This year, Valentine’s Day and Friday the 13th happen to fall on consecutive days. So we’ve decided to cram them together into one big issue. On the surface this may seem like a contradiction: Valentine’s Day is lovers sharing a picnic under the stars; Friday the 13th is a masked killer gutting those same lovers with a rusty machete.
But these pseudo-holidays actually have a lot in common. Both have become hopelessly commercialized and are far removed from their historical roots, which date back at least to ancient Rome. Both have a sinister component—Valentine’s Day technically marks the murder of several martyred saints and, of course, Friday the 13th has come to be all about danger and bad luck. And both have a big financial impact. The sale of chocolates, teddy bears, diamond necklaces and Hallmark cards injects serious bucks into the economy each year (things may be down a bit in ’09 with global finances floundering, but the power of a guilt-tripping girlfriend supercedes a recession). Meanwhile, a significant amount of money is lost—as much as $900 million in the U.S. alone, according to one estimate—whenever Friday the 13th rolls around, as superstitious people refuse to fly, drive or sometimes even leave their homes.
We’ve chosen to mark these unique but not entirely dissimilar occasions with stories focused on three things that define them: love, sex and carnage. Which components apply to which day depends entirely on your point of view—basically, on whether you’re one of the star-gazing lovers or the dude with the machete.
Either way, enjoy.
Sex in the sky
Terror alerts, disease-coated bathrooms, boobs-flashing flight attendents-a Hawaii pilot dishes the mile-high dirt
By Jacob Shafer
In the 2006 camp horror “classic” Snakes on a Plane, two lovers try to join the mile-high club but are interrupted mid-coitus by one of the titular reptiles. No points for guessing the first body part that gets chomped.
In reality, an attempt to bump uglies at 30,000 feet probably won’t lead to a cobra attack, but there are other hazards.
A Hawaii-based pilot who has also worked as a flight attendant agreed to share some juicy tidbits with us, provided we left out her name and the name of her airline. We’ll just call her “Sky.”
The first thing Sky offers is a strong word of caution for anyone planning to turn the lavatory into a den of debauchery. “Commercial airliner bathrooms are probably in need of biohazard tape across the door, because they are the filthiest places,” she says. It makes sense. When you consider the number of people who use those cramped crappers—and the globe-spanning countries they hail from—it’s easy to see them less as bathrooms and more breeding grounds for disease. “People vomit in there and God knows what else,” says Sky. “And then you want to go in and do the nasty? Someone’s gonna get sick.”
Another, equally menacing threat comes from airport security. Since 9/11, two people going into the bathroom together or moving sneakily to the back of the plane conjures up images of box cutters and shoe bombs rather than illicit romance.
“Flight attendants are on high alert,” warns Sky. “Any suspicious activity is going to immediately [trigger] a terror alert. You could be trying to ‘congregate’ and find yourself on CNN in a terrorist incident.”
That doesn’t mean airplane-related sex is all a big mood-killing downer. Sky is full of tawdry tales: passengers getting steamy under those itchy complimentary blankets on long red-eye flights (pre-2001, she says flight attendants would often giggle and look the other way as long as the lovers weren’t “showing too much stuff”); a male flight attendant who was fired for giving more than honey roasted nuts to a female passenger; a stewardess who would flash her boobs to the pilots after a particularly smooth landing.
But Sky’s best story involves a plane that never left the ground. “It was Valentine’s Day, and my fiancée caught wind of the fact that they were going to be using an old airplane for a movie being shot here,” she remembers. The plane was to be blown up as part of a climactic action set piece. Before that happened, Sky’s husband-to-be snuck aboard and stashed candles, flowers and a futon, and the couple gave the old bird one last hurrah before its fiery cinematic demise.
“That is by far the most romantic Valentine’s present I’ve ever gotten,” she says. “Now I can always watch the movie and say, ‘I did it on that plane.’”
Diving into Maui’s shallow dating pool can be a backbreaking experience—especially for the ladies
By Kate Bradshaw
We have heard time and time again that dating on Maui is essentially a lost cause. In fact, we’ve heard it so much that, in the spirit of journalistic enterprise, we sought to determine whether meeting someone you can stand is possible on the Valley Isle.
The answer, we conclude, is not pretty.
Gauging the singles scene in any locale is trickier than it seems. There’s more to it than looking at the total number of people who are not currently participating in a marriage. The devil, if you will, is in the details: male-female ratio, age range, education, income, etc. According to our research, single life on Maui has some pretty grim details, depending on what you’re looking for.
We sent an informal survey to a number of people who are or have at one time been single on Maui. In order to get a representative sample, we cast a broad net.
We define “single” as being not bound to another human being by law. Thus, our definition includes those looking to have random sex in the koi pond at the Triangle as well as those who are in long-term committed relationships or even, yikes, engaged. Our survey group includes those who grew up here as well as transplants.
An overwhelming number of respondents believe that if you’re on Maui and interested in something long-term, you are out of luck, especially if you’re of the female persuasion. One survey participant wrote that “women of the more cerebral variety” have it toughest, and overwhelming experiential evidence on the part of one of our researchers suggests this as well.
“It’s a great place to play really hard and work just enough to live,” one respondent wrote of Maui, “which doesn’t necessarily create an environment for finding a serious partner.”
Most cite the women-to-men ratio as a leading cause of dating scene suckiness. Maui has, as one respondent put it, a “five women per one man” ratio. Given human tendency, this likely means that the majority of unmarried males on Maui have either already agreed to participate in a monogamous relationship, are taking full advantage of the fact that there are so many potential brief hookups on the island or they swing the other way, which is cool.
“That guy out at the bar is usually close to joblessness, alcoholism or toothlessness,” one participant joked. “I think if you stalk the airport for those few single men moving here and scoop them up before they get lost in the sea of women you’d find a good catch.”
Another respondent remarked on “Peter Pan Syndrome,” a phenomenon said to be highly observable among twenty-, thirty and in some cases forty-somethings on-island.
“It’s usually attached to men in the dating scene,” wrote one respondent, though this may soon no longer be a gender-specific behavior pattern. “Lately I’ve heard a lot of my guy friends tell me that they keep meeting girls that aren’t really into being in a monogamous relationship and have moved here to figure it out, so I think it goes both ways.”
Another limiting factor in finding a suitable partner on Maui is the small number of dating scene participants, which has spawned a dating scene phenomenon known as “recycling.”
While in larger metropolitan areas, “recycling” can theoretically be avoided easily, a small circle of potential partners means friends and roommates on Maui can expect to be romantically involved with the same individual (perhaps even simultaneously) at least once.
“That’s why people move to the other side of the island, right?” one respondent joked.
Evidence suggests that ex drama is minimal here given people’s awareness of their small circles and the high likelihood of recycling.
“Many of my best friends, well, let’s just say we have the same ex boyfriends and we’re still best friends,” wrote one survey participant.
A few respondents found tourism to be a silver lining.
While working at a Lahaina restaurant, one said, six well-to-do young men invited her to their posh hotel after work. “I was invited to come out with them afterward,” she wrote, “and hopped into the limo and off to the $10,000-a-day suite at the Grand Wailea. They sent a limo to get me every night after work and much partying ensued.”
The downside to this is the potential for long distance relationships and the disappointment they often cause.
Our conclusion? The dating scene on Maui is excellent for those wishing to remain unattached. And it may be no rougher here than other places.
As one respondent put it: “You hear [about sucky dating scenes] everywhere you go: [you hear] that Kansas City is rated the worst town for being single, [then you have] Charlie’s Angel Natalie yelling out how hard it is to find a quality man in Los Angeles!”
In all fairness, Maui’s single population is composed of individuals, each of them having a unique experience. Some may fare better than others. And no matter how grim things are, at least we don’t have to undergo them in Kansas City. MTW
The Legend of Pu‘u Pehe
Story of Lanai’s “Sweetheart Rock” steeped in jealousy, suicide and, perhaps, love
Though it’s sold as a heartstring-tugging tale of romance and heartbreak and used as a marketing tool to lure tourists, the legend surrounding Lanai’s Pu‘u Pehe, or “Sweetheart Rock,” is actually pretty brutal.
It begins as a classic “boy meets girl” yarn, except more than “meeting” the girl, the boy—a Lanai warrior—steals her from her home on Maui. You’d think a relationship built on such a solid foundation of caring and mutual respect would last forever, but, alas, no.
Worried that others might covet his beautiful maiden, the young warrior stashed her away in a water-locked rocky prison. While he was off at battle, the sea rose up and before he could rescue her, his captive concubine drowned.
Consumed with grief, the warrior leaped from the top of the now-famous rock and, according to some versions, transformed into a shark.
Though archeologists have reportedly found no human remains atop Pu‘u Pehe (where a tomb-like structure does exist) the legend persists. Hey, it’s got everything: kidnapping, jealousy, misogyny, murder, suicide. You know, just your average relationship. – JS
Want to get really freaked out the next time you apply makeup or slather on sunscreen? Read this story
By Sharon Guynup
It’s Valentine’s Day. You have a big night out planned. You jump in the shower, soap up and shampoo. Dry off, roll on deodorant, spray perfume or cologne. Mousse your hair. Brush your teeth. Girls, apply makeup. Guys, lather up and shave.
You smell good, look good and exude a clean, healthy glow. But ask yourself: what exactly is in the products you just drenched your body in, and how safe are they?
Naturally, we assume our government has tested and approved any personal care product that can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstreams, right? Wrong. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t review or regulate any cosmetic product before it hits the shelves. And the $50 billion cosmetics industry (encompassing all personal care products except soap) is among the nation’s least-regulated.
The disturbing news is that manufacturers can put essentially anything they please into those tubes and bottles, and are exposing us to substances known or suspected to be gender-bending, cancer-causing or otherwise harmful.
For example, your luscious red lipstick may contain lead, which brightens the color and keeps it on your lips longer. But when you eat or lick your lips, you ingest that lipstick—about four pounds worth over a lifetime, says Glamour magazine. Lead may also be found in your sunscreen (look out, Maui), foundation makeup or whitening toothpaste. Lead accumulates in the body over time, and may disrupt fertility, trigger miscarriages or seep from mother to unborn child, causing brain damage.
According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), just 11 percent of the approximately 10,500 chemicals used in personal care products have ever been safety tested—and those were assessed by the fox-guarding-the-henhouse Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel, funded by manufacturers. In 30 years, that group has identified just nine unsafe ingredients. Compare that with the European Union’s approach. In 2003, the EU Cosmetics Directive outlawed the use of 1,100 chemicals in cosmetics suspected of causing cancer, genetic mutations, or birth defects.
Our government also fails to protect us through labeling. While companies are required to list ingredients, there are no labeling standards. So any manufacturer can legally trumpet its products as “safe,” “natural,” “non-toxic” or “organic,” even when they contain numerous synthetic, petroleum-based chemicals.
Scientists know with certainty that some toxic ingredients should be avoided. Foremost are parabens, which disrupt hormone, immune and brain function and are linked to cancer. But they are widely used by manufacturers as preservatives—pesticides that allow us to leave shampoo in the shower for years without growing bacteria or fungus. They are used in so many products that researchers have found traces in nearly all urine samples taken from American adults. They’ve also been found in breast tumors.
Three-quarters of us also have detectable levels of triclosan in our bodies, a “germ-fighting” ingredient in most soaps that lowers testosterone and alters other hormone levels, and interferes with metabolism by disrupting thyroid function.
But many of the most dangerous components of your shaving cream, hair dye, or deodorant are not even listed on the label. Many are byproducts created in the manufacturing process, such as dioxane and formaldehyde, which readily penetrate the skin and are classified as probable human carcinogens by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
And as much as we love wearing an alluring cologne or soaking in a scented bath, we’re barred from knowing what makes up those fragrances. Since fragrance is considered a trade secret, companies are exempted from revealing the innumerable synthetic compounds brewed into their products.
What scientists also find alarming is that little is known about how chemicals in personal care products accumulate or interact inside the body, or how exposure in-utero or in childhood impacts health. We do know that mothers exposed during pregnancy to phthalates (common in deodorants, makeup and soaps) are giving birth to sons with smaller and feminized genitals. And a 2006 university study suggested that the earlier your daughter starts using certain cosmetics—and the more she uses—the greater her risk of developing breast cancer.
Critics charge that the FDA essentially functions as a marketing arm of the cosmetics industry, not a public protector. We deserve stronger federal oversight and regulation of toxic chemicals in cosmetics.
But until safety standards are overhauled, we must make informed choices. You can assess product safety at EWG’s “Skin Deep” Web site (cosmeticsdatabase.com), which ranks the hazards of 30,000 beauty products and 10,000 ingredients, using data compiled from over 50 international government and university databases.
On average, an American adult is exposed to 120 chemicals daily through personal care products. To be truly safe, use less, since what we slather on our bodies can have consequences that go further than skin deep. MTW
Sharon Guynup’s writing has appeared in The New York Times Syndicate, Popular Science, The Boston Globe, Nationalgeographic.com and other publications. © 2009 Blue Ridge Press