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.

Advertisements

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.

Halloween

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.

My War With Food: Why Being A Picky Eater Is Kind Of Ruining My Life

Ice cream from Maya

Last night, my roommate, Jen and I went to newly-renovated Maya to take advantage of the last day of NYC Restaurant Week. I’d been to Maya before (only for margaritas, which are amazing but out of my price range after happy hour), and that’s partly why Jen chose the venue. Like anyone else who has hung out with me more than once, Jen is all too familiar with my picky eating ways, so she was very strategic in her selection of the restaurant. Once we grabbed our table and started looking at the menus, she did something that showed me just how far I’ve fallen.

“Laura, I think you’ll like the chicken tacos because it’s the least complicated entree here,” she said, pointing to the item on the sheet of paper.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the same thing my mom has been doing to me for twenty years. Every time we go out for food, she scans the offerings and makes unsolicited suggestions. I’ve expressed frustration with this a many time and said things like, “I can read, mom,” but ultimately she has grounds for listing my options before every meal. I’m the pickiest eater in the world, and it is affecting my relationships to an unhealthy degree. I live in New York, for Christ’s sake. Julia Child would roll over in her grave at some of the things I’ve done.

Hi, I’m Laura

While some have attributed my bird-like behavior to Youngest Sibling Syndrome, of which I’m most definitely a victim, I think there’s more to it than being the runt of the pack. This might seem like a whack job statement to you, but I believe it wholeheartedly and will repeat it until the day I die: One of the most unreasonable things you can ever expect a person to do is put something in his/her body that feels wrong to that individual. 

And yet no one with the exception of me subscribes to this notion. In our culture (and many others), it’s wildly disrespectful not to eat everything on one’s plate. I’m rarely one to gobble up all the food in front of me, and it made me somewhat of a pariah when I stayed with my friend’s family in France two summers ago. I tried to explain that I have a tiny stomach and throw up when full, and they thought I was lying until it actually happened one day. From then on, they went easy on me, but they found my pickiness genuinely tragic.

My friend, who grew up in the south of France, said of it one night, “Laura, we love food more than anything in the world. It represents family time and bonding. We enjoy it, so it’s really sad to us to see you eat. It’s clear that it’s torture for you, and that breaks our hearts.”

A few nights later, I stared with disdain at one unappetizing dish or another and she took my plate to the sink.

“Laura, just stop. You’re fighting with your food.”

And she was right. I wrote about the rift it caused in my travel blog:

“Once I find a food that I love, I can’t get enough of it. Why would I try new things if I’m already on cloud nine with jambon beurre (ham and bread) baguettes?

 

…[T]he whole food thing can get a bit unreasonable. For example, we were all out to dinner this evening and I kind of wanted to order spaghetti napoleon (spaghetti with meat sauce, because I’m dull). Well, the pasta never happened. Last time I ate with Marly and her family, I couldn’t finish my plate of pasta carbonara. She implied that the portion size would be just as big, and I didn’t want to be shamed again for not finishing my food. No one means to make me feel this way, but I do. I’ve never before in my life felt like I’ve let anyone down by not eating my entire meal. It’s different here, and I don’t want to disappoint the others.”

As you can see, I’ve been at war with food forever, but not with what I like to call my allies: strawberries, raspberries, pasta, chicken, steak, cheeseburgers, milk, cereal, broccoli, yogurt, burritos, ice cream, green beans, and salmon. In a world of obnoxious and snobbish foodies who pride themselves on chewing exotic and oftentimes repulsive things, I’ve had to master the art of pretending I’ve eaten a substantial amount of food. The trick is to mash all the contents together or surreptitiously give your leftovers to someone else.

On my first Valentine’s Day date ever, my then-boyfriend cooked shrimp and pasta for me. I’d liked shrimp as a kid but since grown out of it, so when my significant other excused himself to go to the bathroom during dinner, I whistled for the dog, who happily accepted the food on my plate. I later told my ex-flame what I’d done and we laughed about my picky antics (he loved to call me “the bird”), but it’s rather troubling than eight years have passed and I’m still pulling the same nonsense. I did this in France two years ago, and believe me, I was embarrassed afterward. Those poor puppies:

“Marly’s grandpa put four different types of cheeses on my plate. I of course devoured the goat cheese, but I was most definitely not crazy about the brie, which tastes just as bad as it smells. All the French supermarkets reek because of the brie, and the scent is strong enough to make even Marly, a French native, hurl.

The other cheeses were all right, and I did not mention that I was repulsed, because that would be so unbelievably terrible. I ate 70% of the cheese, and the rest, I gave to the dogs. Yeah, I know I sound like a little kid, and it’s awful, but at least someone could enjoy the cheeses. I know I couldn’t, and dogs will take whatever they can get. So, thank you Dora, Gaston, Daisy, Luna, and Ocea for bailing me out. Dogs really are man’s best friend.”

Me and Gaston, one of my rescuers

In a perfect world, my diet would consist of burritos, one meal a day, and a bowl of strawberries and large glass of milk for dessert. This would of course be the worst thing for my health, but I’d be happy as a clam. In a nutshell, I’m Jada Pinkett-Smith: I eat to live, not vice versa.

All I really need to be happy

It must be said that I do not have an eating disorder. I have never purposely deprived myself of anything to stay skinny. Believe me, I could never give up ice cream or burritos, nor could I choose to jeopardize my fertility just to be tiny. Some would say picky eating is an actual disorder, and while I’m hesitant to diagnose every peculiar behavior pattern in existence, a part of me actually suspects it’s not just about being an ungrateful brat. I’m physically incapable of digesting foods I dislike, no exceptions.

I do not exaggerate when I claim my friendships and relationships have been ruined because of this. Food is supposed to bring people together, but it only creates a distance between me and those I love. I wish I could man up, plug my nose, and scarf down something that makes my insides burn and gag reflex kick in, but my body will never be up to the challenge.

Family members have tried to change this about me for years, and most of them gave up my second year of college. My parents even took me to the doctor about it in grade school, but were told I’d wake up one morning and outgrow it. That day never came.

If I haven’t changed at 24, there’s a good chance I’ll remain this way until I die, meaning that if any man by some miracle decides he’d like to marry me, he will be in for a lifetime of underwhelming dining experiences and arguments over food. I’ll never be able to share a bottle of red wine with said husband, as wine gives me the worst migraines ever. I will never be open to trying out that cool new sushi joint down the block. Double dates would just turn into awkward outings, as I’d be averse to ordering oysters or any other adventurous pre-dinner snack. Oh yeah, my in-laws would want to strangle me during every meal. Someone once said that little things put the biggest strain on marriages, and if that’s accurate, this unfortunate character flaw of mine could potentially destroy my own.

I’m often told that my pickiness is a sign of immense ingratitude and the epitome of all our country’s problems. There are countless people starving in the world and I shun the plethora of food presented to me. I could show appreciation, but I’d like to add that I find it sick and twisted of some folks to purposely eat until they vomit just because they can. I wish I had a better, more selfless answer for you, but all I can say is that I will never be able to bring myself to eat what feels wrong to me. Here’s another reason why this is limiting: I’m not flexible enough to fly to cool places such as India or China because they do not have what I need food-wise. Am I going to walk away from opportunities to travel to amazing countries because I’m a baby? I hate to admit the answer is yes.

On second thought, being a picky eater does have a few perks. After dinner last night, my roommate and I went out to an upper east side bar and met a couple of dudes, none of which I had any interest in pursuing. Yet a guy named Lance, who happened to be one of the most abrasive people I’ve ever met, would not leave me alone. A New Yorker, he hurled questions my way and made me feel so uncomfortable, I decided to check out early — solo. On my way back to my apartment, I texted my roommate to say that while funny and entertaining, Lance was not for me.

Because human nature kind of sucks, he was drawn to my assholiness — so much so that he begged my roommate for my number. She laughed about it this morning but I was at a loss. Here’s a note from him, too:

Oy

“Why does he like me?” I asked. “I was so rude to him.” I’m not proud of my surliness, but he had made my palms sweat with his comments and jarring remarks.

“Well, he wants to take you to Calle Oche,” she said. “You should go. But I did tell him that you hate seafood, so we had to rule out the first couple of places he had in mind.”

I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. I knew my weirdo tics would bail me out someday.

At first it made me mad, but now “Girls” just makes me sad

If anything is certain about HBO’s new show, “Girls,” it’s that the contentious program has caused a lot of chatter and stimulated the economy as such, at least for bloggers and Internet writers. My default reaction to immense hype is often negative, and even though the pervasive nepotism in New York crushes my soul daily, I found myself enjoying “Girls” quite a bit. Is it groundbreaking? No. Are the characters bratty and entitled? Yes. But they’re also humans, and young ones at that. You’d be hard pressed to come across twenty-somethings who have everything together, especially in NYC, so the travails and misadventures of Hannah (played by Lena Dunham) aren’t completely unfamiliar to me.

Truth be told, I was Hannah a year and a half ago. Her character is an unpaid publishing intern who suddenly has to scramble to land a job to sustain her lifestyle in the most expensive city in the country. Her parents cut her off financially and express skepticism over her memoirist dreams, so she seeks refuge in the den of her useless, skeevy hook-up buddy, Adam, who carries himself as if he is far more stable than Hannah despite the fact that his grandmother pays for all of his essentials. He’s not a winner, but he kills time and briefly takes her away from her bleak existence.

The big difference between me and Hannah is that she’s more than a year out of college and still facing these issues. I, however, was in her boat for six months after finishing up my degree at the University of Arizona.

But I was a mess, so much so that I couldn’t even enjoy graduation. I remember telling family members that they shouldn’t even bother coming to my ceremony, as I had nothing lined up and therefore nothing to be proud of. When I traversed University Boulevard in my cap and gown on the big day, passersby cheered me on and clapped. I smiled, but had the urge to throw them for a loop with, “Why are you happy for me? My family invested so much in my education and I’ve been too scared to actually go out and find work.”

Angela and me in the south of France, May 2010! J'aime bien les baguettes!

And so I played around all summer. I hung around my college town for two weeks before heading to France for a month and a half with two of my close friends. Though the trip was relaxing, I remember being unable to sleep most nights out of fear of what would happen upon my return to the States. I’d have to become a real adult and start working. I wanted to do the latter, but was unsure of how to go about it. So Angela and I talked for hours on end about our fears while the rest of the house slept. She had the security of returning to college in the fall, but felt uneasy about other aspects of life. Neither of us was at peace.

After France, I moved back into my mom’s house for a month with the intent of relocating to D.C. before the end of the summer. My mother gave me a deadline to get out, as she knew I sought more than what my hometown could provide for me, and my friend Anna and I booked flights to Washington to lock down a year-long lease on a two-bedroom apartment. My mom advised me to purchase a one-way ticket, as she didn’t want me returning home for my things until I secured a place to live, so with that in mind, Anna and I settled on a huge apartment in northern Virginia within three days of being in the D.C. area. The building was far from pretty much everything from grocery stores to the metro, but the neighborhood was safe, so we were happy. It took us a while to find jobs, though.

Lena Dunham

Like Hannah, I worked as an unpaid intern. Thankfully, I was in a position to do so until the company offered me a position, but I know I probably wouldn’t have been able to immerse into the industry of my dreams without paying my dues and concentrating on being the best intern in the world. Before I even started interning at TheDC, I spent my days theatrically moping in coffee shops about a silly college boy who treated me much like Adam treats Hannah. At the time, I carried a lot of resentment towards this individual, and while I still think the nonsense I put up with is awful, I know he is just a person. We’re all flawed and I’m no exception. That doesn’t justify what happened, but there comes a point where you just have to let go of your negative feelings and find someone else. I sure hope Hannah’s character does the same before the conclusion of season one.

This week alone, three older women asked me whether sex as a twenty-something is really as awful as “Girls” makes it out to be. These are all accomplished, high achieving ladies who lived the “Sex and the City” lifestyle during the program’s heyday and think a lot has changed in the NYC dating world since then. For one, men are slacking off. Women are dominating in the workforce, so many poor fellows feel emasculated. Rather than “Man Up” as the ever brilliant Kay Hymowitz suggests, they have chosen to mope and aim low. You’ve got these hard-working “career women” (to borrow a phrase from slimy Adam) who are slowly but surely taking over the professional world. It’s great for us girls, but not so much for the guys, even though they now have a pool of intelligent, beautiful, and ambitious women to choose from. They should be happy, but they’re not, so they make us pay for it by being rude and inconsiderate. Young dudes know they’re few and far between in big cities, so they don’t waste time with politeness or common courtesies. The older women I’ve chatted with were horrified to learn that Hannah and Adam’s interactions are fairly common in casual dating. While I can’t say any guy has ever spoken to me as Adam has spoken to Hannah (i.e., “You’re a junkie and you’re only 11 and you had your fucking Cabbage Patch lunchbox and you’re a dirty little whore and I’m going to send you home to your parents covered in cum.” I’ll just say now that that would NOT end well), I do know what it’s like to endure neglect and be blatantly two-timed just to get occasional fixes. It’s not a fun memory to resurrect, and one would like to think she deserves more than a guy who refuses to return her text messages yet contacts her once a month at an odd hour for a quickie.

Then there’s Hannah’s other female friend, Marnie who would probably rather employ a vibrator or choose a life of celibacy than sleep with her pansy, florid boyfriend. He’s too nice for his own good and she’s looking for someone who will make her work for his affection. She’s the kind of person you should despise, as she can’t appreciate someone sweet in an overflowing pool of jackasses, but I actually found her story line rather fascinating and hilarious. I’ve been in her shoes and can say wholeheartedly it’s more nauseating than hanging around Adam types. When I told an immediate family member about this, he said I must have low self-esteem if I can’t handle too much niceness, and while that may be true, I also need somewhat of a challenge and excitement. Where’s the fun in everything being handed to you? That’s Marnie’s line of thinking, and I get it.

When asked whether she’s anything like Hannah, Lena Dunham said she used to resemble her onscreen persona, but not so much anymore. She’s not late all the time, remaining in bed all day, or running around the house in nothing but underwear as she did in “Tiny Furniture.” As noted by costar Jemima Kirke, Lena Dunham has lost tons of weight since starting the series, not because she’s conforming to Hollywood’s standards, but because she’s so busy with work that she doesn’t munch away quite like she used to. I’ve gone through the same kind of transformation since finishing college. A lot of people commented on my tinier frame after I left UA, and I chalked this change up to healthier habits. I no longer feast on Canyon Cafe scones several times a week. I walk everywhere in New York City and work out at the gym as often as I can. I have more consistent hours and eat three meals a day now. Though I’m still bored to tears around nice, attainable young men, I don’t get hung up on anyone anymore, especially not the likes of Adam.

On the other hand, I can relate to “Girls” because I know all about residing in Brooklyn as well as having to rely on the G train for public transportation. Like Hannah, I wince at being catcalled on the street by random hobos. More often than not, I need to shut up, as my mouth has a mind of its own and I have a tendency to unintentionally spout bad jokes and offensive comments. I also have a bratty and impulsive streak. Sure I wouldn’t let a publishing house string me along for more than three months as an unpaid intern, but I have quit a job on a whim before, so irresponsibility isn’t lost on me. This, older family members have said, is the kind of entitlement I have. I may not ask for money from my mom, but I can be very “my way or the highway” at times, and it’s something I need to monitor closely.

“Girls” is not a pretty portrait of what it’s like to be a privileged post-grad in New York, but it’s a fairly accurate depiction of the experience. Though it brings me back to an uninspiring time, “Girls” resonates with me regardless — if anything, because I’m now finally able to laugh at the parade of mishaps and awkward moments that fell into my lap after I was forced to say farewell to the comforts of university life. And it feels good to finally find humor in the sea of uncertainty I worried would swallow me whole.

This post has been republished from Laura Donovan’s personal blog.

What I Learned From Living In My First New York City Apartment

Carrie Bradshaw? Yeah, right.

I had a really hard time coming up with a title for this post.

Depending on your familiarity with NYC, you’re either thinking I lack creativity or have already been jaded by the concrete jungle. It’s probably a combination of the two, as living here can be both inspiring and exhausting, and my creative juices are definitely low in this transition of seasons.
For the uninitiated, a young person’s first New York area apartment is typically outside the city, as real estate in the island is the most expensive in the nation, so you can imagine why I’d struggle settling on a headline for this piece.

The Meatpacking

When I landed a job in the Meatpacking district six months ago, I stumbled over myself to leave D.C. and find a temporary place in New York. A friend of my sister’s knew someone who had a vacant room in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, and given the apartment’s reasonable monthly rent and proximity to the subway (the G train, which has  a reputation for being the worst line in the MTA system), I seized the opportunity and moved all my stuff into the room.

My first NYC area residence was more of an adventure than I anticipated, and not necessary in a good way. When I relocated from Bed Stuy to the Upper East Side a week ago, the male movers, both of whom were brawn, fit fellows from Minnesota, commented on how creepy and eerie my bedroom and neighborhood as a whole felt. They were unimpressed with the view from my bedroom window, which faced a junkyard and an abandoned building. I was relieved to get out of there, but as I learned overtime, the view from my room was the least of my problems. It took my first NYC area apartment for me to fully appreciate moving into the city, and while starting my New York experience in Manhattan would have simplified my life, I wouldn’t have realized how lucky I have it now had I not done the BBQ (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens) thing. Sure my uptown apartment gives a whole new meaning to the word “bedroom,” as my room barely fits my full mattress, but I actually find the minimal amount of space cozy and cute, and I’d love to stay there for two years. 🙂 I never felt that way about Bed Stuy, so here are some tidbits I learned from my first place:

1. Bucket showers aren’t so bad. In October, the shower handle broke and I was forced to clean myself with a giant pot of hot water. When this happened, I hadn’t showered in three days (I was working nonstop and abiding by my occasional crunchy granola California tendency to limit my time in the shower so as not to dry up like  a raisin), so my hair was knotted and greasy and I felt ickier than ever. One of my close friends from college grew up in Guam and cleaned herself with a bucket for months on end during devastating storms, so I channeled my inner Angela whenever this happened and just dealt with it. I looked okay afterwards, obviously not shiny and refreshed, but I didn’t repulse anybody either.

2. Accessing your apartment is a privilege, not a right. New York is made up of old buildings, many of which have locks that won’t budge without giving you arthritis. Such was the case with the lock outside my first apartment building entrance door, which on average took ten minutes to open every time I wanted to get inside. There was no trick aside from patience, and I can’t tell you how many mini panic attacks I had at 2:30 a.m. on weekends, when the streets were deserted, my phone battery was low, and the rusty lock indicated that it would snap my key in half before letting me inside. Not such a good situation when being chased or held up by a robber. At first, I thought I was the only one who struggled to open the entrance door, but when I noticed letters taped to the door begging management to change the lock “before we’re all locked out,” I realized I wasn’t the only one who was at war with the evil threshold. People began propping the door open with the yellow pages and bricks (still trying to figure out where all those bricks came from), so a week before I moved, the building manager finally replaced the lock with one that did its job. Imagine that.

3. Steam can serve as a curtain. For reasons unbeknownst to me, my roommates and I didn’t bother to get a bathroom curtain for our shower window, which faced a junkyard and abandoned building. Rather than potentially give building or trash pit dwellers a free peep show, I let the shower steam for five minutes before hopping in so the window would fog up. When you’re not invested in your place, you don’t care to purchase every household necessity for it.

Carrie Bradshaw's walk-in closet doesn't exist!

4. A closet is the ultimate luxury. Especially if it’s in your room. There was only one closet in my first apartment and naturally, it was right by the kitchen. When I went ahead and hung some of my clothes in there, things didn’t go over well. I didn’t realize it was selfish to want a tiny fraction of space in the only closet in an apartment of three, but such is to be expected in NYC, where people are cheated every second.

5. Calling 311 can result in a spat with firefighters and other men of “service.” Earlier this year, our heater broke and remained on full blast for several days. Though it was chilly outside, the heat indoors was so intense we couldn’t sleep and seriously thought our skin was going to peel off. Because I didn’t have the building manager’s phone number (wasn’t allowed to have that information, how wonderful), I called 311 and the operator incorrectly told the fire department that there was smoke in our apartment. The whole team came over and shouted me down for the false alarm, stating, “We were told there was a fire.Nothing like getting into a heated debate with a group of hostile Bostonian firemen to feel a sense of belonging in New York.

6. Roommates will take your money. I learned this from my mover, who informed me that it’s common for a person to buy large apartments so he/she can charge exorbitant rent to occupants and therefore pay as little as possible for his/her own room. I don’t think I fell victim to this, but it happens a lot in New York, at least as seen on “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23,” so you may be better off living alone sometimes.

Why the Gym Should Charge More Than it Does

Many of us love to complain about being overcharged and ripped off. The Rent is Too Damn High, cinema ticket prices are on the rise, and designers like Marc Jacobs (or, as he’d probably call himself, Marc of Marc Jacobs) put $600+ price tags on their products. We often shell out more money than necessary for our purchases, but we occasionally get out money’s worth on something.

Olivia Newton John in "Let's Get Physical"

That’s how I’ve been feeling about my New York Sports Club gym membership, which is $79 per month. For a journalist, that’s quite an expense, but not when you consider all the benefits I receive as a result of this particular fitness center.

For one, I joined the gym in January, when NYSC was offering exceptional membership deals. I received a free personal locker, which proved to be extremely useful so I don’t have to lug sopping wet gym clothes with me to the office on the days I exercise before work. I also take advantage of the locker room showers, which are equipped with unlimited towels, soap, shampoo, conditioner, hairdryers, paper towels, and tissues. To tell you the truth, I cannot remember the last time I showered in my apartment bathrom, as I routinely wash off at the gym now, so if anything, I should start lobbying to pay a smaller portion of my water bill at home. Before I drive my roommates up the wall with my cheapskate tendencies that proposal, I’ll regale you on some of the other upsides of throwing down extra cash for a gym membership:

Because there are so many NYSC locations in the city and beyond, you’d be hard pressed to find a crowded one. I’ve never had to wait for a treadmill or to use equipment in the weight room, so I’ve had much more pleasant experiences at NYSC than I had at the University of Arizona fitness center, which attracts a lot of body-conscious college students and sorority girls, so you can only imagine how much I had to fight to work out there. It’s nice to jog and lift weights in a relaxing space. If anything, I’m the problem, as I recently sang along to Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” beside a jump roping man getting yelled at by his personal trainer in the weight room. Note to self: The adage “there’s a time and a place for everything” is very much valid at the gym.

"Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone!"

Lastly, specialty classes come with the membership package, so I don’t need to cough up extra money anytime I need my yoga fix. The concept of having free courses is unheard of to me, as my college gym seemed to cheat students left and right with fees, but I guess that’s one of the perks of living in the real world. Though I often chastise big corporations like Starbucks and the like, I know NYSC is reasonable because it’s part of a large chain. As much as I’d like to mingle among all the cool kids at Equinox, I’m not going to pretend I’d fit in there or pay their exorbitant fees. As one sagacious Yelper noted of an Upper West Side location, “Even with my corporate discount it’s $140+ a month. This facility simply isn’t nice enough to charge that.” The Equinox initiation fee, which NYSC waived for me, is insane: “I don’t think it was worth paying $500 upfront and $130 per month, considering the I can pay $77 per month at the NYSC on Mercer Street downtown, with no initiation fee.”

It’d be nice to reside in an apartment building with a gym (and a doorman, among other things, to fix my broken mailbox, which I’ve been unable to open for a week), but being part of an actual fitness center is actually more of an incentive for me to exercise. My last two apartment complexes had tiny gyms on the first floor, but I rarely bothered to make use of them. When you’re consistently paying for a service, however, you make sure you’re taking advantage of it. So, rather than hop on the bandwagon and sign up for the hip gyms in your neighborhood like Equinox (or ineffective ones like Curves), go for the well known, less expensive fitness centers.

Seen on the Subway: So There’s a Man Living on the L Train

Empire state of homelessness?

I have a peculiar relationship with New York City subways. When I first moved to to NYC last fall, I was beyond relieved to escape DC’s embarrassing metro system, which boasts cleanliness thanks to its strict “no eating policy” but remains unreliable and a constant source of frustration. In NYC, the trains run 24/7 and allow food and drink on the train, so you can count on the subway to take you where you need to go regardless of the hour or your condition.

Of course, all of this has enabled many people to get a little too comfortable on the subway. Last night, I stepped into a fairly deserted L train car on my way back to Brooklyn. It only took a few seconds for me to realize why there were so few people on board. The entire train was rank, all thanks to a homeless man who had made himself at home in the seating area. I consider him an L train regular now, as I’ve seen him alternate train cars since December. The cold weather will do that to you if you have nowhere else to go.

Nevertheless, the smell was too much for me and another young lady, who suggested we exit the car and catch the next train. Once we got to the platform, the girl explained that she’d recently had a similar experience in which she sat beside a man who was simultaneously vomiting on himself and chugging a bottle of whiskey. We couldn’t decide whether we were impressed or horrified by his ability to drink and throw up at the same time. I certainly don’t have that skill, but probably for the better.

Though the L train inhabitant doesn’t exactly boost the travel experience, people have notoriously done a lot worse in NYC subways. A few weeks ago, passengers stepped off the L train only to find a severed head sandwiched between the platform and train car. Over the weekend, a man living in an F train station died in a fire, which he appeared to have caused. Then there are the mole people, impoverished societal rejects who are said to be a part of entire underground communities. A few months ago, a young woman seemed to come on to me on the A,C,E train platform and insinuated that I should take her home. From there on out, I made it a point to pretend to be a foreigner anytime strangers on the subway approached. I did this the other night.

While I wish the MTA would make more of an effort keeping the subway system clean and safe, I still prefer public transportation over taxis any day. Besides, where else could I get these kind of stories?