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Best Cousin Ever

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

I met my friend Nicole several years ago at the wedding of mutual friends. We bonded over gin & tonics, and stuck close together since we didn’t know many other people there. In the four busy years since we met, we’ve managed to get together a few times a year for drinks and gossip – and for being someone I see so infrequently, she’s still one of my favorite people.

A few weeks ago, we were texting back and forth, just catching up on life. Nicole mentioned that she’s dating someone, that she’s had a recent career change, and that since I’m single and fabulous (obviously), she wanted to set me up with her cousin. I trust her judgment of men, so I gave her the green light. She said she’d make the introduction.

Fast forward to this weekend. Nicole and I had made plans to meet for brunch, and as we texted about the time and place, she mentioned, “I know Chris wants to meet you too. Can we work him into the plan?” So on Saturday morning, I walked to Sassafras to meet Nicole and her cousin.

Nicole is the kind of person who sets everyone at ease, and Chris immediately struck me as the same. Conversation between the three of us was easy and pleasant, and I had the thought, “Everyone in their family must be so nice.” Nicole told me that Chris had moved into her house, which sounded kind of fun – because as a woman, what better roommate to have than your male cousin? He could reach the top shelf in the closet and lift the heavy things. They even bought new couches together – a true sign of a combined life, probably because Nicole is sweet and generous and wants him to feel at home, I thought. Chris told me that ever since moving in with Nicole, he’s become a runner; Nicole and all of her friends are marathoners, and if he wanted to join that group, it made a lot of sense to me that he would take up the same hobby.

Admittedly, I had never known cousins this close. It sounded like they do everything together, which felt a little odd. But just because I’m not as tight with MY cousins doesn’t mean that others couldn’t be – so I just accepted the fact that they’re best friends and ate my eggs.

Chris was good looking and interesting and quick to smile and so, so nice. But I wasn’t really feeling any kind of vibe between us, which was fine since we were all just having a casual brunch anyway. I was happy to have found a new friend, if nothing else.

About an hour into conversation, I realized I hadn’t heard about Nicole’s boyfriend yet. So I turned to her and asked, “Hey, aren’t you dating someone?”

She looked at me blankly. “Dating?”

Pause. Wrinkled forehead.

And then, with a quick shake of her head, like she was trying to rattle her thoughts into place, she gestured to Chris and said, “I’m dating Chris. This is CHRIS.”

And in that moment, all of the air sucked out of the room.

I looked down at my plate. When I lifted my eyes, Chris and Nicole were staring at me completely flummoxed. There was no getting out of this one, no way to gracefully play it off. Time to face the music.

“I’m sorry, I’m so confused,” I awkwardly blubbered, the red creeping up my cheeks. “I… I…”

“Oh my…” Nicole broke in, eyes wide, the realization suddenly all over her face. “Did you think this was my cousin?”

And we all died. Right there in our chairs, every one of us died a thousand deaths. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed so hard – while simultaneously wanting to, you know, crawl underneath the table. While Nicole had been introducing me to her boyfriend, now she knew I had been SCOPING HIM OUT FOR MYSELF. No wonder I wasn’t feeling a vibe – the only vibe at that table was between Chris and Nicole. Who are not cousins. I wanted the chef to hit me over the head with a frying pan; please put me out of my misery.

Revisiting Nicole’s text, I realized that she had never said her cousin was coming to brunch – she said Chris was coming to brunch. And isn’t it just like a girl to make that mean whatever she wants it to mean? We then relived every twist and turn of the conversation up to that point, all of which added up to a weirdly intertwined cousin relationship, including a trip to Mexico – which I assumed was a family vacation? We laughed so hard we cried. And maybe I just cried.

Chris and Nicole say they’re going to get T-shirts that say “Best Cousin Ever.” As for me? I’ll go with “Moron.”
best_cousin_ever

Writing as light

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

The darkness of this world has been weighing me down and sucking me under, cinderblocks tied to my ankles. You know what I’m talking about; all the news is bad. Every day is full of incessant sound bites, ISIS and Syria and Ebola and child abuse and gunmen hiding in the woods. It’s enough to give even the most stalwart a panic attack.

My heart has been beating more rapidly these days, and my fingers have been twitching. It’s not that I’m necessarily afraid for myself (although perhaps I should be). But at a very physical level, this world is not a safe place – and yet here we are, living complicated lives that slap against others’ complicated lives like BBs in a pinball machine. Life should come with a warning: Brace yourself – this is gonna hurt.

Which is why this weekend meant so much to me.

I was invited to attend a workshop called the Art of Songwriting hosted by the Nashville Treehouse. It was fairly last minute, and I had to rearrange some pre-existing travel (to Seattle – which is a trip I’ll need to make up soon). But the writer in me has been in need of some TLC (not this) (or this), and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Fifteen women gathered for two days, and we had a chance to share songs, share stories, co-write, and learn from each other. It could so easily have turned into a competitive game of comparison – because shoot, these ladies could WRITE – but somehow, everyone seemed to bring their most authentic self and check any ego at the door. I was shocked. It was beautiful.

As I drove to the Treehouse, I made a conscious decision to shut the door on all of the darkness and stress and jam it with a folding chair.

And sometime during those two days, full of freedom and light and encouragement, it occurred to me that jamming the door is nothing new for me. I’ve been a professional door slammer since I was 14 (just ask my parents) – but in the last couple of years, I’ve been jamming it in the wrong direction. I’ve been doing it to my writing. I’ve blocked it out, said no, curled up in the dark closet where it’s “safe,” hoping that the boogeyman doesn’t find me.

But the only way to scare off the monsters is to bathe them in LIGHT. And that’s what writing is for me: pure luminosity.

I had forgotten. But this weekend reminded me, and I’m grateful. Kim and Paulette, thank you for hosting us – and Abby for this beautiful video!

The Art of Songwriting Sneak Peek from Nashville Treehouse on Vimeo.

Weight weight… don’t tell me

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Several years ago, I threw out my scale. The contraption had come to rule my life, with every weigh-in feeling like spinning a wheel in a game show – What did she win, Bob? – except the needle never landed on the jackpot. Tossing my scale into the dumpster was equal parts terrifying and liberating, and for years, I had no idea what I weighed.

But this past year, my mind started to play tricks on me. The mirror has never been dependable for me, as the image I see rarely matches reality. The old paranoia started to creep in; I was convinced I was gaining weight, even though my clothes still fit and my diet hadn’t changed. And while I kept a good poker face about it and didn’t mention this insecurity to almost anyone, inside, I was falling apart.

So in January, I decided to once again embrace the scale. In the midst of the mind-games that were yanking me around, I needed an objective number to ground me in reality. And no one is more surprised than me, but these days, I have to admit that knowing my weight is almost a comfort – an unbiased, unemotional truth in a manic world.

On Saturday morning at the gym, I stepped on the scale – the mechanical kind they have at the doctor’s office where the little weights are moved to the right or left until everything is balanced. I automatically set everything to the number I had been last week, but then was horrified to have to keep moving it up, up, up – over 10 pounds higher than it had been a week before.

Panic started to rise in my throat, threatening to strangle me. THIS CANNOT BE, I despaired. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?? NOOOOOOOO!

And then I heard a snicker behind me.

I whipped around to find a man much too old for pranks standing behind me with his foot on the corner of the scale, pressing down, laughing at his own trick. “I got you!” he crowed.

Fine, it’s kind of funny to retell it now – but in the moment? I was not amused. I was not a good sport. After calling him a dipshit in my mind and a terrorist to his face, I said, “That’s one of the meanest things you could do to a woman.” A sudden fury was rising, as were my eyebrows. He must have sensed my intensity, because he took a step back. I turned to face him square on. “Are you going to leave and let me weigh myself? I’LL WAIT.”

He slunk away, I stepped back on the scale and got the number I was expecting, and then spent the rest of the day thinking about body image, weight, beauty, and how they’ve all become so inextricably fused.

I recently saw an interview with Mindy Kaling. When asked, “What’s the biggest compliment someone could pay you?” without skipping a beat she replied, “That I’m beautiful.” No apology. No pretending that her answer was “wise” or “generous” or “compassionate” in the name of respectability. She wanted to be known as beautiful.

And it was so refreshing.

Because ladies, isn’t that it? Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ll go ahead and own it: I want beauty to be the truest thing about me. Granted, the definition of beauty has been twisted by our culture to the point where it’s difficult to even be able to define it – but we know the real thing when we see it. We want to be associated with it. We were designed to want to be noticed, seen, and enjoyed.

Beauty is beyond the physical, of course – if you say differently, I’ll fight you. But because we live in this very physical world, it includes our bodies, our features, our faces. This is why we make attempts to foster our beauty – not to manufacture it, not to attain it, but to release what is already there. We want our outsides to match our insides, respecting and cherishing the bodies we’ve been given.

Of course, that’s the ideal world. Reality is much more warped.

I manage the Instagram account for my work, and a recent hashtag search accidentally led me to the accounts of young girls struggling with eating disorders. One of them had posted a picture of our product, a 200-calorie snack bar made of nothing but dates, peanuts and sea salt, with the caption, “I feel so guilty about eating this. I don’t deserve food.”

It broke my heart. And while I’ve never struggled with a full-blown eating disorder, I know guilt. I know deprivation. I know workouts as punishment, ubiquitous insecurity, and self-hatred – yes, hatred.

If I were a “tie a bow on it” type of Christian, this would be the time to say that God thinks we’re beautiful (even if the world doesn’t), that our hearts are all that matter (so stop being so vain), and just wait until that glorious day when there will be no more insecurity (the struggles of this life don’t mean a thing). But I’m not that kind of Christian.

I believe that “Thy kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven” means that the physical here-and-now matters. I believe that our desires are important, because they point us toward something True. I believe that we come into this world packed to the core with beauty, and that part of the work of this life is to let some of that loveliness out, restoring us to what we were originally imagined to be. I believe that we get to play a part in making this sad place beautiful again.

And that’s something worth putting my weight on.

Fostering beauty

Monday, February 11th, 2013

I’ve decided to start painting my fingernails. This may sound inconsequential, but it feels significant: it’s a tiny symbol of an effort toward beauty.

I’ve lived in Denver for three years, and while by no means have I “let myself go,” my circumstances during this time have not exactly required me to bring a fashionable A-game. I worked from home for a long time, which allowed for days upon days in my pajamas. When I would venture out of the house, 9 times out of 10 it was to go running – so why would I ever bother with hair and makeup?

Just over a year ago, I started working from an office again – and while it’s required me to actually, oh you know, GET DRESSED every day, I happen to work with all women. There is no pressure to look awesome – so I don’t. T-shirts and jeans every day, whatever’s comfortable, hair in a ponytail. Done.

It’s interesting what the world’s focus on physical appearance has done to me. For a long time, it was a standard I was trying to meet. Then, when I realized that perfection was unattainable, the pendulum swung the other way: I just shouldn’t care at all. Who am I trying to impress, anyway?

But I’m realizing how deeply my lack of personal effort has been sinking into my psyche. Go for months without feeling put together, and one is bound to start falling apart.

The past 6 months of my life have been marked by some significant decisions toward health. I see a counselor on a regular basis. I paid off all of my debt. I am making changes in my calendar and my habits and my thought patterns. These developments feel beautiful.

I just want my outside to match my inside.

I keep thinking of the phrase “fostering beauty.” To foster does not mean to strive, to strain, to struggle, or to contrive. To foster means to cherish, to cultivate, to nurture and uphold. It suggests that the thing one is fostering already exists; it does not need to be fabricated or manipulated. It just needs to be cherished. Cultivated. Nurtured. Upheld.

So today, my hair is curled, and I’m wearing a new shirt. My fingernails are a dark, dusty pink – the color of Ibuprofen, an accidental homage to the trusty pain killer.

And I’m telling you, just like Ibuprofen, it’s making things better.

Come hell or high water or high-waisted jeans

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m not exactly on the cutting edge of fashion.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not BEHIND the times.  I’m not wearing shoulder pads or anything.  I know how to dress myself and my slightly complicated figure.  I splurge on good denim, accentuate the positives, and know when to belt a dress.  When I actually try, I can put together a somewhat decent outfit.

But most of the time, I don’t really take fashion risks.  I like my tried-and-trues.

So on Saturday, when Ashley and I were at Anthropologie and she convinced me not only to try on but subsequently drive home with a pair of high-waisted jeans, I was shocked.

And when we got back to the house and my brother immediately brought up Steve Urkel, and then taught my nephews how to taunt me with the classic Urkel line, “Did I do that?” needless to say, my confidence was shaken.  But then I remembered that my brother isn’t exactly rocking the fashion world himself (sorry, Jeremy).

So I put on the new jeans, and headed out for dinner and drinks – looking no less than 7 feet tall, I might add.

But I left the tags on, just in case.  (I know – go ahead.  Judge.)

So what say you, my little sweeties?  Yay or nay on the high-waisted jeans?

Jane Austen makes me LOL

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

“Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains.”
-Elizabeth Bennet, “Pride and Prejudice”

Oh, we women…

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

Marilla: Would you want to marry a wicked man?

Anne Shirley: Well, I wouldn’t marry anyone who was really wicked – but I think I’d like it if he could be wicked, and wouldn’t.

Update: purse

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Some of you have been asking about my search for the ideal purse.*

Listen, all I want is something dark brown and genuine leather, with no silver buckles or gold chains, small enough to carry into a bar, but large enough to lift a bottle of wine from a wedding reception. That’s all. And I can’t find it.

*Total lie. No one has asked. I wanted to talk about it anyway.

Flashed

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Yesterday, I swung by a girly store to look for some negligee for a friend who is getting married.  As I browsed the skivvies, a woman came up to me and pointed to a particular bra.

“This one looks SO GOOD on,” she declared.

“Excellent!” I replied.  And… awkward? I thought.  Because who likes to talk to strangers about their undergarments – I mean, besides Southwest Airlines, and Annie Parsons on her blog?

“In fact,” the woman continued, “I’m wearing it right now!”

Oh gosh oh Lord oh no no no no –

She pulled down her shirt and showed me not just a strap of the bra, but an entire boob of the bra.

And what can I say?  I bought it.

Navigating

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

It’s feeling more and more difficult to use this space to express anything of substance.  I used to pour my heart out onto this blog, exposed for all the world to see, my inner-most sentiments laid bare for any passerby to interpret however they wished.  But in the three years that I’ve kept this site, I’ve been learning that while honesty is the best policy, it’s not always meant for the masses – and that certain things should be saved for those precious few who are closest to me.

So unless I’m blogging about my undergarments or confessing my fascination with Lady Gaga, sometimes it’s hard to know what to share.

For example, yesterday, I had a melt-down.  Like, a full-on, forehead-to-desk sob fest.

Did my heart get broken?  Did I get horrible news?  Did I go bankrupt?  Did someone ask when my baby is due?

I wish.  At least then this melt-down would have been legitimate.

Oh no, friends – I was just feeling overwhelmed by life – life, and feeling inadequate.  I could say a lot more about why I was feeling inadequate, but I realize that the pressure we women put on ourselves to be extraordinary in every area of our lives is ridiculous – and damn it, Elizabeth Gilbert thinks so, too.  So there.

Anyway, I hope that you’ll stick with me as I continue to navigate what to say in this space, and in the meantime, settle for the little details from my life – like the fact that last night, I bought a fancy ruffly tank top from T.J. Maxx, only to get home and discover that it was a romper.

What’s a romper?

Something that I should never, ever wear: a tank top with sewn-in short-shorts.

At least I didn’t say “sewn-in crotch.”