For more about Allison and her books visit her website at For now, please relax and brace yourself for the occasionally coherent ramblings of Allison's mind.

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Opponent Hates Babies

I was originally going to do a post about American Idol and re-evaluate some of my comments the other day.  A lot can change in a few weeks, and I was happy to revisit the issue.
And then, I saw it. American Idol had no chance against this.
Shoved between two local ad spots about something I can’t remember, was that grainy, dark, overly dramatic tone that can only mean one thing: political ad.
There’s a special election for a local race in my district, and campaigning is in full swing. We’ve got yard signs, we’ve got phone calls, we’ve got postcard mailers in our mailboxes. Apparently, that also means we’ve got cheesy political ads.
The reasonable, truth-seeking debater in me hates political ads, which is difficult since the snarky cynic side loves them. Come on, in what other context do you get to make up blatant lies about someone and pretend it’s not your fault by adding “Committee to Elect” in front of you name? I wish I could do that.
“Allison was late to work today because she rescued a burning bus of kittens on the way, says the Committee to Elect Allison Simon. Cuddles will be forever grateful.”
In theory, politics should be the one field that lives and breathes my Primer in Ideological Discourse. It’s not like I spent a lifetime composing that opus of truth and you were fortunate enough to have it bestowed upon you in my final hours. I threw together a few key points in my in-laws’ guest room and slapped them up with numbers in front. Those were general ideas that are supposed to be common sense and certainly second nature to supposed learned professionals.
Seriously, these are people who make a living at events called “Debates.” Their whole existence depends on their knowledge and stance on controversial issues. They wear power suits like nobody’s business. They’re Ivy League millionaires who should follow the rules like you and I stop for freight trains.
And yet, they’re notorious for the opposite. We don’t trust them. We don’t believe a word they say. They amaze us with their ability to talk for hours and say nothing. They straddle lines we didn’t even know could be a line, and 9-year-old bullies blush at the pace in which they hurl names.
At election time we expect stupid commercials that not only insult their opponents, but insult our intelligence as well. I don’t know what I saw last night. Apparently, we’re supposed to believe his opponent is pro-spousal abuse, pro-tearing-down schools-to-drill-for-oil, and pro-whatever-was-going-on-in-the-dark-creepy-geinocological-office.
Right. I’m sure when his opponent sat down with his election committee those were the headings on his “Platform Spreadsheet.”
“Ok, Sam. So after we legalize abuse, which school should we tear down first? I’m pro-large corporations so let’s just put all the kids in a work camp so they’re not a drain on resources.”
Personally, I’m pro-not-being-treated-like-an-idiot.
You know what I really learned from that ad? That the guy running it has a very weak platform if all he could come up with were ridiculous generalities stretched into outright lies. At the very least spend your campaign money on shots of you chatting with an elderly couple in their dated wood-paneled parlor room. Kiss a baby. Bend down and pat a random dog in the park. Smile at the mailman. If you’re not going to say anything of substance, at least make yourself not look like a jerk.
And this, everyone, is the perfect illustration of what happens when you don’t follow the rules for respectful ideological discourse. You end up looking silly. You end up looking dishonest and uncomfortable and completely out of your league.
You end up implying your opponent hates babies and murders bunnies and now you get a blog post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Coffee Chat #1

I just made coffee. Grab a cup. Have a seat. Let’s talk.    
We’ve been getting to know each other for a while now. Wait, no. That’s the problem. Actually, I just drone on and on about myself. That would be fine if I were remotely interesting, but I’m not. The thing is, I happen to know a lot of you out there are. I also know from personal interactions and the private comments you’ve sent that you even relate to some of the posts.
So please, this is me, asking you, to make yourselves known. I love getting your private comments. I love talking to you. Now, it’s your turn to talk back.
Please post something about yourself. Anything. Funny. Serious. Completely random.
I feel like we always talk about me.
Since it is my blog, I’ll start. You already know more than you want to, but here are some extra tidbits.
1.       I’m deathly afraid of spiders. I’m so afraid of spiders that I can’t even kill spiders. I can’t get close enough. I don’t like talking about spiders. I don’t like thinking about spiders. And I especially don’t like people who say “don’t worry, they won’t hurt you.” That’s right. They won’t. Because I won’t go within 10 feet of a spider. So unless it’s one of those weird rainforest leaping spiders or hyper-projectile vomit spiders, it won’t get close enough to hurt me. I even have a built-in spider radar that can detect them way before they detect me. It freaks people out. We’ll be talking and then I freeze. Two rooms over is a spider. They don’t see anything, but it’s there. Trust me. I have to go now. That’s how much I don’t like spiders. I may need help.
2.      My sunglasses were $5.99, but they look like they were at least $12.99. That’s value.
3.      I like food better in theory than in practice. Eating and preparing food is a nuisance. I’ll be first in line for the pill version. Cooking for me is adding a condiment to my instant mac & cheese. May I recommend horseradish sauce or spicy brown mustard to you heat lovers.  Avocado makes a great addition to grilled cheese. Chicken nuggets are more appealing from the oven than the microwave. I use an oven. See? I cook.
4.      I don’t like plants. I should say, I don’t like having plants. I actually like plants, which is why I don’t like when people give them to me. I kill them. I kill them dead no matter how hard I try not to. It’s like they sense fear. My earnestness is a poison to their little green souls. And it’s painful to watch the slow shriveled last breaths that inevitably make our plant-human relationship a tragic mistake. It’s too stressful. I’d rather have a Roman bust.
5.      Speaking of Roman busts, I’m a Rome-a-phile. I like anything about ancient Rome. Movies, books, art, anything. I read books about Rome for fun that make Latin 2 students cringe. Heck, I even took Latin 2 in high school as an elective. I have dozens of worthless Roman coins that I love just because they’re Roman. The thing is, I don’t even admire much about Rome. I’m just fascinated by it.
Ok, enough about me. Your turn. C’mon. Don’t leave me hanging. I already get enough spam from SEO reps telling me they can tell by the lack of comments I don’t have any friends. Yes, SEO rep. That’s a great strategy. Make me feel like a loser. That’ll win my business.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dear Dr. Fortune Cookie: Planning Your Future

Dear Dr. Fortune Cookie,
My fortune tonight said "Put your mind into planning today. Look into the future."

What could this mean? Write a to-do list while gazing into a crystal ball?

Curiouser and curioser.

Dear Curious,
It’s a rare treat these days to encounter specific tidbits of prophesy from the cookie gods. For whatever reason in recent years, they have adopted a more vague and universal approach to their communication with us.
In light of that, I certainly can’t blame you for your general approach to interpretation. After all, why should they bless you with a direct message when the rest of us receive only broad truths?
But you’ve been contacted and now have a very specific task ahead of you. I’m glad you’ve sought my counsel while there’s still time. They’re not asking you to plan today’s activities, though you should be opening your date book as we speak. They’re asking you to plan for the future today, as in, right now.
Hopefully, you’re already prepared, but in case you’re not, the cookie gods have warned you, so take heed: This summer is poised to be an exceptional TV season. If your household is not equipped with a DVR, you still have a few weeks to call your cable provider.
Trust me, as an addicted DVR user, they haven’t steered you wrong.
Dr. Fortune Cookie
(Editor’s Note: If you would like to submit your fortune cookie fortune for interpretation, please send your letter to Dr. Fortune Cookie through Allison M Simon’s page on Facebook or as a comment on this website. Comments posted anonymously will remain anonymous.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In Defense of Fashionistas (and Fashionistos)

Ok, I’m going somewhere I don’t go often. I know I may come across as a pop culture snob at times. “Ooh, look at me! I only watch movies that you have to read! Ooh, I don’t listen to music you’ve heard of! Ooh, I’m not a fan of Twilight. Ooh, I don’t like when people cause car accidents because of their stupid iPhones!”
But when it comes to fashion, I came to a harsh realization the other day as I attempted week four of my experiment to be more stylish: it’s all a defense mechanism. I’m the copout, not the masses. See, it’s actually hard work to conform and it’s only fair that I admit it. I know you think my tongue is firmly in my cheek right now, but it’s not. I’m dead serious. “Dressing for Success” is hard and I have respect for those who can do it.
I’d say my fashion sense straddles a confusing line, but it’s more of a trapezoid, really. Somewhere muddled in rock chic, feminine sporty, laidback urban, and business casual is my wardrobe. I wear what I have. And there’s no rhyme or reason to what I have.
A few weeks ago I got caught in the What Not to Wear web of fashion guilt. As victim after victim marched on camera, I found myself saying “wait, I wore that Tuesday” more often than I would have liked. Inspired by a few friends who somehow look like magazine covers to do yard work, I decided to try my hand at fashion as well.
Let me tell you, it was ugly (but not literally).
Reason 1: It’s expensive and time-consuming.
You have to go to stores. You have to drop what you’re doing, get in your car, and go to stores. You might as well ask me to replace your roof. But I was committed, so there I was, in a store, gazing at the sea of clearance racks like a goldfish asked to pick its favorite three drops of water. I had no clue what I was doing, I only knew I didn’t belong there.
As other shoppers circled around me with their armloads of ocean water, I sensed I was fighting a losing battle. I studied them for a moment. Studied as they expertly manhandled those racks and seemed to know when to pull something off them and when to keep shuffling. I tried it to. I probably even looked like I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t. I only knew that some things came with free belts and other things didn’t and getting a belt seemed better than not getting a belt.
After two hours and six thousand garments, I walked away with three shirts and a pair of jeans. That’s fashion, and I stink at it.
Reason 2: Accessories.
As if it’s not hard enough picking out a stylish top and pair of pants, truly fashionable people also accessorize. Look at them closely next time you admire someone. They don’t just have the perfect jeans. In addition to clothing, they wear things like scarves. Scarves! It never even occurred to me to pop over to the scarf section after I was done with my belt shirts. And I’m not talking about the functional ones when it’s 20 degrees outside. I’m talking about those pretty circle ones that make someone look like they know what they’re doing. Those are the people I wanted to be, but now know I can’t. I can’t, because I didn’t know about scarves.
They also must have endless drawers of costume jewelry. I have my six pairs of earrings and two necklaces and I thought that was fine. I could cycle among them without a thought. I rarely wear necklaces anyway. They always bang on my laptop or get caught on my seatbelt. But fashionable people don’t cycle. It seems like they never even wear the same piece twice. I have no clue how they do that. No one has that much money. Well, no one I know. So it must be magic or something. I’m not kidding. I know it’s not possible that they’ve never worn the same thing twice, but truly fashionable people are master magicians. They can take the same shirt and make it look like four different shirts spread out over a year. I think as long as I don’t repeat a shirt in the same week I’m good.
They also know what to do with things like that big feather earring. Yes, I saw it on that turning thingy in the jewelry section. Yes, I thought it looked cool, but I’ll be darned if I’d know what to do with it. But they know. And they look amazing. I’d look like Peacock #2 in the rock musical of Noah’s Ark.  
Reason 3: Shoes.
I have many roles at my job, one of which is in IT. That may sound impressive, but it really means I spend a lot of time crawling around under desks and playing with power cords. I climb on a lot of boxes, stand on chairs, and squeeze behind things. Heels and I don’t have a very good relationship.
Try being a fashionable woman without wearing heels. You can’t.
I have my favorite flats, and they’re not even old lady support shoes. They’re actually various shades of glittery cuteness, but they’re not what I’m supposed to be wearing. I know this because all my pants are too long. Pants are made to be worn with heels. Flat shoes are made to be worn on the one day every two weeks that you don’t wear heels.
And it’s not like you can have just one pair of heels to get you through the season. You need a pair of funky ones to wear with your non-funky outfits to make them work. You need plain ones to wear with your crazy outfits to make those work. That’s what Stacy and Clinton say, and I believe them. I do, the problem is, my logical brain can’t seem to process that. You need at least 5 pairs of heels and you wear them with the opposite of what you think you should.
I can’t wear heels anyway. That means I’ve lost the fashion battle right out of the gate.
Reason 4: Go, but not match.
And finally, reason #4 why I will never be as fashionable as I want to be. Stacy says your outfits need to go, but not match. If I knew what that meant, we’d be having a much different monologue right now.
Ok, I should clarify, I know what that means, I just have no idea how to execute it. Matching is easy. I’ve been playing that game since preschool.
“Oh! Blue! Here’s a blue stripe. Here’s a blue that’s not a stripe. I can wear my blue eye shadow and blue earrings with it!” That makes sense, right? Logical brain says, yes! You have an outfit.
Clinton and Stacy say no! No, no, no! You put that blue stripe with a red top, a yellow handbag and leopard print heels.
Wait, huh? Now the math gets hazy. So if I wear leopard print heels with a leopard handbag, I’m on the show for looking like a hooker, but if I wear leopard print heels with a yellow handbag, I’m accessorizing.
And here’s where the gap between the haves and the have-nots becomes irreparable. This is not a learned a skill. You can give me an unlimited budget, a week of time, a stack of scarves, heels, belts, and jewelry. You can coach me on the right cuts for my body type, the appropriate looks for work versus play, and an entire mountain of choices to achieve it all. But that means nothing if you don’t have the innate ability to distinguish “going” from “matching.”
And that’s what it all boils down to, right? The fashionable can stand in that ocean of possibilities and decide which three drops of water they should bring home with them. They know there’s a scarf section and a sunglasses section and a hair section that has those little flowers. They know when to wear those little flowers and when they’d just look like forest nymphs. I’m a forest nymph. And a peacock. And a slob whose pants are too long.
 Fashion is not a science. It’s an art. It’s an ability. It’s a subjective sixth sense. If it were something that could be learned, I could join their ranks.
But my experiment taught me that I can’t. I don’t have the gift. I don’t know how to wear a peacock feather. I just want the free belt.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dear Dr. Fortune Cookie: When Cookies Go Silent

Dear Dr. Fortune Cookie,

I had a first. I opened my fortune cookie, and imagine my surprise when it was empty! I looked around, but nothing fell out. My cookie was blank! I know it means something, but I'm not sure what. What do you think?



Dear Empty,

How scary for you. When a cookie goes silent, the world seems to stop for a moment. We're lost without those little slips of paper to help navigate through our complicated existences. I know your confused mind went to one of two places.

Are you a pessimist? Then you probably began visualizing your doomed life of emptiness. Put down your deposit for a nursing home now, my friend, because you're going to be sick and alone as those final years tick by. An optimist? The world is your oyster. Your destiny is in your hands! Go get 'em, tiger!

I won't blame you for either. The gods have a way of keeping experts like me employed with their ambiguity. We're human. We've made an art out of reading our bias and perspective into everything around us. Literally, in my case. It's normal. It's common. Unfortunately, it's still wrong.

See, the cookie isn't interested in your future happiness or despair. In fact, it isn't interested in you at all. The radio silence is because it's miffed.

Did you remember to tip the delivery guy? If so, it wasn't enough.


Dr. Fortune Cookie