Monthly Archives: November 2009

Tiger Woods: Were You A) Cheating on Your Wife, or B) Shopping for Early Bird Deals?

This past weekend, Tiger Woods made headlines when he got into an accident outside his home at 2:30 AM Friday morning.  In the aftermath, Tiger’s reticence has fueled rumors ranging from infidelity (meeting up with his alleged mistress for Thanksgiving dessert?) to drug use (after all, who crashes their car in their own driveway sober?).  Some are even speculating that the injuries he sustained were from his wife, taking out her scorned wife vengeance on him with a golf club.

Personally, I think everyone is reading too much into this.  From my point of view, Tiger was simply doing what everyone else was doing in the wee hours post-Thanksgiving: heading out to JC Penney’s early bird Black Friday sale.  Those sales started at 3 AM, so Tiger must have been getting a jump start on Christmas shopping.  And he simply got distracted when driving-while-coupon-cutting.

That’s it.  End of story.  There were no mistresses, no crystal meth, no acts of Chris Brown.  It’s always great to follow up Thanksgiving binge-eating with some celebrity intrigue, but I’m afraid that nothing can tarnish the squeaky clean image of Tiger Woods.

Then again… if Tiger was looking for some early bird deals on “forgive me” diamond rings (remember Kobe’s $4 million “I’m sorry”), that would do it.

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Seeking Outliers on a Normal Distribution

With all our freaks, geeks, and future politicians/sex solicitors, Harvard doesn’t really have a reputation for churning out “normal” people.  Most people believe that all Harvard students do in college is sleep and study, which doesn’t allow for any social interaction whatsoever.  Some of this is well-founded.  At our senior trip to a Red Sox game, I saw a girl furiously doing her math homework, calculator and all, right there in the bleachers of Fenway Park.  Harvard 1, Normal 0.

Most Harvard people, though, do come out pretty well-adjusted after college.  Unlike popular perception, we don’t always wear our elitist blazers with cashmere sweaters tied around our necks.  We don’t drink alcohol out of lab beakers and carry TI-83s to calculate our BACs (we do that in our heads). We still get shwastey-faced and make bad decisions at shady bars with unattractive strangers.

In fact, to show how normal we really are, let me tell you about “Chase”, a fellow Harvard grad from Jersey.

Chase is just another twenty-something with a steady job, a sweet girlfriend, and a gregarious personality.  He’s a very nice guy with good intentions.  But, he’s also crazy.  Crazy in a totally normal, Florida State way.

Even though I would best describe him as an “acquaintance,” I’ve seen Chase get drunk, get in fights, and get naked and run through the streets.  I’ve seen him projectile vomit, pass out, and ice-luge goldfish (multiple times, though not necessarily in that order).  At the Harvard-Yale tailgate on Saturday, I saw Chase operating at his very best: funneling Buds and leading raucous cheers about how much Yale sucks.

See?  At Harvard, we do have typical, jock-ish frat boys with high tolerances and low inhibitions.  So, you can say it: Harvard–they’re just like us!  (Notice how I reference popular mag Us Weekly to show how normal I am.)

Then again, as much as we love “normal” people (like Sarah Palin), perhaps we do need our leaders to deviate from the normal distribution.  I think I speak for everyone when I say that I don’t want our President crushing beers on his head while memorizing the nuclear codes.

“Do you realize,” my friend mused, as we watched Chase shotgun another Bud, “That Chase could be the Republican senator of New Jersey one day?”

At least it’s just Jersey.

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At The Geriatric Age of 24.5

Next Thursday, November 26, is my half-birthday.  In case you were unaware, the “half-birthday” is the six-month anniversary until your next birthday (or, if you are a pessimist, it’s the six months after your last terrible birthday).

Really, the half-birthday is just an excuse to buy yourself half a cake and mess up the rhythm of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” (“Hey shorty / It’s your half-birthday / We’re gonna party like it’s your half-birthday”).

But for me, this half-birthday is going to be different.  Because on November 26, 2009 (also Thanksgiving), I will be turning 24.5.  And 24.5 rounds up to 25.  And 25 rounds up to 30.  And 30 rounds up to death.  Seriously, that’s how it works.

They say your twenties are supposed to be the best years of your life.  It’s true.  When you’re in your twenties, you can still make bad life decisions (BLDs) and just blame it on “being young.” And for the first few years, I definitely took advantage of my twenties.  Then, all of a sudden, I turned 23 and became an elderly woman.  I’m not quite sure what happened.  It started when I began watching more HGTV… and then, boom, just like a gateway drug, I found myself losing control.  I started DVRing episodes of House Hunters and Property Virgins. I started drinking milk, because I’d seen commercials about osteoporosis.   I started finding great excuses not to go out on weekends (laundry, cleaning my apartment, swine flu).  One night, a friend stayed over and pulled a box of cookies out of my bed.  I keep them there for late night snacking.

My A&E Intervention moment came when I saw myself sprawled out on the couch, a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, sipping warm milk and avidly watching Dancing With the Stars.

So this Thanksgiving, as I’m turning 24.5 = 25 = closer to fifty than to birth, I’ll be embarking on the last best years of my life.  But I can’t even begin to think about what I should do over the next 5.5 years.  I’m already past my prime when it comes to partying like it’s my birthday.  I have a friend who started creating a bucket list for what she wants to do before she turns 30.  Me?  I just want to eat cookies in bed and watch couples fight over townhouses in Canada.

But every once in a while, I do get the urge to go out, to be young again, and to make BLDs at Joshua Tree.  And hey, I still have six months left in my early twenties.  That’s definitely something to be thankful for.

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Muppets and Threesomes

Last week, Gossip Girl sparked a national controversy with its highly publicized threesome episode. The ménage a trois between Dan, Vanessa, and Lizzy McGuire wasn’t rated NC-17, but it did prompt the Parents’ Television Council to release the following statement: “The CW Network’s behavior was grossly irresponsible by adding a story line where a sexual threesome was to be celebrated as some sort of ‘rite of passage’ for teenagers.”

The PTC, of course, assumes that TV can compel teens to have grossly irresponsible, drunken threesomes with former Disney stars. (This is the same group that blames violence on cop shows, and homosexuality on the purple Teletubby).  But, if TV can force savvy teenagers into triple sex with Triple Sec, then just imagine what it can do to soft-brained children!  The entire fate of our kids’ future could be determined by remote control roulette: if the channel lands on Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, our kids will end up with 4.0 GPAs and full rides to college… if the channel lands instead on Keeping up with the Kardashians, they’ll end up with huge asses and gold chains.

In my own personal experience, I attribute my Commie ties to hours of watching Sesame Street when growing up (“sharing is caring”).  My adoration for Ernie and Bert, the ambiguously gay duo, also led me to have a soft spot for guys with clashing outfits.  And from watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, I naturally grew trusting of old men in cardigans who wanted to be my neighbor. (“Let’s watch Mr. Rogers slowly take off his cable-knit sweater!  Isn’t this fun?”)

So understandably, I fell victim to the power of television once again — after last week’s Gossip Girl episode, I immediately googled Shia LaBeouf to see if he might be interested in accomplishing a rite of passage.  I found out that the pilot episode of LaBeouf’s Disney hit Even Stevens was called “Swap”…  So, he’s in!  Anyone want to volunteer to be #3?

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Five Forces to Getting a Job

One of the virtues of being an alum is that people start asking for your expert advice.  This past weekend, I attended a business conference in Boston, where I met several ambitious young women who all want to land fancy jobs after college.   They showered me with a barrage of inquiries: What interests should I include on my resume?  What kind of suit should I wear to my banking interview?  What about job sites, high school achievements, appropriate networking etiquette?  Finance vs. consulting, pants vs. skirts, New York vs. not New York?  And, my favorite question (if only for its implications that I’m somehow a career sensei): How do I become as wildly successful as you are?

Well, I’m here to say that it’s tough.  Some people just aren’t born with my natural charm, superior intelligence, and strikingly good looks.  But even if you’re awkward, stupid, and heinously ugly, you could still get struck by lightning.  And in this metaphor, lightning equals getting a job.

Given that you’re all astute business students, here is a Porter’s Five Forces diagram to show how the job landscape.


So, good luck everyone.  And if the job thing doesn’t work out, you can always turn to blogging (or, moving to India).

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Take a Risk, Take a Chance, Make a Change*

* Yes, the title is from a Kelly Clarkson song.  I’m not ashamed.

During the summer before my senior year of college, I did an internship at a large investment bank in New York.  To get the job, I professed my love for DCF models and calculating betas.  I made myself sound like the most interesting person in the world: “I enjoy reading, making data tables in Excel, and taking nonlinear walks along the beach.  I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer A&W.  That company’s got quite the cash flow.”

I suppose it worked.  I accepted an offer from a prestigious bank in midtown Manhattan, working in equity research for the summer of 2006.

salesI thought I would need a few weeks to determine whether I’d find my calling in finance.  But after just a few days, I already hated it.  I hated the dress code, the formality, the hierarchy, and the Big Brother-ness of it all.  I hated the work, which teetered between mundane and soul-sucking.  Most days, I just felt like a highly-paid supermarket cashier, plugging in numbers and being rude.  I quickly learned that there were three tenets of business: 1) Jerkiness is a coveted personality trait…  2) “Fuck” can be used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, insult, directive, and occasionally, term of endearment…  3) Lastly, in order to fit in, you have to be strongly opinionated about HR, women leaders, and taxes.  (The opinion must also be negative, although you can “support them in concept.”)

Throughout the summer, I felt like I was part of a giant sociological experiment, where you throw fifty impressionable college kids into (what I would consider) the worst job in the world (except, maybe, dairy farming) and record their reaction.  The people who loved it also seemed to hate it as well, but they had all accepted that hatefulness was part of the job — therefore it was palatable.  And for a summer at least, it was palatable, especially given the fact that we were well-paid, well-fed, and living in New York with an unlimited reign over the four-letter word dictionary.

lincolnNearing the end of my two-month stint, I had to meet with HR (ugh) to discuss full-time opportunities.  The bank was well-known for only hiring first-years from its summer intern class.  Even though I knew, deep down, that I didn’t want to do this for two full years, I still wanted to get an offer.  I still wanted to have a job lined up, even though I swore I wouldn’t take it.  I wouldn’t.  Even though it was a prestigious firm.  I wouldn’t.  Even though I’d built up a strong network.  I wouldn’t.  Even though I’d get to live comfortably in New York City.  I wouldn’t.  Or would I?

During my session with HR, I was bombarded with a barrage of questions that I hadn’t prepared for: “What are your three biggest weaknesses?  What would you title your autobiography?  Which historical figure do you identify with most?”  To the last question, I blurted out “Abraham Lincoln,” after a long, awkward silence in which I contemplated whether Chairman Mao had any redeeming qualities.  (For some reason, he’s the first “historical figure” that pops into my head.)  After trying to justify to HR that Abe was a perfectly legitimate answer (“I see myself in him through his honesty…his passion for humanity…his log cabin roots”), I realized that I would always be better at BS-ing about Lincoln than modeling cash flows.

So when I got my full-time offer, I turned it down.  I took another job, still in finance, but at a media company where I could learn to hone my creative talents.   And now, two years later, as I’m coming to the end of my term, I have to make another decision — whether to stay in my backup plan, or to go ahead and do something crazy, like compare myself to Abraham Lincoln.  Like eschew a stable finance career for the peripatetic life of a starving writer.  I’m leaning towards the latter, because I’m finally ready to give it a real shot now.  And I do truly believe that all things will work itself out in the end…

After all, the full-time offer I turned down, in the winter of 2006, was from Lehman Brothers.


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Jokes Not to Make With Co-Workers

Tuesday, 1 PM: I’m getting water from the kitchen when I run into a co-worker gazing out the window.  There’s a beautiful rooftop garden on one of the buildings nearby.  “I never see anyone up there though,” I say.

rockefeller_center1My co-worker shrugs. “Maybe they won’t let people outside because they’re afraid they’ll jump.”  The building is owned by a financial company, of course.

I point at the window that we’re looking out of.  “Well, we could jump out here, too,” I say, jokingly.

I receive a blank stare from my co-worker, followed by a nervous laugh and a worried-for-you expression… Hmm, maybe this wasn’t a joke-able topic.  I try to salvage my non-suicidal reputation by saying, “Not like we would… merely an observation…”  This only leads to another concerned look, so I finally just blurt out: “How ’bout them Yankees?”

… But come on–like I’d really jump out a window to my death?  If I actually wanted to, I’d do it from a rooftop garden.  I gotta have a classy exit.  I’m in finance after all.

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