Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eyebrows UP!

My prospectus for law is a done prospectus for law, as of about 40 minutes ago. Since I have nothing law-ish to do, and I'm nursing a two-day blog addiction, let me go ahead and relay to you an important theory I have in regards to non-verbal communication. I call it "Andi's Theory of Facial Sincerity."

Long ago, and far away... namely two years ago in Oneonta, NY, my supervisor was giving me information completely impertinent to whatever I was doing at the time. In an effort to be honest, following his monologue I told him, "See how I put my eyebrows up to make it look like I was interested?" Thus was born the "eyebrows up" initiative, and my aforementioned theory.

Your eyes may be the windows to your soul, but the eyebrows are the respective window treatment that indicates to all with whom you communicate whether or not your soul is opened or closed to information. Both eyebrows down indicate anger, stress, confusion, frustration, and judgment; nothing you necessarily want outsiders to know you're thinking. The one-eyebrow-up-one-eybrow-down is a popular tactic, but socially equates to skepticism and/or criticism, and we all know to keep those sentiments inside the old windows.

"Eyebrows up," however, is a fantastic way to both harbor all negative emotions and exude all positive and socially acceptable emotions simultaneously - kind of like the facial equivalent of Multiple-Personality Disorder, only without the medication. An appropriately doled out "eyebrows up" can be a seemingly genuine indication of interest, excitement, happiness, optimism, understanding, consolation, compassion, empathy, sincerity, playing-dumb, surprise, disbelief, shock, contentedness and a vast array of other pleasantries. The eyebrows up maneuver can be used in a variety of circumstances to give the user any variety of desired outcomes; from the excitement of an American Idol-winner, to the innocence of a Amish schoolgirl, to the pleasant sincerity in demeanor of a Precious Moments Doll - all while masking whatever real thoughts are bouncing around inside of you. Let me show you...

Scenario 1: "Excitement," "Interest," "Sincerity"

A student comes to your office at 4:55pm on a Friday afternoon. Reluctantly, you invite him in to sit down. He begins to tell you, in galactically boring detail, the ins-and-outs of his recent Animal Anatomy & Physiology lab test. At this point, you can tell that Friday's Happy Hour is but a distant memory as you sit and silently absorb the student's verbal attack.

Inside, your attention level hovers around absolutely none, but in the interest of retaining your job and avoiding the inevitable bruised ego of a student brushed off, you have a choice to make: Where should your eyebrows go?

Option A: Eyebrows Down

In allowing both your eyebrows to fall below the level of normalcy, you are relaying to the student complete disinterest and aggressive frustration with his conversation, which could very well beat his inner-self down to the point where you would then have to initiate a follow-up conversation and/or apology. Or, your facial indication of confusion could translate to the student as a request for more information, as if his lengthy description is falling short of understood. In an effort to reduce unnecessary communication as much as possible, you should avoid this eyebrow placement at all costs.

Option B: One-eyebrow-up, One-eyebrow-down

Displaying the combination eyebrow approach is always likely to be read as critical or blatant skepticism. In this particular case, these sentiments on your part are to be avoided, as they could lead to both the abovementioned bruised ego and/or the student recognizing an unwelcome need to delve further into the subject. This would, in effect, be bad news.

Option C: Eyebrows up!

Here, eyebrows up is the facial demonstration of choice. Eyebrows up says, "Gee, tell me more about the mating habits of indigenous Canadian badgers - I can't believe I've gone so long in ignorance!" Inside, you hear the screeching of fingernails on the proverbial chalkboard, but outside, you are a vision of excitement, interest and sincerity. Granted, you may have to speed on your way to the bar to meet the people you actually like, but you've saved yourself a heap of unnecessary work. To appear sincere while listening for five minutes mitigates the ushering out of the student when his relative time is up. Should you do this effectively, eyebrows up, the removal of the student from your office will appear as though you are so vastly interested in his topic of conversation that you will wait with bated breath until the next time you meet and can speak more. And then avoid such meetings at all costs.

Scenario 2: "Innocence," "Sincerity," "Playing Dumb"

While rushing to meet your friends at the previously mentioned bar, you are pulled over by a police officer for speeding. He comes to your window and asks to see your license and registration. While you fish around in your garbled glove compartment, the officer asks you if you know why he pulled you over.

Option A: Eyebrows down

Although this may seem a viable option for this situation, I might suggest otherwise. To furrow your brow here may indicate that you are angry and/or frustrated, which (depending on a number of factors) could sum up to aggression in the eyes of the officer. Since I personally view arrest and the subsequent legal action as undesirable, I recommend a very strategically placed eyebrow combination, and this one ain't it.

Option B: One-eyebrow-up, One-eyebrow-down

This expression is very likely to get you into trouble, as no man (and I'm not assuming all police officers are men... just this one for the purpose of the exercise) like to be criticized, especially one in uniform. Here, your eyebrows are saying, "Do YOU know why I was speeding? And why are you asking? Isn't this YOUR job?" If you fancy yourself a gambler, the up/down eyebrow combo is the way to go, however, avoidance of this tactic is also recommended for those of us looking to retain a clean record.

Option C: Eyebrows up!

Now, I've used this one before, so I know it works. Although playing to the stereotypical stupidity of female drivers, I exchanged a continuance of gender-oppression for a pricey ticket. Sorry ladies. Eyebrows up here says, "I'm so sorry, officer, I had no idea what the speed limit was!" and "I never get into trouble!" Properly used, one can utilize the eyebrows here to initiate an air of complete and utter naivite with the rules of the road. Regardless of how simple driving is. In my own personal success story, I was given a verbal warning and intricate instructions from the officer including, "The white signs with the black letters are the speed limit signs." Right, thanks pops.

So, in summary, I encourage the use of eyebrows up in nearly all situations where sincerity and genuine interest will get you somewhere. Even on the telephone, eyebrows up is a magical trick, as the person on the other end of the line can read the [imposed] sincerity in your voice as you concentrate on not scoffing at their shameful ignorance. As a general caution, however, I warn you to practice appropriate eyebrow placement prior to public usage. Use a mirror, and evaluate your eyebrows in response to various situations. Try not to appear too interested, and tame your brows to a level below that of psychosis or cosmetic surgery. A few minutes in the morning, a few in the evening, and you'll have a repetoire of eyebrow expressions fit for a social butterfly! Think of it as putting a set of stunning curtains on your barn-windows... to the outsider, it's a finished palace... but we all know that on the inside, it's full of shit.

A Viral Young Man

Last night Jon and I mutually took a night off from studying and spent some quality time doing nothing. At one point during our conversation, Jon was bouncing around, doing little push-up maneuvers and other strange boy-things when he declared, "Don't you feel lucky to have such a viral young man in your life?"

Now, I'm not one to criticize or mock someone else in the event of a misspoken word... wait, yes I am. So the rest of the conversation looked something like this:

Me: (laughing) Just how viral are we talking?
Jon: Viral, like "masculine" or something. You know.
Me: Viral, like, I should mention this to the doctor the next time I'm in? (still laughing)
Jon: (stares quietly at me for a second) V-I-R-A-L. Viral. That's how you say it.
Me: I think you might mean virile.
Jon: Virile?
Me: I certainly hope so...

This is not to say that I haven't experienced my own bouts of stupidity in the relationship. A short time after we started seeing each other, we slap bet on the location of Minnesota. Jon explained that Minnesota is near Canada, and I assured him that, no, no, Minnesota is closer to the "Mid" of "Midwest," and further south than that. Look at a map of the US and you can figure out how this little game ended...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Spare a flush

So, I was just over in Shibles where I encountered a really disturbing proposition: A sticker in the bathroom stall reading "Save a Fish, Spare a Flush."

Right, so I'm all over UMaine's green campus initiative and all, but I have to say there should be certain limits to appropriate conservation. For one, this sticker was in a PUBLIC BATHROOM. Public as in - I don't know whose pee that is. Or worse, I don't know whose ANYTHING that is, and I'm not about to plunk myself down intimately inches away from it. Plus, everyone has experienced an inconvenient "splash" or two in their life (you know exactly what I'm saying), and the idea that some stranger's bathroom production would be involved in that special splash is repulsive.

In a men's bathroom - sure. Most of the men I know wouldn't hesitate for one second to pee all over someone else's bowl-business. I think it's in their nature - like marking territory or something. However, we women are refused the luxury of remaining feet away from the problem, as we sit/hover/cower/whatever within dangerously proximate range.

And let's think of the dominant population here... college students. Anyone who's ever lived-in knows for sure that this particular group isn't markedly tidy. We spend an unfortunate amount of time teaching these fools to flush the toilet in general in the residence halls (where one significant bathroom "episode" can significantly deteriorate the quality of life for everyone on a floor), only to be met with such opposition from the academic buildings' strange affinity for fish-saving. I think we can bank on the fact that few of them know how to flush anyway, so plenty of fish are living it up in their wake. To deter the avid flushers from doing their learned civic duty is just ridiculous.

I think the "If it's yellow" doctrine is applicable to home bases only, and we might need to rethink the level of excitement over conservation on campus. My apologies to the fish.

Stand back

So, my efforts to avoid a law prospectus have reached a critical point, where now I'm actually creating new ways to procrastinate. No longer are the old habits of random cleaning, napping, visiting and shopping appropriate, as I've entered a whole new galaxy of avoidance. There's no looking back now.

This weekend, I conceded to watching a scary movie with Jon. I don't watch scary movies based on the personal theory that as a rule, I try to avoid terror on a daily basis. I don't jump out into traffic for the adrenaline rush following survival, and I don't eat raw poultry to gamble with Salmonella. Scary movies seem similarly asinine to me. But, because every once in awhile I can let someone else have their way, I sat there and watched "The Strangers" from start to finish.

To date, I don't know if I've ever been more horrified. To summarize (stop if you haven't seen it and feel the overwhelming desire to crap your pants on the couch), a couple finds themselves in the woods, in a cabin, following a botched proposal on the part of the male character. As they awkwardly skitter around each other, a knock comes at the door. They answer, and some sketchball girl is vacantly staring at them, asking if "Tamra" is home. No Tamra in the house, so they send her away. The awkwardness continues, until the female character starts whining about how she wants cigarettes. It's 4am. In the woods. Any committed smoker would have planned for such an occasion and secured a backup supply, but no, no, not her. So the guy leaves to get her cigarettes. While she's in the cabin alone, that circus freak girl comes back and asks for her imaginary friend Tamra again. The female character sends her off again, and the creepiness continues to unfold as it becomes glaringly apparent that the weirdo on the porch is psychotic. So things go on and the guy comes back to find his terrified gf in the bedroom. The girl from the porch comes back with her freakish friends, only this time they have doll masks and weapons. Yadda yadda yadda, the mask people terrorize the two dummies that stayed in the house and in the end, they strap them to chairs and stab them. The end.

Notably, I screamed like a schoolgirl twice, prompting Jon to cover my mouth because he insisted that the police would come. I would have welcomed the interruption. And I cried. Three times, including a weeping session at the end of the movie because it was so wretchedly awful that my emotional response was limited to that of a startled puppy.

There you go. My first blog post. Copyright Andi McLame, 2008.