Friday, September 30, 2011

My Secret Single Behavior

In addition to people in my peer group getting engaged like it's going out of style, they're also "moving in" like there's no tomorrow.

Spoiler Alert: I may or may not be among those numbers within the coming year. Let's leave it at ... I've allowed the discussion to to be left on the table.

This is exciting. This is meaningful. This is a development in line with the rest of the developments in my late 20's life. And this is - of course - terrifying.

Brace for cliche, but instead of confronting the very real questions and fears that are a part of any sizable life transition, I just keep thinking, "when will I eat stacks of saltines standing up in my underwear while reading fashion magazines?"

Yes, that's a Sex & The City reference. It's from the episode where Carrie et al acknowledge that you grow to miss your secret single behaviors the further you get from actually being single. Carrie shares her's (skivvy glossy binges) and Miranda does the same (if I recall correctly it's watching a British soap opera while wearing deep moisturizing gloves).

It's not the fact that you cannot engage in these acts with a man in the house, it's just that it's not the same. He might thing you're crazy (which you might be). He might think you're wasting your time (which you probably are). Or - even worse - he might want to join you (and then when you say no he'll absolutely think you're a jerk). And while these are by no means habits that are significant to our personhood, there's something special about them that we long for with the prospect they might be gone.

And so, in an act of self-help/therapy I thought I'd purge my own secret single behaviors here. Deep breath. Sorry R.

  • I like to make outfits out of the clothes in my closet and then write down the pieces of the ensemble so I can get dressed faster in the morning.

  • Sometimes, I put on the songs from my old dance recital performances to see if I can remember the routines. My favorite is Real McCoy "Another Night" because it has an awesome Roger Rabbit sequence.

  • I will watch any E! True Hollywood Story that I find on and will cry at least once during the show for no good reason. It typically happens when the movie star (or Bethanny Frankle) comes back from their depths of despair to find love/win an academy award/adopt an African child.

  • If there's random left-over cheese in the fridge I will go back and forth to the fridge cutting little squares to eat until the entire chunk is gone. Yes, it makes sense to just cut up the cheese and eat it as a snack, but I prefer to make multiple visits.

  • Sometimes, I attempt to make new lipstick colors by combining the various 'sticks and glosses in my collection.

  • When I have a lot of time I'll blow-dry my hair straight and then watch hair up-do tutorials on YouTube so I can try them out. My favorite is this girl Albo Mayo. That kid can use a curling iron.

So the lesson here is that I am crazy and will probably benefit from living an environment where these habit are curtailed. Though, it would be really fun to teach R all my old dance routines.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Checking Out Series: Update from the friend who went off the grid

Below is an update from that good friend of mine who up and quit his job a few months ago.

When I last wrote, I was fresh off of making one of the most critical decisions in my life. While I was uncertain with what lay ahead, I was confident in the decision I had made, knowing that eventually the pieces would come together.

I spent the following few weeks lining up opportunities to fall back on, while making an effort to learn certain areas that I've always been interested in. My focus was on learning about the startup world, and exploring whether it made sense for me to start something on my own or join an existing early-stage startup. A good buddy and I also had been talking about writing a book/blog, so that was an option I was going to explore as well.

Without getting too into detail with names of companies, I had options on the table to join up with several startups that would allow me to be exposed to that world, learn, prove myself, and ultimately make a decent amount of money. So what did I decide to do? Well, write the book of course. The book that's titled "100 Red Flags: The hilarious, head-turning antics of perpetually single women".


Why? I don't know. It just sort of happened. I was unsure of stepping into ANY organization, even if I was employee number 2. A big reason for that is that I didn't want to be in a scenario where I still was allowing others to make every decision. I'm pretty stubborn and headstrong, which is something to work on but is also something that I know will ultimately help me lead a company.

The book (which is currently a blog, just launched) became something that I could focus on. I learned about the book publishing process, what a winning book proposal contained. I put together an entire marketing plan that would allow for the book to have success. I was working with a buddy of mine. I was getting in a groove for all of these reasons, and one more: I didn't really focus on whether or not this would make a ton of money.

Unfortunately, this has crept into my head more often lately, and with it has come an even greater focus on the book as a quick success would be proof that I made the right decision (one may ask "prove to who?"). Lots of people, upon quitting their job, would take some time off: they'd enjoy the summer, they'd go to the pool, on a vacation, whatever. I replaced work with work.

It's a crazy conundrum. I fucking love running the opposite way. I spent the first month hitting different cafes across the city, taking each in for what they offered - cool decor, interesting people, nearby delicious food I needed to try - awesome. It's refreshing and eye-opening to see people running the same direction...although walking would probably be a better description. There seems to be a special spirit amongst them, almost as if they are more real and more genuine. They look at you, they smile, they interact. They are mothers, writers, entrepreneurs, musicians, sales reps. Ultimately, though, they are just interesting.

I still have no idea what I'm doing, or what exactly I want to do, but I'm at the point now where I almost forget what it's like to run that rat race, because any race becomes a rat race. It's just easier to not to be consumed by it when you're in a tub full of rats, not an ocean.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do people really treat you differently the minute you get married?

My good friend Michelle observed a very specific change in the way people treated her after she got married - two specific groups of people, to be precise.

Michelle is a 30-year-old successful professional both well-liked and well-respected in her industry. She dated her now husband for approximately 2 years prior to their wedding day. Her now husband is an equally well liked/respected member of his respective industry. Neither Michelle nor her husband shifted anything about their professional lives directly following their marriage.

I mention these specifics to point out that Michelle's social and professional worlds were well-prepared for her nuptials. There should have been no difference in the way she was perceived directly before and directly after she said, "I do."

And yet Michelle perceived an immediate change.

We discussed her theory over lunch at Comicon down in San Diego (that's how backed up I am with posts...) - an event filled with networking parties where 5 min catch-up run ins and sub 10 min "agentings" reign. It was there that Michelle really noticed the difference in how the single, unmarried set was responding to her new relationship status.

It was hard to define, she explained, but there's this sense that they now think of her as, "done" - unavailable, uninterested and bound for a life of falling asleep to a movie on the couch. (note: my words, not hers). Even though she was just as committed to her boyfriend throughout their entire pre-marriage relationship, there was a shift in the way she felt considered now that they were married. It was as if, she explained, they now assumed she had no interest in single, unmarried things. Plus - though she couldn't fully put her finger on this - there was less of an "edge" to the way she was spoken to. If there was any air of a flirt from a male colleague before, it was gone now. If a female industry contact would previously dish dating gossip prior, she wouldn't now. It was as if she'd lost her membership to the single people club.

What she got in return was an unspoken membership to the married people club. They treated her like she'd finally arrived. The husband jokes started flowing. The couples' dinner invites increased. There was, the described, this sense that she was now to be taken seriously because she was a married woman. Michelle won't be out boozing with the girls, their attitude suggested. Michelle won't hook up with the Summer intern. Michelle isn't a threat. She's married. (again, my words. Married or not, Michelle would never hook up with the Summer intern).

I believe Michelle unconditionally, but I couldn't (didn't want to?) wrap my head around the reality of the insta-switch. Was the single set really pulling a, "well, I'd invite you to the party but your married now." Could a Club Wed filled with "don't you hate when he leaves his shoes around the house" really pop up so quickly?

I ran this theory by a married, male co-worker - a guy I suspected would meet the story with a, "it's all in her head." Instead I got instant agreement and further elaboration.

"It goes company by company," he said, "Some places are more family-focused. But in the higher level positions being married is a sign that you're serious - about your job, about your life, about everything." Before you take that giant plunge, he explained, you're just one drunk Christmas party away from being the hook-up talk of the town. And much as this town revolves around gossip, no one wants their VP to be the one in that spotlight.

But could there be that much of a difference between someone who's in a committed relationship and someone who signed a marriage license?

"Yes," he said, "it isn't final 'til it's final."

I wonder if this is an L.A. phenomenon... And L.A. entertainment industry phenomenon?... I wonder if the single set just acts weird because they're jealous... I wonder if married folk are all quietly judging the pre-married among them... And I wonder if this is a product of "just married" status or something to content with from wedding on out...

Agreements? Arguments? Thoughts?

Friday, September 23, 2011

20-Nothings 2.0

I decided that after almost 4 years it was time for a blog re-design! I think the new look is decidedly more "I'm-in-my-late-twenties-now" than my original.

Special shout-out of thanks to Brittany Holloway Brown who successfully re-created me in cartoon form. She knew just what I meant by, "can we try a booty...maybe in a leopard print?" Also, my hair never looks that good.

You can expect the same twice to thrice-weekly postings on the same mix of subjects moving forward.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I don't think Zooey Deschanel is damaging the progress of modern women. Do you?

Tonight I will be one among the (hopefully) millions of people oggling at Zooey Deschanel as she makes her network television debut in Fox's 20-somethings comedy NEW GIRL.

It will be the second time I watch this exact episode of television. The first was when the pilot was passed around the TV biz earlier this year (L.A. plus column item #43: advance screeners).

I liked 85% of it then, and I expect to like 75-79% of it tonight (my second impression opinion generally experiences a 8-10% dropoff from my first. Sorry UP ALL NIGHT). I this the premise (dumped girl moves in with three rando bros) is promising. I think the writing (Liz Meriwether of NO STRING ATTACHED fame) is strong. And I think Deschanel's portrayal of Jess (extra points for perfect naming!) is wonderfully, quirkily charming (stop trying to make "adorkable" happen, Fox).

But apparently it will be in that final category where I differ from some female bloggers out there. Apparently there is a contingent that finds Zooey Deschanel uniquely damning to the progress of modern women. No, it's true. New York mag wrote included it in an article. There's a chapter heading called "Deschanel's polarizing effect on women."

I fancy myself fairly in touch with today's woman, but this one caught me off guard. Is it a pro/con bangs debate? A group of angry brown-eye-girls lamenting territory lost? Women Against Actresses Who Insist Upon Being Indie Singers (go back to your day job Johansson!!)?

No. Apparently it's this:

"...they resent her for seemingly playing into the male fantasy that women are only attractive when they act like girls. Plenty of blog posts have used Deschanel as a launchpad for this very debate. Then there’s grumbling that while alt-heroines of the past (Winona Ryder, Parker Posey) had a kind of edge to them, Deschanel is all sweetness and light: not enough kohl on the lens."

Right now you're either going, "Yeah!! Bleep that sugar sweet minx!" or "I'm sorry, what??" But it's true. I did my Internet searching. People really do think she's harming the progress of "real" women. Case in point: kittengate.

"On June 4, Deschanel sent out the following tweet: “I wish everyone looked like a kitten.” It got retweeted “100+” times, and then was cited in a post that comedian Julie Klausner wrote, picked up by, decrying the trend of grown women who play ukulele, like crafts, and tweet about kittens. Klausner’s gist was that women who act girlie are “in it for the peen” and shamelessly trying to “broadcast to men that we won’t bite their dicks off,” and that their behavior is making it harder for the rest of us to get taken seriously. “The larger issue is that it is a lot easier for men—or even guys or bros—to demean us if we’re girls,” she wrote. “It’s much harder to bring down a woman, or to call her a moron, when she’s not in pigtails.""

It was somewhere around, "women who act girlie are 'in it for the peen,'" that I decided to write this blog post.

I don't know if Zooey Deschanel is "in it for the peen" or subconsciously portraying a character who is...I can't type that phrase again. She seems happily married to a man who is quoted in this article saying, "I don't really think there's a whole lot of mystery about Zooey...Who she is in private is a very similar person to the one you see in public." Her public life and private life do seem extremely consistent leading me to believe that she actually is the kitten-loving, sugar sweet, sing-song extrovert she portrays in real and Internet life.

But I don't think the "People Against Zooey" are upset about her integrity; I think they're upset about her person. I think they think that in being who she is she's tearing up the pavers laid by liberated women who don't want to wear Mad Men dresses or bake cupcakes to get a man. I think they think her throw-back tendencies (knitting, folk singing, hew-hawing) are so aligned with a 1950s housewife that she'll permit men to behave like 1950's husbands.

In the words of one among the anti-ZD set: “It’s much harder to bring down a woman, or to call her a moron, when she’s not in pigtails.”

Is it?

Listen. I get it. I don't (didn't...) want to have to play a part to hook a man. It bothers me to think that men are looking for an archetype of a woman and not a real woman.

But isn't the whole point of feminism that it's the person underneath the dress slash pants suit that matters? Aren't we supposed to be able to wear short skirts if we like our legs but still demand respect in the bed/boardroom? Can't Zooey Deschanel be bake cookies for her boyfriend every single day and still maintain equal footing in their relationship? Why does being sweet automatically equal being submissive? And isn't it the projection of that idea that's ultimately most damaging to women - the idea that looking like one things means you are automatically another?

I actually think Liz Meriwether - the real Jess from NEW GIRL - responds best:

“If you feel upset with how cute someone is, maybe you should go outside and run around a little. Get some air.” Deschanel agrees. “That people equate being girlie with being nonthreatening … I mean, I can’t think of a more blatant example of playing into exactly the thing that we’re trying to fight against. I can’t be girlie? I think the fact that people are associating being girlie with weakness, that needs to be examined. I don’t think that it undermines my power at all.”

What say you(s)? Do you hate ZD because her cuteness is undermining your feminism? Or do you just hate her because of her seemingly innate ability to match her dresses with her eyes?

Monday, September 19, 2011

A case for test-driving adulthood: moving in edition

No, this is not about me...yet.

The following guest post is from a good friend and great writer who is exploring a new phase in her relationship through a lens I think many of you will totally understand. Enjoy!

ADULTHOOD: Training Wheels Needed!

I am the queen of taste tests – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever walked into an ice cream shop and not asked for a sample before placing my order.

And if you think about it, all of our lives we’ve been able to test, demo or somehow ease our way into next life-changing situation.
We had training wheels on our first bike, floaties on our arms as we learned to swim, training bras, driving permits, kitten heels before stilettos, college visits, internships... we can even try on clothes before we buy them! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to try something first before committing to your final decision!

So why is it as we get older life’s little “taste tests” seem to become less frequent?...

Earlier this year my boyfriend and I were talking about moving in together since our leases were up at the same time. However, my apartment building would let me shift to a month-to-month lease his would not. So instead of fully committing to a move-in, I decided to keep my apartment just in case I needed it but go ahead and mostly move in with him.

I needed to test it out - not because I wasn’t sure if I’d like living with him (I knew we would be fine and it would be fun), but more because I didn’t want to make a big decision without sampling the situation.

(Before I continue, I should mention that I’m glad I kept my tiny apartment because now that I’ve gone freelance I use it as an office.)

But just the other day, the boyfriend proposed that I get rid of my apartment and that we move into a bigger apartment where we could both work at home (he currently works from home as well).

My gut reaction: “Okay, good idea, but can we test it out for a couple weeks to see if I can work in the same vicinity as you?”
Instead, I told him that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get any work done with him in the next room (I’d just want to hangout together all day!), but that it’s something we can continue thinking about without making any promises yet.

Obviously I’m an over thinker, I analyze everything – but am I crazy to think that we deserve a little more testing before jumping into the biggest life decisions? Just like all those childhood lessons we practiced before fully diving in, shouldn’t adult life moves offer the same? How do you all feel about “taste tests” in real-life? I’d love to hear some of your stories and ideas on this tricky one.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Is it ok to date someone you know you'll eventually break up with?

This is one of those questions that I've always thought about but never put to blog post.

Say you're just out of a long-term relationship, or say it's been years since your last legit relationship, or say your Mom is more on your case about the fact that she thinks you're a lesbian than she's ever been before. Whatever the circumstance, you want a boyfriend - not a husband, not a bleep buddy - the goal is a man on your arm/at you dinner table/with you for your friend's birthday party.

So you find yourself a boyfriend. Maybe you meet him casually through some friends. Maybe you meet him online. Doesn't matter. God grants a miracle and you end up with someone who you want to be your boyfriend...for now.

The "for now" is where today's question comes in.

See, you like this guy. You and this guy have fun. You are not afraid to introduce this guy to your friends. Buuut, deep down you know it isn't going anywhere. There's just something about him or you two as a couple that doesn't have long-term potential. I won't start to list things because that will only prove how shallow my mind can be. For purposes of this conversation let's just say he 100% doesn't want kids and you 100% do. Fine.

Now the question is - is it wrong to date him? You know you're eventually going to break up. Does that mean you're leading him on? Does that mean you're lying about your real feelings? I mean, you like him right now, there's no doubt about that. Right now you are a good/fun/happy couple. At what point are you doing the "wrong thing" - if ever? When you find out how much he likes you? After the very important (according to me) 3-month mark?

I actually don't know the answer. This is partly because I've done the "expiration dating" thing so I fiercely defend an individual's right to enjoy a relationship for the sake of enjoying a relationship, not for the sake of marriage. That said I've also been expiration dated, and it doesn't feel nice when someone dumps you after month five because they always knew they weren't interested in month eleven.

So what say you, my Internet peanut gallery. Is it never right? Is it always fine, to a point? Or is there more to this whole ordeal then I have time to figure out on a Friday morning?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why I can't bring myself to be a bohemian

I have an overwhelming desire to go "off the grid." To leave the life of corporate America and make my living off freelance things until I (god-willing) make it as a full-time writer. It's a desire I've been toying with for oohhh six plus years.

And yet for the past six plus years I have moved from job to job without so much as a one week break. One time I actually stopped one job and started a new one on the same day (1/2 day morning at one, 1/2 day afternoon at the other). This is in part because I'm one of those Millennial grads with negative life savings, a healthy pile of student loans and a degree for the industry that pays its entry-level work force in experiences. I haven't technically had the luxury of going boho.

But that's mostly an excuse. Plenty of people get by without corporate jobs, and some of them even make more money than I have over the past six years. Plenty of people are waitresses, bartenders, tutors, or nannies. Some people work part time as a receptionist and cover the rest of their living costs by writing articles for blogs or magazines. I used to know a guy in Brooklyn who was a personal trainer so he could afford to be an actor. Those people pay their rent, contribute to their student loans, and manage all the other life expenses that have had me tied to a 9-7 since I graduated from college. That's because those people can handle the life of a bohemian (a word I'm falsely using as a catch-all to describe people who do not make a living inside a traditional corporate or business structure. Please just go with it).

I'm not entirely sure that I can.

I've been thinking a lot about this idea of leading an alternative lifestyle as I struggle to find enough time to pursue my writing projects. Every non-desk-job prospect seems like the smarter path to finding more time for creative pursuits. Plus, I've worked many a make-money job in my time - the hostess/waitress/Banana Republic employee type. It's nothing I can't handle, and I'd go so far as to say I was a better waitress than I've ever been Microsoft Office Suite user.

And yet no matter how much I long for the bounce-around lifestyle so many Angeleno slashies (i.e. actress/waitress/shopgirl) have successfully mastered, I'm terrified to take that leap. I think there's a chance I'd make a crappy bohemian. Insane, I know!! My Pinterest Boards are super eclectic, and I can make no fewer than five other accessories out of a vintage scarf (including a handbag!!). I've never had a ton of money, don't need much to be happy and actually think Ramen noddles are delicious. Plus I'm really excellent at structuring my extra-curricular time (barring re-runs of So You Think You Can Dance popping up).

So then what's my hang up? Why am I so sure I'll fail if I attempt to make it without a real business card? Here's what I can come up with, fully un-aided by a self help book!
  • I'm uncomfortable in a world without titles. My mother is a Director of Curriculum. My father is a Creative Director. My friends are accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, directors of development, urban planners. Right now I'm a something too - I'm a director of branded entertainment - something that has cultural capital in a world where people "get" what you do by the title of your job. If I become a writer-who-hasn't-sold-anything-and-gets-by-on-several-odd-jobs, where does that leave me in the eyes of the world? I have an expensive education. Shouldn't I have a job title to match?
  • I don't think I'd feel stable without salaried income. This one's somewhat legit, somewhat neurotic. I've never not known exactly where my next paycheck is coming from and how much money it will contain. The thought of getting by on a series of jobs - waitress?, script reader?, freelance writer? - is scary because I have real bills to pay and don't have the luxury of a benefactor on speed dial. My friend Erica owns her own publicity firm - a move she bravely made after years working for other PR companies. "You can't fathom how motivated you'll be to make money once you're fully responsible for the money coming in," she told me the last time I went through this same freak out. Maybe she's right. Maybe she's wrong. I may or may not ever know.
  • I wonder if it will actually be as glorious as it is in my head. What if the bohemian life is actually more frustrating than corporate life? What if you think you'll have more time to write, but you actually work far more hours trying to pay the bills? What if being disconnected from colleagues at a company is actually really lonely? What if you never wear another blazer again because bohemians don't have a need to wear blazers??
Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I selfish? Am I naive?

If your life is like the vague catch-all term I'm using to describe non-traditional, please share your feelings on the matter. And if your life is like mine, please contact me so we can hang out and complain about the desire to have a less stable life during this country's least stable economic period in recent history. I'll pick the bar.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten years ago today

Ten years ago today was the third day of my very first year of college - quite literally the third day of what I then thought was my adult life.

I remember the haircut of the woman in the elevator of Devlin Hall who said the words, "terrorist attack on New York City," - that's how specific that time still is in my mind. It was a brown, straight-haired bob, and she wore a brown tortise-pattern head band to keep back off her face. I remember hearing her and thinking, "god, the news media is so alarmist."

Professor Eric Strauss' survey of bio class was in a giant lecture hall that had one of those floor-to-ceiling screens for projecting videos and powerpoint presentation. People were gathered outside the room frantically attempting cell phone calls. One girl was crying into the arms of a guy I vaguely recognized. My brain made the connection between what the woman on the elevator said and this scene outside the classroom, but the reality was still confused - like I was watching a movie of these events, not participating in them.

The minute I entered the classroom that vantage point switched. Strauss was projecting CNN live onto that giant screen, and the picture I walked into was of the second plane crashing into the tower. I don't remember the exact chain of events from that moment until the moment I came to and remembered that my Dad was in an office building 50 blocks from whatever the hell was going on at the Twin Towers. I watched one or maybe both of the towers collapse on that big screen. I heard shocked screams and cries from my classmates. I saw Professor Strauss cover his face with his hands then emerge with watery eyes to say, "We cannot have class right now. Please go make sure you family and friends are safe."

I didn't have any friends in that class yet, so I wandered alone outside to massive campus plaza to try for cell reception. People were standing around in clustered crying, passing phones around or catching each other up on the events. I remember searching the area with my eyes for absolutely anyone that I recognized, but I didn't find a single person. My roommate was still asleep in bed. The few friends whose numbers I had at that point where unreachable since none of our phones worked. I had absolutely no idea what to do.

The priority was calling home, so I went back into Devlin Hall and searched for a office that would have a land line. There was a short line of desperate people like me waiting to call home from the biology department office, so I waited my turn. "My dad works on Madison and 51st," I told one of the ladies in the office. "I'm so sorry sweetheart," she said. I didn't know her. She didn't know me. And neither of us knew what to say.

I got a hold of my Mom on the first try. She had already communicated with my Dad who was safe uptown but trapped in the city. He and some co-workers who also commuted from New Jersey were devising a route home through Long Island or Queens since all the tunnels and bridges had been shut off. "Try not to worry," my Mom said, "just go back to your dorm and stay far away from the city."

Boston College is a good 10 or 12 miles from the center of Boston and even further from Logan Airport where we quickly learned one or more of the planes had originated. I lived in freshman housing that was another mile or so from the school's main campus. And now 1+ hours into the attacks I was still completely alone. I distinctly remember having the desire to sit in the quad or on the steps of O'Neil Plaza so that one of the few people I knew might find me. I remember making a list in my head of the people I would feel comfortable crying in front of - thinking, "it would be good to sit here and have Joe find me because I think I would be ok crying in front of Joe." In the end I took the campus shuttle back to my freshman housing. There were 50-or-so freaked-out looking freshman on that shuttle, but again I didn't know a single one of them.

I spent the rest of the day holed up in my 12x12 foot double with my roommate Jenny flipping between network coverage. The rumors of new friends or acquaintances who'd lose family members or friends trickled in throughout the day. That night my best friend from high school who was just down the road at BU came to stay with us at BC. People were still very nervous about what could happen in the centers of other prominent U.S. cities, so our suburban campus was a safe refuge. I think he stayed for two or three days because no one really knew what could happen. No one really knew what did happen.

"Are you going to write a September 11th post?" R asked me a few days ago. "I don't think so," I replied, "I don't really have anything to say."

I was born and raised outside New York City, but I was detached from 9/11 by distance and - thank god - a lack of connection to anyone involved in the atrocities. It was like it didn't happen to my city, my family, my version of the world.

"I think I'm actually sadder about 9/11 today than I could bring myself to be when it first happened. How terrible is that?" I asked R. "Sometimes things don't make sense until you have a lot distance," he told me.

I have never been an adult in a pre-9/11 world; I was 18-years-old when it happened. I have never flown alone without taking off my shoes. I have never lived in a New York with the Twin Towers in its skyline. I have never learned of a major disaster - from a pipe bursting to a wide-spread power outage - and not thought it was a terrorist attack. My adult reality is one in which this country is a target. My attitude about flying on airplanes or living in downtown Manhattan is not, "there's no danger in that," it's, "we can't live lives governed by fear."

I think what makes me more sad about 9/11 today than I was a decade ago is the realization that America no longer stands apart from the rest of the world as this utopia of safety and power. Whether or not that feeling was ever grounded in reality, I grew up believing that there was the rest of the world, and there was us. We were rich. We were powerful. We were invincible.

Since 9/11/01 America has become more and more like the rest of the world. We are debt-ridden. We are a political mess. We are out of work. We are poorly educated. Those attacks were not the direct cause of this country's devolution, but I cannot help but wonder where we would be if they never happened. Would we have gone to war in Iraq? Would the stock market have collapsed? Would Obama have lost or won? Would the economy be the mess it is today? I don't know.

For the past ten years we've had to be sharper, brighter, more attentive, and more aware. We've had to have a bigger world view than we've had in my lifetime and that of my parents. We've had to reckon with what it feels like to live in a place that other people want to destroy.

I think the reason I'm sadder about 9/11 today than I could bring myself to be ten years ago has a lot to do with how detached I was as a brand new freshman with five friends to my name. But I think the other half of it is the feeling that we haven't done what we were supposed to do in these past ten years to fully recover or - more importantly - to advance.

Yes, installed protections to prevent a 9/11-scale attack from happening again. Yes, we got Bin Laden. Yes, we are winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I feel like so many of the struggles this nation continues to battle fly in the face of that progress. We are a united force against terror and yet our congress can barely pass a single bill. We help create and restructure a democracy in Iraq and yet we can't agree on a process to build jobs here in America. I don't believe we're wasting our time elsewhere and ignoring our problems at home. I believe we should be great enough to do both.

I feel like we command the respect of the world and yet often don't behave like we deserve that respect. These are bold statements at the end of a long essay in the middle of a tough day, but they are how I feel about my America ten years after the greatest attacks on its soil.

I have faith, hope and appreciation for this country because I believe it has the potential to overcome any tragedy we experience. In many, many ways we have overcome the events of September 11th, but in many more we remain scarred and debilitated.

I would like to be wholly proud of this country again in my adult lifetime. So today in addition to remembering those lives we lost and being grateful for the heroes of 9/11, I am thinking about what I hope this entire country will look like ten years from today and wondering how I can be more a part of making it match my vision of what America should be.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What $5 bills taught me about relationships

I currently have $555 in rolled-up five dollar bills jammed into a Pat O'Brien's hurricane glass that sits on my bed stand. Please don't rob me.

How and why they got there is a fairly simple story.

Sometime around month two of dating I proposed the idea of saving $5 bills to R. It's an idea that my friend Michael once told me his friend Paula did with her now-fiance Adam (congrats guys!). So, I stole it.

The process is as simple as it sounds: both members of the couple save all five dollar bills that they receive as change. If you pay for a drink with a twenty and get two fives in return those must immediately go into a separate part of your wallet called the no-touch-zone where they're stored until you transfer them to the bigger pot. Or, if you're R you can just keep them with the other bills in your wallet because you possess the will-power to not spend them.

R agreed that the idea was fun slash smart, and we started immediately. As he puts it, five dollars is not enough to notice but definitely enough to add up. We have since spent chunks of $1-200 for various special occasions and trips and will soon spend the full amount saved on a fun weekend getaway to celebrate having been together for one year (R: "Why are you so opposed to saying Anniversary!" Me: "I don't know. Just sounds so serious." R: "It is!").

That's the how and why behind this extra chunk of dough. Oh, also, the Pat O'Brien's hurricane glass was a very clever Hannukah gift from R because we originally intended to spend the money on a trip to New Orleans. Turns out those cost way more than $555.

But as this blog post title suggests, there has been a surprise element of "what" to the $5 ordeal - specifically, what I've learned about being in a relationship, one five dollar bill at a time.

I am dating a man who commits to a task
Prior to beginning the $5 bill charade I would have called R driven, persistent, and future-focused. I had a good sense that he was the kind of guy who wouldn't give up easily. He seemed competitive about things that are important to him.

Today I would call him obsessively committed to projects he finds worthwhile, especially if they involve saving money for fun things (read: meals). The minute we started this little savings game it was as if he was put on this earth to save five dollar bills. On several occasions I witnessed him ask a cashier at Whole Foods if she could deliver his change in fives. Twice he scolded me in public for presenting a five dollar bill as potential tender. "That bill is frozen!" R once said, "You know the rules!"

In R's opinion, a project isn't worth agreeing to if you're just going to pick and choose when you do it. ...Which miiiight explain why he has not verbally committed to cleaning out his closet and uses language like, "that might be something I could do" when the topic is broached.

Lesson here: It's not a bad idea to find out how "game" your guy can be about something that benefits the collective. People who commit to things like saving money are generally more comfortable committing to things like other people.

It is important/nice/special/helpful to have "things"
Perhaps the most vague paragraph heading I've ever written, but what I'm getting at is very specific. The five dollar bills are "our thing" - they're something we decided to do together so we could have collectively slush funds for special events or occasions. They are simple. They are silly. They are often a source of frustration and bickering, but they are our thing.

I admit that the "we have a special thing" about this whole thing was not immediately my favorite part. My tough, former New York romantic exterior makes me averse to some elements of romance and couple "mush." But R's insistence on elevating this joint project to super special status - the Pat O'Brien's jar, the bi-weekly counting of the bills, the little list we keep of where and when we'll spend it - changed my tune. "We've gotta celebrate stuff," he said to me after I eye-rolled his $5 fan-fare, "That's what this is about."

Lesson here (brace for mush): relationships are built on many grand and important things, but I've come to be convinced that it's the silly little celebrations inside them that make you a unit, and not just two people who happen to be dating.

When you commit to not spending your own money you're not losing that money
I have a problem with finances. Well, technically I have a problem with numbers and math that presents as a problem with finances as it is my understand that finances are governed by numbers and math. So when I "lose" five dollars to the five dollars jar I feel as though I am losing money that I desperately need to break even on the monthly budget that I've built in my head using shapes and colors.

Nothing makes me more frustrated that getting three fives back as change from a twenty dollar bill. I have on multiple occasions asked if the cashier has singles instead.

But - and this is important - I never do that in front of R. I respect his love for the fives. I (mostly) want to save as much money as possible so we can do fun things. And I will admit that I've come to love the fan fare of the bi-weekly countings.

Lesson here: I used to feel like having those extra five dollar bills was more important than my commitment to the plan or my "special thing" with R. Now I think they're far less important around the 1st and 15th of the month and about even most other times. Or, in other words, pay attention in math.

I welcome and encourage the stealing of our little five dollar savings plan to fund your own special occasions. I also welcome and encourage you to share your own stories of lessons learned from "silly little plans" in comments. And yes, I know they're not really silly.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Great Love-Puppy Debate

I am as mortified that I've never heard the term "Love-Puppy" in my four years of relationship-blogging as I am grateful to Sarah for bringing me up to speed.

For those of you even more in the dark than I - a love-puppy is the dog you get with your significant other when you're feeling pretty confident that things are going to work out long-term. No, not your fiance. And no, definitely not your spouse. What makes the love-puppy a "love-puppy" and not a "fur-baby" is the fact that is joins the family prior to the family technically existing.

He or she most commonly comes into play right after you move in together, though shopping for breed and selection of name begin months prior. It's, "I've always wanted a dog..." then, "Well we should get one!" then, "but we don't live together..." and finally, "So when we move in together can we get a dog??"

I'm told the real puppy purchase doesn't happen until you go "pretend" look for dogs one afternoon because there aren't any good movies out and all your friends are busy. That's when, "a dog would be sooo fun," becomes, "he had us at woof-woof..." (that being the caption under the camera phone image you upload to Facebook the minute you get the dog).

I should mention at this point that I have done zero research on this not-at-all-a-phenomenon (so look out for an article about it in the Sunday Times...three years from now!), so I cannot tell you if the love-puppy is something one half of the pair pushes for versus the other or if it's always mutual. I also don't know if the girl (in a hetero set-up) always makes the pup-play before the guy (or vice versa), nor do I know if there is any form of legal documentation one must file over a dog sos to denote who exactly owns the dog (maybe there can be two owners?).

All I do know is that I personally think love-puppies are risky business. Not "a bad idea for every couple, ever" and not "destined to cause disaster" - just risky. Here are my two main reasons why:

1. If you have been dating for 7 years, living together for 5 I think it's fair to say that your life together is not in transition. If you have dated for under 1 year and just moved in together 3 months ago I think it's fair to say that your relationship is in the middle of a fairly big transition. And just because you successfully moved your 89 pair of shoes into his mini walk-in without a monster fight doesn't mean you are ready to jointly care for a new canine life. My opinion: just give it a little time. No one ever looked back on their life together and said, "you know what would have made everything better? If we'd gotten Princess Buttercup the month we moved in together instead of a year later. We really blew it on that one!"
I won't get into why raising a puppy can be a difficult thing for an un-tested couple to manage or why it's a good idea to take things slow when newly co-habitating. We all know all those bullet points, and they are by no means fact. This point of this point is just to say that it cannot hurt to wait, but it can hurt to rush into it before you're ready.

2. Forgive the debbie downer outlook, but what happens if you two don't make it? If the puppy was a baby you'd go through difficult divorce proceedings to determine how custody should be split. Maybe that happens with a dog if you're divorcing? I don't know the legality of it, but if there is nothing binding the couple, that makes for a messy situation should the relationship end. Whose dog is it really? Do you do doggy visitation rights? Do you split all the dog's vet bills?

I know that making a decision based on the worst-case scenario is no way to live your life, and that no one who gets a love-puppy plans on breaking up. So I guess the thesis statement of this point becomes the same as the one prior - why not wait? Most people would say it's a big step to have a baby before you're legally bound. Why is a dog any different? (that's not a rhetorical question. I'm actually working through this issue in my head).

Those are two points on one specific side of the divide, but someone could just as easily say that puppies bring couples together, teach important lessons in co-habitation and are absolutely nothing like having a child. Again, I don't know, I've never raised a puppy or lived with a boyfriend. I just know that I'd personally want to wait if a puppy was proposed (which it hasn't been. This is not a, "hey R...did you have a chance to read the blog today...").

What's your opinion? What's your experience? Or what's your love-puppy's name?

Monday, September 5, 2011

L.A. Exactly One Year In: Oh the things you will learn to love

This is coincidentally my 365th day of living in Los Angeles and 600th 20-Nothings post, so I guess it better be good.

One year ago today I arrived in L.A. on a Virgin America flight during which I drank two mini bottles of champagne, cried my eyes out to SEX & THE CITY 2, and wrote this blog post.

Today I am sitting in the backyard of my West Hollywood house trying to decide whether or not I feel like I thought I'd feel one year in...

The more I think about it the more I realize I had no idea what this transition would be like. I think there's something about blindly following a passion (and by blindly I mean hemming and hawing for 2+ years then developing a 6-month project plan to make it happen) that affords you the rare opportunity to only see what's directly before you. I took my L.A. move one-step-in-front-of-me-at-a-time, so I wasn't remotely focused on the steps 365 days in the future.

And yet here I am, 365 days in the future.

They say it takes three years to really feel adjusted to Los Angeles. I'm an overachiever, so I like to think I'm through at least two of those three. There are things I expected to love about L.A., and I do love them. There are things I didn't expect to love about L.A., and I think I love them more. And then there are things I'm still learning to even understand about L.A., and I think I love that process the most.

For now, in honor of how good she's been to me over the past 12 months, I'm going to focus on 10 very specific things that make thrilled to call L.A. my current home. Prepare for schmaltz. I'll try to keep it in check.

  • My frequent Saturday-at-9am hikes with R up to Griffith Park Observatory where we decide how far and long we'll go based entirely on how much we want to pig-out at Home Restaurant in Loz Feliz when we're done.
  • Knowing that no matter what specific sector of "the biz" my friends out here work in, they're all fighting the same fight I'm fighting to be a part of creating something I'm proud of. In other words, misery is less miserable with company.
  • It's not the fact that the beach is 20 minutes away it's that I have a secret beach parking spot and beach-sitting section organized around the Santa Monica shopping I want to do pre or post beach.
  • Outdoor heat lamps (or rather, the predominance of). Even though Adam is right - they are the most egregious form of human waste on the planet.
  • The joys, hysterics, and out-of-this-world theme parties that come with my Three's Company living situation (in which I'm John Ritter and the two girls are two gays).
  • Getting 2, 4, 8, 15? people together for bench seats at a Hollywood Bowl show then pre-gaming it with enough, bread, cheese and screw-top bottles of wine to feed the entire audience.
  • My salsa red Jetta. Despite the insufferable traffic we often find ourselves in together. She corners on a dime, parallel parks in the smallest of spots, and is happiest with the moon roof open, just like me.
  • It's 2 hours to San Diego, 2 hours to Santa Barbara, 4 hours to Vegas, and a $99 flight to San Francisco/Sonoma. I've taken more weekend trips in my one year here than I took in my five years in New York.
  • The L.A. life schedule - early to bed, early to breakfast. Every once in awhile I miss my former life of 4am falafel binges at Mamoun's, but mostly my liver and I are grateful for the slower pace of the social goings on out here.
  • And finally, the sunshine. I know it seems ridiculous to place so much value on the weather - as all Southern Californians do - but it absolutely, positively makes a difference in every day life out here. It's energizing, it's motivating, and it's just plain beautiful.
I have a feeling this list of ten will expand as I make my way to a second anniversary in L.A., but for now I'm grateful these and the many other loves that I've found out west.

And I'm very, very grateful to all the people back east whose love and support have made all my Los Angeles discoveries possible.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Is Everybody EnGAGED?!?!

You know that scene in IN & OUT - the classic "Kevin Kline-realizes-he's-a-gay-man" romp - where Joan Cusak melts into a drunk puddle upon finding out that yet another man connected to her fiance is gay. "IS EVERYBODY GAAAAAY?!?!" she wails.

Well that's the move I pulled (minus the wedding dress, but including the piercing mid-western accent) upon finding out that yet another of my friends proposed last weekend.


I've lost track of the number of people I know in the 25-32-year-old range who've become affianced in the past six months. College friends. Work friends. Family friends. People I'm not really friends with at all but feel guilty de-friending on Facebook. It's's like exactly what they told me it would be like when I hit my late 20s. "They" being everyone who'd been there, done that. "It'll creep up on you," they said, and they were right.

But the fact that it has doesn't explain the fact that it did. Or, in clearer sentence, why is everybody getting engaged? What is it about human nature/culture/history that makes the current age of settling down around the 28th year of life?

Here are my theories to date:

The biological clock thing
Last weekend I was at a BBQ that featured this incredibly attractive 9-month-old named Oscar, and I felt a strange urge to kidnap him. I feel this same desire creeping up on me from time to time: see child, want to steal child. I'm not sure if that's the clock in action, but I'm told it's a sneaky little guy that has his way with your psyche in manners you'll never really understand.

Scientifically speaking, we women are arriving at a time when our bodies strongly support the idea of us having children. It's possible/probable that our minds are in on the deal making things like commitment, future-planning, and joint Netflix accounts of interest (and financial sense!). This is the, "it's happening because it's biologically inclined to happen" theory.

My "prom date theory" theory

Several years ago I explained my concept of "prom date theory" as it then applied to many of my peers getting into committed relationships. To quote myself: "One person nails down a date. Then another. Then a third. Suddenly everyone is a mad dash to get a date before all the good one’s run out and they’re ousted from the cool kids limo. Replace "the prom" with a lifetime of happiness and "the cool kids limo" with it’s really boring when all of your friends are dating and you’re not and voila."

I'm not exactly saying that people are getting engaged on account of peer pressure, or because they're afraid all the good spouses will be taken, but that's not not what I'm saying. This is the, "it's just the thing to do," theory.

Because Beyonce said so
Simply put - if you like it then you better put a ring on it or it's going to dump you because it's afraid you have a total fear of commitment and will never put a ring on it. Perhaps guys have internalized that message and are now getting on board before they're pushed off?
The real question here isn't whether or not this theory is true but whether or not this theory would exist if not for the song...

Guys got on board

If you take the Beyonce-factor out of the equation, maybe it's just that guy are ready at 28 and not ready at 25. Yes, it takes two to tango and yes, 20-something women are just a culpable in the I-just-want-to-focus-on-my-career-and-hook-up charade. But if men are not ready to take it to the next level, it doesn't happen. I could just be my personal set of dying-to-be-soccer-Dad friends, but I will go so far as to say that they desired to be engaged. It didn't happen upon them because their girlfriends threw down the ultimatum; they found themselves ready, and so they went for it.

I do not know if there is a male equivalent to the biological clock, but maybe it's more like a maturity clock that kicks in around this very age.

We're too exhausted not to
Going out, getting wasted, playing the field, juggling the dates - that is hard work, and I think many/most of us are too damn tired to live a 22-year-old's life. I don't know if it's because I moved to the land of designated drivers or if it's because I'm 28, but I find myself far more interested in group dinner parties in the backyard then 4am drinking games on a stranger's roof in Brooklyn. And lame as I feel typing that, I actually stand by my new form of fun as a victory vs. a surrender. It's fun to remember everything that happened the night before and it's really fun to wake up without a massive hangover.
So then naturally this part A. of moving beyond the oat-sowing phase of life would lead to part B. a comfort in leaving some of that behind for the lifestyle of a married couple.

We know a good thing when we find it, finally

I don't know about you, but I spent the better (worse?) part of my 20s dating men who were very wrong for me. Call this immaturity, call this short-sightedness, call this not being ready to be with the right person - I don't know. But all these engagements could just be a result of people finally knowing themselves and therefore finally feeling ready to pair that self with someone else.

That's where my list ends at the moment. Check back in with me when another few bite the dust - er - choose to take a very exciting step forward. And in the meantime, please share you own stories, theories and feelings in comments!