Monday, January 31, 2011

the end of the world as we know it

Some tips for the flight into Ushuaia: get a window and take your xanax, the view is almost as heart-stopping as the turbulence.

There is something incredibly humbling about being in this place: for all practical purposes the end of the world (though I felt a bit cheated when I discovered today that there is a town of 2,000 on one of the islands that is a bit further south called Port Williams, they must not have as big of a marketing budget as Ushuaia). To see this city and the surrounding area--barren and inhospitable--reminds you that the world is not just for us, that it is here of its own accord. To look across the Beagle Channel and know that all that lies on the other side is Antarctica puts one in a state of proufound calm.

Yesterday I took a lake excursion in a 4x4 with a guide, a cook and another couple. It's funny, here I am, about as far away from home as I could possibly be and the landscape rather reminds me of...home, with the moutnains and lakes and trees. It was fun to be out and about with only a small group. The couple was made up of an American glass blower who lives in a cabin in Colorado with no running water and an Arengtine engineer who lives near Buenos Aires. I assumed in the beginning that they both spoke both languages as she insinuated that it would be fine if our darling guide Juan did the tour in English and he explained that he would be fine with Spanish as he understood it perfectly. In fact the opposite turned out to be true; she spoke not a word of English (actually she could say 'stop', 'shut up' and 'sit down' the really important things I suppose) and he may well have understood Spanish as he's been in the country for some months but he certaintly didn't speak it. This made me feel pretty smug as nothing warms the heart of a struggling language student than being in the presence of someone who speaks the language even worse.

We stopped in the forest halfway through the day to eat a seriously delicious lunch of, what else, chorizo, steak and malbec. I finally asked the woman how she and her boyfriend managed to talk to each other. 'We don't talk,' she said and we both collapsed in laughter.

Though her boyfriend seemed releived to finally be around another anglophone, he also seemed perfectly confident with his ham-handed attempts at Spanish and professed to speak it just fine when asked. I begin every attempt at conversation in Spanish with a litany of diclaimers: I'm learning, I only speak a little etc so that my efforts are met with low expectations and head pats. So in a way I had to admire the guy's chutzpah. With their seemingly different backgrounds I would ask what these two have to talk about but they just don't talk: how perfectly simple.

I did have a good time with them, making the instant and instantly-disolved bonds of people who find themselves travelling together. Our guide Juan and our cook Nacho were a total hoot. Nacho is a big lover of American music and I taught him the correct words to Sweet Caroline as we all belted it our while crossing the Lago Escondito on our little boat. Nacho is also a painter and writer and I even managed a halfway intelligent conversation with him after lunch about reading in other languages and how faithful translation of a text is in many ways impossible.

Sorry there are no pictures today--I left my converter in my last hotel in BsAs so I am not writing from my laptop: there are consequences to packing under the influence people.

Friday, January 28, 2011

lost weekend part II

On Sunday when we finally recovered from our mighty Saturday night excursion we headed to San Telmo for the famous open air market. While there we discovered yet MORE people dancing in the streets.

Speaking of which, I consulted Julianna (my new expert on all things Brazilian) about what the hair flipping dance from Saturday might have been. She said it sounded like Lambada. Lambada! The forbidden dance, people! I couldn't have made that whole scene up if I tried.

In San Telmo we shopped a bit and then lounged around in Plaza Darrego drinking wine and watching beginner tango dancers stare at their feet as they followed a lesson being held there under the lights. After the sun had set we headed to dinner.

A word about steak before I tell you about our dinner. I don't really eat it at home. I don't think that I have ever in my life actually ordered a steak in a restaurant before coming to Argentina. It's one of those things that I just got it in my head that I didn't care for and now can't remember quite why. Even though red meat is not a big part of my diet at home, you really have to have a damn good reason for abstaining while you're here. To not eat the steak here is as unthinkable as suggesting that tango was actually born in Uruguay (or you know, vice-versa if you're in Montevideo).

La Brigada came recommended to us via a lovely, savvy friend who used to live here. Now readers, there is good food and then there are the steaks at La Brigada. The steak here is so good it's primal; each time I took a bite I could feel my brain flooding with endorphins. It was so good I'm not even sure I can keep it PG if I go into any more detail. Everywhere in the restaurant you could see people with the same expression, the rapturous look of someone who knows they are eating one of the best meals of their life. We ate until we couldn't eat anymore. And then we ordered this:

Knowing that we were unlikely to top this even in the land of a thousands parillas (that's BBQ in Spanish y'all) we ate our final dinner at Osaka which was some of the finest sushi I've had in a long time and afforded Maya and I the chance to join forces to decipher the menu which was in Spanish and Japanese.

Today I'm on my way to Colonia to meet up with the Uruguayan host family I stayed with nine years ago. Besos from the Buquebus!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

lost weekend part 1

I remember now why I've never been successful at keeping a diary. The same thing always happens: I miss a couple of days and then I am overwhelmed by the number of things that have happened since I last wrote and I give up. But not this time dear readers! For the sake of all fifteen of you (and my mom, hi mom!) I will recount my epic weekend in several installments.

My two dear New York friends Margaret and Maya came down for a visit on Friday and left yesterday. Sometimes I feel like I should have more things in my life figured out at this point but one thing I feel like I have absolutely nailed is the friend bit. Mine are amazing; smart, funny, well-travelled, loyal and wonderful--the kind of girls who would hop on an international flight for a long weekend. Something we all noticed while were out together this weekend was the seeming lack of groups of women. In New York if you go to any given bar or restaurant at any given time you will see packs of girlfriends everywhere. I like to think that this absence is because all the of the cool girls are off taking fabulous vacations together in Bariloche but maybe it's just not such a thing down here.

                                                                       the garden at Olsen 

One thing I haven't been so keen on down here is the breakfast food. Much like in Europe, breakfast is usually a pastry and coffee as opposed to the eggs, fruit, bread etc that we eat in the US. I have mentioned before that I am serious about breakfast and I'm even more serious about brunch on the weekends. In the spirt of this most sacred of New York activities we found a couple of fabulous spots courtesy of the wonderful blog A Gringo in Buenos Aires (which I highly recommend to anyone visiting): Oui Oui on Saturday and the delicious Olsen Cafe where you can get your huevos revueltos with a side of 'tude (in case you're really missing New York). We spent much of the rest of our time lounging by the pool and seeing some sights. Buenos Aires is like New York in that you simply can not do everything during one visit and we all came with long lists of 'must-dos'; we chose carefully and well. 

Neither of them speak Spanish so I got to do a lot of translating (some badly: we had a rather alarming incident with a cab driver wherein I confused the words 'espacio' and 'despacio' causing my friend to slam the door when he'd just asked us to be careful with it). Being with them made me realize how much more Spanish I am picking up than when I first arrived but also cued me in to what I might be missing. My friends pointed out to me that the waiter on Friday night was flirting his face off when I was chatting with him. Really? I asked. I had been so focused on trying to understand the meaning of his words that I had become blind to the million other signals that people send when they speak.

                              Margaret is really excited about the over the top tea service at the Alvear 

Another amusing language related incident took place on Saturday after visiting the magnificent cemetary in Recoleta when we went for tea at the uber posh Alvear Palace Hotel (which trust, skip the Faena and go here if you want to get your luxury living on). As we were waiting to be seated a couple asked the hostess in English for a table she said she apologized but if they didn't have a reservation she would have to seat them inside instead of in the beautiful garden. As we also didn't have a reservation we were disappointed to hear this but content to sit inside. However, I asked for a table in Spanish and somehow miraculously there was space in the garden. Now, I'm not certain that this was because I had asked in Spanish--the whims of hostesses in posh places are always mysterious after all--but I like to think it helped.

                           Don Julio where you get to sign your empty wine bottle to add to the decor

Saturday night we had a grand adventure that included some delicious steak at a charming local joint called Don Julio, drinks at the Hotel Faena (which I can only reccommend if you really, really like Philippe Stark; two rounds of drinks here was more expensive than the most expensive dinner we had) and some dancing. The other reason the Hotel Faena made it onto my naughty list was because the waitress gave us terrible directions to the nightclub we were heading to and we ended up on a wild goose chase and had to get a cab anyway. We did however inadvertently stumble into one of the more amazing moments of my trip so far: an open air dance party in the middle of the park. The people were doing some Brazilian dance that looked a lot like saslsa but seemed to include quite a lot more hair flipping. A guy explained it to me but I can't recall the name. We stood there watching in awe as though we had stumbled upon a mirage. I got asked to dance and of course I went for it; I even gamely through in some hair tosses. I'm sure I didn't look as good as the Brazilian girls but it was still better than my tango. Why oh why doesn't this sort of thing happen in the US? (Or does it? Tell me where!) Why can't be life be more life my beloved bad dance movies where people just dance in the streets?

We did finally make it to the nightclub and I had my second night of staying out until the sun came up. I still haven't completely recovered but you know, when in Rome! Or as my Brazilian friend Julianna says (a more colorful phrase I think) when you're in hell, you might as well kiss the devil.

More on the epic weekend tomorrow including where to go if you want the best steak of your life en serio. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

you always remember your first

                                                           tango singers making tango face

Oh Flavio. I'm glad it was you. You were commanding yet gentle; firm but kind. I was afraid but you showed me what to do. We had a moment you and I. We laughed. We cried. Well, I cried on the inside anyway for my disastrous amateur tango. Yes, tango. What did you think I was talking about?

The milonga was not quite what I had pictured. I had been lead to believe that it would be full of older, mercifully slow-moving, heavily aftershaved men who would communicate via some subtle code of lingering glances and eyebrow raises. But in fact, the milonga that Nina and I ventured out to last night was full of attractive, hip looking young people who were all gliding around the floor like they'd come out of the womb doing the tango.

Up until then I'd been feeling pretty good about my progress in tango. I had killed it in class that afternoon; I was nailing my ochos, my camina was on point. I had taken a private lesson earlier in the week and I was able to follow the instructor perfectly. I kept glancing at myself in the mirrors and thinking 'hey! Look at that- I'm totally doing the tango!' 'Muy bien!' my instructors said, 'you must do other dances as well'. 'Why yes,' I said, 'I salsa,' and I beamed.

All that misplaced confidence lasted about five seconds once I did get asked to dance last night. Some tall, rather handsome porteno came over to ask me and I was so nervous that I was shaking a little bit. I danced with my eyes closed not so that I could feel the music but so I wouldn't have to see the snickers I was imagining on the faces of the many, many people watching. When you dance with someone in a milonga, you stay with them for four songs. Four songs! Do you know how long that is? What a commitment that is? Poor Flavio. But he was so nice, 'you have the idea' he said. The idea maybe; the steps, the posture and the rhythm not so much.

He graciously stayed with me for all four songs and then returned me to my seat. 'Was it as bad as I thought?' I asked Nina. 'I thought you looked pretty good for a beginner.' Reader, she was being kind. By 'good' I'm pretty sure she meant 'you didn't actually fall down, there's that.' Then a little while later, like a gift from God a set of salsa music came on. Flavio came to collect me and we tore up the mostly empty dance floor. I felt a little bit redeemed in the eyes of the crowd who had just watched me stumble through the world's most awkward tango; I'm also pretty sure I might've flashed them a couple of times since I was not wearing a dress appropriate for salsa but I'm at peace with that.

The important thing is that I have now danced the tango in an Argentine milonga and I had a blast. Watching the other dancers gave me a lot to aspire to.

Tell me about your first time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


The Tango doesn't exactly look easy but it can look simple in some ways to a novice's eye. The dancers can appear to not be doing very much at times. I'm used to dancing salsa which involves constant movement. There is none of this in tango, the back is always straight and any movement above the waist must be subtle and precise as anything. All dances need good communication between partners but none as much as tango.

My dance classes here are a mix of people typical to what I see in the US, that is to say a group of people who would not likely be found in a room together for any other reason. I love to speculate about what brings people to join these classes, are they trying to breath life back into a marriage? Meet someone? Get some exercise? Did they OD on Dancing with the Stars? Or do they just have a list of things they always wanted to do and this happens to be the moment. So in this way my classes have a comfortable familiarity; the students are all ages, all nationalities with all kinds of different lives outside of the classroom. There are still those men I know well by now, the ones who have NO idea what they're doing but don't hesitate to instruct you or let you know when they think you've made a mistake.

Even though I have had to break myself a little bit of some of my salsa training, having some dance training at all is incredibly helpful. Both Tango and Salsa can be said to be sexy dances but in exactly opposite ways. Salsa is cheerful and quick, a dance of happiness and parties; the connection is light and flirtatious--kind of like the best first date ever. Tango is a dance full of longing and romantic desperation; a dance of people who have either missed their chance to be together or know they will never get one at all. You don't know the meaning of dancing together 'as one' until you've done tango; you must be close enough to the man to know what he will do before he does it. Salsa is like a public makeout in the street between two people too enamored of each other to care and Tango is an embrace in a dark alley between two people who are being separated by forces beyond their control; a dance of mistresses (well, originally of prostitutes).

I admit that I don't like to be a novice at anything. It's why I don't dabble in things, I either plunge in or give it up right away. Tonight Nina and I are going to the milonga for the first time. I'm terrified naturally but I have to stop and ask myself of what am I terrified exactly? Of looking stupid? Am I really afraid of that? It is the same with speaking spanish, am I afraid I won't be understood? That I will say something stupid or offensive?

And if I'm not here to face these fears than why AM I here?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I am a visitor here, I am not permanent

Tonight I am meeting some ex-pat friends of a friend who live here in Buenos Aires. I am thoroughly looking forward to meeting them and hearing the real story about what life here is like. In the meantime, I have become friends with some of the other students at the language school as I hoped I would. They are truly in the same place as I am; a city they are seeing through the rose colored glasses of being on vacation here. We remain ignorant to the downside of living here as only visitors can. I've met two girls from Denmark and Brazil respectively who I've been spending most of my time with; we're all around thirty, single, here alone and getting away from very busy lives back home. Relationships made while traveling are of a special variety that isn't necessarily available to us in the rest of our lives; they are instantaneous, uncomplicated and usually fated to remain forever sparkling and untouched in our memories.  

I remember visiting New York before I lived there; I remember how every mundane thing was a thrill when I was visiting and how it seemed such a different place when I came to live there. It would be the same thing anywhere I know. Life is life wherever you go, you can't outrun it and the longer you stay some place the deeper and more complicated your relationships with the place and the people there become.

It's a little hard to think of going back to cold, dark Seattle right now. The warm summer breezes and the seeming ease of life here is lulling me into a stupor and it's hard not to toy with the idea that it doesn't all have to end. And yet, in this day of constant communication I find my real life is reaching me here no matter how many miles away it is. News of a friends declining health, news (or rather no news!) from agents about the book and work email can all still reach me.

The question is, can we really ever get away from it all?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

hablamos espanol aqui

When I put 'learn Spanish' on my list, I felt a little like I was cheating. After all, I'd taken two whole years in college and spent that month in Uruguay nine years ago--didn't I sort of already speak it? No, is the answer to that question. I definitely do NOT speak Spanish in any meaningful way. True, all of those conjugations of hacer, tener, estar etc in my little Spanish workbook (side note: I forgot how consistently hilarious language workbooks are with their outdated cultural references: The Spice Girls!) look vaguely familiar but I still can't get very far into a conversation without waving the white flag of 'no hablo espanol muy bien' pretty fast.

My Spanish teacher is named Paula, she is a primary school teacher during the year and is only a couple of years older than me. She's a good teacher despite the fact that she seems to always be tired (with the lifestyle and the late dinners here I'm actually not sure when anyone sleeps). She has only been to the US one time in her life, to go to Disney world when she was a little girl. Her professors of English have all been British so whenever she says words in English, she does so with this perfecty posh accent. She says 'Madonna' (a regular guest star in the workbook as well as Paula's favorite singer in the world) in the most adorably odd, breathy way that sends me into a fit of giggles each time; I cannot even try to explain to her why I'm laughing. We sit together for two and half hours every day doing exercises from the workbook and stopping to chat (charlar!) a bit about work, places we've travelled or would like to travel and our love lives; this last line of conversation gives me much to add to my vast anecdotal evidence that dating is horrible everywhere and that everyone is convinced that it must be better elsewhere.

Thankfully my Spanish skills seem to be improving at a good pace. Each day the fog of Spanish being spoken all around me clears a little more and I'm a little more certain that when I open my mouth there is at least a chance of something intelligible coming out.

I went out with some new friends from the school the other day and we talked about how we could never understand people who moved to a country and didn't try to learn to speak the native language at least a little. Beyond the fact of isolating oneself, I don't know why one would deny themselves the pleasure of being immersed in a new language. Granted I think I might feel a LITTLE differently if it were mandarin or arabic we were talking about. I am both relieved and disappointed every time I find that someone here does speak English. And I can't quite bring myself to talk to the couple of other Americans who are with the school; it just feels like cheating. How do you feel when you run into your compatriots abroad?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Buenos Aires!

I've finally made it to Buenos Aires after one of the more hellish travel fiascos of my life. I did not get stuck in the Atlanta airport for to days thank God but I did get rerouted through Brazil and spent what remained of my first day here at the mall trying to explain my bra size in Spanish and buying some not very flattering dresses because my luggage had not made it here with me. Just as I was beginning this entry my phone rang and lo, it was an angel from the airline who was calling to tell me that my bag was on its way to me now. Hurray! Lucky Delta, they will not have to endure my wrath which I planned on sharing with literally dozens of readers right here on this blog.

Being here has reminded me just how much I love to be abroad; sometimes I think it's the only thing that can get me really out of my own head. The smallest things are exciting and accomplishing anything at all-- a simple conversation with a store clerk, finding my school on the subway on the FIRST TRY, figuring out my cell phone--feels like a thrilling victory. The trick of being in a foreign country is to reframe things that you would normally call 'pains in the ass' as 'adventures'.  I have some advantages being here in that I am used to big cities which helps with things like taking the subway, not getting run over by cars, remaining stone-faced in the presence of pervy men and generally being in crowds without looking terrified. I also happen to look like everyone here; everywhere I look I see nothing but dark hair and olive skin--it's as though I've been returned to my tribe. Of course the moment I open my mouth, it's shot to hell as I so obviously sound like a total Jankee (Yankee).

Off now to grab some lunch and meet with my Spanish teacher Paola. Wish me luck!

                                       the view from my balcony in Palermo

                                       the Galeria where I'm taking classes

Monday, January 10, 2011


I've always wanted to visit Atlanta. It's where my favorite Housewives are from! However, spending two days in the airport with nary a hotel room in the city when I am trying desperately to get to Buenos Aires was not quite how I imagined it.

So here I am praying that the flight to Sao Paolo they've booked me on actually takes off and listening to some weird hippy kids play the guitar and have, I swear to God, a singalong. None of them look of age so they don't have any excuse to be doing a thing like that. There are a lot of military guys around which I keep thinking might come in handy if this turn out to be the beginning of the actual apocalypse. One young soldier hollered at me that he was here to save me as he and his friend exited the tram. He looked all of eighteen and he added as an afterthought that he was a little drunk when he realized that I was on the phone. Good thing he told me that.

I keep thinking that being stuck here would be more fun if I had some roller skates.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

leaving on a jet plane

Tomorrow I am waking up very early to get on a plane for a number of hours that I refuse to acknowledge. Point is, by Tuesday morning I will (God willing) be in Buenos Aires and off on my big adventure.

Much as I can’t say I’m looking forward to a day’s worth of air travel in far too close proximity to my fellow humans—there’s something gratifying about a voyage that can’t be negated by one bad movie and a catnap, a trip that takes a while. When you land somewhere after a full day’s travel, you feel as though you must be far from your life at home indeed. I’m counting on this sensation to free me up from all of the things that have been so preoccupying me these past few weeks. I’ve resolved not to think about what other more sensible things I might have done with the money I’m spending on this trip, not to think about what could go wrong or how I will feel if the whole thing doesn’t live up to my expectations. I will not to think about work or what I’m doing with my life or the capital ‘F’ future. I will not to think (too much) about the book and whether I will get published this time around or ever. And I absolutely will not think about him.

What I want is to be in the moment and to absorb the experiences as they come at me. I want to take a lot of pictures (something I always neglect to do) and not only remember it always but be there while it’s happening.

Do you live in the moment or do you get stuck in your own head?  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

we plan...

                                                         (god laughs)

You know people who say things like ‘if it’s meant to be, it will be’ or ‘it will all work out for the best’? I am not one of those people. Or rather I may say those phrases but not with any conviction. What I actually mean when I say the former is ‘this is totally out of my control and it sucks’ and the later ‘I am pretty sure this is all going to be a disaster but I need to lie to myself right now to quell the panic’.  I know some people say these things and really mean them and you know what? I hate those people.
In truth I am a planner. I don’t mean that to say that I am a good planner, just that I am incapable of blithely going forward without plans and feeling even a little bit okay with that. I make plans and then usually once the plans are made, worry that they won’t work out you know, as planned.
Once in a blue moon I have sparkling moments of live and let live but they are fleeting. I had to plan my trip to Argentina bit by bit because the sheer anxiety of so many details would just overwhelm me if I did it all at once. A trip like this entails a thousand ‘what-ifs’ and unexpected difficulties and expenses at every turn.
I don’t know yet what shape this trip will take; what it will mean for my life at this particular moment. Will it be more Eat Pray Love or Vicky Christina Barcelona? (As long as Javier shows up amirite?) At this point I’m just hoping it’s not Brokedown Palace. There are some certainties: that it will be exciting and at times scary, that I will have difficulties with the language that will be both frustrating and hilarious, that I will eat steak, that I will meet some amazing new people and that I will at times feel really alone. It is certain that somehow, some way I will be changed when I return. This is the promise is it not? Why go abroad otherwise.  
The truth is no amount of planning or preparation can protect you from the future. The future is always unknown. Not that it keeps me from worrying about it.
Are you a go-with-the-flow person or a worrywart?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

# 10 reconnect with someone I never thought I’d see again


A nice part of getting older is that you learn to appreciate relationships for what they are. My friend S is fond of the saying that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime and I agree with her that this is apt. The trouble is in knowing the difference and accepting that sometimes someone seems to be in one category and turns out to be in another. Thinking a friend or romantic partner will always be in your life and learning that this is not to be is the essence of heartbreak.
I’ve lived in a number of different places over the years and keep in touch with friends in those places to varying degrees. There are inevitable friendship casualties whenever you move cities and the people  I’ve stayed close with despite the distance only become more valuable to me as the years go by.
When you’re young, it seems that a deep connection with someone means they will be in your life always but by the time you come home for Thanksgiving your freshman year of college, you know this is not the case. Sometimes there is a falling out that seems huge and insurmountable at the time but in retrospect is likely to seem small and petty. Many people leave our lives not because of catastrophe or wrongdoing but just because; it doesn’t diminish what you had with that person, but at some point they just become your past. Others come into and out of your life in a blazing flash.
Some of my most memorable experiences with people have been the most fleeting; when someone is only in your life for a brief period, there isn’t the time for your relationship with them to become mundane, for it to be fractured slowly by the stresses of the every day. It remains forever perfectly preserved in the moment. That gorgeous stranger I once went for pancakes with at CafĂ© Yaffa at 4am? Who knows what I’d think of him as now if we’d actually dated. As it happens, all I remember is this night that started off as nothing and became oddly magical out of nowhere.  
It’s easier to get back in touch with people than ever, what once took serious reconnaissance efforts now takes five minutes on Facebook. This certainly leaves the door open for some really bad decisions (no harm in seeing what that ex is up to, right?) but it also creates a loose connection with people that can be maintained much more easily than before. Our bonds with each other are more fluid now, for better or worse.  
The new year brings with it the opportunity to see several people I thought I might never see again: the host family I stayed with while I was a student in Uruguay eight years ago and J from Buenos Aires who hosted us for a most memorable Thanksgiving dinner in ‘07 and who has been so helpful to me in planning my upcoming trip. In fact it is in part because of these wonderful people that I have chosen Argentina to fulfill number 3 (spend a month abroad).
Reaching out to someone from your past can take a lot of courage. I wrote this list item with a specific someone in mind and I am still working up to it.
Have you ever found someone once lost? How did it go?  


Monday, January 3, 2011

the dilettante dilemma: Real Housewives edition

This is tough for me to say. But we’re friends right? I told you about my obsession with bad dance movies and you stuck by through that so I feel I can tell you now about this other, far more shameful predilection. Deep breath, here goes: I love the Real Housewives.

I know. I KNOW.

By far my favorite of these televised train wrecks is Atlanta. I just can’t help but love these ladies. For one thing, they seem like they all sprung fully-formed from the imagination of the late, great E. Lynn Harris (one of my favorite authors I’ve ever worked with) and from what I can tell they start in on the wine at about 10am.

The ‘housewives’ in the title is something of a misnomer, a more accurate title would be something along the lines of ‘Real ladies in tight, cheap-looking-but-actually-expensive clothing with minimal taste, no shame and sublimely ridiculous side projects of X fancy zip code’ since most of the cast members do not actually in any way fit the bill of ‘housewife’ in the traditional sense.

Oddly, a handful of the them seem rather down-to-earth and are even quite accomplished. Such is the case with Atlanta cast member Kandi Burruss, a Grammy winning music producer and very talented recording artist in her own right. A more perfect foil could not exist for this hard-working, passionate heavy hitter than her cast mate and frenemy Kim Zolciak who decided seemingly out of the blue last season that it was her lifelong dream to be a singer.  

For the uninitiated, Kim is a chain-smoking mother of two who has no discernable employment other than her wig line (she’s financially supported by a married man cringe-inducingly referred to as ‘Big Poppa’). Also, she cannot sing. At all. Nonetheless, last season with the help of Kandi she recorded a single on which she is auto-tuned to within an inch of her life. In the beginning she seemed sort of in on the joke but now, after her fist single has became a campy dance hit you get the feeling she no longer recognizes the vast difference between her and Kandi. Her delusion in the face of her complete lack of talent and work ethic is oddly compelling and moreover, it’s familiar.  

Every writer and publishing professional I know could tell you a dozen stories about run-ins with literary Kim Zolciacks: people who upon hearing what you do immediately exclaim that they too want to write a novel despite never having written anything before or even reading novels on a regular basis. This happened to me once on a first date with an investment banker (there was no second date). I’m not talking about people who’ve always wanted to write and finally find the courage to do so and commit themselves to the practice in earnest, I’m talking about the people who talk about writing a book the way they would going sky diving or swimming with dolphins, a one-off thing that one might do just to do it as opposed to something that involves a lifetime of reading and refining one’s craft.

Being an artist is hard but if you truly are one you suffer through the attendant rejection/ low pay/ day job/ sacrifice because you feel like the only other option is to deny yourself that which make you you. Honestly, being a writer isn’t all that glamorous even for the people who are really successful and why someone would want to spend the hours and hours in unpaid solitude if they didn’t feel some deep, undeniable need to write is just beyond me.

How do you deal with these well-meaning dabblers?