January 29, 2012

Latent Childhood and Adulthood: The Case for Mixing and Matching

When I was in Hot Topic yesterday sifting through the clearance racks for graphic t-shirts, it occurred to me that I may be in a latent childhood.  Why, you ask?  Well, because afterward I hopped onto Spencer Gifts where I picked up a Marilyn Monroe-inspired shot glass – my first shot glass ever.  I figured it was time.  There are other signs, too, such as wearing more of the Victoria’s Secret PINK line, including a pair of sweats with the words “Love Pink” embroidered on the leg.  These facts alone don't suggest a latent childhood, but if you knew me between the ages of 18 and 21 you would've known that I had little interest in those things, because they were too "mainstream" or "tacky" or "too Paris Hilton."  That's probably why now that I'm in my late 20s I can't help but embrace everything that intrigues me -- even if some of these things happen to be a little childish or immature at times -- because life is effing short, people.

My Little Pony.
Part of this latent childhood probably stems from the fact that I always felt much older than my chronological age, therefore resulting in this possible midlife crisis/latent childhood much, much sooner than the onset of my true middle age.  My mom often tells me the story of when, in nursery school, she would pick me up, and I would be all ready, sitting in my cubby, my red hoodie zipped up to my chin, while the other kids raced around chasing each other.  While I did have a brief stint of experimenting with alcohol in high school, that phase was short-lived and I didn’t even drink on my 21st birthday, which is the same year I happened to get married, both factoids that are kind of crazy in today’s American culture.

Early onset maturity has some perks (adults tend to respect you more, therefore granting you with increased opportunities to experience more grown-up things), as well as some downsides (adults tend to respect you more, therefore expecting much, much more of you).  Part of my maturity, believe it or not, is that I have a rebellious streak in me.  In my early 20s, while my peers were acting like, well, their age, partying in clubs and job-hopping, I was doing different things, like getting married and buying a house.  It's kind of odd to characterize going the old-fashioned, throwback route as rebellious, but in 21st century America, it's possible.  But the deep-seeded truth is that everything I wanted to do at a young age reflected my desire for stability, and this included getting married and settling down.  Stability was and always will be important to me, even if I am also a dreamer and a quasi-free spirit.

In life I believe that everyone has the opportunity to concoct a recipe that works for them.  My own recipe must contain a good, constant dose of stability, with some occasional spice thrown in, whether it be a trip to a new city, a graphic t-shirt from Hot Topic, or the shot glass I never had.  I like reliability mixed with newness.

I have always disagreed with the old adage that you can’t have everything.  I think you can, and I say it to my husband all the time.  “Having everything” may not consist of extreme doses of it all, especially things that are inherently bad for you physically or emotionally, but it can consist of the things that matter most to you, not to your best friend, your boss, or your teachers.  And too, that "everything" changes from time to time -- sometimes it's seasonal, sometimes it's annual. 

One of the greatest things about being a responsible adult is that you can wear an off-color t-shirt sometimes and it’s not that big of a deal, or you can have a couple drinks out of your Marilyn Monroe shot glass on a Saturday night, because most of the time, if you’re like me, you’re in bed by 9 p.m. and up by 5:30 power walking on the treadmill and eating your 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables.  What can I say? I like to mix and match, and that includes being an adult most of the time and a kid some of the time.  

January 24, 2012

The Dichotomy Between Work Self and Non-Work Self

I think it’s true that many of us have two sides to us.  In my professional work life, I know that my colleagues perceive me as a super serious goodie goodie who colors in the lines and plays well with others, and well, yes, that’s mostly true.  I kid you not when a few months ago, while trying to figure out a glitch in a Word document that was causing frustration for an administrative assistant and me, I said the word, “Shit.”  Yes, a cuss word, at work.  She looked at me, grinning with raised eyebrows and marveled, “You just said shit!”  I nodded and laughed, “Yeah, I swear sometimes.”  She loved it.  Of course she loved it!  Everyone loves someone who’s fun and a little crazy and free.  Though I sometimes wish it were, that’s just not the persona I am comfortable projecting at work. 

For the most part, I don’t mix business with pleasure.  For example, when I’m traveling for business, I seldom drink with the client, I wake up early so I can work out at the hotel gym, and I take vicious notes at meetings only to transcribe them later in my hotel room.  It’s not that I want to be so serious – I just figure if I’m getting paid to work, I should be working, not having fun, even if I want to be. 

While outside of work I am not a completely different person – don’t get it twisted – I’m still the girl at the grocery store at 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday armed with coupons, I am vehemently opposed to drugs, and I am not a weekly drinker (although I do enjoy a vodka and seltzer on occasion), a much less straight-laced persona shines through.  I enjoy listening to music at a high decibel, including hip hop laced with expletives or soul music with nasty lyrics.  I’ve been known to have a bit of a lead foot; I can do dangerous things at intersections.  And, believe it or not, I am kind of the ham in my family.

My best friend jokingly called me “Saucy Bear” the other day when I suggested she take a shortcut by taking an entrance into a posted exit.  I retorted, calling her “Cautious Bear."  Let’s also not forget that I have a degree in English – with a concentration in Creative Writing – one of the most impractical and joked about college majors in NPR history.  My favorite three movies are pretty bad ass: Eyes Wide Shut, Scarface, and American Psycho.  And well, there are other things, but they’re not really appropriate for this blog.  Yes, this shy girl does have a bit of a wild streak. 

So while I even find myself to be a bit of a bore at work, what I find really boring is someone who is flat, predictable, black and white, and has the same depth no matter where you prick them.  While many people aren’t that way once you peel back the layers, I think it’s the quiet, serious, or seemingly conservative ones who get an especially bad rap, because their spiciness is undoubtedly there, you just have to dig a little deeper to find it. 

Photo Credit: Pinterest

January 22, 2012

Tina Fey: The Perfect 21st Century Woman

It’s 5:30 in the morning, well, technically, 5:40ish, and I’m on the treadmill as I usually am at that hour during the week.  I am tired and sweating, ear candy loaded to the brim with the sounds of Britney/Beyonce/Rihanna/Jennifer Lopez/name-the-pop-songstress-of-the-minute and I’m listening to it because that’s what gets me going this time of day.  Magazines of all variety are my eye candy.  This particular morning it happens to be the recent issue of Elle (the February edition with Reese Witherspoon on the cover).  What I like about Elle is that it makes me smarter, not in the in-your-face preachy/feminist kind of way, but in that sophisticated, metropolitan, fashion-y, womanly sort of way.  The kind of smarter I want to be. 

So, there I am reading about a 30-year-old lawyer giving up her baby for adoption after realizing her husband had been cheating on her, about sugar and its effect on aging, and then about new books/music/movies, and yes, resort bikinis and tropical vacations that I have no time or money for, and I’m finally beginning to wake up a little because I’ve been walking now for 30-some-odd minutes and my favorite song happens to be on (“Party” from Beyonce’s 4). 

My eyes light up when I turn to an interview with Tina Fey in Elle Intelligence: Televisionaries.  Yes, I know we all love Tina Fey, right?  And anyone who doesn’t is, well, let’s just put it nicely – they clearly haven’t had the opportunity to appreciate her humble genius, because she is damned amazing.   Her subtle, almost innocently sarcastic responses to the questions prove what an awesome human being she is,  making me feel lucky to also be considered a human being too.  (God, that sounds pathetic in writing, but it's kind of how I feel.)   Perhaps the most interesting is her response to “Why do you think people relate so strongly to Liz Lemon?”:                     

I did a book tour last spring, and so many of the women who came looked exactly like me: glasses, brown hair, horizontal-striped shirts.  A lot of them saying, ‘People in my office call me Liz Lemon.’ She certainly looks normal, and her life is not romanticized too much.  I really like Sex and The City, but I view it as a different genre of fantasy fulfillment, like, What if I was awesome and I wore heels and went out at night?!’

This response needs no analysis, because the quote says it all:  we all identify a little bit with Liz Lemon, right?  It only sums up how Tina Fey contains just the right elements of the perfect and imperfect, kind of like the just-right smudged bedroom eyes resulting from 24-hour-old, slept-in eye makeup.  She is neither GIRL POWER nor Girrrrl Power, but simply girl power in a subtle, smart, and sarcastic kind of way.  In that kind of way that requires no shouting from the rooftops because “I rock as not just a ‘strong, independent woman,’ but as a person making it in 2012.”  I’m always in awe of a woman (nay, a person) walking the walk instead of just talking the talk.

Oh, and she’s also a fan of Bravo’s Real Housewives and celebrity gossip.  Really.  Could she be any more awesome? Girl, you've got a Fan 4 Life.

Photo Credit: Elle Magazine

January 18, 2012

The Celtics' Big 4: The End of an Era?

While I consider myself a true Celtics fan, I must first issue the disclaimer that I initially became one when I met my husband, because, while some things are better kept separate in a relationship, sports, much like political affiliation, are more easily enjoyed when you're on the same team -- no pun intended. That being said, I've been a de facto fan for the interim of our coupledom. So, I am comfortable saying that I'm a fan, adding to my legitimacy being that I played post on my middle school basketball team, of course.

Like many things pop-culture related, my favorite aspect of the basketball team is the characters, the personalities, the players (and yes, their wives too). For the past several years, the Celtics' roster has held a particularly colorful cast of characters, in particular, the Big 4 cohort, consisting of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo. While most fans' favorites are either Kevin Garnett or Rajon Rondo, my personal favorite has been the hardworking and nimble Ray Allen. I am always charmed by a shy guy, an understated man with a tough, hardworking exterior and a gentle soul. He may not be as showy as Garnett, who bangs his head on the stem of the basketball hoop before every game, or as outgoing and free-spirited as Pierce, but he's the man who gets the job done, with just the right amount of focus and finesse. Plus, he has great calves.

Favorite players aside, however, the recent rumors of a major Celtics shift and the possible let-go of the holy trinity (Pierce, Allen, and Garnett)/Big 4 has put me in a slightly dismal mood. This is possibly in part due to the dissolving of a troupe who sought history in together leading the team to an NBA Championship in 2008, and getting quite close again in 2009, but it would also represent the end of an era, and more importantly, the fading away of a group of intriguing characters that has held my attention and loyalty for the past four-plus years.

I will not retire my Celtics fanship if the team breaks up, because as I recalled earlier I was a fan pre-Big 4, but I, along with other solid fans, will suffer great heartbreak. This particular team will not easily, if ever, be replaced. I had always held the safe assumption that Pierce, who has been a lifelong Celtics player, was going to die a Celtic, or at least retire as one; and that Garnett, a well-respected player prior to joining the Celtics, who became immediately inaugurated into the team's culture, would forever be a Celtic too. And yes, I believed the same to be true for Ray Allen, who at nearly 37 is a physical freak of nature for an NBA player who's natural representation of the Celtics' traditionally puritanic culture -- humble, dedicated, and hardworking -- implied that he would always be part of the team.

If the rumors lead to reality, it will be a sad day for Boston and beyond. But for now, I'll remain hopeful that the song remains the same.

Photo Credit: AP

January 15, 2012

Pearls of Wisdom from "The Other Guys"

I find inspiration in everything -- music, food, art, literature, meditation, and oftentimes, people. In the January issue of Esquire, the magazine imparts a refreshing twist on its monthly feature, The Meaning of Life - What I've Learned, and interviews "The Other Guys," a collection of 15 slightly unexpected people (yes, women too) who share some mighty fine pearls of wisdom and interesting personal anecdotes. 

So inspired by some of the quotes by these "other guys" I thought it was worthy of sharing them here.  In no particular order, here are some of my favorites:
  • "A lazy man works twice as hard. . . . If you're writing an essay, keep it in the lines and in the margins so you don't have to do it over." - Gary Oldman, Actor, 53
  • "It seems to me that at nineteen or twenty, a young man is burning to be great at something.  I was.  You have a vision that's beyond the neighborhood.  You want to make a mark while you're alive.  You don't know exactly your future, but you want to be great at it.  And greatness is an important word.  And you dare not tell anybody how extreme and how burning are your visions, because you don't want anybody to mess with them." - Art Garfunkel, Singer, 70

  • "You don't order an egg-salad sandwich at a Chinese restaurant.  And you don't order the chicken piccata at Jerry's Deli." - Jon Cryer, Actor, 46
  •  "The secret of life is to be surrounded by people who get you -- just the people who get you." - Jeffrey Tambor, Actor, 67
  •  "People don't know the real you unless you tell them" and "I really don't have a problem with age, because there's nothing we can do about it." Vanna White, Game-show hostess, 54 

  •  "To say we weren't spoiled as kids would be asinine, right? But we were spoiled in ways that are probably beneficial to an individual's growth.  We were very well traveled.  We spoke multiple languages.  We were around fascinating people who were making history.  We got to experience things that other people didn't experience.  But we were never spoiled financially.  That kept us out of a lot of trouble." - Donald Trump, Jr., Businessman, 33
  • "It's not something you can find.  There's a moment you arrive at -- there's no words for it.  A bunch of people come together at this place where a note hits your heart and your brain tells your finger where to go.  It's an otherworldly thing, like when a painter gets the right combination of colors together. - Slash, Guitarist, 46
  • "My dad used to say, 'You know you're a success when you look at your kids and realize they turned out better than you." - Joe Biden, Vice President, 69
All photos from Esquire.com.

January 12, 2012

Humble Review: The Perfect Lipstick

I admit it. I'm a girlie girl (albeit a pretty opinionated one) in all the cliched senses of the word. I like clothes; I like perfume; I like handbags; I like magazines. And, for the record I don't really care if there are pink Legos marketed to girls, because honestly, I like the color pink. (But, I also like the colors red, blue, and yellow, too, and in this day and age, aren't we raising our girls and boys to know that they are free to play with whatever colored Legos they want to play with, be they pink or primary-colored? Despite my girlie-girl bent, I played with the traditional primary-colored ones as a child -- although I probably would've chosen pink ones had they been available at the time.) But, I am digressing here, and dating myself, because what I really want to write about is lipstick.

Natural lipstick.
I found The One this past weekend shopping in Boston. From the Pure Color line of lipsticks by Estee Lauder, The One is a creamy, moisture-packed stick in a neutral color called Rose Tea (how perfect is that?) that complements my pale skin perfectly. As soon as I applied it at Saks, the sales lady said, "Wow, that really brings out your eyes." That's what they're supposed to say, but my husband agreed. What really sold me was the way the lipstick made me feel: sexy, sassy, and confident, without looking like I was trying too hard, the way that wearing bright red lipstick, false eyelashes, or stiletto heels can seem.

At $25, the lipstick was probably a bit of a splurge, but for something that I will wear on an almost daily basis, I say it's worth it, because what the hell -- it makes me feel like a million bucks! With a subtle apricot scent, the lipstick is moisturizing while imparting a nice long-wearing pigment on the lips. It's the perfect marriage of special and practical. 
Estee Lauder Pure Color Lipstick.

Growing up, my mom always used Estee Lauder, and now that I'm an adult I find myself drawn to the brand for certain products (namely the foundation and serums, and well, now the lipsticks too). While I can sometimes be a product rebel (not wanting to use something that people I know already use) I'm now compelled to Estee Lauder because the line offers what I've discovered the lipstick to be -- that appeal of both the special and the practical.

Now what would really knock the lipstick out of the park is if it had a little flip-out mirror for on-the-go application, but that would probably be asking for too much, now wouldn't it? Oh, well. A girl can dream.

January 9, 2012

Humble Review: Boston's Parish Cafe

Something that never fails to surprise me is that Bostonians eat lunch really late on Sundays, like almost when us other New Englanders are about to eat dinner. When we showed up at the Parish Cafe, an eatery known for its various sandwiches created by area celebrity sandwiches, for an early dinner before our 5 p.m. train, the place was buzzing with twenty- and thirty-somethings. Despite the abundant crowd, however, there was no wait, and we were seated at a small table by the bar.

Front entrance to Parish Cafe on Boylston St. in Boston, MA.
Tight space though it may have been, the atmosphere was fun -- soul tunes by the likes of Aretha, Lenny, and Stevie were being blasted at just the right octane and the bar was attractively displayed with glasses of all different types. The people-watching was amusing too. There was a couple clearly on their first awkward date directly across from us and lots of other interesting folk to observe.

The beer mugs at Parish Cafe.
The menu, a two-sided foodie's delight, was slightly overwhelming simply because I wanted to try everything. I settled on the The Harrington, described by the Cafe's menu as a romaine salad containing fresh mint, diced cucumbers, sliced red onions, Kalamata olives (I ordered mine san), and feta cheese tossed with a fresh lemon-olive oil dressing and served over grilled Syrian bread. My mate ordered The Benny, a creation by the infamous Ken Oringer of the world-renown eatery, Clio. The sandwich was Vietnamese inspired and consisted of grilled chicken breast sandwich on a hard baguette with veggies and a mint-coriander sauce. Sided with a spicy purple cabbage slaw tossed with tomatoes, fresh mint, Thai basil and cracked peanuts. I had more than my share, and it was delicious, especially if you enjoy Vietnamese fare as much as we do.

According to Zagat rating guidelines, I would give Parish Cafe a 23 for Food, 21 for Decor, and a 17 for Service, the restaurant's weakest link. Here, you're served by multiple people, which isn't really a problem except that none of servers seemed like they wanted to be there at all, despite the inspired playlist. Oh, and the place was hotter than a sauna, which is saying something for someone who's always complaining of being cold. Regardless, I'll be going back to this hot little ticket.

January 6, 2012

Does Haste Really Make Waste? (The Anatomy of a Rusher.)

I have a confession, if you don't already know: I have a tendency to rush through creative time.  I’ve blogged about the whole journey vs. destiny thing before, but because it’s something I continually struggle with, I am compelled to write about it again. It’s not a New Year’s resolution to work on rushing less (more of a lifetime personal goal to work on), because as you know I am not a big believer in setting these kinds of January resolutions, and instead aim for more realistic ones; however, I think my rushing gets the best of me sometimes, and the worst of me, I suppose (but that’s for another day and time).

My rushing is particularly evident when I’m blogging, which for me is my creative time, my soul time. I write fast and swift because I want to get it all out there before I lose my train of thought or run out of the limited time and energy I have for such precious pursuits. While I am a perfectionist in many ways, in this situation my rushing takes precedence over my perfection. The mantra I tell myself is: if I have to choose between Consistency (albeit with flaws) or Inconsistency (with perfection), I’ll take the Consistency because otherwise the writing might not happen as regularly, or at all, even. 

But sometimes when I go back and read my blogs there are spelling errors and punctuation blunders. And, in many cases, I find my blog entries to be harried sounding and rushed. In my constant attainment of both consistency and perfection, this bothers me, because my blog entries wind up not being representative of my best writing, and as someone who has two degrees in English, my writing is something I have a bit of pride about.  In that sense, I feel like I'm shortchanging myself.

But then when I reflect more on it, I realize that it's an okay thing if not every blog entry is a masterpiece.  After all, isn't the original definition of a blog to be a "web-based log," a journal of sorts? More importantly, if I had to choose (and sometimes in life we do have to choose), I’d rather have some kind of voice (even if it's a sometimes inarticulate, fast-talking one at times) as opposed to no voice at all. 

We all have a voice, and we need to be able to use it.