Don’t Judge a Woman by Her Assless Chaps*

I wrote this post at six a.m. on August 19.

A debate surrounds the famous linguistic study that Eskimos have far more names for snow than non-tundra-surrounded cultures, but true or not, it’s hard to deny that an onlooker can tell a lot about a culture by the words it uses for what they love—and, of course, for what they hate.

I have a friend in Vegas, about whom, if you didn’t know her, you’d make assumptions regarding her life style and behavior. She has a lot of tattoos and several piercings, and a good word to describe her clothing is sparse. (Though, to be fair, given how I personally like to dress plus how fucking hot it is in Vegas, I’m given to dressing sparsely too.) My friend is a stripper, but she also has an art degree and paints murals for corporations and draws dogs and cats (including my long-gone kitty, Ollie) in her spare time as she works on building her career as a painter and an illustrator. She is, in two words, a complex human.

But anyway, per her recent Facebook status, she was on a plane back to Vegas when she got into a fight with a mother who was “talking smack” to her daughter about my friend’s dress and purple lipstick. I’m not sure what exactly was said, but my hunch is that it was something to the effect of:

Now, little Dandelion Eliza, that is what you don’t wear if you want to be a lady.

I don’t really know what parents are naming their children these days, but I thought Dandelion Eliza had a nice ring to it, especially for the day when that child goes to EDC wearing only dandelion pasties on her nipples.

This is baby me, back when I looked like a male version of Little Orphan Annie and didn’t know what stilettos were.

The words that exist to call women nasty nouns (slut, hussy, etc.) are about equal in number—if you’re in the thesaurus section of the bookstore—to the nasty nouns for men (Casanova, womanizer, etc.). The difference, to me at least, is in the connotations of (aka our gut reactions to) these words. And aside from whoremaster and lecher to describe “slutty” men, the male nasty-nouns-that-aren’t are . . . actually sort of pleasant-sounding. Casanova? Romeo? Gallant? Amorist?

A lot better than bimbo, chippy, wench, and tramp, and, of course, the ever-popular fancy woman. That one, as I suspected, first came into use just shy of the Victorian era, when everyone was trying to be superproper when they spoke about their whores—and also because they were too stifled creatively to come up with slore.

This is me now—on my best behavior.
Hi, Mom!

Words aside, when I read my friend’s status update, I felt . . . wronged. I’ve often sat on planes, wearing a short dress and heels, heavy black cat-eyed liner around my lashes, and had some woman pointed me out to her daughter as the kind of woman she shouldn’t grow up to be, simply based on how I was dressed, I would be furious. I’d want to say that if she doesn’t want her daughter to be an educated, well-traveled business owner with tons of friends, a great boyfriend, and a kick-ass relationship with her parents, she’s the meanest mother I’ve ever met.

Men might sometimes slobber over us, figuratively and literally, and shout out such compliments as “Nice tits!” but other women, not men, are women’s biggest enemies.

I wrote a blog last summer about why women shouldn’t be afraid to be sexy, or to want sex, and why women name-calling other women has to stop. Here I am again, not because I’m out of ideas but because I’m impassioned, talking about the same subject, albeit from a different angle.

Believe it or not, although I am in an open relationship, and my boyfriend and I don’t plan to get married, we both want children. At (almost) thirty-two—ack!—I have many friends who are either pregnant or who already have a child or children, and so lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ll approach certain topics when I have my own kiddos, including the topic of this blog.

My

My “office” a few weeks ago, plus the sun hitting at a nice angle (Runyon Canyon).

If it were true that our professions and attitudes always rubbed off on our children, Jessica Simpson and Katy Perry (both daughters of ministers) would be nuns, so I’m neither deathly afraid of nor pushing for my unborn children, the children of pickup artists, among other talents (remember: complex humans), becoming Casanovas and harlots.

I also can’t imagine ever, ever pointing out someone like my friend and telling my daughter that the tattooed lady on the plane is the wrong kind of woman to be. But I’m not a mother, and one thing I never like to do is pretend to know how I’ll act in a situation in which I’ve not yet been.

Vegas, as usual, just being fucking weird.

Vegas, as usual, just being totally fucking weird.

But what I hope, then, is this: I hope when I have children, be they boys or girls or someone in between, my guy and I are good role models for how to act as plain old people in general, regardless of gender. I hope we stress confidence, strength of character, bravery, independence, drive, and open-mindedness, and encourage both passion and compassion, empathy, creativity, adventurousness, and innovation.

I’m also okay with encouraging purple lipstick.

But . . . shit. That sounds like a lot of work! Good thing I have an excellent work ethic—even if you wouldn’t think so by my outfits.

*And no, my friend was not wearing assless chaps on a plane. But how fun, right?

in defense of pickup artists

my boyfriend first told me, in june 2013, that while yes, in a general sense he was a motivational speaker and life coach, his job title actually had another, more specific name:

professional pickup artist

while i’d heard of the term, having heard about it was the extent of my “knowledge.” my ideas of what a pickup artist was came from:

  • the show on vh1 aptly named the pickup artist, which, ironically, my ex-boyfriend and i watched together
  • having heard the term pickup line, which conjured thoughts of one of my male friend’s favorites: how much does a polar bear weigh? enough to break the ice. hi, i’m . . .
  • the book the game by neil strauss, of whose existence and bible-esque cover i vaguely remembered from college

and that was it. so when my boyfriend asked if i knew what it meant to be a professional pickup artist, something i now simply refer to as a pua, both in print and in person, i said, verbatim:

you lie to women and manipulate them into sleeping with you.

so then we talked into the night about his job, about us, and about men and women and society in general. the next day at work i googled this:

how to date a professional pickup artist

shockingly, few relevant results surfaced, and of those, even fewer (semi) positive results popped up. the two non-overt-pua-bashing sites were articles highlighting two well-known puas who had gotten married (one of these couples has since divorced after four years of marriage), and one of the headlines read something to the effect of:

is this girl crazy?

this question has been put in the second person, phrased in a variety of creative ways, and posed to me multiple times since last summer by my family, my friends, coworkers, strangers . . . yeah, okay, let’s just say everyone.

shit, i’ve even directed it at myself a few times, though i haven’t done so recently—until this weekend.

if you’ve seen the news, you probably know that a guy named elliot rodger murdered six people in santa barbara, california. you’ve probably also seen the association made between him and the pua community, particularly that he was on a site called “pua hate,” which is devoted to actively despising the pua industry, believing that it preys upon vulnerable, desperate men. its members do not, however, necessarily hate on the pua philosophy and lifestyle. as a woman, and in particular as a woman who has a serious romantic relationship with a professional pickup artist (no laughing, please—i’m going to be moving across the country to be with him), i felt as if i had to say something about the comments and beliefs that label pua’s as misogynistic, hateful toward women, interested in only sex, etc., etc.

i consider myself to be of above-average intelligence. i also consider myself to be successful, likable, attractive, and worldly. i don’t think i’m a masochist. i don’t think i’m naive or malleable. i wouldn’t define myself as pro-feminist or antifeminist. i would say i’m nontraditional, being that: i’m an atheist, i probably won’t get married, and i don’t work a nine-to-five. but i’m not living in a commune for alternative lifestyles, i don’t sell my lack of religious beliefs door-to-door, and i’m not into whips. or chains. or hot pokers (if that’s a thing; i’m sure it is). taking all this into account, i’d like to think that if something were truly evil or wrong—though both words are defined according to those who define them—i wouldn’t be dating, or in love with, someone whose career centers around a truly evil, wrong thing.

do i like all aspects of pickup? no. do i think that some men take a kernel of pua ideology and blow it out of proportion? of course. do i think people everywhere do this with everything? communism, violent video games, the bible, the second amendment . . . yes. do i think because some unhinged college student with low self-esteem took what he wanted from pickup and used it to blame women for his unhappiness, that pickup, in general, is evil and wrong?

no.

this is not meant to be a glowing defense of pickup artists, and i will never—and i won’t do this with anything, actually—give it my full stamp of approval. i’m too doubtful, and curious, of a person to ever believe wholeheartedly in something. even my relationship—and i love my boyfriend, pua and all, as he says, “more than anyone has ever loved another person. ever.”

my boyfriend isn’t just some guy who practices pickup. he teaches it. his first mentor was the guy on the vh1 show. he appears in the game. he isn’t a random chode, to use pus terminology, who posts on pickup forums, skews the information he’s given, expects women to lift up their skirts for him, and pouts when they don’t. my boyfriend has a degree in mechanical engineering. he’s phenomenal at soccer, he does yoga, and aside from sometimes forgetting to eat, he has the best, most disciplined diet of anyone i know. he’s well read. he’s ambitious. hardworking. determined. loyal to a fault to those in his camp, including me. he takes care of me. he reads my writing and encourages it, and asks me to correct his grammar. he even pays me to write for him. we are in a long-distance relationship, but we talk every day. he tells me i’m beautiful and sexy and smart, none of which are lines. but he almost always thinks he’s right. he can’t multitask. he’s forgetful. we agree on most things, but some of our ideologies, both meaningful and trivial, don’t always line up. he misses more flights than anyone i know. sometimes i think he is wasteful with money. i think he is overworked to the point of exhaustion. i think he needs friends who aren’t pua’s. i wonder how he somehow thinks he’s perfect but also thinks that he constantly needs to improve. he puts two spaces between sentences and doesn’t understand that words like the and to should be lowercase in headlines. getting him to even consider taking time off is a painful struggle.

would i trade him in for someone else? nope.

i’ve watched many times since september, as he takes men out to bars and clubs in various cities, men who are successful and kind but shy and awkward, and helps them to talk to women, gain confidence, and improve themselves as people in general, not simply with respect to women. and i’ve had the pleasure of not just watching my boyfriend coach, but assisting him in doing the same, albeit on a smaller level. to get a thank-you from these men, these (shock!) pickup artists, none of whom have resembled that santa barbara gunman in terms of character or creed, at the end of a long weekend, feels pretty good. i’m happy to help them, because this big positive well outweighs any negatives.

in fact, i believe that my life is far better because of pickup.

i also don’t believe that six people are dead because of it.

“happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place, but there is always a little corner that keeps flapping around.”*

IMG_2010

this is venice, taken while on my trip in september 2012. i thought that the seemingly never-ending maze of italian canals would make for a nice metaphor for this post.

i wrote this post on july 28, 2013. i’m posting it now because it’s appropriate, and also because it’s interesting (at least for me) to see what the last four months have brought.

a. a. milne, through his character of winnie the pooh, once wrote:

“well,” said pooh, “what i like best,” and then he had to stop and think. because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

i love concerts. but let me be more specific. i love receiving an e-mail that a band i enjoy is coming to a city near me. there’s a rush i get from messaging friends and asking, “do you want to get tickets?” and, of course, if the concert is a popular one, there’s that swelling in my chest when the clock reads 9:59 and i’m about to click search to snag tickets that go on sale at sharply ten a.m. there’s buying booze for said concert. figuring out the transportation, like riding the lirr to citi field or taking a bus to jones beach. deciding what to do beforehand. have dinner? go to a bar? if it’s on the lawn, bringing a blanket or chairs, and food, maybe a sweatshirt for when it gets cold. tailgating. listening to that artist’s latest album on the way to the concert. having my ticket scanned. finding my seat. and then, there’s that moment when, after several phantom starts, the lighting flickers, the spotlight colors shift, and i hear what is unmistakably the opening notes of a song i recognize. at that point, for me, i could go home. because the night is almost certainly not going to measure up to anything i’ve already imagined in my head.

anticipation, pooh.

and, as eeyore would probably be quick to answer, precedes . . .

letdown.

there is a reason the quote “life is a journey, not a destination” is so popular. where do you go after you get there (wherever that may be)? why is the journey so much more fun? i’m sure that some people read about my experience at a concert and think i sound like a regular eeyore (or, perhaps, some other choice words). i generally enjoy myself at a musical event, but i also can’t shake a feeling of anxiety of wanting it to just be over already. i don’t know how to fight this. maybe with some more clichés.

“don’t get your hopes up.”

“don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.”

“keep your expectations low . . .”

. . . and always be pleasantly surprised. wouldn’t that be nice? i’ve been trying my entire life to figure out how to do this. forget the fucking fountain of youth. i want to figure out how to continue to be satisfied after i get what i want. well, if that isn’t the brattiest thing i’ve ever said, but i can’t help how i feel. so, how can i make my destination better than my journey?

oh, you don’t have this problem?

“why, don’t you have a dark side?” harry asks sally in when harry met sally. then he thinks a bit more and says, “you know, you’re probably one of those cheerful people who dots their i‘s with little hearts.”

i dot my i‘s with dots, thanks, as the word dot implies. i don’t think cheerful was one of the choice words used above to describe me.

anyway, this can apply to so many things, but specifically, today, i’m looking at, what else, relationships, and even more specifically, romantic relationships. although the beginning parts of becoming a twosome can be tumultuous—or TUMULTUOUS, for me—those parts are exciting. you want each other. you miss each other after only a few days. you have no time to be comfortable because you haven’t established that you’re official or exclusive or each other’s lobster, and the unknown is scary yet invigorating.

that’s the only time i’ve ever used all caps (as well as bold and italics) in this blog. so you know i’m not screwing around here.

the conclusion i’ve come to is that i want live my life in a way that ensures my journey isn’t better than my destination. and my destination isn’t better (or, as has been the case with me, worse) than my journey. one should be as good as the other so, well, shit—i won’t even be sure when i’ve reached my destination.

jane austen wrote in pride and prejudice:

i cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. it was too long ago. i was in the middle before i knew that i had begun.

if you live your life in a way so that you don’t settle for one goal, but instead seek goal after goal after goal, the line between journey and destination . . . blurs.

that way, when someone says,

“hey, girl! you’ve made it!”

. . . i have to take a look around to see that 1). he’s talking to me, and 2). i have made it (wherever it is). and in that moment, i’ll still shrug and say,

“if you say so,”

. . . and be on my way to the next thing. because i may have reached my pal’s destination—and damn it, maybe i’ve reached my own, too—but i keep on truckin’ anyhow. only pilgrims settle (more clichés).

what i want—for the person i love—is to, somehow, be his destination and continue, for the rest of my life, to be more exciting, more challenging, and more fun than his journey. or to make them one in the same. to be a destination that is a journey in and of itself. he has done this, and i believe he will no doubt keep doing it, for me. it’s one of the many reasons i love him: he is constantly surprising me. sometimes in ways that make me want to slap him. but mostly, in the best ways possible.

if i’m going to pepper this post with quotes, why not add one more? because jack kerouac once wrote the following, and i couldn’t agree more:

the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars. . . .

*e. l. konigsburg

“action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” *

the other day i was going through my e-mail drafts and deleting messages. the half-written e-mails were often ones i had never intended to send or had chickened out on sending, or they contained poems or snippets of dialogue i’d thought to include in some nonexistent novel or blog. but in one case, i found part of an unfinished post that i had entitled “timing is everything.” it had been buried under e-mails with no body (which, by the way, are now inundating my draft folder due to gmail’s new lightning-fast auto-save function—i find this to be both savvy and beyond irritating). anyway, it’s interesting to read your thoughts and then to go back to figure out when you wrote them, what was going on in your life, and what would soon follow. below is what i had started writing and then stashed in the gmail vacuum.

yesterday i went to lunch with a friend who is leaving early thursday morning to go on vacation for almost three weeks. i won’t see her until i get back from my trip on march 20. after ordering my edamame dumplings, the woman behind the counter gave me my order number—2283—and i had one of those illogical, childlike reactions, thinking that some good luck had to be coming my way. twenty-two is a lucky number not just for me, but for my family, both on my maternal and paternal sides, and i was born in 1983 (!).

a few hours later, after getting out of work on the tardy side, running an errand for my friend, and returning to my apartment around eight, hours of freelance work ahead of me, i ended up doing only half the work i’d planned to and went to sleep with my contacts in and full makeup on, my eyes puffy and swollen. my last thought before i drifted off was that i should have stepped in that dog shit on the way home to double-guarantee the luck i’d been hoping for was in transit to hoboken. if only a bird had pooped on my head as well, to make the luck trifecta. the lucky numbers weren’t cutting it.

when my coworker and i had sat down to eat, we’d started talking about timing. about taking a train later than your normal hour and meeting someone who never takes that particular train but happened to that day because the a, c, and e was x, y, and z. about a coincidence that can’t possibly be just that. about luck. my ten-year-old self would have called it magic.

and that’s where it stopped. i remember that lunch very well, but today i had trouble placing it on a timeline, so i used facebook (i knew my overuse of social media would come in handy) to pinpoint the date, which ended up being february 12 of this year. i had just gone to nashville with one of my best friends and was about to, that weekend, meet her and a few others in washington, dc. on the next day, february 13, the time of writing, i was nine days away from knowing my boyfriend even existed, eighteen days away from leaving for my trip to cambodia and thailand, and nearly thirty days away from making a huge life choice, which was ultimately to quit my job to focus on writing and freelancing. i wrote the post less than a day after telling a best friend, a guy who i had been dating then stopped dating but remained friends with despite still having feelings for him, that we had to stop speaking, stop hanging out.

whatever happened to me that day hours after lunch had caused me to arrive at place where i felt that luck, that timing, no longer mattered. because i’d seen a “sign,” because my friend had been talking about being on a train at the right time, because i was about to go on a life-changing trip, i’d expected the rest of my day to turn out gloriously. instead i got home late, didn’t finish my work, told my best friend i couldn’t speak to him anymore, and cried myself to sleep. i realized i wasn’t content with my life, and the worst part was that i was letting myself be that way. i was contributing zilch toward changing the view outside my window while hoping for what, i’m not sure. some dog shit to step in, i suppose.

i read a quote recently (and i cannot find it, which is fantastically pissing me off) about how, if you’re writing about your life, you need to be willing to embarrass yourself. otherwise, the product is going to reek and be ridden with an assortment of holes, and trying to sell it to your audience would be akin to selling someone a moth-chewed sweater you found in a very old, very neglected dumpster. no one wants it, and frankly, it stinks. keep this in mind for the next few paragraphs. please.

anyway . . . as i said, on february 13, i was nine days away from knowing that my boyfriend existed. if you’re not familiar with online dating, and in particular, if you’re not familiar with match.com, there are several methods of communicating with people you’re interested in. you can send them a match.com e-mail or instant message, like one of their photos, or wink at them (typing that makes me gag, but oh well). the splendid thing about match.com is even after you’ve let your subscription run out, if you’ve left your profile set to visible, charming bachelors can continue to send you messages and wink up a storm. the caveats of course are that you can view the profiles of said messengers and winkers, but 1). you can’t read the content of their messages, and 2). even if you could read them, you can’t respond in any way other than with . . . yup, a wink. the reason for this is that match.com hopes you’ll get enough batting eyes and sexy texts to make you want to renew your subscription and be able both to see what poetry was sent to you and to chat with these fine young poets.

so i got a wink from this gingery-looking guy, a self-proclaimed narcissist workaholic with commitment issues, who claimed he was 5’10” and whose headline read: “life is too short to dance with fat chicks.” he read—actual books!—had a degree in mechanical engineering, and strung words together much like i do, as if he believed, also like i do, that they matter (though maybe he could have used a thesaurus for that “fat chick” part to soften it up a bit). and then, toward the bottom of his profile, i came across a quote he had listed as one of his favorites, one by mark twain, and one that my sixth-grade english teacher had made us write as the first line in our journals: “the difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” this was also the same teacher who had had us learn about the genocide in cambodia, my soon-to-be travel destination, and had assigned us cambodian pen pals shortly after the khmer rouge was overthrown. the quote has been, since that day, one of my favorites. as a writer, it only makes sense.

long story longer (it’s my way, i’m sorry), i winked back at this man and told myself that if he e-mailed me, i’d consider spending the money to rejoin match to be able to read his message and respond to it. i half-hoped he wouldn’t message me—i knew i’d be out at least the one-month subscription fee if i opted back in—but he did, and i spent a day wavering between letting the thing go and renewing my membership. ultimately, i renewed. i told myself that if i didn’t, i’d always regret it.

i told him this story on our first date (according to the rules, what a no-no, right?), but he didn’t see it as pathetic or loopy and he didn’t believe that my openness about telling him was too forward. i was really george constanza’ing it in reverse, embracing every natural impulse instead of going by the unwritten book of dating. my propensity is to overshare, overcompliment if i like someone, and overexpose bits of my personality and vulnerabilities upfront, and this, not shockingly, scares the shit out of guys, if not most people. we continued to talk after i left for asia, four days after our first date, and when he suggested that we meet in the airport the night i returned to new york (his flight from la happened to be landing a mere forty-five minutes before mine), i thought that the sensible thing to do, after traveling for a day straight and sitting in a cramped airplane seat for sixteen hours, would be to say no and figure out a better time (as if any other time when you’re not exhausted, jet-lagged, smelly, and dehydrated wouldn’t be better) to hang out. but i said okay, and there i was staring at a guy with whom i’d had one date and whose face i’d struggled to re-create from memory during three weeks of eating ganja pizza in siem reap, trying to ride a motorbike in koh lanta, and peeing, drunk, in the andaman sea off phi phi island, my dress hiked up to my hips, my phone and bag dangerously close to plummeting toward saltwater death. my friend and travel companion told me i was nuts for not ditching the guy to go home and head straight to bed, but i knew i’d regret it if i didn’t see him again and, not only that, i’d regret it if i didn’t see him that very night.

timing isn’t everything, but it is something, if only we capitalize on it. ultimately, we have choices, and we have the power to make the most of our luck. we aren’t helpless bystanders in the coincidences in which we find ourselves. i used to believe that the good things in life came to you if you were good, if you waited patiently for them to find you. and maybe, for some, they do arrive in that way. but the most satisfying good, for me, has come out of action, not passivity, from seeking out, not waiting for.

our airport “date” was six months ago, and i got off the phone with him around eight this morning, he in a cab in las vegas en route to eat steak and eggs, i in my room, packing for my trip to costa rica. the person i love is 2,500 miles away, but i am happy he is in my life to love this much (i’m currently stretching my arms out to my sides as far as they will go—that’s how much). tonight in san josé i’m meeting my friend, a girl i met a year ago at a hostel in amsterdam, another example of timing capitalized on, the result being a best, lifelong friend who i’m spending my birthday and eleven days with on another continent. a part of me continues to believe in luck, and in magic, but above all, i believe in the present progressive, in those -ing verbs: moving, going, and most important, doing.

*william james

“finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”*

this post was written earlier this morning.

i’m in one of those really fantastic moods in which i don’t feel like talking to anyone. there are about five or six text messages in my in-box that i haven’t even opened, a few from hours ago, and probably by tomorrow i’ll get follow-up messages from those friends asking me if i’m okay. i generally don’t do this sort of thing, so when i do, my friends know that i mean business about my anger, sadness, or whatever it is. it’s midnight on saturday (or, i guess, technically it’s sunday), and at this time last week, i was out on the lower east side, wearing the tightest dress and highest heels i’ve ever worn in my life, and six hours away from going to sleep.

at this moment, i’m in bed at my parents’ house—i’m going to keep calling it that until i get to the point where i stop being in denial that i, too, live here—wearing my ex-boyfriend’s pajama pants, neon-blue socks, and a long-sleeve shirt. oh, and my glasses. i’m truly one of those versatile girls who writes on her match.com profile that she can be “up for a night out on the town or a low-key night staying in.” i’m the perfect woman, you’ve found me, congratulations.

up until a half hour ago, when i decided to take the longest, most scalding shower ever, i had copyedited for twelve hours, interrupted only by pouring and imbibing more coffee or eating some sort of carb. let’s just say i should buy stock in clif bars if the company is publicly traded. (well, turns out it’s not—upholding its values and not selling out or some other garbage—so i guess i can’t use my nonexistent money to buy shares. maybe clif’ll give me a job instead.)

a friend once told me that i remind her of the energizer bunny, and i’ve felt as though, for months and months now, even a year, that i’ve been able to somehow do so much without collapsing. but, as i found out this weekend, even those with seemingly bottomless energy sometimes tap out. in a fight, though, there’s tapping out, leaving the brawl on your own terms, and then there’s getting straight-up knocked out, after which you come to only when your body is ready. on friday night, i took a high kick to the head.

all week i did a slew of idiotic things, from trying to go through the subway turnstile without it even occurring to me that i should swipe my card, chewing a piece of gum i knowingly dropped on the ground in one of the most filthy places in america, and trying to correct the word humorous, which was clearly spelled right, because i was convinced it looked “too british.” i also missed my train stop on wednesday night, which would have made sense had i fallen asleep, except that i was awake. when my dad called to tell me my train had just left red bank, i swore up and down that we’d just left middletown, the previous stop, and i realized i was two stations beyond mine only when we were pulling into long branch. i had zero recollection of the train stopping at my destination or the one past it.

these may seem like silly examples, but they are things i normally do not do, or, at least, i don’t do them all within the same week. i am very tired, and very stressed, the following on my plate for the next two months:

  • 9/30: stop working at simon & schuster (oh, i quit my job on 9/3)
  • 10/1: leave for costa rica (i have my flights booked, nothing else)
  • 10/3: turn thirty
  • 10/12: return from costa rica
  • 11/3: run the nyc marathon (oh right, and before that, train to run those 26.2 miles and raise $3,000 for my charity; if i don’t raise the full amount, i pay the difference)
  • 11/16: leave for las vegas
  • 11/27: fly back to return home the next morning, in time for thanksgiving

meanwhile, during all that, i need to worry about purchasing my own health insurance, getting steady freelance work and building new relationships, obtaining new clients, developing my website, writing my blog posts, working on my novel, getting business cards, networking, trying to figure out how to become a travel writer because that’s simple, missing my former coworkers and the office environment and new york and all my friends in north jersey, and working on not desperately missing my boyfriend, who now lives in las vegas. i’m aware that i sound like a huge crybaby. sorry. most of these things are very cool and exciting, but now mounded, they’ve overwhelmed me.

i’ve become more concerned than usual about money recently, probably because in two weeks i will no longer be getting a steady paycheck, so i’ve taken on a lot of side work. i haven’t said no to anyone, and this act of writing is the most fun i’ve allowed myself to have all week. the amount of work i’ve taken on has left me wrung out and cotton-brained, and on thursday, realizing that i had promised a publishing house i’d return copyediting and proofreading tests to them within a week, i hurriedly completed the tests and sent them back, too worried about seeming flaky to ask for more time (on a self-imposed due date, no less). drunkenly overconfident in my abilities, i assumed that even tired, overworked kaitlin’s skills were superior to most, and i figured, when i saw the e-mail response in outlook, that i had passed the test with flying colors. and why wouldn’t i have? i work for the second-biggest publishing house in the world, and i already freelance for four out of the big six, as they’re known. this last house would have completed the sexfecta (yes, i just made that up).

anyway, i didn’t pass. and when i looked over my tests, my boo-boos circled in purple (for shame, my favorite color!), i couldn’t digest the things i’d missed, including overlooking two of the same word in a row and not noticing that the r in concentration was missing, which is really just downright mean and mocking. there were other egregious issues, and had a freelancer submitted that sort of test to me, i wouldn’t have been impressed. to feel a potential client, and therefore potential projects and income, slip through my fingers was horrible and i felt humiliated, but that wasn’t even the worst part. the worst part, to me, was that i let a due date get to me, that i let the idea of gaining income cause me to forget why i do my job and why i chose this career.

practically every second of my day is consumed with books, whether it’s at my full-time job, while freelancing, or when i’m at home, thinking about my novel or discussing my dad’s manuscripts with him. i’m consumed even when reading for pleasure, which is barely pleasurable anymore because i can’t stop myself from seeing a book through the eyes of a copy editor or proofreader. i’m consumed with tweeting quotes by famous authors. i live and breathe literature; i need it to survive. but, just as i need food to keep kicking, too much of it will make me sick. i’ve been swallowing words whole, without tasting them, seeing them as a means to an end, and in the process, they’ve made me ill.

i gave up going to boston and running a half marathon with my friend this weekend to stay home and work. i would have had to work regardless (this time my deadlines are nonnegotiable and most definitely not self-imposed), but i decided that my jobs deserved more. more attention, more love. the manuscripts i have to work on are authors’ souls set in print and maybe one day some kids’ favorite books. they’re works of art, not a paycheck, not a due date. i wish it hadn’t taken a failed test to make me see this, but unfortunately, that’s what happened. but today, instead of seeing my job, a manuscript, as money in my pocket and mere words on a page, meant to be reined in by my grammatical hands, i tried to read it as a story i picked up because i wanted to read it. then, you know, i just happened to hyphenate words correctly and change mantle to mantel because no author can ever get that shit straight.

“i have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting, and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”

—roald dahl

books-and-heart-jpeg

*cervantes, don quixote

“stay young, go dancing.”*

dear diary,

it’s eight o’clock on the saturday night of labor day weekend, and i’m sitting on my bed, ice on my ankles and my laptop on my—well, where it should be—listening to the sounds of the fair haven fireman’s fair that are wafting through my open window. i can hear the announcer pushing people to buy 50/50 tickets, and there’s the occasional fire truck siren overriding the happy screams from preteens on the zipper (or maybe they’ve replaced that ride with another; it has been eighteen years since i was a preteen). i can also just make out the peak of the ferris wheel above the trees in my backyard. it’s the last night of the fair, and even though i’m not going back to school in a week, this night still brings the feeling of end-ish-ness (a new word i just made up—if the oxford english dictionary can recognize squee and srsly as words, then my hyphenated atrocity doesn’t seem so bad to me). it’s the unofficial end of the summer, which will make anyone a bit gloomy, but it’s sad especially if you’re riding solo and writing a blog while your parents aren’t even here to hang out with you because they’re at a barbecue. i always suspected they were cooler than i am.

but, to be perfectly honest, i ran twenty miles in high humidity and eight-five-degree heat earlier today. i probably shouldn’t be doing a damn thing. i am also so tired that it feels as though it’s eleven, not 8:30 p.m., and i’m sort of disappointed that i can’t go to bed yet.

so i was thinking the other day about friends, and i thought more about them today during my run. i’m not trying to brag, but i have a lot of friends. this isn’t necessarily because i’m very likeable (srsly), but because i’m pretty adept at not letting most people out of my clutches. i’ve been known to suck at responding to e-mails, but my track record for keeping in touch is pretty flawless. part of the reason i moved home is because my level of yolo (another despicable 2013 oed addition) was causing me to go broke and neglect other parts of my life. it also made me a bit pudgy since you can’t really go for a run the morning after a night of craziness. well, you can. but then you’ll wipe out during a two-mile fun run. that happened to this girl i know.

anyway, someone told me once, in response to my hectic schedule, that i was going to spread myself too thin. this has always made me think of this quote from the fellowship of the ring. tolkein wrote:

i feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.

the same person above also told me, when i asked him to come with me to meet some new people i’d been hanging out with, that he didn’t want any more friends. that he had all the ones he needed.

i thought then, and still think now, well, if that isn’t the stupidest shit i’ve ever heard.

over the past three weeks, i apartment- and cat-sat for a woman i met less than three years ago and who is on my mental list of people i can call or text anytime for nonjudgmental advice and talks; i had dinner with a girl i’ve traveled with twice and who i consider my best friend even though i’ve known her for only two years; and i did my twenty-mile run today with a guy i met last march, who also happens to be my financial adviser and travel sensei. there are countless others i’ve interacted with just in the last forty-eight hours who i didn’t meet in my hometown or college or even in the four years after college. i think to myself now, who would i be without them, had i written them off, my friend pool already nearing capacity?

i’m not sure how it came up, but my running-buddy-who-gives-me-travel-advice-and-will-someday-make-me-rich reminded me that he is going to turn forty in less than a year. he doesn’t look, or act, like an almost forty-year-old, and i thought about how despite the fact that he’s entering his fourth decade, he’s neither married nor a parent (though he still plans to be both) and has accomplished a bucket list that would make most people absurdly envious, more than envious really, maybe jealy, which will no doubt be another gem in the dictionary soon. we talked about how most people tend to fear, and not embrace, forty, and we supposed it is because many people look back at those forty years and wonder where they went and why are there so, so many things i didn’t do? while i believe that you’re never too old to do anything, it might be hard not to look at forty and think, well, with my bad back, i probably shouldn’t go bungee jumping now. but if you live life without regret up until that point, and beyond, of course, saying “yes and” as they do in improv, you instead might give forty the old “so what?” much like my friend is. he has inspired me to tell thirty (i see you, thirty-three days away, don’t think i don’t) to go hang out with forty and fifty and fuck off.

i don’t know if this post is about the value of friends or not allowing yourself to feel old or living life to the fullest or what. i guess it can be about all three, though i usually am a bit more cohesive with my posts. but sometimes one has to write and only write, without feeling the need to come to a single profound conclusion.

one more thing, however, and that’s a quote from jack kirk, who lived be one hundred and ran until he was ninety-six, and who, if he were still alive, would be celebrating birthday number 107 the same day i’ll be celebrating my thirtieth. i’m pretty sure that would be the best, weirdest birthday party of all time. he said:

you don’t stop running because you get old; you get old because you stop running.

i know, enough about running, but this quote doesn’t have to be about running. when we were children, we ran without even thinking about it, and we enjoyed it, because running meant recess and tag and getting dirty and chasing boys (or girls) and all that. it meant youth, even though we didn’t realize it at the time. it meant going up to someone you just met, tagging that person “it,” and becoming his or her friend without thinking you already had enough of those pesky friend things. it meant doing things now, not later, because as a kid you had no concept of tomorrows or consequences or what ifs. you don’t lose your youth because you get old; you get old because you let yourself lose your youth.

imma try not to get old. srsly.

squee!

kaitlin

*death cab for cutie, “stay young, go dancing”

“i run because it always takes me where i want to go.”*

sea bright beach at sunrise this morning

“every morning in africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. every morning in africa, a lion wakes up. it knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. it doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle—when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”―christopher mcdougall, born to run

red: there’s something quite lovely about running before, during, and just after sunrise. the sky takes on an entirely unique quality, and the city, town, or boro you live in seems more serene and gentle than it does at any other time during the day. morning-glory blossoms are still open, the moon and stars perch in the sky, trying to hang on, and the only sounds you can hear are birds, critters, and your sneakers slapping the blacktop. you can pop over to the beach and catch the sun just as it makes its way over the atlantic ocean, as i was able to do this morning, and capture vivid pinks, purples, blues, and, of course, reds, before you lumber back to the road to hit the pavement once again.

orange: ah, no yielding. to cars, other pedestrians, bicycles, etc., etc. the roads are generally empty of life, and if you do happen upon another person, it’s usually a fellow runner or a biker, and the two of you exchange a nod, smile, or wave, the same thought passing between you two: this is really hard, but i’m glad you’re out here too. good luck.

yellow: the world is your toilet! okay, i’m not completely serious (or am i?), but when you’re running, say, ten miles or more, sometimes you have to go. luckily, since everyone else is asleep, you can take a quick whiz in their bushes or, you know, make some yellow snow.

green: before you’ve had breakfast, showered, or gone to work, you’ve already accomplished something most other people haven’t, making your day automatically much more awesome. this sometimes annoys your friends or coworkers, making them envious of your automatically much more awesome day, but oh well. also, the owners who have spent a ton of money to sod and manicure their lawns don’t mind if you run on their oh so green grass to save your legs some grief. they mostly don’t mind because they don’t see you doing it.

blue: if you suffer from depression (like me) or even if you don’t, running in general, but especially first thing in the morning, is a natural antidepressant. endorphins, your body’s smile-makers, are released when you run or do any kind of physical activity. i’m usually more easily able to battle bouts of anger toward nj transit delays or clueless midtown tourists on days that i run, and somehow, even when the blues threaten, those happy chemicals are still hanging around to give any sadness a kick where the sun doesn’t shine.

indigo: this color makes me think of ingenuity, or ideas, things that, during a quiet morning run, come to me more easily. i wrote nearly this entire post in my head while on today’s fourteen-mile run. my last a.m. distance trot gave me an idea for a professional blog and about ten future posts, which i managed to remember using a mnemonic device i repeated to myself every mile for thirteen miles until i could get in front of a computer and jot everything down.

violet: i’ve really tried to master the art of not caring what other people think, but it still proves to be a challenge. the nice thing about running early in the morning, however, is that you can have bed head and halitosis, and re-wear the previous day’s running attire (and smell like the previous day’s running attire), and no one is the wiser. you can also dance and sing along to your playlist and chant mnemonic devices without anyone thinking you’re a bit of a nutter, and no one is privy to that awful blotchy redness you get on your face (guilty) or the fifty shades of violet your cheeks are turning (though if you’re turning violet, you probably can’t breathe and should most likely stop running and see a doctor). it’d be ideal if we could sing off-key shamelessly and own our rank breath no matter what time it is, but it’s certainly easier to “dance like no one is watching,” as they say, when, in fact, no one is.

happy running, everyone.

*dean karnazes