Wednesday, March 30, 2011

my life in boxes

I'm getting ready to move on Friday for seventh time in six years. You'd think I'd have it down by now but alas, I stare at my stuff and feel overwhelmed at the idea of taking it all with me to yet another location. I have fleeting fantasies of adapting a monastic existence with only as many possessions as I can carry on my back; or I could be like that chic older lady who ran my study abroad program in France and wore the exact same outfit every day but just mixed in different accessories--I bet her wardrobe was manageable. Seriously do you ever look at the things you own and just think: where did this all come from? I always feel guilty looking at my shoes in particular, the money spent should probably be in a 401K or something. And the cocktail dresses! Whose life are those for? To be fair I used to go to a lot of parties when I lived in New York but they're so dressy for Seattle. I could start wearing them on dates I suppose;  people are always doing that on television but in real life doing that tends to make you look like a hooker or a contestant on The Bachelor unless you're going to the theatre or something. Maybe I need to do the reverse of one of those wardrobe challenges where you wear the same five pieces for a month and try to wear everything I own in a month to see if my life really accommodates all the stilettoes and feathered headbands I've been carting with me all over the country.

Are you a pack rat or a minimalist?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

what weighs on me

It's 'I Regret Everything' week over at my new stomping ground TheGloss so I thought I would share a little about something I regret. 

I’ve often wondered what women might accomplish as a gender if we put all of the time and energy we devote to hating out bodies toward something else. Personally I could have built a house or learned a language or an instrument at least. That might come as a surprise to most people who know me, because I have come a long way toward having a healthy image to go along with my healthy body. I don’t hate my body any more, but I regret the time I wasted doing so. I regret going on diets and counting calories and all of the energy I devoted to the chimera of the perfect body we’re all so conditioned to chase.

Like many of us, I’ve struggled mightily with body image since I was young. I am not now and was never overweight by any medical or indeed reasonable, objective definition of the word. I’m tall and athletic, I’m not a small person and I wasn’t even when I was at an age when most of my friends could eat whatever and not gain an ounce. Once I was old enough to be conscious of the fact that my body didn’t fit the ideal, I loathed it.  

Throughout my teenage years and college and my early years in size-six-is-the-new-sixteen New York; I went through periods of tacit self-acceptance and spirals of loathing that most of us are probably quite familiar with. I never had an eating disorder but I went through long periods where my relationship with food could be described as adversarial at best and unhealthy at worst. I ask myself looking back what any of it was for. It was never really about men in anything but the most tangential way. It was more about worth, about what shape I thought I had to fit in to be truly valued as a woman. A couple of years ago, I decided I had had enough; I wasn’t going to do this anymore. I was never going on a diet again. It finally dawned on me how pathetic it was to buy into all of this nonsense; there is just nothing noble or admirable about the pursuit of thinness.

I’m all about eating healthy and exercising but the benefits of these things go way beyond aesthetics; those objectives are just harder to market. There is the perverse sense that all of this energy we put into hating on our bodies is going to accomplish something: a better-looking body, a healthier life, I don’t know. But the truth is, it won’t. I have never once seen anyone hate themselves into a happier life and a healthier body. Not once. Least of all myself.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve risen above it all and now live in some constant Zen state of body-love. Coming around wasn’t so much epiphantic as it was a slow progression, one that is still happening. But now I look in the mirror most day and am happy and comfortable in my skin; and it’s ridiculous how much effort it took to get there.

Your body and how you feel about it is your own responsibility. Society isn’t going to help you. Getting women to hate themselves is lucrative business for the diet and beauty industries but ultimately, you decide whether or not you give into the hype. Ditto this with giving credence friends, relatives and boyfriends who are toxic about weight. 

There is no doubt that the deck is stacked against us ever feeling good about our bodies but a good place to start is to stop saying negative things about yours. I don’t know how this ever became a way for women to bond but it needs to stop. Not only is it uncomfortable and depressing for those around you to listen to but it’s adding to the deep collective well of body hate that we all have to deal with. You know how this goes, you start in on your thighs, your friend raises you a fupa and a fat ass and it continues from there. Everyone loses in these conversations.  

God willing, I will live to be 100, and you know what? My body is going to look really different at that point. What a shame it would be to look back at these years when my body was healthy and young and know that all I could see were its flaws. I don’t usually refer to Samantha Jones as a source of wisdom but she had the right idea on this matter when she said: ‘When I’m old and my tits are in my shoes, I can look back at this picture and say: damn, I was hot.’


Monday, March 28, 2011

marry, marry, quite contrary

                                                                if I have it can I eat it too?

I spent the weekend in Honolulu at a friend’s wedding; one of my tennis buddies from college. Three of my other teammates came and we had a blast. My tiny, beautiful friend looked picture-perfect and her strapping new firefighter husband seemed delirious with happiness as he towered over her. We all cried at the usual intervals: the bride’s entrance, the vows, the father daughter dance; we drank, danced and made merry late into the night.

If you’re in your late twenties or early thirties, chances are you’re spending a lot of your time going to weddings. Though the constant barrage of invites is tough on the wallet and I feel like I might not have a free weekend in spring or summer until some time in 2015, I always have a great time at weddings. I’m always a little taken aback by how moved I am to see a close friend walking down the aisle, to see the look on her face when she says her vows, gripping tightly to the hands of her betrothed.

A couple of people have asked me if getting married is on my list of things to do before I turn thirty. Once I pick my jaw up off the floor, I tell them as politely as possible that it’s not really that kind of list. In fact, marriage would be rather contrary to the spirit of the list, which is in its essence about the freedom of being young and unattached. I read an article in this month’s Marie Clare about the ‘phenomenon’ of men who find themselves in their mid-to-late thirties and desperately longing for babies. One of the guys quoted in the article said self-effacingly that he was ‘like a 29 year old woman’. EXCUSE ME?! Some of us are a twenty-nine year old woman over here and we do NOT have an all-consuming yearning for marriage and children. Am I alone in this? Am I just naively going happily about my life when I should in fact be panicking? Do I not take this marriage business as seriously as I should?

The answers here are of course no, no and a big fat no. Do I want to get married? To me this is the wrong question. Do I want to meet someone with whom I could have a lifelong partnership, a best friend for all my days, someone I want to mix double helixes with? Absolutely. And when he comes along readers, I expect I’ll put a ring on it. To me marriage is a Big Deal. My parents have been together for over thirty years. They’ve been through really good times and really bad ones and the older I get the more I respect their bond and their devotion to one another. To pledge to be there for someone no matter what isn’t something to take lightly. By in large my friends have chosen wonderful men to marry and each time I watch one of them make this pledge, I am dazzled by the bravery of it, by the hope in it. I wish for all of them the kind of love that my parents share.

Weddings are fun, they’re celebratory but they’re also a bit solemn because of the profundity of what is being promised, the seriousness of it. As much as I respect someone making the choice to be proactive about their love life and happiness, I can’t help but wonder if people who declare a Charlotte -York -style imperative to get married without so much as a contender on the horizon take it seriously enough.  

After my grandmother died a few years ago, we were going through old pictures to use at the service. We found two pictures in which my grandparents were posed almost identically, her at his right side, looking up into his eyes, both smiling. In both pictures they looked like co-conspirators, deeply in love and in a on some kind of delicious secret that only the other knew. One picture was taken shortly after their wedding, the other at their 60th anniversary. Decades had gone by, their grandchildren were grown and yet the way they looked at one another had remained the same.

Seems like something worth waiting for, doesn’t it?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

we need a hero

And as I submitted my column I COULDN’T HELP BUT WONDER, am I just like Carrie Bradshaw?!


As E!’s new cycle of SATC reruns pushes these four famous ladies back into our collective conscious once again, I wonder how this show still has cultural currency after all this time. Anyone who caught the movie versions of SATC, Sex and the City 1: All men are bastards, even the nice ones (Steve!) and Sex and the City 2: Surprise, they were entitled racist bitches all along! knows how unequivocally these abominations showed that the ideals the show was built upon are out of of date (what recession? OMG SHOES!). The later iterations of the franchise are too easy a target to pick on but even watching old episodes of the show when it was at its finest makes me wonder about the dubious icon status of these four women; Carrie in particular.

Now, I happen to I love Sarah Jessica Parker. She is a fine comedic actress, a savvy business woman and I emailed with her once about a work thing and she seemed in those two sentences like a very nice lady. I think without the frank warmth and lovability she brought to the show's main character it would never have taken off (did you read the Candace Bushnell? That s was dark). But the character of Carrie herself isn’t really someone to aspire to be like. Yes, she has a ridiculous apartment, a seemingly fun and glamorous job and an amazing wardrobe but for a show that’s so much about love and friendship, she frankly sucks at both. She’s completely self-centered and immature and has zero sense when it comes to men. Zero! She is that friend that you get so sick of hearing talk about their asshole ex that you stop returning their phone calls, she's the friend whose eyes glaze over within ten minutes of a conversation if it's not about her. She's the friend you should never, ever loan money to.

I'm not saying I won't occasionally binge on the SATC reruns. The first few seasons of that show were the ish; watching reminds me both of being young and idolizing the lifestyle of New York women while simultaneously reminding me why I left. So it's not that I'm not giving SATC its due for the incisive parable of city life it once was, all I'm saying is can we put poor sad Carrie to rest now (and hope that the producers of franchise will have the mercy to do the same) and find some new archetypes of modern womanhood? Liz Lemon is an obvious choice;  I also nominate Robin Scherbatsky from How I Met Your Mother and Sue Sylvester from Glee.


Readers! Check me out on theGloss today. And if you're just joining us, thanks for stopping by. Do come back now ya hear?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I've been back from Argentina for six weeks and am about to turn twenty-nine in another two. It's gotten me thinking about time: how we use it, how we waste it, how there's never enough of it. All the big questions really come down to time in the end. If you're lucky enough to live in a free society, you get to choose how you spend your time and who you spend it with and these are the decisions that really make a life.

Working freelance has made me look at time differently than I did before. The idea of being in an office for a certain number of hours a day never did sit well with me and now that I've tasted the freedom of deciding how to allot the hours of my day, I don't think I could ever go back. It’s also made me look differently at the time I spend doing other things; it’s all my time in the end, am I making the best use of it? (Jen Dziura wrote a great post on this a while back for her career column for the Gloss: read it here).

My trip to Argentina was long enough to break me out of my routine and so since I've returned I've been establishing a new one. I've gotten back into tennis and salsa and I got so behind on my television watching while I was abroad that it didn't seem worth it to try and catch up once I got home. And now that the daylight is lasing longer, it's easier to go out into the world in the evening instead of holing up with yet another iteration of the Real Housewives.

Where does your time go?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

outta my head

I am a champion over-thinker of things, a black belt worrier. I tend to look up, down, sideways and backwards at a situation many more times than could ever be necessary. I can make a complicated algorthym out of a simple equation and imagine sinister Byzantine motivations were none exist. Perhaps it's the fiction writer in me, the fabulist, the wild imagination but often I just can't turn it off.

Sometimes it's more than a good book or some bad television can fix. Tennis can work: watch the ball, watch the ball. Dancing can work: getting lost in good music and the arms of an adept partner is more soothing for me than meditation could ever be. Even straight up working out can do the trick although being alone in the gym can be dangerous and often as not I get lulled into pontification by the thwack-thwack of my jumprope. I recently discovered the Nike Training Club app and this works better: no room to think when you're trying to figure out how the hell to do a spinning-frog-lump-lunge and listening to the voice of the robot trainer lady over the aggressive pop music that I can't stand in real life but love when I'm exercising.

Where do you go when you need to get away from yourself?

Friday, March 18, 2011

the world according to Julianna

I got an email last weekend from my dear Brazilian friend Julianna with a much-needed infusion of her uplifting worldview. She said she’d been thinking of me since Carnival had been going on there and we have big plans to go next year.
I’ve talked about Julianna before; I had the good fortune of meeting her about two days into my Argentina trip. She is the kind of person you know you want to be friends with just by looking at her. She could land on Mars and befriend the natives in one day flat I’m sure of it; she’d have learned the native language in three. Not that she’s all sweetness all the time (who wants that?); for instance, jokes about Brazilians not wearing any clothing and partying all the time will not go over well, trust. Since I can’t share the actual Julianna with all of you, I thought I’d share a few of her thoughts on things to help get you through the weekend.
On time:
Julianna has worked internationally so she knows that it’s a big deal to be on time in the Northern Hemisphere. She would run late every time we met up and I could tell she was worried about me thinking she was being rude. For my part I was trying to chill the eff out about time since I was a- on vacation and b- in South America and trying to go as native as possible; I’ve spent enough time south of the equator to know that it’s useless to expect people to regard start times as anything more than a suggestion but it was Julianna who finally explained to me the reason for this difference. ‘If you show up right on time,’ she told me ‘ the person you’re meeting might not be ready for you yet or they might be late and then they will be embarrassed. Better to show up fifteen minutes after and give them some time to prepare.’
On love:
One day in my Spanish class I learned a completely fabulous word that I wanted to immediately share with the girls and import into American slang (kids at home, get on this) ‘amigonovio’. It means literally ‘friendboyfriend’ and is used to describe someone you are more than friends with but not quite in a relationship with; this basically describes most of the romantic interactions I’ve ever had. I discussed with Julianna and Ninna. Why did we have no words for this in English? Why were we left with the ’guy-I’m-kinda-sorta-dating’ or the dreadful ‘friends with benefits’? This conversation lead Julianna to share with us a whole lexicon of terms for romantic entanglements: there is ‘amigo con colores’; friend with colors which is something a little more serious than the American ‘friends with benefits’ and a little less serious than the Argentine ‘amigonovio’; people living together but not married are ‘enamorados’ and my very favorite, ‘el arroz’ or ‘the rice’. In Brazil rice is served with every meal, it’s always around but it’s never the main dish. This is basically the Brazilian way of putting someone in the ‘friend zone’; ‘Oh James? Nah we’re not dating, I just see him when I’m bored; he’s the rice.’ Of course once in a blue moon, the rice can become a risotto but the rice probably shouldn’t hold his breath.
On Sadness:
In general, Julianna is very upbeat and positive but she believes in giving sadness its due. During one of my first long talks with her, I remember she said ‘life is beautiful, even when it’s terrible. You have to appreciate your sadness as well; it’s how you know you are alive. And it is always better to be really alive.’ In talking about heartache she said she disagrees with the song that says ‘owner of a lonely heart is better than owner of a broken heart.’ She said she’d rather have a broken heart that is alive and full of experiences and memoires, better to have sadness than not to have memories.

Readers, I cannot disagree.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

tell me something good

Is it is me or is there a bad moon rising? This past week has been an inundation of terrible news, both on a global scale, in my own personal life and the personal lives of my friends with news of breakups, ailing family members and other Bad Things coming from all sides. Even my favorite industry blogger seems majorly down in the dumps.

What gives?

I did have a much-needed boost today as my brand spanking new column appeared on my very favorite website The Gloss.

Go check it out and in the meantime, please tell me one good thing that's happened to you in the past week.

Friday, March 11, 2011

vacation. home.

I know, I know. You hate me for posting yet more pics of palm trees on this omg-is-it-REALLY-still-winter Friday.

We were trying to figure out yesterday how long my parents have had their place down here in the desert; I have memories of being here way back into my teenage-hood so it's been a long time. I went to college about an hour from here so my memories of this place range from picking oranges from the trees with my sister and getting my first really good kiss by the tennis courts when I was sixteen to cramming for my college french final at the kitchen table to coming out here when I was strung out and exhausted from living in New York. The last time I was here, I spent hours on the back porch revising my first novel which my agent and I were planning to send out to publishers a few weeks after I returned. How long ago that seems now.

I love this part of the desert: there's something dreamy about it, something that makes you think things will turn out alright, even if you have all sorts of really solid reasons to think they might not. This place is a second home in the most literal sense; all manner of family members, friends and boyfriends have joined us here over the years and we've been here more than once when bad news from home came right out of nowhere like lightening in a clear blue sky. This place goes way further back in my life than the house my parents currently live in and so in some ways, there's no place that feels more like home to me. Being here I think about friends I've lost touch with, my grandparents who've left us and all the dreams I've had that have come and gone and come back again. Mostly it just makes me think of my family, all we've been through over the years and how strong the ties between us are.

Heavy thoughts for vacation, I know. Good thing the pool bar serves margaritas.

Where do you go when you need some perspective?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

in like a lion

I'm heading off tomorrow for a much needed long weekend in the sunshine. I know I probably don't have any right to complain about the winter, seeing as I just got back from Argentina a month ago but it seriously feels like it has been cold and rainy and dark FOREVER.

The problem with winter is it's just so damn long. It starts out okay, you have your holiday merriment in the beginning and it's always nice to see your sweaters again after a hiatus; you tell yourself this will be the year you get back into skiing and you get excited about snuggling up by imagined fires with imagined burley yet sensitive men who love independent film as much as you do and make perfect hot Bailey's hot chocolate (no? just me?). The whole winter thing could be cool if it lasted six weeks or so but as it is, winter in this town seems to go on from Halloween to some time in June.

It's hard to motivate to do things in winter and this perversely makes me much more ambitious about all of the things FUTURE me is going to do once spring arrives. I start signing up for classes, planning trips and activities, making LISTS. In the summer when I think of a new project I'm more likely to say 'let me think on that while I have another margarita' but winter gives me the grim determination to think big so I suppose that's one upside.

How do you deal with winter?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

to dream the impossible dream

I went to see the opera Don Quixote this weekend. I was a devoted lover of the Met when I was in New York but it was here in my hometown of Seattle that I was first introduced to the opera. When I was in high school I was in an actual opera club (I know, NERD ALERT); we would pay five dollars each to go to dress rehearsals and before the performances this incredibly charismatic young guy named Jonathan would come to our school and explain to us the opera’s story and historical context. Jonathan worked as the translator for the Seattle Opera House and spoke something like eight languages fluently. Naturally we were all in love with him.

I saw the musical version of Don Quixote when I was a kid but watching it this time, I found I related to the errant knight in a way I hadn’t noticed before. I wondered, watching Cervantes’ funny, tragic, romantic tale unfold if being a writer doesn’t require something of a quixotic nature. After all, for those of the artistic persuasion, is it really so bad to be thought of eccentric and even be laughed at if one is also loved? If one is living honestly? And a writer’s foes, much as they seem real are more windmills than giants; we aren’t after all talking about lives lost when we talk about the written word. I also completely understand about Dulcinea. There’s just no love like an unrequited love for a dreamer; unlike messy, unsatisfying, real-life love, it stays safely in the beautiful, impenetrable kingdom of the imagination where every fiction writer is most comfortable.  In the end Don Quixote is a noble figure who is misunderstood by most of the people around him, people who don’t understand why he does what he does. Find me a writer who doesn’t relate to that.
It’s true that being dreamy and unrealistic has its consequences but in the end, my heart is with Cervantes: Too much sanity may be madness and the maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it ought to be.

Are you a dreamer or a pragmatist?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

the tao of bungee jumping

                                                                     actual bridge pictured

When I think about what has keeps me from really pursuing what I want—whether it be a job or a writing gig or a romance or whatever—it nearly always come down to one of two things: fear and inertia. Since I’ve been home from Argentina and settling back into my normal routine, the high of the travel adventure wearing off, I’ve found myself confronting these two old enemies again. Being a writer involves pushing your way through a lot of rejection and dead ends: I know by now that this is my lot but I struggle with fighting the feeling of ‘what am I doing this for?’ when sitting down at my laptop. Some days the fear that I’ll never make it feels stronger than the desire to push through it.
Inertia and fear work that way, compounding and feeding off each other until you realize you have stewed and worried away your day, your week, your life; and nothing has come of it. Being scared can make you stuck, and being stuck is scary so it’s a vicious cycle.

So how do you break it? Simple: jump off a bridge.

Some moments in life serve as perfect metaphors. Being a writer I’m perhaps more attuned to this than others but I think we all have moments where something just seems symbolic on a cinematic level. I had a big one of these the first time I went bungee jumping.

I’m not really so into extreme sports but I when I was living in Canada the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, one of my friends suggested that a big group of us go bungee jumping with the new company that was starting up (that’s right friends, we were the test group for a new bungee company). I wanted to go but I was terrified. I could barely sleep the night before the trip. The only thing that scared me more than the idea of jumping off of a bridge into a ravine with a giant rubber band attached to my ankles was the idea of not doing it and then regretting it when I had to listen to my friends go on about how awesome it was the next day.

I woke up terrified the morning of. I was terrified on the car ride up. I was terrified walking across the bridge to the jumping off point. None of this fear was abetted by the ‘it’s not our fault if you are killed or maimed’ release we had to sign or the fact that when I asked the guy who was running the show (a bungee veteran of thirty years) to give me a pep talk about how no one ever dies doing this he said ‘well, we do everything we can to ensure your safety but people do die’. Thanks bungee guy!

But once I was on the bridge, strapped into the harness and looking down into a rushing river some eighteen stories below I felt moment of not calm exactly, but clarity; I was going to this, there was no turning back. Thinking about doing it turned out to be way scarier than actually doing it. I knew that hesitating would only make me more afraid, so I just jumped. It was so much fun I went back and did it again the next day.

Most of the time what we’re afraid is not actually you know, death as it was in this situation but well, what exactly? Failure? Humiliation? Rejection? Psssh. Weak sauce. These things aren’t even deserving of fear when you look at it.
But of course amorphous fears can be paralyzing; they can outright own you if you stand still for too long. So don’t. Do something, anything.

Just jump.