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How To: Watch a Movie Alone

This is part of a series of How To Guides about living on your own, in a new city, and/or with your parents.  Growing up is never hard to do, but it can be funny when you make a lot of mistakes, and force yourself to do things most people find shameful.  This is for your own erudition.

Living at home is phenomenal.  Nothing beats hanging out with your parents, eating home-cooked meals you didn’t have to make, getting your laundry done, premium cable (!!!!).  However, one of the things you first notice missing is your social life.  Living in the suburbs (where your parents probably live, if they haven’t already gone off the grid) is not conducive to a vibrant social scene, unless you’re into antiquing or socializing at the grocery store.  Then by all means, go crazy!  But me, I need some time with people that either a) didn’t have a direct hand in my existence and b) are under the age of 65.  I’m pretty easy.

For this reason, I like to go see movies.  Unlike most normal 20-somethings, I don’t usually have someone to go with.  Or I don’t want to take my 13 year old brother to see ‘The Kids Are Alright’.  So what do I do?  I go see the movie, by myself.  The following are the steps you need to follow in order to get through seeing a movie by yourself without taking a ride on what I like to call the Shame Cycle.

1. Confidence

This is the first and most important part.  Sharks and movie tellers are the only two known species that can smell fear on a person.  Second grade teachers have been rumored to have this ability, but there has been no empirical evidence to confirm the hypothesis.  Anyways, you need to walk up to the teller and say, in a loud clear voice, “ONE FOR TOY STORY 3, PLEASE.”  If they ask you if you’re meeting anyone, run.  They’ve already caught onto you and you’re dead in the water.  If not, you’ve passed the first test.  All that’s left is to get past the ticket taker, and often times they’re asleep, so it ain’t no thang.

Alternative: Instead of buying a ticket in person, you can also buy one online.  However, this means you have planned to see a movie by yourself ahead of time, and if this is the case, you’ve got some deeper issue to work on, buddy.

2. Movie Selection

This is a very important part as well.  Pick a “Schindler’s List”, you’ll be crying for hours with no one to comfort you.  Pick a “Spy Kids”, you’ll be getting suspicious stares from parents and children alike.  Pick a “Notebook”, you’re bound to be alone forever.  Pick a “Fool’s Gold” and you might actually go into the world’s first stupidity coma.  The point is, selection is key.  Not too sad, not too happy, not too many families, not too many friends, not too much action, and just the right amount of Bruce Willis.  You don’t want to be reminded you’re all by yourself, but you also don’t want to forget that movie stars need to pay their bills too.

3.  Seating

Once you’ve gotten past the vicious hoardes, seating is very important.  Just like a school cafeteria, where you seat in a theater will slap you with a label that will remain with you the rest of your life.  Wait, that’s not right… but for the sake of the argument, I present some master-theater-goer archetypes.

Tracy Flick: You’re showing that you’re overeager and don’t want to see people’s faces when they see you’re alone.  This is for the weak-hearted and the strong-necked

Jennifer Grey: This position is naturally back in the corner.  Don’t fall subject to your inner Jennifer Grey.  There may be a Patrick Swayze to come and rescue you, but mullets take a long time to get perfect, so don’t hold your breath.

Jake Gylenhaal:  This is what happens when you arrive late to slip in unnoticed, but all the seats are taken, so you have to sit in the middle.  Just like Jake Gylenhaal did in Brokeback Mountain.  Which is not a good movie to see by yourself.

Steven Segal: This is the position of the seasoned veteran.  You don’t flinch at your solitude, you relish in it and sit in the very middle.  You don’t care that your ponytail looks stupid, by god you’re going to see the movie and you’re going to enjoy yourself!

4.  The Escape

As important as all the other steps were, this last one is just as important.  Stay too long, you’ll get called out for being a lingerer, and god forbid, get roped into a conversation to discuss the movie (ewwww).  Leave to early, and you run into getting judged by the attendant who is wondering why you’re leaving so early BY YOURSELF.  Timing is essential, just like in throwing a hand grenade.  Both have equally grave consequences.

Hopefully, if you should every find yourself standing in front of a theater pondering seeing a movie by yourself, remember these 4 important parts, and you should be fine.  If not, you could always just Netflix it.

Enter the Axis of Evil, aka: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

In honor of the passing of one of the world’s leading unintentionally funny psychotics, I would like to share an email I received while I was studying abroad in Beijing during 2009 regarding an opportunity to travel to North Korea.  If you weren’t aware, China is very close to North Korea.  Here’s a picture:

Super close!

This is from a fellow student, and I have not edited this email in any way, as any changes would ruin the essence of it:

In recent history, Americans have only been allowed to enter North Korea on four occasions: in 2002, 2005, 2008, and now in 2009. Not only are we here on the right year, we also happen to be here during the one month Americans are allowed to enter North Korea during 2009. 

It is dangerous and travelers do on occasion get detained but you would literally be one of 600 Americans to have stepped into North Korea since the country closed its borders to foreigners in 1953. What is most spectacular about the trip is that we would be going during what is called the Mass Games. The Games only take place once every few years and is comparable to the Olympic opening ceremony only this features 100,000 synchronized gymnasts inside the world’s largest stadium[1]. North Korea has decided to open its borders to foreign tourists like us for these games.

Upon entering North Korea, your passport will be taken by North Korean officials for the duration of your stay. You may not bring your cell phone. You may not bring your laptop. You are not allowed to use local currency. You may not speak to any North Koreans. Assume you are being listened to at all times. You may not say their leader Kim Jong’s name (it is Holy and not be said out loud). Not under any circumstances can you voice any criticisms of North Korea. Any pictures you take have to be government approved and will be checked upon your departure[2].

For anyone who is up to going, there are a few of us who are also really interested and we would love for you to come too! Every detail of the trip has to be settled TODAY on Wednesday, Sept 30 so please call me PRONTO if you want more information and are interested in coming!

This was equal parts shocking and intriguing, and during the 5 minutes I actually considered going, I decided to send it to the one person who would freak out the most: My mother.  I like to do things like that to keep our relationship interesting.  And by interesting, I mean dramatic.  Here was her response:

No Fing way!!!!!!!!!!!  Don’t even think about it Ben!!!!

Your personal axis of evil,


So as I look back on the life of a man I never knew, I’ll always remember two things: 1) My mother loves me enough to not want me to get abducted in a foreign country and 2) North Korea is bat-shit insane.  I only hope this new guy proves equally exciting for many decades to come.  Fingers crossed!!!

Los Angeles Correspondent,
Benjamin Gullickson

[1] The Mass Games are done for the sole purpose to honor and praise Kim Jong-Il.  It’s super creepy.  Check it out.

[2] She really had me at “assume you are being listened to at all times”.  Nothing says “vacation” like espionage!

Achieving Goals!

In the theme of New Years resolutions and goals, I will tell you all a little success story of mine.

Since quitting my real person job and moving back in with my parents, I thought I could use my sudden abundance of time to start taking better care of my body.  For those of you unaqquainted with my habits, you should know that this is quite a feat, as my diet has typically been made up of a large amount of the Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell dollar menu, and that I only went to the gym in college to play intermural basketball or to climb on the rock wall.  And that only happened, like, 4 times.

So despite years of bad habits working against me, I decided I was going to lose those lbs I’d packed on since I’d left for college.  In my attempt to reach this goal, I realized I needed to make some changes.  I got a dog, in hopes that I would walk it (I don’t). I spent hours deciding which gym to join (I haven’t).  But despite these setbacks, I have manage to actually lose some weight.  And I didn’t even notice! Until today…

Today, the 68 year old dishwasher at the restaurant where I am employed walked up to me, and began, as he always does, to speak to me, rapidly, in Spanish.  This would be fine, if I understood a word of Spanish. I do not.

Our conversation went something like this:

Grandpa (Also for some creepy reason, everyone calls this man “Grandpa”): Thrajdke ajsowe dsalkjfa  fasjdflkj asdjfasf  SPANISH SPANISH SPANISH kjfa asdfjslfkj dfas jsfd al” 

Me: “Grandpa, you know I don’t speak Spanish,  I can’t understand you.  I took French remember? Lo ciento!? No comprendo?! YO NO SAY?!”

Grandpa then starts gesturing with his arms while still rambling in Spanish.  He points at me (mostly my mid-region), then holds his hands apart real wide, then brings them in, then points to me.  This happens repeatedly, while I, in a bizarro game of charades, try to guess what exactly he’s trying to say about me to me.  

Eventually we reach this:

Me: “What Grandpa?  Are you saying that I was fat? But now I’m not?”

Grandpa: “Si, si!” (Nods and smiles and continues to gesture and point)

Me: “Ok. Thanks.”

Thanks to Grandpa, today I realized that I’d reached a goal without even trying!  I think that’s a good lesson to take away.  Sometimes, it’s just better to not even try.

PS. I’m pretty sure the secret to my disappearing figure is that I drink a lot of Five Hour Energies, then lose my appetite for days!  Or maybe it’s just the new pants I got.  In any case, Grandpa thinks I’m skinny.  And that’s all that really matters, right?

Con amor,


Mission Cheese Ball

I would rather get hit in the face with a ceiling fan while dancing on a table than attend a small holiday party. A few months ago I got hit in the face with a ceiling fan while dancing on a table but it did not get me out of any holiday parties. I wouldn’t hate holiday parties so much if they didn’t get in the way of my favorite winter pastime: eating cheese and watching crime dramas with my parents. This holiday season, I decided if I couldn’t watch crime dramas and eat cheese at home I’d have to find the next best thing. The following is step by step guide to spice up the boring holiday party by pretending you are in a crime drama on a mission to eat an entire cheese ball off the hors d’oeuvres table.

1. Form an alliance: First, you’ll need an ally. My advice in this situation is TRUST NO ONE. As your own ally/accomplice/hype-man, dare yourself to eat as much of a port wine cheese ball as you can without anyone noticing that you’ve eaten more than normal. You’ll feel like a cross between James Bond and Kirstie Alley as you stealthily/gluttonously down an enormous ball of cheese.
2. Preliminary Work: Next you’ll want to do some preliminary work. Call the host and kindly offer to bring something to the party. Most likely, she’ll say no, insisting your presence is all she could ever ask for. Agree with her to be polite and assure her you won’t bring a thing.
3. Buy the Cheese Ball: Drive to your nearest grocery store and buy a port wine cheese ball. Few people have read the lost chapter of Miss Manners detailing the importance of a cheese ball to any holiday party. It was left out of the book for political reasons much like the book of Melvin was left out of the Biblical Canon. Your host will be blown away by your thoughtfulness and thorough knowledge of manners.
4. Go to the Party: Put the cheese ball in your purse. Arrive at the party 25 minutes before it begins. Hosts secretly love an early guest. (This fact is detailed in another lost chapter of Miss Manners). Offer to help set up the hors d’oeuvres. This is your opportunity to set the spread up to benefit you. You’ll also appear helpful which hosts love.
5. Acquire Wine: Ask your host for a glass of wine. Even though your host will most likely be scrambling to finish last minute party details, she’ll be happy to serve you a glass of wine. It will make her feel useful and it will give you the chance to get started on that cheese ball mission. While she gets the wine from the other room, remove the cheese ball from your purse and put it with the other hors d’oeuvres.
6. Make a Mess: As soon as your host hands you the wine, spill it all over the floor. She’ll leave for paper towels, giving you the opportunity to secretly eat the cheese ball. Pick up the cheese ball and eat off the bottom. When you hear footsteps indicating the return of your host, set it back down and surround that base with wheat thins. The cheese ball will appear untouched.
7. Leave the Cheese Ball: I know it sounds crazy but you need to give it some space. Act like you’re paying attention to guests as they arrive but keep most of your focus on the cheese ball across the room.
8. Choose a Target: Keep track of other party goer’s cheese ball habits and choose a target. When you notice a guest take a third or fourth bite of the cheese ball make a joke at her expense. For example, “Wow Dana, you’re really tearing up that cheese ball over there!” Dana will laugh but she’ll also become self conscious and leave the cheese ball.
9. Hype Up the Cheese Ball: This is your first public move toward the cheese ball. Make it count! Make sure your host is out of earshot, as she is the only attendee who knows you brought the cheese ball. Everyone else at the party needs to believe this is your first experience with a cheese ball. Take your first bite. Really milk it. “Oh my stars! What is this delicious ball of cheese? What do you call it?!?” This is your moment to shine. Ham it up a little. You’ll want a crowd for your next move.
10. Convince Dana to Eat More Cheese Ball: This might take the most effort/strategy but it is an integral part of the plan. Remember Dana? Convince her to eat another bite of the cheese ball. She’ll hesitate but you must persist. Find a way to get her back to that cheese ball! Gain her trust then wait for her to take a bite.
11. Publicly Ridicule Dana: Loudly yell, “Dana! Come up for air every once in a while! My god! You and that cheese ball! Why don’t you just pick it up and take it around the room with you!?!?” Humiliated, Dana will once again leave the cheese ball. The crowd will laugh but subconsciously avoid the cheese ball for fear of a public shaming like Dana’s.
12. Eat the Cheese Ball: Take what is rightfully yours!
13. Work the Room: Mention Dana and the cheese ball in as many conversations as possible. People at the party will view you as a great conversationalist and mingler.
14. Plant Some Evidence: If you can’t watch CSI this is the next best thing. Finish the cheese ball and get your coat. While you grab your coat, slip the empty plastic wrapper from the cheese ball into Dana’s pocket. No mercy, Dana.
15. Leave without Explanation: I offer no explanation for this step.

Optional: Drive straight from the party to your local grocery store. Purchase another cheese ball. Find out where Dana is going next. Repeat steps 4-15.


How to be a Bridesmaid, Sans Date

  1. Drink early and often.
  2. Dance with your friends’ parents.
  3. Deliver a hilarious toast so everybody knows how funny and cool you are and its not like there’s a reason that you couldn’t lock anybody down for four hours. No reason at all.
  4. Be super attentive to the bride (she’s why you’re there, after all).
  5. Eat as many hors d’oeuvres as possible in the bridal suite thing. They will all be gone by the time you get to cocktail hour what with pictures and stuff.
  6. Cute groomsmen? Go for.
  7. No cute groomsmen? Flirt with the event staff.
  8. Drop your drink and break the glass on the dance floor for good measure. This will show people that you’re down to party hard like Avril Lavigne or something, which is super sexy.
  9. If you can get in the middle of a dance circle, do.
  10.  At the end of the night, have your cab driver stop at a grocery store so you can get a couple boxes of mac and cheese to take home and make with the other dateless hags bridesmaids.  Eat the mac and cheese while watching a late night airing of the TLC special “The Virgin Diaries”. If you can, pass out with the bowl still in your hand.