Sunday, December 30, 2012

Navel-Gazing at Its Finest: A Year-In-Review Blog Round-Up


It feels more than a little bit masturbatory to do a top 10 year-in-review roundup of my own blog, but I've seen some other bloggers do it, & as a reader, I liked them a lot. Thus, I've compiled a rundown for you of some of my favorites from the past year, awarded arbitrary superlatives at my discretion. My all-time most popular posts continue to be the one about the time I met a porn star at my birthday dinner (2008) & the one about my showdown with JDate (2009), but all things considered, 2012 hasn't been a bad year for the blog.

Most Popular
"10 Things That People Who Work From Home Don't Want You To Say To Them" seems to have really resonated with a lot of folks who work from home like me, & hopefully it taught a few things to those of you who don't. Now, any time someone says one of these things to me, I send them the link to this post.

Most Unexpectedly Wise 
Sometimes I surprise myself! In "All Atwitter About Online Happiness," I talked about why I'd been avoiding Twitter & expounded on a revelation: that we just shouldn't follow people who we wouldn't like in real life, or at least that we "stop trying to mold people’s personalities into our own expectations of what makes someone follow-worthy."

Best Biblical Reference
A number of negative theater interactions inspired me to pen "The 10 Commandments of Movie-Going," instructions for polite being a polite attendee of the cinema. It inspired much debate about clapping in movie theaters, as practice I still vehemently oppose.

Most Cathartic
On the seventh anniversary of his funeral, I finally told the story of the days after my ex-boyfriend Dave died, aptly titled "Mercy Medical" after a song by his favorite band, Brandtson.

Best Political Rant
This post, "Stop Being Polite & Start Being Real," began as a Facebook status update, but my real-life friends liked it so much that I decided to share it more broadly by turning it into a quick post here. Love it or hate it, it pretty perfectly describes my sociopolitical attitude.


Most Emotionally Taxing
In "Words for Times When There Are No Words," written in February, I admitted to myself - & my mom admitted to me - that my grandmother was likely to die of the lung cancer she'd been diagnosed with just three months before. She passed away just two months later, & I was honored - but devastated - to give a eulogy for her.

Most Thankful To Those Who Will Never Know My Gratitude
Upon moving to New Jersey, I found myself in NYC a lot, especially as my office is located there, & sometimes I like not working from home. "It Takes a Village (to Get Into the City)," especially when your sense of direction is as shoddy as mine. Luckily, New Yorkers aren't as rude as the stereotypes claim they are!

Most Absurd Analogy
I think I must've been drunk when I brainstormed "An Analogy With Elephants & Stuff My Cat Has in Common With Patty Hearst" because it's truly ridiculous. But also, in my humble opinion, really funny.

Smartest Move
When I got to New Jersey, I had a few embarrassing run-ins with my building's maintenance man. In "The Importance of Befriending the Maintenance Man," I waxed poetic about this vital friendship. This post also inspired the Harvard Crimson to talk some light smack about me.

Most Nerve-Wracking to Press "Publish" On
A decade after I began college, I was still nervous as hell to share "Odd Girl Out: On Being Weird and Sad in College." You never know who's reading, who will be offended, who will return to accuse you of being a loser for writing something like this a full 10 years after it happened.

And there you have it, the 10 I like best, or that you seem to like best. Here's to a 2013 filled with many more stories to tell. I hope you'll stick around!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

GTL, with Serious Emphasis on the G

Maybe I should just change the name of this blog to "Overheard at Starbucks." Today, I was seated next to a muttery old man who spends about as much time there as I do, but mumbling angry sentiments under his breath, much like Joe Pesci's character in "Home Alone" but without PG nonsense words like "riggum frackin" & instead with profanity like "goddamn motherfucking shit fuckers." I spent an hour crossing my legs tightly instead of going to the restroom because I didn't want to have to speak to him to ask him to keep an eye on my stuff.

When he left, three girls (women?) a little younger than me took his place. They kindly watched over my stuff & ensured I was not robbed during my bathroom break; upon my return, I repaid them by eavesdropping on their conversation because that's my jam & because so many people here have Jersey voices that I just can't help myself.

One of the girls was a bodybuilder. I know this because the other two girls (who were sisters & decidedly not bodybuilders, if you catch my meaning, in much the way that I am decidedly not a bodybuilder) asked her approximately two jillion questions about it. Here's what I learned:
  1. Yes, being a bodybuilder is expensive – like, what-is-your-job expensive. Her trainer costs $500 a month, & the entry fee for her latest bodybuilding show is $400, plus the cost of paying for monthly testing to ensure that she's not Lance Armstronging the whole thing. That's already the cost of Nate's & my monthly rent. Ain't nobody got time money for that!

  2. Yes, being a bodybuilder is difficult. For some period of time before competitions, she only consumes liquid. Liquid everything. Protein shakes, smoothies, juices, & all the coffee she wants. Can you turn that spaghetti into liquid? Then OK, she can have it. No? You can't? Then kindly GTFO.

  3. Yes, bodybuilders miss real food. She has a "friend" who is fond of texting her photos of delicious desserts tiramisu, doughnuts, cupcakes! She wants the friend to stop because it makes her feel like crap, but she doesn't feel like she can ask her to without calling her out on being a huge B. (And yes, this part made me feel bad for her because bodybuilders are people, too, & that friend clearly sucks.)

  4. Yes, bodybuilders indulge sometimes. She ate flan as a Christmas treat, which "isn't that unhealthy, just loaded with sugar." So take that, dessert-texting frenemy! (PS: Uhh, flan? Some treat. Gimme some Reese's trees.)

  5. Yes, being a bodybuilder is worth it. If she wins the upcoming competition, she can "get a pro card" to keep competing. Because after all you've learned about it, doesn't bodybuilding sound fun?!? Best prize everrrrr.
Eventually, they changed the topic: "What did you get for Christmas?" one of the sisters asked the bodybuilder.

"UGGs," she answered, "and a new tanning membership."

Oh, New Jersey. You just make it so easy.


Pssst! Have you liked Suburban Sweetheart yet on Facebook?

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Jersey Voices" & A Potential Brush With Fame in a Suburban Starbucks

I am, by nature, an eavesdropper &, OK, a little bit of a gossip. I like to be in the know. When I was growing up, we had a neighbor who somehow seemed to know all the local dirt on the folks in our development; I secretly aspired to someday be such a person. While this quality (& my accompanying inability to keep secrets) has, at times, gotten me into trouble, it also lent itself well to my desire to be a journalist – someone who uncovers dirt & tells stories people about it for a living.

Alas, I did not grow up to be the journalist that my young "Newsies"-worshiping self once aspired to be, so this "skill" lies professionally dormant. It does, however, come in handy for overhearing interesting things in coffee shops.

Today, for example, I sort of wanted to throttle the three women sitting near me while I worked at Starbucks. They were very, very loud. Not on purpose necessarily, but they just were, you know? Those people whose voices that carry – Jersey voices, as I've come to think of them. You didn't have to be an expert eavesdropper to hear every word of their conversation, which was replete with, among other things, lots of raunchy references to getting it on with basically every man they've ever met. Pro tip, ladies: If you're gonna talk sex in public, bring it down a notch.

I digress. One of the women was particularly obnoxious, very tiny & pretty & louder than the other two, occasionally bursting into overdramatic song along the Starbucks soundtrack. In every other sentence she mentioned "the show," which lead me to believe she was a performer of some sort. Then, after admiring a particularly cute child, I heard her say, "You should see the adorable kids that come to the show, all dressed up for Mary Poppins on Broadway."

And just like that – activate celebrity sensors.

A hint! A clue! My Google skills went into overdrive! A member of the cast, surely. Right? Shortly afterward, I heard her say something about how her last name should be difficult to determine on Facebook & how she went on a date with a guy who, much to her dismay, discovered her real name & her work website. Despite her dating woes, my ears perked up, because... website? Obviously she was an (aspriring?) actress. So I Googled the cast, including understudies & ensemble... but I found no familiar faces. I conferred with my best Broadway experts, friends who obsess over the Great White Way. And then, between their sex chats, I heard one of the other girls refer to "Kelly's Dating Rules," so I Googled all things related to "Mary Poppins Broadway Kelly/Kelley/Kelli/Kellie." And when I couldn't find anything that seemed to match, I looked up the Playbook. And when I still couldn't find anything that seemed to match, I kept looking. Because I'm the kind of person who will spend three hours Googling something just so that I can return to you with breaking news. Which is, yeah, a little Asperger'sy, if you want to get clinical about it. 

This went on for hours, until I, the dejected former journalist, finally ran out of things to Google. It was only then that I heard it, my final clue: "At the show, we used to have to bring our own black, button-up shirts, & then they started providing us with them. Everyone at all of the theaters has to wear them now..."

It took three hours for me to determine that I was sitting next to a theater usher.

Damn you, NYC suburbs.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'll Make for a Great Old Lady Some Day

Some delicious panini I'll never consume
I go to Whole Foods for lunch a few times a week, often buying weird, healthy shit like seitan skewers because, you know... seitan skewers. Where else can you get those? I don't even know if I like those, but I get 'em.

I'm disappointed to report that in the three months I've been getting lunch there, I've discovered an issue. It's not a big issue, OK? I know it's not a big issue, so let's preface it with that & get it out of the way before you #firstworldproblems me (which I hate). This is a dumb issue, but this is often a blog about dumb things, so it's within the purview of my usual content to discuss this pressing lunch problem.

Behind the Whole Foods deli counter is a massive chalkboard. Each month, some talented staffer with lovely handwriting & a 52-count pack of Crayola chalk decorates this massive chalkboard with a beautiful advertisement for the supposed "Panini of the Month," always some delicious-sounding sandwich that I imagine to be oozing with fancy, gooey cheese. November's sandwich, for example, was grilled cheese on cranberry bread with taleggio & hot pepper jelly. December's is robiola with maple ham on focaccia. I cannot remember what October's was because it was so long ago & because it was never available. Wait, did you read that? Not available. And you'll notice that I say I "imagine" the ooey-gooeyness of these sandwiches... because that's the issue. In the three months that I've been attempting to order the respective paninis of the month, I have only been successful once. Why? Because the Panini of the Month is a freaking unicorn, that's why.

The one time I ordered the Panini of the Month with success was mid-November, & let me tell you, that sandwich was amazing. Weird, because there was fruit in the bread, but amazing nonetheless. Had I known it was my only time to eat it, I would've eaten it much more slowly, live-tweeted every bite. After that day, Whole Foods never had it again, which I know because I went in every day for a full week, & eventually the woman behind the counter recognized me & told me they weren't getting that bread anymore & didn't have the hot pepper jelly. (Nothing sad about being recognized at the deli counter, OKshutup.)

Today, I tried again with the December sandwich:

"Can I have the Panini of the Month, please?"
"Which is...?"
"Um, the one advertised on the massive sign behind you."
[Looking at sign] "Oh..." [To coworker] "Do we even have that?"

The coworker informed me that Whole Foods no longer receives shipments of robiola cheese, & thus no longer makes this sandwich. OF THE MONTH. Of this month! This sounds suspiciously like the cranberry bread & pepper jelly situation, no? Like some goddamn Panini of the Month conspiracy.

Something had to be done! I made my complaint official – no, not just by tweeting it but by taking it to the customer service desk, which I approached with a smile & where I prefaced my words with, "This is the dumbest complaint in the world, & I'm not actually mad about it, but..." The very friendly sales clerk, unnecessarily apologetic & seemingly as appalled as I was by the monthly lack of Paninis of the Month, immediately radioed for the deli counter in an attempt to right this wrong. I left feeling confident that the situation would be remedied, though I also feel confident I'll never learn what robiola tastes like.

On my way out, I bought lunch. No panini, of course, but a scoop & a half of antipasti, a KIND bar, & a BluePrint juice. When the cashier rung it up, it cost $20... and I realized I shouldn't be going to Whole Foods for lunch anyway, damn it.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

I've Got a City Love: A Tribute to the Strangers of Washington, D.C.

I spent last Saturday evening (also known as the first night of Hanukkah) at my friends Debra & Jonah's apartment in D.C. for a little latke-eating soiree. We ate other things, too, but mostly we ate latkes. A lot of them.

On the way there, my friend Allison lamented the number of strangers who'd recently made "Hello, beautiful" remarks to her. Not five minutes after that conversation, a man outside a Chinatown liquor store looked us over in that piece-of-meat way & exclaimed, "Ooh-la-la! Hellooooo, sexy ladies!" Dear men of the world: Has that ever worked on anyone, ever? Has any girl ever been like, "You know what? Yeah! Actually I'd love to go on a date with you, gross cat-calling rando!" Still, I gave him credit for the French twist & for proving our conversation true & relevant.

I left the party around 11:30pm, hopping on the Metro from Chinatown to Dupont Circle all by my lonesome. As I got off, a seemingly intoxicated man approached me, one arm outstretched. In his hand, he held a small, white flower, obviously picked from some poor person's garden or some company's immaculately manicured lawn box. He held it out to me, & I accepted. "Do you know what this is?" he asked me. "This is a pansy. And I'm homeless, so I wouldn't mind it if you gave me a dollar or something so you can keep this pansy." I was already holding the pansy, of course, so I was, how you say, a little bit boxed in. Still, I gave him six quarters, because quarters are heavy & pansies are pretty, & I went on my merry way, flower in hand.

I tried to drive my car from my office to the place where I was staying, but there was nowhere to park. I circled the block for nearly 30 minutes &, exasperated, finally gave up & returned my car to my office's parking lot. It was already 12:30, & I was too exasperated (read: tired, lazy, etc.) to walk home, so I hailed a cab. The driver, a friendly man with a slight Middle Eastern accent, asked me about my job &, upon learning that I work in social media, about my educational background. "Kent State!" he exclaimed. "Even where I'm from, we know of Kent State." He told me that his daughter, a senior in high school, plans to major in journalism in college. "Do you think there will be any jobs for her?" he asked me, mining my journalism-grad mind for insight. I assured him that nearly all of my college friends are actual journalists & that even the ones who aren't see their degrees as being a solid foundation for other work. I tipped him extra, & he told me to have "a blessed holiday."

When I returned to my friend Sean's apartment, I let out his dog, Max. As I stood outside waiting for him to do his thing, a couple walked by with their small pink poodle, Shibby. "Why aren't you out tonight?!" one of the men asked me. "It's prime partyin' time, girl!" I told them I was all partied out, & they laughed - their partying hadn't yet begun. "Any good bars in the area?" they asked me, & I confirmed that the one they had in mind didn't suck before Max & I excused ourselves to head to bed.

As I drifted off that evening, Max at my side & latkes in my belly, I realized: This is what I miss about the city. All these people. These strangers with their stories & small talk & quick conversations. I miss talking to people I don't know, sharing little bits of our days & our lives, never to make contact again but for those few short moments, when we gather someone else's story, & those interactions become stories in themselves.

I'm a suburban girl who appreciates suburban comforts. Hell, I've even started to like not hate New Jersey. But the city has its appeal, its certain allure, those things you just can't find anywhere else. And in D.C., in particular, the city feels smaller, like a friendly little town where it's OK to talk to people you don't know & accidentally buy a pansy from a grubby guy on the circle & talk about the club scene with two middle-aged gay men & their Manic Panic-dyed dog at almost 1am. Those are things that don't happen in the small suburbs, but they maybe also don't happen in cities that are bigger, more bustling.

Yes, I'm a suburban girl who appreciates suburban comforts. But no matter where I may roam, that city & those people will always feel like one of my many beloved homes.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Six Signs Your Hometown Is Getting Sketchy

You know what? I only need one sign, & it came today in the form of this email from my local online news source. EEP!


Yet another thing to get paranoid about, am I right?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Making Spirits Bright

Working from home is weird. Like, don't get me wrong, it's also great – but it's weird, too. It's weird in that without an office to be at every day, I have to force myself to get up at a normal, adult time in the morning. I have to force myself to wear pants. I have to make up reasons to leave the house. And if I don't do that last one, I sometimes go days without seeing anyone who's not Nathan or coming at me all pixelated through a computer screen.

It goes without saying, then, that I am what you might call "isolated" – & without other people to keep me entertained, I have to think up ways to entertain myself, to keep myself from falling into loneliness ruts, to encourage myself to wear pants. I have to think of ways to keep my spirits high, to bring a little enthusiasm & energy to everyday life. They include:
  • Playing dress-up: I clean up kinda nice, but without an office dress code (in which "office" is "my apartment"), I don't necessarily need to clean up at all. Still, the days when I make the effort to shower & put on makeup & wear clothes I like & accessorize & just generally look nice are the days I feel best about myself & about my work, like I'm a real person & not some lazy asshole spending her days in sweatpants on Twitter. (I work in social media, by the way. I don't just fritter around online all day for fun. Usually.) 
  • Talking to strangers: Apparently this isn't a thing folks do in New Jersey. People always look at me like I've sprouted a third eye when I try to chat them up at places like the grocery store & in coffeeshops. I never want to have, like, in-depth conversations with them – stranger danger, y'all! – but I do like to try to make conversation with randoms, just to make those temporary connections & try to brighten people's days & let them brighten mine. Even stoic, brusque Jerseyans have been known to crack when subjected to my friendly Midwestern demeanor. The Ohio force is strong in this one.
  • Indulging in things YOU probably can't do: Can you take a power nap on your lunch hour (in your own bed, no less)? Can you have a quick one-woman dance party to de-stress when the workday gets tough? Can you light candles & incense in your cubicle for aromatherapy? Can you watch Netflix while you work? Can you, for that matter, wear leggings as pants to your office? I try to be grateful for the little luxuries that my work-at-home life affords me, rather than focusing on the less-than-stellar parts of it. Which brings me to my next point...
  • Appreciating what I've got: Each day, Nathan & I tell one another the five best things about our day. We started doing it a year or so ago, when he was underway in the middle of the sea & the only way we could keep in touch was by email, & we've carried it over into "real life" because it's a pretty good way to keep myself grounded & appreciative.
  • Planning the next big thing: Knowing what comes next not only keeps me sane – it keeps me entertained. I find that I'm always looking forward to some upcoming event, be it a vacation, a holiday, a day off, or a visit from a friend. When I don't have something to plan for, I find myself bored & a little bit lost. Plus, who doesn't like having something awesome to prepare for? PARTYYY.
Whether you work from home or not, tell me: What are your little tips & tricks for loving life just a little bit more?
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