Monday, December 19, 2011

Sometimes deciding you want something is the first, best step

I was at a really lovely holiday dinner party last weekend attended by some good friends, some acquaintances, and some people I'd never met. It was the sort of event where conversation usually centers on what movies people have seen, what industry news people have been buzzing about or who already has plans for NYE (see, LA isn't that bad).

Which is why I was so shocked when one of the acquaintances among the group sat down next to R and me, and started telling us about the dates he's been on recently. I said something like, hey _____, what have you been up to lately?" and he said something like, "been going on a few dates, you know, getting out there (note: in paraphrasing that I made whatever he actually said sound like something I would say. He is not nearly as cheesy.) R followed with something like, "good for you, man." (again, my voice).

The conversation would have typically shifted from that little triplet to, "so, see any good movies recently?" except that _______ had a little more to say. I won't butcher this one. What he said was essentially, "I realized recently that I'm really ready to be in a relationship, so I'm focusing on it more, and treating the dates differently."

My heart swelled like that of a Jewish mother slash relationship blogger (imagine if someone was both?!) Here was this not-particularly-close friend telling me and my boyfriend that he's committed to being in a relationship and finding love, all in a manner that made it as simple as finding a new job. "I'm ready to explore other opportunities, so I'm applying around."

It really struck me. I can't decide if that's because I've known far less mature men in my time, or if it's because this man was comfortable enough to share his position at a casual dinner party. Or maybe it struck me because he was so casual, and yet so clear about it.

I want a girlfriend. Don't care who knows. That's how I feel.

I think I'm a victim of a generation less apt to feel that way. Or maybe it's that we didn't want to admit we felt that way? In my five years in Manhattan and 1.5 years in L.A. I've heard one, maybe two people say that, and both of them were women.

This guy was not only confident in his choice but also confident in himself to confess it to us. Again, I don't know him well, but in that moment I felt I knew him well enough to do exactly what his move warranted in return: I set him up.

As I've said before, there are 6.5 ways to meet someone, and anyone who takes advantage of one of those ways before my very eyes deserves to be rewarded.

______ will find someone to be his girlfriend, and probably pretty soon. Part of that will be because he's a great guy with great qualities, but a lot of that will be because he is ready, and had the courage to share that with new friends at a lovely holiday dinner party.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Reflecting on Iraq and the very specific set of 20-nothings involved

So the war in Iraq is officially over. It has been one year short of a decade since it began.

This isn't a political blog, so I won't share my feelings about the justification for why we went to war, the reasons we were there for 9 years, and what our leaders should do now that it's over. I will say that I was and remain opposed to the war and am very happy that it's over.

I was 19 years old when the war began - one year shy of being a 20-nothing myself. That's around the same age as thousands of soldiers who were shipped off to Iraq while I studied Communications and flip cup in a cozy enclave outside Boston. I turned 20, then 21, then graduated from college and spent the following six years defining my life in whatever way I saw fit. I struggled. I questioned things. I made a million choices.

My life from 20 to 28 was completely perpendicular to that of a soldier in the Iraq war, if that's even a saying. We were parallel in age but completely opposite in life milestones. My life was entirely my own to direct. Their lives hinged on assignments, tours, and life-threatening operations. I cannot imagine their experience, no matter how hard I try to relate.

I do not have numbers or stats, but given the news coverage, I can assume that hundreds of them are now permanently injured, and even more will suffer from PTSD for decades to come. Many left in their first year or so of marriage, others missed the births of children or their first months of life, and even more delayed all those fundamental firsts of being a 20-something while they endured another list of firsts no one should ever have to experience.

I wonder how they would define being a 20-something in America? I wonder what they think about dating or hooking up? What's their feeling on how the economy has affected our coming-of-age in America or how different today's post-grads are from those ten, twenty or thirty years prior? What is their feeling about how they spent the first eight years of their 20s? How is it that they want to spend the next?

I don't have an agenda or thesis statement for this post, I just felt compelled to say something about who these soldiers are and what they've given up as we mark the end of this unprecedented time in our country's history. There is a group of people whose personal history is forever changed because of their time in this war. In many ways those people are my peers, and yet I could not feel further from their experience over the same exact years I lived.

All I know is that I could not have survived what they survived, which is why, on this momentous end to a momentous time, I am eternally grateful.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Girl scores $1,200+ in free meals from dates, blogger laments state of the dating world...

If last week's post about Mike who doth protest too much was a gem, today's is a blood diamond.

Meet Jessica Sporty - the girl who wracked up $1,200 a month in free dinners via dates. Here is the article that broke her "story" and here is a "news story" ABC ran about her experience.

There are a few important details before we get into the "here are my thoughts on this mess."

-Her $45k salary was not enough and she needed at least an extra $500 a month and sometimes $1,000 to pay her credit card bills and afford her $1,475 a month apartment in Murray Hill.

-The investment banker types were thrilled to woo her with extraordinary restaurants like the underground taqueria La Esquina and a Japanese restaurant, Megu, in Tribeca. One guy even took her to a champagne bar and purchased a $200 bottle.

-She went from easily spending $500 a month on dinners alone to having someone else dole out an average of $60-plus per night. She also stopped eating lunch and opted for a light breakfast to save even more.

-One of [Jessica's roommates] called for making spreadsheets about each guy who took them out for their drinks and/or meals. It included names, photos and details from their accounts. The girls also let each other know where they were going for the night.

-“It was exhausting," she said. "I needed my sleep, and I was done playing the game," Sport said.

-Jessica currently has a boyfriend who she did not meet online.

I'd also recommend watching the "news story" so you get a feel for Jessica's person and attitude about this whole thing, but that's up to how much time you allot to wasting each day.

Okay. Now here are my thoughts on this mess:

-Ultimately this is a silly story about a girl who took advantage of guys using technology that makes this all very easy and common. As I said to Matt when he passed it along, "I don't have much to say about this other than 'some people are assholes' or maybe 'most people are assholes.' But then I thought harder about it and realized that there's a bigger issue here surrounding why people are enabled to be such assholes.

-$1,457 on a 45K salary is not financially responsible, especially if you want a lifestyle that costs between $500 and $1,000 a month in dinners. Someone should have told Jessica that before she moved into the city. She needed a way to "have her cake and eat it too" which seems to be a condition with which many 20-somethings are plagued. I once had 5K in credit card debt to prove it. Taking advantage of men so that she could dine at the hottest spots and still afford the finer things in life was more important to Jessica than being a decent human being. This is a problem, world.

-To play my own devil's advocate - any man dumb enough to buy a $200 bottle of anything on a first date is cooking his own goose. It is nice to treat someone to a nice meal, but you can get a nice meal for $60, total. Or, better yet, start with a drink and see if you actually like the person enough to take them to Megu. I suspect that's not what the date is about for these guys, though, which means they're not entirely innocent in this game.

-Not eating lunch so you have enough money is a big, big problem. It's not healthy and it represents a massive issue with budgeting and prioritizing money. Sorry to go all MOM on that detail, but it's not a flip and funny practice of a savvy, single New Yorker. It's an eating disorder.

-The news article and subsequent ABC News interview don't really address how Jessica felt about any of these man. She's never asked if she feels like she used them. She's never asked if she feels like she was owed these dinner. All we get is her saying that she's "traditional" and that she believes a man should pay for dinner on the first date. But was she out to meet a boyfriend? Was she actually interested in any of these men? Did she do this for absolutely anything beyond free meals? Resolving that, "at least that awful date was worth a free meal," is one thing. Developing a spreadsheet to track your train of free dinners is another.

-Bottom line: this isn't fair to online daters and it isn't fair to women. That's why this isn't just a "some people are assholes story," it's a "one bad apple can spoil it for the bunch," tale. It's an exaggerated example of a selfish and shallow woman who reflects poorly on the world of online dating, 20-something women, and, frankly, New York City (yes, my heart just hurt a little typing that).

Please, please don't do this, ladies. And guys, please be a little more sensible about what you're giving a woman on the very first date.

And Hollywood, SO HELP ME GOD if you give this girl a book deal...

End rant.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Blog is 4 Years Old This Week

When I graduated from college, I remember wondering if I would ever have as significant a growth experience over a mere four years. My time from freshman to senior year was life-defining, and luckily my roommates saved the four years of quote walls that prove it.

Today marks another four year chunk of time, and as I look back on the 640 posts I've written since starting this blog in December of 2007, it's frighteningly clear what a significant experience this too has become. Chief among all the experiences that have been so significant is the experience of seeing changes in my writing.

In my "new life" of pursuing writing for more than hobby slash weekend recap, the idea of "voice" is a constant. Finding your voice. Writing in your voice. Defining your voice. Honing your voice.

I had no clue what the concept meant for a very long time. People would say they enjoyed my voice or related to my voice, and I would smile and nod. I knew this voice situation was a good thing, I just had no idea what it really meant or how I made it happen. So I threw pride to the wind and asked around...for about 3.5 years.

Here is what I now believe I know about the writer's voice, and how it is found:

Your "voice" is the consistent tone and rhythm that defines the your writing. Like a band has a "sound" a writer has a "voice" - qualities that make everything by a given writer sound and feel the same. Short, to-the-point sentences, perhaps. Long, extremely descriptive passages, maybe. It could also be extremely conversational language or the use of lots of dialogue. Every writer has their style. A writer's voice is both the consistent use of those style elements and the cadence of the writing. Literally when you read a series of pieces by a given author they should all feel like they have a similar "beat."

My voice, for example, is extremely conversational (often at the expense of grammar...). When I write, I am literally saying the words in my head and then typing them into the little Blogger box. If I read a sentence back and it doesn't sound like something I would say out loud, I change it. I have a very specific conversation style in real life. I think it's a mix of extreme honesty, self-deprecating humor, and the use of real life-inspired metaphors to explain things, but you guys would probably know better. My voice on the page is my voice in my head, which is why some of my closest friends say they read these blog posts in my actual talking voice (which must be super weird).

How I found that voice is still a bit of a mystery to me, but I think the truth is that I found it because I wrote SO DAMN MUCH. Two or three posts per week for four years plus additional freelance writing assignments and all the stuff that doesn't make the blog. All that writing, reading back, and re-writing makes you incredibly familiar with the way you think and write. It just starts to come out a certain way because the writing muscle shifts into autopilot. When I'm having a really difficult time with a given piece, I always realize it's because I'm trying to write in a voice that isn't mine. When a post writes itself, I realize it's because I let go and wrote exactly what felt right.

I realize that's the most simplistic definition of "voice" and "how to find it" that one could give, but I think that's because discovering your voice should not be difficult; it should be natural. The tough truth is that writing naturally - without ideas of what you should sound like or who you want to sound like - is incredibly hard. I know this because I sometimes attempt to write sitcom jokes, and when I read those back it's like they were written by a stranger who I instantly hate.

So I believe the point of this post is to say that "voice" is not something that happens overnight, but over 4 years of nights, it's something you cannot help but develop. And if there's one piece of advice I can offer (outside of advising people to write as much as humanly possible) I'd say that you absolutely have to like your voice, and own your voice, even if you always thought you'd be the greatest dramatic screenwriter of the 21st century but somehow end up a quirky comedy writer. Don't fight it. It will fight back harder.

On a 4th blog birthday aside: My feelings at this four year mark are not entirely different from those I felt at the blog's first, second, and third birthdays. I am grateful. I am proud. I am extremely aware of how much this writing experience has changed my entire life. And, above all, I remain so, so rewarded by the connection to all of you that this blog allows. Please keep e-mailing, commenting and reading. We've got two full years to go before I age out of this whole crazy project.

And, as I say every single year, thank you Pierson, for forcing me to start it in the first place.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Things we can all learn from the 1,615-word e-mail that investment banker wrote to the girl who "lead him on"

Guys, today is a special day - a very special day - for it is only once in a brilliantly blue moon that we're gifted the kind of gem my friend Nic forwarded my way yesterday afternoon. "I feel like you'll appreciate this," he said. Understatement of the fiscal quarter, Nic.

Via this link you'll find an e-mail written by a man named Mike to a girl with whom he enjoyed one date. Unfortunately, girl did not feel that same enjoyment. Mike followed-up hoping for a second get-together. Girl never replied. The story would end there, like so so many stories have before, except that Mike is not so so many men. He is a bizarre, angry genius. Instead of burying his face in a dirty martini or blogging about it, like normal people would do, he fought back, hard...and really, really weird.

The thing is - there are actually some valid statements within Mike's 1,615-word rant. They're rendered obsolete by the sheer insanity of the rest of his diatribe, but I've taken the time to separate what is NUTS from what is VALID so that we may all learn a lesson...or 1,615.

Here goes:

"FYI, I suggest that you keep in mind that emails sound more impersonal, harsher, and are easier to misinterpret than in-person or phone communication. After all, people can’t see someone’s body language or tone of voice in an email."

e-mails can be difficult to fully interpret on account of the lack of body language and tone of voice. Then there are some e-mails whose intended tone is completely lost on account of their bat-shit-crazy content. I suggest that you keep that in mind too, Mike.

"You played with your hair a lot. A woman playing with her hair is a common sign of flirtation."

NUTS, and frankly INSULTING.
Girls play with their hair for dozens of reasons that have nothing to do with you, Mike. They may be nervous. They may be vein. They may be bored. They may be wearing a brand new wig to cover their newly shaved head on account of recent chemo treatments. Take that.
"You said, “It was nice to meet you.” at the end of our date. A woman could say this statement as a way to show that she isn’t interested in seeing a man again or she could mean what she said–that it was nice to meet you. The statement, by itself, is inconclusive"

NUTS, or in this case WRONG.
"It was nice to meet you" is the blow-off, and everybody knows it. Examples of conclusive statement include: Can we do this again sometime? Do you want to come upstairs? I had a really, really great time... or no words at all because you're too busy making out.
"If you don’t want to go again, then apparently you didn’t think our first date was good enough to lead to a second date. Dating or a relationship is not a Hollywood movie. It’s good to keep that in mind."

Real life is not a Hollywood movie, it's true Mike. What exactly that has to do with the first part of this paragraph or the idea of this e-mail overall is unclear, but the Hollywood is not equal to life fact remains.
"You’re very busy. It would be very convenient for you to date me because we have the same interests. We already go to classical music performances by ourselves. If we go to classical music performances together, it wouldn’t take any significant additional time on your part."

I can't say I've ever heard that pitch for a relationship, but facts are facts and those facts are true.

"I assume that you find me physically attractive. If you didn’t find me physically attractive, then it would have been irrational for you to go out with me in the first place. After all, our first date was not a blind date. You already knew what I looked like before our date."

NUTS, sadly.
I hate to break this to you Mike slash man-at-large, but sometimes girls go out with guys that they do not find physically attractive. They may want free dinner. They may want to feel good about themselves. They may be hoping the guy is better looking in person. Unfortunately there are lots of reasons, none of which are particularly good.

"People don’t grow on trees. I hope you appreciate the potential we have."

But really not a great argument for why this girl should date you. Stick with the "saving-time-via-shared-activities" thing.
"Am I sensitive person? Sure, I am. I think it’s better to be sensitive than to be insensitive. There are too many impolite, insensitive people in the world."

VALID, but...
There is a difference between being sensitive and being NUTS. Mike, I agree that too many people are far too insensitive, and perhaps if you had written a 200 versus 1,615 word e-mail to this woman you could have helped the cause of sensitive men everywhere. Unfortunately, you did the opposite...
"I suggest that we continue to go out and see what happens. Needless to say, I find you less appealing now (given that you haven’t returned my messages) than I did at our first date."


"If you don’t want to go out again, then you should have called to tell me so. Even sending a text message would have been better than nothing. In my opinion, not responding to my messages is impolite, immature, passive aggressive, and cowardly."

VALID, completely and totally.
Call, text or e-mail, people. Lie if you have to, but don't just drop off the face of the earth. Now you have the potential to receive an e-mail akin to this gem as motivation to do the right thing.

"I have tried to write this email well, but it’s not perfect."

WRONG. This e-mail is perfect Mike. Absolutely perfect.

The question it real?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Driving Miss Jessie: a tale of female empowerment

Sunday night I had R drop me off and then pick me up following my SUNDAY NIGHT SEX TALKS show (he can't attend because he is a boy), and it threw my entire sense of independence for a loop.

And you thought you had problems.

When I was single, I used to make lots of grandiose statements about the things I would never do if/when I got into a relationship. I’ll never be one of those PDA-couples. I’ll never share a Google calendar of our collective plans. I’ll never “we” every single thing the two of us do.

Primary among my “nevers” was an entire list of no-no’s involving cars. I cannot explain the origin of this issue, but I have a whole string of preconceived feelings about female independence and cars. I don’t like it when the guy always drives. I don’t like it when the girl expects him to drive. And I really don’t like it when a girl lets her boyfriend drive her car while she “passenges.” I had a friend in college who relinquished all driving duties the minute she got into a serious relationship. It was car her and yet he assumed full control. This annoyed me endlessly.

It’s worth noting that I spent 100% of my previous dating life without a car of my own. I dated my high school boyfriend from 16-17 (pre-license years in New Jersey) and the rest of my relationships were conducted in either Boston or New York. So these “issues” of mine were never tested. I never had a car for a guy to never drive.

And then by some bizarre twist of inconvenient fate, I got both my first car and my first meaningful adult relationship at the exact same time.

I was determined to follow my pre-planned plan. I would drive 50% of the time. I would never make him drop me off places because I didn’t feel like parking. And my car would by mine to pilot. I wouldn’t be some helpless housewife relinquishing my independence one car ride at a time. I am 28! It is 2011! I drive a Salsa Red Jetta! Hear my engine roar! (had to, sorry)

Here is what I have learned about myself, R, cars, and the nature of female independence in the 12 + month since I’ve had both a boyfriend and a car:
  • I’m not a very good driver. This is not to say that I get into accidents or breaks laws, I just fluctuate between intense road rage when I know where I’m going and intense anxiety when I don’t. I’m getting better with each 45 minute commute, but my magical, romance with a sporty ride and the open road is not in the near future, if it exists at all.
  • I don’t particularly like driving. Even when I’m having a great driving day, I don’t enjoy it. Plus it’s shockingly void of the intense feeling of satisfaction and female empowerment I’ve been envisioning all these years. Real puzzler.
  • R is a really good driver. He has six years of practice on me and does not fluster under extreme traffic or complete loss of direction. He does make this very obvious face when he’s pretending to know where he’s going but has absolutely not idea, but it’s a silent face, so it’s fine.
  • R really likes to drive. I haven’t asked him if he experiences an intense surge of satisfaction and male empowerment, but I’m trying to tone done the gender studies so our relationship feels less like getting a minor in women’s lib.
  • It’s often very nice to be driven, even if it is in your own car. I don’t think I’m turning back the feminist clock when I say that if feels like to have someone in control of getting you from point A to point B. You may feel safe. You may feel secure. You may feel a little romantic if/when that person opens the door. It’s not necessary, but it’s not negative.
I asked R to drive me to my show on Sunday night because I didn’t want to worry about parking on Santa Monica Boulevard and lugging all my stuff into the bar. Also, I have to go into the back door, which is through a dark alley that can feature some unsavory characters. These are all the reasons I started to explain this to him over our pre-show sushi dinner. Then I cut the female empowerment crap and told him the truth: I’d like you to drop me off because I get a little nervous before my show, and it would be nice to have you there to send me off. I’d also like you to drop me off so you can pick me up when the show is over and stop in for a drink to meet some of the ladies. And finally, it will be nice to ride home together so I can tell you about every detail of the show on our drive home!

“Wow. That was big,” he said.

But it wasn’t really. They’re just cars, and it's just driving...unless you choose to make them the cornerstones of your own feminist agenda, in which case, e-mail me, and we’ll have a chat.

Friday, December 2, 2011

All I Want For Christmas, literally

Dear Santa slash All My Friends and Family,

I believe I have been reasonably good this year (I paid off all my credit cards and didn't intentionally rear-end any cars!) and, as such, would like to request the following gifts in honor of the upcoming holidays. I've provided images where necessary. Please see me with any questions.

1. For all Los Angeles drivers to be better drivers.
I want them to get off the phone and pay attention to the road. I want them to really gun it when that green arrow light turns on. I want them to stop blatantly running red lights. I want them to use their blinker every time they intend to turn and never accidentally ride with it on for 10+ blocks. And, more than anything else, I want them to go faster, always, but especially on Olympic Blvd between Beverly Glen and Robertson. It is a STRAIGHT SHOT people!

2. Some cozy, plaid shirts

Here are some thought-starters. I'm not picky about color.

3. The Occupy Wall Street movement to come back strong and a little more organized

I think it's good, noble, and necessary, and I think there's got to be a way for the organizers to maintain their presence within the constructs of what the various cities will allow.

4. To stop dreaming about being super late and unprepared for things.

The point of spending 6-8 hours in a peaceful slumber is to re-charge for the day ahead! Enough of this running around without my contacts on (constant dream feature) realizing I'm about to blow it on one of the dozens of projects I'm juggling in dreamland. I want sex dreams or amazing-deals-shopping dreams for all of 2012!

5. A really nice smelling candle for my bedroom.

It's just one of those things you never think to buy yourself, right? Here, conveniently, is a picture featuring my favorite brand!

6. Adele's vocal chord issues to be resolved

I'm worried sick about her you guys! We need all of our top people on this because she has got to get better, pronto (note: this gift request is also made on behalf of my sister Dani, who has also been pretty good this year).

7. Something in Aztec print

I'm really loving the trend, and would like it in my life slash closet. Here's a fun option from Forever21!

8. For E! to eliminate at least one Kardashian program currently running on its network.
What do they have now? 4? I don't think I'm asking for much here.
9. One of those rings where some lovely word like "oui" or "love" is written out in silver cursive.

Those are so cute, right?? Every time I see one on Pinterest, I re-pin it! Note: I'm not in love with the diamond over the "i" in the "oui." Just saying...

10. To complete my first feature film
This is a gift I will/must give myself/the people who are waiting patiently for me to finish it.
It's getting really close guys, promise.
11. A lifetime supply of Sharpie pens!

These are beyond a shadow of a doubt the finest pens on the market (in my opinion), and when I find myself needing to write something and not having a Sharpie pen at my disposal, I'm bummed.
12. Silver earrings

I could use some big hoops and a dangly option or two. Nothing fancy.

13. A stronger command over Los Angeles driving short cuts

I just want to know how to sneak around insane traffic stoppage without having to get out my GPS or find my location via the molasses-like Internet connection on my Blackberry.

14. To be producing a regular, 20-Nothings podcast

See "to complete my first feature film" replace "the people who are waiting patiently for me to finish it" with "the hundreds of thousands of people who are yet unaware of the impact it will have on their lives."

15. This office, and with it Jenna Lyon's entire wardrobe...and son.

That should do it for this year!