Monday, April 25, 2011

What's your financial age? - if such a thing even exists...

R and I spent this past weekend in Portland (OR not ME) at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival because R works in the TV world on the comedy side, and I work the angle on free hotel rooms in cities known for their walk-ability. Technically speaking we're still here on account of mechanical issues grounding our flight from PDX to LAX, which I'd generally be livid about, but we're sitting at an above average airport restaurant next to Fred Armisen and Abby Elliot, so I'm letting it go.

On our second night in town we went to see some stand-ups - among them the very funny Jon Roy.

Roy was telling some joke about the fact that he's currently dating a woman who is much younger than he. "But see, the thing is," he said (and then I paraphrased here...), "I'm financially 25, so no one my actual age wants to date me."

Blog posts can come from the most unexpected places.

The idea of being financially any age struck me. What Roy was saying is that he currently makes the same amount of money that most 25-year-old should/do and that on account of that "salary" he's only capable of leading a lifestyle that a such-staged person can live (note: in fairness what Roy was really saying was a joke not intended for over-analytical blog fodder).

I get it, and I agree with it, except for the fact that I had friends who were making more money at 25 than my mother makes as an administrator in a K through 12 school district today. Did they behave like a 50-something woman and date people around that same age? No. But did they live in a manner way different than my 40K 25-year-old self, yes.

That means the real crux of what Roy was saying has a lot to do with what I wrote about a few weeks ago - the issue of whether or not you can date outside your professional progress zone and last.

Professional progress is almost undoubtedly tied to financial progress. And what comes as the by product of both those things is the ability to live a life we all equate with "being an adult."

Jon Roy's joke is that he can't manage the expenses of a life beyond that which a 25-year-old can afford. I'm guessing here but it's likely: can't afford to buy property, can't afford lavish vacations, has to live in a neighborhood on the fringe of the more expensive neighborhoods, probably shouldn't have a kid. In a phrase: financially 25.

So then I guess the saying should go, "age - it's just a dollar sign." Though, tell that to a bank-rolled 23-year-old living in the apartment she bought with the interest off her trust fund.

In my case - I like to think of myself as financially 21 because that's the age-mentality of the way I purchase clothes. Read: predominantly at Forever 21.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What does the person someone sets you up with say about you vs. them?

My friend/co-worker A and I had a little disagreement the other day. See, A was recently set up with a lady whom he found displeasing to his personal tastes. He used very colorful language to explain this which I am purposefully omitting from this blog post.

The situation made A angry. He took the friends' choice of set up as a personal offense. If this is who she's setting me up with, he thought, then she obviously has a terrible opinion of me because this girl is ____________ (insert colorful language).

"You know what? I think who a person sets you up with is the greatest indicator of what they think of you," he told me. "And I think you should write about that."

So here I am, except unfortunately I'm about to write about the fact that I think he's wrong.

In order to explain the several "why's" of this topic I'm going to have to work inside a premise that may anger and frustrate some of you. I apologize in advance.

The premise is this: there are leagues and they are somewhat based on looks.

A's position is that when a person sets you up they are essentially announcing where they think you fall leagues-wise by offering you an option they believe is at or below your league. It's, "I think you'd really like my friend Jessie. She's exactly as attractive as you if not slightly less, so you're about as good as each other can do in this world."

Because someone would never say, "Hey I think you'd really like my friend Jessie. She's WAY better looking than you, but don't worry about it."

Makes sense if you believe that everyone functions within the same understanding of levels of attraction and the way leagues work. I do not, which is why I disagree with A.

Yes, there are people who are universally attractive to all people. You can find them in places like UsWeekly, national television, and my new gym. So fine, that same understanding exists. I'm not hear that argue that every single person has a different definition of beauty. Some beauty translates across all.

But within the realm of people who don't look like Elizabeth Hurley (I once saw a PBS special that said her face is more symmetrical and therefore attractive than 99% of the rest of the world) I believe things are very subjective. I like certain kinds of looks, and I would set someone up with a man I believe is attractive. In doing so I would be saying, "A, I think you'd really like my friend Kate. She is attractive, in my opinion, and I think you'll think so too."

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I will be saying, "A, I think you'll really like my friend Kate. She's fun and smart and energetic, and I think your personalities will really mesh well."

Yes, much of the success of early relationships is about mutual attraction so looks are never not somewhat of an issue. But how much of an issue and how that issue works into the set up isn't the same for every yenta making a match.

So perhaps, I told A, this friend of yours did not go about setting you up with looks alone in mind. Perhaps she said, "I want to find a great, kind, stable girl for my friend A to date. Maybe he'll like this one?"

Unfortunately she was wrong, but that's on A's side of the issue, not hers.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Apparently there are non-Jewish girls out there who are only looking to date slash marry Jewish guys?

Here's a little Passover post.

Before delving into this topic based on things I have heard from several other people, not things I have made up in my own mind, let me make a million disclaimers.
  1. I do not necessarily believe this information to be true. The idea that there are non-Jewish girls who are only interested in dating Jewish guys is something I have heard from several people who shall remain nameless.
  2. There is no judgment or tone in my delivery of this information. It is not, "apparently there are idiot girls out there who want a dumb thing for reasons I can't understand," or, "can you believe this is the case?!" I am merely picking up information that I have heard and putting it down on this blog.
  3. If you asked me prior to my hearing this information if I thought there was any difference in dating men of different religions I would have said, "Not unless they're a Johovah or a Mormon." If you then said, "What about a Scientologist?" I would have said, "That's not a religion. Trust me. I live in L.A. now."
In short - kindly try to keep your panties un-bunched as I question and explore this very real topic of the modern dating world.

Now - from the top -

Apparently there are non-Jewish girls out there who are only interested in dating/marrying Jewish guys. Who are these girls and why do they feel this way?

My research confirms that these are women looking to settle down and start a stable relationship that will turn into a stable family. They come in all shapes and sizes, but what makes them similar as a set is the desire to be in a serious, committed relationship with someone they feel is husband material. I would argue that 95% of women in their mid to late 20s are in that boat, but we'll put that aside. It is worth noting that the sample set is exclusively based on women in NY and LA.

So this portion of that set of women have evaluated the marketplace and determined that Jewish men are the men best fit to meet their desires. Why do they feel this way?

This is the part where I punt it and ask and number of questions instead of making dangerous guesses.

Is it because they think that a greater percentage of Jewish men have stable jobs? Is it because they think Jewish men are kinder to women? Or because men raised in the Jewish faith are more focused on having a family? Is it that these women want to be Jewish themselves? To convert to the faith because they think it's a better fit for their spirituality and want to raise children in the religion? Could it be because JDate is among the most successful online dating sites and these girls figure that means Jewish men are superior quality men? Did these girls do some sort of research and find out that fewer Jewish marriages end in divorce?

And now - for all the stuff that's really going to get me in trouble - do these girls think Jewish guys are richer? More chivalrous? Kinder? Smarter? Funnier?

I'll stop there...

But as a Catholic girl raised by a Catholic mother and Jewish father currently dating a Jewish man I must say the topic fascinates me.

So if you or someone you know can speak to the issue please do so in comments. And if you do so in comments please remember that there are mature and sensitive ways to speak about this topic that will not end in a massive comment war :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

L.A. 7 months in: I finally figured out why I hate driving so much

My first job in Manhattan was exactly one avenue and six blocks from my apartment or 2.5 iPod songs - 1.5 if one of them was Justin Timerlake's What Goes Around Comes Back Around.

My second job in Manhattan clocked in at three songs or zero avenues, ten blocks. And by zero avenues I mean it was on the same street at my apartment.

And for my third job in Manhattan I walked exactly twenty blocks north (yes, on my same street again) for a total of five songs or one Savage Love podcast. There was also the option of a subway, but it was technically out of the way.

Today I drive 12 miles to and from work through three neighborhoods. The song count is irrelevant because I listen to NPR for the entire 35 minute drive. Yes, 35 minutes. We all know my situation with math, but even I know that 12 miles in 35 minutes makes for too few miles per hour.

At first I thought it was the driving I hated. You've got to pay such close attention and manage control of the breaks and, if you're driving to a brand new place, keep track of the road plus the spot you're trying to find. It's really harder than they make it out to be over those six hours they stick you in a car with some cigar-smoking Race-track regular who makes you stop for tomatoes and asks if you can lend him a dollar to get some. Or was that just Howell Driving School?

But as it turns out, it's not the driving part I can't stand. I have this cute, salsa red Jetta that drives like a dream. I'm better at the whole breaking thing than I remember being in high school (the last official time I drove regularly). And being able to stash a change (or three) of clothes in the trunk for fickle fashion days or evening costume changes is a real plus.

My issue with the amount of time I spend in the car is the amount of over-analyzing, future-stressing, and hemming/hawing I now do on a daily basis because I'm trapped in a vehicle.

On my walks to work in Manhattan I passed places, things, people, clothes sales. My iPod was like the soundtrack to my own personal movie montage. You can't stress over what kind of progress you're making with your writing career when you're doing your best impression of Carrie prancing through the streets of Paris to "La Belle e La Bad Boy." (do the French really have phrase for bad boy?).

Now it's nothin' but the sound of Lakshme Sing telling me that the government is facing shutdown, again as I pass the same empty Coffee Bean.

And so my mind wanders and picks apart and plans for scenarios. Last week I mentally wrote myself a will (if you're a size 8 shoe and have been particularly kind to me, it's looking good for you). Two days ago I gave myself a stern lecture for not being further along with a spec script I'm writing. And just this morning I developed a daily diet and exercise regime sure to have me in bridesmaid shape in no time.

Which seeeems productive except I can't write anything down while I'm driving so it's all just lost time slash thought.

The way I see it I have two options here. 1. Invest in making it so that my blue tooth system hooks up to a voice recorder to I can actually accomplish productive thinking that I don't lose the minute I arrive at my destination. Or 2. quit my job and start applying to places within a NYC walk away from my house.

Note: No Mom, pay attention to the road and stop letting your mind wander so much is not an option.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Good/Bad News: Apparently what we hate in common indicates how well we'll get along

The team over at The Frisky linked to an interested potential-truth recently published in New York mag . Apparently it's what you hate in common, not what you like in common that's a true indicator of how you'll survive as a couple.

A University of South Florida researcher (Jennifer Bosson) published findings in the Personal and Social Psychology Bulletin that basically say, “There’s something really powerful about the discovery of shared negative attitudes.”

Read the full article here, and then get to work re-doing that "stuff we both love" list.

(And stay tuned for more short posts like this in between the longer, 2-3 times a week essays.)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Is it possible to date outside your professional progress and last?

Six (gulp) years ago I wrote an article for The Heights, the "independent student newspaper of Boston College", called, "Can you date outside your style zone and last?" It was about whether couples un-like-minded in the fashion department stood a chance at long-term survival. What do clothing choices say/not say about a person, and how much does whatever they say predict how a relationship will end up? A hipster may love a prep but where would they buy their housewares?

Three (still gulping) years ago I wrote a post for this very blog called, "Can you date outside your drinking zone and last?" It was about whether couples un-like-minded in the drinking department stood a chance at long-term survival. What does drinking style and degree say/not say about a person, and how much does whatever it says predict how a relationship will end? A black-out-on-the-weekends may love a just-whatever-white-wine-you-have-please but when will she tell him to get his act together or leave?

And now today, an unexpected third installation in this accidental series - a topic that is eye-rollingly appropriate to this less shallow, more sober phase in our 20-nothings lives.

Can you date outside your professional progress zone and last?

The topic came up over Larchmont Bungalow brunch with Meryl. We were talking about where we are in our careers and what that positions says about a person. What it can predict about how that person related to the person they're dating was a natural next step.
  • A go-getter, 27-year-old financial analyst on the fast-track to making VP starts dating a struggling creative-type still living pay check to pay check.
  • A successful creative-type sees their long-term significant other go from motivated freelance journalist to un-motivated curmudgeon.
  • A curmudgeonly un-motivated freelance journalist discovers their writing/life partner is far less of a kindred spirit in the anti-establishment department when their side project becomes a full-blown book deal.
Different scenarios at different dating stages with the same core issue - the style about which each person approaches work is drastically different.

I personally think it's an important distinction to call out a difference in "style" versus "status." An aspiring artist may be stalled in their career on account of the difficulty of becoming a working artist in comparison to the successful accountant they've been dating for years. The process of becoming an account is very different than the process of becoming an artist. That doesn't mean the artist doesn't work as hard as the accountant. Circumstance and style are different.

Of course for some people the distinction probably doesn't matter.

I've got to image that for as many successful professionals who would support their struggling partners through thick and thin there are those who would feel more fulfilled, comfortable, or financially secure in a relationship with someone who is an equal contributor to their collective future.

"I think the real question with this whole issue is how it differs for men and women," I said to Meryl. "I hate that I'm going to say this, but I feel like a man would be less secure or comfortable if he was the one stalling in the progress department."

I said I hated that I was going to say it...

How much of a thing is this thing? As silly as dating outside your drinking zone? As serious as the style version?

I don't have the personal experience to speak on the topic, but that's probably because my OCD of the productive out-put variety has terrified anyone who actually likes to relax on the weekends...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The problem with dating in L.A. is that no one knows whether or not they're doing it

People warned me about the L.A. dating scene long before I moved here:
  • "It's the absolute worst," they said.
  • "Everyone is just using everyone else to get ahead," they said.
  • "Plus it's like high school here! The social circle is so small that you can't hook up with anyone without is being total town news."
All valid complaints, but par for the course in the 20-something city scene as far as my research can tell. I've heard similar issues from people living in Manhattan, Chicago and Miami. Big cities breed picky daters, social climbers, and tight networks you don't want to infiltrate with a bad reputation.

Since moving to L.A. I've had the chance to conduct a much more detailed analysis of the dating customs (albeit from a second hand perspective). I don't have a lot of perspective on the degree to which people are using each other to get ahead (though it seems logical) or to what degree this place is just like high school (though every single person I know before I moved here did know exactly who R was before we officially started dating). But what I have seen as a bizarrely ubiquitous problem is that fact that people often don't know whether or not whatever they're going on is a date. Comments like this are the above-the-norm:
  • "He invited me to drinks but I'm not sure if it's just to talk about what we have in development for pilot season."
  • "She seems cool but I know she's trying to make the jump from agency to studio like I did, so I'm not sure what last Thursday was really."
  • "It was totally flirty but then the check came and he goes, 'you can expense this, right?'"
There is a city-wide epidemic of not knowing whether or not a date is in fact a date. Said one 20-something industry exec, "To my Mom it's like I'm dating all the time, but a date isn't always a date here."

I know. It doesn't seem like that makes any sense, but picture the following scenario:

You, a 26-year-old female junior executive working in development at a television network are in constant contact with dozens of like-aged male executives working at talent agencies or management firms. For those unfamiliar with the structure of the business, an agent or manager makes it a point to develop relationships with television executives sos to get their clients work at said networks. It's more complicated than that, but you get the picture.

So one of these male executives invites you to drinks on a Thursday night. You have a typical to flirty relationship with said executive making it easy to feel like, "there's something there..."

Said drinks occur, they go incredibly well, you get along splendidly, and he picks up the tab.

Was that a date?

Chances are no, but chances are if you're a 26-year-old junior exec you were savvy enough to know that. Where it gets tricky is when that repeats several times without a clear indication of doing future business together. Or when it starts our business-flirty and turns flirty-flirty. Or when he barely mentions business throughout the entire maybe-date. All very gray area, and apparently all too common here in LaLa Land.

The cynic/realist in me wants to say - if it's a date or he wants it to be a date he'll let you know. He'll invite you to parties with his friends or brunches outside the work week or take you to events as an obvious plus one.

"Oh, all that happens," another female friend explained, "And some."

In that case, maybe they were right. Maybe L.A. really is the worst 20-something dating scene in the country. Unless I've only come across individuals with an inability to decipher a date.

What do you think, fellow Los Angelenes? And how much are you rolling your eyes right now, rest of the country?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

An open letter to this year's high school seniors

Hi you guys - how's it going?...

If my memory of exactly one decade ago (gulp) serves me correctly, a fairly high percentage of you are freaking out. You have 50 + school days left of high school and under 5 months before college. All anyone older than you is asking is what you think you'll major in, or if you plan to pledge a frat, or how good you are at doing your own laundry. You have fake answers to all of those questions, but in reality you have no idea.

If your college admissions situation went as you hoped, fantastic! Congratulations and best of luck, but keep reading - this still applies to you.

If your college admissions situation went as you feared sending you into a frustrated tailspin as these final weeks pass by then I have some thoughts. I have three little sisters, so I remain very tapped in to the process that is applying for college. And as every single one of them has passed through this stress-filled time I've tried to impart the same wisdom that I'm now trying to impart on the entire 18-year-old cross-section of the Internet. And it is, in one very vague sentence, this:

College is not the definitive beginning of the rest of your life.

I know that sounds bitter and depressing - like something a 27-year-old says because admitting college was the turning point for everything is too final and regret-inducing. I know it also sounds untrue - how could this, the biggest decision you've ever made, the chess move that puts the whole board in motion not define everything that happens from this moment after?

Two reasons: the first is that while life may be somewhat like a very long game of chess, there are dozens if not hundreds of very first moves. It isn't tic-tac-toe where one X in the wrong box loses the game, and it isn't The Oregon Trail where if you choose to be the farmer you'll have dysentery by that weird-named river passing ten minutes into the game. Life is a very long and very involved series of moves that affect each other in ways you often cannot predict. And unlike chess, tic-tac-toe or The Oregon Trail, you're not entirely in control.

I went to the school I wanted, majored in the major I picked out for myself, and participated in all the activities necessary to prep me for 137 jobs I've never technically had. In fact, if you took away my chosen college, my chosen major, and all those chosen activities I could still be exactly where I am today - starting over with an entirely new career at age 27.

Did that specific path make this specific change happen? I don't know. Would I have gotten here faster if I went to a different school? Maybe. Can I look back and point at specific things I would change to make my process look different? Sure.
But I could not have made any of those decisions at 18 or, for that matter, when I graduated college at 21.

That doesn't mean that all of that time was meaningless - I learned, I grew, I made friends, I made connections, and most importantly I became the thinking person that learned how to make life decisions. I learned how to start defining my life. But I did that, not my school.

It also doesn't mean that if you have a plan you're a fool. Could I have chosen to be pre-med on day one at B.C. and be the doctor I intended today, absolutely. Many people are that certain and follow that direct of a path. Sometimes I envy them - the people who marched from A to B without distraction or confusion. There's is one way to live a life. Mine is another. My message to you today is that either of us could end up happy, successful, fulfilled and free from regret - just as either of us could end up the opposite. And neither end result will be because of where we went to college.

Which segues us to reason number two: achieving and succeeding do not directly correlate with living and finding happiness. Unfortunately that's not the message the college admissions process supports.

Yes, you should work your hardest and strive to be the best that you can be. Yes, getting a good college education is important to your future as a productive American. Yes, effort, energy, enthusiasm, and go-getterness will take you far in this culture. But the difference between an Ivy League and state school education is not the difference between a life of happiness and a life of depression - unless the meaning of your life is defined by those sorts of things.

I promise you, your life is currently undefinable. And I promise you, that's a very good thing.

I wasn't ready to decide what would make me happy for the rest of my life when I graduated from high school ten years ago. I had some ideas and some direction, which was helpful as I marched toward independence, but most of that direction changed anyway. And as I look back on those final weeks of high school and final months before college and see a stressed-out, burnt-out, worry wart making lists of college courses sure to define a successful march to the top of some unknown field I want to shake her and say what I'm trying to say to you -

Enjoy not knowing. Enjoy being undefined. Enjoy the fact that you can start and stop and re-start again. Keep your eye toward progress and hard work but don't let the pursuit of one goal stop you from seeing all the other plays on the board. You are not defined by your 18-year-old self, but you are also never going to get that 18-year-old self back again. Cut yourself some slack, realize you've just achieved and incredible feat, and try to enjoy the rest of this part of the ride of your life. Because that's the sort of attitude that will define the rest of your life.

Congratulations kids & good luck out there...