Humorist, Author of PRESCHOOLED: A NOVEL

Chicktionary Excerpt


As any woman will tell you, women are easy to understand if you’ll just stop being stupid. To this end, the book you’re holding aims to demystify a key component of feminine culture: the dialect. But first, a bit of galactic history.

It has been said that women and men come from two different planets. This theory would explain a lot – the language barrier, for starters. For eons, the two sexes have sat across from each other at the negotiating table like haggard diplomats, painstakingly hammering out rudimentary common meaning between two fundamentally different methods of communication. As earnest as these efforts are, sometimes we can’t help but feel we’ve fallen into the stereotypical tourist mindset, believing that all will be understood if we speak loudly and s-l-o-w-l-y.

In the meantime, women have created a complex and nuanced lexicon of their own, one that is effortlessly understood by all females and which conveys – through context, subtext and, occasionally, pretext – the ever-changing and largely annoying experience of being a contemporary earth woman. Like a secret handshake among lodge members, female vernacular conveys volumes of unspoken meaning requiring no explanation, thus saving valuable conversation time that would be better spent critiquing someone’s acid-washed jeggings.

For instance, you’re considering cutting your own bangs? To the untrained ear, this is small talk, a throwaway comment. We, however, hear this as the distress call it is and have our purse and car keys in hand before you’ve finished your sentence.

And that’s just the beginning.

Your new bra showcases your back fat? You’re experiencing man drought, or – worse – your new relationship is laced with residual girlfriend? Troublesome T-zone? Depressed about your cankles? Screening your wasband’s calls? We get it.

That’s not to say the female dialect can be picked up overnight. For the non-native speaker – the one who thinks an espadrille is something found in a toolbox – fluency may come only after years of study. Sure, there will be frustrations along the way as you struggle to understand the subtle shadings between a cougar and a puma, but there will also be deeply rewarding moments, like when you explain to your coworkers over fried potato skins the significant difference between secondary virginity and revirginization. For those seeking immersion in and understanding of the not-so-secret language of women, we hope you will come to think of Chicktionary not only as a reference book soon to grace the shelves of America’s finer vocational schools, but as your personal Rosetta Stone.

Far from being simply a phrase book for the male adventurer hoping to speak the lingo to the female locals, Chicktionary is a critical text for women as well. For those seeking an efficient term to replace the cumbersome “that woman your jerk of a daddy deserted us for” (we suggest “stepwife”), or women looking to settle an argument with girlfriends regarding pubic topiary and the difference between the Sphinx and the landing strip, Chicktionary stands ready to serve as the soon-to-be-dog-eared compendium of choice.

Whether you just got a Brazilian blowout at the salon, or you think that’s something that happens to a rental car in Rio, there is much to be learned about the society of women – not to mention society at large – by taking a look at the feminine terminology that erupts and endures over time. In this easy-to-use volume (which has been alphabetized for convenience and freshness), you will find everyday words with their underlying meanings disclosed as well as examples of contemporary female patois that you will no doubt be passing off as your own by dinnertime.

Beyond a mere collection of words and phrases, however, Chicktionary is above all a celebration of a rich linguistic tapestry that is as familiar and comforting as your fat pants.

Aunt Flo, proper noun
1. A humorous nickname for your monthly period (see also: the curse, Festival of Menses). In addition to the entertainment value offered by the “flo/flow” homonym, the Aunt Flo code name for menstruation is employed either when there are b-o-y-s within earshot or when the speaker is of such a delicate disposition that the use of the coarser “period” would be unthinkable. Note: you may not substitute another relative for “Flo” in this construction, because if you say you’re bloated due to your Aunt Agatha being in town, no one will know what the hell you’re talking about. 2. Your mother’s sister Florence.

Bachelor Party, noun
A ritualistic gathering held in advance of a wedding during which the groom-to-be is celebrated and the honor of his future wife is upheld through all manner of drink, dance and general revelry. The bachelor party is traditionally an all-male event with the one notable exception of the female exotic dancer hired to perform by the best man. Without fail, the male partygoers become charmed by this young med student and soon lose interest in her performance, but rather form a protective circle of chairs around her and spend the balance of the evening either helping her prepare for her upcoming midterms or taking turns reading aloud from Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Beach Hair, noun
The coastal equivalent of bed head, beach hair is another of those mythical hair arrangements that strives to look spontaneous but in fact requires a team of scalp wranglers and a bucket full of specialized products to achieve. The term “soft waves” occurs repeatedly in discussions on the topic of beach hair, as do sexy words like “tousled” and “wild.” These are in stark contrast to the words we use to describe our hair after a day at the beach – words like “matted” and “bent.” Perhaps we’re going to the wrong beach, because after a day of getting bashed by waves, rubbing sunscreen in our eyes and digging wet sand out of our butt cracks, our appearance is less suited for cocktails and smooth jazz at Ken’s Malibu beach house and more suited for being airlifted out by the Coast Guard.

Biological Clock, noun
A popular term for the supposed internal timing mechanism that drives a woman to begin actively desiring a baby. Although each woman’s body operates by its own individual timeframe, popular culture dictates that a woman begins to become aware of the “ticking” of her clock in her late 20’s and early 30’s. It is further theorized that the ticking becomes more pronounced as the woman moves through her mid-thirties, and some claim that it can ratchet up to an audible beeping as the fortieth birthday approaches. Is there a snooze button? Yes, and it can be activated by eating at any children’s so-called “theme restaurant,” particularly on a Saturday.

Bridal Headpiece, noun
The opportunities for fashion missteps when selecting the bridal gown pale in comparison to those that must be navigated on the bumpy road to a headpiece. Apparently there’s something about things that go on your head that makes even the most down-to-earth bride decide that the time has come to let her fashion freak flag fly. Since when does your sister the metalhead like pillbox hats with veils? Who knew your best friend had an Isis complex? And why is your normally level-headed business partner swooning over the organza headband attached to a silk flower/feather satellite the size of a trash can lid?

Childbirth, noun
Part miracle of nature, part slasher film, childbirth is one of those things that has to be experienced to be believed, particularly the first time around. Like skydiving, you can listen to the instructor talk all day long, but until someone pushes your ass out of an airplane, it’s all academic. Luckily, every single woman’s body is slightly different, so no matter how experienced your doctor/midwife/cab driver is, there will be a moment when he or she looks truly perplexed by something happening between your legs. It’s comforting at that time to remember that women have been giving birth for centuries and the body knows what to do. After all, it’s as simple as slipping a cannonball through a keyhole.

Condom, noun
Commonly known as a rubber, “love glove” or “world’s tightest knee sock,” the condom is an extremely popular form of birth control that performs several critical functions. First, the condom prevents pregnancy. Second, it helps prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Third, and perhaps most important, the use of a condom introduces the concept of the “mandatory time-out” into the lovemaking ritual, during which the man has the opportunity to show off his fumbling skills while serenading his waiting partner with erotic wrapper-ripping sounds. Also, some condoms come with little built-in speed bumps for your pleasure. You’re welcome.

Cunnilingus, noun
Fancy Roman word for oral sex involving the rhythmic, repetitive application of one’s mouth and tongue against, into, onto, upon, around, about and, if , you’re really motivated, through a woman’s genitals. If performed with even a modicum of skill, cunnilingus will produce a typical reaction that falls somewhere between a grand mal seizure and being called up onstage at a Bon Jovi concert. Poorly executed cunnilingus, however, will result in a pitying tap on the provider’s shoulder and an unsmiling, “Let’s move on.”

Exfoliation, noun
Any procedure that mechanically scrubs or scrapes off dead skin cells, revealing supposedly “newer, fresher” skin underneath. There are many home methods of exfoliation, including granulated scrubs and creams, loofahs, pumice stones and [shudder] metallic scraping devices. At the professional level, exfoliation can be a full sensory experience that includes sprinkles of sea salt or crushed nutshells, mood-enhancing aromatic oils and the haunting tones of the pan flute. It is worth noting that the physical experience of a thorough exfoliation can range from an invigorating buffing to the sensation of being pushed from a moving car onto the floor of the Mojave Desert.

Face Shapes, noun
Whether you like it or not, the shape of your face falls into one of several standard categories, which include oval, long, heart, round and square. Some well-known examples of these shapes include Reese Witherspoon (heart), Charlie Brown (round) and Spongebob Squarepants (square). To determine the shape of your face, stand in front of a mirror, view your face and ask yourself this question: “What shape is that?” Once you have identified your face shape, this information will influence many fashion decisions, such as hairstyle and earring choice. For example, if you have a “long” face, it’s inadvisable that you cut your hair into a short bob unless your goal is to look like a thumb wearing a Willy Wonka wig.

Feminine Protection, noun
A term that describes the category of products designed and marketed to ease a woman through her monthly period (see also: the curse, Aunt Flo, Festival of Menses). Deceptively tough-sounding, feminine protection products are basically made from clouds of snow-white cotton, some with feather-light linings, covers and even wings (coming soon: rainbows!). The “protection” portion of the phrase begs the question: protection from what, exactly? Society’s unreasonable expectations? The harsh judgments of peers? The Man? Perhaps women seek refuge from Aunt Flo herself, who is so ruthless in her assault that at times only the most vigilant protection – yes, overnight protection – can hold her at bay.

Fit Model, noun
This is the so-called “average-sized” woman on whom a clothing manufacturer will base a size in its line. This is an interesting concept, and one that conjures up a variety of images in consumers’ minds as they attempt to find clothing they can actually wear. For instance, when you try on a piece of clothing at a store, you may inspect its fit on your seemingly average body and wonder where the manufacturer found a fit model with a trapezoidal torso, 40-inch arms, the complete absence of a butt and a waistline that falls three inches below her nipples.

Food Porn, noun
Any of the current popular television shows devoted to the preparation, celebration and consumption of food. Often presented in eye-popping, mouth-watering high definition, food porn presents the entire food-preparation ritual in highly eroticized form, from the gentle washing of camera-ready vegetables to the vigorous whisking of a naughty hollandaise sauce to the tremulous shimmy of a gelatin mold when freed from the confines of its aluminum form. Whether your taste runs toward gentle titillation (down-home recipes in sweet country cottages) or whether you like it rough (international teams of chefs battling it out in sleek studio kitchens), you can be certain that, somewhere on the channel listings, there is a show for you. Just promise we won’t walk in and find you basting.

Gauche, adjective
Like “chic,” this is one of those words that automatically locks up your jaw and makes you feel superior to everyone else in the room. Also like “chic,” you’re not sure exactly what qualifies for this label, you just know it’s a really classy slam. A close cousin to “tacky,” gauche seems to be the put-down of choice for something that has an inherent air of fanciness about it. For instance, you might say that your great aunt’s wearing of her heirloom diamond brooch in her bathrobe was gauche, whereas her wearing said bathrobe to the liquor store was tacky. See the difference?