The Awful Truth | Grading the Hall Pass

A week off your relationship? A celebrity one-night stand? A mutually agreed upon hall pass may sound like an easy A, but columnist Paul Nakayama reminds us why that’s just cheating.

ISSUE: Winter 2011-12

DEPT: The Awful Truth

STORY: Paul Nakayama

Recently, I chatted with my editor at Audrey’s Fashion Night Out. It was nothing too cerebral, since I can’t speak intelligently about politics, the economy, science, literature or really anything besides video games or comic books. (How is a geek like me the relationship columnist, you ask? A steady delivery of cupcakes to a certain office in Gardena helps.) Nonchalantly, she turned to me and asked, “What do you think about hall passes?”

“Do they still use them in school?” I asked.

“No, you know, where you get a week off from marriage and live the single life,” she said.

My jaw dropped. “Your husband is right there!” I gasped. I mean, flattered, but I still gasped.

“What?! No, not with me! I mean as your next topic for the column!” She exclaimed, wide-eyed and likely offended.

I nodded understandingly. Oh. Right. Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking, too. I took the awkward silence as an agreement on our new topic. And so here I am, the single guy talking about the troubles that married couples face.

In the 2011 movie, Hall Pass, by the Farrelly brothers, Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis are unhappy with their married lives, so their frustrated wives give them a guilt-free week to party like single men. Essentially, they’re authorized to bang anyone if they can pull it off. I don’t know about you, but the premise alone sounds like entrapment. They might as well answer their wives when asked if they look fat. But that’s how the movie goes and, like any predictable comedy, they learn the error of their ways and learn to appreciate their marriages. Of course, in the real world, a story like that can only end in UFC- style beatdowns, dismemberment and the splitting of assets.

But for the sake of adding a few hundred words to the column, let’s explore why a Hall Pass might come to be. I know a lot of married couples and, while they shall remain nameless, the number one complaint I get from the husbands is that sex is all but gone. They say they masturbate more now than when they were single, which means you should never shake hands with a married man. Either you’re too tired, she’s too tired, the kids won’t leave you alone or whatever the reason, sex is rarely as passionate or spontaneous or even available as it used to be. For some men, that’s like being the benchwarmer on a Super Bowl-winning team … they’ll eventually ask themselves, “Why am I wearing this ring?”

That’s not to say that the lack of sex is the biggest issue leading to a Hall Pass-destined marriage – it’s just the most common complaint I’ve heard. I’ve heard it so much that I’m starting to doubt the reasons why married men want man-caves. I’d assumed it was used as a mecca for video games and beer, but the truth might be closer to it being a den of rampant, desperate masturbation.

Part of the draw of the Hall Pass is the fantasy of it all (while the other part is having sex with other people). The grass is greener and all that. Isn’t that why every couple eventually has a what-if talk about their celebrity hall passes? You know, where you each choose five celebrities that you’re allowed to sleep with if the opportunity ever presents itself. But, of course, it’s never supposed to happen. If anything, the celebrity hall pass is a device by which a couple can gauge how much they love each other. For example, let’s just say that Anne Hathaway was all like, “Take me, Paul. I know I’m on your celebrity hall pass list because I read Audrey.” I would have to politely decline and say, “I’m far too happy with my girlfriend to recreate my favorite scenes from Love and Other Drugs with you, Anne.” Because I choose my partner and because I value living.

And vice versa, how would I feel if my girlfriend met Ryan Gosling at a party and he saved a puppy from a burning tent and then asked her, “I need to work on my incredible abs that even men can’t resist. You in?” I mean, at first, yeah, I’d be flattered that Ryan Gosling had the same taste in women as me, but then, I’d be like, “Wait a second ….”

The celebrity hall pass is supposed to be a hypothetical that never comes to be. It’s a game. Otherwise, Hollywood celebs would have celebrity hall passes, too, right? Actually, I just checked TMZ, and I suppose it kind of seems like they do. They call it “dating.” All right, new rule. I’m only talking about us regular folks.

Here’s the thing, though. I know married couples secretly do want a Hall Pass, of some kind anyway. How do I know this? Easy. I’ve been to a little place known as Las Vegas, the Hall Pass Capital of the World. At bachelor and bachelorette parties, do you know the craziest, rowdiest bunch? It ain’t the bride or the groom or the strippers, I’ll tell you that much. It’s the married folks. This is their vacation from marriage. Even if their lives are perfect with a giant home, perfect job, darling little kids, there’s something that becomes pent up inside of every good husband, wife, father and mother. Behind every puking bachelor/ette is a married person that wanted to get their drink on and party like they were single again. I’ve seen it. It’s terrifying.

Now, I’ve given you the reasons why I think Hall Passes could happen, but I should be fair and also give my reasons why, even as a single bachelor trying to live the life, they’re a bad idea. It’s not often that I allow myself to be cheesy in print, but I’m skeptical of Hall Passes because marriage is about building a life together with the things that matter most, and that’s got to be more important than one week of sex with Anne Hathaway. (Maybe … still thinking … no, marriage is more important.) Marriage is one of those promises that take so long to find and so much work to make that breaking it just doesn’t make sense to me. You break the rules once, and you’ll probably break them again. It’s kind of like quitting cigarettes — every now and then you’ll want a stick when drinking. And I want marriage, should I ever find myself in one, to transcend that sort of thing. Unlike comedies, I’m certain that most people can’t recover from a Hall Pass.

I think most married people forget how much it sucks to be single. They’ll say it every now and then, but it’s not a true recollection of the loneliness and desperation. Masturbating a lot as a married man? Please. That’s because you’re keeping count. Being single means always trying to find someone to share things with, and yes, those things include your penis or vagina. Ironically, despite the complaints about the lack of sex in marriages, the strikingly lonesome thing about being single is not the quest for sex; it’s the hunt for companionship. And that hunt can take years, so why ruin it for a week of fun?


The Awful Truth | How The Internet Changed My Sex Life

HOW THE INTERNET CHANGED MY SEX LIFE: Paul Nakayama found that bitching about the woes of online dating was the key to his success. For Lena Chen, author of the blog Sex and the Ivy, the Internet is a less-than-desirable hunting ground.


DEPT: The Awful Truth

STORY: Paul Nakayama and Lena Chen

PHOTO: Audrey Cho


My editor asked me, “How did the Internet change your sex life?”

“It gave me one?” I replied. Never mind that she didn’t laugh. It was sort of true what I said, but it’s not the whole truth. Now, I’m not talking about learning some power moves from on- line porn and changing my sex life that way (though that’s cool, too). I’m talking about how it became a conduit for getting more dates.

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The Awful Truth: The Back-Up Plan

THE BACK-UP PLAN: Grenade, hater, cock-blocker — call it what you will, guest columnist Anastasia Kim filters the losers, while wingman Paul Nakayama just tries not to say too much.

ISSUE: Spring 2011

DEPT: The Awful Truth

STORY: Paul Nakayama and Anastasia Kim

PHOTO: Audrey Cho

I really should charge by the hour for my wingwoman services. Actually, wingwoman doesn’t quite describe the role so much as “booty guard.”

I am not a “matchmaking” wingwoman, just so you know; you can sign up with eHarmony for that. I am what embittered folk call a “cock-blocker,” “hater” or, if they deem me unattractive enough, a “grenade.” (Hopefully this isn’t the case.)

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The Awful Truth: The Office Grind

Photo by Audrey Cho.

Issue: Fall 2010

Dept: The Awful Truth

The Office Grind by Paul Nakayama and Naomi Fujimoto

Is workplace “commingling” a good idea? Guest columnist Naomi Fujimoto says all’s fair in love and work, but Paul Nakayama wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot laser pointer.


Workplace dating is the stuff of great drama. Glee and Grey’s Anatomy — where would they be without it? And what about The Office — the shrugging, the fumbling, the knowing glances? Even on 24, with the fate of the world in question, they still found time for love. All in a day’s work. But enough about TV. I’m real-life proof that you can get your honey where you get your money.

Whether you’re looking at each other over an operating table or a corporate cube, your co-workers see you at your best and your not so best. You see how they deal with stress and relate to other people. And whether they can follow through. In the workplace, people are themselves. Sober. Decent. Good relationship material. (If you’re just looking for a hookup, stay away from your nine-to-five crowd. Sleeping your way to the middle is a bad idea.)

I’m Japanese and an editor, so it won’t be revealing much to say that I love rules. I love that they help me figure out how people will act at work — and, possibly, outside of work. While I can’t say that every girl wants a hero, I like a guy with good problem-solving skills. Responding to an IT “code
blue,” Sean had a confident walk that made him look like he could handle anything. Including me. I had to find out whether he was a MacGyver or a MacGruber.

Our romance started small, tiny even, as workplace entanglements often do. When he stopped by just to say hi or lingered in the hallway, my office mates noticed. One day we went to lunch (Asian fusion, natch). Soon I saw that he could troubleshoot my Mac and share his fries. This unofficial stuff paved the way for our office courtship. Pre-dating can last weeks (if you’re lucky) or years (if you’re me). With all the visits and lunches and hallway conversations, this face time will further your status more than Facebook. Same with those happy hours, where your guy can put his hand on your back to help you throw darts.

Ah, the happy hour. As long as you’re not a boozer or a bimbo, the happy hour is your friend, the one that encourages you and your work buddy to pair off. Enjoy it! But here’s where I’ll come back to the rules again. Keep it rated PG! When you think “workplace grind,” visualize your efforts on a big project, not on the dance floor. (For real. My friend had to see her co-worker dirty dance at the company party. Ew.) Your office friends will be happy for you, but you don’t need to flaunt how in lust you are. Chances are, they noticed the chemistry before you did. They are, after all, people who see you 40-plus hours a week.

Sure, you could meet someone online or in a bar or through a setup. Or you can sit back and see what happens with that guy you always go to lunch with. Maybe it won’t go anywhere. Or maybe it will go somewhere for just a few months, like it did for Sean and me. We broke up recently, and the vibe at lunch has changed. No regrets, though. He was a MacGyver — just not mine.

My awful truth? Workplace dating might seem inexcusable or irresponsible, but it’s also irresistible. If you’re willing to risk a few awkward moments in the elevator, give it a try.


Imagine an adorable bear cub playing with a ball; you can’t help but fawn over it. You approach, unable to stop yourself from petting it. It coos as your hand approaches its face. It is so darn cute! Then suddenly, the cub growls and bares its fangs and mauls your pretty hand into meat strings. You scream and panic, stumbling over your dumb self as you try to escape, but then you realize that you’re locked in a cage. You slap your forehead with what’s left of your hand and curse your own foolishness as that once cuddly bear cub leaps onto your back and takes you down. It’s a horrible tale, I know, and yet so many befall the same fate, except instead of loving a cute but vicious animal,
it’s dating a co-worker.

As my warm little analogy illustrates, dating a co-worker is a dangerous proposition. Think about how many of your exes were brutish, annoying or clingy. You sighed constantly with deep relief when things ended. Now, think about the good ones you’ve had. In an office setting, what are the real odds that you’d meet one of the few good ones and none of the horrible trolls?

Imagine walking to the copy room and running into your ex, the bipolar one who’d refer to himself as “we.” And they’re demanding, “Why did you leave us? Why why why? (And are you done with the copier, skank?)” That would certainly be a good time to run away, but oh, that’s right — you can’t because you work together.

Breakups are manageable when you have space or at least an escape route. Not possible with an office tryst. Or what if it was your heart that was broken? During the Halloween party, you hook up with that longtime crush of yours from accounting, only to discover later he was boofing everyone. Work is miserable enough as it is without having to see some douche bag’s face every five days out of seven. Eventually, you’ll see him hitting on someone new at the office, repeating the same coaxing lines. Your fists will be clenched in anger, and your poor laptop will “accidentally fall down some
stairs.” I can’t even begin to warn you against the dangers of being around the open bar at the company holiday party … you’ll be fondly remembered as the drunken mess that flung cheese at everyone like it was poo, all while sobbing openly like a Bieber groupie.

I get why office romances happen. The fact is, it’s hard meeting people after college, and you spend more time with co-workers than your best friends. Things happen. And there are plenty of examples
of people finding real love in the office. So why not, right? Well, there’s more to lose in an office romance. These things often end poorly, and you’ll only succeed in making your sucky job even suckier. I’ve been in one or two myself that ended in less than desirable ways where the consolation prize is a giant bag of awkward. In this economy, I think it’s better to have a job than a chance at
love, the same chance I could take at my other usual hangouts: the karaoke bar, the 7-Eleven or my parkour club. Because looking for love in the office is a man-eating baby bear that will devour your
heart, and it’s just common sense not to wrestle bears.

The Awful Truth: Dating for Dummies

In honor of the New Year, Paul Nakayama and guest columnist Anastasia Kim swear off mental diarrhea, resolve to get over themselves, and break other bad dating habits.

ISSUE: Winter 2010

DEPT: The Awful Truth

STORY: Paul Nakayama and Anastasia Kim

Dating for Dummies

Last year, I vowed to lose 10 pounds. The following week, I went to an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ, making the restaurant regret their business model and upgrading my resolution to 15 pounds. The year before that I lasted about two days before I caved and bought a stack of Blu-rays (and only because the stores were closed on New Year’s).

My previous New Year’s resolutions haven’t gone so well, but that hasn’t stopped me. For 2011, I realized there’s no changing my gluttony or my geeky addictions. Instead, I’ll focus on something new: my weakest, most deficient skill set — ironically, that’d be dating.

I’m 36 and unmarried. Normally, I would emphatically de- fend myself by declaring that it’s by choice. It’s easier to say that I enjoy having the time to write or play video games or re-enact scenes from Lost in my underwear. But I’m more likely single because I sabotaged myself at every turn. It’s not realistic to make huge sweeping changes all at once, so I’ll start with a few simples ones to adopt.

I discovered my joy of writing more than 10 years ago by blogging on and later Livejournal. I didn’t think anyone was reading my stuff so my life sort of became an open book. When social media became mainstream, it was an easy transition to embrace. I was already doing it. Everything I do is transparent: the places I go, what I eat, or what I’m doing. It’s an unfortunate habit. I need to stop publishing every drunken thought, every goofy photo and every lame attempt at humor. So, for Resolution #1, I will filter myself better and curb the mental diarrhea. Yes, it’ll mean fewer comments and “likes” on my Facebook wall, but girls don’t really need or want to know when I’m battling the toilet bowl Hydra.

This sounds dumb, but talking has never been my forte, unless it’s about video games. But we’re talking about dating here, not chilling with my nephews. I overcompensate and say stupid things to alleviate the pressure of awkward silences. I found that I had better luck “talking” to a girl over an instant messenger. I had time to come up with something marginally witty, and I didn’t pollute the conversation with filler talk about “Street Fighter.” This eventually evolved into sending text messages rather than calling. I mean, there is no awkward silence with text messages, and I love that. But what happens when the girl actually agrees to go out? “Hey, take off your bra, sexy,” I’d sext her. And she’d turn to me and say, “I’m right here, freak.” Resolution #2 is to communicate the old-fashioned way.

Despite all my fumbling, I do manage to go out on dates. Ah, but that’s when I do the real damage, where I’m either a Michael Bay movie of ridiculous disasters or an indie flick where nothing ever happens. Why do I drink too much on dates or inevitably end up in the “friend zone?” Because … I never say what I want. I’m too chicken sh-t to say, “I like you. I think it would be awesome to watch movies together and see each other naked on a regular basis.” Resolution #3 is to say what I want and mean. The worst outcome is getting turned down, to which I’ll just say, “Alrighty then.” Best outcome is regular nudity in real 3-D. That’s what you’d call a good bet.

I realize that my resolutions may not help you. After all, they’re designed around my issues. If you’re lazy, use mine any- way. If you think of your own, great! If you fail, well, I’ll meet you at the Korean BBQ.

I’ve dated all kinds of men: the insecure doormat, the unattainable rebel, the chauvinistic meathead, and even the possessive psycho. For years, I wondered why I couldn’t just snag a normal, great guy. But after the tail end of a series of unfortunate dates whipped me across the face, I realized I had been going about it all wrong. I decided then that I’d make a few dating resolutions for myself to get out of this dating slump, instead of waiting for Mr. Right to somehow magically find me.

As a college student, I plunged into the dating pool, head- first, believing feigned confidence and bravura would surely land me a good man. Once, on a date with Mr. R., I talked about myself so much, I forgot for a second he was even there. Midway through the “so this psycho fell in love with me” story, I realized how self-absorbed and entitled I sounded. At some point, I had to tell myself, “Get over yourself. Seriously.” Talking about how many men wanted me didn’t make me seem any more appealing, and complaining about crazy exes made me look like a psycho-magnet. Stories told for the sake of receiving validation should stay between girlfriends; sharing too much with our date only shows how little we have to lose if things don’t pan out. Let’s date each individual as if that person is our last chance at romance because in the end, isn’t that what most of us are searching for?

When I first started dating Mr. H., I thought he was a sweet, funny guy. After the honeymoon blinders came off, though, I realized he was a jobless, unmotivated slob. Less than a year into our relationship, we were fighting over his “Counter- strike” addiction and his penchant for sitting around in his dirty underwear all the livelong day. Ladies, ever meet a guy who’s great in so many ways, but you can’t help but think, “if only he …”? If only he were more ambitious, fit or understanding? How many of us decide to date these men anyway, hoping that with time, and a little “guidance,” they’ll become the men of our dreams? Sadly, people don’t change very often, and I ended up feeling hopeless. Soon after we broke up, I told myself I should date a person’s now, not their potential. Let’s spare our partners (and ourselves) the disappointment, and avoid getting into a re- lationship with someone who isn’t their potential now.

I’ve always been a rigid list-keeper; as such, I often missed out on meeting potentially wonderful men because in one way or another, they didn’t fit my ideal “type.” But after dating men who seemed like my type, and seeing those relationships fail, I learned to break the “type” in stereotype. Take it from me. A doctor from Harvard won’t always know how to mend a broken heart, and old money won’t always solve new problems. A guy with a Porsche may not always rev up our engine, and an Abercrombie model who does his body good may not necessarily do ours any good. Dating isn’t so much about matching outer desires, but more about fulfilling our inner needs. Let’s meet that need first, and then think about all of the extras. Like chiseled abs.

The best way to achieve dating success is to meet love halfway and modify our expectations. Here’s hoping that in the New Year, we won’t need to make any more dating resolutions!

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