The Telltale Lines

A friend of mine broke up with her boyfriend last month and is now back in the dating pool again with relative success, thanks to apps like Bumble and The League. From what I've been hearing, the only way to meet anyone these days is through joining an app. The gamut runs from your average FedEx driver with tattoos and a goatee to the typical "slick entrepreneur" posing in front of a sports car in a business suit. Scary, I know. Anyway, she told me about two promising dates that she's been on the past couple of weeks: One was with a 47-year old divorced billionaire with a child; the other was with a handsome 36-year old who lives in Venice.

"I ended up cancelling my second date with the 47-year old. I didn't like his look–and the fact that he has an ex-wife!" she sighed. 

"You know how to tell when a guy is in his late forties and older, right?" I asked, raising a brow.

"By those little lines around his ears!" we cried in unison. 

I recounted a story from my single days in New York when my friend Ashley and I were having drinks at Soho House. The lighting was significantly dimmed as late afternoon turned into evening. With the piano tinkling and fireplace roaring, the mood was sexy and cosmopolitan. A tall handsome guy, wearing jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt, approached us and struck up a conversation. He was charming and ordered another round of drinks for us. We engaged in witty banter and mild flirtations throughout the night. Before we left, he asked for my number and gave me his. 

Later that week, he invited me to dinner with his best friends, another couple, at a fashionable Italian restaurant in the West Village. His friends were bonafide grown-ups. In other words, they looked like completely matured human beings, if you know what I mean.  When I looked over at my date, I noticed a series of vertical lines on the side of his face where his ear joined the rest of his face, something I'd never encountered before. It was then that I realized that the guy I thought was 38 years old at Soho House was probably more like 48. (It's amazing how dim lighting, jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt can shave ten years off a man.) Having just turned 30 at the time, this age group was a little out of my comfort zone. 

"You know how else you can tell?" said my friend. "The hairy ears."

I don't remember seeing hairy ears, but there were definitely gray eyebrows when he leaned down to kiss me goodnight. That was the end of that.

 

 

The Unemployables

Original image was taken from  @kimkardashian

Original image was taken from @kimkardashian

A couple of weekends ago, I volunteered at an event featuring a series of play readings. I'd participated in the planning of the event and, when two event volunteers dropped out at the last minute, it was all hands on deck. The event was held at a hip yoga-café on South Fairfax and ran from 11:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m on both Saturday and Sunday. I reported to the call of duty like the Energizer Bunny: greeting and checking-in attendees, setting up the catering, and helping the crew with setting up and breaking down each day. When there was a lull in the front of the house, I had a chance to sit in on some of the readings, which I found to be a suitable and enjoyable reward.

On one the afternoons, while preparing the guest list for a reading, I looked over at the bookshelf beside me and pulled a random paperback book off the shelf. Coincidentally, it was a play–Equus by Peter Shaffer. I'd recalled seeing Equus on Broadway in 2008 when the lead was performed by actor Daniel Radcliffe, and remembered the play being a very strange and bizarre story of a clinical psychologist and a teenaged boy charged with blinding six horses. Who would write such a thing, I wondered, realizing that I knew nothing of the playwright. When I opened the cover to skim his bio, one line in particular caught my attention: "... Convinced of his own unemployability, he returned to England and began writing his first play, FIVE FINGER EXERCISE, which opened in London and New York to critical acclaim."

"Convinced of his own unemployability"? Boy, can I relate...

To clarify, my claims of being "unemployable" have nothing to do with my work ethics or competency, I simply don't think I'm meant to work in a traditional 9-to-5 sense. I have no interest in working in an office, even if they offer ping pong tables and meditation rooms. If anything, I'm repelled by the idea and can tell you that this is a sentiment rings true from my very bones.

After I graduated from Parsons, I was offered a job as an account executive in the corporate offices of Chanel and thought that I had had it made. I went to a top fashion school and landed the ultimate fashion job. I was seemingly "set for life". Because it was so cushy, nobody in their right mind ever left Chanel. Employee perks included a 70% discount at the boutique, a great health insurance plan, and a 401k where the company matched your contributions. We were even allowed to expense our weekly manicures! It was no surprise that there were still women working there who'd been there since the New York office first opened in the late 1970's. They were real dinosaurs. I, on the other hand, lasted just under a year before resigning.

It was my first taste of corporate life and I quickly learned that I didn't fit into hierarchical settings or possess the sneakiness required to maneuver through office politics. But what I found most stifling were the unspoken rules: Although the workday began at 9:00 a.m., you'd get quiet stares if you breezed in the door a minute after 8:30 a.m. And if you didn't order a salad to eat at your desk during lunch hour–and decided to go out instead–you were often made to feel as though you were avoiding work. 

On top of that, it was hard for me to take my job seriously due to the absurdity of it all. For example, the entire office launched into crisis mode when Vogue requested a shoe sample for a cover photo shoot and the left shoe was discovered missing from the showroom. Where is the left shoe?! Where is it? Where is it??? Imagine the mayhem that ensued! Turns out, it was being photographed at a conflicting advertising shoot for Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas. Everyone was scrambling around on their phones and emails, trying to finagle deadline extensions and coordinating courier pick-ups and deliveries, practically sending the damn shoe on a private jet to the Sahara desert for the Vogue shoot.

It's fashion. Call me disillusioned, but we were hawking luxury goods, not saving lives. However, the fact remains: It's this kind of misplaced intensity that makes the world go 'round. 

Not having a "career" has been a looming insecurity of mine for many years. Most of my girlfriends have built legitimate careers in their fields. Every now and again, I'll even click around on LinkedIn and come across the profiles of my former colleagues at Chanel and, yes, they're still there–except now they're at the executive level. Meanwhile, I feel like I'm dilly-dallying along and stopping, here and there, to while away a little more if something catches my attention long enough.

What am I saying, I admire their commitment to stability, I really do. There must be an incredible sense of satisfaction and security that comes from a steady and progressive growth. It's something that I'm intrigued by yet unfamiliar with. After all, my own resume resembles something more like a patchwork quilt. I've worked for a luxury brand, private art dealer, private equity firm, contemporary artist, non-profit organization, fashion photographer and private foundation. I've filled in at my friends' boutiques, hostessed at restaurants, played babysitter, and even had a short-lived stint as a freelance makeup artist. This was all by choice, though. I've always had a knack for digging out the most unconventional jobs possible. None of them ever felt like "a real job".

For the longest time, I felt ashamed that I had no aspirations to move up the so-called ladder of success. Isn't the goal of being a modern woman centered on the concept of leaning forward, being a #girlboss, and having it all? It has certainly been shoved down our throats! But, you know what, it's just not for me. I'm unambitious in that way and used to be ashamed to admit it. 

Maybe I just like trying on different hats..

Maybe I'm super adaptable...

Maybe I'm a quick learner...

Maybe I bring with me a set of unique experiences and skills...

Maybe I like doing things at my own pace...

Maybe I don't belong in a group...

Maybe I don't care about becoming a CEO one day...

Maybe I operate more like Wonder Woman, where I go in, do what I need to do, and then I'm off to the next mission...

Maybe...

"What can you see me doing, job-wise?" I asked my best friend over the phone. I was lying on top of the bed, munching on popcorn and swinging my legs around. 

"I don't know..." she said, distracted by my munching, "What are you eating?" 

"Popcorn," I replied, "It's miniature popcorn, actually. It's really cute. I'm eating it from a porcelain bowl."

"I... Can't really see you working."

"My huckleberry friend once told me that he doesn't think I'm meant to work a job because he says it always makes me miserable," I said, taking a pause to contemplate this, "Do you think he's right? It's not because I lack the ability to do a job, is it?"

"No, you're not lazy. You're a hard worker. But I think he's right," she told me. "I don't know, I can't really see you working. I mean, I think it's kind of amazing that you've made it this far in life without a career."

"Really? I've always been embarrassed by that."

"You should just own it. I mean, you're rolling around on a bed right now eating miniature popcorn!" she pointed out, laughing.

"If only I could find a benefactor who'd want to subsidize my life just so that I could keep writing sporadic posts on my blog," I sighed.

I was just joking, of course. I'm still figuring out what my groove is. But, since we're on the subject... Any takers?

 

A Poem For All Time

somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
By E.E. Cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands


My friend Bill and I watched Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters the other day. In the film, Michael Caine's character has a crush on his wife's sister and orchestrates running into her on the street one morning. They duck into a bookstore where he buys a book of E.E. Cummings' poetry for her as a gift. He tells her that one of the poems makes him think of her. "Page 112!" he reminds her, as he helps her into her taxi cab. That evening, she reads the poem and her feelings grow for him too. 

To see the poem in action, click here and start at 4:18.

The Power of Breathing

"Jess? Can you talk?"

I still think about a call I received from one of my best friends a few months ago. She may not have realized this at the time but she demonstrated herself to be a pillar of strength that day. And as trite as it sounds, that conversation taught me that taking a few deep breaths is the answer to almost everything in life.

My friend called me from New York, and I could tell she was walking briskly on the street because of the sounds of her heels clopping along the sidewalk and the wind rustling in the air. Her heart nearly thumped itself out of her chest. Her voice was shaky. She was upset–in fact, she was beyond upset–she was so mad that she was on the verge of tears.

"We just got into a fight and he dumped my clothes all over the room," she said, straining to control her emotions.

She replayed the episode, scene by scene. What they were originally fighting over rendered itself moot due to his show of utter contempt. But instead of reacting, she told me that she calmly put on her coat, grabbed her bag, and said to him: "I'm leaving. You clearly need space to work out your anger issues." 

Of course, her own composure crumbled the second she left the building, but she was able to hold it together just long enough to walk out the door. She wanted my help in backing away from the proverbial emotional ledge but, in my eyes, she'd already had all the strength in the world.

Instead of being lured into a swirling vortex of anger, she took a few deep breaths and gave herself a mental pause. What occurred there in a matter of seconds, changed reality as it were. The only way she could make him face his behavior was to remain completely sane herself.

She could've dumped his clothes on the floor. Hell, she could've thrown them at him.

But she didn't.

We talked through it together. I was a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and a helping hand. She sounded calmer and calmer as the minutes passed. Soon enough, her pulse returned to normal. 

"I think I'll go to Soho House and relax," she sighed, slowing down. "I just need to have a glass of wine and relax."

While she may have felt vulnerable–and even defeated–what I saw seemed to be a very powerful and victorious moment.