say, but apparently we just have to spell everything out.

On a recent weekend day, I was with my family celebrating an 8 year old's birthday by playing some games at Chuck E. Cheese. Now, the goal for Chuck E. Cheese and all places of its ilk is 1) always to try to touch as few things as possible so as to not catch the plague from the children all around, 2) win as many tickets as possible so that the small children that you came with can get whatever cheap plastic thing that they want, and 3) get out of the place quickly (slathering on hand sanitizer on the way out). But look, when I say "win as many tickets as possible" I mean that you should do things like play the easy games, bring along your basketball star cousin to play the basketball game, or just come by yourself sometime so that you can master a game and impress your nephew. However. Don't cheat at Chuck E. Cheese.

There were two women there with their small children playing Skee Ball. Yay for SkeeBall, it's my favorite game of that type! Except for the way that these women played it. They put their little tokens into the machine, and then, as the nice blue balls rolled down, instead of grabbing one to roll it down the alley and up into one of the baskets, these women picked up the balls, jumped up so that they were standing on the alley, walked all the way down, and dropped the balls into the 10,000 hole up there on the top left (the hardest one to get). With their children sitting right there. I can't remember the last time I was so outraged.

This, mind you, was not an isolated incident for these women. We witnessed them do this at least three times while we were there and judging from the fat stack of tickets that I saw one of the women putting into the ticket machine as we were leaving, there is no question in my mind but that we only witnessed a small part of their Day of Cheating at Games.

The biggest question in my mind here was: FOR WHAT? Every single prize at Chuck E Cheese is cheap, plastic, and useless. With a thousand of those tickets, the best prize is a plastic airplane, or a water gun, both of which would probably break within a week. Five dollars at Target would get you much more than five hours playing games. It's not like you're going to come out of this with a new Barbie or game for the Wii.

So you let your children watch you cheat for something small and ridiculous, thereby teaching the other kids who see you that that is an okay thing to do, and out of it you get another cheap plastic toy for you? At least one little girl repeatedly copied their behavior, and I am telling myself that her mom was occupied with another kid, which is why she didn't immediately get taken out to the car by her ear. I need to tell myself that, okay?

When I relayed this story to Daisy and Roxy, they said that these were the kinds of parents who would do their kids' homework for them. But after thinking about it, I realized that no, it's worse than that: these are the kinds of parents who would take their kids to Vegas for the weekend so that they didn't do their homework, and then just tell them to copy someone else's homework at study hall. I have seen those parents, and I know that you all have too.

So (I still can't believe that I have to say this) the next time you're at Chuck E. Cheese, and you think that it might be a good idea to cheat on a game to win a crappy prize for your or someone else's kid, just stop, think about how that's just one step toward the downfall of society, and don't do it.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Don't Get Trashed At The Work Happy Hour

(Image via

Alas, it's Monday again. How was your weekend? Did it start, as mine did, with a Friday evening Happy Hour? If so, then we should definitely be friends - we can trade tips on the best deals (mine involves 2-for-1 drinks, cheap and delicious food, and getting out the door with a check for under twenty bucks). However, the more pertinent question is: who were you drinking with? Friends? Romans? Significant others? Awesome. Coworkers? We might need to chat. Because, this Monday morning, I am here to tell you, please: Don't Get Trashed At The Office Happy Hour.

Half of you are probably looking at me like I'm completely insane. "WHY," you ask, "would I socialize with THOSE people?? I have to see them all day, every day, and they drive me bonkers." Awesome. I'm sorry that, you know, you kind of hate your job, but you are probably not scheduling Happy Hour with the rest of your staff as we speak (Mondays are hard for me, too). But if you, like me, mostly like some of the people you work with, then we need to talk.

Let me tell you a quick story. About a month ago, a bunch of people I work with went for cheap margaritas after a company holiday party. By the end of the night - six hours later - there were four or five of us left. Our significant others had joined us, and we were thoroughly enjoying life. I was about halfway through my fourth marg (and before you scoff at me, these things are strong), and hadn't eaten dinner. Why? Because we had just come from a potluck! There was so much food! I was full! Of course, in my margarita-drenched haze, I neglected to realize that the giant potluck-y meal I had eaten was approximately eight or nine hours behind me. As a coworker - who, by the way, is one of my supervisors- said to me the next Monday, "You were sober! weren't." The night ended with a state that I am choosing not to share, because my parents say they read this. (If they don't give me shit about this entry, I'll know they don't actually read it, and next week's post will be full of inappropriate stories. Cross your fingers!) (Hi Mom!)

Anyway. Lucky for me, this time it ended up a goofy story that we giggled about for a couple of days and then forgot about. Perhaps that's one of the bonuses of working in a field that really promotes self-care. But that is not normal, not something I'm going to count on in the future, and definitely not something that you should take a cue from.

Like it or not, we are grown-ups. And sure, when I was bemoaning my lack of maturity on this particular night to one of my best friends, she pointed out that part of the fun of being a grown-up is that it sometimes is okay to drink like a college student. She makes an excellent point. But the point I'm trying to make is that we - being adults - need to take into account the population of the people in our drinking group. Are they friends who you trade TV-on-DVD with? Friends with whom you occasionally waste entire weekends sitting on various back patios? Are you drinking with your significant other, with whom you can be your absolute silliest? Are they friends from work, with whom you have an entirely separate relationship outside of the office? Or is your booth full of colleagues and coworkers, folks who you respect and who you hope respect you? People you want to build a career with? People whose help you could use in your future professional endeavors? If the people you're emailing this morning fall into those categories, just stop, think about your future - and your limit - and don't order that extra drink on Friday.