Brand-Name Swag & The Skeptic in Me

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If you haven't heard of Brand About Town, you're either living under a rock or not a blogger. Because I'm kind, I will give you the benefit of the doubt & assume the latter.

Brand About Town is a marketing company making its rounds in the blogosphere, reaching out to the best, brightest &, um, bloggiest of the bunch & asking them to be brand reps for a few equally bright & shiny big names. The Chosen Ones (the lucky bloggers, that is) are asked to host modern-day versions of Tupperware parties - instead of being asked to buy plastic dishware, they're instead given swag (that's "stuff we all get," the best acronym ever) from the brands they rep.

The two brand names that seem to be kicking off the Brand About Town trend are Nintendo & GAP, & both have hit the DC blogger circuit with full force. I was invited to LiLu's Nintendo Girl Gamers party, where every attendee sipped champagne & chowed catered goodies before receiving a free (bedazzled!) Nintendo DS. - sadly, my trip to Ohio prevented me from attending. As much as I love the Buckeye State, I was not pleased about this one. Tomorrow, I have the pleasure of attending DC Princess' GAP party, where a few of us will review the brand's upcoming line of jeans. She & other GAP reps have all blogged about the pre-party swag they've gotten - lotsa pretty snazzy stuff, & because love the GAP, I'm really looking forward to seeing how this goes down.

Here's the thing: I haven't seen a single brand rep say a single even-remotely-negative thing about her experience as a rep or the product she's repping; same goes for party attendees. And while I wouldn't expect them to after being given a bunch of amazing free shiz, I've got to believe that each of these ladies has at least some gripe, no matter how small, with the products they've been given.

Full disclosure requires me to admit that I enthusiastically applied to become a brand enthusiast. And though I've not been asked to become one, I like to think that if I were, I'd make clear that my blog is not for sale - & that includes payment in swag. If I'm going to review something, I'm going to review it - the good, the bad, & everything in between, no matter how fun the party that gets me to it is. With brands as pre-existingly baller as Nintendo & the GAP, I can't imagine, honestly, that too much negative exists, but that's not the point. The point is that I wonder how much Brand About Town & its corporate partners bank on swaying us big-cities-&-small-wallets blogger gals into being so thankful for gratis goods that we then say only nice things about their products.

Does gratefulness at being the recipient of otherwise-expensive free stuff negate the willingness to be totally honest about a product, especially when that honesty may include less-than-totally-stellar reviews? Marketers, of course, want to see positive reviews of their products. But aren't reviews most effective for everyone involved when they're completely & totally honest? And do glowing, positive-as-punch reviews hold any water when it's clear to their audience (in this case, readers of blogs) that they're written as the result of thanks-for-the-free-stuff gratitude?

Just something to think about. Let's see if I feel so gung-ho about journalistic (bloggeristic?) integrity when I return home tomorrow with a new pair of jeans in tow...
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Tasteless Giveaway Winner!

As you may recall, I recently hosted a giveaway for goodies from I had 34 entries - many thanks to all! Now, I present to you my first on-blog video announcing the lucky winner.

Congrats, winner! (Yeah, you have to watch it to figure out if it's you.) Forgive my extreme awkwardness & the down-the-shirt shot of my boobs. (If you didn't watch it yet, now you'll sure want to.)
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WMATA's Alternative Dictionary

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has inserted a few shiny new buses into their usually-ragged mix. The new buses are bright & sparkly like new buses should be, with blue seats & yellow rails & an aura that doesn't scream "Some kid peed in this seat right before you sat on it."

I'm jazzed about them, I am, especially combined with the snazzy new Next Bus service which (usually) works fairly well at letting me know exactly how behind-schedule I'm running. But one thing really irks me about these otherwise-lovely new vehicles: Why did WMATA need to make up a word for this floor sign?

Riddle me this: Wouldn't "standing" have been just as effective? And even if they wanted to use a noun instead of a gerund (you're welcome for that impromptu grammar lesson), doesn't "standers" seem like the proper path to take?!
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My Mom is a Witch Doctor

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Things that don't exist in cities: poison ivy. Unfortunately for my mother, who is not a city dweller, this rash-inducing weed does exist - nay, thrive - in the good old Midwest. After contracting a wicked-bad case of facial poison ivy a week & a half ago, my innovative mother decided to MacGyver up a DIY rash-reliever. Observe:

That's right. She was just carrying around a few shreds of blackened banana peel, dabbing it onto her face at stoplights & then putting it back into her purse. Is it any wonder I'm a little crazy?!

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Doing & Debating Sex & Dating (Alternate Title: "SWEET GIVEAWAY!!!")

Monday, July 20, 2009

I had a whole dating post brewing, but my opinions on the topic of 20-something dating are apparently so potent that they interfere with my ability to think clearly enough to write about any of them.

The gist is this: In middle school, when I told my mom I was going out with a boy, she asked "Where are you going?" I groaned, "Moooommmm, we're not going anywhere. Geez." I don't know what coupledom looks like in those hallowed halls these days, but in the late '90s, being a middle school couple meant holding hands at lunch & passing notes at your locker. (If you were lucky, it meant a kiss during "Forrest Gump" in his basement. Ahem.) My, how life has changed.

At the ripe old age of almost-25, dating – or at least attempting to date – means a lot of things. It can mean “pseudo-seeing” guys with fast food nicknames or being hit on in the midst of death threats. Compromising your values by kissing by someone who has a significant other or by grabbing Thai food with a Yale grad employed by the McCain campaign. Risking OKCupid or speed-dating or trusting your friends' set-up judgment. Going on a blind date with the polar opposite of a commitmentphobe or being text-assaulted by the exact definition of "holy freaking clingy."

We all have our stories. They involve introductions in bars & at house parties & online. Heeding advice that instructs us to “play the game” by not texting too much, not responding too quickly, not being obtainable or emotional or invested - or by ignoring all these so-called rules & trying our hands at honesty, often at the risk of being branded with the dreaded “too available” label. They involve butterfly-inducing first dates & messy endings & lots of worrying & analyzing & hoping & anticipating in between.

Unlike the majority of folks I went to high school with, I'm in no hurry to get hitched or pop out babies. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still fascinated by the state of dating, especially in the big city, where we’ve got an abundance of winners like the blogging bachelor who hated on me for calling him out on his exceptional skeeviness & the well-intentioned (or voyeuristic) Washington Post setting up complete strangers on Date Lab experiments. DC’s supposed to be this hotbed of bustling single activity – & while that makes for interesting stories, it doesn’t necessarily make for better luck.

I don’t have the answers, but I do have a special dating-related giveaway from Eden Fantasys for one lucky reader!* Rest assured that you relationship-blessed folks can still enter, but suffice it to say that the company really specializes in tools that may be of particular use to those of us on the less-than-frequent side of the getting-some spectrum. The winner will receive this condom kit from Just in Case to keep your little latex lifesavers discreet - & a $25 gift card to purchase your choice of, um, home entertainment from the folks at Eden Fantasys!

  • Enter by midnight this Sunday, July 26th.
  • Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite part of dating is. Or, if you’re feeling bitter, go with your least favorite. Unless I know you already, you must include your email address or some way for me to reach you!
  • For an extra entry, tweet about this giveaway using this link: Leave a comment linking to your tweet or @reply to me at @katycometrue.

My mom says this giveaway is “tasteless,” but I disagree. After all, you don’t have to tell me what you use your gift card for! And hey, while we’re talking about sex & dating – get educated. Support comprehensive sex ed. Be an advocate for sexual health, education & justice. Sex is not something to be ashamed of unless we say it should be. So say otherwise.

Now ENTER MY GIVEAWAY, why don’t you!

*Many thanks to @drewg78 for making this giveaway happen!
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An Elephant Never Forgets. I Am Not an Elephant.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I have a problem.

(What else is new, right?)

The District of Columbia recently instituted a 5-cents-per-plastic-bag law at all grocery stores, which means I can no longer double-bag my groceries to shlep them home unless I want to shell out a dime per load of food. After paying DC prices for groceries to begin with, this is not a fee I'm willing to pay, no matter how small & insignificant it may be.

Listen, I appreciate the law's passage, I really do. I care about our mom (that'd be our collective matriarch, of course - Mother Earth) as much as the next hippie-hating 20-something: I turn the lights off when I leave the room,
I turn off the faucet when I brush my mostly-pearly whites, and I don't flush if it's just a little tinkle. I even grocery shop with own eco-friendly bags - when I remember.

The thing is, I usually just pick stuff up on my way home, & I don't have a spare bag on me. So in recent days, to avoid the 5-cent bag fee, I've taken to shoving my recently purchased items into my purse. I'm known to carry purses big enough to conceal a mountain lion anyway, so there's always extra room.

The problem is my memory. The problem is that when I get home, I throw my purse on the bed, hit up the bathroom, grab a glass of water, settle in with the laptop... & forget all about the food.

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TMI Thursday: Worst Date Ever. Beat This.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

I met Tucker* sometime in elementary school & then not again until college. We had a few friends in common & hit it off pretty quickly, though none of my close friends were among his biggest fans. He is, how you sayyy, brusque, which is actually just a kind synonym for “often douchey.” Somehow, though, his abrasive personality rarely affected me, & I even found/find it endearing. (Insert "Sucker!" here.)

My senior year of college, Tucker & I made plans to go on a date of sorts. I say “of sort
s” because it was relatively unclear whether we were going on an actual date, for whatever reason. I drove because I lived furthest from the Lovedrug show we were headed to.

When I pulled up, Tucker was already bordering on wildly intoxicated. He’d done a few shots prior to my arrival to “calm [his] nerves,” as though the kid gets nervous to begin with. Because I already knew
him, I laughed it off. But when we arrived at the bar, Tucker bought me a drink (let’s assume it was a Miller Lite, because that’s all I really consume) & he bought himself two– a beer & an Irish car bomb. As he slammed the latter & started in on the former, I began to question my decision to participate in the date but soldiered on nonetheless.

Cut to an hour later, when Tucker & I kiss in the bar. And then when he turns away to puke on the bar floor. And then when he tells me he’s already thrown up in the bathroom. And then when he leaves to throw up some more. And then when he returns from the restroom & tries to kiss me again. Um, no, thanks. Also, did I mention that my ex-boyfriend showed up at the concert, too? The best way to feel that you’re above your ex is, I’d imagine, to watch her publicly struggle with a drunken, vomitous date.

Beyond frustrated, I play the role of good babysitter date & load Tucker into my car & head toward Eat ‘n’ Park, every Northeast Ohioan’s (least) favorite 24-hour joint. On the ride there, Tucker refuses to speak in anything other than a very authentic Borat accent, at one point exclaiming that he’s so embarrassed by his behavior that “I’m nevvvver going to talk to you evvvver again.” Trust me, Borat is not endearing post-upchuck. Or ever, really.

Inside the restaurant, I get up from our booth to check out the midnight buffet, trying to identify the best food to feed to a drunken Kazakhstani wannabe. When I return to the table, Tucker is passed out. Cold. Apologizing profusely to our understandably bewildered but bewilderingly understanding waitress, I drag Tucker back to my car & make my way home. As he stumbles out of my vehicle & into his parents’ house, he stops only once – to vomit all over the front porch. My tires squeal so loudly on the way out that I can’t believe I didn’t scare him sober. But actually, considering his level of intoxication, I guess I can.

Did I forget to mention that I’m attending a wedding in Ohio this weekend? I’m pretty jazzed to go as a friend’s date to his brother’s boss’ nuptials on Put-In-Bay Island.

Did I forget to mention that the friend who’s taking me is Tucker?

Bad dates somehow make for good, lasting friendships. Or else I’m just reeeeeally forgiving…

*Bonus points if you can catch the implied reference on his pseudonym.
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Cleveland Park is Dead.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Dearly beloved, we gather here to say our goodbyes...

When I moved into Cleveland Park in October 2007 as a means of escaping the sheer awfulness that is Glenmont, located all the way at the end of the redline, my new neighborhood was comfortingly cheery & full of action. I even blogged about the mini-Vegas I felt I'd situated myself in (ha), crowing about all the nearby amenities. When I got here, the only empty storefront was an old Radio Shack &/or an Old McDonald's - it's still unclear to me which it was, but it was a lone empty building in a sea of otherwise-bustling awesome.

Then, the consignment shop down the road shut down. I'd blogged about it a few times, too, because the weird messages written in its windows always caught my attention. When it went out of business, I felt bad for the owners (store closings make me a little emo), but it was also just sort of like, "Oh, hey, I'll miss the weird shoe-shaped chairs you sometimes displayed on the sidewalk."

And then Magruder's farmers market went out of business. Again, I felt sorry for whoever owned it, but hey, maybe they shouldn't have charged so much for their food, especially when they were located right next to a regular grocery store and an organic grocery store that were amenable to my wallet's shortcomings.

Then tragedy struck. A few weekends ago, my grandma & I were making our way to dinner when I stopped in my tracks to freak out a little.
Cardboard covered the windows:"This Starbucks will be closing on June 19th," the sign on the door read. The date was June 19th - thanks for the warning, Starbucks. Now I can no longer pick up chai lattes on my way to work & smuggle them onto the Metro in my purse. I also mourn the loss of one of only two outdoor seating spots on Cleveland Park's chunk of Connecticut Avenue. This closing? A huge blow.

And today I got coupons in the mail from Supercuts. Whatevs, right? After all the terrible haircuts I've had even at upscale salons, Supercuts is not a joint I frequent. But COME ON. This will make for the fifth empty storefront in Cleveland Park, three of them occurring in as many months.

It's official:
Cleveland Park is dead.
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DC Fashion Week Goes Rogue

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's been awhile since I've presented you with a solid WTF-fashion blog, but I've got a LOT of pictures stockpiled up in this here iPhone, so the time has come. I also want you to know that a Google search for "DC Fashion" yielded the website for DC Fashion Week. Did you know it existed? I sure didn't. Who are we, Paris? Well, hardly. The tagline at the top of the page reads, "Establishing Washington as the Center of International Fashion," & while I'd love to get into the hilarity of this statement, I don't even think its necessary. If you've ever been to DC - or hell, if you've ever met the average poli sci major - you know that, despite Michelle Obama's best(-dressed) efforts, DC has never been & will likely never be a fashion mecca of anything beyond ill-fitting blazers & the occasional seersucker suit.

Cases in point:

  • Hey, Stripes! Muffin top is neither attractive nor comfortable. Save your stomach - & my eyes - the pain of too-tight denim by ignoring the size on the label & buying a pair that, you know, fits. Your digestive system will thank you.

  • There's no quirky name for muffin-topping your upper half, but I promise, the sentiment still stands. The lovely ladies at Nordstrom will be happy to measure you for a bra that doesn't cut off circulation to your ribcage.

  • And speaking of top halves: Men, I cannot understate the usefulness of undershirts.

  • And ladies, I cannot overstate the importance of... sleeves? Straps? Bras? SUPPORT? Not wearing a shirt that resembles half a poorly constructed toga?

  • Despite the previous sentence, I must also stress the importance of NOT wearing a bra as your bathing suit. I know you think you're sneaky, lady, what with that floral pattern & all, but the three-clasp adjustable back strap is a pretty telltale giveaway that you went all Fruit of the Loom on your swimwear. Oh, & so is the fact that it's see-through when wet.

  • Sadly, sometimes even seemingly cute pieces can be fashion don'ts. When purchasing a fluttery top with quirky arm-hole cutouts, for example, please first examine the shirt at all angles on your body. The "armpit hangover" look detracts from even the nicest of pecs.

  • Ah, the old "I've been sitting in bleach all day" look. Always a flattering one, especially in 1992.

  • And for my grand finale, look! I found the Great Pumpkin ordering lunch at Subway!

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Waiter, There's a Fly In My Soup Wine!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

As I mentioned earlier, this week I took a trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina with the fam. It was my first real, week-long, beach vacation since high school. Yes, I realize this is an absurdly long time to go sans vacation, but it made the trip even more enjoyable.

Also, as you know, my family is crazy. Not the overt, "Wow, those people are nutcases!" crazy that you'd notice if you were to pass us on the street or even join us for dinner. But if you listen closely, you'll catch all kinds of crazy coming out of my relatives' mouths. Notably, at dinner on our last night, my uncle spoke the line, "This week was an eye-opening in terms of oatmeal accessorization," which may be my favorite thing anyone has said. Ever. Hey, he's his mother's son - you've all read my Grandmaisms!

This week also marked the first time I've been comfortable consuming alcohol with my relations - & yes, I am nearly 25. If you'll recall, my grandma sent me a holiday card last winter that read, "Have fun - stay sober!" so, acting under the knowledge that my grandmother believes me to be something of an alcoholic, I've since been understandably wary of imbibing with the family. Lucky for all of us, I photographed a few of this week's first-time encounters.

For starters, here's my verklempt mother channeling Stevie Wonder, wearing her sunglasses throughout the meal as we dined - at night! - at a cute Greek place.

But no worries - a carafe of wine between the four of them inspired her to later remove the shades.

And here's our matriarch herself, at lunch at Plums in Beaufort, getting cranked about a small - & winged - problem with her glass of wine:

Wait, wait. Shall we zoom in on that glass?

Yes. That, my friends, is a fly. It didn't even hover or land on the rim first, just straight dive-bombed itself into the glass & promptly drowned. It was the second time it'd happened to my grandma in as many days. Apparently she attracts suicidal insects with a desire to die drunk.

Oh, & my other fave. Tuesday nights are two-for-one entree nights at the Big Bamboo, which was conveniently also serving two-for-one frozen mojitos in mason jars. We ordered six for the five of us, & when they arrived, my uncle quickly implored of the waitress, "You can bring us another two, too."

But we did more than drink, I swear. Sometimes we swam, too! But maybe not here:

This admonishment is just a few feet away from that one:

Yeah, thanks for the reminder, but the first sign was pretty successful in getting this message across, too.

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SPF, My Ass

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My sunburn hurts.

A lot.

That's all, really. It hurts on my scalp, & the splotch on my forehead where I forgot to put sunscreen. It hurts in that spot that's not quite armpit, where my arms meets my body. It hurts at the tops of my thighs where I also apparently neglected to apply my gluey sunscreen (see previous post). It hurts underneath my bra straps & on my earlobes.

Remember when I said I'd made amends with the beach? I might retract said reconciliation unless I can find some aloe to mediate.
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A Brief, Vacation-Induced Hiatus

Monday, July 6, 2009

I forgot to mention that I'll mostly be on a blogging hiatus until next week, as I'm vacationing in South Carolina with my family during this one & neglected (on purpose) to bring my own computer with me. I was gonna make this announcement sooner, but I got distracted over the Fourth of July while having the best weekend I've had all year, so you'll forgive my announcement-making forgetfulness. I was busy reuniting with five of my favorite people in the universe, riding the National Mall carousel, eating plantains at the Folk Life Festival, attending a Washington Nationals game, BBQing on a friend's roofdeck & watching the best fireworks in the country.

I'm now relaxing in a snappy little three-room condo (in my own room, no less!) with my mom, grandma, uncle & aunt (plus two who are staying elsewhere, presumably in order to avoid inevitable family conflicts) & at least one now-dead palmetto bug. So far I've:
  • Rekindled my love of crab cakes & reaffirmed my status as a bad Jew
  • Consumed the tastiest caramel appletini of all time
  • Applied the gluiest sunscreen ever, resulting in sand all over my body that refuses to be entirely washed off
  • Not tanned at all (see above, with the added detail that said gluey sunscreen was SPF 50)
  • Potentially overcome my longstanding fear of sea creatures & opaque waters
  • Made tentative amends with the beach, which I have long claimed to despise
  • Finished off Steve Martin's "Shopgirl" & David Sedaris' "Holidays on Ice"
  • Discovered a wall smudge that contains a telltale bug leg that I'm too grossed out to deal with
  • Shunned my hairdryer in favor of recently discovered, air-dried, sorta-kinda waves
  • Also shunned all makeup - liberating!
  • Twirled around in our muddy backyard in my bathing suit in a splendid summer downpour
  • Prepared my first batch of guacamole (with help via text from friends), which was delicious, thankyouverymuch

In other news, my, umm, cheap fiscally responsible uncle has collected stray golf balls from the driving range behind our place and my grandma gave me eyedrops that made me feel like my eyeballs were floating out of my head.

I'll be back this weekend with a blogging vengeance. 'Til then, you can follow me on Twitter or simply await my triumphant return, which is sure to be accompanied by new grandmaisms & woeful tales of my inevitable sunburn.

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