Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Breakup You Didn't Know You Could Have: Saying Goodbye to Your Bestie

You have pictures of her in the high school theatre dressing room, making a ridiculous face at the camera. She held you when you sobbed after breaking up with your first boyfriend. You followed each other to college, and lived in the same dorm room. You told each other everything. Hell, you even knew her bra size.

And then came boyfriends, jobs, school, loans, new friends, bills- life. And she wasn't her anymore.

No, it isn't sugar, but that's no excuse to forego concealer. 

We all lose friends from time to time. Sometimes, it's a gentle pull apart- the gradual separation of a bond that leads to two new, very different lives being formed. Sometimes (well, most of the time, for me)- it's not at all gentle. It's sudden, heartbreaking, and devastating. The loss of a friendship can leave you more broken up than a bad split with a significant other. Most often, we have to deal with it alone, because we're in a culture that doesn't acknowledge the significance of the loss of a good friend - when, in fact, this person could mean more to you than anyone else ever has.

When you've tried everything you can to fix the friendship and there don't seem to be any ways of making that happen, you have to find a way to move forward.  So, grab some ice cream and a box of tissues and we'll walk this one out together.

Acknowledge the Loss

About a year ago, I lost my best friend of nine years after we moved in together (which, as I've said before, is a HUGE no-no in most friendships). After she moved out and we had stopped talking, I heard through the grapevine that she had gotten engaged. Wham. There it was. My best friend was getting married, and not only was I not going to be her Maid of Honor- but hell, I had to hear about her wedding from a mutual friend on Facebook.

Where do you go from here?

You're not fine. Stop acting like it. Acknowledge that you're hurting. Acknowledge that you're devastated, even. Cry about it. Talk to a non-mutual friend about what you're experiencing. Tell your dad that you're having a hard time coping. Allow yourself to feel the pain of loss- because the longer you hold out on acknowledging the pain, the longer it will plague you.

If it's the end of the friendship itself that you're mourning, be honest with yourself about how you're feeling- and be honest when you talk to others about it. Don't lie about what caused the breakup- if you're at fault, be at fault. If she's the one who went nuts on you, don't take the blame. Process what is- you can't move forward at all unless you can specifically figure out where you are now. 

Respect the Need for Space

You've apologized- even if it wasn't your fault - you've apologized. You put the friendship first. You put your foot in your mouth. Now? That's it. That's all you can do.

It's always time for cake. Apologies? Not so much. 

Why? Because the first apology is for her. All the rest are for you. For your peace of mind and to prove ahat you are doing all you can to fix things. Stop. If you genuinely care about her- genuinely want to fix things - you have got to acknowledge that you love her enough to let it be her decision. Reach out and accept the fact that nothing may come of it. Understand that you can keep the door open without making a fool of yourself, and without disrespecting her need for space and time.

Damage Control

"The end" can be messy- especially if the dissolution of the relationship was your choice. You know quite a bit about one another- the stuff that no one else knows. You know about the unplanned pregnancy. She knows about your homo-erotic adventure freshman year. You know about her toenail fungus. She knows that one of your nipples is shaped like Italy. RESIST THE URGE TO USE THIS INFORMATION AGAINST THE OTHER PERSON IN RETALIATION FOR YOUR LOSS.

Seriously. Don't do it.

So, the snitch didn't read this blog post and already spread the rumor about you. Where do you go from here?

1. Keep calm. Whether or not the rumor is true, the angrier you get, the more believable the rumor seems.

2. Asses the damage. A few years back, a friend of mine told quite a few people that I was having an affair with a professor. My first response was to blow the fuck up- the thought crossed my mind, "Who would do this? Even if this had been true, and I had told them in confidence, what kind of person would repeat something like this- and to so many people?" Once I found out about the rumor, I allowed it to sink in. Then, I made a plan. Who did I need to talk to? What damage control did I need to do? Here's the beauty part: very little.  Even though I wanted to post something on Facebook that said "IT'S ALL A LIE AND SOMEONE WAS OUT TO GET ME AND I'M INNOCENT AND  PLEASE BE ON MY SIDE," I knew that acknowledging the rumor/the person publicly would take away my right to privacy and add propellant to the story. No, I knew I had to have my priorities straight.

So, I went upstairs and sat on the bed next to Jake. "There's a rumor going around that I slept with So and So," I said. "I didn't do it, and it's okay for you to ask me again, but I need you to hear from me that this isn't something that happened. If you don't believe it, we need to figure out where to go from here. That's your choice." I knew that was all I could do. And that's all you can do- figure out who you need to talk to (whether or not what's being talked about is true, you want to be the person to bring it up with the people the story will impact- in my case, my loving boyfriend). When writing this post, I asked Jake if he could remember back to when I approached him about this situation. "Vaguely," he said. He had remembered what I said, and he remember believing me, and feeling sorry for the person who had started the rumor.

That's the point, friends. People that know you- people that care about you, and know your heart- they'll say, "Eh, fuck 'em," and help you move forward. As for the sensationalists who love the drama and keep persisting in spreading these rumors (or true things that you didn't want out there) about you? Eh, fuck 'em.

Never trust the national animal of Scotland. 

It may help (in times like these) to think back to the times that you yourself spread rumors about someone that may or may not have been true- why did you do it? Be honest. For me, the root was usually hurt, jealousy, or boredom. If you asked me to actually confront that person with the rumor? I wouldn't have been able to. Because deep down, I knew that either a) it wasn't true or b)it was none of my business. The folks who spread the bullshit know it's bullshit- and you trying to calm them down will only make the story more sensational, so leave them to their hurt, their jealousy, or their boredom.

3. Resist the urge to confront the arsonist. Again, whether it's true or not, confrontation will not help you at this point. You saying to them in a drunken text "HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT SHIT YOU BETCH DO YOU KNOW THE SHIT I COULD SAY ABOUT YOU?" is not going to help the situation. Think about the best possible outcome. Usually, in situations like these, there aren't many positive options. They will throw more shade (it's a drag term, look it up), you will get defensive, and the situation will get worse. Let it fucking go, man. Let them be angry. Let them throw shade (see, you looked it up and know you know what it means when I use it again!). There is nothing that your anger will do to lessen that impact.

So, what now?

So, you've lost your Thursday night Netflix buddy- and the girl who held your hand through your Brazilian waxes. What do you do to fill in the gap?


DIVERSIFY. Think of your relationships- your life - like investments. If you put all of your time and energy into one person, and that relationship crashes, you're screwed. So, this happened already? That's okay. It is. Because now you know not to do it again.

There isn't a replacement for the friend you lost. So don't try to push someone else to fill in the hole they left.

Instead, branch out. Reach out to old friends. A lot of them. Find new connections. Make dinner plans with a lot of different people. And then go to dinner. None of this Generation Y shit we do with the "Yah, yah, let's totally hang oooouuuuut, totallllly," and then you never do it. GO.

Take some classes. Try something you always wanted to try (belly dancing) and something you never thought you would do (instructional oral sex classes? why not?). Figure out who you are. It's time to prove to yourself that you exist outside of a circle of friends.

Don't be afraid to do the things you did with your friend, either. I know, it's hard- you guys always used to eat Rocky Road together while watching New Girl. And I know it hurts when you open the fridge and see that half-eaten tub of ice cream. But don't throw it out. Eat it. Because you enjoy it. And watch New Girl for the same reason. The more exposure you give yourself solo to the things you love, the more normal it will feel to enjoy them. Don't let your sadness take your happy things away.

No one likes sad ice cream. 

Refuse to Choose Anger

This part is the hardest. Ohhhh, my god, is it the hardest. She hurt you. Whether she did something vicious and out-of-character or you did the hurting and she won't take your apology, her denial of your friendship is hard to take.


You know what's right and what's wrong. You know better than to hurt her just to make her feel what you are feeling.

So here are some friendship anger-issue commandments to help you through this time of pillow-punching and tongue-biting:

Yes, that totally is me on a mountain with a pink stone tablet that came from purple lightening.












The bottom line with all of these is that trying to hurt your friend only reflects badly on you- and you don't want to carry that stuff on your back, especially if there is a chance at reconciliation, even if it's twenty years down the road. And those mementos? Trust me on this one- pack them away, because you'll wish you'd kept them in twenty years.

Grace Under Fire

Ahhhh, the awkward meet-up.

If you have to see her- or, if you just happen to run into her- your course of action is simple. Kindness through everything. Be gracious. Be polite. If you cannot handle the emotional impact, or if she confronts you, don't make a scene. Quietly walk away. Be gracious at all costs. You will never regret having been kind to her.


Okay, so I lied. This might be the hardest part. Forgiveness. Forgive them for what they did to you. Forgive yourself for what you did to them. Do not be a prisoner of your own anger- you have to acknowledge that these things happen in life and the only choice you have is to move forward.

Maybe... maybe put the gun down and try to smile when you say it?

Actively forgive them. Actively. Every time a nasty thought comes into your head, or self-pity, or whatever - tell yourself, "It's time to let the past go and give myself the chance to change and grow with new people. I deserve the freedom that forgiveness gives." It seems corny- but the more you say it- the more you immediately and actively combat these negative thoughts with those of forgiveness and hope, the less often they will pop up, and the more peace you will have when they do.

You will have moments, folks. You will have moments where you find out that she chose a sweetheart neckline dress for the wedding, or when you run into her on the El, or when you find out she's in a show with someone you know- and it will all come back up. In these moments, you must remember that you are always learning, that you are full of life and hope, and that the love that you give is not a reflection of the people you direct it towards- that love is a reflection of you.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

F*ck Ketchup: A Chi-Town Newbie's Survival Guide

So, you just graduated college and you're ready to move to the city. It's okay to be scared poopless- I know I was when I first came here. To lend a hand, I've compiled a list of things that I wish someone had told me before I got here- tips on how to get around, what not to do on public transportation, and how to make the most of your first few months in the Windy City. 

Does anybody else think they chose this flag because it would be easy to put on a sheet cake?

1.       When somebody who has difficulty walking or standing gets onto the train or bus, you get up and offer them your seat. No argument. The elderly, somebody with a wheelchair or crutches or walker, or somebody with child/with a child- you get up. Immediately.

Your mama raised you better than that.

2.       The city is a big grid (thanks for teaching me this one, Pirate Man Dave Gonzales). Every time you go someplace new, add it to that mental picture you’ve got of the map of Chicago. You’ll know the city in no time.

3.       Don’t confuse Chicago Democrats with the actual Democratic party. Most of us pretend Rahm Emanuel is a Republican so we can sleep at night.

4.       When you’re on a train and you come to a stop, look around you. There are probably people who need to get off the train. It is your responsibility to get out of their way as quickly as possible.

5.       Save yourself the embarrassment- don’t ask for ketchup on your hot dog. They won’t give it to you.

Just hide the packets in your purse like the rest of us.

6.       Take your headphones out of your ears and put them in front of your face. Can you hear them? Yes? Then so can everybody else. No one but you wants to hear "Call Me Maybe" again. Turn that shit down. 

7.       If someone says “Let’s go thrifting!” and tells you they know this awesome place in the city, don’t expect miracles. It’s the city. They know what their stuff is worth. Go out to the burbs, say haaaaaay to your high school friends, then hit up your hometown Goodwill, cuz honey, ain’t nothing wrong with eight dollar Chanel.

8.       You don’t have to be into everything “token Chicago” to be a good Chicagoan. No one has time to like the Cubs AND Navy Pier AND the beach AND Lincoln Park Zoo AND hockey AND obesity AND local breweries AND Boystown AND super-trendy Logan Square clubs AND Ribfest AND politics AND ombre hair AND Tom’s Shoes AND “the bean” AND Michigan Avenue AND Brown Elephant AND quirky pubs AND the White Sox AND cycling AND juice cleanses AND working for Groupon AND local farmers’ markets AND deep dish pizza AND that Frank Sinatra song. You’re allowed to be into whatever you want to be into- just don’t shame other people for what they like, and don’t shame them for not liking the things that you do.

9.       Don’t take up more than one seat on public transportation. Your bag is not more important than another person. And in turn, get over your fear of asking someone to move their stuff so you can sit. You have got to have enough self-confidence to realize that bag of crap from Top Shop does not belong in a seat instead of you.

You can tell that's a backpack, right?

10.   It’s called the Sears Tower. Don't get it twisted. 

11.   ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS look behind you before you open your damn car door. LET ME SAY THIS AGAIN: LOOK OUT YOUR WINDOWS AND CHECK AROUND YOU BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR CAR DOOR. There are a lot of bikers out there on the streets. As a driver, it is your responsibility to keep them safe. Failure to do this could result in “dooring” a cyclist- the cyclist, who has the right of way in the bike lane, runs full speed into your open door (or swerves into traffic, which is worse) - which has killed many bikers and injured thousands more. Let me say it again: LOOK FOR CYCLISTS BEHIND YOU BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR FUCKING DOOR.

12.   If you are a cyclist, know the rules of the road. And wear a helmet- always. If you’re living in the city at all, in fact, you should know bicycle laws:

13.   A smart phone is a great investment when you’re a city-dweller – it has GPS, reviews of restaurants, apps to get cabs- just don’t be on it when you’re by yourself. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the screen and not realize that a bus is speeding towards you, or someone is following you, or you’re about to miss your stop. Keep your head up.

14.   Honk before you turn into/come out of alleys in your car. Every time. It’s the best way to ensure pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists know you’re coming, and even though it’s not the law, it’s the polite thing to do.

15.   THE TRAIN IS NOT THE PLACE TO HAVE A PHONE CONVERSATION. Sidewalk? Acceptable. Stores? Acceptable. A PLACE WHERE NO ONE HAS THE OPTION TO EITHER A) GET AWAY FROM YOUR STUPID CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU LOVE MOBY  or B) PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE IS NOT THE PLACE TO TALK. Seriously, though. Wait to talk until you get to a place where people can move away from your narcissistic phone dilemma.

16.   Don’t risk the ticket- there are meter masochists everywhere. Pay for parking. Look at the signs before you walk away. Don’t park your car on city streets when it’s snowing.

And oh, my god, they mean it.

17.   If you do get a ticket, make sure you look up the photos online. You can contest them. I have gotten out of at least six tickets since moving to the city because a meter maid was mistaken.

I only pay for the tickets I earn, beetch.

18.   If you’ve got somewhere super-important to be, check local activities. Things like sports events, parades, and local street festivals could completely change your route and your ETA.

19.   It’s hard to see homeless individuals. It happens a lot in Chicago. If you don’t feel comfortable giving cash, but feel you still want to do something, you can look online here for information on helping and donating to local shelters:

20.   Listen to your gut. If something tells you to get off that train car, or get out of that bar, or take a cab home instead of waiting for a bus in that strange neighborhood, listen to it. This is not license to be paranoid. This is reinforcement of what your mom told you when you were a kid. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation.

21.   All cab drivers must take credit cards. It’s the law. If they refuse, you can flag down a cop and the cop will kindly remind the driver for you.

22.   I don’t assume my phone/wallet will get stolen when I go out- but I have left it behind places and have had to figure out a way home. Always keep some spare cash hidden on you in case you lose your wallet/phone so that you can get a cab. I also try to research any new places I’m going so that if something happens, I can find my way back home from wherever I am.

23.   There is no Chicago uniform. You don’t have to shop at Urban Outfitters, Top Shop, Zara, or American Apparel to be cool. You don’t. You can, absolutely, if you want to- but don’t let anybody try to convince you that you won’t fit in if you don’t. That’s some bullshit. Have you seen the stuff in these stores? If you were thinking, “I could probably buy a torn-up kitten t-shirt at a thrift store for fifty cents instead of here for $49.50,” chances are, you’re right. Check out these blogs if you don’t believe me: or

24.   For the love of God, if you can, fart before you get on the crowded train.

25.   Don’t flick strangers off when you’re angry at them. This is Chicago. They will chase your ass down. Let it go.

26.   If you’re in a bar and someone is giving you trouble (touching you, saying offensive things, etc.), don’t try to handle it yourself, and don’t make a scene. Instead, politely go to the bouncer with the situation and let them handle it. Generally, they’ll kick the asshole out. If they don’t, get out of that bar. It’s not a place you want to be anyway.

27.   If you want to bring your car, bring your car. Yes, it can be difficult to park (make sure if you plan on bringing one, you get an apartment with plentiful street parking ALL YEAR ROUND or a designated spot), and yes, it could be stolen (sorry, Sally the Taurus), but don’t let anybody tell you it’s not doable. Those people are always the first to beg you for a ride to Trader Joe’s when it rains.

28.   Don’t talk shit about the suburbs. That’s probably where you grew up. Show some respect.

29.   Go to Sidetrack on a Monday night with friends. Do it over again the next week.

...says my high school theatre teacher, very confidently. I'm a believer. 

30.   Soak it up. This may not be California, and we may not have Broadway, but Chicago has its own wonderful charm. The people here are amazing. The stories they tell are good ones. If you commit to making the most of it, Chicago can be an exciting, enriching, and beautiful home. Even if our city landmark is a giant bean.

Monday, June 17, 2013

In Defense of Cheating: Why Your Naughty Bits Should Not Define You

We do this thing that drives me nuts.

We equate sex with love.

Now I know, I know, you’ve heard that before- you remember your sixth grade health teacher telling you that sex and love weren’t the same thing. You know that putting out doesn’t make someone love you- and hopefully, you also know that it’s not a way to get people to like you, and it sure as hell isn’t a way to get someone’s respect.

That said, we still desperately  want the two to go together. I know this, because cheating destroys marriages, and because I still have girlfriends calling me up, saying, “I loved him so much, and I slept with him, and he broke my heart, and if I had known, I never would have slept with him” and I have my brother telling me that he feels like a terrible person- in his words, that he’s broken- because after his marriage ended (one that he was faithful in), he finds that he’s attracted to a lot of different women.

And, dear lord, if I hear some idiot say, “If a man cheats, it’s because he’s a man, but if a woman cheats, it’s because there’s something really wrong with the relationship,” again, my head will blow up like one of those kids from the Gushers commercials in the 90s (I also find it important to point out that it is mostly women who have said this to me- and we think men are the ones saying things that hold us back as a gender).

It is time that this stops. It is absolutely time for us to get these two concepts- sex and love- untangled.

I will preface the rest of this post by giving credit to Dan Savage- a gay rights activist (come to think of it, a human rights activist), a sex and relationship columnist/author/podcaster, and a pretty funny and insightful guy- for opening up this train of thought and research to me. If you’re not familiar, get familiar.
The reason I decided to write this post (which, quite frankly, surprised even me considering everything else that’s going on in my life right now) is that a few months ago, I found out that someone I knew loosely had “had an affair” with someone outside of her marriage, and the person I found all this out from had been extremely quick to pass judgment and fault onto the woman. Meanwhile, I found out that this woman’s husband was actively defending her, trying to get her friends to believe that she still deserved love and respect, and, as far as I could tell (on facebook, because I stalked), was extremely respectful of her. Interestingly, though, it seemed to me the woman could not stand to forgive herself. You could see from her posts on facebook that she had regrets- that she, in her eyes, had done the unthinkable.

It’s not unthinkable. It’s human nature.

I am going to tell you something that you will not like. Several things, in fact. I am going to tell you that cheating does not make someone a terrible partner. I am going to tell you that you (and what you believe) are the problem. That the way you think is what makes it so hard for people to stay together. That it’s not a big deal. Because it isn’t. And I’m going to tell you all of this in a way that will seem remarkably simple and easy to argue with. But you won’t be able to. Not effectively, at least.

Scenario 1: Choose one friend for the rest of your life. One person to hang out with, tell personal problems to, go out to eat with, get presents for and from, text, etc.

Scenario 2: Choose one food to eat the rest of your life. Hell, I’ll make it easier. Choose one restaurant. Every meal, all day, every day.

Scenario 3: Choose one outfit to wear the rest of your life.

See where I’m going with this? Yes? Mad at how simplistic I am making the complex and emotional issue of fidelity? Yes? Good. You should be mad. At yourself.

Sex is not love, dummy.

Sex is sex.

Sex is a biological function. Made for two purposes, and serving two end goals: pleasure and babies. You may think that’s vulgar- my mother certainly would- but let’s face it- our bodies were designed- our genitalia were designed- SPECIFICALLY FOR PLEASURE. Now, this may have been our bodies’ way of tricking us so that we’d see a benefit in reproducing (yay, bodies, and yay, birth control), but we can’t deny that that’s what it’s there for.

Part of that sexual pleasure is the excitement and adrenaline that comes from your partner- so, what happens when that feeling starts to go (ask your parents, your grandparents even, if they still feel the same sexual attraction they did in their twenties)? Well, if you’re anything like the everybody I’ve ever met, you chalk it up to “not being in love” with that person anymore.

Connecting the dots yet?

So… we say we understand that sex is not love… and then we break up with people who don’t make us feel all tingly down south because we must not be in love with them anymore. Or, someone cheats on us and we break things off because they’ve ruined the relationship. They must not love us if they want to have sex with someone else.


Yes, sex is important. Yes, sexual chemistry can enhance a relationship. Yes, sexual monogamy can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections. But sex does not make a relationship. And monogamy does not guarantee the success of a relationship.

Compassion, genuine fondness of a person, and care for their well-being do. Those things make the foundation of a strong partnership. It’s called companionate relationship. THAT is the important stuff. Sex can enhance that, but it won’t make it appear where it wasn’t. 

So why, then, if sex doesn’t make the relationship, do we let sex break the relationship?

Open the doors. Have a conversation. Understand that you- and your partner, and all of your future partners- are human. We like sex. We are biologically designed to want to spread our seed everywhere- with everyone- on everyone. And yes, it may be hard to acknowledge that your partner is designed to want to have sex with other people, but you HAVE to get used to that. You HAVE to.

Now that I’ve given you a free pass to embrace your sexuality, let’s be realistic. Yes, I’m telling you that it’s normal and natural to want to do a lot of people. But what this is not is a free pass to go cheat on your partner. What this is is encouragement for you to set realistic expectations for your relationship. A tool for you to use to start the conversation with your partner(s) about your concept of fidelity and love. And, most importantly, I want this to be encouragement to BE HONEST WITH YOUR PARTNER ABOUT YOUR SEXUAL REALITIES AND NEEDS BEFORE YOU COMMIT TO SOMETHING OF WHICH YOU ARE NOT CAPABLE. Don’t see yourself being able to be sexually monogamous? Don’t tell your partner that you can be. It’s that simple. And if they can’t handle the fact that you like porn? Or want to have a threesome? Or are bi-curious? Or would like to entertain the thought of an open relationship? THEN THEY AREN’T A SEXUAL MATCH, and planning on a sexually exclusive relationship will not bring good things.

So, yes, it hurts when someone cheats on you and you find out about it, but what should actually hurt about it is the commitment they made that was broken. They agreed to do something and didn’t follow through on it. That’s what stings. So handle it from that perspective- we agreed to something, you didn’t follow through, so let’s talk about expectation, honesty, and how to fix this is the future. But let’s not make the sex part bigger than it is. It’s a bodily function. One that’s natural and lovely and diverse. And our refusal to acknowledge that is tearing our relationships apart. Not infidelity. Now, if the other stuff is not there- compassion, friendship, real love- then, you need to start thinking about splitting ways.

Sometimes, I get sick of French fries (should that be capitalized?). But I still love them. You just can’t sustain a diet on all fries. It doesn’t work that way. It’s unrealistic. And if you did, it would be unhealthy.

So, if see Jake “liking” some pretty girl’s facebook picture, yes, my first reaction is going to be one of insane jealousy, and hurt, and genuine crazy-girl rage. But what we have to do, once that internal battle happens, is tell ourselves that our relationship is more than sex. That my value to Jake is more than a piece of ass. That by saying to myself, “If Jake likes so and so’s picture, he clearly doesn’t love me, and doesn’t want to be with me anymore,”  I am doing myself the disservice of making my value to him nothing more than a breathing sex toy. That this man respects me and honors me in many ways, and that by asking him to shut off a part of him that comes naturally (as it does for me), I am tightening the lid on the bottle of soda and fucking shaking it up.

Dan Savage has a really good philosophy on all of this: keep the door open, just a little bit, because otherwise, the door will blow off the hinges.

This is not a pass to be an asshole. This is permission to be okay with your sexuality. To forgive yourself for wanting someone else besides your partner. And, most importantly, it’s me telling you that if you find out that someone else is dealing with “cheating” in their relationship, or someone else handles their sexuality differently from this failing norm of strict monogamy that we’ve all adhered so closely to, just shut up about it. Seriously. Shut up. It’s none of your business, and if you think that you, or your partner, or you both won’t be dealing with exactly the same circumstances sooner or later, you’re in for a nasty shock, my friend.

So let’s stop judging love by the success and singularity of our sex lives. Instead, let’s focus on companionship, respect for ideas, and plain old liking the person we love. That, friends, is what we do have control over.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This Above All, Dammit: On Truth, Small Towns in Massachusetts, and Mayonnaise

I remember very distinctly lying to an actor while I was working as a wardrobe crew member years ago. 

“Where are you from?” I asked, putting on his wig. “Hububsmalltownublah, Massachusetts,” he said. Very coolly, nonchalantly, as though this was a small fĂȘte in Paris (say it like this- “pao-weeeee”-because it’s fun), as though I had a cigarette holder in one hand and a shallow glass of champagne in the other, I replied, “Oh,  yeah, I’ve got some family there.”

Why? Why did I say this?

He said, “Really? You have family in Hububsmalltownublah? Hububsmalltownublah, Massachusetts? Wow. That’s- that’s unbelievable. It’s a really, really small town. I know almost everyone there. What’s your family name?” Folks, as soon as he used that phrase- family name- I knew I was a goner. I was able to keep up the lie for the rest of the summer, using Google search to help me figure out what towns Hububsmalltownublah was near and what the local attractions were, but every time I saw him, I was panicked that today would be the day I would blow my cover and he would find out that I had only ever been to Massachusetts once, on a trip to Boston with my dad. Beyond that, I’m positive that he knew I was lying, which just made him feel bad for me- and where genuine fondness and mutual respect could have blossomed, that space was now filled with shame and pity.

So why did I do it? Easy. I wanted him to like me. I had so little self-confidence that instead of being able to say, “Where in the world is Hububsmalltownublah? It sounds nifty,” I made up a story. I felt I had to have something in common with this actor in order to be valuable to him.

Jack Mclaughlin-Gray, one of the greatest acting professors I have ever had, once gave this piece of advice to my acting class: “You don’t have to move around on stage to be interesting. Stand still. Just be. You are interesting because you’re there.”

That’s the thing- you are intrinsically interesting. And valuable.You are, just because you are alive, a worthwhile and awesome person. Where you come from, what you think, what you do and don’t like, what you’re allergic to and what songs you sing to yourself in the mirror when you’re alone in your room- these things are all okay. These little bits combine to make up the magnificence that is you. I didn't understand this at 19 years old- in fact, at nearly 25, I still have trouble with it, but it is a conscious decision and a continuous effort to be honest about myself.

I processed all of this this morning when I was reminded of a situation with Jake from a few years ago. Before we were dating, he and I, separate of each other, both had quarrels with the same person during the exact same time frame. He handled his situation one way, I handled mine another. My issue was resolved, his was not. These scenarios played out very differently- my relationship with this person has remained one of the most nurturing, uplifting and supportive relationships of my adult life. Jake, while no longer upset about how his half played out, has chosen not to pursue or rebuild the connection, a decision which I fully support and understand. It took me such a long time to be able to say to Jake, “Listen, I really like this person, and I want to continue my friendship with them.” I think a lot of people were really surprised by that- as if somehow, being part of a couple meant that I should ignore all that this other person had done for me, how I genuinely felt about this person, my truth­- just to make Jake like me more, even if it wasn't something that was actually part of me. But you know what? As it turns out, Jake has not asked me to end, hide, or alter my relationship- or even tried to make me feel bad or wrong for loving this person (which speaks to his character immeasurably). The point is that to lie and say, “Yeah, I don’t really like so-and-so, I totally agree with you,” just to feel like you’re on the right team- well, that does bad by all parties involved: the person you lied about not liking, because you aren't being honest about what you think their redeeming qualities are; yourself, because you’re having to lie about something you really feel; and your partner, because they’re not getting you, they’re getting please-like-me-robot-Barbie you. And if that’s what they want, they’re not what you need. 

So how does this translate to real life? No, you don’t have to walk up to a stranger on the street and be all like, “I HAVE A YEAST INFECTION THAT IS THE EQUIVALENT OF AN F-5 TORNADO TOUCHING DOWN IN HOO-HAH VILLE,” for the sake of revealing your truth. No, no, no- what I’m saying is that it’s okay- in fact, just better- to be you. To be okay with being you. The calm, boring, reads “Good Housekeeping” in secret, didn't do anything fun this weekend, doesn't really like jelly beans or Van Halen, puts mayonnaise on everything, has never been skydiving or skinny-dipping  you. If they don’t dig it, their loss. Seriously. You don’t want someone around who’s too much of a douche to admit that they didn't understand Inception either, anyhow. And, if in sharing things about yourself, you genuinely feel like you’re unhappy with your life and what you've done, if you genuinely wish you had better stories to tell, go out and do more- but do it for yourself. Not to impress someone who, especially if you are just getting to know them (not to be harsh here, folks), is probably not going to be your soul mate and also probably not worth your best stories.

It’s easy to play the “Please Like Me” game. Everybody knows it. The trouble is that no matter how good you get at it, you still always lose. Instead, arm yourself with you-ness. Be proud of your beliefs, your quirks, and your ridiculousness. And remember- just being alive makes you valuable. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Things that college didn't teach me: a graduate's guide to navigating grown-up life

1) Your friends are not the people with whom you drunkenly cried while in college. Your friends are the people who called you the next day to see if you still needed to talk.

2) It's a stupid idea to walk home from a bar in six-inch heels.

3) If you don't need it, don't buy it.

4) Adderall is not a substitute for hard, heartfelt work.

5) Don't ask everyone you know for advice. It's a silly thing to do. Ask a few close friends or mentors, but serially collecting opinions instead of making your own informed ones is a terrible, weak and confusing habit.

6) Telling others the truth to rid yourself of guilt is not always a good thing: in the end, it makes someone else feel shitty indefinitely so that you can feel better.

7) You can't eat a box of jalepeno poppers and expect to poop anything other than liquid fire the next day.

8) It's never a good idea to tell your boss what you really think of her/him if you don't plan on ending your tirade with "I quit."

9)  No amount of eyeliner can cover up low self-esteem.

10) Cigarettes and Diet Coke do not a breakfast make.

11) A friendship or relationship where someone belittles you is not actually a friendship.

12) Acrylic nails are never a good idea.

13) Don't ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER give another actor a note. FUCKING EVER.

14) That icky feeling in the pit of your stomach? That's your body, telling you that whatever you've about to do is really stupid. Listen to it.

15) Life is not what happens after you get everything you're hoping for. Life's happening to you while you ride the train. While you work your day job. While you read this.

16) Facebook is not a good place to post your troubles with coworkers, or lovers, or family. Especially if you happen to be friends with them on facebook.

17) Family is everything. Even if it's the family you have made for yourself.

18) Someone wanting to have sex with you is not the same as someone valuing you.

19) A cat is not guaranteed to be loving and cute at all times. In fact, that cat will be a prick most of the time.

20) More stuff is just more stuff.

21) It's a good idea to go back and read all of the books you pretended to read for your English classes in high school and college.

22) You don't need alcohol to chill out. You don't need pot to sleep. A smoke break every twenty minutes is not normal. These are not ways to enjoy life more: these are coping mechanisms for larger issues. These are the beginnings of addiction.

23) Facebook "likes" should not be to your ego what claps are to Tinkerbell.

24) It's okay to be sensitive.

25) It's okay to be an introvert.

26) It's okay to say "no."

27) Don't tell everybody everything. Protect things that are close to your heart. Over-sharing pretty much guarantees that someone's gonna make you feel shitty about something you care about- so don't throw those pearls of yours in front of piggies who aren't genuinely invested in your well-being.

28) Don't ever treat a waiter like shit.

29) Look both ways when you're crossing the street. Even if it's a one-way.

30) If someone chooses to cut you out of their life, let them go. Focus your love and light on people willing to accept you for the crazy motherfucker you are.

31) Don't post depressing shit online. It doesn't help you. It's not endearing. You're just the asshole who made someone else's day a little sadder.

32) Go to class. You have no idea how expensive it actually is to repeat a class until you're on the other side making monthly payments. Go to class.

33) It's okay to be mad at your parents for things they did wrong, but it is not okay to blame them for how you turned out. When you turn 18, your life is all on you. You are a grown-ass person. You are responsible for who you are.

34) Forgiveness is essential to find happiness.

35) It's okay to be lost.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

50 Shades of WTF IS WRONG WITH EVERYONE?: An Examination of Idealistic Love

Boy howdy, has Hollywood fucked us over.

Somewhere between “The Little Mermaid” and “Twilight,” we picked up this ridiculous idea that love should be easy.

That relationships shouldn’t require work.

That girls don’t fart.

That people who love each other never question their feelings.

That “happily ever after” is just that easy.

Here’s the thing- there’s a reason the movie always ends with the two lovers riding off into the sunset in a carriage, or throwing the bouquet, or finally kissing in the rain after two full hours of nail-biting buildup- it’s because the moment after the cameras turn off, the shit goes down. Cinderella and Charming are in the carriage, and she’s all like, “What hotel are we staying at?” and he’s all, “The Motel 6” and she’s all, “What the fuck is wrong with you? I’m a princess! I can’t stay in a motel!” and he’s all, “But you said anything was fine, as long as we had each other.” Then she gets her period and the honeymoon is ruined anyway-  and cue the marriage counselors and the drinking problems and the lawyers and the statistics. That’s why the movie always stops after the pretty “ever after” screenshot.

Because that shit don’t sell tickets.

Somehow, we’ve gotten it into our heads that we need and deserve love like we see in the movies.  But the things is, that’s not actually love. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that actually accurately describes love. I want my money back, Steven Spielberg. You’re a c***.

Jake, forgive me here, because I’m gonna get a bit personal. It’s nothing I haven’t told you in person, so I trust that you’ll be okay with me blogging our secrets so that others can learn from our glorious love tornado.

When Jake and I started dating, I tried to break up with him two months in. Why? Because. Just because. I was twenty, and selfish, and my friends weren’t crazy about him and I was taller than him by about an eighth of an inch and sometimes the way he talked in public embarrassed me because I didn’t understand what he was saying (he’s crazy smart like that). That, and he was in really good physical shape, and I wasn’t, and I didn’t want people to think “What’s that buff guy doing with Rosanne Barr?” So I broke up with him. We both cried. I went one night without him- maybe not even that- before I realized something felt wrong and I didn’t like not being his girlfriend. I few months later, he ended things with me. Why? You’d have to ask him. Pretty similar reasons I think, except add to the story that I had treated him abominably and picked fights and nagged nonstop since the start of our relationship. Fast forward four years, and we’ve been through several “breaks”, several breakups, a few screaming fights in cars, a lot of tears, but, BUT- much more importantly, the most love I have ever had in my whole life.

Admittedly, Jake is not who I imagined myself with. I’m sure he would say the same about me.  There have been times I wanted to wring his neck, and times where I know he has almost walked out on me. I have made remarkable and hurtful mistakes, and he has forgotten to tell me I’m pretty or that my dress looks nice or that he misses me or whatever. But let’s look at the facts:

a)   He is upstairs asleep right now in a bed COVERED with my personal belongings. He is snugly tucked in amongst lipstick, popcorn kernels, beer caps, boxes of tampons, and a cat that I brought home without asking him first. And that’s just on the bed. Imagine what the rest of the room looks like. And he has never said a WORD to me about the fact that I’m a sticker collection away from being on “Hoarders.”

b)  He thinks it’s funny when I put drag makeup on. He can even hold a meaningful conversation with me when my lips look like Amanda Lepore’s (go ahead… look her up).

c)  He eats my cooking.

d)   He picks me up from work, even when he’s exhausted, just because he knows it’ll help me.

e)  He will let me cry and not make fun of the fact that I snot up like a four-year-old. Even when that snot inevitably ends up all over his shirt.

f) He listens to every word I say… and never tells me I’m being boring or redundant, even though I am.

g) He spends time with my conservative Christian family and tries his damndest to impress them, even though he’s a bleeding-heart liberal-agnostic.   

h) He has held my head up over a toilet for two and a half hours straight so I didn’t drown in it while I black-out-drunkenly tried to convince him that I was the Black Swan.

i) He is still here.

Now, if we tried to make a movie about our relationship, we would fail, even by quirky “Eternal Sunshine” standards. Not a lot of stuff we do is remarkable, or memorable, or swoon-worthy. The thing is, I’ve had those relationships. Those moments. Hell, I’ve been tempted while I was with Jake- and he knows this- by things and people that promised those romantic sensations and outrageous futures. There are still moments where I question myself- question us- and think, is this it for me? Is the romance gone? Is there someone else?

The truth is, yes. There is someone else out there who could make you feel wildly sexy and vulnerable and beautiful and fill your life with passion and sexy sex and butterflies. There will always be that next person. But eventually, those butterflies in your stomach make contact with your stomach acid and run out of air and die and give you indigestion. And then your sexy butterflies end up in the toilet. Eventually, one of you will get bored and want to call it quits and the other will feel neglected and heartbroken and you will MISTAKENLY think that this- this was love, because it wouldn’t hurt so badly if it weren’t love. Reality check: if someone hits you over the head with a crowbar, it fucking hurts. Does that mean love is involved? NO. But it feels so sickeningly sweet to be hurt in such a way that we convince ourselves that it must be love, and then when someone normal comes along who doesn’t want to hurt us, we don’t recognize their normality, respect, and decency as signs of love because we’re so used to smashing together sex and feelings and newness and rejection and FUCK I’M SO FUCKING TIRED BUT THIS IS SO IMPORTANT SO I WILL POWER THROUGH that we can’t see a genuine, boring, remarkable love building and shaping right in front of our eyes.

So here’s what it boils down to: if you’re looking for Prince Charming, stop it. Look for a really good friend. Look for someone who would do anything for you, and then do your fucking part- do MORE for them than they’re doing for you. Stop looking to check things off the list you’ve got in your head for your perfect partner. Because they don’t exist. And even if they did, you know what? You’d be bored to tears and look for any reason you could to leave them.  If you want to fall in love- deep, meaningful love, take off your princess dress, put on your gardening gloves and your comfy jeans, and get to work. Put in the time. Plant those damn seeds. There will be times you want to walk away. There may be times that you do.  There may be nights you wonder what you could have had instead. He may wonder the same. Relationships are hard. Love is hard. But real, forgiving, meaningful love is glorious. And worth every minute of work you put into it. So buck up, Cinderella.