Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Difference Between the Hot, 20-something Bloggers: Tavi vs. Emma Edition

Last week I read two long articles about two young female "creators" who are the talk of the young-adult town - both in The New York Times.

First there was this one - Emma Koenig's So-Called Redacted Life - about Emma Koenig - the NYU bred blogger/Vampire Weekend little sister/latest 20-something with a TV deal. She is 24 and now lives in Los Angeles with her new boyfriend. Her fame is attributed to the tumblr Fuck! I'm In My 20's - a collection of her own hand-drawn musings on life as a post-grad, pre-adult.

At the right is a sample post:

Then there was this one - The Oracle of The Girl World - about Tavi Gevinson - the middle school fashion blogger turned front row fashion show staple turned EIC of her own web magazine. She is 16 and still lives with her parents in an Illinois suburb. Her fame is attributed to invention of "granny style" (she actually dyed her hair grey/blue) and being phenom of the fashion world status.

Below is a sample post from her blog, a collection of styled self-portraits paired with essays on young adult life: 

These are obviously two different girls with two different goals. One wants to write/act. The other want to write/style. One's voice is grounded in humor, the other's is grounded in the undefinable stuff of a John Hughes movie. So it's not entirely fair to compare them because they'd never compare themselves, and yet after reading those two pieces last week I thought - THAT is the difference between the hot, 20-something content creators of New York Times fame. (note: Tavi is only 16 but should be looped into the 20-something group because she has been roughly 35 her entire life)

Emma Koenig's blog is about all the things inside a 24-year-old girl's head. They sport lines like, "dear schmuck" and "a conversation with myself" and "why are you crying today." There is no doubt that capture real feelings shared by countless people between the ages of 18 and...35, frankly. There is also no doubt that she puts those feelings into words very creatively.  But at the end of the day they are just dozens and dozens of feelings put to paper in clever ways. There is little to no action.

Tavi Gevinson's blog is a collection of outfits she creates from thrift store finds then wears in a series of high fashion-style self portraits. She loves style so she finds clothes, creates outfits and makes beautiful pictures of them. She also creates vision boards (see below) and then writes about what they mean to her current life. If she's feeling dark or frustrated it may be images from The Craft with fashion photographs from Marc Jacobs late 90s line and a picture of her wearing dark black eyeliner. It will be followed by an essay about moving on from a bad day.

Are both self-involved, sort of. Are both "in their own little world," yes. But in my mind the difference between Emma and Tavi is that one is actually doing something she loves and the other is just ruminating over all the confusing things in her head.

At the end of the day Emma has a book for sale at Urban Outfitters containing all her adorable drawings and thoughts. She's also close to closing a deal for a TV series based on her life. Oh, and that New York Times article.

Tavi Gevinson is currently on a national tour with Rookiemag.com meeting girls (and boys) across the country for essay readings, music performances, and pink cupcakes. Thousands of teens and young adults show up at the events to share their stories and meet online friends for the first time. In September she'll head to New York Fashion Week for all the top shows. She used to be invited because she was an adorable anomaly. Now she's invited because her coverage of the shows is better written and read than most things the top magazines write. She doesn't have a book deal, no TV production companies are after her, and she parted from Sassy/Jane creator Jane Pratt so she could have full control over her website. Also, the New York Times has been covering her since she was 12.

All (I think) I'm saying is - there's a difference between saying things and doing things. Emma Koenig says interesting things that have made her very popular, but after all the doodles, who is she really? What is she doing? What does she want? What is her real point of view on life? A picture of the difference between "friend" and "girlfriend" is clever, but what comes after that?

Tavi Gevinson is a creator, yes, but she is also a wildly distinct voice with much more on her mind than whether or not online dating is a waste of time. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't - she's too busy editing a 13-year-old freelance writer's essay on growing up Muslim in America to worry about it.

I'm Team Tavi. How about you?   

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How did you, would you, will you feel at 29.5?

I have aging on the brain. Since my post about turning 29, I've been thinking even more about turning 30. It's happening to people everywhere I turn! Just last weekend I attended a spectacular bash to ring in a friend's crossing to the old side. There was a photo booth, obviously intended to capture images of us looking the best we'll ever look. Not that 30 is old...right?...

But as I stressed over the big 2-9 versus the big 3-0, I realized it's possible that neither is as scary as 29.5 - the six months before the turn 30.  At 29 you have a full year to make something happen. You could write a book, travel the world, get engaged AND married, have a whole baby for crying out loud!

The window between 29.5 and 30 is not so open. You can't even turn one baby lemon to an eatable lemon in that amount of time (according to my research...slash backyard). As such, THAT is the time in life I'm now most curious to understand.

So I ask you - readers, friends and family - how did you/would you/will you feel at 29.5? If you'll be afraid, what will you be afraid of? If you'll feel liberated, why? If you'll feel pressure, where is it coming from? Do you have a sense of where you should be at that very time in life? What changes when you're 30? What doesn't? Is 29.5 the last time in your life that you can take major, unfettered risks? Or is it just another number that comes with another set of pressures forced on us by Cosmo magazine articles...and blog posts...

Looking forward to your feedback/free therapy in comments.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The 8 Characteristics of Healthy Relationships

My friend Liz passed me this interesting article on elements of a healthy relationship. It came as a PDF, so I've pasted the full details below. The writer is  Mark Sanders, who bears the letters LCSW, CADC next to his name. I think that makes him some sort of psychologist. I'll look into it and get back to you.

To me the most interesting point he makes is "The Couple Is Able to Argue in the Present." I don't even think I realized there was a difference between arguing in the present and arguing in the past. The former is, "I'm upset about this current thing, and we're going to just talk about this current thing I'm upset about." The latter - arguing in the past - is more like, "I'm upset about this current thing, but I'm going to bring up all the things I've been upset about for the past few years as well." R and I don't argue (about things other than my shoe count and the fact that he always leaves his jeans on the bedroom floor), but that's good advice for relationships in general. Keep things in the present AND resolve things so they do not linger.

Take a look at the rest of the elements, and share your thoughts on whether they're right or wrong. Like, "Develop a spiritual life." Do you think that's important to a relationship? If so, why? If not, why not??


For many years I worked as a therapist in private practice. While clients came to me for help with emotional crises involving losses, difficulty functioning— both at work and at home—even financial troubles, the majority—mostly women— sought ways to build healthy relationships. Their concern was couched in many phrases:

“I’ve had 18 bad relationships in 18 years.” “Why do I always date people  who disappear?” “Why do I always pick losers?” “Do I have a ‘U’ in the middle of my forehead that stands for ‘use me’?”

For many, developing effective romantic/interpersonal relationship was the last area of growth. Long after other issues had been resolved they were left with the question, “What is a healthy relationship?”

Below is a list of the 8 characteristics of a highly healthy relationship. 

Characteristic No. 1: Both individuals in the relationship are whole. 

It is my belief that one of the reasons why the divorce rate is so high in this country (57%) is
because of the concept of 1/2, which many people take literally. It sounds like this:

“He is 1/2, and upon meeting her, he becomes one whole. She is 1/2, and upon  meeting him, she becomes one whole.” Two half people have a hard time making a 
relationship work, because they’re often too glued together, too dependent upon each other, or too addicted to the other. Relationships would have a greater chance
of succeeding if two whole people entered them.

Characteristic No. 2: Each partner is growing and encouraging the other to

Effective relationships involve continued growth—for both partners, even if it
takes them into divergent areas. Many clients would tell stories of their reluctance to
pursue their dreams, fearing that their partners would leave them if they embarked
on a growth path. Some even told stories of their partners actually disappearing as soon as they started to achieve their goals, then returning when they gave the goals
up. It is important to go for the goals anyway.

Characteristic No. 3: Each has a separate life outside of the relationship.

This includes activities in which they engage with friends, sporting events they watch or
participate in, hobbies, or other interests they pursue. Time away from each other
gives them the space that all relationships need. It can also add excitement when
they are reunited. 

Characteristic No 4: The relationship does not have too much jealousy.

I once heard Maya Angelou say, “Jealousy is like salt. A little salt spices up the food, 
but too much salt can destroy the food.” Jealously in relationships seems to work the 
same way. This illustrates the importance of having separate lives outside the
relationship (Characteristic No 3). This can help each partner spend less time
focused on jealous thoughts. It also illustrates the importance of having a spiritual
life (Characteristic No 2).  By focusing on your internal world, your higher power,
or your purpose for being, you have less time to be jealous. 

Characteristic No. 5: The couple is able to argue in the present.

Resentments have probably destroyed more relationships than any other human emotion. Resentments in relationships are often caused by holding things inside that bug you,
irk you, or anger you slightly, letting them pile up, and then exploding. You can tell
when your arguments with your partner are wrought with resentment, because you
usually argue about several things at once and/or use events from the past as
ammunition during your fights.

Characteristic No. 6: The absence of all abuse. 

That includes physical, sexual, mental, emotional, and verbal abuse. We have learned that abuse in relationships is often progressive. A partner who hits you once will almost always become more
abusive later. The exciting news is that if you have developed a relationship with
yourself (Characteristic No. 1), nurture your spiritual life (Characteristic No 2), and
have a support network outside of your relationship (Characteristic No. 3), you will
have the insight to avoid abusive relationships and the strength to leave one if it’s 
already abusive.

Characteristic No. 7: There is absence of strings attached to giving.

Many of my clients reported being in relationships that were conditionally loving. This
pattern is often traced to early childhood experiences in which the clients were
loved, “if they were ‘good’”; “if they made good grades”; “if they made their 
parents proud.” If they failed in these arenas, love was often pulled away. As adults,
many clients mentioned being in relationships in which gifts were used as control, as
was sex.

Characteristic No. 8: The partners are gentle with themselves as they develop
new relationship skills. 

 My most common finding was that clients who had patterns of unhealthy relationships came from families that did not mirror super-healthy relationships.

If you didn’t see it, how do you know what it looks like? This can take  years to discover. The phrase, “We seek progress rather than perfection,” which is 
common in the twelve-step literature of such groups as Alcoholics Anonymous, can
be applied when individuals are learning to have healthy relationships. It is my
belief that one of the purposes of relationships is to teach us lessons. People tend to
repeat patterns until they learn the lesson that the relationship is there to teach
them. If you learn the lesson, there is no such thing as a failed relationship. Some
people give up on their partners and make statements such as, “I’m not going to try 
to fix this particular relationship, because ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’” 
Thank goodness people aren’t dogs. People are capable of change at any age. The 
reality is that the only person you can change is yourself. Even if your partner does
not change, you can still seek joy in your own progress. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Are you too brave, are you too safe...or are you too smart?

I realized on my recent flight from New York back to L.A. that every time I fly to or from New York or L.A. I have a mini freak out. I start to think about my life, generally. Then I think about how that life is tracking against my goals, specifically. And then I emotionally vomit on R for an hour or so about what the hell I'm doing with said life: I should be writing more! How can I be writing more and still hold down a full time job?? I should get my podcast up!! But how can I get my podcast up and still be writing as much - which we've already determined isn't even enough in the first place - and also hold down a full time job??? And what about that play I was going to produce!? Ugh and if we're ever going to get a dog then I'll need to reserve extra time for him/her!!

It is, no doubt, a product of my internal pressure cooker. I have big, sometimes unreasonable goals with small, often impossible deadlines.

But why the in flight freak? 

At first I thought it was just the five + hours trapped in a rumbly box of stale oxygen with nothing but an iPhone on airplane mode to occupy me. I've experienced similar moments of self reflection in bumper-to-bumper traffic with no snacks in my Jetta console.

But I think in this case the issue is actually a bit more metaphoric, and I think it has something to do with that very first flight I took from New York to L.A. two years ago - the one-way ticket to my future as a creator.

Every time I take that flight from one coast to the other I think about the risk I took, the sacrifices I made, and how much I miss my family back home. I think about that girl who decided to uproot a happy, stable, successful life in New York and take it to L.A. I think, "I didn't move here to keep up my blog and write a half-assed script or two along the way."

Mid-way through this particular think-outloud-session poor R endured, I turned to him and said, "I don't think I'm really brave."

He nodded, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. It was, in is defense, about 15 minutes into what he knew would turn into a 2 hour convo.

"Why do you say that?" he said. 

"Well I think there are people who take real risks, those being really brave people, and there are people who play it safe, we'll call them safe people, but I think in between those two groups are people who call themselves smart - that's me - but really they're just people who are playing it too safe to succeed."

"Interesting," R said. He really does try to keep up.

I think this is a thing - being "too smart to succeed?" I don't meant it in the I-can't-achieve-my-goals-because-my-giant-brain-is-in-the-way. I mean that you work yourself into a corner where you've extended yourself too thin in an effort to achieve too many goals in too short a time. In your mind you're "doing it all" - you work a full-time job in a high pressure industry while maintaining side projects that are actually your passion. You say to yourself, it is more important to be financially secure plus, look! I'm getting my other projects done too, and eventually those will just take over and become my primary work. I am not too risky or too safe - I'm smart.

But can something ever become your primary work if you don't just make it your primary work? And can you ever achieve one thing fully if you're trying to achieve three things at the same time? Are brave people more likely to get there faster, if at all, because they've fully committed? I want statistics! Or stories! Or a life coach! Or a giant, surprise windfall of money...

Your thoughts and questions would be helpful on this one. I can't imagine I'm the first person to have this quandary. Lucky for me I have another cross-country flight coming up in two weeks, so maybe I'll just solve it all myself. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Attending a wedding is a lot like going to Cirque du Soleil

I wrote the below post after attending one of my very first post-grad weddings. This was approximately four years ago. When I sat down to re-write the post from my much older, wiser life position I realized that I feel the EXACT same way. That said, I've added a few notes in bullet points below where issues and items have adjusted now that I'm 28 and people are staring to say, "so...are you two next?..." 
The more things change, the more weddings are an incredibly scary event for people who are not yet married...
Attending one of the very first weddings of your post-grad life is a lot like seeing Cirque du Soleil for the very first time.
  • Attending the dozenth wedding of your post-grad life is a lot like seeing Cirque du Soleil for the very first time
First it’s expensive to go. Very expensive.  You think to yourself, how could it possibly cost that much…
  • Add in the fact that you now live in Los Angeles, 3,000 miles and 500 airline dollars from most of your closest friends. Also, Facebook has made it impossible to wear the same dress twice. 
For the months leading up to the spectacle people in-the-know tell you every detail about everything that’s going to happen. “And then they’ll do this! And then they’ll do that! Ugh, and it will be so beautiful!” Then they shift to predicting every last detail of what’s to come for you.  “I bet they’ll wear blues…I bet it’ll be a 12 person band…I bet their song will be “At Last”, it’s always “At Last.”
  • This still goes on, mostly on Gchat. 
You fluctuate between wildly excited and totally skeptical. “Seems a little overrated to me…
  • All of your skepticism is now organized around how much the wedding costs, and it's now all caused by your own fears around how much your wedding will have to cost. 
It starts and you’re completely freaked out. People are doing things you’re fairly certain no amount of training could prepare you to do. Also they’re wearing themed outfits , which you can’t quite decide if you love or you hate. 
  • Same-ish except you arrive with far more judgement and opinion. "Oh, well at _______'s they did their own vows, and that was really lovely." And what you're not saying when making all those comments is, "I'm never doing that," or, "I'm totally doing that," or, "I wonder if my boyfriend is going to want to do that.."
A little while in you feel yourself falling into it – “This is beautiful and meaningful. They seem really excited up there. I could probably get into this.” You’re borderline entranced but still mostly nerve-wracked about everything that could go wrong. What if the music messes up?! What if a costume rips?! What is someone falls?!
  • Again, all the same except you're thinking far less about the people getting married and far more about how you'll be managing this same moment if/when it's you. 
And hour so in and you’ve settled into a comfort zone where you at least know the performers aren't going miss a cue.  Everyone required to make it all happen has shown up. You’ve graduated from freaked, but if it comes to audience participation, you’ll be at the bar.
  • Same. Being in a wedding is wonderful/meaningful/special/and honor, but it's also a lot of stress. Being a wedding guest is slightly freaky (in the that-will-someday-be-me) way, but you're allowed to drink more, so it's better. 
Intermission (that blessed pause between the ceremony and reception) offers the chance to compare notes with fellow attendees (read: gossip).  “Mmm, yes those blue dresses are beautiful....No, I wouldn’t have put that song there either....Really? Funny. I was thinking this was all perfectly normal and not at all hard to do and I’ll probably just do it next week if I can fit it in. But I could see how you might be freaked out.”
  • Same. Big time. Also I've seen people texting each other DURING the ceremony. I don't care how ugly the bridesmaids dresses are, that's not cool. 
Act two and you’re used to it slash three cocktails deep. You’re still in that mode where with each passing trick you’re wondering if you could ever possibly do what they’re doing and, if you could, what costume you’d want to wear. You’ve stopped paying attention to all the details. You’re feeling like it was mostly worth the money. And if they asked everyone to stand up right now and join in song/dance/a conga line, you’d do it and pose for a picture.
  • Yes. This is the moment where, if you're in a committed relationship that feels like it's going to go the distance, one or both of you has said, "let's not do that at ours..." 
By the last number of the evening you’re making sexy eyes at every performer on stage. You’re sold. You loved every moment of it. You don’t want it to end. When can you go again? Who took pictures of everything?! You need them for your Facebook page!!
  • See above. Replace, "let's not do that at ours..." with, "we'll have a Spring wedding with 200 guests at a mansion overlooking the ocean. Band. No videographer. I'll wear off-white." 
And so with souvenir boa in hand, you leave the venue 180 degrees from where you arrived. Come ‘on of course you could do that. All it takes is a little passion and commitment. Plus look how fun it is. Aaahh...well... someday, if I’m lucky, I could be up there too...you sigh as you pass out in the front seat of the passenger van on the way back to the hotel.
  • You don't pass out anymore because you're old. You either throw up because you drank too much at the reception or you drink a sensible amount and still feel crappy the next morning. 
Monday, back at the office:
“So, how was it?!” every co-worker who prepped you now asks.
“Really beautiful and a lot of fun,” you report, “but god am I totally incapable of that doing that right now in my life. Also, it’s just entirely too expensive.”
  • You drop the "totally incapable of doing that right now" part. You can't say that as a 28-year-old woman with a live-in boyfriend, and frankly, you shouldn't feel that way anymore. 
Five minutes later at your desk:
  • Replace the above search for how to become a Cirque performer with hours and hours and hours spent on the Pinterest "Weddings and Celebrations" section...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In one month I will be 29.

I don't usually write about my birthdays until my actual day of birth, but this year I've been thinking about the whole ordeal much more than at previous turns.

I will be 29 on August 7th. That's one month from last Saturday.

I cannot remember if my little girl self had thoughts about what I'd be doing as a 29-year-old. I remember thinking I'd be married around 25, but that's the last milestone I assigned an age...I think.

The reason I'm writing about being 29 before actually turning 29 is because I don't want to arrive at the day without having given it ample thought. I feel like this specific age requires more thought than the others. Yes, 30 is the biggie, but somehow 29 feels equally important. Like, don't wait until 30 to freak out when you can prep for the freak out at 29. If, of course, freaking out is the intention.

I don't quite know what to think, or what to intend. I'm sort of scared, but I don't know what I'm scared about. I'm sort of excited, and I think that excitement is mostly centered around my career, my relationship, my general hopes for what's to come.  I sort of don't want to make a big deal about it - 29 is just a number. But I sort of want to make a huge deal about it - 29!!! One year from 30!!! The absolute last year of my 20s!!!

Part of me feels like I have to make a decision about my stance on this birthday before it sneaks up on me - hence this post. I will either decide to be scared or annoyed or excited or carefree. Then upon my actual birthday, I will act accordingly. If I decide I'm scared then I'll talk a lot about being scared and probably drink too many martinis on the actual day. If I decide I'm annoyed then I'll blow it off, wear jeans to my party - if I even have one - and say people who care about birthdays are missing the point.

If "thoughtful" is a way to feel upon turning 29 then I think that's what I'd like to choose. I want to be aware, grateful, forward-thinking but past-embracing. I want to know what I like about who and where I've been and know what I want to change going forward. That sounds grand, but I feel grand, and if there's anything I know I don't want it's to be fake about whatever I feel approaching 29.

My friend Lindsey and I were discussing this very topic the other day en route to post-pedicure coffees. She said, "I've been feeling a combination of nostalgic and really hopeful lately." She is around my same age and also preparing for a wedding this fall. I told her I felt the same, and also other things, and also things I couldn't define.

Maybe that's the whole point? Maybe we're just supposed to be really aware of ourselves as we turn around year. Whatever it is we feel is fine so long as we acknowledge it and use it to take the next steps forward.

I can handle that at one month from 29.

How about you?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How To Impress Your Parents, LA style

My parents are coming to LA for a visit this week. During their time here I will attempt to convince them of the following:

  • That I can feed myself inside my house without the aid of a restaurant delivery man.
  • That Los Angeles is a very safe place, superior in many ways to all other places I have lived, not including - of course - their house. 
  • That I am now a safe and calm driver totally capable of handling her own vehicle.
  • That my LA friends are smart and talented people who support me like a family but are by no means replacing my own family which is, of course, the greatest form of support in my life.
  • That I go to the beach a lot because that's one of the big LA-selling points, and I'm obviously taking full advantage of everything the West Coast has to offer considering I decided to move 3,000 miles away for these benefits. 
  • That my shoe purchasing habit is totally under control.
  • That my clothing purchasing habit is totally under control.
  • That I don't go for brunch both weekend days, every single weekend. 
  • That I know exactly what's going to happen with my career in the coming six months to five years.
  • That I really can hear them loud and clear when I'm in my car on Blue Tooth. 
  •  That I know my way around LA without the use of an iPhone map that I therefore never have to look at while I'm driving.
  • That not all of my friends are gay.  
Anything I'm missing?

Happy 4th of July all! 
Taking Thursday off, but be back next week!