Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

So I'm with Joanne at her firm's Christmas party and I'm wearing my tuxedo. The invitation read "Black Tie Optional," but after asking around Jo learned that that was special Christmas party code for "Black Tie Not at All Optional." We decided to buy me a tux since, gosh, there must be hundreds of events I go to that require formal wear. Like, say, this same party next year.

We had spent a good week scampering around to every tux shop within a twenty mile radius of our house trying to find something that fit me. As delicate as these salesmen are, you think they could come up with a better euphemism than "barrel-chested." And, dammit, if another guy with a tape measure around his neck gives me the once over and says, "There's plenty of room in the crotch, but the seat's a little tight," I'm going to throttle him.

So anyway, we're at the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena and I'm about six miles out of my depth. Lights twinkle and waiters serve and people drink, a lot. I'm surrounded by overly self-confident lawyer-types, all of whom seem to be taller and more muscular than me, and with handshakes that could break bricks. The room reeks of an asexual lawyerly testosterone, and one guy -- I have no idea who he is, but he radiates importance -- actually seems to loom over those he's talking to, not so much asking questions as making statements: "You're Joanne's husband."

After dinner, these men gather in the back of the room -- as far as possible from the band, which is deep into a Glenn Miller/50's rockabilly meddle called "In the Mood... To Rock" -- and start smoking cigars.

(Joanne had warned me about this. "What," she asked, "will you say if you get offered a cigar?"

"Gosh," I said. "Something like: 'No, thanks. I think that anybody who isn't Winston Churchill and smokes a cigar must be some kind of orally-fixated, phallus-obsessed trendoid from hell.' How's that?"

"Don't," Joanne said, "you dare.")

Within a few minutes, a goodly sized crowd is puffing away, and I'm treated to the sight of grown men swapping spit-covered stogies and going "Mmmm." A lone, sour cigarette smoker is exiled in the corner of the room, and I have to begin to concentrate on keeping my pumpkin soup -- it takes like liquid pie -- down.

Suddenly, a meaty hand lands on my shoulder and a set of teeth asks me, "Like a cigar, buddy?" Panic flashes in Joanne's eyes, and I say:

"No, thanks."

Damn, I disappoint me sometimes.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is I'd love to hear from you!

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