Last night, I got into an Uber to meet a friend for dinner at a Thai restaurant called Si Laa –her pick. As the car was making its way to Beverly Hills, the song "Bibo No Aozora" by Ryuichi Sakamoto came on. (It's on the original soundtrack for the film Babel.) The melancholy piano and violin melody tugged at me. It made me think about the major changes that have occurred in my life the past few months–my mom's death, my transition to L.A., and so many of the unforeseen things in between–all unfolding like a bittersweet movie as this song was playing, making this the most emotional Uber ride of my life. Not a tear was shed, but it was certainly welling up inside of me. I asked the driver about his choice of music before I got out of the car. "Oh, I'm a film composer," he replied, before I shut the door. Of course he was, I thought, as I walked down the sidewalk toward the restaurant. The music was still lingering.
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."
A couple of years ago, I went looking for a copy of Having It All by Helen Gurley Brown after seeing it mentioned in Lena Dunham's own memoir-slash-self-help book, Not That Kind of Girl:
Admittedly, I still haven't read Lena's book in its entirety because I found myself more intrigued by her original source of inspiration: Helen Gurley Brown, the real deal herself. Helen, the legendary editor of Cosmo, was fearless when it came to talking sex, careers and her brand of girl power, which encourages young women to go experience life to its fullest before settling down. This, according to her, sometimes included taking on a married lover. (Well! She wasn't a controversial figure without reason!)
Her book is written as though you're sitting down to lunch with your very fabulous and very confident mentor. I can just imagine her wearing a pink Chanel skirt suit with coiffed hair, speaking dramatically with expressive eyes and hand gestures while occasionally pushing around the salad on her plate with a fork to trick you into thinking she's actually eating. She's Yoda–but in a very Legally Blonde kind of way.
As you flip through the book, her nuggets of wisdom jump out as bold headlines:
AS YOU SUCCEED, KEEP A LOW PROFILE
TINY TASTES–JUST TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH FORBIDDEN DELICACIES–ARE DANGEROUS
SOMETIMES THE SCENE MAKES UP FOR THE MAN
Each section contains powerful insights and refreshing new perspectives, as well as appalling and endlessly amusing pieces of advice. ("At any rate, after someone has made love to you with skill and grace, an orgasm is a way of saying you enjoyed yourself, even as you compliment a host on a wonderful spinach quiche.") It's one of my most cherished books. I find myself coming back to it again and again. The fact that she goes out on a limb and is unabashedly herself at all times is highly inspiring.
The book begins by examining what a "mouseburger" is: "...people who are not prepossessing, not pretty, don't have a particularly high IQ, a decent education, good family background or other noticeable assets." This is not seen as a problem, however; to her, it's a launch pad. She includes a brief quiz to help you determine whether or not you qualify. Mouseburgers, you see, are self-assured in their own cleverness. They're intuitive, observant and possess a bottomless reserve of drive. They're the embodiment of infinite potential. If you are one, all you need to do in order to "have it all" is simply apply yourself. With her book, you can mouseburger your way to the top!
To date, I have now purchased a total of three copies of this book. My boyfriend's daughter was reading it when she came to the ranch for the Christmas holidays a few years ago. She was so engrossed in it that I gifted my cherished copy to her. It didn't take me very long before I replenished my personal library with another copy for myself! It's one of those books that makes you want to spread its gospel to worthy friends. A couple of years ago, I showed it to my friend Aura and she took to it instantly. She's been referring to the two of us as "mouseburgers" ever since.
I decided to surprise Aura with her own copy last week when we met for lunch at Croft Alley. She was overjoyed and hugged it to her chest. After lunch, we wandered along Melrose Place and went to Violet Grey, where she stood in awe of the store's innate glamour. "You've never been here before?" I asked. She shook her head. "This company was built by a mouseburger!" I whispered proudly.
I learned about L.A. from Sex and the City, just as I had learned about toxic bachelors, Manolo Blahniks and the importance of having good friends. Los Angeles, it seemed, was populated with a mix of Paris Hilton clones, aging bachelors and vegans. Surely, it was no place for someone like me–someone who relishes wearing long sleeves year-round, has introverted tendencies and orders steak like a Texan.
I remember when my boyfriend took me around L.A. for the first time. We got a car wash, went to a denim store, had lunch at a sidewalk restaurant, drove around, and ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant. The day felt like a cardboard cut-out of itself. I had no connection to any of it. I thought to myself, I could never live in L.A.
If L.A. were a fabric, it'd be rayon, something that's not natural yet not exactly artificial. There's a strange sense of detachment that pervades this city. It feels like a village composed of millions of closed societies. There are canyons and strip malls and magnificent homes behind hedges and ivy-covered walls. The weather is eerily nice nearly all of the time.
I didn't know if I would like L.A. but, now, I'm unexpectedly loving it.
I enjoy going on morning hikes at Runyon Canyon with Taylor, strolling along Melrose Place, hanging out with Bill at his apartment while we cook dinner and watch TV shows, having lunch at Croft Alley, browsing the book selections at Book Soup, grabbing happy hour at Marvin or Terrine, and reading or writing back at The Clubhouse.
All of the places that I've been frequenting and all of the people who have become friends happened through an organic gravitational pull. Because of that, I'm experiencing this city authentically for myself. It's through the little choices and decisions that you make everyday that create your world, your reality.
I don't know when or if I'll ever qualify as an Angeleno. To be honest, I still consider myself a New Yorker when people ask where I'm from, even though I haven't lived there in nearly three years. However, I'm finding myself easily trading in New York's dynamic energy for L.A.'s relaxed vibes. Instead of being pulled together, I now feel comfortably unraveled, like a head of beachy waves.
My mom loved sharing photos and videos of the things she cooked and ate–usually with friends–but the ones that resonated with me were her #singlegirldinners. Despite all of the differences I felt that we may have had, when I look at this photo, I know that I'm my mother's daughter. She is, after all, my original SGD muse. She was a woman who most certainly lived life on her own terms and was happiest when she had the freedom to come and go as she pleased.
This past August, I lost my mom–along with two aunts and two uncles–to a tragic car accident. A little more than a month has gone by and I still don't know what to make of it. I can only seem to process it when I'm alone in bed at night, where I can privately burst into tears or talk to her through my thoughts or simply think about her. I'd never experienced grief before but, yes, it's true: Grieving truly is a personal thing. It's a fact of life for a reason, but the way you experience grief is one of those things that only you can know–like knowing when you're hungry... Or when something random triggers a long-forgotten memory.