All aboard the douchecanoe!*

One of the benefits of being single is going on bad dates, and then telling people about them. OK, maybe that’s not actually a “benefit” to most normal people, but if you’re a weirdo like me, in love with a good story above all things, it’s definitely a welcome side-effect. “This might suck right in this particular moment,” you think to yourself. “But imagine the vicious laughter it will elicit in some pub later.”

We’ll call our hero Dimon. This is a high-minded, cultured individual we’ll be talking about, and “Dimon,” a street-slang variation of the name Dmitriy, is surely a name that he would hate.

Dimon is an older guy I met on the bus. Or, rather, the bus stop. I hopped off at my destination, he hopped off after me, and offered me his arm to help me walk through the ice. As previously mentioned, the damn streets are not getting cleaned up (because that would make life too easy, causing everyone to forget their stern Slavic heritage), so it was a tempting offer. Plus, he didn’t look like a serial killer. He didn’t even look bad. Scratch that, he looked kinda good. As an irrevocably shallow sort of person, I wasn’t going to overlook that.

We laughed many, many times as he walked me home, talking about frivolous things like the weather, and I came close to falling many, many times, and each time he managed to keep me upright, and we laughed some more.

He called me a few times, and we agreed to meet up for drinks one night. It was freezing outside, and he brought me pretty roses, which I hid from the cold in an oversize bag. I’m not really used to men giving me flowers, even Ukrainian men, so I did express surprise, but it was delighted surprise. Flowers are an old-fashioned gesture, but it’s still fairly common in Kiev, and I think it’s one of the perks of being here, to be honest.

It did, therefore, make me a little sad to contemplate said flowers in a crystal vase much later in the evening. I like people with good taste. When it turns out that they are, in fact, miserable gnomes, it bothers me. See? I’m bothered enough to write an entire blog post about it.

As we made our way to his bar of choice, he asked me about the countries I’ve already lived in. I answered: Ukraine, United States, United Arab Emirates, and, breaking with the “U” tradition, Jordan. This seemed to displease him, for some reason.

“Oh.” He said. “Well-traveled, are we?”

“Hey, you went to grad school in Holland,” I pointed out (we had established this fact previously, along with the fact that he paints, and works in advertising). “We are not that different.”

Alas.

If you know me, you know that I like to blather on about literature. In this instance, I tried to abstain, I really did. He got me on the subject of Vonnegut, though, which meant that I was eager to discuss Slaughterhouse-Five. Trouble was, I forgot how to say “Slaughterhouse-Five” in Russian. It happens, sometimes. Sometimes, my brain jams. It happens when I’m speaking English too. I’ll want to say “trampoline,” for example, and all I can manage is the Russian word for it; “batut, batut, batut” keeps going through my head, until I want to scream.

Unable to articulate what I wanted to say, I said the words “Slaughterhouse-Five” in English.

“It translates very simply to Russian,” he said. And he said it in Russian.

“I know, I just forgot. Happens sometimes. Brain jams.”

“Or else you’re just trying to show that you’re an authentic American.”

At this point, I was like:

I mean, it’s not like I was especially reticent about having spent most of my life in God’s Country. But, hey, whatever, right? Maybe it was just an awkward joke on his part.

The date continued. Mulled wine was drunk. We talked about art and how people assume that artists must survive on a combination of rose petals and inspiration, when this isn’t actually the case. A group of loud French people sitting next to us inspired me to remark that I don’t think I’m in love with the French language like the rest of the world is. I prefer German. Stoic, harsh German. He was surprised by this.

“It served me really well,” I chattered, as I rubbed the wine stains off my bare arms (it was hot in the bar, and I was attempting to drink the mulled wine through a bendy straw, and it was getting everywhere). “Freshman year, when we were reading Chaucer, I said, ‘wow, thank you, German language.’ I would have had a harder time without it. Middle English…”

“I HAVE LINGUISTS IN MY FAMILY!” He interrupted suddenly, in the kind of tone someone would normally use to denounce a child-molester. “I *KNOW* THAT ENGLISH IS A GERMANIC LANGUAGE!!!”

At this point, I was more like:

Seriously? Lose your temper at me while I was excitedly telling you about my hot love affair with the German language? NOT a way to get into my pants, dude.

How the hell am I supposed to know about the linguists in your family? And even if I did know, who says you ever have conversations with them, huh? For all I know, you despise the linguists in your family. For all I know, you smile indulgently as they babble about linguist-y things, all the while imagining yourself to be elsewhere and not really paying attention at all.

You know, I have musicians in my family, many of them, and they’re always talking about Haydn and Phillip Glass and Natalka Poltavka and whatnot, but if you were to come along and start telling me something about Phillip Glass, I wouldn’t go all “I HAVE MUSICIANS IN MY FAMILY! I *KNOW* HE DID THE SCORE FOR ‘THE HOURS’!!!” on you. Why? Oh I don’t know. Probably because I’m not a jackass? Just a thought.

As you can imagine, I was pretty irritated with our friend Dimon by the time we left the bar, and the worst part was, we lived in the same neighbourhood, which meant having to travel home together. I would have much rather plugged my ears up with some accusatory hip hop about motherfuckers who need to get back because they don’t know me like that, but I am too polite of a girl.

My good manners will be my downfall one of these days, because I was shortly thereafter treated to the following monologue, after we somehow managed to get on the subject of the military:

“You know, my grandfather was in the military. Ah, yes. He taught me how to have a commanding voice. A commanding voice, he said, works really well on women. Yes, when I am yelling at a woman, I use my commanding voice. And you know what? It really works. The women do as they are told.”

OK, now, here, I was just like:

“Funny,” I said. “My grandfather was a Major General in the Soviet Army. And he respected women.”

“A Major General? A real one?”

“No, dude, a CARDBOARD one.”

I started telling him about how my grandfather was a great man (which he was), whose main purpose as a grandfather was to teach me to be excellent, and to believe in me, and how lucky I was to have had someone like this in my life, someone who gave me a lot of drive and purpose, and a bit of a competitive spirit, which has served me well. I knew that this would irritate him, and I wanted to irritate him.

“A competitive spirit,” he noted importantly, “does not serve a writer well.”

“Yeah, but if it’s your profession, you inevitably end up comparing yourself to other people and wondering if…”

“Hey! I’m in a creative profession too, I think I know what I’m talking about!”

“Well, I respect that, but I’ve been doing this full-time for a few years, and I have found that…”

“BUT YOU DON’T HAVE ACCLAIM!!!”

I have never before been in a situation where some guy who is ostensibly attracted to me, or was ostensibly attracted to be before he discovered my “authentic Americanness” and love of Chaucer, said that to me. It’s like telling someone “BUT YOU WEREN’T ELECTED PRESIDENT!!!” because they expressed a political opinion.

“Sure, I don’t have acclaim,” I said.

He actually chuckled with satisfaction. I half-expected him to twirl his mustache.

“But I’m happy with what I’m doing. I’ve got friends I respect who give me enough positive feedback to make me feel like I’m moving in the right direction. That counts for something, no?”

Dead silence. The shuffle of feet. We were walking up toward my building, but we still had a way to go.

“… And I guess, it doesn’t really matter if I get acclaim, no? I’d like to be able to say that I tried to be successful. With my book, or with my play, or with something else. I don’t want to sit in a nursing home at 90, contemplating the ‘what ifs.’ I’d rather try, and fail. Success matters, but trying matters too. No?”

Dead silence.

When we reached the front door of my building, he told me he wouldn’t call me until the deadline to turn in my play had come and gone.

“You’re not going off to Ireland any time soon, are you?” He asked (I had mentioned that I’d like to go this year).

“Who knows, who knows,” I said, giving him what I can only hope was a smile-so-tight-it’s-not-really-a-smile. “Be safe walking home. Don’t fall on the ice.”

When I got home, I contemplated why it was that he had made me feel like such shit. I sent him a polite text message, thanking him for the flowers again, and he sent me a polite text message back, but that only made me feel worse. He weirded me out like nothing else, and made me feel downright shitty, by the end.

And then it dawned on me, slowly.

When he met me, initially, he was expecting something completely different. He met a woman who was very blond, about a decade younger, wearing a fluffy coat and pretty boots and a fair bit of make-up, and helplessly skidding along on the ice. She was bubbly and talkative, and appreciative of having someone there to walk her home.

But then he discovered that she read books and shit. She lived in different places, she had opinions on things like the merits of German vs. the merits of French. And that was a problem, somehow. That was a reason to get mean with her.

She was a great disappointment, not having lived up to her somewhat ditzy image. Well, shit. She needed to be punished, just a little:

There’s a dude I know, who lives in a crappy khrushchevka in a crappy town. He has no college education. He drives to work in a car that most closely resembles a rusting aluminum can. His father is a drunk.

He doesn’t have linguists in his family, but hey, whatever, we have fun when we hang out. He makes me laugh until my jaw starts hurting, and he takes stupid pictures of me with his phone camera. He puts me over his shoulder and carries me around when I get tired on our walks. He doesn’t give a shit if I’m an “authentic American” or whether or not my grandfather was a “real Major General.” He just digs me.

He likes to listen to me go on about literature, I like to listen to him go on about the best way to make shashlik. I complain to him about men, he complains to me about women. We compare notes. We decide that love is most likely a crock of shit. We have more wine.

My friend is one of the reasons why I absolutely refuse to believe that guys like Dimon Douchenozzle have any legitimate right to be “defensive” around chicks like me. I’m sorry, but no. That’s not how it works. It comes down to whether or not you’re a sad sack of shit, in the end.

I’m not going to dumb myself down so that the Dimons of the world can feel better about themselves in my presence. I feel the pressure to do it all the time – even my cousin Yaroslava used to say that “men like kittens, Natalia, and you’re more of a lion” – but fuck that noise. There are certain feminists who say that people have the right to judge those of us who “perform femininity,” and perhaps they would say that Dimon Dickface had every right to pre-judge me based on my appearance and behaviour, and then decide to get testy when the product didn’t live up to the wrapping, but I could care less. I like Kurt Vonnegut and sparkly eyeliner, and if that means that I won’t be getting more pretty rose bouquets because of that, then it is a noble sacrifice that I will gladly make.

I can always just take the revolutionary step of buying roses for myself, you know.

* – Douchecanoe is my favourite new insult.

36 thoughts on “All aboard the douchecanoe!*

  1. Hilarious coincidence: my sister went on a couple of dates with a just like this, recently. What amazes me is that there was a second date.

    Are guys like that intimidated? Sure. Yeah. But that’s not an excuse. He probably figured he could “neg” you a little, and it would cause you to fall in love with him. Or else he\’s just disturbed. Actually, he sounds pretty much disturbed. “Linguists in my family,” haha.

    Buying roses for yourself is a great idea, but I’ll definitely get you a bouquet when I see you next time, kid. You’re right, it’s old-fashioned as hell, but it’s fun.

  2. Fuck,

    my sister went on a couple of dates with a GUY just like this, recently.

    I should look before I hit submit.

  3. “I’m not going to dumb myself down so that the Dimons of the world can feel better about themselves in my presence. I feel the pressure to do it all the time – even my cousin Yaroslava used to say that ‘men like kittens, Natalia, and you’re more of a lion’ – but fuck that noise.”

    Good on you. The world needs more people of your kind.

    I have to struggle to figure out what good elitist urges to feel superior have ever done for anyone. I guess it can be a motivator for self-improvement sometimes, but surely it must be one of the less healthy motivations.

  4. Have a funny story of my own actually:

    Ex was in town today. I went over to have breakfast at her hotel, she asks

    Are you and Natalia hooking up?

    Told her that the minute you leave Ukraine, I\’ll start working on it. Come back to Western civilization. We are experiencing a severe shortage of bubbly blond ditzes who are in actuality much, much smarter than I am.

  5. O hai, McDuff. You mean I’m not your favourite feminist ALREADY? *cue temper tantrum, etc*

    Hank, you know I could never date you. You’re too badass for me. You’re going to want to go motorbiking in Mongolia, I’m going to want to sit on the couch and watch “Glee.”

  6. Natalia, you are not going to publish this (you do not have what they call gumption), but I think it has been long enough for me to finally be able to speak here without being accused of stalking you. I am NOT a stalker. I was with your friend by chance the last time I saw you, and will not be accused of doing anything I did not do.

    Having said that, I honestly feel for you and women like you. It is fair to say that you do intimidate men like Dimon, you intimidate most men. Does that leave you happy? Based on what you have written, it is obvious that you are not very happy at all.

    A woman should know her place, your friend Dimon is right on that count. A woman’s place is not at a man’s feet, it’s simply on a different plane. Yes, men and women are different. You admit it yourself. You would not wear eyeliner or post pictures of yourself in boots if you believed otherwise. This is something that Slavs understand better than most cultures, and makes me wish I had been born into this culture.

    I have been harsh with my words before, something which I profoundly regret now, and so I will say to you: you are extremely attractive. You are the sort of woman any sane man would gladly walk home through ice and snow. You’re not a babe, you are something more. You are a unique package.

    I think you should just embrace it. You are Ukrainian, and no matter where you live, here or in America, you will always have the knowledge that your foremothers possessed. Knowing your place is not such a bad thing if it allows you to make meaningful partnerships.

    It pays to be very clever like you are, but if you’re more knowledgeable than a man, it is better to hide it. It shows you have manners. And class.

    America may have spoiled you, but you still have hope. No man likes a woman who is smart and acts like it she knows it (every man likes a woman who is simply smart, there is a big difference). Stop pretending otherwise. Put your Duke education to good use and ensure your happiness by playing your cards right.

    Or do you want to end up as a bitter lonely hag? I doubt it.

  7. Kick. Ass. I used to hate it that I was do mixed that it led to so many people asking where I was from. That I looked, ‘exotic.’ Now I get off on being unclassifiable. It means I can’t be underestimated, and also fuck feminism. I mean, not totally, but at times I think some women focus too much on the gender body as a whole rather than the impact they themselves are making to their gender. We diversified, intelligent, Strong, well read and well travelled females work hard. Those without insecurites observe with admiration and support, as opposed to that creep who responded with fear.

  8. Have lurked here occasionally and admired your writing before, but was entertained by this post for ages – and the strategic placement of the animated gifs is pure win!

    Can’t brain today enough to make interesting feminist statements, so I’ll just point out that whoever’s trying to convince you that Mr Douchecanoe is a lovely bloke said something amusing too, albeit unintentionally. You wouldn’t post pictures of yourself in eyeliner and boots if you didn’t believe men and women are different? That’s way out of left field, and a bit makes me want to go and put on some eyeliner and kinky boots (I’m a genderqueer-ish man, and positive that guys like me exist in the Ukraine too).

  9. As a representative for the National Alliance of Men let me sincerely apologize for receiving faulty product. This “Dimon” unit (SN: J4CKAS5-62) appears to be suffering from unrecoverable software issues. The unit will collected and disposed of in an environmentally sound way, thus safeguarding other units from contamination. We hope this experience does taint your opinion of NAM and we look forward to your future satisfaction.

    Sincerely,
    Michael M.
    Regional Spokesman #4815

  10. Nat, if you have one serious flaw, it is your opposition to adventurism. We will work on that. And fuck motorbiking. Let\’s go to Chile.

    So, in the comments here, is this the famous Jim Stendhall? The one whose face is waiting to be intercepted by my fist?

    Tell me, man, what compels someone to come crawling back to a woman after she told you, months ago, that you need to leave her the hell alone? Is this some sort of broody \”winter of discontent\” shit? I\’m fascinated.

  11. the animated gifs had me laughing out loud, but Dimon was indeed creepy. Frankly, he sounds like classic abuser material. Intimate abuse is about power and control, and he clearly started to freak the fuck out when he realized you weren’t going to be easily controlled.

    Also, on the topic of writers and competition…what a moron. I don’t know a single published writer of fiction, nonfiction, journalism, poetry, you name it who isn’t a scrappy fighter when it comes to getting published. Of course, he was probably just trying to tell *you* not to be competitive, so you won’t be published, so he’ll be vindicated in his misogyny. Ugh ugh ugh.

  12. Ok, I’ve been stalking your blog forever – but I must finally turn in my lurker’s license to say: you are totally a badass! (And I sort of want to make out with your gif collection.)

    Don’t listen to that guy saying you have no acclaim – I acclaim you big time!

  13. I’m only here to defend myself… feel free to delete as you wish.

    But Natalia I think you are living in a fantasy world to a certain extent. I don’t even believe this khrushchevka guy of yours is real.

    Hank, threats of violence are not a particularly mature or grown-up way of communication. I was only trying to apologize when I came back to this site. And state my opinion. I went through a bad patch late last year, and I am not defending my actions then. I was right to be told off, I accepted it, I didn’t argue. I I am only trying to have a civil conversation now.

    But you are just being territorial.

  14. Kris – The “exotic” thing is really fucking annoying, isn’t it?

    OI – This is just a random observation, but eyeliner on men IS pretty damn hot, actually. Ewan McGregor does it well, imho.

    Mike – Hahahahahahahaha. I miss you, buddy.

    LL – I’m glad I made you laugh, but sorry that you need it. E-mail me sometime.

    Hank – You know *just* how to tempt a woman, don’t you? I’ve been wanting to go to Chili since I was 13. *dramatic sigh, etc*

    Aleksis – Feel free to make out with the gifs, I’m sure they won’t mind.

    Stendhall – “Khrushchevka guy” is the one who picked up the phone the last time you tried to call. I hope you haven’t forgotten what he said. “Apologize” my ass. You are what we call an “irl troll,” and you know it.

  15. Jimmy, there is a certain, unfortunate class of people who only ever understand threats of violence. I got the impression that the guy from the khrushchevka probably threatened you with violence as well, which is why you stopped calling, right? In fact, you dont even need to answer that, I know Im right.

    Territorial. Yeah. Im fucking territorial around any woman who is being outright stalked by a creep who got himself convinced that the world revolves around his tiny cock. All decent male friends are territorial in this situation, fucker. Wish it wasn\’t necessary, but we live in a fucked-up world, and you are a tragic example of this fact.

    And Nat,

    Chile it is then, kid. Chile it is.

  16. Dear Creepy Shit,

    I’m sorry I missed you while I was visiting Kiev. My boot has yet to make the acquaintance of your face. And I must apologize on its behalf. Most inconsiderate.

    Love,

    Tricky

  17. Oh dear, this man sounds like all kinds of Sleeping with the Enemy levels of creepy.

    I do like the line about being close to your building but not close enough, I felt like I was there, wincing and taking sharp intakes of breath alongside you.

    P.S I would very much like to see one of your gif collections with the slogan “YOU HAVE NO ACCLAIM!”

  18. Hank: totally off-topic, but I like the ‘frowny square’ stand in for ‘guy.’ Unintentional, yes, but it’s funny.
    Nat: Sigh. Why is it that there are more douchecanoes then there are decent guys? And I’m totally stealing the insult.

  19. “Natalia, you are not going to publish this (you do not have what they call gumption),”

    “I’m only here to defend myself… feel free to delete as you wish”

    There’s a certain kind of person who believes not only that they know things, but that the things they know are so violently disruptive to the status quo that they must be suppressed. The reason that, say, the Jews won’t listen to them say that Jesus is the Messiah, or that Bush was behind 9/11, is because everyone knows it to be true but can’t bear to cope with the truth. Being suppressed, deleted, even ignored is what they need to support their view. If they weren’t right, the ordinary folks wouldn’t spend so much time shutting down their right to free speech.

    Turns out that our friend Jim here is one of these types, but the truth he holds that he so desperately wishes we’d suppress is that women need to know their place or they’ll never get a decent man and grow up old and miserable. Goodness knows, this is something we feminists apparently can’t allow out, such a powerful truth it is, so we have to suppress it by deleting comments, or even not publishing them in the first place.

    Of course, just like with the other not-actually-persecuted nutters, turns out this isn’t true.

    Don’t you wonder why this is, Jim? Why is it, do you think, that not only do your feeble brain excretions get published and not deleted, but that they don’t really bother us and threaten to upset our worldviews at all? Why it is that we respond as if you are annoying little in need of a swift swatting rather than a significant threat to the way we see the world? Do you ever feel concern that perhaps your radical Truth-To-Powerisms are banalities of the worst kind, those that don’t even have the good decency that the 9/11 truthers have in being at least ostensibly opposed to the power structure of the status quo? That rather than being any kind of threat worth deleting, we let it all hang out because it just confirms that rather than being a reasonable Nice Guy, unjustly persecuted by the fragile ego of all these irrational feminists, you’re just some sad sack with a slightly above average grasp of vocabulary and a sadly below average grasp of how important or relevant your utterly mundane views really are?

    Of course you don’t! Why would you challenge your own views? You’re right, ain’t you?

    But, the question does arise, for me, why would a chap like Jim here – with his apparent history – turn up to defend some bloke who seems, on the face of it, to be not worth defending? I mean, look at the dude there, in his glorious masculinity. Threatened by a woman who displayed a sense of self-knowledge, unable to cope with relating to a woman as an equal, perturbed by any female who threatens to break through the boundaries of behaviour set up by the social order, overtly aggressive for no discernable reason… what is it that our friend Jim sees to defend, here, do you think?

    Are douchecanoes pack animals, do you think?

  20. Mcduff: Yes, douchcanoes are pack animals and they appreciate the excretions and praise of their own kind. (Which explains Adam Sandler’s existence, most Hollywood movies, and fraternities.)

  21. Manas, using all caps is really annoying. But thank you.

    I think douchecanoes definitely watch each other’s backs.

    Speaking of them, the douchecanoe who inspired this post CALLED me, ya’ll. He’s under the impression that we have some sort of thing going. I was in the middle of something when he called, and couldn’t even think of a creative way to shine him on. Am going to have to brainstorm.

  22. Oh dear, what a wank-basket. Keep being you, and stuff the ‘men’ who are intimidated by you – that’s how you sort the wheat from the chaff.

    Michael made me chuckle with his comment about ‘faulty products’. 🙂

  23. I love this post. I wish my last bad date had even been worth blogging about, but that shit was so boring it’s not even worth it.

    Also, the kitten/lion compliment? Best ever.

  24. Awesome post, Natalia; at least you got something good out of that awful date. Keep shining on, you crazy diamond, and to hell with the haters!

  25. Your cousin’s description of a ’cause for worry’ totally sounds like a compliment in my ears. I don’t wanna be a kitten either – I wanna be a lion! Or… a lioness as it were hehe.

    Seems like Dimon and J. McCreeperson have something in common: Their complete unattractiveness to women who can think for themselves. Pfeh.

  26. You are great; no need to put up with crap from losers. Or anyone else, actually. (As if you needed me to tell you that – it’s not like my support in this matter is required…but one likes to be on the side of righteousness)

    ” As previously mentioned, the damn streets are not getting cleaned up (because that would make life too easy, causing everyone to forget their stern Slavic heritage)”

    The only theoretical downside is that this Dimon goon gets a certain kind of immortality in your art, but he’ll never understand what that means.

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