Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Twice a year I take a week + off to re-charge, spend time with family (especially now that I'm so far away) and focus efforts on some of the bigger writing projects I need to complete. This winter break it's the LA version of The Hook-up Conversations (which will hopefully be staged in February) and a pilot for the new half hour comedy concept I'm developing (it's about a big family of sisters, shocker). I'll likely finish half of one of those on account of the sweat-shop style cookie factory and required, annual viewings of White Christmas I've been sucked into , but I'll try.
I'll be back here the weekend of January 3rd with new posts at least twice a week and if I can get it together shortly thereafter, PODCASTS. No better way to enter the next decade than by finally adopting technology from the last. I'm not quite sure what form these will take (other than, god-willing, audio) but I think it will be a fun way to hear from more voices than mine on the state of the 20-something union. Stay-tuned.
To provide some content while I'm off I'll re-posts some old favorite posts because under the former NBC promotional campaign guise that, "if you haven't seen it, it's new to you."
Enjoy! And Happy, Happy Holidays to you and yours, wherever you are and whatever you're celebrating.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
You may have heard about this "How to be a 20-something" article making its way around the Internets. The source is the blog Thought Catalog, a clean and simple site that publishes essay-style thoughts from accomplished writers across all genres. "How to be a 20-something" is written by Ryan O'Connell - one such 24-year-old, East Village-based contributor whose bio reads like this:
Along with creating the Twitter, Being Gay Is Gay, Ryan's work has been featured in Interview, Black Book, Jezebel, Huffington Post, Street Carnage and Butt magazine. He also manages his personal website, Ryanohh-a blog about boys, music and sometimes The Olsen Twins.
A lot of that bio is very funny, as is much of Ryan's synopsis on what it is to be 20-something these days. And as you well know, I like funny just as much as the next East coast bred liberal arts grad.
But since turning ancient years old (2-7), this super annoying thing happens when I read commentary from 20-somethings on 20-something life - I go, "come on, it's not really like that..."
The reality may be that it's not really like that for me anymore because I'm past the point of being able to go to work hungover, survive off free buffet Happy Hours or date an actor because I've haven't checked one of those types of men off my list. I've always been a realist, but a 27-year-old realist and a 22-year-old realist are apparently two different animals.
So I read the article. I LTMed (as in "to myself" not "out loud"). I thought, "that Ryan O'Connell would be really fun to hang out with."
And then I proceeded to pick apart his 20-something to-do's using my new-found, no-fun brain. Here's what that looked like. Apologies in advance to those of you who want everything in this piece to be real. And double apologies to those of you who thought I'd stay 22 at heart slash in mind, forever. Trust me, no one's more pissed about that than me.
"Be really attractive. Your acne is gone, your face has matured without having wrinkles and everything on your body is lifted naturally. Eat bagels seven days a week, binge-drink and do drugs: you’ll still look like a babe. When you turn thirty, it’ll become a different story but that’s, like, not for a really long time."
Yeah, but proceed with caution. Being in your 20's is an excellent excuse to do dumb things because we think you're invincible. But there's a difference between doing some dumb things and becoming a dumb person. That difference comes in around your 4th day in a row of arriving at the office hungover, BE&C bagel in tow. The line between crazy-fun and lame screw-up is a fine one, but it becomes niiice and clear once you turn 27/8/9 and take a look at where you are versus people who didn't lay off the post-grad vices.
Reestablish a relationship with your parents. You don’t live with them anymore (hopefully) so start to appreciate them as human beings with thoughts, flaws and feelings rather than soulless life ruiners who won’t let you borrow their car.
And like whiplash, this one couldn't be more true. A very long time ago I wrote about the fact that parents are people too, no matter how uncomfortable that may make us. My own parent-to-peer transition is still very much in process (even though I never had a bad relationship with my parents), but it's worth it at every turn.
Go from eating delicious food at your parents’ house to eating Ragu tomato sauce over Barilla noodles. Develop an eating disorder to save money.
For my first few years in New York I used to claim to do The Special K Challenge every couple of months as a way to maintain my weight. Really it was because eating cereal for two meals out of three is among the only ways to be left enough money each week to go to fabulous restaurants and bars where important people will discover your natural talent and save you from a life of 5th floor walk ups. This is not a fact, but it really, really feels like one when you're in it.
Move into an apartment on the corner of Overpriced and Dangerous. Sleep on a bare mattress with an Ikea comforter. Your mother talks to you about buying a top sheet and a duvet cover but feel like you’re not mature enough to own something called “duvet.”
Don't do this. It isn't necessary and it isn't worth the mystique of being one of those starving artists who can one-down (opposite of one-up) any crowd with stories about the shitty places they used to live. Agreed on the duvet covers, but not because of the very popular 20-something practice of being against things because they sound too mature. They're just unnecessarily more expensive.
Read the New York Times piece, “What Is It About 20-Somethings?” Feel exposed and humiliated. Share it on your Facebook with the caption: “Um….” Your friends will comment “Too real” and that will be the end of that.
Yep - did that aaannddd then didn't shut up about it for awhile.
Work at a coffee shop but feel hopeful about your career in advertising, writing, whatever. Remember that you’re young and that the world is your oyster. Everything is possible, you still have so much to see and hear. You went to a good school and did good things. Figure if you’re not going to be successful, who the hell is?
Yes to the feel hopeful part, and double yes to the world being your oyster and everything being possible. I'm meh on the coffee shop situation only because I think there are more stimulating places to work that can feed your creativity (despite the obvious stimulating + coffee joke).
I know it gets hard when that stimulation messes with your more important career goals, but that's a dance you'll have to learn. Regarding this, "if you're not going to be successful, who the hell is?" Unfortunately any number of people who work harder and faster to get there first. The world is comprised of four kinds of people: brilliant people who get what they want; Dumb people who get what they want; Brilliant people who don't get what they want; and dumb people who don't get what they want. It won't shock you to hear that the first category is almost always the smallest. I realize the point of this section was to say, believe in yourself, you can do it. That is 100% true. What I'm saying is, don't assume it will happen just because you believe in yourself or just because you can do it. You still have to go get it, and that's the hardest part.
Date people who you know you'll never be able to love. See someone for three months for no other reason than because it’s winter and you want to keep warm by holding another body. Date a Republican just so you can say you dated a Republican.
I didn't understand this when I was 22 and I still don't now. My take: dating people takes time and effort and emotion and, honestly, money. Don't do it unless it makes sense. And not, this- will-be-an-insane-story-to-tell-my-future-nieces-because-I'm-obviously-never-having-children sense. I don't want to fill someone's warm body void or quirky writer quotient, so I've never done the same. Though, several times during the Special K Challenge weeks I thought about dating a banker for the free dinners. Every single girl in New York does - and by that I mean each and every one, not all the girls that don't have boyfriends.
Eventually all these nobodies will make you crave a somebody. Have a real relationship with someone. Go on vacations together, exchange house keys, cry in their arms after a demoralizing day at work. Think about marrying them and maybe even get engaged. Regardless of the outcome, feel proud of yourself for being able to love someone in a healthy way.
There was a chunk of time when I thought this didn't have that much value. By that I mean, being in a relationship is good/fun/helpful but not important in the developmental sense. You could/should/will do it, but you don't need to in order to learn the things you need learn to become a successful healthy adult. I was wrong.
Start your twenties with a lot of friends and leave with a few good ones.What happened? People faded away into their careers and relationships. Fights were had and never resolved. Shit happens.
The truest part of this entire piece. Sometimes we think and act like friendships just happen, and therefore just as easily un-happen. People grow apart, people change, people start to disagree when the big questions of life get put on the table. The reality is that friendships are choices, and maintaining friendships means choosing to do what that takes. Sometimes it's just as simple as, shit happens, let it be. But sometimes it's even simpler. Sometimes it's shit happened, get over it.
Think of yourself at twenty and hanging out with people who didn’t mean a thing to you. Think about writing papers, about being promiscuous, about trying new things. Think of yourself now and your face looking different and your body feeling different and how everything is just different.
I started to, then I got somewhat sad and very nostalgic so I switch to thinking about the cool things I can do now that I'm 27 - like afford a vacation.
Form the habits that will stick with you forever. Drink your coffee with two sugars and skim milk every morning. Buy a magazine every Friday. Enjoy spending money on candles, smoke pot on Saturdays, watch the television before bed.
I will admit that there's something lovely in having adult habits. I will also admit mine don't involve smoking pot on Saturdays, even though I now live in California.
Move into a bigger apartment on the corner of Mature and Gentrification and finally buy a duvet cover. Limit your drug-use. If you find yourself unable to do so, start to wonder if you have a problem.
Let's be honest - 9 out of 10 of us already lived on the corner of Gentrification. I maintain my position regarding the duvet cover.
Have your parents come to your place for Christmas. Set the table, make the ham, wear a sophisticated outfit, This will all mean so much at the time.
I confess that part of my transitioning into being ancient-years-old includes really looking forward to throwing these kinds of dinners. The real confession may be that I think of them as slight modifications to the theme party ragers we threw in college, but so be it.
Think about having children when you stop acting like a child. This may not ever happen. Maybe this is assuming too much. Maybe this is generalizing. Maybe society uses age as an unrealistic marker for growth. Maybe. Still feel the anxiety on your 30th birthday and think to yourself, “Oh shit, I’m no longer a 20-something.”
I thought about it when I transitioning from my early to mid twenties. I thought about it a lot more when I transitioned from my mid twenties to my late. And now at 27, the doom of 30 just three years away, I think about it all the time. What it means to be a 20-something versus just one year into 30. What we give up. Who we give up. What never happened. What will never happen again. And most importantly, what that classification meant in the first place.
I think you can be in your 20's without being a 20-something - without doing all those stereotypical things that make people roll their eyes when they think of us. I wouldn't (and didn't) skip them entirely, and much of me is still nestled into the pre "real adult" existence, but I don't think of myself as that wavering 20-something anymore. And for some bizarre, uknown, and unexpected reason - I'm okay with that.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I'm re-writing last Wednesday's post - the one about learning to speak relationship.
When I wrote it, it didn't feel quite right. I think I launched into it wrong and made it jokey-er that I originally intended. I re-read it the other day and decided I missed the point I was trying to make. It's not that what I wrote isn't true. It's that it skirted the truer truth.
- "So re-write it," R said.
- "But I already covered the topic."
- "Just cover it again and say you don't think you covered it right the first time."
- "So tell me, oh succinct one, what are your one-to-five sentences on my post about chameleon daters."
- "Easy. A chameleon dater? You mean a girl who changes into everything you like. That's amazing! Tell her you like to have sex four times a day."
- "Hhmm. Okay. You're not allowed to launch this blog."
It's not the compromising (okay, we can have Italian if that's what you want) or the expression of desire (could you please do the chop chop hands things on my lower back?) - the network tv couple stuff. That stuff isn't unlike negotiating a relationship with three younger sister or seven gay best friends.
Where I'm rusty (if never having really done it qualifies as "rusty" versus infantile) is in the expression of feeling purely for feeling's sake - loving talk, if you will.
My brain is not a place where sugar sweet sentiments are born...and survive. It's more a pun factory specializing in alliteration and demi-snarky wit (as in NYmag not Gawker snarky). We also do sarcasm, but even I know that's no way to hook a man.
So while I consistently feel things like, "I just love being with you," or, "this was a really special night," when I try to say them it comes out, "I just love being with you with the buffer of a crowded movie theater," (squeezes boyfriend's upper arm in show of seated affection), or, "aside from the part where you told me my outfit had some clown-like elements, this was a really special night" (looks longingly into the eyes of boyfriend, winks).
I believe my sweet glands are underdeveloped.
Unfortunately - right - fortunately, R's are not. He feels it, he says it - no hold back, no joke suffix. He's not a swooning, line schlocking Cassanova, but he has a strong command over the stop, drop sweet line, and roll.
What's awkward about this - in addition to the fact that the he-to-me compliment ratio reads like a (insert names of two athletic teams, the first having recently creamed the second in an important game) score - is that I'm just as bad at receiving loving talk as I am at giving it. My knee-jerk is something along the lines of, "Oh, you don't need to say that..." but I'm also good for a, "that's very kind of you," or - R's favorite, "Wow, okay, I'm nervous now." That's if I can get out a line. Sometimes it's just a giggle. I'm a 27-year-old girl - right - woman, who giggles when her boyfriend says something sweet. New life low.
- "This isn't a competition, you know," R said after around the 4th time he told me that, "that's very kind of you," is how his housekeeper responds to a compliment.
- "Mmm, that's an interesting idea," I said, "maybe if we make it a competition I'll get better. I can be very competitive..."
As single people we have these personality principals that we hold onto with clenched fists. "I'm never going to be that girlfriend," or, "I just wouldn't be compatible with a guy who does that."
You don't know who you're going to want to be after the strong and guarded single girl shell gets cracked. But the willingness to re-write yourself along the way - to stop and say, wait, sorry, I want to try that line or comment (or blog post...) again - I think that might be what they mean by growing up and into yourself.
Becoming someone else entirely (the chameleon dater, if you will) is never the right answer, but a girl who can say, "hey, you make me feel fantastic," without a disclaimer or a giggle is a fair goal, and apparently, attainable.
- "Wow. Was that an unsolicited, sweet comment you just made?"
- "Yep. Please mark it down in my column."
Sunday, December 12, 2010
The blog is three years old today.
Three whole years ago Pierson and I took our incessant gchat conversations from private to public for the purpose of...we had no idea. Truly.
I can tell you the goal wasn't to end up in Los Angeles three years later pursuing a career in entertainment. And while that result certainly isn't wholly owed to this blog (sorry Mom, the search for a scapegoat continues), it's not not because of this blog that I'm here. That's one very specific story. This one, to be exact.
Today's specific story is about how things have changed here over the past three years. "It's crazy to read your writing now," said one friend who's followed since the very beginning, "There is a legit difference between the you then and the you now. I think you maybe grew up."
I promise you, that wasn't the goal either.
Reading back through the titles of the 500+ postings over the past 365x3 days (can't locate calc function on computer) there is a definite progression.
Here is the very first thing we wrote - a statement of fact and feeling that basically said, "isn't this stage of life weird? Let's talk about it."
That's what we/I intended to do - keep something in between a cynic/critical and rose-colored glass eye on life at this coming of age stage to expose and evaluate what we think and feel. Too much to slap under a blog title heading, but essentially the gist of what we thought this blog would become.
But in a sort of life-imitating-art relationship, the subject matter became largely about hooking up, dating, and how to get into and out of both as unscathed as possible. It was what we were all talking about, obsessing over and drinking to, so it became the primary focus of my writing. Whole series on how to initiate communication over Facebook, what defines a slut, and dating inside our outside your league, if leagues even exists. We were at entry level jobs making just enough money to live and drink off, and we couldn't focus on much beyond how we were stacking up against every other 20-something in the rat slash relationship race.
Come 25/26 though - things took a shift. Katie applied to graduate school, which made us all start to think about whether we should apply to grad school too. Carly and Matt readied for a life together, which made us all start to think about how very un-readied we were for that same scenario. Friends became managers and then directors of things. People younger than us had assistants. And, in an ironic twist of order that smacked of an after-school special, we started to know too much about the way things work to be able to continue working them as we were.
That's when posts like "Some jobs are like hot men", and "The S.S. Wunderkinds" , and "There's nothing to fear but Ramen Noodles."
Things became a little bit less about who we were dating slash trying to date and a little bit more about who are we, and how can we be more like who we want to be.
And by "things" and "we" I mean I personally started to look to future years more than future nights and to say, I want those things over there, how do I get it/them/him?
FF another year and I received the following comment:
"Oh, and I don't know if you're aware of this or care, or think it's a good thing or not, or plan on it just being temporary or not, but since right before you moved, this blog suddenly seems to be a lot more about you (the move, your boyfriend) and a lot less about everyone/thing else. Just to bring that to your attention if it wasn't already so you can decide if that's a thing you want or not."
It was the first time in a long time that I'd thought about what this blog is and what I want it to be. Yes, I was and am aware that through my experience transitioning from New York to L.A., exploring a new career, and now exploring a very new relationship - the blog has changed. It isn't about how to go to a bar alone or how to pick girls up or why we're still single. I always sourced material from my own life to cover topics about what we were all experiencing, but somewhere around when I decided to come clean about the quarter life crisis I found myself in the midst of, I realized that writing about that specific (job, move, boyfriend) was more powerful for me (and I hoped interesting to you) than writing about the general topics of this quarter life experience.
So - yes - I've noticed the change, and yes, I've decided it's a thing I want.
I write for a lot of reasons, but my commitment to this blog was always because I hoped my thinking was somehow connecting with your thinking to make this bizarre time in our lives somehow less terrifying.
What I don't think I realized until very recently was that this blog is as much about my thinking connecting with my acting and feeling as it is about my thinking connecting to your thinking.
Every time I've sat down to write over the past three years, I've learned something about myself - sometimes significant, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes related to proper grammar (or my lack thereof), but always something.
This blog has grown up over the past three years because I've grown up. It's transitioned from a blog by a New York City girl living a fast-paced life obsessed with asking questioning and doling out answers to a blog by a Los Angelene with a new life, unexpected boyfriend and very different outlook on the idea of some questions existing unanswered. Some things about it will never change - the cast of characters, the unapologetic tone, the fact that I write out the word slash. But the rest of it always will change and grow as I slash we move from our mid 20's to our late 20's to whatever Armageddon awaits in our pre-30's.
Three years is a blink of an eye, but luckily I have an online catalog of everything I was experiencing as that time flew by, which is an incredible thing...99% of the time.
Not that I'd ever take back the 1%...
Thursday, December 9, 2010
The most awkward part about your very first job is never the job itself.
You probably went to some liberal arts college where you studied some non-practical subject that lead you to some entry-level job based on a description that included things like, "self-motivated" and "detail-oriented" and "multitasker a must." The tasks themselves were everything you'd been warned about, and you could (did...) knock them out with a mind-crippling hangover. The issue was the unanticipated learning curve of the work place foreign language. The ins and outs of business were conducted in some hybrid of American English mixed with lingo and acronyms and jargon specific to your chosen sector. Presentations were called "decks"; brainstorming was "ideation"; "coordinators" were assistants, and explaining was "briefing" and people who pay for things in exchange for your business are called "reps."
Now part of whatever actual world you entered (mine was an entertainment marketing mix) and responsible for asking very important people to do specific things in their native tongue (if Amex travel agents are very important people and booking travel for your CEO boss is the very specific thing), you felt like a hack - an awkward, inexperienced, hack with a bad accent. The words didn't roll off your tongue like you'd said them a million times before. It was more like a slow piddle out with a split second stop in your brain for over analysis and paranoia. Nothing about it felt natural.
Assimilating does not happen over night (says the girl who recently asked someone to help her make flash cards of Hollywood terminology). It's a grammar school slow process of slipping into the job and feeling correct using its language to both be understood and prove you understand.
And it's the same in every experience stepping into a new life environment. You enter the group, hear the way they speak, and slowly develop a comfort in communication.
Unleesss "the group" in question is a party of two - namely you and your new significant other. Because in that scenario you're both the assistants, both the bosses, and both writing the lexicon of lingo.
As single people we are specific communicators. We think as "I", act as "I" and consequently talk as "I." And if the "we" in question happened to spend - say - the past 10 years locked in that fluency, switching brains to the vocabulary of being in a relationship bears a first job-style learning curve.
The intro to English vocab version: talking like a girlfriend is hard.
First there's expression of desire in a non bratty manner that is both inclusive of both people and yet firm in personal need. I would like for us to want to go ____________ and to want __________ and _________ to join, and for around _____o'clock to be the time that works best for us. What are your thoughts on this?
Then there's explanation of concern over a given action with motivation to change the action and any action like it moving forward, i.e. It made me feel sort of ________ when you did _________ when we were at __________. Do you a. remember what I'm talking about? b. agree? and c. feel like you could never do that again without being eternally annoyed at my making that request?
Of course that's got nothing on the attempt at explanation of a given personal mood relative to life at large:
- Guy: Why are you so upset about ________? It's just a ________.
- You: Well...it's complicated because several instances of _________ have occurred in various formats over the past decade leaving me more than just your average bit of bummed when ________ happens. In order to aptly explain it to you I feel the need to go through each of those instances but know that if I do so you will probably break up with me, so can we just leave it at, "I'm fine"?
For those of us who like to choose and control our words very wisely slash tightly, speaking relationship is a mine field of awkward bombs that you can't, "oops, texted the wrong person!" your way out of.
My approach: just start most/everything significant you have to say with, "okay, nervous, here we go," ___________. This way nothing you actually have to say will be quite as weird as the way you launched into saying it.
And hopefully - if you're really, really lucky - the person on the receiving end of your crazy will respond like the sweetest 1st grade teacher would with a, "Wow, good one. You're really making progress!"
Monday, December 6, 2010
A few weeks ago we started a new series in which I present a hypothetical dating and/or general life situation, provide my assessment and ask you to judge it as you will. This way it's like we're all at brunch and our first round of bloody mary's just arrived and after taking a massive gulp I silence the group with a, "so I've got something good..." and then you all get super excited, I go into presentation mode, and brunch takes its typical turn.
Last time it was the case of a financially stalled future fiance and the question of, "what's a girl to do?"
Today, a very different scenario - one involving parents and apartments and the logistical conundrum that can develop when those two worlds collide.
Owing to a recent windfall of money or family tradition or simple whim, the parents of the girl decide to buy the girl an apartment. It's an investment that she'll have some financial involvement in (like she'll help contribute to the mortgage), but they are fronting the money.
...which is exactly where it gets tricky.
See the parents of the girl do not approve of premarital cohabitation - under any circumstances. Their rationale isn't what's important - could be a religious thing, could be a general morality thing, could be because they think it hurts the future marriage - what's important is that they bought this apartment and therefore will not permit the guy to live there with the girl (their daughter).
As such, the guy keeps and pays for his own apartment but spends 90% of his time at the girlfriend's condo.
And for the final splice of info, the guy and the girl - though intending to be married - are at least one year out from that happening meaning the guy will continue to pay rent on his decoy apartment for at least another year.
Good one, right?
Now let's assume that the guy and the girl do not want to keep their situation as it is. He's spending money he doesn't have on a place where he doesn't live while he could be splitting the mortgage payments with the girlfriend and contributing to the home they'll eventually live in together. Fine. As far as I can tell, there are three options here:
Option 1: the guy and the girl lie to the girl's parents about the fact that the guy actually lives there. He puts most of his things in storage, hides his things in the apartment and makes like he still has the spot on the side. Pluses - they save tons of money and don't have to continue on with the charade. Minuses - they "live in sin" once and then live in sin again because they're telling a massive, bad lie.
Option 2: the girl tells her parents that the jig is up and the guy is moving in because it's practically 2011, he practically lives there anyway, and their mutual ability to save money benefits everyone involved. Pluses - the jig actually gets up (goes up? is up?) plus money saving, etc. Minuses - they might say no. I can't quite figure out what would happen if they did say no... Cause then what if the girl said, "well too bad!" would they say, "well we're sending movers to move you out!" I mean, can the parents of an adult woman evict her out of the apartment they bought her (but she pays part of the mortgage on)?
Option 3: the girl puts her foot down and moves out of the apartment owing to the fact that she and her future husband will be in better shape (financial and emotionally) if they live together - even if she has to pay slightly more and have a smaller place. It's the "thanks, but if it has to be this way then no thanks" route. Pluses - control, money saving, living together. Minuses - losing the very nice condo and seriously pissing off the parents who bought it...
It's not an easy situation - especially because of combination of financial, emotional, and parental strings pulling in multiple different directions.
What would I do? I don't know. Probably a combination of numbers two and three? I'd definitely at least start with option two (or the, "can't we just pleeaassee" version) and then see if resorting to option three was necessary.
But the more interesting question is - what would you do? How would you go about it? And why?
It's only for very good reasons that I miss writing a new post on my Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. Today's very good reason is that I either have a stage three sinus infection or stage two brain cancer. So on account of the fact that the world is currently most bearable when I'm horizontal in a dark room (but, isn't that always the case?), I'm forced to pull my classic "one year ago today" post. Luckily since this blog has been going on for very close to three years, I can offer the "two years ago today" post alternative.
This week, two years ago today, the 20-Nothing world was wrapped up in why we hook up and why we don't date. On this particular Monday of that year I wrote a piece based on a conversation with a male friend defending the fact that he's found himself not wanting to date a given girl because he likes her too much.
I explore whether or not that's bullshit within the post. Reading it today though, I'm not sure my argument still holds weight...
If you haven't read it, it's new to you. If you have, do you still assess it the same?
"I’m saying there are girls you don’t want to date because you don’t like them. But there are also girls you don’t want to date – no – it’s more like you can’t date them – because you do like them, too much.'
“No no – you like her and you’re pretty sure she likes you but you still can’t date her because she’s like too good – you like her too much.”
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Today the guinea pig to my entire life - my one-year-older cousin (slash former roommate) Geanna - is playing guinea pig for the rest of us with a guest post about her recent 10-year high school reunion.
Trust me, Geanna is as discerning as they come, so this assessment is a real as it gets.
This past holiday weekend, I went home to the Jerz and managed to restrain myself from gorging my stomach with turkey, stuffing, and baked ziti (my family is Italian…) in preparation for one of the most contentious events of the decade: my 10-year high school reunion.
When the first save-the-date news broke over the internet, my friends and I immediately started to list pros and cons by which we would vote on whether or not to attend. It became clear that we were all undecided, as the very existence of Facebook made “reuniting” less of an event. We already knew who was married and what everyone looked like. Was there even a point?
We decided that it would have to be all or nothing. Lindsey made the very practical argument that we would all probably be together that night anyway, so why not enjoy an open bar and the ability to judge people in real time? Even Tim was early on board, which helped to sway the boys.
Finally, the week of our registration deadline, several group texts were sent and it was confirmed:
We were all going, and it was going to be awesome.
And it was. I’m not sure if it was the open bar or the open bar, but I don’t think there was anyone in that room who didn’t have a good night. Were there lessons learned? Bridges gapped? Epiphanies epiph-ed? No. But here are some fun observations:
1. Facebook hasn’t gotten to everyone… yet. While Facebook has kind of ruined the critical moments of a reunion catch-up, there are still some people who have held out and are simply Not. On. Facebook. (?!) Seeing someone for the first time in 10 years looses all effect when you were literally just cyber-stalking them a few hours ago while trying to figure out what to wear, but seeing someone who cannot be cyber-stalked and that you actually want to converse with is well worth the price of admission (in this case, $64).
2. Much to our chagrin, teachers do no attend reunions.
3. When you put 100+ people in a room and give them an open bar, everyone will be friends. I seriously hugged more people than I have ever hugged in a 4 hour time-span. Ever.
4. Girls will bring their “didn’t graduate with us” dates/boyfriends/fiancés/husbands. Most boys will not. This can be for many, many reasons (which have likely all been previously discussed in this blog), but I suspect it has something to do with group dynamics, intended alcohol consumption, and the always scientific “fun meter.”
5. The buddy system is still very real. Stick with your better-known friends so as to remind others of your context-through-friendship. Strategically place yourself next to a famous runner, actor, or teacher. If this does not apply, pretending that you’re someone else may also be of help.
6. Reunions are like adult mini-proms. You dress up, arrive in groups, socialize, dance, and attend an after-party. The addition of (legal) alcohol intake is what makes it so adult.
7. There is going to be some drama. Inevitably, there will be moments when people will act like they are actually still in high school. This cannot be avoided, so just try and be sure that this does not pertain to you.
8. It seems that everyone is married or engaged. And they are, for the most part. If this is something that annoys you, try to focus on the positives: not having unwanted children; not having an unwanted mortgage; not being at your 20-year high school reunion, etc.
9. Everything looks different from an outside perspective. My friend’s husband (hailing from Long Island) observed: “It seems like you and your friends were the most fun, popular kids in high school!” We were (and are) very fun, yes, but this statement cannot be father from the truth. Also, this is why we love Andrew (note: please see #4 of this list).
10. My friends from high school are the TRUTH. While everyone stays in touch with certain people here and there, my core group of friends from high school is still part of my core group of friends today. Say what you will, but my date for reunion was my date for senior prom, and I arrived in a taxi filled with people that have been close friends for over 15 years. It is amazing and abnormal and really kind of unnerving, but walking into a room armed with that kind of history makes anything, even going back to high school, a good time.
I usually meet articles that pretend to understand the 20-something condition with a little bit of skepticism and a lot of defensiveness. No matter how broad a look they take or how many people our age they interview, it always feels like being shown a picture and told you're third from the left when you absolutely know you're third from the right. I've developed a bit of a habit (read: compulsion) of dissecting the pieces - be they a New York Times article on what it means to be this age today or a Marie Claire piece on the 12 Types of women.
This time I had a different reaction. This New York Magazine cover story on the history of birth control still made me bristle, but it wasn't because I felt misrepresented and poorly caricatured - it was because I thought about my place in this growing-up path at this particular time in a way I'd never thought of before. It was like being shown a picture I'd never seen before, told I was third from the left, and thinking - wait, what?! That is me, but I don't remember being there...
The topic, at large, is the 50th Anniversary of the pill. A piece of trivia that's equal parts - right, obviously and really?, whoa. It aims to explore how the advent and popularization of the pill has effected the way women behave in general and, more specifically, when it comes to fertility and reproduction. So on the one hand it's:
“The Pill created the most profound change in human history,” declares Kelli Conlin, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, grabbing the mike on a small stage draped with black curtains dotted with a larger version of the same silver stars from the bar. “Today, we operate on a simple premise—that every little girl should be able to grow up to be anything she wants, and she can only do so if she has the ability to chart her own reproductive destiny.”
But on the other it's:
The fact is that the Pill, while giving women control of their bodies for the first time in history, allowed them to forget about the biological realities of being female until it was, in some cases, too late. It changed the narrative of women’s lives, so that it was much easier to put off having children until all the fun had been had (or financial pressures lessened).
Heavy, I know. I won't try to summarize the stats and findings about female fertility today versus 30-50 years ago, but it's fair to paraphrase this article's thesis: with the pill came a lack of attention to our fertility, a lack of focus on preparing to have children, and as a result, many more women who wait until it's too late to either discover they're infertile or try to have children. In a sentence - in gaining control over our sexual bodies we forgot to maintain control of our reproductive bodies.
This is a major, major topic that deserves attention and exploration. Unfortunately, I'm not there yet (as in, I can't handle exploring it), but if you are, I encourage you to e-mail or post your comments so we can have a healthy convo about female fertility that I don't have to start. I will say this and only this though - pointing a finger at birth control for forgetting to think about having children feels a little bit like suing McDonald's for making us fat...
The conversation I do want to start is that of what happened when we gained this control over our sexual bodies. Specifically - how much about being a 20-something women is guided by the fact that we have the option of birth control?
A few lines of note from the article:
- “So here’s to my tiny daily dose of freedom, and also estrogen and progesterone." one event speaker said, "A combination of the three, really. Interestingly, it’s the freedom that causes the bloating.”
- "These days, women’s twenties are as free and fabulous as they can be, a time of boundless freedom and experimentation, of easily trying on and discarding identities, careers, partners."
- "It’s easy to believe the assurances of the guests at the Pierre gala [an event celebrating the pill's anniversary] that the Pill holds the answers to empowerment and career success, to say nothing of sexual liberation—the ability to have sex in the same way that guys always have, without guilt, fear, or strings attached."
We can chart the course of the 70's sexual revolution and 90's hook-up culture almost directly to how widely available and accepted the pill became.
So then what would we be like as 20-something women and men if we never got the pill? Would we marry earlier? Sleep around less? Have more children, and earlier? We today be exactly like it was 50 years ago? And, if so, does that mean it is in the biological nature of women to be sexually casual and experimental - and that the fear of getting pregnant was the only thing ever standing in our way?
When I read those few quotes I pulled out of the article this weird question immediately popped into my mind:
So then it makes sense that if "my sex is my sex" - a fact I do not judge on principal alone - then "my sex is my way to produce children" is an after thought as is, "my sex is a way to form a bond with another person."
"It's just sex," you hear people say, this person very much included.
How much of that statement and the sentiment behind it was born 50 years ago with the advent of one tiny pill? And how much of it is a simple product of progress?
(Photo: Andrew Bettles)