Thursday, November 3, 2011

Crime and Punishment: a study on the loss of friendship

I hear it all the time: 

"Brynne, you're so hard to get ahold of."-"You never text back."-"I left you a message."-"You were in town?"

I know. I know you left me a message. I know you wrote. I know you called, and yes, I am a dick for not getting back to you. 

Allow me, for a moment, to hop down off of my half-full Cascade box and tell you why. 
I've lost almost every good friend I've ever had. I know, I know, we grow and change and all of that bullshit, but I'm a serial mauler of friendships. 

After a recent... divorce?... from a friendship that carried me through the last nine years, I'm beginning to get desperate to figure out how and why this keeps happening. After this last devastating loss, one that I thought would never turn out like this, I've begun to fear for my other friendships as well. So, my response?

Stay as far away from the people I like as possible.

Here's my logic. If I really like you, and I want to be/stay friends, the surest way not to mess it up is to stay out of your life. To shun you like the plague. To pretend that I've lost my phone- permanently. 

It's not like I'm killing my best friends in their sleep. I think, however, that I possess a killer cocktail of friendship no-nos: ones I'm about to share with you, friend, in hopes that we'll both learn something from the splattering of my mistakes on this electronic wall.

1. Honesty is not always the best policy.

I'm not saying that you should lie to your friends. Okay, actually, I am. There is nothing to be gained by telling someone that they look a little fat in that outfit. Even if they do. Lie. Furthermore, even if you feel a friend is doing something harmful to themselves (eating disorder, bad boyfriend, alcohol issues, wearing Crocs), I HAVE LEARNED OVER AND OVER that IT WILL NOT END WELL FOR YOU if you try to confront them. There's a reason that trained professionals handle most of those things.  IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE TO BRING IT TO THEIR ATTENTION. It may seem like you're doing the brave, smart thing by confronting them, but when was the last time you responded well to criticism?  You can let them know that you're there, and you can let them know that you're worried for them, but any sort of ultimatum or intervention will only make them feel small and betrayed.  Shut up and stop trying to fix your friend- even if you get out your grievances, you will not have helped the friend see that they are in trouble. Instead, you'll push them further away from a place of happiness and balance.

2. Don't live with your best friends.

The best friend I have in the world was a somewhat random roommate- and she is a goddess for loving me through my absolute mess of a life. 

That said, we were strangers, and she is an exceptionally patient and kind human being. There were no expectations and I lucked out. So take heed:

Living with someone you care about can be absolute murder on even the most secure of friendships. After all of those Tennessee Williams plays we've read, don't we know by now that lots of people who love each other in a small space only leads to awful things? All of a sudden, someone you love dearly becomes someone who owes you money for bills. The girl who got you through gym class becomes the girl who just drank all your milk. The boy who consoled you through the worst breakup of your life is now the dude who doesn't light a match after he bombs the bathroom.

Get the message?

The exception proves the rule- I'm sure some of you out there are thinking, "Not me. I love my roommates and we're still best friends." To you few, you proud, I say two things: A) Good for you, you lucky duck, and I'm happy to hear it, and B) you're probably the one drinking the milk and bombing the bathroom.

3) Quit talking behind your friend's back.

This should be a simple one, but it's not. For some reason, when something starts to go wrong, it's virtually impossible not to talk about it. Oftentimes, that means mutual friends. STOP RIGHT HERE. RIGHT. HERE. Close your mouth. Close your stupid mouth. Stop talking to mutual friends about your best friend's secrets, issues, the problems you are having, etc. Stop it. Not only does it make the problem seem bigger than it is, but you're probably getting bad advice from whoever it is you're talking to... BECAUSE A DRINKING BUDDY DOES NOT MAKE FOR A GOOD COUNSELOR, GOD DAMMIT. You need to honor your friend by working it out with her/him. It's an awful idea to spread their business around, even to trusted friends, because eventually, it will come out that you were discussing their business with someone else. And it won't end well.

Same heading, different category: stop gossiping about your friends. If you want to talk shit about someone, fine. But don't do it while they think you're trustworthy. That makes you a coward and asshole. Don't use your friends' misfortunes as a way to seem more interesting at a party. 

4. Never injure a friend, even in jest.

I love this quote, but I'll be honest, I have to look up who said it... Angela Lansbury or General Patton or someone. Oh, wow- Marcus Tullius Cicero? Boy, was I wrong. I don't even know who that is. It's still a great quote.

I don't think you should ever call a friend stupid, or ugly, or say anything meant to harm someone or knock them down. At some level, we mean what we say- and we also begin to believe what we hear. Don't insult your friends. Lift them up. Don't belittle or berate them- it feels awful when it's done to you, so why would you want to put someone else through it? Don't exploit the friendship by making a joke of something they've told you in confidence- you can never fully gain that trust back.

I can pretty confidently give the following example because I'm fairly sure the person I did this to doesn't read this blog, so here's an illustration of what I mean:

A few years ago, I gave a friend an old skirt of mine. It didn't mean anything to me- it was just something I'd picked off a sale rack. She asked, "Why don't you want it?" I said, "I think it's so ugly!" She laughed and said, "No, it's beautiful. Thank you." 

A few weeks later, I saw her wearing it in a hallway filled with people we knew. I got within earshot of her and said, "What an ugly skirt!" at the top of my lungs.

It's okay. We can pause while you shake your head and embrace the awkwardness and horror of this moment. I'll join you.

No one there had any idea about our previous conversation. No one knew that it was an inside joke. What they heard was that I had insulted my friend (at the time, my best friend) publicly. I had embarrassed her and hurt her- all while joking. There are things that are funny, but hurting your friends- not good material.

5. To err is human...

There's a beautiful moment between Carrie and Aiden on "Sex & the City"- for all you haters, shut up now and keep reading for the message behind the mush. The background of the scene: Carrie has cheated on Aiden, but he's agreed to give it a second chance. Aiden, however, is clearly not over it- he's still seeking out ways to punish Carrie for her indiscretion. The scene I'm bringing up is the one where Carrie finally breaks. She goes to his door and lets loose: "You have to forgive me. You have to forgive me. You have to forgive me. You have to forgive me." 

It's beautiful.

Here's what you're thinking: a)"I love that scene" b) she spelled "Aiden" wrong or c) yeah, but Carrie cheated. He had every right to be mad. You know what? YOU'RE RIGHT. He did. But he chose to get back in a relationship with her. 


Ahem. Let me say this again, a little louder.


Now, you have every right to leave someone who has hurt you in the dust. That's your prerogative, and no one can blame you for it. But (BUT) if you intend to mend that friendship and especially if your have told your offending friend that all is well, STOP PUNISHING THEM. Quit turning small things into big things. Quit picking fights. Quit guilting them. Quit peeling away at a relationship that is already damaged. If they've apologized and you've accepted it and the friendship means something to you, handle the pain and the disappointment before you choose to continue your relationship. The initial fault may not have been yours, but if you're keeping your friend in the doghouse, you're the douche. To maintain a friendship, you have to forgive.

Still here?

Please don't think I'm looking down my nose at you while I write this. That wouldn't be very friendly. I personally have made and continue to make all of the above mistakes. After losing a very dear friendship recently, and one that I thought was unshakable, I have been thinking as much as I can about what I've done wrong and what I can do to improve my friendships in the future.

So if I don't call you back, it's not because I don't love you. I'm just trying to keep you as a friend until I lock down those last few pointers in my own noggin.

Be good to each other.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Courage and William Wallace


It's a funny word. Say it over and over- and over- to yourself. Go ahead. Say it until the word starts to sound unreal. Like it's just babble. Until it feels like you're having a mild stroke. Go on. I don't mind waiting.

It's a funny word.

To me, it's an even funnier concept. The "courage" I have experienced in my life has been- well, sort of- biblical?- in proportions. "Courage"- a word for them good ol' boys like David (of Goliath-slaying fame), Caesar ("Cowards die many times before their deaths; The valiant never taste of death but once."), and Mel Gibson in "Braveheart" (which, granted, I've never seen, but seriously, even people who haven't seen this movie have seen it). The courage of the white knight. The courage of a lion. The courage of a man facing his own death.

That's not the courage that compels me.

The courage I'm interested in- the courage I  watch with mouth agape and heart ablaze- the courage that inspires and uplifts me- is the courage of the everyday.

Let's give ourselves some credit- life is hard. This existence is hard. There are so many things to be angry about, so many things to be afraid of, and so many things that seem insurmountable- just on a day-to-day basis.

What I'm realizing, though, is that the more of these little things I can confront with day-to-day courage, the better and brighter my world seems.

Yes, it sucked to make the phone call that let me know that I owe 1,800.00 for something that I thought was settled long ago. Yes, it sucked to say to my coworker, "Your day is screwed up because I booked it incorrectly- it was my fault." Yes, it sucked to go to the dentist, my general physician, and the gynecologist (thank god they didn't get their tools confused) all in the same day. Yes, it sucks that I now have the x-rays proving that I need a lot more dental work in the next year.

But guess what- I'm not afraid of any of those things any more. The problems may not be solved, but the hardest part was the initiation- the calling up, the speaking up, the showing up. Now, I fall asleep at night- and sleep through the night. Because I know what I'm facing. Because I know how to handle it, even if it's going to be rough. And because I'm not hiding anything from myself anymore.

Let the dread go. Be brave every day.  Don't let something small get the opportunity to turn into something bigger- and don't wait until tomorrow to start facing it. Rip off the band-aid and take care of the cut before it turns into a gaping wound.

Here is my challenge to you, starting right now:

Check your voicemails, even though you're afraid there will be a message from the debt collector who's been hounding you. Call the old friend whom you hurt and have been too proud to call. Go get that STI test/cancer screening/pap smear/heart test done at the doctor's. Own up to that mistake you made at work. Tell your dad you dented the car. Tell your partner you're struggling. Start that savings account- and use it. Find something to audition for. Check your credit score. Call your mom back, for heaven's sake.

The little things that you're afraid to do are the ones that most need doing. So be courageous. I know that these things are hard to do- really, really hard- and require a stupid amount of energy and nerve. Let that be okay. Tell yourself it's okay that you're afraid. Then kick that fear in the balls and pick up the phone while you're still on that ball-kicking high. Don't save the world. Breathe in, stand up straight, and do what you know in your gut is right. And know that I'm really friccin' proud of you for doing it.

You don't have to slay a giant to be a hero. You just have to get up in the morning.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Drink Your Way to the Top: A Career Girl's Guide to Success

I attended my first work party yesterday evening. Dressed to the nines and nervous as hell, I hit the open bar. Here, as a result of my experience, are things I learned last night while drinking with coworkers (all of my coworkers, by the way) for the first time. Read and learn, class.

1. Never chase the mariachi band.

2. If you're going to drunk dial someone, make sure it isn't your parents.

3. It's a good idea to pick up your floor-length dress before you walk by lit candles decorating the floor.

4. 24-hour Walgreens aren't really open all day and night. And the employees don't appreciate you trying to show your disapproval by body slamming the revolving door.

5. When you ask what you're about to drink and the bartender says, "I don't know," put it down.

6. Don't ask anyone to be your maid of honor. Or, at least, don't ask everyone.

7. They aren't midnight garbage men. They're hobos. And they aren't okay to talk to about career opportunities.

8.If your friend's boyfriend is kind enough to drive you home so that you don't pass out on the El, the proper thing to do is to swallow anything that might come up. Even if you have to do it repeatedly. Even if it tastes like a wet dog smells.

9. Your roommate doesn't have a twin. Neither does her friend. There are not two sets of twins sitting on your couch to greet you. You need help.

10. There is a magical fairy for young drunk women- known as Blackout Betty- who is responsible for stripping your clothes off, unstrapping your heels, making sure most of your vomit ends up in the sink or the toilet, and somehow getting you into bed without your knowledge- or even a vague recollection of how she did it. Some rumor that Blackout Betty is a myth- friends, I tell you- Blackout Betty worked her voodoo magic on me last night. Keep the faith. And make sure (via mass text- at 7am the next morning) that none of your poor roommates were actually the ones helping your nasty naked self into bed.

P.S. It's also not a good idea to ask your boss more than once if you can see his cat. He may not understand.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Longchamp and Circumstance

They're everywhere.

And they cost more than I ever saved up in allowance as a kid.

Longchamp bags.

Now, now, don't navigate away because you think I've gone soft and am blogging about purses. There's a genuine heart-fart behind my objection to these bags: 

They're made of puppy hide. 

Okay, they aren't, but my real point is coming. Since I first noticed these bags a few days ago, I can't stop seeing them- and, if you're in the city, you won't be able to, either. It seems that Chicago is a walking Longchamp advertisement. 

So what's my big issue? 

They're ugly. And expensive. And having one means you're fashionable.

My coworker graciously explained to me what owning these bags means after I pointed out that one of them had even infiltrated our workplace: " A Laaahng-shomp (now, read the title of the post again.... g'head......... aaaaand there it is) bag means you're in- everyone who's anyone has one. They're like the marker that you've made it in upper-middle class society."

Slight pause while I weep for my generation.

I just can't imagine spending upwards of a hundred dollars on something that defined nothing about me, that everyone else had, and that does the same job as a reusable shopping bag. On top of that, I've seen well-made, elegant, simple bags at reasonable prices everywhere- so why not go find one like it at Kohl's? God knows my mom wore bags like these in the nineties... when she was looking after four children and needed something nondescript that we wouldn't purposely set out to destroy.

In fact- another pause for interjection from recent facebook chat, when I asked a friend’s opinion about the upscale totes after showing her a picture-

-don't get me wrong. Longchamp actually makes some very lovely bags- but no one is carrying them. No, the ones out and about are the ones in muted colors with tan leather flaps. Thrilling. Now, if the bags I'd seen on the street had been colorful, or interesting, made unique by the wearer's touch, or, you know, balanced your checkbook for you or gave you sensual back massages nightly or could do a killer imitation of Tim Curry, great. I'd have no complaint whatsoever. More power to you. But the fact that something so basic and therefore so outrageously overpriced (in my book) makes me wonder: do we really like what we buy, or do we buy it because we think we should?

This question has been haunting me since I moved to the city. My tastes are changing. Things I used to like seem tacky to me now; things I used to make fun of are becoming more appealing to me. These Longchamp bags, though, stop me in my tracks. I understand that they're unnatractive- and sort of look like diaper bags. But the more I see them, the more I hear about them, the better they look to me.

So, I'm drawing the line.

I shop at Target (in fact, the majority of my wardrobe is from Target). I think TJ Maxx and Marshall's are incredible. I don't believe something is actually on clearance unless it's less than ten dollars- no matter what it is. I think it's INSANE that somebody thinks 248 dollars is a good deal on a blouse- no matter where it came from. I have buyer's remorse if I spend more than five dollars on a piece of jewelry. I paint my own nails because I think 40 dollars on a mani-pedi would be better spent on a night out with friends. I wax my own eyebrows and I've never paid more than thirty dollars for a pair of jeans. I don't think anything from a thrift store should cost more than what you'd spend on a value meal at McDonald's. I shop at the Dollar Tree- and I like it. And I can't believe that they sell six-packs of candles for only a dollar- I MEAN, COME. ON. SIX OF THEM. I am a bargain-binning, sale-seeking, cheap-ass lady- and I love my style. I love who I am- and no ugly, expensive, boring bag should make me question what I've taken so long to develop. From here on out, I’m taking off the giant face-masking sunglasses and standing proud at the clearance rack- because I’m proud that I get great deals on things that make me feel good.

So, while fighting the Longchamp invasion single-handedly by rocking my Payless shoes and my hand-me-down hobo-bag, I wish you the courage to wear what you really want to, regardless of the price tag. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Still haven't found (you guessed it) what I'm looking for-

My facebook profile picture is a still from ISU's production of Rock 'n' Roll.

I look at it and have to look away immediately.

Two reasons:

1) I cannot fathom how much larger my waistline has gotten in only three months, and

2) sadness crashes into my sternum like a wrecking ball every time I think back to those happiest moments of my life.

How does this make sense?

The joy, the fulfillment, that pain, the beauty, the struggle of that show- it was palpable. It was tangible. It still is. I don't know why- I don't think any of us that were a part of it understood what was happening to us- but even up there on that stage, I could feel it slipping away from my grasp- the purity and meaningfulness of what was happening.

There was a tangible loss the moment that show closed. How can something so joyous- so bright- so perfect- bring such an awful hurt with its memory? Isn't that the antithesis of art?

Please understand that I don't mean anything as far as the performance was concerned. Think what you will about the final product- that's your right, and I wholeheartedly encourage it- but the experience, for me, was so life-alteringly beautiful that I weep like a two-year-old denied his post-dinner ice cream every time I hear U2 play that damn song over the speakers at CVS.

But that's the problem. It was life-altering.

I'm still living my life. And it's been altered. But I don't know how to let that change manifest itself.

I spoke to Jake the day after the show closed. Over breakfast, I said to him, "I can't live a life that's not beautiful anymore. I can't spend nine hours a day on the couch. I need to live a beautiful life."

And I meant it. The issue I've found is that it's extremely hard to live beautifully when you're clocking in 40+ hours a week and worrying about your bad credit score.

I'm here. I made it to Chicago. I've been on a few auditions. I've been blessed enough to have been given a beautiful project to work on with a dear friend. What I'm terrified of is that I'll spend the rest of my life looking for what I had for that brief moment.

Go ahead. Say it. Tell me I just have to go for the dream. Tell me I have to audition like it's my job. Tell me we all have to start somewhere.

I know. You're right. I know.

But, please, dearly beloved, tell me how to do it when I don't have the energy to walk back from the El.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Things I Learned from Gary

Over the last few weeks, I've found myself much more prepared than expected for life post-college. Looking back over the classes I took, I realized that they couldn't possibly have helped... I skipped most of them. I'm not street-smart. I don't have shocking good looks or unusual amounts of money to help me get by. So what was the source of my uncanny adaptability?


Gary Alcorn, the custodial mastermind behind the theatre facilities at Illinois State University, has taught me a great deal of useful things. I, in thanks to him, would like to pass a few of them on.


Things I've learned from Gary:

1. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they leave a room when they think someone else is going to clean up after them.

2. Mountain Dew is, in fact, a food group.

3. Fact: it's actually pronounced "thee-AY-durr."

4. You should never take more than you can afford to lose on a casino boat.

5. Art isn't about being clever.

6. Fun-sized candy bars can actually help diets. It's science.

7. Bourbon and Windex are delicious over ice.

8. It's stupid to walk home alone in the dark because you don't want to inconvenience anyone. Just plain stupid.

9. Work isn't work if you love what you do.

10. It's all about who you know. Just not who you think you should be getting to know.

***Disclaimer: The author of this blog in no ways condones the mixing of alcoholic beverages and cleaning supplies for purposes of consumption.

Friday, July 15, 2011

We are such stuff as reality television is made of.

Firstly, I'd like to point out that my title ends in a preposition.

More importantly, I'd like to find a way to connect back to loved ones who aren't within arms' reach anymore- and who, heaven knows, I'm awful at connecting with any other way.

The goal of this blog, I suppose, is to find a way to get all of my musings/inappropriate thoughts/hopes/confusions out and into a better, useful place. This way, I can unload while sharing, maybe grapple with things in a way that better serves personal growth.

Let the games begin.

I work for a fantastic salon: when I say fantastic, I don't mean "I say it 'cause they pay me to," I mean "fantastic." Think best-haircut-you-ever-had, mentioned-in-magazines, can't-take-walk-ins-cause-we're-booked-solid kind of place. The pay and perks are wonderful. My coworkers are kind, complex people who love what they do, and who have swooped me up, slapped some dye in my hair and called me one of their own. The only issue? I work for the front desk.

The front desk=the front lines.

I'll set the scene:

Lights up on a motionless salon foyer. Stainless steel glistens, wood counters shine, pencils have been sharpened to pointy perfection. A girl, 23, rests against the counter behind the massively structured front desk.

It's 8:29am on a Tuesday. The schedules have been printed. The drawer has been counted. There is peace.


Phone switches automatically from "night ring" to "in office."

Phone rings. Pick up. Appointment request. Computer system suddenly- and irreversibly- down. Second phone rings. Apologies and message-taking. Third phone rings. Apologies yet again and correction of message. Hang up phone. Attempt to pick up another call. Accidentally hang up on two calls in queue. Spill coffee over message book. Three phones ring at once. Pick one up. Speak. "Yeah?" Shit. "Sorry, um, thanks for calling, this is-"  consider lying about your name, "Brynne. How can I help you?" Appointment request. Phones all ringing. System still down. Explain that the system is down. Develop a sudden and inexplicable lisp during explanation. "I'm thorry, the computerth theem to be down right now, but I'd be happy to take your information and call you ath thoon as they're back up." Wait for response, which is a wet-sounding sigh. "No." Click.

No moment to collect yourself. No quiet time to reflect on the first time you've been hung up on- in, come to think of it, years. Instead, the steady ring if phones, the assaulting WHACK of the automatic stapler that has begun to eat your morning paperwork, and the dripping of lukewarm coffee onto your slightly odorous and too-tight shoes.

Welcome to adulthood.

If this weren't the norm, I suppose I wouldn't think so much about it.

I should specify: what astounds me is not the type or amount of work that comes with the job. I like sharpening pencils- in an almost unhealthy way. I like taking calls, and I even enjoy the pressure that stems from complications at work. I work well under pressure. Just not the kind applied by seven-figure salaried, big ringed, injected-and-perfected middle-aged women with tinfoil in their hair.

It's only a few a day, but they're there every day: the future candidates for "The Real Housewives of Chicago."

We have some wonderful clients, but their kindness is easily overshadowed by the downright cruelty of others. In four weeks of working at the salon, I've had a credit card thrown at me, been hung up on multiple times daily, had a woman tell me she would (I shit you not) kill herself if I couldn't get her the appointment she needed, and ,on the whole, been looked at as an office supply instead of a person with any sort of value.

The response from my coworkers, who have been very supportive but have grown tired of my shock: "You just need a thick skin."

A thick skin? A thick skin. I get it. I know what they mean. They mean, eventually, that I'll have to stop noticing that people look right through me, and that people throw things, that someone can lie through their teeth and blame me for their scheduling mistakes- and that I have to smile at them and tell them to have a wonderful day in response. I'll stop noticing and start not caring, if I try hard enough. The thing is, I don't know how to not feel badly when someone willingly tries to make me feel bad. Again, not all of them- most of the clients are WONDERFUL- but the beasts- I feel an overwhelming urge to let fly a "Listen, lady, you're the one who fucked up, here. I'm doing my best to correct your mistake, but if getting your hair done is this a matter of life-and-death to you, for god's sake,  go buy a box of Garnier and be miserable near someone else."

Does that mean I'd win? No. That would be cruel, too. I'm just not used to tending to wounds this deep on a daily basis.

We are such stuff...