Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Write a Feature Film



...as far as I know.

Step 1: Consume a daily content cocktail of Deadline Hollywood, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Entertainment Weekly (In magazine form. Their website sucks).

Step 2: Arrive at the conclusion that if all these fools can sell a screenplay, so can I!

Step 3: Spend 4-6 months pitching your boyfriend anywhere from 0-56 film concepts a week.

Step 4: Deliver one, final master pitch of your high concept, multi-tone romantic comedy MY HUSBAND BETTY (based on a book that you intend to option once you figure out how much that sort of things costs) - the story of what happens when your husband informs you that he'd rather be your wife.

Step 5: Finally agree with your boyfriend that no one in their right mind is going to buy that film from you (yet!). Settle on your second best idea.

Step 6: Go to Staples on Hollywood Boulevard (I know! How adorably appropriate!) and buy one of those three-panel presentation poster board things plus multi-colored note cards in preparation for script outline development.

Step 7: Decide your closet doors are actually way more effective than the $9.99 piece of cardboard.

Step 8: Attempt to outline your entire film over the course of one Saturday afternoon because that's the only free time you've had in the past six months.

Step 9: Fail.

(One week of very little sleep later)

Step 10: Remove your 100+, multi-colored post-it note scenes from the closet walls and place them in a very cute stack.

Step 11: Tweet a picture of your adorable movie!


Step 12: Transport your movie around in a post-it note sized clutch for a few days so you can make any changes at a moment's notice. Tweet this too.

Step 13: Transfer your post-it notes into a Microsoft Word document. Call that document a "Beat Sheet." Feel very, very cool.

Step 14: Re-read your post-it notes in Beat Sheet form. Realize 25% of it makes sense.

Repeat steps 8-14.

Step 15: Once approx. 75% of your Beat Sheet makes sense, send it to your boyfriend to review.

Step 16: Have a fight about the importance of correct grammar in the digital age. Lose.

Step 17: Edit your Beat Sheet. Forget to re-submit it to your boyfriend for approval.

Step 18: Watch this video 3-5 times.



Step 19: Send your Beat Sheet to the professional film development people who are helping you realize your screenwriting dreams.

Step 20: Decide you should spend some time actually determining whether or not you still have the ability to write while you wait for the professional film development people to respond.

Step 21: Select an appropriate First-Day-of-Screenwriting outfit. Remember, if what you wear = who you are and who you are = how you write then what you wear = how you write. That's just math.

Step 22: Go to a very hipster cafe where men in Steampunk costumes serve Intelligentsia coffee.

Step 23: Order the cheapest item on the menu as you are a starving artist.

Step 24: Go to the top right of your 2008 Macbook and select "Turn Airport Off"

Step 25: Open Final Draft. Stare at blank, open Final draft document. Take blackberry pic of blank, open Final Draft document. Tweet it!

Step 26: Spend the next 1.5-2 hours writing 2.5-3 pages of your screenplay.

Step 27: Question your life goals.

Step 28: Go to the MelFax Flea Market to buy a better outfit for your next screenwriting session.


To be continued...

...if I get past Step 28.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm in a relationship on the Facebook.


It happened on Friday, and I can't say it was entirely my doing. It was technically Michael who started the whole thing, and if I had a nickel for every time that was the case I'd be a very rich woman (albeit with far fewer of my favorite clothes).

I've racked up over 7 full years on the Facebook and haven't once included a relationship status. The way I see it (or saw it? no, still see it) there's just too much involved.

And yet here I am, in a relationship on the Facebook. And it's one of those major ones where the other person's name is highlighted in blue inside my profile. The other person being R, of course, whose reaction to this whole ordeal is, "what's the big deal." Classic R.

To understand how and why this all went down we have to revisit that Michael-originated conversation. He lives an off-the-record g-chat life, so all I remember is that it started with an innocent, "hey, I noticed you're not in a relationship on Facebook....how does R feel about that?" and ended with both of us declaring that Facebook is in a way like a modern engagement ring, alerting the world to the fact that your man/woman is taken. One of us said, "it's more significant than moving in." Our 17 year friendship has been prone to exaggeration.

Michael and I raised some valid points in our back-and-forth:
  • Whose business is it if we're in a relationship or not?
  • Doesn't everyone who matters already know?
  • Is it or is it not lying to the virtual world about my actual life to not include it?
  • Does the devastation of having to remove the relationship (hundreds of virtual eyes gawking! the wildly un-called for "OH NO! What happened??" comments! the horror!) outweigh the potential fight over refusing to include it?
  • If I maintain the decision to leave it off now, when and why will I ever decide to include it? If we get engaged? (but that could be broken!) If we get married (but people get divorced!)
  • And, the biggest question of all, what three random pictures will Mark Zuckerberg chose to represent our entire relationship if and when we finally go public???
"This is interesting," I told Michael. "I guess I should talk to R about it. I certainly don't want to be disrespectful to him by not including it."

And with that decision I sealed my own fate. What follows is the conversation between R and I that ended with me being in a relationship on the Facebook. I'm posting this in its un-edited entirety to prove either how completely legitimate or completely illegitimate an issue this is. I still can't decide.

  • me: hey
  • R: hi
  • me: does it bother you that we're not in a relationship on Facebook?
  • R: it doesn't bother me no / but i'm happy to adjust
  • me: we never talked about it / and Michael asked me recently / I hadn't really thought about it, because I've never had a relationship status / so it's not like I'm still listed as "single"
  • R: same
  • me: it's interesting
  • R: i just never care about facebook
  • me: I think I'll write a blog post about it
  • R: but let's switch it over
  • me: well…I don't know
  • R: hahaha / too big a step?
  • me: well it’s not that it's a really, really big deal / it’s just, if you have to UN change it, it's devastating
  • R: i guess that's true / but i don't plan on that
  • me: no, neither do I / I guess I'm happy to switch it
  • R: you guess?
  • me: I guess I'd say, "with R__ ______"
  • R: hahahaha as opposed to?
  • me: as opposed to not saying anyone
  • R: just the blanket "in a relationship?"
  • me: right
  • R: as if people wouldn't connect it from the photos we have together
  • me: right, true / it's interesting
  • R: you are adorable
  • me: one would argue that everyone I am friends with either knows you exist or certainly should
  • R: i agree
  • me: but in my mind I don't want people being nosy about us
  • R: the people i care about know
  • me: ...like I am nosy about other people on Facebook / but I guess who cares if they're nosy
  • R: right / we put up photos of us, and I'm in your blog
  • me: I have nothing to hide / so NOT listing it so that people aren't nosy is just playing into the whole problem with Facebook / people don't want people judging them, and yet they're on Facebook to be public.
  • R: yes this is good / no one cares and there's nothing to judge
  • me: …or everyone cares and there's everything to judge / still shouldn't matter
  • R: hahahhahahah
  • me: why are you laughing?
  • R: because i love that you came up with the reverse to prove the same point
  • me: it's just as likely that it's true / the point is, we are in a relationship / and it is a lie to the digital world to not include that in our digital profiles / right? / GASP / OMG / you did it! / it just popped up in my gmail / You relationship status bombed me!!!
  • R: yup, no more discussion
  • me: I guess I have to accept
  • Rob: maybe you do / up to you
  • me: you tricked me into being your girlfriend AGAIN! / this time, digitally
  • R: sometimes you just got to move and not discuss / I’m going into a mtg / i love you
  • me: what if I just post this whole conversation as the blog post? / I think I'll do that
  • R: fine with me
  • me: fine. I love you back, but I’m not posting that on your wall ever. too public.
You're likely thinking one of several things after reading that exchange.

  1. This is a major issue, and every point Jessie raises is worth discussing.
  2. I can't believe she caved. I haven't and never will for various reasons that I will now post in the comments section of Jessie's blog.
  3. Thank god this freak found a good guy willing to deal with her.
  4. Where did I go wrong in raising this bizarre child...? (hi Mom!)
  5. Are either of these people familiar with the concept of capital letters?
Or you're thinking all of the above.

I'm currently thinking that the hype/worry was far overwhelming than the reality of life in a digitally confirmed relationship. I think another gchat convo - this one with my first little sister Dani (24) explains it best:

  • me: I'm in a relationship on the facebook
  • dani: nice work
  • me: I'm not wildly comfortable with it
  • dani: why
  • me: I've never been in one / feels like marriage / digital marriage / now I'm going to have to blog about it...
  • dani: i just went into a relationship on facebook recently too / it's just like easier
  • me: interesting
  • dani: it's easier for me to link to kyle's page / and i'm proud of my relationship / and i know you are too
  • me: excellent points
  • dani: now everyone knows you are in a loving relationship
  • me: lovely / people have been “liking” it / that's nice / except Matt "barf"-ed it
  • dani: please / he is engaged / double barf
  • me: truth
And there you have it. Now, let the judgment begin. Whether everyone cares and there's everything to judge or no one cares and there's nothing to judge, I'm very happy I accepted.


Friday, August 26, 2011

14 Things That 20-Somethings Can Do



Today's piece is inspired by a very funny essay on Thought Catalog. (Thanks to Lindsey Martin for sending it my way).

Excellent writer Ryan O'Connell has explored many aspects that make us 20-somethings inferior to the rest of the world. For this latest piece he pretends to go glass-half-full by highlighting 7 Things A 20-Something CAN Do.

I thought I'd help Ryan slash all of us out by taking the grand total from 7 to 14. Here is my own set of kudos to our more-than-capable generation. Read mine, then read Ryan's, then feel free to add your own in comments. Maybe we can get to 21 (our collective favorite age)!

1. Quit our jobs without having another job lined up

It takes guts to leave a paying job without another paying job lined up, but we 20-somethings laugh in the face of going off the grid. Unemployment? Hah! Try FUNemployement.

We won't be constrained by the man. We all paid our dues during our college internships. Now it's time for each day to be as personally and professionally fulfilling as we deserve. We don't need no stinkin' health insurance (especially if we're under 26 and can now mooch that off our parents).

2. Use Hashtags

Do you know how hard it is to take an already hysterical 140 character tweet and make it even funnier? The hashtag is the digital punchline, the golden away message of the 21st century, and we 20-somethings have a veritable degree in it. #humblebrag #whitepeopleproblems #duh - all advents of the under 30 set. You're welcome, world.

3. Acquire Debt

Give us a credit card, and we'll get 5K on it that puppy that we have zero ability to pay off in no time flat. It's easy to know how much money you have in your bank account and use only that much money to buy things. What's not easy is imagining how much money you have and spending that much, or however much what you want to buy costs - not easy for 40 year olds, that is. Mwuahaha.

4. Both Gravely Fear and Not Care At All about Turning 30

30? Ha! We laugh in its face. We're more adventurous, capable and big-picture thinking than any 20-year-olds have ever been. We elected a god-damned president, for crying out loud. 30 is the new 20 for our generation, and we welcome it with slim, toned arms.

Unleeessss it's an even numbered day...or we meet a guy who's 35...or we're about to turn 29. In that case 30 is the end of our lives. Anything we haven't done we'll never do because our lives as we know them are about to be over. Please excuse us while we go have some eggs harvested and then sign up for eHarmony.

5. Make Out In Public

Give us five vodka sodas and a dance floor/bathroom line/coat check corner and we will make magic (for ourselves). Who needs to deal with the awkward morning after conversation if you can get the whole hook-up over with that same night? Will-power is for 30-year-olds. We are democrats and we will exercise our freedom of speech in the form of passion-filled tonsil hockey because YES WE CAN!

6. Wear expensive clothes that look inexpensive

You think I got this ill-fitting grandpa sweater at a thrift shop for a buck 25? Well jokes on you! This fine knit is from a designer neither of us can pronounce, and I got it at a primo boutique for a cool $250. Why would I buy an old sweater that looks old when I can buy a new sweater that looks old?

7. Watch Jon Stewart

There are people who watch Jon Stewart and there are people who watch Jon Stewart. We 20-somethings are the latter. We watch the shit out of him, and then we watch it all again on YouTube the next day. Ask us what he said about Michelle Bachmann yesterday, because we'll quote it. Ask us who he's targeting most on Fox news, because that's who we're targeting too. Jon is not the host of a daily political satire program, he's our friend. Together we are going continue to make very smart jokes about this f-ed up world, then eventually all move to Canada.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Open Letter to The New York Times regarding this "Stayovers" business


Dear The New York Times:

Let me start by saying that I'm a big fan of your whole operation. You're doing some solid reporting on many of the world's issues under just the veil of liberalism that my coast-dwelling, 20-something peers and I appreciate.

That said, what in Tina Turner's name was that article about the "stayover" as a new form of relationship?? Did someone forget to turn in an assignment? Did you promise the Sunday Styles intern they could write a piece before Summer's end? Or is it worse than all that? Do you actually think that a "low-commitment form of cohabitation" is a new thing for the pre-married, pre-living together set? And did you actually coin a term for sleeping over at your boy/girlfriend's house?

My fear is that you actually do slash did...

If I'm reading this article correctly it is saying that people who are dating but not living together spend many nights a week sleeping over at each others' houses in the period of time before they move into the same apartment. I've gathered this fact from the following sentence: "It seems that emerging adults age 18 to 29 often spend three or four nights a week at the home of their partners on a long-term basis rather than move in together. "

These arrangements are very different from traditional cohabitation, the article says, which makes sense because cohabitation is living together and sleeping at each others' apartments is sleeping at each others' apartments. So, glad we're clear on that.

"The main difference was that stayovers formed out of convenience, whereas cohabitation tended to be more committed and directed as a possible step toward marriage or family."

Right, true. But before you're comfortable arriving at those committed steps toward marriage or family, don't you do something called dating? And during the time you're doing that thing called dating while still figuring out if you're ready to put/accept a ring on it, don't you naturally sleep at each others' respective places because sleeping together is fun? So if staying over is what all couples on a hopeful march toward living together do, then why is it suddenly a phenomenon of the 20-something set?

Here's one "clue": “Stayover couples tend to like the physical and emotional closeness of staying in with a partner rather than going out on a date,” Ms. Jamison said in a telephone interview. “But after a night in together, they could then go their separate ways.”

Oh! So stayovers are meet-ups for the sole purpose of sleeping together that do not involve traditional dates. Guys (shakes head), that's called hooking up, and it's been going on for a really long time.

Let's take a look at another one: “Even though they are staying three or more nights a week at their partner’s place, they feel very much like they’re guests there,” Ms. Jamison said. “Whereas a cereal bowl would get left in the sink at their own place, at their partners’ home they took care to put it away.”

But I put my cereal bowls away at my house and R's house because that's what clean people do. Does this mean I'm in a totally different category? Am I a Girlfriendguest? A Stayslave? A Playing House-er?

Oh wait! I didn't read down to the end yet: "While the study purported to put a name to the phenomenon and to describe it, it did not look at the overall incidence of stayovers or examine their trajectory over time. It’s possible that stayovers have been around for decades and that they exist beyond the confines of the young college-educated couples Ms. Jamison examined."

If I were to re-write this sentence it would read: But maybe everything you just read about is wrong because we didn't really do a lot of research on it, so...well...just know that.

My sarcasm-ladden point is this: If you want to write an article about how long today's couples' are waiting to move in together, awesome. I'm curious about that. If you want to write an article about the fact that people sleep together many nights a week without formalizing their relationship, also fine, but by no means news. This appears to be an article about a fun new word that means something some research has yet to really define.

So I say tisk, tisk, New York Times. You should know better than to print made up dating phenomenons because they have cute names. Or, if you don't, can I interest you in my expose on date-cations (couples are going on vacations together in mass numbers before they're married!) or my study on eye-cheaters (an undetermined percentage of men at a bar will give flirty looks to women even if those men are in relationships!!).

Fondly,
Jessie

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Checking-Out Series: Your 9-year-old self knows you very well...


Today's chapter in the Checking-Out series comes from my good friend and matchmaker Clelia who finally tapped back into her childhood passions to change her path in life.


I hated the trajectory my life was on. It was just all wrong. That much I knew six months into my first job. I was working as a lawyer at a big law firm, a seemingly prestigious and high paid job that took me three very rigorous and expensive years of law school to obtain. But being a lawyer was just not right for me. I had liked law school just fine, mostly because I like school in general, but I was never overly engaged in the subject matter. I was even less enthusiastic about my law firm job – my co-workers seemed cold-hearted due to constant stress, the cases I was staffed on were uninteresting and unrelatable, and the austerity of the corporate firm environment was stifling. The best way that I can describe the way I felt about my legal career was that it was like wearing a coat that didn’t quite fit. The coat was aesthetically pleasing, expensive and others admired it, but it just did not suit me at all.

So if this trajectory is wrong, what is the right trajectory, I wondered. And can I still get on the right trajectory was my next question. The answer to at least the first question came to me about one year into my job. My mother called me one day and told me the polite version of the following: “Our house is not an f-ing storage facility, please get your massive amounts of crap out.” As a result of this directive, I returned home to the bedroom I grew up in. Somewhat of a hoarder, I have every school paper or project I ever completed sorted chronologically in boxes in the back of my closet. I pulled out these dusty boxes and inside I found pure gold from my childhood– a collection of my original poetry written in a Little Mermaid journal, a surprisingly funny cartoon series involving a chicken and his assorted animal friends, my own addition to the Berenstain Bears series (“Too Much Nintendo”!). Sitting on the floor, surrounded by piles of my youth’s work, I went from nostalgic to upset. I was so creative as a kid, what happened to that person? As a kid, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I always answered either a writer, a children’s book author, or a teacher or college professor so I could teach about books. Where had those aspirations gone? I think they died sometime between when my well-meaning father suggested to me that Political Science or Economics were the only “useful” majors and when my equally well-meaning mother dropped the line, “When you go to law school…” for the first time.

That moment was truly an epiphany. I realized that to put myself on the right trajectory, I needed to go back to being this person who was the truest form of myself. I thought about how glimmers of this person still exist even in my business suit when I e-mail myself ideas for kids’ books or screenplays, meticulously craft and post comments on NY Times articles, or sign up for mentor activities where I can help interns with their writing.

Now that I had an idea of what direction I wanted my life to go in, I had to figure out the next step. It took about one more year to figure that out. I dabbled with the idea of getting a Ph.D in English. I also thought about just starting over completely and getting a job as an assistant to a book editor. I briefly considered the more responsible option of transitioning my legal career from the finance industry to the creative industry. In the end, I balanced my dreams and reality and I decided I would like to go into book publishing and also teach as an adjunct professor and do some creative writing on the side. I found a master’s program in Publishing and Writing at Emerson College in Boston that trains students to enter the publishing industry and also offers undergraduate teaching opportunities and writing courses. In other words, the program was perfectly tailored to my interests. I was accepted this past March.

I have a lot of friends who are unhappy in their jobs, but when asked what they want to do they say, I just don’t know what else I would do. Having been in that situation, my advice is to look back to simpler times before Blackberries or conference calls, and figure out who you were and what you loved then. Maybe your nine-year-old self has all the answers you need.

Now, I am about two weeks away from leaving my job, moving to Boston and starting grad school for the second time around. I am in way over my head in student loans, I have no idea what the future holds for me, but what I do know is that I finally feel like I am sporting a very finely tailored, sharp-looking coat that fits just right and I am absolutely delighted to be wearing it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Keeping up a relationship after the relationship



So this is interesting.

I know a couple who, upon ending their one year relationship, decided that they would commit to seeing each other for a drink or meal bi-weekly for an indefinite amount of time (yeah, it means every other week).

The idea of the arrangement stemmed from the fact that the two have very intertwined friend circles and would surely confront spending time together often in the future. So why not make those encounters intentional and avoid dealing with the awkward catch-up? Why not take the idea of "staying friends" to an institutional level by enforcing it with scheduled transition sessions?

I was pretty whoa about the whole thing.

For starters, I'm of the band-aid approach to break-ups variety. Rip it off and (respectfully) throw it out. If there's a deeper friendship there then it can certainly be explored after plenty of time passes. Any time I've tried to stay in close touch with someone immediately after a break up it's lead to additional romantic encounters that prove wholly unproductive toward the ultimate goal of not being together. (How's that for a euphemism?). I'm not saying may way is the way, but I am saying that I can't imagine having to see an ex every other week. It would be awkward. It would be painful. It would be, dare I say, a waste of time...

According to one half of the couple mentioned above, the meet-up system is effective and ultimately helpful to both parties. Yes those first sessions are a tad tough to swallow, especially if the breakup was difficult, but you do as much as you can and both come to the table with the understanding that you're doing the best you can. If it's just a quick coffee and surface level small-talk, fine. It at some point in the dinner someone gets upset, so be it. Sooner or later the relationship does grow in a different direction. Feelings will change. Awkwardness will subside.

But do they? will they? can it reeeally? I thought (to myself).

Is this one of those keep your friends close and your ex boyfriends closer? Is it built on a what- you-don't-know-can-hurt-you model? Or is it perhaps about one person instituting a system to keep the other within arms reach for an eventual let's-make-this-work-again move?

I don't know the answer (and hopefully I never will), but what say you about the idea of keeping up a relationship after the relationship is over? What's worked, what hasn't and what would you be willing to try?


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Is bickering just another form of communication?



When lacking for people I legitimately know upon which to base my blog posts, I often turn to people I illegitimately know (read: reality TV stars). I possess an above average ability to "feel like I've known you my whole life" (read: judge you super quickly) making reality television a delightful source of new best friends.

The newest additions to my circle are the stars of Planet Green's hit series THE FABULOUS BEEKMAN BOYS. By Planet Green I mean the Discovery Channel network dedicated to all things earth-friendly, and by hit series I mean the only legitimate show they're airing.

The FBB's are Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge - a gay couple who left Manhattan for a life as farmers of a gorgeous Victorian property upstate. I know what you're thinking and no, I don't know how you've gotten by without this show in your life.

Now to the point.

Josh and Brent have been together for something like 10 years, and they have a shall-we-say fiery relationship. Brent likes things to be a very certain way all the time. Josh likes things to be the opposite of whatever way Brent decides. You get the picture.

I often watch the show and think, god, if that were my relationship I would want out. Who wants to argue that much? Where's the fun in that? Isn't it damaging? Doesn't it leave mini marks that cut away at the relationship? Or is it all just surface frustration that doesn't really mean their relationship is in jeopardy?

Then Brent answered my question.

"For Josh and me bickering is just a form of communication."

HHmm. Oookay...

I think what Brent is saying is that because of their specific personalities and the way those personalities mesh with each other, bickering is natural, common, and not ultimately harmful. It's how they talk to each other. It's likely how they talk to other people in their lives. It doesn't come from a place of true anger or upset, it's just how they express themselves.

...Which is all fine and well except I personally think they could get by without it, and be a happier couple. I personally think bickering is a choice, and not a good one.

I've known lots of people in my life who are on the more volatile side. They get riled up easily; they express themselves quickly and without much thought; they feel something and then they say something. That's essentially what Josh and Brent having going on, and because they're both quick tongued and tempered they let each other off the hook. It's sort of a boy-who-cried wolf situation of the relationship arguments variety. If you bicker all the time each individual bicker loses its meaning. You're not really angry.

I think this is good because the fights aren't as severe as they may seem to the average viewer, but I think this is ultimately bad because each person gets desensitized to the real feelings of the other.

...Which brings me to my ultimate point: bickering can be controlled.

I'm still under a year into this healthy relationship thing, so I don't pretend to preach the gospel, but I do know that I sometimes feel myself want to say something nagging to R about an issue that does not requires comment. For example: I like to be very quiet in the morning as I'm getting ready for work. I live with roommates and even though we're all awake around the same time, I like to keep things around a whisper as I go about my AM tasks. I don't know why, I just do. R does not feel the same about morning time. He likes to talk and watch TV and discuss upcoming plans at yell volume from the bedroom where he is watching TV way too loudly for my taste to the bathroom where I am silently applying my bronzer. In reality, he is not loud. In my reality, he is.

If R and I were Josh and Brent this would be a major, major source of bickering. Every single morning I (as Brent) would yell at R (he has to be Josh) for every too-loud move I perceive that he is making. R would in turn snap back at me for snapping at him. This would then progress into a bigger bicker about how I'm so demanding and unreasonable, how he can't respect my wishes and on and on and on.

That fight has not and will not happen because I've decided to get over my bizarre morning issue.
And in doing so, here is what I've realized about making the decision to NOT bicker:
  • A. It can be done: By "it" I mean the decision to not snap. I think people of the bickering persuasion feel like they will absolutely burst if they don't get their point across. Turns out, you don't.
  • B. I feel better when I don't do it: Bickering is somewhat instant "gratification." You feel relief after you say your very important piece but then not good at all when it leads to a bigger fight you never intended to have.
  • C. You realize after not doing it that the thing you were about to snap about was/is subjective making it not really your right to yell about it. This one's tricky. If someone does something either undeniably wrong or very bothersome to you for really legitimate reasons, have at it (respectfully). But if you like dishwasher loaded in a very specific way that your boyfriend can't seem to get right, get over it.
And that we conclude the very important lesson we've learned from two gay men on a fledgling cable network reality show.

For more on the most significant stuff of life watch The Fabulous Beekman Boys whenever it airs on whatever channel Planet Green is in your area. And no, they didn't pay me to write this post, I just actually like the show that much...which R has graciously decided to let go ;)

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Checking-Out Series: The Big Problem with Big Corporations

This latest post in The Checking-Out Series comes from FailedAtForty - a friend and blogger who is a bit outside the 20-Nothings age-range. Her thoughts come from being in the corporate world for her entire career, but the feelings are the same as many of us who have just started. Enjoy her story below, and please keep the submissions coming to 20Nothings@gmail.com.



Several months ago, I dropped out of corporate America...again. I couldn't take the dissonance any longer. There was just something about the experience that felt demeaning, degrading or, at the very least, demoralizing. It no longer nurtured my passions nor valued the tremendous experience, creativity and strategy I brought to my work. A short list of my frustrations might include peeing in a cup, blocked websites, row after row of grey cubicles, stiff business attire, and the constant sense of urgency that seems to fall always on the individual contributors. Let me go on...
  • In order to be successful, big corporations need operational excellence. Everyone's an executor, even up to some surprisingly high levels. The larger the corporation, the narrower the role and set of skills. Conversely, my mind wants lateral movement and a wide creative berth.
  • Further, corporations are now set up to make it difficult to add full-time employees (FTEs) -- thus, if one is able to get permission to hire a new FTE, that hiring leader will most certainly try for the highest possible title or pay grade, meanwhile expecting the person who fills it to think strategically, tactically and do an enormous amount of administrative work. In other words, job dissatisfaction is surely only months away.
  • The quarterly drive for profits in public companies can lead to mixed messages, inconsistent policies and self-defeating decisions.
  • Finally, companies issue laptops and data phones, all in an effort to make workers more efficient (read: hook up the IV and suck out as much of one's life as possible).
These conditions work for some people; in fact, some thrive under such conditions. I am not one of them. I hated that feeling that I was going to have to be someone other than who I am to be successful, that soul-sucking sensation that -- as a friend so eloquently put it -- "my personality was too big for the room"...er, cubicle.

There were things about my role that I loved! I loved engaging my creative and problem-solving skills, doing amazing work and wowwing my clients. Still, too often, it seemed success had more to do with politics or kissing ass than doing great work or pleasing clients.

I worked in a place where there were reviews twice a year, where one could labor for months under the false assumption that one's work was noticed, appreciated and respected. Yet in a "development" culture, reviews mean that one is essentially told how much one sucks.

I remember once responding dejectedly to a friend's question about how work was going. When I described the current office situation, she began using technical psychological terms that she uses in her practice as a licensed therapist. "Wow," she exclaimed, "you're working in an environment where triangulation is encouraged and they 'kitchen sink' any issues they have with you. That's not a healthy culture." You can imagine how validating it was to hear that from an objective professional!

It's been more than six months since I dropped out. I've spent time with my family, done some soul searching, researched opportunities, networked my ass off and, at present, I'm back at work as a contractor at a major corporation.

Therein lies the conundrum: I don't want to do it for long, but I know this world and it's easy money for me... So this time it's on my terms: I clock in and out, work just forty hours per week -- and, perhaps more importantly, I leave my laptop at the office and don't give coworkers my mobile number. I don't think about this job outside of the office. I'm still searching for the right role or opportunity for me. It's not in the corporate world but, right now, I've managed to find work that feels natural for me, at which I perform well and that allows me the work-life balance a single mother needs.

Just don't count on me to stay too long!

Friday, August 12, 2011

L.A. 1 Year Decision Anniversary: The NY/LA non-rivalry


One year ago today I made the final decision to move to L.A. Around May of last year I made a 85% decision in my head that the move could/should/would happen by September 1st, but it wasn't until a real job opportunity presented that I set the actual date.

It was on this exact day last year that it all came together, and in magican LaLa Land fashion, the moment was sealed with a celebrity kiss (of potential death).

I was sitting on a bench at a shopping center on Sunset and Crescent Heights - the one with the Burke Williams Spa and Trader Joes - when I placed the call home to my Dad to share the big news. The sun was shining. The palm trees were swaying. I was wearing my giant aviator sunglasses even though I was sitting directly in the shade. And just as my inner pre-teen gushed the totally 90's movie line, "Daddy! It's official! I'm moving to L.A.!!" I noticed Dustin Hoffman walk past me, smile a knowing smile, and make a half-laugh half-huff that crystal clearly meant, "good luck, kid."

I fully intend to recount this story to Dustin Hoffman on set when he stars as the father in the screenplay I'm currently writing. I'll let you know how that goes.

But onto the point of this post - the infamous New York/LA rivalry.

Before moving here I wrote/talked/thought endlessly about all the makes this city suck. Upon telling people I'd made the decision to move I hear groans, moans, and other audible eye-rolls about my decision to abandon the cultural center of the world for the land of plastic and make believe. (Most) New Yorkers hate Los Angeles, and they're happy to tell you why that's the correct and only acceptable position to take.

But here's the thing I've learned after almost a year in L.A. No one here really cares.

Allow me to better illustrate this by likening it to another experience I've had with the concept of deep-seeded rivalries.

As you know, I was (and will forever be) a Boston College student. And as you may or may not know, Boston College students HATE Notre Dame. It's not just about the long-standing football rivalry, it's about the entire school. We believe everyone who elected to attend that archaic institution is an evil fool. I once declared that I would never, under any circumstances date anyone from Notre Dame, to which all my friends replied, "duh."

The list of grievances BC has against ND is long and detailed. They don't have co-ed dorms. They have curfews. They are in the middle of no where. Their football team sucks. They're all insanely conservative. The list goes on and on, all amounting to the belief that BC is superior to ND, and that no one in their right mind could think otherwise.

"They must hate their lives when they come visit our campus," a friend of mine once said.

But, see, here's the thing. They don't. They don't really care at all. Sure they get really pissed off when we beat their sports team, but other than that they're pretty happy with life at ND because they chose it. Chances are they don't have a long list of grievances against BC because they don't care enough to make one. They have their life, and they're fine with them. Most of the time I bet they don't think about the fact that B.C. even exists.

I think a similar thing is going on between NY and LA. Ask any former New Yorker how they feel about their adopted life out west, and they'll list the things they miss: the bagels, the pizza, the fact that you can walk from bar-to-bar, some of the culture that makes New York so special. Some might say they prefer New York to L.A. for various reasons, but the concept that New York is a place worth living and L.A. is a wasteland of idiots in cars doesn't really permeate here. In fact, more often than not you'll hear, "Yeah, New York is amazing, but I could never go back to living there. It's too packed, too cold, and too expensive."

They're not saying L.A. is therefore wholly better or "the best." Frankly, they don't think about it all that much. And they're not nearly as angry about the idea of New York as New Yorkers tend to be about L.A.

So, if you ask me, that's not much of a rivalry. I used to live in New York, and I loved every minute of it. I still believe New York City is the cultural capital of the universe. But I really love L.A. too. It's just that now that I live here I don't feel the need to defend that against everything I left back East.

Maybe that's because when you know you're not "the best" there's no sense in fighting? Or maybe it's because some people in some places aren't concerned about whether or not they're "the best." They're more concerned with being happy in their location of choice.

What do you say, New York and L.A.?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Why you and your boyfriend work at the same place, even if you and your boyfriend don't work at the same place



I’m bumped into my roommate Mike last weekend on his way back from a run.


“Oh…hey…you’re…here,” he said through gasps of air, “Good. I have a blog post idea.”


(Implied inside that statement was a how are you?? Great to see you?? How’ve you been??)


“The idea is that when you’re in a relationship you work together by default – even though you don’t work together technically.”


“Like, to be a supportive person you have to know the other person’s work place so well that you practically work there yourself?”


“Yeah, that’s exactly what he means,” R chimed in. The look on his face implied that Mike was right about the fact and even more right about it being an involved enough issue for a blog post.


But I need to back up a bit to best explain this whole deal.


The reason I say I “bumped into my roommate” and he said, “Oh, you’re here,” is because for the past 18 weeks, I hadn’t been.


In late April I started managing a daily web series through my current job. The show shot every day from approx. 3pm to 10pm. Because I am a full-time employee of the company I also had to work my actual job (branded content stuff), so it was arranged that I come into work between 10 and 11am. The show shot Sunday night through Thursday night so I also worked from 4pm to 10pm every Sunday. But again, because I have my usual job with the company, I still worked Fridays from 10am to 5pm (or later depending on my work load). So to recap that’s Sunday 4pm-10pm, Monday through Thursday 10am - 10pm and Friday 10am to 5pm. Math is not my strong suit, so let’s just say that’s too many hours per week…for 16 weeks…which is 4 months, or in this specific case, Summer.


My attitude about this situation was...challenging. By this I mean that it was challenge to be dealing with this weekly schedule, and that I was extremely challenging as a result.


I saw R when I could throughout the week, but it was usually for 1-2 hour catch-ups before I fell asleep mid Breaking Bad episode (we're finally caught up!!). And by "catch-ups" I mean bitch sessions about the frustrations of my days.


...Which is precisely where Mike's blog post suggestion comes in.


If you work a typical 9-6 schedule, 5 days a week you are spending about 40% of your waking life at work (I'm assuming 7 hours of sleep per night). If you work the schedule of a 20-something American (I'm going to call that 50 hours a week for the sake of an average) you are spending about 50% of your life at work. I won't do the numbers on the percentage of my life spent at work these past months, but Mike and his boyfriend John can often match if not top them at their respective places of work. So to say the details of our jobs - the people we work with, the office politics, the specific projects - are a significant part of our lives would be an understatement. And to say that we don't need/rely on/demand that the people we date know those people, politics and details would be a lie.


I go to R for advice on how to handle challenging conversations at my office. If he isn't familiar with the players at play, he can't provide the most helpful advice. R comes to me to pre-pitch his show concepts (he works in TV development). If I'm not knowledgeable on the mandates of his network or the tastes of his co-workers, I can't give him an honest critique. It's not just being able to say, "yeah, ________ is being a bitch about that, you're so right babe, and you always will be." It's "getting it" to the point of caring about it to a degree that respects that fact that 40% percent of your partners life is spent in that world.


Ergo, for all intents and purposes - when you're in a relationship you essentially work together.


Or, more specifically, when you're a work-obsessed person in a relationship with an equally work-obsessed person you're forced to work together...


Ugh. I think it's that.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My annual birthday blog post



Do you only technically turn a year older at midnight in the time-zone where you where born? So, if you're born in London but live in New York should you officially celebrate your birthday at 7pm the day before your date of birth?

The thought only occurred to me today. Today, for the first time in my now 28 years I opened my eyes in the same time zone where I opened my eyes for the very first time. It's possible that this is the most official birthday I've had since that very first one...which adds another milestone to the long list I've racked up since this same day last year .

Every year on my birthday I go back through this blog's archive and re-read the August 7th posts I've written. It's a bizarre trip down my public memory lane. Every year I go in thinking I'll read what that ridiculous 25-year-old wrote and laugh at how clueless she was, but every year I come to the somewhat calming realization that I write the same thing every time:

At 25: What's Your Scary Age? 25 though still holds a certain weight in my head – like this marker of actual adulthood signifying the end of getting away with blatant immaturity (in public). I feel like at 25 I have to sit myself down and say, “Okay, where are we are? Oats, sewn; money, squandered; gateway drugs, tried; slippery sloap through gateway, avoided; and metaphoric notches in (twin) bedposts, carved. Good work, now stop blacking out and start saving money.” It’s like from here on out I don’t have to move forward in one, focused direction, but I can’t blatantly move backward. I’ve made some solid ground and lived a life of which 80% could be shared with my parents; now my life’s purpose is to not fuck it up. 25, the year I do as I say and not as I want.


At 26: Mom, Me and Choice - We are the sum of our choices – trite but true - from as early on as we understand the concept of choice. But I think we sometimes forget that in choosing one thing, we're also choosing not another. This isn't an argument against having "it all" (there's no argument, you can't -- but that's for another day). This is just a newly 26-year-old woman (who still feels like she should be referred to as "girl") realizing what she loves about her life but what she could and might soon leave behind now that with each passing year the future changes focus.

At 27: Precisely What's So Scary About My Scary Age - I want to have that pressure of feeling like there are items to check off in my 20s. I’m excited about drawing lines in the sand and pacing to meet them. The whole idea of the gravity of this point in life is exhilarating. It’s not my scary age because I suspect I’ll find my first grey hair before I turn 2-8. It was never about that. It’s about the fact that the number 2-7- and where it falls in the scheme of life charges me with a motivation to commit to my passions and dive at the risks that requires.

(There are many things I am not, but painfully self aware isn't one of them.)

And now at 28:

I've been thinking a lot about who I am versus where I am and where I've been - circumstance versus self, if you will. This week - as if in preparation for this very post-writing purge - I had a mini break down about the degree to which my circumstances (long, exhausting hours at a job in my marketing/branding career) are preventing me from reaching my true goals (a side or fully sustainable career as a writer). I live 3,000 miles from my family to pursue those goals. I moved away from my very best friends to make them a reality. I sacrifice social life and personal time to write when I'm not at work. My circumstances affect my every day.

But I think part of being a mature person with their eyes squarely set on the prize has to do with not letting your circumstances bleed into your self. My circumstances are frustrating; my self remains hopeful. My circumstances have taken me very far from home; my self remains a fast-paced New Yorker with her family and friends on speed-dial. My circumstances make diving into a social life in L.A. harder because my time is so crunched; my self knows when to close the laptop and go to Wednesday night trivia with the gang.

When I look back at what I aimed to accomplished from 2-7 to 2-8 I see reason to be frustrated. I wanted to write more, produce more, network more. But what I all-too-often forget is that progress in your circumstance is one thing - your title, your salary, your number of books published. Progress in your self is something very different.

I moved clear across the country. I started a new job in a very different part of world I'd worked in prior. I learned the ins and outs of the industry I've always aspired to join. I now know what steps I need and want to take for at leas the next few years. And I met the guy with whom I've had the most meaningful relationship of my life.

As I read back on that list it looks far more meaningful than selling a script or staging a play. And it looks like all the elements of that self and her life at 28 is what I need to either change my circumstances to better match my dreams or deal with whatever circumstances I meet along the path to making the come true.

Either way, I'm happy, grateful, and lucky at 28 years old. Today I will have a gigantic, Mexican brunch with my L.A. family and a romantic, seafood dinner with R.

Tomorrow I will re-read this post, laugh at how deep I get after one bloody mary, and start freaking out about the fact that 30 is only two blog posts away...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"The calm" - a piece of stolen relationship terminology



I've found that a very strange thing now happens when people ask me about my relationship with R.

I have nothing to say.

"It's great," I told my sister Dani over gchat.

"We're really good," I said to Katie via text.

"I'm good, he's good, it's...

"Good?," my friend Annie parroted back over brunch this past Saturday.

"Right," I said. "I feel so lame saying that, but I just don't really have any juicy gossip or crazy stories to report. The whole situation is just...you know."

"Yep," Annie said, "I call it the calm."

(For the record it's less a light bulb and more a visualization of my writing down the topic on the blog list I keep in my Moleskin.)

Annie is a NYC-based high-end wedding planner (Calm down. This post isn't going there.) meaning she knows a thing or two about the concept of calm and the crazy of women.

"You can tell when a person is comfortable in a relationship," she said, "because they don't feel the need to over analyze and share every detail of it. They're just...calm."

I must have made some face the read, I don't understand what the hell you're talking about.

"Like, I remember you were very different when you were dating that bar tender. Totally different energy. You were more frenetic and stressed about it. Different energy. Remember?"

Not really because I mostly try not to remember dating that bar tender, but now that I can't make you take back the fact that you mentioned it...

Later that same week I had lunch with my friend Megan who is in a similarly good-all-around situation.

"Everything is going well," she told me.

"Us too," I said.

"We just went to a wedding," she told me.

"Us too," I said.

"I feel like a robot," she told me.

"Oh, don't worry about it. My friend Annie calls it the calm," I said. "Apparently it's a very good thing."

And then she gave me that same look I must have given Annie four days earlier.

I thought about how my convo with Megan could have gone if I wasn't under this apparent spell of subdued-ness.

  • Me: So we've been seeing a lot of each other, but I'm not sure I'm struggling with how to incorporate him into my friend group, you know?
  • Megan: Totally. My guy and I are okay on that front, but I'm having major issues with the fact that he treats me really differently when we're alone versus when we're with his friends.
  • Me: Ugh, totally.
And the dish-fest would proceed from there.

When I think back on it, those conversations were all one big sounding board sessions. I'd share little tid-bits under the, "so this is going on..." banner when what I really meant was, "the guy I'm dating does X. You think we're doomed too, right?" The more insecure I felt about the dude the more I'd go on and on and on about every detail (read: clue) from our "relationship."

Maybe part of all that sharing was because the girl across the table and I were in similar situations? It's easy to go gossip for gossip with a friend who's also spewing "and then he said this" vomit. Now I feel weird gushing about the latest nice thing R did for me to a currently single friend.

Or maybe it's that a stable relationship is somehow more sacred than all those 3-monthers that came and went. Sometimes I start in on a story about R and realize I don't want our quiet moments spread like trivial headlines. I don't feel the need to justify why it's good. I don't need everyone else to be secure in it.

Meaning the calm may be more aptly called the mature or the not showy about it anymore.

I still don't really know, but whatever it means, I'm glad I'm exhibiting it, by Annie's standards at least. Now if I could only convince her to write a book about it and give me some form of credit...

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Checking-Out Series: Being forced into a wrong corner by today's economy


Below is the latest in my series from guest-writers looking to purge their "I checked-out" stories for the betterment of us all. Today's story comes to us from MLB and contains an interesting look into the state of the education system.. Enjoy, and please send your own tales my way - 20Nothings@gmail.com.


Although I haven't "checked out" from my unhappy status-quo, for the past six months I've given it a good amount of consideration. I graduated from college in 2008; I did it in 4 years, never missing a beat, graduating with an English degree and ok-marks, with the idea that there was going to be a yellow brick road waiting for me on the other side of the graduation ceremony, just waiting for me to set out on the adventure of finding a great job and living life. Fast-foward 3 years and I'm 25, I haven't found a "real" job yet, my permanent residence is still at home with my parents, I'm very much single, and I have some debt because I caved around 21 and started getting credit cards.

At 24 I began to see that going down the path I'd chosen when I was 15 years old (being an English nerd I realized I wanted to be a high school English teacher) was actually not working out. I've been a substitute teacher making the bare minimum at the same high school for 4 years now. When I started at the school, my family, friends & co-workers all told me, "Oh you're putting in your dues, your time will come." Well it didn't come at 22, 23, or 24. And by the time I turned 24 & 1/2, I was having a quarter-life crisis: I was going to be half-way through my twenties, half-way to 50- and what had I done with my life??? Where was I going?? What was I doing?? Who AM I?!?!

While working at the high school, I became friendly with a 20-"something" teacher: she's older than me, she got in that window during the early to mid-2000s when there were jobs and a burst of young adults were hired all over- she has the perfect boyfriend, perfect black lab, and perfect house. She works on Martha's Vineyard in the summer, and she hooked me up with an awesome summer job working for a beach department. I work until 1pm every day then go to the beach until 6ish. I did it last summer and I'm here now. Having this experience of freedom away from my "normal life" has shown me how restrained I was living in the same place I've been since I was a child, unearthed feelings that I'm not even on a totem pole at a job I've worked at for four years, and feelings that I'm doing everything I can to impress the powers-that-be to give me a job (not just at that school, but at the 20+ other schools I've applied to and the two schools that actually gave me interviews). It's belittling, it has dimmed my charm & humor, and I'm starting to resent my educational choices and career path. I was meant to be a high school teacher: working with teenagers is my niche. But being a high school teacher is just one of my dreams & goals- not my only one. At 25 I think I'm seeing that I've put everything else on hold because the economy has put me on hold. I've been stuck in a rut for far too long, putting in dues with no promise for anything in return.

So that's why I want to "check out" as well. I think it's important to note an anonymous commenter's point that "Your friend is lucky that he has the luxury of being able to leave his job simply because he's not happy". With monthly bills & no egg of money, I don't have that luxury. Having friends out here whose family's "have money" and watching as they up-and-leave for Colorado, Phoenix, Seattle, knowing their parents can assist them, I won't lie- I'm envious.

I think I reached a point where I thought, I'm not going to be single without any ties forever. Now is the time to try- maybe I'm naive, but I have a blind faith that if I take the jump off the edge, I'll somehow get caught & land safely. If I move across the country without a job & believe that it'll work out, it will. What's the worse that could happen? I'd come back home and start subbing again. I'd be doing a disservice to myself if I didn't at least try. That's how getting onto MV in the summer started- it's wildly expensive and I wouldn't know anyone but my 1 friend, but this was my opportunity to do "something big" after college. I came out and had the time of my life, leaving here in September 2010 feeling like I'd learned more about myself in 3 months than I had unearthed in 3 years.

I have my heart set on not returning to the high school in September. Between my own schooling and college, then right into working at a high school, I have been around education for 21 years. What will it be like to do something totally irrelevant to what I am so use to? Who will I be without some form of education in my life? Maybe I'm meant to be an entirely different person than I think I am.

Mid-twenties is a time of self-discovery I have determined. I feel there is so much of me yet to unfold, and returning to the same job, wishing something permanent would come my way- is stifling. So I commend your friend for doing the hard thing and walking away from something good because he determined it was hurting who he was.