The Glass Ceiling in Television Not Even Dented by Reality

anigif_enhanced-buzz-21683-1381975239-16 (1)Welcome to the Two Oh One Four. Fourteen years into the new millennium and we are still having the same conversations about politics, women and the media. Our depiction of female politicians in the media, especially as more women enter the real political sphere, lags behind the reality.  Real women entering elected positions is creating a real model of the politician “lady version,” yet fictional media representations of the political landscape not only disregards our increasing presence, the TV version of female politicians stands in stark contrast to the reality. Even in politically based TV shows with strong female characters, for example Scandal, the women in elected positions are portrayed as emotional, cheating, ambitious at all costs (until they lose because of lady parts) characters.

Let’s compare the two female candidates attempting presidential bids on Scandal to two actual female politicians, Senator Wendy Davis (D- TX) and Senator Michelle Bachmann (R- MN), who hold political office and are making considerable waves in national news this year.


Candidate 1: Josephine Marcus (D- Montana) (played by Lisa Kudrow)

lisa kudrow

Likely character pitch: Naive, yet ‘intelligent’ female candidate who unexpectedly makes waves for off the cuff comments becomes a serious presidential candidate. A childhood secret threatens to derail her run and Olivia saves the day. Marcus is politically unpolished and repeatedly fails to grasp the realities of running for president in the current media environment.  She constantly exclaims ‘why does the public need to know about [insert personal issue]?’ as if the thought that her private life might become interesting to the public or her opponents never crossed her mind when she decided she would run for president. Eventually the character must sacrifice herself because she loves her daughter more than she desires to be president. O,h and somewhere in there she gives an amazing feminist speech, which I’m assuming is suppose to appease us, yet she completely fails to live up to her speech.

Conclusion: AWWW… this would be cute if it didn’t involve possibly being president of the FUCKING UNITED STATES. Any one, but especially a woman, who manages to put together a reasonable bid for a presidential nomination cannot be this naive, I’ve worked on a lot of elections, and candidates can be dumb but they can not be naive; naivety is the first thing to be weeded out.

Candidate 2: VP Sally Langston (R – Texas) (played by Kate Burton)


Likely Character Pitch: Highly moral woman who helps bring the right over but is willing to bend her defining morals to become president, by switching to a pro-choice stance. VP Langston is consumed by her ambition, and demonstrates repeatedly her willingness to sacrifice everything with cold collected calculation.  However when her husband does the nasty with another man, which she implies she understood prior to their marriage, Sally flips and stabs him to death, effectively ending her run against the president.

Conclusion: Bitches be crazy.


Candidate 1: Wendy Davis (D- Texas)


Character pitch: Known for her ability to filibuster unlike this country has seen since the 18th century, she knowingly positioned herself as the face of the new blue Texas.  After getting gerrymandered out of her district she decided to stage one last great state stand defending women’s right to their bodies in pink sneakers.  Almost immediately following this highly viewed senate session (over 100,000 people watched the live feed, over 150,000 tweeted, and many, such as myself, found themselves unable to access the State Senate Live Feed because of bandwidth problems), Senator Davis announced her bid for governor of Texas, and there is considerable buzz about a presidential run in the future.  In contrast to the fictional Marcus, Davis fully understands the implications of stepping onto the national stage, and further more is carefully crafting a public image useful for promoting her political goals.

Conclusion: These pink sneakers were meant for running (for president).


Candidate 2: Michele Bachmann (R – Minnesota)


Character Pitch: The darling of the Tea Party, Bachmann is as close as a religious libertarian can get to a true ideology. She believes what she believes, or at least knows that deviating is bad base politics.  Bachman clearly challenged the Republican establishment by incorporating the Tea Party wing better than the old white males who tried to cater their rhetoric to the new, very scary, branch.  I do not like Bachmann, but there is no way that the woman who stood in front of the country and called out the old Republicans would ever compromise her ‘values’ in a party that uses flip flopping to out their own incumbents in state primaries.  Moreover, there is no way a gun toting, Minnesotan, hunter would ever be stupid enough to stab her husband on a publicly owned rug when the presidency was within reach.

Conclusion: Bitches be crazy, but not stupid.


The dumbing down of female candidates, on both sides, in media representations is dangerous.  What 90s kid doesn’t remember Topanga telling the class she was going to be the first female president of the United States? I believed that, and I was surprisingly disappointed when as an adult she became a ‘little wife’ to Corey (who I thought would be a great first husband).  For kids of the 90s, female television characters under the age of 15 talked about breaking the glass ceiling, yet that conversation disappeared after they started dating.  This model eerily mirrors the current statistics on women in the work place. Whether society models media or media models society is an issue too long for this post, but if we want to foster strong women in the future maybe we need to start looking at the women we are showing to young girls and women around us. In reality women in politics have made record strides this year, yet in media they are still stuck in the 1850s. Maybe its time somebody grew up.

Snowed In: My Experience in the Boston Blizzard

This weekend I was officially snowed in and cut off from the world. I had plans that got cancelled by two to three feet of snow literally stopping everything in the city. That meant no visiting my grandmother and mom (in from out of town) in the suburbs. No visiting one of the local breweries for their tours and tastings. No picking up my dog, who after months apart, I was finally going to bring home. I was going to have a busy, social weekend. Emphasis on was. Because instead Boston was hit by winter storm Nemo and the blizzard of 2013.

I have never been in a blizzard. Being from Arizona, the worse weather I’ve experienced has happened since I’ve moved out here. Other than the hurricane, it’s been a pretty mild winter. Or so I am told, cold is cold to me and Massachusetts is cold. But they said this was going to be big, whatever that meant.

Just in case it was as big as they said, I hit the grocery store on Thursday afternoon, lamenting with the person behind me in the very long line, that this was a little silly. Worse case scenario, we assured each other, there’d be snow and by Sunday things would be back up and running. There was no call to by the dozens of eggs and gallons of milk that people were buying. There was really no need for an emergency shop at all, we decided, this storm wouldn’t throw anything that would put you on lock down for more than a day or two. And even if it means Easy Mac, there was no need to swamp the stores like people were. We assured each other that we weren’t emergency shopping. It was a regular Thursday at Whole Foods as far as we were concerned. Nothing out the the ordinary in our shopping baskets because nothing was going to happen.

So when the storm rolled in Friday and with it the news that public transit would be shut down at 3:30, driving banned at 4:00, I was a little surprised. It seemed extreme, but what did I know? I started to worry. If the government was so eager to get everyone off the streets and bunkered down so early, the sky must be about to fall. And I expected it would fall even as soon as quarter after four. Well, it didn’t and my grocery store cynic was feeling vindicated. Sure, it was snowing and the wind had picked up, but mostly I didn’t see why I couldn’t be meeting the appointments in my social calendar. I have to say, I was little annoyed at the city. They kept talking about The Blizzard of ’78 like it hadn’t snowed since and this was just a little snow, a little wind, nothing new.

By 9:00 that evening, I was a little stir crazy. It didn’t matter that I’d spent every other night that week content on the couch with my dear friend Netflix, I was itching to get out. But finally the snow was coming down. This was it, the rest of the weekend was shot. I was doomed to stay in and watch PBS reruns and never see people again. It was dramatic, sure, but I was bummed. I’d been so excited about the weekend and now I had to spend it alone.

Then, from outside, “Dude, you call that a throw?”

“It’s the gloves, man!”


I should definitely go outside now…

There were people outside, in the midst of a blizzard, playing football. Four people from the house across the street were running and jumping in the foot or so that’d come down at this point. I couldn’t resist the temptation, and boots, coat, scarf, and the thickest gloves I could find later I was on my front porch shouting at them, condemning their foolishness. That is, until they invited me to grab a beer and a snow ball and join them.

So I did.

At one point we turned to each other then back to the snow covered hill and lamented that our responsible, adult selves from the rest of the year that had neglected to buy sleds because this would be the perfect hill for it. And it was safe, with the driving ban there would be no one to run us over. Not moments later, down at the bottom of the hill, out of the murk and snow, headlights appeared. A plow was heading up the very hill we’d just wished we were sliding, out of control, down. “And I just changed my mind,” my neighbor commented. “I am so glad that I am responsible the rest of the year,” I agreed.  “We’d be down there, dying, right now.”

Then, something else appeared through the wind and snow: the silhouette of a person, just barely visible, about halfway between us and the steadily approaching plow. They turned back and saw the plow, just headlights moving ominously closer.

“Run!” we shouted together. “Oh, my God, run!” He ran and managed to beat the plow out of the way and onto the sidewalk. We laughed and laughed, cheering his safety, celebrating the top of the hill and not sledding and being grown up enough to make enough good decisions that we’d survived to stand out in a blizzard drinking icy beer.

It was awesome.

This is the view of the street on Saturday morning. Those lumps are cars...

This is the view of the street on Saturday morning. Those lumps are cars…

The next morning, mostly thawed out, I peeked out at the world outside my window. It was almost unrecognizable, drift upon drift of white snow. Cars had all but disappeared under the snow, stoops and front steps were gone, and trees were sagging under the snow on their branches. The road, even though the plows came through well into the night, was buried under a foot of snow. But the neighbors were out and we all started to clear driveways, cut paths, and uncover cars. The streets were impassible, the subway down, and stores were closed. But people were smiling, inconvenienced, but smiling. What was that about?

Sunday was much the same, except the plows finally got to most streets, including ours and the city was coming, slowly, back to life.  I went down to the CVS, about half a mile of twisted channels and paths cut out through the snow. For the first time, when I walked to CVS and paid attention to the foot traffic, the people, around me. The paths were too narrow for two to pass each other, so you had to notice who was coming your way, find the niches at doorways and open streets to wait to let someone else by. For a city known to be impatient and rude, the snow forced us to wait, watch, and thank everyone around us. I remember thinking it was sort of delightful.

Maybe it doesn’t speak well of our species that it takes such a storm to get us out of our homes, routines, and social circles. Maybe it isn’t great that I only ever talk to my neighbors when there is somewhat of a crisis. But on the other hand, maybe it does. I happen to love that when nature told us that if we wanted to survive it’d be holed up in our apartments alone, we said, “Wanna bet?”

After all, the liquor store stayed open.

Bombshell Convert

I am a feminist. That means that I believe that a system exists in which men and women are judged and oppressed based 

on their gender or sexual orientation. Furthermore, being a feminist means actively doing something about it, be it protesting, educating the public, writing letters to my representatives, staying informed, and donating time, energy, and funds that go towards exposing and breaking down this system. I love this part of my identity: shedding the blinders of ignorance has not made me angry or depressed by reality, but only fires me up when I see injustice after injustice and all the opportunities that can be taken to end this oppression. Do I believe it can end? You betchya. Do I see the light at the end of the tunnel? Not today, but I believe that someday the gender binary will break down, gay weddings won’t be an affair “separate but equal” to straight weddings, and women and men will not be judged by their sexual prowess or lack thereof.

Alright, now that I have defined a huge part of my identity, I have a confession to make. I bought a bra a few weeks ago from Victoria Secret. That’s not the secret–I think that Victoria Secret is a great tool for empowerment, with a grain of salt. I did not walk into VS, ask a woman to size me, and then buy a bra that fits me that I like and feel confident in. My friend and I went to the semi-annual sale for one reason: to buy myself a Bombshell bra.

The Bombshell adds TWO WHOLE CUPS SIZES to your natural measurements.  Not only that, but you can buy this bra in the classic colors, making them simple and unadorned for work. They also come in outrageous designs : mine happens to be red with gold glitz all over it. Oh-ho, and I don’t hide this bra out of shame and embarrassment. In fact, I’m sure to pair it with low-cut shirts that are a little thin so that I can see the glimmer of the gold thread in certain lights. (Read: any light). I’m not ashamed of my Bombshell, but I’m also aware that I should be.

When I put this bra on, I feel, if only for a few seconds, in proportion. Desirable. Pretty. Like a smoking hot babe that any individual should hesitate to speak to because my beauty makes them nervous. I get over that feeling quickly, though, and move on with my day, but when I catch my reflection in a window or find a second to breath in the elevator that thought flashes through my head and I have a new source of confidence in my next step.

Now, I think to myself Girl, how much more shallow can you get?

This is part of the problem that weighs women against men: products that inspire you to take confidence and pride in physical assets that won’t bring you any savory benefit. I am not aspiring to be a historian because I believe I’m a solid 7. But if I think so highly of myself, why should I wear a bra that maybe helps me up the rankings? When I work so hard to talk to my younger girl cousins about how brave, smart, or wise the Disney Princesses were instead of how pretty and dainty, am I contradicting that lesson by wearing this piece of clothing that, literally, restricts my movement but also plays into a patriarchal society that demands its women to be bountiful in all the right places? What’s the point in declaring my feminism, now? It’s like taking two cup sizes up, and one cup size from my real source of confidence: my competence and intelligence.

For now, I’ve convinced myself that, because I am not in the dark about gender and sexual oppression in this country and because I believe that we all partake in perpetuating this system simply by existing in it, wearing this bra and continuing  my plans to live a feminist life do not contradict. Really, it doesn’t matter if I wear an enhancing bra right now while I read my favorite feminist blogs ( and And it really shouldn’t matter that I feel good about how I look in a wireless, padded, or heavily lined bra while I take signatures for a petition or register people to vote. Because for now, I think there are bigger fish to fry than my choice to look feminine and wear the Bombshell.

The real world or The Real World

This is my first semester in 18 years in which I am not taking a class. Not a single one. The next five months are dedicated to finishing my thesis (read: glorified research paper) and studying for my comprehension exams so I can graduate in the summer. And then…and then…

Several of the people in and around my life have asked me what I am going to do in the “real world” once I graduate. For a while, I went along with this question and gave some very satisfying answers about job prospects, traveling, and purchasing at least five more cats within the next two years. But I’m becoming irked by this question, not because I don’t have a solid plan, but because of its implication. Since when was being in school not a “real” thing? Will my Master’s degree be imaginary, some mathematical equivalent to non-existence, i? I certainly hope not, seeing as the time, money, and brain-space sacrificed has a definite value of 18 years—no more and no less.

Imaginary Kate posing at Imaginary undergrad graduation, posing with Real Grandma. What a headache.

Without a doubt, we’ve all talked about, dreamed about, wondered and skirted around this “Real World” concept, so I pose the question to you: what in the flying f*ck is the Real World and how do I become a Real Person in order to live within its space? If am on the cusp of entering this place, then I feel like I need some clarification in order to avoid becoming a nonentity. It is my understanding that this is a place where a body is not in school, has its own job, pays it bills, and has a few more responsibilities that make it a commendable part of a working society (Note: professional students CLEARLY do not meet these qualifications).


Do this for the Real World and you’re an automatic IN.

It’s not like this is something I can look up and research, either, seeing as MTV has a monopoly on the Real World and has occupied it since 1992. But if I take my lessons from this Real World, then there are certain themes for my new life to be on the look-out for:

  1. Prejudice
  2. Politics & religion
  3. Romance
  4. Sexuality
  5. Unrequited love
  6. Departed house-mates
  7. On-screen marriage
  8. Coping with illness

Interesting how I never experienced any of this in the last 18 years (well,  “On-screen marriage” might be tricky to argue, but my sass is on a roll). Maybe the point of school is to prepare myself for these “recurring themes.” Maybe the purpose of my Latin America seminars in 2011 and 2012 was to teach me that there are some fiercely homophobic bros out there who love to hate on AIDS-ridden gays. I’m certain that my Marine Biology class from 2008 amply provided the life-skills for when my roommate moved out and we scrambled to find a new one. And the most important lesson, one that was a tough learn in the History of Revolutions course I took in 2009, was that of unrequited love…for immediate and radical change brought on by the people for the benefit of the whole and not the few…oh, wait, that has nothing to do with MTV’s Real World, because that might have actual, long-term, and significant change as opposed to the “longest running reality TV show” claim to fame. THAT must be part of Non-Real World.

I am so not prepared for the Real World if this is what it takes. But if my hunch about “reality” is right, that finding a job, paying my bills, and interacting with a larger community that is outside of (but not necessarily separate or far from) academia, then I’m certain I will do just find and y’all can stop saying Welcome to the Real World!

Don’t Call Me Brave

Hufflepuff. That, I am sure, is the house I would be in if I attended the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And although we Hufflepuffs are the butt of every joke, I think I would be happy there. Certainly, I am not smart like those in Ravenclaw, nor cunning like those in Slytherin. And I am definitely not brave enough to find a home amongst the Hermione Grangers and Harry Potters in the Gryffindor house.

Perhaps that is why I am so suspicious when someone comments on my bravery. When they suggest that I am brave, I assume they mean stupid or, at the very nicest, foolish. Surely they don’t really think moving across the country solely because I wanted to is brave. They must think I am out of my mind. What? You moved to a city you don’t know without a job? Hardly with a plan or excuse other than that you’ve lived in one zip code your whole life and it was time for a new one. Were they all out of zip codes back home? That they express jealousy of my freedom in that sense only says to me, “We are of the higher minded houses. We Gryffindors, Slytherins, or Ravenclaws plan, scheme, or strategize before buying that one way ticket. Sure, that may be holding me back from what I want right now, but it is the better way to do it. Just because you are happy doesn’t mean you are doing it right.”

And maybe that is what some of the people think. Those who care about me, I am hopeful, really are envious and really do wish they could do what I am doing. Because who doesn’t want to be happy? Why shouldn’t you go after what you want? And because I did that, does that make me brave?

Let me answer how I experience it: no. I am not brave. I am not stupid. I am not foolish. But I have that Can-Do attitude we Americans are so known for coupled with that cowboy Get’er done mentality from growing up in the west; from growing up with parents who expected a lot. And maybe just a dash of YOLO, for good internet measure. With that, and the knowledge that it’ll probably all work out and if not I can always go back to 85719, I will always leap and wait for the net to appear.

Fast forward to now, four months into this little adventure of mine. I’m wrapping up a handful of projects from NaNoWriMo, an internship, and a teaching contract. The next few months are a little frighteningly devoid of an income. Looking forward, well, frankly, (with the exception of a new zip code) I’m in the exact same place as I was a few months ago, and am poised to jump all over again. Because if that net doesn’t appear, and if I don’t land on my feet, well, I don’t have much choice but to jump again and again, until I get it right. What is it we Hufflepuffs are? Unafraid of toil?

er...Just to really tie up any loose ends, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists bravery as:  having or showing courage (and courage as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty). Wait, by that definition…

Look, I have a younger brother. If nothing else, I am able to withstand difficulty.

I Wrote a Novel in a Month

Or Why I Haven’t Been Blogging.

“Thirty days and nights of writing abandon” so says the masthead for the National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo, website. The Challenge: write a novel in a month. A novel in NaNo terms is 50,000 words, roughly 1,667 words every day. For those of you with memories of finals week still fresh in your mind, that is that final paper that you wrote at the last minute, every single night, for a month. And people choose to do this? Yeah, and I was one of them. One of something like 300,000 worldwide for a word count around 3,288,976,325 (this year).

Heck yeah I did!

Heck yeah I did!

For the math whizzes out there, that doesn’t quite add up. If three hundred thousand people are writing, we’re coming up something like 12 billion words short. Clearly not everyone completes the challenge. But, I did! My 50, 102 words were part of those three billion words. I feel pretty accomplished  To be honest, there was a fair amount of personal back patting, but shoot, I deserved it! I’ve never written that much before.

So I’ve written a novel. Or something. I’ve written 50,000 words of a novel. Except that I haven’t even gotten the whole idea out… You have no idea how tempted I was to have the last official thirteen words be: “And then they were all hit by a bus and died. The end.” and just be done with the dang thing. But I didn’t.

Maybe you noticed that we are halfway through December and I’m still not blogging (sorry long lost drafts of October… I’ll get to you some day.) November has ended and yet, here I am, writing every day, still. Queue cramped fingers, crossed eyes, and yet more crumbs in my keyboard, all in order to achieve the goal, to write the novel.

The goal is different now, more intangible.  When you are counting each word, you have something to achieve. But now I’m just trying to finish the plot, and that isn’t quite as quantifiable. How do I know I’m done? Assuming I don’t send in the bus after all, that is. And when I’m done, is that a novel?

Saturn with its largest moon Titan.

Saturn with its largest moon Titan.

Before I can answer that question (if I can answer that question), I should tell you what it is about. It is about a National Park Ranger. At the Rings of Saturn National Park. Who gets wrapped up in a revolution to free the Saturnian moon system from the United States.

In the words of my esteemed friend Carolyn, “Is it supposed to be good?”

My answer: “Well…” Because I don’t know. I don’t even know what makes a good novel. What I know is: The science is good. The story is, if nothing else, original. And the characters have dimension, although I’m still working on that last piece.

So have I written a novel in a month? Not exactly. It probably won’t go any farther than the five free bound copies Amazon gives all NaNo Winners. Probably not more than five people will ever read it. But to tell the truth, that doesn’t matter. Because I beat this monster, this looming I never have so I never will mentality that kept me from writing seriously in the past. And you know what? Even if I am the only one who is, I can’t wait to read it.

But heck, it is a love story, wrapped up in the fight for good and evil, in outer space. What isn’t there to like?

A Thank You Note To The Guy Who Told Me To Stop Putting Myself Down

Dear Sir,

Hey there, long time no see. Kidding, I saw you like a week ago, but you’re a continent away from me now, off in a country I’ll probably never visit, so it doesn’t really matter that we just hung out. Sad face.

Jon Hamm in ‘Bridesmaids’

Three weeks ago, I told my lovely, magical, patient best friend Anna that I wanted to pen a long-winded TTF article about a terrible guy who nearly destroyed me two and a half years ago. All right, I need to take some responsibility here: a guy whom I let nearly destroy me. The moral of the story, which I won’t be writing about in TTF, is that I poisoned myself by basing my value on the treatment I received from an unworthy individual. I started writing the post soon after chatting with Anna, and while I’m (kind of?) proud to say I’ve produced 3,000 words so far, it was an exhausting post to put together and I’m not even done. I walked away from the first half of draft one feeling drained, sick, ashamed, disgusted, livid, the works. In other words, it wasn’t cathartic to vent about the downright evil connection I had with a young man who loved throwing me out of his bed like a used condom and at times made me believe he didn’t care whether I lived or died. It brought me back to one of the lowest and most vulnerable points of my life, which you got a sense of during our brief but substantial interactions.

While I plan on writing about this rotten, appalling  experience someday (ideally Taylor Swift style, because look how well that always works for her), I must say that I don’t really want to be in fight or revenge mode right now, and publishing that would just resurrect the toxic energy I worked so hard to push out of my life. I’m ready to finally give my friends and TTF readers something happy to read. During darker days, Anna would say to me, “Tell me something good, Laura.”  Well, Anna is finally getting her wish (a year and a half late, but she’ll forgive me because that’s what friends and TTFers do).

Whether you like it or not, I want to talk about you — the guy who (temporarily) restored my faith in the male species, not that I’m getting carried away or putting a ton of pressure on you or anything…

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’

Last Friday night (thanks for the heads up, Katy Perry), my friend convinced me to stay out later than I’d planned. We’d just finished eating comfort food at Doc Watson’s Irish pub and I intended to head home, but she insisted we stop at Swig, an uptown bar where her friend worked. Though tired from the week, I accompanied her to the venue, where I ended up meeting you. I remember staring at you from across the room after I got my drink. I thought you were well dressed and had probably already found someone to spend the evening with. That’s what I assume of every guy I meet, no thanks to past experiences.

Your friend approached me before you did, but you swooped in before I could get a sense of what he was about. All I knew was that I was surrounded by five fun Australians who only had a few days left in New York. I liked your cologne, but more than anything, I was drawn to your fiery attitude. You seemed very grown up, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that your friends call you “Dad” and expected you to put together the entire itinerary for the trip (I’ve so been there). You enjoy making them happy though, and I admired that because I’m the same way with my buddies. But there weren’t just warm fuzzies between us. We started the night on a playfully combative note: you made fun of me for forgetting the name of the Sydney Opera House.

That weird thing in Syndey

“‘That weird thing in Sydney?'” you said in your accent, mimicking my admittedly horrendous description of one of your country’s major landmarks. “That would be like if I called the Statue of Liberty the Green Bitch.”

“The Statue of Liberty used to be copper,” I said, whipping out my iPhone to show you a snapshot of the monument long before it developed a different shade entirely. “The color changed overtime.”

“Interesting. We’re seeing that tomorrow. If it doesn’t rain,” you replied.

Thank you, Hunters!

It had poured nonstop all day, so I was sporting my one and only pair of rain boots. You were in awe that someone over the age of four was wearing them, as people don’t really do that in Australia (or so you told me), so you had me place my legs on your lap to study the perplexing walking instruments. You traced the red Hunter logo and rubber material, seemingly amused. I was too. I knew then that you were sold.

We continued taking swipes at each other for another hour before migrating to another bar and delving into serious topics. I laughed after you bought my drink, as the last dude I’d gone out with had failed to do the same after being an hour late to meet me on an outing he’d suggested. Such gentlemen I hang out with.

I told you about this fellow with a hint of embarrassment and you warned me never to trust French guys named Jean-Paul anyway. After I whispered that we were a few feet away from the friends of a guy who had harassed me before, you seemed angry, not at me, but for me. I didn’t want that for you, though. To lighten the mood and quit coming across as a perpetually vulnerable, inherently unlovable sad sack, I asked you to talk about your life, and thank God you did.

You’re very close with and protective of your sister, who is a year older than you are (even though you call her your little sister). You’ve watched your mom and dad remarry other people a handful of times and seem pretty unfazed by it, even though I know firsthand it’s not easy to have parental figures come and go. You’re more resilient than I am in that way. I said I’m a serious person because I’m extremely career-driven, which led you to ask whether there’s a difference between “serious” and “motivated.” We laughed and you admitted to arguing for the sake of arguing (I’m guilty of this as well), but for once, I was OK with it. I liked talking to a someone who was willing to challenge and debate me. It was a nice change from empty bar conversations I have to deal with on a regular basis. You also got mad when I said I looked like a slob, and while I definitely felt grimy and haggard from running around the wet streets of NYC all day and night, I appreciated that you forced me to quit saying that I was an awful sight. Because I’m not.

3:00 a.m. rolled around and we were still chatting at The Penrose, which was clearing out and closing, so I awkwardly invited you to follow me back to my digs, where we talked for another hour or so before getting a move on things. As we sat side-by-side on my bed and discussed my barely legible to-do list, I regretted that we hadn’t kissed at the bar, because that’s definitely something two strangers should do before retreating back to one of their residences. What if we had no chemistry? Oh well, I thought, if this turns out to be a disaster, at least I’ll have something funny to blog about.

Studying my wall, you asked about my journalism award and I explained that I’d received it as a college junior, back when I viewed myself as the biggest thing in the world for publishing a 700-word column per week. Now I write piece after piece on a daily basis, rarely having a major attachment to my work but always feeling squirmy, inadequate, overwhelmed, stifled, and behind. It’s not that I dislike what I’m doing, I’m just ready to evolve. You get that because you’ve lived your entire life on the edge. You fly military planes and can go a week without food, for God’s sake.

As much as I loved discussing my college writing accolades, I became increasingly frustrated and nervous. I didn’t want to talk about my trophies. I wanted to see whether we were compatible in another way. After all, you hadn’t come over to learn the extent of my epic nerdiness. 

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’

Once we finished our glasses of water, I made a beeline for the light switch, whacked it off, and pulled your face toward my own. Phew, I thought. Zero weirdness. Even so, I could tell by your classy attire, rippled six pack abs, sparkly blue eyes, head of dark hair, and perfectly-sculpted biceps that you probably get a lot more play than I do, and that made me noticeably anxious and even more frantic than usual.

“What now?” I said after we’d made our way into the sheets.

“You tell me. You’re supposed to be the older and more mature one, right?”

I sighed. “Yeah. Right.”

I’d almost forgotten you’re two years (and two months) younger than I am, and for a split second, I believed that was the reason you’d agreed to hang out with me in the first place: you didn’t know any better. There I go again. I’m always getting down on myself, mainly because the only other younger guy I’ve been with was the aforementioned putz in paragraph two. After him, I didn’t do anything — aside from endure a meaningless kiss here and there — for a year and seven months. As Olivia Wilde eloquently described her post-divorce experiences, “my vagina died.” But it was more than just my personal life that went on a hellish vacation. It was my ability to connect with others, my desire to go out and meet guys, my joie de vivre.

I don’t know whether this was obvious or not, but I did confess around 5:30 that I’d been, for the most part, out of the game and reclusive for a while. You assured me everything was fine, and when I kept saying sorry and stating that I was uncertain, you looked at me and commanded, “Stop apologizing and putting yourself down.”

People who apologize a lot reflexively say “sorry” after an order of this nature, but I simply nodded and kept that word out of my vocabulary for the duration of our encounter. Sometime before sunrise, I quit fretting and feeling self-conscious, and we covered a lot of ground. You said you loved that I’m a writer because of the way I phrase things. You like that I walk fast because you move with purpose and urgency as well. You think my past experiences with men are unfortunate, and you regret that I haven’t had any positive stories to share for five years (I promise I’ll be fine, I just have to learn to pick better). I said I envied your outdoor survival skills, which you acquired in the military. We argued about the pronunciation of “climate.” I say it like “climb-it” whereas you’re convinced it’s spoken as “climb-AT.”

I asked whether you’d heard of “The Simpsons,” and that question gave you a good laugh. I went on to say that it was quite possible that the comedy series isn’t as big a deal in your country as it is in mine because it’s based on the modern U.S. family. You assured me families are the same everywhere, which got me thinking about “Anna Karenina.”

“You’re just a trove of knowledge, aren’t you?” you said.

I shrugged. “Something like that.”

At around 6:45, you suggested we get some shut eye. You had a big day ahead and I needed to catch up on sleep after an intense work week. I found myself settling into the crook of your neck, and after five minutes, presumably when you suspected I was out cold, you kissed the top of my forehead.

The following night, you sent me a Facebook message about your Saturday excursions with the guys.

“How was the Green Bitch?” I asked.

“The Green Bitch was good. Took a while to get out there but it was pretty good. I am about to lose my rights to the laptop so text me😉 (310) xxx-xxxx”

And so I did, and we had our last hurrah the following day after several hours of texting and joking around. You fell asleep on your cab ride back from the Giants stadium, and I light-heartedly told you that you’d need your rest prior to our shenanigans.

“You’re not going to try to kill me again, are you?” you said.

Unfortunately not, as I was plagued with foot and leg cramps, prompting me to tell you it was because you were dealing with a senior citizen. We hung out at the Times Square Westin, where I’d stayed during my high school drama trip eight years earlier. I hugged you goodbye but was at a loss for words as I usually am with formalities and farewells, and that was it.

You’re out of my life and we’re not going to remember much about each other ten years from now. You’ll reflect on your month-long vacation to the states and gush about the hilarious times you had with your friends. I won’t be able to identify you by name, but I will remember the strong-willed, humorous, opinionated Australian who convinced me I deserved much more than I’d ever gotten, so thank you. I hope I gave you more than just a funny travel story about a neurotic redheaded Californian who kept you up all night.

The Domino Effect Of Hurricane Sandy: Why One Natural Disaster Changed Everything For Me

January has always been my least favorite month. It’s a No Man’s Land month and supposedly the saddest time of the year. Christmas and New Years festivities are over, the weather is biting cold, and the only holiday in the near future is Valentine’s Day, which both single and taken people often hate. I dread January as much as I dread the flu and dentist visits, but right now, I would like nothing more than for the first day of January to arrive. I want a clean slate after this disaster of a year. Besides, November has felt a lot like January so far: bleak, stressful, isolating, and joyless.

Two weeks ago, the New York City subway system shut down in preparation for Hurricane Sandy, a major storm set to hit much of the east coast. I figured Bloomberg was just trying to take necessary precautions because NYC hadn’t been ready for Hurricane Irene the previous year. Then I pulled up my inbox and found an email from my boss, who wrote to inform everyone that the office would be closed Monday due to the storm. We were all to work from home, he said, at normal capacity. I sighed and walked into the living room, where I found my roommate rummaging through the fridge.

“Do you want to go get some food?” she asked. “This will probably be your last chance to eat out for a while. Everything is closing at four today.”

Our winter coats in hand, we ventured down to 86th Street for our final big meal on the town. We were already getting thrashed around by the wind, which should have indicated to us just how serious Sandy was about wreaking havoc in our city. Traversing the crosswalk, I noticed a massive line streaming out of Fairway Market. Everyone was gearing up for the hurricane. Jen and I giggled, as we’d put together our hurricane survival kit the day before. Oh, how efficient and on top of things we were. The hurricane had nothing on us.

After scarfing down Chipotle, which hadn’t been particularly enjoyable, we made a pit stop at Duane Reade for some extra water jugs. Of course, the entire water aisle was empty. We had to purchase by the bottle, so we gathered a couple chilled bottles of Smart Water and Crystal Springs before retreating to the cash register. Before checking out, I grabbed the latest issue of Us Weekly, which had a smiling Jessica Simpson on the cover. The title read, “BULLIED FOR HER WEIGHT. MY DIET STRUGGLE. The new mom loses 60 lbs in 5 months the healthy way and ignores the haters — ‘I’m not a supermodel!'” I grinned, knowing all too well I’d need ample tabloid stories to keep me calm and occupied during the storm.

The following day, which was the day Sandy was supposed to barrel through NYC, my roommate and I worked from home. We spent much of the morning joking about how we were already going stir crazy. All would be well soon, though, as our offices would surely be back in business by Wednesday. At 10:30 a.m., I started to feel a pounding in my forehead. It was my caffeine deficiency. I needed coffee, so I phoned the Dunkin’ Donuts down the street, stunned when someone answered.

“You’re open today?” I said incredulously.

“Yes,” the employee responded in a clipped manner, undoubtedly resentful about having to work the day of a hurricane.

“Great, thanks,” I replied, already dashing out my front door to pick up coffee for me and my roommate.

Few people were outside. A concerned-looking traffic director waved me across the street, and a male construction worker ordered me to get back to my apartment as soon as possible.

“Come on, sir, it’s not even that windy yet,” I joked, tugging at my Victoria’s Secret Pink sweatshirt.

“It will be. Just you wait.”

Nevertheless, my roommate and I had our coffee and were happy. All we could do after that was wait for the storm to pass.

Monday, October 29, 9:00 p.m.

Flooded subway station

My roommate and I were beginning to feel restless and uncertain. We’d spent hours scouring the Internet for stories on Sandy, which had apparently destroyed a few areas in Jersey and pummeled the lower east side. A shark was reportedly swimming through the streets of NJ, the Jersey Shore was battered, and portions of Brooklyn were flooded.  I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn’t moved to the east village as I’d considered in April. Would the upper east side come out of Sandy unscathed? Had we barricaded ourselves in our apartment for nothing? It seemed that way.

Then the wind intensified.

“There it is,” Jen said.

“About time,” I responded, wanting the storm to do her thing and leave already.

Our lights began to flicker, so I decided to play a movie while we still had electricity. I went with “13 Going On 30,” which I hadn’t seen in more than a year, and watched the rom-com until the power went out. I sighed and looked down at my fully charged phone. It wouldn’t be that way for long.

As my roommate fired up a candle, we heard a loud boom outside. Then screaming.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” she said. “Maybe it’s just a baby crying.”

There was no weeping child, though. The concrete wall separating our building from the one next door had collapsed. Here’s how it looked the following day:

After rushing to the living room window, I gasped. Our building was surrounded by water. The courtyard was flooded about eleven feet. I glanced out my bedroom window and saw waves just a few feet below me. There was also an inflatable toy duck floating around. If we were to get any more rain, I feared, the water would reach my window and flood our entire apartment. My heart rate skyrocketed and I headed into the hallway, where I found many of my neighbors huddled up.

“Jen, we have to evacuate right now,” I yelled from the doorway, clearly going through the fight or flight syndrome. “Our building is surrounded by water.”

“If we were going to evacuate, we should have done it already,” she replied. She was so right, but I didn’t listen.

“I have a friend who lives in Harlem. He has power. I’m going to go stay with him,” I replied, throwing on a zip-up sweater and my Hunter rainboots.

“You’re going to run 30 blocks in 90 mile per hour winds? That’s how people die in these storms, Laura. They go outside and get knocked out by a tree or something.”

“I don’t want to drown here,” I told her.

“Well if you’re going to go anywhere, you need to put on better clothes. Your hoodie and sweats aren’t going to cut it in this weather.”

That’s when her boyfriend stepped in and asked me to stay put. They didn’t want to worry about me weaving through the streets of New York during a hurricane — let alone in the eye of the storm.

“You know, Laura, for someone as paranoid as you, you take a lot of risks,” Jen said, inspiring all of us to roar with laughter. “You got coffee in the storm and now you want to run to Harlem, which is unsafe in broad daylight, during a hurricane.”

“I ran track in high school. I can do this.”

Of course, I was being utterly insane and ridiculous, but that’s the fight or flight response for you. When something is wrong, I need to see it in full. I need to know exactly what’s going on, so in my rain boots, I stepped outside. Every car on our street was under water and the road was flooded, with some of the water trickling into our building. It was coming from the east river, and it flowed to the end of 2nd Avenue. The perks of living at the bottom of a hill.

“Are we going to flood?” I asked the superintendent, who was tapping at his iPhone.

“I don’t know. The basement and courtyard are totally flooded, but you’re on the second floor, so you should be fine.”

Just then, a young-looking girl from the fifth floor approached me and asked whether I wanted to accompany her to the bar on our block. We could charge our phones and computers there, she said. I nodded and promised to meet up with her later, as I was receiving dozens of text messages and calls from family members and friends. Besides, I wanted to stay outside until all of the water returned to the east river. I couldn’t simply drink merrily while everything around me eroded and crumbled.

Meanwhile, I was frantically texting my New York pals, many of which were safe and had power. A new friend, who grew up in Florida, kept joking that Sandy was nothing compared to what he’d experienced in his home state. He told me I was welcome to stay with him, and I regretted not making the trip to Brooklyn before the storm to do just that. I was also starting to feel stupid about the hysterical texts and tweets I’d sent out. My vulnerability was palpable and out in the open, so I decided that anyone willing to help me during that time was a true friend. I was stunned by the number of people that came forward and assured me everything would be all right. I wasn’t sure I believed them, but as the water began to make its way back into the river, I felt myself ease up. We’d be without power and heat for at least a few days, but our apartment would be OK. We weren’t going to lose everything, unlike so many unfortunate souls in Staten Island.

Once our street was entirely free of water, I walked to the bar. At the end of the room, I found the neighbor who had invited me out. At one point, she spilled beer all over my iPhone, and because I was drained and still in a state of shock, I didn’t even react. I simply wiped down the device, which was totally fine. At midnight, we retreated back to the building and headed to our designated units.

My roommate and her boyfriend were still awake, and we laughed about my panic episode. The fridge was beginning to lose its chill, so we finished the provolone cheese while it was still cold and safe to consume. She said she’d finished my tub of Half Baked ice cream, as I’d refused her advice to eat it during my freak out session several hours earlier. Already in survival mode, we scarfed down as much as we could before moving to our rooms, where we slept soundlessly in complete darkness.

Before hopping into bed, I clutched my rosary beads and said a prayer — for me, for my roommate, for my friends, for all of Manhattan, for Queens, for Jersey, for Staten Island. The damage had already been done, but I wanted good energy to sweep through the east coast. Boy, did it need some love and light.

Goodbye, neighborhood tree

Tuesday October 30 at 11:00 a.m.

My roommate and I escaped our apartment in search of coffee and bagels. We wanted something filling, as we didn’t know when we’d have a chance to feast again. We went with Bagel Express, which was packed. While waiting in line, she called our superintendent, who said we wouldn’t have heat or power for a week or a week and a half. We groaned. My hair was already started to frizz up and appear greasy. Where would I shower that day? Getting my work done was out of the question. We just wanted a reliable power source to charge our phones, both of which wouldn’t stop buzzing or trilling.

After filling ourselves up, we went back home, where we slept another few hours. It was the only thing we could do. The next day, we vowed, would be devoted to work. Starbucks locations across the city were closed, but we’d go to Effy’s Cafe first thing in the morning for WiFi and coffee. And we’d have a semblance of a routine again.


That morning, I had a phone interview for a position at a women’s website. I’d recently been told that my job was at stake, so I was on the lookout for new opportunities. I chatted with the HR person outside of Effy’s Cafe, horrified when a loud ambulance rushed by and completely disrupted our conversation. I decided that wasn’t a good sign about the position, which seemed like a poor fit anyway.

Later on, my roommate and I went to her friend’s apartment on 71st Street. We stared at her television in disbelief, unable to comprehend the destruction in Long Island and on the Jersey Shore. A roller coaster was under water, boats zoomed through residential neighborhoods, and thick-accented, inherently tough Long Islanders were now homeless, despondent  and resigned. I suddenly felt very, very lucky, and so did my roommate, who’d just told me how unhelpful my hurricane panic episode had been. I agreed and felt awful about creating an anxious environment when that was the last thing we needed. Desiring a break, I asked my friend Catherine if I could crash on her couch that night. She said yes, and I jumped up and down at the prospect of getting to shower.

Saturday November 3

We finally had power, but no heat, so I headed to New York Sports Club to work out and shower. After an hour-long treadmill session and freshening up, I got dressed in the locker room and checked my cell phone. I had two new emails, one of which was from a prospective employer. I’d interviewed with his site a month earlier, but with Sandy and many responsibilities to attend to, he’d had to delay hiring.

At any rate, he wrote to say the company had offered the editing job to someone else. While they’d all loved meeting me (and I them, very much), another applicant was better suited for the role. I understood but couldn’t stop the tears from pouring out my eyes. That was not what I needed to hear in the immediate Sandy aftermath, let alone on a Saturday, but I appreciated being given a direct answer as soon as possible. That’s what I’d nagged them for all along, and he’d done the noble thing to notify me right away. The truth just gnaws at your soul sometimes.

Hours later, a new friend invited me to smoke flavored cigars with him in Brooklyn. Public transit was sort of up and running again, and if I hopped on about four different trains, he said, I could get to Park Slope. I was lukewarm to the idea. All I wanted to do was stay in my neck of the woods until everything went back to the way it had been prior to the storm, but was that realistic? I was a week away from losing my job, so clearly, I was in for some drastic changes, changes that would have occurred whether or not Sandy barged into our lives. She just so happened to do it right as I was getting demoted. As they say, timing is everything, and hers was especially bad.

To boost my spirits, I went out with Catherine and Hillary to some neighborhood bars. We started our night early to beat the crowds, but the bars were already overflowing with people at 8:30 p.m. They’d been that way all week. Everyone needed an escape from reality, and with many off work and without power, what else was there to do but cuddle up with a beer or shot of Jameson? As much as I enjoyed sipping glasses of Stella Artois and Blue Moon, my throat started to hurt around midnight. I was coming down with a cold, which had undoubtedly been caused by the stress of Hurricane Sandy.

Tuesday November 6, Election Day

My colleagues and I worked until 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, studying our Twitter feeds and cable news channels to stay up to date on election happenings. It was my last week at work, so my mom suggested I take it easy and focus on my health, but I assured her I wanted to finish strong and report on the election to the best of my ability.

At 6 p.m., my boss presented us with two boxes of Arturo’s pizza and a bottle of wine. Famished, I devoured three slices, but barely touched the alcohol. Every few seconds, I sniffled and coughed, much to my own embarrassment and shame. I repeatedly apologized to my coworkers, Andrew and Meenal, for being a cesspool of germs and gross entity. They didn’t care, as they were delirious from working all day and covering an uninspiring election for an entire year. At 11:00 p.m., I told them I would be heading to a SoHo hotel, where I’d be staying for two nights. The room was a gift from my mom, who believed I needed some personal space and to recharge after a hellish post-Sandy week.

Andrew gave me his blessing but added that the winner of the election would probably be announced on my journey to the Four Points Sheraton. He ended up being correct. As I checked in at the front desk, the woman behind me answered her cell phone and shouted with glee, “It’s over!” Judging by the jubilant nature of her tone, I figured Obama had been reelected. I have yet to meet a New Yorker who supports Romney.

“Romney lost?” I asked.

“Yup!” she chirped.

“Fucking shit,” I spat, immediately covering my mouth with my hand. “I’m sorry for swearing.”

“It’s okay,” the man at the front desk said. “I wanted Romney to get it as well.”

“I just worry about the economy is all,” I replied, my voice raspy as ever.

“Me too.”

I waited until the end of Obama’s victory speech to shower and down some NyQuil. It took me less than a minute to fall asleep, but I woke up in excruciating pain.

Wednesday November 7

I could not move. My glands were inflamed, my face hurt, my throat was sore, my muscles ached, and I was full of phlegm. There was no way I could haul myself to the office that day, so I stayed at the hotel, where I ordered room service and worked in my flannel cat pajamas.

A Nor’Easter was headed for NYC that day, so after an early evening nap, I went downstairs for some dinner. It felt incredibly lonely to eat by myself, let alone during a storm, but I told myself no one needed to be around sickly me. I also cursed the weather for bringing us more problems. We’d barely recovered from Sandy, and now we were getting six inches of snow. It didn’t seem fair. I wheezed into my Kleenex, hoping a good night’s sleep would repair my embattled body.

A waitress came up to me as I skimmed the menu. I must have seemed upset because she offered, “We have pizza too, you know.”

I laughed. Did I really look so young and immature that I couldn’t select something from the adult menu? I’d most certainly acted like a child since Halloween, but I asked for minestrone soup and chicken Alfredo, grown-up dishes. As I waited for the food to arrive, I watched Piers Morgan on the TV set a few feet away, feeling an unexpected rush of sadness that I would no longer be writing about his network of employment.

Thursday November 8

I woke up with crusty, bloodshot eyes. It looked like I’d been sobbing nonstop. I’d briefly choked up in the shower the night before, but there was no reason for me to have a splotchy face seven hours later. Then it hit me: I had pink eye. I’d seen the same cycle play out before: person gets cold, person coughs up a storm, person contracts pink eye from virus brought on by cold, which evolves into something much worse. I left work early to visit Urgent Care, which confirmed my pink eye and virus. The doctor told me to stay away from work and not touch anybody until at least Monday. That meant no socializing for a while.

“Home Alone”

On my way home, I text messaged my friend to cancel our movie and wine night, which he’d scheduled a few days earlier. I swore I wasn’t blowing him off, and he didn’t question my story for a second. It was a shame we had to do a rain check, though. After all, he’d agreed to watch “Home Alone.” Only a saint would comply with such a request. It was then that I realized just how many opportunities I’d let slip through my fingers because of some Sandy-related thing. She was awful, but I’d let a single storm govern my life and made myself sick over it. What a mess.

Friday November 9

At 7:35 a.m., I rushed out of my apartment and practically sprinted to Urgent Care. I’d spent the entire night coughing, losing my ability to breathe several times. I’d coughed so hard and so much, it felt like I’d completed an intense Pilates session. My entire body hurt and my throat was ragged and sensitive. Who knew coughing could be such a good workout?

When I explained all this to the nurse, she shrieked, “Oh my GOD!”, as if patients love hearing blatant fear in their medical professional’s voice. The doctor burst through the door moments later, brusquely asking, “What’s wrong with you?”

I repeated the story I’d shared with the nurse, and after listening to my lungs for thirty seconds, he turned to her and said, “She’s got an upper respiratory infection. Get her some codeine, nasal spray, eye drops, and antibiotics.”

“Wait a second,” I jumped in. “Can you tell me a little bit more about what I have?”

“Acute bronchitis. You’re going to need to take cough syrup four times a day for ten days as well as some antibiotics. If you plan on sleeping with somebody, use a condom, as the medicine will counteract any contraceptive pills you may be using.”

“Believe me, there’s no way I’m going near anyone for a while,” I said with a laugh. “Look at me!”

I hadn’t been able to wear makeup in days, I was getting over cough attacks, and I’d spent the entire week sneezing. I was not at my finest, and I was a danger to be around. Sex was the last thing on my mind.

After retrieving my meds at CVS, I went back to my apartment. The moment I saw my roommate’s boyfriend, I broke down. I sobbed  onto the kitchen table, inconsolable.

“When will things be normal again, Bradley?” I asked, my voice scratchy.

“I know how you feel,” he said, adding that he misses his home country and would give anything to visit. “When I broke my arm, I thought my whole world had ended, especially since I had many other problems going on at the time. But I healed, just like you’ll heal.”

I nodded and opened my bag, desperately wanting some of my cough medicine.

“Just three weeks ago, I was going out to bars with my friends, meeting guys, and wearing skirts. Then Sandy happened. We didn’t have power or heat for a week. I have pink eye and bronchitis. And I’m losing my job.”

“You’re going to be fine, Laura.”

I smiled, thankful I didn’t have to be alone in my moment of weakness. The drowsiness kicked in, so I went down for a nap. When I woke up hours later, I noticed a new email from my boss. He offered to let me work an extra week as a full-time staffer before transitioning to a smaller role as a part-time freelancer. I took a chance and inquired whether there was any way I could stay on full-time. There was not.

I made myself look on the bright side, which was that I still had an awesome writing gig in NYC, something countless aspiring scribes would kill for. Maybe freelancing would be better for me, I said, or at least a necessary change. Many of my friends were supportive, but a few inexplicably stopped talking to me. That’s the tragedy of the life I’ve chosen. A lot of people only value me for the work I do, and once I’m without it, I’m useless to them.

At 2 p.m., I conducted a phone interview with an up-and-coming female comedian I chose to profile for work. We talked for 45 minutes, and for the first time in months, it felt really nice to have a long phone conversation with someone. It wasn’t simply an interview, but a truly engaging discussion, which I really needed after a couple isolating weeks. At one point during our chat, I asked whether she had any tips for aspiring young actors.

“Persistence is important,” she said. “I mean, you must have had to work hard to get into your industry, too. It’s not easy to become a writer.”

“Yeah,” I replied, squeezing my voice recorder at the thought of being forced to take a less influential role in the field nearest and dearest to my heart.

Saturday November 10 (today)

After twelve hours of rest, I sprung out of bed and headed to Dunkin’ Donuts, of which I’m the foursquare mayor (a brag-worthy accomplishment if there ever was one). I ordered a medium coffee with cream and sugar, a water bottle, and a semi-bruised banana, which was the first piece of fruit I’d had in days. I need all the nutrients I can get.

Gathering my purchases, I darted back to the apartment. I was set to have a phone interview for a babysitting job and wanted to be composed and ready by the time the woman called. She reached out to me in the early afternoon, and once I’d confirmed that I’m indeed comfortable walking toddlers through the city, she set up a time for me to come meet her little one. He’s four years old, the same age as my nephew Lukey. We’re going to get along swimmingly, I know it.

Later on, my mom booked a plane ticket for me to go home for Thanksgiving. I was initially planning on celebrating the holiday with my Boston relatives, but with my employment situation taking a dip and my childhood home going on sale, it only seems right that I return to the house one more time before it belongs to a new family and becomes the center of their memories.

If all goes well (and no storms bust through NYC), I’ll be in California a week from today. I’ll be where the weather is eternally wonderful and anything but volatile, dramatic, fatal, or heartbreaking. I’ll get to prance around San Jose with my adorable nephews, attend my sister-in-law’s baby shower, eat dinner with my grandmother, catch up with my older brother, go on burrito binges on the beach, vent about everything to my childhood dog/BFF Roxy, get lunch at Walnut Cafe with my mom, and act like a stupid idiot again with my closest high school friends, Lauren, Nikita, and Crystal. I won’t have full-time work to worry about, so I can just be for once. It’s exactly the experience I need to start feeling myself again.

That Dreaded and Dreamed-of First

Editor’s note: This is the sixth installment in a series about losing one’s virginity, inspired by this project from Rookie magazine. Earlier authors include JessKate, GinaAnna, and Heather. It’s not explicit, but probably not for the easily scandalized, like the author’s parents…

During my freshmen year at college, fairly early in the term, I was at dinner with a group of my new friends. We sat around our — I want to say it was Indian — food and chatted about whatever was on our minds. Since I was with five guys, the conversation, unsurprisingly, was about sex. Specifically, it was about in how many states they were no longer virgins. I, being a virgin in every state, didn’t speak up. Finally, I couldn’t be tactfully sidestepped any longer. “How about you?” I didn’t know what to say. “Um?” Luckily one of the guys there that night came to my rescue and diverted attention away from me. The evening proceeded unmarred by my inexperience.

Except the whole situation stuck with me. I’m not used to having nothing to add to conversations. As we walked home that night, just my savior, another close friend and myself, I couldn’t help but bring it up again. Somehow during the walk it was decided that when I did — and none of us doubted that I would — lose my virginity, my savior would be the first person on the list of people to text about it. Like right, right afterwards.

Maybe you noticed, and maybe having a list of people to update afterwords gave it away, but I was not ready for sex at 18. I wasn’t waiting for anything or even anyone in particular. But I wasn’t willing to jump into bed with just anyone. I was content to be a virgin; yet  another sign that I wasn’t ready.

Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen – I would not have been okay with that nick-name…

Only, I wasn’t content being a known virgin. A few months later, 19 now but still virginal, my coworkers, both of whom were older and infinitely cooler than I was, were complaining about the dry spells they were stuck in. “Don’t,” they warned me, “have sex until you have some regular partner, because the in between is horrible.”

“What?” I protested my status as virgin, “but, I’m not…” How had they known? Was it stamped on my forehead, written there with red lipstick?

“Also,” one cautioned, “don’t lose it with some guy you don’t know.” Nothing like walking out of a frat house without so much as a goodbye to make you feel like a whore, she recalled of her first time. “But,” the other reasoned, “don’t think it means you’ll be in love after.” He remembered crying and telling his partner how much he loved her right after. It didn’t end well.

Suffice it to say, I was ready for the shift to end.

I remained — mostly because of my friends: the biggest adoptive family, who had all decided I was America’s Little Sister — a virgin for the next 2 years. And finally was ready. But I was still single. And generally not much of a partyer. And altogether unsure of how it would just happen. I am a goal setter, so I set my goal: lose my virginity before I turn 22. All I needed was the guy.

Whom I met at work. I liked him from the moment I met him, even engaging him in some of my most classic awkward flirting. For over a year, nothing happened. As much as I initially liked him and continued to like him, I liked pretty much every other guy in “the office” just a little more. It was awful of me, but he was my back burner guy, the one I went to when no one else was responding to my texts. But slowly, and after a few disappointments with the others, the back burner became my only burner. And I was okay with that. He was sweet and silly and good to me, what wasn’t to like? He also had all the right appendages to satisfy my goal. It was November – my birthday was only four months away. It was time to act.

It started as a Facebook chat session while I wrote an essay that turned into a midnight Taco Bell run. Don’t worry, it gets classier. It was midnight. On a Wednesday. And I was in a man’s apartment. We both knew why I was there.

But instead of getting down to it, we started a movie. Road House. Not an amazing film, but not the worst thing to get buzzed to — buzzed enough to not mind when yawning stretches turned into cupped breasts. I think my fondest memory of the whole night was when, partially undressed, he carried me to his bedroom. Still in the fairy tale, and under the influence of alcohol, it happened: The first penetration. I had a moment of clarity, the same I have every time I realize I’ve achieved a goal, before I relinquised all emotion to the experience.

Which, frankly, went on for far too long. He was significantly more experienced that I was and while he was charitable to my general ineptitude, he also was determined to get what he wanted out of me. Long before he’d finished I was composing the text that’d need to go out. Besides, I had school in the morning and was pretty ready to go to sleep.

“Well,” I said when it was over, gathering my underwear and putting my clothes on, “it was nice to see you.” And then I left. I checked off my virginity both with a goodbye (of sorts) and without saying I love you. I didn’t even wait to get out of his apartment to send my victory text.