Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Starch-crossed Lovers: the unexpected afterward

And then sometimes things work out so Meg-Ryan-Tom-Hanks-movie perfectly that you can't help but wonder -  is it odd?...or is it God?...

For those that followed the Lifetime original that was my ordeal with Anna and Laundro-Matt, you'll remember that following our first slash only "encounter," I never saw Laundro again. 

For those that didn't - here: Starch-Crossed Lovers (and apologies for giving away the ending...)

Last Friday I popped in to Anna's to see if a dress I'd dropped off Monday had been cleaned.  I was with someone, a male someone who I've been spending time with as of late.  That's vague for a reason - reason being I'm trying very hard not to make said someone run for the hills on account of this blog...

Someone and I walk into Anna's talking and laughing about something I can't remember.  What I do remember is that there was a lone customer standing at the counter, dropping off some shirts or pants - a lone, male customer...  

Yes, of course, it was him.  It's been almost a year since the whole Laundro 'sitch began, and in that year despite all the back-and-forth, I'd never once seen him inside Anna's.  

Yes, of course he recognized me.  He said hey.  I said hey.  Anna stood there looking like she'd just seen a ghost or the two people she tried to set up over a year ago through a series of ridiculous exchanges and then never knew quite what happened.  It was a kind of awkward perfection that comes 'round once in the most random Friday morning of your life.

Laundro left with a quick "later", and I stepped to the counter to ask Anna about my dress. She said it would be ready that night in a tone that read, "OMG Jessica that was Matt you boyfriend but now you here with other man and I don't know what to do..." It was subtle, but it was there.  And then the someone and I left to get coffee and sit in the park on a perfect New York day. 

Call it good karma, meaningless coincidence or what my Mom would - a "God wink" - but sometimes some stories come hysterically full circle in a way that makes you laugh your ass off, call all of your girlfriends slash sisters, and revise the ending of the short film...  

Monday, September 28, 2009

L.A. 20-somethings: more adult than the east coast version?

I've been know to criticize Los Angeles for all the things that make it not New York.  The lack of seasons, the presence of traffic, the fact that no one walks anywhere, and bars close at 2am, and people ask "who do you work for" instead of "what do you do." In general, I don't like LA.

And yet I'm here in la la land for seven full days on somewhat of a test drive - a vacation slash week-long internal monologue of hypotheticals. "Okay, if I had to live in LA where would I live.." And "should work bring me out here, what specifically would I do?" And, "approx how often would I crash the car I have to have because I live here..."  

It's been one day.  So far my only answer is, really often...

But in that one day spent being tour-guided around by one of my best friends from college - an east coaster who's been fully converted - I have made one additional conclusion.  A conclusion that is incredibly painful to admit, but too topical to the 20-nothings discussion to ignore:

I think 20-something who live in LA are actually more adult than 20-somethings who live in New York.  

Wait Geanna, hear me out. 

  • In my one day here thus far I've heard no fewer than 5 conversations about things people need to do with their cars.  Take them to the shop.  Pay for their insurance.  Clean them out. Park them somewhere safe.  The car is like this mechanical child that they're wholly responsible for not killing.  And, it's a huge investment to boot.  Having this car means budgeting for this car, which means other things (more shoes, more expensive dinners) don't make the cut.  In New York I care for getting myself places by taking a 24-hour color and number coded subway system that costs me less than a slice of pizza, holding my arm up in the air until a man who will drive me anywhere I ask pulls over next to me to pick me up, or walking - which is free.  I'm not saying that's not better.  It is.  I'm just saying it allows me to avoid dealing with very adult things like not drinking and driving or not crashing a vehicle. 
  • And on this drinking and driving note.  People in L.A. certainly get just as drunk as people in New York, but there are factors beyond their control preventing them from doing it as often or intensely.  1. The cars thing.  Yes people drive drunk, and that's not adult at all.  But my friends here explain that people drink less because they have to account for driving to and fro.  Makes sense.  2. The bars close at 2am.  Is that lame? Yes.  Does that save money, time, shame, and regret? Yes. Things that happen between 2 and 4 am aren't generally grouped among the most mature things we do...
  • I'm currently sitting at a desk in a room with a queen bed, double book shelf, two full-sized closets, and a massive window looking out on a terrace.  In addition, I can walk around this room.  When I asked my friend if both his winter and summer clothes fit in this room he said, "yes, but we don't really have winter clothes here, so I just have double the summer clothes..." Touche, and ouch. Is it un-adult that I bring an entire wardrobe worth of clothes to my parent's house every time the seasons change? Not technically I guess, but isn't any need for your parent's basement at this stage in life a regression?
  • Attached to this massive bedroom where all one's clothes fit is an equally large kitchen, living room, and sometimes dining room where you can do things like have a dinner party or invite friends over instead of heading out to the bars or welcome guests to crash with you for seven full days.  Yes, people in New York have big apartment too, but they're generally older the 26, making a lot of money very young, or in Bushwick (no offense Kim, just a fact). When you have a big space you have to furnish and care for and live in that full space in a generally more adult manner.  In my Greenwich Village apartment I eat dinner on a tv tray sitting on my love seat (which is not to be confused with a full-sized couch).  I pay $100 more than the friend I'm staying with in L.A. 
Don't get me wrong. I still don't like L.A. more than New York.  But in an effort to open my eyes to the fact that this city has some pluses that, "but the Washington Square Park fountain is so magical at night..." outweigh - I have to be honest.  My life in New York is far more bohemian, college, party, hectic, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants than my friends' lives here in L.A.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I don't know -- it's only day two...

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Lost in a world without courtship"? Challenge.

I'm pre-disposed to disagree with everything in Michael Gerson's recent diatribe against the 20-something from The Washington Post.  Frankly any article that starts by claiming that an entire generation - mine or any other - finds family values "increasingly irrelevant" gets me on the defensive.  That's a blanket statement.

So is this: "This is the period of life in which society's most important social commitments take shape -- commitments that produce stability, happiness and children."

I'm immediately drawn to words like "society's" and "most important" and "stability, happiness and children."  It's my job to hate "the man" and his requirement that I be stable faster than I'm ready to welcome the children that happiness requires; I'm 26 and live in Manhattan.  But Gerson seems to suggest that I'm in big trouble because I am - and will continue to be - late to arrive to the stable life party - which would probably just be an afternoon tea.  I'm making mistakes left and right, according to him, and they'll cost me. Here's where I admit that I don't hate this article because I firmly disagree with it; I hate it because I'm afraid there's a chance it could be true.

So in an effort to be less "26" than Gerson thinks I am, I'm going to evaluate his premise that I am/we are "lost in a world without courtship" as if I agree (or am at least willing to think about maybe agreeing).

Paraphrased, paragraph by paragraph:
  • This whole 20-something relationship problem exists because people are ready to have sex earlier but ready to marry later, 26 for women and 28 for men, on average.  Agree, except later than 26...please.
  • More time to be unmarried = more time to be sexually experimental and unstable.  Fine. The "courtship narrative" as Gerson calls it, used to be clear: date around, get engaged, marry, have kids.  Now it's totally disrupted and without a replacement.  It's true that dating means a lot of different things these days, and goes on for a lot longer than it used to with far, far more people, but I think the engagement ---> marriage ---> children path, for the most part holds steadys.
  • As such 20-somethings sit in a "relational wasteland." Ouch. Media-promoted casual sex and liberalism leads to real-life STDs and "emotional and physical wreckage" Double ouch.  But does this mean we don't know how to have relationships or that we don't want them? Two different things...
  • And then after early 20s involving all that emotional wreckage, our generation moves on to another destructive set-up: cohabitation.  Not like when you couldn't have boys sleep in your double long twin at Boston College.  Like when they move into your full bed in Manhattan so you can each save $600 a month on rent. 
  • According to Gerson, this cohabitation and delayed marriage isn't working out so well. "About 40% of children will now spend some of their childhood in a cohabiting union." That is a MASSIVE stat.  That means almost 1/2 the children born are born to parents who aren't married.  Challenge. "3/4 of children born to cohabiting parents will see their parents split up by the time they turn 16." I'm famously bad at math but that's 75% of the 40% of all kids born - so a LOT of the entire population.  Still not resting easy with these numbers...
  • So while we can no longer force the combo of marriage and living together, Gerson suggests we maintain standards around marriage before children. Fine, I concede; it is most secure to be married prior to having children, but I don't think that's really the point of his article...
  • Gerson moves off the kids and marriage issue and onto the age of marriage issue. Gulp.  The age of first marriage is important, he explains.  And later is not always better. Double gulp.  "People who marry after 27 tend to have less happy marriages - perhaps because partners are set in their ways or have unrealistically high standards.  The marital sweet spot seems to be in the early to mid-20s." Whaaaaat?  Who did he talk to? How many people over 27? What kind of unhappiness?  I want numbers - even if they're as annoying as those babies-out-of-wedlock numbers...
  • And finally - having a series of low-commitment relationships does not bode well for later marital commitment. Why do I feel like he really wanted to write a whole article about this... A. Yes, some people are pre-disposed to low commitment and will come at all relationships with a non-traditional approach, no matter how many they have.  But B. there's evidence, according to Wilcox, that "multiple failed relationships can 'poison one's view of the opposite sex'" further "serial cohabitation trains people for divorce." Wait - who's Wilcox..........................oh, Director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Curious...
  • In conclusion, Gerson concludes, "delaying marriage creates moral, emotional and practical complications....The answer, even in the relational wasteland, is responsibility, commitment and sacrifice for the sake of children." Whoa.  See below, a lot. 
I need to take the "sacrificing for the sake of children" off the table in this debate because I don't believe Gerson means, "stop f-ing around, find someone to marry, settle down and have kids or you'll end up miserable and unstable."  If that is in fact what he means then that's a whole other blog post...

What I do think he means is stop f-ing around, hunker down, and get serious about relationships and marriage because it will lead to an overall more stable and happy life. And hurry up because outside a certain issue, you're screwed. 

But what he doesn't address - and really no one addresses - is what happens if you hit marriage within that apparent "sweet spot" of your early 20's and sacrifice developing your life and career in the process.  Yes kids with parents who co-habit may see more divorce, but what about kids with parents who didn't develop a sense of self because they were too wrapped up in getting married and having kids? Can you develop a sense of self inside a marriage, yes, of course you can.  But then on that same token can't you take your time to arrive at marriage focusing first on career and self and still end up happy?  According to Gerson, probably not.  

I am not married.  I am incredibly happy.  It's hard to image re-setting my story to think of how it would feel if I were married right now, but I think for personal and developmental reasons, I would be less happy. I'm not married for a reason, and that reason is not so that I can sleep with as much of Manhattan as possible before I a-fix the ball and chain.  That reason is because I don't feel ready to be married, and scary stats about how unhappy I'll be if I don't get married faster aren't helping. 

My problem with Gerson's argument isn't his belief that marriage is important - that having children inside a marriage is more stable - that having too much casual sex is dangerous. I agree with all of that.  My problem is that he seems to believe we're delaying marriage because we're stuck in this emotional wasteland that we can't dig through to find the right person to marry, that it's an issue of sexual and relational maturity -- more specifically, that we don't have enough. I think he thinks we're foolish and immature and stilted as a generation.  I disagree.

I think Gerson overlooks the fact that some of us 22 or 29, are choosing not to take those major life steps because of reasons that have nothing to do with sex or cohabiting or having children.  It's about career and personal development and time spent getting to know what and who we want. We realize life is long and refuse to believe that if we don't insert marriage into it around the 23-year-old mark all's lost.   

Isn't that mature too?  Doesn't that seem stable?  Can't that be as much a recipe for happiness as the life path Gerson prefers we take?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Guest Blogger: The Quiet Party

Today's unbelievable story comes from Meg B. of Blackberries to Apples 
Meg is currently the bravest New Yorker I know.

I'm not gonna lie: I'm quite the virgin when it comes to this whole "being single in the big city" thing. I've spent most of my (admittedly young) adult life in some form of committed relationship - running the modest gamut from being hardcore in love with my high school boyfriend to having an exclusive relationship based mostly on sex, and as such I've never been big into the bar/singles scene. I've met plenty of people in bars, but never gone gone home with anyone. In fact, I'd never even been to a bar by myself. Until last week.

I was trying to figure out my evening plans last week when I learned that all my friends already had other commitments. Left to my own devices, I normally just spend my evenings working out, making myself dinner (or ordering Chinese food, LBO) and watching TV online. (My Netflix account is tragically neglected.) But this particular day, I was feeling adventurous and empowered - it's the fucking dress, I swear to God - so I started Googling free stuff to do in New York. I stumbled onto Time Out New York's site, and at the top was a headline that read "5 Things To Do Today." Naturally, I clicked.

Second down on the list was a listing for something called a Quiet Party. Very intrigued, I read on and discovered that it's basically an event at a bar where people are not allowed to speak. You pay a minimal cover charge to get in, and you communicate with other people via writing notes. That's right - absolutely no talking allowed. Just like high school during the PSATs. Obvs I had to go. After work I stopped by the store to get some Jolly Ranchers to fold into the notes* of people I liked - on a ballsy tip from my host blogstress - then I headed uptown.

I felt amazingly confident as I made the trek to the bar. My high-heeled feet pounded the pavement, and I feared no one - not man nor woman nor empty bar. But as I crossed Sullivan and Thompson Street - ahhh only one block away now - a knot took hold in my stomach. Fuck, what am I doing? Who do I think I am? Going to a bar full of strangers by myself? What if no one "talks" to me? What if they're all fat/ugly/creepy? Or - GASP - old?!?

I took a deep breath, opened the front door and scaled the stairs into the room that had been reserved for the party. It was very - sigh, OK, obviously - quiet. I approached the bartender, whispered my drink order and took a seat. I sipped nervously as I watched people around me passing notes. The crowd was fairly attractive, but mostly older; probably late 20s and early 30s . People were snickering and giggling as sexy piano music tinkled out of the bar speakers. The wallpaper and lights were quite red, and the artwork on the walls complimented the music - think nudity, and lots of it.

The oldest guy in the bar - ugh, of course - approached me and handed me a note: This is sort of awkward isn't it?

Yeah, I wrote back. It's really... quiet. Hahaha. A truly brillz moment, self.

After this first note exchange - which stopped there - I no longer felt timid or nervous. Everyone was passing notes with everyone else - men with women, women with men, women with women - and everyone was smiling and laughing and seemed to be having a good, mostly innocent time. I jumped right in, walking across the room to deliver a note to the one guy I thought was remotely young and cute. He was sitting on a couch with another girl, and - figuring I may as well stick with the high school motif - I wrote, directly, Hi. Are y'all "together" together? He wrote back that they were not, and that I was welcome to join. I did, and minutes later the girl left to join another group of girls. Now it's just me and this strange dude on a couch, passing notes. OK, let's do this.

We exchanged - ha! literally! - pleasantries just like you would in a real bar. Only this time there was no yelling and I didn't have to pretend like I could hear him when really I couldn't. It was actually quite relaxing to be in a bar with minimal noise, almost like a yoga class or something. But better, because there's wine. Here's what I gathered from our wordless convo, annotated with a completely arbitrary points system.

Cute, nice eyes +15
Bald(ish) -3
Too short (the fucking story of my single life) -5
Smells good +8
Good handwriting +4
Nice and inquisitive +8
Slow handwriting, because he "hasn't written in a long time" -6
Tries to be funny... +5
... And fails -8
Composes hip-hop music... +15
... But only likes Jay-Z "OK" -10
Lives in Brooklyn... 0
... "Close" to his mom -10
Total: +13

After passing notes for a while, the novelty wore off and I was bored, hungry and freezing because the bar was so cold that all my creative juices had turned to glaciers. My brain was exhausted from trying to be charming, and I just felt like I was chatting on OKStupid with all these people, except in real life. I felt like there was an additional first step, and I wanted to use Ockham's razor (oh I went there) to cut out that unnecessary step and just talk to people with my actual voice. Because isn't that why we 20somethings gather in mass quantities in large, loud bars? So we can have amazing conversations and meet amazing, intelligent people, right? We ended up staying for about another hour after our stint on the couch, bouncing around the bar and passing notes with various randos, including a guy who asked me to write him a short story. When I did, he took my note and disappeared. Astorophobic, are we? Baffling.

I then suggested that +13 and I leave to get some food. I knew I wasn't that into him, but he seemed like a legitimately nice guy, and I've definitely split meals with worse, so I just decided to go for it. We talked over burritos a couple blocks from the bar, and it was actually one of the most pleasant "dates" - if you can really call it that - I've had thus far in this city. He was nice, he had good manners, and he could carry on a conversation without using terms such as "rad" and "get with it." We exchanged phone numbers and he called me a few days later - on a Friday night, is that kosher? - and left a very sweet voicemail that I have yet to return.

Bottom line: A quiet party is just like a regular night out at the bar, minus a few sweaty bodies and a lot of excess noise. It's novel and relaxing at first, then it just becomes boring and exhausting. As far as dating goes, if you're into someone, you just know it. Whether they are talking, yelling or saying nothing at all, if it's there, it's there - and if it's not, it's just not. So one's "success" rate at any party - quiet or raging - depends entirely on who else is there, no?

Now, what's the rule on returning the voicemails of someone you're not that into?

*The notes turned out to be miniature index cards, so I couldn't fold them, damn it!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Drum roll please. How to go from friends to more than friends

The process of transitioning from being friends to being more than friends is the third most difficult challenge known to modern man. (1. how to establish universal health care in the US. 2. How to bring peace about in the Middle East, and 3. How to tell your best guy friend that you actually wish he was your boyfriend. 4. opening plastic packaging for certain electronic devised.)

Every seven seconds some girl somewhere starts crying because she doesn’t know how to tell that guy she has feelings for him (note: US stat).  It’s a god-damned mess. Should she even do it? What if she does it and he doesn’t have feelings for her, obviously the friendship is ruined?What if she doesn’t and he does have feelings for her and they just never end up together because both of them are too chicken to say something? Isn’t there just a way to figure this out indirectly so there’s no slash low risk and everyone ends up happy?

Allow me to Bounty extra quilted this shit:

It doesn’t matter.
Right, exactly.
And No.

Of course there’s more.

Blanket statement that appears as opinion but is fact, fact:

If you have very strong romantic feelings for one of your close male friends you should either make those feelings clear or stop being such good friends. I support the former in most cases, but do as you please.


Because of another blanket statement that seems like an opinion but is actually 100% truth:

If you have very strong romantic feelings for one of your close male friends and don’t make them clear or stop being such good friends, the friendship - as it is - will eventually end anyway.

Here’s why:

A friendship in which one party is in love with the other is not a friendship -- it’s a unique social situation where one person is engaged in friendship while the other is engaged in a life mission to figure out if he/she loves them back. As such that person (a girl for example's sake) often behaves less like a true friend and more like an actress - an actress cast in the role of this guy's girlfriend.  Does said female actually want this person as a friend in her life? Yes. Would she continue to want him if she was 100% certain he didn’t and would never love her back? Debatable, but probably no.

That’s what makes this “friendship” ripe for destruction. Half of its members don’t want it like it is and have ultimate designs to change it. As such they frequently find themselves doing things that are designed to appear friendly in nature but are actually plots to figure out what’s really going on inside his head. Such as: let me bring him around my guy friends from college so he can see that I treat him differently than I treat him and realize maybe I like like him. Or – let me invite that guy I met at the bar last week to his party so I can see if he acts jealous... Or the common – let me invite him to go Flea Market shopping so he can see me in my adorable Flea Market shopping outfit slash mode and realize that he really does love me...and then he’ll just tell me. Yes, it’s as exhausting as it sounds. And no, it can’t go on like that forever. That’s where the destruction part comes in, and it comes in one of three forms.

1. You crack. Alcohol plus years of denied feelings can/will/often does lead to slurred confessions, black-out “moves”, and/or you telling his roommate that you love him and begging for advice. I’ve never seen all three go down, but I wouldn’t put it past someone.
2. He starts dating someone who isn’t you. (Hopefully this happens before you crack…)
3. He loves you back and somehow this just becomes very clear and then you start dating, and it’s as it always should have been.

Here’s why no matter which of those happen, it’s for the best.

1a. No it is not easy to recover from drunk-confessing that you love someone. Yes things will take some time to be back to normal, if they ever go back to normal. But this is good because they 100% needed to change. You cannot and should not remain as close as you were to this person! It’s crazy and self destructive and preventing you from being with someone with whom you'll have a reciprocated relationship. So method: negative. Effects: awkward. End result: correct. Sorry.

2a. Yes this will hurt, but like the above, it will get you where you need to be – out of a co-dependent relationship with a friend you want to date. To reiterate: friends you want to date aren’t friends, they’re projects.

3a. I’ve heard this happens. I believe it’s possible. I haven’t experienced it directly or indirectly, but if you find yourself in this lucky situation – fuck you.

Moral of the story. You need to change this relationship. You can change it with a heart-felt letter that holds the option of response, “if you feel the same way, let me know. If you don’t, let’s spend 6-8 months not speaking. Best, Jessie”. You can change it with a drunken confession to his best friend that gets back to him -- and then awkwardly back to you. Or you can let it die and slowly back your way out of the friendship (sometimes if the writing is on the wall - and your friend finally convince you of this... this is best decision). But the situation will eventually run its course and whatever happens between you two further down the road might have a lot to do with how you handle the crossroads.

And yes, I know the title of this post is "how" to go from friends to more.  That was a device to draw you in.  If I titled it, "why going from friends to more is really, really difficult and carries very few examples of success but you should still get it over with and tell him" you'd probably x this out and return to examining what girls have recently written on his Facebook wall...

Friday, September 18, 2009

We're all wise when it comes to other people's lives

yesterday. circa 3pm:

dani.m.rosen: don't be confused by how you have been treated by how you deserve to be treated

me: that's a great line - very wise.

dani.m.rosen: you should write a blog about me and how wise i am yet i still can't get my shit together

I already write that blog except it's about me, not my little sister Dani, and I generally leave out the part where I can't get my shit together. It's there though, if you read through the lines slash have ever seen me drunk...

The do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do factor is a standard feature of the 20-Nothing set. We dole out advice like it's going out of style, but ask us to turn around and take that same suggestion and it, "oh well that's for you - I'm a different story."

This means one of two things are going on.

1. We're lying to our friends.

Theory one - generally speaking - we bullshit to our friends about what they "really should do" about X guy, Y job, or Z outfit. We listen, think about it, and throw out some half-baked response that ends the convo so we can go back to discussing more important issues such as us. We're not actually wise, and whatever wisdom we have is lifted straight from those precious moments where Danny Tanner would help Steph, DJ or Michelle through a rough patch with the help of soft transitional music. In short, and rhyme, it's not wise - it's lies. (boom.)

2. Our brains are flawed, inherently.

No really, this is the serious of the two (not that Danny didn't have a few stellar moments). Case in point: I know that saving money is the smart, healthy, and ultimately worth-while life move to make. I buy a 67th pair of shoes because they are very sexy and will look good with my peg-leg jeans. Flawed brain. There's no other explanation. Same goes for why you will have a bottle of wine followed by five beers on a Wednesday night. We aren't confused about what nine units of alcohol will do to our Thursday. Our brain just shuts that logic function off for whatever reasons (read: a guy), and we proceed to do the wrong thing.

Are we hypocrites? No. Hypocrites know they're going against what they said or supported. We can't even get that far when it comes to taking our own advice. We actually think the advice doesn't apply to us. We actually believe that our friend Katie should ask the guy out because what's-the-worst-that-can-happen? whereas we should not because many-many-many-bad-things-we-can't-even-list-there's-so-many will happen.

A tricky brain like that of a hypocrite goes, "whatever, I know I told her she was a slut when she did that but I'm doing it anyway because who cares, whatevs, I can't be judgemental and also no one's going to know...." A flawed brain like that of someone who can't take their own wise advice can completely disconnect what it told one person when it comes to applying that wisdom to themselves.

Why really? Outside the flawed brain sitch - and really, inside it as well - it's because being wise is easy. Watch a little Lifetime or read one of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books and you can pretty much get a handle on what you should do in most circumstances. But the actually doing it takes all sort of other words like courage and patience and confidence and whatever else was on those posters in the guidance office (that one with the kitten hanging off the branch...classic). We think that just because we can think it that means we should just be able to do it, but that's way easier said than done...which explains why people like Dani and me say it but don't do it.

And so what's the fix? Blame it on your mis-wired brain. Figure out the wise thing to do - the thing you'd tell your friend to do - and then when the "but I can't possibly do that" be like, "oh right - that's not true, I'm just mentally challenged in this circumstance and instead need to pretend my way into logic ignoring what my fucked up brain is telling me."

Trust me, works every time. Also trust me, don't go through that thought process out loud - anywhere.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mating like we're 80

This past Sunday's New York Times wedding was between an 83 and 84-year-old man and woman, respectively.
The newlyweds - Beth Ashley and Rowland Fellows (which is the best old man name ever) met when they were 12 and 13 on the island off Maine where both their families summered. “I thought he was very, very cute,” the bride said. “I kept wishing he would kiss me and become my boyfriend. It was a little girl crush, but it was very serious on my part.”

“I guess I just wasn’t a very romantic young man,” the groom responded. “But Beth was sort of a tomboy, and I looked at her as more of a buddy.”

And so 70 years went by... He got married and eventually became a widower. She got married and became divorced, twice. They each had kids and lives - across the country from each other.

At one point the Ashley, a writer, wrote an article about her childhood love - that boy from her Summers in Maine. At some point much later, Fellows found and read it. And for whatever reasons - decided to get back in touch. Again, 70 years later...

They re-connected and settled back into old times immediately - so much so that Fellows suggested they take a trip together.

“She didn’t want to at first,” he said. “I promised we would have separate rooms. I guaranteed twin beds.”

And then Ashley responded with the line that made me spit out my Dunkin Donuts medium cinnamon coffee and immediately call Carly.

“I didn’t think I could travel with him because he is a Republican,” Ms. Ashley said. “I said I thought I might kill him. Then he suggested we go to Maine, and that was irresistible.”

God bless this woman...

Several trips later -in their Shanghai hotel room, because they went to Shanghai at 83 and 84, Fellows proposed.

“It felt completely natural,” Ashley said of the new engagement. “I felt as if I had come home. I had found the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

Fellows capped it off - “Beth and I have been like two bookends, with almost 70 years of empty space between us. There’s a lot to catch up on, but we better do it quickly. We can always relax a little more toward the end.”

He reportedly intends to live to be 100, so that's around 15 years of blissful lifetime together.
This is a precious story. A precious, unbelievable story that makes you want to live to be 100 and never forget all the summer loves from your past. It's also a love story - of course - but one between two people who thought they'd already had all the love stories that were in their cards. Is this one - their last one their greatest? Does it negate all the other ones? And if their 80-year-old minds filled with decades of life lessons had been what drove their 20-year-old selves - would they have gotten married originally?

That's the interesting question, right? If who we are and what we know about life and love and partners in both at the end of our lives could somehow be channeled when we're searching for our first love story help ensure that it's our only? Who would we pick if we were picking at the end of our lives? Would they, and should they be the same?

Monday, September 14, 2009

A girl and two guys walk into a bar

I feel like Zac was the one to point it out first.

He, Chris, and I were sitting at the bar at One and One drinking a respective Bud Lite, Stella, and vodka soda and talking about dating and relationships. A gay guy, a straight guy, and a straight girl, respectively. Three completely different perspectives for three people all essentially the same age and place in life.

Zac was saying something about the nature of a bar like One and One - an on-the-whole "straight person's" bar with room for stray gays based on its East Village location. People's expectations for the crowd were built around that premise, he was saying; that mainly straight guys and girls would be present with the off chance of a gay or two in the crowd.

"So right now," he said, "we're the most confusing grouping of people that could possibly exist in this bar. Two guys sitting next to each other and a girl on the end. We could be any combination of things right now."

He was right. I could have been dating Zac with Chris tagging along as a friend just as easily as Chris could have been dating Zac with me as third wheel. And while I was sitting furthest from Chris, it could also have been that he and I were a couple with Zac in the middle as our gay or straight friend. The truth is that it's none of the above, but if you're a bystander - ha! barstander in this case - watching us from the corner, there's no way you could tell what was going on.

As such, there's no way you'd approach any one of us even though all of us are technically ripe for being approached.

Interesting, right? And it's as much about the location as it is about the nature of the group.
Two guys and one girl in a sports bar watching the BC/Kent State game (if it were televised..uugghh...) would be no question; they're two straight guys and a girl who's likely dating the one she's sitting next to. Same goes for two guys and a girl you see at a gay bar. They're gay and she's the friend. But three guys together at a lounge? Tricky. Two girls and a guy at that same lounge, trickier. Body language can usually be the key, but if all the people are single (read: not touching each other) it could be one of three-factorial scenarios (if I remember 7th grade math correctly, which generally don't).

Now - Zac, Chris, and I had a blast at One and One that night. We were there to hang out and talk to each other (with one small motive...) not to pick up or be picked up. But, if it was our individual intentions to meet someone that Friday night, we shot ourselves in the feet. As a combo we were almost entirely unapproachable.

And actually, we would have had just as poor chances if just Chris and I had been at that bar chatting together but hoping to each meet someone. Any guy or girl would have assumed we were together. If Zac and Chris had sat down together for some drinks - Zac hoping to meet a guy and Chris a girl - only Chris might have any luck. Any gay guy watching would assume they were together making Zac SOL. And Zac and me - same as Chris and me. People would either assume we were a couple or if they picked up that Zac is gay, still wouldn't approach.

...Important group dynamics to consider if you're heading out with a mission in mind. As we concluded that night, it's most effective to stay in same-gendered groups headed to locations where you're pretty sure your goal sex will be. That is if you're unwilling to do the absolute most effective thing: go to a bar alone.

Friday, September 11, 2009

David Carr on surviving your 20s.

The following excerpt is from a letter New York Times writer and best-selling author (The Night of the Gun - get it) David Carr sent to my friends at Effable Arts' to be read at their premiere show - Stop, Collaborate, and Listen -- a collection of works from 20-something about 20-somethings.

In an effort to infuse the evening with advice from survivors of this age-range The Effable founders (Kim Kay, Meredith Ryan Packer, and Brad Landers) reached out to New York-based luminaries in the creative world asking them to tell their tales of making it out alive. David Carr wrote back.

Carr's letter focused on faking it 'til you make it, but also realizing that if you're making it - even as an assistant editor, chorus line dancer, or series extra - you deserve to be making it. His was a "believe in yourself - you've got this" speech. But it ended with a word to the wise about all those out there who believe in themselves without reason, and behave as if their success is the only end that matters, regardless of the means...
It's advice that goes along nicely with Elizabeth Gilbert's thoughts on creativity from Tuesday, and my paranoia about progress, from....always...

Thanks David, and thanks Effable.

"We have all seen the gunners and heathers in our competitive cohort, the ones who walk in seemingly connected to the wiring diagram, swinging their asses and flirting mercilessly, throwing elbows as it suits them.
Ignore them.
They are compensating for their lack of actual talent, and their essence will emerge over time.
The good guys and the nice girls -- gracious and generous -- generally win the long game. Be fair in all your dealings without regard to hierachy or status and it will come back to you many times over.
People who are mean or callous to those they perceive to be be "little people" are actually the little people.
As a geneneral rule, always conduct yourself in a professional manner that you could easily explain to your mother if she asked."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Why guys go for flakes

Over a year ago I wrote about why girls go for assholes - an expose into the minds of those females who consistently pick the douche instilling the belief in good guys that it's true they finish last.

Today's topic is the corollary to that piece - a year late because I only just realized it.

The SAT question was a real doozy:

Girls are to Assholes as Guys are to:

A. Ditzes (sp?)
B. Models
C. Players
D. Swedes
E. All of the above

None quite fit the bill. The crux of the Girls -----> Assholes analogy is that it's this mysterious draw that everyone sees, most people aknowledge, but no one understands.

Then a friend and I got talking about his situation and my blackberry light went on.

Flakes. Girls are to assholes as Guys are to flakes. Those girls who flirt one thing then text another -- three days too late. They seem like they're into you - on even days and most holidays and when the moon is waning, but on the odd and typical and waxing days they're nowhere to be found. Elusive. Vague. Slightly mysterious. Generally attractive. You'd say they're totally leading you on, except that would be admitting they're doing anything at all. You're still sitting in, "I don't know, it's weird with us" land. (But fyi, we're all saying they're totally leading you on).

I'd assign percentages at a similar level for girl and guy cuplrits to their individual dating demons. About 20% of girls consistently pick the asshole, and the same amount of guys are eternally attracted to the flake.

Here's why I think guys get caught in the spell. Help from friends and The Board is interwoven:

The hard-to-get, drives-me-crazy-factor

Girls fall for assholes because they give them this weird, forward, cocky attention, and girls love attention in any form.  Guys fall for flakes because their wishy-washy nature makes guys feel like they're involved in a cat-mouse chase - a hot, cat-mouse chase.  She draws you in then lets you loose again. She says one thing that raises your hopes and excitement then does another to bring it all down. When it's really good, it's really good.  They're getting glimpses of what this girl could be like...and getting to imagine the rest.  It's not unlike like a drug.  Guys get addicted to how they feel when the girl is into them yes, but even more so it's about the fact that it's sort of bad and sort of risky and definitely all operating under this weird radar slash cloud of smoke.  

Put plainly - guys are really interested in what they can't have and flakes are really excellent at keeping whether or not they can be had a big, confusing mystery. To many guys, wondering if and when they can have it is really hot.  

The "special attention" factor

Remember the part about how girls like assholes because when they're not being assholes to the specific girl it makes her feel like the two of them have this little, secret world?  Like he gives her this special attention he gives no one else?  Flakes are masters at this game.  They know just how to make a guy feel amazing - intentional or otherwise - creating the "she's a flake with everyone but me" effect. 

Blatant, obvious, bawdy attention makes some guys feel wanted/needed, but attention from an otherwise elusive girl trumps that 1,000 x over for a guy who loves a mysterious, elusive girl. 

In this scenario - a guy is generally unaware that he's dealing with a flake.  He sees fun, sometimes attentive, tricky-but-attractive girl at first.  It takes him a lot of time slash an observant female friend who says, "run - she's a flake." 

The dominated/dominant factor

Some of you are thinking - this makes no sense.  Why struggle over something you're never sure you can have if there are options readily available? Why don't guys just like girls who are upfront and clear about their intentions - who make it known just what a guy will get?  

First of all, some guys are into that so let's not forget that/them.  But for the others - the "chase it" and "figure it out" and mystery thing is hot, yes.  But one male friend referenced this element of the push/pull involved in dealing with a flake.  Guys want to be in charge, dominant in a relationship, in general - but the nature of the flake creates this dominant slash dominated situation that, for reasons that make a little but not total sense - some guys think that's hot. 

The low confidence flake lover, factor

A theory, so bear with me.  You would think that a flakey girl would be a guy with low self-confidence's nightmare - that that guy would want a girl who makes it very clear what she wants and how/where/where he can have it; someone who does the legwork because he's on the shyer, less sure-of-himself side. 

Wrong (I think...).  Some guys with lower confidence consistently fall for a flake because those girls are softer, less intimidating...therefore more approachable.  And then if you have lower confidence you can't often wrap it around your brain that you deserve better treatment than a flake can commonly provide, that's A. But more importantly B., you aren't as capable of breaking the cycle of the flake.  You're not confident enough to say "screw this."  You're busy thinking, "well, we have something, sometimes -- which must be telling because usually I have nothing, so let me just ride this one out and see what happens."  

She calls and he jumps.  She doesn't call and he lets it go.  She calls three weeks later with no explanation of where she's been, and it all starts over again. A guy with a lot of confidence would say screw it, I can and will do better.  A guy without it doesn't say anything... 

Again - a theory - but it seems to check out. 

And finally - the "some flakes are hot" factor

Guys like hot girls - always and everywhere.  Some hot girls are also really flakey.  Is it a result of their flakiness? I don't know; that's another post.  But sometimes girls observing guys loving flakey girls are just observing guys loving hot girls.  Are they flakey? Maybe.  Does it matter? No. 

That's the round-up from where I sit, but please tell me if I'm wrong, or missing an issue, or sometimes/often/ever a flake...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An expert on success, creativity, genius, and missing the Wunderkind ship...

From their webite - TEDTalks began as a simple attempt to share what happens at TED – a non-profit dedicated to spreading ideas in Technology, Entertainment, and Design (T.E.D.) - with the world. Under the moniker "ideas worth spreading," talks were released online. They rapidly attracted a global audience in the millions.

Elizabeth Gilbert is the some-word-better-than-best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love and a career journalist. Her TEDTalk centers around a topic that – you’re right Adam, and thanks for the reco – ties perfectly to Friday’s W.W. Wunderkind convo. It’s about the strange, terrified reaction you receive when you reach success – the way, as Elizabeth put it, “…people treat me like I'm doomed. Seriously -- doomed, doomed! Like, they come up to me now, all worried, and they say, ‘Aren't you afraid -- aren't you afraid you're never going to be able to top that? Aren't you afraid you're going to keep writing for your whole life and you're never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?’"

The tricky catch-22 of hitting fame – under 30 or otherwise.

But what Elizabeth recalls – and I can attest to – “I happen to remember that over 20 years ago, when I first started telling people that I wanted to be a writer, I was met with this same kind of, sort of fear-based reaction. And people would say, ‘Aren't you afraid you're never going to have any success? Aren't you afraid the humiliation of rejection will kill you? Aren't you afraid that you're going to work your whole life at this craft and nothing's ever going to come of it and you're going to die on a scrap heap of broken dreams with your mouth filled with bitter ash of failure?’”

Right.  So in my opinion the rest of her talk should have just been about the fact that some people are assholes and should really keep their opinions to themselves.

Instead she talked about the roots of a creative life, the source of “so-called” genius, and how in ancient Greece – one of history’s most productive times on record – genius had nothing to do with the individual person. Also that yes, of course she’s afraid of all of that...always.

Please, please read the full transcript of her talk online here. And if you’re a person pursuing a life rooted in the creative, read it twice. What she says will forever change the way you handle the question, “wow, do you think you can ever top that?” or “do you ever get scared that someday it’s just not going to come out of your head?!” or “that was genius, you're a genius, what's that like??”

This past weekend the first one-act play that I’ve ever written was performed as part of Effable Arts': Stop, Collaborate, & Listen.  It was at once the most rewarding and most terrifying experience of my life.

By no means will this play be my ticket to fame and success. And even though my Mom leaned over and said “genius” Arthur Miller might have walked out.

People asked questions that I never know how to answer, “how did you think of that concept??” - it fell into my mind sort of like when you at first aren’t sure what you want for dinner but then suddenly know the answer is sushi? “Is this piece in your style?” – well, it’s the first play I’ve ever written so I’m going to go with yes but let me get back to you after I write another one. “So – you’re a playwright! Is this what you want to do now? Like for your career?” – if you could explain to me what that means, how it works and what I’d need to do to make it happen, I’ll let you know.

I’m not really sure how it all happened. Yes, I’m terrified “it” will never happen again. But sitting in that audience I’m 100% certain I will do everything in my power to keep it happening for the rest of my life. Whether that’s a good thing? A smart thing? A thing people would advise? Or a bad thing, a dumb thing, and something that will lead to years of depression and writer’s block I have no idea. All I do know is that none of that matters.

To that, today, at 26, overwhelmed and wondering what’s next I say shit…

But Elizabeth Gilbert would say OLE!

(read the transcript).

Friday, September 4, 2009

The S.S. Wunderkind

It wouldn't be entirely fair to blame Britney Spears; Christina Aguilera, Mandy Moore, and Justin Timberlake were all the same age.  And we can't even say it was modern media whores and over-achievers who put the pressure on.  Michael Jackson was pre-pubescent when his first (slash let's be honest all) albums went platinum...

But the idea of child prodigies we can handle.  It's almost dismissible because it's so freak.  Oksana Baiul the 15-year-old Olympic gold medalist.  That 4-year-old whose modern art was worth millions.  Doogie Houser, M.D.  They're not real people -- they're Today Show segments.  We're not in competition with them, we're in awe of them, therefore we don't have to feel bad when they beat us before we were aware it was a race. 

Where we run into trouble is that the Beatles were in their early-twenties when their "mania" set in.  Matt Damon and Ben Affleck won that Best Original Screenplay Oscar at 25.  That 28-year-old Jared Kushner guy runs The Observer and dates Ivanka Trump.  And the guy who writes almost everything that comes out of our president's mouth, also 28.

Major success is now open to our age group -- open and not shocking.

Publish a book at 16 and you're a phenom of the literary world; get it in around 20, a bright, shining star; 25 - still way ahead of the curve; 30, Oh, she's 30? Why is that part of this book review? Everyone is 30.   

The Wunderkind ship is sailing, and while there's always more room on board for true, true talent - the ticket holders are checking I.D.s, opposite-day style. 

No - you can never be too old to accomplish something incredible.  Colonel Sanders started K.F.C in his 60's. But you can very easily be too old to accomplish something incredible, young.

This semi harkens back to that annoying quarter-life crisis convo we had earlier, but this time focuses in on the fact that part of the oh shit! around this age range is that gnawing pressure to have gotten further, faster - to have ended up a headline at pre-25 so you can relax from 26-36 while everyone else catches up.

But more than just the one-up-on-life feeling I imagine early success produces, there's the incredible motivation that comes from the cheering section unique to a particularly young runner.  "Wow, you're starting an mobile media company at 23?! I've got to introduce you to my friend who writes for Fast Company -- you'd make a great article."  And with that you better keep running -- you have spectators. 

I think there's this fear that if the ship sails through our 20s without us making some news - be it front page or local -- we'll lose motivation? lose focus? lose the young-people balls it takes to start a mobile media company at 23 because you only need 30K to live on at that age. We'll get a mate and maybe some kids and perhaps some real estate and probably a dog and then it won't really be sensible to devote every morning, night, and weekend to our oil paintings.  Yes, part of the admission to the wunderkind ship is age, but the other part is you've got to have the time to find it in the first place.      

This though, like most things, is probably a catch-22.  With early success does come expanded opportunity, but probably not without a lot of very early, very intense pressure.  A different gnawing feeling than that of losing "the race." What happens when it win it at 24, and then there's no where else to run?  

That or you suffer from the Affleck-affect.  Your young success is a fluke -- rooted in a friend...

I'm not going to worry about it for now.  With the way modern life spans are increasing I'm probably going to live to about 120 at the least, 130 if I'm lucky.  So based on that scale I'm really still in my teens - plenty young to win the tri-fecta Oscar, Tony, Emmy.

Smooth sailing...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Previously on You're Making Mistakes Left and Right

Part of the reason ….mmm, you’re right… The main reasons we can’t stop “engaging with” that certain person we know full well we should disengage from is because we can’t remember exactly what happens every time it does.

Selective romantic memory (SRM) is an epidemic of the 20-something set. When we like someone most of the details of what goes on between us go impressionist painting on us when it comes time to remember and react accordingly. It looks something like what really happened but it’s all sort of blurry and miss-colored and somehow looks really beautiful to us for reasons we can’t explain.

  • “I know he said that about that other girl, but I feel like he said it in a tone that meant nothing was going on” (he didn’t).
  • Or, “I know I texted him and he never showed up but I’m almost sure I remember him saying he was having trouble with his blackberry or something” (he isn’t).
  • And the oh-so-common, “I’m telling you, he looked at me really weird the last time we were together – like meaningful weird…” (that’s called drunk squinting).

What we need is a “previously on” sequence.

I don’t know when all serial TV shows started including the “previously on” element, but it is genius. I can’t remember back to what goes on from the first 15 minutes of LOST to the last, yet I go into my subsequent week’s viewing with a nice, organized reminder of what matters and what doesn’t for our next session. Am I supposed to hate Tay Tay for being a bitch to Rachel or was it Rachel who was being a brat to Tay? It’s all a big, blonde blur, but luckily my weekly episode of The Rachel Zoe Project starts with a 30 second recap of who was most recently a child.

...now what would be nice is a life version.

Prior to leaving the house for a night out with the current offender we could tune in to a little edited recap of all the drama that ensued the past few times we were together. This time we’d watch it sober and without those peep toes that apparently cut off the circulation to my brain. For 30 to 45 seconds we'd have an eagles - no, editors eye view of what we look like doing whatever it is we do when that person is around. The hair flips, the "sexy eyes", the complete disregard for the fact that he's actually been flirting with some other girl all night long. Lights up, cameras focused, you're an idiot.

Of course if what we really want is a recap of our darkest hours -- what this life previously on would, in effect be - it's probably just as simple as calling up whatever friend was playing wingman to our girl-on-a-"hidden"-mission that night. He/she -- mmm, right -- she'll gladly edit together a 30-45 second verbal clip before the next night begins...

  • Her: "He got there 45 minutes late, made you buy him a beer, said your boobs looked nice, met up with some buddy over the TVs, sat there and watched the game for the next 2 hours, suggested we leave for some other bar a $20 cab ride away, but then said, 'but you don't have to come if you're comfortable here -- I'm just meeting up with some girls from work.' You went, paid for the cab, and had what appeared to be a dance off with one or two of his work girls, but I'm not sure it counts because they didn't know it was happening."
  • You: "He said my boobs looked nice? I don't remember him saying that..."

...And with that you'll long for the days when you could relish in this week's episode of Felicity because you didn't have a reminder about how ridiculously bad last week's was...