Burning the past, Predicting the future

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I am going to write a book. I’m going to write a best selling autobiography. It’s the next “Eat Pray Love.” It’s “Growing Up” by Russel Banks. It’s an Indian “Wonder Years”. I’m going to stun the world with my quixotic turns of fate, heart ache and ultimate transcendence. I am just waiting for that transcendence.  But when it comes, I will be ready. Because I’ve chronicled my life you see. I’ve written in pain staking prose, day after day, what I wish for and hope for. I’ve cried and wept over hundreds of thick grained, acid free, bound by resin and stamped with a moleskin logo black leather bound notebooks. Because I’m a writer damn it. And one day, I’ll get to write my story. And I’ll have all these captured moments to help me tell it.  And most probably one to two poorly paid, dreaming they too will be writers, graduate school assistants to go through said notebooks for me to pick out the good parts.

These note books stand about two feet high. The take up a shelf in my closet. They are filled with tightly packed prose. With thought exercises and detailed descriptions of the life I would like to have versus the life I did have in that moment.  I could write my own Judy Blume novel, as every other entry contains a beseeching letter to the divine, demanding to know why I have not gotten what I want. There are a lot about what I don’t have versus what I want. Because I can be very demanding and very whiny.  Sometimes the letters are thanking God. Lots of times they are asking him what the hell is wrong with me or my family or my friends or my boss or the world around.

Sometimes they tell stories. The stories are often sad. The good ones (in retrospect) are those of me being acting out and doing things that you should not do to succeed and get what you want. Like telling my boss at BuzzFeed that I had just called the head of North American Media at Facebook who said I could attend the publishers’ executives meeting and I was coming with her whether she wanted me to or not. (This is why I can no longer work in corporations.)

The happy ones are written in a mad dash, the letters are nearly flat on the page, racing to get out. Because happy moments then felt fleeting, and I needed to try to capture it and cement the feeling  of a memory  as it gusted through me.

And there are sad ones.  Ones where I am fighting with my parents. And ones where I am mourning lost love. Or wondering when a new one will come by.  I write about loneliness, and I still cried reading through it because that is one companion I have not been able to leave behind.

The journals start in 2009 right after my job covering the Obama campaign for NBC and take me through wondering what’s next, the decision to go to business school and the year at Cambridge.  They talk about friends and relationships that I’ve lost touch with and who are now simply memories.  The notebooks follow me back home to the States and a painful period of depression and confusion, wondering if I had made the right choices. One notable entry that struck me. In August of 2011, my goals were: “get up on time in the morning, bathe, get to work on time and be in a calm and positive state of mind as I start work.”  Talk about low bars.

It chronicles the effort I put in to pull myself out of that depression; to buy an apartment and living with my sister in a cramped basement studio in Hells Kitchen determined to save money.  I tell the story of finding my job at BuzzFeed and establishing myself in the publishing industry, building my reputation, ecstatically chronically the moments of success with wildly scrawled “thank you, thank you, THANK YOUS” all over the page.  I assume I was thanking fate, and God and all that is good that leads to ecstatic success.  It begins to tell the story of feeling a tiny spark to do something on my own and you can see it alight and get brighter on each page.  I shed friendships and gain new ones. I go through guy after guy, never finding the right one.  And I keep writing.

They tell a story.

And so today, I burned them.

Actually I burned a page from each one, and I took the ashes and let Jonas sweep them away from me into the blustery streets of Bushwick.  I then carried two armfuls of notebooks to the garbage chute and dumped them in there.  Not pausing, looking back or worrying about what I’d left behind.  I let myself keep only two. One that tells the story of the first year of trying to start Social Data Collective. And a second which had two things that surprised me.

  • An entry dated March 20th, 2016 (weird huh) describing one of the best and most successful days I had at BuzzFeed. But the way the entry is written it could be describing almost any major event or day — because it describes the feelings of celebrating and success. And reading it, I felt successful and exhilarated.
  • The message in the photo below: “The Universe Rewards Speed” and “Action + Speed = Manifestation”  — a message I need to hear NOW.

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As for the rest, I would like to write the Indian “Wonder Years.” But then I wouldn’t really be writing about my own life. I would be mixing and recreating memory to write an idealized version of what life could have been. Just like all those notebooks spent so much time describing what they wanted life to become.

How To Drink All The FREE Pumpkin Spice Lattes You Want This Fall

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pumpkin-spice-latte

Free Starbucks? Sounds too good to be true? It’s not. Here’s why.

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Shotgun Wedding

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As I got ready to go out last night, I was putting on some lipstick (unnecessary for what I was about to do really) and looked at myself and saw this forlorn look of hope, anxiety, a dash of desperation. Is this what it feels like to really want to get married I wondered? To need a partner so you can have all the other good stuff that comes with it — kids, security, that intangible standing in society, someone to come home to? I’ve never wanted that. But I know now what it means to put aside any kind of idealism or hopes of grand collaboration to just find someone.

I need a partner.  Not the kind you marry. But the kind you do business with.

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Since I decided to go it solo and work on a start-up, I’ve been told that I have to have a co-founder. No one funds single founders anymore, especially a woman without a technical background.  I’m now at an accelerator, which I managed to get into with neither a product, funding or a co-founder.  But its time to pay the piper.

There are about 17 companies in the accelerator, and we are accountable for reaching certain milestones.   Guess what one of mine are?  The founders meet once a week to discuss their issues and share advice.  Guess what my issue is week after week?

I sound like a cd that’s skipping in those meetings.  I’m on staccato repeat. That whiny friend who can’t get a date.  And strangely this feels like dating to me.  The idea that you can find someone you can work well with, build something with, spend countless hours together and not want to kill feels as ephemeral as the smoke from the cigarettes I puff laying on my deck feeling like I should just give up.

But I can’t. I don’t want to fail before I’ve even started. So I’m ready to sign on the dotted line with a stranger who a CTO at one of the fellow start-ups in the accelerator companies tells me is brilliant.

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***

We meet at the first avenue subway stop, and head on a long trek to find sushi.  On the way there I probe, question after question to figure out who my would be partner really is.  Brilliant – definitely. Are we a fit to work together? I have no fucking clue.

We end up in a crowded sushi restaurant by Cooper Union. I’m not hungry. Don’t feel like drinking, and there’s no room to pull out my laptop. So we keep talking about his background. I have a picture of who this person is. We talk about everything, except my startup and the ideas for it, and the vision for it, and all the things I feel like we should be talking about.  There are pauses.  I wonder if he’s meeting me to be polite or does he have any actual interest in this idea? I felt like we had more business ideas and chemistry in our fifteen minute phone conversation than we do sitting across the table from each other.

I finally ask, “So if you came on board, would you be able to build anything even if you don’t have a mobile background?”

“I wouldn’t do much building. I think you need to find a full stack mobile developer to come on board to work with you. And I can help you do that.”

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Sigh. I’m relieved, but also disappointed. Mostly in myself. I need to raise money. And I can’t do that until I have a team.  And someone is better than no one. The fellow founders at the accelerator have told me stories of breaking up with multiple co-founders. It happens. You keep going.  I never thought I was the one with commitment issues, but this process has shown me that I clearly have them.

I have gotten so used to running solo – I’ve worked independently now for four years since business school in every role I’ve had.  As a journalist, I almost always had solo projects.  The best team experiences I’ve ever had were in b-school, and it was easy to put teams together for the projects I cared about.  Of course there were ups and downs.  Thinking back there’s only one person I would definitely want to work with again, and I think that says as much about me as much as it does about all the other teammates I’ve had.

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There’s no such thing as a perfect collaborator or business partner. Just like there’s no such thing as a perfect soulmate.  I feel like we all compromise on some level about something, any partnership if it’s to continue requires that.

I need to take the plunge. Dive into some ice. Drive to Vegas. And sign away some equity in a shotgun wedding. Whatever happens next is going to be a roll of the dice.  But then isn’t the point of starting a business all about risk?

How to Pick a Up a Douchebag in Patrick Bateman’s NY Circa Le Bain 2013

How to Pick a Up a Deusch Bag in Patrick Bateman’s NY Circa Le Bain 2013

My favorite scene in American Psycho is the one where they compare the various whites of their business cards. I like the white on white background of cards against crisply ironed tablecloth, framed by gleaming silverware and with a row of dark suited, immaculately groomed automatons making banal remarks.  It’s choreographed and designed to perfection and so easy to make fun of.  These bankers may be wealthy but they are paper cut-outs, indistinguishable and replaceable with each other.

But there’s another side to wealth and glamour and money and privilege, the kind that makes you go, “Damn, this doesn’t look bad.  I could do this.  Where do I sign up?”  It’s the

Enter Le Bain at the Standard – a rooftop bar with fake plastic grass (the kind you find at mini golf courses), $14 cocktails, and enough Patrick Batemans per square foot to burry you in a flurry of ivory, off-white and cream business cards.

In comparison to the bankers at the restaurant in American Psycho Le Bain is vibrant hues – the men are wearing cranberry pink shorts and untucked pastel polos.  The girls are giddy, lines of clothing stick or flow – nothing is ironed or immaculate.  The adventurous ones lay full out on the grass holding a cigarette as if it’s a joint and blowing blissfully into the air – Bloomberg’s smoking bans be damned.  But let me note that it’s not a joint.

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There’s a girl with cascading waves of red hair and aviators looping her hands in the air as if she was at a rave – she could have been a model in a recruiting poster for Woodstock except that it’s 5 p.m. in the meatpacking district in Manhattan … and while there may be lines of coke in the bathroom there’s no one visibly shroomed out or high on anything besides nicotine and their own self-importance.

You ask, “Oh scornful one why are you here?”

My answer, “I have no fucking clue.”

Somewhere in me there are two people – one who desperately wants to have a concave bare to the world tummy and wear a fluorescent yellow bandeau bra with wayfarer raybans and have bottle blond hair and take the attention seeking from the potentially Patrick Bateman-esque deusch in cranberry colored shorts very seriously.  There is a part of me that wants this. There is a part of me that grew up in Connecticut after all.

There’s also a part of me that says, “This would make the best blog ever, and I can walk around here and feel superior and smarter and know that I am not one of these women who will date and then be subsequently divorced by guy in cranberry shorts for the next generation of long-haired bandeau wearing hotties. This is the part of me that got me through high school (and middle school) in Connecticut.

And then there’s the rationalization part that says, “It’s 93 degrees and humid in a city where you can’t crack the window open because the air that comes in will turn the window sill black from all the pollution. It’s called summer in NY for the peons that can’t afford the Hamptons, and yeah I’m willing to spend $14 and wait in line for twenty minutes for a pineapple margarita for the moderately cool breeze and fake grass of Le Bain on the roof of the Standard.  There’s a view – the skyline and the people – and I still have a faint hope that somewhere in that sea of untucked button down shirts and cranberry shorts there may be a normal guy.

And I get elbowed in the head – maybe not.

Gigi is all scorn.  She was scornful when I suggested Le Bain (though she agreed to come) and is scornful now, gasping from the gut at every passing comment that doesn’t meet her 800 verbal SAT score standard.  But she is still sashaying around in a red dress and white heels surveying the crowd – we both are.

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I still don’t have a good answer for why I wanted to come – there are rooftops in the Lower Eastside or the East Village or even the digiratti crowd at the Nomad or the Ace Hotel suits me better.  But it’s the Patrick Batemans and their women tonight, a world I’ve always looked into and couldn’t quite break through the glass to join – but do I even want to be here?

I cannot bring myself to want to talk to anyone – I feel intimated and out of place. The dude that elbowed me in line walked off and his friend expressed some contrition. I smiled, laughed it off and he nodded and kept walking.

But there are seats.  We rush over and grab a pair, and I look around bored.  The view’s gorgeous, the breeze is blowing, but I want a man. I want to flirt and laugh and not feel like this weird out of place Amazon.

Because I secretly am attracted to the Patrick Bateman types. I like men who like power, have passion, know what they want.  A guy just dumps a pitcher of cocktails on his head three feet from us – okay maybe Le Bain isn’t the cream of the crop place to find them.

I look around for an in, and there’s a group of guys more casual – wearing real t-shirts – laying around on the “grass” next to us and I reach over and ask for a cigarette.  A blond one, looks over at me and says, “Sure, but you have to tell me a joke first.”

Gigi and I look at each other – we cannot be funny on command.  “How about trivia?” I ask.

“Sure.”

“What scene out of a movie does this remind you of which was also a book where the writer talked about sweating bodies of flesh pressed against each other, trying to impress each other and oblivious to how fake it all was.” – Okay I know that wasn’t the total Bret Easton Ellis quote from American psycho but it was close enough.

We teased it out – wall street, eighties, he was getting into it throwing at random suggestions that showed he was a zygote born in the nineties.  When we finally told him American Psycho though, his face fell and shrugged.  “It might be fake, but you’re here anyway right?”

Indeed.

So on that note here are the top six ways to ensure you catch the guy in cranberry shorts, and an untucked button down shirt at a pretentious meat-packing rooftop club this summer.   Don’t deny it, you know you want to – hell I did. 

1.  Underwear is now outerwear as bandeau bras are a must have accessory, preferably with a long, loose drooping sleeveless that allows us to see both front and side-boob.

2.  Mid-riffs are preferably exposed and must be concave

3. Hair is long, blonde, red only if you want to be seen as an eccentric hippy and brunettes need a mandatory ombre.  Unless you’re South American, Asian or something else deemed as “exotic.”

4.  Work in a ‘cool’ industry – fashion, start-up potentially focused on fashion, media, social media, film. Drop the names of companies that make people go, “I love Tumblr” or “Nice…”  When I told cigarette boy where I worked, he stopped sulking about Patrick Bateman and got friendly again.

5. Smoke a cigarette and pretend it’s a joint, act stoned, act like its Woodstock in 1969 or rave in a wearhouse in the late 90s and you’re on “e.”  No one cares if you’re pretending, we’re all faking a story here.

6.  Be skinny, very very skinny.  See tip #2 about concave mid-riff.

7.  Assuage ego at all times – you are there to compliment, make people feel good and otherwise smile, grin and giggle.  Refrain from American Psycho references unless it’s to talk about how much you love bankers who are secretly serial killers – psychopaths do run Wall Street.

8.  Don’t get hung up on one guy. Use the male approach to hitting on women – if one is not interested move on to the next one.  Groups of men all wearing cranberry shorts and untucked button downs or polos have largely similar tastes – there’s not much differentiation there.

9.  Be willing to be a little messy drunk, stagger in heels and fall into someone – drunk girls are sillier, more fun and easily laid.  Do you want to be all these things with Mr. Cranberry shorts? Drink those cocktails!

10.  There’s always power in numbers – bring some girlfriends.  Even if you don’t get what you want you can laugh about it later.

When You’re As Old As The Characters On Sex and the City…

I was at dinner the other night with two friends I went to b-school with, and I dropped the o-bomb about fifteen times to the point where one of my dinner companions, said, “You’re Asian, you’re not going to age, you’re not old. You have a problem.”  I nodded my head. “I do, I do have a problem. I need to stop,” and I stared out the windows at the Europeans standing on the sidewalk smoking, and thought longingly of the Marlboros in my bag — the descent into spinsterhood with prune-y skin didn’t seem that far away.

The truth though is that I am old — I am old in the way that I never fucking thought I could get old. I’ve reached that threshold where the perception of an age and the reality of it have collided.  And all the things you thought and laughed at and assumed would happen have not. And it’s okay, but it’s also scary because you realize what you thought about this age and what you’re actually living are so wide apart.

It started with Sex and the City. I’d gone home over the past weekend to visit my parents and for the 30th anniversary celebration of my former dance teacher’s school.  Reruns were on Saturday night, and I was sitting on a bar stool in the kitchen watching:  Carrie was having an affair with Big; Samantha was getting tested for HIV;  Charlotte was looking for the perfect wedding dress; Miranda was flirting with some guy in a sandwich costume. They were beautifully dressed train wrecks.  But then right at the end of the episode, when Charlotte gets cold feet about her marriage, and the omniscient Carrie Bradshaw voice over kicks in I heard this line, “Charlotte was a 34-year-old bride in Manhattan…” and it stopped me cold.

There are two types of women who loved Sex and the City.  The first are the ones who do the tours, giggling, drunk and trying to snatch a bit of that gossamer illusion of glamour to take back with them to Lincoln, Nebraska.  The other type are the ones that see the story and roll their eyes  at these sex-crazed, luxury wearing lunatics.  We would never end up like them; we were too smart, too pretty, too capable.

But here I was – seven months from my 34th birthday, my mouth hanging open that the women portrayed on the show were actually supposed to be as old as me.  Where did the time go? And more importantly, where did all that savvy I knew I would have in my thirties when  I used to watch Sex and the City at the house we rented the summer after college go?

My life is closer to the women on that show than I care to admit.  At that moment I was contemplating going out with a guy who emailed out of the blue after a year, after I dropped him for standing me up on a date.  Why? Because I was bored and single and nothing else was going on.  My dad offering to pay for match.com  I would still vaguely think about ex-boyfriends gone past, wondering if it could have worked out.   And while the women on Sex and the City, at least always had their careers figured out, I had just committed a major work faux-paux and was tip-toeing around my boss like a teenager trying to sneak back into the house after their curfew.

At the event thrown by my old dance teacher, which had dozens of her students performing, a woman who had been a student with me  was surprisingly there in costume ready to dance. Impressed – I asked her how she pulled it off. She talked about practices via YouTube etc., and how hard it was to move in a way that she hadn’t in ten years.  It sounded 100 percent arthritic. But she danced, and then when they were honoring all the students they called them up one by one to be “shawled” (an Indian tradition showing respect) by our old teacher.  The year of the  last major performance of each dancer with the school was read.  The years were 2012, 2010, 2008, 2006…  But then, my fellow thirty-something was called, and the young MC said, “____ did her performance in 1996, woah!”

It may have well been 1896.

My mom and I looked at each other and giggled.  To be 33 to those young dancers, the ones in their early twenties or in college, was as intangible a concept as it was to me in 2002 watching these women in their early thirties flit around New York in their stilettos.  We belonged to a different era.

Coming home that night, sitting in my childhood home, watching women on a show I had put in a category as “never want to be” I cringed at the similarity.  I do feel a pressure to meet someone and get married, maybe that’s why I find it easier to call the guy that stood me up than search through pages and pages of profiles on match.com.  I don’t want to have to deal with the question of as my mother would put it, “catching him.”  I blow money on clothes and shoes and have a bank account as paltry as Carrie Bradshaws.  When Miranda finally saw the guy inside the sandwich costume, she walked away because he was too young.  That’s every time I go out in the East Village or the Lower East Side. One of the reasons, I like dating Europeans in New York is that they’re generally single and not zygotes. And like all of them, my judgment and taste has been questionable…

Like at this dinner, where I kept glancing sideways at my classmate who was in town from London. I had barely known him at school, but he was cute and as I mentioned I was bored.  Should I do this? Dinner ended.  The third member of our party went home, and we continued.   I took him to a nearby bar and introduced him to his first Manhattan — the bartender was so shocked that he’d never had one that he demanded to see both of our IDs … only in New York would this be considered sacrilegious. And of course gave me that weird, “Wow you’re older than I thought look after seeing the year.”

We sat across from each other at the bar, and I was smiling, the kind of wide drunk smile that goes from ear to ear. I sometimes can go for a whole day without smiling, but put me in front of a guy I’m into, and I’m the fucking Cheshire cat.  My hand was drumming on the table, as I was debating, should I lean over, put my hand on his arm, do I want to do this? Do I even need to think about it that much? Well, I’m neurotic, so the answer is yes, I do need to think about it that much — whether I’m 23 or 33.

And then he dropped the gf-bomb — ever so casually.  A friend in college once said, “A girlfriend is only an obstacle.”  And as I’ve seen from experience, the longer a guy takes to mention her, the smaller that obstacle is.  My pre-33-year-old-self would be selfish enough to not really care, depending on how I felt.  But my now-33-year-old-self didn’t want to be a plot in Sex and the City.

So I grinned, and he grinned, and I swirled the ice in my glass, clinked his and drained it.

“I should go.”  And I did,  a little wistful about not being quite as carefree but also determined.  I might be single, and have barely any savings, and not be quite sure where I want my life or work to go,  but I do not intend to be a desperate 34-year-old bride, willing to marry a man even if he can’t get it up.  Spoiler alert: Charlotte marries him, they can’t have sex, she has an affair with the gardner, the mother-in-law walks when they finally do have sex and then they get divorced.  Happily ever after.

I’m at the point where I couldn’t imagine crossing when I was younger, was there really a life after your thirty? And now I’m there, but have been operating under that younger self’s premise this entire time. There is a life. It’s not bad. It’s just different.  And I realize now it’s time to think about what comes after this?

Forty…fifty… seventy anyone?