May 8, 2013 § 28 Comments
I recently decided to start seeing a psychotherapist. I had some life-stuff to work out, and I knew other people who swore by therapy, so I thought I’d give it a try. After my first session, I texted a friend who had encouraged me to make that appointment:
I ought to have recognized some of the telltale signs of needing this kind of thing long ago. For example, when friends would talk about what they’d do if they won the lottery, they’d say, “Buy a beach house,” or “Pay off all my debt and move to France,” and I’d say, “Hire a shrink and pay them to listen to me talk about my life and my relationships and my kids and my work and my dreams and my failures and my conflicts and my shame and my hope and EVERY SINGLE THING IN THE WORLD.” And then inevitably someone would stare at me like I was weird, and I’d look down and stir my drink with my finger and start whistling.
Anyway, I finally decided that there’s no sense in waiting to win the lottery or to have a big, dramatic reason to get a little help sorting out all the craziness that is adulthood. And so far, so good.
What works for me might not be what works for you, but just in case you’re thinking of giving it a shot, I thought I’d offer up a few tips based on what I’ve experienced thus far. Bear in mind, I’m only just getting started. But here’s what I can tell you:
* * *
1. Take Advantage of the Free Kleenex
See also: Free coffee. I mean, “free” is perhaps not the precise term for things one uses after paying a large sum of money for an hour’s worth of time. But as far as I can tell, there’s no limit on the number of Kleenexes one can take. So if you use enough over time, you probably come out even and maybe even turn a profit.
* * *
2. Give Yourself Extra Time To Think
The time spent in the therapist’s office is one thing. But you can’t fix your life in an hour. So build in plenty of time for sitting in the waiting room, where you can read, look at the Zen waterfall, and just be quiet and mull over questions you’ll be talking about that day. I enjoy this part so much that I’ve been arriving earlier and earlier. Next time, I might just arrive the day before and camp out, maybe bring some food and a mini-grill, make it a tailgate kind of thing.
* * *
3. Embrace Freedom of Speech
I was about four minutes into my first session when I launched into a description of a feeling that really could not be said without profanity. Then I apologized. You know what my therapist said? That my language was nothing compared to the language of some other patients. Traumatized veterans, for example. (Finally: Proof that I do, in fact, curse like a sailor. Like an actual, military sailor with PTSD.)
So now I just let it all fly, no editing. It’s a win-win, because I can express myself efficiently and accurately, and my therapist can pick up some interesting new compound cursewords* to take back to the veterans.
(* Oh! Speaking of which – I have a new one: fucktank. As in, “That situation was a fucktank of complexity.” Or, “I’ve got a fucktank of things to talk about. Should we tackle them alphabetically or just start with the stupidest problems?”)
* * *
4. Keep It In Perspective
I resist the urge to point at other people in the waiting room and say, “I’m not as crazy as that guy, right?” But I comfort myself with the knowledge that there are people way weirder than me going in and out of those doors on a regular basis, and that whatever I have going on, the therapist has definitely seen worse.
Just to make sure everyone keeps it real, I recommend starting each session with a “confession” such as:
- “Yesterday, I killed someone for sport in a jungle island people-hunting game.”
- “This morning, I pretended to give someone a puppy and then took the puppy away and ate it.”
- “I think it’s important to have role models, which is why I pattern my life after Lindsay Lohan.”
Then you can say, “Nah, just kidding. My real problem is ________.” And suddenly it all looks pretty normal and easy to solve. Everything’s relative.
* * *
Disclaimer – No one warned me about this, so let me warn you: Apparently it’s normal to feel like a wrung-out dishrag after each session. Summoning the balls to be totally honest and open for even a single hour of self-examination is exhausting. My therapist says it’s BRAVE to deal with life and people head-on. My friends who’ve done this before me say it’s worth it. So I guess I’ll keep going until I’ve gotten my money’s worth in free Kleenex.
“Brave” by Sara Bareilles:
May 7, 2013 § 12 Comments
Guess what? I wrote a book. No, seriously. I’m not kidding.
Co-wrote it, actually, with a dear friend of mine who is a lawyer. He had this wacky idea that it might be fun to create a gift book for other lawyers, a collection of funny poems capturing some of the inside humor that goes along with the job: all the anxieties, crazy characters, and bizarre situations that only fellow lawyers (and those who know and love them) can really appreciate. He pitched the idea almost two years ago: If he could come up with the poem ideas, could I help write them?
Write a book of poems and let someone else do the work of coming up with all the ideas? Oh, hell yes.
So I’m delighted to introduce you to Poetic Justice: Legal Humor in Verse.
It’s a little bitty book – just 100 pages, each poem a snapshot of some scenario or character or feeling that anyone who’s been to law school or worked in the field will understand. Those who have already read it say it puts into words some of the things everyone thinks but no one says out loud, including some of the darker, cynical stuff, but in a funny way.
(By the way, if you’re lawyer who was once a liberal arts major or an English nerd, you’ll appreciate that these are, well, “real” poems. I mean, they’re not just broken up sentences without punctuation. We got your sonnets, haikus, riffs on well-known verses you probably had to memorize in 10th grade, the whole shebang.)
Need a gift for law school graduation, lawyer friends, mother’s day, father’s day, birthdays? Here you go, easy – just throw it in your cart on Amazon.
Bonus: We are donating a portion of all book proceeds to a fantastic nonprofit called WomensLaw.org, which provides free information and services to individuals getting out of domestic violence situations. So you’re helping to enable something good in the world when you buy the book.
To check out a different sample poem each week — and to see my co-author wearing a sweater vest — visit the book’s site: PoeticJusticeTheBook.com
April 23, 2013 § 22 Comments
Spring magazines are out. You know what that means.
Once again, we don’t even have to read the articles to know what’s hot for this season. All we have to do is pay attention to the advertising, and we’ll learn not just about the world of fashion, but about the world itself. About beauty, happiness, business… about life, my friends. A few lessons for spring:
* * *
To look, feel, and smell like a celebrity, emulate their entire lifestyle.
This perfume bottle has a lovely feminine hourglass shape. So it’s fitting that Jessica Chastain wears it, because she, too, has a gorgeous figure. Do you want to be like Jessica? Then know this: She keeps her curves in perfect proportion by making sure no fast food ever passes her lips. And that’s not all. To make sure no one else falls prey to the evils of the Big Mac or McRib, Jessica personally murdered Grimace, then finger-painted the walls with his blood. May that image never leave your mind, and may you order a salad at lunch.
* * *
The most accurate way to tell time is to hold your watch next to the face of a beautiful woman.
Think about it: Whenever you want to know what time it is, don’t you put your arm up next to your head (if you are a beautiful woman yourself) or someone else’s (if you are ugly or a man)? Of course you do: “Hey, Stacy, what time is it?” “A quarter past my face, bitch.”
* * *
If you wait long enough, everything will get easier.
You mean now I can spray Vaseline on my OWN ass? Wow. The wait IS over! The world is getting more convenient by the minute.
* * *
Always say what you mean.
Quattro TrimStyle by Schick. Because nothing says, “prune your bush,” like actually saying it. (Subtle, Schick. Subtle.)
* * *
Some things are harder than they look.
The jacket-over-briefs look isn’t as easy to pull off as you might think. Sure, it looks simple, but you can’t just throw a bomber over your bosom and go. Trust me on this. You have to get the face right. You don’t want to look too joyful (left), because then it’s like, “What are you so excited about? You can’t even afford a shirt.” Likewise, you don’t want to seem too dour (right), because then people want to slap you and shout, “Hey. Buck up. At least you HAVE a jacket.” Only one person knows how to get this look exactly right…
* * *
Kate Moss can do anything she wants. Ever.
The secret is never to waver in your because-I’m-Kate-Moss-and-I-fucking-say-so expression.
* * *
You are too old to shop at H&M.
Daphne, Joan, Lindsey, and Lin Wen just want to make one thing clear: You’re past your goddamn prime.
* * *
The Great Gatsby look is back, and it’s everywhere.
Which is awesome, because aren’t we all just living the Gatsby story every day? I know I am. Speaking of which, I’ve gotta run in a minute – it’s almost time for me to plow my friend down with my car and then skip town.
* * *
Never sign a cosmetics contract.
The way it works is they give you 50 pages of small print to sign. The first few pages are like, “Emma Stone, you will get bazillions of dollars for letting us put your pretty face on magazine ads.” But on about page 47, there’s a tiny line that reads, “PS: Once you sign this, we can dress you up like a rainbow clown and gel your hair like it’s 1989 and pose you on a surfboard, because WE OWN YOUR ASS NOW.”
* * *
Sometimes a missed opportunity is a blessing in disguise.
Bullfights are SO in. And at first, Sophia, on the far left, was super-pissed because she didn’t get a bolero OR a hat for this shoot, so clearly she’s not invited to Pamplona with the rest of the girls. Well, fuck them. At least she won’t end up gored.
* * *
It doesn’t have to make sense to work.
Dolce & Gabbana. Because Scarlett Johansson makes out with smooth-nippled statues, so buy this makeup.
* * *
Know someone who could use a little instruction on the finer points of looking good and living right? Share these lessons and change a life.
April 17, 2013 § 62 Comments
The first time I said, “Fuck math,” I was in 8th grade. I haven’t stopped saying it since.
(For the record: It was algebra’s fault. What the hell are X and Y doing in the middle of a math problem? Math is supposed to be about numbers, not letters. Letters are my thing. Leave the letters alone and keep walking, math, you greedy sonofabitch.)
Don’t get me wrong. I see the value in numbers. I like balance and evidence and science. And I totally know that math education is important, so please, teachers, don’t get all over me for this one. Just let me make my case.
* * *
Fuck Math: Exhibit A
Gather ’round, ye fellow nerds. I need to shed a dorky little tear. A few weeks ago, I went into a big chain bookstore and tried to find a new novel that had just been glowingly reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. This place is the only bookseller anywhere near my part of town, so it was my only choice if I wanted the book in my hands that day. (We used to have a great independent bookstore, but it went out of business.)
They didn’t have the book in stock. They did, however, have 16 shelves of calendars (3 shelves just for the ones about cats) and a wide selection of coffee mugs, bookmarks, and chocolates. The sales associate explained it to me as such: “Well, it’s just, like, that’s kind of a weird book, so, like, if we don’t know how it’ll sell, we don’t order very many copies. It’s just, you know, math.”
Outwardly, I said: “Thank you.”
Inwardly, I said: FUCK MATH.
That’s not the first time I’ve had that book shopping experience. And look, I’m not going to get all You’ve Got Mail about it. I understand that superstores with the benefit of massive purchasing power can sell things for less than the cool little bookstores that actually curate a good inventory. That’s why the little places go under and the big places survive. Then, when the big places are the only ones left, they can sell or not sell whatever they want. I get that. I took economics. But still: FUCK MATH.
Oh hell, never mind. I AM going to get all You’ve Got Mail about it. In Nashville, where I don’t live but maybe should, there’s a glorious little bookshop called Parnassus Books. It’s co-owned by the novelist Ann Patchett. (Perhaps you’ve read about it.) It’s fantastic – a glorious selection of books, not to mention a delightful shopping experience. The well-read staff love what they do and can help you find what you want. I enjoyed it so much the first time I visited that now I call and order books from there sometimes, just because — even though I like Amazon and dig how I can have any book in the world on my doorstep the next day — I like to support a bookstore that puts some thought into what it sells. Maybe I pay a buck or two more, but you know what? FUCK MATH.
* * *
Fuck Math: Exhibit B
Recently, I went down to my favorite getaway spot – a little island off the Carolina coast where I’ve been spending summers and random weekends for 25 years. It’s home to me. Over the past dozen years or so, I’ve increasingly had to put my hands up like blinders as I crossed the bridge to the island, because where once there were unobstructed views of the water, there are now a CVS, a Chili’s, and a Bed, Bath & BeFuckingYond. Where once there was a sandy playground, there’s now a parking deck and a conference center. What once was a small, quirky, friendly community is now a “resort destination.” I understand that the economy is rough these days and that a place has to do what it has to do to keep cash rolling in. Money is important. But also: FUCK MATH.
One of my favorite things to do upon arrival on the island is to stop in at the Red & White, the only grocery store on the island itself. Sure, I could drive back over the bridge to a major chain store, but shopping at the tiny, bizarrely stocked, locally staffed Red & White is an experience. I have known my way around that store since I was a kid, and I could maneuver its aisles blindfolded, starting with the bin of colorfully worded drink can koozies.
So when I was out there this month, I headed straight over to the Red & White to get a magazine and a jug of wine (oh, I said jug, yes, I did) and maybe a box of waffles. But oh-sweet-humanity-save-my-soul, the place was closed. FOREVER.
I tried to explain my horror to someone else, and they said, “Well, yeah. That place had moldy produce and sticky floors and magazines that cost $7. There’s no way they could have stayed open in this economy.” So you know what I said, of course: FUCK MATH.
* * *
Anyway. I know I’m a big dummy to get all sad and enraged over things like this. The world turns on math, when it comes right down to it. And math is just doing what it does. It’s about numbers. (Except when it’s about letters.)
Some things cannot be quantified. Not properly anyway. So FUCK MATH.
* * *
PS: I’ve decided to add Fuck Math onto other catchphrases, thereby forming new, compound catchphrases which put forth helpful messages while also relaying a disdain for math-based living. Like so:
Save The Whales. Fuck Math.
Rock The Vote. Fuck Math.
It Takes a Village. Fuck Math.
Live and Let Live. Fuck Math.
Don’t Eat Yellow Snow. Fuck Math.
Give Blood. Fuck Math.
You get the idea.
* * *
PPS: The lovely folks over at YeahWrite invited me to share this post over there this week. (Thank you, YeahWrite.) They’re doing neat things. If you haven’t yet, you should check out YeahWrite, for several reasons:
1. If you like reading good blogs, you’ll enjoy clicking through their great weekly collection of posts. Good stuff.
2. If you’re a blogging writer, you might like sharing your own post there with their readers.
3. Just for fun, you can also vote on your favorite post of the week (voting is open on Thursday and Friday), and the bloggers there (that would include me, this week) can win prizes. I didn’t totally read through the contest details, but I’m pretty sure it’s like a pot of gold and a live unicorn and maybe the winner also gets to make out with one of the editors there? Something like that. So I’m in.
April 4, 2013 § 22 Comments
So here’s some news: Last weekend, while my family and I were out for a walk, an enormous dog attacked us. Actually, you know what? Dog is the wrong word. Let’s say, Giant Toothbeast.
I’m not exaggerating or using “attacked” in a melodramatic way. That is the exact word for what happened. The Giant Toothbeast – who was about the size of me, but, you know, a dog – was probably 20 yards away when he spotted us going down the sidewalk. He was unrestrained. Unattended. And I love dogs, so for a split-second, I was like, “Yay, doggie!” but then no. Not yay doggie. When he saw us, he started galloping. GALLOPING, I tell you — while snarling and making deep, guttural Darth Vader noises with his mouth wide open. Like this: “RAAAWRGHRRGAAAAAHRGIMGONNEATYOUAAWWWRGH”
If this has never happened to you before but you think it might one day, let me prep you for what will go through your mind when the time comes:
That dog wants to say hello!
Holy matchsticks, that dog is running fast.
Is there sound coming from that dog’s EYE SOCKETS?
OH MY SWEET SOUL, THAT DOG IS GOING TO BITE MY BALLS
WAIT A MINUTE, I’M A GIRL, I DON’T HAVE BALLS
MAYBE HE THINKS I DO HAVE BALLS
Does that mean the dog is gay?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
I completely support his freedoms and rights.
Although dogs don’t really get married.
Are dogs even monogamous?
Why am I thinking about this right now?
OH FUCKING HELL, I’M GOING TO GET EATEN BY A DOG.
All of that kind of races through your mind at once.
And at the same time, louder and more persistent, this:
THAT CREATURE IS GOING TO HURT MY CHILD.
Anyway, the Giant Toothbeast surveyed our crowd as he ran and decided to head for my son and me. We had about two seconds to react. So I screamed, “NOOOO,” in a movie-slow-motion way and jumped in front of my son, planting my body directly in the path of the Giant Toothbeast’s maw.*
(* Note: I have never read an article about what you’re supposed to do in a dog attack, so this was probably the wrong thing, but seriously… dog attack. Not a lot of time to Google it.)
The Giant Toothbeast slammed into my leg at full speed with his wide-open jaws, tearing at the fabric of my jeans with his teeth, still aiming for my son behind me. Unfortunately, one scrappy mama doesn’t do much to deter one ferocious Giant Toothbeast, and the animal still got a mouthful of my boy. But apparently offering up my leg as an appetizer reduced the impact of the next bite. Thanks to that and to a very tough pair of kid pants, my little guy was shaken – literally and figuratively – but his skin wasn’t broken. No blood was shed; there are just bruises.
I don’t know what made the Giant Toothbeast decide to run off after that one bite, but he did. Just turned and ran.
This is the part of the story that I keep thinking about now that it’s over: The fact that there was no thought at all in that moment when I saw the dog eye my child. That the first, gut instinct was to step in front of him. No weighing of pros and cons. No hesitating.
And I’m not saying this makes me a great parent – that’s totally not the point here. (I’m a godawful parent at least half the time. I look at my phone too much, and I forget to make dinner until the last minute, and sometimes when a Saturday soccer game is canceled, I don’t do a good job of hiding my delight at getting two hours back in the day.)
I’m just sort of in awe of the instinct that we humans have to protect what’s important. To lunge, in a second, toward what matters most.
So here’s the deep metaphorical concluding line: The people you want in your life are the ones who’d jump in front of you — or the ones you’d jump in front of — when the Giant Toothbeast comes.
[long philosophical gaze]
March 14, 2013 § 57 Comments
It’s no secret: You already know that sometimes I fantasize about living the life I see in the J. Crew catalog.
This week, while browsing for something to wear in this 40-degrees-at-breakfast / 70-at-lunch weather, I got caught up in pondering just what I’d have to do to pull off this lifestyle on a daily basis. There’s a lot to it, but none of it’s all that hard. I think I’ve got the hang of it:
* * *
1. Embrace bedhead. This looks a lot like how my hair just naturally is, but you can also create this look on purpose. What you do is put lots of time and product and effort into styling your hair nice and smooth, and then you sort of take your open palm and noogie-noogie-noogie it all crazy on the crown of your head and then go.
* * *
2. Eschew perfection. Always leave one element of your outfit screwed up or half done. Like tucking the back of your dress into your thong, except preppier.
* * *
3. Cultivate a mysterious expression. There’s lots of room for creativity here. The gist is that you don’t want to stick with the basics: happy, sad, mad, etc. You want to come up with something quirky, an unusual combo of emotions. Like, murderously vapid. Or playfully depressed. Or adorably vegetarian. You get the idea.
* * *
4. Always be touching. Too close for comfort? Nonsense. If you’ve got on a great outfit, let everyone know it by sidling up to the closest other person in a great outfit and touching them, creating an electric charge that radiates for all to see.
* * *
5. Keep ‘em guessing at the office. Can women have it all? Is there such a thing as balance? Is that the glass ceiling or did someone play a prank on us with Saran Wrap? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure: The J. Crew way is to keep things wacky at work.
* * *
6. Jump, and you’ll look better. It’s fine to do just a half-leap, but if you really want to grab the world by the balls, launch into a full ballet jeté in the next crowded place you go, because why not.
And that’s how you do it.
(All pictures are from the J. Crew catalog. Obviously.)