Archive for March, 2009

A reality dating festivus for the rest of us

ugly-duckling-daters-from-martyThis just in … according to a slew of news reports, Fox is currently developing a dating-reality show that casts “average-looking” people. Inspired by the high ratings received by The Bachelor and The Biggest Loser, the new show — ingeniously dubbed More to Love — will be a “dating show for the rest of us” with so-called overweight females vying for a chance to date and/or marry an overweight male, described by producers as a “Kevin James-type.”


“For six years, it’s been skinny-minis and good-looking bachelors and that’s not what the dating world looks like,” says Mike Darnell of Fox. “This is so simple and so obvious, yet it has never been done before.”


While part of me celebrates the idea of a reality dating show that features normal-looking people (who isn’t sick to death of size 0 women with bleached-out teeth, over-highlighted hair and breasts the size of an 8-year-old’s head?), another part of me realizes that Fox’s new show is probably not so much about evening the playing field or raising awareness about women’s body image issues as it is coming up with a fun new freak fest.


Considering their track record and penchant for extremes (anybody remember The Littlest Groom?), I’m thinking More to Love is probably just the first in a series of new “ugly duckling” dating shows. What’s next?  Legally Blind Date: a reality dating show for people with vision problems? I Only Have Psoriasis For You: a relationship show for singles with skin conditions? As always, the possibilities – and opportunities for shameless exploitation — are endless.  

It’s a sisterfest!

the-mapes-girlsAs some of you may already know, I come from a family of five girls — and no boys.  Oddly enough, four of the “Mapes girls” (as we were known back in the day) ended up in the news today.

In birth order, my big sister Mary wrote a funny essay for Huffington Post on evolution vs. the Texas Board of Education, an esteemed group “‘where half of the people … have made it clear they don’t believe in the far-fetched idea of fish turning into frogs, dinosaurs turning into birds, or monkeys turning into Rush Limbaugh fans.”

I was interviewed by for a story about recession dating and how high credit scores are now the “hot car” of the dating scene (I’m not convinced). My little sister Frances, who runs an estate sale business called Eartha Kitty’s, was featured in a story in the Bellingham Herald about how people are using estate sales as a way to downsize (and make a little extra dough). And finally, Peggy (the so-called “baby” of the family), was written up on the crafting blog, Prairie Tales,  for her fabulous button pillows (you can find more of her hand-crafted work on Etsy at Letter Perfect Designs).

Just thought it was a funny coincidence that so many of us were swirling around the Interwebs today. I’ll keep you posted if/when our sister Gloria makes any headlines.

Love in the time of collection agencies

how-to-date-cover2how-not-to-date-cover1A couple of weeks back, I was asked to team up with Seattle Weekly Dategirl columnist Judy McGuire (author of How Not to Date) for a cheeky do’s and don’ts column about dating during the recession, a request that makes much more sense if you know that I’m the author of How to Date (in a Post-Dating World). 

Our books were both published by Sasquatch Books here in Seattle and as you can see, they make a lovely matched set. We’re sort of the twins of the dating book beat, except Judy gets to be the fun overtly evil twin. And I get to be the fun secretly evil twin. ; ) Anyway, our tag-team interview went live this week on Flavorwire. Here’s a snippet. Check out the full interview here.

Since I lost my job all I do is sit around the apartment in my skivvies with a beer and a bowl of corn chips! What do I do?
I don’t understand. Is sitting around in your underpants and drinking all day a problem? Seriously, if you don’t feel like dating, don’t date. But you definitely want to take care of yourself and not fall into a dark pit of self-pity and despair. If nothing else, get together with your buddies for beer and corn chips, but do wear pants!
Mmm, greasy, broke and drunk — Judy likey!


Speaking of dating during the recession, here’s a link to a Single Shot column I wrote for the Seattle P-I a few months back titled “How to be a cheap date.”  Unfortunately, we can all still use tips on how to find love in the time of collection agencies. Feel free to send me yours!

Letters … we get letters

postmanIt’s always interesting to see how people will respond to stories and my recent piece on swearing for has been no exception. 

One fellow wanted to know — in all sincerity — why it was that only saying something like “Jesus F*cking Christ!” gave him any satisfaction.  “JFC , much to my chagrin, seems to be my favorite curse … yet [it] makes me cower in fear for my soul,” he wrote.  For a while, he apparently tried to use alternative curses, such as  “Oh …  Mahatma Ghandi!” or even “Ah Mahatma F*cking Ghandi!” but nothing did the trick like good ol’ JFC.  The only insight I could give him was what I learned from my swearing expert, Dr. Timothy Jay, who said that the whole appeal of taboo words is that “they’re forbidden and we’ve been punished for saying them.” In other words, the reason it feels soooo good is because it’s soooo naughty.

Speaking of naughty, another reader sent the following: 

Real men and ladies would never use the “F-bombs”!!!!!!!!!!!! Only “trash” like you, who belong in the sewer, would write about this in such a cavalier matter!!!!!!!!!!”  

Naturally, I felt the overuse of exclamation points, unnecessary quotation marks and incorrect word choice a much greater sin than having written a fun story about swearing. But then, I’m a total word geek (and hardly alone judging by my recent piece on “spelling snobs”).  

Worst response? The blogger who suggested that I’d picked up a particularly juicy quote “somewhere else” then built “an ostensibly legit story around it just so [I] could use it.”  What do you think? Should I send her my 30 or so pages of transcribed interviews and three pounds of printed research? Or should I just say f*ck it and move on to the next choice assignment?  ; )

Why swearing feels so #*&%^ good

f-bomb-artworkMy story about swearing — and how people seem to be doing more of it thanks to the lousy economy — went live this morning on  According to Dr. Timothy Jay, professor of psychology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and author of several books on the subject, swearing is as old as time and crosses all cultures and socioeconomic boundaries. “Swear words are almost always about sex or religion in every language,” Jay told me in a telephone interview. “It depends on what the taboos are. In countries where religion is more powerful, you have more profanity, profane words that are stronger than ‘damn’ or ‘hell’ or ‘Jesus Christ’. There would be words like ‘Sacred mother’ or ‘Holy mother’s milk.’ In Asian cultures, you’ll have more ancestral allusions. In Japanese, for instance, there are words like ‘aunt f*cker’ and ‘sh*t grandma’.”

People who use what Jay calls “taboo words,” will do so about 80-90 times a day (out of a total of 15,000 to 16,000 words). His recent study found that 10 frequently used terms – among them hell, damn, Jesus Christ, and oh my god — account for roughly 80 percent of all swearing data. The f-word and its scatological partner-in-crime (hint: it rhymes with “snit”) appear to account for one third to one half of all the swearing episodes recorded in his recent study.

Speaking of swearing, today marks the last print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, my hometown paper. An online edition will continue to operate, but it will be produced by a skeleton crew and much of the content (particularly lifestyle and features) will be provided by unpaid reader bloggers and outside sources like Cosmopolitan and Redbook (both published by Hearst). I’m happy that Hearst was willing to continue to publish in some form, but am mourning the loss of a great newspaper which was in business for nearly 150 years. Ironically, that’s just about how many editors, reporters, photographers, copy editors and news artists lost their jobs. R.I.P., Seattle P-I.  #*&%^!

Parting “shot”

single-shot-last-column2My last Single Shot column appeared in the Seattle P-I today.  Appropriately enough, it’s about what to do when you’re dumped. Even more apt, it’s appearing on Friday the 13th.  Talk about timing.

Obviously, I’m very sad about Hearst choosing to shut down such a great newspaper and not just because it means I’ll be out of a column. I’ve worked at newspapers off and on since I was about 19, basically bootstrapping my way up the ladder from “composing room” paste-up artist and typesetter (yes, I have a pica pole and know how to use one) to freelance columnist at one of Washington’s largest dailies. I’ve worked with hundreds of dedicated, die-hard news people — journalists, photographers, copy editors, sales staff, printers, pressmen, those weird guys back in litho — at big dailies, rinky-dink weeklies and everything in between. 

It’s very difficult to see the newspaper industry on such shaky ground, to wonder if the written word holds value any more. 

Obviously, I’m not the only one involved in this kind of soul-searching these days. There are many industries in trouble out there, although from what I can tell, bars and online dating services seem to be doing okay. Who knows, maybe I can rework Single Shot into a column about booze and dating. 

Before signing off (I’ve got deadlines, as always), I would love to give a shout-out to the talented crew at the Seattle P-I who made Single Shot happen: my editors, John Levesque and Chris Beringer; the many talented news artists who created such brilliant artwork to illustrate my pieces; the copy editing team who caught all my embarrassing mistakes before they hit print; the online media folks for helping me get those all-important clicks. I’d also like to thank the P-I’s readers for taking time out of their day to listen to my voice and put up with what must seem like a never-ending stream of corny jokes.  Now you know how my poor family feels.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank that fabulous P-I globe for lighting up my life — and my city — for all these years.

Apparently, tanning CAN be dangerous …

Fresh on the heels of my story about tanning salons outnumbering Starbucks and McDonalds in 116 large U.S. cities (much to the chagrin of dermatologists everywhere), came this story about a man in South Carolina whose tanning bed caught fire — while he was inside.

According to a story in the Rock Hill Herald, the man (who wouldn’t give his name) said he was “working on his tan when he heard a popping noise, then saw a flame at the corner of the tanning bed near his foot.” The “terrified tanner” then threw open the lid and jumped out of the bed.

The fire forced the evacuation of an entire shopping center and damaged several stores. The salon itself, Ultratan, was said to be “badly burned and its windows … reportedly black.”  As for the man in the “burning bed,” he was not injured. No word was available as to the status of his tan.

Make me a double mocha

I’ve got a another story out on’s Health channel this morning, this one on a new study that’s discovered that in 116 of America’s largest cities, you’ll usually find more tanning salons than Starbucks or McDonalds.

It’s a little hard to believe, especially considering all the evidence linking skin cancer and UV rays (the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has declared both tanning beds — and the sun — to be known carcinogens), but people still want their golden tans. Or their “double shot” of light, warmth, and relaxation (there are other studies linking indoor tanning with endorphins, which some dermatologists believe contribute to tanning “addictions”).

As someone who used to tan (both in the sun and in the occasional salon) I understand the siren song of the “summer glow.” But as a health writer who’s seen the studies and talked to the sun worshippers now dealing with skin cancer, I know the health risks that tanning presents (you’d better believe I keep an eye on my moles). 

Today, I wouldn’t set foot inside a tanning bed, although I’ve definitely used self-tanner and might even consider a spray-tan at some point, especially if it was done by Jimmy Coco, official “spray tanner to the stars” (sorry, but I just had to somehow work that phrase into this post).

The curious case of the stone baby

My latest story for’s Body Odd blog came out this week. It’s on lithopedions, otherwise known as “stone babies,” a topic that seems to have creeped out thousands of readers (so I guess my job is done). 

Very rare, lithopedions start off as ectopic pregnancies, a condition where the fertilized egg implants and develops outside the uterus.  While an ectopic fetus will usually die early on, in certain cases it gets to an advanced stage, dies, and then slowly starts to calcify. Some mothers, particularly in countries where there’s not much in the way of  health care, will unknowingly carry stone babies around for years, even decades. A few months back, a 92-year-old woman in China “delivered” her stone baby, which she’d been carrying for 60 years.

The story pulled in nearly 100,000 views and more than 200 comments. While some people thought Stone Baby would be a great name for a band and others were chomping at the bit to see pictures, I had to agree with the reader who summed it up as follows:  “That is totally creepy and really sad.”

Marrying for health insurance

In my last Single Shot, I wrote about marrying for health insurance, a topic prompted by my recent kidney stone diagnosis (and my accompanying anxiety regarding potential out-of-pocket medical bills).

As with anything that touches on those age-old favorites, love and money, the column prompted a slew of responses from readers (and friends). Some people — most of them women, interestingly enough — talked about how they’d expedited their weddings so their husbands would be covered before the guys switched to unpolicied employers or started their own businesses. Others, only one or two (thankfully), proclaimed anyone who married for insurance was a prostitute (as long as that person was a woman, of course). But, as one fellow put it, “that is not much different than any other marriage.”

I love a romantic, don’t you?

A couple of readers sent links to websites offering naturopathic remedies for getting rid of kidney stones (aaaaaah). Others pointed out that I and other straights “at least have the option of sharing a spouse’s coverage [which is] not always the case for same-sex couples.”

I’m not in a place where I’m seriously thinking about marrying some guy with a big (insurance) package — although a reader did ask for my hand not too long ago — but I’m certainly  interested in seeing what kind of reforms the Obama administration will be “proposing.”

In other words, with hope on the horizon, I can wait. The big question is:  can this dang kidney stone?

What’s my story?

I'm a former freelance writer, now gainfully employed at Fred Hutch (views and f-bombs all my own).

I write about health and health care; cancer research and the cancer experience; dating, lifestyle and singles issues and lots of other stuff including humor and fiction and a few songs here and there.

Book info below.

Looking for my breast cancer blog? Go to doublewhammied

Where are my books?

How to Date in a Post-Dating World A dating manual for the modern, mangled single.

Single State of the Union
Single women speak out on life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Fifty Shades of Brains
Sex. Zombies. Really annoying present tense narration.

Follow me on Twitter!

March 2009