I used to really love birthdays. Well, I used to really love my birthday. Let’s be real—other people’s birthdays are fun when you can get a good party out of it, but past that, you really only care about your own. Unless you hate attention, or like to pretend that you are the kind of person who hates attention.
Last year I had my first terrible birthday. For starters, it was on Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday where you literally are not allowed to eat and you have to repent for all of your sins. I was three weeks into my four months of living in Prague, and went to the Chabad in the Old Town to observe the holiday. For the service, I had to sit in the way, way back behind a tall, wooden gate. This is because I am a woman. I had to squint through the bars in order to make out the rabbi, who went so quickly through the whole thing that I genuinely couldn’t tell if he was speaking in Czech, Hebrew, or both.
The highlight of my day was coming home between classes, stripping off my turtleneck sweater and jean skirt, and falling asleep in my favorite bra. I woke up 45 minutes later and sat up in bed, rosy-cheeked and doe-eyed, and, for 20 minutes, ate sour gummy candy from a paper bag that my friend Emily had given me that morning. As the Jewish people say when something is blessed, baruch hashem.
I got home from the service that night and sobbed.
I’ve been secretly counting down to my birthday this year because I know that it cannot possibly be worse than the year prior. I’ve been waiting for this day because it would prove me wrong—birthdays are great, after all. I know it.
At midnight, I turn 21. For the last week, this has felt very, very weird.
The best and most commonly given advice to a birthday girl is to “not set your expectations too high.” That way, when you don’t have that much fun at your party, you wake up to see it’s raining, or the boy you wanted to kiss didn’t lean in when you wanted him to, you won’t feel the disappointing sink of your metaphorical candles being blown out by someone else.
The weird thing about turning 21 is that the American government has automatically instilled an expectation that I cannot ignore. Obviously, this is the expectation that, starting at 12am, I can legally drink alcohol.
I have been counting down to 12am all day. This makes no sense. I don’t have any wild plans for midnight (maybe a dive bar, nothing crazy) and, to disappoint you all, I actually have enjoyed a glass of wine or two before, so this will not be the first.
This is what counting down to turning 21 unexpectedly feels like: Cinderella watching the clock. New Year’s Eve. Checking to see if you got into the college of your dreams on December 12th at 5pm. Taking a pregnancy test. Waiting to hear the results of a presidential election. Getting ready to leave the nail salon because your toes will soon be dry. Getting out of class. Standing in front of a microwave.
It doesn’t feel like something amazing is going to happen. It feels strange to know that at a time I am already aware of, something about me is going to change. And the worst part of it all is that’s it’s not a big deal, but, because we are human, we feel things anyway.
I told my mom that I wasn’t in the mood for a birthday. Her response was this: “Hannah, you’ve always been sensitive to time.”
Maybe it’s weird because I remember turning 20, sort of sweaty in my bra and underwear, getting sugar in my sheets, writing a similar essay at this time one year ago, so vividly. I hated turning 20 so much. I hated that I was done with 19.
In that essay, I lamented a then-anxiety of mine: Is everyone else freaking out as much as I am? Also this: My one and only life goal was to write a book before I turned 20, because I thought there was something romantic and alluring about it, and I didn’t do it.
A very full year has passed. I have lived in Prague, and Providence, and New York City. I have aged immensely, though my fashion sense has perhaps regressed to that of a six-year-old in 1993. I have experienced so many people and things. I don’t remember the last time I thought about everyone freaking out, or lack thereof. I started writing a book.
This morning I told my roommates who also serve as my best friends that I was feeling weird and reflective, which I guess is a thing I now do on the day before my birthday. On my 12th birthday, I had a full-blown panic attack just as my mom brought out the cake. I ran out to the deck and hyperventilated for an hour and a half. I am terrified that this is going to happen to me tomorrow.
Incidentally, that birthday also fell on Yom Kippur, so maybe that’s just god’s way of saying “fuck you.” I mean, that would be shitty of him, but you never know.
I think I don’t want to have a birthday because I don’t need one. I don’t need a day about me. Maybe I don’t want a day where I have to think about me. Everything is good every other day. I really like every day.
Do you know what I also like? Hoppy beer. Also pumpkin beer. And Chardonnay. If we run into each other tonight, drinks on me.
Two nights ago, I was in bed at 11:25pm when Jonathan Cheban’s Instagram so generously encouraged me to watch Kim Kardashian’s Snapstory – a habit I, coincidentally, had recently dropped. You know when you’re watching a video of something terrible, and it takes you a solid four seconds to realize what you’re watching, and then you freak out? Well, that was me in my un-air conditioned apartment, sweating for reasons more than one.
As “jack,” someone with a cool Tumblr, has put it, this is “the wildest pop culture beef this decade… (and it all happened in the space of a few hours !).” Kim released the videos; Taylor made an Instagram statement; Selena tried to get involved, and epically failed; Katy Perry giggled from the sidelines; Chloe Grace Moretz, in an awfully public attempt to earn her spot in the #squad, takes Taylor’s side; and Justin Bieber, who is really fucking stoned I think, tries to put peace back into the world.
There are certain “facts” that draw us to justifiable conclusions like “let’s all hate Taylor Swift”: In Taylor’s Instagram statement this morning, she claimed her issue was that Kanye never made it clear she would be referred to as a “bitch; yet in her Grammy speech, she explicitly stated she was upset by the fact that someone else took responsibility for her fame. Further: Taylor called this “character assassination,” which raises questions of whether we have, or curate, characters for that we must maintain. And what about the fact that Taylor has racked up an extra few million for all the times we listened to “Dear John” on repeat, ceaselessly hoping to discover new evidence that the song was, in fact, about John Mayer? She assassinated many characters. You might know some of them. Harry Styles, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Lautner (#tbt).
Emily Nussbaum said it brilliantly on Twitter: “She didn’t explain what actually happened & her speech feels very different now.”
The closest thing we’ve ever seen to this is the last third of Mean Girls, where Cady Heron tells Janice Ian for the millionth time that Regina George, sans hair, would look like a British man. Then, lover boy Aaron Samuels turns on her and she’s basically uninvited to the spring fling. For some reason, I am consistently and oddly satisfied with the new tornado that becomes Cady’s life, over and over again.
Taylor Swift is Cady Heron, and Kanye West is Regina George in a back brace.
I have never met Taylor Swift, and I have no reason to feel threatened by her. I think it’s safe to say we will never date. Furthermore, though I am neither tall, beautiful, nor famous enough to be in her #squad, I am potentially white and average enough to have been the “red-headed Abigail” she croons about in “Fifteen.” If anything, young white women like me are the closest thing Taylor might ever have to an ally.
But I hate her. And maybe I hate her because she is wrong, and maybe that is enough. The thing, though, is that because of social media, we will never know if she isactually wrong. At this point, there are probably more conspiracy theories involving Taylor Swift than there are regarding JFK or, like, the Illuminati. We will never know what real conversations Taylor and Kim and Kanye are having – unless Kim Snapstories them, of course. We will never know what bombs are carefully planned and scheduled to drop and which ones arrive in Taylor Swift’s inbox just as shockingly as they do in ours.
It scares me that we don’t know the motive or the end goal; that we don’t really know or understand what Taylor wants from us. We’re all dying to uncover the truths of Taylor Swift more than we are the truths of the military coup in Turkey, and isn’t that kind of crazy?
The ripple effects of this event are multifold; it is the beginning of the end of Taylor Swift. Maybe it isn’t quite Taylor’s Sinéad O’Conor pope-ripping moment, but it’s the closest she’s come. It’s sensory overload. It’s Kim Kardashian, who is famous for being a person, affecting the way I view her often-misogynistic musical genius of a husband in a relatively good way. It’s holding all celebrities more accountable for speaking out – Selena Gomez, over Twitter, encouraged the media to focus on more important things, when neither she nor Swift are yet to comment about the horrific murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
So, as a feminist, as a die-hard Kanye fan, as someone who knows how to play a handful of Taylor Swift songs on acoustic guitar, and as someone very much glued to the holy trinity of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, what am I supposed to think? I think I hate hating Taylor Swift, because I wish I didn’t care at all.
The first time I read Eat. Pray. Love. I was sixteen in Turkey. After my first two weeks in a summer homestay program in Istanbul, the return of my anxiety disorder from the dark depths of freshman year of high school sent me into a “self-help” phrase. I did not eat anything but baklava for those first two weeks because I was terrified of food poisoning (and I guess I assumed that baklava was immune to that?). On the fourth of July, an acid-reflux/diarrhea attack sent me hysterically crying as I tried to reach my mom in the States. I woke up every person in the apartment and then spent half an hour convincing them through hiccupy sobs that I was totally great, thanks!!! No worries!!
The next day, I knew it was time to put an end to the madness. As I strayed away from the idea of taking an SSRI (like Lexapro) or a benzo (like Xanax, but not in the way you used it to get blackout in high school) for the whole of my childhood, I had to come up with my own medication. Thus, I gave birth to the master plan of all master plans: I downloaded seven self-help books on my Kindle using my 23-year-old host brother’s phone Wi-Fi, and I’m pretty sure that at the time, I had never been so excited about anything in my entire life.
Whether the end of my panic disorder as it manifested itself for that summer in Turkey ceased due to inspiring nonfiction written by great women, I do not know. (The same summer, I also read all three books in the Fifty Shades of Grey saga. So…) But the memoirs and stories I deemed “self-help,” even though their actual genre may not read the same way, did shape my idea of being alone and being alive. I decided that Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray. Love. would be the first I read. It was also the best.
What I remember most from the memoir is a small paragraph in the introductory section where Gilbert speaks about herself as a someone who explores the world; though she has been everywhere from eastern Africa to Asia and back again a dozen times, she is not a “natural” traveler. She gets food poisoning everywhere, she catches malaria or something like that, her feet blister easily and she doesn’t do well on planes… that sort of stuff. But still, she chooses to travel. And she loves it. And this is the part of the book that I have been thinking about for the last six months, and, more recently, at least twice a day for the last 74 days. We, maybe meaning me and Elizabeth, maybe just meaning all of us, choose to do things even though we know they may be hard. It is the rewarding type of self-sabotage where, in the end, we aren’t quite sabotaging ourselves at all.
Since metaphysically joining Gilbert on her journeys to Italy, India, and Bali in 2012, I have wanted to travel alone. So, I made it a point to take a weekend away myself over the course of my four months in Europe. And I told everyone that I would too, maybe because I thought that would make its chances of happening higher. I sent my parents links to articles. Listicles. Anything. They weren’t very enthusiastic about the whole idea, but the truth of the matter is that a month ago, I booked a plane from Prague to Milan for two and a half days, so now I’m in the airport and soon I’ll be incredibly alone in the Italian city of Milan. I can already tell I will like it because the strong cologne of the thin, bald man in a sleek suit next to me at gate C2 is kind of a turn on. What???
I will be staying in a private room in an AirBnb hosted by a lovely fifty-something woman named Fabrizia. She signs her emails “Fab.” I think we will be best friends.
I don’t really know anyone in Milan at all besides Fab, I guess. People have been asking me what are you going to do there?? which I think is a silly question because I’m going to do what I would do if I wasn’t alone, DUH! I am going to see the Piazza Duomo and Via Montenapoleone and eat pasta at fancy restaurants. Yes, I will be eating pasta alone because I am traveling alone! Yes, I will wander to a bar at night where I can drink red, red wine so good it puts the song to shame (if it is not to shame already). I will buy myself something nice to wear, like a hat, and when it gets late at night, I’ll have a date with Microsoft Word, which is the closest sugar daddy to Bill Gates I’ll probably ever find.
I have no idea what to expect, but I am really not nervous at all. I promise I’m not even just saying that to sound cool. Because I thought I would be nervous and I’m not. I feel very amazing, actually.
Of course, though, this good feeling will only last until I wake up in the middle of the night with that dang ol’ hereditary acid reflux and call my mom crying. But I have my Zantac (not to be confused with Xanax) now so I’M ALL GOOD! Don’t worry, Mama!
So, I guess this is it. I’m not freaking out, but I may or may not be thinking I AM LIVING THE DREAM, because, and I could not be thankful enough for this, I am. Me and the little Elizabeth Gilbert who sits on my shoulder will be eating al dente pasta, praying for a good floppy hat that is affordable enough for me to purchase, and loving every second of being alone with my oldest friend – me. (Haha.)
I am about to start my twenties.
It’s like the moment in 13 Going on 30 when Jennifer Garner’s character, Jenna Rink, who has the best character name ever, wakes up one morning and realizes she’s no longer thirteen and she’s… well… thirty (as I’m sure you could have guessed). Anyway, this is exactly what has happened to me. I swear.
I have always wanted to be in my twenties, though never for a second did I genuinely wish I was another age. I’ve been excited for my twenties. I think that they seem glamorous and fun and they have all the good stuff. Like maybe within the next decade I’ll meet a guy who likes all the same things I do and maybe one day we’ll have babies. And in the next decade I’ll have a job, hopefully. I’ll really be who I am, or who I’m going to be, and it’s just SO cool that it’s all going to happen because it has to – because life just keeps going.
But I am pretty sure that just a few moments ago I was five and received my first lecture from a doctor after slamming my little brother’s chin into the wooden floor of our living room. (This was the first time I got lectured by a doctor; after the age of 16 most doctors’ lectures revolve around condom usage, no matter what!)
And I swear to the mother, the sister, and the holy spirit that just this morning – just this morning!!! – I was nine and so obsessed/intrigued by colonial American culture after a school field trip that I brought a silver mixing bowl from my kitchen into my room to use as a “basin” next to my bed so that I could “rinse my hands” at night before falling asleep. My mom’s response to this was something along the lines of WTF Hannah, so I had to bring it back down to the kitchen the next morning.
I loved more than just the habits of young colonial women. When I was in third grade, I told my teacher that I was going to write a book about famous females in history. On that lined paper we all used to learn script, I proceeded to spend free time for two weeks writing about my favorites: Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Anne Frank. Of course, this was all completely plagiarized from the mini-chapter books I obsessively read about each of them every morning from 6:30 to 7:30.
Later that year, in third grade, I completely made up a miraculous event in my life and wrote about it for my final memoir; I was called into a circus ring, which I vaguely remember happening but Mother dearest insists that it “must have been a dream.” Often, I have trouble remembering the moment I realized I wanted to write, or even the moment I realized I liked to write, and that it felt as good, if not better, than your legs do when you shave after two weeks sans shaving. But maybe, now that I’m almost twenty – double digits again! – I can say that this moment was probably it.
Right now, I’m sitting on my bed in my apartment in Prague. And I’m basically alone. And I cooked dinner for myself tonight, albeit the fact that I didn’t realize I had to cook dinner for myself until my blood sugar was so low that I felt weak in the knees, yes, in the same way I did when I realized how attractive Spanish men were this past weekend in Barcelona.
Can you believe that everything in the above paragraph is true?
So, we must ask ourselves: Is this real life? Am I really going to be 20? Did I actually just travel to Barcelona, casually, for the weekend, without my mom and dad? Where is my nightgown and my miniature-sized version of The Big Comfy Couch (ignore the fact that I still sleep with blinders/my teddy bear/blankie)? Where is that moment when, after months of unsuccessful attempts, I finally had the chutzpah to shove a tampon up my hoohah? What about the time I shit my pants on stage during my camp age group’s production of Sleeping Beauty in 2006? Or when I woke up my mom in the middle of the night to let her know I had my first kiss?
Life is a crazy, crazy thing. Last week, I was telling my therapist that at least twice a day I find myself looking around some public space and screaming inside of my head, “How is no one else freaking out right now? How am I the only one?”
Her response was simple: “Why do you think we speak to each other, Hannah?” she asked. “Why do you think we have language, or we have Skype [the method through which we were talking], or we communicate at all? It’s because no one can cope with it all alone. We would all go crazy if we did.”
And she was right. I’ve spent the last three weeks obsessively journaling, which is something I haven’t had time to do in years. But it isn’t really the same. Simply put, I can’t turn twenty alone.
So, is anyone else freaking out right now? Am I not the only one?
I had a very big life goal (I am a very big goals person, ask me for my New Years’ resolution list and I can serve you a copy of my 2008 Microsoft Word version if you’d like) and it was only this: to write my first book before my twentieth birthday. I thought that teenage allure would make it that much more, uh, alluring. I thought that I would be so accomplished, and I would be the YOUTH!
Well, bad news bears, I did not write a book, and I am about to turn twenty. My mom told me that maybe I should extend the goal one year, because obviously you aren’t really an adult until you can legally drink.
I’m not not saying that I plan on following the goal suggested by my mom. (Side note: I originally made that sentence a quadruple negative and decided that it was just mean to do and not even funny or worth it.) But, more importantly, age is just a number. I’m still the same me from third grade, so in another nine or ten months, I’ll probably be the same me that I am tonight, but a little bit different, too.
Tomorrow I will no longer be a teenager and I will never be a teenager again and soon 19 will feel as far away as the time I needed my first bra because early onset nippilitis at age 10. I’ll just leave it at that.
It’s much more normal to say your goodbyes at the end of the summer. You wish a bon voyage to the friends you made in the city, to your final dose of R&R at the beach, to your only glimmer of motivation that brought you to zumba four times a week. But because I have to be different for arbitrary reasons, I’m saying (some of) mine now. Also, I just love Shakespeare and have since the first grade when I tried to produce Romeo and Juliet on my elementary school cafeteria’s stage (true story, rehearsals were held during recess, most of our time was spent imagining and re-imagining the scene in which we’d sing LMNT’s “Hey Juliet”), so I’m going to use a quote of his whenever I can.
In this case, for me, parting is sweet sorrow because we aren’t actually parting for eternity. And before I go further, let me preface that with this very long… preface (??):
Over the last two and a half years — yes, The FYD is knee-deep in toddlerhood — The Fro-Yo Diaries has become more and more candid. And it’s grown into this magical, free spirited (probably braless if it were human) thing because talking to all of you (are you out there? yes, you!!) is just me having long-winded, one-sided conversations with my MacBook. I now speak fluent Keyboard, and I’m so good at it that I may be showing early signs of carpal tunnel. Clearly, I blossom.
Sometimes, it’s easier to write this way. It’s so easy, in fact, that 99 percent of the times I meet an FYD reader for the first time in person, she will tell me how weird our initial interaction is because she feels like she already knows me; she often will laugh, saying, “This is exactly how I thought you’d speak,” or even “This is such a YOU outfit!” even though a) we’ve never met and b) I don’t even always know what a ME outfit is, so I’m very impressed that you do!
I guess this means I might be doing something right. I’ve created an identity, perhaps an alter ego. I’ve broken boundaries (hopefully one day, the glass ceiling) and put it all on the table in doing what I love the most — getting away with saying out loud what everyone else is thinking.
There is a downside to writing like this, though, and it’s that my computer screen is a literal and metaphorical mirror. My life has definitely extended past it, but it’s hard to bring The FYD up to speed when it’s stuck in its own universe. That doesn’t mean it can’t morph like Miley Cyrus’ hair, but it will be, like Miley Cyrus’ hair, a noticeable transition when it does so. And though you know me, there are a lot of stories I haven’t yet told simply because they aren’t, or haven’t been, FYD material. If you didn’t already know, I love self-depreciating humor writing. One day, you’ll hopefully read the 20 page (single spaced, hell yeah) memoir I wrote about my family’s recent Thanksgiving in Ohio, or the one about my relationship with my now-deceased grandma, or the one about how I formed this weird theory in the beginning of high school that my anxiety disorder was directly related to the “ball game” (think first, second, and third base) and thus proceeded to relay my escapades to my mother in the hopes that my panic attacks would subside.
And yes, that’s just the beginning of it.
SO, getting to ze point: Over the next seven-ish months I will be heading far and wide out of my comfort zones. Two months as a counselor at an all-boys camp in Maine, one week home, and then (trumpets, please, Jason Derulo), five months living abroad in Prague (!!!!!!).
Just THINK of all the things I’m going to have to write about!!!!!
And they are hopefully going to be more personal than what the labor of my love has provided up to this point. They will be funny, and embarrassing, and real, because growing into an adult is cool and important.
And on that note, I want other people’s help in cataloging this weird process. Expect some changes. For example: transcribed real-life group chats with the male species about topics/questions you want me to ask them. I don’t quite know what else I have up my bell-bottomed sleeve — in fact, I have nothing right now — but something will come. It always does.
There’s even a small chance I go on a small FYDiet (oh god no, not from actual fro-yo, just from writing here) to work on “big girl writing.” I mean, given the opportunity to sit at cafes where you aren’t watched like a hawk by a beady-eyed waiter who is ready to pounce with your bill the minute you finish that last sip of slow drip coffee will be a blessing. You know, the kind of cafes in plazas or on cobblestone streets, maybe where I’d eat a croissant because if you do that in Europe the calories don’t count; how can I not take that and run with it and write longer cooler shit if that’s what the world is telling me to do? If I want to do more, better writing, then I’ve gotta do more living.
But we’ll figure it out when we get there. As my favorite song from the Shrek soundtrack goes, “Turn to face the strange, ch-ch-changes.” This is also known as a very popular David Bowie song, if the Shrek soundtrack isn’t in your mental hard drive.
What now? I think we’ll talk soon (read: some time next week, for sure). I doubt I’ll be gone too long. Right now, I feel like a KT Tunstall song. And I love it.
As they say in seventh grade instant message chat rooms, TTFN/ta ta for now!
10:11am. I am sitting in my parents’ living room, feet clad in camp socks and Ugg slippers perched prominently upon the coffee table as if they thought they were the Sunday Style section of the Times. I drink tea. I turn on the television. In the kitchen, my dad is rolling strips of thinly sliced lox, just the way I like it, into tiny circles and placing them side by side on a large, ceramic platter. I mean, it’s brunch. We care about these things. Presentation is everything.
The first and best program I find to feast my eyes on, appeasing my grumbling stomach that yearns for a not-scooped out whole wheat everything, is SpongeBob SquarePants.
An episode of SpongeBob on a Sunday morning is better than prescribed anxiety medication. It is prescribed anxiety medication, that which I seemed to have left behind at some point in my life say, um, seven to fifteen years ago. The Feeling Of Watching SpongeBob On A Sunday Morning In Pajamas is one that has no proper name and not nearly enough recognition; yet, it was a strange experience because until I was feeling The Feeling, I didn’t realize it was one I hadn’t felt in ages.
Maybe I can blame this on the fact that I don’t have a TV in any bedroom I call my own — at home or school or place of sleep during summer or anything — but I’d guess that even if you do, you don’t come across this feeling often. And that is because your time is spent watching Netflix, which is an experience entirely different from watching normal television in the way we once did pre-Netflix.
Last week, I took my thirteen-year-old cousin shopping. I asked her what shows she watches, and this was her answer: “Glee (because they have all the seasons on Netflix now), and The Fosters [to which I asked, ‘is that on Netflix too?’ and she replied, ‘yes’]. Mostly YouTube videos.”
Now, I highly doubt that all practices of Saturday and Sunday morning cartoon watching are dead, because how else can parents of children old enough to sit up but not crawl or walk get those extra thirty minutes of sleep? Yet, they are less abundant than they once were, which I learned this weekend not just from the SpongeBob Experience but also from my 2-4pm half-napping-on-the-couch experience later that day.
You know how they take victims to crime scenes or have them smell things to bring back their memory? I forget the term for it — I know there is one, maybe it’s sensual memory (if that isn’t used to describe a graphic way of recollecting sexual experience) — but that’s what I had this weekend. I forgot that I once spent three hours every Saturday morning watching back-to-back episodes of Say Yes to the Dress all throughout middle and most of high school until I found myself back in that same sleepy position on the couch.
Today, if I want to watch a movie or a TV show when I wake up or before bed, I watch it on my computer in bed. I’ve lost my free spirited ways of flipping through channels in search of something satisfying. Thus, there’s no more sporadic SpongeBob watching until Criminal Minds is back on at 4, or no pleasant surprise when The Hot Chick is on TV. We miss the things we settled for (though in hindsight we realize SpongeBob was never truly “settling”) because we are now the masters of our own TV guides.
My mom and I used to eagerly await the two hours of TV time we’d spend together on nights when “our shows” were on — House, American Idol, Private Practice, Grey’s Anatomy, 24, Gossip Girl, Girls, Pretty Little Liars, True Blood, ER — but now, for me at least, there is no waiting. I’m so concerned with catching up on all of the important television art and pop culture I missed while I was too busy worrying about about Serena and Blair that I have no time for OITNB or House of Cards. Instead, I spent the last month speeding through 30 Rock. I couldn’t watch this season of Girls the fun way — waiting for the weekly episode to drop — because I didn’t have time to keep up. Instead, I binge-watched it all in two sittings when it was over. I did the same with Broad City. And Portlandia.
Netflix has created a universe of binge-watching television maniacs that hastily compete as if it is sport. Today, there is a cornucopia of good TV at my disposal. And the library keeps on growing. At this rate, I will never be well-versed in everything I should. I will never know or care about who died in the season finale of Game of Thrones. I will never have time to watch SpongeBob again.
Instead, I’ll be over here, tucked in bed with the lights turned off, with nothing but the warm glow of my laptop (which will one day surely give me radiation poisoning and turn me blind, yay!) and the insidious words on the lower righthand corner of my screen: “Next episode playing in 13 seconds.”
White sneakers are the euro tart of fashion.
This is the best metaphor I have ever thought of. It is such a good metaphor, in fact, that it surpasses metaphorical status. It’s synonymical.
Think about it.
Well, first of all, they are both clean and pure enough to be sung about by Madonna, touched (by sprinkles or perhaps a muddy sidewalk puddle) for the very first time. They are staples within their respective homes; a wardrobe and a frozen yogurt store. Skinny girls seem to love them. They are not for everyone, though. They are plain objects that with proper accessorizing/through bringing in the biggest guns can be the perfect statement. Most importantly, however, they smudge the boundary between classic and basic in a way that drives me mad.
Today, the white sneaker masks itself as a new phenomenon by embodying the Stan Smith (this is where euro tart and white sneakers diverge paths – euro tart knows it is the original, as it is often even referred to as “original,” and never pretends to be reinvented; however, one could argue that the Stan Smith sneaker is technically an “Adidas Original,” thus the white sneaker is labeling itself old school/original as well, which I may not disagree with – so then the paths might not diverge – so I should probably just let myself continue outside of the parenthetical to get to that point, so very sorry for this diverged path in itself, v v sorry).
Let’s turn this into a PBS documentary and trace the original sneaker back to its, um, origins. About three months before the Stan Smith, the white sneaker of choice was the high top Superga, and three months before that it was the low top Superga, and two years before that it was the classic white low top Converse (high top if you were feeling edgy but the low top was always more abundant). Before that, I’d like to say maybe white slip-on Vans? Lace up Vans? But that is completely dependent upon where you grew up, where you went to school, and how readily your style adapted to the cool girls vs. the Fall Out Boy phenomenon or maybe you always had a unique sense of style and skipped all of those phases completely, and so on and so forth.
Wanna know the funny thing? Even if you don’t, I’m going to tell you:
The low top white Superga, which is seemingly the most popular at the moment (the Stan Smiths are the “trendiest” but not the most accessible, leading to the rise of the Great White Superga – it is practically impossible to purchase a pair of Stan Smiths on any retail website until mid- to late-July at the absolute earliest), appears to be the OG euro tart, if that phrasing wasn’t too redundant for you.
And I know this because when I bought my first pair of white Supergas exactly one year ago, my mom went into her closet and came out wearing shoes identical to mine. “1989, baby,” she said with the same evil grin that took over her face when I recently bought a platform pair of Birkenstock-like sandals to match the ones she forced me to wear as a child (hers are also from the 80s) or when she refused to throw away her 80s pair of Uggs because she was loud and proud about being the first one to own a pair. Yes, some could call my mother a trendsetter, but because she hits the trends 10 to 20 years before they’re popular, she is rarely deemed fashionable (by me).
There is another funny thing about the Legacy of the Great White to point out: the difference between the dirty white sneaker and the clean white sneaker. I have some friends who insist upon having a pair of each. When they want the aesthetic of the white sneaker but know they are entering a dangerously dirty environment, they go for the already worn, scuffed, muddied white shoe. When they are going out to dinner, or are trying to look as fleek as fleek shall be, they wear the clean white sneaker.
My once-starchy Supergas finally succumbed to a weekend of day drinking and have entered the dark side. Even after a good run in the laundry, they’re weathered and aged, but in a Meryl Streep sort of way. I wanted to get the Stan Smiths, but they were sold out so I settled on what I perceive to be an equally as cool pair of black suede Originals, which I see as a serious adult-y upgrade from high school’s bar-laced black Supergas.
But who am I kidding? I’ve never really loved euro tart that much anyway.
It was junior year of high school. I was sitting at the desk second farthest to the right in Ms. B’s* chemistry class. I received a text.
It contained the first of many incriminating screenshots I would tangle myself in over subsequent years. The text was from my then- v serious boyfriend; the screenshot was of my Tinder profile. Yes, that is oxymoronic.
“My camp friend sent this screenshot to me,” he typed below the image. “What the hell is this?”
To this day, this is one of the best stories I keep in my back pocket. Hours before the text, Twitter was going off about some new app called “Tinder.” I did not know anything about it — all I saw was the mental red flag that signals rough ocean waters, social media, or a combination of the two — but I was in. Quickly in between classes, I downloaded the app and made myself a profile. And to this day, I will swear on sleepaway camp that I was innocent. All I had done was create an account — I hadn’t even had the time to see what the app actually did.
I didn’t know that Tinder is a socially acceptable Match.com for lonely young people in the same geographical area that also allows you to decide your level of interest in a potential partner on the sole basis of his or her Facebook profile picture. Mine, by the way, was a cute one of me and said boyfriend.
He was mad and called bluff. I, of course, thought the whole fiasco was hysterical. I mean, if I was really looking to use Tinder to get guys at the ripe age of 16, don’t you think I would have at least changed my profile picture to one less couple-y?
But I’m sure you can now understand why my Tinder account has been almost completely untouched by the heat of any fire ever since. With my luck and previous experience, it’ll go up in flames from “0 to 100 real quick,” said Drake. Therefore, I cannot claim to be a Tinder connoisseur, so I will instead ask my perhaps embarrassing, perhaps easily-explanable, perhaps pathetic for a millennial questions to you in case you swipe as well as that fox in Dora the Explorer.
Can someone please tell me what Tinder is actually for? Is it for pursuing relationships, and is it really just a simplified version of Match.com that is easier on our eyes (well, I guess that depends on who comes up on your feed), easier on your brain, and fast enough for our multi-tasking millennial over-diagnosed ADD? Or is it, instead, an aid to those in search of bootay? If you are looking just for the B, or the D, or the AA because women of all sizes are BEAUTIFUL (gotcha there, didn’t I), wouldn’t it be beyond weird to talk to someone on Tinder for half an hour about menial things and meet up with them and just start making out because, c’mon, that’s what you’re both here for in the first place?
Is that how Tinder works and am I just naive like Liesl when she’s 16 going on 17? Because IMHO (in my honest opinion), most people a) are not on Tinder looking to go steady but also b) it would be really effing weird to make out with someone just because you have some mutual friends on Facebook. So what’s the dealio? Haha, dealio.
But then again, we’ve all been with someone just because of mutual friends, but just in real life — at bars, clubs, concerts.
This is what my friend, remotely avid Tinder user, but really just the most openly avid I know, says. In her words, “I think a lot of people joke about it and don’t take it seriously, meanwhile almost everyone is on it with a similar purpose. [They] joke it’s unconventional, but most of us don’t know dating in any other form, or interacting with people in any other element than online.” And then she dropped the holy bomb:
“It’s sort of the norm for our generation, in my opinion.”
I think her opinion might be mine too. When she connects with someone on Tinder, they arrange to hang out. Recently, she went to an expensive restaurant in the city on a first Tinder date. Other times, she just hangs out with her matches. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Whenever she does connect, though, it sounds completely, totally normal.
When I reactivated my Tinder account at the end of last summer, admittedly bored and lonely in the Hamptons — which is not as romantic as it sounds when you are sharing a bedroom with your two brothers — I matched with every person I swiped right. My ego inflated instantly. More gratifying than Easy Mac. Tinder was fun. It was like Candy Crush.
With each of my matches, I avoided all conversation. I received a “Hey,” and took it as a joke. I was paranoid. No one seemed real. I wasn’t getting out of bed to meet up with some random guy to fool around in the dunes or at the dive around the corner. The best part of the experience was by far the matching; realizing — remembering — you can get back in the game, that there is such a thing as mutual attraction, that there are fish in the area of the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds the easternmost tip of Long Island.
But that was where it stopped. Even a fresh, dense stack of Tinder was, for me, not enough to light my fire.
*Name abbreviated to protect the privacy of this wonderful woman.
We all know what “basic” is by virtue of its aggravating tendency to gradually encompass more and more of our vices and indulgences. First, Uggs were no longer just ugly (and comfortable!) — they became basic. Starbucks, the most convenient, predictable (predictably meh, which is better than surprisingly horrible) cup of coffee became basic. Victoria’s Secret is basic, though it wasn’t basic when I bought my first pair — perhaps the first pair — of mustard, elastic bottomed “Love Pink” sweatpants in fourth grade and everyone laughed at me for wearing something from an underwear store in the blinding, elementary school daylight. Jean skirts are basic, so are leggings, and eff me because, if worn properly, both of those things are great, and so is Sex and the City, Taylor Swift, Tiffany charm bracelets, and more of Taylor Swift.
Now, in order to avoid being basic, or simply to avoid having a select few basic tendencies, I cannot watch Carrie Bradshaw making curly hair look cool nor can I listen to “Speak Now” on repeat. Fine, it may have helped in my recent separation from the latter that Tay pulled her discography from Spotify. Regardless, I digress.
So, if I have ditched the Love Pink attire, stopped drinking coffee because it mixes poorly with my most Jewish qualities (anxiety and sensitive stomach), and only wear leggings in the house, am I no longer basic at all?
And if I, or we — if you’re with me on this — are not basic, then what are we?
I think I’ve forgotten. Before the term “basic” was coined to mean things other than, well, basic, the basic life still must have existed, albeit nameless like a risky, unidentified sushi roll. Still, there must be more basic people now that there’s an identity with which they can clearly express themselves; like how there suddenly exists more perverted 13-year-olds once they get laptops and discover porn. It works the same way.
Considering that theory, then, many of us were not basic in the years between 2003 and 2008. We just were. We were normal. But if everyone was basic, then no one was, and so please lord tell me, WHAT WERE WE?
Yes, I’m sickened too by how easy it is to philosophize about this.
Anyway, I saw this motivational quote Instagram post earlier today that claims the opposite of “basic” to be “epic.” It didn’t exactly state that, but it mostly did, and it got me thinking about this whole thing.
Because when it comes down to it, I’m afraid not many people would call me epic.
So am I basic?
Maybe I’m a lot of other great things, but epic is a big word. I aspire to be epic. Yet, I’m not quite sure if that is the opposite of basic-ness. I mean, in my personal opinion, a pumpkin spice latte WITH whip will always be very epic.
What do you think the opposite of basic is? Or maybe there aren’t even opposites. Maybe basic is on a spectrum, like the rainbow or like sexuality is, and we’re all just kind of teetering back and forth between two misspelled names on a coffee cup.
Birds do it. Bees do it. And if we’re continuing with that theme, even educated flees do it.
I do it. I eat alone.
Yes, in my head all of the above was sung to that tune.
Unlike falling in love, as Ella Fitzgerald puts it, eating alone does not seem to be something we all do. Eating alone requires a certain confidence; a balanced ego, if you will. Of course, if your ego is so large that you become insecure, which is normal so don’t be too worrisome if this is you, then you would never be seen eating alone. If you are this person, then your ego is dependent on what everyone else thinks of you and your sad salad bar creation with maybe some whole grain bread on the side.
There is also an alternative ego: your ego could be what I would like to think is well-sized, so that you are comfortable enough to eat alone without having to tell a passing friend, “Oh, I’m just reading quietly here, getting some ME time!” and push her away when in truth, you just had no one to sit with when you got to the place of eating, the home of said pathetic salad bar, and you’d rather stick with your story than admit your intentions were not solitude and loneliness from the start.
There is an art to eating alone, of course, no matter what size your ego decides to make itself on any day of the week. One must consider where he or she is eating (consider seating arrangements, location of place, type of eatery/cuisine), what he or she is eating, and what he or she is doing, if anything, while eating.
All rules can fly out the window if you decide to throw them there. My dad has two great stories from his high school years. Both involve vomit, but the more hysterical (and perhaps less disgusting) of the two is when he was driving his ‘Stang (hell yeah daddio) and his inebriated friend was riding shotgun, who proceeded to roll down the passenger window and vomit out onto one of the great highways of central Jersey as my father continued driving at 70 miles per hour.
In this fashion, you can throw the etiquette of eating alone out the window.
To do that, though, you must be truly confident, like the tired, middle aged people on lunch break with not a brain cell to spare for catching up on Instagram or reading the Times. Instead, these people eat alone, like so alone that his or her phone is not in plain sight, and they look out the window and make me think, wow, is this my New York life in ten to twenty years?
These people are the exception, though, because they don’t care about eating alone because they don’t think about eating alone. They just eat.
If you are a college freshman, though, you think and care about eating alone. You think and care about eating alone so much that you have group chats with eight girls in them and your conversations, maybe even your friendships, are built from the foundation of sharing meals, eating at the same times, and not being together but rather just not being alone.
To avoid eating alone at any stage of life, one might get “to-go” or “take out” and eat at his or her desk. Whenever I try to do this, whether it’s to save time or to avoid eating alone, I can never actually work and eat simultaneously. I have discovered that it is a lot more comfortable to eat in a place of eating, where you can chew freely, and if I’m going to be catching up on Instagram for those fifteen or twenty minutes regardless of where I am, I may as well eat alone.
So, I do. I eat alone.
I’m not the best at it, though. I usually spend my time on my phone, or writing emails between bites. Once in a while, however, I have no shame. I get quality, one-on-one time with Dinner or Lunch, who become proper nouns when your friends with real names are not dining with you, and I just look at my food and think about chewing like the French nutritionists tell us to do.
In the city, I can eat alone anywhere at any time and feel okay. In suburbia, however, I cannot do that. This could be for a few reasons: I am still afraid of half of the people I went to high school with and their judgments; the odds of me running into someone I know, even a mother, at an eatery is too high, and our conversation would ruin the point of eating alone; when I am in suburbia I usually spend most of my free time catching up with people, and the best way to do that is over a meal (arguably because it is a good way to avoid eating alone); people are in less of a rush, restaurants are in less of a rush, there are less places for counter service, less people to people-watch; this leads to everything becoming awkward.
I want to say that eating alone is eating alone, so if I can do it in the city I can do it in a small, Jewish suburb of the city. But then I remember that eating alone, like the math from AP Calculus I have very much forgotten, depends on its factors, as previously stated; it is not an independent variable. Math people: did I do that right?
I have no problem eating alone when I’m alone, if that makes sense. I don’t get self-conscious. I’ll face the world solo with my fork and knife — and teaspoon, if I’m feeling dessert — even in peak hours of eating.
Do you? Would you? Did you? Don’t do? Should you? LMK. Asking for a friend.