Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What's the worst thing you could find out about someone you're considering dating?

I can't remember exactly how it came up. I think R was telling me about learning some information about some girl that some guy was dating or is dating or wanted to be dating. He had a piece of gossip about the person of question that he believed would be a total deal breaker for whomever it was who was/is/wanted to be dating said person. It went something like this:

  • R: So I found out something really bad about __________
  • Me: Oh god, what??
  • R: What's the worst thing you could find out about someone you were dating?
  • Me: That they have an STD.
  • R: Whoa. Really?? That's the worst to you?
  • Me: Oh my GOD!!! Do you have an STD?!?!
  • R: No. No, no, no. I'm just saying - that's the worst?
  • Me: Yeah. That's really, really bad. Don't you think?
  • R: Well, yes. But what if they, I don't know, killed a guy.
  • Me: Right. True. I just can't see myself dating someone who killed a guy and got away with it until you somehow found out through the L.A. gossip ring.
  • R: Fair.
  • Me: But even so, he didn't kill me, he killed some other guy. I will not continue dating him, but at least I don't end the relationship with crabs.
  • R: That's nasty.
  • Me: I'm just saying that among the likely things you can find out about someone, in my opinion, that's the worst.
  • R: Well, you're entitled to your opinion.
  • Me: Your cavalier nature about STD's is concerning to me...
  • R: I just think there are worse things.
  • Me: Like what?
  • R: Like this thing I just found out about ____________.
The conversation went on from there and, for the record, I didn't think that what __________ had done was worse than finding out he had an STD. It's one thing to be disappointed in a person's morality, it's quite another to have that morality transmitted to you.

But this convo raises an important(?) question - what is the worst thing you can find out about someone you are currently dating?

Obviously we have "he has an STD" and "he killed a guy" on the list, but what about something like the following:
  • He does drugs
  • He deals drugs
  • He's a recovering alcoholic, drug addict
  • He's divorced
  • He has a child
  • He is bankrupt
  • He is a pathological lair
  • He is a kleptomaniac
  • He has a criminal record
  • He's dumped his last six girlfriends after exactly four months of dating
  • He has a total fear of commitment and will likely never actually date you
I've got to be honest, I still maintain my position on the STD, but I'm happy to hear arguments for any of the above. And obviously the basis of this query is legitimate "problems" not things like, "he wears a lot of jewelry" - though I can say with certainty that I'd rather be with a guy who smokes pot than a guy who wears gold chain necklaces.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What gay marriage passing in New York means to me

I have had three, male best friends in my life - one from middle school, one from high school, and one from college - and all three of them are gay. None of them were fully aware of this fact when I met them at ages 12, 14 and 18, respectively but one by one they came to the realization and subsequently out to me. All three currently lead happy, successful lives - one of them in my former city, two of them in my same city, and one of those two in my same house. No, I do not believe there is any notable correlation between the three, and no I do not believe that I turn men gay. I will say that if you need advice on how to react when a close friends tells you he's gay, I'm your girl.

It goes without saying that my life is extremely gay friendly and that I have clearly always connected with gay men. This very well could be because of all the stereotypes of gays and girls that I won't list here because they're generally true but rarely 100% fair (i.e. gays love to gossip just like girls...). This could just as easily be because I met three incredible men who have been incredible friends.

Despite our obvious differences we have never struggled to connect or communicate about any issues in either of our lives. I am the kind of person who knows very quickly whether or not I can be very good friends with someone, and those someone's have always been few and far between. With my three guys the connection was instant and enduring.

But as we've gotten older and conversation has shifted from where we'll go to college to where we'll make a life, I started to feel the first real difference between the way I saw the next phase of my life versus their version of the same decade ahead. So much of this post-grad phase is about how you organize each move around you ultimate goal. Who am I now, yes, but who do I want to be when I'm 35 and what choices will I make to get me to those goals? It's undeniable that relationships are a huge part of that progression, and so they were always a huge part of what my guy friends and I discussed. Which is where the unfortunate difference reared its uncomfortable head...

I could, desire to and will likely get married. They couldn't.

We would still talk about marriage in the general sense - whether or not we could see ourselves marrying whatever guy we were dating, where we'd want to live after we were married, etc. - but for them it was always, "if I even can..." For better or worse our culture views marriage as the official and accepted way to mark a life-long partnership. I don't know if I think this is right or wrong, good or bad - I just know that it is ingrained. And I know that not being able to get married affects how you see yourself and your place in the already confusing world of committed relationships.

To me this epic decision in New York is about history, acceptance, and of course equality. But even more than that it's about gay men and women sharing in a sacred tradition that goes far beyond a wedding reception The deepest effects of inequality are not in what the laws and paperwork do and don't allow but in how they divide us from our closest friends. Yes it is about equal rights and equal protections, but it is just as much about equal hopes and dreams. I'm grateful to the state of New York for making it so that my three best guy friends and I can add one very important element to the list of hopes and dreams we already share.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why I think we 20-somethings need therapy

There are a million blog-post worthy things packed inside Lori Gottlieb's article on how to land your kids in therapy (see yesterday's post).

There's the whole idea that our generation has a discomfort with being uncomfortable:

"If kids can’t experience painful feelings, [Dr. Dan] Kindlon told me when I called him not long ago, they won’t develop “psychological immunity.”

“It’s like the way our body’s immune system develops,” he explained. “You have to be exposed to pathogens, or your body won’t know how to respond to an attack. Kids also need exposure to discomfort, failure, and struggle. I know parents who call up the school to complain if their kid doesn’t get to be in the school play or make the cut for the baseball team. I know of one kid who said that he didn’t like another kid in the carpool, so instead of having their child learn to tolerate the other kid, they offered to drive him to school themselves. By the time they’re teenagers, they have no experience with hardship. Civilization is about adapting to less-than-perfect situations, yet parents often have this instantaneous reaction to unpleasantness, which is ‘I can fix this.’”

Or that we were raised in environments that squashed our anxiety versus letting us feeling it and develop a way to cope:

“Well-intentioned parents have been metabolizing their anxiety for them their entire childhoods,” Mogel said of these kids, “so they don’t know how to deal with it when they grow up.” Which might be how people like my patient Lizzie end up in therapy. “You can have the best parenting in the world and you’ll still go through periods where you’re not happy,” Jeff Blume, a family psychologist with a busy practice in Los Angeles, told me when I spoke to him recently. “A kid needs to feel normal anxiety to be resilient. If we want our kids to grow up and be more independent, then we should prepare our kids to leave us every day.”

But the thing I found most fascinating of all was this concept that so many among us are unhappy to the point of seeking therapy because we don't believe we're happy enough. I promise this will eventually make sense. First a quote from Gottlieb:

My parents certainly wanted me to be happy, and my grandparents wanted my parents to be happy too. What seems to have changed in recent years, though, is the way we think about and define happiness, both for our children and for ourselves. Nowadays, it’s not enough to be happy—if you can be even happier. The American Dream and the pursuit of happiness have morphed from a quest for general contentment to the idea that you must be happy at all times and in every way. “I am happy,” writes Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project, a book that topped the New York Times best-seller list and that has spawned something of a national movement in happiness-seeking, “but I’m not as happy as I should be.”

I'm not as happy as I should be.

One more long quote:
"When ego-boosting parents exclaim “Great job!” not just the first time a young child puts on his shoes but every single morning he does this, the child learns to feel that everything he does is special. Likewise, if the kid participates in activities where he gets stickers for “good tries,” he never gets negative feedback on his performance. (All failures are reframed as “good tries.”) According to Twenge, indicators of self-esteem have risen consistently since the 1980s among middle-school, high-school, and college students. But, she says, what starts off as healthy self-esteem can quickly morph into an inflated view of oneself—a self-absorption and sense of entitlement that looks a lot like narcissism. In fact, rates of narcissism among college students have increased right along with self-esteem. THE IRONY IS that measures of self-esteem are poor predictors of how content a person will be, especially if the self-esteem comes from constant accommodation and praise rather than earned accomplishment. According to Jean Twenge, research shows that much better predictors of life fulfillment and success are perseverance, resiliency, and reality-testing—qualities that people need so they can navigate the day-to-day."

If we had to sum this whole situation up it would be that young adults today are seeking therapy to manage the fact that they feel very unhappy. The two primary reasons they feel very unhappy are 1. they've were raised in an environment that sheltered them from being unhappy/uncomfortable/anxious, so they don't know how to deal with those feelings and 2. they were raised to expect that they should be incredibly happy/successful/accomplished/directed, so thy don't know how to deal with this very unstable/confusing time in our lives when success doesn't come as easily as it appears to on TV.

I don't know how I feel about the beginning of both those sentences. The "they were raised to" part. Yes, maybe our generation of parents had a certain style about their mothering and fathering that lead to this result, but I think it was just as much the culture of the times - the school environments, the day-care centers, the families we were watching on TV.

Regardless of exactly how this happened though, I agree with Lori Gottlieb on the fact that it did happen. I've been writing about the 20-something experience for almost four years now, and if there's one thing that I've noticed about myself and my peers it's that we want and believe we should have a level of success, happiness and plan for the future that is generally unrealistic. I have never been an unhappy person (probably because my parents did insist that I cope with being unhappy at a young age), but I am anxious about how much I'm accomplished so far. I am disappointed in myself for not being more successful at this point. I am constantly trying to achieve dreams I have for myself and to figure out exactly what my other dreams are so I can achieve those too. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that I am not content with my life or not proud of where I am at this point, but I believe I can and should do more and go further, and the fact that I haven't makes me disappointed.

By standards of any generation, including this one, the way I feel is ridiculous. Embarrassing, even. I have everything I should want and am on a path to making my wildest dreams come true. But this is the point of Gottlieb's article. We as a generation - a generation that watched 16-year-old pop stars take over the world, feisty housewives launch namesake brands, and Harvard drop outs become billionaires - believe we should be "the one" or at least "a one." We've been raised with the constant encouragement and support to climb as high as we can imagine.

So to put a finer point on Gottlieb's assessment of why a 20-something feels like a 20-nothing I'd say it's because we're not sure how to focus on the happiness in our every day lives without keeping one eye squarely on where we should be and what we should be doing to get there.

One more mortifying confession:

In my first few months in L.A. I felt stalled. I was adjusting to so many new things that I couldn't focus on my writing. I didn't know enough people to really begin the networking process. And I found the learning curve of industry-speak harder to overcome that I'd imagined. I wasn't doing as much as I intended to be doing once I finally made the move West. "My output is too low," I'd tell R over and over again. He would shake his head at me and laugh. But inside my obnoxious complaint was so much evidence of who many of us are at this age.

We are unaware that life can't be measured in "output." There are no more superlatives - no "most likely to have the healthiest 401K" or "meet a great guy before she's 25." And happiness isn't a point you reach once you accomplish X, Y, and Z.

So thanks, Lori, for the helpful reminder, even if it did make me a little anxious to read.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lori Gottlieb thinks she knows why our entire generation is in therapy

*(photo credit below)

Lori Gottlieb has done it again.

You may remember that name from the wildly controversial article she wrote for The Atlantic called Marry Him! The Case For Settling later expanded into a book. I actually wrote about it long, long ago.

Now Gottlieb is back with an equally buzz-building article (with an equally grabby title): How To Land Your Kid In Therapy.

It's a great and fascinating read with plenty of perspective. Unfortunately it's hard to have perspective when reading it because the article is essentially about how to prevent your kids from becoming us - us being this generation of 20-somethings who, according to the article, are seeking counseling in surprisingly high numbers for surprisingly minor issues and, "just generally felt a sense of emptiness or lack of purpose..."

"Here I was, seeing the flesh-and-blood results of the kind of parenting that my peers and I were trying to practice with our own kids, precisely so that they wouldn’t end up on a therapist’s couch one day. We were running ourselves ragged in a herculean effort to do right by our kids—yet what seemed like grown-up versions of them were sitting in our offices, saying they felt empty, confused, and anxious. Back in graduate school, the clinical focus had always been on how the lack of parental attunement affects the child. It never occurred to any of us to ask, what if the parents are too attuned? What happens to those kids?"

I really recommend reading the article in full. I really don't recommend passing the article along to your parents. I'm still on the fence about my feelings on this one, but I hope to gather some thoughts for a reaction post tomorrow. Feel free to share your reactions in comments.

*cartoon by LOU BROOKS, featured in The Atlantic.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Defining the "wandering eye"

It went something like this a week or so ago:

  • ME: _________'s girlfriend seems really nice
  • R: Yeah, she's ok.
  • ME: Oh really? What's wrong with her?
  • R: Nothing. She's just got the wandering eye.
  • ME: The what?
  • R: The wandering eye.
  • ME: I don't know what that is.
  • R: The wandering eye?
  • ME: (eye roll)
  • R: It's just the way she looks at other guys - like she's always flirting.
  • ME: And this is a thing? Like a thing that you and your buddies pick up on?
  • R: Oh absolutely.
  • ME: Is it just her or do other girls do this?
  • R: Some other girls do it too. Not any I can think of right now, but you know it when you see it.
  • ME: Wow. I had no idea this was a thing guys were assessing about other guy's girlfriends.
  • R: Oh yeah.
  • ME: I think I have to write about this.
  • R: Yeah?
  • ME: Definitely.
  • R: YES!
  • ME: What?
  • R: Another blog post about me.
  • ME: (eye roll)
So that's pretty much the gist of it folks. There is this so-called "wandering eye" that a girl can express to guys who are not her boyfriend leading those guys to question her quality as a girlfriend. R and I got into it a little more later that day and he explained that it's a level of friendliness contained mostly in the eyes and body language that says, "I'm flirting with you. Kindly be wildly attracted to me." versus what a girlfriend of your buddy should be saying which is, "Nice to meet you. I'm the cool girl your buddy is dating." (My words, not R's).

What's interesting to me is this whole element of guys judging the quality of their friends' girlfriends. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't know they did that. Ashamed because it's sexist to assume that other girls gather around the pedicure chairs and judge the quality of each guy who's come into the fold. Girls would say things like, "He's ok. He just treats her differently when they're alone than when they're in public," or, "he's okay. He just isn't very thoughtful," or, "he's okay. He's just got a bit of the douche."

But even those judgments aren't quite the same as this wandering eye situation. What this suggests is that guys can feel the way a girl treats them and universally know when the tone is flirty versus friendly, and that there's some unspoken understanding they have when this occurs.

It's all very interesting at is applies to the buddy's girlfriend assessment but I think it's even MORE interesting as it applies to the assessment of girls in general. If guys know a wandering eye then do they always know when a single girl is flirting? Are we that transparent? And if so then why aren't more of them asking us (you...) out?

Food for thought slash pedicure chair gossip. Unless of course this is just some crazy thing R and his buddies made up. Wouldn't be the first time...

Friday, June 17, 2011

On letting my freak flag fly: suitcase edition

I am currently on the East coast with R as his +1 to the wedding of one of his very best friends. It's taken me 27.9 years, but I am finally attending a wedding with a boyfriend. In negative news, I'm down one killer "never have I ever."

Naturally this kind of event comes with its stresses. I'm meeting some of R's best friends for the very first time. R's parents are also attending the wedding. R and I are traveling clear across the country for three, jam-packed days of activity during which I'll have to drink, dance and stay awake. The number of costume changes required for this set of events numbers five, one of which is a bathing suit...that R's parents may or may not see me in. And I have no idea what late June in upstate New York feels like anymore.

All of that said, I had it under control. I was confident in my packing strategy and outfit decisions. I had recently tested pacing myself with vodka-only consumption at a dance party (with excellent results). And I just got one of those rod-only curling irons to achieve perfect, Kim Kardashian waves. I owned this wedding.

Untiiiil R made a suggestion that sent my T-minus-one-week-until-the-wedding into a tizzy:
  • R: "I have to check my golf clubs so since I have to wait for baggage anyway, why don't we just pack in one, big suitcase instead of lugging our stuff around in two, separate carry-on's?"
  • Me: We pack together in one suitcase?
  • R: "Yeah. My black suitcase is huge. We can just...wait...why are you looking at me like that?....what's going on?...OH no...I know that face...I said something really wrong...what is it?...."
What goes on inside the suitcase of a lady dressing for five events in three days taking place clear across the country is not a pretty thing. I'm a contained packer and a smart packer, but I am not the kind of packer I want other people reviewing for things like logic and control.

Unfortunately, R had a point. A. my suitcase is a disaster. The wheels are broken, and it isn't big enough for a get-away of this nature. B. He and I both know that lugging crap around an airport is among my least favorite things to do. Airports and I have a tentative relationship as is. And C. There will be plenty of room for both our things in one, large suitcase. The most logical thing to do would be pack together. We are going to the same place. We are a couple. What's the big deal?

In a phrase: freak flag exposure.

See, it is the goal of anyone in any relationship to minimize exposure of the other party to their various freak flags. This is not to say that secrets should be kept or lies told, it's just that no good can come from your boyfriend knowing you have 67 pair of shoes. If you have an addiction to shoe-shopping that is crippling your financial future, fess up. If you have three pair of brown boots in various styles because that is what the life of an aspiring writer living in West Hollywood requires, rotate with frequency so he won't notice them all and get on with your totally stable life.

Packing is among my freak flags. Well, it's really wardrobe prep for event-based activities, but when those activities take place a flight away it manifests as packing. Yes, this makes me shallow and silly and far too over-analytical about what certain outfits say about my person. No, it's not changing.

R was not asking me to place our collective things in a properly sized case so that we might travel with greater ease. He was asking me to reveal that, yes, I am packing three dresses and one skirt/top combo for the rehearsal dinner because I'm not sure how fancy it is, when this damn self-tanner will finally kick in, and if formal jumpsuits are happening on the East Coast.

"This will be easy! Look! I'll pack right now and show you how much room you'll have," R said as he took 2.5 minutes to throw one pair of shoes, four shirts and some brown pants into the bag while keeping his focus squarely on a basketball game. (Show off!)

Oh, space is not my issue, I told him. All of those necessary items listed above will be fold-rolled to fit perfectly inside one-half of a medium-sized suitcase. The issue, I thought to myself, is that my brain does that rehearsal dinner dress routine, and if I were R and I found that out I'd be wondering what else a brain like that is capable of doing.

I pride myself on being a low to mid-range maintenance woman. Fussy enough to take proper care of myself but not too fussy to drive an out-the-door-in-ten-minutes-man crazy. In my mind the fact that I must pack a hairdryer, diffuser attachment, straightener and curling iron keeps me squarely at the mid-range level. But what will R think when he finds a portable Sally Hansen Beauty supply up against his one, half-filled dop kit??

In the end I swallowed my shame and let my freak flag fly. I may or may not have double-rolled two shirts inside another shirt sos to take my visual number of shirts packed from four to two, but there was no hiding the four pair of shoes: "Yes, two black because if I end up going with the jump suit then it requires an espadrille, not a t-strap pump because T-strap pumps and formal jumpsuits aren't happening on either coast."

I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm crazy, but it appears he's letting this specific feature of my craziness fly un-criticized. I've decided this is either because he likes me regardless of what my brain does when packing or because he has an equally offensive freak flag factor up his sleeve that I'm dangerously close to exposing....

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

L.A. 9.5 Months In: Social Currency in LaLa Land to craft this post so that you don't end up hating me slash the city of Los Angeles...

Perhaps a list of disclaimers will help:

  • Every place has a social currency - a system of understanding who is where in life (succeeding, failing, struggling, rising) based on given factors about their life (they have a lot of money, they published a book, they have earned major awards). Popularity and status have been a part of human nature since caveman one killed a bigger buffalo than caveman two. Right or wrong, bad or good, this is part of the way the world work.
  • Not everyone in a given place gives a damn about the social currency of that place. Some people participate, some people don't. But regardless of whether or not you're participating, the system exists. (Note: and if you make a big enough stink about not participating you become your own system that people will copy until it's part of the main stream system. This, boys and girls, is how we ended up with hipsters.)
  • There are worlds in which social currency and status matter more than they do in others. The most popular doctor won't likely rise to top of his field if he is dumb. The most popular salesman/politician/actor may...slash will.
I think that's enough for now. I'll sprinkle more in should it feel necessary. Here goes.

You don't have to live in L.A. for any of amount of time to know that it's a city where status matters. I'll spare you the laundry list of examples of what people do to flaunt their wears around these parts, just know that driving a flashy car is the least of it.

But what I'm learning is that when you're actually inside the industry that makes this town go 'round, there's a very specific set of factors that can enhance your social currency - the measure of how you're doing in comparison to everyone else in this town - and they have way less to do with money than you'd imagine.

This is, of course, a mine field of a blog topic. I could talk about how different social status is in New York versus LA, what kind of people succeed in LA based on this "system," how it has the potential to make people insane, and/or why I actually think it's among the more honest places you can choose to live. But the truth is I'm not qualified to comment on any of that quite yet. I've only been here for 9.5 months and I still sit on the periphery of the circles where this all means much more (specifically the circle in which everyone is really, really successful).

What I am qualified to comment on is my perception of what earns you major points in this town. I can't say whether or not these things earn you points in the eyes of people outside my existence (let's call my existence 20-40 year-olds with zero, early or mid-level success in some realm of the entertainment industry), but that's the nature of the social currency game. It only matters inside your "world."

What I will say about my perception of L.A. versus most other cities (NY, Boston, San Fran, Chicago) is that the world in which the social currency plays here is much smaller. By that I mean a greater percentage of people here are tracking the same stuff and assigning the same value. Think of it like what politics is to D.C. (the central focus of much of that city's goings on) versus what finance is to New York (one big industry inside a city with many big industries).

  • You can be related to someone who is/was very successful. Fastest, easiest, most fail-proof way to receive instant access to the "somebodies" club. As far as I can tell there's only so far that you can ride that card, but half of making it here it getting in the door, and doors fly open when your Dad is ___________. Also, this obviously doesn't apply if someone is hated by the entire town.
  • You can be really good friends with someone who is very successful. Remember how in middle school you were instantly more popular if your friends were popular? This is kind of the same thing except a little more legit. In the eyes of the industry people with equal amounts of talent run in the same circle, so simply by virtue of your friendship with someone you are considered of their ilk and therefore you earn points, doors open for you and your climb toward their level of success is easier. You will literally hear people say things like, "oh, she's one of Whitney's girls" - a term used to describe a collection of female comedians who are good friends with Whitney Cummings. But same goes for the above. The other half of getting in is proving you deserve to be there.
  • You can write/create/be a part of something that the entire town is buzzing about. For those of you reading this outside of L.A. and rolling your eyes at the "whole town is buzzing about" line - I'm so sorry, trust me I am, but it's true. Certain scripts/short films/plays/web series surface and catch fire. Case in point the twitter handle @ShitMyDadSays. Every agent, manager, producer and network exec in this town knew about that feed the minute it became popular and within a year it was a network television show starring the Priceline Negotiator. That's an example of someone's creative idea turning into almost instant success. But there are just as many examples of people who are incredibly popular and revered without ever having actually done anything - most common among them the unemployed writer who wrote the spec script that everyone is talking about. This person may do nothing for the next year to three years, but that doesn't make them less popular. It takes time, and you earn points along the way.
  • You can not work in the industry. Send a 27-year-old, female kindergarten teacher into a party packed with Hollywood types and she will come out with three marriage proposals and brunch plans for the rest of her life. People here are fascinated by people who don't work in the industry. They want to know what it's like, how it feels, and why in the world they're living in L.A.? I should mention that anything in the vein of food service does not count as "not industry" because everyone in the food service industry is actually aspiring to be in the entertainment industry. Same sort of goes for retail and nanny-ing.

I should mention that you can also earn major status by doing a really good job at your job for X years until you earn a promotion that puts you in a position of importance with the status attached. For example: development assistant becomes development coordinator becomes development manager becomes V.P of development. With each step this person networks their ass off so that every manager, agent, producer, etc. in town knows who they are, knows that they work hard, and knows that they have excellent taste in talent and material. This can/does happen, it's just that there's nothing quick about it.

And regarding this "every manager, agent, producer" business. You're right to roll your eyes at that. Unfortunately, that's true too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A new idea about why some people stay in bad relationships

I have a list of go-to places I peruse when I don't have any new ideas for a blog post. The Modern Love archives of The New York Times,, Slate, and the typical list of lady glossies (Marie Claire, Cosmo, Harper's Bazaar, etc.). They usually feature something that jogs some idea that turns into some rambling that I can stick a beginning and ending on and get away with as a post.

This time it wasn't one but rather a collection of headlines that caught my interest: a Modern Love essay about a woman who stayed in a loveless marriage for far too long, a first-person story on The Frisky about someone whose friends staged an intervention to convince her that her boyfriend was a disaster, a "how to stop dating guys who are wrong for you" guide.

It wasn't the idea that people stay in relationships that are wrong for them that struck me. That's a fact as old as dating itself. I've done it, you've done it, some of you are probably doing it right now.

But inside each of the pieces I read was an equally common fact that I only found once I read between the lines. The Modern Love writer discovered through therapy that she had been battling depression for many years. The girl from The Frisky was in the midst of a total quarter life crisis when she started dating Mr. Wrong. And for as many "walk away and don't look back" directions that the "how to" guide advised there were just as many suggestions to "pursue things that make you happy outside of your relationship."

I'm going to admit something that's about to make me seem like a heartless person, but I used to think people stayed in bad relationships because they were either too dumb to get out or too insecure to be alone. But what I realized through the very different stories in each of the articles I found is that some people are in a place where they truly don't know what "good" or "happy" is.

Someone struggling with depression has such a bleak view of what their world should be that a bad relationship just becomes status quo in relation to all the other pain and difficulty in their life. To someone in a tailspin of confusion and transition a volatile partner just seems to fit everything else they're going through. To a person who doesn't know how to get themselves to a happy place, instability and unhappiness is just par for their life course.

It's not exactly about expectations, but that's a piece of it. Happy, stable people know what they want and expect out of themselves and so they know what to want and expect out of a significant other. People who either are or are going through a time when life doesn't get much better than a 3 or 4 on a daily basis don't even understand what being with a 10 could be like. They date 4's because they feel 4.

You hear people say it all the time, and each of the stories I read included the same kind of line: "I honestly didn't know it was that bad."

Now that makes perfect sense to me. How could you know something is that bad if you're in a place where you don't expect anything to be good?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Whether or not college is a waste of time: my take

My response to the article I posted yesterday by a recent college drop out who believes college is a waste of time.

I'm going to start this post by saying the thing I hate to say when it comes to matters of judgment.

It depends.

Take me for example. I went to an expensive college and majored in something many less expensive colleges offer - Communications. Worth it? Too soon to tell.

I graduated from that college and took a job that I got through a connection from my college. Worth it? Yes. Very much so.

In both that first job and my second job (which I got through a friend I met while in college) I performed skills that required no greater than a high school diploma. Worth it? Technically no.

Then somewhere around my third job I decided that what I really wanted to be doing was television/film writing and development so I overhauled my life and moved to LA where I took a job that I got through my third job in New York (which I got through one of my college roommates, so that technically goes in the "worth it" pile too).

I am now pursuing a path that does not technically require a college degree from a prestigious university and that, frankly, the university I did attend is not best suited for. I went to Boston College - a magical place I wouldn't trade for the world - but if I knew I wanted to live and work in L.A. I would have gone someone far more connected with that industry like a USC, Northwestern or BU.

But that still doesn't answer the core question of whether or not college - no matter where you go, what you study and what it costs - is a waste of time.

Again - using me as an example. During my college years I focused on four extracurricular activities (NERD ALERT!!). I wrote for the school newspaper, produced and hosted a weekly news show on BCTV, participated in volunteer programs, and started/ran a website that provided weekly reviews of Boston-based events and businesses - ala Thrillist but WAY before its time ;)

I could have easily done volunteer work and started this website without the help of Boston College - so that goes in the "not worth it" pile, but it isn't likely that a real newspaper or real TV station would give me the kind of hands on experience that my college versions allowed - so that's a "worth it" feature.

But here's the thing. I didn't know I wanted to do any of those things until I entered college - specifically Boston College. These activities/programs/projects grew out of interests I developed based on friendships I made and lessons I learned about myself and my abilities inside the classroom. College - for me - was a place to realize my potential - to incubate, if you will.

And here's the other thing. I didn't have the money to forge ahead on my own without the backing of a college degree to open the necessary doors that at exist in a society that values higher education. One VERY important factor about Dale Stephens' personal situation is the 100,000K grant he's been given to leave college. Yes, people make their own way in this world without a dollar to start by. And yes, very very rich people waste their time in college because they don't "need" it to get ahead in this world. But for "most" people pursuing "most" careers - college is imperative as a step toward that career and I'd argue important as a step toward becoming a well-rounded adult in this world.

College may very well be a waste of time for Stephens and many other students with his abilities and interests. And for those who cannot pursue a college degree because of the astronomical costs these days, I believe there can be a bright future.

But I don't agree that college is a flat-out waste of time. It certainly wasn't for me.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is college a waste of time? This guy thinks so.

So this kid thinks college is a waste of time. Not like, so make the most of it by packing your schedule with internships. He actually thinks you shouldn't go at all.

Read his thoughts here via Tomorrow I'll share mine, but feel free to throw yours in comments now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Is it better to kiss a lot of frogs, or not?

I approached post-grad dating much like I approach shoe purchasing. I dated a bunch of guys who seemed cute at the time without really trying them on only to end up with a closet full of one-outfit wonders and callouses that could rival the Black Swan set. For me it was more about the moment than the long-term goal. It was, if the shoe is totally adorable, fills a wardrobe void and essentially fits...

This is directly opposite of how the other half of today's 20-something world lives their dating lives. (I'm leaving out the set of people who get excellent boyfriends and keep them for the obvious reason that they don't count). This group approaches post-grad dating much like men approach shoe purchasing. They shop and shop and shop for the perfect pair of brown loafers getting by just fine without them in the meantime because they'd rather have no brown shoes than brown shoes they don't love.

(This is a giant stretch of an analogy, but it's all I've got at the moment).

Now presumably both women like me and women of the male-shoe-buying comparison eventually end up in good, healthy relationships. I have known too many women of each variety to say that the only way to find a prince is to kiss a bunch of frogs or the opposite, that slow and single wins the race.

So then the only question is - which dating history is better? "Better" being a wildly generic term encapsulating things like "more worth it" and "healthier" and "developmentally beneficial."

Does kissing frogs make you more knowledgeable about what princes look like? More appreciative once you find one? More patient in the process? Does it help bide your time and keep you ingrained in the relationship-learning process - marinading in a sauce of romance until the the right person comes along? Is it worth it for the sheer stories-you'll-tell-your-grandchildren alone?

Or is it healthier to just wait it out with a selective approach to the marketplace? Do you get less jaded that way? Do you stay truer to your relationship vision? Does more dating make your standards lower? If you hold out for only the most excellent situations are you protecting yourself and your goals or guarding yourself from unexpected opportunities? Do any grandchildren really care that you have dating war stories to tell them?

Sometimes I look back on boyfriends past and think, "ugh, that was a waste." But was it? My grand kids and I may never know.

What do you and your hypothetical grand kids think?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Why I decided not to write last week

As you may have noticed, I didn't write any blog posts last week - not a' one - not even a round up of stuff from the Internet, which is my standard move when I don't have time for real thought.

There are a number of reasons for this:
  1. I'm currently producing a daily web series at work that shoots every night. Since I'm still responsible for my day-to-day job, my new work hours are 9:30am to 9:30pm
  2. I decided last Thursday to apply to a writer's program that required a spec script and personal essay due last Wednesday (word to the wise: don't do this, or if you do, don't ask your boyfriend to edit it).
  3. I need to eat meals.
  4. I am in a relationship that I enjoy.
  5. I come very close to hitting other cars if I don't get at least 6 hours of sleep per night.
But those are all excuses. I could have slept less, not eaten, ignored R, written faster, and half-assed my job to make more time for writing. There is always a way to get more things done - especially blog posts. I know this because prior to this week I've always decided to get more things done at the expense of - well - myself.

The real reason I didn't post any blog posts last week is because I decided not to. I decided the "perfect" record of twice to thrice-weekly blog posts wasn't worth it. "It" being my job, health, sanity, and/or relationship.

Every once in awhile I see myself becoming one of those people more married to their work than their life. I am dangerously ambitious and even more dangerously obsessed with perfection. And 8 + months ago I moved to a place that rewards hustle sometimes even more than it rewards talent.

Interestingly enough the reason I didn't move to this place until 8 + months ago is because I was afraid of what a person like me could become in a world like this. Dramatic? Yes. But true? Double yes.

The minute I moved here I realized I was going to have to do a bit of "saving myself from myself" - that difficult process of preventing the instincts of your immediate self from sabotaging the needs of your long-term self. Blowing off your loving boyfriend so you can become a famous writer faster. Rooting your friendships in need and convenience versus connection and loyalty. Eating like shit and not sleeping enough to maximize your daily working hours. It's the 20-something, go-getter way. Go, go, go now. You'll sleep when you're successful slash dead.

The closer to "grown up" I get the more I realize that while most of that is rooted in your "nature" - some people, me included, are just built to behave this way - it can become equal parts habit - we allow our nature to win out over our sense.

I decided it would be wise to start reversing my habit of putting my writing (this blog specifically) before everything else in my life. Because a. this is just a little blog that I write for free (so far!) but b. I think 27 is a good age to start developing some standards about work/life balance to stick by.

Oh, you hadn't noticed that I didn't post any new posts last week?

Never mind then.