I Prefer the Term “Vintage,” Thank You

Chickadees, 2014 is officially over, and while there is absolutely nothing lazier than a “Year in Review” post, well, here we are! While I’m seeing loads of less-than-lovely sentiments about 2014 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I have to say that it was a year that challenged me not only to be a better person, but to be a better adult. 

(Which, let’s face it, I’m still only moderately proficient at.)

(Despite seven years of practice.)

(Shut up, I’m trying.)

As a child I assumed that when I reached adulthood, I would have grown-up thoughts.” – David Sedaris
I was nearly a Christmas baby; or, at the very least, a pre-Christmas baby, but thanks to some bad math, I arrived in the early days of 1989; therefore, 2014 was my 25th year, and if I were a car, I would officially be an antique. As it stood, 2014 was the year I began to set myself on the path to happy, healthy adulthood. And part of that was setting myself a bedtime. In college, I was famous for the two-hour cat nap – your Gal could stay up until 4AM, sleep (literally anywhere) until 6AM and then roll out of bed/chair/tuba cubby fresh and ready for class. This miraculous ability to function left me somewhere around the age of 23, but the 1AM-4AM bedtimes didn’t, and so over the years I steadily developed the morning personality of a crotchety old woman. It wasn’t until late in the year that I discovered the combination of six hours of sleep and a sensible breakfast/lunch make me a FAR more pleasant person throughout the day. In 2015? I hope to figure out how to make kale taste as good as huevos rancheros.

Your Gal, any time before 12pm in 2014.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank
You know what doesn’t feel great in the short run? Parting with your money and not receiving some sort of sparkly bauble within 3-5 business days (I’m looking at you, katespade.com). You know what feels great? Receiving adorable photos and pictures from a child you sponsor, or knowing that you have the ability to help give people in need access to much-needed livestock. While I’m trying to find places to volunteer in 2015, this past year was the one in which I started giving back as much as I can afford monetarily, and knowing that money is helping to improve someone’s life is worth far more than a bracelet or a bag.

Sharing is caring, y’all.

“Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo DaVinci
You know what’s great? Looking at your college diploma, being able to make decisions about your future and your career, carrying on an intelligent conversation and being proud of your accomplishments. You know what’s not? Feeling like you’ve become a complete and utter moron since graduating. This year I embarked upon a quest to re-smarten myself through the classic, which I’ve slightly modified to allow myself 50% “fun reading” (including the classics) and 50% “mind expansion reading,” which dictates that for every novel I buy, I’m also required to purchase and peruse something in the realm of science, history, politics or biography. Is it the same thing as grad school? No, but at least I’ll be able to talk about something aside from how my hair won’t hold a decent curl.

Of course, everything is a process. Sometimes I have a milkshake and french fries for dinner. Sometimes I read a trashy romance novel and spill nail polish on the coffee table. I’m still stuck on making pro/con lists rather than listening to my own intuition when it comes to major decisions (2014’s big career move, I’m looking at you). Oh, and rather than sticking to my “only buy what Stitch Fix” sends you rule, I’ve made a few (too many) trips to J. Crew.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on self-improvement, and if you really want to see how it’s done, you’ll refer to Jen Lancaster; in the meantime, I’m prepared to face 2015 a little older, a little wiser, and a little bit of a better me.

(And with my own insurance. Sigh.)

Love,
Your Gal

GGG 2.0: Gal Gift Guide

Bey heard I love white trees.

Full disclosure: I am the absolute worst person in the world to buy gifts for. Not because I’m terribly picky, but because despite having 364 days in a year to think about what I want for Christmas, my response to friends/family every year is “I…have no idea. Maybe a card?”

I’m not sure when or why this happened, since my childhood lists were long and beautifully detailed, packed primarily with a horse, horse-related toys and Dear America books, and preferably in that order. (Spoiler alert: my parents started their shopping with items two and three.) Maybe it stems from the fact that if I truly want something, I’m likely to budget for and buy it for myself before Christmas rolls around; maybe it’s that I don’t need most of the things I want, or that my inability to choose a restaurant applies to all game-time decisions in my life.

Whatever it is, I am not the person you want to receive for Secret Santa. But in the interest of making life easier for anyone shopping for a similarly frustrating young lady, I present the complement to last week’s Guy Gift Guide:

1. ROOKIE YEARBOOK V.3: Tavi Gevinson is the coolest of the cool girls; Rookie’s third yearbook is a reflection of that. With contributions from Lorde, Sia and the Sisters Fanning, your lady doesn’t have to be a teen to enjoy this beautifully curated collection. (Also, her imaginary best friends Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham love it, too.)
2. ALEX & ANI: Alex & Ani is that rare product that every woman loves, even if she insists she hates jewelry. From birthstones to sports teams to gorgeously beaded patterns, Alex & Ani literally has an option for everyone. My personal favorites are the Queen’s Crown and the Phoenix Wrap.
3. RAY-BAN WAYFARERS: If every man looks better in a Clubmaster, every lady is even lovelier in a Wayfarer. Perfect for every face type and the kind of sassy and bold that makes a gal want to wear a red lip, the Wayfarer is the gateway drug to building your lady a fantastic sunglasses collection. Protip? Go for the classic, in tortoise or black.
4. REBECCA MINKOFF MAC MINI: This one is a bit on the pricier end, but if there is a more versatile bag out there, no one tell me about it. Available in any color a gal could want, the Mini Mac is the perfect size for a night out or to store the essentials in an airplane carry-on. Have a little more to spend? Try the Michael Kors Selma bag, which may just be the world’s most perfect satchel.
5. PERFUME: While it may be a no-brainer, every lady has at one point or another received 1.7 – 3.3oz of something that smells like rosy roadkill. Gentlemen, you cannot go wrong with Stella McCartney’s Stella, Hermés Eau des Merveilles or Dior’s J’Adore. (And if you’re really feeling generous, try to hunt down the Naked2 palette.)
6. THE RED TENT: I’m not exaggerating when I say every woman to whom I have lent a copy of this book has stolen it from me. Regardless of your lady’s age, ethnicity or religion, she will laugh and cry and read this novel until it falls apart.

As always, I’m neither fancy nor important enough for affiliate links: all opinions are my own!

Love,
Your Gal

The [Gal] Show

My face this week.

I am a ridiculous person.

Well, let me clarify: I am a person to whom ridiculous things happen. And fairly often. Generally it’s nothing major or life-shattering or even that important, but in nearly twenty-six years of living, I’ve yet to make it a week (in my own memory) without experiencing some small yet noteworthy event.

But occasionally, my week is less “wayward skirt in the wind” and more “I’m living in The Truman Show. Aren’t I?”

This has been one of those.

It all started Monday morning. Monday morning at 3:44am, to be exact. To backtrack, I have always loved living in old buildings. I feel out of place in a modern high-rise, and the few months I lived in one made me feel itchy somehow; consequently, I live in an old building. The sort of old building that sports a fire alarm that will not only rouse you from sleep, but do so with all the volume and urgency of an air-raid siren. The sort that not only invites you to leave your bed, but tosses you to the floor and kicks you out the door without letting you stop for your shoes.

But these things happen. Does anyone enjoy meeting their neighbors at the crack of dawn in 30 degree weather? No, but the fire department arrived quickly, determined it was a false alarm, and we were back to bed within half an hour. I recounted the tale for my coworkers, and laughed it off.

Until it happened again at 4:12am on Tuesday. And let me tell you, if you think a fire department is mildly annoyed by having to turn off an alarm in the middle of the night because someone was brilliantly smoking in the hallway (our working theory at the time), guess how excited they – along with residents – are to discover the culprit is actually a dying old warhorse of a smoke detector?

You can tell me this is an isolated incident; I would agree with you if it weren’t for Wednesday’s paper cup explosion and today’s incidence of a stranger grabbing a fistful of my hair on the train and telling me how good it smelled. Or the fact that what should have been a package of ladies’ athletic socks arrived today in the mail as a pair of toddler overalls (thanks, Big Box Retailer!)

Can you really blame me for being wary of falling can lights?

Love,
Your Gal

Quote of the Century: “I love purses, and that doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist, either. I’m a damn feminist who loves purses. Where else am I supposed to keep my feminist writings? In a purse, that’s where.” – New Girl

GGG: The Guy Gift Guide

Image courtesy of Gawker Media.

Image courtesy of Gawker Media.

Now, let me preface my Guy Gift Guide by stating that I am an absolutely terrible receiver of gifts (oh, hello, you judgmental, dusty, expensive pile of thank-you notes), but that I pride myself on being a good-to-great giver of gifts. While pulling together my own Christmas list tends to inspire cold sweats, I always look forward to devoting hours browsing my city’s beautifully decorated stores around the holidays in search of the gifts my brothers will promptly open, examine and fall asleep on/in/under.

But choosing gifts for my family has always been easy; it’s male friends or – gasp – the occasional suitor where I think every gal has a little bit of trouble. So without further ado, I present the handful of options for your fella that are (hopefully) guaranteed to get a smile.

(As always, none of these are affiliate links – a) I’m not that fancy and b) well, refer to “a.”)

  1. KOMONO WATCHES: Gorgeous, masculine and surprisingly affordable, you absolutely cannot go wrong with a Komono watch. From hipster florals to yacht club stripes with beautifully bezeled faces, there’s a surprisingly affordable option for every gentleman in your life.
  2. HERSCHEL BAGS: Duffels, messenger bags, laptop sleeves – you name it, Herschel has it, and likely in a fun throwback print. As durable as they are fun, Herschel is the very best option for letting a fellow know that it’s high time he start traveling more, and in style to boot.
  3. BAXTER OF CALIFORNIA GROOMING: Ever wonder why your moisturizer runs out so quickly? Even that $89 stuff the very nice lady at Sephora somehow talked you into buying? It’s probably because your dude is sneaking a little bit of it to calm his razor burn. Enter Baxter: from shaving tips and tricks to Dopp kits, this California company should be your gentleman’s go-to for grooming.
  4. RAY-BAN CLUBMASTERS: Every man looks 47% more handsome and mysterious in a pair of Clubmasters. This is a scientific fact.
  5. CRAFT-A-BREW BEERMAKING KITS: From ales to stouts and everything in between, your fella can relive the glorious day man first discovered the magic of hops, barley and water with Craft-a-Brews 1- or 3-gallon options.
  6. SIGNED NOVELS: Every adult should have a small collection of contemporary novels, if only so they’ll never run out of conversation topics at a party. Chuck Palahniuk being a perennial favorite, I’d suggest scouring eBay for authors your guy loves if you can’t make it out to a signing.

Happy holiday shopping!

Love,
Your Gal

Spare Change?

When I was twelve – or possibly thirteen – I somehow found myself working at a summer camp meant for wilderness-loving young men aged 7-17. While it was my younger brother’s first camp experience, pulling up to the dusty mess hall brought back fond memories of the summers I’d spent at Girl Scout camp in my younger days.

(The fact that I considered ages 7-11 my “younger days” as a tween should tell you exactly why my mother essentially kicked me out of the car and drove off when a camp staffer asked if I’d like to help watch the younger kids.)

Of course, I jumped at the chance. I was just building up my babysitting business, and helping watch the 4-6 year old siblings of the older day campers would be great experience. Even if my boss was a terrifying tower of a woman I’ll call Marjorie.

Looking back on it, I’m sure I was actually taller than Marjorie. But with her crunchy black curls and ever-present cigarette, her raspy voice and her direct stare, I felt about two feet tall in her presence.

But I wasn’t in her presence very often. Because Marjorie, in her infinite wisdom, proclaimed me fit to look after a dozen glorified toddlers – on my own – for eight hours a day. Occasionally her son, a stocky 16-year-old with a Sasquatchian thatch of chest hair poking out of his t-shirt, would offer to help, but he was quickly and easily distracted by his friends and fellow counselors.

Luckily, the kids were great. And I had an endless supply of activities with which to amuse them – an old television with a stock of Disney tapes for afternoon naps, “water” counselors to take them out in rowboats and an overenthusiastic young archer who casually asked for my phone number as he strung a bow for a fidgety five-year-old.

But there’s always a bad bulb in the box. Well, if not bad, then one not quite as bright as its fellows. In our group? That was Stevie.

Stevie was by all accounts more puppy than person. He was five, with huge blue eyes and shaggy dark hair, and had a surprisingly broad vocabulary for his age; however, he was also an unintentional biohazard. Prone to stuffing interesting things in either his mouth or down his pants, he frequently and generously offered to share dead frogs or shiny rocks with the other children.

Of course, most of them politely declined. Stevie was perfectly happy to enjoy his treats alone, though he was disappointed when no one asked to share the hairy sandwich he’d found at the back of the mess hall snack fridge.

And because Stevie was such a snacker, I’d assumed he’d mentioned the little camp store to his mother. Full of $0.50 treats, I usually brought my little charges by every afternoon around 3:30, so they’d go home to their parents happily full of sugar. Without fail, all dozen proudly spent their $0.50 each day.

By the fourth day, it occurred to me Stevie’s mother might not know about the store, and so I mentioned it to her.

“Oh, but I’ve been sending it with him every day.”

“Really? He never has money to spend.”

A quick check-in with Stevie determined yes, he had received two shiny quarters every morning, and yes, he had eaten them as an afternoon snack.

I was horrified.

Stevie’s mother was horrified.

Stevie was delighted.

The next day, I started collecting money directly from parents in the morning. Stevie, having made the trip to the local hospital for some industrial strength prune juice, was missing from my group that day. But he reappeared on Monday, sprightly as ever and $2 lighter.

NaNoWriMo is Ruining My Life

Do you watch Broad City?

(FYI, if your answer to the above is “no,” please stop reading immediately and head over to Amazon for 4-ish hours of delight.)

In the second, spectacular episode, main ladies Abbi and Ilana discuss what breed of dog they would be; even before I watched, I had my answer. I would be a pit bull. From their big, dopey smiles to their full-body, I’m-so-eager-to-please wagging, there is nothing about a bully breed I don’t love. And while there are far too many misconceptions about these sweeties floating around, it’s true that they are famously tenacious.

If your pit bull decides she can fit in a shoe box? She is going to fit herself into that shoe box.

I’m a lot like a pit bull in this way. Stubborn. Determined. Thankfully, not a hockey mom.

And it’s ruining my life. Because, for the first time, I’ve tried to dedicate myself to NaNoWriMo. If you’re unfamiliar, those participating attempt to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. And while I’m usually great against a deadline, for some reason, NaNoWriMo is a non-starter for me.

Well.

That’s not exactly true.

I’ve started precisely 15 novels. And have probably written about 75,000 words thus far.

Unfortunately, they don’t all happen to be in the same damned book.

As someone who’s fairly hard on herself, this not doing great things for my psyche. To the point where I’m waking up in the middle of the night to jot down ideas in any one of the six or seven notebooks I’m currently keeping. For me? The best part of waking up is figuring out who is supposed to say what in which book (a.k.a, deciphering my own 3am chicken scratch.) On top of that, I’ve been skipping meals in order to write. Because I am bound and determined to finish one of these projects if it kills me. To bastardize Mark Zuckerberg, it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be done.

Is this healthy behavior? Probably not.

But at least I don’t have writer’s block!

(There’s some of that doggy optimism.)

Love,
Your Gal

The Haters Gonna Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate, Hate

I was as anxious as anyone to see if it would appear on Spotify.

Of course, like every girl between the ages of 13-28, I’m talking about Taylor Swift’s 1989, which is the first album of hers I’ve really connected with. It could be the love letter to New York, the ridiculously astute observation regarding boys, love and torture, or the blatant call-out of a fellow female performer re: catty behavior.

To backtrack a bit, I’m a bit strange when it comes to music consumption; while I rarely buy a physical CD, I am constantly downloading full albums, and am obsessive when it comes to building the best work-day Spotify playlists. I don’t pay for Spotify Premium because I don’t mind listening to ads, but I only listen to the full albums I’ve purchased while I’m sleeping because I hate the tinny quality of my iPhone’s sound.

The one constant with my consumption is that the artists are paid. Having worked in the industry and having maintained friendships with acts of all sizes over the years, I know just how important royalties are; however, I also know that artists tend not to be well-compensated by streaming services. Gone are the days when a popular act was guaranteed a platinum record; now, touring and merchandise are vital to the financial health of an act, with streaming (depending upon the platform and the stream volume) providing only fractions of a penny per stream.

Do I think Taylor Swift is hurting financially? Obviously not. But she’s setting an important precedent for artists who may be.

Because just as man cannot live on bread alone, artists can’t support themselves by relying upon streaming. And so I completely agree with and support Taylor’s decision to remove her back catalog from Spotify. Don’t get me wrong – I still love the service; however, if artists encouraging people to purchase at market value helps to boost a sagging industry, then I’ll gladly purchase my favorite artists’ albums.

Would I prefer from a convenience standpoint to have full access to any song I want, whenever I want? Of course. Would I rather my favorites are no longer able to record because of the missed album royalties that come from streaming? Absolutely not.

#unpopularopinion

Love,

Your Gal

Death of a Skirt

A day in the not-too-distant past, which should neatly outline why, in the back of my mind, I secretly believe I have one great sitcom script in me.

6:30am: Awaken for morning ablutions.

7:16am: Burn forehead with flat iron. Curse appropriately.

7:18am: Burn scalp with flat iron. Curse inappropriately.

7:22am: Run tights on pretty but spiky shoes. Find another pair. Curse again.

7:38am: Late for train! Get in car.

7:46am: Car incident of which we will not speak. Call an Uber.

7:48am: 3x surge???!!! Resign self. (Curse again.)

8:50am: Ride elevator many stories, cursing weather, bad drivers and Henry Ford himself along the way. Realize Uber was over $50. Curse again.

9:00am – 6:00pm: Great meetings. Faith in humanity/good mood restored! Decide to walk home (four miles away.)

6:45pm: Leave work. Is it slightly windy? Procure coffee. Commence Homer Simpson-esque drooling. Mmmmmmm, coffee.

6:49pm: Skirt flies over head.

6:52pm: Skirt flies over head. Gather pleats and hold against legs.

6:59pm: Skirt flies over head. Curse. Call an Uber.

7:00pm: 3x surge? NEVER AGAIN.

7:13pm: Skirt FLIES over head. Download Lyft.

7:14pm: 25% Prime Time? Worth it.

7:18pm: Lyft arrives. Slide into warm, cozy car and realize you are soaking a very nice gentleman’s car seats.

7:35pm: Jump out of car, apologize.

7:36pm: Fumble for keys. Skirt flies over head.

7:40pm: Skirt goes in trash. NEVER AGAIN.

In Which I am (Sort of) Sterling Archer

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I hate the expression “long time no blog.” And yet, I’ve forced myself into using it.

I really have no excuses other than the (fairly) standard: new job, family obligations, acting as a less-Southern, less-mustachioed Dr. Phil figure for friends, cleaning my apartment, etc.

Really, the issue is I’ve been uninspired. While I’ve long though that to be an excuse of the lazy writer, it’s true – at some point over the past month or so, I hit a wall that essentially only allowed me to watch old episodes of Chopped and bang out a few truly terrible pages of a short story.

I’m not being self-deprecating here; monkeys with a typewriter could have produced better writing than I did over the past month. I was to the point where it seemed logical to toss out the whole computer and start over, though since I live on the first floor I don’t know that it would have done much damage. And of course, the computer was never the issue, though I created a fairly persuasive three-page Word doc argument for why it might be (sadly, that was the best thing I wrote all month.)

I’d like to chalk it up to laziness or ineptitude – and you’re welcome to the do the same, as I’ve watched enough Archer over the past 33 days that it may have rubbed off on me. But beneath that, there was a very real fear that I think touches everyone who writes.

Namely, that niggling voice in all our heads that whispers “you can’t write.”

You can’t.

You.

There aren’t many insecurities I’ll cop to; I think most writers are the same way, since there’s an inherent element of narcissism in anyone who writes about their own life. But if you take a closer look, there is always a chink in the armor. Reparable, but persistent, like so many tiny porcelain cracks.

This month has been a good one for the cracks. But it’s time to start writing through them.

Love,
Your Gal

Insert Musical Break Here

Have you ever had one of those days that would be vastly improved by the addition of a 4-6 minute musical break? Of course you have; if there’s one thing that unites us all as a species, it’s a deep and abiding need for our lives to some day, perhaps only for one day, be a musical.

(Of course, if I had Sutton Foster’s dance skills, you’d catch me tapping down the street like a maniac, but that’s beside the point.)

There never seems to be more of a need for a song-and-dance break than September in New England. Poised on the brink of two seasons, never certain whether it’s bathing-suit-hot or #SweaterWeather, we all develop a uniquely Yankee sort of edginess. Woe betide any tourist asking for directions to the USS Constitution or the Aquarium; they’d find a more welcome reception were they standing in the middle of the 405 holding up four lanes of traffic. Of course, New Englanders aren’t particularly known for our warmth, but there’s something about the dividing line between Summer and Autumn that cranks the curmudgeon up to 11.

I’m not proud to say that I’m not immune. While like everyone I try to put my best self into the world every day, I won’t lie and say I haven’t crossed the street to avoid a passel of tourists or used a few choice words when nearly run down by a tour trolley, but at the end of the day that isn’t the person I want to be.

Enter the mental (and, let’s be honest, the occasional actual) musical break.

When I was a teenager, there was nowhere I felt safer, freer or happier than my high school theatre. If you can picture in your mind a prototypical drama geek, you can picture me – I spent half my life on that worn old stage goofing around with my friends and giving our director gray hairs, pausing only for the occasional dramatic Antigone recitation. And while I was flatly useless during dance workshops, there was something joyful in rehearsing every aspect of a musical, and until recently, it was something I’d lost.

Until one night recently I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole. Somehow, half an hour of bunny videos and Conan sketches led me to a playlist of Tony Award performances, and there, right at the top, was the transcendent Patti Lupone singing “Rose’s Turn.”

Is it a joyful number? Not really.

Did it make me remember that time a bunch of eighth graders wandered into our shabby little theatre and found a few of us belting this out like it was the last time we’d ever have a chance to sing?

Absolutely. That joy, that searing feeling in my lungs – it all came flooding back. And there was a sort of peace in thinking about a time when literally nothing mattered as much as my friends and I trying to out-diva one another. Of course, ten years later, I’m much more aware that life isn’t a musical. Not all endings are happy and not all days are full of melodic interludes.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t live like they might be.

Love,
Your Gal