Sunday, October 11, 2009

eep!

I've relocated! To unfetteredyouth.wordpress.com . Hope to see you over there!

Monday, September 28, 2009

honest scrap

Aidan from Ivy League Insecurities, a blog which I found recently and have been enjoying thoroughly, tapped me with "The Honest Scrap Award" for sincerity in blogging... very exciting since I'm incredibly new to this and still don't know what I'm doing (nor that anyone actually reads this...) So I'm supposed to post ten things about me, which shouldn't be too hard, because while I try to be honest in what I blog about, I have stayed away from posting too much personal information yet (is it possible to be a shy blogger?), so this is actually a great opportunity. And thank you so much Aidan for the very nice gesture, as I'm sure many new bloggers find out themselves, it's amazing to be noticed, and recognized, by someone whose words you look forward to every day.


So here goes, 10 honest things about me:

1. I've gotten sucked into way too many tv shows this season, and I'm dangerously close to having no life at all. 

2. I'm bilingual (I studied spanish literature), and working on italian and dutch -- learning languages is a sort of random natural talent which I am quite happy to have, and make the most of.

3. One of the best choices I've ever made I think was taking night classes after I graduated when I was first starting out in "the real world". After being wrapped up in completely abstract academic pursuits, it was fantastic to work with my hands again and take classes that I came away from with concrete skills and projects.

4. I'm actually grateful to have had an illness and surgery when I was a bit younger (I'm ok now), because it gives you a kind of perspective on things, uncovered a certain strength I never thought I had, and it taught me something valuable -- that things don't always turn out the way they're supposed to, and that's ok.

5. I don't trust city buses, after I once got on one that was the right number but going in the wrong direction, in the middle of the night, in a foreign country. Probably one of the stupidest things I've ever done, so yeah I'll stick with subways, taxis, and my own two feet for getting around.

6. I am (distantly) related to Sara Lee and Herman Hesse. 

7. I still have no idea what I want to do career-wise, long-term or short-term; I sometimes think I'm just figuring out a lot of things I don't want to do, process-of-elimination-style.

8. One of my guiltiest pleasures is seeing famous actors live on Broadway, and how excited I get about it. I shouldn't be so starry-eyed, but it adds a lot of fun to the experience somehow. No shame. Just don't get me started or I'll name-drop everyone I've seen....

9. I haven't had my hair cut in over a year -- my trusted stylist's rates went waaaay up and I haven't been able to justify going. It's getting bad though.

10. I seem to like buying new books much more than I like finishing the ones I already have... so there are countless unfinished books all over the place. 


 I'm going to hold off on tapping other bloggers until I get a little better acquainted with this blog world (I promise not to forget) -- but in the meantime I look forward to reading the other lists that the bloggers come up with!

Friday, September 25, 2009

            I’m having one of those days where I’m just filled with a lot of love. I’m not complaining. I open the newspaper and at every page am overwhelmed – there are about 10 different movies, plays, tv shows, concerts I desperately want to see. I check out a clip online, an interview with an actress from my favorite show – my heart beats a little faster, wanting to take every little second in. Scrolling through pictures, there are ones that remind me of places that I’ve been and love, and places hold a special place in my heart like nothing else. All this feels like a whirlwind, and it never lasts, but it’s good to be reminded that you can feel this enchanted with everything the world throws at you. At least once in a while. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

closet optimist

         I was raised to be a cynic. My parents’ attitude towards our very preppy town was one of contempt, and ridicule – of the girls who became JAPpy*, the mothers who bought their teenage daughters designer purses, and the boys whose tongues flowed with self-promotion and ladder-climbing. They hated it, although they had chosen it precisely for the quality of school and opportunity, and we were meant to despise it as well. I wasn’t supposed to want those things, and I actually didn’t, honestly. I trained myself to not want anything. I think their intention was mainly just that we not become spoiled like most people were, but I don’t think they realized what planting that seed of contempt in young kids could breed. Hypocrisy, cynicism… among other things.

            Following all those birth-order prescriptions, I also fit into the mold of the younger child as the entertainer, comic relief. My participation in family dinner conversation would be little one-liners, like a running commentary. And the comments that gained traction, that made them laugh, were sardonic little jokes, biting statements, the kinds of things I wouldn’t realize until much much later, were actually kind of mean. That was what entertained the audience though, so as a kid, that’s what you learn to do.

            So I was cynical and sarcastic beyond my years, as a little kid, and later as a teenager. I didn’t watch cheesy tv shows ever, I watched “Married With Children,” way before I really understood why it was funny, and at the same time, not. It seemed normal to me, and just the way that my personality was meant to be. I thought I fit into my family, because I had that little niche for myself. And I got used to being known for my “sense of humor,” such as it was, which seemed to entertain people, though not endear me to them.

            Except—

            Just like many kids start getting snappy and sarcastic as teenagers, a form of rebellion and independence, I eventually (in the beginning of my twenties) found myself going in reverse, becoming maybe more na├»ve, more open, more sunny. It started with a boyfriend with a language barrier, who never understood my jokes. It went on with watching shows like Dancing with the Stars, things that can’t help but make you smile and feel something, if you give them a chance – as I never would have before. I stopped pretending I didn’t like it and gave myself over to the cheese of awards shows – and I stopped being able to watch them with family members, who seemed to have nothing but criticisms for the people and the self-congratulation of it all. Sure, you can look at it that way; or you can cheer up and see the fun and the limitless positivity of it all, an escape from reality.

Does that all sound trite? Ok. It wasn’t just what I watched.

After college, feeling lost, I started taking night classes at FIT – the kind of thing, working with your hands, where you have a lot of time to talk to the other students, joke around, and have fun with it. Maybe it was just that the classes were something that really made me happy – I enjoyed just being there, even untangling and solving the complex problems that came up – but for the first time I was meeting new people, not caught up in that personality which I thought had defined me. I was laughing a lot, excited and cheerful, and instead of that behavior meeting with friction, my new friends accepted this was who I was.

We were talking one day about the much-hyped opening of Topshop in NY, how celebrities had shown up, and how one in particular had hired an assistant to follow her around, tousle her hair, and spritz her with her own brand-name perfume every five minutes. “We should just be thankful that she’s employing all these people, in this economy,” I said. I made them laugh, for the right reasons this time. And my friend said, “You can always find the positive side of things, I love that.”

It was just a silly throwaway comment, but for me, it really opened my eyes. Maybe I’m not who I thought I was.



*Jewish American Princess.... a term I loathe, but which is the ubiquitous one here

Friday, September 18, 2009

trial and error

It’s sort of strange, it’s something new, I’ve been fascinated by this sort of entrepreneurial spirit. Reading in Vanity Fair about people like Anya Hindmarch, who began her now-global brand at the age of 18, just hard work, confidence and an idea; and these kids who started a co-op in their local beach town. To feel your youth and that you have nothing to lose – I envy them that. I don’t think I could ever have the moxie to do it myself, nor do I have something I passionately want to commit to in that regard; but even so the idea of it is somehow thrilling. A sort of adventure in which failure is possible, but the fall isn’t so far down, because your life is still trial-and-error.

It’s odd how, because of luck and what I have – what I’ve saved up over the years, or the potential my education is supposed to say I have – I do feel like I have something to lose, like I’m beholden to all that in some way. And why should I be? It’s meant to be a cushion, not a responsibility. I felt the same way as soon as I graduated college, when the page was meant to be completely blank. I felt just as panicked and without options, despite consciously knowing anything was possible. And still is. That attitude, like a mis-gauged factory setting, is a problem for me – perhaps not one to be dealt with today, but to think about in general, when things are better and more settled. The question of freedom. Because I was raised to believe that we’re free and can choose what we want, where we want, choose our destinies – but then so much seems to depend on other people. And our own perceptions turn out to limit us more than anything real.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I woke up exhausted, but the sun was already shining brightly through waving leaves outside my window, making them glow in fluttering shades of green. It was one of the last mornings of a summer I was still determined to hang on to. So I got up early -- How could I miss this?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

 “There is only one success –

to be able to spend your life in

your own way.”  Christopher Morley

 

They say not to judge a book by its cover, but when browsing in the bookstore I can’t help looking at the author’s photo, and maybe judging based on that. Maybe it’s just curiosity, shallowness, or the familiarity of putting a face with the words. I saw one recently a while back that really spoke to me, immediately and strongly, and the image has stayed with me in my mind’s eye, though I couldn’t tell you the name or the book’s title today. I’m not really the type of girl to get spontaneous emotional reactions to random things, so when I do I take note.

It’s just a normal photo, she’s looking over her shoulder, in a white oxford shirt, natural hair and makeup, a calm smile on her face. The words it put in my head were these: The objective reality of your life doesn’t matter, what matters is to live a life that you are proud of. Whatever that might entail.

I guess it must have been the simplicity, the pureness of the look on her face, and the serenity that seemed to come from that. A woman at peace with herself. It doesn’t matter what she might have planned for herself: going to a prestigious university to build some high-fueled career, or what her childhood friends might have expected from her, or what her family all do. Whatever the path she took, she was happy with where she had ended up, able to let any regrets go. And that’s all I could ever ask for in life: to wake up one day pleasantly surprised with where you’ve ended up, and to know that it is your own.

a few favorite female authors: Zadie Smith, Sophie Dahl, Plum Sykes

Thursday, August 13, 2009

sizing up


You’d think it would make you more nervous, but it’s a surprise and a relief when just the opposite happens.

You worry about how you look when you go out with a few girl friends; you agonize over what to wear before you head single to a party. Maybe you spend a long time in the mirror sizing up flaws, thinking trend and silhouette and extra-length mascara. Because, as animalistic as it sounds, you’re trying to see what you can hook, to get the best you can, to successfully hide those insecurities and even show off a little.

            But then when you’ve got a new guy, as early in as the second or third date, you don’t have those worries you’ve grown so accustomed to carrying around with you. For me, on my very first “real” date, it was as soon as I walked up the subway steps and saw across the sidewalk the guy I was going to meet. The nerves are all in the build-up. And what surprises you most, is you, minus the anxiety. Minus trying to get anything you don’t already have right in front of you, minus trying to be anything you aren’t already. Frankly I think this is why people like the casual stage of dating, before you’re worrying about things going wrong, when you’re sizing them up instead of yourself for once.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

eggshells

She comes, in and I ask how the movie was. She hesitates, as if collecting scattered thoughts, and says “I loved it. Did you see it?”

And I can tell she’s annoyed at me. “No.”

“Oh, where’d you go?”

“Just out for a bit.”

That’s the way it is with someone you know that well. You can tell they’re annoyed even when they don’t say anything, even when there’s not even a hint in their tone. As often as not, it’s what they don’t say. And I hate that. It’s a sort of shorthand, a silent helpful warning not to stumble into an argument, but most of the time I wish I could play dumb to the clues instead. Pretend I don’t know something’s up, ignore her feelings, and carry on like everything’s all fine. Because it should be.

Maybe she’s annoyed that I went out, earlier, without telling her where I was going. Or that I didn’t want to go to the movie with her in the first place. Maybe she’s just been talking about me at dinner before the show, or on the drive home, and whatever complaints came up, they’re fresh in her mind, like something I’ve just done. I’m tired of walking on eggshells, always being on a completely different page from someone I know so well, and am supposed to be so close to. It seems like everyone once in a while she just decides to be mad about something, and it doesn’t matter what, or the timing. She can ignore whatever’s going on in my life, if I might need support, because of the little storm she’s cooked up in her head.

But there’s nothing you can do right in times like these, except go around just a little bit tense, your breath held in, until it passes. And retreat a bit, start to seek understanding, comfort even, elsewhere, which I expect is the exact opposite of what she would want. 

Sunday, August 2, 2009

a rare light




It’s a funny thing you notice when you stop listening to the words of what people say, and instead listen only to the sound. Maybe it’s that you see people for what they really are, with that clarity that lets a complete stranger, detached in their interests, instantly understand us better than anyone we’ve known for years.

You notice the woman who’s a little too quick to laugh, and exclaim, “That’s too funny!”, trying to show herself, for the benefit of men, as that playful, fun ideal. Easy-going, endlessly spontaneous. You notice the girl who is soft-spoken and deliberate in her words, careful not to misstep and to only say what she means; she wants to be taken seriously, but without bold moves, only secure steps. Because no matter how honest someone’s words are, their behaviors are always acting for them, spinning a web unconsciously around them. And it’s only when you forget whatever impression you’re trying to make yourself, and really watch them, that you get a sense of who they truly are.

There’s the young man who’s a consummate politician-in-training, sure to say hello and goodbye to everyone he meets individually before heading home. When he talks to you he’s intensely present, “like you’re the only one in the room”, and you have to ask yourself if maybe there’s something there between you? But of course this is how he is with everyone, and so you wonder how he doesn’t get exhausted with it, and how you would know if you actually were close to him. Maybe he gets nervous then, the veneer cracks. But while this all might seem calculated, you can tell that in him it's genuine; it stems from a genuine desire to be respectful to everyone in turn, and from having been taught impeccable manners and how to get along from a very young age.  The honesty of it maybe makes you wish you could be that very good, well-meaning girl he’ll end up with, though you know of course you never could be.

It’s a rare light to see other people in, but rarer still to catch a glimpse of yourself in. I think it only comes around when there's nothing you're trying to maneuver in the moment, nothing you want that you don't have, no anxiety or self-consciousness creeping into your actions. When you date someone new, once you're sure you have them, before you worry about losing them. When you have those fantastic conversations that you can't remember a word from, only the gesture, the feeling of it, like an image from outside of yourself. When you can see yourself really happy, with no insecurities weighing you down. And you can distill yourself down to a few adjectives. And you  wonder – is it possible this is how everyone else sees me?


Photo from greygoose.com . Because it's totally appropriate to illustrate a point with a vodka ad....

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