Wednesday, January 09, 2008

new site at tumblr



So... you may have noticed I was gone for a while. That was kind of intentional on my part. For a time, I had three big things occupying my mind. One of them was paper that tried very hard to break my brain. It only partly succeeded. The second was a boy situation that I knew was a bad idea, that the boy knew was a bad idea, that the very few people I told about it told me was a bad idea, but I went ahead with it anyways. Because I'm a sucker for lost causes, and because it gets lonely at the holidays. That's done now, hopefully for good, and everyone emerged unscathed. But it was something that, for a lot of reasons, I didn't and won't write about again, at least not until I get some much-needed distance. Like, say, to another continent.

The final reason was the family situation to which I alluded a while ago. It got worse, much worse, and though it too has somewhat resolved itself, not everybody emerged as unscathed. People said some very hurtful, even unforgivable things in the course of it, and it took a lot out everyone involved. I was expressly forbidden from writing about it, in part because there could have been legal ramifications and there almost certainly would have been emotional ones. Someday I might write about the lessons I took from it, because I watched carefully from the sidelines and learned a lot about how to communicate with people whose views clash with your own, how to get your desired outcome on someone else's terms and when to stop talking even though you have more to say. But for now, it's way too soon and way too messy to write on it, even for private consumption only.

People in bad or boring situations generally don't write well. They whine well, but there's plenty of that in the world and I didn't want to contribute more. I would rather not blog at all than have a "here's what I ate for lunch today" or "why I'm voting for Obama" or "what my New Year's resolutions are" blog. There's a place for that kind of writing, and it's called a journal. I don't begrudge people who write indulgently, lazily, or selfishly. That is their right, and usually, if they intend to become good writers, a necessary evil. Good writers are made, not born, and everyone has off days, weeks, even off seasons. But whether people want to admit it or not, there is a huge pool of mediocrity in personal blogging, one that, by starting dozens of entries complaining about life in unspecific and highly unoriginal terms, I felt like I was contributing to.

Some people power through and manage to break out of a bad cycle. I turn to a different platform for inspiration.

I started a blog at Tumblr on a whim and found myself really liking it. If Blogger and Typepad can be thought of as journals or diaries, Tumblr is a scrapbook. I enjoy the encouragement to post frequently and without excessive text. It's been a fun challenge to keep myself from rambling on like I usually do, to make words and phrases count for more and let content speak for itself. Perhaps most blessedly of all, this format help keep a blog largely free of the triteness that plagues so much of personal blogging (a crime that I do not in any way exempt myself from-- there may well be a screenshot of EJ Takes Life in the dictionary under "Navel-Gazing").

I may come back to Blogger eventually, but right now am really enjoying Tumblr. So please, update your bookmarks and links, because EJ is settling in for the long haul over there.

Oh, and if you didn't know what "EJ" stood for:

Friday, November 30, 2007

amusing things my dad says vol. III

On our collected response to the latest family crisis:

"We are a bunch of nerdy, anal-retentive-y... nerds."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

heart smart

Due to some recent Human Resources shenanigans at work, I've been tracking my paycheck deposits pretty closely over the last few weeks. Traditionally I've not always been the greatest with money. Though I'm now ruthless about paying off my credit card in full each month and, after some pretty typical post college carelessness (oops, Verizon bill fell behind the bar again!) generally am not late with things, I really have no idea how my paycheck is calculated each month. To ape the Friends episode, I don't really know who FICA is or why the hell he gets all my money. I have no idea why I've paid over a thousand dollars out of pocket for medical bills in the last year when insurance gobbles up a chunk of my salary. I just know that magic money faeries put enough money into my checking account every other week to keep me from having to borrow nickels to pay for a Metro fare, like I did immediately following college graduation. That was not a fun time for EJ.

Like most overeducated and underemployed young adults in DC, I live paycheck to paycheck. I've never known anything else and, given my education and professional choices, probably won't know anything else for a long time. I figure I'll just marry rich and then justify my shallowness by calling it fourth-wave feminism. Perhaps I'll become one of those fabulous stay-at-home moms I see in Washingtonian who live in Georgetown and wear lots of Lilly Pulitzer. I'll run a "freelance lifestyle consulting business" where I charge clients several thousand dollars for advice such as "live in Georgetown" and "wear lots of Lilly Pulitzer."

But for now I'm okay with the job I have and track I'm on because there are other benefits, financial and otherwise. It pays my tuition. It exposes me to lots of interesting and brilliant people. It gives me a super-cheap gym membership.

Let's consider that last a bit, yes?

In my obsessive monitoring, I noticed an out-of-cycle deposit for over $500. Though my employer owed me a rather large sum, this didn't fit the deposit schedule I'd worked out with HR. So I clicked on the electronic check to see what was up, only to see that it was a refund from my gym.

That's right. My gym has refunded my last year's worth of payments. My gym has given up on me.

In my defense, I hate my gym. I hate that it's full of 90-pound teenagers who hog the ellipticals while sporting full makeup and cropped Prada workout uniforms. I'm sure that when they look at me, in my pilly GAP circa-1998 bootcut running pants and whatever T-shirt I got from a college teambuilding retreat, they shudder and say to themselves "please let that never be me." Which is a totally understandable reaction, since when I work out I'm projecting frustration, anger and perspiration in equal and substantial amounts.

And it's not like I haven't been working out. There are the dance classes, the weights at home, the despised morning and late night runs...

Oh, forget it. Who am I kidding? My gym totally gave up on me. Some asshole with 3% body fat probably saw my record and said "this girl clearly needs more money for Hostess Cupcakes. Let's take pity on her."

Well, joke's on you, Anonymous Archetypal Gym Person! I don't even eat any Hostess products! I'm totally taking my $500 and investing it in heart-smart vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, right after I finish this chocolate croissant and venti vanilla latte. HAH.

the planning for urban orphan thanksgiving 2008 starts now

This is a drawing my cousin's son did on Thanksgiving. It shows me at the top of the "Kids" section.

It, and my father's cornbread stuffing, were pretty much the highlights of the holiday. Not that the holiday or the 20+ character family reunion were in and of themselves awful, any more so than any single 25-year old woman's Thanksgiving in rural Indiana. It was more what happened after my plane left on Saturday that has left me wondering exactly when my family became one of those families who has to deal with crap that we were only supposed to see on blurry late-night reruns of COPS. We were not supposed to be one of those families.

I don't know yet if or how I'll ever write about the news my grandfather's wife dumped on the family after I left on Saturday morning. Suffice it to say that it was bad, and it was very good that I wasn't there when she called this particular family meeting, because my response since finding out about it has employed a vocabulary that would most certainly not be welcome at the kids' table.

I hope that you all had a very lovely Thanksgiving, and that the worst thing you had to deal with was your mother loudly sighing that she wishes you'd find a nice boy/girlfriend. I miss when that was the worst part of my Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

sparks may cause punctuation and caps lock abuse. please consume responsibly.

Look, some people just have to learn the hard way that Sparks is a bad, bad, bad drink. They don't listen when their friends tell them horror stories of waking up in the middle of the night with severe heart palpitations several days later, or of snapping out of a fog at their desk the next morning and realizing they have no idea how they drove from Dupont to Dulles but are still way too drunk to drive home but way too wired to stay at work and not have co-workers wonder what they've been snorting, so the only alternative is to tell people that they were going home sick and then sleep it off in the car until they sobered up enough to drive home.

After last night I now can say from experience that the combination of Sparks, four vodka Red Bulls, Art Brut and the Hold Steady will do at least one if not all of the following to the average, healthy American female:

1) dance and screech with such enthusiasm that the soreness of her feet is topped only by the soreness of her throat
2) loudly inform her friend that she's so wired she's going to grab that guy over there and either punch him or make out with him, maybe both, then quickly realize that she said this with enough forcefulness and volume that the guy heard her and consequently looks rather terrified and is backing away
3) cause her to get up in the middle of the night for water, run into a wall, then punch the wall because it was TOTALLY THE WALL'S FAULT
4) oversleep until the exact moment she is supposed to BE at the office, then punch the same wall again BECAUSE IT IS STILL TOTALLY THE WALL'S FAULT
5) show up at the office late sporting jeans, unwashed postconcert hair and a giant black smudge on her cheek from sleeping on her stamped hand, prompting a co-worker to take one look at her and start laughing hard enough to give himself a hernia
6) order and consume an entire super-size Wendy's # 3 meal at 11 AM
7) be so wired and jittery thirteen hours later that typing a short blog post takes a good 35 minutes

Over Thanksgiving dinner my bitchy aunt will ask me what the heck I'm doing with my life down there in our nation's capital. I anticipate it being the second time in my life I am completely and totally without any kind of response whatsoever.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Yesterday while reading Jezebel I came across the story of a Missouri teenager who committed suicide after receiving mean messages from a boy she liked on MySpace. Oh, but it gets so much worse. The "boy" was actually her ex-friend's mother. The mother knew that this girl had struggled with depression. The mother, upon learning the girl had killed herself, expressed no remorse because the poor girl had tried to hurt herself before.

It is so very sickening, I can't recount all the horrible details. Suffice it to say that reading the story of this poor girl's life and death, I understand the vigilante urge for mob justice. I want to call this woman and scream at her that she's the reason a child is dead. I want to show up at her business and spit on her. I want to stand on her front lawn and wait until she comes out to get her mail and then lash out at her with my fists and words.

Obviously I won't be doing any of those things, but it's noteworthy that I want to because I'm not an especially violent or vengeful person. I'm firmly in the "eye-for-an-eye makes everyone blind" approach to justice.

In 2001, when the DC sniper was crawling around local parking lots shooting strangers at random, I appeared on an MSNBC talk show to talk about what it was like going to school in DC in a post-September 11 world (no, I don't remember which show-- it was MSNBC, aren't they all the same?). When the host asked me if I thought the DC sniper should get the death penalty when he was caught, I said no. The host really pressed me, saying things like "but he's obviously evil and disturbed," and "so would you want him living next door to you?" I kept my cool and responded that morals only meant something if you held to them under the toughest circumstances, so no, I would not want the death penalty for the DC sniper. The host got pissed that he couldn't break me and went to commercial.

Overlooking the fact that I managed to be so sanctimonious at nineteen, you can get my basic point. I'm not a violent person. I use my words, and I use lots of them. But I think of this woman, her total lack of remorse, the fact that there are no laws on the books to protect people from online harassment, the gall it takes to press charges for property destruction against the parents of the child you drove to suicide, and I want to cause her pain.

It seems especially cruel that an adult woman would inflict those kind of mind games on a teenage girl. Believe me when I say that every day, I'm thankful that I never have to go back and do adolescence again. It was bad enough the first time, and not to sound too critical of today's whippersnappers, it was still not this bad back in my day. I can watch My Super Sweet 16 as an adult and make grand pronouncements about Today's Youth and Consumer Culture, but I never had one of those girls running my sophomore class. I had other girls say mean things about me in the halls (and to be fair, I also said mean things about other girls in the halls) but they were never captured and preserved for posterity online. There's not enough money in the world to make me repeat those years, but much rather I'd do it again as I experienced it than start over again today.

Since both geography and the bounds of human decency keep me from lashing out at this woman the way I would like to, I would add here for any teenage girls who happen to stumble across: I'm so sorry. This totally the worst time in your life. I get it, I really do. You have to get up really early and spend all day learning a lot of stuff you won't ever use, surrounded by a lot of people who can be really, really mean. And the adults around you... well, a lot of them don't get that it sucks. A few do, but they are few and far between, and their hands are tied by all sorts of regulations and rules and they're crazy busy and overworked. And a lot of stuff like, oh, watching out for the kind of non-violent but insanely cruel mental warfare that only teenage girls can inflict with such brutality... well, it gets lost in the shuffle. I totally get why you think life sucks. If I had to do that all over again, I would think life sucked, too.

So take this lesson from your Big Sis EJ to heart: right now it sucks, but it gets so much better. I promise! People start to chill out around your junior year of high school, and from there it's only a short time until college. And you can be anything you want in college! Experiment with bisexuality and Republican politics in the same year! Go to Italy on study abroad and make out with a European dude! Take Psych 101 and later tell all your roommates about how sad the monkey experiment was!

And then you go to work, where they have rules about the people you spend your days with being awful bitches to one another (unless you work in fashion, media or in politics, in which case... well, good luck). Trust me, your harried seventh-grade homeroom teacher has nothing on a Human Resources department.

Just hold on, and know that everyone-- and I do mean everyone-- is secretly terrified that they are weird and abnormal and strange and that everyone else knows it.

Oh, and my own little contribution besides posting here? I forwarded this to a friend who forwarded it to this guy. Who wrote this. And yes, there is some kind of poetic justice in that the internet, the same medium, they used to destroy this girl, is the same tool that is going to hold them accountable.

Monday, November 12, 2007

anatomy of an unsuccessful booty call

Step 1: Attend multiple parties, overdrinking cheap red wine all the while, before ending up at a sex toy party.

Step 2: Spend money you do not have on items of dubious morality. Later, you will blame your subsequent credit card bill on the combination of said red wine, peer pressure and a surprisingly persuasive saleswoman. For the time being, giddily compare your new purchases with those of your other friends.

Step 3: Cab to Adams Morgan.

Step 4: Adams Morgan hideously Adams Morgan-y. No one should have to deal with two consecutive nights of drunken AU sophomores, Amstel Lite and Fergie. Split.

Step 5: Decide new purchases warrant immediate testing. Mull over who to call in for help with said testing: Option A or Option B. Decide it's too soon for Option A, text Option B.

Step 6: Exchange increasingly R-rated series of texts with Option B. Option B being obnoxiously recalcitrant, expressing concern about the wisdom of the acts being proposed and wondering "if this is such a good idea." Get very frustrated. Hello! Trying to make a stupid but entertaining decision here! Now is not the time to develop a protective concern for emotional well-being!

Step 7: Get very salty and belligerent that Option B did not immediately drop his plans and hoof it over to your apartment. Stumble back into apartment, pour self another glass of wine, keep CFM boots on in case Option B does get his act together and come over right away.

Step 8: Receive text: "are u going to be up for a while?" Think to yourself "hell to the nawh!" Text back never to mind, manage to remove CFM boots, pass out on couch watching Dazed and Confused.

Step 9: Option B upgrades to calling: "are you sure you don't want me to come over?" Respond curtly that the moment has passed and slap your phone shut.

Step 10: Briefly consider Option A again, but quickly remind yourself that no, the only idea worse than Option B right now would be Option A.

Step 11: Receive text from Option B apologizing for being lame. Saucily respond that he should be, you were at a sex toy party earlier in the night. Smile as you picture the expression on his face when he reads this text.

Step 12: Don't acknowledge next text from Option B, though it has moved into decidedly X-rated territory. He had his chance earlier.

Now, where did you put the triple-A batteries?

Friday, November 09, 2007

and don't even think about wearing your ironic hipster burqa to class

To: The Female Student Body of The Education Corporation

From: EJ, Associate Provost for Unsolicited Opinions, Office of the Prevention of Questionable Fashion

Re: The Keffiyeh as Accessory

Dear Women of the Education Corporation,

It has come to our attention that a significant portion of you have recently been wearing keffiyeh as an accessory, most commonly as a scarf. On a recent stroll around campus, no less than five of you were spotted with keffiyeh jauntily wrapped around your necks. Of this pool, all subjects were also wearing leggings, three subjects were wearing Ugg or Ugg-esque boots and one subject was sporting a sweatshirt bearing the Greek letters for a Jewish sorority, a juxtaposition that caused at least one Corporation administrator to ask her companion "Am I actually seeing this, or did an IED just go off in my brain?"

The administration of the Education Corporation cannot condone such wardrobe choices on the part of its student body.

You students may well have "had, like, a totally spiritual experience" while on your birthright trips over the summer. However, the fact that you once spent a day on a kibbutz with other nineteen-year-olds from Syosset does not mean you may, with any authenticity or credibility, wear keffiyeh on your person. That you purchased the keffiyeh at Urban Outfitters, alongside a $32 Transformers t-shirt, does not help your case.

We are prepared to offer case-by-case exceptions to individuals who can demonstrate that they are of Palestinian origin and/or express a sophisticated identification with and sympathy for the PLO. Moreover, the administration of the Education Corporation is sensitive to the fact that college is a time to try on new identities, often with varying degrees of success. To that end, we remain sympathetic to any undergraduate who allows his or her daily behavior, personality and approach to personal hygiene to be affected by any of the following:

Ayn Rand
Clove cigarettes
Jean-Paul Sartre
The entire oeuvre of Ingmar Bergman. And Lasse Hallstrom. Basically, Swedish cinema in general
Immanuel Kant
Che Guevara
The belief that Communism could be a valid method of social and political organization, it's just that it hasn't yet been adopted under the proper circumstances

The Education Corporation has a tradition of success of ending unfortunate trends in neckwear, most notably bringing to a close the Great Burberry Plague of 2001-2004. We now appeal to your common sense, asking you to recognize that by en masse donning a symbol of anti-establishment rebellion, you drain the keffiyeh of all its political and social significance. Plus, you look stupid.

We wish you the best of luck with the end of the semester, and look forward to seeing your more culturally-sensitive accessories in the New Year.