Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
This Saturday night, I was at a fundraising dinner at the Beverly Hilton for my graduate school. As a screenwriter who writes often about teenagers, you should trust me when I tell you just about every movie about teenagers culminates with a prom. Prom is a big deal in high school partly because you’re told that this is the one chance to go to your prom and you’re not supposed to miss it. This is one of the huge lies adults tell teenagers and we’re just naive enough at the time to buy into it. If you’re a social person, especially in the middle-upper class world of college-educated professionals, you’re going to be going to proms the rest of your life.
Nobody told me in high school that two years later in college, I’d be getting bussed to my sorority formals at some fancy hotel downtown in a poofy dress. If you were lucky, you got asked to the fraternity formals of a Delt or Lodge kid. If you were socially rejected by the Greek system, you could always go to your dorm formals. Then there are grad school formals – barrister’s ball or law school proms or business school dinners. There are fundraisers where your company has purchased a table, there are fundraisers where you get set up on dates. Then there are alumni formals and bar association dinners and military dinners.
You get my point. I’ve been doing these for a while now and really they’re pretty much the same as high school prom – minus the breathalyzer test we had to take to get into my prom (gotta love rich suburbs). Mostly everyone looks nice and holds their liquor or drug of choice. But the most exciting and memorable parts of the evening comes from the people who don’t.
But in addition to seeing whose dress will be shorter than mine and what girl has just discovered Long Islands, I love watching the coupling off that always occurs at these things. There’s a predictable social choreography that is unfolding at every one of these events. Here’s essentially who is usually attending these things:
These are to be distinguished from the majority of couples who by and large are delightful to be with. Three-legged couples are obsessed with being a couple – they do everything together and the whole evening is about how into each other they both are. They act like they are physically attached, going to the bar together and insisting that they never engage in separate conversations. We’re all a little guilty of this right at that part of a relationship when you’re falling in love with someone. But for the most part, these couples are just annoying and often rude. My best advice is to stay away from them. They can be unusually hard to get away from because once they found someone who will converse with both of them, they’ll try to keep you all night so they don’t have to pretend to care about finding someone else to talk to.
There’s a girl that you’ve thought was the prettiest in your class all year or since you started at this job. You’ve never really hung out outside of the office or school though, so finally you get to be around her with alcohol in the evening. These goal-getters have one person they want to hook up with and making a connection with her is his one and only goal. I love watching these guys operate because it’s like watching a hunter pursue its prey but I hate being someone’s goal. The problem is if you’re not into him, you realize you essentially have a sidekick all evening because the guy is following you around everywhere and joining every conversation you strike up. A girlfriend of mine last Saturday couldn’t wait to hook up with this German exchange and was hoping he’d be at our dinner. He was and so she knew where he was and whom he was talking to at all times. When they weren’t together she was trying to figure out how to get back over and talk to him. The good thing about these guys is that sometimes the goal can be accomplished without ever hooking up. If the two of you end up in a great conversation for hours but part at the end of the evening, it’s a great basis to continue a relationship from.
Prowlers are like walking male libidos (even the plentiful female prowlers too). Prowlers want to hook up with someone – anyone. They have one goal which is not going home alone. So they are pretty much just looking for opportunities and usually drinking heavily to get up the courage to be a prowler. There are some men and women who are like this all the time but the trouble comes with the dayplayers – the people who don’t usually hook up like this but put them in a suit or a cocktail dress and suddenly they’re ready to rumble. The good thing about these guys is that you can get rid of them fairly easily. If you make any excuse to get away from them during the conversation, this is usually a sign that you’re not interested.
(It’s amazing how subtle some of these signs can be but it’s true. If you let one guy monopolize your time, as in you spend the entire evening talking with him and you never try to leave or talk with other people, you’re definitely sending out some vibes. So be wary – I once thought I was just grossed in one of the best debates I had ever had arguing strenuously with someone who thought that Nikola Tesla was more responsible for discovering electricity than Thomas Edison. Two hours into the debate, the boy thinks he’s taking me home. I was in a relationship at the time and rather shocked I had given him the wrong idea. But my point is, giving someone all your time at these sorts of things can be misconstrued.)
You’ve been flirting with him for months. You’ve been out with groups together and you’ve spent a lot of time at work on the same projects. You’re shocked by how much the two of you get along. You know he’s going to the dinner and he asked if you were but you’re just not sure if it’s going to be another great time with a friend or if it might turn into something. Flirting consummators are the most satisfying coupling off because the relationship has been building for a while.
Although, this blew up in my face once. I’m a bit of a flirtatious person by nature – less in the sultry sexpot kind of way and more in the Bill Clinton kind of working a room way – or at least I tell myself so. Two years ago at this same dinner, I found myself in this situation. So Ian showed up late to the dinner and I saw him but I was having fun talking with a whole slew of people I don’t normally talk to. Plus, I tend to revert to playground rules: to keep a boy interested flirt with as many other boys as possible in front of him (I strongly do not recommend this). So by the time the dance floor was out and people were grooving with the Dj, I had barely talked to Ian. I’ll never forget, I saw him look like he might be leaving and chased after him on the balcony overlooking the pool asking him where he was going. He said he was leaving. I pouted and asked him not to. He said he had come mainly to talk to me and hang out with me but he wasn’t having fun and now he just wanted to leave. I think we ended up going out on our first date the following week so it ended up ok but I really regretted my behavior that night.
These are my favorite hook-ups to watch for. These are the couplings no one can plan for. Usually, both parties are drunk and random circumstances have pushed these two fated people together - usually because friends have ditched them or they were too drunk to follow their friends or they were just completely lost. I can’t say, I’ve ever really been a party to this, but I know some people who have ended up in long-term relationships from these sorts of events.
PS – Male/Female roles in the above blatantly stereotypical overgeneralizations are interchangeable.
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March 10, 2011 | 2:59 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
The Santa Anas have been blowing and this is never a good sign for me. Sometimes L.A. gets these hot winds that blow in during the winter. It’s weird because it’s warmer than it should be at night in a desert climate, but also so blustery that it’s miserable to be outside. I always go a little crazy when the Santa Anas blow and this week has been no exception.
I love writing and I’ve been loving writing this blog. But some times writing it is easier than others and this week it’s been hard. And not for lack of material. My mind is spinning with tidbits and tales from men and life over the last few days but writing it means making sense of it all and this is the daunting task. I’ve been up late every night trying to thread a theme through it all like Ira Glass, but he doesn’t have to do it about himself and so I feel like he’s got a leg up - plus he’s got a whole staff. This also means I’ve been no picnic to live with. Any week that starts with a Monday morning where your carpool and your roommate are in your room telling you, you’ve overslept and can you be ready in ten minutes is not going to be a good week. I’ve also gone through an entire carton of Diet Dr. Pepper which wasn’t mine in the first place in order to help fuel me while I was working but without much to show for it except stealing my roommate’s soda.
All this is to say, I’ve been feeling a little low this week. I thought it might have to do with my writing or the lack of certainty in my future plans beginning in a few months or the fact that I accidentally ended up at the website of an ex, but I actually think it has to do with the fact that I might like someone and that would mean that would mean I’m waiting to hear from him. Me - waiting for him?
I’ve been on a lot of dates in the last few years. While this can take up much of my weekends, it rarely effects my work during the week. But this week, I’ve found myself distracted, wondering when I’ll hear from him or what we’ll do when I see him next - if I see him next. We’ve only been out a few times and each time I’ve been surprised by how much I like him and how much more I want to talk to him and how much more time I want to spend with him. AND I’M FREAKING OUT!
I am usually exceedingly disciplined (don’t ask how quickly I can drop five pounds) but this week, I can’t focus, I can’t finish my writing, when I get a text - I’m hoping it will be him. This is all making me a complete mess. I am totally unprepared to deal with liking someone now. Dating is one thing - dating fits into my schedule and keeps my parents from shelling out too much guilt and allows me to pursue my busy fun-filled life. Liking someone is something I am completely unprepared to deal with. Liking someone means being vulnerable to how he feels. Liking someone means not focusing on my work. Liking someone means there is something I want that is not under my complete control.
Over the holidays this year, I got a bit tipsy at a family gathering. My dad said something along the lines of “Tamara needs to be in control so much that even when she’s drunk she’s still in complete control.” I thought this was a compliment at the time, but in retrospect it seems really sad.
I do like to be in control a lot. And I rarely let myself get drunk for this precise reason. Which overall, I hope is a good thing. But I probably do need loosen the reigns when it comes to a few things in my life. Perhaps, I keep men at bay, so that I always have complete control over our relationships. If I don’t like anyone that much, there’s not much to risk. But by liking this boy, I’m putting the ball in his court. I can’t make him like me. He could never call me again and there is nothing I could do about it. But I can’t do anything about that either because I can’t stop myself from liking him. I’ve grown up in a world that told me that if there was something I wanted, anything at all, I just had to go out and get it. Work hard and I would get my rewards. Most of my life this has been true. But of course when it comes to matters of the heart, we all know that we can’t control how someone else feels about us.
So I’m stuck here, wanting something I’m not sure if I can have, listening to the Santa Anas, waiting for someone else to make a move…
March 4, 2011 | 10:16 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I saw the Adjustment Bureau last week. It was a little hokey for my taste. I love a good government conspiracy thriller. But it turns out, the Adjustment Bureau is a group of “angels” doing God’s bidding and the story revolves around whether or not free will in the shape of love is strong enough to overcome fate. It had potential but it was hard not to laugh at some of the contrivances like – God and the Bureau can’t see you too well through water so you can act covertly when it rains or on a ferry and hats have magical angel powers.
Nonetheless, the romance turns out to be not hokey at all and is surprisingly the most enjoyable part of the film by far. Now some of this of course has to do with the strengths of the film – answering Nietzsche’s seminal questions on fate is much harder than writing convincing love story dialogue. But as I’ve been reading the surprisingly positive reviews of the film, I found myself wondering if I’m just always a little more willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to soul-mates. When it comes to believing in fate, I end up more on the side of Deists who think that even if there is a God, God has sort of left man to deal with the world themselves and free will is where it’s at. And so the whole plotline about God’s plan and humans going off of it, makes me roll my eyes a bit. But the part about how these two people are meant for each other because they were destined to be together and they feel something so special for each other because fate has determined they are meant for each other – I’m just eating up every word.
Why is that we’re so willing to put our rational intellectual normal selves aside when it comes to love? Why do I want to believe so badly that the person you end up with in the end is your soul-mate as opposed to someone who you logically concluded was the right choice for you based on reasoned decisions?
If the latter is true, is that really so bad? If you make a reasoned decision about how to marry and end up with a happy loving marriage, why is that somehow still lesser than the person who ends up marrying someone because the heavens sent down a match that was predetermined for you. It actually seems backwards, because you’d think we’d be giving more credit to the person who actually made the decisions him/herself as opposed to the person who got lucky enough to just happen upon kismet.
I’m smart enough to recognize all this and yet powerless to do anything about it. I know there’s hypocrisy in my thinking but I still want to believe that someone out there is destined for me. I don’t want to think that marriage is a logical conclusion to a rational question. Maybe I have such a hard time with that, because love never feels rational. Everything about it in fact, feels completely irrational and the ultimate seal of this emotionally reckless union, marriage, seems like it should be the most irrational act of all.
I like to think that I’m just a hopeless romantic, but maybe I’m just hopeless. When I get down to brass tacks and force myself to be completely realistic, I realize that regardless of what happens, I’ll probably convince myself that I will have ended up with my soul-mate because of how much I want to believe in it. There’s just nothing out there strong enough to convince me to give up hope. In fact, I’m probably more likely to start believing that water shields us from “angels” than truly believe deep down that I don’t have a soul mate. But really guys - I mean God can’t see you on the Staten Island Ferry?! Even us believers have our limits…
March 3, 2011 | 10:29 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Awards Season is over! Thank God! While I wasn’t at the Academy Awards Sunday night, I along with the rest of the city’s scenesters have been all over the city in the last few weeks for awards parties, luncheons, and celebrations. As fun as it all is, it’s also a lot of work – for every shared moments with a C-list celeb, you have to talk to plenty of creepy awardsters who work some job in Hollywood that apparently requires no social skills. Anyway, I’ve been a little under the weather, recuperating from all the excitement.
After the Hollywood Reporter party, I was talking with my Dad and he asked if I had brought this guy that I had been seeing for a few weeks prior. I sort of laughed at the thought of it. For me, showing up to that party with a date in tow would have been a huge deal – it would have meant that I wouldn’t be able to flirt with other men which impacts not just meeting men in a relationship context but also in a career context. It also would have meant introducing him to people like my boss or other acquaintances who might then put me in the category of people out of the single’s box. Career-wise, I’m not sure I want to be out of that box yet.
Before you get all high fallutin’ about my failure as a woman to want to breed immediately, please take note that I didn’t make the rules of the game, I just play by them. And the ability to flirt with men, (especially accomplished men which often means especially older men), is a networking tool just as useful as Linked-in. We live in tough times. Using every tool at our disposal to get ahead separates the wheat from chaff in competitive industries. Who really wins if the girls who choose to take the high road and never engage in this type of flirting end up without the careers they wanted?
When you work in a business that relies heavily on networking, single girls have an advantage. Like it or not, a man will treat you differently if he knows you’re “single.” In Hollywood, that’s currency and to not trade on it, is simply a wasted opportunity.
An older single male Director friend of mine took me to a movie screening this week. I enjoy his company and it’s completely plutonic and comfortable and not really that flirtatious. But at the same time, I would feel weird putting myself in that situation if I were in a relationship. Even if my boyfriend said he was fine with me going to the movie with a straight new male friend, the entire situation would just feel a little off. I’m not saying it’s wrong if it happens. But I would just be aware of the situation more and I wouldn’t feel as comfortable making the plans. Plus, I’m not sure that I would have been invited in the first place. Most guys would feel weird inviting another man’s girlfriend out for a meal or a movie even if his intentions were purely platonic. But I’ve been glad for the chance to get to know him and who knows how we might be able to work together in the future?
Furthermore, when you show up with a date, you don’t create the opportunity to get hit on. At a Hollywood party during awards season, every time a guy hits on you, it’s an opportunity – for a relationship yes, but also an opportunity to work together and in a one-industry town like L.A., plenty of movies are made and deals are entered into because of chance meetings like this.
Is this all a good reason not to be in a relationship? Of course not. Being in a rewarding relationship is well worth sacrificing being able to flirt for any reason. I’m just not willing to give that up, until I’m in that kind of relationship. But in the meantime, is it so bad that I enjoy make the most of showing up alone?