Archives for the month of: April, 2014

barbieI’m convinced the Marshalls at Fullerton/Clybourn has the best fitting room glamour lighting in the city. All things seem possible in this fitting room. During this particular visit,  I find a short black skirt. It’s got sequin stripes down each hip- fun yet subtle.

I usually have trouble finding skirts so when I put this on and don’t immediately hate it, I feel optimistic. And when I think of all the times I wanted a skirt like this and didn’t have one, I know that this skirt needs to go home with me. The 10 fits lower on my hips and hides imperfections. But the 8 fits closer, the way it should probably fit. I choose the 8 telling myself, “maybe when I lose weight, it will be perfect”.

But i’s not just about the skirt. I could have replaced the skirt with myself-  “when I lose weight, I will be perfect”. I believe in this bright future so I buy it.

I also hire a nutritionist weeks later. Because when I really want something done, I need staff. I need nags. I need people who won’t let me escape from my own goals. I accept this flaw and simultaneously my strength to own it and work with it.

It’s only been a week. I’ve lost 10 pounds.

Not really.

I’m not sure that my eating adjustment plan has made a difference. Possibly because I haven’t actually started following it.

It’s Monday. I look at the skirt in the closet.  I always wear my charcoal gray dress pants on Monday. They are the yoga pants of my professional wardrobe. I wonder if maybe the sequined skirt would improve this dreary winter-in-the-middle-of-spring day.

But.

Well.

Maybe when I lose some…

I put on the skirt. I tell myself, “if you’re going to keep waiting, you might as well return it”. Because the only thing worse than not losing weight is wasting money.

In my closet, I find a top I love – a flowy black and white patterned shirt. Black boots. Purple tights. Gold necklace and earrings. A gold ring with a big purple stone.

The world doesn’t explode.

In fact, it feels brighter. I cut the tags off the skirt. I pack a breakfast and lunch actually on my eating plan.

I commit to the skirt. I commit to stop beating myself up. And I commit to the thought that maybe today, I am perfect.

princecharmingMy list is in a vault. And when I say “vault”, I mean it’s in an unassuming post-it sized notebook inside a magnetic container on the side of my refrigerator. I recently thought about moving it somewhere or tearing it out of the notebook so that I can use this notebook for other things like groceries or errands. But something about it feels magical. So it needs to stay. Exactly. Right. There.

The list is THE LIST- the comprehensive must-have qualities for my partner. It seems simple but it’s the product of decades of crushes, relationships, successes and failures. When I hear singles talking about how they can’t find anyone they really like, I ask, “Have you made THE LIST?”

It can be done in 30 seconds. Or much longer. For me, this version has been a work in progress for quite some time. I started with some basics and added/subtracted as I went. With each encounter, I zero in on the items I need to pack in my bag of forever. I don’t share this list. It’s personal. And I fear it will be criticized- “Why would you pack a HAIR DRYER?”

But maybe sharing my words will inspire someone to write their own list, in a notebook or some other secret place of their choice. With that hope, out of hiding, here it is:

  • Nurturing
  • Loves learning
  • Crafted written word
  • Athletic
  • Inspired
  • Great sense of humor
  • Wildly attracted to

My list could have included many more traits, though not less. The items may seem vague but they are each attached to memories from when I encountered these traits and also from when these traits were sorely missed. In fact, it’s much easier to write a list when you think of the things you would be upset NOT to have.

When I was in my twenties, I tried to write this list. I started with things I knew, like, “non-smoker” and “lives in city” but these are just check boxes in an online dating profile. They don’t get to the heart of it. It took me a long time to understand this. Do I want a smoker in the suburbs? No. But the purpose of the list is to build a foundation. The rest will follow.

Dear one person out there who this might help,
Good luck. It works.

USCLight banter at work today brings up a word I’ve never heard before,  “neg.”

A female coworker explains, “It’s when a guy says something kind of mean to a girl, but really subtle.” I’m still puzzled. A male coworker chimes in, “Oh yeah, that worked all the time for me in college. I would ask girls, “Do men actually find you attractive?”

I gasp.

The female coworker supplements with, “Yeah, or he might say something like, ‘Oh, my mom has that same sweater'”.

I get it now. But just to confirm, I consult the urban dictionary to find the following:

Neg
A light insult wrapped in the package of a compliment. Used by pick-up artists to gain and maintain the attention of women who possess uncommon beauty. These women are immune to standard compliments. Example:

Man: “That’s really cute, your nose wiggles when you speak”
Woman: “No it doesn’t”
Man: “Ha ha, there it goes again, sorry, its just really cute”

It’s condescending bullshit AKA asshole speak. There’s an actual term for this?

My male coworker adds, “there’s also the ‘takeaway'”. I ask, “Is that related?” He says, “Well, you offer someone something and as soon as they’re not sure that they want it, you take it away. Then they REALLY want it.”

What’s with all the games? It’s all so complicated. I think back to my dating experiences and wonder if I’ve ever fallen for it. I get that sinking feeling. Maybe we all have. As a social experiment, I want to try it out. But I wonder if it works the other way. Are men as easily duped into questioning their self-confidence? Do they fall for these games?

And then it hits me- yes, they do…

It’s fall of 2009. I am near the end of my dating project. I am at the Pony, a bar near my house. It’s packed and the male to female ratio is always 2:1. A tall man wades through the crowd. He’s wearing a letterman’s jacket. I have been overserved. As he’s approaching, I yell, “HEY, LOOKING FOR A DATE FOR PROM?” He stops dead in his tracks, right in front of my table. I look up at him. His eyes are sparkling bright blue. Chiseled face. Over an athletic build. He takes off his hat and runs a hand through his hair. Then he puts his hand on my head tenderly, “We’ve got the same hair”, he tells me, “Jew- fro!”

We are neg to neg.

He smiles and we talk for a few minutes. We find each other a few times that night but nothing comes of it. His brother, who is less charming, tells me what a big athlete his brother is at USC. THAT explains his jacket and OOPS, THAT’S quite an age difference. He gives me his card so that I can get a hold of his brother. But why can’t he just write down his brother’s number or better yet, ask me for mine? OR, more importantly, why doesn’t jacket guy do this himself?

All very odd. But it all began with my light insult wrapped in a compliment.

So, it works. But what starts with crap ends the same way. Upon meeting someone, I prefer the regular variety of compliments or better yet, just “Hi”.

Unicorn_fantasyI conducted my dating experiment from 2008-2009. I kept an active blog (clearly not this one) as well as notes, essays and photos. In 2011, I left my job to write for a solid 6 months. I wrote a sizable chunk- 150 pages. And despite the first month where I freaked out about not having any income and the last month when I ran out of money, it was an INCREDIBLE spring/summer.

When I started working again, I put my writing on the back burner. I needed to focus on getting back up to speed with corporate life again.

But also, there were other reasons that my book stalled.

Writing a book about dating made me worried that a) I should now be an expert, b) other people expect me to be an expert and c) for credibility and book jacket content, I should already be dating and/or wed to the equivalent of a unicorn.

a) I’m not an expert but I have done A LOT OF FIELD WORK, which at least makes me knowledgeable or at least seasoned.

b) I don’t claim to know everything. I just know more than I did. In fact, I figured out exactly what I was looking for in a relationship. This is a bigger deal than most people realize. Have you made your “must-have” list yet?

c) You know when you have in mind the exact shirt/dress/accessory/etc. you want but despite going to two outlets, a mall and Amazon.com, you can’t find it? Same thing.

But there’s more. When you date 50 guys, you can’t settle anymore. You can’t date someone you know you wouldn’t have gone out with again when time was a factor. Time is still a factor, just in a different way. When I was trying to finish my book and wasn’t dating anyone, I felt insecure that people were judging my book project by my failure to couple. And when I was dating men who may not have measured up, I worried that my book was judging me. I worried that I could only write the book if I were dating the unicorn. I worried that the universe wouldn’t care that I had a list. I worried that I stopped believing in what I had set out to prove.

These things kept me up at night and manifested in more self doubt. In my head I heard, “Who’s going to read this book anyway?” On a good day, I countered with “someone just like me”. On every other day, I pictured boxes of inventory, emails with excuses and general lack of support, or empty rooms when there were supposed to be captivating book readings.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

I had to make a conscious decision to get over it. It’s a work in progress. I’ve also found that I’m not alone. We’re not alone. Whether it’s writers in the same predicament or other people who find they are their own worst obstacle, we’re all heading uphill. Because the top is where you get the best view. If you aren’t striving for anything, what’s the point?

So I write. I criticize, even this very entry, “It’s kind of rambly, don’t you think?” And I keeping moving forward.

hire meI sit across the table from my interviewer. I really want this job. It is five minutes from my house and seems to have a lot of opportunities, though vague:

1. The company has a seriously cool photo studio. Maybe I will learn how to direct a photo shoot.

2. The new role would be to work with Fortune 100 companies on their marketing campaigns. Maybe my work will get national exposure.

3. There are awesomely creative people here. Maybe I will get to brainstorm and have Mad Men moments where I write taglines that launch household names.

But that’s not the job I’m interviewing for.

The title is account executive. It’s the same title I have at my current job, just without a painful commute. I currently die a slow death everyday sitting in traffic on Irving Road for 22 miles each way. In the two and a half years I have been at my job, I never stopped looking for my next one. I never got comfortable. I never ordered business cards. I never decorated my office.

My interviewer asks a question. It is jarring. I don’t know the answer.

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What’s your end goal?”

I haven’t even thought past right now. I just want to stop the bleed. I have goals, but what are they for the sake of this job? My answer involves the words, “creative director”. It’s a truth I have never said out loud, except in my early 20’s when I didn’t know what a creative director did. From the way the interviewer’s shoulders begin to slump, I can tell this is not the right answer. I dance around saying how “I like to wear a lot of hats. I like to be part of a creative team”. The energy continues its downward shift. I leave hopeful that it’s one of those interviews that is actually so great, it only seems terrible.

But beyond this interview, this job, this day, I am now face to face with my truth. My real desire. I do not want to continue shuffling papers and figures and clients. I want to go back to my creative roots. I have been so busy trying to get out, I didn’t even think of what I was moving toward. Why hadn’t I considered this question before? How long have I been lost?

With this question, I now have direction. I continue to accept every interview. I like practicing and also the clarity that comes when I try on new conference rooms, new potential managers and new job descriptions. I decline second interviews when I know the fit isn’t right.

And then a job opportunity comes right before Christmas. I do not want it. But I go. In fact, I have interviewed at this company before. I wanted it then. But now, I am only browsing. I dress up but I wear robin’s egg blue nail polish with flecks of glitter and black. I wait for them to notice and wince. Or ask why my nails are blue. They do neither of these.

Question after question. A manager. Another manager. A potential coworker. A bigger manager. Then the owner. I am sequestered in a conference room for three hours. And by then, I begin seeing things much differently. This company. These people. This exact role. I start to want this job. I realize that we are made for each other.

The owner clears out the room. It’s just the two of us.

He offers me the job. We shake hands. It feels very Mad Men. I think we will write tag lines soon. And we will surely launch big things.

I tour the office. I see where I will be sitting. I sign the papers. I finally leave and walk to my car with tears in my eyes. There is now an expiration for my terrible commute. And my new role is “designer”. Again. It is the same title from the years I loved the most- working at an agency with other creative people. But this time, I’ll have this title with more knowledge and appreciation for what it means.

Today, I can say that I have never felt so competent and confident in a job as I do in this one. I got everything I hoped for- a fun collaborative creative team, room for growth, responsibility and all the perks of a company that really values its employees. And ALSO, they have a meditation room. And free massages. And free Diet Coke.

My desk has three photos and a decorative lamp.