Category Archives: Pontification etc.

Little Girl Big Dreams

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Sex in the City.

I used to love that show.  Didn’t we all?  Every female alive in the last decade between the aged of 15 and 60 (possibly more) has a spot in their heart for Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. We loved it because it was sexy, snarky, heartwarming, hilarious, and the portrayal of the deep bond between women was profoundly well-crafted.  We loved it because it was a fantasy world woven with truths we knew from our own experiences. It was a life we knew and yet one that was refreshingly different that our own.

Now, that’s my life.  Ok, so before you start secretly-hating me or booking your next plane ticket, let me explain. To some extent, it’s the life of a single woman in her… well, 30s on the East Coast and 20s in the Midwest.  Believe me, I’m not wearing Manolo Blahniks or weird 90s haute couture, writing my own column, living in an apartment that is actually WAY nicer than a person who writes a column could afford, or getting rich men to fly me off to Paris at the drop of a hat.  I’m certainly not a Samantha.  Or a Charlotte for that matter.  But the other night my roommate told me she describes me to people as the subject of a TV show- a sweet, Midwestern girl who moves to the big city, gets a fashionable but intelligent job, enters the new dating scene, and has just enough mishaps to keep the plot interesting.  No Mr. Big, but a good story none the less.

I am in fact a young, single girl trying to navigate the stormy seas of self-discovery and of relationships, and I am dating.  The self-discovery isn’t anything new though, and other than the occasional moments of panic, self-doubt, and “who-am-I?” that you can’t escape your twenties without, I’m not really facing anything I’m not totally ready for in that department.  But dating is a horse of a different color.  To be honest, dating was never really something I did.  I was a shy-around-boys kind of girl until my first boyfriend – a 3 year relationship that lasted the duration of high school. After that came college, which I would first argue isn’t real dating anyway (it’s more a series of soul-filled conversations and daily interactions or of random hookups) but regardless, for me it was a time of alternating between being abrasively single and fluttering in and out of someone’s romantic life like a delicate but surprisingly destructive butterfly.  Then grad school – summed up with the phrase printed on my cherry-red Kate Spade book-bag: Don’t Kiss Me Now, I’m Busy. 

Even when I got here, I didn’t so much do the dating thing.  I was single and getting my life together in the most literal sense – securing an apartment, finding a job, locating the nearest Target – and then by the time I felt like I was ready to start dating, I struck some beginners luck and found a great guy who stuck around for a while.  Actually, lie.  Not about him being great – he was and is – but about how I ended up doing online dating in the first place.  I actually joined an online dating site the first month I moved back to the city post-Uniqlo while I was searching for a job.  I was searching feverishly, knowing if I didn’t have a job within a month I’d have to move back to Michigan or crawl back to Soho begging them to take me back as a shirt-folding-monkey, so needless to say I was filled with anxiety and adrenaline.  Being a proactive person, I felt guilty every moment I wasn’t doing something productive, but knew that it’s not possible to job search 15 hours a day, so I decided I needed to channel my energies elsewhere.  Enter OKCupid.  That’s right, I was tired of filling out job applications, so I decided to try dating.  It’s amazing how similar the two processes actually are.

Anyway, enter The Boy.  Very tall, sweet as a peach, and someone who took me for who I was where I was (thanks.)  And someone who wasn’t an asshole.  Which, I hate to say it, but was really important and different than anyone I’d actually been interested in pursuing in college (I was pursued by plenty of non-assholes, but like J. Giles says You love her, she loves him, and he loves somebody else… Love Stinks).  I made many stupid mistakes, good formative back-story fodder, and I lived and learned.  So anyway, back to now-ish.  The Gentleman. There were picnics, beaches, candle-lit dinners, and hurricanes.  We had a good time, a nice time.  We we weren’t a couple per say, but we were in a lot of ways, and about the time we both admitted that was about the time we realized it wasn’t going to work.  It was the most polite “break-up” in the history of humanity.  (I almost can’t believe it happened and am secretly expecting to see him out my office window one day hurling tomatoes angrily up at the 5th floor.)

Tomatoes or not, now here I am.  Our two major fall events are finished at the office, and soon even the fall rush will be winding down.  Plus, I have at least one extra night a week that I haven’t had since June (the Boy and the Job came within a week of each other. Because I only do things all at once..), so I’ve got tons of free time! (I think I was this crazy before I moved here, right?) This time, since I only have one front on which I’m selling myself, I’m going all in.

And I’m surprised, but I’m actually enjoying it.  I mean, there have been some awkward and hilarious blunders (sometime, ask me about the Operation Cuff-Links or Bruce Springsteen, as these episodes would be called), but thinking about my life as a romantic sit-com, I find these moments of comedy almost as delightful as the ones of romantic-glee.  At the end of the day, in this city I am young, and every time I get discouraged or begin to feel like there’s no one for me, I get some sort of dieus-ex-machina surprise, as if an HBO writer were sitting back watching it happen, pursing his lips, trying to pen the next scene.  There’s a message, a smile, or a new date on the calendar.  Nothing takes the past away like the future.

So…here we go!  We’re moving through the first season of HBO’s newest show Little Girl Big Dreams.  Here’s hoping it does well, maybe even so well that they can find the budget next season for a pair of Manolos.

“Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.”

“The fact is, sometimes it’s really hard to walk in a single woman’s shoes. That’s why we need really special ones now and then to make the walk a little more fun.”

yours.Rachel

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A Palm Tree With Christmas Lights is Not a Christmas Tree

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Almost from the moment I got here, I didn’t like it.

Alright, that’s an over-dramatic overstatement, but you’ve been here reading for the last 8 weeks so you know California just hasn’t sat quite right with me.  It’s not that I dislike the place for a vacation or a short life-stint, in fact I plan to come back to San Diego again in the future, it’s just that I can say with certainty that I could never really belong in this state.  It’s beautiful to be sure – the scenery is diverse and as beautiful as any you’ll find anywhere, and as long as you’re not near Los Angeles, most of the people are fairly friendly (not like the Midwest, but frankly nowhere is as nice as the Midwest so it’s not fair to compare).  That said, San Francisco was a bit like a GAP commercial, San Diego is unfortunately near LA, and Northern (really Northern) California is more hippie than I could even begin to fake in my new tye-dye sweatshirt; I kept pointing my finger to each of those reasons for why I didn’t like it here.  I even got so far as to be able to identify the differences in vanity between what I am used to (playing dress up when you leave the house) and what they are used to (collagen, surgery, and a lot of sun), which I mentioned to my old friend the other night at a bar.

She, a woman with a thousand and one stories, and a transplant from Michigan like myself, has lived here for a year or so now, and it has done wonders for her.  Unlike me, she belongs here.  But she knew what I meant, and she stewed on it for a minute, watching out the window at the people passing down the busy street outside.

You know what it is, she said as I watched a man out the window, handsome, chiseled, tan, and at least 60, it’s the snow! She exclaimed These people out here have never had to deal with Snow.

I took another sip of my drink and pondered, never having considered snow something that defines me (I mean I’ve never even been skiing for heaven sakes!) But she went on and I began to see what she meant.  It isn’t so much the existence of white power that their life is missing (2 hours from LA, remember?  They’ve got an abundance of that shit), but it’s the entire concept of winter.

In the East and all of us middle states, even the richest, prissiest, fake-tanest, most vain person has no power over the inevitable 3-5 months of misery we know as “Winter.” No matter many silver spoons were in your mouth at birth, you can’t avoid the fact that it may snow 2 feet in a day, and if you are outside for 4 hours ill prepared, you will die.  Your body will freeze like a pretentious Popsicle, and you will be a victim of the elements – that’s just a fact.  And the rest of us have to go about our business when it’s gloomy and slushy outside, consciously deciding not to sacrifice ourselves to the elements just because we haven’t seen the sun in 6 weeks.  Winter sucks.  And we have spent our whole lives learning to live in conditions that suck.

Californians don’t have to do that.  The closest they get is Tahoe, and let me tell you (because I’ve been there and it’s BEAUTIFUL!) that doesn’t cut it.  When you go looking for snow, it doesn’t count.  A 3-day weekend on the slopes and tucked away in your 4star resort sipping a hot toddy before you and your bronzed beauty slip off to bed is not experiencing snow.  Real Snow, Real Winter is inescapable, inconvenient, unpredictable, and completely inevitable.  Zip up you parka, put on your boots, and deal with it.

Now I’m not saying there aren’t days that suck in California.  There are.  Sometimes it rains, sometimes there are earthquakes, and people still get shot, get cancer, get divorced, die and watch people they love die, but it all happens when the sun is shining. The sun here is just a constant – a given. Things will happen, your life will happen, and the sun will always be shining.

And that, friends, is what I don’t like about California.  I don’t like things easy. I don’t want to be happy all the time, because if you are (first, you’ll never produce any writing worth reading, and secondly…) you can’t appreciate how happy you are.  There is no feeling in the world so great as the first warm day of an Eastern spring, when the sun comes out and little streams begin to trickle down the piles of snow and the streets and everyone feels like this day was never going to come but it did and it’s the most amazing euphoria there is — a feeling that good isn’t possible in California because it comes only by contrast.   The weather here is just too perfect.  Recently I’ve learned I would rather be happy than strong, but the lesson I learned before that is that I’d rather be strong than perfect.  Perfect is a palm tree with Christmas lights – it’s pretty, but it’s just not the real thing. In the East and in Middle-America, we’ve had to learn to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps even when the very world we live in is chaotic and miserable.  But in California they don’t even have boots.

Courage is not the towering oak that sees the storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow.” – Alice M. Swaim

yours.Rachel

Declaratives, Deception, and Socks

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It was a perfect Monday, and after the bar and yet another long talk sitting on the kitchen linoleum, we had gone to bed (or begun to move in that direction.)  We lay together in the dark laughing about something – men or ourselves I would assume – and the topic of socks arose.  She mentioned she didn’t wear them to bed and something else I don’t remember (sorry girl) and I exclaimed “I love socks.” No sooner had the words come out of my mouth than I began to find fault with them.  “Actually, I amended, that’s not true. I hate socks.” I began to explain my first statement – the enjoyment of festive colors,their relative inexpense, and the ability to raise ones body temperature a few degrees without much effort, and then rebutted myself, remembering that I prefer shoes that don’t require socks and try to avoid wearing them whenever possible.  I laughed at the absurdity of making a declarative statement, one with conviction and without ambiguity, only to confess that it may not be true.

This is a habit I’ve noticed lately in myself.  Actually, it first occurred to me last week on my flight home from Chicago as I mentioned it to a fellow passenger – ironically – but at the time I was paying attention to the teeth coming down on my lower lip, so everything else took a backseat.   That evening I mentioned my tendency to state things as if they were fact and then return to them later to find they are in fact incorrect.  He laughed, puzzled and intrigued, and I crumpled my insight into a corner in my mind as a dollar bill shoved into a pocket ignorantly, only to be found later with surprise and excitement.

It could be an oldest child thing.  Oldest children are used to two things – being listened to and being right – and so it’s certainly a reasonable assumption that my birth order has something to do with my impulsive declarative tone.  It may also be, as she so delicately put it “you hate ambiguity more than anyone I know”, and that something inside me just won’t let  a waffling or inconclusive answer come out.  Something about red fire and roman candles just doesn’t do “Socks have both benefits and inconveniences in my everyday life.”

It’s a trait that’s gotten me into trouble in the past.  I mentioned this to her that night in the dark and she fumbled, presumably hedging over loyalties and confidences, and I chuckled, saying I knew as much long before anyone had ever said it to her.  For as long as I’ve had a personality, it’s been a fiery one, and verbal communication has always been one of my strongest suits.  And the same demeanor that suggested to my fellow church members my future as a TV news anchor has pitted friends against me.  I’d like to think these friendships didn’t shrivel because of my inability to maintain consistency in my views about footwear, but I’m well aware that the way in which I grab words and toss them around has put more than a few feet in my mouth.

I suppose the problem comes when I’m not talking about socks.  I give my opinions – what I feel with deepest passion at the moment I’m saying it – freely and without much regard to whether or not they are divine truths.  And because of something in my voice, people believe it.  Does that make me a liar?  I don’t think so, because I don’t intentionally craft statements I know are untrue, and every statement I make has some piece of what I believe to be true.  Does it make me rash – for speaking without thinking of the consequences or even the other half of my heart?  Probably.  Does it make capable of manipulation? Absolutely.  Is that the same thing as being manipulative?  Maybe, but only if you count priests, poets, and people who believe in anything as the same.  If all it takes to be considered deceptive is a sharp mind and a loud voice, then I consider myself in a lot of good company.

These days I don’t mind having to amend myself.   I spent a lot of time in my adolescence feeling guilty for who I was – wishing I could be less intense, less demanding, and less likely to make enemies in every room I enter.  But then I began to realize that I am, at my core, all of those things.  And in the balance of the universe, there is a need and a place for all those things.  I’m not saying I’m right all the time, or that being this way is the right way for people to be.  What I am saying is that the strength in my voice that some call deceitful is the same strength that others look for when they dial my telephone number.  I refuse to stop speaking just because someone might believe me.  I put faith in the people I care about to be able to discern when I’m speaking a complete reality, and when I’m forgetting that I also hate socks – everyone that’s ever mattered to me has learned to tell the difference.  And the rest?  Don’t believe everything that you breathe.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)    -Walt Whitman

yours.Rachel

ps. at the moment, I’m not wearing socks.  I wore them all day and then around the house for a while until I got tired of them and took them off.  Take that as you like it.

Roses Are Red, Violets are Blue. I’m Celebrating V-Day and You Should Too.

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I used to be one of those people who hated Valentine’s Day.  I’ve thrown my share of anti-valentines parties over the years and scoffed many a time at the pink and red paraphernalia that goes up immediately following Christmas.  Talking teddy bears, cards printed with puppies, roses, and second-rate poetry, jewelry ads galore, and one more excuse for gluttony of every sort.  Men run around like headless chickens February 13th desperately avoiding the doghouse while single girls everywhere curl up with tissues in one hand and chocolate in the other. As with most American traditions, the nebulous mainstream society adopts one set of behaviors, and we the ones with fire and fervor still left in us take a stand against them.  We are the renegades – the ones who defy the culture and say we won’t be boring or mainstream.  We won’t listen to music on the radio, buy Ed Hardy trapper-keepers, or grow up to have the jobs that our fathers do.  Hating Valentine’s Day has become chic, like scoffing at PCs or people who don’t understand “social media,” and a way of differentiating ourselves from the herd of sheep.

But how many of us get Christmas presents?  How many of us dress up on Halloween?  How many of us ring in the New Year with champagne?  And who doesn’t have some marti-gras beads hanging on a doorknob or bulletin board in their bedroom?  I would venture to say that most of us non-sheep celebrate plenty of holidays that are promoted and marketed by corporations and use them as opportunities to binge on food, drink, pleasure, and materialism – hedonism.   I, for one, am all about celebrating the birth of my Lord and Savior, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t start thinking about my Christmas list as soon as I start thinking about shepards and angels.  I love that Halloween is an excuse for a good girl to dress like a slut without fear of judgment, and any excuse to get a new pair of heels is a good one in my book.  I know I’m not alone.  But isn’t it ironic that the one corporate-candy-coated-holiday we choose to scapegoat as the all encompassing symbol of consumerism is the one day where we are supposed to share our true feelings for one and other?

I think hating Valentine’s Day is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Yes, we live in a capitalist society.  Our entire economy and the world as we know it is based on people consuming more than they actually need; our bathwater is fucking filthy.  But in our attempt to damn the man we are in fact throwing out our only chance for happiness – Love.

Lovers have been crafting poetry for one and other on Valentine’s Day since the 1400s, and the first American Valentines were created by a woman out of her home in the 1800s. Valentine’s Day existed long before Hallmark and even before capitalism.  Love is a truth, arguably the only truth, of the human race, and with or without roses we ought to value it.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying let’s all go and buy creepy looking stuffed animals that let us record our own greetings and give them to our loved ones.   I’m not going to record my voice in a pink chimpanzee and I don’t want your voice recorded in one either.  But maybe in this consumerist culture we live in, we need the machine to kick us in the cahones and say “don’t forget to say ‘I Love You’ to that special someone…or else!”  If we lived in a perfect world we wouldn’t need Valentine’s Day because we would always do right by the ones we love.  But as it is we get busy.  We forget to call or call too late. We mean to send a card but it gets buried under a pile of papers. We don’t say ‘thank you’ or ‘I’m sorry’ when we should and we don’t spend even close to enough time reminding our nearest and dearest how fantastic they really are.   We look at the ground or out the window when we say I love you, or worse yet we don’t say it at all.

I spent yesterday evening with a few of my closest friends discovering truths about the universe and laughing hysterically – because I love my sisters.  This morning I had brunch with my family just like we used to when we were all young – because I love them.  Tonight I put off the homework to do some yoga, read, and write with a glass of Bailey’s on the rocks nearby – because I love myself.  I sent quirky E-Valentines and quick texts – because I love my friends.  And I’m writing to you, pontificating at you about Valentine’s day and making a whole lot of something out of nothing because I Love You.

So today I encourage you to live the spirit of Valentines Day.  Take the time to tell the people that matter to you that you love them – remind them you are in their heart and they are in yours.

You are in mine.

“Here is the deepest secret nobody knows.
Here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
And the sky of the sky of a tree called life;
Which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide.
And this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart.
I carry your heart.
I carry it in my heart.”  -e. e. cummings

yours.Rachel

The World, Humanity, and the Ideal Beach Day According to Us

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Driving through the park together always botching the same song lyric, we are a heroic couplet of poetic feats.  Basking in our own Cinnamon glow, we play catch up and savor the last day we’ll spend without 5 states between us.  We picked an utterly Michigan backdrop – the dunes – and the perfect plot of sand.  Munching, we chatted, laughed, rolled eyes, and decided we should co-author a book.  The title, still pending, will be all-encompassing, inspired, and witty, and the entries may appear something like this.

Cheap bedsheets covered with beach-towels make surprisingly good picnic blankets.  Stop at Ikea – invest.

Everyone who was a part of your life has a specific role in it.  Your family is valuable for one thing, your friends for others.  Neither can replace the other, and both are essential.

Unlike most picnic foods, two-bite brownies actually improve with exposure to direct sunlight.  The sealed contained locks in the moisture from the tasty treats and after a few hours, the brownies will develop an fresh-from-the-oven consistency and taste.

Let wit and hysterical laughter be your default coping mechanism.  It makes bullshit so much more amusing.

Wear sunscreen.  And if there is any chance you may end up in a extended desert trek, bring said sunscreen and re-apply.

Women must except one of three realities.  Either you are a self-centered and malicious bitch, or everyone else is a bitch and they choose to project it onto you.  Or, we’re just fucked up girls looking for our own peace of mind and we ought to quit squawking.

The best way to scale a very steep dune is by crawling. You look like an idiot, but less of an idiot than if you fall down, hit your head on a tree, and have to explain to the cute doctor in the ER that you fell off an large pile of sand.

Powerful people will be lucky to have as many true friends as they have enemies.  This is not a pessimistic lament, it is simply an empirical fact.   The sooner you accept it, the sooner you can enjoy who you do have.

Go all the way to the top, no matter how tired, hot, or sunburned you are.  When you get there and see the view, you won’t regret it.

Adaptable people will be fine not matter what.  Adaptable optimists will be fine and happy.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Make sure to empty your pockets, pant-leg cuffs, and other secret clothing crevices before falling asleep on the couch.  Otherwise you will wake up and think you’re back at the beach.

“Good bye” is possibly the most useless phrase in the English language.  Try  “Take care of yourself,” “You’re going to be incredible,” “Keep Writing,” or “I Love You” instead.

“maggie and millie and molly and may

went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang

so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

millie befriended a stranded star

whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing

which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone

as small as a world and as large as alone.

for whatever we lose (like a you or a me)

it’s always ourselves that we find in the sea.”

– e.e. cummings

yours.Rachel