I blame my sister (costume edition)

When I was in elementary school, my family would get really into decorating the outside of our house for Halloween. My older sister, who was a teenager at the time, was especially into making it legitimately creepy.

One year, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I had just gotten home from trick-or-treating, and my sister and her boyfriend were passing out candy. I was dressed as a gypsy girl. As we stood on the porch waiting for the next round of kids, my sister had a vision. “Kelly!” she said. “Go sit in that chair and pretend to be dead!”

Obediently, I draped myself across the chair, eyes closed, mouth slightly agape. I must have been like that for a while (and possibly fallen asleep), because by the time I heard the rustle of candy dropping into plastic bags, I was over it. I abruptly stood up – at which point the little costumed boy on our porch let out a blood-curdling scream. Apparently he’d been a little too convinced by our ruse, and thought I’d either woken from the dead or was a dummy come to life.

His mom was pissed. It was very awkward.

WTF, sis?

Fast forward ten years…

This time it was not actually Halloween. However, I was home on break from college, and my sister excitedly called to tell me that she and her neighbors were throwing a Napoleon Dynamite-themed costume party. I was pumped and started crafting the perfect outfit to be Deb: calf-length leggings, a short, pastel tie-dye dress, fanny pack, slouchy socks with sneakers, and of course – the piece de resistance – a major side ponytail.

I showed up to the party feeling pretty good. I walked in, and it was a scene straight out of a movie – music blaring, everyone’s heads turning in slow motion to stare at me, and my heart thumping with the realization: no one else is in costume.

Soon my sister emerged from the crowd, covering her mouth with her hand to hold back laughter. “Oh my god,” she said. “Oh my god, I forgot to tell you we changed it.”

Shortly thereafter I grabbed hold of a bottle of wine, and thus began an epic failure of a night, the details of which do NOT need to end up on the Internet – but all of which I do blame on my sister.

Happy Halloween, sis!

Don’t ruin Halloween

Recently, for a freelance assignment, I was researching ways to have a more “green” Halloween.

To be honest, I had never given much – okay, any – thought to the environmental impact of Halloween. Probably because when you’re the one picking out plastic-y costumes from the party store and rolling around in candy wrappers, you’re a child. And then after that, you’re more concerned with a costume’s impact on your boobs than its impact on the environment.  And after that, you’re not really concerned with Halloween at all until you have your own kids.

So I had never really thought about it. But once I started reading about it, it made sense, and there were actually a lot of really simple ways to make Halloween a bit more eco-friendly. I found myself nodding in agreement with the reasonable suggestions.

The way it should be

But then. Oh then… Then my head exploded. Several of the sources I found advocated handing out organic, fair-trade dark chocolate to trick-or-treaters. Another suggested giving them soy candles. SOY CANDLES. I had to read that one like 12 times to make sure I was understanding it correctly.

Ok. If I, as an adult woman, show up at your house trick-or-treating, feel free to give me organic dark chocolate and a soy candle. I welcome it. However, if I were a child and received this, I’m pretty sure I would throw myself on the floor screaming. In fact, even now I’d probably be pissed if I didn’t get any Smarties or Reese’s Pieces. Also – if you do this, you should probably expect to have your house egged by an angry mob of children. Just a fair warning.

Can’t we be environmentally responsible without ruining childhood? That’s all I have to say.

(Actually, no it’s not. It’s ridiculous standards like these that make actual important causes seem so elitist/inaccessible to people. Isn’t it better to give everyone simple, affordable ways to make a difference rather than suggesting you need to spend $350 on chocolate at Whole Foods to be a good citizen?  End rant.)

A cluttered mind

I never used to be messy. Sure, as a teenager there were some clothes strewn about my room, but it was usually pretty tidy. In college, my roommate and I kept our room so clean and adorable that it was shown on campus tours. As an adult, I’ve placed a lot of value on my own home being cozy, inviting, and cutely decorated. And unlike my sister’s car, which one would think she actually lives in, mine has traditionally been neat with little more than a stray umbrella on the floor.

But lately…things have changed. Clutter follows me. Amorphous masses that my boyfriend affectionately (?) calls “crap piles” materialize out of nowhere.

Now, my car rivals my sister’s (well, not really…hers should probably be condemned by the health department), laundry piles up in the bedroom, and assorted out-of-place objects pepper the surfaces in my apartment. I literally hear the music from Psycho playing in my head when I open one particularly disastrous cabinet in my kitchen, never knowing what might come tumbling out.

How I feel now (source)

You know that scene in 50/50 where JGL (swoon) insists that Anna Kendrick pull her car over so he can clean out the random trash? This is a scenario that now occurs in my relationship regularly.

I am not proud of this. And I try to combat it! Sometimes motivation strikes and I clean and organize various areas…but they fall into disarray again. Just to clarify: my apartment isn’t dirty. I do the requisite cleaning to maintain a sanitary home. It’s just cluttered. Disheveled. Kind of like me at the moment.

I may not be Susie Homemaker (when I was in first grade, I drew a picture of me, my mom, and the stove and wrote, “I like to help my mother make diner. But I don’t like helping her clen it up” – that still holds up), but I know this is about something more. For me, and I think for a lot of people, the more stressed out, anxious and scattered I feel – the more my space reflects that.

When my emotions are messy, so are my surroundings. And of course it’s a vicious cycle – being surrounded by clutter makes me more anxious, the more anxious I feel the more disorganized I become – and on and on.

Ahhh (source)

I remember my mom trying to teach me this when I was as young as ten or eleven: “Clean your room, you’ll feel better.” And it’s so incredibly true. Even at that age, I remember the serenity I felt getting into a bed with freshly changed sheets in a room that had just been cleaned – floor vacuumed, shelves dusted, every little thing in its place.

And I feel the same overwhelming sense of peace now when I clean my apartment from top to bottom, light candles, buy flowers. I may not be able to control all the stress and emotional clutter going on in my mind right now, but I can take control of my spaces and thereby lighten it just a bit. Seems like a good lesson – focus on what you can change.

My mom finds going through the car wash so relaxing that she calls it “the mini-spa.” Maybe I’ll start there. Quick. Cleansing. And way cheaper than a facial.

I don’t know about you, but I’m [SO NOT] feeling 22

I haven’t slept through the night in about two weeks. Saturday night, for example, I slept from midnight until 3:20 a.m. By 5:54 a.m. I was making muffins. By 6:45 a.m. I was in the fetal position under an afghan watching Everybody Loves Raymond.

So I apologize in advance if this post is unreadable, because my mental faculties have severely declined. Like yesterday at the gas station, halfway through filling my tank, I realized I had chosen – not regular, not super – premium unleaded. Then very nearly cried about it.

It’s been a fun couple weeks! (I have a feeling the culprit is a big stressful change about to occur in my life, but that’s not what I want to get into — let’s keep it nice and frivolous today.)

Aside from having a hard time accomplishing basic tasks, the biggest side effect of lack of sleep has been this: I look awful. I once blogged about the many situations where I physically cannot look pretty – this needs to be added to that list.

Once upon a time, in my early twenties, I could stay up til four, consume many margaritas, and wake up the next day all bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked. Sure, my hair may have been tousled and my eyeliner smudged, but in a cute way – not in a horror movie way which is what I’m working with now.

I literally looked in the mirror yesterday and thought, “Well, this is it. I’ve lost my looks. It’s all downhill from here.” And then I tried – very slowly – to reason with my sleep-deprived mind. That doesn’t make sense, I told myself. You’re still only in your twenties. It can’t all be over. There must be an explanation for why you currently look like Kristen Stewart’s much older and even more miserable aunt.

And then it dawned on me: oh yeah, because you haven’t slept in days.

When I was 20, there was a period of months where I routinely went to sleep at 2 a.m., then hopped out of bed at 6:30, showered, did my makeup, straightened my hair, and went to work looking fresh. Sure my energy would dip in the afternoon, but it was nothing a quick brownie break couldn’t handle (which, of course, I could consume daily without gaining weight – because I was 20).

But friends, that’s all over now. Now, lack of sleep turns me into a shell of a human – and an unsightly one at that.

But, hey. To quote The Mindy Project: “You’re not 22, so what? No one is.”

And if you are 22…enjoy it. Soon you too will need a solid eight hours…and a really good moisturizer.

Making excuses

By now everyone has probably seen this picture that’s gone viral of hot mom Maria Kang posing in body-baring workout gear with her three small children. At the top, it says: “What’s your excuse?”

And ohhh are people up in arms! She’s “fat-shaming” other women. She’s promoting unrealistic standards. She’s a bad mom (because clearly, working out for an hour a day means you’re neglecting your children – somebody call CPS).

All I can do is roll my eyes at the hoopla.

Life is all about choices and trade-offs. We all have different priorities, all of our choices have consequences, none of us can have our cake and eat it too. For example, she says one way she makes time for fitness is by not watching TV – at all. So, she busts ass on the treadmill while I curl up with a blanket and a box of tissues for Parenthood. She can flaunt those abs, but she probably can’t eat cheesecake on the reg (and if she can, then fine, I hate her too). We all make choices!

Look, this woman is a former fitness model. I don’t think her message was “why don’t you look like ME?” I think it was more, “If I can make time for fitness, so can you.” Whether it was in good or bad taste is debatable, but I don’t see why grown women should be so threatened by it if they are content and confident with the way they lead their own lives. Fitness is one of her top priorities — for another person it may not be, and that’s fine.

But I feel like the vitriolic response to her message speaks to so much more than just fitness. To me, the hallmark of being an adult is taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. It doesn’t mean (I’ve learned) that you’ve mastered life, that you have it all together, or that you no longer screw up. But it means you know who’s solely responsible for how your life is proceeding – that’s you.

I think the reason people got so intensely defensive over her message is because they don’t want to have to take that responsibility, whether it be for their fitness or any other aspect of their lives. And I get it – making excuses is so much easier. I do it, we all do it. But where does it get us?

I suspect she struck a chord not only with people concerned with their weight, but with people who are unwilling to take responsibility in any given aspect of their lives. When you see someone who’s where you wish you could be – fitness-wise, career-wise or otherwise – it’s tempting to think that they, for whatever reason, had it sooo much easier than you. It’s easier to think that than to acknowledge that maybe they just prioritized it more than you or wanted it more than you or worked harder for it than you.

It’s not about the abs. I could just as easily look at that picture and ask myself what my excuse is for not writing every day. What my excuse was for putting off cleaning my apartment all week. We could all ask ourselves that question about something – maybe we just don’t want to.

Didn’t we learn this in kindergarten? (A customer service story)

Yesterday morning I was out of coffee, so I dragged myself out of bed, threw on a grandpa sweater, and drove to the nearest Starbucks. There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts right down the block, but their coffee kind of tastes like jet fuel, and besides, I wanted to see if I could get my hands on an apple fritter (no such luck – those things are elusive).

I immediately regretted my decision. I stood in the unmoving line while drama unfolded at the register, ultimately resulting in two women getting their money back. I watched as the two people ahead of me fidgeted and shifted their weight. All the poor guy in front of me wanted was a chocolate chip cookie, and the woman a chai tea. Finally, I reached the register and ordered a grande caramel iced coffee and an everything bagel.

This is not how it went down (source)

“Tall caramel iced coffee,” called out the girl behind the drink counter.

“I’m sorry,” I said to the cashier, “is that my drink? Just checking because I ordered a grande.” She consulted with her coworker; they then proceeded to argue about it right in front of me.

She returned to the register. “Ok, and a multigrain bagel.”

“Oh, no, it was an everything bagel.”

“Ok,” she said, ringing it up. I looked at the screen; it said “multigrain bagel.”

“Oh, um, that was an everything bagel,” I said.

Just then, the other girl called out in an extremely agitated tone, “I have a grande caramel iced coffee over here – SOMEBODY ordered it!” Whoa. I finished paying and walked over to pick it up. At which point the drink-maker muttered loudly, “For fuck’s sake.”

Seriously!?!? (The cashier then appeared – and handed me a multigrain bagel.)

Here’s the thing…it’s not about getting the wrong kind of bagel or the wrong size coffee. Who cares? What I don’t understand is the rudeness. I’ve experienced this several times recently, and I just don’t get what possesses someone to be blatantly rude to a complete stranger, especially one who is being polite to them. It’s so odd to me.

I still have nightmares (source)

I understand customer service jobs suck. I get it. Years ago I worked as a hostess at P.F. Chang’s when it first opened in the mall. If you think people in suburban upstate New York won’t wage an all-out riot when they’ve been waiting three-plus hours for their chain restaurant Chinese food – well, they will. It gets real.

What I don’t understand is what it is about customer service encounters that brings out this rudeness in people – on both sides of the interaction. Didn’t we learn this stuff in kindergarten? Treat others as you want to be treated. Be kind to your neighbor. Say please and thank you. What happened to the Golden Rule? Can’t we all just get along??

Later that day, though, my faith in humanity was restored. I went to my local Italian market for meatballs and the kid behind the counter – probably about 19 or 20 – was the most delightful human being imaginable. “What a nice boy!” I said to my boyfriend as we walked away. (“What a nice boy”!? Am I elderly? I don’t even know.) Then the same thing happened at the supermarket. Two sweet and wonderful people to one horrifying one? Not a bad ratio. 

Still, I did e-mail Starbucks customer service to let them know that in the future, I would go to Dunkin’ Donuts where nobody swears at me.