The Butcher’s Troubling Question

So, we saw the new Jessica Simpson video for “These Boots are Made for Walking.” I should warn those of you who like the song, that she has different words than the ones Nancy Sinatra sang.

The Butcher asked me a question that has been troubling me all day:

“How can someone so hot be so unsexy?”

How indeed?

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The Trippin’ Leopard

At some point yesterday I was telling the Professor about this show that the Butcher and I caught the tail end of, about how animals use tools. Now, we’re not just talking a monkey who takes a stick and digs out some termites, we’re talking dolphins who lure fish into fishing nets and eat what escapes or birds that direct badgers to honey combs in exchange for the bee-less remnants.

But what really freaked me out was the portion on animals’ ingestion of plants and other animals for medicinal and recreational purposes. They talked about monkeys eating certain plants to soothe their stomach aches and drinking tourists’ drinks to get drunk. But what really got me was the tripping leopard.

Apparently, leopards in South America eat the same vine that shamans eat to go on spirit journeys. The leopards then start acting loopy, lay down in the grass, and stare strangely off into space.

What really freaked me out about this was that it just never occurred to me that animals would intentionally attempt to transcend their physical conditions. I’ve just always assumed that one of the things that made us different than other animals was that we had some sense of ourselves as being more than or other than just our bodies. And so our bodies can be manipulated to make ourselves feel better.

If you think of dogs who just take it when they’re abused by their owners, or who you see on Animal Planet with deep cuts on their necks where they’ve been tied up with wire for months, you can kind of get stuck with this idea that animals are always in their bodies in ways we can transcend.

But if you’re going to eat a leaf to sooth your stomach, you must have a notion that your pain can be alleviated and that you can do it. And, if you’re going to lay on the floor of a jungle having vine-induced hallucinations, you must have some concept of an interior life different from your exterior life.

What, I wonder, is the philosophy of the tripping leopard?

Shoney’s

So, there’s a point in any friendship when one person looks across the table at the other person at Shoney’s and thinks, “I will stab you with this butter knife and not regret it if you don’t shut the fuck up.”

Apparently, that moment for me was last night. The Professor about killed me.

We were lost in Tupelo, which you’d think would be hard to do, but we were spiraling south when we wanted to be going north and finally were just like, fuck it, let’s stop and eat.

Shoney’s it was.

We brought in the map and were trying to figure out if we could actually get from Tupelo to Nashville or if it would just be easier to settle in Tupelo–maybe get jobs with the Natchez Trace Park Police–and harassing our waiter, when over came the assistant manager.

Sixteen years, folks. Sixteen years he’s been with Shoney’s. Only now does he get three weeks’ vacation. So he has no teeth, so he thinks that we should just drive to Memphis–being sure to avoid rush hour–and then back to Nashville, which he thinks will just take us a couple of hours. Sure he’s telling us now, for some reason discernible only to him, about some email he got about great white fishing. I just felt compelled to keep talking to him.

Now, I realize that many of you are unfamiliar with the geography of both Tennessee and Mississippi, so let me explain it to you. Let’s say that your couch is Tennessee. Lay down perpendicular to your couch in front of the right cushion. You are Mississippi.

The river runs right down your right side and your right foot is practically touching New Orleans. Clarksdale is on your right shoulder and Greenwood is in just a little from your right nipple. If you look to your left and eye a shoe very close to your head, that shoe is Tupelo.

Memphis is in the far right front corner of your couch. If you tried to scratch an itch in Clarksdale, you’d probably hit Memphis with your elbow. Nashville is in the upper middle part of your middle cushion. You can see how it seems like you ought to be able to just reach up north east from Tupelo to get there pretty directly.

Now, you can’t, but no matter what route you might actually have to take–over the top of the dog who is standing in for North Alabama or between your couch cushions and up 45 until you hit I-40 or however–you can see that the most nonsensical way would be to drive back over your chest and up to Memphis and then clear back the other way.

But this is the route the assistant manager suggested. The Professor looked at him like “Of course not. Please go away.” And then, when I kept talking to him, she gave me the look that said, “I’m going to kill you dead and not be sorry about it.”

But here’s the deal. I am endlessly fascinated by this type of male behavior. It just flabbergasts me. Now, let’s be clear. I’m not talking about all men, so don’t bother to send me huffy emails. I’m talking about a specific type of man, the type that thinks that you cannot possibly get by without him being the center, however momentarily, of your universe if the opportunity should arise.

Here we are, two women with a map, still laughing and having a good time and not in any obvious distress, plotting the route we’re going to take home. What is it about that situation that would lead a man to come over, take the map, and start pulling crappy directions out of his ass? Clearly, this guy had no fucking clue where Nashville was–period–and especially not in relation to Tupelo.

I mean, he had to be aware that he knew almost nothing about the geography of the mid-South. He should have been aware that we said we were going back home to Nashville, so that we probably did. And still, he came over and commandeered our map and gave us the most ludicrous directions as if we were so silly for not knowing how to get home.

Seriously, for a second, I was thinking that it was a joke. Who would drive an hour and a half west to drive three and a half hours east? Who would suggest that to others?

***

Once, my favorite professor and I were in a restaurant in Bloomington, having drinks in the bar. And, when we get together, every couple of years, we have these long, intense conversations about the state of the universe and how to fix it. So, here we are, two women engrossed in each other’s conversation, and this guy at the bar keeps trying to butt in. But it’s not like we’re talking about sports or music or something–we’re talking about the best way to churn out good critical young feminist thinkers–and he’s butting into the conversation with, “Hey, did you see that hit?” and motioning to baseball game on TV.

At first we were like, “yeah, yeah, whatever, now how do we make sure that women know the importance of positive body image?” and just ignoring him. But he was really insistent, not only on butting into our conversation, which would have been rude and strange enough, but on changing our conversation–which he wasn’t even a part of–to something more interesting to him. Finally, my professor was like “Excuse me, we’re having a conversation here and you are not a part of it. Please leave us alone.”

To which he responded (sing along at home, you all know the words): “Bitch.”

***

When shit like that happens, it just leaves me dumbfounded. What is it about seeing two women together that leads these guys to think to themselves, “Wow, these ladies need my input.”? Do they really think that two women must have a man around to direct the conversation? I mean, are two women laughing and talking to each other so threatening to these guys’ sense of the social order that they cannot help but try to right the universe by butting in?

I think, often, when women complain about unwanted attention from men, most non-asshole guys think that we mean that we’ve gotten all gussied up for an evening out and are upset that men we don’t find attractive are responding in ways we’d rather they not to our decorative efforts and blocking, say, The Rock from coming over and buying us a drink.

But, Dear Y-Chromosomed Americans, this, THIS, is what we mean: that when we’re out having a drink and catching up on old times or when we’ve been in a car for 12 hours and have Milky Way bits stuck to our asses and we’re sunburnt and tired and just want to eat some dinner and get home, that when we’re clearly not trying to be open to making new friends, some of you refuse to believe that could ever be the case. You cannot believe that two women out by themselves don’t need a man to get things back on track.

Couple that annoying–and sometimes scary–assumption that you have the right to be overly-familiar with total strangers, with the assumption that you, dear assistant manager at Shoney’s, knows more about geography than the people with the map, and I have a recipe for unending amusement.

How long will it go on? How far can he take this? What crazy, over personal story will he tell us next?

He said he has the internet and got lots of emails. Maybe I should have encouraged him to start blogging. You know, find his audience in a more effective manner than one table of tired women at a time.

Fair Warning

If you ever find yourself standing with me in a little churchyard just north of Greenwood, Mississippi, staring down at Robert Johnson’s newly marked “official” gravesite at 4 in the afternoon, and I say, “Sure, we can go home via Tupelo,” you should grab the keys, run back to the car, head back on into town out to I-55 and up to I-40 and home.

Just leave me there, with the dead folks and the strange row of cacti.

That way, you’re only about five hours from home and minus the bad influence of me.

Going through Tupelo… well, at the least, you’re going to have to slow down to let the high speed chase go by and wait for me to finish dancing at the stop on the Natchez Trace called “The Witches’ Dance”–Yes, I said, the Natchez Trace, where traffic goes 50 mph–so you’ve got to figure it’s going to take you at least 8 1/2 hours to get back to Nashville if not longer.

So, more later, much later, tomorrow morning.