Monday, February 13, 2012

On being too stupid to live

One of the most common annoyances readers cite about the romance genre is the TSTL heroine.

For those unversed in the (also annoying) acronyms used by romance writers, that's short for Too Stupid to Live.

You've met the TSTL heroine. She's the one who marches unarmed into a dark basement to investigate mysterious chainsaw noises. You'll find her stomping her pretty little foot in a jealous huff after spotting the hero embracing a woman who shares his hair and eye color on the weekend his sister is slated to visit.

I work hard at never writing TSTL heroines, and count on critique partners and beta readers to ensure my heroines remain at an IQ level higher than the average lichen. But I'll admit I've had the occasional To Stupid to Live moments of my own.

When I was younger, I used to skim newspaper classifieds for entertainment. People would lump a variety of items into a single ad, hocking a 1974 Oldsmobile, a litter of kittens, and a 10 pound bag of freeze dried brine shrimp eggs all in the same ad.
I never realized how
phallic the oboe is
until I stuck this pic on
my blog. You'll never
blow one the same way
again

Still, it seemed odd to me that so many people were selling that sonorous, double-reed musical instrument, the oboe. Not only were they selling them, they were repeatedly misspelling the name by omitting the "e" on the end.

When I told a friend I'd like to play the oboe and explained my reason for thinking I could get a good deal on one, she stared at me like I had a ham sandwich protruding from my nostril.

"That's OBO, you idiot," she said sweetly. "It's short for Or Best Offer."

Oh.

I'd like to blame the misunderstanding on youth and inexperience, but that wouldn't explain why I did something similar only a few weeks ago. Since I adore cooking, my brother and his girlfriend recently sent me a subscription to a Rachael Ray magazine packed full of recipes. I began skimming at once, perplexed to see how many of them called for a mysterious ingredient, EVOO.

For weeks, I kept reminding myself to google the word. I assumed it was a brand name for some sort of seasoning Rachael was pitching, and wondered what I could use instead. From context clues, I decided olive oil might be a fair substitution.

It wasn't until I pulled the bottle out of the cupboard that it clicked for me.

EVOO = Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

So those are a few of my TSTL moments. Got any of your own to share? Please do, so I know I'm not alone! And if you're one of those annoying people who never does anything stupid, I'd love to hear about your experiences reading TSTL characters. What are some things that really annoy the snot out of you? Please share!

20 comments :

Malin said...

Some of my own TSTL moments are best related in Swedish... Both of them include meat. 1) "beef" is mysteriously called "nut meat" in Swedish. 2) a really thin, pounded sliver of meat is called "leaf steak".

For years I wondered why my vegetarian sister couldn't eat those things. Because, you know, obviously they were made of nuts and leaves.

Sarah W said...

Two days ago, I was in the grocery store parking lot about to load my groceries when some yahoo stopped his car behind me and said, "Damn liberals. You people make me sick. Why don't you go park in the special liberal lot away from the rest of us real Americans?"


I looked at the sticker in my back window, smiled at him and said, "Sir, LIB stands for library."

His wife hit him and called him all kinds of idiot and he peeled away.

This guy who'd been watching from the next car over stomped out his cigarette and said, "Crap. Now I've got to switch parties."

Christi Goddard said...

I tried to think of a TSTL moment for myself, but there's too many to choose from. But I loathe the behavior in movies and books. I guess that makes me a hypocrite ;-)

Nan said...

I once went into a Jewish deli here in my town and ordered a ham salad sandwich. They gave me an odd look and said, "We don't have ham salad." So I said, "Oh, okay, how about a ham and swiss on rye then?" "Nope, can't do that either," the guy behind the counter replied. "How about a corned beef on rye?" I'd never had corned beef, so I figured what the heck? I'll try something new, so I had a corned beef on rye. It wasn't until I told a friend about the incident that she just shook her head and gave me one of those, "You're TSTL looks," and said. "Um...Jewish people don't eat pork." Believe it or not, I still didn't get it until she said, "Ham is pork." Yep--TSTL...

Patty Blount said...

When I was a bride, I made frozen vegetables for dinner one night - broccoli with cheese sauce. I opened the box, found a bag inside. The directions said to boil the bag in a pot of water. I did so and kept wondering where the cheese sauce was.

It finally occurred to me that the lumps of yellow stuff must be the cheese sauce in a concentrated form. So I cut open the bag and dumped the contents into the boiling water, stirring often, waiting for the cheese to turn into sauce.

My husband walked into the kitchen a short time later and doubled over, laughing.

Anne Gallagher said...

I love your OBO mistake. I'm still giggling.

I just finished a story and handed it off to my crit partner. Thankfully, she caught my mistake before it went to publish.

I had written a line about sitting in "gentile" parlours. She pointed out what I meant to say was "genteel" parlours as she didn't think my characters were of the Jewish persuasion.

Therese said...

I make lots of OBO & EVOO mistakes but am smart enough to keep living.

The TSTL character I just read about in a book was introduced as recovering from a drunken stupor and spent the rest of the book determined to live up to a dare made while drunk. Which meant all sober choices were really stupid.

D.B. Adams said...

I have one for Valentine's Day. It was our first wedding anniversary, so my husband and I booked a room at a quaint bed and breakfast. The room came with a bottle of wine and pastries for breakfast. We looked in the refrigerator and saw a ceramic dish filled with some strange mixture that looked like eggs and cheese. We decided it must be an omelet. We microwaved it to heat it up, and when we pulled it out several minutes later, it had turned into a greasy, soupy blob that smelled horrible. Turns out, it was a cheese spread meant to be spread cold over crackers--not microwaved. We hid the evidence and cleaned the dish so that the owners wouldn't know we'd desecrated their appetizer. Are there any rules for when the hero and heroine combine their brain power and still come out TSTL? I'm afraid that's what this story demonstrates...

Karen Duvall said...

Hahaha, great idea for a post! I'll have to steal this one from you, especially since I have more TSTL moments than fingers on both hands.

The first one that comes to mind is when I'd just moved from Hawaii to Colorado to attend art school. I walked outside my apartment to warm up my car and saw all this frosty stuff covering my windshield. WTF? How was I supposed to drive without being able to see out the window? I heard loud scraping sounds all around me and noticed my neighbors digging at the frosty stuff on their cars with flat plastic thingies.

Well, I thought, that looked like too much work and I was in a hurry to get to school. I knew a better way. So i went inside and filled a bucket with hot water, came back out to my car and emptied it over my frozen windshield. Worked like a charm. I was SO proud of myself.

It wasn't until later that someone told me I was lucky my windshield hadn't cracked. I think the Hawaiian gods were looking out for the ignorant winter newbie that I was.

Also, a note of advice. If you go outside and the driveway is shiny, don't run. Just sayin'.

Christina Auret said...

English is my second language, but I read 7 to 14 English novels a week during high school.

Which does not sound like a problem. Only I knew exactly how to use a lot of words that I had no idea how to pronounce. My mind wanted to use the words, but my mouth was not willing.I would run into something like condescend in the middle of a sentence and stammer to a stop, with no clue how to get around it.

I only actually used English in English class, but there were still quite a few rather horrifying moments. I once read 'shoot the pheasants' out load as 'shoot the peasants', amongst other things.

Joe Coito said...

Wow, I really do have so many TSTL moments, but one stands out because I was a radio DJ at the time and they actually created a "Dumber than Jenna" game because of it.

The condensed version:

I was on a girls' weekend and my wallet got stolen. My BFF lent me her credit card to get home. I stopped to get gas, ran inside to pee, came out and drove away. WITH THE NOZZLE STILL IN MY CAR. It snapped off and I was dragging the whole hose part behind me. I was terrified if I went back they'd want me to pay for the damage (and recall, I had no money, no ID, nothing but my friend's credit card) so I jumped out, ripped the hose out, jumped back in and kept driving. Not my finest moment for sure. But we got "Dumber than Jenna" out of it, so at least there's that.

Do I win? :)

KD Easley said...

I was a teenager before I got the starkist tuna commercials. You know the one, Starkist doesn't want tuna with good taste, they want tuna that tastes good.

Yeah, that one. The day it finally clicked for me I leapt from my chair and shouted "I get it!" The rest of the family just stared at me in stunned silence. Then I slunk off to my room to read. Maybe that's why I don't like television much.

Jenna McCarthy said...

So I *accidentally* commented when I was logged in as my husband (Joe Coito). DAMN YOU LAST PASS! For the record, he's never done anything that stupid.

Gracielou said...

A tstl moment... I know I've had tons of them but for some reason I can't seem to think of any of them. Maybe I have that ability to block out all memories of my tstl moments.

However, I can't stand to read a Hero or Heroine story where they are clueless 90% of the time or where everything seems to fall in their laps. I mean I have seen stories where the hero takes on 25 people and doesn't get a scratch on him. Even Chuck Norris got scratches and punched during fights.

Laina said...

Uh. Yeah. Pass.

Just pass.

To be fair, most of mine happen on days when I wake up at 5am... but serious pass XD

Skye said...

In college, I was at a friend's house for a party. It got late so I took my contact lenses out but then discovered I'd left my glasses at home. No problem: we'd find someone to drive me home. So we intelligently waited until there's just me and one guy left. He didn't drive a stick shift, which my car was. He and I were both still quite tipsy, as were our hosts. It was foggy and cold outside. What did we come up with?

I drove. I had my window open so I could look out and see the lines next to my car (I had VERY poor vision). The guy was the lookout for other cars and for cops.

Luckily, we only had about 5-7 miles to go and we both lived in the dorms. I never set eyes on him again. But we lived!

Tawna Fenske said...

Malin, bwahahahaha! Now I kind of want to learn Swedish. That sounds like my kind of language!

Sarah W, I sooooo wish you'd gotten video of that. Classic!

Christi, hypocrites unite! At least we're generally aware of when we're being dumb, right?

Nan, you know, I've gotta admit, I'd probably make the same mistake :)

Patty, I know this makes me TSTL, but I don't get it. I've never bought frozen broccoli before. Where was the cheese sauce? Explain veeeeerrrrrry slowly for the TSTL members of the audience!

Anne, I totally thought you were heading the "genital" direction with that one!

Therese, oh, that would definitely annoy the crap out of me!

D.B., ha! That's hilarious! My parents have a story about receiving a bottle of champagne as a wedding gift. They opened it up to taste it, decided it was gross, and tried to re-cap it so they could stuff it in a suitcase and take it home. It exploded EVERYWHERE.

Karen, hahahahahaha! You are indeed lucky you didn't shatter that thing!

Christina, I have lots of words I know how to read, but realize when I open my mouth I'm not entirely sure how to pronounce them. Awkward.

Joe/Jenna, wait, this was all an intentional "mistake" meant to play along with the TSTL theme, right!?!

KD, the things I miss by not watching TV! And now I want a tuna sandwich :)

Gracielou, I know what you mean! My housemate watches a lot of war movies and I'm always amazed at the good guys who walk away unscathed from a hail of gunfire.

Laina, :)

Skye, oh dear! You're lucky you survived! Wonder if that guy still tells the story?

Thanks for reading, guys! Love the stories!

Tawna

M. G. Pereira said...

How funny! I was going to post about a TSTL situation on my blog today. If anyone is bored, I invite you to check it out later tonight :)

http://writermeetslife.blogspot.com/

I'm also doing an insane writing project :D

Janet Reid said...

More times than I care to count I've left the mayhem of FPLM in Suite 500, gotten on the elevator, punched 5, and waited. And waited. And waited.

sharongerlach said...

I think my worst TSTL moment was when I had a horrible cold and got tired of the thumping, queasy sinus headache that nearly split my skull every time I coughed. So I resorted to the it's never-a-good-idea-to-use-it-but-only-this-once Afrin nose spray. Only I couldn't sit up without wanting to die. So I used it lying down. But it doesn't work the same when you're lying down. I nearly drown myself while my husband laughed hysterically. Yeah, he keeps me around for entertainment value.