Thursday, January 20, 2005

COLUMN: E-harmony.Tom

Today we welcome you to Episode #9126 of Shane Feeling Sorry For Himself About Being Single. This week's episode takes place in our hero's lonely apartment, after a night of being so lazy that he didn't change the channel on HBO, instead opting to watch a CRCSSB (Cheezy Romantic Comedy Starring Sandra Bullock,) which invariably results in a rather pathetic pity party afterwards.

These are the moments that try one's soul. Or at least make one's soul do really, really stupid things. Coincidentally, that's the same moment that I decided to place an online personal ad.

This wasn't my first romp with online personals. I tried it a couple years ago -- and in those two years, I've now received a whopping two responses to my ad. One was a girl in Cedar Rapids, who thought I sounded like her ideal mate. I went to her website -- yep, she was a witch. And I don't just mean she was ugly and scary -- she was an ACTUAL witch, with a website complete on spell casting, her favorite chants, and poetry that went, "acid rain falls upon the dark walls that surround my blackened heart," etc., etc. Yep, we were soulmates, alrighty. The OTHER response? It was from a guy... who thought I'd be the perfect match for the sister of his mail-order bride, who also desperately sought to leave Thirdworldistan to come to America.

In other words, I should've known better. But I heard an ad for this new service (let's just say it rhymes with "eHarmony.tom.") This site is a little different than the others. Before you can join, you have to submit to a personality profile, then the site matches you ONLY to people that match your personality. And who says there's no such thing as Love at First Mathematically Calculated Shared Trait?

So I took their little personality profile. Except that it wasn't little. Rather, it was an Undertaking with a capital U. 45 minutes later (no joke,) I had completed the questionnaire -- hundreds of ridiculous questions, most of which consisted of statements that you had to specify whether you really agreed or kinda agreed or disagreed or didn't care one bit.

Surely no one answers these things truthfully. "I have a high desire for sexual activity" was one of the statements. Well, sure, but if I admit to that, I'm gonna get matched with Dr. Ruth. "I like to look at people of the opposite sex" was another. Heck yes I do, but I shouldn't own up to it unless I want to come off like a leering pervert, right?

But I decided to try the honest approach and answer every question truthfully, ethics be darned. Do I like to look at people of the opposite sex? You betcha. True or false: "I am often jealous of other people's possessions." Fine, I'm a materialistic pig, I'll admit it. But at the same time, I stressed my good characteristics, too. Yes, I like to make people laugh. Yes, I consider myself creative. Err, yes, I suppose I do like astronomy (always a VITAL question to contemplate when picking out a soulmate...?)

So on and on I went, being completely honest and giving the most detailed description of my innermost mind that I could. Upon completion of the survey, I felt... hopeful. Hopeful that within hours, I would be matched up with my dream girl. Maybe someone with the looks of Katie Holmes, the creativity of Bjork, and the sheer intelligence of Leader editor Michael Romkey (hey, it never hurts to suck up to management.)

The next day I was frighteningly giddy to get home from work and check out my matches. While I was at work, the website was busy pairing me with my ideal personality matches not just in the Midwest, but all over the globe. I found myself fantasizing at work that day. Perhaps my soulmate was in Belgium... or Djibouti... or Silvis. Who could tell?

I got home and threw myself in front of the computer... and was greeted with this message: "We have matched your personality profile against our database of global users. At this point, we have been unable to find a user who matches your personality." NO ONE? IN THE ENTIRE WORLD?

Pooooooooooooof. I mean, I've always known that I was a weirdo. Now I had concrete proof of it.

Not only did the website deflate my dreams, it then had the nerve to tell me that I shouldn't look at this as a negative. Instead I should "take pride in discovering just what a unique individual I am." Swell... I'm a "special" little guy.

So online dating's not for me. Not that I deleted my accounts, 'cause I guess you never know. The personal ads are still up there... and eHarmony is still trying to match me with my personality soulmate. Go there and take the profile -- maybe we'll be hooked up and can commence with a scandalous cyber-liaison. You'd just better like astronomy.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


I like my first name a whole lot. My mom's got good taste.

Shane's an unusual name, I guess, but in a good way -- it's unique, but not full-on freaky like "Dweezil" or something. My name seems to fit me. But maybe everyone thinks their name fits them. Even Dweezil.

As much as I love it, though, I do have a couple of beefs about the name Shane.

(1) My name inspires the elderly to quote lines from the movie "Shane" at the drop of a hat. I've never seen the 1953 Western that inspired my name, but I know for certain that it ends with someone yelling, "Shane! Shane! Come back, Shane!" I know this because every morning, on my way to work and when I'm usually running late, the cantankerous old guy in my apartment complex will open his window and yell it to me like clockwork. At least, I'm hoping that line's in the movie; if it's not, I'm in serious trouble. (Oh, and just for the record: My mom hates Westerns. She just thought it was a cool name. She was right... on both counts.)

(2) Inexplicably, for reasons I will never be able to fathom, half of the free world calls me "Shawn." People who I've worked side-by-side with for almost a decade still call me "Shawn" to my face. I don't get it. Not one bit.

"Well, the names are so close," said a co-worker of mine who I once questioned after she wished Shawn a good morning. 'So close?' Well, I guess they both start with "Sh," but by that explanation, people should also be calling me Sheila or Shannon or Sheneneh. All I ever get is "Shawn." I suppose the only real difference is the vowel sound: Sh-AY-n becomes Sh-AW-n. But at the same time, I've never gone up to someone named John and mistakenly gone, "Hi there, Jane!"

At first I hated the Shane-Shawn thing. I'd go out of my way to correct people whenever they did it. But now I'm a beaten man. If somebody says, "Hey, Shawn," I invariably go, "Yes?"

If that wasn't confusing enough, my old college roommate was also named Shane. If we were walking to class and someone yelled, "Hey, Shane," we'd both answer. If they yelled, "Hey, Shawn," we'd both answer.

In college, we had two friends both named Linnea. They solved the problem rather democratically -- they split the name. At their own urging, one shortened her name to Lin, while the other went by Nea. And they wanted us Shanes to employ the same solution -- but I wasn't a big fan of being called simply "Sh," and no amount of money would be worth the nickname of "Ane." So we struggled on, being confused and confusing at the same time.

All of this brings me to my current dilemma. One of my favorite hangouts to spend my lunch hour is the taco place in the food fair at Southpark Mall. The staff is nice and those Potato Oles are more addictive than crack. But there's one thing about that place that annoys me: They take your order and then invariably ask, "Can I have your first name?"

I wish I could answer "NO!" I mean, just because I love the tacos doesn't mean I need to be on a first-name basis with them, does it? But I always give in and offer my name, and then I cringe because I know what's coming... "Shawn, your order's up." And I'm left there to debate whether they mispronounced my name or whether I'm about to grab some innocent Shawn's burrito.

About a year ago, I had a revelation how to get around the Shane/Shawn burrito feud. For the past year, I've been making up a new name every time I go to their counter. For a while, I was simple -- I was Bill, then Bob, then Doug. But I've been getting bored of making up boring names, so I've been trying to liven things up lately. The last time I sauntered up for a taco, I was in full control, I was in my element, I was... Joaquin, Taco-Eater. The time before that? Just call me Alejandro. At this rate, I'll soon be incorporating accents and back stories to go along with my Name o' the Day.

But the other day, I went back to the taco stand to discover a new employee behind the counter. One who looked confident, one who looked incapable of error. I was brave. "My name's Shane," I said with perfect pronounciation. This time, I would prevail. I knew it. I waited until my order was up. It was truth time, and finally the rest of the food court would know my true identity.

"Shawna, your order's ready."

Sigh. I give up. Back to Alejandro, I guess. All I know is that if they don't start calling me Shane, I may just have to stop going to Taco Jane's.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

COLUMN: Nipple

I'm a sucker for end-of-the-year wrap-ups. Every aspiring journalist within 50 feet of a word processor falls for it -- the opportunity to write a few brief paragraphs in a feeble attempt to sum up the past twelve months of humankind's existence. Well, this year, I've noticed a trend. In reading these wrap-ups, it becomes painfully obvious what the most critical news story of the year has been.

Iraq's a mess. The election was a headache. And yes, according to one of our own columnists, global warming turns out to be a huge myth. Now, while I know some endangered coral reefs who might want to have a little chat with that columnist, it turns out its all quite irrelevant.

Yes, there's only one story that's invariably turned up in every single year-end wrap-up that I've read. I'm speaking, of course, of the titanic debacle of Janet Jackson's right nipple (otherwise known as "The 1.4 Seconds That Rocked Our World.")

Unless you live under a rock, you know what happened. Miss Jackson (if you're nasty) chose a rather inopportune time to showcase the latest in nipular jewelry -- smack at the end of the MTV-produced halftime show at last year's Super Bowl. And, from what I understand, a few people (hereafter known as "the red states") threw a full-on hissy fit, causing the FCC to have a collective stroke, "moral values" to become a campaign hot button, and faster than you can say "wardrobe malfunction," Bush wins the election. That must've been one mighty nipple.

I wouldn't know, because I, like approximately 50% of those watching the Super Bowl halftime show at the time, was busy blinking my eyes. That's how long it lasted. It was, in fact, just long enough for me and my friend Jason to go, "Hey, is that her...?" And presto, we're in commercial break.

Were any of you honestly offended by that? Could any of you honestly focus your eyes on it before the cameras quickly panned away? Could that 1.4 seconds of immorality have actually had an adverse reaction to you or your loved ones?

People are complaining that the Super Bowl is family entertainment and should thus be free of immorality. Yes, the Super Bowl should be revered for the wholesome entertainment it is -- I especially like the wholesome bits when a player's knee gets bent in half by bloodied, snarling opponents jumping on top of him.

Face it, football is a grisly game. How can you say that Janet's display was any more immoral than watching one guy give another guy a concussion? People have been KILLED playing football... but, admittedly and thankfully, none of the dead were partially nude at the time.

Double standards aside, the backlash from Nipplegate is that the FCC is now clamping down on anything remotely resembling an immoral act. CBS got fined over the Super Bowl; Howard Stern left for satellite; and Britney Spears, already visibly upset that Janet got the idea first, has been banished to Siberia.

Folks, if we're not careful, next year we'll be seeing the triumphant return of Barney the Dinosaur in primetime and the launch of ABC's next big hit, "Quite Contented and Obedient Housewives."

In fact, the only good thing about this reactionary craze is that, fingers crossed, we may have seen the last of Dennis Franz' naked butt on "NYPD Blue." It's not immoral, it's just kinda gross.

Meanwhile, the Super Bowl folks have told MTV pretty much exactly where they can go with their wardrobe malfunctions, and have instead this year booked the family entertainment of Paul McCartney for the halftime gig.

Let me break it to ya, gang. While it's a safe bet that he'll likely be keeping his nipples to himself, Paul McCartney is not family entertainment. The definition of "family entertainment" is, as such, entertainment for the whole family. And if you've got family that's under the age of 20 or so, they're probably not going to be too entertained by old Paul McCartney.

In today's world, an errant boob flash should be just that. It wasn't particularly immoral; it was just particularly stupid. Let's move on.