The Definitive Rule for Using Exclamation Points in Work E-mails

We can all tell from the name of this blog that I love a good exclamation point. I mean, they’re fun. They evoke a sense of, like, “Yeah! Life is good!”

Or at the very least, a sense of “I’m perky and approachable and I don’t loathe you.”

Exclamation points say that you’re breezy for you, so you don’t have to say it yourself – because we all know from Friends that explicitly stating you’re breezy totally negates the breezy. So really, exclamation points are an essential communication tool, maintaining the awareness of all our collective breeziness and soothing the egos of probably a million-ish neurotic people per minute.

But what happens when exclamation points become a source of contention, jealousy, and betrayal?

I’m writing, specifically, of exclamation points as employed (no pun intended) in work e-mails.

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Desktop background courtesy of Tiny Buddha. Exclamation points courtesy of an outlandish young professional with access to wine and a smartphone.

To give you an idea of where I’m headed with this, here’s a conversation that recently took place between my work-wife Jenny and I:

  • Nic (pointing at an e-mail she had open on her computer): What is THIS?
  • Jenny: What?
  • Nic: He wrote “Thanks!” at the end. “THANKS!”
  • Jenny: And…
  • Nic: To me, he always writes “Thanks.” WITH A PERIOD. He hates me, doesn’t he? I knew it. Is it because I never returned his three-hole puncher to him that one time? Tell me everything you know.

Jenny, unwilling to sing like a canary, was just like, “Don’t be silly! He gives me periods all the time. This e-mail was an anomaly.”

Her response was a nice attempt at assuaging my pain, but the damage was done.

Now, I totally get that some people just don’t do exclamation points. Most of these people are men (myself notwithstanding). For whatever reason, women have no problem feigning excitement – in e-mails, texts, the bedroom, etc. – but guys tend to be more direct and stoic in their communication styles. (Do you love how I’m setting progress back fifty years right now by totally generalizing male-female social patterns? You do, don’t you?)

With the above in mind, I can totally get down with a dude who uses periods (or even semicolons)… but the guy in the e-mail to Jenny was different. While I had previously put him in the category of “straightforward man who never uses exclamation points,” seeing his e-mail to Jenny destroyed that identity altogether and indicated that he DOES indeed use exclamation points — but that he’s highly selective about it. He’s the pretentious NYU of exclamation points. (Note: I’m allowed to make this joke because I’m alumni.)

I never thought of myself as someone whose emotions could be dictated by punctuation, but apparently I’m hypersensitive and have too much mental time on my hands.

Or is this just the mark (no pun intended again! Okay, maybe a little this time) of the twenty-first century? Assumptions abound and communication suffers because no one wants to actually talk to anyone out loud anymore?

At the end of the day (because I don’t really feel like trying to explore that last question) I think it all just comes down to consistency. I clearly like to keep people in boxes, so here’s what I have to say to all working professionals: If you’re going to be a period person, then please, for the love of Mariah Carey, stay in your box! And exclamation point people, try to do the same.

Let’s all do our part to prevent emotional meltdowns in the workplace.

P.S. For the record, I will continue to always take the exclamation point route myself. Mostly because my biggest fear is being interpreted as a disgruntled misanthrope by those around me. Plus it leaves open the option to occasionally use them in a passive-aggressive manner when someone says “Do this” and I say “Sure thing!” when what I really mean is, “If you were attacked by a large, aggressive bear with poop on its paws right now, I might be okay with that.”

P.P.S. It just occurred to me that maybe the aggressive-bear-with-poop-claws exclamation point is actually exactly what Jenny received in the e-mail in question, which would mean that that guy is in fact not selective in an NYU kind of way, but more so selective in an angry-evil-bear-poop-whisperer kind of way.

P.P.P.S. In light of that last postscript, I’ve just realized that my entire argument in this piece is ludicrous and baseless and unfounded — pretty much everything but “definitive.”

P.P.P.P.S. WHY CAN’T I EVER MAKE AN IRREFUTABLE POINT? I guess this is why we should never try to keep people in boxes. Run free, everyone. Follow your heart. Use whatever punctuation you desire. Just be breezy about it.

 

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This is What Happens When I Best Man a Wedding

Yes, I just used “Best Man” as a verb in the title of this post. It’s a thing now, and you’re welcome.

So. After throwing an epic three-night, thirteen-man bachelor party at a rented house in Vermont last fall (the details of which I can’t get into for legal reasons), getting fitted for a tux while awkwardly asking the salesman, “So, what’s your perspiration policy?” (he just looked at me weird and said, “We clean them”), and sneaking my way into my now-sister’s bachelorette party in December by flashing everyone with my GC (Giant Co.. Gay Card) – my brother got married a few weeks ago. And! It was the best day.

Like, ever.

The fun started the night before at the rehearsal, where this conversation took place between two bridesmaids (whom I will refer to as Hilary and Amy) and myself:

  • Nic: Hey Hilary, wanna hear something hilarious? My aunt told my stepmom earlier that she thought I “had eyes for you.”
  • Hilary: Ha! Wait. Your aunt doesn’t know you’re gay?
  • Nic: I mean, it’s not like I hide it. I just don’t think she realizes that gay people exist in real, everyday life. Like, she’ll probably find out about me when we’re at my wedding.
  • Amy (joining the conversation): Oh hey, you have one too?!
  • Nic: What? No. I don’t. I’m not getting married. [Laughs uncomfortably.] I mean, I am getting married. I hope. Eventually. Just not any time soon. Gotta find the right guy first. All the ones I meet seem to fall short in one way or another, and I’m at the point where’s it’s like, I’m not in a rush to meet The One anymore, because where’s the fun in that? Plus I don’t wanna settle for less, y’know?
  • Amy (pointing to my left ear): I was talking about your cartilage piercing.

So that was awesome.

The ceremony the next day was also awesome, although there was a minor debacle when I went to deliver flowers to the bride in her dressing room and was cornered by the photographer, who asked to borrow the rings – allegedly for the purposes of taking artful pictures, but probably more so because she gets some kind of twisted joy out of making other people anxious – and then disappeared.

After five minutes passed, I started slightly freaking out at the realization that it was twenty minutes to showtime and my brother was waiting for me. So I bid adieu to the bridal party and luckily was able to find the photographer in a hallway, regain possession of the rings, and step outside to get back to the main church.

Except now it was raining and I didn’t have an umbrella, so I was like, “SHIT.” I went back inside and asked the photographer if there was an indoor route to the church that I didn’t know about and she was all, “I dunno.” So then I was like, “SHIT,” again, and just decided to run the few steps there.

And then, as I was approaching the entrance to the church, I slipped.

AND I PLUMMETED.

I was clearly touched by an angel, though, because I managed to make my hands hit the ground first. So it mostly just looked like I was doing a spontaneous and highly awkward military pushup (on a rainy church sidewalk, in a tuxedo) for a second. I also managed to quickly retrieve the rings (which, by the way, had also plummeted and were dangerously close to a sewer… I know. Can you IMAGINE?) and put them safely in my pocket.

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One would never know I had just almost ruined the entire wedding (and my ruggedly handsome face) with a single plunge.

And after that, everything went smoothly.

I pranced into the reception to En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” while the Maid of Honor whipped me (literally), I rocked the Best Man speech (by “rocked,” I mean I got up in front of everyone and went on a long-winded verbal tangent about how my brother is a guy who exemplifies love and I am a guy who spent most of the nineties making Mariah Carey-themed scrapbooks), and I made sure everyone got really, really drunk – which, given our network of friends and family, didn’t actually require too much effort on my part, but still.

The whole thing was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that make you stand back, look at your life, and say, “Holy shit. This is it. This is what matters.” It’s like, we can get so caught up in our daily routines – coffee, soul-sucking jobs, petty arguments, super important life-or-fucking-death (just kidding, I mean petty again) arguments, social media, Mariah Carey’s mental health (okay, maybe that’s just me?), the fucking weather, etc. – that it’s easy to start believing that the stuff that doesn’t matter, matters. But then something reminds you that it doesn’t.

Over time, I’ve found that meditation and books and — frankly — wine are good at helping me get to that place of transcending the bullshit. Celebration and love and family are even better.

And Best Man-ing is, of course, the best.

 

The Restorative Power of Mountains, Oktoberfest, and Lots of Garlic

So, the past few weeks have not been ideal.

I stopped dating (and consequently, blogging), the Pats lost for two weeks in a row, and I had to deal with some other life drama that is totally blog-inappropriate (although, my definition of blog-appropriate includes some pretty questionable things — so there’s a good chance that my other life drama is actually totally apropos by normal-people standards).

In light of the above, I decided to drop everything on Friday and spontaneously join two of my best friends on a trip up to the Catskills for a long weekend of nature, Oktoberfest, and garlic — three of my favorite (totally non-questionable) things.

It was awesome and pretty much fixed my life.

Our first morning there, we engaged in an rousing session of moving wood from a big pile in the yard to a neatly organized stack on the side of a shed.

                                                      Bringing lanky back.

Yeah, I’m basically a glumberjack. (That means “gay lumberjack,” for those of you who don’t spend much time in glumberyards.)

…Or maybe I’m just Big Ang. (This is what happens when I obnoxiously try to display my buff chest while my friend struggles to take a picture that actually includes my face.)

Later that day, we encountered a random group of horses quietly standing still in the middle of a circle.

I know, right? It was weird to me too.

                     “Oh, don’t mind us. We’re just chillin’ with our saddles on.”

Naturally, I felt compelled to loudly declare, “THOSE ARE NOT REAL HORSES!” So I did.

And then my friends looked at me like I was the weird one. And then the horses moved and I stood corrected. And then I tried to explain to my friends that those horses were freakin’ bizarre — because a brilliant Mariah Carey music video from 1997 taught me that real horses, when left to their own devices, like to run wild and free with abandon into the sun.

And then they looked at me like I was weird again, and I was like, “Listen, y’all, if we weren’t in the mountains right now and had cell service, I’d settle this immediately by YouTubing ‘Butterfly’ and this whole argument would be moot.”

And then we all stopped caring about horses because we realized it was time for Oktoberfest.

After a glorious afternoon of beer and German food, we decided that the best way to end the day would be with some good old fashioned cigars while overlooking the mountains from the house we were staying in.

           Gangsta. (Or just nerdy gay man with a cigar and a chalice. Either one.)

For some reason (and by that I mean, “probably because of all the beer”), I felt compelled to try to be a tough guy and inhale all of my cigar smoke for the first time ever. So I did.

And then I proceeded to throw up three times.

Frazzled, I thought I was dying and promptly took to Google while my friends watched A Time to Kill starring Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock and insisted that I was just having a bad reaction to the fact that I inhaled an entire cigar.

Thankfully, Google agreed with my friends. Turns out that inhaling cigar smoke is totally okay if you’re a chain-smoking professional. If you’re a glumberjack who only smokes on special occasions such as Oktoberfest, New Year’s Eve, and Carrie Underwood album release days, then you should avoid it at all costs. (You’re welcome for the warning, glumberjacks.)

By the way, did I mention that there was lots of foliage already and I freakin’ love being in nature?

                                         Fresh mountain air heals everything.

Our final day in the mountains involved hitting up my first-ever garlic festival. And it was heaven.

Turns out I’m a big fan of garlic burgers, garlic fries, garlic pancakes, garlic ice cream in garlic waffle cones, garlic sausage, and (non-garlic) bottled water.

At the end of it all, I feel like the trip (combined with Sunday’s incredible Pats win) really put life back into perspective.

And I didn’t even have to watch Titanic this time!

But I did have to move some wood, throw up a little, and eat probably nineteen cloves of garlic.

Totally worth it.

 

Portrait of a Gay Blogger

Until last weekend, I had always held the belief that it would be impossible for a photograph to ever truly capture the essence of who I am. Such a picture would require all kinds of random elements that rarely end up all in one place.

Such as:

  • A healthy dose of blurriness, so as to mask my various physical faults and create an illusion of attractiveness
  • A feather boa (for divaliciousness)
  • A classic Connecticut outfit — complete with khaki pants, a navy blazer, and a mild air of pretentiousness
  • A prop microphone (for divaliciousness)
  • A light beer
  • A straight woman on either side of me (for divaliciousness)

Apparently divaliciousness is a word. And also a big part of my life.

                                        You’re welcome, world.

 

Boobies

Do you love how I claimed that I would start blogging once a week and then suddenly disappeared from the blogosphere for yet another month?

Again, my absence can be attributed to grad school being a needy bitch.

Honestly, if I could somehow get a written guarantee that my life would turn out just like Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman, I’d totally drop out right now and turn to prostitution — that way I could blog during the day and then hit the streets at night!

Moving on.

Two crazy things happened a few weeks ago that I have been meaning to write about.  They are:

  1. I was involved in a street fight
  2. I went to a straight strip club

(As usual, all names have been changed.)

Both of these events occurred in the same night, and as their respective descriptions imply, involved lots of fists and boobies.

Ok, “lots of fists” might be an exaggeration.  What happened was actually a senseless attack involving just two sets of fists…

…neither of which belonged to me.

A group of friends and I were walking to the subway after having enjoyed some cocktails on my rooftop, when an inebriated Marlena (my delightful classmate and beloved friend) decided to pin me up against the side of a random building and tell me how beautiful, thin, and sexy I am.

  • Explanatory side note:  throughout the evening I was regaling my friends with the high-octane thriller of a story known as Nic Gained Twenty Pounds and is Now Fat and Unlovable.

Out of the freakin’ blue, a drunk and possibly coked out twenty-ish guy came barreling towards us.  He was being loud and obnoxious.

The rest is somewhat blurry, as I was busy being validated…

What I do vividly recall, though, is that after the crazy guy passed by Marlena and me, he randomly punched my friend Steve in the face.

I KNOW, right?!

Had we been in another borough, perhaps I’d understand this random act of violence and hostility… but in safe, gentrified Manhattan?!  I was stunned.

Steve promptly proceeded to fight back and almost severely injured the attacker until someone came in and broke it up.

After this whole debacle, we migrated to a random strip club in midtown called Lace.  Steve recovered very quickly with the help of a lap dance.

And this is why straight men sometimes perplex me.

If I had been randomly punched, it would have taken a lot more than a set of boobs in the face to quell my urge to turn the entire night into a dramatic sympathy-for-Nic festival, complete with multiple retellings of the incident — each of which slightly increasing in severity with alcohol consumption.

Anyways.

As the night progressed, there were lots of boobies — perfectly shaped, oblong, saggy, perky, large, small, and in between.  All major segments of the booby market were represented at this symposium of boobies.

It should be clear by now that I love using the word “boobies,” despite my lack of interest in the actual product.

Something else I love about strip clubs: I get to play some of my favorite question games!

  • Guess the Stripper Life Story
  • If __________ knew his/her song was being stripped to right now, how would he/she react?

and my personal favorite,

  • Which straight man in here do I most wish would instantly turn gay and give ME a lap dance?

Game number one is most fun when you exhaust all of the possibilities.  After mulling through the usual broken home, daddy issues, and working-her-way-through-community-college scenarios, I finally settled on “trained gymnast out of work.”  Bitch knew how to work a pole.

As far as number two goes, I’m pretty sure two of the three members of Destiny’s Child would be appalled to know that “Jumpin’ Jumpin'” is now standard strip club fare.

I’m of course excluding Kelly Rowland — have you seen the video for “Motivation”?

Number three was the least fun, as for some reason I kept coming up with Bradley Cooper, and he wasn’t present.

Hm…

Now that I’ve relived this whole night of boobies, I suddenly have the urge to go watch some softcore gay porn.

That or Pretty Woman.

 

The Hardest Part of Hooking Up

Allow me to preface my second-ever blog post by saying that I’m already a little addicted.  The more I read about the lives of strangers, the more I’m overcome with the kind of concern and fascination I usually reserve for myself and the Kardashians.  This could be dangerous.  I can see myself a year from now wearing the same pajamas for days at a time, laying in bed — MacBook on lap — and rapidly gaining weight while living only vicariously through the blogosphere as I guzzle half-melted Ben & Jerry’s pints and eventually have to be removed from my bedroom via crane.

Then I remember that blogging is two-sided and if I want people to read about my life, it would help to have one.  Which brings us to this past weekend.

  • Note: all names mentioned herein have been changed to protect privacy.

In my inaugural post, I half-seriously mentioned something about “exhausting Nashville’s two gay bars.”  I half-ended up at one of said bars at about 10:00 pm on Friday night.

The last time I went to this establishment, I was approached by and spent two hours in conversation with Brian — an attractive and charismatic black thirtysomething contractor in town for 24 hours on business.  Eventually we were making out in a dark hallway in the back of the bar when he tried to get me to go back to his hotel room.

Enter my puritanical inhibitions.  While promiscuity is as natural for most gay men as, say, listening to Madonna or breathing, I am cursed with what I refer to out loud as “self-respect.”  Really I’m just too insecure, prone to developing feelings, and — most of all — deathly afraid of any and all STD’s.  I blame my Connecticut education and Google Images.

I tried to drunkenly convey my concerns to Brian.  He assured me he was clean and equipped with protection.  Still, I was apprehensive.  To my surprise, he was super understanding and offered a completely-on-my-own-terms hookup, saying we can do as much as I’m comfortable with and nothing more.  In the heat of the moment, I said no — opting instead to go home and eat a Fiber One bar while watching Chelsea Lately interviews on Youtube and Googling ex-boyfriends.

I’m so used to saying no in these situations that he probably could have offered to Saran-wrap his entire body before it came into any contact whatsoever with mine — and I still would’ve declined just out of comfort.

                          My life as printed on a women’s baby tee. (cafepress.com)

Back to Friday.

This time around, I decided that I needed to be more open-minded.  Along comes Martin — a forty-year-old UPS driver who lives here in Nashville.  I had previously sworn off much older men after a debacle in 2008 involving a ridiculous ex named Jose, but Martin had it goin’ on.  Masculine, tan, in better physical shape at 40 than I am at 23… generally tall, dark, and handsome.

  • Sidenote: Martin’s real-life first name is actually the same as my dad’s.  God’s sense of humor disturbs me.

Our conversation was filled with just the right amount of intellect and inappropriateness.  After sharing that he donates to charity and plays in a rugby league on the weekends, I was pretty much ready to introduce him to my entire extended family.  And/or bear his children.

We made out a little, manhandled each other, and exchanged numbers.  Despite the intense physical chemistry, there was no one-night-stand pressure.  It was wonderful.  Now, three days later, a big part of me really wants to see him again… if only I could find a way to reconcile my coital needs with my previously-mentioned neuroses.

I texted my best friend Felicity to get her advice:

ME: I made out with a hot older man the other night.  I think I may give him my flower if we ever meet again.

FELICITY: Keep calling it your flower and no one is ever gonna take it.

Not helpful, but this is why we’re friends.  Major props to anyone who gets the 90’s sitcom reference!

In any case, the sad truth is that it may be ultimately impossible for me to sleep with Martin in a way that I could ever be completely comfortable with. I’m the kind of square whose prerequisites for rolling around naked in bed with someone include things like being in a committed relationship.  And I’m fully aware that I could never have that with someone who:

  • Lives 900 miles away
  • Is almost 20 years older than me
  • Responds to my texts of “What are you up to tonight?” with “supposed to go to a bday party.. unless u want sex.”

Yes, please!  If only.

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