Wednesday, January 30, 2008

We were at this work event

I have a work event tonight. You hear that phrase often in adult life: We were at this “work event” or I have a “client dinner” or it was a “business function”. People who aren’t assholes tend to keep it professionally vague. People who are assholes add fun details like, we were at this work event at THE RITZ or I have a client dinner at NOBU or it was a business function for TRUMP. You see the difference.

Tonight I have a work event involving a cocktail party and a play with clients who support my company, the Tribeca Film Festival (I’m a little bit of an asshole). This means I have to dress up, drink appropriately, and watch my mouth. I also have to not flirt or reveal any confidential information and make like I know a lot about independent film. “Client cocktailing,” says Cindy Adams, gossip maven of the New York Post and professional drinker, “is an acquired skill.”

So far, I’m still acquiring. Not to say that I don’t enjoy dressing up and drinking (even appropriately) over passed appetizers in fun settings. I just still feel like I felt the first time I went to a restaurant with friends sans parents – like I’m pretending and everyone knows it.

Here's my progress thus far:

The drinking part: Four drink minimum, three if Vodka is involved. Nothing resembling a drink I once mixed on the floor of Keyes South. I defer to a dirty martini because people (men) always say, “niiice” when you order those. I know, no flirting...

The eating part: Holding a small plate and glass while attempting to eat off said plate is like a sick joke. Impossible. I’ve given up on plates and anything requiring more than one bite. Shrimp with tails intact does not count – too akward. I have also developed a sincere yet grave look I give to waiters as they walk around with the passed appetizers. It says, “I’m starving, come back often and quickly” but with a lot of charm. Who decided dinner was optional and what do they weigh?

The what to say to clients part: Frankly, it’s unnatural. I don’t know these people. Also we’re likely involved some form of contract or money dispute where we have to behave like we like each other but with that distinct edge of, “I could end you in a hot minute.” It’s terrifying. I focus on non-political current events, issues involving the majority of New York City, or the weather.

-Ugh can you believe the California fires? Just terrible…
-So we’re finally getting that 2nd Avenue subway – about time!
-I can’t remember when it was this windy.

It's a far cry from what I’m really inclined to say, even on those same topics:

-Ugh fucking Bush thinks $600 bucks is going to jump start the economy. Should have moved to Cananda after that last election…
-So I went to this fantastic karaoke bar on the Lower East Side last weekend. Expensive as shit but I was too blacked out to care!
-I can’t remember how cold it used to be when I was in college in Boston – 2.5 short years ago.

Those are just the basics. There's the remembering people's names part, the being sure to treat the very important people very importantly, and the answering all questions about my job in as cheery a manner as possible. They should teach courses in this. Or is that what's going on at business school?...

For now I just try to smile politely, shake hands firmly, keep the jokes to a minimum, and glide through the event with the advice of Mrs. Schumacher, my 3rd grade teacher, in mind: “Make yourself memorable,” she’d say.

Ok maybe just two if vodka is involved...

Monday, January 28, 2008

What is the What?

Today, a Sudanese fable:

Ebok and his wife had fallen on hard times. Drought set in after a season of poor-selling, meager crops. Their children, now school aged, had no shoes to carry them to school. They were beginning to go hungry. Every night Ebok prayed to God for a miracle. He prayed for God to send something to save his family.

One night – after many, many nights of praying – God appeared.

He appeared with a cow the size of three cows combined. A cow, Ebok knew, that would save his family and secure their future.

“I’ve heard your prayers, and have come with a gift,” God said to Ebok, “So this cow can be yours from this moment on, unless, of course, you’d rather have the What.”

Ebok replied like anyone would reply. “Well, what is the What?”

And God said what any God would say, “The What, my son, cannot be described.”

Ebok was distraught. Clearly God would not mention this What if it wasn’t worth wanting. He would not come and offer a gift that could not save him and his family, just as the cow would. But what was the What?

After a few moments God pressed Ebok to make his decision. Ebok looked to his hut where his wife and children slept, then back to the very fat cow standing before him. And in that moment he knew exactly which he had to choose.

The story is from the book I’m reading – Dave Eggers newest novel titled, appropriately, What is the What. I can’t decide which Ebok chose. Did his faith in God lead him to take a leap and choose the What? Or did his love for his family, and immediate needs, make him sacrifice adventure for security?

And which would I choose? The unknown or the certain? The security or the thrill? The cow or the What?

I’d like to think I’d choose the What. I’d like to think I’ve chosen it already. But does choosing the cow mean I can be satisfied with basic needs? That I can sacrifice adventure for what’s truly important? That I can focus on care for my family?

Is the What for fools or for dreamers? I’m not sure it matters. I’m fairly certain I couldn’t live my life knowing I had a chance at having the What – and passed it up for a cow.

Which would you choose?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

D3 Crossroads

I decided I was being a closed minded bitch. A second date was only fair and totally harmless (see Post Date Date Post below). It bears mentioning that he exhibited flawless post-first-date follow up. Also my 19 year old sister said, “What is wrong with you? Do you think you’re easy to understand after 2 hours – because you’re not.” Harsh, but valid.

Today we’re figuring out plans for Date 3. I had a great time on 2, and I’d like to see him again. Details available upon request.

Now D3 – in my limited understand of “adult dating” – brings us to a crossroads. We could/should/might hook up which could/should/might lead to a new/different dating situation. That’s a lot of X factors. So far - full disclosure – polite kiss, no tongue -- I have a strict no tongue on the street policy. I am open to next steps, but indoor public places, while not streets, are also not permitted. This requires coordination. Gone are the days of dorms plotted a short stumble apart. Plus there's the fact that I’m making a real effort to avoid all awkward, unnatural progressions. I'm trying to be classy. So at this point here are my assumptions:

1. Hooking up (within reason, details available upon request) would be socially acceptable on D3. It is likely in question for guy, as it is for me. That said not hooking up would also be socially acceptable, and would not lead either guy or me to believe that interest has waned.

2. Drunk hooking up would be far less meaningful than sober hooking up (obviously). But sober hooking up requires careful logistics – a pre-meditated hook-up. And a sober, pre-meditated hook up is, in my world view, serious. Hook up drunk and you have an excuse. Hook up sober and you have brunch.

I think it comes down to this: Hook up drunk after D3 and it becomes questionable whether you’re dating or just hooking up. Wait and hook up sober after D5 and you’re dating, exclusively.

Then again, as my sister Sara also said, “What is wrong with you? If you stopped over-thinking this and just let it happen you’d probably be better off – and live longer.”

Harsh, but valid. I’ve tried to explain to her that it is my civic duty as a Jesuit-educated person to serve others with my thoughts and questions in the context of these major life issues. Her response, “And this guy wants to go on a third date with you? He’s a keeper.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Thank you, Marlboro Man

When I was a freshman in high school the former Marlboro Man came to give an assembly on not smoking. A few things stick out in my mind about that day. First the guy had the voice of Harvey Fierstein, skin like a leather couch, and a gut like Peter from Family Guy. As such I have never been a smoker. Second I was carrying my brand new, Lands End messenger bag – a significant trend-setting switch from the backpack – and Dan Meola noticed. But more – hmm – equally importantly, Marlboro said something that stuck with me since that glorious hour away from Lab Bio.

He said, “You know all too often as kids they tell us, ‘Don’t just sit there – do something!’ But sometimes it’s better to stop, take a deep breath, and do the exact opposite. Sometimes when the going gets really rough the best policy is, ‘Don’t just do something – sit there!’”

What this had to do with smoking – or not smoking – I don’t know. What is has to do with my life – in general and specifically today – is actually rather poignant. Shocking from a man who exclusively wore plaid.

I’m in what mothers and gay men call “a funk.” Some work stuff has been frustrating. Some financial realities have been a downer. People are dropping into their mid-twenties like flies. It's nothing a little Busch Lite and Kelly Clarkson couldn’t handle during our college years – but these are not our college years. Add that to the list above.

I tend to approach bad moods like Meg Ryan’s character in any of the following films: When Harry Met Sally, French Kiss, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle.
1. Attempt to uncover the root of the problem by engaging in inner monologue of all assessed possibilities, out-loud.
2. Share narrowed-down list of probable roots of problem with trusted girlfriends and men who wouldn't date me anyway.
3. Settle on most likely (read: solvable) mood source and develop a diversified approach to making it go away/ignoring it.
4. Assign the appropriate clichĂ© to the now complete life moment and move on. Options include: this too shall pass, you win some you lose some, it’s really just a numbers game, or, when applicable, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

I’m only half – fine - ¼ kidding. I don’t sit well in bad moods. And while you’re thinking – where’s the problem in that? - the problem is that sometimes a bad mood can be a good indicator. If you let it stick around awhile sometimes it invites along some other more telling emotions to the pity party. They make new friends, catch up with old ones, hook up if the mood’s right, and argue about who really deserves credit for your last break up. It can be a mess, sure, but sometimes you’ve got to let them all show up so you can really get a look at group - see who's really in charge. Then you can decide who to kick out first.

So I’m going to take Marlboro's advice and sit here for awhile. Read a book. Grab a pizza with a friend. Write a blog about my inner most emotions. Do some “do nothing” stuff until I see what shows up. I figure chances are this too shall pass because you really do win some and lose some in this crazy numbers game. Regarding the Spanish Inquisition. Frankly I’ve never understood that saying.

*Metaphor inspired by the Children’s Television Workshop cartoon special “When Sad Came Out to Play” (1987)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Post Date Date Post

I realized last night that I do a strange thing when I’m trying to get to know someone. I imagine them in all sorts of random life occurrences as if they’re some character in a series of young adult books: Guy Goes to the Beach, or Guy Takes a Road Trip, or the more telling Guy Attends a Funeral.

I take what I know about the character in question and apply it to the imaginary event. How would they act? What would they say? What would I think? I realize two hours with a person provides little indication of how they would behave at, say, their first Boston College Football Game, but I surmise none-the-less because I am a. a girl and b. a freak.

The someone in question is a guy I went to dinner with last night. A lovely dinner at a fantastic restaurant that had really good lighting. He asked me to dinner, picked the restaurant, and called to politely confirm the evening before. So far Guy Goes on a Date was looking promising.

I started my story-writing about an hour into our date. Guy was talking about his favorite movies (explain to me why all men love Rudy and I will die a satisfied woman) and I was thinking…

What would Guy be like at my family’s beach house? How would Guy handle my college friends? If Guy and I decided to go on a weekend trip, where would he want to go?

I came up with what I think are some fairly accurate assessments based on small hints he dropped (he hates the beach) and more embedded clues (he likes wine and the country, we would therefore go on a wine tasting weekend to the country).

Guy came out okay in the series of stories I got through after three hours, two cocktails, and a really delicious butternut squash risotto. I gather he could handle a bit of flea market shopping, would get along with most of my sisters, and would enjoy traveling to far away places like Bali (my latest fantasy). Then I found a surprising semblance of vodka-induced reason: What about Guy and Jessie Go Get Coffee Somewhere After Dinner.
Nope. Not really interested. I don’t think we’d have a ton more to talk about, plus the conversation we were having was turning political and some strong differences of opinion were clearly on the horizon.

Lesson learned? Fairly tale writing is for Sunday mornings at the corner café. Dating is for actually focusing on the person across the table long enough to decide whether you want to see them tomorrow, not on a hike through the rainforest next summer.

He was sweet, very sweet actually. But I figure I’ll know when something is really right when I stop zoning out and writing happy endings because I’m too wrapped up in the conversation across the table.

Cue Jessie Learns a Lesson music.

Monday, January 7, 2008

On derailing and writing - in Italy

I have decided, very firmly, that I want to be a writer, so now I think it makes sense to move to Italy for 6-9 months, around September.

Yes, it’s sometimes exhausting to be me.

I will explain and, in doing so, hopefully touch on themes ripe for us all. I acknowledge these themes may only apply to my crazy mind, but humor me and pretend like you think about them during commercial breaks watching Gossip Girl too.

I am currently a Sponsorship Account Manager at the Tribeca Film Festival. Corporations give our Festival money. I develop and execute programs to enhance the Festival with that money and also provide the corporation with exposure and a platform to market themselves at the Festival. It’s a good job that I’m very fortunate to have, and it has me on track for a “successful” career and secure life. Problem is, I don't want that life.

I want to be a writer. I have since I was 7 (according to my Mom). Reason: there is nothing in the world I find more fulfilling. Maybe dancing at bars, but that is not a respectable career for a Boston College graduate.

Unfortunately – breaking into writing is very challenging. Establishing enough regular freelance assignments to support myself will take time. Plus they don’t come with guarantees, or health insurance. It's a risky life choice, and I'm not the poster child for risk-taking (outside of bars and clothing stores). That said, if I don’t tuck in my balls and give this one a shot, (is that how it goes Kev?), I’ll never forgive myself. And that is even more risky.

Now I can stay at my current career path as a safety net and try to fit writing in while here until I’m secure enough in it to leave my job, or I can shake things up a little. Move, live life, work somewhere crazy, try to make a little money along the way all-the-while contacting editors, pitch stories, and writing. And if this plan B is my plan well then I may as well move to Italy because it is perfect there. What’s six months of derailing a career I didn’t want it in the first place? Maybe it’s the makings of a novel – or 8 part magazine series.

Retirement savings? Place to live? Work visa? Boyfriend? Plan to fall back on? Details, details. We’re talking life calling here – isn’t the rest just plot points along the way?*

*This question is not rhetorical

Friday, January 4, 2008

How job interviews are like meeting girls at the bar, and other thoughts on seeking a new job

I don't really have any girl drama to rant about. I'll leave most of the relationship nonsense to Jessie for now, interjecting here and there when I've got something worthwhile to say. Which is rare anyway, so don't hold your breath. I do have to agree that reading a book has somehow become next to impossible somehow. Actually that isn't true. Recently I finished one. I started it in July. I only read it on planes, and only sometimes. It depended how much other stuff I had to fit into by bag. Usually it was the last thing to make the cut. It was a good book though – The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Jessie, add it to your list.
Anyway, I think by now everybody who is reading this knows that my company was sold. Figures, because I finally found a great place to work with great people that I really enjoy getting up for in the morning. (Yeah yeah...Pierson works for a granola company... get over it) I'm not going to complain about it really, we all knew that we'd be sold eventually and we'll all land on our feet. My one complaint is that it puts me back on the lookout for a new job. This will be job # 6 for me since graduation.
I've become somewhat of a jobseeking pro at this point, I must say. Last time I did this my mother and aunt both gave me copies of that book What Color is Your Parachute? thinking I could use the help. This time around my biggest concern is that none of my dressy clothes fit anymore (that is for another post, for sure). I've made some good connections in the industry, have a good resume, blah blah blah.

Thats boring. What I want to bring up is all the weird and awkward things that happen in this whole process. For example: The Callback.

You meet a girl at the bar, you're very attracted to her, you introduce yourself and you seem to hit it off, think you might want to spend roughly the next six months to two years with her and could really learn a lot and grow because of the relationship, the benefits of being with her are shaping up to be great, etc etc. You tell her a little bit about yourself, making yourself seem entirely more valuable and attractive than you are, and then make sure you have her contact information. You awkwardly part ways, not sure how bold to be at the end. Do I ask her if i can take her out soon? Or do I wait and do it over the phone? Personally I'm kind of a wimp, so I wait to do it over the phone. But I have no idea how many days is the appropriate amount of days to wait and call back. Are you seeing the analogy here? I last heard from them before the holidays, and I'm waiting 'til Monday of next week to call if I don't hear back by then, in case you were wondering.

Another example: The Recruiter.

This is an amazing phenomenon to me. I met this guy Will at the National Association of Convenience Stores tradeshow. Which I only specify because it still amuses me that such an association even exists. I got his card, sent him my resume when I got home, and then he started shopping me around to potential employers. This is just weird. It's possible that this guy who I met for all of 4 minutes in between stolen looks at the (very) scantily clad promotional models at the Monster energy drink booth will find me the job that changes my career and therefore life dramatically. Will hasn't called in a while. I guess I'm not going to make him any money, so he's over me. I'm over you too, Will.

Thats all I've got for now. Back to playing ping-pong at the office instead of working.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The 12 and the 3, but mostly the 3.

To pick up where we left off:

The books is the 12 and the hooking up is the 3. I'll explain since this is a blog.

It is very, very hard to read any more than 10 pages of a book without falling asleep after a long day of work. Also, many books are very boring. Still, I’m very committed because reading is extremely important to maintaining a sharp and learned mind.

The hooking up with people I won’t immediately regret – piece of cake. For starters – I have a twin bed. This makes me self-conscious and thus I find myself drunk mentioning it prior to inviting someone to hook up in it. They sometimes pass. Secondly, this is Manhattan, not Boston College. Criminals, STDs, and Notre Dame alumni exist in abundance. Very risky. But most importantly and very frankly, I have never had a drunk hook up result in anything good or productive. Ever. And, brace yourself for this next part, I’ve never really had a drunk hook up that I would call “worth it.”

I’m no Actuary and I rarely gamble anymore, but I’m going to call those facts clear odds against the potential success of a drunken, random hook up. I think there are clever financial terms we could apply to this situation, but I don't know them (Gallotta?). Instead I'll say, this isn't working - time to try something else. I stop hooking up and see how that goes instead. You likely have some questions:

How am I measuring success? We end up boyfriend and girlfriend.
Why can’t I just enjoy the drunk hook up for the fun of it? It’s not really that fun. It’s usually sloppy and confusing and doesn’t feel particularly amazing.
So is a boyfriend really my goal at this point? Yes. Don’t judge me. I hear they’re really quite wonderful.
But do I want to date someone who takes people home on the first non date? Gasp. No.
Okay but do I think there could be the chance that I really form a connection with someone, get a little drunk, decide it’s worth the hook up, do it, and find that we still like each other in the morning and want to take it further? Yes, but that belief hasn’t served me well in, oh, the past 6 years, so I’m going to call it questionable. Also, it’s worth mentioning that after hooking up with someone who then shows signs of still being interested I become consumed with the belief that it’s all about the hooking up for him and proceed to sabotage the relationship in one of many stealth but effective manners. For this I blame evolution and a guy I “dated” last year.

That’s the bottom line. Feel free to join me in '08. Maybe we’ll start a revolution. We can call it the 1950s.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The New Year - or so they say

My “The New Year” rant was referenced several times in “the old year”. Here is it – abridged because I have to add my “the new year resolution” rant to it and don’t want to alienate readers this early in the new year, as a point of resolution.

Leading up to the turn of the year you hear, no less than twice a day, something resembling the following:
-“Oh we’ll get to that in the new year.”
-“They probably can’t handle that project until the new year.”
-“I think we’ll really start to see that change in the new year.”

What the shit does this mean? I made it a point to respond as frankly and directly as possible in an effort to make people realize how outrageously preposterous the phrase sounds:

-“So we’ll get to that next Thursday?”
-“You mean they’ll be able to handle that project in two weeks?
-“Great, so we’ll be seeing that change in 5 days!”

I think my point is clear. Two days ago it was the old year. Today it is the elusive New Year. I just edited the document I worked on in the old year and am now sending it today, in the New Year. I had four vacation days in between the new and old years during which I read a book, ate baked brie, and drank a lot of alcohol. Aside from the book, the four days were eerily similar to the previous, ummm, thousand. I remain the same, as do all of my colleagues and, let’s be honest, the entirety of all the industries in which we work. Ergo, this is dumb. Stop saying it.

That finally said, I am approaching this new year with some rather earth shattering resolutions. Though I generally find those to be regret-inducers on a 6-month retainer, this year I’m taking them very seriously. I’ve done just as Al Roker recommended and written them down so I can be included in the 90% of people who accomplish their resolutions -- that's of the percentage of people who write them down, numbering 30%. I took Finite Math, but I estimate that around 10 people. Whatever – Al kept the weight off.

After careful consideration of my collective vices and dreams I’ve made two resolutions this year. Two because I don’t want to feel bad about myself if I only accomplish one. Three would probably be better, but two years ago I resolved to stop overacheiving, so that seems hypocritical. One resolution I assess at a level of difficulty around 3 (out of 10, 10 being most difficult as it always is so let's collectively stop clarifying that) – the other is a 12, for sure.

-I intend to read one book per month
-I intend to not engage in hook ups that I will immediately regret – and by immediately I mean when I wake up*

Which is the 3 and which is the 12, you might ask? That’s for tomorrow’s post. Right now I’m too busy getting to everything I put off until the new year.

*Smooching at bars does not count.