Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In Which I Short-Circuit & Basically Stop Functioning

T minus four days until my big move back to Ohio, & I'm... not quite ready. My mental to-do list is about a mile long, but I am too disorganized to get it on paper, or even into my phone, so it's just floating around in my brain. I have to sell my couch & throw away my rickety bookshelf & take some things to Goodwill & put a stop on my Comcast service... it's all bumping around in my skull, & I'm just hoping I don't miss something major.

I'm historically terrible at dealing with moving-related anxiety, despite the fact that this will be my thirteenth (!) move in a decade. On that front, this time around is no different, although there's some small comfort in moving back to my mom's house because I don't have to deal with apartment arrangements on the other end. Actually, that's a large comfort. But it's still not stemming the standard panic.

The way I deal with this sort of stress is basically just to shut down. I haven't been engaging on social media. I removed Facebook & my work email from my phone. When the workday ends, I don't multi-task like usual; instead of writing or working while I catch up on Hulu, I just... zone out. I go catatonic in front of the TV, like a very comfortable zombie or maybe just a child of the early '90s, drooling & mindlessly stuffing my gullet full of Annie's Cheddar Bunnies while wearing my oldest, rattiest pair of sweatpants. It's a lovely, professional, & flattering image, I know.

I'm just trying to be good to myself, & sometimes that means powering my brain down with a fist (& mouth) full of organic, cheese-flavored snacks.

And I nap. I take longer showers. I drink larger lattes. I listen to a lot of Taylor Swift. I take Xanax sometimes, or I turn on my favorite meditation app. I spent an embarrassing amount of money on a 124-oz. candle that smells like something unidentifiably comforting from my childhood, & any time I'm home, it's burning. I bought a coloring book & a box of 64 crayons for those times when I feel compelled to keep busy while I watch TV but just can't bring myself to use any brain power. (It's a Lalaloopsy coloring book, by the way, which is just about the creepiest thing imaginable.)

In general, I'm just trying not to overexert myself to add additional stress to my move-induced stress. When I've settled in Ohio, I'll even out, I'm sure, become my usual multi-tasking, firing-on-all-cylinders self again. But... not yet. Just not yet. Right now, I'm just trying to maintain my sanity, & that seems to mean powering down all non-essential functions.

Treat yo'self, as they say. Or just do whatever it takes to try to keep yourself from losing your damn marbles.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Vamos United: The Day I Maybe Became a Soccer Fan

I recall my childhood experience with soccer as follows: When I was in elementary school - maybe 6 or 7 years old? - I was the only girl on my soccer team, perhaps because my father was, for some inexplicable reason, the coach. I wasn't very enthusiastic, & I definitely wasn't very good, & above all else, I was an easily embarrassed, shy kid. One day, after I scored a goal for the opposing team, I quit playing soccer - & my dad continued to coach the team without me.

For most of my life, that was as far as my relationship with the sport of soccer extended.

Until last weekend.

My friend Arielle, it turns out, loves soccer, & on Halloween, as we dined at a fancy restaurant while wearing fleece animal onesies (man, I should've blogged about that), she asked if I'd be interested in joining her at D.C. United's playoff game on Saturday. I wasn't particularly interested, honestly, because I don't know or care about soccer - but I like Arielle & I like adventures, so why not? I said yes.

On Saturday afternoon, she outfitted me in a D.C. United beanie & long-sleeved shirt so I would fit in, & we headed off to RFK Stadium, which looks like it should be the site of a scene from the Walking Dead. Seriously, the place looks apocalyptically abandoned, but for the fact that, come soccer time, it fills with screaming, chanting, stomping, drum-beating, flag-waving, beer-throwing fans. It was chaos in the best way.

We stopped by the tailgate party, a parking lot filled with a sea of black & red, where Arielle introduced me to fellow fans. Afraid of being seen as a poser, I was initially embarrassed when she announced that it was my first game, but everyone was warm & welcoming. "We have two rules," one guy told me. "The first is to have as much fun as possible. The second is that if we win, you've got to come back." Where other sports fans disdain fair-weather fans, soccer embraces them - they just want fans, period, & I was happy to try to become one.

The rest of the tailgating scene can best be described as a makeshift Midwestern state fair, but in much colder weather & with far fewer mullets. Though we arrived an hour & a half before the game started, the kegs had already run dry, & I have a feeling it wasn't for lack of initial volume. Food trucks served ravenous drunk fans willing to brave long lines (although we, sober & impatient of the cold, weren't among them). In a nearby tent, an MLS sponsor out very creatively emblazoned "THIS IS SOCCER" scarves to chilly fans looking for extra swag (& precisely because we were sober & impatient of the cold, this time we were among them). On our way into the stadium, we scored more swag - another scarf, this one in D.C United colors, & inflatable "bam bam sticks" that made loud, hollow noises when beaten together so we could cause maximum noise.

Soccer is a notoriously low-scoring game, but it sort of doesn't matter because it's still fascinating to watch the players try to score. Football is a lot of stop-&-go brute force, & baseball is a lot of standing around, & basketball is a lot of tall guys lumbering back & forth on squeaky floors, but soccer feels like... more, somehow. Soccer is skill & grace & athleticism & talent. Soccer is art. I was surprisingly rapt, paying very close attention as I tried to follow along, & impressed the whole time.

D.C. United did score twice, which was not enough for them to win the game despite the fact that the other team only scored once, because apparently playoff soccer has some ridiculously weighted scoring rules. BUT. When they did score? The whole stadium erupted into cheers & song & such enthusiastic stomping that the cement stadium floors quaked beneath us. Showers of beer soaked the crowd, & plums of smoke snaked into the air as smokebombs went off throughout the cheering sections. Man, I've never seen anything like it.

I thought I'd be bored out of my skull, but I found myself riveted. I found myself praying for overtime. And when it was over, I found myself kind of wanting to be a soccer fan, the kind with team allegiances & tailgating plans of my own.

So will I ever make it to another pro soccer game? Hey, maybe not. But then again, Ohio has a team of its own, & I'm thisclose to convincing Arielle to come visit me the next time the Columbus Crew plays D.C. United. The only question is, which team's colors will I wear? I guess I've got some time to decide.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You Can Always Go Home Again: My LeBron Moment

On my last day of classes at Kent State University in August of 2007, I sat in a corner of the Daily Kent Stater's newsroom, looking out the wall of full-length glass windows to the grassy hill outside. It was a sunny day, Ohio-perfect, & I was fully conscious of the fact that this was my last time to enjoy this part of my life. This was it, & I wanted to enjoy it as much as I could.

On the phone with my mom, sitting on my knees on a spinning chair as I watched students pass by outside, I told her: "I'm going to D.C. for a year, & then I'm going to come back to Ohio." I'd committed to a 12-month job in D.C., but I imagined grand plans for a life in Cleveland when it came to an end.

As much as I meant it at the time, that's not exaaaactly how it all ended up. At the end of that first year in D.C., I was offered a more permanent job - so I stayed, happily, & it was a fantastic three years of growth & friendship & learning to love myself. Eventually, I hit a bit of a rough patch (read: I quit my job & couldn't afford to stay), so I did move back to Ohio, but just for a brief four months. At the time, I was dating someone wonderful who just so happened to live in New Hampshire, mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard, so I found a job there & moved in with him. Then we moved again, also mandated by the Coast Guard, & then, when we eventually broke up, I moved back to D.C. because it seemed like the best place for me to be if I was going to be by myself again. Needless to say, I never really made it back to Ohio.

"You've moved a lot," people often tell me, out of sheer insistence upon stating the obvious. Yeah, guys, I know. I know.

I've moved a lot, & it hasn't always been easy or wonderful & it certainly wasn't part of my plan, but I don't regret my life or my choices or my locations. Still, I've always said I'd move back to Ohio "when the time is right." I've always known I'd go back eventually because I've always wanted to go back eventually. I returned to D.C. last November because I had an inexplicable sense that it was the place I needed to be at that time. From the outset, though, I knew this would a time-limited return to the District. I just hadn't decided exactly how limited that amount of time would be.

I still hadn't decided, right up until last month.

Last month, I spent two weeks visiting friends & family in Ohio, mentally planning my eventual return & what a life in Cleveland might look like for some future version of me. And then one weekday afternoon, as I was driving back to my mom's house after an afternoon at my favorite coffee shop in Kent, it dawned on me, one of those lightbulb-above-my-head kind of moments: "I could move back to Northeast Ohio right now, if I wanted to."

And as it turns out, I wanted to. I want to.

In a decree of fate, I returned to D.C. later that week to find that my rent will go up by $100 at the end of November, when my lease expires. Sure, I could stay here on a month-to-month basis, paying that higher rent & not saving a damn thing, but... why? Why bother? It's expensive here, so expensive that I can't afford to do most of the things that would allow me to enjoy my life here the way that life here ought to be enjoyed. And while I love my friends & my office & my life in D.C., the simple counter-argument against living here is just that Ohio beckons. Because Ohio has always beckoned.

So on November 21st, I'm going home.

The details don't matter; trust that I'll share them with you eventually. For now, all that matters is that this feels right. For the first time since I moved to D.C. in 2007, I'm moving because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. I'm not unemployed or bound to the military or in the middle of a breakup. I just want to be someplace else - so I'm going there.

An unexpectedly wise man from Akron once said, "In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have." And like LeBron, "I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Say Anything on Facebook

A couple weeks ago, I joined a Facebook group for people from my hometown. Members use the space to post old photos, share memories of people/places/events past, & link to obituaries of well-known folks from the community. Mostly, though, the group serves as a virtual bulletin board where current residents can ask questions - everything from, "Where's the best place to buy new tires?" to "Why is there so much traffic on ____ Street right now?"

Another trend in this group is people posting photos of creepy-crawlies they find in/on/around their homes with captions like, "What kind of spider is this?" which means all these spider photos show up in my newsfeed & basically ruin my life. Example:

You're welcome for the light blur. Because I care about you.

But anyway.

Predictably, a lot of bitching also happens within this group. Like... a lot of bitching. There's a lot of bitching generally, but there's also a lot of bitching at one another, & things tend to escalate quickly.
Sometimes I turn on the notifications just so I can go back & scroll through the comments when I don't have anything better to do. (I mean, I always have something better to do, but that doesn't mean I'm actually doing it.)

Yesterday, for example, someone posted to the group asking where she should take her cat to be declawed. Her usual vet quoted her $150, she said, & she didn't think it ought to cost that much. When other group members asked that she reconsider her plans to declaw (given the Humane Society's analogy that it's akin to cutting off a person's fingers at the knuckles), a full-on comment war erupted. Just an hour after the original post, it boasted 146 comments & growing (including a few from people who pointed out that the original poster has twice mentioned her cat's destruction of her $300 curtains, but somehow thinks $150 is too much to pay for a surgical procedure on an actual living thing? Priorities.)

I really wanted to comment on the declawing debacle. I wanted to be all holier-than-thou & comment something like, "Perhaps the 'judgment' you're hearing is just from folks who aren't down with the idea of butchering our beloved family pets? How dare we, I know." Because I am not at all sassy or indignant.

But I didn't.

I've commented a few times on past posts, sharing suggestions for my favorite eye doctor or the local gym where I worked in college (because I'm nothing if not brand-loyal & also very opinionated). For the most part, though, aside from the occasional recommendation, I keep quiet for two reasons:
  1. My mother's job makes her what you might call a community figure in our small town. We have an uncommon, identifiable last name that easily links me to her, & she has more than once pointed out that my occasional loud-mouthiness, though always well-intentioned, has the potential to be pretty annoying for her,

    and also,
  2. Facebook's stupid algorithms seem to alert all of my hometown friends every time I comment in this group, which is terribly embarrassing. If I was humiliated the time it broadcasted my comment about where/how to exchange foreign currency, I'm definitely going to want to crawl under a rock when it shares news of my, uh, slightly snarkier comments.
I love my mom, & it's important to me, of course, that I not accidentally tarnish her reputation in any way. But (sorry, Mom) the second reason is equally compelling, because there's nothing more mortifying than Facebook's algorithms. While I'm not actually embarrassed of the words I think to post, I'm more embarrassed by the concept of being a person who posts in a community Facebook group. Actually, I'm embarrassed by the concept of being a person who blogs about posting in a community Facebook group, too, but a girl can't be too proud, yanno?

And so I stayed quiet yesterday, even when the conversation took a turn for the amusing & Laura, the original poster, started lashing out at any commenter who noted the inhumanity of declawing. Finally, this happened:

At that point, all I wanted to comment was "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA" because the whole thing had really jumped the shark. But I think the guy who posted this photo really summed it up best:

So carry on, Facebook. Imma be over here, watching from the sidelines & playing a comment reel in my mind.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Eatin' Good: My Culinary Obsessions Past & Present

My friend Jonah once referred to his younger brother as an "enthusiast," someone who gets briefly but intensely obsessed with something - a particular person or article of clothing or TV show or cuisine. I identified immediately with the label & have since co-opted it for myself.

I can mainline a Netflix show with the best of 'em, but most often, I find my enthusiast tendencies directed toward food. I'll go all-in on some dish for days, weeks, even months, with no concept of "too much of a good thing." I'll order the same thing every day until I finally tire of it, & then I'll move on to the next one.

Past targets of my enthusiasm have included:
  • Chicken kaprow: I didn't like Thai food until I moved to D.C., but once I discovered it, there was no turning back. My first year here, I lived across from Paragon Thai, which quickly became my go-to restaurant for take-out (&, when I was really sick or lazy, delivery). I'd order by phone as I left work, & by the time I got off the Metro, my food was ready. Once, the woman who answered the phone gushed, "Ah, the girl in the red coat!" referring to my notably bright winter jacket, & I was so embarrassed that I didn't go back for six months, thus ending this particular obsession.
  • Fancy grilled cheese: I can't cook. I try, sometimes, but for the most part? Nottt a chef. I can, however, "make stuff," like my so-called big-kid grilled cheese. I blogged about it in 2010: "It's muenster, goat cheese, baby spinach, crumbled walnuts, & a smear of fig jam on ciabatta & pressed in my George Foreman, panini-style...I AM A CULINARY GENIUS WITH THE PALETTE OF A SOPHISTICATED 10-YEAR-OLD." This fell off my radar when I felt (I can't believe it myself) all cheesed out.
  • Wontons with spicy peanut butter sauce: When my then-boyfriend deployed & left me alone with the cat, Pink Bamboo Hot Pot Cafe became my best friend. To hit the delivery minimum, I'd order two orders of wontons - one for dinner & one for lunch the next day. When the delivery guy dropped off my food, I'd try to act like there was someone else in the apartment... just so I didn't seem like the girl ordering 12 wontons for herself. But again, when the restaurant's hostess started to recognize my voice & remember my order, I called the whole thing off - but I'd kill for those wontons right about now.

And now? Now I'm obsessed all over again. A few weeks ago, I tried Pho 14's bún bò nướng for the first time, & now I can't stop ordering it. If you've never tried this dish, let me paint a picture for you: thin-cut, juicy, tough-but-tender slices of beef served over a bed of light, thin vermicelli noodles, fresh cucumbers & scallions, shredded carrots, crispy shallots, crushed peanuts, & a liiiittle bit of lettuce, topped with sweet fish sauce.

Oh! If my verbal picture-painting didn't work, I can show you an actual picture:

Maybe, if you're a white-bread kid from the Applebee's-lovin' suburbs like me, it sounds sort of gross. I know that 10 years ago, I wouldn't have come near it. But today? Today I'm obsessed. Today I'm an enthusiast of the highest order. Today I ordered Pho 14's bún bò nướng for the third time in less than a week, & I have no plans to stop any time soon.

Clearly, I've got it bad. But... it's probably better than an obsession with grilled cheese, right?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When Imitation is the Shadiest Form of Flattery

I finally let my old blog domain name lapse in August, & yesterday I discovered that someone else has purchased it. I knew that was likely to happen, but you know what's worse? The fact that the new owner's name is ALSO Kate B., & she's set up a site redirect to try to make it look like I've moved to a new blog - hers! 

Her welcome message on the site now reads,
"Hey everyone, it’s KatieB and I’m here to deliver some exciting news. I’ve been secretly working on a new site for the past few months now and am just about ready to share it with the world. I’ll be redirecting this site to my new one, so this is just a courtesy message to let ya know. Looking forward to seeing you on the other side!”
It then provides a link to her (my?) new blog (which I refuse to provide a link to on principle).  This, of course, makes it sound like she's ME, former KateB-who-blogged-at-that-domain, & that I'm moving to a new blog. As far as I can tell, she's intentionally trying to mislead my old readers to get them to follow me (her!) to a new site, capitalizing on my high traffic all those seven years that I was SuburbanSweetheart.com.

To be clear, I don't really care what she does with the domain, but I'm creeped out by the intentional misdirect to snag anyone who might think I moved my whole site to hers. Luckily, anyone who's ever known me can probably guess that I didn't start a new blog on running & Paleo diets. BUT STILL.

All I really want is for Imposter KateB to change her offending wording so that it doesn't sound like she's trying to pretend she's been at that domain the whole time or that her new blog is mine. I left a few comments on her blogs to that effect, but given the general shadiness of the whole thing - & the fact that this was almost certainly an intentional ploy to increase her traffic - I'm trying not to get my hopes too high about the likelihood of her compliance.

In the meantime, I'll just be sitting around fuming... & learning my goddamn lesson about being too cheap/lazy to pay the $10 renewal fee.

But hey. I guess it's better than becoming a porn site?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Phenomenal Me, an Interview with @YettiSays

This week, you can find me at Yetti Says, where I answer questions from one of my newest Internet friends & insta-fave bloggers. I'm honored to be featured in her Phenomenal You series alongside four incredible ladybloggers. Click through for my thoughts on mental illness, self-worth, & five things I learned about myself when I decided to move (back) to Washington, D.C.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where I'm From: A Tribute to the Buckeye State

I'm from big, shady oak trees & enough pollen to kill me,
From perennials that survive to find their way back in bloom every spring despite biting frost.
I'm from blindingly hot summer days & feet that blister on the scorching pavement as we let the car cool off after hours spent on the lake.

I'm from kickball on the cul-de-sac as the sun goes down,
And from autumn colors that rival New England's, but with people a hundred times nicer.
I'm from a foot & a half of lake-effect snow with no end in sight,
From no such thing as a day off school if you can get out of the driveway,
And from digging out your neighbor's car but knowing he'll shovel your sidewalk in return.

I'm from marrying your senior-year sweetheart & sending your kids to the same elementary school you attended, where half the same teachers still teach.
I'm from an aged but familiar face at every hometown dive bar,
And from still - always - identifying yourself by the year you graduated high school.

I'm from small towns whose Native American names you can't pronounce -
From Cuyahoga & Wapakoneta & Tuscarawas & Olentangy,
I'm from the North Coast & summers at Sea World & the best roller coasters you've never seen,
And flyover cities whose validity & worth are forever being underestimated.

I'm from brown & orange, wine & gold, & nemeses in the form of cities I've never seen,
From "Hang On Sloopy" & promising to call it Jacobs Field forever,
From witnessing & jersey-burning & ultimately forgiving,
From "Maybe this year" to "Maybe next year" to "Maybe some day,"
Because I'm from a home that taught us how to hope.

I'm from hard, nasally A's that come out after a few Dortmunders to tell you exactly where I began,
From middle class & white trash & never realizing that rich people think they're the same thing.
I'm from "two hours away" & a hidden cop on every corner,
From tree lawns & "needs done" & pop, not soda,
From the candy, the mascot, & the nut, in that order.

I'm from dollar drafts & homemade casseroles & half-priced appetizers at Applebee's,
From Friday nights spent listening to cover bands on the burning river you learned about in history books.
I'm from round on the sides & high in the middle,
And an enthusiastic "I-O!" shouted in return, no matter where else I may roam.

And I still believe that one of these days, I won't just be from here.
I'll be back here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Life Lessons: Apparently/Maybe/Probably You Can't Take Photos Inside Starbucks

I'm waiting patiently for my Starbucks soy latte - because I am one bougie, basic you-know-what, apparently - when I notice that one of the baristas behind the counter looks ticked. Really ticked.

I follow her glare to the end of the bar, where a middle-aged woman is sitting on a barstool, finishing up a pastry. She's staring intently at her iPhone, holding it up at an angle in front of the big, silver, behemoth of a sink in front of her. I instantly recognize the familiar, focused look in her eyes, the way she's tilting her phone just so: She's trying to capture the perfect Instagram photo. And then, satisfied with what she's just snapped, she begins to pocket her phone.

The barista has a thick accent, & at first I'm not sure exactly what she's said - but the anger in her voice is unmistakable. "None of this!" she says firmly to the customer with the iPhone. "No photos!" The customer looks startled, like maybe the barista is scolding someone else. She looks to either side, but no one is there except me, & I look just as bewildered as she does. Turning back to the stern-faced barista & gesturing to herself despite the cup of tea in her hand, she squeaks, "Me?"

"Yes! You cannot take photos in here!" The barista is really mad now, glaring something fierce. This isn't your standard "Sorry, but..." or "Thanks for understanding..." sort of customer service. This is harsh & unfaltering &, frankly, confusing, because trying to take artsy, amateur smartphone photos has become something of an international pastime. Have you been on Instagram lately? It's positively replete with attempts at capturing creatives images of Starbucks cups.

The budding photographer splutters a little. "I was just taking a photo of the faucet," she explains meekly. "It's just a photo of a drop of water." She pushes her phone forward, & the photo on screen corroborates her story. But for all the anger in this barista's eyes, she might as well have flashed a photo of a thousand slaughtered kittens. 

Another barista, the one who's making my drink, mutters toward her coworker: "It's fine, I'm not even in it. It's fine." I wonder for a moment whether the angry barista is defending this one, somehow, if there's some reason she can't be in photographs - if she's a victim of domestic violence, or... I don't know, some other reason she shouldn't be photographed. But the customer's photo is as she explained: just a drop of water from a big, silver sink. And why all the anger? Can't she at least get an explanation or a little bit of kindness?

As the baristas mutter to one another, the woman with the iPhone turns to me. "I guess I shouldn't try to take artsy Instagram photos," she says, shrugging her shoulders & trying to laugh. I laugh a little, too, & shrug back at her in response, "What a Monday," I murmur. We're both still processing this weird & hostile scene.

But even with her coworker's placation, the angry barista is still angry: "You have to delete the picture," she insists. "Why are you taking it? You can't take photos in here. Delete it & leave!"

The customer, who looks exhausted by this point, turns & walks away. When she's out of earshot, the barista mutters, loud enough for me to hear, "No class. No class at all." She catches me staring at her, mouth wide open, but she doesn't seem apologetic or embarrassed - just as angry as she's been all along.

As I stop to grab a napkin on my way out of the store, I catch up with the customer to tell her what I've just heard & to say that I'd be emailing corporate Starbucks with a complaint. Maybe it's silly of me to inject myself into her scenario, but I want her to leave feeling like she has an ally, even if it's in a complete stranger.

She tells me she's going to send an email to corporate, too, & she seems pretty downtrodden, like maybe the day has just taken the mickey out of her. But then her face lights up a little, & she half-smiles at me: "You know, you can't take pictures in a Starbucks, but you can take a gun into one," she tells me. "How's that for priorities?"


Actually, Starbucks has a strict no-guns policy as of last fall, but I appreciate the sentiment. No guns, no photos, "no class," & never a dull moment, apparently.

At it turns out, this woman wasn't the first Starbucks customer to face the ire of a barista set on shutting down an amateur photography attempt. A rep confirmed for Business Insider last year that personal photography is permitted inside Starbucks stores, but the Internet is still full of similar stories & confusion about the company's in-store photo policy. For me, though, the issue wasn't that this woman was being prohibited from taking photos (although that's absurd). It's that she was being treated so rudely - as though she'd committed an actual crime - without being given even the slightest explanation as to what she had done wrong.

The Golden Rule applies all the time, even - & perhaps especially - in the service industry, going both ways. Drink your coffee & Instagram in peace & just be nice to other people, period. You're on notice, Adams Morgan Starbucks.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

On Cultivating a Personal Style & Trying to Become a Jazzy Old Woman

I've never thought much about fashion. I wouldn't say I have a great sense of style, but I don't feel like I have a terrible one, either. I wear what I like, which is usually a combination of comfortable, neutral, & classic, with a little bit of bohemian thrown in on occasion. I don't much like prints or colors, I don't wear anything structured or that requires ironing, & I haven't worn a skirt since 2009, when my very fashionable roommate admitted that even she felt they were too difficult to coordinate. I frequently  wear leggings as pants, I have a soft spot for anything cozy & oversized, & I love big, loud gold jewelry.

In other words, I'm a girl who knows what she likes, even when what I like isn't necessarily what's cool.

For the first time in my life, I have a walk-in closet, & it was a pretty thrilling moment last fall after I moved in & hung everything up, then stepped back to admire my handiwork. "Look at all my stuff!" I told myself triumphantly. "I have so many clothes!'

But, like, why do I need all those clothes? Why does anyone? As the year wore on, all my clothes on display in front of me every morning, I realized just how few items I actually wear. I'm forever returning to the same 20 or so pieces, dressing in black because I prefer it to just about anything else. I never want to wear my patterned GAP button-ups or my structured business dresses or my bright red corduroy pants. Why do I even own these things? This is someone else's style.

And I'm 30 now. Somehow, turning 30 has provided me with a new-found sense of entitlement - but not in a bad way. At 30, I feel like I'm allowed to own my style, to stop trying to be something I'm not, to wear all-black if I want to, to cultivate a style that works for me instead of one that I see working for everyone else.

So I'm getting rid of everything that doesn't suit me, & I'm only going to wear the things I love.

Since making this decision, I've listed nearly half of my wardrobe on Poshmark (which you can join, by the way, using my promotional code HMUGD to get a $5 credit). While I'd love to be able to just donate it all, money is tight, & I need to bring in extra cash where I can. Whatever doesn't sell there will go to ThredUp or the local Martha's Table thrift store.

The money I make selling my old wardrobe will go into my new one, a more carefully cultivated style that brings in only items I love & that fit my recently pinpointed aesthetic. I want more black, more textures, more drapey cardigans, more bold accessories that make other women say, "I couldn't pull that off."

You know those sort-of-crazy oldish women, the ones who are past middle-aged but not quite elderly yet, either? They're, like, 65 or 70, & they're wearing thick, plastic glasses & big capes & massive pieces of jewelry & crazy scarves & big, billowy pants made out of, like, curtains? Yeah. Them. I look at them - I saw one at the Arby's at the airport today, of all places - & am blown away by their ability to look chic despite the fact that nothing they're wearing is magazine-standard trendy - & despite the fact that they're too old for magazine-standard trendy, anyway. They dress for style, not sex appeal, & they always look comfortable & quirky & damn good.

My goal is to dress like one of those fabulously quirky middle-aged woman - long before I am actually middle-aged. And if I may say so myself, I think I'm off to a damn good start.

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