Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How Two Specific Presidents Turned Me Into The Woman I Am Today

 
I realized recently that I've written six years of blog posts without one "tribute" to the two people who gave me the ability to write in the first place (in that they gave me life, which gave me hands, but also in the general parental support and guidance way).

But I didn't want to write some generic, mushy account of what my parents mean to me. It's too much to cover in a generic, mushy account, and trust me, I know my way around accounts of that nature. So instead I got to thinking about the specific moments that best explain who my parents are - both as people and as parents - and how it's made me the kind of person I am today - a woman one week away from her 30th birthday (you didn't think I'd make it through this whole post without mentioning that fact, did you?).

I thought about our annual drives down to Florida when Mom would deliver my sisters and me the hand-made activity books she'd slaved over for hours (we're talking an entire marble notebook filled with word finds, tracing games and the like that she made by herself), and Dad would painstakingly rig the mini TV into a standing position between the two front seats so we could watch Newsies on a loop for the entire 21 hour drive. I thought about all those dance recitals - Mom on a 10 ft. ladder managing stage decor and Dad crying behind the 10 lb. camcorder from the center back row. Then there were the expertly organized Thanksgivings and Christmas Eve dinners, the insane book report covers that Mom and I would design while Dad carefully edited every word I wrote, and later in my "youth" the hours and hours of time spent driving to and from Boston College, mini van packed with all my requests from Sam's Club. My parents are dedicated people, but there's nothing they're more dedicated to than being parents.

But among all those memories, one phase of my life stood out, and it's the time my parents were The Presidents - Mom, Madame President of the Freehold Learning Center P.T.O (central jersey speak for P.T.A), and Dad, Mr. President of the Freehold Borough Board of Education (I think that's what it was called?).  What's weird is that I couldn't tell you if it spanned the course of one year or five, I don't really know how old I was while this was happening, and I'm not even sure they were both technically presidents at the exact same time. I feel like there was overlap based on the times I spent sitting in a dress from Simply Outrageous on Rt. 9 while one or both of them were sworn in, but I have a lot of memories of sitting in dresses from Simply Outrageous on Rt. 9, so I could be wrong.

None of that really matters as far as the influence this experience had on my life. In fact I don't remember a single thing about whatever parental politics went into these positions. Did they run for election? I'm sure they did, but I don't remember. I had a sense that it was a ton of work on top of my mom managing four kids and evenings teaching at a college and my dad commuting to the ad agency in NYC, but they didn't complain about it. So instead I was filled with two overwhelming senses about my parents as they took on these more-than-Mom-and-Dad roles. One, that my parents cared deeply about education, specifically my education.  And two, that they were rock stars

We'll leave the first to the side because, while important, it's only informed my personal politics and ideas of how I'll be involved in my own kids' educations. That's my person but it's not my personality. The second - that rock star status - is the thing that made me who I am today.

Because of this whole "presidents" thing - in most adult rooms I was in for a large portion of my childhood, one of my parents was in charge. And not only were they in charge by title, but they were usually sitting at the front, speaking to the entire room. I can see both of them right now - Mom walking through the PTO agenda at the front of the old music room shaped like a amphitheater and Dad at the head of the U-shaped tables in the Park Avenue Elementary School library. I think he even had a gavel!!

Because of their skills at communicating, leading and organizing, they commanded those rooms, and I internalized every move they made as I watched from the back row, pretending to do my homework. To me, my parents were so freaking cool for being in charge of whatever it was they were in charge of, and I wanted to be just like them.

Because of this whole "presidents" thing - my three little sisters and I were a well known "entity" in our small, suburban town. This was cool because I felt like a rock star myself everywhere that we went, but it also instilled in me a sense of responsibility. I was the presidents' daughter. I was allowed to sit in the back of adult meetings. And if I misbehaved, there was no way I was going to get away with it. I aspired to be good to make my parents proud, but I was also afforded opportunities to be by best because their roles created an incredibly safe and supportive place for me in our community. I felt know, and when you feel known you feel comfortable. Comfort is a little kid's greatest ally, mostly because it turns them into a comfortable adult.

And finally, because of this whole "presidents" thing - my parents showed me the value of hard work. I'm not sure if it was a co-presidents thing or just a P.T.O thing, but the Freehold Learning Center had a Fun Fair every year. To me it felt like a state fair-sized day of games and activities attending by 50,000 people. It probably happened in a parking lot with 100 people involved, but it was the biggest day of the year for my family. Mom hand made the games out of plywood and paint. Dad manned the ticket table, usually with my Poppop as assistant. Every single detail was organized down to the minute. Yes, this may somewhat contribute to my obsession with over-planning, but I like to also credit it with my work ethic. That and the fact that I believe anything can be done with a little plywood and a lot of elbow grease.

I've never talked to my parents about why they decided to be the presidents. I'm sure it was because they wanted the best education possible for my sisters and me and felt being involved in that process was a way to ensure their voices were heard. But I wonder if they were trying to be my role models? I wonder if they even know how much I worshiped them as rock stars, of the small town public education system, but still? Could they have known that the way I aspire to position myself in this world is directly a result of this specific phase of my life?

If they did, I wouldn't be surprised. They've been pretty consistently good about this whole "raising kids" thing. But if they didn't, I'm glad they do now - exactly seven days before their first born turns 30 (did you really think I'd make it through this post without mentioning that just one more time?)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bonus Post: Actual Progress On The Countdown to 30 Bucket List!


Guys - I've been powering through the list over the past few weeks, and I'm proud to say that progress has been made! Here's the latest.

 
Stay up all night partying

This has yet to happen and probably will not, BUT Saturday is literally my last chance, so I'm going to give it everything I've got. I technically have nine nights remaining, but I can't possibly stay up all night during the work week, and I have Saturday night plans meaning Friday is completely out. So between now and Saturday I will determine which LA bars are open all night and decide whether or not it counts if I take a four hour nap from 6-10PM. So far I'm leaning toward, it doesn't?

Go out to dinner wearing a midriff top

Not only am I going to eat a meal in public while showcasing a sliver of stomach skin, but I'm probably going to do it on the same night that I attempt to stay up all night. Can the universe handle this? Probably. Can I? Probably no.  

Make sushi

R surprised me with an AWESOME sushi making class at the awesome Hip Cooks West location here in Culver City. It was easy, fun and delicious plus I made what I think the entire class would agree was the nicest roll out of all the rolls. I will now likely not make sushi for several months if not years but at least I know it can be done. 

Go blonder on the bottom of my hair

This Thursday 1:30pm. Heretic Salon.

Send a letter to Mrs. Lokitz, the teacher who made me a writer

I want to cross this off because I technically reached out to Mrs. Lokitz, but I didn't hear back so I don't think it can be counted. I sent a Facebook message, but I'm guessing Mrs. Lokitz doesn't check her Facebook messages every hour like the rest of the world as she is a happily retired teacher. Stay-tuned.

Play tennis 

R has some surprise for me tomorrow afternoon. If it is a tennis lesson then this will be crossed off without my having to organize anything! If it isn't, I will try to play tennis on either Thursday or Friday night of this week. I now question why in the world "play tennis" is on this list, but alas...

Open a Roth IRA

I made an appointment to open a Roth IRA this past Saturday, but then I got caught up returning my car lease, so I didn't make it to the bank.

Read one of the 30 books everyone should read before turning 30 that I haven't already read.

Yes! I am still 50 pages into Beloved by Toni Morrison. I guess I wasn't enjoying it that much... Still, I will power through.

Watch Steel Magnolias

Scheduled watching of Steel Magnolias depends on this whole maybe tennis surprise. Unless the surprise is actually a screening of Steel Magnolias...in a private theater...with Olympia Dukakis present. If so screw the entire rest of the list because I will turn 30 the happiest woman on earth. 

Get rid of everything in my closet that I never wear
Done. You're welcome Linds.

Print out all the important pictures from my Facebook

I bought a jump drive to start this process. That's something, right?

I returned the jump drive because it's way easier to do this on Shutterfly. I have yet to do it, but I now know just how easy it is to do meaning I have plenty of time to continue procrastinating. 

Outline that feature film I've been mulling over for at least three years

I had a total break through on this feature while attending the JT/Jay-Z Legends of Summer Tour concert last night, so now I can FINALLY get it done, maybe. Some people think best in the shower. Apparently I think best among 75K screaming fans as Jay-Z raps to "Tom Ford."

Ride on a Vespa
I have crossed out the "a Vespa" portion of this task because I have successfully secured the Vespa upon which I will ride. Unfortunately it currently needs works on the front breaks, which feels like a necessary element of my first Vespa ride.

Hike to the Hollywood sign

Did it. Loved it.

Eat an entire banana


Develop some semblance of levelheadedness around turning 30 

I'm getting there, but mostly just because I'm exhausted by all the over-thinking I've been doing. That's progress, right?


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The First and Final Word On: Body Image



I technically can’t write a final word on a topic I have yet to cover with one word, but it felt crazy to go through six years of writing about my 20s without discussing one of the things I thought about most of the course of those six years: my body.

I feel like I owe it, to both every woman who has ever existed and myself, to explain my feelings about body image based on the image I have of my own body. I’m sorry. I should have included “every man” in that sentence too. Men are not void of body image issues, at all.

I’ve read plenty of articles about having a healthy body image, loving your flaws, understanding what an average body looks like, and even instilling body confidence in today’s youth. But I can’t remember reading an article that actually explains what goes through a person’s brain when they think about their own body. So I’m going to try to write that piece right now. I think it might be therapeutic for me, and hopefully helpful for you. It will probably end up being mortifying for me and somewhat therapeutic for you, but I’ve already written this whole long intro now, so there’s no turning back.

I don't know what a healthy body image is, but I'm pretty sure I don't have one. 
 
I am a thin person. I have always been a thin person. There have been times in my life where I was closer to average than thin – those times being that year of high school that I ate a French toast bagel with butter every day before school and those four years of college that I drank a Busch Lite (or six) every night before bed – but on the whole, I am thin. In size speak that’s a 4 or 6 on the bottom and a small on top.

And yet at least once a week I lie in bed before falling asleep and tell myself that I’m going to start a very strict diet, tomorrow. Sometimes I decide I’ll be vegan before breakfast. Other nights I promise to stop eating carbs and cheese all together. Every so often I decide the Special K Diet is the way to go. I’m not kidding. This happens weekly. Sometimes I wake up and follow that plan. Most times I don’t. But the dialogue does not change. Ugh, if I just ate less that part of my thighs that I hate would slim down, and the little side chunks of belly fat that piss me off when I’m wearing a bathing suit would go away, and I be really thin and really sexy and all the clothes I want to wear would fit perfectly, and I WILL FEEL SO GREAT. I can do that. I want that. I will do that. Nothing will stand in my way of doing that. Tomorrow.  

Why? I do not know. I have a loving partner who has said on several occasions that one of the things he appreciates most about me is that I actually eat. He also regularly compliments my body – no matter its size on that specific day – and has said, “you’re getting too skinny” enough times for it to sink in that he prefers me at my more natural size.

So really, why? Why do I want absolutely perfect thighs, zero chub around the middle and perfectly toned skinny arms? And why do I want this at the expense of things I really enjoy like cheese and not running? 

My honest answer is, doesn’t everyone? That's literally the first thing to comes to mind - not because I have an unhealthy ideal of what a woman's body should be, but isn't this normal? Doesn’t everyone want to look like a perfectly sculpted model that inspires jealousy wherever she struts? Doesn’t everyone want to be the skinniest girl in the room, even if it means egg white omelets without cheese? Isn’t everyone bothered to the point of Special K-dieting their extra skin away? Doesn’t everyone hate themselves when they eat more cheese and meats from the cheese and meats platter at the cocktail party then promptly promise the never eat the party meats and cheese again?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. In my head, all the answers are yes. Maybe in our body-obsessed culture, the answers are all yes. But I also know, despite the fact that I commonly answer yes to all those questions, that the answer to many should be no.

I like myself - some days a lot. But I know I'd like myself a lot more if I could get over always wanting to lose those extra inches that piss me off when I try on bathing suits. It's exhausting to beat yourself up about standing in your own way of pool party domination. What is pool party domination? Why being the person with the best body at the pool, of course. How could you not be aware of such an important and universal competition!

So what do we do about it? I’m not sure, but I can tell you a few things I do about it. For starters, I don’t have a scale. Aside from my annual physical, I have no idea what I weigh. I can tell you if my pants don’t fit, but I can’t tell you how much less cheese-eating it takes me to lose five pounds. That’s really helpful to me. 

Next, if I’m feeling particularly hateful toward my body, I stop looking at pictures of perfect women. That’s hard right now because I write about celebrity fashion and enjoy watching television, but I try not to sift through SELF magazines or COSMO if I’m down. No amount of telling myself that those people aren’t real or that it’s their job to look that good talks me out of wanting to look exactly like them. That is human nature. 

And finally, I stop looking in the mirror so much. That’s the most helpful of all. When I don’t look in the mirror so much my body image is focused more on how my body feels. Are my clothes comfortable? Does my body feel healthy? Does my stomach feel too full or not full enough? 

I am one woman with a very minor struggle. You might be reading this and saying, "bitch stop complaining about five pounds. You sound like a snob."  But my size is not the point of this whole conversation. My world views is the point. It's skewed, and that's more frustrating to me than the way some bathing suit bottoms look on my butt. I'd like to work on it throughout my 30s. Maybe you do too? And maybe this little confessional will help both of us start.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Well, I didn't make Forbes' 30-Under-30 list again slash EVER


Yesterday Forbes came out with the 2013 30-Under-30 List, and I wasn't on it - again. This time, though, it stung a little. This year was my final chance to make this seemingly arbitrary list created by an unknown committee of people. I've never going to be a 30-Under-30 - ever. No, it's never been a goal of mine. No, I don't believe there's any cash prize involved. Fine, I didn't even know it was published until this morning. But that doesn't make it any easier to swallow guys. One day of Internet fame and a cocktail party has passed me by, forever.

It's crazy because I actually know someone who is very high up at Forbes, and yet there's still no love for me and my various, mostly underground, 100% non profit endeavors. I mean, what does it take to be among the top 30 people under 30 years old doing anything and everything that matters in the entire universe these days?!

Alas, the answer appears to be more that I have done. Though in fairness, the committee did not have a chance to review the hand painted short shorts I recently made by following an incredibly talented high schooler's DIY blog.

From ages 12 through 28 I viewed the 30-Under-30 list as a lofty goal that the more power hungry slash business-focused version of myself might reach if she stopped watching so much HGTV and writing 500-word Internet posts and the philosophical implications of hooking up. But now that it's over for me - now that my last  I have legitimately "founded' things - if you consider blogs and storytelling shows things that one "founds." I have also come very close to starting companies that other people actually started, to insane success. You know that app where you can find single people in your area on map? And by "that app" I mean "those dozens of apps." That was my idea. And yet this year the 30-Under-30 for Media went to Matt Mullenweg who was, "a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Houston when he launched WordPress, the open source blogging software now used by 17% of all web sites, including Forbes.com." Is it me or does 17% of all websites seem low?

There's also Leslie Dewan who, "has a plan to power the entire United States, with zero carbon emissions, for the next 100 years while simultaneously getting rid of our mountains of nuclear waste."

And let's not forget Jennifer Fan:"At the age of 29, Jennifer Fan is already a Wall Street veteran. Now running her own $650 million energy and agricultural commodities hedge fund, Fan has traded oil and gas in the aftermath of the collapse of Enron, the disruption of hurricane Katrina, the boom and bust of natural gas prices, and the shift to electronic trading."

I was starting to come to terms with my place in life after reading Jennifer Fan's profile. That is some impressive stuff. I mean, I've finished three screenplays on my own, but I don't even know what a hedge fund technically is, so I was getting comfortable with the idea of giving it up to Jennifer and her uber-accomplished cronies.  

Then I kept reading the list as it went on, and on, and on, and on...way past 30!!! Did you know there are actually 30 people PER category among 15 categories! That's, like, hhmm, three times five...carry the one...A LOT more than 30!! Some random New York Times writer made it! These two hosts of HuffPost live made it! Nobody even knows that HuffPost live exists!!

I mean, if I had known how easy it was to make it, I would have tried harder to get on the list!

For now I'll just have to find other ways to define my self worth.

Back to the DIY Pinterest boards I go...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Final Word On: Dating

This image is in no way relevant, it just cracked me up

The series continues as the clock counts further down...

Today: dating.

There was a time when this entire blog was centered on the topic of how to get dates, how to keep dating once you gotten a live one, and how to continue that dating pattern into a legitimate relationship. It wasn't until I actually completed that string of goals without following any of the advice I'd ever given anyone else that I decided to stop writing about dating quite so much. That said, I have some "bottom line" style opinions on the matter, and here they are.

  • If you're not sure whether or not you're dating someone, ask them. If you're afraid that asking them will ruin your chance of actually dating them, you're right - it will. 
  • There will come a time when you have to decide whether it's better to be lonely inside a relationship or outside a relationship. In other words - would you rather have a bad boyfriend for the sake of having a boyfriend? I can't answer that question. I've lived it both ways through my 20s. But I will say this, there are boyfriends out there who are not "bad" at all. I know it's scary to hold out for those, but I also know it's impossible to get them if you're dating some other jerk. 
  •  There is no definitive answer to the question of how long you should wait before you have sex. But from my dozens upon dozens of conversations on the topic I can tell you this, if the success of the relationship is relying on this issue, the relationship wasn't going to be successful.
  • Click here for what I believe to be the single greatest advice I've ever given on dating. Click here for what I believe to be a close second.
  • Be wary of people who say any of the following:
    • I don't talk on the phone. I only text.
    • I can't sleep in anyone elses' bed, so we have to stay at my place.
    • Nah. I haven't told any of my friends about us yet. 
    • I have this ex girlfriend/boyfriend who's completely obsessed with me.
    • Sorry but I can't get off any other way, so...
  •  I want to say something regarding on-and-off dating. I want to say that it's a bad sign about the stability of the future relationship or that it's indicative of issues or that it never turns out well, but I can point to too many stories that suggest otherwise. I will say this though: if you keep getting back together without figuring out what's going wrong every time you break up, you're going to keep breaking up. 
  • I support online dating. I've done online dating with some success, and I know people who've done online dating with ultimate success. But it is like anything else in the dating world - one way to meet people. Dating is a numbers game. Stack the odds in your favor. 
  • Meeting up with someone and their friends at a bar post 10PM is not a date. Call me old-fashioned. I take that as a compliment when it comes to dating. 
And finally
  • I don't believe that dating is not dead, and I'm not sure it ever will be. But if I'm wrong and dating "like we used to" ceases to exist, it will be because we let it. Every time we accept less out of our potential mates during that special time between meeting and making it official, less becomes accepted. It's nobody's fault, it's just human nature. We like to cut corners. I think it has something to do with the cave men. If you're fine with that, so be it. But if you want dating to be "more" than what you're experiencing, ask for it, require it, or wait for it to happen. I am not authorizing you to ask like a princess (whether you're a guy or girl). I'm just saying that it's okay to want someone to pick you up and take you to dinner so you can have a nice, long conversation in private.     

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Top 10 Weirdest Things About Being Engaged

Tip #1: Stare Deeply Into The Eyes of Your Fiance At All Times

Getting engaged is by far one of the most exciting things that's ever happened to me, and I once tap danced with Savion Glover on the set of Sesame Street alongside Phylicia Rashad's son.

But being engaged is by far one of the weirdest experienced of my life - to date. I can only assume growing a human inside my stomach will be weirder, but I feel like I somehow have more experience with that on account of how many times I've been so stuffed with food I feel like I'm carrying a full term child.

Here are the top ten things among the dozens of things that are incredibly weird about being engaged:

1. The ring

I don't really know how to handle this incredibly precious thing that I now wear on my hand - the body part that does the most slamming into things (aside from the foot, but walking can't really be counted, so the hand takes it). Can it go in the shower? Can it go in the pool? Should it wash dishes? Do I put sunscreen on it (j/k - I know I don't. I Googled it)? It could be that my awkwardness about the ring is related to the fact that I'm left-handed, so my dominant hand is not my ring hand. Think of allll the things you do with your dominant hand. Now think of doing them all while wearing the most important item you've ever owned. See my issue?

2. This discussion of the wedding with people you may or may not be able to invite


I don't think I need to explain how awkward this is, I'm just hoping my face doesn't do the explaining for me whenever I'm in conversation with someone who may or may not be on the A list...

3. Creating the A List versus the B List

It's like Survivor: Everyone In Your Life Edition. Remember the last time you had to rank your all of your family and friends by their importance in your life while taking into consideration their perceived importance in your life and the fact that you can only afford to invite 1/3 of them? Right.

4. That moment when someone asks you and your fiance a question that you haven't yet discussed 

It's not just that you have to awkwardly stare at each other waiting for one to make a decision-move first; it's that you have to acknowledge before whomever is asking that you have not in any way discussed this likely huge issue. Examples include: are you going to do a first look or wait until the aisle? Are you going to write your own vows? Are you going to have a religious wedding? Where are you going to sleep before the wedding?

5. That moment when someone asks you and your fiance a question you haven't discussed and that you have completely opposite answers to...

See above. Replace the awkward staring at each other with instant, opposing responses. Add in the embarrassment of not having discussed this issue with the embarrassment of having completely different views on the topic. No need to stir.

6. Deciding if it's J + R or R + J

This is minor but still worth mentioning. We're going R + J on materials but I go J + R when signing joint thank you notes for engagement gifts. Frankly, if I'm coming up with a dozenth way to say, "thank you for this gift," I'm signing my name first.

7. Discussing every element of your wedding planning with friends without ever mentioning your budget

I cannot tell you how many times I've said, "you know...we're on a budget, so..." The so is intended to explain why I'm discussing making all of my own centerpieces and potentially stealing flowers from a farm close to our venue - as just two of one thousand examples.

8. How confusing the gravity of this whole thing is

Every - oh - 25 minutes - I lose complete and utter sight of the fact that this is just a big party to celebrate the union of our two lives. See, I just did it. I called it, "the union of our two lives," instead of, "getting married." Even I'm conflicted about it! Is this the most important six hours of my entire life or is this a really fun party to celebrate our love?! Also, who exactly gets to decide this? Me? R? Me + R? Our parents?

9. Using the term FIANCE

This is stranger than it seems. So strange, in fact, that R has taken to using the term, "guy you're going to marry," when discussing his new role in my life. Example: "You're welcome. I'm just trying to be a future husband." I'd correct him, but I keep introducing him as my boyfriend, so I think that makes us even.

10. The waiting to get married part

We're getting married about a year from the day we got engaged. I now know that is about a year too long. Yes, the planning and prep takes time, but if I could do it all over again I'd have a six month engagement. Sustaining extreme excitement and anticipation for one whole year cannot be good for the pre-ulcerous stomach...

What did I miss, wedding planning survivors?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bonus Post: My One 20-something Regret


I have a million tiny regrets from my 20s. Things like I wish I'd run a 5K and I wish I'd ever wanted to run a 5K for more than a second. Then there's things like I kinda wish I kissed that one super handsome filmmaker from Australia and I wish I hadn't kissed that one super rude banker from Long Island. And of course I wish I'd traveled to Europe at least once while I was living in New York but of course I wish I'd ever had enough money to travel to Europe at least once while I was living in New York. 

None of those things really matter in the grand scheme of things - even 20-something things - so those aren't what if's that I legitimately count.

The one regret I legitimately count is not investing in a retirement savings plan.

Sorry. You were probably hoping for something involving a tattoo and/or late-night romp with a celebrity.

I've thought about writing this post a lot these past few months. My finances are something I'm typically very private about, especially the embarrassing elements of my finances. But the whole purpose of this blog was to be open and honest about my own experience to help others make it through their 20s in one (hopefully more financially solvent) piece. It started to seem unfair to skirt this incredibly important issue just because it makes me feel like a boob.

The other reason is that maybe if I put it here in writing I'll be inspired to actually take a step forward - and by inspired I mean shamed into...

There are plenty of reasons why I don't currently have a nest egg for my eventual retirement. Things like, "I once made 28K and lived in Manhattan," and, "Once I finally made more than 28K, I had credit card debt to pay off," and, "Once I finally made considerably more than 28K, I had to start saving money to leave my job and become a full-time writer!"

These are all "legitimate" reasons. For much of my 20s, I have lived pay check to pay check. It's hard to squeeze out and extra X% per month for the far away future when you're putting dental work on a credit card.

But it also isn't so hard.

If I had saved only $50 per month for the past 10 years of my life I'd have $6,000. That's not enough money to retire on, but it's more than nothing. If I'd scrounged a bit more and saved $100, I'd have $10,000. If I added any work bonuses and freelance earnings, I'd have even more.

While none of that is a lot of money, it's something, and something is better than nothing. The other thing about "something" - no matter how small the amount - is that it starts a pattern of spending and saving that stays with you for life. It's a priorities thing, not a money thing.

For the past ten years my priorities have been the "here and now." I intend to make up for what I haven't saved over the course of these next decades, and I think I've set myself up to do so, but just knowing that I could have saved X amount over the entirety of my 20s is frustrating - incredibly nerdy, and, considering all the regrets I could have, totally manageable, but still something to look back on as I look forward. 

Oh, also, I was once at a party with John Legend and I pretended I didn't know that he was John Legend. That story is here, and it's my second biggest regret in life. Talk about being a boob...

Long story short: save your money and don't pretend you don't recognize an international music celebrity when you meet one.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Final Word On: Hooking Up

*Not a real book...yet.

I've decided to use up some of my remaining post space to soap box on the biggest issues facing 20-somethings today...after excessive college debt, rampant unemployment, and the astronomical cost of independent health insurance...

Hooking up - the catch-all term to signify intimacy of any kind, outside of a relationship.

You don't "hook up" once you're inside a relationship. I don't exactly know what you call the canoodling you do once you're in an actual relationship, other than not canoodling. I just know that it's called "hooking up" if you're doing it with someone that you absolutely do not call your boyfriend or girlfriend.

Here are my final, hopefully clear, mostly non-judgmental thoughts on the way the modern world has come to relate sexually.
  • If you are hooking up because you want to hook-up, have at it. Your body is your temple. I hope that you are safe, respectful and mostly mature about it, but beyond that, go to town. I don't think there's anything wrong with expressing yourself sexually, experimenting with different approaches to your sexuality or engaging in sexual acts outside of a committed relationship. If it makes you happy, you are careful with your body and you are considerate of your partner, enjoy. 
  • If you are hooking up because you think you should hook up, take a pause. Peer pressure is a real bitch. We think we should lose our virginity by X age, try a threesome because that's being adventurous, or sleep around because we've earned the right. Sex is not a should. It's a can, if you'd like. If would not like for whatever reasons under the sun, don't. You're no less of a sexual being because you're not a "Samantha." Don't let any TV show or Cosmo article convince you otherwise. Do I recommend going through life afraid of sex? Absolutely not. It's a beautiful thing. But I'm afraid all the messaging around casual sex and hook-up culture is creating a generation of people who don't know that there's an option beyond following this trend. Just because casual sex (I'm including everything from a blow job to a threesome in "sex") is normalized doesn't mean it's normal. So if you don't feel like your normal self doing it, stop. 
  • This one is going to make you mad, but I don't care. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no man or woman was ever hoodwinked into a relationship via a hook up. In other words, if you are hooking up as a means to hook a man, you are wasting your time. Yes, you may end up in a relationship after having hooked up, but it won't be because of the hook up.  So, if you're only hooking up with someone because you think it will convince them to date you, abort mission. I know. I've been there. "There" being a bar at 2AM talking to a drunk guy who is saying, "Just come home with me..." I'm saying, "How about I give you my number and we re-schedule" (or something less cheesy, but, let's be honest, probably not). Then he's saying, "Why don't you want to? We've been hanging out all night." And so I go because I'm afraid that if I don't go, I'll never hear from this guy again. Guess what? I probably won't. Guess what else, that will be a blessing, and not even one of those tricky blessings in disguise. This is 2013. If he wants to find you again, he'll find you. You are not going to siren sex him into falling in love with you after one drunk lay.
  • There is a fine line between hooking up with the same person for several weeks/months/years and being in a relationship with that person. That line is so fine, in fact, that some people can't see it. And unfortunately, the only way to make that line appear is to call it out directly. Never assume that just because you're exclusive, she's exclusive. And - though this is going to make me sound like a god-damned grandma - if you're too immature to ask the person you're sleeping with if they're also sleeping with other people, you're too immature to be having sex.   
  • And finally, intimacy may make you feel closer to a person, and in many ways you are, but hooking up creates a very specific intimacy. I won't call it false - that's not fair - but it can be incomplete if it isn't clear. Sex means different things to different people, but these days we often have sex in a manner that assumes it's all the same to everyone. Forgive that massive generalization (that makes me sound like a grandma, yet again) and just look out for yourself, no matter what you do.
That completes this afternoon special. For further advice I am in no way qualified to give, feel free to e-mail me at 20Nothings@gmail.com.

Next week - The Final Word On: Deciding What The Hell To Do With Your Life

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bonus Post: Current Progress On The 30 Days 'Til 30 Challenge


It's been approximately one week since my (self-imposed and totally ridiculous) challenge was set (by myself). Here's where I'm at, because I know you've been staying up all night wondering.
 
Stay up all night partying

On Sunday night/Monday morning I went to sleep at 1AM. It was really, really rough and I felt miserable the next day even though I was completely sober. Awesome. 

Go out to dinner wearing a midriff top

I almost packed the midriff top I bought for this very purpose on a recent mini trip to San Diego, but then I chickened out because I knew we'd be going to a gastro pub, and midriff tops do not bode well in an environment where bacon is included on every food item. 

Make sushi

No dice, but I have determined the day that I will attempt to make sushi, and I made myself an iCal reminder, so there's a 50% chance it will actually happen. 

Go blonder on the bottom of my hair

"Two years ago I jumped on the ombra hair highlights trend (which was at that point, four years old). On August 2nd I have an appointment to re-do my dye, and I'm going to go a little lighter for fun! That's all."

Same status applies. 

Send a letter to Mrs. Lokitz, the teacher who made me a writer

Today I will call the Freehold Intermediate School and request Mrs. Lokitz' home address. I just need to make an iCal reminder for that...

Play tennis 

Ugh...this update is getting depressing...

Open a Roth IRA

See above. Add "really" before "depressing."

Read one of the 30 books everyone should read before turning 30 that I haven't already read.

Yes! I am 50 pages into Beloved by Toni Morrison. I'm enjoying it very much. Yeah!

Watch Steel Magnolias

I have determined that Steel Magnolias is on Netflix instant, so my chances of watching it are now greater than 50%.

Get rid of everything in my closet that I never wear

I have made a small, mental pile of the clothing I will donate to charity slash my good friend Lindsey. Get ready Linds! There's a super cute red jumper on that mental list. 

Print out all the important pictures from my Facebook

I bought a jump drive to start this process. That's something, right?

Outline that feature film I've been mulling over for at least three years

No comment...
Ride on a Vespa

I don't even know how to go about pretending to do this one...

Hike to the Hollywood sign

See the sushi plan, add this to that same day.

Eat an entire banana

Develop some semblance of levelheadedness around turning 30

I feel like I should give up the rest of the list and just focus on this, though I probably stand a greater chance of winning my own Vespa than checking this item off...

ONWARD!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How Long Can You Wait To Have A Baby?


If you asked me, "How long can you wait to have a baby?" before I read this Atlantic article, I would have said, "It gets really dangerous to try having children after around 34."

My answer would have been based on random headlines I've seen or studies I've skimmed. It also would have been rooted in the almighty, "things I've heard lots of people say," source. In other words, it would not have been an educated answer.

If you asked me, "How much anxiety do you have around waiting to have children?" before I read this Atlantic article, I would have said, "SO MUCH ANXIETY."

I want to have biological children. I would ideally like to have more than one. And yes, I know that I am not yet ready to start having those children. I cannot say when I'll be ready. There may come a time when my desire to have kids outweighs my fear of being financially and emotionally ready to have them (people say that happens), but right now, I am not ready. In one month, however, I will be 30. Let's pretend I want two children, spaced two years apart. If my "babies by 34" number were to be the stat to live by, I would need to get pregnant this year or else...

Or else, what?

That is the premise of this very interesting article on some of the real, modern stats behind bearing children at an older age - and by older I mean 35 to 40. Even this article confirms that attempting to have a first child after 40 is risk. But it doesn't say that at 34, you have X percent less eggs than you did at 33. Same for 36 and 37. It doesn't work quite like that. For fear of being just one more writer to misreport the stats, I'll direct you once again to the article and just say that many of the studies we've come to rely on around this issue are out-dated and poorly constructed.

I want to be careful with this topic because there is, of course, a difference between having children at 27 and having children at 36. The percentage increase in birth defects and miscarriages exists, but according to the research in this article, those percentage increases are not nearly what we've been condition to or lead to or convinced ourselves to believe.

For some people, any increased risk is reason enough to organize their life around having children sooner rather than later. Those people are well within their rights. Frankly, any choice around this issue is the right choice because it's what you want and need.

But for those of us who - for whatever reasons (you met your partner later in life, you are interested in establishing your career before having children, you do not have the finances to support a child) - will probably end up getting pregnant in the 33 to 40-year-old range, this more realistic understanding of the risks is a relief.

Does that mean we are all safe to have perfect, healthy biological children well into our late 30s? No. But it means that when we weigh the decision to wait, different understandings and factors are involved.

Jean Twenge - the author of this Atlantic piece - raises an interesting question that isn't answered, probably because it's impossible to answer. Why all the false reporting around such an important issue. Not to put too dramatic a point on it, but the decision around when to have children guides many women's lives in their 20s and 30s.

Why is the medical community happy to rely on old stats? Why isn't there easy access to a test that lets you know the status of your eggs and tubes and other parts? Is it that it's too expensive? Is it that it's too inconclusive? Could the Atlantic write a follow-up article on that? Because it seems to me that the world would go round a lot happier if we all had more of a clue about this incredibly important issue looming in our lives.

What's your take? 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Older The Age, The Shorter The Time Before You're Engaged?


A former colleague of mine recently got engaged. She and her new fiance are both 30-somethings who dated consistently throughout their 20s and early 30s. They met about one year ago, fell instantly in love, and got engaged 11 months later. To me, the somewhat short courtship (there are certainly shorter) made perfect sense. They are confident in their relationship and very ready to start a family, so why wait?

But it made me wonder if they would have felt differently were they not both 30-somethings. If they met at 25, would they have been engaged within a year? What about 28? 30? 32?

Is there a correlation between age and time spent together pre-engagement?

My anecdotal stats say yes. My friends who got married around 25, 26, and 27 were together for 3-5 years before making it official. As I've gotten older, that number has gotten smaller.

So if that's a fact then the more interesting question becomes why?

Obvious answer number 1 is biological clock. Fact: if you want to have biological children, there is an age at which that process is easier and an age at which it become harder. That certainly factors in. I know it does for me.

There's also the social issue. If most of your friends are married, and you've been in a relationship that you know will end in marriage anyway, why wait? There is no shame in wanting that next step for yourself to come sooner, after watching your peers experience their own weddings and own family planning.

But I think that you can have zero biological clock issues (perhaps you don't want children) and no peer pressure feelings (which are totally normal, but say you've never even planned on getting married) and still move from bf/gf to fiances faster once you're in your 30s. And I think that's because of who you are and what you know once you arrive at that older, wiser life stage.

I cannot say because I didn't meet someone I felt that seriously about until I was 27, but I feel like I would have needed more time to decide if I was ready to be married at 25. In the time between my personal 25th and, say, 28th birthday my priorities became clearer, my adult personality took full shape, and my taste in men changed (from crappy ones to good ones). So then, while I cannot say because my dating span was from 27 to 30, I feel like I would need a very short time to decide to marry R if I met him at 35 - or even 31. With each year of my life I feel like it's easier for me to make major decisions about my future.

I make that case because when colleague friends found out this couple was engaged they said things akin to, "well yeah, they had to move quickly because they're running out of time." Note: no one said that specifically, but that was the tone of their reaction.

That's not un-true - if time is an issue they're grappling with for the reasons I outline above.

But I think it's just as likely that they knew faster because you know lots of things faster the older you get.

What do you think?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bonus Post: The 30 Days 'til 30 Challenge


Today is the first day of July, and July is the month directly before my birthday month, August, and this August I'll be celebrating my 30th birthday (in case you missed the barrage of posts about it), meaning today marks one month before the end of my 20s.

It's cool. I'm not feeling completely and totally over-dramatic about it or anything. I don't, like, want to make some kind of dumb bucket list of things to accomplish in the final month before the end of an incredible decade of my life. That would be ridiculous...and setting myself up for even more drama...and probably end up costing me a ton of unnecessary money...

Things I'd Like To Do Before I Turn 30

(When have I ever been able to help myself?)  

Stay up all night partying

Miserable as this sounds (even though it was my idea), I feel the need to ring out the decade of oats sowing with one final all-night fest. This will bring my all-nighters total to four: one college paper cram session, one pre-college graduation night sunrise tradition, one NYC night that ended with a religion debate at a felafel stand. This time, if it happens at all, I'll have to take a three hour nap in the afternoon and down at least two coffees around 9pm. Totally worth it!

Go out to dinner wearing a midriff top

You know those bra tops that are technically being worn as shirts right now? Celebs and mom-defying teenagers wear them with high waisted skirts so there's a little more than sliver of skin showing? I want to wear one of those out of the house, in the company of others, to a function that's a step above walking-along-the-crazy-part-of-the-Venice-boardwalk. I view this as an exercise in overcoming self-confidence before turning 30, but it's probably just an excuse to pretend I'm a celebrity, in public. It seems likely this will happen because I recently bought one such style of top at the H&M. It was $5. Win, win!

Make sushi

I've wanted to make my own sushi forever, we have the sushi making kit sitting on the top of the fridge and a gift certificate to Santa Monica Seafood collecting cob webs in my desk drawer. I view this to-do item as something I should have done for years so may as well make happen in 30 days on account of a birthday that has no bearing on my cooking abilities. 

Go blonder on the bottom of my hair

Two years ago I jumped on the ombra hair highlights trend (which was at that point, four years old). On August 2nd I have an appointment to re-do my dye, and I'm going to go a little lighter for fun! That's all.

Send a letter to Mrs. Lokitz, the teacher who made me a writer

I don't quite know how I'm going to pull this off, but I think of Mrs. Lokitz all the time, and now feels like as good a time as any to let her know how the assignments in her 6th grade classroom changed my life. I would appreciate any and all help from the readers of this blog, unless Mrs. Lokitz is among those readers, in which case I'm one step closer to my goal. 

Play tennis 

Not, like, professionally or even "well." I just mean play one round of tennis, probably with R who is the only person I can stand the thought of showing my tennis skills. I can't enter my 30s playing zero sports, and I don't think "gym volleyball" counts anymore. Maybe if it goes well I have a sport to enjoy through my 30s. Changes of that happening are slim, but this list is about getting things done not keeping them up. 

Open a Roth IRA

If you are thinking, you don't have a Roth IRA yet?! I know, and I'm sorry. If you are thinking, why do you think you need a Roth IRA, spend a little time researching Roth IRAs. If you're thinking, how am I going to afford to lose money on my current salary of not enough money, you are the voice inside my head, and I already told you we'd work it out. 

Read one of the 30 books everyone should read before turning 30 that I haven't already read.

Here is that list. I'm embarrassed to call out my full list of options here, so let's just say, if you have a suggestion, chances are I'm in a position to take it...  

Watch Steel Magnolias

Steel Magnolias is perhaps my favorite movie of all time, and it always reminds me of how I hope to be as a friend, daughter, mother and wife. I feel like I should watch it before entering the next phase of adulthood. Maybe I can work that into all-nighter night...
Get rid of everything in my closet that I never wear

It pains me to write that because some clothes are in there just for nostalgia sake. Maybe I'll put those in a box so they're not technically in my closet, but there's still in my possession... Either way, I don't want to walk into my closet and think, ugh, I'd wear that super cute dress if it didn't look terrible on me anymore. 

Print out all the important pictures from my Facebook

This is a beast of task, but I realized the other day after looking through an album of my baby-self that I don't own physical copies of most pictures from the past five years of my life. That seems risky. It's also really lovely to look through a photo album. And finally, there's a chance Facebook an implode any day at any time. I apologize for the fear that may have induced. 

Outline that feature film I've been mulling over for at least three years

I don't have time to write it right now, but if I don't at least get the idea into a word document, I'll start to forget it. 
Ride on a Vespa

I have always wanted to ride on a Vespa, except that I'm afraid of riding on Vespas. It was a real issue while I was studying abroad in Italy. I could have had dozens of Italian boyfriends, but I refused to get on their motociclista's. This is an irrational fear because Vespas are generally safe, especially when driven by safe Vespa drivers. Now I just need to find said safe Vespa drive and beg him (or her) for a ride. 

Hike to the Hollywood sign

This can be done here in L.A. but I'm always too lazy to do it. Considering I will be even more lazy once I turn 30, I should do it within the next month. 

Eat an entire banana

Just kidding! I hate bananas. I almost gagged just writing the sentence, "eat an entire banana." Ugh there I goes again!  

I'm not going to do some ridiculous check-list item because I'm turning one year older. Absolutely nothing will happen the day I'm 30+ one day that changes anything about my person. Why would I add a silly bucket list item that defies who I am for the sole purpose of proving that I "can" before the age clock strikes 3-0??
Develop some semblance of levelheadedness around turning 30

I think I'll have an easier time choking back a banana...


Wish me luck! Updates to come!