Lately I’ve become one of those women who shuns fashion magazines. I never found myself that humorless in the past, and felt comfortable enough with my weight/body image to read them and not feel outclassed. But lately I’ve found them so depressing and repetitive, and I feel a need to review their various offerings  and modalities, if anything as a WARNING.

Glamour/Marie Claire-This one, even back in the day of buying the mags, was one I shunned. Their target/idealized girl is 28, in a steady long term relationship, in entry level to middling corporate track. She has two best friends, Ashley and Stace, and she goes out with them on Friday nights and stays with the boy (Eric? Matt? Bjorn?) on Saturday nights from 8pm dinner to 5pm goodbye. If you are not one of these girls in any way, i.e. perhaps you have more male friends than female, are left handed or don’t enjoy sushi, they will not REPRESENT. They also add little gems, such as “your fertility isn’t forever girl!” and “horror stories from the dating front lines”-little niblets to let you know that if you haven’t attained all of the idealized variations achieved by their target buyer, you should be up at night, in a cold sweat, because you will be alone 4-EVA.

Allure-This one I secretly enjoy. It leapfrogs over the notions that your social life should match a certain fascist premise. It goes right for the jugular, it says, “you’re terrified of aging and being unattractive! We have the solution! Ahora mismo!” They gleefully give you the latest updates on hair styling and makeup techniques, injectable doohickies, plastic surgery bells and whistles, and the occasional soulful article, such as “My big sister was more beautiful than me” or “How perfume changed my life.” While my tone may sound mocking, they actually have seasoned contributors who know how to turn a pathetically shallow idea into something of substance. And they do not remotely pretend to be deep, In fact, the magazine is refreshingly retro, with no tricky “current feminist events’ articles as decoys.

More-this is the one I love to hate. They claim ageist liberation,as in , “Grrrr…. sexy cougar Lady, you’ve still got it going on! Just don’t wear elastic waistbands or anything above the midthigh region. Not too much skin girlfriend!” Their fear of the aging process is so pronounced, they shirk in fear at the bold act of wearing Chanel’s Vamp nailcolor or showing a little shoulder action. Their mind numbing catalogue of skin care regimens requires the short term memory of a Starbucks barista and the bank account of a former Merrill Lynch exec enjoying a plush bailout package. And their showcase of the Hag of the Month “Look at what 45 (or 50 or 86) looks like now!” is somehow, hmmm…an insult to women in that age group. Yes we get it, older woman can be attractive, what a notion. And yet why do they sound so surprised?

So what IS recommended junk food reading? Well it depends on your state of mind. If your sense of irony is developed to potent levels, I’d say US or Allure, again those magazines enter you into the fun house proportions of pure Celebrity Gazing or Appearance Obsession. While the testament to uber benefactor Oprah has the comically self aggrandizing new age advice, it does at least showcase some real life situations, i.e. financial and interpersonal. Or it attempts to. But whatever you do, don’t read anything without a sense of humor. Or pictures.

dogdate.jpg

To doggonit or not on a date is an interesting question. Depending on the behavior of one’s dog, the squiring of one’s dog on a date is a pretty undesirable action. Would you bring a slightly desultory newborn on a date? Didn’t think so.

Compound trying to find a restaurant in Chicago that allows for dogs, and the stressometer registers code rouge. One time I brought my (now passed on) dog Jackie (not Jaquée of 227 fame) on a date and the occasion suffered. She had prolonged curiousity for a nutty buddy wrapper on the street and my extended efforts to hold on to her leash wore down the skin on my hand. Plus the guy in question was a short red head jackass. Not a pretty combination and a second date was not forthcoming.

I say dogs are great to suss out dates, but only if you are lucky enough to find a friendly nonyuppie at the dog park. And that I tell you, would be a newsworthy occasion.

Good places to take Max the Charming Kashmoodle Mix on a date:

1. Wilson Dog Beach

2. Jerry’s Sandwiches on Division (mediocre food though, be warned and only during the summer months. )

3. Mac’s on Division (disclaimer for all restaurants, dog must be Xanaxed to point of stupefication)

4. Not in one’s way during romantic physical expressions (saying hi is less acceptable these days)

5. A trip to Petco on that 4th date

Links:
Mac's American Food & Drink in Chicago

Jerry's in Chicago

Happy Village

Neighborhood: East Village / Ukranian Village

1059 N. Wolcott Ave.    Chicago, IL 60622

773-486-1512

Despite my desperate clutching for a good headline, as evidence
above, I have to say hesitating positives for Happy Village, though
for a select crew.

The interior, heck, the whole bar caters to the skinny jean (not
mall loiterers)  janitorial chain crew. The bar is bare bone in terms of decor, I’m not sure what types of top shelf vodka the place has, and the only
atmosphere is provided by the glow of the jukebox. However, for ultra low pressure first encounters, and again with the forgiving evening light, the place has a certain understated caché.

Drawbacks are lots of smokers, and despite this alleged ban on bar
smoking, not sure the haze is going to lift anytime soon. The
owner has strung klieg lights in the back, so summertime is the
optimal time to go. That said, they are of the “night of freaks at
the circus”  variety-not warm incandescent. Also cheap plastic
chairs abound in the back, making those awful plastic chair squeaking noises whenever you move. (and louder the heavier you are, oy!)  Also the place gets quite crowded, so maybe I’m retracting my unequivocal support
as first date material. Still, the place lends itself (again in summer)
to warm casual strolls after the fact, or you can throw in the whole
kit and head over to the more conventionally upscale Vintage. (see
first entry.)

funnyman.jpg

This page gets a lot of traffic, so it’s due for some nice revisions.

Assessing what to wear on a first date for either gender is tricky. One wants to look their best, but not as if they strategized to look their best. Here are a few shortcuts to achieving that physical comfort zone so you can careen headfirst into the emotional discomfort zone known as dating.

First off, some of the physical basics women look for:

Dry palms, although a slightly sweaty palm can be slightly flattering.

Decent breath, but not amazingly good. A burst of mint can be nice, especially when it comes from your dental hygienist’s mouth, but it seems overly coached from a date. Neutral is just fine, but not meaty, k?

A level C douchebag shirt (see last post) Avoid level B and DEFINITELY no level A.

Eye contact-with warmth if possible. An evasive glance can be unsettling, and direct eye contact is usually quite sexy. Obviously the old Clint Eastwood steely glare, we all know isn’t so comforting, but that’s a given right?

And now on to the clothing portion of our evening:

Women love jeans  midrange in price, but not GAP, please not Gap jeans. I’ve never seen anyone’s tush look really good in them. Also please avoid super high luxe brands because women will think you’re vain. Also consider opting for cords (women love them,
They think of rubbing their hands on your legs, even if it’s subconscious)

Some guys can pull off quirky touches, such as wearing a cardigan. Only a rare breed can win this look, but occasionally a guy will look truly individualistic, in the spirit of one of the characters in Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan movie.

If you’re in an urban area, at least consider a vintage shirt. Those express your individuality, just make sure the smell is A OK. Those button down Cuban numbers are adorable on most guys, and you’re sure to have no one copying your exact look.

Hipster shoes that are NOT chunky (women think you’re trying to add height if you wear those). Think of those bowling, faux vintage shoes…BAD shoes ….BAD!goodshoes.jpg

To cologne or not to cologne? That is ze question. I personally love the subtle smell of cologne or after shave. Subtle being the operative word. Listen this isn’t a job interview, you don’t have to be that neutral. That said, some guys like to express ultra casz attitude in the first date or don’t like a strong smell. I say just go for it, green, crisp and subtle. Yum.

Your wallet (and ALWAYS refuse the woman’s offer to pay, but please, stay
within your financial means! It’s ok to go to a casual place, datingdish
will find you affordable options, I promise!)

A shirt’s douchebagerie level has three classifications. Akin to the Bush administration’s security codes, here at datingdish we have opted for the simple alphabetical approach.

Level a (Emergency-total fashion clone)=diagonal, untucked, with premium jeans. Sometimes offering an embroidered print. Wearer often sports hair hardened by styling products, probably wore Drakkar Noir until freshman year in college.

Level b (confused, but not sexually)
not diagonal striped, perhaps a solid color, oftentimes with
a sheen and a slight butterfly color. A man who sports this shirt is oftentimes confused about footwear, might opt for cords or Gap (wrong) jeans with this.

shirt.jpg

Level c-(code green, we can breath easy and declassify you
as a clone) offering western details, maybe a plaid of floral.
You’re not afraid to be a bit flamboyant, but the colors are
leaning towards neutral. You listen to true alternative music, don’t care for techno, but think goth punks are trite. You might already be in a creative profession and will opt for the zipped up sweatshirt and chunky shoes.Once in a blue moon (incidentally, probably your second favorite beer) we’ll find you in a ribbed turtleneck in shades of rust.

*referring to the first posting about “Vintage” wine bar

the best pic I could find online

1935 W. Chicago Avenue

(312) 243-5600

Cleo’s is the bar you pick when you don’t care too deeply about first impressions. When I think of the bar (with grilled food, more on that later) the dim lighting comes to mind. Not dim in a defrocked Ricardo Montalban type of way, but in a “a bunch of wet kindergartenders on a field trip just sullied our tile floors” kind of way. When one walks by from the south there is always a jetblack maned underfed youngster (grandma!) acting as de facto greeter, perched on his seat, blowing smoke within a 15 degree radius of my sad self. The bouncer, usually a mere 20 lbs. heavier than myself usually seems grateful for the additional company.

Lighting, as we all know, is key, and Cleo’s scores several datingdish points (tada!) by stringing little red lanterns in the front room. If you can squeeze in a seat among the 30 and 40 something hipsters and other somewhat questionable types you have scored. Otherwise you are relegated to the Siberia of the back room, which has the dull warm flourescence that makes you question your eyesight. In addition the Olde Chicago favourite, the sports monitors/monsters become a hindrance to that first, second or frankly any date. I had to compete with my date who had roving eyes there, not for the dishy waitress, but for ESPN2 tennis.

The drinks are relatively affordable, though I remember the at best average wine costing a bit more (was it $7?) which I think is ridiculous considering the ambiance and House vintage. The service, usually in faux vintage t-shirts, is palatably friendly but again, curiously absent at that moment you’re desperate to pay and get away from that awkward date, which would be an unremarkable experience at Cleo’s.

The summer provides better opportunities for dating there, because the beer garden is open and there is a more expansive provision of saxy lighting. Unfortunately one is forced to sit on that awful metal chair that leaves a diamond pattern on one’s tush. Additionally I had the experience there with my dear friend L (not a date but who cares) of having to GET UP and get my own water from the near empty cooler. And pay for table service on top of that. Quite the offense. Though I shy away from food reviews, Cleo’s is NOT a place to dig into anythng healthy or colored anything other than brown. It’s fine if you want the conventional bar food trappings, but even in that case, it’s just OK.

In summary, Cleo’s is ideal for the after party party with that date you already know somewhat, when you’ve been swanked out by the loungy, throttling beats of the clubs with low furniture. (Why is it clubs now have such low furniture? Seems like a liability, even without imbibing martinis ) The relatively lower price point will come as a relief, the softer music will soothe your tinnitis strained ears, and the nonambiance will neither intimidate nor enthrall you.

In other words, it’s just ok, but awful if in the back room.

Cleo's in Chicago

vintage interiorThe idea of this blog is to review restaurants, but only in the context of how palatable (punny, right) they are for dating. As I seem to be a bit of an expert on the nuances of dating, but especially how IMPORTANT the right setting is for those first few dates, I decided to opine on the various Chicago eateries/lounges.

This week’s installment

Vintage

Bucktown/Wicker Park
1942 W Division St
Chicago, IL 60622


By Margalit

This week’s review sends us to the outer banks of the Wicker
Park corner of Division and Damen to a semi luxe bar called
“Vintage.” Now before you imagine Edith Piaf renditions of
“L’Etranger” crooning through Aunt Vivian’s phonograph or
musty silk raiments please take hold, Vintage simply refers
to the fruit of the vine.

Vintage is an excellent place for a first date, barring one rule:
come before 10pm. At that magic hour, the subtle electronica
escalates into an assault of thumping elephant beats. (“turn it down,
sonny!”) The club, wine bar, what have you boasts an
excellent menu, as the chef changed somewhere around summer
of 07, though portions can be a bit stingy. The artichoke hearts are above
average though with a slightly excessively oily sauce. The pizza
is an excellent value and restrains itself with only the best
basil, cheese and sauce, a true Margherita.

But again let’s keep the focus on atmosphere. First dates usually involve
two slightly edgy people eagerly gulping down the first
glass to calm their nerves. That is why I recommend the
waitstaff, friendly (I especially love B.J. and please no obvious jokes here,
and the other chick Danielle?) yet they are not painfully perky pests.
There is one embittered bartender who failed to laugh at my off the
cuff joke about lawyers, but he was the exception. Unfortunately the overhead light
is least flattering to those concerned with bags under their eyes
but if you sit by the front, the bar or outdoors during the summer
you can get the necessary antiaging luminescence. Unfortunately post 10pm
the place becomes a coterie of youngish men in douchebag shirts
and the ladies who love them and love to talk LOUD. One other
drawback involving after hours is that people are rumored to enter
the bathroom in pairs, ahem ahem.

So to recap: good for a first date if sitting by the bar or in front, before
10pm, and don’t be afraid to order a tasty appetizer or entrée. BAD
if one has laryngitis, has an aversion to neo Sade lounge music,
and sits under those ghastly lights in the left back area.

Vintage Wine Bar in Chicago