6 Ways Apartment Hunting Is Like Dating

I’m on my third month of living in a new apartment on New York City’s Upper East Side. No, it isn’t the Gossip Girl Upper East Side (I would have tracked down a Nate Archibald look-alike if that were the case), but it still makes me have all these disgustingly sappy “I love New York” feelings. I’m going to refrain from sharing any examples because I prefer to keep my dignity intact. Actually, you can have this one: on my last nighttime flight into LaGuardia, I purposely played “Empire State of Mind” as we flew over the city’s twinkling skyline. I’m that girl now.

I found my new place via Craigslist. While conducting my search, I realized apartment hunting in NYC is pretty comparable to dating in that they can both be insanely exciting but also soul-crushing enough to turn you into a nihilist. Here are a few of the most striking similarities:

  1. Your best behavior fades away into depravity. You show up to a viewing and are imbued with a sense of promise. “I would always hang up my clothes the second I took them off, if I lived here! There’s a gym nearby! I can become super fit!” A few months later, you’ll find yourself committed to the same underwhelming habits you had before moving in. Much like being on your best behavior when you want to impress someone, that shiny facade will eventually crack and show your true colors. Wherever you go, there you are. Don’t fight it.
  2. There’s always a better offer right after you become exclusive. The day after I agreed to live in my current place, a woman responded to one of the many Craigslist feelers I had thrown out. Her place was also on the UES for around the same price, but the bedroom was huge, the roommates seemed very into women’s issues, and they had a cat (all the cuddles, none of the responsibility). I’m happy with where I live now, but I’ll always wonder what could have been. Whether in living situations or love, everyone has the one that got away.
  3. You’re optimistic in the beginning. “Looking on the bright side” is a euphemism for “being in intense denial.” I currently live in a 6th floor walkup. I am going to have the best ass ever, I thought when trying to convince myself that beyond not being a big deal, all those stairs could even be a good thing. Actually, that 6th floor walkup just means I really have to push myself to venture outside for tacos. They obviously offset any positive ass benefits I would reap from the physical act of going to get them. This is like when you ignore that a guy looks and acts like he’s the missing link, all because he’s your best option at the time.
  4. Your emotions are all over the place. I would get so excited to wake up every morning and peruse Craigslist, thinking maybe my perfect find would be posted that day. Then I’d send out a new batch of emails, hopefully wait to hear something, refresh my email like mad, finally get pouty, receive a rush of replies and get excited…rinse, wash, repeat. From what I’ve heard, this sounds suspiciously like online dating.
  5. You love the hard-to-get ones the most. I still remember one ad I read that convinced me I had found not only roommates, but my best friends for life. “We would be PERFECT together!” I remember mentally shrieking, jabbing away at my keyboard and composing a blasé response. I tried to tamp down my enthusiasm but it must have oozed through the screen somehow, because I never heard back. It’s like meeting an unattainable guy you can immediately see yourself dying holding hands with when you’re 90. He knows what you’re thinking. You scared him.
  6.  The wait is agonizing. Whether it’s after a first date or an apartment showing where you thought you really clicked, you will start glaring at your suddenly silent phone while waiting to hear from the object of your affection. It will taunt you. You might even text your best friend, “hey, did you get this?” “Ya, why?” she’ll respond. Now you can’t even delude yourself into thinking you have a defective phone. More silence. Then, PING! You snatch it up and realize, complete with a dejected sigh and slump of the shoulders, it’s your mom. Been there (love you, mom, but sometimes the timing was just off), so I can say with authority that they either will get back to you or they won’t. Piercing your phone with a serial killer gaze won’t change that, so put it away and stop freaking out. Before that, though, text your mom back, apologize for being a brat, and tell her how much you love her.

8 Things I Said While Watching the World Cup

I’ve never been much of a sports fan. What I do love, however, is ardent displays of national pride, attractive men, and the kind of athleticism that makes me want to spend the rest of my life in a gym. So, naturally, I got pretty into the World Cup. It doesn’t hurt that B’s obsession means I ended up grudgingly watching a ton of games, only to get scarily passionate about them halfway through. Since I’m newly into soccer, I made a few observations that probably wouldn’t have occurred to a more seasoned fan. Here are my most astute reflections:

  1. “Ugh, it’s so hot out there. Why are they playing?” In my defense, I get so incredibly cranky when it’s hot outside that I can’t imagine actually playing a sport in that weather. If I see people running in the middle of summer, I put myself in their shoes, immediately experience vicarious heatstroke and become enraged.
  2. “Aw, imagine how proud their parents are!” Thinking about this always warms my insides. It’s like those Olympics commercials that feature moms cheering on their kids who go on to become sports stars. I’m tempted to watch a few on YouTube, but I don’t feel like crying right now.
  3. “That one looks like the ultimate frat bro.” This was about the German goalie, Manuel Neuer.
    German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, image courtesy of GQ Germany.

    Image courtesy of GQ Germany.

    Tell me I’m wrong and I’ll tell you you’re a liar.
  4. “Have any of the coaches gotten into fistfights? No? That would be fun.” What? It would.
  5. “Ooooh, I like his hair!” Said whenever I spotted a man bun. That glorious hairstyle instantly made me want to root for whichever team it belonged to.
  6. “His mismatched cleats are stunning. Don’t you think? Why don’t normal people do that?” The ones I swooned over most were cobalt blue and a perfect, brilliant coral. B didn’t even realize some of them wear different shoes until the semifinals. Mars, Venus, etc.
  7. “No, no, change the channel! I hate when they get so sad.” Seeing grown men cry because their dreams have been shattered breaks my heart.
  8. “They should all play shirtless.” I will forever stand by this statement. 

On Making Adult Friends: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story

You stare at yourself in the bar’s bathroom mirror. You’re feeling just tipsy enough to size up your reflection and confidently think, “I’d do me.” Someone emerges from a stall and parks herself at the sink next to yours, absorbed in the precise process of making sure her high ponytail is bump-free. You steal some glances at her face, thinking she looks familiar. Suddenly, you realize: she’s your office crush! She works in a different department, but you see her around just enough to have an inkling that you two may be soul sisters. You’ve regularly seen her annihilating a cheeseburger in the cafeteria, and once, when she was on her phone in the elevator, you saw her like this Instagram post:

WhiteChicksInstagram

Now, of all the bathrooms in all the bars in all the world, she walked into yours. This is fate, your brain whispers urgently.

1. You and Office Crush lock eyes in the mirror.

  • If you turn to face her and say, “Sorry to stare, you just look so familiar—do you work at                    ? We must work in the same building,” go to 2.
  • If you blurt out “OMG, you work in the same office as me! You’re on the 8th floor, right? I loved that skirt you wore yesterday!!!” go to 4.
  • If you avert your eyes and pretend you weren’t looking, move to 5.
  • If you decide to go somewhere in the middle and compliment her lipstick, head over to 9.

2. She looks at you quizzically, then the recognition dawns on her face. “Oh, yeah!” she says. “I’ve definitely seen you around. How funny!” You chat in the bathroom for a bit while the line snakes into the hallway. It’s getting too crowded, so you both head to the door.

  • If you say, “Well, it was nice to actually meet you!” and return to your friends, go to 6.
  • If you walk to the bar with her, go to 7.

3. You guys never talk again. It’s one of those magical nights lost to the city.

4. She stares at you like you said you wanted to skin her. You avoid her the rest of the night, and now you take the stairs so you don’t run into her at work. But it’s fine, because when you finally feel enough time has passed to brave the elevator, you look like you got a Brazilian butt lift. Her loss is your gain.

5. She pipes up with a “Do I know you? I feel like I know you.” You:

  • Are so excited she made the first move and say, “I’m not sure—you look familiar, too. Any chance you work at                       ?” Go to 7.
  • Are so shocked she actually said something you, for no good reason, say, “I don’t think so? I get that a lot. I just have one of those faces!” Go to 11.

6. You make small talk when you see each other around, always promising that you’ll meet up one of these days. It never works due to your packed schedules, and the more time passes, the weirder you feel about making this happen based on a five-minute conversation. She will always be The One Who Got Away.

7. You spend the night getting to know each other and laughing so much you can barely catch your breath. Your group is ready to head out, so Office Crush asks if you want to continue the night with her and her friends.

  • If you say, “Absolutely! Let me close out my tab,” go to 10.
  • If you say, “Ugh, I wish I could. I have 7:30 a.m. SoulCycle tomorrow,” go to 8. Also, acknowledge that you have a death wish.
  • If you say, “Sure! Let’s grab one more drink first?” head to 13.

8. You exchange numbers and realize you’re both free on Thursday night, so you promise to get happy hour drinks. The next morning, you waffle about if/when you should text her to see if you’re still on.

  • If you send her a quick “Let me know if tomorrow still works for you!” message on Wednesday, move to 12.
  • If you say nothing, head back to step 3.

9. She grins and says, “Aw, thank you!” Then she adds, “This sort of screws it up, though,” as she pulls a flask of whiskey out of her purse. She takes a big swig and offers you some.

  • If you shrug and go for it, go to 13.
  • If you laugh and say no thanks, go to 6.

10. You stay out until 3 a.m., so Office Crush says you can crash at her place. You agree because you want nothing more than to close your eyes so you can get to the whole hungover brunch portion of this escapade. The next morning, during said brunch, you realize the magic is gone. You’ve just experienced the friend version of beer goggles. You’ll smile at each other in the hallway, but never make a real effort to hang out again.

11. You mentally kick yourself and hope she doesn’t recognize you around the office.

12. Your phone’s buzzing. You pounce on it and realize it’s just the guy you went on a date with last week. He hates his mother, doesn’t have a job, and can’t differentiate between “your” and “you’re.” So of course, because this is how the world works, he is basically ready to propose to you. You lower the phone, disappointed, when it vibrates again. You see Office Crush has responded with, “Who is this?” You say:

  • “We met on Saturday night! Said we’d do happy hour at Verlaine tomorrow ($5 lychee martinis, yes please)” Move to 15.
  • Nothing because you’re mortified. Move to 11.

13. That put you over the edge. As you two walk to the next bar, you stumble upon a garbage bag that, strangely enough, has cantaloupes spilling out of it.

  • If you turn to each other, struck with the same drunken brilliant thought, go to 14.
  • If you crack up and sidestep the melons, go to 10.

14. You both start picking up cantaloupes and smashing them in the street. You have never felt more alive. Then a cop rounds the corner and yells, “’Ey! Whaddayou girls think you’re doin’?!” Thinking fast, you put on a fake British accent (good thing you just caught a showing of Parent Trap on TBS, or you’d be SOL) and launch into a cheery speech. You patiently explain that hurling cantaloupes against the ground is good luck in your tiny little town across the pond! Office Crush follows along flawlessly. She is the Thelma to your Louise. The cop shakes his head, muttering about crazy foreigners, and decides not to arrest you for being a public nuisance. You and Office Crush are bonded for life.

15. You get a lightning-fast reply: “Oh, I was hoping you’d text me! Smashed my phone, lost all my numbers. Yes, tomorrow’s perfect.” You guys have the best time. Soul sister status: confirmed. You two will become those old lady BFFs who terrorize everyone in the nursing home and then die holding hands. The Notebook’s got nothing on you.

On Dressing for the Weather

Lately, I’ve been making myself act like an actual adult. I’m going to bed on time, waking up early enough to not rush to the office, and generally not behaving like my age has just entered the double digits. I’m quite proud, but there’s one harsh reminder that I’m not adulting perfectly just yet: dressing for the weather.

Every year, I stare at my wardrobe in bewilderment as it gets warmer. Without fail, I’m taken by surprise that I’m supposed to cobble an outfit together after being evilly polar vortexed for months. This is yet another reason I’d like to start a petition for my own personal fairy godmother: she’d figure out my daily outfits without me having to lift a finger. Since that’s probably not in the cards, I took a look at the five-day Weather.com forecast so I can plan my outfits a bit better. As you can see below, it looks pretty simple. That’s obviously a trick. Here’s what upcoming forecast is vs. how I will actually experience the weather:

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 11.29.32 PMFriday: I, so elated by the warm weather that has finally graced us with its presence, will dress for the high of 73°. I pair a crop top with a high-waisted A-line skirt because our fashion editors love to do things like that. Too bad it’s actually going to be the low of 58°, with a sky so devoid of sunlight it would look perfect in some Young Adult dystopian novel-turned-movie. Sucks for me.

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 11.29.38 PMSaturday: Friday’s weather disaster isn’t going to get me down! It’s the weekend, which means I’ve got the perfect opportunity to live everyone’s my personal dream: lolling about in the park all day while eating various types of waffles. I decide on the floral watercolor print sundress I’ve longingly passed over for months while reaching for my puffer. I’m only slightly chilly when there’s a breeze, but I spend most of the day happily munching on various food truck offerings. I got lucky this time.

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 11.29.44 PMSunday:  This should technically be perfect weather for exploring the city. Right? 72° and sunny? Unfortunately for me, those extra two degrees and blinding sunshine will be their own special kind of hell. I know I should be at the perfect temperature, so I wear denim cutoffs and a tank. I’m ready for summer! But summer doesn’t want me. I’ll get a vicious rash from the sweat/denim combo, and I’ll sweat entirely too much. Oh, and I’m not one of those glamazons who only “glistens” when overheated, either.

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 11.29.53 PMMonday: I rationalize that 1. the weather’s been pretty nice for the past few days, and 2. the universe should technically throw me a solid because it’s Monday, so I don’t check the forecast before I head to work. It will pour all day. My billowy top (it’s white, obviously) will broadcast the color of my underthings to the entire office. I will be bitter because I could have spent all that blow dry time hitting snooze from the comfort of my bed, aka the only safe place for me in this world.

Screen shot 2014-05-28 at 11.30.05 PM
Tuesday: Still feeling burned from yesterday, I make sure to check the weather and try to prepare myself. Armed with an umbrella, I feel cautiously optimistic when facing the day. The wind has other plans. While wrangling my $5, good-for-nothing drugstore umbrella, my skirt flies up and I flash the citizens of this fair city. A child shrieks and clutches his mother because, from his height, I will look like a colossal drowned rat. I wish I were smack in the middle of February instead. Even winter would be better than this.

Finally, after spending a week getting somewhat acclimated to the sudden warm weather, a random 40° day will get thrown in. The weather’s gotta keep me on my toes!

On Playing into Stereotypes

Mice are very good climbers. Did you know that? Very adept at scrambling up to the best vantage point so they can plot their paths of destruction. This is the story of how I learned this unsavory fact along with a few enlightening things about myself.

As I settled in a few nights ago, excited to indulge in some Air Crash Investigations episodes, I heard a rustling by the foot of my bed. A few months ago I heard the same noise and eventually moved my hamper to discover a fist-sized hole had been chewed through my wall. I found that my little uninvited guest had ripped apart a bag that contained an abandoned chocolate-filled croissant. I’m still suspicious about that. Me? Forget I had a chocolate-filled croissant?

I thought the problem was taken care of after we plugged the hole, but obviously not. I hurtled out of my room and stood in the doorway, clearing everything off the floor with a Swiffer handle and absolutely losing it on the phone with B. He reassured me it had to be gone, I had to have scared it, no, I didn’t need to sleep on the futon, no, it couldn’t crawl up my bed in the middle of the night and sit on my chest. I’m still freaked out. Even just writing this, I felt my hair brush my neck and, panicking, yanked my ponytail hard enough to give myself an instant tension headache.

I eventually resumed watching my show in bed when I saw the mouse dart across the floor. I slapped on headphones over earplugs so I didn’t have to hear it and convinced myself it would be gone in the morning. Nope. As soon as I sat up, I saw it hanging out by my door like a dog patiently waiting to go for a walk. I called B, who didn’t answer because he was on his way to work like a fully functioning, productive member of society. So next up was my mom, whom I normally would never call that early because the woman loves her sleep (apple, tree, etc.). Over the next hour and a half, I trembled, hopped around on my bed, screamed curses at the universe, and gave an Oscar-worthy performance for the role of “woman terrified of anything smaller than a kitten.” I wanted to leave, but it was just running back and forth in front of my door. I was a prisoner.

Suddenly, it disappeared. You know how in horror movies, the scariest moment is actually after the killer stops banging on the door and everything goes quiet? It was like that. Then, I  spotted it on top of a suitcase in front of my closet, nestling itself into the clothes I had planned on wearing that day. That was my breaking point. I dissolved into a pile of tears on my bed, babbling nonsense at my mother. Things were also a little touch and go when I lost sight of it, only to crane my neck and see it climbing up my doorframe like a ninja. “Nooo, it’s climbing up the door, it’s on the doorknob,” I moaned tearily to the saint who birthed me. She had been calm the entire time, but now even she was like, “WHAT? It’s doing WHAT?!” That was when I caught myself glancing at the window and thinking, “I can get out, I’m only two stories up.” I was a woman unhinged.

I finally escaped when, following my mom’s instructions, I started hurling things in the mouse’s general direction to scare it away from my door. After some time of not seeing it, I bolted so fast I was probably just a blur. I wish I’d had an audience full of my old PE teachers who would always bark at me like, “Come on, grandma, step it up on this next sprint,” even though I was really giving it all I had.

As I sat on the couch after, twitching when I thought I saw any motion out of the corner of my eye, potential movie titles based on my ordeal ran through my mind. Trapped: One Woman’s Fight to Survive. Or maybe Stranger in the Room: The Zahra Barnes Story. Okay, all jokes aside, I realize this isn’t that serious. I stopped myself from saying “this is the WORST” and instead was like, wait, having a mouse under the roof that’s over my head is not the actual worst. I’ll live.

But, as I screeched at my mom during one particularly hysterical moment when I was having none of her rational “it can’t hurt you” approach, humans have evolved to react negatively to things that move in certain ways. Think snakes, mice, roaches, etc. Their foreign movements set off our alarm bells because it tells us they’re not human and could potentially spread diseases. So my panic was somewhat rational. Although I know this, I still found myself apologizing profusely to my mom and B because I was fulfilling a stereotype I’ve always tried to avoid: the girl who wishes her boyfriend were there so he could handle something scary. That’s not me. Or wasn’t, I thought.

It’s the same thing with fried chicken. Until the past few months, I haven’t ordered it in public because I don’t want to validate people’s “every black person is into fried chicken!” belief. How asinine. Everyone loves fried chicken.

I’ve realized that I deny myself certain freedoms or emotions in trying to not seem like “that type of woman.” It’s just like wanting to be The Cool Girl in dating. I don’t want people to look at me and think, “Oh yeah, so it is true what they say…women are scared of everything. So emotional. Can’t keep it together.” Or “Oh, she’s ordering fried chicken? God, so ghetto.”

Unfortunately, when you’re a black person or a woman (or both, if you’ve won my version of the intersectionality jackpot), some people will look at your actions and apply them to your various identities as a whole. My physical presentation comes with a lot of baggage that often manifests itself in the form of misunderstandings and assumptions. We’re all raised to be prejudiced in various ways, so I’m not faulting anyone for that. But when those ideas go unchallenged and form the basis of people’s impressions of a group, that’s when issues arise.

I know it may seem like a leap to link the fried chicken trope to internalized racism. But the connection is there. That’s why I get told I’m not “a normal black person”: there is an idea of what a “normal” one is, and things like loving fried chicken fall into it. And I don’t like Oreos, so that’s even more of an insult when someone calls me one, thinking I should be flattered. But there’s a flip side of experiencing this supposedly complimentary removal from a negative stereotype. Now my tendency is to avoid being lumped in with a group that’s often seen as less than. So if I can do even the smallest things to prove I’m an outlier, my unconscious instinct is to go ahead and show that I’m different. It’s not to put down people who do fall into these stereotypes. It stems from not wanting to be confined to a group that isn’t seen as good enough.

But you know what? It’s time to stop. Little by little, I need combat the inclination to suppress some parts of myself just to make other people more comfortable. So, yeah, I’m staying at friends’ places tonight and tomorrow until my boyfriend gets here to search my room for more mice. If I see another one, I will shriek just as loudly instead of pretending I’m having no trouble staying inside of my skin. And next time I feel like faceplanting into a plate of gloriously crispy, golden drumsticks, I’ll do it with unconcealed joy and enthusiasm. Because no one should have to deprive themselves of fried chicken.

On Pickup Lines

Last weekend, a friend and I decided we wanted to go to a bar filled to the brim with bros. We envisioned plaid flannel and overly inflated egos as far as the eye could see. We wanted to crank it up to full-on broverload. It’s more about the vibe than the guys themselves; that sort of bar was my favorite in college but now I can barely handle one such outing a month. “I want a touch of frat,” I declared to my friend. “Just a touch.” Be careful what you wish for.

That night we were wandering the streets, still trying to figure out where to go. I suddenly stopped, stricken with a thought. “Wait. Are we close to an Artichoke?” I demanded, gripped with urgency. Artichoke, a chain of pizza places, is the nectar of the gods of drunk eating. “I can totally eat two slices,” I muttered to myself as we walked in. “I should definitely get two slices,” I declared in a louder voice, psyching myself up for a task that, unfortunately, I just wasn’t capable of. After mangling two monstrously big pieces (basically just ate the cheese because I have excellent priorities), we marched into a nearby bar. We were in the equivalent of a post-O glow, except from pizza. I actually think we were giving off pizza pheromones. We got the type of bold, bro-y pickup line that would have made more sense if we had been standing there naked, each holding a huge plate of delicious food. For example, a guy stopped in front of us and said:

“Man. I would love to make you both my wives.”

We gaped at him, laughed uproariously, then gaped a little more. Then suddenly the thought came to me: was I on a hidden camera show? Was I about to get YouTube famous? Could I fulfill my destiny and become the next Sweet Brown?

Nope. This was real life.

He introduced himself as Jonathan*. We started to tell Jonathan it was hard to take him seriously with a line like that. “But I just really can’t make a choice,” he said, looking at us with the bewildered expression of a dog whose toy disappears. Since he said it was his first time testing it out on unsuspecting ladies, we patiently explained that he was cute enough to just say, “Hi! I’m Jonathan! How are you?” He eventually got on board and even decided to buy us drinks as a thank you for enlightening him. Yes! Everyone’s a winner! Except then his friend came over and said Jonathan uses that line all the time. Well, okay, that’s fine. Where are our drinks? As of writing this at 9:02 on Tuesday night, they’re still at the bar, because he never got them for us. Don’t dangle a carrot free drinks in front of a rabbit girls facing exorbitant Manhattan bar prices, especially not after telling them you hope they’ll be your sisterwives.

In honor of Jonathan and his failed double pickup attempt, I compiled some of the worst lines my friends and I have gotten. Brace yourselves:

1. “Excuse me, miss—do you own this town? Because you should with that ass.”
This guy! This guy has huge balls. He should be the only person legally allowed to spread his legs on the subway like it’s his personal mission to make your ride as uncomfortable as possible. They’re that big.

2. Guy: “Have you heard of this amazing new sale?”

    My friend: “NO OMG WHERE IS IT?!”

    Guy: “My room. All clothes are 100% off.”
I’ll admit it: I laughed. He gets a few points for creativity. Then he gets millions of points deducted for tricking a girl into thinking that there’s a sale so amazing even a random guy at a bar would know about it. Evil knows no bounds.

3. “Have you seen Kindergarten Cop?”
The guy proceeded to tell me and my friend that he was the kid from that movie. It almost worked and we talked to him for about half an hour, trying to suss out whether he was lying. I’m a fan of this one because I like to lie when I’m out at bars, too. Hello, my name is Katrina and I am a dancer. No, NOT exotic. Jazz.

4. “Ayo, baby gurl, you like white boyz?” Um. Yes. Yes, I do. I would also like an alien if it were sexy enough and brought me flowers. Equal opportunity dater, here. You, on the other hand? There is little that raises my eyebrows faster than a sad 2 Chainz impression from a guy who wears boat shoes year-round and, I can just feel in my bones, desperately wants to be Justin Bieber’s swag coach.

5. “What’s your favorite brunch spot? I’m going to make reservations now.” I asked my friends for horrible pickup lines, but I think this one misread my request as “pickup lines that would promptly make me propose and beg to have every single last one of this guy’s babies.”

*This may or may not be his actual name. No idea.

Help! My Boyfriend Wants to Look at Vaginas All Day

“My boyfriend is doing his med school rotations and has discovered he really likes the Ob/Gyn experience. He says he particularly loves the idea of bringing babies into the world. We’ve been together for years, but it never crossed my mind that he’d consider this as a profession. I’m getting freaked out! Is this a red flag?”

Oh, you poor thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t give you this crucial piece of advice first: go get a glass of wine. No, seriously. Stop reading right now and go pour yourself an Olivia Pope-style, could double as a fishbowl serving of vino. Are you back? Ready? Okay, let’s do this.

First off, it’s very sweet that he is on a mission to bring babies into the world. Unless they’re his babies. That he fathers in empty check-up rooms with hot young residents.

Sorry, sorry. I already admitted I’m never going to get over Grey’s Anatomy, so I just had to go there. Thankfully, your life is not a nighttime soap that, as resilient as a headless cockroach, stubbornly refuses to die. I’m sure that scenario won’t actually happen to you.

You’ve got to consider a few things here. First of all, him wanting to be a vagina doctor could actually mean he’s an incredible human being. If he’s doing it because he knows women routinely struggle with subpar reproductive healthcare, that’s impressive. That immediately means he isn’t a dudebro with a minimal understanding of women’s issues. Maybe he wants to combat the slutshaming, absurd refusal to administer IUDs, and general asshattery that many women have to endure at their Ob/Gyns. If so, you need to get down on one knee and propose to him now. And I hope you’re okay with us being sister wives, because I may do the same. So, ask him what it is that he actually likes about it, beyond the whole ushering new life onto the planet thing. He should be totally receptive to thoroughly explaining his motivations. Anyone with a brain would understand why this could make their significant other uncomfortable. If his reasoning is anything like the above, just think of it as your boyfriend spelunking in other women’s caves of wonder in the name of feminism.

Another thing to contemplate is your boyfriend’s general level of creepiness. You’ve known him for a while, but it’s still good to spend some time being as objective as possible about who he is. A guy would have to be a colossal freak to go through like seven extra years of homework and thousands of dollars, all to see vaginas (as magnificent as they are). Like, hello, why not just take that money to a strip club? It would be pathological. Unfortunately, there are some really sick people out there, so you do have to at least entertain the thought. Ask yourself a few things: Does his tongue practically unfurl like a Fruit Roll-Up (<333) when he sees a hot woman on the street? If you checked his internet history, do you suspect you’d find tons of CrimeLibrary.com links? More than a totally regular normal not weird at all individual (ahem) should have? Does he frequently stare into your eyes so intensely it seems like he wants to pluck them out and carry them around, so you’ll never be apart? These are vital questions.

Ultimately, can you imagine a life without him? It’s okay if it’s just a straight up deal breaker. I’m sure tons of women would feel like that, and I wouldn’t judge you. But since lots of male Ob/Gyns are married, there’s also evidence that many women have learned to cope with their men polishing someone else’s fine china as a profession. If you really love him, and his heart is in the right place, maybe you can learn to be okay with it, too. Also, it helps to be realistic. It’s not like he’ll have a constant stream of Victoria’s Secret models fresh off a shoot in Aruba, all hot and bothered by the thought of being probed like they just got abducted by aliens. As long as he’s a good guy, I don’t think you have much to worry about.

Have a love, sex, or relationship question? Send it to Help.JustMyFace@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer it here.

On Modern-Day Laws of the Universe

I’m sure Newton and Einstein were great, but there are a few modern-day laws of the universe that they somehow failed to cover. Guys, I know you were busy with all that groundbreaking scientific discovery business, but come on. Slacking’s for suckers.

Here are some undeniable laws of the universe that they missed:

1. You will see the most important people when you look like a haggard beast. Let me ask you something. When would you rather be squished in a cramped elevator with Anna Wintour?

A. When you, inspired by the glamazons who swan around your building every day, have woken up early to put together the most catwalk-ready outfit your wardrobe can provide. You also just got your hair done, meticulously applied your makeup, and are radiating a glow that only comes with listening to Drake first thing in the a.m.

B. Because you were up until 2 a.m. watching old episodes of Felicity, you woke up too late to shower. You definitely didn’t have time to waste debating the virtues of leather-adjacent pleated skirts vs. waxed denim. Or washing your hair. Or your face. You are wearing your comfiest jeans and an animal-print top you got from your grandma (who, it must be said, is VERY stylish). That red manicure you optimistically got at the beginning of the week is now chipping and looks like you sank your nails into someone’s chest then got bored and gave up halfway.

Guess which one happened to me?

2. You will use a bobby pin approximately 2.5 times before it disappears into the ether. How do you use a bobby pin .5 times, you ask? Well, first, you have it in your hand, prepared to slide it into your hair as you’re running around and getting ready. Then you put it down to take a sip of your drink. That’s it. It’s over. Sorry, but you are never finding that bobby pin again.

3. You will never be able to let go of Grey’s Anatomy. This show has degenerated into an unrealistic tangle of romantic interludes in on-call rooms and disaster plot lines better suited to I Survived. There’s been a mass shooting, plane, train, and ferry crashes, a bombing, a SINKHOLE. The list goes on. It routinely makes you roll your eyes so hard they might get stuck in the back of your head. But with each cliffhanger, you find yourself furiously googling “When does Grey’s Anatomy return???” and mentally jotting the date down as the day your brain will get sweet release. Sandra Oh had to get THERAPY to fully disengage. Compared to her, you are but a mere mortal. Just accept it.

4. You will unexpectedly get your period when you are completely out of supplies. You will also be bowled over with debilitating cramps. Oh, and just because the universe likes a good chuckle, there will obviously be a blizzard. Don’t bother looking through your purse for tampons because you won’t find any. What do you think this is, a Disney movie complete with happy ending? To the bodega you go.

5. You will accidentally send that scathing text message to the person you’re complaining about. Ugh. The hazards of modern technology and dangerously fast fingers. Of course it’s best if after a fight with a friend, you reconvene equipped with heartfelt “I” statements and a willingness to see her point of view. But it’s hard to take the high road when you feel like you are literally being consumed with fiery rage. So you’ll immediately shoot off a text to another friend about how “Britney is the WORST, I just can’t with her stupidity right now. Her laugh makes me want to kill things.” A second too late, you’ll realize that you actually sent it to Britney, who is. With. You. Right. Now. This is scarier than any horror movie. The text is coming from inside the room! If it happens once, shame on you. Let the mortification be a lesson. If it happens twice, just do everyone a favor and donate your cell phone to the needy. No good can come from this.

On That Sports Illustrated Cover

SportsIllustratedTo: The Patriarchy

Wait. This is supposed to be a ransom note, but I am realizing I have nothing to threaten you with. Except maybe the last dregs of your common decency. You know, if you have any.

There are a few problems with this cover. We could talk about the impractical beauty ideals that it promotes, the blatant pandering to the male gaze, or the annoying imbalance of two orange bikini bottoms followed by a pink one rather than Chrissy Teigen’s pink-clad butt sandwiched in between. You know Chrissy Teigen loves sandwiches. Why couldn’t you just give her that? 

Instead of delving into those topics, I will focus on my most pressing complaint: Why is there not a corresponding magazine cover, but with men? Why, when I imagined one, was I tempted to burst out laughing? Why is it so ludicrous, even to me?

By April 1, I demand a parallel cover with Chris Hemsworth, Ian Somerhalder, and Chace Crawford. In neon speedos. Touching each other’s butts and throwing their heads back, almost unable to handle their combined sexiness.

Oh, and also $5 million in unmarked bills. PAY UP.

Forever yours in resentment,

Zahra

On The Five Friends I Need In My Life

The other day, I got off the subway and started to make my way across the sidewalk so I could catch the walk signal. My pace must have been more tourist than native (in my defense, it’s been way too icy lately), because this teeny little woman in a big black puffer shoved my chest and bellowed “MOVE IT!” I was instantly flooded with the warm inner glow that only comes with having a real New York City moment. #blessed

So, to recap, I was just trying to navigate dangerous terrain and make it out alive when this stranger completely bulldozed me. That’s actually similar to the process of making friends in NYC.

In my time here, I’ve met many amazing people, a few I thought would be amazing friends who just turned out to be amazing stories, and every variation in between. Luckily, thanks to holdovers from high school and college and some gems I’ve chanced upon after moving, I’ve assembled a first-rate group of friends. They fall into these five general categories:

1. The One Who Makes Mondays Bearable

She works at: The cubicle a few steps away from yours

A typical quote: “OMG. THIS. DAY. Drinks???”

Her standard Insta shot:

She's a good source for desk inspiration.

Even at home, she’s much more together than you.

Her usual wardrobe: Fashion-forward business casual that she somehow transforms into post-work goddess gear when you head to the bar.

You love her because: If you’re into your job, she helps you kick even more ass and is always up for toasting your achievements. If you’re not, she understands your workplace vents like no one else. Either way, your bond is built on coffee runs and to-the-minute office news updates.

2. The Creative One Who Inspires You

She works at: A startup, dance studio, or art gallery filled with installation pieces that you suspect may actually be jokes. It’s either that, or you’re just a little too, uh, lowbrow (read: stupid) to get them.

A typical quote: “So I’ve been working on this macramé piece. It came to me in a dream.”

Her standard Insta shot:

You can usually find her in the woods.

For some reason, she is always in the woods.

Her usual wardrobe: Whimsical with an edge or black on black on black. Or something like high-waisted overalls that would make your butt look like you’re indulging in a diaper fetish. It works on her.

You love her because: She opens your mind to new ways of seeing the world. She also introduces you to cafés that are filled with equal amounts of fairy lights and bearded men who look like lumberjacks shipped in mid-chop from Vermont. And she makes the best granola.

3. The One Who’s An Accessible Girl Crush

She works at: A flashy job where she is constantly asked out by celebrities and getting free things that cost more than your rent.

A typical quote: “Got tickets to Leo’s new premiere. Wanna come?”

Her standard Insta shot:

On a yacht. Always with the yachts.

Yachts. Always with the yachts.

Her usual wardrobe: Better than yours.

You love her because: Even though she is brilliant, on a crazy career track, wealthy, gorgeous, and talented, she’s somehow not stuck up. While she is, as a whole, an aspirational human being, you can still be yourself with her. Also, she’s always trying to set you up with people who are so pretty that looking at them kind of breaks your brain.

4. The One Who Knew You During Your Awkward Phase

She works at: An office in the city she moved to after college, doing…something?

A typical quote: “Woah, remember Jason from 9th grade? The one you said kissed like a lizard? He got really hot.”

Her standard Insta shot:

She always has a cute pet that makes you want one except your apartment is the size of a closet.

She always has a cute pet that makes you want to get one except your apartment is the size of a closet so you can’t right now.

Her usual wardrobe: You only see her on social media, but her selfie game gets an A+.

You love her because: She liked you even back when you wrote things like ~LuSt~ as your AIM away messages. She is the best person to text when it seems like your entire graduating class just got mass-engaged. And because she has thousands of dollars worth of blackmail on you, but hasn’t cashed in (yet. Times are hard).

5. The One. Period.

She works at: A corporate job. You know she’ll own the place someday.

A typical quote: “I wish you were my wife because I just bought Krispy Kremes and want to get ice cream to put on top. I feel like you wouldn’t judge me.”

Her standard Insta shot:

This relationship is a trio and the third member is food.

This relationship is a trio and the third member is food.

Her usual wardrobe: On Saturday night, it’s a deep v-neck with a skater skirt and heels. On Sunday it’s old PJs while you two have a hungover MTV marathon and relive the previous night’s debauchery.

You love her because: Basically, she is a mix of everything you want (and never knew you needed) in a friend. The internet doesn’t have space for a list long enough to cover it, so I’ll leave it at that.

Okay, so these are my five essential friend types. What are yours?

Instagram image credits: @kattanita, @paigedepaolis, @angelcandices, @kourtneykardash, @maameokayyy

On Successful Movie Trailers

There are certain movie trailers that I just cannot stop watching. After extensive research (aka falling down an addictive YouTube hole), I’ve reached a conclusion: Kanye West is the key. His songs are the magic ingredient; with their backing, a trailer is elevated from a simple commercial for an upcoming film to a mesmerizing experience that makes me want to go cliff diving, dance wildly in an underground club filled with people who speak various romance languages, and bathe in a pile of money. Benjamins only, please.

You’d like evidence, you say. Well, here you go. Happy Tuesday.

Limitless: “Power”

The Wolf of Wall Street: “Black Skinhead”

And my personal favorite, The Social Network: “Power”
Every time I watch this, I become convinced that can say no to Microsoft, and can drop out of Harvard, and can become the world’s youngest billionaire. All of this is logistically impossible.

Tell me that isn’t successful advertising.

On Women Complimenting Other Women

Missed Connection: Pretty lady with pixie cut – w4w -24 (Penn Quarter)

You had the type of close-cropped cut I’m tempted to get when my curls snap yet another comb, or a hairstylist looks terrified and asks me, “like…what do I…do with it?” You were dressed in a silky floral top and pants that I think were leather, because of course you would look beautiful in leather jeggings.

I was wearing a leather (-adjacent) pleated skirt, black top, and my cozy camel-colored fur vest. Buying it at a ski shop in Miami is the closest I’ve ever gotten to the slopes.

B and I were on the dance floor when you bounded up to me like a lively little sprite, clutching my shoulder and unleashing a torrent of compliments upon me with the sort of enthusiasm that only the truly drunken possess. I felt like you had picked up my soul off a dirty bar floor and held it up to the sun to be blessed, much like Rafiki did with Simba in one of the most pivotal moments in cinematic history.

Later, you took a break from your manic gyrating to grab a gorgeous, dark-haired, curvy girl walking past us. “YOU ARE WORKING THAT DRESS BETTER THAN KIM KARDASHIAN COULD,” you yelled authoritatively at her. Awed, I turned to B with my eyes wide, and in a tone of reverence whispered, “She’s like the fairy godmother of compliments.” It’s true. You are. I never caught your name.

What is it about late-night praise from other women? You know exactly what I mean. You come out of the bathroom stall. You wash your hands next to a total stranger. You admire her statement necklace and the way her hair does that thing yours obstinately refuses to do. You want to say something, you’re weighing the pros and cons, when you hear her go, “I have to let you know, that dress looks amazing on you. I just really needed to tell you that.” And then you automatically squeal (even if your voice never usually reaches the upper octaves, it does now) “OMG, I was JUST thinking that YOU look amazing tonight, TOO!” It feels just as good for me to bestow unexpected compliments on women I don’t know (only on the right occasion because I’m aware they aren’t always welcome). You can see how it immediately perks someone up that you’re basically saying, “Hey, I have no stake in your self-esteem because I’m not your mom, but just FYI, you’re doing something really right.”

The beauty of this, for me, comes down to knowing that there’s no ulterior motive. It’s just a simple, lovely action. She’s not trying to take you home (unless she is, in which case, maybe consider going?). She’s just speaking her mind instead of holding back for fear of seeming creepy. Is there anything more restorative? One such incident ended with the woman who approached me showing me pictures of her bulldog. SUCCESS!

There’s nothing better.

On My Dietary Restrictions

I was recently at a press event at Saxon + Parole, a restaurant that makes some of the best steak I’ve ever tasted in my overwhelmingly carnivorous life. While we were sipping heavenly hot buttered rum, a debonair garçon (I’d normally just say “waiter,” but he was so classy that I feel required to call him something French) came over and asked if anyone had any dietary restrictions.

I snorted and said to my friend, “Does being unable to physically process anything that isn’t full-fat count?” Thankfully, I don’t have actual diagnosed dietary restrictions, but I considered my eating habits and realized I might as well. Here are a few nutritional limitations I use to navigate my meals:

-Triscuit Anaphylaxis: Whenever I eat a Triscuit, I feel like someone has sprung a surprise cinnamon challenge on me.

They just absorb all my saliva and crumble into dust. They are the culinary equivalent of centuries-old mummified corpses. I cannot understand the appeal. I couldn’t care less what kind of deliciously sharp/stinky cheeses you put on top of them. True evil cannot be concealed.

-Salad Intolerant: Why on earth would I fill valuable gastrointestinal real estate with lettuce when that space would be much better used to house a tender filet? I will admit that salad can be good if it’s chock full of things like mahi mahi, hearts of palm, and avocado, but I am resistant to the ones that are just bland greenness. As for kale, which everyone is still obsessed with, I was strictly anti for a while but will now tolerate it when grilled. It’s imbued with this smoky flavor that makes it much easier to fantasize about barbecued ribs.

-Vitamin B Deficiency: B stands for Bellini, FYI. If I am not actively drinking one, I most likely have dangerously low Vitamin B levels that need to be rectified immediately unless I want to suffer the consequences. Repercussions of a Vitamin B Deficiency include having an appetite that actually has limits and not being able to strut in heels like a supermodel/Carrie Bradshaw hybrid who is immune to pain. My birthday is in November, but Bellini IVs are undoubtedly hard to find. You should probably get a head start on that.

-Celery Allergy: All the “negative calories” in the world could not make me a fan of celery. Each bite results in a maddeningly peppery aftertaste. Don’t recommend I have celery with hummus to tide me over until dinner. I’d rather not eat torture as a snack, thanks. Also, please don’t waste even a single precious drop of the blue cheese that comes with chicken wings on your foul green sticks of bitterness. Is nothing sacred?

-Mezcal Aversion: My one experience with this drink makes me believe in both karma and reincarnation because I haven’t done anything bad enough in this life to deserve something so awful. I was with a friend at a bar and some guys bought us straight mezcal, which I had never heard of before. My first sip transformed me into a stern Christian pastor, mentally repeating “hellfire and damnation!!!” until the taste faded. I’m a glutton for punishment, so I had another hesitant taste. Never again. Don’t ask me what it’s like. I made myself forget.

Besides these, I love most food and drink. Oh, except the dishes spotlighted in this Instagram.  I’d rather never have dulce de leche ice cream again than touch any of those.

Rating The Bachelor Dates: Week 2

So far, this season of The Bachelor has exceeded my expectations. I like the show not for its promise of everlasting love, but for the potential for (or guarantee of, rather) drunken messes and melodramatic meltdowns over people whose talents amount to being really skilled at running on beaches and soulfully gazing into other people’s eyes.

There are tons of The Bachelor recaps out there, so I’m not going to give a play-by-play of every detail. Instead, after wondering “WTF are they doing?!” while watching the dates over many seasons, I’ve decided to rate these eyebrow-raising excursions on a scale from 1 (worst) to 10 (best). I think the only reason people “fall in love” on this show is because of the adrenaline-pumping dates in gorgeous locales (research shows going on aventuras as a couple promotes lovey feelings, thanks to heightened levels of bonding hormones). The dates are hugely important. So, let’s do this.

Date 1: One-on-one with Clare. Juan Pablo’s first one-on-one date is with Clare, aka the girl who stepped out of the limo wearing a fake pregnancy belly. Let’s pause and think about this. That is what she chose as her first impression. She’s putting her best foot forward and trying to hide the crazy in the beginning, as you do. Faking a pregnancy is her version of being normal. Just something to think about.

Juan Pablo picks her up, blindfolds her as they drive to a secret location, gives her a piggyback ride, and drops her on her ass in the snow. They’re in a winter wonderland in LA! They sled and ice skate, which seems fun except when I see ice skates, all I can think about is sharp blades to the face (hello, Final Destination Moment. Nice to see you). After making out in the hot tub, they see a concert by Josh Krajcik, a long-haired man who is singing a sweet song and would make an excellent scary but well-meaning hitchhiker in movies. Clare seems excited to see him, so she is obviously a very good actress.

Nope.

Nope.

Score: Having to run through the snow in a bikini, barefoot + cutely ice skating/sledding together + did he feed her any dinner?! + pretty song by a random man + hot tub action = 7

Date 2: One-on-One with Kat. Kat is the first Bachelorette to get the private jet treatment! She starts wondering if maybe they’re going to Miami or NYC (??? Very far from LA when it’s not even an overnight date, Kat). I also loved that she said NYC would be “romantic, private, and just the two of [them].” Romantic and private aren’t the words I’d use to describe a place where the subways and streets are so packed, I regularly get more intimate with strangers than I do with my boyfriend.

If I were Kat, I would have a raging internal battle going on. Part of me would be like, “Okay, aren’t small planes more likely to crash?” and the other part would be more focused on imagining the inside of that private jet as a smaller, more champagne-soaked version of a Virgin Atlantic flight. Virgin has amazing music and pink and orange lights in the cabin, so it’s like a nightclub. I honestly would not be able to turn that down, crash potential be damned.

Turns out they flew to Utah to participate in Electric Run, a nighttime 5K. Running? On a first date? Really? I mean if you want to fast-track this relationship and drop all pretenses that I woke up like this (sorry), that’s your prerogative. But honestly, it’s better if you love me before we run together. Letting a guy see me run is like a trust fall for my heart. Some girls look adorable when they take their exercise up a few notches beyond walking. I really, really, really am not one of them. Swimming or a fun little water polo scrimmage, I could do. But running is the worst. Juan Pablo and Kat are rewarded for their efforts with a huge neon dance party.

TheBachelorElectricRun2

Kat is obviously psyched and not thinking, “Oh God, I’m with a guy who is actively trying to crowd surf. What have I done?” so that’s how we’re different.

The great thing about watching this show closely is that you don’t miss gems like Kat saying: “Juan Pablo is incredibly sexy. He’s someone I truly would chase after in the streets.” This was the crazy-eyed shot the producers chose to run with that voiceover, evil geniuses that they are:

TheBachelorElectricRun3

Score: Risking death via swanky private jet + risking first date dumping via looking horrific after workout + flashy celebratory party when you reach the finish line = 8

Date 3: Group date. Luckily I don’t have to run a 5k to get my cardio in; I’m breathing so hard right now because this was the best date ever. The women and Juan Pablo got to do a photoshoot with adoptable dogs from Best Friends Animal Society, which is an organization that focuses on stopping the killing of dogs and cats in shelters. I’m struggling to not write in all caps because I’m so excited by this idea. I just found an unironic “Aw yeah” in my notes about this date, which means I basically blacked out from joy while watching because I would never consciously let that phrase escape my mouth or fingers. To really get in the spirit of things, the women were each costumed and made up to go along with their dogs’ general looks.

HAHA

HAHA

Score: Dogs. Duh. 10. You’d think points would be subtracted because it’s a group date, but The Hunger Games-like competition I’d get into when being let loose to choose my dog would just up the ante. Full marks.

More must-mention moments:

-Is anyone else getting major Keri Russell circa Felicity vibes from Nikki?

TheBachelorNikki

That must be why I like her so much. I would really appreciate if someone in The Bachelor cast would ask her why Elena was still alive in Felicity‘s series finale even though she should have died in that car accident.

-The second I saw Lucy topless in the hot tub with the other girls, I knew she was my ideal The Bachelor contestant. I have always wanted people to show up and be like, “No thanks on the whole love thing. I just want to live in a gorgeous house, drink my face off, and make awesome friends.” Thank you, Lucy, for living the dream.

-Victoria got transcendentally liquored up, drunk cried, and Juan Pablo kicked her right off without waiting for the rose ceremony. She managed to get some choice quotes in before her unceremonial departure. My favorites: “If Juan Pablo just so happens to be mine, I’m going to straddle him every day. Because that’s what life is about. Straddling people. And things.” Also, “I gave Juan Pablo The Hymen Maneuver.” Terrifying.

The expression you make when you look through your sent texts the next morning.

The expression you make when you look through your sent texts the morning after a night out.

Note: When Victoria entered the bathroom stall to commence her wine-induced breakdown, her hair was loose. When she came out to scream at the producers that she was DONE and she needed to GO HOME right NOW, her hair was in a braid. Love a girl who’s got her priorities in order.

Do you agree with my ranking of this week’s dates? Let me know, and see you next Tuesday for another The Bachelor date rating. The preview looks like we’re in for a treat.

On My Dream

Today at the office, we got a fat stack of new magazine issues. I started browsing and realized that women’s titles did an exceptional job with February content. I promptly lost myself in them until I glanced up and realized it was way past time to go, so I rushed to the subway, knowing the stories would reduce the usual jarring clanks of the train to an insignificant hum.

I’ve always loved magazines. When I was a preteen, I would pore over CosmoGirl every month, devouring embarrassing stories, revelatory kissing tips, and most important, techniques to boost my self-esteem. I still remember a story about confidence that so deeply touched, then somehow stabilized, my ever-shaky adolescent sense of self-worth. I ripped it out and read it so many times that the page got tattered and worn.

As I got older, I would read magazines for the “I can do absolutely ANYTHING” rush I’d get as soon as I put them down. They made me feel like I could design my life to make it exactly what I wanted. Everything seemed possible in those pages.

Now that I work at a magazine, it’s harder to fully immerse myself in that world as an objective observer. I can’t quite achieve the distance. Instead of just taking a story at face value, I’ll imagine what was going on behind the scenes, question editorial choices, and try to catch all the missed opportunities to make puns that straddle the line between eyeroll-inducing and clever. But today, the magic was back.

As I read, I was flooded with tingles of excitement about my life that left quiet chills in their wake. I felt like my potential was coursing through my veins in the form of electric jolts. So impatient to see what else was in store, I’d quit a story in the middle and flip the page, only to go right back because I couldn’t bear not finishing. Have you ever had a hot buttered rum? Reading the magazines was like drinking one, only topped off with honey. I felt warmed from the inside and like I was guaranteed to fall asleep to very sweet, deep dreams. I was blissed out.

Today vividly reminded me why I once ached to get into this industry. I want to give other women the gift of feeling like the world is ours for the taking. I’m obsessed with women’s rights, so I know our current standing leaves much to be desired. There is a lot of work to do. But when I read those magazines, I felt so drunk with promise and love and power that I was tempted to run through the streets screaming, “I AM A WOMAN, THEREFORE I AM FUNDAMENTALLY AMAZING!”

"My girl wants it. She is on the make. Her nose is pressed to the glass, and she does get my message." -The inimitable Helen Gurley Brown, legendary Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan

“My girl wants it. She is on the make. Her nose is pressed to the glass, and she does get my message.” —The inimitable Helen Gurley Brown, legendary Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan

This quote from Helen Gurley Brown is in the middle my vision board (if you hate vision boards, don’t even start. I unabashedly love them. I painted mine coral and wrapped the frame in gold tape, which is the Pinterest-iest thing I’ve ever done in my life). Over the holidays, I read a profile of Gurley Brown in The Most of Nora Ephron, an upcoming anthology of Ephron’s work. In a February 1970 piece in Esquire, Ephron homed in on what fueled Gurley Brown’s passion to change women’s lives, which I humbly admit is also my own: “She’s just worried that somewhere out there is a mouseburger who doesn’t realize she has the capability of becoming anything, anything at all, anything she wants to…”

I’m going to end this in the cheesiest way possible because Beyoncé just gets me and my mission, okay? While you jam, tell me, what’s your dream?

On Misophonia AKA Why Chewing Noises Are My Own Personal Hell

If you’ve read even a little of this blog, you know that I love food. Our bond is deep, abiding, and unconditional. When I settle down to devour something delicious, I take a moment to enjoy the feeling of pure contentment that I’m sure is akin to how mothers feel when staring into the eyes of their newborn children. Sometimes, when I get really excited to eat something specific, I’ll yell its name on repeat in my head. So it’s like, “SCALLOOOOOPS!” or “CHEESEBURGERRR!” It takes my enthusiasm to the next level and my food tastes better after I do it. Don’t knock it till you try it (seriously, try it).

The tragic part is that thanks to my mild misophonia, it’s hard for me to fully indulge in my love of food with others. I just cannot deal with sounds associated with eating. From a September 2011 New York Times article on the topic: “For people with a condition that some scientists call misophonia, mealtime can be torture. The sounds of other people eating — chewing, chomping, slurping, gurgling — can send them into an instantaneous, blood-boiling rage.”

Sounds about right.

It’s not just that the sound of eating annoys me. It actually makes me furious. Hearing someone slurping soup inspires violent urges. Listening to a person chomping gum makes visions of murder dance before my eyes. I would never actually hurt someone who chews like a monster, even though people who just flout common decency and somehow chomp gum without ever closing their mouths MIGHT DESERVE IT. It’s actually the opposite—I want to get over my misophonia.

Right now, I am sort of trying exposure therapy like the Dauntless do in Divergent. When someone is full-on assaulting my senses by licking all of their chicken-covered fingers on the subway, I force myself to stay and listen instead of distracting myself or moving away. I just want to be normal! I want to live a life free of strangers’ eating habits making me want to claw my face off! But progress is slow.

My boyfriend, lovely as he is in every other way, chews his water. What is that? Who does that? It’s water. It’s already liquid. Chewing it is redundant. He swears he’s always done this, as if I wouldn’t have noticed immediately. It wouldn’t have been a dealbreaker (easy to say now), but trust me, I would have noticed. He started after we had been together for about six months, like he instinctively knew I liked him enough at that point to value his life more than my sanity. It’s actually a cute quirk, because again, who does that? I think it bothers me because my teeth hate the cold. Imagining the pain I would feel munching on freezing water makes me so uncomfortable that I immediately just become angry. I’m getting better, though. I keep telling myself that some people have terrible manners, but most eat normally. They do not deserve the wrath of my glare just because it’s impossible to chew without sound. I know that it’s my problem to deal with. I’m trying, here.

This was originally twice as long but I cut a lot because I was starting to sound unhinged. Please, validate me. What are your irrational pet peeves?

On Google’s Shortcomings

I’m a traitor.

Ever since I was 11, Yahoo.com has greeted me when I open my web browser. There’s just something about it that feels like my digital home: the constant stream of stories about conjoined twins and crop circles, the instant access to Yahoo Answers where people ask things like “How do you get YouTube to come film you?” and “Can your baby get pregnant if you have sex while pregnant?” (someone remind me why we don’t need comprehensive sex education?). But lately, when I need real answers, I’ve been turning to Google. Don’t think I don’t feel guilty. Still, although Google is fantastic, it is not omniscient. A Beyoncé binge over the holidays made me realize I have some pressing questions that I doubt Google can help me out with.

I know I’m years late in switching my allegiance, but I’ve finally realized I’m wasting precious moments in the time it takes to type “Google.com” when I’m done beying (that is a typo that I am leaving because it proves my Beyoncé overindulgence was serious) distracted by Yahoo’s often ridiculous headlines.

Some things I’d like to Google but don’t because I know I won’t get real answers and would fall into internet holes I’m not strong enough to crawl out of:

*Disclaimer: I also look up in-depth explorations of gender issues, race relations, and other serious topics. Much more highbrow content than what’s about to follow. I’m smart. This reassurance may seem gratuitous now, but I promise after reading this list you will need the reminder.

-Beyoncé fierceness how to get

-Why aren’t there two of Armie Hammer in real life

-I laughed when I saw people wearing high fashion printed pajama pants but now I want high fashion printed pajama pants am I a lemming

-Céline pajama pants cheap version where to get

-Beyoncé walk how to get

-Cast of Animorphs where are they now

-2 Chainz favorite recipe bacon

-Plane struck by lightning what next instant death??????

-Where is Drake right now NYC

-What are dog emotions

Alex Mack book ending spoilers

-Have crush on teenage Simba strutting on log weird or not please advise

-North West net worth how much richer than me is this baby really

-How to stifle sobs asap also best waterproof mascara reviews

-Beyoncé life how to get

Happy Holidays!

Hope you’re having as much food and fun as you can stomach.

Speaking of both holidays and stomachs, have you heard of Pre-Thanksgiving Workouts? As in, you do some intense exercise the morning of Thanksgiving so you are extra ravenous and basically become a culinary black hole, immediately inhaling any food set in front of you, no matter the amount? Your stomach apparently acts like a woman’s body when she is giving birth and magically expands to colossal proportions. Nature is so beautiful.

Why did no one tell me about this? Am I not the type of person who would most benefit from this practice? I feel so cheated.

On Final Destination Moments

Last weekend, my boyfriend B and I were walking through a pretty DC neighborhood on our way to brunch. As we waited to cross the street, a pickup truck made a sloppy left turn. We watched as a bulky piece of equipment as big as an AC unit flew off the back of it, skidding to a stop in the middle of the intersection. If a car had been behind the truck, it would have been a bad scene.

“You see?! You see?! That is a Final Destination Moment!” I yelped, gesturing with my chin because it was too cold to expose my hands to the evils of winter air.

I know Final Destination Moments well. Just in case you are unlucky (lucky?) enough to be unacquainted, here is a quick rundown. In the tragically underappreciated Final Destination film franchise, someone always has a premonition of dying in a horrific way. I’m talking flying off an in-motion rollercoaster or getting flattened by a racecar that is, for whatever reason, sailing through the air. Then the person having the premonition snaps out of it and realizes they can avert disaster just before it happens. They hightail it out of there, always taking a few friends along and consequently saving their lives. But Death is a vengeful SOB (I feel sort of scared writing that and just glanced over my shoulder), so it goes after the people who escaped one by one, in the order they would have died if the premonition had come true. And just to emphasize that there is no escaping Death’s sick yet sort of impressively imaginative clutches, it exacts its will in the most twisted ways. My favorite (errr, you know what I mean) was in Final Destination 3, when two girls got locked in parallel tanning beds and sizzled like the bacon I had this morning. (You know, when I write things like that, my first thought is “what if someone who lost a loved one in a horrible fire reads it? Should I delete it?” But watch the clip and you will realize that it’s exactly what happened.)

Shudder. Dreadful. I’m getting goosebumps.

These movies are so cheesy and but I’m unashamed of my love for them. They exhibit a certain brilliance by focusing on details and buildup to show how a bird landing on a branch three states over can result in you being eaten alive by an escalator, or something. I’m actually a bit disturbed by how much I like them, but that’s a whole other post.

So now when I’m going about my day, just trying to survive, I’m always on high alert. When something happens that seems like it’s a prelude to a convoluted but extraordinarily painful way to die, I’ll tell everyone it’s a Final Destination Moment and we need to GTFO. Here are my three most recent ones:

1. While heading to a B&B for a Thanksgiving stay, B had no issue driving behind trucks topped with what could only have been barely-secured, very sharp and lethal killing material from my nightmares. Like big metal ladders. And lumps of things (probably knives), mysteriously shrouded in tarp that was likely the perfect size to completely obscure our windshield if it were to float away, which would cause us to drive off the road into a ditch where no one would find us for months and our legs would be broken so we couldn’t go for help and we’d have to decide who was going to eat whose body to survive.

As seen in: this Final Destination 2 premonition scene where a huge truck loses its shipment of logs with catastrophic and explode-y results. Why is that truck so big? I’ve never seen a truck that big. Trucks aren’t really that big. Right?

2. When leaving the subway station close to my apartment, this huge bright yellow sign (noted because it would probably look very cinematic with my dark red blood sprayed all over it) starts slowly creaking and swaying in the wind right as I walk under it.

As seen in: the first Final Destination, when Carter is killed BY A SIGN.

3. There is an elevator at work that only has half its lights, so it already makes me suspicious. Recently I was in it and the buttons were beeping like mad even though no one was pressing them. It was obviously a warning of impending, wires-snapping-so-we-plummet-to-our-deaths doom (we were on the 4th floor but whatever, it’s possible).

As seen in: this particularly gruesome Final Destination 2 scene that proves elevators are a dangerous place if you’re interested in keeping your head attached to your body.

These movies are good, uncivilized fun when you want to indulge your morbid side. But in all seriousness, it may serve you well to keep your eyes open to the Final Destination Moments in your own life. Don’t worry about thanking me for saving your life. It’s my pleasure! But if you insist, I accept cash, baby bulldogs, and shopping sprees every season to update my wardrobe.

On Not Being Bilingual

I miss my Spanish skills most when I am walking down the street, some man eagerly throws open his truck door, starts in with, “¡Hola! ¡Hola, guapa! Sexy! ‘Ey!” along with some highly enticing smooching noises, and I can’t quite come up with the right combination of searing words that make tears swell in his eyes while he inwardly admits that, yes, I’m right, his mamá would be ashamed.

On Human Golden Retrievers

Recently I was in a cab, spacing out while watching Jeopardy on Taxi TV. I snapped to attention when I saw “What is Ryan Lochte?” flash across the screen. I had missed the prompt, but figured it was something like, “This athlete not only coined the inexplicable yet somehow invigorating saying ‘Jeah,’ but probably also yells it out during orgasm.” I have a few more jokes I’d like to make but they’re mean. I imagine Ryan stumbling across this (you know he Googles “Jeah” on a regular basis) and his feelings being hurt, and the thought of an emotionally wounded Lochte hurts me. So I’ll refrain.

Anyway, Ryan is a very special guy.

After careful consideration (also known as watching every episode of “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” may it RIP), it has become glaringly obvious that Ryan is what I like to call a Human Golden Retriever. This is the guy or girl who is pretty (not hot, pretty—big difference), sweet, and so, so simple. Who, besides a Human Golden Retriever, would tweet this?

It may be his natural state or something he plays up because it works for him. Either way, he’s a stunning, idiot Golden Retriever in human form. If you are lucky enough to have one in your life, he makes for the perfect rebound or casual relationship to keep you warm during winter. You should hang out with him as often as possible because he will always be so overjoyed to see you that you will feel like he is lovingly slobbering all over your soul. Most important, a guy this basic is incapable of deliberately hurting you. Unconvinced? Please try to imagine Ryan Lochte pulling a fast one on his girlfriend.

I rest my case.

The Blackup Dancer, Defined

Blackup Dancer

/ˈblakˌəp/ˈdansər/

noun

c.2013, from a tongue-tied conversation I had after watching Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” video.

1. A woman of color who is so talented at dancing that you didn’t even know bodies could move like that. Her moves are far superior to those of the star of the video. As of late, she has been at the center of various pop culture controversies surrounding cultural appropriation.

Ex: Man, blackup dancers deserve a lot more praise. If I tried to copy their skills, my body would probably disintegrate or all my bones would shatter.

Subway Stranger Danger

The scene opens. He is a Channing Tatum look-alike circa 2008, except less cute. She is a magazine editor on her way to work. Our heroine woke up late this morning and isn’t wearing any makeup, hoping to put a bit on at her desk. She also didn’t have time to moisturize and is resigned to the fact that December air on dehydrated black skin is akin to something out of Saw XXVIII, and you know those only get more depraved as the franchise goes on. She pulls out The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson and starts reading.

Him: How do I get to—

He glances at his phone to double-check the address. She wonders if he is really going to interrupt her without even offering an apology first.

Him: (smiles sheepishly) Sorry. I’m from Chicago. How do I get to 34th street?

She starts to give him directions, noticing his more than passing resemblance to the Channing Tatum picture she had as her Facebook profile picture for a span of months in 2008.

ChanningTatum

He is even wearing a sideways hat and huge sneakers, like Channing did in Step Up. It is like this stranger got dressed just for her.

Him: Thanks. My car is at the impound lot. 36 hours. Gotta get home.

She nods but does not ask for clarification. She really just does not need to know. Our protagonist dives back into her book.

Him: You like psychology books?

She internally laments for a moment that most people, unless they have given themselves the gift that is binging on James Patterson’s brilliant literary combination of psychology and crime, would simply categorize his work as mysteries. She decides to keep it simple.

Her: It’s not really about psychology.

Him: I read a lot of James Patterson.

Hello, dreamboat.

Her: (clearly shocked) Wow. I don’t know many guys who do.

He smiles so slowly that she is bathed in a full-on ray of Channing light, and it is like the next words reach her through a fog.

Him: I was in jail. For drugs. I don’t do them anymore, but I was selling.

And there it is.

Addendum: I RESENT that spell check is telling me I wrote Channing wrong. As. If. This is like when it tried to tell me Simba wasn’t a thing.

On The Ellipsis

Why should Ellipsis get to stomp around like a giant, while the rest of us try not to get smooshed under his big feet? What’s so great about Ellipsis? Hm? Period is just as cute as Ellipsis. Period is just as smart as Ellipsis. People totally like Period just as much as they like Ellipsis. And when did it become okay for one person to be the boss of everybody, huh? Because that’s not what Grammar is about. We should totally just STAB Ellipsis!

Seriously, though. I’m…getting…tired…of…seeing…them…everywhere…

On Being Best Friends With A “Cool Girl”

My best friend, M, is magnetic. Her charm knows no bounds. I love hanging out with her the night after she goes on a date and the guy is sending her text after text to see her again. When she doesn’t answer because we are too busy with more important things like rewatching Basketball Wives fights, they will step it up to calling and leaving long, pleading messages. Or the time a guy stayed home on Saturday night while she and I were out, cooking her “an ooey gooey blueberry crumble” to prepare for her meeting his family the next day. She just moved to a new city and within the first, oh, maybe two weeks, four hot, smart guys had asked her on dates. Guys have given up lucrative jobs in other states for her. They’ve given up their commitment-phobic ways for her. They just go nuts for her. I’ve never quite been able to put my finger on what it is about her, but it hit me when I was reading this xoJane article. M’s secret? She’s a Cool Girl.

I, decidedly, am not.

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
 Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)”

-Gillian Flynn, “Gone Girl”

The thing about M is that she isn’t faking it. She legitimately loves food more than anyone I’ve ever met, and still has a tiny, adorable body that looks amazing in everything. Guys meet her and automatically want to be with her all the time, and she couldn’t care less. She’s always busy doing things that are more important to her than hanging out with guys, even if it’s lying in bed with her dog and Netflix. She doesn’t want commitment. She doesn’t need fancy dates. She doesn’t get jealous. And she is unapologetic about all of it.

I’ve learned some important life lessons in being friends with a Cool Girl. Mainly, I should speak up about what I want, even if it isn’t “cool.” And being a Cool Girl comes with its own problems. Stop rolling your eyes. She’ll meet a guy, get a crush on him, go on a date, and then he’ll become so obsessed with her that it’s off-putting. She wonders how they can like her that much if they barely know her. I can’t even count how many times this has happened.

The beautiful thing about this is that I’ve realized being a Cool Girl is something you’re born with. I can’t try to imitate her. It just doesn’t work. So instead of being quietly jealous about all the attention she gets, I’m delighted by it. It’s so far out of my scope of being that I can’t even get upset that I’m so different. This is the only time I will ever use this phrase: I’m tickled by how easily she wins people, especially men, over. Through being friends with a Cool Girl, I have realized that I’m absolutely not one, and that that is more than okay.

I’ve gotten way too excited about a guy and, as a result, totally wrecked a growing relationship. I’ve drunk sobbed after composing a text, agonizing over sending it, and getting nothing back when I finally do. I’ve changed in a lot of ways since those days, but I’m still not a Cool Girl. Most of us aren’t. But the more we own up to that, the less it matters. The more open we are about how being upfront about our wants and needs is not the same as being too demanding, the more we give ourselves permission to be fully-formed, complex human beings. The more we learn to not just be unapologetic about, but actually celebrate who we are, the more powerful we become. And personally, I’d much rather be powerful than cool.

I Have Decided to Be Magnanimous

Since I cannot be with Drake, it is okay if he dates Rihanna instead. You take what you can get, right?

On Transforming into a Morning Person

True to my Scorpio nature (just kidding [not really]), I’m all about changing myself for the better. Unless it’s too much work. Then I’m all about staying true to who I already am.

That woman who taught herself how to dance in a year sent me into an hours-long tailspin of watching So You Think You Can Dance videos and furiously googling “dance classes for adults new york BEGINNERS.” I was seriously up until three in the morning trying to copy moves from this video. I had a blast, but it did NOT go very well technique-wise. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

The latest thing I am trying my hand at is becoming a morning person. I am hoping that this will be a stunning transformation from my current self, a total night-owl. If you wake me too early, I will carefully consider ripping open your chest, drinking your tears as a palate cleanser, then feasting on your heart. To clarify, I do not want to be the kind of morning person who does yoga at 5 a.m. and says things like, “Joy courses through me like a raging river!” and “I seem to have run out of wheatgrass for my kale smoothie.” I’m not trying to fully overhaul my life here. I just want to be able to bounce out of bed early enough to write a bit, make an espresso, and not have to rush through my shower.

One thing that I am hoping may save me is my new Philips Wake-up Light, which the company was kind enough to let me sample. It simulates the rising sun so you can wake up without the jarring futuristic ring tone that serves as your current alarm. So far, it really does seem to be a gentler way to wake up. Now I just need to work on setting it early enough to get myself to the gym. Maybe that will be my 2015 resolution. No, that was not a typo. 2015. Baby steps.

Someone Get Me a Xanax: On My Fear of Flying

I used to be very scared of flying. I was okay through my childhood and teenage years, but something changed in college. It happened when my family and I were returning to the states from Manchester a few summers ago. Out of nowhere, the plane dropped right out of the clouds and very nearly slammed into the earth. That’s what it felt like, anyway. People screamed. My mom was scared, and when your mom is terrified, that’s how you KNOW that this is not a drill. I was so petrified I could do nothing but squeeze her hand as tightly as she gripped mine.

After that, the more time I spent on a plane, the more I realized, “Hey, it makes no logical sense that I am up here in some tube hurtling toward some faraway place.” Plus, the more you fly, the more your chances of dying in a plane crash rise. It is a logical fear based on probability. Numbers. Those things don’t lie.

I’ve pretty much gotten rid of that all-consuming terror, mainly by binging on articles and full episodes on YouTube about awful crashes. The lower the survival count, the more I need to know everything about what happened. It’s counterintuitive, but there’s almost always a section where they talk about how aviation has evolved to avoid whatever took the plane down, so I feel reassured that things are much better now.

I don’t get too panicky on flights anymore, even during turbulence, and I can look out the window, even when we’re landing at LaGuardia and it looks like we are flying straight into the sea.

And yet. When I read this story about a Southwest captain who accidentally told all the passengers, “we’re going down,” I had to stifle a shriek at my desk.

During that scare on the flight back from Manchester, if I had actually heard the pilot mention that we were going to crash, I would have Lost. My. Shit. And maybe actually passed out. Kudos to everyone on the Southwest flight who kept a cool head. Everyone who didn’t, I stand in emotional solidarity with you because I would have been in your club. I am, above all, thankful that the flight landed safely. And that I wasn’t on it, because if I had been, you’d never get me on a plane again.

Modeling: Not As Easy As It Looks

If you have seen even one season of America’s Next Top Model, you will hear these catwalk hopefuls tell Tyra, Queen of You and Everything Else Ever, “I had no idea modeling was this hard!” I have seen every episode of the show. Yes, I actually kept watching even when they came up with Pot Ledom (read it backwards) and booching and tooching (you don’t want to know), so along with realizing I deserve some sort of huge prize, I have had this drilled into my head: Modeling is tough. It’s all about finding the light and not losing your neck and no claw hands and sexy inhale and a ton of other rules that I understand conceptually but cannot actually do.

I recently had the chance to throw all of these modeling edicts together when I did a Refinery29 shoot about new hairstyles for curls. First, hair and makeup artists got me  all dolled up. I love when multiple people are working on me because it is the closest I will ever get to being Beyonce. I had so much fun that as soon as I finished, I texted my friend, “Now I just need to grow five inches and lose 30 pounds so I can do this full-time.”

Unfortunately, even if I had been born with leggy glamazon proportions, I would actually not be able to model as a job. For starters, during the Refinery29 casting, all I had to do was take a smiling and non-smiling picture. When I broke into a smile, I was so nervous that my lips were quivering like they had been switched with pre-cry Claire Danes’.

I was so taken aback by how my mouth was betraying me that I forgot everything Goddess Tyra has ever said about smizing. This was my MOMENT! And I was blowing it.

Imagine my surprise when I actually got asked to do the shoot. The day is mostly a blur, but I do remember having a very clear “What the eff am I doing here?!” pause. I don’t even take selfies unless something major happens, like I get bangs. I’m just not much of a picture person. So, of course the logical decision was to go to a casting call for the chance to get tons of professional photos taken of me.

There was a lot of mental, “Okay, Zahra, you’ve been smiling like that for two minutes. Change it up” happening. I constantly had to make an effort to tilt my face in little increments, make my smile bigger by degrees, then go to the beginning and start it all over again. I also tried to smize without smiling but that was just a big dose of bitchface that seemed to slightly scare everyone on set. So even though my day of modeling was very fun, it was pretty tough. Not that I’m surprised. Tyra’s right about everything.

Pinterest Is Appalling

My life is basically diametrically opposed to some of the most popular pins. Look, I’ve got proof:

Pinterest version:

Closet1

Closet2

Closet3

In what universe does someone’s closet look like that? These are all bigger than my entire living room, kitchen, and bathroom combined.

My version: Leaving my clothes in an “artful” heap on the floor. Look, this is NYC. It’s fine. My clothes pile could probably be in some gallery as a critique of the stagnant layers of soul-crushing oppression and obligation that start to encroach upon your life as soon as you graduate from college, leaving a literal stumbling block in your way as you try to find your way in the world.

Spooked

When I feel like my life is low in its daily “I’m so terrified I’m now officially scared of shadows” quotient, I like to read stories about paranormal phenomena. Demons? Love ‘em. Ghosts? Yes, please make me scared to leave my closet open at night. If you know anything, you know that closets are a hotbed of evil activity.

Thing is, I am not one of those people who is going to actually grab a Ouija board or hold some ill-advised séance so I can experience this in my own life. I want no part of it. I’ve realized that when I read about these things, I sort of mentally plead with any spirits to not reveal themselves to me. Just because I’m fascinated by them doesn’t mean I need to wake up in the middle of the night to one hovering over my bed, watching me sleep. So I’ll read a story about some type of human-dog-poltergeist hybrid chasing someone through the forest, and I’ll laugh nervously and think, “Woo, that sure sounds frightening! Hope I NEVER see ANYTHING like that EVER, please.”

I do this mental bargaining very politely, instead of going with what comes naturally and out of fear being like, “Don’t you EVER FUCKING SHOW YOURSELF TO ME.” If I were to offend a malevolent spirit, they could easily get revenge by scaring me so much that I literally poop forever or lose my mind and go mute and never speak again. Even writing this, I’m having “please do not appear to me” thoughts. As if a ghost is just sitting at its computer, refreshing my blog for paranormal mentions.

People who are like, “I have the sight” or “I see spirits all around us” or “the two eyes on my face are not the only ones I have” astonish me because they act like it’s no big. I will never be one of them. So ghosts, please, don’t show yourselves to me. I promise, I already believe.

Help! He Flaunts a Picture of His Ex

“This new guy I’m seeing invited me over for the first time. As we were walking up the stairs, he sort of joked that he had a picture of his ex in his apartment, I guess so I would be prepared? I thought it was going to be in his living room, maybe on the fridge or a side table. Nope, it was across from his bed. Should I bring it up with him?”

Wow. Huh. First of all, I’m hoping you didn’t have sex with him in front of that picture. You know what they say about your ears ringing when people are talking about you? I assume if your ex has sex with someone else in front of a picture of you, your eyes just spontaneously combust and fry in their sockets, leaving only ashes in their wake.

This guy is clearly not over his ex, and he is testing you. He could have asked you to hang out in the living room while he tidied up, then threw the picture in the closet. Or like, lovingly wrapped it in a sweater and tucked it away, at least. He’s trying to see what you’ll accept before being like, “This is way too crazy for me, good luck with the rest of your life.” Think about it: that picture is the last thing he sees before he goes to bed every night. He is purposely trying to induce sweet, s-EX-y dreams.

The most important thing you need to ask yourself is what you want from him. If he is a hot idiot that you snapped up because soon it will be too cold to go out and meet new guys, that’s one thing. If you’re fine knowing that he may make eye contact with that picture while having sex with you, have at it. Still, even if you’re not seriously into him, I vote you bring it up. It’s a matter of basic decency. You can be very jokey about the whole thing! The next time you’re in his room and you start making out, just nod a head toward the photo and throw out something like, “Well, this is going to be the weirdest threesome I’ve ever had!” It’ll make him laugh and hopefully realize how weird it is to leave that picture up. Besides that, I’d also suggest you pursue someone more promising so you don’t get left in the cold if he and this girl get back together.

If you were hoping he’d be more than a fling, get out now. He may be in a not-over-my-ex fog, but either way it’s still pretty disrespectful and shows that he doesn’t care about making things uncomfortable for you. In that case, I wouldn’t specifically bring up the picture. I’d just break it off and say something like, “It seems like you aren’t over your ex and I know how hard that can be to process when you jump into something with someone else.” Then move onto greener pastures where the cows are not still emotionally entangled in their exes. Or something.

Have a love, sex, or relationship question? Send it to Help.JustMyFace@gmail.com and I’ll do my best to answer it here.

On Parallel Universes

I told my boyfriend that it is much easier to not ask Drake to marry me because I know that in a parallel universe, Drake and I are actually very happy together. This was not as reassuring as I had hoped.

On Black Beauty and NonCompliance

When I was around 14, my mom took me on a cruise around the Caribbean. We made friends with a family who had a girl around my age, Mandy. Mandy was adorable with shiny white blonde hair, enormous deep blue eyes and some stomach chub that she’d probably lose after puberty.

I had just come out on the other side of puberty myself, magically shooting up a few inches and effortlessly dropping some weight. I started getting more intense compliments than just “you’re cute!” and I got them way more frequently than I had since I was around 10 and barged headlong into my awkward stage. So when I was on this cruise with Mandy, I was in for a little shock. Everyone fawned over her to the point where she was embarrassed over being so noticed, and I was embarrassed over the opposite. They obsessed over her hair, exclaimed over her eyes, and generally couldn’t help themselves from constantly talking about how striking she was. I, on the other hand, seemed to fade into the background. People would look at me after effusively losing their shit over Mandy, and throw me a bone like, “Oh, you’re pretty too!” But then when I was alone, I would start raking in the compliments. And that’s when I first realized that black beauty is always less.

It comes down to the concept of compliant beauty. I read about it in this article on xoJane. Basically, whether supermodel or normal human being, being pretty involves work. All that waxing and contouring and flat ironing doesn’t just happen sans some exertion of effort. We do it, in part, because looking hot feels really good. But it’s naïve to ignore that a lot of us are also attempting to achieve what we’ve been told is the beauty ideal. We’re being obedient. Consequently, if you decide to reserve your time and energy for pursuits other than looking as good as possible, you’re being noncompliant. You can also be branded noncompliant because of irreversible traits, even if you primp within an inch of your life. This is the reality of being a black woman.

Just by nature of being black, we’re uncooperative. Our largest organ signals that we’re automatically opting out of this mainstream beauty contest. Otherwise, I’m pretty compliant. I straighten my hair frequently. I get my eyebrows done, shave my legs, wear makeup and tight dresses sometimes. When I try to play into this beauty game, am I fooling myself?

This is not at all to say black women (and other women of color) aren’t jaw-droppingly gorgeous on a regular basis. It’s more about society’s large-scale opinion of who is beautiful.

As an example, in the new class of supermodels, the black girls generally have less followers on Instagram than white ones. Is it because they’re less famous? Because they book less work? Sure, probably. But that’s entirely it, they are less famous and book less work because society as a whole cannot buy into a blackness as the ultimate beauty fantasy. On its own, this could be marked as a one-off. But given that beauty doesn’t exist in a vacuum, given the context of the society we live in, it is absolutely a symptom of black beauty being less desirable.

It’s one thing to feel like I can never live up to a certain type of beauty, and another to worry about being overlooked or bypassed entirely. I remember being confused when people would ask me and my friends, who, in my eyes, looked totally different from me, if we were twins. Or when teachers would repeatedly call me by the name of another black girl that, again, I thought looked totally different from me. I started to think people saw black women as indistinguishable, and that’s a hard attitude to shake.

The quasi-perverse way I think about it is: if I get X amount of compliments or people thinking I’m beautiful as a black woman, what if I were the same level of pretty, but white? How many more doors would magically open to me? How many more guys would approach me? How much more attention would be called to my looks? I don’t want to be anyone but me, even if it were someone like Candice Swanepoel (I’ve actually puzzled over the fact that I really don’t think I’d trade bodies with her if I could—maybe it’s just because of the inconvenience factor of learning how to exist in a different form). I still hate that there is a realm, by a lot of society’s standards, I will never reach.

I Am Drinking a Bud Light “Cran-brrr-rita”

Because I’m trying to rein in spending on food and alcohol and it was like $3.50 for 25 ounces. Thank you, Bud Light, for reminding me I am actually nowhere near being an adult. Big sigh of relief.

If You Go Ghost, It Better Be Because You Actually Died

I recently went for drinks with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. She filled me in on the OkCupid guy she had been dating for a bit who just pulled a complete Houdini on her.

At first, he went almost overboard with the amount of contact. Just reaching out to her all the time, to the point where “if I hadn’t liked him, I would have been weirded out,” she said. First warning sign.

After very fun dates (and sex), she felt him pulling away. “So I thought, maybe it’s my turn to reach out to him more!” she explained. Warning sign two.

She upped the ante and got nothing back. She was wondering if she could ask him what had happened, and I told her that although that is definitely her right, it would be very hard to pull it off without him thinking she was batshit crazy. That’s just part of the unfairness that comes with the modern dating status quo.  I said she could, but she’d have to go into it knowing that no matter how she framed it, he would think she was nuts. It would obviously just be a transference of his guilt about blowing her off, but he likely doesn’t have the emotional maturity to admit that to himself.

Luckily, she didn’t have to think this over for long. The day after she and I met up, she forwarded me this email exchange (posted with her permission).

Him: I’m sorry that I haven’t been more proactive in wanting to hangout with you. I’m realizing this week with the extra workload with the bike company that I’m not going to have any time for a social life for the next few months. On top of that I just got out of a long and serious relationship and I’m not looking to invest any time to date again and it would be unfair for you if you were looking for something more consistent and long-term.

Her: Yeah, I picked up on the hints. No worries – I’m fairly fresh out of a long-term relationship too, so I get it.

If you don’t mind my asking, though, I’m genuinely curious – what changed? It seemed like you were so enthusiastic for a few weeks there, and then that kind of died pretty abruptly.

Him: Nothing really changed…I was enthusiastic about hanging out but there’s still a big part of me that’s not over my ex…and I’m trying to figure out how I want to approach that situation.

I also realized that between the full-time job, freelance bike marketing, studying for my certification tests, and having to do community service (because of the whole getting in trouble) that I really don’t have any much time for anything else and I’ve always tended to half-ass / not complete projects in my life and for once this shit means a lot to me and I don’t wanna fuck it up while at the same time letting someone down because I can’t hang out on a consistent basis.

Her: Got it. I had a really good time with you – best of luck with everything.

Oooooh. It rankles.

Dudes. Ladies. People of all identities. You bored? Current person isn’t doing it for you anymore? Okay, no problem. It happens. Just don’t bow out with a long list of why you just cannot fit this person into your cuhraaaazy schedule. If you were a trustfund baby and had not a thing to do all day long, it would be well within your right to still not give a second of your time to anyone you weren’t madly obsessed with. On the flipside, everyone knows that when you are really into someone, you will find time for them. You will ask them to help you market bikes. You will ask them to watch Netflix with you while you make flashcards for your certification tests. You will make it work.

Also, hello?! You can’t just disappear if you have already played hide the banana. Rude. My friend is such a good sport. I would have not responded but mentally been like, “I hope your penis falls off since you obviously don’t know how to wield it with the power it has been accorded.”

Today on the Subway

I saw two beautiful baby boys with eyelashes they had obviously stolen from Disney Princesses. I stared at them so much I think their dad was getting nervous.

They get to grow up with male privilege but ALSO with eyelashes that would make any photoshopped mascara ad hang its head in shame?

That ain’t right.

An Upworthy Video Worth Watching

This explains that twinge of sadness I felt when I was recently on a press trip in St. Lucia. We were staying at Jade Mountain, a resort that’s regularly at the top of numerous “best of” lists. I luckily scored the best “sanctuary” there, The Galaxy.

I mean, come on.

I mean, come on.

“We don’t call them rooms,” joke-scoffed the staff member who gave us a guide of the grounds. I am trying to bring a little St. Lucia to NYC and call my room a sanctuary, but it just isn’t sticking.

Twinge isn’t even the right phrase. It was more like a persistent layer of melancholy under all of the overwhelmingly positive emotions I was feeling. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself; I absolutely did revel in my good fortune. I got to splash around in my own Infinity Pool with a complimentary bottle of prosecco. Of course I loved it all.

Still, there was that layer. It was always there, constantly reminding me that I would only be in St. Lucia for five days, I would never see The Pitons for the first time again, and I would only get to come back and stay there again if a lot of things in my life changed.

Although I sometimes rely on negativity because it fuels my brand of humor, I’m using this as an exercise in optimism. When I remember how unreal it was and get a little sad that it’s over, I just pull up a map. “Look,” I think to myself. “Look at all the chances you have.”

My Future Dog

As I tell anyone who will listen, my future dog will have hit the freaking jackpot.

He will be a little shelter mutt with a face I can’t even conceive of right now that will tackle and squeeze my heart the second I see it. I will have a hard time naming him, but I have a feeling it will be a short word, potentially inspired by some kind of meat product to showcase our shared love of food. The phrase “forever home” makes me want to cry, and I can’t wait to provide one for the right dog.

I love dogs so much that, even sober, I have urges to steal the various types that I see daily on the streets of New York. Luckily I realize that is seriously mean and also I can’t run very fast so I’d be in for some beatings and potentially light prosecution. So, I will wait until I find my perfect pup.

With December approaching, I have realized yet another thing I must do with my dog. Two words: Holiday. Portraits.

SO cheesy, I know! I fully own how disgustingly over the top it is. I do promise to find a comfortable ugly holiday sweater for him. If  he has to be subjected to the indignity of this project, I will make sure that he can at least do it itch-free. This will also be beneficial to me, because you can bet your ASS we will be matching.