Tag Archives: los angeles

To All The Single Old Maids

One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles is that I’m constantly bombarded by thought-provoking intellectual discourse.1 And so it happened this weekend that I came across two women at Starbucks whose conversation blew my mind.

Woman #1: Do you think I’m an old maid?
Woman #2: No, not at all!
Woman #1: I think I am.
Woman #2: Honey, you’re so not there yet.
Woman #1: I don’t know, I feel like I am.
Woman #2: You’re totally not.

Keep in mind that Woman #1 had probably just turned 22 (she was wearing knee-high boots with shorts and stretched out “uh huh” into three syllables).  At this point, Woman #2 deftly latte-swerved2 into a fascinating new topic (yoga!) and they abandoned the old maid talk. But it got me thinking: At what point do you go from being a single woman to being an old maid? What’s the lady to hag cutoff age?  And then: Jesus Christ, am I an old maid?  Wait–Why am I even thinking about this?  Why is anyone thinking about this?

Other than psychopaths, single women are probably the craziest, most irrational people in the whole world.  Our incessant desperation appears to stem entirely from our pathetic role in history:  Years ago, it was a lot easier to know whether you were packing up your hoo-ha for good.  Back in the olde days (when people added an “e” to “old” and my ancestors were building your railroads), everyone hooked up so young.  Once a girl hit double-digits, she was hiking up her petticoat and courting her cousin.  If a chick wasn’t married by 18, she was relegated to spinsterhood or thrown into a river (my ancestors).  But as we moved into the 20th century, it seems that the hag cutoff age was pushed back.  Feminists tried to suppress the entire “old maid” paradigm, because hey, women don’t need men!  We can vote now!

But of course, that’s not true.3  And so the “old maid” label persevered, bandied upon any husband-less, child-less woman with an unexplored crevasse and shriveled-up fallopian tubes.

Nowadays, the whole spinster exemplar has almost become chic.  The new-age old maid has evolved far past the cat-loving, never-been-kissed spinster of old(e).  While there are still classic examples (Susan Boyle, Susan B. Anthony, Suddenly Susan, and every other woman named Susan), there are now “career women” old maids (Condi Rice), “hot but mean” old maids (Ann Coulter), and “probably lesbian” old maids (Diane Keaton).  The old maid has become the equivalent of the expired cheese puff that you find between your couch cushions: revolting, yes, but somewhat endearing at the same time.

So back to the original question: When does a single woman become an old maid?  I don’t know.  It now seems anti-feminist to even think about such a thing.  So, I want to make a declaration, for all the single ladies out there who are so freaking worried about their descent into sad-sack spinsterhood: Girls, STOP FREAKING OUT. That thing that you want so desperately–to get married and then half-get divorced?–It will happen one day.  And if it doesn’t, well… kill yourself.4  But for now, just know that you should not have to put an expiration date on your happiness.  You should not have to settle.  Stop counting down the days to some imaginary deadline*, and just enjoy your life.  Besides, if Jennifer Aniston could be called an old maid, then we’re all screwed anyway.

*By the way, it’s probably, like, 37.

———–

1 – If intellectual discourse was limited to only the weather, the gym, and new vegan restaurants.

2 – Latte-swerving is a fabulous conversation-avoidance technique honed in Los Angeles in which you switch topics by making a comment about your coffee. “Oh my God, I just burned my tongue on this coffee. Woo! That hurts! Anyway, enough about global warming, let’s talk about the gym!”  It’s brilliant.

3 – Women totally need men. We need men to kill things, like spiders.

4 – Do not do this unless you are Ann Coulter.

1 Comment

Filed under Life

Deciding On Lew Yongeles

The New York Mantra: “The best place to take a bullet is in the girlfriend” — spotted on a  man’s t-shirt at the Food Emporium in Hell’s Kitchen… yes, he was shopping alone

The Californian Mantra: “We’ll melt your popsicle” – from the song “California Gurls” by Katy Perry… you know it’s a Californian song if they deliberately (?) misspell one-syllable words

In the past few weeks, several readers have emailed me about my semi-bicoastal life, asking me for recommendations about New York versus LA.  One person even wrote me a very long and sincere note, though our email correspondence fell apart after she asked if I could recommend any plastic surgeons out here in LA.  (Uh, no, but I would advise you to steer clear of the ones who advertise on bus benches.)

Since January 2008, I’ve lived for more than a year in both LA and New York, in Hollywood and Santa Monica, the Upper East Side and Hell’s Kitchen.  What I’ve learned is that, in our society, people fall into two separate yet equally important groups: the hardcore New Yorkers, who hope to crush, conquer, and rule the world, and the Dionysian Southern Californians, who seek medical advice from strangers.

These are my recommendations.

If you want to meet a wealthy guy who wears cuff links on the weekends and pretends to do cocaine just to sound like a nouveau-riche douchebag, you should live in New York.

If you want to meet a girl who barely looks eighteen, popping a morning-after pill while nonchalantly eating an ice cream sandwich outside of a CVS Pharmacy, you should live in LA.

If you want to start a political conversation with your foreign taxicab driver about the ethics of tax reform (“How can you possibly support the estate tax?  You drive a CAB!”), you should live in New York.

If you want to start a car radio showdown with an elderly gentleman driving a black Mustang and blasting Vivaldi in the middle of Please-Don’t-Shoot-Me Sketchtown (a.k.a. downtown Los Angeles), you should live in LA.

If you want to run into a throng of teenagers outside of a movie theater, badmouthing the high school slut who they call “Bobblehead”, you should live in New York.

If you want to run into a throng of middle schoolers outside of Hollister, giggling over the thongs they just bought, you should live in Los Angeles.

If you want to ride the subway with hunched, grizzly men who carry an empty coffee cup in one hand and a can of paint thinner in the other, you should live in New York.

If you want to eschew public transportation altogether and instead drive along a highway death trap (cue Commander Chuck Street, jovially, reporting the morning traffic: “Another casualty accident on the 405!”), you should live in Los Angeles.

If you want to see a pigeon eat couscous off the sidewalk while narrowly avoiding a splat! death-by-bicycle, you should live in New York.

If you want to see a golden retriever play Quidditch in an Air Bud-Harry Potter mash up for the ages, you should live in Los Angeles.

If you want to date someone who works at a glossy bank that is placing a big short on middle-class America, you should live in New York.

If you want to date someone who doesn’t have a job outside of going on auditions, working on his/her memoirs/screenplays, and exercising, you should live in Los Angeles.

…and finally,

If you want to live a normal, happy existence with 2.4 kids, a hanging tomato planter, a library full of James Patterson books, and a social life that doesn’t involve big red Solo cups, you should live in Westchester.  Or Pasadena.  Anywhere but New York or LA.

9 Comments

Filed under Life

Truth is Beauty, and Beauty is Los Angeles

This past Saturday, I participated in a scavenger hunt throughout all of Los Angeles.  One of our missions was to take a photo of a guy with a six-pack.  In any other city, you would have to clarify “six-pack”…and being from Boston, I immediately thought of beer.  But given that this was LA, we didn’t need clarification.

LA is full of guys (and girls) sporting six-packs, eight-packs, and even twelve-packs (I imagine there must be a few conjoined-twin bodybuilders at Muscle Beach).  It’s a sickeningly beautiful city, only pockmarked by the ugly, pale, displaced East Coasters who ruin all the prettiness.  On Saturday, we had no trouble finding a shirtless guy in LA who was willing to be photographed for his abs.  He even tried to help us out with another one of our missions (take a photo with a celebrity) by offering up the fact that he was in a Levi’s commercial.

In LA, everyone suffers from the abnormally high curve of relative attractiveness.  A 7 in Boston would barely be a 4 in LA.  A 4 in Boston would need to hide his face out here, for fear of scaring children.  At every turn in LA, there’s another advertisement claiming that a new product will make you more beautiful: it’ll get rid of your back fat, arm fat, belly fat, etc. — without fattening your wallet, of course (it’s such a common refrain that I wonder if these fat-burning places really do make you pay in cash).  In LA, beauty is a choice, something you can achieve if you throw enough money at it: you can take pills for silkier hair, apply creams for healthier hands, and slay babies for softer skin.  Put all the right ingredients together, and you can be LA beautiful too.

This city is like a strange, stunning, alter-world, where girls named Kitty eat dinner through intravenous tubes, and guys named Sergio flex their muscles at every possible occasion.  On Saturday evening, we saw another shirtless man doing pull-ups on an elementary school’s jungle gym in the middle of West Hollywood.  It would have seemed awfully pedophilic had it not been for his incredibly sculpted body — I suppose that in order to keep those huge arms in shape, maybe he does need to do the monkey bars all day.

Now that I’m living in LA, I’m relinquishing my dream of getting a Sanrio modeling gig (Goodbye, Kitty).  It’s intimidating to live in a place where people count their freckles and think obesity starts at size 2.  This morning, I found a giant mystery bruise on my right leg.  In any other city, a huge, unsightly bruise would be a great conversation starter (“Hey! Where did you get that shiner?” … “No idea? Awesome!”).  But in LA, the same yellow bruise is like a shrieking alarm, calling out all your physical defects (“Where did you get that?” … “You don’t know? It’s probably jaundice.”).  I won’t be able to wear skirts for a week.

I can only hope that I’ll meet a cute, non-beastly, non-jaundiced 4… and hopefully that’s not a reach.

Yes, there are 700,000 more results for “getting rid of fat los angeles” than for all of “inner beauty”…

4 Comments

Filed under Life

Following Fuzzy Dreams

I grew up in a small town outside of Boston, not destitute-poor nor ostentatious-rich.  I had a perfectly normal upbringing, fraught with wonderful childhood memories of uncontroversial activities and agreeable relatives.  I made it through middle school and high school without ever getting arrested, pregnant, or high off crystal meth.  And although I once slept in a parking lot, I was still nestled in the comforts of a Coleman campers tent.

My early life of relative contentment lent me an idealistic view of the world.  It’s easy to be idealistic when everything has worked out, for the most part.  I believe that people are inherently good, even if they can be incredibly stupid.  I believe that government, when run efficiently, can do a lot of good.  And I believe that in our endless pursuit of happiness, we should wholeheartedly follow careers that we love.

Of course, my idealism has always been tainted by another convincing worldview: cynicism.  I’m not sure where my cynicism comes from (there is no reason for it), but it’s always been there, loud and brash. The cynic sits on my left shoulder, while the idealist sits on my right — mirroring the eternal left brain/right brain civil war battles in my head.  To the cynic, my idealism is construed as naivete, as folly; to the idealist, my cynicism is just an excuse to keep accepting the status quo.

So far, the cynic has won.  No, I’ve never taken a risk in my life (even our tent was placed on school grounds).  I’ve taken the steady jobs, made the uncontroversial decisions, and traveled the safe routes.  Along this road, I’ve been incredibly happy and lucky — I really cannot complain about anything.  And yet, there has always been a nagging feeling, pulling at me from that unfulfilled idealist side, telling me that I need to follow “my passion”, as if I knew what it was.  I have an idea, sure… but following your dreams?  Ha!  The cynic gave up on that years ago.

After a few years in the working world, I found myself listening less and less to the idealist.  After all, the cynic is practical, reasoned, and easy.  It’s hard to give up the easy stuff (having a job, having money) to go follow those crazy, fuzzy dreams.  Idealism is for the weak-minded, the cynic says.  It’s for people who don’t have any better options.  It’s for people who don’t actually try anything, because once they do, they become cynics!  (…or so the cynic says.)  So as we get older, the idealist fades.  It only preys on the young, the innocent, and the weak-brained.  As learned, intelligent adults, we should know better… right?

I thought so too.  But then, in December of last year, I decided that I needed to take a totally clichéd leap of faith.  I went into a meeting with the CFO of my company, which was set up to talk about my budding finance career.  In that meeting, I told her that while I enjoyed finance, my real passion was in writing.  She argued.  I tried to fight back.  She argued some more.  I dropped off a script that I wrote.  She gave me the cynic’s trademark move: a deadly raised eyebrow.  But I had already made up my mind.  Though I could never persuade her otherwise, I was glad to contribute kindling for her office fireplace; I was going to become a writer.

So in May, I’m moving out to Los Angeles in my first real attempt to try and make it as a writer.  What kind of writer?  I’m not sure.  It’s still a somewhat fuzzy dream, but with support from friends and family, it’s getting clearer.  And although I’m not taking a completely crazy leap of faith (I still have a full-time job), it’s one step closer to the fuzzy end goal.

Even if it doesn’t work out, at least I’ll have saved the fading idealist in me, who had been teetering so close to the edge of the rye field.  After all, I still need a left-brain counterweight to tone down that cynic.

9 Comments

Filed under Careers, Life

Worldly Lessons in Politics From The Hills

On Tuesday night, we welcomed the return of an American institution, The Hills, to primetime television. The Hills is MTV’s long-running reality show featuring the glamorous side of Hollywood life. We follow a handful of attractive trust fund babies as they get in fights, reconcile, get in fights, reconcile, get in fights, yell at each other, and then take sides in a Cold War of icy staredowns and sex tapes.

jbobbyIf you think about it, The Hills could easily be adapted to The Hill – that is, Capitol Hill. Where else will you get dramatic backstabbing and illicit romances? In fact, there are more interesting scandals in Washington than in the valley: All Speidi ever did was accuse Lauren of hiding a sex tape. Sarah Palin accused the President of planning to kill grandma. And what’s with this new “drama” between Kristin and Audrina fighting over our favorite hobo-riche iconoclast, Justin Bobby? There are far more people fighting over that slut of a public option than JB.

For every storyline about Brody creeping on a girl, I’ll give you John Ensign and David Vitter. For every storyline about Heidi saying something crazy, I’ll give you Michele Bachmann saying something even worse (“I’m very concerned Barack Obama may have anti-American views… The kids who voted en masse for Barack Obama are the ones being fitted with shackles and chains.”) And for every storyline about The Hills having some redeeming social value?  Well, YOU LIE.

thehill

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts and Entertainment, News, Politics

What I Love About New York City

There are many things that I hate about New York City.  I hate the pigeons, the rats, and the abundance of dog excrement on the streets.  I hate the hot stickiness of the subway platforms, and the way taxi drivers take liberty with your life.  I hate the trash that gets piled up along the sidewalk, regardless of whether it’s trash day or not.  subwayBut most of all, I hate the smells.  I hate the smell of wet, grimy New York after it rains in the summer.  I hate the salty, sweaty smell of people standing too close in the subway.  I hate the smell that sneaks up on you, all of a sudden, as you turn a corner and oh!, that is nasty.  New York is full of these unpleasant surprises, where pigeons can grow to be as tall as man, and the alley behind a seafood restaurant can force passersby into wind sprints.

But there are also many aspects of the city that I love.  I love street vendors, Central Park, and overlooking the skyline on a warm summer evening.  I love happy hours that can last from 4 pm to 4 am.  I love how a single restaurant can have an artsy scene, and a punk scene, and a hipster scene, and a pop-your-collar banker scene.  I love the unconscious mixing of all different people and different backgrounds into one, into a unique New York City culture that can be best described as a clusterfuck, a word that can only be said seriously in New York’s executive boardrooms.

grandcentralHowever, above everything else, I love the chatter in the city.  I love the crazy people talking to themselves on the subway.  I love the snippets of conversation I hear while walking by couples, like “I never should have done that”, or, “But I trade debt securities for a living”.  I love the passion of New York City, with all the yelling and the swearing and the impassioned, vehement debates (“He was talking about Bristol, not the 14-year old!”). I love how you can have enlightened conversations about everything, from the Iran election to the latest A-Rod debacle.

I’ve been in New York for six months now, after moving from LA.  The always-sunny, carefree culture of Los Angeles still pulls at me sometimes, even though conversations there revolve solely around the new celebrity in rehab.  Then again, in LA, I don’t have to deal with mysterious smells and flocks of disease-carrying birds.  But now that I’ve become fully immersed again in the angsty, Type-A, New York City life, I feel more at ease that my brain isn’t wasting away in a Hollywood-induced haze.  So, LA vs. New York?  It’s a matter of body versus mind, I guess.

As of right now, I think mind is winning.

5 Comments

Filed under Careers, Life

Los Angeles vs. New York… Working to Live, vs. Living to Work?

Growing up in Boston and having gone to school in Cambridge, I had a strong conviction of East Coast superiority. I loved the history of Boston, the competitiveness in Cambridge, and, after spending two summers in New York, the pace of Manhattan. There was a gritty, dog-eat-dog mentality that permeated throughout the city, both up in the boardrooms and down on the streets. There was a toughness and an urgency that New York required, as evidenced by the fast walking, fast talking culture. And even though the suits could be parading around with million-dollar bank accounts, they all still carried themselves as if entering the school of hard knocks: brows furrowed, collars up, and wielding a vast repertoire of profanity.

Even with its rat-race culture, I loved New York. During my senior year of college, I interviewed solely for jobs that were based in the city. Having grown up in the ambitious East Coast lifestyle, it just seemed like a natural progression to move to Manhattan, with its promise of hard work begetting career advancement.

img_0387I ultimately accepted an offer to work in a program which required a year in New York and a year in Los Angeles. When I got my first assignment, I was devastated to learn that I was starting in California. On a cold, wintry day in Boston, I packed my bags and flew out to the West Coast. I figured I’d just wait it out for a year until I got back to New York, where my career would actually begin. After all, LA was about its actors and singers, smoke and mirrors, and Britney and Kevin. Instead of M&A, I figured I’d just find T&A. It certainly wasn’t the same type of professional environment that I expected in New York.

img_0383Throughout my year in LA, I did encounter many examples of the superficiality that I expected when I first came to California. Most conversations centered around the gym, the beach, or the latest celebrity debacle. Meeting people out on the town invariably turned into a casting session. There was an endless supply of aspiring actors, models, and dancers moonlighting as waiters, secretaries, and personal trainers. There was a sleepy, slow pace to LA, where people mostly ambled along. Furrowed brows and premature wrinkles were nonexistent, if not for the worry-free lifestyle, then for the rampant use of Botox.

img_0271To my surprise, I found myself drawn to many aspects of the laid-back, West Coast lifestyle. One huge part of this was the weather. When I first arrived at the Burbank airport in January, I was greeted by 65 degree weather and bundled-up Californians. My landlord, wearing a thick black parka, apologized for how cold it was. (Over my year in LA, I could count on one hand how many times it rained. Almost 90% of the days were over 70 degrees and sunny…even in “winter”. I remember going to the beach in February, and just like in the Corona commercial, feeling disappointed when a cloud would appear in the bright blue sky.) The beautiful weather was something I didn’t expect, and it seemed to justify the slow pace of LA. Lying on the Santa Monica beach in the middle of March, I remember feeling rather smug–while my friends back in New York were shuttered away in their tiny apartments, I was out on the beach every weekend, enjoying the sun. While they were trekking through snow and maneuvering through the NYC subway system, I was cruising down Ventura boulevard in my car, windows down, radio blaring. While they were working weekends and long hours, I was putting in ten-hour days at most, with enough time to go to the gym and still get a margarita after work.

img_0281Yet even with this carefree lifestyle, there were often times when I felt anxious about the life I was living. I almost didn’t want to get too comfortable… it seemed like I was getting complacent or soft. I worried that I was losing my drive and ambition to the allure of comfort and sun. I didn’t want to become the stereotypical airhead Californian, without a care in the world. I’d think of the negatives of living in LA (the superficial people, the earthquakes, the traffic, and the smog) and remind myself of my East Coast convictions. I was bred to be a New Yorker after all, and there was some built-in angst that I had to have. Even with all the comforts out on the West Coast, I was never free from anxiety about my career, future, and ambitions.

A week ago, I moved back to New York to start the second year of my program. As I sat at my austere desk and looked out on the gray horizon, I missed the carefree days of life in sunny California. I can’t help but reminisce about LA and its anti-New York philosophies: work to live, don’t live to work. Life’s too short. Don’t worry, be happy.

A year ago, I would have thought that these philosophies were just an excuse for being weak, lazy, and of course, soft. Now, I’m not so sure. I don’t think I can ever completely embrace either side. As much as I loved LA, perhaps I’m programmed to feel guilt for “settling” or being too comfortable. Perhaps I can’t shake that gnawing ambition and ensuing anxiety. But now that I’ve seen how the other half lives, I don’t think I can bear the rat race of New York. I’m still awed by the intensity and energy of the city, but I’m not quite as keen to be immersed in it. Maybe that means I’m more willing to sacrifice career for life, in order to have fewer wrinkles when I’m older. Or, maybe I just need a few more weeks to get used to the fast pace of NYC again.

At some point I’ll have to choose… but I’m probably just not ready to do it now.

Update (6/25/09): What I Love About New York City

Update (10/14/09): Oddities in New York City

Update (3/31/10): I’m moving back to LA … Guess I’ve made my decision, huh?

Update (4/30/10): Goodbye, New York

Update (6/7/10): Truth is Beauty, and Beauty is Los Angeles

Update (6/29/10): Deciding On Lew Yongeles

88 Comments

Filed under Careers