How To Be Woman-Smart

Pic from @whatfranwore

There's a big difference between being book-smart and being woman-smart. Being book-smart usually comes by way of flaunting a degree from a fancy university; being woman-smart, on the other hand, comes from experience. Of course, they're not mutually exclusive, but I will say that there are definitely women out there who are book-smart yet possess absolutely zero woman-smarts. (And, if it has to be said, it goes the other way too.)

Being woman-smart, as it pertains to relationships, is a matter of knowing yourself, knowing what you want, and knowing how to get it. What you want to do is thoroughly observe, absorb, and understand what's at-hand to inform an action–not a reaction–which elevates your situation. If you're especially skilled, everyone wins. What you want to avoid is rationalizing the situation, a learned behavior from being book-smart. It's a formulaic approach that lacks presence and clarity, and is, above all else, a turn-off. 

The intention is to wield your womanly powers in such a way that there's always an element of grace involved. There should be little to no trace of aggression or contempt. (Think more of a cat's pounce than a grizzly bear's attack.) She who is woman-smart knows how to employ mental and emotional judo while steadfastly maintaining her own vibe. 

This is obviously easier said than done and I am, by no means, an expert on this. I am plagued with an array of self-esteem issues. I tend to yield too easily to guilt, paranoia, confusion and anxiety (most of which, I hate to admit, is self-generated). I also manage to either get myself trampled on or entangled in emotional snafus. These are clearly not my shining moments, but I'm working on it.

Politics aside, I must confess that I find Melania Trump to be a great exhibitor of woman-smarts. She has an aura of self-assuredness that radiates straight from her core. Her interview on Larry King Live from May 2005, soon after she married Donald Trump, pretty much sums it all up:

Larry King: You worry about women and him–being attracted to him?

Melania Trump: No, I don't worry about that at all. I know who I am. And if a man doesn't want to be with me or I don't want to be with a man...

LK: Goodbye and good luck.

MT: That's right.

Ultimately, it boils down to knowing who you are–knowing that you're worth it to yourself, first and foremost–and knowing when to say "Goodbye and good luck."


The Sole Incident

The problem with not having a kitchen–or a car, for that matter–is that you have to plan your meals somewhat in advance. For breakfast, I usually keep a stock of Fage Greek yogurt in my mini-fridge, which I'll have with a cup of tea. For lunch, I will venture down to town where I'll pop in somewhere for something quick and easy. For dinner, if I'm not catching up with a friend, I have to decide how to make food appear at The Clubhouse. Getting food delivery, while at-times convenient, is not very cost-effective for one person if you consider the food order minimum, delivery fee and tip for the driver.  Thank goodness for prepared foods counters, where you can point to what you want, decide how much of it you want, and leave the rest of the work to your trusty ol 'microwave.

Speaking of which, I got caught in a weird tailspin at the prepared foods counter at Joan's on Third the other day. One of their daily specials was sole meunière, sautéed sole filets in lemon butter with capers and parsley–one of my favorite dishes in the world. The price card read $9 per 1/2 lb., which was reasonable enough. I thought it'd make a nice dinner if I added a side of asparagus ($6) and mashed potatoes ($3.25). Half-a-pound of sole filets, though it sounded like a lot, would surely mean leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. Half-a-pound, it is, then. 

When I got to the front of the line, there were two girls standing behind me–maybe a little too close. For whatever reason, this narrow proximity between us triggered a strange sense of anxiety in me. I felt disoriented, scatterbrained and rushed, even if it was all imagined.

"Hi, can I get half a pound of the sole?" I asked, nervously.

Is it odd for me to order "half a pound" of something? Does that sound like too much food?

"Sure, let me weigh that out for you," said the counter person, as she lifted several filets on a paper plate to be weighed. 

I started feeling light-headed and my heart beat faster as I watched her check the food scale.

"OK, that'll be murmurmur five murmurmur..."

Wait, did I hear that right? That doesn't make any sense. The sign clearly says $9 per 1/2 lb. Am I crazy? It's so noisy in here. Did she say "twenty-five dollars"? Or did I completely mishear and she meant that 1/2 lb. is five pieces? Mental hyperventilation taking place now.

"Oh, in that case, I'll just take one piece."

"Are you sure? That's just half of a filet. Do you want two?"

Oh, gosh. Why did I say one piece? That's not going to be enough for dinner. But everyone in L.A. is skinny. I need to go on a diet. Cannot compute. Do not understand. Confusion. Confusion. CONFUSION.

"No, no, one is fine," I said, feeling out of breath, "And a side of mashed potatoes and asparagus, please."

I wanted to get out of there. The room was spinning. I felt an enormous pressure from the girls waiting in line. What's taking so long??? Help!

I still cannot comprehend what unfolded internally, but I walked out with half of a sole fillet and a small side of mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. It was exactly the right amount of food. There were no leftovers. (I did, however, wish I took her up on that second piece of sole. That way, I could have avoided eating the entire container of mashed potatoes.)

*My friend Bill read this post after I'd already told him over the phone what had happened. "I still don't understand what happened. But don't try to explain to me again because it'll only make things more confusing," he said. Oh, good, I was able to, in this post, accurately convey the same level of confusion that I had experienced!




It Was All A Dream

A work by Tracey Emin

I had a nightmare the other day. In this nightmare, I awoke from a deep afternoon nap and found our house completely destroyed, our beloved dogs helplessly beaten, and a message on the wall that said: I will make sure that you will never be happy. My boyfriend searched every room for the intruder. "It's happening because I'm happy!" I sobbed, "Maybe... Maybe if I show that I'm unhappy, they'll leave us alone."

I actually believed that this was the only way that I could protect life, as I knew it, from being taken away from me.

And then I woke up for real.

The house was fine. My boyfriend was fine. The dogs were fine. But my existential core was slapped so hard that I found myself crying.

This might sound strange, but I realized that I'm not quite accustomed to things being, well, good in my life. My upbringing was sort of steeped in chaos, so I've been predisposed to thinking that something is always bound to go wrong. I have a twisted relationship with anxiety. I can't tell you how often I've been preoccupied with what might happen instead of enjoying what is happening.

It's no wonder that adjusting to my move has been somewhat of a process. Things have been so good that I can't believe that it's real. Surely, the rug will be pulled out from under me? In fact, come to think of it, I wouldn't be surprised if the intruder in my dream was merely a representation my own self. I am reminded of a scene in Sex and the City: The Movie where Carrie asks Charlotte: "What makes you think something bad is gonna happen?" And Charlotte replies: "Because! Nobody gets everything they want! Look at you, look at Miranda. You're good people and you two both got shafted! I'm so happy and... Something bad is gonna happen."

Of course, I had to have a therapy session with a friend on the phone about this and I couldn't think of who better to call than my friend Amandine. She has had the proverbial rug pulled out from under her before and that's one of the reasons why we bonded so well.

"Your life changed so drastically overnight," she said, with her charming French accent, "We were both working so hard and struggling and being stressed. And now you live in this beautiful place with someone who loves you. Don't think about New York. Nothing changed; it's the same. Enjoy your life. You really should enjoy your life." 

Here's the thing: Even if you live in the most perfect of conditions, in order to fully enjoy it, you have to exorcise all of the insecurities, judgments, anxieties, traumas, and other psychological roadblocks that you've let inform your identity. Like anything else, it's a process. The relationship that you have with yourself is an ever-evolving one. Don't forget to take opportunities to get to know who you really are on the inside, beyond what've you been through. Sometimes a nightmare might just be a wake-up call.











The Turnaround of The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

One of Paola Pivi's polar bear sculptures, taken at the opening of Galerie Perrotin in New York

Once upon a time, I had a bad day. Nothing was going right. The entire day had gotten the best of me and I was beaten to a moody and tired pulp. All I wanted to do was go home and sleep, but my then-boyfriend called and proposed making a pasta dinner for me.

"Noooo," I whined. "I just got in the door. I don't feel like going out again."

"Please?" he insisted, "It'll cheer you up, I promise." 

"No, it won't," I replied, "I'll just be cranky and unpleasant. Trust me."

"C'mon," he said, "Just start walking over. I've already started cooking."

"Fine," I said, begrudgingly.

But instead of leaving, I dilly-dallied in my apartment, being completely inconsiderate of the time. I contemplated calling back to cancel, but decided to go, just so that I could tell him how terrible my day was, in person.

I grumbled as I walked through Washington Square Park. This better be good. He'll probably overcook the pasta and I'll probably have to correct the sauce. Ugh! I told him I was tired! I should've just gone to bed. My mind kept generating negative thoughts. By the time I got there, I was ready to unleash Hell. So what if I was half an hour late.

As I knocked on his door, I was jolted by the sound of a loud crash, which was immediately followed with him howling "Fuuuuuuuck!!!"

"Oh my God, are you OK???" I shouted, knocking harder. 

He opened the door with his hand on his head, wincing with pain. 

"The olive oil fell on top of my head. Argh!!! I hate this stupid kitchen! There's no storage space!"

Apparently, the only place this bottle of olive oil could fit was in the cabinet above the stovetop and, when he reached for it, it tumbled out. Glass and oil had splattered everywhere, including the salad bowl and the large pot of pasta that he had made. 

I looked around. He had set out candles and put on nice music. Wow, I guess he really did want to cheer me up. I was touched. Here I was, complaining about a shitty day at work, and, here he was, with olive oil all over his hair and, most likely, a bump on the head. Now that's shitty. There was something poignantly comical in that moment. It was the Universe's way of telling me that I had been acting like a complete ding-dong. 

It could have been the perfect opportunity for me to be an asshole. "Thanks for making my day even worse! Now I've walked all the way over here to help you clean up this mess!" But I couldn't. He was genuinely distressed that dinner was ruined.

"Argh!!! This is not what I planned!" he wailed, falling backwards onto his bed with a sigh, "Do you think it's salvageable?"

"I don't think we should risk swallowing shards of glass," I rationalized, "How about you go shower, I'll start cleaning up, and let's go have dinner at the bar at Otto." 

I couldn't believe it. Instead of being a grump, I stepped up to the role of cheering him up. The second that I made the choice to put my attention on something other than my bad mood, it dissipated on its own. 

We ended up having a great time at dinner and laughed about it all. I only recently looked back on that night as a point of reference for a valuable lesson. That night taught me that, at any point in time, you always have the opportunity to create a happy moment. 


The Devil May or May Not Care

This is not Devil's Drop, by the way. It's just a picture taken at a different point of the river to give context.

After hiking for hours, we finally reached Devil's Drop, a 30-foot cliff that was a jumping point into the deepest point of the river. He peeled off his cowboy hat, took a deep breath, and let out a scream that sounded more like a brave tribal call as he leapt off. I looked down and saw his head bob up from the inky waters. "Come!" he called out from below. 

"No way! I am not doing that!"  

Instead, I carefully slinked down the rocky side and made my way down to the edge of the water, a few feet away from where he landed, which, if I may emphasize, is the deepest point. I tested the temperature with my toes. It was cold. He swam over.  

"We have to get to the other side." 

"Wait, what do you mean?" I asked, nervously.  

"We have to swim across this deep part to get to that side," he replied, pointing over to the pebbled shore as he waded around.  

I whimpered. 

"Come! Put your hands on my shoulders and I'll swim you over there." 

"What! Really? Is there really no other way to do this?" 

"We could climb all the way up and hike over there but this is the fastest way. Trust me." 

"Oh gosh, oh gosh," I panicked, "You have to promise not to let go. I'm a terrible swimmer!" 

I placed my hands on his shoulders and let my body sink into the water, immediately kicking my legs to keep afloat. The water looked like a pitch-black, bottomless pit enclosed with rocky walls. I felt like I was in a scary movie where a river monster could come out of nowhere with an open mouth and swallow us both in one gulp.  

"Oh!" he exclaimed suddenly along the way. The swimming came to a halt.

"What! What! What's going on?" 

"There's a huge rock here." 

"What?! You're kidding right?" I didn't see a rock in front of us.

"Put your hand out. It's right in front of us. Here, feel it." 

I gingerly stretched my arm out and there it was under the surface, a gigantic round smooth rock. I couldn't believe how big it was, just hidden there. I almost expected it to rise up as a slumbering dinosaur.

"Sit on it," he said, "It'll look like you're sitting on top of the water." 

So I did. I curled up on it and wrapped my arms around my legs.

"That would make a great ad campaign for something," he said, "Now put your head underwater and take a look." 

"No, no," I protested, "I know what it'll look like. Dark water and lots of rocks on the side." I reached my arms out for his shoulders again.

"Oh, c'mon," he laughed, rolling his eyes, "It's so beautiful. Just look."

"Fine," I sighed. I took a deep breath, dipped my head under water, and opened my eyes. Dark water and lots of rocks on the side. 

Now that my head had already gotten wet, he made me swim the rest of the way by myself. I made it to shore in one piece: two legs; two arms–just like he knew I would.