Monday, January 30, 2006

either/or, baby

CNN is reporting that playwright Wendy Wasserstein passed away today from complications due to lymphoma. She, along with Christopher Durang and Neil LaBute, is one of my favorite playwrights. I still remember the first time I read The Heidi Chronicles and how deeply it affected me. My copy is now dog-eared and stained with drops of red wine from late-night readings, but her characters never fail to make me do that gesture I picked up from my mother-- the one where, even though nobody is around, I open my eyes wide, grab at my heart and go "mmmph!"

Wendy Wasserstein wrote about complicated, intelligent women who refused to settle for less than they felt they deserved and the various prices they paid for it. She acknowledged that education and hard work bring new sets of compromises to make, that women who strive for success may well feel stranded. Her work was bittersweet brave and deeply rooted in often-unpleasant truths. She not only identified the compromises some people make, but she asked why they had to be made in the first place. By writing critically about feminism, she made it stronger.

This weekend I read a fascinating interview with National Review editor Kate O'Beirne. She's making the rounds to promote Women Who Make the World Worse, an unnecessarily provacative book that asks, among other questions, "did feminism make the world better? Or even, better for women?" Now, I could do without her namecalling, and she engages in a classic right-wing oversimplification and distortion of complex arguments (overly litigious society => we were better off before there were any sexual harassment laws on the books). She shoots herself in the foot when she suggests that if we want American women in the armed services then we should train our sons to hit little girls. And don't you think it's time we all stop writing about Sex and the City as if it were social gospel instead of a canceled fantasy television show?

But! But but but. O'Beirne asks some big scary questions that every woman, really every person who cares about social progress in America should be asking. We shouldn't be scared to examine feminism, or the civil rights movement or the gay rights movement and ask "What did we do wrong? What did we do right? How can we make day-to-day life better?" Too many people are so invested in the success of these movements that they are afraid to step back and examine them with a critical eye.

We were lucky to have as brilliant an artist as Wendy Wasserstein examining these questions for us. I think the best way to honor her legacy is to keep looking for answers.

Heidi: Well, I have a daughter. And I've never been particularly maternal. I'm not real practiced at sharing. But, Scoop, there's a chance, just a milli-notion, that Pierre Rosenbaum and Judy Holland will meet in a plane over Chicago. And Pierre will tell her his father named him for a Canadian prime minister, and she'll say she was almost named for someone who sang "My Boyfriend's Back." And he'll never tell her it's either/or, baby. And she's never think she's worthless unless he let her have it all. And maybe, just maybe, things will be a little better. And, yes, that does make me happy. - The Heidi Chronicles

the war on malaise

malaise \muh-LAYZ; -LEZ\, noun:
1. A vague feeling of discomfort in the body, as at the onset of illness.
2. A general feeling of depression or unease.

A bunch of academics got together and somehow determined that January 24th is the most depressing day of the year. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the entire last two weeks of January, and the first couple of days of February, are thoroughly, scratchingly, oppressively yech. That's right, I nouned an excited utterance. And oh yeah, I verbed "noun." Winter Doldrums mean one gets to take liberties with grammar.

What contributes to the yechness is that there are a lot of distractions that should take away from the yech. I've seen both Match Point and The New World, and loved them both. I'm reading a very interesting biography of Queen Caroline, who I'd never heard of but is turning out to be a fascinating individual. I'm finally getting my lazy ass back to the gym, fighting the hordes of sofie-clad sophomore girls for access to the elliptical, and it's beginning to pay off. It's been freakishly warm and I've taken long walks around my neighborhood, a place I adore living.

But documenting these little joys, and the larger joys of friends and family, right now just makes the yech more intense. It feels forced and not a little pathetic, the equivalent of an Oprah-inspired to-do list of happiness. Well-intentioned but inadequate.

I know what the problem is. It's not January, but the re-evaluating we do in the new year. It's That Which We Do Not Blog About. It's work. Not my specific job (although heaven knows there are issues there). It's something much more than that. It's that I've been looking for something new for two months now and have come across almost nothing that inspires or excites me. It's that, reading over the job duties for positions that would be a logical next step for me, I actively cringe. Bored workers make career changes all the time, but when well-meaning people ask me what I want to do, I have absolutely no answer. No cause that interests me, no activities I can get enthusiastic for. In short, no passion.

And it's not like I haven't been trying to recapture passion for a long time. Oh, I've been a good little soldier in the war on malaise. All the stuff you read in Carolyn Hax's column: "get involved in your community, meet new people, pursue new hobbies." Good lord, the number of people I've met and people I've been since I got back from Europe! I've been so open to newness and potential, but I still haven't encountered passion.

So? What's the problem with that? Most people don't have passion for what they do. Most people don't expect work to fulfill them. Look, I wish that I didn't demand to love my work. It would make life a lot easier if I could be okay with a white-collar cubicle job that has a certain measure of security and a decent atmosphere. It would make life a lot easier if I could be fine with being in a tolerable, if mediocre situation. If I could just shut up and be thankful for what I have, which, let's face it, ain't that awful. I've had awful; this ain't it.

But look, you have to get passion from somewhere. I no longer expect somebody else to provide it for me. Honestly, I never really did. You count on someone else to make you happy, you're inevitably going to be disappointed. They let you down, they go away, circumstances get in the way of good intentions. Work-- that's something I can control at least a little bit. With work, I am in some capacity capable of making myself happy. I can hear a voice (my mother's) saying it's childish and naive to expect so much from work, but I know that there are people who, even if they have bad days, genuinely love what they do for a living. I look at these people and think "and why not me?" Expecting so much is one of my most endearing and most obnoxious traits.

Historically, I've been really good at making Big Life Changes. I didn't hesitate for a second to move across the country for college and the happiest I've ever been was when I quit my job and backpacked. I'm not scared to change course and take risks, in large part because I have a really good safety net. At the same time, I don't take unnecessary leaps. I never pursued a childhood dream job because I knew I didn't have it in me to succeed at it. I'm a Nazi about paying off my credit card in full. I balance risk with reward, but once I determine to take a course of action I go at it.

If I had really big cojones, I'd leave this job that makes me miserable, wait tables and pursue a new goal that I've just begun to articulate. It's a big reach, huge competition, low pay and impractical for many reasons. It's scary to admit that I want something extraordinary. Saying it out loud, even to people who are nothing but supportive, means that it's documented that I want something I may not get. I've defined a goal that I might not reach and that makes me vulnerable. And there is nothing I hate more than being vulnerable. Well, except for people who use the phrase "grown as a person." They make me BONKERS.

But oh my God, does it feel good to have a goal again! And I really think I might be good at this new idea. Maybe good enough to someday make a living from it. I know the odds of success at it, but I also know that there are plenty of people who make it work for them. I look at those people and think "and why not me?" I hope that I am always able to look at this scenario and see opportunity, not overwhelming obstacles.

One Augustiner-soaked night in Munich, I wrote this in my travel journal: "The world is bigger than I'd ever imagined, but also infinitely more manageable than I'd been taught."

Clichés are such because they have truth in them.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

This entry will so fuck with my Sitemeter

"Aaron Carter"

"Boy frosting"

"Hawaiian Donkey Punch"

"Michael Clarke Duncan"

"Naked lap dances"

Since I'm too lazy to write a regular post, try to guess the category that all these team names came from during Quizzo last night.

Monday, January 23, 2006

pants, not yelling

On the Red Line during this morning's commute: a group of Roe v. Wade protestors, complete with a little boy hoisting a "Would You Abort Me?" cardboard sign. Because nothing says "family-friendly vacation" like "bitter, divisive political demonstrations at the Supreme Court." It's Disneyland for the loud and socially conservative!

On the New York City subway yesterday: No Pants 2K6. Improv actors riding from Brooklyn sans pantalon.

I so live in the wrong town.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Johnny Lingo Day

I absolutely believe in signs.

Not necessarily booming voices from the sky or grilled cheese sandwhiches bearing the images of saints. But I do sincerely believe that the universe is capable of registering its approval or disapproval for a course of action one has decided. Have you ever been walking down the street feeling full of yourself, practically prancing with self-importance from acing a tough assignment or looking especially good, only to trip over something you didn't see because you were strutting? That's the universe telling you chill out; you're not THAT great.

Walking to yet another first date last night, I decided that if this one didn't go well, I was done for a while. After Snooty French Guy, Alcoholic Guy, Only Talked About His Marathons Guy, Homophobic Episcopalian Minister's Son Guy, Insane Tattoo Guy and the rest of them, I'm. Just. Tired. I simply cannot have any more boring first date conversations with strangers. It never leads anywhere and I don't see my friends enough as it is. I'd much rather hang out with them than some random dude who has the potential to turn out to be a huge troll.

"But EJ," you say, "couldn't he also turn out to be a fascinating, kind, brilliant individual whom you would wish to date for long periods of time and have phenomenal sex with?"

Touche, dear reader. Perhaps you are right. Still, it's time to start focusing on the "have realistic expectations" part of my New Year's resolution, not the "keep eyes open for something extraordinary" part. The latter should be merely a reminder, while the former is an operating philosophy.

So, as I'd somewhat expected, last night was a bust. I can deal with a Bush administration employee, a guy who isn't over his ex and a guy who is still shell-shocked from Katrina. However, the combination of all three traits in one individual is too much for me. Thank you, I'm sure you're a good guy, but no. Nonononono.

I woke up about 8:30 this morning, freakishly early for EJ on a Saturday, filled with a renewed sense of purpose. Do I clean my car, which I've been putting off for about a year? Do I finally finish reading Sense and Sensibility? Do I go to Eastern Market in my fuzzy new purple fleece and buy overpriced organic vegetables for an exotic homemade dinner?

I never wake up with energy, especially so early, and was a little freaked out. I surfed channels for a bit to warm up to the day and HOLY CRAP. There it was on one of my kejillion movie channels: The Legend of Johnny Lingo.

Johnny Lingo was legendary at my high school. They would announce Johnny Lingo Day over the PA system with the kind of gleeful voice that's usually reserved for announcing state football championships. Johnny Lingo is a really goofy Mormon-financed movie about Johnny Lingo, the greatest trader in the South Pacific. He leaves his island to go make his fortune, but first promises that he will come back for Mahana, the plain and poor girl who nobody wants to marry. When he does come back, he is rich beyond anyone on the island and he pays EIGHT COWS to marry Mahana. Suddenly *POOF* Mahana brushes her hair and smiles, and she's GORGEOUS.

Every student had to take a state-mandated health and well-being class as sophomores, and every class watched Johnny Lingo. Since it was one of the few universal experiences for every student in that enormous suburban warehouse, it attained a legendary status, even though the acting is beyond wooden and the production values are comparable to the home movie versions of fairy tales my cousin Katherine rewrites so that her largely stationary infant daughter plays all the main roles. Johnny Lingo is supposed to be all about self-esteem and having inner strength and goodness, and in turn bringing out the best in others by having faith in them.

This morning, watching this movie with twentysomething eyes, I could not BELIEVE that they showed this crap to teenagers. Basically, it's saying that Mahana needs a man to believe in her in order to bring out her inner strength and beauty. But what would she have done if Johnny Lingo had met a hotter island girl while trading seashells, or gotten eaten by a shark on the open seas? Was she just supposed to sit around and wait for a guy to give her father a bunch of cows before she got her shit together? If they really wanted to have an inspirational movie, maybe Mahana could have gotten off her ass, caught some fish and run a goddamned comb through her hair while Johnny was off sailing (and do not even get me started on the idea of navigating the Pacific Ocean in THAT handmade canoe).

Like eighty percent of what I learned in high school, Johnny Lingo is irrelevant bollocks. What are the odds that it would be on TV this morning, this one morning that I happened to be awake before noon, after making a resolution to myself? Signs, dear reader. Universe is full of them.

And damn if I'm waiting around for someone to pay eight cows for me.

Friday, January 20, 2006

C'est aujourd'hui grand fete

One of my favorite not-so-secret sites to check is's Daily Download. It always delights me when I see a guilty favorite of mine (The Bacon Brothers, anyone?) being given love by the highbrow folks over at Salon, and it's a really good way to get free music I've never heard before. I used to download a lot of stuff from Pitchfork and Stereogum, but now they basically carry the exact same music, and are on such a neverending quest to out-hipster one another that when I browse them I feel as though an invisible electronic hand will soon tap my shoulder, whispering "and who let you in here?"

But Salon is great. All of the loony Swedish folk music with none of the early-High Fidelity tedium. Might I recommend Keith Murphy "C'est Aujourd'hui Grande Fête?" Really a lovely choice for a sunny January weekend that will reach 65 degrees.

C'est aujourd'hui grand fete on prendra bien un coup/D'avoir
une maitresse qui boit de ce bon vin le soir et le matin

Allons se promener avec celle qu'on aime/On s'assoit sur l'arbette
pour ecouter chanter le rossignol d'ete

Ce joli chant d'oiseau nous invite la belle/A parler d'amourettes
a l'ombre du hameau il n'y a rien d'aussi beau

A quoi pense-tu donc, tu pense au mariage/Tu crois prendre une femme pour etre
ton support mais tu te ferras tort

C'est aujourd'hui grand fete on prendra bien un coup/D'avoir une maitresse qui boit de ce bon vin le soir et le matin

I have no idea what it means (something about a waitress?), but doesn't everything sound better in French?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

esprit de l'escalier

It was great seeing you all at Mackey's last night! Alas, I don't have any pictures (stupid camera with its 13-second shutter delay), but from my view it appeared as though a good time was had by all. Special thanks to Kathryn for organizing!

I ran into someone on the Metro the other night who I'm not a huge fan of. Frankly, he's not that huge a fan of me either, but we have a lot of friends in common and so play nice. As we were waiting for the Green Line he mentioned that he heard I was blogging a lot lately.

"No more than usual," I replied.

"But you like it?" he asked. "You enjoy strangers reading your thoughts?" He has one of those Secret Jobs We Don't Talk About and is very good at propelling conversations away from himself. If you're not careful, you'll wind up telling this guy your life story and never learn anything about him. He also has a way of making benign things seem somehow icky.

"I suppose so," I said. I was not in the mood to play ball.

"Well, I gotta ask," he said, "why don't you just keep a journal? Why put it all out there where it can get you in trouble?"

I gave my stock, self-depricating answer: "Narcissism, of course."

What I really should have said was "Because I never would have met all these really cool, brave, witty, smart people if I was just writing for myself. They're an incredibly fun and welcoming group of writers and I learn from them and am inspired by them. And I feel very lucky that I'm able to call them friends."

Esprit de l'escalier,
kids. Use it in a sentence today. And thanks for a great time!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Question of the Day:

So Eric and I are throwing ourselves a Bar/Bat Mitzvah for our mutual birthday party. We are both WASPs; this is a celebration of both Ironic Judaism (so hot for 2006) and the fact that we spent way too many weekends as middle schoolers drinking mocktails and doing the limbo as our peers became men and women, while we languished in Protestant childhood.

But I digress. So, is this cake

a) tasteless/tacky/how could you possibly eat a Torah-shaped confection at your birthday party?
b) fabulous/tacky/you MUST eat a Torah-shaped confection at your birthday party!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

weekend by numbers

60- Total dollars spent in Ironic Urban Bowling at Lucky Strike on Friday. Don't get me wrong, it was a lot of fun. Bowling always is. However, I can enjoy non-ironic suburban bowling just as much. I do not require plasma TV screens showing scenes from A Clockwork Orange above my pins, as if to calm the delicate hipster nerves: "It's okay to bowl! See Alex de Large? He makes this ironic, and you're still cool."

24- Years old Miss Becky is today. Happy Birthday, Miss Becky!

27- Excellent "Becky as a child" stories we heard from Robin, her mother, at dinner last night. As a small child, Becky was in a dance recital where her partner had to keep kicking her to make her dance, because all she wanted to do was stand on stage in her fluffy pink tutu and sing along to the song ("Somewhere Out There" from An American Tail, in case you were wondering).

1- Number of moms who made it to last call at St. Ex last night. Robin is the wind beneath my wings. She was awesome. My mom would have had four cosmopolitans, done the White Man's Overbite in the middle of the floor and punked out by midnight. Well done, Robin. I salute you.

3- Times I was forced to rebuff "Marc" while his cute friend, who was so much more my type, lingered in the background. This is a situation I have never really mastered-- what do you do when the guy you actually want to talk to is the buddy of the guy who incessantly hits on you? Common sense says to just leave them both behind, since the guy you like is not going to step all over his buddy once he's "staked his claim" (unless it's one of those really nasty pissing-contest-type situations wherein you are not so much a person to be talked to or even a hot girl to pick up but a faceless prize in a neverending competition that has nothing to do with you). But it still sucks-- the other guy was totally my type. Tall, thinnish but not skinny, white, with cute but not overly precious glasses. I so go for that.

2- Rank of the line "So, are you a gold digga?" on my List of Top Five Lame Pickup Lines.

78- Dollars spend on as-yet-unidentified part for my car. Necessary, though, after:

1- Flat tires and spectacular wipeouts in Chinatown on Friday night. It's been a long week. I really could have done without that.

1- Number of Big Important Things I'm Not Supposed to Know I accidentally discovered on Friday. No, I'm not writing about it in more detail than that. The people involved have specifically said "don't blog about this."

2- Number of really melodramatic, slightly drunk, entirely self-pitying blog posts I wrote and somehow had the sense to keep in Draft mode.

97- Imagined percentage of the film budget for Tommy that was spent on mind-altering substances. I'm watching that movie as I type this entry, and My. God. In. Heaven. What were these people on???? It's noon on a sunny Sunday, I'm not even a touch hungover and I'm freaking out. And we haven't even gotten to the part where Tommy starts playing pinball, much less the part where Ann-Margaret starts rolling around in the baked beans that shoot out of the broken television. I think I'm going to go read some Jane Austen in Eastern Market just to chill out a little. Wait, is that Jack Nicholson? And is he singing? AM I REALLY HERE? IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING??

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

First rule about Half-Pint is that we don't TALK about Half-Pint

I so love that Netflix's Top Recommendations to me (based on movies I've watched and that are in my queue) are:

1) Little House on the Prairie, Season Three

2) Fight Club

emily's reasons why she's having an extra glass of wine tonight

EJ: don't you just want to CUT every woman on TBS tonight
Jen: cut them deep.
EJ: i am exercising my right to be in a foul mood tonight
EJ: all day long i've wanted to kick other people
EJ: i wanted to kick this girl was walking outside union station with ugg boots under her suit
Jen: perfectly reasonable
EJ: and then i wanted to kick the girl behind her because her shoes were better than mine
Jen: it's all about shoes with you today
EJ: oh no, i've wanted to kick people for lots of reasons
EJ: i wanted to kick this woman for holding up the line at the metro escalator
EJ: and then i realized she was blind
EJ: and i wanted to kick myself for being a bitch
Jen: you're going to hell.
EJ: and i wanted to kick the girl who i followed to her car in the crowded harris teeter parking lot who then waved me off and SAT IN HER CAR ON HER CELL PHONE
EJ: and i wanted to kick [name redacted for dooce-related reasons] for being a [vile epithets and graphic name-calling, ibid.]
EJ: and i wanted to kick the cat i'm cat-sitting for because he has a freakishly prominent spinal cord and a really annoying meow
EJ: and i wanted to kick mom for not having her cell phone for the last 5 days
EJ: man, this feels really good
Jen: i'm glad for you
EJ: and i ALWAYS want to kick daisy
Jen: every day.
EJ: that cunt
EJ: oh, and i want to kick heather graham for having a sucky show that is a pg-rated wannabe sex and the city that MAKES ALL SINGLE GIRLS WHO COME HOME FROM A CRAPPY DAY AT WORK WITH THEIR GROCERY BAGS TO BE GREETED ONLY BY THEIR CATS FEEL LIKE THE MOST TRAGIC CLICHE EVER
Jen: oh, em
Jen: things are not that tragic
Jen: you have to try really hard to be "Heather Graham's reason's why not" tragic
EJ: no, i'm just having a woe-is-me day
Jen: to which you are entitled
EJ: better to bring out the big guns of crap single-girl-in-the-city TV and get it all out at once
EJ: by the way, i'm blogging this

Saturday, January 07, 2006

why on this night do we finally realize life is pretty damn good after all?

I had one of those nights last night where it's made clear that God, or whatever happens to frolic in the sky and play with our silly mortal lives, is still at least a little bit on my side. That despite the baby spit-up and jogging fall that left me scraped and bruised and a work situation that makes me want to staple things to my head (or maybe someone else's head), that I'm actually really lucky. Some twentysomethings stumble through life without being part of an Urban Family. I have two. What did I do to deserve such excellent friends? Because I want to keep on doing it.

Plans for the Birthday Bar Mitzvah are coming along swimmingly. Hold February 11 for all semi-tasteless festivities. L'chaim!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

like pollyanna, only with mild profanity

The Lord giveth: I have an interview I'm very excited for on Monday.

The Lord taketh away: Riding the Red Line while running work errands this afternoon, a baby spit up on me.

But I brought GYM CLOTHES today. HAH. Didn't see that one coming, did you, you all-knowing smartass? Gym clothes, as in "I get to wear a 'GW Football: Undefeated' t-shirt and pilly black running pants for the rest of the day and my boss can't say anything about it." See? I WILL find some good in this divine attempt to wreck my afternoon.

And though I will no doubt be visited by a plague of locusts or be enslaved by the Egyptians for my heresy, here's my response to God for attempting to overshadow the best news I've gotten all week: NYAH-NYAH-NYAH-NYAH-NYAH.

God, you cannot barf on my parade.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

a slightly delayed but entirely serious christmas wish

Dear Internet,

Please help me find a new job. Preferably one that does not involve nudity or personality cults. Thank you!

Your friend,