Life in Las Vegas, vol. 2

All,

Since my last post, a few notable things have happened:

1. I successfully removed a gel manicure at home for the first time ever. My nails are now ugly but can finally breathe for the first time in a long time.

2. I got sick for the first time in about three years, maybe more. I took Theraflu, Emergen-C, Tylenol, Advil, and lemon tea, but I think the thing that finally did the trick was the black caraway seeds, which is an ancient remedy that was found in King Tut’s tomb, thereby suggesting its healing power. (Not my idea, but it seemed like a harmless thing to ingest seeds.) {EDIT: Relapsed after sitting in a smoky bar last night for two hours; waiting for second dose of seeds to take effect.}

3. I finished reading a book. <moonwalks away>

4. I successfully walked my dad through the process of single-spacing a business letter. Pret-ty snazzy.

5. I updated the “plug ins” (don’t know what they are, tbh) on this blog, and for about 27 minutes the background was a picture of a strange blonde woman in reflective aviator sunglasses. I asked my husband for help, and he stared at the screen, squinting with confusion, and then asked, “Where’d you get those glasses?” (For the record, I fixed the problem myself in true Rosie the Riveter fashion. I hope he reads this and realizes how self-sufficient I am.)

6. I decided I’ll try to write more in here, even if it’s not in essay form. No one reads this anyway, so who cares? Maybe I’ll even include pictures. For instance, here’s a photo I took of a Kevin Can Wait billboard in Hollywood. This is the type of stuff I have saved on my phone.

(Also, lest you think I’m some snob who goes to California all the time, allow me to clarify that this was taken last year during my birthday trip to Universal Studios. Also, I do not watch this show.)

Life in Las Vegas, vol. 1

I won’t lie to you. I’m writing this because this morning I got an email telling me my domain name will expire in 60 days unless I renew it, and even though I write in here about twice a year, I’d be sad to just let it expire. I need this blog to exist, you know, just in case. Just in case I feel inspired to drop a line, or driven by depression and cynicism to philosophize about the meaningless of life. So this post is to justify the $80 I am about to spend to preserve colleenallday.com and all of the literary tracts herein.

So what am I up to today, you ask? Well, in case you didn’t know, I work from home now, or rather my father-in-law’s home, so I’m sitting in my makeshift office with a massive to-do list in front of me, and all I’ve done so far is wash my breakfast dishes (dishwasher here is used as drying rack only, as a policy) and take an Advil because man, ’tis the season for phlegm and headaches. Even in this part of the country, where “winter” is a daily high of about 66 degrees and people wander around Trader Joe’s in flip-flops and cargo shorts. As a matter of principle, I stick to pants and long sleeves and covered shoes and the occasional scarf, and yet I still can’t evade the common cold. Also, I wasn’t going to mention this, but I’m drinking kombucha and obsessively checking my heart rate on my Apple watch, which seems to be higher today than usual. And now I’m Googling possible side effects of kombucha, and apparently this stuff is NOT what the doctor ordered? I give up.

Quick change of subject because I need to get my mind off of my heart rate. (PSA: If you display even mild symptoms of hypochondria, I would advise you to maybe not purchase an Apple watch or any fitness tracker that allows you to monitor your vitals. It’s just not something the common person needs to know, maybe. The Apple watch may be the direct cause of the stye I developed last month, but more on that later––because of course I’m going to discuss my eye cysts!) Anyway, I’ve mentioned this before, but I read a lot of fashion/lifestyle blogs because they’re basically postmodern escapist literature. (I’m probably not applying the term postmodern correctly, but I’m going to keep it in there because it sounds smart of me. Also, the verb “read” in this instance is perhaps overly generous, since lifestyle blogs generally contain very few words and lots of pictures of shoes, jackets, and tablescapes, as wells as sponsored links to gotta-have-it skincare products.) By almost any standard, lifestyle blogs are completely insane. These women essentially stage their whole lives in order to make a buck from companies that have long realized mail-order catalogs aren’t a thing anymore. Instagram is the new frontier of advertising, and these women are what catalog models used to be, only it’s much more sinister than that because their life is the catalog. Right? Let that sink in.

But all that aside, I can’t stop reading them, though I’m going to limit my intake in 2018 (more on that later). Right now every lifestyle blogger in America is posting about one of two things: (1) the death of Thomas S. Monson, president of the LDS Church (lots of Mormon bloggers out there) and (2) their 2018 resolutions, which, of course, will become a promotional opportunity for Nordstrom’s $90 workout leggings next week. Nevertheless, this social media trend has compelled me to look inward, ever so slightly, and consider what I want to accomplish over the next 12 months. So, here:

  1. Reduce stress-related ailments. I paid a $30 copay no fewer than three times this year to have different specialists tell me that my symptoms were most likely stress related and that I should probably calm down. I think my ophthalmologist was especially annoyed that he wasted 7 minutes of his life telling me that, yes, it was just a stye, and yes, it will go away within a couple of weeks, and just chill a little bit and enjoy the holidays, and here are some $87 eye drops (which I paid, because I do not mess around when it comes to matters of my vanity). In 2018, I would like to not be the cause of doctors asking themselves, I went to medical school for this?
  2. Commit to this season of The Bachelor. Every year I try to watch, and every year I fail because it is an objectively gross show. But it’s also pretty funny, so maybe I owe it to myself to indulge in a little comedy and root for the 30-something gal among the sea of recent college graduates.
  3. Spend money on experiences, not things. In which I sit on my hands and do not visit Madewell’s website. I have plenty of clothes and shoes and bags. And if I’m being honest, I wear the same thing every day anyway: running leggings from Costco, one of my souvenir t-shirts (today is a Dallas, TX, Lone Star State tee that my brother got for me, probably in the Dallas airport). This year, I want to give my money to activities and maybe even a trip or two, and not to Nordstrom sales.
  4. Write a strongly worded, but not too strongly worded email to our wedding photographer. I’ve had an unanswered email in my inbox from her for almost two months, and it haunts my dreams because I hate to feel like I’m ignoring someone, but I also have no idea what to say. How much time needs to pass before responding to an email is weirder than had you just continued with the silence indefinite, forevermore? And is “forgive and forget” an acceptable policy when you paid someone a lot of money for a service? A question that also haunts my dreams. On most days I lean toward “yes,” while on all days my husband leans toward “no,” and thus we are at an impasse. In 2018 I would like to stop thinking about this, because our wedding was so 2017.
  5. Read more books, see more movies. Last Friday I read over 200 pages of John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down and then went to the movies to see The Greatest Showman, and while neither totally blew my mind, the experience was seriously rejuvenating. I used to read all the time, and for the past year I’ve been so distracted by other stuff––wedding planning, and then moving, and then adjusting to life on the other side of the country in a house that isn’t mine. But I always feel most like myself when I’m reading a book or criticizing a movie’s narrative arc, and when I do that a little bit it’s always a reminder that I need it more.
  6. Do a full push-up 10 times. I have pretty good cardiovascular abilities but the arm strength of a duckling.
  7. Wean myself off sugar. I think it’s insane when people try to do this, because sugar is so good and life is so short. But I’m pretty sure it’s also a reason why life is so short, so I’m going to stop behaving like ice cream is a basic food group.
  8. De-clutter. Throwing stuff away can be sad but also incredibly liberating. I don’t need a drawer of plastic bags and neither do you.
  9. “Go dark” on social media at least once a week. To be clear, I do not post all that much on social media, mostly because I think it’s weird when people share too much and I do not want to be one of those people. I’ve taken a lot of pride  in the fact that people with whom I went to high school and college, with whom I do not currently have a personal relationship, have no idea what I’m up to. They may have gathered I recently got married as evidenced by my updated profile picture, but that’s pretty much the end of their knowledge of me and my life. I haven’t even updated my current city because people who don’t already know don’t need to. However, even though I share very little, I’m on social media a lot––despite the fact that much of my feed is shared recipes and memes. Periodic scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is almost automatic at this point––I’d like to think I’m not the only one who is guilty of this––and honestly, I think it can be a major source of depression and anxiety. Like, if I didn’t see so many people on a daily basis posting pictures of their new houses, or fancy cars, or trips to the Maldives or Greece, or pregnancy announcements, I probably wouldn’t be as self-conscious about the fact that I’m living in my father-in-law’s house, can’t afford another vacation for five years, probably, and am nowhere near psychologically ready to procreate. Constant comparison breeds constant anxiety, and I really do feel Facebook is directly responsible for the spike in Xanax prescriptions over the years. So at least once a week, my laptop can’t be opened unless I need to pay a bill or write an email or something equally benign, and my phone can only be used to call or text. No Facebook, no Instagram, no blogs, and certainly no kingdom of negativity that is Twitter. Y’all are low-key Debbie Downers.
  10. Expand my cooking repertoire (in my own kitchen). All I want this year is my own kitchen, where I can have a beautiful, clean, stocked refrigerator, and all of my shiny, never-before-used appliances out on display, and a dishwasher that can be used to actually clean the dishes rather than as a mere holding cell for them until they are dry. What follows, I hope, is more of a desire to experiment with new recipes, aka anything that is not eggs, taco salad, and pre-prepared dinners from Trader Joe’s.
  11. Live somewhere with my husband and no one else. I’ve never been a roommate type of gal, because I frequently live my life in a state of “please leave me alone.” My husband doesn’t count, because he too likes to be left alone, and between the two of us, I am often the clingier party. For example, last night he went to leave the room and I asked, “Where are you going?” and he replied with a shrug, “Around.” I think uninterrupted solitude will do wonders for both of us.
  12. Be happier, less moody. Moodiness is a family trait that has been passed down for generations on my dad’s side, a condition both my brother and I inherited. (Our other brother is a weird anomaly who always seems to be happy, which has annoyed both of us for decades.) My grandma, who is an otherwise perfect, gentle, loving woman with a limitless capacity for understanding and affection, once threw a plate at her husband’s head, and while I have never personally done this (yet), it’s a desire I can identify with occasionally, particularly when I’m already in a bad mood. But what I’ve realized more and more lately is that moody can get harder to pull yourself out of, and when you’re down sometimes you want to take others down with you––or you pull them down inadvertently, you can’t help it, because your mood spreads over a room like a dark cloud or conjunctivitis. Surely, none of this is good for one’s mental health, so it’s imperative that I regularly remind myself that my life is not bad.  I repeat, my life is not bad. Sometimes it can feel like it, thanks to devils like Facebook and whatnot, but by most accounts it’s a pretty solid life that I don’t give enough credit. I suppose this is what the bloggers mean when they talk about practicing gratitude. (Perhaps I, too, would be enthusiastic about practicing gratitude if I made my livelihood posing on the Internet with expensive sports cars, while wearing a dress that’s 40% off plus $20 off additional if you use my promo code!, but somehow still $658, though this is neither here nor there.) Seriously, though, it’s positive mental health to not act like an asshole, and sometimes I act like an asshole who needs to check herself before she wrecks herself. Things are going to be fine. There’s one lyric about happiness from the much beloved-by-suburban-moms Trans-Siberian Orchestra that goes, “If you pretend long enough, never giving up, it just might be who you are.” That might be a recipe for a life of self-delusion or just about the best idea I’ve ever heard. There are worse things than being delusional to the point of pure joy, you know?

I could probably stand to add a few more goals here, but for now that’s the end of the list because it’s time for my mid-morning snack and also to do the job people pay me to do. So, until we meet again!

Some Serious Questions

I started writing the post below a couple of months ago. I was in a weird place then, which might be blamed on the state of American society, my then recent reading of The Handmaid’s Tale (more on that below), PMS, or the fact that I was at the height of wedding stress, with so many checklist items still unchecked. If you want the truth, it was probably option (C), which I buried in that sentence hoping it would escape notice, only to make the spontaneous decision just now to come clean with the degree to which hormones affect every fiber of my existence.

I was going to delete the post and start fresh, but here it is in its unfiltered form.

Like lots of people right now, I’m a little strung out. This annoys me, because I’m getting married in a few months (104 days, but who’s counting? Not I) and this should be the “happiest time of my life,” right? I should be glowing, and bubbly, and effervescent, and skipping around throwing daisies in the air. Instead, most of the time I am a near-lifeless blob of a person who spends her days wrapped up in an Old Navy “blanket scarf” that’s roughly the same size as a modest tent, typing phrases into Google like nostrils feel weird, nausea after eating beans, can protein shake cause hormone imbalance?, vietnamese food nightmares, nyc anxiety triggers, signs of agoraphobia, as well as is it tacky to hand address your wedding invitations?, canada immigration process, how long should bridesmaids gowns be?, lose 20 pounds in 3 months, Ms. or Miss address etiquette, party favors that won’t end up in a landfill, milo ventimiglia wife, milo ventimiglia girlfriend, is milo ventimiglia dating anyone.

(More on those last few in a minute.)

Adding to this, I recently read The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time, which haunted me long after I had stopped reading on the train every morning, all through the workday, and into the wee hours of the night, when I’d dream about a future dystopian United States in which the government kidnapped individuals with “pure” American blood, put them in glass-encased holding cells, hooked them up to IVs, and used them as science experiments. That’s an actual dream that I shouldn’t be sharing. I brought the book up at a work happy hour while everyone was trying to enjoy a glass of wine and 90s jams. “So, one of the themes of the book is “freedom to” versus “freedom from,” right?” I yelled over “Quit Playing Games with My Heart.” “Handmaids are basically birthing vessels, and there’s this conception ritual where…” “They steal butter to use as hand lotion!”

I close my laptop when I get out of the shower so the CIA can’t see how many products I put in my hair, and I firmly believe that the iPhone is a weapon the government is using to spy on us and that corporations are using to sell us couches from Crate & Barrel.

I wake up with a start at 4am and remember I printed out a document at the office and never picked it up from the printer. Then I browse Instagram for a few minutes, delete the latest issue of “Lenny Letter” that was delivered to my inbox (and wonder why I signed up for it in the first place, yet can’t bring myself to unsubscribe because #fomo), and check to see whether the trains are experiencing any delays ahead of rush hour. I lay awake until a minute before my alarm goes off at 5, and then I shut off the alarm, get up, let my dog out so she doesn’t start yelping, and kickbox for 49 minutes, do planks for 5 minutes. I eat oatmeal that contains about 8 different ingredients, and read no fewer than 7 fashion blogs in which everyone is wearing the same thing that Zappos sent them that week.

That’s where I ended, because as you can see, I was, um, pretty agitated. And I never even got to the most important part of the post, which was a heartfelt tribute to one Mr. Milo Ventimigilia. How dare I?

I’m thrilled, a little bit relieved, and a lot a bit surprised to inform you that I’m feeling better these days, but there’s like a 94.8% chance that’s because I tried on my wedding dress yesterday for the first time and it had to be taken in. Eating eggs and kale every day for three months hath not been in vain, y’all! (After this wedding I’m taking a long hiatus from eggs.)  I also cut Twitter and all its toxic energy out of my life a few weeks ago, and ever since I’ve seen a significant improvement in my mental health and general outlook on life.  I know there’s bad, scary, and really depressing stuff happening right now, but reading people’s 140-character hot takes on said stuff does absolutely nothing for my emotional well-being.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve made a conscious decision to be completely self-absorbed, selfish, and trivial and focus on things that bring me great personal happiness (marriage, a trip to Paris, awesome forks from Crate & Barrel) at the expense of looking like a completely superficial jerk who doesn’t get fired up on social media (or really ever, if I’m being honest) about political or global issues. At this moment in my life, I would rather read moms’ hashtag-filled LipSense ads than a bunch of retweets about Tonald Drump. That’s saying a lot, because those ads make me feel somewhat uncomfortable, though I admire their entrepreneurial spirit. I kind of just want to be happy for the next couple of months, anyway. I know that is a luxury many people do not have right now.

It’s weird to focus on a wedding even in normal(er) circumstances. The modern-day wedding is an inherently superficial affair. Don’t think I haven’t felt dumb asking to leave work early to meet with a videographer or for “a fitting.” I hate the fact that my browser history is filled with Pinterest and Etsy searches for things like “guest book ideas.” Really the only idea I should consider: Step 1, buy a guest book. Step 2, put a pen in front of it. Or don’t have a guest book. Who cares? Tomorrow I’ll be spending my afternoon tasting several different varieties of cake, which feels like the definition of an easy breezy cushy life. Some decisions I need to make this weekend: should we give our guests an appetizer and a salad, or just a “combination course” to allow for more dancing time? How many corsages do I need to order from the florist? Do we want a videographer, or is there a compelling philosophical reason not to record such an important, personal life event filled with joy that could never possibly be accurately or adequately duplicated on film without making it look ridiculous? (I actually Googled “Walter Benjamin theory applied to wedding videography.” There were zero results, but every single one of my graduate school professors would be proud.)

As much as I set out to not get caught up in the hoopla, it’s almost impossible not to; what’s more, the hoopla can be kind of fun––at least when you forget about how much it’s costing you and how many salty tears you will cry while trying to pay off all the hoopla balances. So I would feel foolish and guilty even in the most carefree of times. When you throw in all the Bad Stuff (my blanket term for anything that comes up in Google News), the fact that I’m devoting all of my brainpower, physical energy, and life savings to a party makes me feel like a callous, out-of-touch, truly empty individual. Kim Kardashian or Marie Antoinette. A Real Housewife. How does one not feel silly while opening boxes and boxes of towels, dishes, and “cake domes” (an actual thing I wanted and received) when the world is going to shit out there?

Since February, my personal project, besides planning a big party and preparing to marry the apple of my eye, has been watching every single episode of Gilmore Girls, a show that I never watched while it was actually on the air for reasons uncertain. I had never seen even a single episode until about a year ago, when I half-watched the Christmas episode in season 2 (I think), in which Rory and Jess take a carriage ride together around Stars Hollow, ostensibly against Rory’s will (but we all know she likes it). I decided to start from the beginning back in February for, again, reasons uncertain, but I’m sure which all trace back to Milo Ventimiglia. I started watching on a Saturday and was in deep (like 19 episodes deep) before day’s end. Despite the show’s cheesy quality, a theme song I found grating and too long, the somewhat odd romanticization of coffee-drinking, and too many sheepskin jackets and too little Paris and Tristan in season 1, I couldn’t get enough. Watching that show gave (and gives) me the same feeling as cuddling with my dog or wrapping myself in a fuzzy blanket while drinking tea. The characters are funny and multidimensional, and the dialogue is fast and weird and sometimes lame but mostly surprisingly, legitimately funny and frequently filled with semi-obscure, niche cultural references. The show also brings up a lot of serious questions, such as: Why does it not rain in Stars Hollow? Where are the police? How do Rory and Lorelai afford so many damn coats (and why do they each own more than one sheepskin jacket)?

Gilmore Girls became a nightly ritual and my excuse for not leaving the house on weekends. There are some scenes in this show, particularly in seasons 2 and 3 (read: the peak Milo years), that would have quite literally and dramatically shaped my adolescence. But having watched every single episode now at age 30, I’m so glad I found it later in life, at what turned out to be the exact right moment. As you may have gathered from my nervous-breakdown-put-to-paper (screen) above, I kind of needed a pick-me-up. Throughout my life I’ve always turned to art (what I consider to be art, anyway) in times of personal stress. In high school, I listened to Hanson’s This Time Around album every day to and from school; I still can’t listen to those songs without feeling exactly how I felt as a 15-year-old, which is why I don’t listen to them very often anymore (they’re too precious). In college, it was Felicity. Keri Russell was my everything. As a young(er) semi-professional adjusting to adult life, it was Harry Potter. I finished the last book on the same day I interviewed for and was offered my current job. Beau was painting his apartment in Brooklyn and I was sitting on his bed with tears streaming down my face and wondering whether I should bother reading any other book for the rest of my life. Would anything come close to Deathly Hallows?

Gilmore Girls is somehow all of those things combined. There are no wizards, but Stars Hollow is a charming, idyllic world where it snows maybe once a year and rains almost never, and even in the dead of winter you can walk around with your coat unzipped. (This is a detail that bothers me, because I live about 2 hours south of where I imagine Stars Hollow would be, and I can’t go outside in the winter without every single inch of my flesh protected from the elements.) It’s also a world where all the hottest boys in town apparently can’t resist a girl in turtleneck sweaters (and sheepskin jackets) who loves reading. Speaking of which, Gilmore Girls gives Felicity a run for its money when it comes to sweaters and unbecoming fashions (I love the shrug trend of 2005–2006––what was with that?); it’s also got Felicity’s young adult/twenty-something angst, but strikes a healthier balance by incorporating more lighthearted banter, picnic basket auctions, and Kirk. The tone of Felicity is often very serious and reflective; Gilmore Girls peppers the more solemn moments with silliness and fun. (And Kirk.) And, like Hanson’s music, the show reminds me of everything I loved and now miss about growing up, even if I didn’t know I loved it at the time and couldn’t imagine missing it.

Gilmore Girls is joyful at its core. It celebrates life and it made me remember why that is important. There is a time and a place for angst, and it is often necessary to express anger, maybe more so now than ever. But I would like to think that it’s just as important to find reasons to celebrate and be happy.

Last weekend was my bridal shower, an event I had been nervous about for myriad reasons. First, I feel a little weird about bridal showers conceptually; they feel sillier and more frivolous than even a wedding, and also vaguely sexist, though well-intentioned. I was also concerned about how I would handle myself. I’m uncomfortable in the role of The Bride. I don’t like being the center of attention or, really, anyone looking at me for any reason. I’m not good at chit-chat or gushing, particularly about household goods. But my gratitude for my loved ones (and desire to buy an ivory lace dress) outweighed these concerns, and I got myself pumped up and in the mood and in my new dress from the Loft (50% off!), and I bravely marched into the restaurant ready to seize the day and put on my best smile and act polite and happy. And almost immediately, in spite of myself, my heart felt like it had burst open. What a wonderful feeling, to have people you love and who love you in return in one room, for you. What a wonderful thing to, in a single moment, look at the faces of women from every stage of your life.

At some point, the Gilmore Girls theme song began to play. A song that I had once found so annoying and cheesy now felt like the perfect song for the day, for the year, for the people I was surrounded by. I started to cry, because I was so happy.

The Last 5 Months

I woke up at 5:40 this morning (a Saturday) after a “nightmare” in which I asked four friends to be my maids of honor and then stressed out about whether four maids of honor was too many.  The answer is “probably.” The stress jolted me out of a deep sleep, and my clock said 5:40, and the birds chirping right outside my window (really, right into my window) made any attempt to fall back asleep useless. My dog was happy to see me. She hates when everyone “sleeps in” until 8 or 9 on weekends and she’s stuck out in the kitchen all by herself, parched and with a full bladder. She made her happiness known by running around in a circle, picking up her ball and then dropping it, picking up her bone and then dropping it, and then smiling up at me with her head cocked to the side. What a dummy.

Last night I went to the library, took out four Curtis Sittenfeld books and one Liane Moriarty and one Meg Wollitzer, and then wrote out two “Will You Be My Maid of Honor?” cards while eating a frozen Greek yogurt bar (not terrible). The point is, I’ve never felt older. My mom read each of the book jackets and shook her head: “Yup, you’re getting old.” She’s referring to the fact that I always used to turn up my nose at her “women’s books” while I sat on the beach reading meditations on the African diaspora or the “liminal state of the Irish-American identity.” One day I’ll read the high-brow books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelves since 2007 or so, but for now I’m very comfortable delving into the lighter side of literature. It gives me flashbacks to reading the North and South trilogy on our screened-in porch (may it rest in peace) as a twelve-year-old. Nostalgia is what it’s all about.

By the way, it’s true: I’m getting married. I’ve been engaged for five months and three days, and I’ve already picked out plates and a China pattern, which actually isn’t a pattern at all, but plain old bone white, which makes me feel classy. Like Nantucket classy. We also set a date and met with the priest, who has an Irish brogue, which is part of my wedding aesthetic. (Just kidding. But that small detail will earn me huge points with my grandma, who I will need to distract somehow because the wedding is not going to be American-flag-themed in honor of July 4th as she demanded.) My latest side project has been Googling ideas for asking the special ladies in my life to be part of our wedding party that don’t involve a customized wine bottle, which feels just a little too Pinteresty. (And good lord, why is this an expectation in the first place?) Besides, my gals would rather have customized pizza or hummus or ice cream or scotch (just for the story), but pursuing any one of those things might lead down a really weird DIY path that I’m not prepared to commit to. I’m not the creative sort. Or the do-it-yourself sort. And that is why I decided on cards:  I can’t design a personalized pizza box, but I’m pretty good at writing notes. And so here we are.

Every new wedding-related thing we do feels very weird, like I’m out of my element. I am very out of my element. It took us over four months to do anything at all. We got engaged in Brooklyn a week before Christmas, and the days after that felt like a whirlwind: my parents rushed out to buy us an engagement-themed Christmas tree ornament, and we went around making house calls to my family members like we were in a goddamned Jane Austen novel. My left hand was held up, ring facing the camera, in every picture taken of us that week. People lose their minds over engagements. Engagements, weddings, and babies: it’s not very edgy to like these things, and yet we all do deep down.

But getting engaged was easy––on my end, anyway. All I had to do was show up and not give anyone a problem about showing up, even though it was a Friday night and I was tired from the work week. I succeeded about halfway. (I showed up, but I made my displeasure known.) The harder part, which I only discovered later, was the business of getting married. I always knew I wanted to get married, but I didn’t have any plan or vision or preconceived aesthetic. I wasn’t that “type” of gal. I had better things to think about, like how to persuade my boyfriend to propose in the first place, but in a way that would allow him to maintain the belief that he has autonomy and free will. (Hehe.)

Anyway, the not-knowing was paralyzing, as was the not-having-money bit. This is no secret, but weddings––at least in New York––can be gross. Just a gross, gaudy display of faux-luxury that is nevertheless intimidating for someone who earns a very modest publishing salary. Walking into a wedding venue on Long Island for the first time, I felt kind of like how I feel whenever I’ve walked into a high-end store, which I’ve done maybe five times in my life. Like they can smell the poor on me, like they know I’m in over my head. But then the manager pronounced dim-sum as “dim-SAM” and it immediately put me at ease, like okay, this is fine. He pronounces words like my grandma. It’s going to be okay. From then on, venue shopping became more like negotiating the price of a car. I had to do that about a year ago, and how I handled myself in that situation is something I still brag about, because well, we all need something. See, the customary wisdom is that women are car salesman prey, but I felt it was just the opposite. A more apt metaphor is that they were my suitors and I was the cold, detached duchess who could not be won over by leather interiors and GPS, or in this case, an ice sculpture and something called “uplighting.” Duchess don’t care. Duchess only paying this many dollars. And that’s how it went down.

So, to buy into the narrative of wedding planning as a stressful, highly emotional chore, I could say that the hardest part is now over. We have a date, a time, a place, a priest. A groom, a bride, two maids of honor (update: they said yes!), an ornament, a registry. Two framed pictures from IKEA for our future home, which has yet to be determined. Of course, last night  I woke up at 3 AM in a cold sweat, nervous about how we’re going to figure it all out and make it all happen. But we will. It’s just a party.

 

This Is 29

I turned 29 on Monday. It went pretty much the same way my past few birthdays have gone in that I avoided thinking about turning 29 for the entire year, panicked in the days leading up to turning 29 and started to feel very, very queasy and existential about it, and then woke up on my birthday feeling very much the same and not that much older, was relieved, and promptly began Googling anti-aging face masks.

This year I celebrated my birthday in Las Vegas because my boyfriend lives there now and I didn’t want him to feel like 2,500 miles between us was enough of a reason to not get me a birthday present, or worse, get me a belated birthday present. So I did what any crazy, greedy girlfriend would do and flew out there unannounced. Just kidding, I told him I was coming. When I was already at the airport. Just kidding.

Even though I’m in Las Vegas a lot now (leading all of my coworkers to believe I am a huge creep with a gambling problem), I’ve never celebrated a birthday there. Leading up to the trip, I had every intention of going out on the town––maybe even two nights in a row!––and prepared for the occasion by getting a pedicure and buying a skirt at H&M that is appropriate for exactly two venues: 1) a club in Las Vegas and 2) a Halloween party at a club in Las Vegas. But when Friday night in Las Vegas was finally upon us, I decided I’d rather eat ice cream and watch Friends, and then Saturday night rolled around and I decided I’d rather eat ice cream and watch American Ninja Warrior. And then Sunday night we ate pizza and drove around critiquing houses in various Las Vegas neighborhoods, and then Monday night (my actual birthday) I finished the contents of the complimentary bread basket at dinner and couldn’t even drink all of my peach sangria and fell asleep at 11 p.m. even though I really, really wanted to watch at least one episode of Friends. Is this what adulthood is? This sucks! And also: this rules!

Perhaps most fitting of all is that on the plane ride home, I decided to upgrade my seat as a sort of birthday present to myself. Mostly I just wanted to be able to get the f off that plane when it landed instead of having to hang around in the back (my usual airplane stomping grounds) and wait for all the olds to fumble around with their carry-on suitcases and Banana Republic shopping bags and shuffle off the plane. What I didn’t realize is that only olds sit at the front of the plane in the “upgraded” seats. Even the bodybuilders who had been in town for the Mr. Olympia competition, whose legs were like tree trunks that could probably serve as a makeshift bridge across a small river, and whose calves were the size (and shape) of basketballs, sat in the regular seats. I was the only person under the age of 70 at the front of the plane and the only person who could successfully open and close the bathroom door in a single attempt and the only person who didn’t ask the flight attendant for hot tea and a cranberry juice and the only person who didn’t change their snack order twice because their wife got the cookies and wouldn’t share. I realized that if a terrorist were to try to storm the cockpit, I would be the best chance at stopping it because Mr. Olympia was too far back and probably also lodged in his seat and three people would have to help pry him out before he could even stomp up the aisle. This was maybe the most frightening realization I had ever had and, in that vulnerable, anxiety-filled moment, my armpits started to spontaneously sweat a little bit. But then I realized that maybe such an attempt (and my subsequent hampering of it) would give me a great shot at being on Dancing with the Stars, which made me less nervous and, if I’m being honest, maybe a little excited. Look, I’m obviously not saying I want something like that to happen, I’m just saying that if it did, I would be very determined to stop it in order to stay alive and, more importantly, dance with Mark Ballas.

Anyway, I’m home now and am comfortably settling into 29. When my best friend turned 29 last month, she said she was looking forward to being 29 because it meant she could finally embrace the person she has always been deep down: the person who would rather get a pint of ice cream at 7-11 and watch YouTube videos on a Friday night rather than go out to a bar where it’s loud and there’s too many people who look like they’re home from college and so make you feel like an old ugly shoe. She said 29 is when we’ll shine, or at least just feel at home, and I think that’s true. I’m 29, and I was asleep before 11 p.m. every night this week (as I’m wont to do)––except for Wednesday when I stayed up “late” (11:48) watching all four hours of Dancing with the Stars that I had missed while I was in Las Vegas. I belong to a Facebook group where moms post pictures of the healthy lunches they ate that day to motivate the other moms who also want to feel their best, and when I eat food late at night or fly on a plane I have to take Gas-X afterwards. This weekend I am going to buy a face mask to eliminate dark circles and treat myself to a new pair of sweatpants. This is 29, and I like it.

 

The Office

Boss: Can you all please send me a spreadsheet highlighting x, y, and z?

Female Employee Response: Sure thing!

Male Employee Response: Well, I’m not sure a spreadsheet is really necessary, given how self-explanatory x, y, and z are. I can give you a rundown right now off the top of my head just so you can see how straightforward all of this and why a spreadsheet would be superfluous and perhaps counter-productive, but I would prefer to do it verbally as I have to leave early today to deal with a few sensitive girlfriend-related matters and still have 20 minutes left in this episode of Hannibal.

Some Things That Happened: Summer 2015 Edition

It’s been over three months since my last post, which just goes to show how uninspired I feel when Dancing with the Stars is on hiatus. (Confused? Scroll below to read my love letter to the show that serves as a glowing testament to the television renaissance.) And there’s also the fact that this summer was a whirlwind of activity, leaving little time for me to enjoy my two favorite pastimes as of late (watching Friends and reading Mormon mommy blogs), let alone write in this blog, which I’m bad at to begin with. Here are the top 10 things that consumed my summer in the order in which I remembered them, not the order in which I enjoyed them. That’s something I’ll leave to your guesswork and nuanced eye.

10. I went to bachelorette parties. This one is actually higher on the list, but I’m putting it first as a way to hook you line and sinker, because everyone likes a good bachelorette party story, am I right!? As a bridesmaid in two weddings this year (one in July and one in November), I had the distinct honor and privilege of being invited to two weekend getaways to celebrate female friendship and independence, singlehood and sisterhood––and also to play “penis ring toss,” which is about as fun as regular ring toss, which is to say not at all. I couldn’t help but ponder the double standard in all of this, because if men were to play, say, a rousing game of Quarters or something with a plastic vagina, I think they would probably be scowled at and socially ostracized, and maybe apprehended by the police. It all seems so unfair. I think Donald Trump should bring this up at the next debate and then drop the mic and moonwalk off stage.

I actually don’t have a story, but I would like to go out on a limb with a controversial statement. This is perhaps overly militant, but I don’t believe in FaceTiming or calling significant others while on a girls getaway unless it’s to ask something practical like “Can you make sure I turned the iron off?” A “miss you” text is fine if absolutely necessary, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about men thus far in life it’s that he hasn’t even realized you’re gone yet.

9. I kayaked across a lake and then crashed into a tree. This, perhaps not unsurprisingly, occurred at one of the two aforementioned bachelorette parties. (But it’s hard to steer a kayak and hold two beers in your lap at the same time.) As I neared closer to shore at full speed, unable to figure out how to turn the right way and avoid what was about to happen (it was all happening so fast and yet in slow-motion at the same time), I silently accepted my fate––I was going to collide head-on with the tree.

I am not unfamiliar with this sort of thing––choosing inaction and just kind of surrendering to it all. One instance that immediately comes to mind occurred in high school gym class in either junior or senior year. We were playing softball, and I was in the out-out-outfield, trying to position myself in such a way that no ball would come near me and I could remain immobile and clap every now and then. This plan fell to shit when some overachieving nutcase smacked the ball in my general direction, and as the ball soared over everyone else’s head and headed right for me, I did not panic but instead felt a calm resignation: Fuck that. 

So, in the kayak, I braced myself while hugging the beers between my knees more tightly in a last-ditch effort to save them, and then, in an inexplicable move, raised my paddle above my head. I think I was hoping to use it as a sort of brake by pushing it against one of the thickest, protruding branches above me, but no dice. Instead the paddle was swept up into the mass of branches and in that moment I felt the tree lol.

A few moments later, I ungracefully turned sideways and belly-flopped into six inches of lake water, retrieved my beers from the floor of the kayak, and then went to pee.

Across the lake, the bride-to-be, using her hand as a visor from the sun, squinted into the distance and, puzzled, turned to her sister. “Did Colleen just crash into that tree?”

8. I went to a club called The Grotto and told every guy who asked that my name was Sara, No H. This wasn’t my idea. It was a mandated bachelorette party “game,” but once I started it was the most committed I’ve been to something in a long time.

7. I worked from Las Vegas. …And so was given a glimpse into what life could be, if only I lived in the Pacific time zone and worked 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day to be on the same schedule as my East Coast coworkers, leaving plenty of time to go to the Encore pool and enjoy two $16 pina coladas before dinner reservations at 8.

Kidding. I harbor no delusions that living in Las Vegas will consist of daily trips to the Wynn. But they could, because carpe diem.

6. After several failed attempts to lose weight, I invested in a modest collection of drawstring shorts and skirts.  As someone who hates having my picture taken on a good day even one time, the prospect of being in potentially hundreds of photographs on my brother’s wedding day made me queasy. (But not queasy enough, if you know what I’m saying.) This unease was compounded by the fact that my body, over the past year or so, has started evolving into something that I can only imagine is nature’s way of telling me I’m overdue for a baby and should just throw in the towel and wear leggings every day.  Adding to this is that it’s been several years since I lost a bunch of weight, and in the interim I’ve become all too comfortable with certain less-than-healthy habits that my skinny self (nightmare though she was) never engaged in, like eating ice cream multiple times a week and ordering appetizers. Plus, I work at a desk job in an office that offers free access to unlimited snacks, which means I spend busy seasons stress-eating peanuts.

Back in January, I decided I would make a concerted effort to eat less. This decision was made on a Monday. By Friday, it had all fallen to shit, so I resolved to start again on the following Monday. And on and on we went for the next six months, until I realized that maybe it just wasn’t going to happen; my size 6 days, short-lived though they were, were over and not to appear again––at least not in time to have my picture taken in teal chiffon.

So I did what was only logical in this sort of situation. I stopped wearing pants and started practicing holding a bouquet with my arms at the perfect angle to give the illusion of tone and definition. I can’t say I was victorious in this regard, but I couldn’t be happier about the fact that I haven’t worn jeans since May.

5. I watched my younger brother get married. In general I find weddings to be very surreal. There’s such a fuss about them that when the actual day arrives and you’re living it in real time, the 500+ days spent preparing for it melt into this very out-of-body experience. I spent the day feeling like the princess version of myself because makeup, when applied correctly and by a professional, cleans a bitch up. My hair was a labyrinth of twists and braids converging into a large bun extending the width of my head and held together with no fewer than 300 bobby pins. All it would take is one snap of a single bobby pin for the whole elaborate creation to come crashing down. Talk about an adrenaline rush.

My favorite part of the day besides the actual ceremony (which is arguably the most boring but also, like, the supposed reason we’re all there––aside from the open bar) was the wedding party’s entrance into the reception. It felt like a moment I had been preparing my whole life for, even though in actuality it had only been a week (which is probably 6 days, 23 hours, and 55 minutes too long). My cousin and I did a tango-like dance in front of almost 200 people––obviously my idea because I wanted to pretend I was on Dancing with the Stars. Pure magic.

And now my younger brother is married and I have a sister-in-law who texts me when she knows I’m pooping. A match made in heaven, really.

Last weekend my brother’s old bed from his childhood bedroom, where he lived up until two months ago, was put out at the curb and my mom cried.

4. I helped my boyfriend move out of his apartment. And by “helped” I mean I sat and worked on my laptop while giving directives––so I was more like a project manager. But then I had a bottle of champagne delivered (if you needed another reason to think New Yorkers are nightmares, here it is), which I think makes up for any perceived lack of hands-on assistance.

3. I got really into Mormon mommy blogs. All Mormon mommies don’t necessarily do life better than everyone else, but a lot of Mormon mommies (at least the ones with blogs) are really, really good at putting on a show to make you think they do life better than everyone else. They just seem so into their lives in all of their tiny minutiae. They act so excited about finding tablecloths on clearance at Target, by DIY flower arrangements, by drinking hot chocolate (also found on Target clearance) on a rainy day with their three-year-old. They’re also really good at product placement. (“I just love picnics!” is the caption to a picture of a checkered blanket, wicker basket, assorted containers of grapes and cheeses––guaranteed, my future three-year-old will not know what brie is––and, oh, a pair of Valentino sunglasses.)

Even so, I can’t help myself. I am positively fascinated. These women are my age or younger and have three kids; they’ve been married for almost a decade. You know what I was doing a decade ago? I was drinking Colt 45 on weekends and mapping out my days based on when my crushes (nicknamed “Gym Guy” and “Creepy”) would be at the gym (Gym Guy), or in the dorm gazebo smoking weed (Creepy), or in the cafeteria (both, but for wildly different reasons––munchies vs. muscle-building via protein-rich meals). And now the livelihood of these women is blogging about literally nothing while being cool moms and having date nights with hubs. So it’s no wonder they seem so blissfully happy.

I tell you, all of these East Coast female elite, the liberal urbanites with their fancy careers––we’ve been fooled! They’ve (we’ve?) been taught to strive toward something other than motherhood and Target and DIY projects, but what the hell for? That’s the dream right there. I want to live my life in a euphoric state that is euphoric because I do not have to leave my house unless I want to and I can blog about a sweater and then get another free sweater from the people who made the first sweater I blogged about. I want to have three kids with interesting names and pull them off because they’re all dressed up in the latest kid fashions like tiny insufferable hipsters. I want to have a big, pristine house on the West Coast, even if I have to blog about Pampers to get there. I suppose I wouldn’t exactly want to be Mormon because there’s a few things I probably wouldn’t be able to get past, like the underwear and the celestial polygamy, but maybe if I could just pretend to wear the underwear?

Anyway, I’ve gotten really into Mormon mommy blogs.

2. I saw zero movies and read maybe 2 books. But I watched almost every episode of American Ninja Warrior. 

1. Chandler Bing. I’m just confused as to why everyone acted like Breaking Bad was the best thing to ever grace TV screens, when Friends had made its appearance long before?

And finally, here’s a picture:

Bing

But How Do I Become a Ballroom Dancer?: A Polemic

As far as I can tell, the main problem with the world is that only celebrities qualify to be contestants on Dancing with the Stars. What makes this more frustrating is the fact that the competing celebrities are usually just-barely celebrities; they are once-celebrities or low-level celebrities ranging from “really famous––in 1977” to “recurring role on CW show.” (This is not to say that I don’t grow to love them and talk about them like they are old friends, but let’s call a spade a spade.)

Not only do I think that non-celebrities should be allowed to submit their name for consideration on Dancing with the Stars, but also that choosing contestants for the show should function similarly to jury selection. I mean that exactly as it sounds: being on Dancing with the Stars should be one’s civic duty, and you should get a summons every few years or so. (There would also be a “call me whenever” option for people like me.) Employers would build 12-weeks paid leave into their benefits packages, because everyone would know and acknowledge that participating in the show would be for the greater good, the public interest. World leaders would have to participate too—especially the big assholes. Doing this, I think we’d see less war, less divorce, less cutting into the right lane without a blinker, less not-even-trying-to-hold-the-elevator. Actually, I don’t think. I know.

If you’ve watched, then you know that the show changes people. It changes people in a very fundamental, depths-of-the-soul kind of way. Even the otherwise alpha-male, stoic athletes who agree to appear on the show during their off-season—for reasons they didn’t totally understand when their managers explained them but went along with anyway, because $$—end up having a Human Moment on national TV, tearfully describing to ESPN reporter-turned-primetime cohost Erin Andrews (who, presumably, they feel very comfortable with) that what they are doing is not a reality show or a competition, but a Journey. That’s everyone’s favorite word: journey. “I’m just so grateful for this journey.” “I couldn’t imagine my life without having taken this journey.” “I truly feel like I’ve found myself on this incredible journey.” Voices crack with raw emotion when they utter those sentences, like dancing the foxtrot with a shirtless Russian is the best thing to have ever happened to them in their entire life. And I have no doubt that this is true. 

This is why I think it’s so important for all of us—not just Disney child stars, former Olympians, people who gained notoriety for having an affair with a public figure but describe themselves as a “media personality”—to be afforded the opportunity to find ourselves through the art of ballroom dance and, occasionally, writhing and rolling around without shoes on (modern dance). To tell a story with fluid arm motions and heel-ball-changes and to be dipped by a man (or woman) whose hips don’t lie and who preferably but not necessarily has an accent. Maybe that’s all it comes down to. Maybe we just all need to be dipped.

*****

I’m a bit of a Dancing with the Stars aficionado, if I do say so myself. Most people dismiss it as fluff and would never admit to watching it, but for me the show is a talking point, a hobby. Not to brag or anything, but it’s kind of an area of expertise. Mondays are important to me. It is vital to my well being that I have these two hours each week to be uplifted, even transported. To imagine.

The thing is, I sincerely love to watch ballroom dancing. I love it despite the fact that my personal dancing style involves a lot of shoulder movements and knee bending and mouthing “heyoooo!” (not always appropriate, but seems to work most of the time). I love it despite the fact that I tried the Dancing with the Stars “Latin Cardio Dance” workout one time in 2010 and gave up after three minutes of feeling like a giant, untalented tool.

But I like to imagine that this is not the case––that if given the chance to partner up with Mark or Val (NOT Derek—who, although formerly Mormon, I think, is still completely incapable of exuding sex with his eyes, which is important if you want to dance with me), I would be a picture of beauty and grace with command of the dance floor. I would be like Jennifer Grey’s character in Dirty Dancing. Mark or Val would unearth my latent but raw, undeniable talent, and give me a lot of tough (sensual) love to push me to my potential. My best dance would be the tango, and it would be to Ellie Goulding’s “Outside.” The judges would marvel at my perfect footwork and emotional connection to the dance.

There would be obstacles, of course. For one, I would have to learn how to walk naturally—let alone dance—in heels. For two…. Nope, just the heels thing. That’s…oof—a pretty major roadblock. Let’s not think about it.

The point (not my original point, maybe, but one that just came to me now) is that I need to find a way onto the show—because I suppose we’re decades away from the federal government (benevolently) mandating our participation. Congressional killjoys.

I don’t have a plan. I also don’t have many options, though I have considered trying my hand at mommy blogging, since it seems relatively easy and America rewards mediocrity. But I don’t have any kids, which a key accessory of mommy bloggers. I also don’t know how to make any mocktails or arrange flowers, so I guess this isn’t much of an option after all. I could write to Mark Ballas—we met briefly in Atlantic City in 2011 and he told me I was “very cute,” so I think it’s fairly obvious that he’s never forgotten about me.

Ballas

In any case, though I realize now I’ve wandered down a weird road and that anyone who reads this is probably convinced Tom Bergeron has a restraining order against me, I really just wanted you to know that Dancing with the Stars matters and it could be a means of international peace-keeping if we gave it a chance to be. And if you already thought this privately and enjoy watching it more than you ever enjoyed an episode of Breaking Bad, then own it. I do.

I’m back!

You didn’t know it, but this blog was down for about two weeks. By my count, exactly four people knew about this turn of events, and that number includes me, the person who I kept badgering to fix it, Abin from Tech Support, and the person who ultimately fixed it. Not even my mom knew, and that was a little bit hurtful because I had always counted on her to be my number-one fan. But a conversation on the topic of this blog about a week ago revealed that I had been misled:

Me: My blog is down.

Mom: What blog? You have a blog?

Me: Yes?

Mom: I didn’t know about it.

Me: But. You’ve read things on it.

Mom: I didn’t know about it.

So to the people who are not my mother and offered up their tech knowledge and/or emotional support during this troubling time, I thank you.