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The Organized Thinker: Wedding Speeches

Posted by lifestyle On October - 14 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. Her plan for the U.S. financial crisis would have gotten them back on their feet last week, but for those obstructionist fatcats in Washington. But I digress; trust her advice.

Q: My sister is getting married next weekend and I have to make a speech. I am terrible at public speaking, how do I pull it off without looking/sounding like a total loser?

Is it just me, or is October the new June for wedding sprees? It seems like for every weekend this month, someone I know has wedding obligations. Including me – my brother is getting married next weekend too, HIGH FIVE! And since I’ve been working on speech preparedness myself, I can share with you what I’ve come up with:

Easy on the teasy. As far as I can tell, no one likes a wise-ass at weddings. (Trust me, I’ve already had to learn this the hard way.) Making a joke is fine, and definitely welcomed in wedding speeches (something’s gotta liven up this party, right?), but I urge you to tread lightly, very, very lightly. Embarrassing your sister comes with the territory of being related, true, but be tactful with the anecdotes you choose to share with her brand spankin’ new family. Steer clear of any jokes on or around: ex-lovers, past feuds, bodily functions, anything that happened in Vegas, anything involving vomit. Basically just keep it in the realm of pleasant, but still funny.

Short is sweet. Unless your sister is wildly unpopular, chances are you won’t be the only one making a speech next weekend. By my calculations, my brother’s wedding will have at least 16. And while wedding speeches are integral and wonderful and all that, let’s call a spade a spade here – we all really just want to get to the dancing part. So I personally plan on doing 200+ people a favour by keeping my speech to five minutes or less. And since writing a five-minute speech is way less pressure than writing a twenty-minute one, everybody wins.

Don’t get all woozy on the boozy. If you read my column regularly enough, you’ll know I advocate a little sauce to ease the nerves. But it’s all about control – no shots, no shotgunning beers in the limo on the way to the reception. If you can calmly sip on a single glass of wine until it’s time for your toast, I think you’d be fine, and hopefully at just the right level of relaxed to pull off the speech of your sister’s dreams. Or at the very least, not of her nightmares.

And speaking of nightmares, do not read your speech near an open flame.

The way I see it, your speech is a simple blueprint, and if you follow it, you should make it out alive and still be a welcome member of the family: make a little joke, then a little sweet sentiment, raise your glass, you’re done, you’re golden, and you’re home free. Easy, right? Yes, my friend, we can totally do this.

The Organized Thinker: Surviving the First Date

Posted by lifestyle On September - 19 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. In the battle of the sexes, she is a latter-day Sun Tzu, or perhaps a John Churchill. Anyways, trust her advice.

Q- I find first dates totally awkward and nerve-wracking, probably more than the average person does. What are your rules for pulling off a successful first date?

Ah yes, I’m with you. First dates are the worst. Not much different than a job interview if you ask me, except you have to be charming and witty on top of dynamic and interesting. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all start out on date number three? No cold sweats, less possibility for horrific surprises, perhaps even an inside joke or two to get the comfort-ball rolling?

But have no fear – I’ve had my share of first dates over the last while, so you’ve come to the right place. Meaning I am the queen of bunging up first dates with awkwardness and bad moves. So let’s take stock of what I’ve learned with another installment of my personal dos and don’ts, shall we?

Do have a plan. Whaddaya wanna do? Duhhhh I dunno, whaddayou wanna do? That’s annoying. Pick something, suggest it, and away we go.

Do OR Don’t have a drink. This is going to depend on the person, so weigh what works for you. For me a shot of whiskey before leaving the house chills me out. For others that could be a gateway to a rather messy, embarrassing evening. Can you keep your cool, stay in control while you’re drinking? Then a drinky-poo during the date can help with nerves too. I’ve gotten hammered on dates though; if it’s going well, you can lose track of how much you’ve had. While there’s no doubt you’re having fun, you want to actually remember the fun, right? So use your discretion and know your limits.

Do shut up for a second. If you’re a nervous rambler like me, this can be tough. Sometimes it’s easier to take the focus off yourself by asking a lot of questions and yammering like a ninny to fill the air. If you are feeling like you’re sick of your own voice, then you’re using it too much, so shut your trap. Allow for uncomfortable silences. Again, for me this is the most difficult, most uncomfortable act, but it’s necessary if you want the person you’re out with to have a minute to think to ask YOU something about yourself. Just chillll. Excuse yourself to go to the washroom, and when you get back, make it your beeswax to zip the lip. See what happens, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Guys- Do pay. I know that’s not very forward-thinking of me, but what can I say, there are certain things I appreciate the old-fashioned way. Going dutch is PERFECTLY acceptable, and I prefer it, especially the more often you go out with someone, but on the first date, I still consider it gentlemanly to pay. Bring enough cash and class to do this. It will be appreciated.

Don’t sleep together on the first date IF you can help it. Because let’s face it, sometimes it can’t be helped. Sometimes you’ve had too much to drink to turn back now. Sometimes the person you’re out with is too attractive to resist. Sometimes it’s been six months since you had sex. Just sayin’. But if you try, and you get out with your pants up, I believe there are very few circumstances where you’d regret that decision. The chances of seeing each other again and getting to know each other better improve greatly if you don’t sleep together right away. I believe this. A little mystery is power, I’m tellin ya. And I mean, how often is first-date sex good sex? Really. Is it worth it? In my experience usually not. But that being said, no judgment from me if you go there. We’re only human. (And be safe. But hopefully I don’t have to tell you that.)

I really feel for you. It’s a scary world out there, and the chances of winding up on a date with a total tool are way too high not to have some first-date anxiety. I have learned that each first date is easier than the last, and more fun. Just try and remember that the other person is most likely as nervous as you are, and just as concerned you may turn out to be a nutjob. But you aren’t – you’re cool as a cucumber, sharp as a tack, and you have a lot to offer this date and this whole datingsphere. So be confident, good luck, and I’ll see you out there.

The Organized Thinker: Dumping Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by lifestyle On September - 9 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. Organized enough that, while recognizing the above apostrophe’s necessity in making sure “do’s” isn’t read as “doze,” its grammatical incorrectness still probably irks her. Trust her advice.

Q- I’ve gone out on a few dates with this guy, and I’m just not feelin’ it. He’s a good guy and I know he’s into me, so I want to end it in a decent, mature way. Is there a “nice” way to blow someone off?

Wow, The Organized Thinker has really come to be something of a dating column lately. Good thing I’ve been practicing dating and getting blown off lately, eh? Har.

Bit of a puzzler, this one. No, I do not think there is a nice way to blow someone off, simply because it’s just not a nice thing to have happen to you. But I commend you on attempting to take the high road and go about it maturely — kicking someone to the curb wanker-style is SO much easier.

Ok, my Do’s and Don’ts for calling it off:

Do it quickly. Don’t avoid it, don’t drag it out. Don’t waste anyone’s precious time. Whether you think you’re giving off a get-lost vibe or not, if you’re not being clear, you’re still stringing that person along. If you’ve been having doubts, chances are they’re feeling at least an inkling of that, but people tend to second-guess their gut feelings when emotionally invested in something. Not knowing you and all your delightful idiosyncrasies very well can add to that uncertainty. Be direct.

Don’t never call again. This is the cheapest way out, the lowest blow. Come on, don’t be a coward, I’m sure you can handle the ten minutes of awkwardness it’ll take to break the news. And you know, in this day and age, I do feel dumping via email is acceptable; however, I may get crucified for saying that. A call is still the classiest and the most human though, and it is always appreciated.

Don’t use tired excuses or anything that is going to insult the person being dumped’s intelligence. Newsflash: we’ve all dated before, and we’ve all been dumped before. So chances are we’ve heard that one before.

Don’t be a dick. If you feel like you’re being one, then you probably are. Possibilities for dickiness include: never calling again, being a blatant asshole so the person has no choice but to hate you, and ignoring phone calls and emails out of the blue. A few months ago I got the royal brush-off from someone who was suddenly overcome with an obscene lack of free time, a tired albeit easy excuse. Too bad he backed it up by picking up another chick in front of me at a party. Oh ya? Not too busy to be an inconsiderate ass I guess. But I digress. Just don’t be a dick.

Do throw in a compliment to soften the blow. Sounds cheap, but it helps. “You’re honestly the hottest person I’ve ever been with, but I just don’t feel any chemistry beyond that.” See what I mean?

It always helps to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. What would you want to hear? How sugary do you need your coating? Go from there, be brave, and step on it.

The Organized Thinker: Shy Guy

Posted by lifestyle On August - 22 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. She is living proof that even the most organized among us enjoy occasionally employing a phrase like “cock sock.” Trust her advice.

Q: I’m a single guy trying out the dating scene, and I’m having trouble scoring. I like to think I’m handsome and sufficiently engaging; I can be pretty shy, however, and I’m not really the type to hit on someone. Any tips on how I can go about getting a lady, or at the very least a night of fun with a girl looking for the same thing?

Oh you poor sods. I’ve been out in the scene too, and I’ve been watching you, and I’ve been listening to you, and yes I’m pretty sure I can help you guys score. To maybe, in turn, even help me score. Like, you can pay this forward. Help me help you, help you help me. Got it?

It’s frustrating seeing you guys struggle. Single girls are easy to get, waaaaaaaaaaaaay too easy. Trust me. Being shy isn’t going to get you laid. It’s just not. I guess it’s cute and everything, and I mean if you want to take your sweet ass time and risk the chick getting bored and wandering off to seek bone elsewhere that’s your choice, but satisfaction is just so much more likely if you use your balls. ME TAKE YOU DINNER. Give it a shot. We’re nice you know, and we’re experts on the male ego too, so even if we’re not into it I promise no one’s gonna kick your nuts in. What have you got to lose? Another lonely night with your cock sock? Your pride? It’s overrated. And just think, every time you practice hitting on someone your game improves. And yes, your game NEEDS improving.

Pretty much the only way you can screw it up is by being a creep. Don’t lurk and don’t stare. Try, “How are you liking the tunes tonight?” as opposed to “Your ass is ripe.” Also, if the girl you’ve got your eye on at the bar appears to be having a balls-out girl fest that night you might wanna let that one go — we don’t tend to take kindly to some random dude moonwalking into the middle of our dance circle.

And another thing, if you’re interested in someone, you have got to go out on a limb and be OBVIOUS. Frankly speaking, we don’t have time for wishy-washy and we don’t have the patience for deciphering any ambiguous advances. To put it as romantically as possible — shit or get off the pot. Coy is fun for about five seconds. It’s pretty simple — you want it, GO FOR IT, you don’t, tell your story walkin’.

Here’s a little secret from the enigmatic world of the single female — *most* of us are a sure thing. I’m sure I’m offending some percentage of my population when I say that but whatevs, single people want to get laid, period, it’s biological.

So just loosen up man!

The Organized Thinker: GET YOUR OWN!

Posted by lifestyle On August - 8 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker, so when she gives you permission to fly off the handle, you damned well take it! Rarely will the opportunity come up again. Oh yes, and trust her advice.

Q: Some chick is trying to move in on my mans. She makes sure she shows up where he’ll be, blatantly flirts with him, texts and emails him, etc. What really burns me is that she knows he has a girlfriend and what burns me even FURTHER is that my bf (who wouldn’t go there) doesn’t seem to get why I have such a problem with it! My question is — do I have a right to tell her to back off, or would that make me seem like a crazy bitch?

This kind of thing blows my mind because it’s completely unacceptable, and everybody in the world knows it. How ’bout GET YOUR OWN?? And I know this doesn’t mean anything to you right now, but this girl is seriously screwing up her boyfriend karma by creeping on some other girl’s dude. Just sayin’.

So your bf’s pretty blasé about the whole deal, I gather?  Whatevs, let it go, it means nothing — yeah, true. But that doesn’t matter. It’s annoying, and it’s making your boyfriend annoying. What’s his deal? Well he’s a dude and he’s enjoying the attention, and let’s face it, no matter HOW wonderful and loyal and noble, they all have dick for brains. Sorry dudes, but come on.

The way I see it you are totally entitled to either tell her yourself or make your boyfriend tell her.

He’s YOUR man, she knows it as well as you do, and if your man isn’t making any moves to tell her to quit it, or he is and it’s not working, I say DO IT. Why wouldn’t you? Us chickies are frequently afraid of seeming like psychos to our boyfriends, our boyfriends’ friends, to other girls, etc., and really when I think about it, I don t know why we care so much. Honestly, who CARES what she thinks of you? And if your relationship with your man is solid it doesn’t matter if you come off as overreacting or irrational to him (you aren’t) — he’s with you because of all that, and he’s gotta be totally into the fact that you care about him enough to want him all to yourself. Your attention is the best kind.

Do what you have to do, but maybe first give your man a chance to be a man — tell him how you feel and ASK for what you want. He may appreciate the chance to let the girl down easy — and value your trust in him to do it himself.

If he decides to be difficult, or brush it off and you won’t have that, there is a super simple solution. Put him hypothetically in your shoes. And just watch his neck get all red and the steam start puffing out his ears. I can’t think of a single guy I’ve gone out with who would have been cool for a SECOND with some random dude emailing and blatantly flirting with me. It’s laughable to think about how UN-easy-going a guy would be if the tables were turned.

It’s obviously not a huge deal, but relationships are tough enough without pointless contentions like this. So I say nip it in the bud and don’t make it something you bring up three months down the road in a fight about something totally different cause you’re still hanging on to resentment over it. Quash it NOW so you don’t have to feel peeved/insecure/pissed at your boyfriend about it for another second. Not worth it!

The Organized Thinker: Succubus

Posted by lifestyle On July - 18 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. She knows that the title “Succubus” is likely to garner twice as many google hits as the equally-appropriate-for-this-post title “Incubus” (see, it depends on whether you’re taking the question-asker or the Organized Thinker’s point of view). Trust her advice.

Q- I’m a commitment-phobe. I love women and dating, but every time it starts to get serious I freak out and jump ship. I’m afraid of the long term notion – the idea that one day I’m going to have to call home to my wife every night and she’ll bitch at me for being late or lazy or whatever. How do I find someone to date who isn’t going to try and trap me?

So there are still dudes like you out there, eh? Good to know, as a single girl. Really – this is just peachy.

First off, I think your idea of “long term” is pretty skewed. Contrary to popular belief, not every female on the planet lives to nag your balls off. We are a patient, forgiving species, and all most of us really want from you is respect and companionship. And you’re not a monster for being unable to offer that, and however immature I personally consider your attitude to be, you’re only human and you are who you are (and hey, at least you’re admitting it). And you’re a lucky bastard really, because when you finally are ready to commit the ladies will still be kickin’ around. But frankly speaking, no one around here is getting any younger. I think I can speak for a large majority of the female population when I say that if we knew up front that you were gonna wig out and bail there’s no way we would get involved with you in the first place. So here’s a thought: perhaps its time to take some responsibility for your overwhelming desire to have none, and remove yourself from the dating pool altogether. I’m sorry but I can’t bring myself to offer advice on how to find the type of girl you’re looking for. I have a better idea: how about I offer up some creative suggestions on how to save yourself from continuing to waste the time and ruin the lives of decent human beings.

  • If you don’t like relationships, don’t start them up. If you have a history of running for the door, do us a favour and DON’T BOTHER COMING IN in the first place.
  • If you’re exceptionally funny, cute, affectionate, tall, scruffy, smart, wild, or artistic- please note that these are all things that are going to attract us to you, and eventually make us want to ambush you into a life of lawn mowing and badgering. So just tone these down at all times.
  • Flirting is charming – and deceiving.
  • Being aloof won’t always do the trick, either – some of us find that alluring. So you’re better off being rude, obnoxious, or wildly stupid.
  • If all else fails, stay home. Start a No Girlz Allowed club with your last two – totally cool – unattached buddies.

I’m sure there are plenty of girls out there looking for something short and sweet, though I imagine they might be hard to spot amongst the trappers. If you want to take a chance on one, that’s up to you. Really though, none of us can be trusted – you know how easily we can jump from swinger to clinger. So I think you should take my advice, embrace your freedom, and have fun! I’m sure your life will be MUCH easier, just better all-round without all the sex and nurturing.

The Organized Thinker: 99 Bottles

Posted by lifestyle On July - 4 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. Her highly attuned mind formed the scientific inspiration for the first ENIGMA machine. Trust her advice.

This month I received two requests for advice in the area of drinking etiquette:

I find I’m the drunkest girl at the party way too often. How old is too old to get wasted?

and

How do I not sound like an idiot when I’m drunk?

Cue: uproarious laughter from anyone who’s known me for a month or more. However, as a seasoned boozehound I think I should be able to muster some useful advice on the subject, at the very least derived from things I wish I’d done.

Don’t pre-drink. The pre-drink is economical, true, but it’s also a fabulous way to be out of control by 10:30. Before you start drinking at all for the night, think about how many you’ll need to get as buzzed as you want to be, subtract from that how many you’ll buy at the bar (be generous with that math), and this equals how many shots you should do before you leave. Hint: the answer is probably none.

Try out the role of the silent drunk for a night. I’ve done it in times where I’ve felt especially self-conscious or shy. You do run the risk of passing out and drooling in public, but on the other hand you do not run much of a risk of running your mouth off into Nonsensetown.

Stick with your kind. Seek out the party animalsit’s a perfect way to blend in AND have a balls-out smash fest. Swap existential philosophies in the corner with the chick whose mascara’s smeared Alice Cooper style. Head bang on the dance floor next to that dude who’s going apeshit on his air guitar. Who’s drunker? Who cares!

Enlist a sober wingman. Good times for that guy, but if you’re fortunate enough to scam someone into taking this job (see: babysitter), you may just have a damage control-free morning after. You’ll want to agree on some sort of signal to be used when you’re getting “out of hand.” Elbow jabs to the ribs and the “glug-glug-glug” gesture are pretty universal.

Take the night off and offer to DD. BORING! But hey, everyone deserves a break once in a while. Do a good deed for your friends and for your body.

To research for this article, I conducted a little experiment last weekendI went to a party and didn’t drink, maybe for the first time in years. Here is what I found out: even the drunkest person at the party is still just a drunk person at a party. Everyone says and does stupid stuff when they’re drinking. And are you the only one of your friends who loves to knock ‘em back? I’ll bet money the answer is “no.” So whom exactly are you worried about? That sober person who also happens to be a judgmental tight-ass? See my point? Your friends aren’t going to give a shit if you say something lame, fall out of a chair in the middle of the bar, smash a glass, spill your drink, fall out of the cab, or burst out an obscenity or twelve, trust me.

So (it will not knock any socks off to hear me say) bottoms up, but be wise. If you can’t control: getting behind the wheel, hitting on other people’s gf’s/bf’s, your vomit, or your temper, then you probably need a new hobby. But don’t sweat it if you do indeed go out and go too far and say something embarrassing, or heaven forbid, stand out as the sloshiest person in the joint. Life is short, and I don’t really believe in being “too old” for anything. And really, there’s nothing wrong with letting loose, and there’s nothing wrong with acting a little stupid, whether drunk or sober. Trust me on that too.

The Organized Thinker: The High Road

Posted by lifestyle On June - 20 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. She can figure out the twist endings to M. Night Shyamalan movies within the first three scenes. Trust her advice.

Q- My best friend is stuck in what I consider to be a bad relationship. She is hell-bent on giving this guy endless chances to screw her over. She says she “understands” him and that she believes in the relationship, but I’ve seen her hurt by him so many times that I can no longer stand him. I’m about at my wit’s end! How do I be a supportive friend to her when I am completely against her decision to stay with him?

Wow, that is tough. And you’re going to need to be tough. While I don’t think you have to support her choice, I do think you have to support her.

I believe it is your duty here to suck it up. Yes, it’s all very frustrating and even painful for you to see your friend put herself in this position, but try and remember this isn’t about you. It’s her choice, regardless of whether it’s a good or bad one. We ALL make bad calls—you know you have, too. We all eventually learn from our mistakes, and we all eventually make it out alive. However this turns out, your pal is going to need you. She needs to know you’ll be there if something does indeed go wrong again. And you should be there.

You can make your case known, but don’t abandon your friend on this. Check in with her so she knows you are open to talking about it. Don’t shut her out, and don’t make it hard for her to talk to you about him. If she doesn’t want to let him go, she’s not going to. Isn’t it important to know where your friend’s at rather than to ban the subject because you don’t approve? It’s unfair to put her in a position where she thinks she has to choose; besides, she’s going to learn from her own choices, not from your attempt to make a point.

We all have different ways of being a good friend. One person may find it difficult to be supportive of an unstable relationship, but they may in turn be amazing at offering advice on how to let someone down easy, or they may be just the person to turn to for tough love (which we all need at some time). Not understanding what the hell your friend is thinking doesn’t make you a bad friend. I think it’s still possible to be loving, supportive, and on-hand while at the same time being honest about your misgivings. You just have to be patient and selfless and open-minded at the same time. Simple, right?

So you’ve taken my enlightened advice and decided to be cool about this, but still you sincerely dislike the guy. Not only has this jerk-off hurt your best friend, but he’s hurt YOU by doing so. Again, this is a good time to remember this is not about you and a good time to take the high road. You don’t have to be friends with him, but I’m sure you can find it somewhere in you to be civil. You don’t have to go on double dates, but you also don’t have to give him the stink eye every time you end up in the same place. You don’t have to forgive him if you aren’t ready to, but remember that your friend HAS forgiven him for now, so do HER a favour and make peace in some way. This is all for her, remember. As ’sure’ as you are now, you never know how you might feel about him in a little while if you just chill out for a second.

You just want her to be happy, right? If giving this guy another chance makes her happy, then I think you need to focus on that. She obviously wants to work out their problems and believes that they are workable. Maybe she feels she owes it to herself and the relationship to try. That’s her biznass, isn’t it? If she gets hurt, she gets hurt, she grows, and she moves on. If this is what she wants, I think you have to allow her to have it. And try not to be a totally huge dink about it, because you love her and that’s more  important than any guy.

The Organized Thinker: Mingling 101

Posted by lifestyle On June - 6 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. If Alexander hadn’t already done it, she TOTALLY would have figured out that Gordian Knot puzzle on her own. Trust her advice.

Q: I have a really hard time relaxing and socializing in large groups and with new people. Do you have any tips on how to combat social awkwardness?

Do YOU have any tips on how to combat social awkwardness? I behave like a total loser in almost all social situations. But perhaps I can help you just the same; I know what I would tell myself if I wasn’t too mental to follow my own advice.

First off, people aren’t ever as “cool” as you think they are. I have a complex where I think everyone is cooler/smarter/funnier than I am. In most cases this is probably true, but that doesn’t mean anyone should be put up on some sort of coolness pedestal. Everyone has insecurities, baggage, weird things about themselves you’d never guess. But you have just as much to offer this conversation, this gathering, this world as anybody else, so don’t sell yourself short. It’s so easy to do, but try not to fall into that trap.

Open up a tiny bit. Now, this should be handled delicately—don’t be scary. No one needs to know about your foot fungus or penchant for vampire porn right off the bat. The person you just met doesn’t want to spend half an hour listening to you drone on about how your last relationship went down the shitter, either. But putting forth a little bit of personal information is a good way to come across as approachable and maybe even relatable. Take a baby step beyond standby topics like your job. For example, at a party a couple of weeks ago I confided in an acquaintance about how nervous I get talking to guys. We wound up having a great conversation, and I now feel as though I know her ten times better than I did up until that point. Success!

Ask questions. It took me a long time to catch onto this, but it WORKS, especially if you’re the type of person who tends to clam up when they’re nervous. It’s easy too because all you have to do is come up with the question, and then you get to sit back and listen. Start simply with obvious ones to get the ball rolling (ask who they know there or make an observation about something or someone in the room). Once you feel you’re loosening up, get creative with questions like: “What’s your favourite place you’ve ever traveled to?” or “What’s your favourite spot in the city?” or “What’s the last movie you saw?” Go broad: you never know where it may lead the conversation. You might try and get a little wacky for fun, too. I tend to stress out over being SCINTILLATING at all times, but that’s pretty much impossible, so my fallback is silly. I can be silly on a dime, and if it turns out you’re talking to someone who’s also silly, hello fun.

Have a drink. Yeah ok, I might have a problem, but it helps.

You basically need to take a big fat step out of your comfort zone. I can’t tell you how many social situations I’ve been in where I’ve had to escape to the bathroom, stare hard in the mirror, and convince myself to muster my balls and get back out there. I also can’t tell you how many times I have completely avoided talking to someone and regretted it later. You just have to go for it, be brave, and I GUARANTEE you will be surprised—not only by how easy it actually is, but by what you have in you.

The Organized Thinker: How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

Posted by lifestyle On May - 30 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. In this week’s installment, she has literally been trusted with the life of another living being. Trust her advice.

Q:  Should my girlfriend and I get a dog? We’ve lived together in the city for about a year, have a good-sized apartment, and we’re financially sound. She really, really wants one, but I’m on the fence.

A:  Ungh. I am not a dog person. I grew up around dogs, but they were terriers, which are pretty much the nerds of the dog world, so they don’t count. Or maybe that’s the reason I’m not a dog person. Either way, I will do my best to give impartial advice here.

This is mainly a question of responsibility, hence the fence, I presume. You can’t just go out and grab a dog without assuming your way of life is going to change in some major ways.

Are you responsible? Is your girlfriend? Take a good hard look around your place and at your daily habits. You can’t put off walking a dog like you can put off watering that plant in the corner. If you love to: sleep in super late; take off to New York for the weekend on a whim; party your face off all night and wake up on someone’s floor; or put your own needs above everything else, all of this will have to change.

Don’t get a dog because you’re:

bored
lonely
trendy
scared your girlfriend will dump you if you don’t…

Are you two a good team? When you fight, is it over the remote, or over who’s pulling their weight? Because getting a dog would be an endeavour in co-operation for sure, all of your adorable new responsibilities should be shared in order to keep your little family unit running smoothly. Are you solid? I always wonder about unstable couples getting a pet — what are they attempting to band-aid? In a strong relationship though, getting a dog would be a mature step forward. You know, if you’re into that whole “planning for the future” kind of thing. If done properly, it would, in theory, bring you closer together and make you work even better as a team.

Do you love your stuff? Puppies seem to eat just about anything. Some cases are more extreme than others of course, but here’s a worst-case scenario: my friends’ dog has eaten the following over the last six months: entire rolls of toilet paper; eight pairs of Calvin Klein underwear; the ASS out of her bf’s boxer shorts; a credit card; a whole raw steak; a dvd remote; and $60 cash in poker winnings. If you get a dog, you may have to put away your nice things for a few months, but probably not before you learn that the hard way at least once.

Do you love picking up shit with your hands? Just sayin’.

But considering all this, if you’re up for the challenge, I say jump off the fence and go for it. Taking risks is good for the soul. Plus, it’s spring! Go to the dog park, toss some sticks or whatever, and have fun. I’ll cheers you while I’m sipping cocktails on the Riviera, free as a bird. Just kidding. …Kinda.

The Organized Thinker: Never the Bride

Posted by lifestyle On May - 23 - 2008

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker — so organized that she has once, literally, managed to THINK her way out of a paper bag. Trust her advice.

Never the Bride

Q: How do I pull off not being the worst bridesmaid ever?

My brother is getting married this fall and I’m going to be a bridesmaid (and an emcee, oh god) for the first time in my life. I’m scared shitless. Not only do I need to manoeuvre my 24/7 t-shirt-and-jeans self into a floor-length satin gown, but I also need to keep my mouth shut and go with the flow never an easy feat for this dink. So this week’s column has advice that is as much for you as it is for me:

Take initiative.

As in pretty much any scenario in life, a little effort goes a long way. Offer your assistance instead of waiting to be told what to do. If it looks like the other members of the bridal party are lagging in their duties, pick up the slack. For the first time in your life, be a good influence on other people.

Smile.

Don’t be a baby. When you’re tying your 85th tiny bow on a tiny box holding a tiny salt & pepper shaker, keep whistling. When you’re forking over your hard-earned cash for a dress/shower gift/bachelorette/hotel room, remember that being asked to stand up for someone is an HONOUR, it means that the person really likes you for some crazy reason, so try and live up to that.

Put your best foot forward.

I am a giant klutz; probably my worst fear for this whole wedding thing is falling flat on my face in the middle of the church. If you have the option which thank the lord I do in my case pick your shoes sensibly. Comfy feet are happy feet. If you don’t have the option, well…best of luck. I’ll say a little prayer for you.

Get your drink on after dinner.

Now that’s not to say a discreet shot before the ceremony (and before the pictures, and during the speeches…) isn’t allowed or necessary. But as far as I can tell, your responsibilities as a bridesmaid don’t run out until the plates are cleared and the dance floor opens up. THEN you hit that bar baby, as hard as you want. The harder the better, if you ask me. (On second thought, that might not be the best piece of ‘advice’, so use at your discretion.)

Bring a date.

If people think I’m a spaz because I won’t go to weddings alone, then fine, whatever, I’m a spaz. But I did it once and it was DE-pressing, and I vowed I’d never fly solo at one again. Truth is, it’s just good to have a wingman, especially when you’re surrounded by slow dancing and eternal vows and all that crap. So bring anyone current significant other if you’re lucky, best gal, gay best friend, one of your regulars; just someone who’ll mingle with your weird family members while you’re bridesmaiding, and keep you in the sauce once you’re done.

Above all else, be supportive. You’ll hear me say this a lot, as it’s my failsafe piece of wisdom for any sort of circumstance or relationship. Offering unconditional support is a selfless, simple thing you can do to make pretty much ANY situation easier on everyone involved. I think it’s more difficult for some people than others, but really it’s all about separating your personal feelings from something. So maybe this isn’t the kind of wedding you would envision for yourself. Or maybe you think getting married is plumb silly (I’m with ya). You look heinous in lavender. The flowers are making you sneeze. The best man is creeping you out. SUCK IT UP. Guess what, this day isn’t about you. And that person you love is super happy, so why wouldn’t you make it your beeswax to be on board no matter what. This is how I see it. Now I just hope I don’t eat it in the aisle.

The Organized Thinker: Weathering the Poorhouse

Posted by lifestyle On May - 16 - 2008

By Steph Perkins

Steph Perkins is an organized thinker. In the time it takes you to read this column, she did her taxes for the next four years in advance. Trust her advice.

Q. I did something really stupid and blew my entire month’s pay on a trip to Vegas and now I am so broke I can’t imagine how I’ll possibly endure the next few weeks. I hear you’re a bit of a skid — can you pass on some expertise on how to survive on a bare minimum till I’m back on my feet?

You heard right, super skid to the rescue! Oh I’ve been there, hell I’m pretty much permanently there, and you’ll be fine. Honestly, probably the hardest thing you’ll have to do between now and your next paycheque will be swallowing your pride. [You will not die! It's not poison! -Guest Ed. Robert Zimmerman]

# 1 Accept offers for dinner.

Probably if you’re broke, you’re feeling semi-depressed and therefore anti-social, but if someone invites you over for dinner, say yes. You need the nutrients, and you need to get over yourself and out of the house. And you don’t have to bring the customary bottle of wine — offer to bring an “after dinner treat” and pick up a three-dollar box of cookies, or grab a bouquet of daisies for under five bucks. And if it’s someone you’re really close to, be honest, arrive empty-handed, and just watch how big of a pity serving they dole out.

# 2 Eat a casserole for a week.

And it doesn’t have to be a fancy casserole with meat and vegetables or whatever normally goes in casseroles, don’t ask me. Below is my world famous mac & cheese bake recipe, and if you don’t invite anyone over to share it with you it’ll feed you for five days.

3 boxes Kraft Dinner
1 cup of macaroni noodles
1 brick of cheddar cheese
margarine
milk
= $10

So — cook mac noodles for 5 minutes, then pour in 2 boxes of KD, chuck the 3rd box but save the cheese. Grate cheddar. Mix up noodles, 3 KD cheese bags, milk, margarine, salt & pepper. Pour half into large greased baking dish, add layer of grated cheese, rest of noods, top with more grated cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then broil until cheese gets brown and crunchy. Enjoy for lunch & dinner. And then lunch & dinner. And then lunch & dinner.

# 3 Look in the back of the pantry.

You never know what you might find back there. Cup-a-Soups are a guarantee; poor excuse for a lunch but we’re not being choosy right now. That Lipton Sidekick would make a (pretty gross) meal. Cans of beans can be fun, you can pretend you’re camping. Old noodles and rice are most likely still good; if you can whip up a butter & herb sauce or fry up a vegetable to go with you actually have yourself a decent dinner there.

# 4 Choose your plans wisely.

You can still afford to see your friends; you just can’t afford to be the party animal right now. So say yes to what you can do on a budget (night in at a friends place, coffee, afternoon stroll) and turn down what you can’t. Meals out are big money eaters — say no to those but meet up with your buds later, treat yourself to a rye & coke, make that baby strettttttch, and watch everyone else say stupid shit for a change.

# 5 Wait for the bus.

Ya, it sucks. That blue-line bus blows: standing for maybe an hour on the corner of College & Bathurst with a bunch of drunk skids (meet your people, my friend) waiting to get on the fullest, stinkiest, loudest, longest bus ride of your life. The worst part being you’re probably not drunk enough to be oblivious to it due to your current Saturday night budget. Just hold your breath and imagine yourself building character. Or walk.

A few more simple things you can do to dig up a little coin (all of which I have resorted to at one time or another): skip the laundry and go commando; roll your pennies and return your empties; hold your head up high and go in to the teller and withdraw that $7.50. Hang tight. Accept pity. And when you finally do get some cash in your pocket go and get yourself a steak, pronto.

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