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Money Manners

HAMPTON STEVENS

Updated: 2007-03-16T15:07:47Z

BIO:I'm a Kansas City-based writer, editor and communication specialist. I have worked for a range of regional and national publications, including ESPN the Magazine and The New York Times on the Web. I also write lots of corporate content, which doesn't sound nearly as impressive but does pay the bills. I'm single, well into my 30s and never once been within a country mile of marriage.EMAIL: hstevens@kc.rr.com

ENTRY 3

Stevens.Blog3

November 1st

Sulu is gay.

Risking a barrage of jokes about his "photon torpedo", Star Trek actor George Takei, 68, came out of the closet last week. We salute Takei's bravery. This is a truly liberating moment for gay, Asian, senior-citizen science fiction fans. All three of them.

"Weekend of the Locust"

Dakota Fanning's latest vehicle "Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story" has now grossed a tad over $18 million dollars - if you think $256,747 dollars is "a tad".

With her insidious performance in this "National Velvet" knockoff, Fanning has gone from creepy in the way all child stars are creepy, to genuinely freighting in that, "I'll be starving myself in three years" sort of way.

Why do we obsess over child stars? Kids do nothing but act all day anyway. They pretend to be superheroes or monsters. firefighters, doctors, ballet dancers. Pretending in their job. Now, show me an eight year-old plumber. That would be impressive.

(On a separate note, "Inspired by a true story" is Hollywood-speak for "We got sued".)

Observations on Men & Women, Part 33,942

We didn't want to believe women were like Grace Adler and Carrie Bradshaw. We didn't think modern, single women in Kansas City really rejected men for a bewildering array of petty flaws and foibles. Oh, how wrong we were.

Over the last few days, we asked every woman we could find to confess the silliest reason she had rejected a guy.

Our five favorites:

5. "There's no way I would date a knuckle-popper"

4. "One guy blew his nose and looked at it right in front of me. I knew there was no way."

3. "His fork clicked on his teeth when he ate."

2. "I would never date a man who says something bad about Howard Dean"

And our favorite...

1. "His chest hair looked too much like my father's"

Men, on the other hand, have only two reasons for dumping a woman: A) She is too fat. B) She is too crazy.

And, often, not even then.

FIVE THINGS NEVER TO WEAR:

Just be thankful someone stole our camera.

5. Thong underwear Any man reading this who wears thong underwear, write immediately and explain yourself. Um... Wait. On second thought, if you are a man wearing thong underwear, don't write me. Ever. Please.

4. Anything which could be worn at a Renaissance Festival.

No velvet, no Wicca pendants, no moccasin boots that lace over your jeans. If you look like a "Lord of the Rings" extra, don't wear it out of the house.

3. Velcro-strapped shoes

Nice. "Hi! I'm too lazy to tie my own shoes."

Why not add a bicycle helmet and trade your car for a short bus? Maybe you'll get sympathy sex.

2. Hawaiian shirts

The Hawaiian shirt is a remarkable garment. Despite being part of American popular culture for decades, Hawaiian shirts have never once been cool.

From Sinatra to "Magnum" and Jimmy Buffet, the Hawaiian shirt has remained totally inappropriate for every occasion. Except a luau. Boys, unless you live on Maui and eat poi three times a week, burn every Hawaiian shirt you own. We would suggest donating them to the Third World poor, but the Third World poor deserve better.

Leather pants

Leather pants make you look gay. Or like a biker. Or like a gay biker. No problem there, unless you happen to be none of the above.

The list of hetero, non-biker males who can carry off leather pants is very short - Elvis, Jim Morrison, LL Cool J, Eddie Murphy circa "Delirious", and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. If you aren't one of them, don't do it.

11/2/2005 11:21:53 PM

http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/11/02/features/peepthu.php

Jessica Simpson sees a therapist. "I respect knowledge of the psyche," said the 25 year-old. "I would be a therapist if I weren't an entertainer."

Three questions:

1) Is anyone surprised that Jessica Simpson used "psyche" correctly?

2) Would she be worth $90 bucks an hour - talking, that is.

3) Isn't Jessica Simpson an "entertainer" the same way that "Access Hollywood" is news?

http://www.sky.com/showbiz/article/0,,50001-1201201,00.html

A week out of rehab and Kate Moss has already been caught doing something unseemly - appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair.

She looks fantastic too. How can anyone that screwed up look so good? Make-up and air-brushing? CGI?

All that and more. They cheated. Vanity Fair photographed her last year and they have been sitting on the pictures since.

Imagine Graydon Carter's thrill the day Kate's coke pictures came out.

"Screw Audrey Tautou! Get the urchin"

Vanity Fair is devoting 11 pages to the woman who inspired millions to become anorexic. At last we will know: "Can a world-famous, supermodel support herself and her daughter on a measly $50 Million net worth"

"I called so you don't think I'm a jerk".

ENTRY 2

Dating Diary #2

(Note: many of the names below have been changed to protect the innocent-- and also because I'm bad with names. Frankly, the places, dates and times aren't all that accurate either.)

In your 20s, dating is almost always a rush. Life as an adult is new. Every romantic experience, good and bad, feels life-altering.

Things change in your 30's. Experiences pile up. The drama fades. We get toughened, like a construction worker's hands.

Something is gained along the way -- rejection and heartbreak hurt less. Something is lost too -- some faculty for trust and wonder. As the pain of romance dulls, so does its capacity to bring joy. You become wary. It gets harder to put faith in romantic love, harder to believe that a chemical connection on Friday night will flower into a Sunday kind of love. We also get wiser, more conscious of our own flaws, and learn that falling love won't magically fix them.

But, rough as dating is, it beats staying home. If you want to keep growing, you have to keep taking emotional risks. Step one is getting up off of the couch. That means unplugging from the TV/Internet/cellphone world and getting out in the street to connect with real human beings.

Usually, my weekend starts Friday night in midtown. This one started in Johnson County, watching the Chiefs game with my dad and eating a mom-cooked meal. She roasted chicken. He, for the 900th time, told the story of being at The Longest Game. By 8:30, Kansas City put the Dolphins away. I was itching for nightlife.

Dad and I, per family tradition, had a lengthy talk about the best way to midtown.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"39th and Broadway," I said. "I was going to take the highway..."

"What!? Not Ward Parkway? Are you an idiot?"

This was rhetorical.

I took the highway, exiting on Rainbow. From there, it was crosstown to Chez Charlie's, a dart bar lately colonized by scenesters. Good vibe. You might see hardened, middle-aged men in flannel work shirts. You might see unspeakably cute 22 year-olds with fresh tattoos.

I was meeting Carol -- a petite brunette librarian. I was late. She was later, so I sat and ordered a PBR.

The guy on the stool next to mine had a ruddy, pockmarked face. He wore Carhartt coveralls and old work boots. He looked me over. I was clean-shaven, wearing hipster shoes and wishing I had something intelligent to say about hunting or cars. Instead, I asked if he had a good day.

"Crappy," he said. "You?"

My cellphone rang before I could answer. It was Carol. She was at a different "Charlie" bar, Charlie Hooper's in Brookside. We agreed to meet downtown, at The Brick for live rock music, but I never made it. I stopped to whiz at Grinders, aka, the Official Bar of the Kansas City Art Institute.

There I saw Dan. Dan has one of Kansas City's great jobs, is a star in his field, and someone I'd give my left kidney to work for. Dan also has another noble trait - he buys drinks. In this case, he bought beers and many shots of tequila.

For these reasons and more, Dan is the subject of my latest non-sexual man crush - a fact I am only moderately embarrassed to admit.

We talked about sports and sportswriters, and our tragicomic travails with women. We had a long, unapologetically pretentious conversation about F. Scott Fitzgerald, bonding over how we both resent Zelda in a personal and, frankly, unhealthy way.

Carol showed up as the bar closed. She looked elegant in slick black pants, low heels and a fitted black top.

"You look beautiful," I said.

"You're drunk,"

"True. But you do look beautiful."

"I do not," she said.

"Now you are insulting me. Take a compliment, will ya?"

She sighed. "Okay."

"We'll try again. Carol, you look beautiful."

"Thank you, Hampton," she said

"And?" I asked.

"And what?" she said.

"And what about me?" I asked.

"Oh," she laughed. "You look beautiful too. You are also a dork."

"Granted. You know... There is no way I should be driving right now."

"You're not." She assured. "Give me your keys."

Carol drove a minivan, by which she was needlessly embarrassed. She took me to her apartment, south of the Plaza. That was the good news.

The bad news is that we didn't have sex. Not even close. She got me undressed, but I was too drunk to do more than slobber briefly in her direction before passing out.

For this, I blame Dan and his bottomless bar tab of doom.

SATURDAY

The day started badly-- and early.

Carol's bedroom faces east. Her curtains were drawn. Her clock radio, tuned to NPR, went off at 7:30 am. I woke to the sound of Daniel Schorr droning about "Scootergate".

Not even Mrs. Schorr needs that.

I dressed. Carol put on her bathrobe. Clearly bucking for sainthood, she said only one word: "Coffee", and made some.

The woman grinds her own beans. You've got to admire that.

We revived. She looked so Neve Campbell-ish cute in her robe that we had sex, for the first time, by surprise. Which is probably the best way. I dressed. She showered and dressed, then drove me downtown.

Saying goodbye was only mildly awkward.

"Your lovemaking was hard." I said. "Fast... You don't like going slow?"

"I don't know you well enough to go slow."

Good answer.

"I'll call you later," I said.

"If you want." She kissed me. "Later, hot stuff."

Back home, I showered, ate leftover barbeque and spent the afternoon half-napping in front of college football. Did I mention that Carol grinds her own beans? Impressive stuff.

SATURDAY NIGHT Game 1 of the World Series is a fine excuse for beer. At sunset, I went to Gilhouly's at 39th and Bell. A dozen people were watching baseball, a few more shooting pool.

One of the bar's untouchably hot bartenders poured me a Guinness. A buddy I've known since high school was at his usual corner table. We stepped outside to smoke and settled in for the game.

Three young couples, having just eaten Mongolian food across the street, loudly came in and sat beside us. The men were all moussed, wearing identical black leather jackets. The women were all pretty, with trendy jeans and corporate short hair.

One was extra pretty - a curvy, fresh-faced blonde, with huge, soft brown eyes. She wore a tight, black Ramones t-shirt and looked fabulous -- rich, healthy, sweet and hopeful. She bothered me, possibly because people wearing Ramones t-shits should look a little self-destructive. I wanted to quiz her on the band, see if she could name one song off "Rocket to Russia", but decided against it after realizing that her date might hit me.

"Carol is cooler than that chick," I thought.

She caught me looking at her and smiled reflexively. Instantly, I melted and smiled back. Suddenly, we were in a high school cafeteria. I was geeky art boy, staring at the cool kids' table and thinking I had a shot with the head cheerleader.

Later, while Bobby Jenks was crushing the Astros, I overheard some of their conversation. The Ramones girl turned out to be funny with a good vocabulary, and - get this - a job working with sick children. This got me fairly depressed, so I paid my tab and went home. There, by great force of will, I did not call Carol, nor did I call an ex-girlfriend to apologize for something I did five years ago.

SUNDAY

Many times, it sucks to be single. An NFL Sunday is not one of those times.

Most of my married male friends spent the day doing something awful -having brunch, meeting in-laws, shopping for a bedspread. Ryan, my fantasy football partner and I, spent six hours watching football, eating bar food and enjoying adult beverages that neither of us could really afford. Bedspreads never came up.

We started at Downing's - a KU Med School bar -- just after the noon games kicked off. The whole place cheered when the Chargers lost to Philly on a last-second play. The late games we watched on the Plaza, at Granfalloon. The whole bar cheered when Denver lost to the Giants on a last-second play.

By then, it was dusk. Game 2 of the World Series has started in a cold Chicago rain. Ryan dropped me off at home. I watched TV until Scott Podsednik's walk-off put Houston two games down.

Before bed, I called Carol. She didn't answer, so I left a message.

"Had a great time this weekend... And hope to see you soon. Call me. Bye."

What else can you say, really? The subtext is what matters:

ENTRY 1

Five First Dates

By Hampton Stevens

Dating is evil.

Granted, that might sound odd coming from someone writing a column on relationships. Nevertheless, dating is evil. Dating, specifically, is a ruthless, grueling, dehumanizing ritual about as likely to create a satisfying connection between two human beings as Ray Nagin is to be reelected Mayor of New Orleans.

Because this is our first column, we looked at first dates - the most exquisitely painful date of all. In no special order, check out our list of five favorite first date activities and why, precisely, they all suck so very much.

GOING OUT TO DINNER Too many women date men they don't like. They do it for the free food and drinks. They do it to get revenge on another guy. They do it just for an ego boost.

That's cruel, ladies. You don't like being used for sex. We don't like being used for money. If you are not interested in a man, don't take gifts from him- including nights on the town. Expecting a man to throw $100 bucks at dinner and not want some lovin' afterwards is like dropping a steak on the carpet and expecting your dog not to lick the spot.

Okay, that sounded weird. But you get the idea.

Besides, having dinner for a first date means you have to watch each other chew. Nobody needs to see that.

HAVING A PICNIC

Brilliant - as long as you live in 1956.

Alfresco dining in some pretty country spot is one of those ideas that always sounds far better than it is. First, the food factor rears again its head, and picnicking means chewing in daylight. Gross. You also share the food with bugs. Not bucolic.

But there is a bigger problem. In post-Ted Bundy America, asking a woman to go for a drive in the woods sounds, you know, creepy. The girl will probably think you have a primer-coated van and plan to do something creepy in a mountain hideaway. This is called "giving off the serial killer vibe". Very, very few women are into the serial-killer vibe.

MOVIES

With apologies to the film industry professionals who advertise on these pages, movies make terrible first dates.

You will not get to know someone any better by spending two hours not speaking.

Also, many Hollywood films are of poor quality.

Let me rephrase: Hollywood is death factory, a fountainhead of toxic moral sewage poisoning the groundwater of American life.

Forget that 99.9% of Hollywood movies are nothing but puerile sex and violence wrapped in a merchandising campaign. The films with a "social conscience" are far worse - those preachy borefests where Hilary Swank's character dies or Charlize Theron looks "ugly". No sane person spends ten bucks to watch thinly-veiled lectures on morality delivered by degenerate millionaires.

Now, "Anchorman", however... That movie rocked.

Oh, incidentally, I am a dork.

MEETING FOR COFFEE

Great plan. Nothing says "kiss me" like brown teeth, turpentine-scented breath and huge doses of low-grade, liquid speed. If possible, pick a place with fluorescent lighting to bring out the dark circles under your eyes.

PLAYING MINIATURE GOLF

Mini-golf is cute. Women love cute. They live for cute. Cuteness is considered an end in itself - which explains the career of Rob Thomas.

Play mini-golf at an old school course and there will be classic kitsch, like windmills and volcanoes, about which you can make wry remarks. Always good.

But putt-putt does have high disaster potential. To avoid ending the night alone at home, drinking NyQuil and listening to George Jones, follow this one simple, ironclad rule:

Don't win.

Hitting a rubberized golf ball at a fake alligator's mouth is not the time to prove your athletic prowess. Take the game too seriously and you will look like a moron. Don't demand silence on your back-swing. Don't gloat over made shots. Don't mutter "Noonan" when she is standing over a putt. (Granted, the "Noonan" thing is always funny.)

If you are rude during the game, she will not let you hit her fairways after it. That is, you will not visit her clubhouse. You know... There will be no trip to the 19th green.

No sex. She will not have sex with you.

LIVE MUSIC

Absolutely do support live music. Go see bands in bars, theaters, auditoriums and arenas. Go stag. Go in a group. Go once you are in a steady couple. But never, ever, go see a live band on a first date.

No matter where the show is, there will be attractive people and you will wish you had come alone. This is inevitable. Other people always look better than whoever you are with on a first date. Other people are not putting you through the agony of a first date.

To counter this, you must converse. But, with a live band is playing, your conversation will consist only of screaming into each other's ears at short range. Not cool. Nothing sounds witty or charming at 110 decibels.

HAVING DRINKS

Your bar or hers? Neutral ground? A frou-frou martini place or tap beer at a cheap drive? The bar doesn't matter much. What counts is you both get completely hammered -- on whatever your poisons of choice may be. Without a good buzz, you might manage to see the person in front of you as a live, imperfect being, rather than something you shop for, like shoes or a plasma-screen TV.

This might bring a second date. Then a third. Then, next thing you know, you'll be trusting someone and saying gushy things over the phone. You will be your planning weekends a month in advance. Once that happens, you are no longer dating. You are in a relationship - and it only gets worse from there.

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