Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Things I have inherited from my parents

Until very recently, I have considered myself to be an unchanging person, a pillar of immutable constancy, not to mention a personality of great redundancy. I’ve known I got this emphasis on being grounded directly from my mom. Her childhood was one of complete upheaval with no option for stability, shifting around to different homes and different towns. This recognition of the ever-changing world coupled with the irresistible desire to control all elements within one’s own realm are hallmarks of my mother’s personality. And I suppose mine too.

In contrast to my mother, or perhaps the perfect complement, is my dad. He’s an adventurer, always ready to keep moving and trying out something new at any juncture, never sitting still. And I’ve always sort of understood and appreciated that daring nature, while still being cautious and rule-oriented like my mom.

Dad really dislikes regulations and eschews authority at every possibility, a perpetual teenager. This has never been my mode, even as an actual teenager. I rarely stayed out past curfew. I never ran with the bad crowd, or talked back to my teachers. I always obediently did exactly what has been expected of me.

But there has been a shift somewhere. The change wasn’t seismic or sudden, but over the past year, as my dissatisfaction with the status quo of my life has grown, so has my tolerance for being sweet-natured and compliant in all situations. Not only do I have this adventurous spirit in common with my father, but I’m taking it to the next level. As a 26-year-old southern woman, I am expected to be polite and smile no matter the injustice or rudeness perpetrated upon me. I find that this new free-spirited attitude has made me much happier, and it’s also allowed me to actually like people a bit more. I don’t have to have people act in any certain way. I only expect that people will give me a baseline of consideration and take into account my side of the situation.

This change has been the single biggest revelation in my nearly 27 years of life, and I’m finally feeling secure in my naivete and innocence. Previously I’d associated it with lack of control, but now I associate it with openness to excitement, which feels quite a bit more natural. If I didn’t have the contrasting personalities of my parents as shining examples, I’d never have been able to see that there is a time and place for loosening and tightening one’s ideas about life as the situation dictates. Currently, all bets are off.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mexican Candle

I bought one of those Mexican candles that are in all the bodegas around any Hispanic neighborhood in New York City. In its clear cylindrical jar, I’ve burned it for the past few months as a bit of a talisman for love and prosperity. There is no portrait of a saint or of the Virgin on the jar, so I assumed I could assign my own ritual to it as long as I have good intentions.

Six days ago, it had burned so far down, that I couldn’t light it anymore unless I had extra long matches or one of those grill lighters that is just a metal stick with a plastic handle. I have neither of those things, so I took to lighting long pieces of folded paper and holding them down into the jar until the wick would light. But even that stopped working, when I suppose the oxygen couldn’t get to the flame to keep it going. Surely this isn’t signaling the end of my prosperous love life.

I decided that the only way to take charge of my luck in love was to smash the jar. So I held it with a towel, and I smashed the top of it against my granite countertop and into my sink. An uneven break, this made a treacherous and craggy sharp-edged circle of glass guarding the candle from any hands that might try to light it. I lit it anyway, sneaking a lighter through one of the slits in the side, narrowly avoiding the knife-edge that could have easily sliced into my finger if I’d flinched even slightly.

With this haphazard and take-charge attitude, I met up with a former love. And craggy would be a generous description of our interaction that day. Emotionally violent, this was a wick forced to burn even when the guard was up. As if I’d cut a gash in my hand trying to light the candle, there was a terrible confrontation, and then the flame was out. For good this time.

This evening, I took out a hammer, and gently and strategically knocked off the sharpest and most dangerous shards from what was left of the jar. Then I tapped the sharp edge off the newly formed lip until the wax itself was just below the glass line. With a regular lighter, and at close range, I lit the wick, and it burned as if it had been given new life with room to breathe and even overflow a bit onto my mantle. Now I have a puddle of red wax flowing off the edge of the mantle that seems to never have been leveled and a candle that’s burning bright.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ernest Hemingway

I am reading The Sun Also Rises for the first time. So far, it's really excellent.

I can't believe I've gone 26 years and my entire education without reading this book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm not obsessive, I'm just passionate.

I can’t get it out of my head. Surfing for me right now is like that crush in middle school who kind of liked you back but was a seventh grade boy so inherently unreliable. Some days, you are super confident and he’s noticing that cute floral dress you bought at Express. And when you were trying it on you had the secret hope that maybe he would say something. But then two weeks later, you wear the same dress, and he barely even looks at you the whole day.

Last Saturday, I went out, and I was killing it, catching waves all over the place in some tiny crappy surf. It wasn’t the most exciting session, but it was fun, and I was feeling great. Then on Sunday, it all turned around. I was just hanging out, not catching anything. I could blame it on the waves or the on-shore winds, or something. And I’m sure those factors are most of the issue, but I’m sometimes still an insecure middle-schooler who wonders what exactly I did wrong and how to get his attention again.

So I have spent most of this week watching surf videos of the best female surfers in the world. And they make it look so easy. Surely I can surf just like one of those women who train every day and have been surfing since they were able to walk. Right? It’s like trying to get the same amount of attention as the girl who got boobs first, and who seems to know how to carry herself while the rest of us were still figuring out how to fasten our training bras without having to put the hooks in the front and then turn it around.

This weekend, I will still go out, and I will put on my cutest bikini, knowing that I do have the chance to get that gawky pre-teen’s attention. But by the time he’s interested, I’ll have moved on to bigger and better waves who will cherish me a bit more. But I’ll still know that I want to impress the hell out of the first one, the one that goes in and out of my affections.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Credit Crisis

Yesterday I went shopping in Soho for the first time in 8 months. Studying designer clothing is both a blessing and a curse of working in the fashion industry. It is a large part of my job to know what is going on with fabrics and trends and construction. So I got to spend a beautiful summer afternoon leisurely perusing the stores as a student of the latest developments, iced coffee in hand. As I was checking out the incredible jacquards and the Japanese heat-set paper appliqu├ęs at Marni, I noticed a pair of platform shoes displayed so prominently and so beautifully in their mirrored white cubby in the wall. I tried these five-inch-high works of art on, and they couldn’t have fit more perfectly nor made my legs look longer. I was towering over no one at 5’4” in these beauties. All of a sudden, the sun shone a little brighter.

As I worked out the math in my head, “Ok, so if I put these on my credit card, I can pay them off in three paychecks… but wait, I need to make sure I can pay rent…” The battle began and got heated up quickly, with the halo-wearing me on my right shoulder loudly proclaiming, “You could buy a brand new and very nice surfboard for the cost of these shoes. Or a plane ticket and an entire trip to Nicaragua for a month.”

But that sultry tiny me in a red sequin dress, sitting atop my left shoulder whispered ever so quietly, “But you wouldn’t be able to do those things for months. If you get these shoes, you’ll probably win the lottery and meet the love of your life all in the same day. Maybe tomorrow if you wear your new shoes.”

Ultimately, angelic me won, as I am of the thought that yelling louder always yields better results. But in truth, I’m still thinking about those shoes, and thinking about how to finance footwear that I can’t afford, and that I probably wouldn’t even wear that often. I just want to own them. Surely they will improve my life and my health and my personality just by possessing them.

This incident isn’t the first of its kind, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Our whole lives and in all aspects of our day-to-day existence, we are bombarded with images of things we should want to need. It is unavoidable, especially living in the city. I suppose that is why the average credit card debt in the US is $15,000 a person. I hope I can avoid being a part of that statistic, even if it means not having designer kicks.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ten Things Every Woman Should Know How To Do:

1. Drive a stick shift.
2. Start a grill.
3. Gracefully thwart the advances of an undesirable male suitor.
4. Hem her own jeans.
5. Roll a cigarette even if she doesn't smoke.
6. Give herself a haircut.
7. Catch a fish and filet it.
8. Play at least one musical instrument.
9. Greetings in at least 4 languages.
10. Drive a motorcycle.

I am missing: #1, #7, and #10. And I'm currently working on #8.

Maybe by the end of the year, I'll have at least one of the 3 taken care of.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Jury Duty

I had the distinct honor of serving on a jury today in Kings County Civil Court. I knew when I was being interviewed for the jury selection that I was going to be picked. My earnestness and inability to lie, along with my obvious sense of justice, were exactly what lawyers are seeking when they start those silly questions. And secretly, I wanted to be picked. Being chosen to be part of a trial seemed like a confirmation of long-held beliefs about myself. I look like the kind of person you can trust to be impartial and serve justice.

I don’t really know what it is about my face or my demeanor that makes people feel like they can tell me all sorts of things. I know so much dirt on so many people, it’s unbelievable. And not just my closest friends. I know about the childhood traumas of relative strangers. Maybe I seem non-judgmental, or maybe people mistake me for a priest. I don’t wear solid black outfits very often, so I am doubting that theory.

In another case of probably giving myself too much credit, I like to think that it speaks volumes about my character that random people want to tell me random things that would make most hesitant or turn them judgmental.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

There but for the grace of God go I

Today in Chile, Joran van der Sloot was picked up for killing another young woman. I never knew Natalee Holloway, but being from Birmingham, I know more than a few people who did. I hope they are able to keep him locked up this time, because he obviously got a bit overconfident about his ability to get away with murder. Not only does the hometown connection pique my interest in these cases, but I’m also a young woman who recently discovered the glory of solo travel.

I am sure I am giving myself far too much credit, but I think I am a good judge of character. I have been lucky that the few people I have trusted while traveling have had no intentions of harming me, and therefore I haven’t been in any actually scary situations. Hearing all of the speculation and the stories from Natalee’s disappearance, all I can think is, “there but for the grace of God go I.” It’s amazing to think how many young women go on vacation (myself included), have a bit too much to drink, get charmed by that local with the nice smile, and then find themselves alone with him. And for the most part, it is fine. Usually it’s just followed up by you awkwardly trying to figure out what angle is your most flattering and if the light is right in your hotel room during the time you can hear him loudly peeing in the next room.

I can’t imagine discouraging all young women to stay home and never try to live it up in a foreign country simply because there are plenty of people who have the home field advantage. And I don’t believe in being overly cautious because if I bothered to be cautious all the time, I’d never have had some of the priceless adventures that I hold as such dear memories. But they could have turned out to be completely different if the people involved had been different. But I have been one of the millions of lucky ones, and statistical anomalies don’t make up for the fact that now two daughters and friends are now dead.

There is no formula for safety or advice that can be given besides the standard advice that should be taken in any public place. These two young women were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and with the wrong person. That is the scariest part. He could have seemed like any regular guy, just looking to hang out and maybe hook up with a girl at the bar, like regular guys all over the world often do. But alas, there but for the grace of God go I.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend

And thus, the New York City summer begins. Memorial Day Weekend this year was incredible, including two trips to the beach, one day of surfing sans booties, one party until 5 in the morning, some new friends, and mostly wonderful old friends. One of my best friends said that from my Facebook picture updates, it looks like all we do is party. This may be true, but it’s not like I’m pulling my camera out at funerals to make sure I balance out the fun on my page.

On that point, though, I can’t decide how much sharing is too much and how much is just keeping your non-local friends up to date with your life. Since I got a new camera just a few days ago, I am snapping pictures like crazy. And I want to share them. Mostly as a self-indulgence, since I’m in a very photogenic phase of life right now and, I have no idea how long that’s going to last. We don’t have photo-sharing parties anymore because hardly anyone will bother to print them out, so Facebook is the only way we can share photos with our friends.

I don’t think that I’m a chronic oversharer. I don’t usually update on tiny minutiae of the day, or on things that only apply to one person. I don’t give away too many personal details that I know of, but I want to share pictures of my travels and weekly and weekend excitements. I want to share a funny story sometimes with my friends who aren't around me on the regular.

Everyone in my generation struggles with this, because we all either have Facebook or avoid it in defiance. But no one is indifferent. Some are too busy to update or check it on the regular, but the world in the age range of 15-40 right now can be classified into two groups: those who have FB and those who don’t.