Friday, February 26, 2010

An open letter to the lovely female employee of Dunkin Donuts on West 3rd Street

Dear - Shani was it? -

I'd like to say that you'll probably remember me, but I have a feeling it's more of a definite... You will be very happy to know that my blackberry has suffered absolutely zero issues since we, sorry, you found there's a positive.

I just wanted to reach out to offer my sincere apologies, again, for the way I handled things the other morning. See, it's been a particularly stressful month for me. Work has been a circus. I wrote and produced an evening of monologues. I'm involved in this bet with my three sisters where I can't purchase any article of clothing including shoes and accessories until May 1st. I'm experiencing lower back pains like that of a 60-year-old. The list goes on and on Shani - on and on...

So the other morning when I came in to purchase my medium-cinnamon-coffee-with-milk, all that and more was weighing on my mind. In fact I was en route to the office - on a Saturday - dealing with a barrage of texts from friends in town while fully hating whatever this-old-thing outfit my no-new-clothes-bet forced me to wear. I mean, you can imagine the mindset Shani; you've had bad days slash months too, right?

Anyway - to my point - I had no right to imply that you stole my blackberry to sell on the underground, smart phone market - nor to soap box-it on the existence of said market and my guesses at the kind of profit ring you could be running from your post at the Dunkin...

When my blackberry went missing after my transaction with you at the counter, I just didn't know what to think. I checked my coat, I checked my hoodie, I checked my bag, I checked all around the store - a dozen times at least. And then if I remember correctly you either offered to or I made you check all those same places plus a box of Munchkins' you'd prepared for the customer right behind me. I mean, can we say employee of the month! (just real quick 'cause I know we've been through this a few times, but I really do still think I could have left the phone on the counter, you accidentally picked it up and thrown it into the tray of chocolate munchkins and it then ended up in that very patient ladies's box.)

It was my complete and utter frustration around the bizarro disappearing act of my technological life-line that, frankly, drove me to a level of rudeness of which I am ashamed. Like I said to the team of construction workers who graciously gave my purse a thrice-over - without that blackberry I may as well have turned around, re-climbed my four flights of stairs, and crawled back into bed - forever! So please know that when I said, "well, it's just you and me in here, and all of Greenwich Village has confirmed that the phone's not on me, so you tell me what I'm supposed to think?!" it wasn't meant to be a formal accusation. I didn't even fill out the employee complaint form I demanded you get me! Remember? I ripped it up before your very eyes and threw it right in the trash can - right that same magically trash can where you discovered my blackberry!!

I know what you're thinking - "maybe if you'd trusted me when I said, 'Miss, could it be you threw your phone away when you put your sugar in the coffee?' we wouldn't have had to go through all that rigamarole. And it's true - had I listened to your sound logic we'd have saved 20, maybe 30 minutes and avoided my having to hide from some neighbors who saw this go down for the rest of my life. Which is why I appreciate you taking matters into your own hands as I stormed about the store potentially mumbling the address of other less criminally involved Dunkin Donut locations to all the customers who entered. You had the idea to take out the garbage and pick through it looking for my phone, which you personally did after I refused, which is why when you found it I ran across the street to the team of construction workers and sang your praises, correcting my previous statement about the quality of the Dunkin vs. Starbucks coffee bean. For the record, the concept of "blood beans" is not out of the question... They promised to remain your loyal customers.

Shani - sometimes life deals us a pile of lemons and we sit in the corner pouting as we toss those lemons at the innocent people who cross our hurricane paths. But caught my lemon, brushed the coffee grinds off of it, and told me to please leave your store and try to have a better day. That takes some kind of woman Shani, some kinda woman...

So thank you - again - for finding the blackberry I accidentally threw in your garbage and, more importantly, for teaching me a thing or two about what it means to be a loving human.

My best,

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Online etiquette for off-line dating?

A fellow BC grad and friend sent the following story/idea, appropriately, in a Facebook message last week:

"So, my boyfriend of one year had yet to put "In a Relationship" on his Facebook profile. I told him that out of respect to me, he needs to let others know he is dating someone (like ex-gfs and such)....which led into this whole half joking conversation about "E-respect" and how he needs to have more! And then I started thinking about the concept of "e-respect" and how it could be keeping a J-date or profile active (even tho not using it, but people can still view it...including people you know!) when you are not dating someone, or never tagging yourself with pics with your bf/gf?...or never responding to public facebook wall posts...what do you think?"

First thought - I haven't been in a relationship long enough since the advent of Facebook to really have an opinion on this...

Second thought - uugghhhh

Third thought - Interesting slash valid topic.

Think of it in this over-exaggerated-but-I'll-get-to-the-point way: if you proposed to a girl and she refused to wear an engagement ring, you'd un-propose. Same for a guy who says, "I want to marry you, but I'm not interested in ever wearing a wedding ring, cool?" What do the rings really mean - nothing; they're a physical symbol of an emotional and legal commitment. But what do they mean to the world? He/she is taken. You wear them out of commitment, but also very much so out of respect.

Now consider how you'd feel about a guy who says he wants to be your boyfriend and is completely and totally loyal but refuses to call himself your boyfriend or let you give him that title. Is he any less your boyfriend in action? No. And so he may say, "why do you want the title so much?" - but what you should be thinking is, why don't you?

This whole e-etiquette-when-dating issue is of those same veins, just in a different medium - that of social networking. There are things that mean you're in a relationship - promises, actions, feelings; those exist between two people. Then there are more formalized things - titles, rings, etc; those exist between you and the entire seeing world. And now there are e-things - relationship status, Facebook albums, online dating accounts - that means you're dating to the online social meta-verse. Ridiculous? maybe, but by no means obsolete.

The thing is, this online world is tricky. It's a place where some things are exactly as they seem - what we look like in pictures, what other people say on our Walls - and others are as we intend for them to seem - our status updates, our Doppleganger Week pictures (really? Reallly??). It's far easier to blur the lines of who you are in real life inside your Facebook life.

So back to the original question. Is it disrespectful to not list the fact that you're in a relationship on the Facebook after you've been in one for over a year? No. Not inherently. To me, it isn't an offense against your girlfriend to not list it. I'm not entirely sure it's something I would/will ask for should I find myself in that situation (while the Facebook is still in existence...).

But there's a second question here, which is really at the heart of this whole issue. Is it disrespectful to refuse to list it if your guy or girlfriend asks? I think yes - definitely. What you're technically saying with that refusal is "I'm not willing to tell everyone I've given access to my personal profile that I'm in a committed relationship." And if that's your position, the person dating you is fully entitled to ask, why the hell not?!

Those refusing will say, "what's the big deal? who cares? It's the Facebook - no one cares that I'm in a relationship and all they're going to say if I change my status is, 'that's gay.'"

To which I, if I were the girlfriend who wanted it listed, would say, "correct, what is the big deal? who does care? Because if it's you, I'd love to know why, and if it's because your friends may call you gay, I'd like you to grow up."

(which may explain why I'm single...)

My Mom - who I invoke here only because she's an example of someone who doesn't understand social networking - would say, "that's ridiculous - why does anyone need to know you're dating someone? If it becomes an issue, you tell someone. But this whole announcing- your-every-move to the world is ridiculous."

She has a point. But first, back to the example of the J-date or situation. For those unfamiliar, you do have to remove yourself from the services even after your subscription is up otherwise your profile sits there as an option to other subscribers, and you can still get e-mails of the "Yanks4Life winked at you! Get back on Match today, and tell him you're interested" variety (orrr exactly that email...). So again, if you're lazy and it sits there and your girl/boyfriend doesn't care - whatever. Would it be most appropriate to take yourself off, yes absolutely. But my concern around this issue arises when a significant other says, "could you take that down" and you say, "why? what's your problem? what does it matter?"

The thing about J-date and, and Facebook as the prime example, is that people are watching - people you know, and people you don't know. So while my Mom is right in theory, this is a game of practice. You put yourself on the Facebook, you upload new photos, you comment on people's status's - you're in; you're a part of it. Same with J-date and Match and all the others. You don't get to selectively decide "it doesn't matter" when it comes time to make your girlfriend a known part of your online life. Cause, see, here's the thing - it's not your online life - it's your actual life. Thiiis is where things get tricky for we of the Facebook generation.

We like to craft a very specific image of ourselves through our online profiles. Add a girl/boyfriend to that image and things change - people view you differently slash less, write different things on your wall, comment in different ways on your pictures. If you portray yourself as a single person inside the walls of Le Book, you'll be treated like a single person.

True-story-I'm-not-proud-of: the very first thing I do after I meet someone I'm interested in is search for them on Facebook and find a way to view their profile without requesting them as a friend (this, thanks to my friend John, is easier than you think). And then the very second thing I do is scavenge for clues as to whether or not they have a girlfriend. Stop one: relationship status. Stop two: the wall, single guys will have far more flirtly messages from random girls. Stop three: photos. If someone is in a serious relationship you can tell from one to two albums.
And, if after all that I determine they're in fact single, I will begin work on my strategic approach to getting them to date me.

Do girls want other girls going through that very mortifying but incredibly common process with their boyfriends? No. And do guys want very-similar-and-don't-you-even-try-to-tell-me- guys-don't-do-that shit going on with their girlfriends? More no.

And that is all there is to it.

(Thanks Clel!)

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Heeey, how aaaare you?! (insert cheek kiss) I'm...confused..."

Friday was the 105 Days party for the Boston College graduating class of 2005 - my class. For those unfamiliar with said event (so, anyone who didn't attend the Boston College) a 105 Days party is the celebration preceding one's five year college reunion cleverly placed one hundred and five nights prior. See we're all about pageantry - pageantry and opportunities to donate to the alumni fund...

There are I-have-no-idea-how-many '05 grads living in the NYC area but whatever the total, that many people descended upon the Downtown Gallway Hooker (little Catholic school irony for ya') to say, "heeey, how are you?! (insert cheek kiss) I'm gooood!!" in succession for four plus hours.

Now - one of the things I'm most proud of having mastered in the five years leading up to this event is the ability to attach the proper root emotion to a given feeling:
  • Girl macks it to one of my strongest contenders for if-we're-both-still-single-at-40, I feel anger, and now I identify that anger as jealousy.
  • Some co-worker who doesn't deserve a raise gets that raise while I continue to wait in a line, which is really more of a cluster of people in a dark corner, I feel frustration, and I know that frustration is rooted in feeling under-appreciated.
  • Mom calls at 9am on a Saturday to ask how she can post something to her Facebook wall that everyone but some teacher friend can see because, "she might not think it's funny" I feel annoyed, but I know that's really just unconditional love...
There are many things I am not - good at math, a lover of bananas, at all athletically inclined - but emotionally in-tune I tend to be. Except, apparently, when it comes to the experience of seeing 1/4 of everyone I went to college with five years after we left.

You know when you do some weird form of yoga or pilates and the next morning over brunch you say to Geanna, "I mean, I'm sore in places I didn't even know existed!" This was like that except in place of muscles it was feelings. So. Many. Feelings.
  • 10:43pm: Oh good I think I am aging-in-the-face at a pace on par with my female peers
  • 11:07pm: No way! they all live here? Why in the world have we not been hanging out for the past half-a-decade? Oooh, did they just never like me?
  • 11:10pm: Sooo, the other ten people in this conversation have a masters degree or above...
  • 12:03am: Wow - you just moved out of your parents house?! Oh. And into a two bedroom apartment with your fiance...that you bought.
  • 12:35am: Could this be the highest concentration of eligible men I've encountered since leaving college? Could this thus mean I blew any/all chance of getting one of them to marry me?
  • 1:15am: I can never leave the East Coast, these people are all too much a part of my history!
  • 1:16am: So-help-me-god if I am still having this same conversation five more years from now...I should probably move...
  • 1:30am: If that DJ-who-looks-uncannily-like-an-urban-Rumplestiltskin announced that we all had to line up from least to most money in our savings accounts, how many people would join me in the "does your 401K money count?" question...
  • 1:55am: KRISTIN! That's her name!
I by-no-means expected to step-ball-change out of this event with a "yep, trackin' with my peers, feeling secure with my decisions, nostalgic but by no means suicidal!" but I thought I'd at least be able to attach the proper emotion to the shit storm of feelings so I could say, I miss college or I feel unsuccessful or I need to spend time with old friends or I should probably go to grad school. Instead for every thought there was a counter thought - I miss this!/I'm over this..., I loved her!/I hated her..., He was always a good prospect/He'll never change... I'm proud of where I am!/WTF am I doing with my life...

It used to be that double-fisting vodka sodas (Dear Gil, all drinks purchased for friends over 26 should be delivered in one-glass increments...) with most of your graduating class just lead to mistaken make-outs and awesome morning recap sessions, but fast forward five years and things are a little more...I don't know-y.

Yes, yes - it's just a party - just a couple hundred people in your same age bracket drinking alcohol and talking about the surface stuff we all talk about on Friday nights at 1am. But there was something about that room being filled with a group of people who all started at the very same starting line five years ago that made it feel like one massive weigh in...with unkown rules around what counts as good.

I had a blast, saw people I haven't seen since we left BC and as suspected, spent the most time with the people I see once a week, but I can't say it didn't leave me confused? unsettled? or maybe missing something I know I can't have back and, in a weird way, wonder if I ever really had to begin with...

...and to think that was just a one-night preview of big show. T-minus 104 days...

So - on second thought Gil, please disregard previous request.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On whether or not you can always attract the same kind of person.

Stephane, ZZ and I were talking about consistency in the laws of attraction over Shock Tops at Brother Jimmy's last Friday night.

If you know Stephane, ZZ, or I you know that the strangest thing about that sentence is the Brother Jimmy's part.

ZZ - a serial monogamist - was saying he only ever attracts girls interested in serious relationships - that for reasons he cannot define, the casual, flirty, one-make-out-and-it's-over-girls don't give him a second look.

Stephane - whose name cannot be associated with many things serial (unless serial talent is a phrase) - has no trouble culling interest from the casual fling set. It's the serious, let's-just-calmly-see-where-this-goes guys he finds missing from his cross-bar-sexy-eyes game.

And then they asked me.

At this point I can stumble-fake my way through some answer to most questions in the category other than - apparently - what kind of guys I always attract.

"The wrong ones," I'm pretty sure I said, "and too few of them, even at that." ...And if you're wondering how it's possible to attract too few of the wrong guys then you haven't lived as a single person in Manhattan for a long enough.

But it's an interesting question, no? Whether or not people can be so consistent in the signals they send sos to only receive back interest from a specific kind of person - a "serious" dater, a flake, a quirky girl who doesn't know what she wants. The question isn't, why do some people always attract blondes vs. brunettes - it's, why do some women attract men who aren't interested in a committed relationship? or, is it even possible to consistently attract one type at all?

Back to ZZ and Stephane. For starters, both of these men are very attractive in general, so attracting some type of the same (in Stephane's case) or opposite (for ZZ) sex is going to happen no matter what. We're talking after that.

ZZ has a calm, quieter demeanor punctuated by moments of laugh-out-loud comedy that you don't see coming. He's an observer and listener more than that guy who rounds everyone up to tell a 15 minute story about the funniest thing that's happened to him in the past 36 hours. If you watched ZZ from across a bar for just five minutes you'd peg him as a thoughtful, attentive guy who enjoys the company of close friends. But would you make the "he's only to be dated seriously, not casually" call - I don't know. I don't think I could jump to that conclusion, and honey, I can jump to some conclusions...

Stephane is your energetic, multi-tasking communicator type. He's telling you a story while dancing to Rhianna as he orders another beer. He's as at-home in the center of a circle as he is on the edges. If you spent your next five minutes watching Stephane you'd say he was a dynamic, extroverted, excitement-prone people person. Would that make you turn away if you're looking to be in a serious relationship? According to Stephane it would, but I can't understand how that flip an assessment could run that deep.

We project pieces of who we are in what we wear and how we act. A gorgeous girl in mini skirt and boob shirt is probably attracting most of the room, but the quiet sensible guy isn't likely to approach. A BMOC slinging beers over too-loud stories about last weekend at the shore may get a second look from every girl who walks in, but only the most confident among them would dare go near him. That's just basic stuff.

This issue is around whether or not we're exposing personality traits in mini-moves and looks that say, "professional girlfriends, please apply" vs "correct, I'm not up for anything serious."

Is it even possible to always attract a certain type? Apparently the answer is yes. But unpacking the why's around that is a confusing task. Sure, if you are an asshole you may attract assholes. If you're incredibly shy you may attract your shyer types. But is "wants to be in a series versus casual relationship" a type of person? What about, "will date you for some time then pull a 180 three months in?" Saying we always hook the same fish implies that the type-casting happens on the other end too.

I - obviously don't have an answer meaning the quandary calls for an audience poll. Do you consistently attract the same "type" - if so, what type? And, if you too have had the wonder-why... conversation over Shock Tops at Brother Jimmy's, what's your conclusion?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A "sermon" on mirrors, two-way dialogues, and losing control

Bear with me through this one. I'm about to go a tad Mom slash aunt/professor/mentor figure. In general I try to keep the blog void of preachy, kumbaya sap, but I have the distinct feeling I've learned an important lesson, so I'm very teaching-moment today. I'll try to keep it as void of guidance counselor cliches as possible.

As over-advertised, The Hook-up Conversations - my collection of 12 dating-themed monologues - were performed on Valentine's Day eve. The night turned out to be a huge success - bigger audience that we ever imagined and the type of crowd energy that can make an actor absolutely nail a performance. All of them did.

It goes without saying that a lot of work went into producing the event on the part of everyone involved. Any art is an investment and theater is one of the group-effort variety - time, money, energy - and that's all before the weird-to-define investment of self. Performing before an audience of your peers about a topic specific to your peers takes balls. You have to love and believe in it more than you care about being judged for it, and you have to be prepared to be judged for it even if it's 100% believable. You have to let go of controlling what people think of you, and that's not a gut instinct - it's barely even a learnable instinct.

Same goes for writing and presenting the pieces. Even as people were responding with laughs and silences in all the right places - an awkward live picking up of what I'd put down - I was stuck in shit-what-if-they-think-it's-dumb mode. What if it's not relatable? What if it isn't funny? What if all they're thinking is, "did this all really happen to this girl?!" or "who does this girl think she is?" or, "this is all so over-the-top."

All those fears are rooted in the fact that this kind of art - like all kinds - is you inviting that potential reaction - you putting yourself out there to be judged and evaluated. You saying to a group of who-knows-how-many - here's a sampling of the most personal stuff that goes on inside my brain; go ahead and tell me what you think of it while I stand here in the corner. Yes, the hope is for it to be enjoyed - for people to learn something, gain something, be in some way affected by what your work is saying, but you can't control that. You have to believe in what you hope to accomplish more than you care about maybe not accomplishing it.

(cue Danny-teaches-one-of-the-Tanner-girls-an-important-lesson music).

My Mom message is that it's worth it.

You cannot know what will come back at you when you stand up and say, "look, this is something I think/believe/see/wonder about and want you to see too."

You may change someone's entire life with one line of a five minute monologue. You may inspire someone to start writing their own work. You may help someone realize a thing about themselves they just couldn't get at until they saw it portrayed by someone else. Maybe they'll tell you that you helped them, and that will in turn change you. But that's just the stuff of Morgan Freeman movies.

Someone may hate something you did, tell you, and help you see it through a difference lens. Maybe overcoming the insane nerves of it all - or as one friend put it, "I was nervous in my gums, like, I could feel the nervousness in my gums that's how nervous I was" - will totally re-set what nervous means to you, so you'll feel differently about all those less nerve-wracking things that used to bother you before. It's possible that people will see you in a completely different light and that they'll then come to you or look to you or ask different things of you because you became a different person to them.

My point is that the "it's worth it" isn't about it succeeding. It isn't worth it because of the potential win. It isn't about how good it feels when people clap for you and tell you they loved it. All of that is fantastic and plays its own role in why people go through all this crazy risk.

But the thesis of this motivational "speech" is that sharing yourself - however openly - with an audience - of whatever nature - through whatever form you work in - changes you because it changes the way you situate yourself in the world.

We're social beings but we keep ourselves in our own controlled universes only inviting comment and influence from people we let in. We build personal privacy policies and stick to them for safety and security. But put some art on display - through blog, stage, canvas, song... - and your wall instantly goes down. With that comes risk and fear and the potential to want to crawl back and directly under a rock, but it also comes with the potential to touch and be touched by things you didn't know existed let alone existed to change your life.

The thing you forget about putting something out there - especially if that something is yourself - is that a performances is two-day dialog. Something - likely many things - are going to come back at you. And that back-and-forth takes things to a whole different level.

It's the difference between staring at yourself in a full-length mirror trying to memorize every line of your body and stepping in to a room full of mirrors with a group of friends, enemies, and strangers all around you. You can only see so much when you're looking alone.

Friday, February 12, 2010

You want to know what I think about Valentine's Day?

It's for some reason assumed that I have a position on Valentine's Day - kind of like how it's assumed that I meet, woo, and date a ton of guys and have correct answers on how you can too.

I don't, to both.

I have thoughts about Valentine's Day - that it's a really swell concept - that it's nice to see red in the stores when it's super dull out - that it would be nice to celebrate it with a significant other. I don't hate it. I don't love it. I'm guess I'm of the why-not-denote-a-certain-day-for-love-giving -and-what-not persuasion. I'm not offended because I'm single. I didn't countdown the days when I wasn't. Nice day, nice message, and I will say that I do make an effort to reach out and give some love to the people in my life who deserve it most.

But I feel like I owe some response to the, "so you must have a lot to say about Valentine's Day..." lines I've been dealt over the past week. And so here is the lot I have to say on Valentine's Day, 2010 edition:

I believe the manner in which Valentine's Day is handled by the individual parties in any given relationship can often serve as an indicator of love giving and receiving in that relationship for the entirety of its term.

Or - think maybe if you're in a relationship and you dread Valentine's Day it's not Valentine's Day's fault...
A relevant digression.

Several weeks ago the Mississippi's and I were waffling around Soho after a 3-cocktail Essex brunch popping into the various shops of unaffordable merchandise typical of that section of town. I don't remember much other than that Meg purchased a hand-holdable light-up disco ball she then forgot to bring to the Lady Gaga show.

Our last stop along the journey was into McNally Jackson bookstore over on Prince and something - they all run together - where-in we happened upon a tall, lanky book-lady putting books on shelves. One of us (Jenny?) commented on a book she was struggling through. I echoed a similar issue - didn't like it, dreaded finishing it. And then lanky book-lady proceeded to drop a piece of knowledge on us that would put an @RevRunWisdom tweet to shame.

"So don't finish it," she said,
"I mean, you're just going to get what you keep getting."

Let that sit there for a minute...


What do you do with an employee who's pretty good most of the time but blows it on the day of the biggest presentation of the year? How would you handle a child who was fairly well-behaved but lost it when the private school came for the at home interview?

It happens once, you have a talk about expectations and hopes, then you move on. It happens twice, you take pause then go passive-aggressive and complain to everyone you know about it. It happens three, five, every time, what the hell are you doing with this employee/child? (I'm aware you can't fire children, but I had a word-thing going).

Like lanky-library-lady said - you're just going to get what you keep getting... (wise professor face).

If you are miserable at the thought of Valentine's Day because your other half never ever gets it right - do something about it for the love of God! Tell them what you want. Take over and make the plans yourself. Come clean about the fact that you love the day and want to make it a big deal if that's your story. Admit you hate it and would do anything to celebrate in a less dozen-expensive-roses way if that's what you'd prefer. But if you currently live in a relationship the makes you think Valentine's Day is more trouble than it's worth - address that shit. I'm not saying "break up, you're doomed" - I'm saying take a look at what's really going down.

My position is that Valentine's Day is one day - but that fact gives it a lot of different meaning, and the way given people interpret it is significant to how they are and will continue to be in a relationship. The guy screaming "it's just one day!" to the girl he forgot to do anything for is saying, what's the big deal? It's a Hallmark holiday. I'm good to you every day! But the girl screaming that same line - "it's just one day!" means, "so why can't you remember to do something. And why is it so important for you to fight it when I'm saying it matters to me."
Who's right? I don't know, and don't care - I'm not dating either of them. But if I was I'd sure as hell figure out how they'd like to approach the day and either make that work or put down the book.

AAnnndd, for more positions on the state of the dating union, come on out to
The Hook-up Conversations! Sunday, February 14th - 7-9pm - Fontana's, NYC!
(last time, promise)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's Olympics time again...and you remember what that means...

Two (gulp) years ago I shared a theory about what the Olympics can do for our "love" lives. I can't report exact numbers, but I'm going to go ahead and say the 2008 Summer Olympics results in no fewer than a shit ton of unexpected make-outs, hook-ups, and sleep-overs.

How?! Why?! Where?! For me too?! you ask...

Read on and get your of-course-I've-been-following-women's-downhill-all-season face ready. These are America's games (in Canada...but same difference), and as Americans, we deserve to win them in every metaphoric way possible.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hi, can I have five thousand dollars?

One of the most annoying things about my current life is my inability to secure five to seven thousand dollars. Five to seven extra dollars - meaning "take out an advance on my credit card" or "cash in on my 401K" aren't options - and not just because that would put me over my limit, and I don't have anywhere near that much money in my 401K - it's the principal of the matter. I'm interested in 5-7 thousand dollars not previously factored into my situation. I believe it's called a windfall? Or, that's what it would be called if it wasn't chump change for a banker - a post-recession banker. In my case I think it's just called, some money.

That's the amount of dollars I need to consider moving to an apartment with both a bedroom closet and structural divide between the kitchen and living room. With five to seven extra G's I could re-join the gym, sometimes not go, and still sleep soundly at night. Just a measly well under 10K and I could pay off those credit cards, buy a super chic pair of extra-thick glasses and say, "yes, sign me up for Children's International right now on this sidewalk so I can never again have to pull out my cell phone when I see you from 25 yard away and make like I'm talking to my great Aunt Millie in Orlando."

Those dollars would change my entire life. No exaggeration - no hidden agenda (outside those glasses which, frankly, I need if I'm going to take this writer situation to the next level).

And so I spend a fair chunk of my life brainstorming ways to get my hands on said G's. I research research studies at Columbia. I bite all the gold in every jewelry box in my apartment hoping some of it is gold. I contemplate applying to ghost write one of the million sci-fi-autobiographical-romance novels that people are always advertising they need help with on Craigslist (think maybe you can't write it because it's a bad idea...). Hell, I self-published a god-damned book figuring over time enough people might buy enough copies to get me to goal. Unfortunately it turns out 5,000 divided by $5 is 1,000...

So I'm mad - well - mad but more-so frustrated. Not because I don't have the five to seven thousand dollars I so desire, ney, need, but because $5 to $7 to $10,000 are constantly flying in across my face only to land in the laps and accounts and businesses of people other than me.

A few months ago I participated in a project involving the printing of many pretty posters - pretty unnecessary (I know, but it was right there...) - that cost damn-near my entire goal amount. A publicist friend recently booked a speaking engagement for her writer client - 10K for two talks - talks about dating in your 20s... In a few weeks I'll take a business trip to totaling up to 6K. So how 'bout instead I do the work from here for 3,000K and we call it money you owe me anyway?

It's a funny thing I've found about life in this age-range. The smallest changes can make the most massive impact, but it's like the smaller it is, the harder it can be to get - just seven less pounds, just five thousand dollars, just one (to two...) decent guys.

I want that money! I need that money! And - and here's the reason for the whining - I deserve that money!

Maybe that's my pitch to the universe? "Hi, I know the money is there and for x,y,z reasons it should be mine, so can I have some?" If I watched that Oprah episode correctly there's some Secret process by which that is supposed to work...

Maybe I'll whip up an image board and write a fake check to myself for that amount - that's if my pitch to be the mystery genius behind A Botox-shot in Time, the semi-true story of dermatologist-by-day who gets a new lease on love from some very unexpected out-of-earth arrivals - doesn't get me the gig...

And in the meantime - did I mention that I wrote a book...

Monday, February 8, 2010

The difference between "the game" and "the dance"

It was the kind of birthday dinner party where I had to keep sneak-typing blackberry notes under the table to capture all the potential material:
  • "I don't need someone to give back everything I'm giving - the problem was she was uncomfortable with my being a giver - she'd always tell me to stop, but that's who I am - how I'm always going to be."
  • "Gay guys know other guys are gay because of the two-look look - look, pause, look again, gay. That simple."
  • "I tried so hard to be a lesbian - I mean I really tried - but I just can't do it."
And as if that wasn't enough for a week's worth of posts, this gem from Evangeline:
  • "People aren't using this yet, like no one really says it, but I'm trying to work it in - the idea of 'The Dance' versus 'The Game' you know? The Game is like, well it's only been 2 days so there's no way I'm going to reach out to him because he needs to make the first move and blah blah but The Dance is more - well - I guess it's less rules and more just slowly revealing how you feel. I think people want The Dance and hate The Game."
It's a fine line - Evangeline admitted that - but there is something to this difference between playing the game and dancing the dance. Different process, different players, and - and here's the most interesting part - very different reasons.
In my mind The Game is like this expectations stand-off between two people who are both trying to maintain the upper hand. To play, you have to know the rules; you have to follow the "the way it goes" process.
Neither is going to make the first move first. Neither is going to call before the requisite three days. Neither would ever respond to an e-mail immediately because both are playing it as cool as possible sos not to give the other any edge. He'll text her, "what's up?" - she'll wait at least two hours to respond, if not more. She'll invite him to a party, he'll show up with some other girl who's, "just a friend." They'll go on one, two, three dates but still flirt openly with other people, in front of each other.
The bottom line of The Game is that it's a series of tests: how much does he care? how serious is she? how hurt could I get? And - and here's the crux of the difference between the game and the dance - 9 times out of 10 at least one player in the game is doing just that - playing. They're playing it for the hook-up, the something-is-better-than-nothing position, the fact that they started and now feel too bad to stop. Bottom line - they're not intending for whatever they're playing to end in a relationship.
The way Evangeline described it, "the dance" is less calculating - far less stand-off-ish. You do the dance because you're protecting yourself, sure, but you know how you feel, and you know what you want - and what you want is him slash her. I feel like if you had to attach a feeling or emotion to the dance it would be intrigue or mystery... whereas when it's the game it's annoying, confusing, frustrating. Mean girls play games - coy girls who know playing a little hard-to-get is part of the attraction, dance the dance.
Of course the obvious question is - if the line is so fine, how do you tell the difference? And once you've figured it out, what do you do?
I think it's about a certain level of respect. You can play a little hard to get without being mean, thoughtless, offensive, and rude. I think when the dance crosses that line into that's-just-plain-mean territory, it's the game. When you know you're dragging it along just because it's something to do, that's definitely the game. When you're toying with someone, not because it's flirty and fun but because you don't feel like dealing with it - game. The dance should make you go, hhmmm... The game is more like eewww.
At one point along the way I had a boss that used to say, "if something feels fishy once, calm down and give it a chance. Twice, do a little investigating. But if something feels fishy three times, get as far away from it as possible."
Which answers the question of what to do when you figure out which one it is...

Friday, February 5, 2010

What happens if we become the men we want to marry?

Last Fall Michelle Williams - was featured in a revealing Vogue article about life without Heath - raising her daughter Matilda as a single mother, her brief relationship with Spike Jonze, if she's pissed that Katie Holmes is still more famous than her even though she staged that shockingly successful post-Dawson's Creek acting career (or at least that's what I would have asked...).

In it she talks about her desire to find love after Heath - after she figures out the life part - to mourn and heal and find herself on the other side better apt to start a new relationship.

She says: "There is a great Gloria Steinem quote—and I'm paraphrasing—'Become the man you want to marry.' I've taken that on. What qualities do I find attractive, and can I find them in myself? What am I missing? Can I be that for myself?"

She was close. The famous Gloria Steinem quote was, "we are becoming the men we want to marry" - and it was a sort of battle cry of the feminist moment through the '70s and '80s - like a "we're
here, we're queer" of the women's power movement. Gloria said it first, but women started to use it to represent the changing landscape of gender relations.

What's interesting about the difference between what Williams remembered and Steinem originally said is the vantage point - the "become" versus "we are becoming."

Williams remembered it as a directive - a call-to-action - go become the man you want to marry so you're more apt to attract that man and form a successful union. And let's be clear, this is a maxim, for effect - neither Williams nor Steinem are saying that women should re-create themselves in the likeness of men. It's not - go erase your woman-ness and be more like a man so men can tolerate you. It's not that dramatic.

Earlier in the article Williams discussing being lost, afraid, unsure of herself, unsure what she was worth. So her personal project to "become the man you want to marry" is a sort of - let me get to a place where I like myself, where I want to spend time with myself and think I'm worthy of someone wanting to spend time with me - to be for herself what women think they need a man to fill. Then, she suspects...hopes?, she'll be in a better position to attract the right partner and personally be more certain he's right.

Interesting. The idea of becoming more like men is usually attached to separation from them, not being more attractive to them, but there is logic to the crux of Williams' thinking - that she'll be more attractive as a partner if she's more whole as a person - more in control of herself and confident she can handle her own needs. To project what she's looking for so that can of person can see her more clearly.

Problem is I don't think that's what Steinem was getting it...

"We are becoming the men we want to marry" wasn't about forming relationships with men - it was about being more empowered as women. Steinem and the women of the movement were looking at the landscape and realizing something about the new ways women fit in with men. Their observation: they didn't necessarily need them, and they didn't necessarily want them. It was a time in history that saw the average age for a first marriage jump three years and the percentage of single women over 30 jump way more than that. Steinem's quote was an observation, not a recommendation, and I don't know that it was an observation that had any connection to "so now we'll be more apt to find better men and better marriages." I actually think it was an observation that meant less marriage and later marriage...

Is Gloria Steinem's original quote ironically saying that the way Michelle Williams remembered it is opposite of true? Was she saying that if we become the men we want to marry then we'll probably have a harder time finding men to marry? I don't know. I don't know that she knows, and I'm pretty sure Michelle Williams has figured it out either.

But it's an interesting topic, no? Whether or not there's a correlation between how much like a man you are and how much that man you're trying to find will, as a result, will like you? And if so, which way does it swing?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What most single people wish couples would never do again

I've almost written this post a dozen times but never gone through with it because it's bound to piss people off - people I know. But to go 2.5 years of dating and relationship topics and not cover what pisses single people off about couples is avoiding the elephant in the blog. Whether it's those first signs of coupledom - the excessive "we"-ing or 180 degree disappearing act - or the things that only set in after people have been together for a really long time - so long that they're comfortable having a full-on fight at a group dinner... - couples exist in "couple world", a place that's sometimes void of consideration for...things outside.

Now before I finally begin, let me disclaim a lot of things to protect myself against the "you don't understand, you're just a bitter single girl." I have many friends in many relationships that I respect, admire, and envy. Everyone falls into these patterns - myself very much included. They're facts of dating life that we generally grow out of, back into versions of ourselves that don't revolve around our guy/girlfriend...for the most part. So take these gripes as, "I know it can't be helped but it's none-the-less annoying, so..."

  • This phone call/IM/e-mail/g-chat: "Hey, what are you up to this weekend? You know _______ is out of town so I wanted to see if you were around to do something." I know this is totally harmless. I know it means, I have free time without my significant other around and would love to spend that time with you. But what it feels like is, since my other half is gone I have nothing to do sooo you wanna do something? My preference: lie to me. Tell me you just want to hang out because we haven't seen each other in awhile. Later when we're together drop the "yeah _____ is away on business." I know you're trying to stack your social time for when the person you want to spend 24/7 with is away, but I'd feel a lot less like you only want to see me because they're gone if you didn't say "want to do something because ______ is gone?.
  • Me: "Hey, do you want to join for dinner tomorrow night, a bunch of us are going out." You: "Sure, what time should we meet you there?" Thanks to Mrs. Lokitz my 5th grade Language Arts teacher I have an excellent command over pronouns. I know when I want to say "you" to represent "you, the person I am directly speak with" and when I want to say "you and ________" to represent you and the person you're dating. This tends to only be an issue when someone first gets into a relationship. In their head they assume and believe their new boy/girlfriend should always be invited to everything that's happening with the friend group. There's no nice way to say this so - they shouldn't.
  • Lines of the following variety: God, I would NEVER go back to being single, it's impossible out there. Thank GOD I found ________, I would have killed myself if I spent one more day on the dating scene. Being set up is the absolute ONLY way to meet someone like _______. I'm not sure what someone is looking for in response to a line like this, but I tend to say things like, "yeah, you sucked as a single person" and "I would have killed myself if I were you too" and "Good to know - I'll stop asking people to set me up."
  • Complaints about your boyfriend that are not really complaints but rather more ways to talk about your boyfriend disguised as faux complaints. "__________ sent flowers to my office again! I mean how embarrassing! He's so annoying. I was like stop!" Or "________ loves to surprise me with where we're going to dinner but then we get to, like, Del Posto and I feel like I'm not dressed up enough! I'm like, this has got to end!" No comment. None necessary.
  • And this gem, from my sister Dani: "The need to profess love over all forms of social networking, all the time. That's the end all be all worst thing." To each their own, but if you could call, text, e-mail or just actually see each other, why would you communicate bak and forth throughout the day via Facebook wall? Could it be because it is mysteriously the only form of communication that everyone else can see...
No prize today, but go ahead and let out all your gripes-against-bad-couple-behavior in comments. I'll update throughout the day as more come to people who refer to each other in their pet names to others - as in, "Omg Booboo and I went to the best sushi restaurant last night!" Never, ever do that.

Monday, February 1, 2010

There's nothing to fear but Ramen noodles and a move home to your parents'

My friend Erica is living her dream.

She is the president, CEO, founder, head publicist, and sometimes-secretary of Erica Taylor PR, a fashion and lifestyle publicity firm that she started close to a year ago. To date she has over a dozen clients from LA to New York, three weeks ago she hired her first, full-time assistant, and just last week they moved into their very own office space on Broadway in Soho.

Now Erica is a smart and talented publicist. Prior to starting her own firm she worked for several big-name shops covering a range of clients. She threw herself into the New York media scene like the best of the aspiring Samantha Jones' learning the names, faces, and e-mails of all the key players and up-and-comers. New York PR girls can have a reputation for being party-ers with inflated power, but Erica never left a party without a stack of new contacts and three pitches in mind for the next morning.

All of that is significant to why she is a success, but none of it was the key to her leaving the comforts of a working fax machine and health insurance for a start-up she ran from her closet-sized apartment. She is lucky to be so talented, but talent didn't make the decision for her.

You should know that Erica is not bank-rolled. Without poo-poo-ing their accomplishments, many a business-owner-at-26 had a hearty gifted check to get them started. You should also know that Erica didn't have a particularly helpful chunk of her own money saved up to take the leap. She got herself to the point where she could handle a month or two of rent - at the most. And to make matters all the more terrifying, she left the comforts of an established name in the midst of a national economic melt-down.

  • "Seriously - how did you do it?" I asked her over brunch a few weeks ago. I was expecting her to say that a loving grandparent slipped 10K in her bank account or that she signed one, major client buying her time for the rest to trickle in.
  • "I set a date," she told me, "I told myself that by X date I was going to lose my job and so I had to be self-sufficient by then."
  • "But were you going to lose your job?"
  • "No."
  • "So you pretended your way into preparing to run a business?"
  • "Sort of. I just set it in my head that I was going to be out of a job on X date and so I did everything I could while I was still at my old job to get myself set up to run my own."
  • "And what if you didn't hit your date?"
  • "That wasn't an option."
  • "But it was an option..."
  • "Not in my head it wasn't."
And so, as planned, on X date Erica left her job. At the time she had a few projects lined up to keep her a float for a month or so, but she lived in constant fear of not making rent after those projects came and went. That fear made her get up at 6am and work until some friend called and said, "enough already, time to eat." Slacking off meant Ramen noodles 3-meals a day. Sleeping in meant having to cancel her gym membership. Being slow to answer emails meant clients went elsewhere and Erica went back to someone else's firm having to admit she couldn't make it on her own. To her those things weren't unfortunate - they weren't an option.

It takes a little bit a crazy to have that kind of ambition - the kind that comes with will power and work ethic and sacrifices that most people wouldn't be willing to make. But that's not what Erica credits with her ability to take the risk and not turn back.

"I started with all these fears in my head," she told me, "that I would have to move out of my apartment because I couldn't afford it, that I would have no spending money to actually live my life, that no one would take me seriously..."

(Note: Money fears and personal fears. Remember those for later)

"But for every fear I came up I was able to find an answer: My apartment was expensive, and I could move somewhere more affordable if it came to it. I lead a comfortable life right now and could absolutely stand to live off way less. I have been in PR for four years and know exactly what it takes to be a good publicist. So then it became, what's the absolute worst thing that could happen? And I decided that absolute rock bottom would be if I had to leave the city and move back home with my parents, but even then I knew my parents would take me in, and I'd just have re-group and go back to a firm, so that wasn't even that bad..."

Erica had a stronger desire that most, so for her it was worth the risk that rock bottom might happen. To her not trying was more of a risk than trying and failing. And so she jumped because the "what's the worst thing that could possibly happen" didn't seem all that bad in the end.

There's a lot I admire about Erica: she has a sharp and clever approach the insane world of PR. She's grounded despite her insane ambition. She would never put her career before her closest friends or family. But the thing I admire most about her is that she refused to let irrational fear get in her way. She knew she could do it, but more importantly she laid out all the traditional fears that people have about this kind of career change and saw them for what they were - fears. She wouldn't have died if she ate Ramen for a month straight. She could have survived in Queens versus the cushy West Village. And if worst came to worst, she'd even live through the shame of having to say, hey, I tried, and I couldn't make it work.

She refused to take no for an answer from herself without an incredibly compelling reason, and as a result, all she heard herself say back was yes.

You can google Erica Taylor PR to get in touch regarding any public relations needs. Trust me - she'll work her ass off for you, because it's her ass too.