Knowingly Dumb Things I’ve Done

Mindy Kaling is also encouraging me that lists are ok, specifically lists to best express yourself, like the people who carry notecards to confrontations:

Dumb Things I’ve Done, knowing full well and gladly:

– gorge-jumped in Ithaca

– went on any water park water slide ever, especially unclosed

– talked to my boyfriend the way I talk to all my girlfriends

– figured out my crushes’ schedule in college to run into them all the time

– got into a stranger’s car* (*with the cool kids as a less cool kid, so chalking it up to calculated risk)

– sabotage relationships that I didn’t know what else to do with

– peed in public, in a leotard

– flirted with the enemy

– off-roaded, anywhere, but especially the Pine Barrens

– not asked for what I really wanted

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What’s in a mantra:

I blame it on Mindy Kaling and her book calling out the importance of self-actualization. I can’t help but agree and as a result, I feel the urge to have just about everything in my life well-categorized and punctuated. This is all echoed by Instagram, with inspirational quotes popping up everywhere you land. If I had a nickel for every mason jar holding a rabbit’s foot holding an Honest tea bottle cap…

I get it. Part of my brand is my mantra, my inner light. I went to a Quaker high school, so I’ll go ahead and take some of that mixed in with burritos, HBO zeitgeist, and premium makeup.

If there’s anything my little voice inside me is saying on loop, it’s the below. Otherwise, I’m too erratic on the regular to really tell you how I’m going to feel tomorrow. Some may call this punk rock. Some would deny me for discharge.

-Skimp on pantyhose, not lipstick.

-File your taxes during the Oscars.

-Always stand up for yourself when you tell the truth. Always stand up for yourself.

-Not everyone’s meant for everyone. Finding someone meant for you even if it takes moons.

-Release unhealthy relationships, grudges, and bad habits.

-My job can’t be my hobby. Making homemade lox and limoncello, volunteering, this blog can be my hobbies.

Love Train in the Conference Room

This holiday season, I’m finding that no one likes each other.

Almost a year ago, when I was unhappy in my company’s Direct Response department as an Assistant Strategist, I was warned about joining the dark side of Buying. My planners made their case against it: fewer marketable skills, less perceived contribution, by and large worse reputation. Noted. I went for it anyway, because at the end of the day my bias led me to believe that all DR folks were purely and imperviously results-driven, and any nods to branding were lip service.

So I made the jump, while staying in the same company, I went from Direct Response to National Television as a buyer. I’d even like to refer to buyers as -because it’s my blog and I can tell myself whatever I want- upcoming activations specialists. Not middlemen. Not anti-ethics bloodsuckers. Not semi-pro restaurant recommendation concierge.

The further I go in my line of work, the more I’m seeing that outsiders looking in may not have the situation quite pegged. The way Brand Strategy makes our skin crawl with client coddling, National TV’s top-shelf indulging has DR planners cursing the day (all the days) they consider sleeping at the office. The way the Digital team sneers at Promotions for getting out at 6pm on the dot, the Ops team laughs in the face of all Research pansies, ignorant to who really keep the lights on.

We hate to the be first to admit we’re the weak link, that we’re not cutting the corporate mustard. It’s far easier to blame someone else, some ungoverned force out of orbit. Why the deadline was missed. Why you’re there ’til 10pm every night. Why I don’t have time to work out. This “force” feels like a lot of excuses, and yet, it really is persuasive. Is it the need to succeed? Or the need to not blunder? The need to prioritize, perhaps. Whatever it is, it should be evaluated right away before you’re the stuck-up hothead to be avoided at all functions.

What I’m getting at is the need to start giving everyone a chance, and keep in mind where we’re all coming from. We’ll be better remembered for it, and lose less sleep. Similarly, I’m learning no easy way that it’s futile to ever take on new enemies because I’m not doing my personal best. “Confront yourself, me,” the one to whom I owe the most.

See and be seen

splash-image3I spent Sunday at the New York Art Book Fair held at the MoMA PS1 in Long Island City. In short and without doing the event any justice, a throng of artists, writers, poets, publishers, and then some gather to showcase their work. It’s always overwhelming and under-ventilated, but it’s an event in every meaning. Plain and simple, it’s just awesome.

I overheard a conversation while sifting through some Bruce Nauman books* (*unfair catchall phrase for some obscure collections I can’t recall but earnestly found mesmerizing at the time) between a fellow manning a table and a fellow onlooker. Man behind the table asked onlooker, “What is your goal being here, at this fair?” Point blank. I have no reason to believe these two exchanged any glances, passes, or words at any point previous to this. At any rate, onlooker replied carefully, “To be seen as a publisher.”

I was struck by that phrasing: “to be seen as a ____.” A very honest, if not non-committal tag. Not “I’m a publisher.” I want to know if this man is just starting out as a hopeful publisher, or if he hasn’t yet hit his benchmarks, or if he used to be an accountant for GE and wants to change his whole life. Or if this isn’t his day job. Or if his unsupportive boyfriend or girlfriend is finally out of the picture and he can spread his wings. YOU GET IT. It’s not, “I’m a publisher.”

I love his phrasing, the continuum undulating. Not finite. Not absolute. Not a hard and fast rule or indicator of who onlooker is. Open. Suggestive. Fluid. I went to school with a bunch of self-proclaimed this and thats. Copywriters. Mad women. Media mavens. Strategic-doers. Who dubbed any of us any of these things, and why the rush to be a finalized, fully evolved *insert yourself after earned sense of accomplishment here*?

This very phrasing is the foundation of us all, the answer to why any of us do anything. When I save two dozen Adage articles to Instapaper for my early commute, I want to be seen as a rising professional who goes above the baseline. When I buy a weird print, I want to be seen a patron, maybe even a valued partner. When I write a yelp review, I want to be seen as someone who doesn’t screw around, and has damn fine taste in dives and discos. But the thing is, I don’t really care who sees me this way, as long as I’m fitting my own image of the bill. Self-seeing is the only truth we need, and it’s constructed merely by what we talk ourselves into. This is why we give ourselves ridiculous monikers and self-aggrandizing definitions in our Twitter bios: to stand out, and to lay down a framework. We authorize our own guidelines. Change of heart? Change your Twitter bio.

The New York Art Book Fair allows makers and creators from all walks to share their work with the masses. As my boyfriend said, about 70% of the work on view/sale is inaccessible, too expensive, or completely without function; when hundreds of purveyors are met with tens of thousands of people looking for new guidelines in the form of truth or distraction, you gotta like those odds.

You Can’t Buy Loyalty

However, you can hope someone tosses some your way anyway.

Despite initial resistance to being a sucker, I’m a brand harlot. There’s no way around it. Instinctively and without explanation, some brands just hit me where it hurts. So instead of being my dad about it, I’m going to celebrate the brands that, for whatever reason or anti-reason, make me feel warm and fuzzy.

davidstea

Case study: The irresistibly endearing David’s Tea. Originating in Canada, this shop now has a few locations across Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I’m so glad it does. Notably my first tea crush, I was in deep the first time my roommate offered me a sniff of Birthday Cake (yes, it has jimmies). A few I’m particularly excited for as we take a sharp turn into the cold are Maple Sugar and Yes We Cran, as I sunkiss Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait and Rootbeer Float away until next season. As one may infer, this is not your basic tea. Who hasn’t wanted to be one of those girls who sit around all day getting their feet rubbed while coming up with nail polish names? David’s Tea gives that daydream a run for its sateen green money, especially when deliciousness is implied. The rich, native flavors of The Brazillionaire? The tang of the Main Squeeze? The gold standard of the Queen of Tarts? Give them a click,  just another thing to enjoy about David’s Tea is how on the website, each flavor has a unique display, breathing yet more personality into each tea (my favorite’s Secret Weapon).

Not to mention, if you’ve dismissed online shopping shaming from your coworkers like I have, you’ll love browsing their web specials. Really great deals on adorable teaccessories for which your mom will always cherish you as her favorite.

Don’t take my word for it. Get your fix, and may you find it’s more than tea, it’s a comfort. A drinking buddy.

The Venture-Gain Guide for 20-Somethings

I ventured to the post office this morning, an activity I condone as much as hard drugs. An email, or online shipping will always suffice. However I spoke with my hip gunkles in Florida who, despite being senior citizens a plane ride away and would bother with an iPad the way I fux with USPS, gave me the up-and-up on an NYC housing situation. They received a hot tip about an affordable housing lottery from a friend, and naturally they thought of their broke-ass and busted niece living on “the edge” in “deep Brooklyn.” Editor’s Note: I live in Crown Heights–there’s bougie pizza and my neighbor is a boutique. I’m fine…but more than qualified and none too proud for, rather flattered by, affordable housing. To be considered, one must submit postcards by the cut-off date, indicating the set-up of interest if selected and contact info. I called my uncle this morning, realizing I had the weekend left to throw my hat in the ring. “Postcard?” I asked skeptically. Like a chintzy beach landscape starring a hairy middle-ager in a banana hammock? The affordable housing authority certainly has a sense of humor. Can’t I send a thank you note, as in thanks in advance for this Manhattan apartment I neither need nor deserve? “No, I know they’re so obsolete. You have to get them from the post office.” It hurt him to suggest such a thing, I felt it through the phone. He bid me well and I hung up, lunging at my computer to find the nearest place to go postal. 7 minute walk. Easy enough. I threw on an outfit fresh off the floor and set out.

My neighborhood isn’t too dicey, especially at 11:30am on a Saturday. Whenever I tell my boyfriend I took a cab home from work after 9 (I mean, shit, it’s expensed) he rolls his eyes and wonders why I feel belittled when my dad treats me like a lotus and asks if I need a few extra bucks this month. All that aside, it’s not my most favorite walk alone for garden variety lady reasons (unsolicited compliments, trained eyes, the feeling of being followed when 9 times out of 10 someone is following me because I’m not the center of the universe, etc.) But it’s always worse in my head, one too many stupid movies. This is as can-do as I’ll ever get, so I’m running with it; said attitude promptly checks out when my map tells me to make a turn on what looks like a major highway. Where does Google think I am, LA? But who am I to judge NASA, so I turn. I’m walking and swinging my arms laissez-faire, 2 minutes to go, cross this off my to-do list, and get a Chinese massage in Park Slope. Well, those swinging arms brought it in like babes in a riptide when my right hand got caught by a jutting out wire fence. This empty lot didn’t have a hand sanitizer dispenser, imagine that, so what’s a sissy to do but keep on keepin’? I see it then, across this mini-freeway, Post Office. All that tetanus for nothing. I retrace my steps, pass a hard hat zone, and make my way in. There’s a line, no, six lines, but I have a solid forty minutes before this place shuts down for the weekend so I give myself a preemptive pat on the back. “Way to be on the ball early, Genevieve. You earned this affordable housing, I can see the throw rug and soda stream now.” Window #4 buzzes, I ask for a book of stamps and these elusive, completely confounding postcards. “Good luck with those,” the clerk says. He hands me a book of stamps, Harvey Milk for the win, even though my out-of-touch behind was taken aback by the $9.80 price tag: I can get a cocktail for that. Almost. Maybe before tip. Visibly distressed at the prospect of making another trip to another post office, he quickly gives me directions and confirmation that this place DOES have postcards, because he was there yesterday. I cringed at the address, and once more when he said it was next to an Applebee’s. He asked if I was new to the neighborhood, and when I said no but never needed a post office until now, he thanked me for needing him and securing his job. Great. To this I replied, just kidding!, and ran away.

I hailed a green cab and gave my driver the cross streets, we were there in less than two minutes and for this I felt extra pathetic. My affordable housing chub was showing. A 25% tip was $0.80, so I gave him $2.50 on top of the $4 cab ride to justify my card usage, and the trouble. I hop out, run across the street past the biggest and most aggrandized Applebee’s I’ve ever seen, and was greeted by 2 mammoth lines. Was John Stamos signing Chobani lids or something? I wait, 11th in line, for forty-five minutes. I read a book, because my phone was perishing from all the Two Dots. It was the city version of the DMV, except I still have to go to the DMV because once a Jersey Girl always a Jersey Girl until she nuts up and becomes a NY resident. I’m finally called, weary and breathless, and ask for these damn postcards. She looks nervous, “Uhhh let me check on that” and scampers away. I hold my breath just long enough to not suffer brain damage when she returns with a brick of postcards. “Just had to make sure I could sell them.” I didn’t want to know. I asked for five, in case my gunkles knew of any other schemes for which to sign my life away, and swiped my card for a whopping $1.90. No cash back, what a pain in the ass. I asked if I could borrow her pen, or if she could direct me to an area in the post office where there was a public pen; she could not answer the latter, and while hesitant to give me her pen because of a bad “past experience” I wore her down with my sad and lifeless eyes. I filled them out on the counter in front of her while other customers came and went. I pushed her prized pen through the window and asked if I could leave them with her to send out. More hesitance, but she said yes after giving them a good hard look. I forgot to ask if there’s a faster way to purchase postcards for the future, and walked out.

I didn’t feel empowered or accomplished after any of this. Frankly, I felt like she may have just thought I was crazy and threw away my mail because it was incompetent mail. A more bitter part of me considered that she got the gist of what I was doing, and discarded my two entries to boost her own chances. Or maybe she’d just forget to do anything with them because they’re not mail and she’s swamped with pushy hoards of people. But any way I sliced it, I felt like the last two hours were a colossal waste of time.

This got me wondering why we, people, do anything that’s a potential or promised waste of time. Why we organize our sock drawers, why are we in debt for expensive education, why we go on Tinder dates. Is it out of a sense of survival, to arm ourselves with every defense no matter the size or seeming significance? That if we can find our favorite underwear in the dark, that somehow the stars are better aligned for us? That if we go for a Tier #1 college over a more economically-viable school option, our chances at success in blank desired field multiply, discounting the x-factors of personality, drive, and on the count of three….connections? Why do we do anything if at the end of it all we feel futile? No better off? I could’ve went to a state school and flexed all my networking muscles in the same way for pretty much the same outcome, while saving me and my family a hefty bundle. I can pick out the best accessories, but if I’m off my game whilst-wear, I’m no Olivia Palermo. (This is dangerously close to the pigs-with-earrings analogy old men in my family recite, and the superiorly less PC “It’s the Indian, not the arrow.”)

Perhaps we have this impulse because when we put ourselves out there, we challenge the universe to open itself up to us right back, and have a good argument for it to do so. Who can disagree with that? To have friends one must be a friend, golden rule, bring a hostess gift, etc. But what are the boundaries? At what department-wide happy hour do we stretch ourselves too thin? At what blind date does it catch up with us? At which satellite friend do I snap?

I can’t afford that many Chinese massages…how do I stay shiny with hope?

And if it’s not hope alone, what keeps us going?

FOMO?

Or are we truly holding out for a great new friend, new job, new apartment?

Looking inward, I like my day-to-day, but I don’t think I want it forever; I show up hoping something else, a better fit, breaks through. A gig in development for which, on paper, I now I have the stewardship skills. If I get the gusto to move to Napa or back upstate, I like to imagine myself managing a vineyard, which I like to think I could swing as a schmoozing boozing 20-something.

I like my roommates, I got lucky with 3 awesome dudes, and frequently go out in Brooklyn with them: not because it’s always a blast -sometimes it’s actually borderline basic- but because I want us to get closer, or to at least give myself the chance to bond with them and see if my relationship with anyone goes beyond splitting the electric and toilet paper. Same goes with my coworkers: not every shindig is life-changing, most don’t even make it to instagram, but the alternative of not going is almost always worse and promises a little regret.

Maybe that’s why we go for housing lotteries, enter HGTV contests, watch The Real Housewives, try a juice cleanse, endure the flaws of those we love, and push through our own dissatisfaction.

Because we don’t want to regret, and can always say we gave it a shot.

 

 

What I Learned At Real Life Is…

It’s been a while…so long that my last saved draft examines the emotional trials of unfollowing an ex’s ex on Twitter.

I’ve followed and unfollowed so many unnecessary people and pages since then, I can’t even keep track.

…and yet I caved and stalked her LinkedIn, but  am relieved to report I didn’t feel a tickle of envy toward her proclaimed dream-job.

Though childish and of course totally embarrassing, this submission gave me some quality information about myself. Which reminds me of a similarly childish notion in and of itself, is that post-college, we’re supposed to know so much about ourselves, as if we have experienced such profound and monumental moments and have gone down such roads and wound up all the wiser; that 6 months in quickly-gentrifying Brooklyn and having a few bars where people recognize my stupid smug face but don’t quite know my name yet is supposed to make me self-aware. I’m not sure if this stems from entitlement after college (or whatever stint in such an environment with influential spheres and crossroad decision-making), that we DESERVE to know our purpose; or arrogance, that we know and have always on some level known our purpose: a step ahead in self-actualization; or ignorance, for how much can really change in a year, five, your 40s. Maybe we cling to what we mistake for self-awareness to chalk up one too many hangovers, bad hookups, no hookups at all, blundered job interviews, useless internships, senseless arguments that we may or may not regret, but wouldn’t mind a do-over.

Give me a break. I’m so dumb I don’t even realize it — but I have hope, that’ll I’ll continue to learn and that’s what “it’s” all about.

But ok, to prove this, let’s give ourselves a little credit. I think we all must. The little victories let us maintain a degree of humility (I’m talking LITTLE victories, like you floss and now you’re a little less lazy) and honor (but hey, you’re flossing and turning off the faucet in between) in the process. Forgivable, acknowledged foolishness. Nod to the baby steps so we don’t get so self-deprecating and bogged down in doubt that’s we’re cynical self-hating pricks.

In no particular order:

It’s too hard for me to be vegetarian if I’m not Ellen DeGeneres and have the fabulous chefs of LA craft me a cruelty-free edible art. I love breakfast sandwiches – they’re keeping me fat. Hummus is not enough, I’m sorry you had to hear it from me.

I’m a better person to myself and others when I work out. Stress, vanity, who cares. I’m nicer and won’t unduly bite someone’s head off. My boyfriend, namely. Do the Zumba and turn down.

I don’t want to be a copywriter. I don’t want to go to VCU Brandcenter for an MA in Copywriting and I would find so many things wrong with it and would be doing it for the wrong reasons, IF I got in. IF I could put myself through that application process. IF I could quit my job. Live in Virginia for a while.

Living in New York is amazing and not at all overrated. People should live here, it’s like living abroad, for anyone in the whole world. Squandering it to watching Netflix every night would be a waste of outlandish rent and boundless cocktails.

I know it’s better to be honest about everything, even if people hate it and don’t trust it. Be honest about the dish rack being full, about your dreams, about stuff you don’t like, about who you are as a person. The outcome is usually better and people will generally appreciate it in the long run.

I have my limits. I need to go to bed early sometimes, and can’t buy every pair of Vince Camuto sandals on Rue La La.

Not everything is a deal. People say things. They package, embellish, or refrain. Have I learned nothing from Marketing? Don’t be afraid of forming an opinion, first impressions. Just be prepared for them to change.

My favorite brands are Bliss (maybe because the scrub feels like toothpaste for your body, in the best way possible) Juice Press (I know what matcha is and I’m not afraid to use it) Dermalogica (because it works) and Balega (I feel like an athlete, whether I’m breaking a sweat or falling asleep with my mouth open during shavasana).

I may not know exactly what I want to do with my life, but I know working at a vineyard was the best job I ever had, and that I bought some books on sustainable farming. And will do what’s in my power to harness, fuel, and fight for these impulses of joy, because they’re rare and very special.

I know my real friends. They live in South Carolina, right out of Boston, Buffalo but moving to South Korea, Colorado, a few more abroad, a few waiting to land. I know they’re real because though physical distance has grown between us, we are as close as ever, inventing new jokes, planning weekends and believing in the sanctity and sincerity of 3 days together, unfettered by real world rumpus. I know how lucky I am.

And I suppose the best thing we can do when we learn anything about ourselves is trying to take that and build on it.

Go Pescetarian for a month, or more! Wake up early and run and watch those pet peeves melt away.

Try the new pub a few avenues over, just remember 10 Tecate for $20 is only kind of a bargain.

BCBG, we could’ve been so great together

I ruined a $130 skirt, which is a soured night out for some people, but for me this was an investment.
The next three News Years, ten big dates, countless rep lunches, a trendy funeral
My signature, my ride or die
And what makes me crumble most is I didn’t even buy it.
My mother, my wonderful all-and-ever-giving mother got it for me
Because she knew it was important, it IS important

To me, to anyone, any young woman with a decent head on her shoulders

-I mean Bobbi Brown donates interview clothes to charity for skirt’s sake-

To find and behold the universal black bottom:
It goes with anything, it makes you look flawless at everything
And BCBG, I thought I loved you, you gave me the gift of breathless versatility
The Meryl Streep of closet staples
Hugged the hips, trimmed the sides, cashed the assets, worked the magic
The skirt that makes you go from 17 to 25, refined

Unmoved by tricks, lines, shortcuts, fad diets, cheap mascara

But BCBG

You told me I could wash it without kiboshing it
It says right there on the tag, recorded veritable proof:
“Gentle cycle, tumble dry low.”
“I love you forever, Jen.”
You might as well have fed me those 5 bullshit words, they would’ve gone down sweeter and I would’ve been less skeptical.
Why couldn’t you just tell me to get it dry cleaned or else the thing would’ve turned to arthritic rubber.
I would’ve done it. Gladly, graciously. The crispiest $6 in my pocket. All on you, baby.

But you lied. You couldn’t bring yourself to tell me the truth, that you’re a little high maintenance. That I can’t just put you anywhere at the dinner table. You get razzled amongst my baggy men’s sweaters reserved for snow- sick- and Saturdays. You want more than pajama company, everyone has Victoria’s Secret bedtime flannel bought with an unsatisfactory gift card.

Not like you. Nothing like you. You’re special.

And you’re not ready to meet my friends. You want me to keep you holy, you don’t want me wearing no other skirts.

You want attention, TLC, your own plastic bag and We Love Our Customers decrepit wire hanger.

You should’ve been honest, I can take it.

So we’re done here, you ended us. You’re laying down on my floor, stretched and worn out, flattened and defeated.

Nothing left to give, not a rayon inch. I should’ve known better, sure, but you should’ve been more accountable.

If it ain’t dirty, don’t wash it. If they play dirty, don’t get played.