Monday, May 20, 2013

An Ode to my (current) Home

There's something about this town, everyone will tell you.  It's the smell of the salty ocean, the sound of fog horns, the ducks sunbathing in Eel Pond, the boozy bread pudding from Pie in the Sky. I could go on forever, but instead I decided to share with you little distinct moments-- things I see, hear, experience, etc, living in Woods Hole......

 1. At the library, there is an old man in corduroys and suspenders who comes in to use the outdated Dell computer for $.50 cents an hour.  He only uses his meaty index fingers to type, and he bangs on the keyboard.  He seems to be in a constant state of fury and frustration—whatever he does on the computer is urgent and serious, and loud. When the hour is up, he pushes back his chair, walks to the librarian’s desk, and fishes out two quarters from his pocket.

2.  I bike to the grocery store once a week.  Most of the ride is along a stretch of breezy beach.  At the check out, a baby-faced teenaged employee leaps to bag my groceries.  He knows me now, and he knows that I need all my groceries in one paper bag.  I buy plenty of things, and he loves the challenge.  He says it’s like a puzzle.  He works seriously, laying out all my items first, asking me what a small head of radicchio is used for.  I tell him I like to eat it grilled, in a salad, with blue cheese. Woah, he says.  

3.  Every morning at around 11, two elderly women with hunched backs and puffs of curly, white hair walk down my street.  They are old friends, it seems, and one of them has a miniature, hairless greyhound.  It walks gingerly, with great effort, and sniffs everything with an air of disinterest.  It’s name, for whatever reason, is Guapa.  And every morning I can hear the women call its name.  They practically yell it, like they are chasing after a boisterous toddler.  “Guapa!” They announce. “Come here, Guapa! Are you sniffing, Guapa? Are you going to Pee pee, Guapa?!” For the ten minutes I can hear them on my street, I cannot get any writing done.  I give up, make a cup of coffee, and just listen.  

4.  Lastly, there are two harbor seals in a round tank outside the aquarium, just around the corner from town.  They are put out there for tourist entertainment- in the summer, they balance a beach ball on their nose, and leap to catch herring.  But all winter and spring, they are off their entertainment duties, and they aimlessly circle the tank, an inflatable ball bouncing lightly on the surface.  I swing by often to watch them, and when I do, one of them always stops swimming to check me out, and then he does something funny.  Pressed up against the side of the tank, generally in the same spot, he lifts his head straight out of the water and tilts it back, looking straight up, towards the sky, his breath knocking droplets of water off his whiskers.  He just stays there.  He doesn’t look at me, he looks at the sky.  And then I look up too, and when I look back at him, he’s still looking up, so I look up again, and we do this for awhile.  He's my friend :)

And here are some photos I've snapped around town: 

Hope everyone's off to a good Monday.

xo JMB

(top photo from Wit + Delight)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Honestly, How Honest Are You?

I have a friend who’s brutally honest.  It’s almost like a tick she can’t control.  (i.e.: do you think I look good in this dress? Answer: absolutely NOT!) One time, years ago, she met my boyfriend.  It was a brief encounter, but as he walked away, she yanked my elbow, tilted her head, and said Dude. Break. Up. With. HimIt caught me completely off guard, and it's made me realize how rare honesty actually is.  I mean real, brutal honesty.  Regardless of whether or not she was right, I have to hand it to her, I never wonder if she's feeding me a lie.

I’ve found that with my friends, even my closest ones, we are not always 100% honest with each other.  Let me explain. That boyfriend she’s with that’s a little too clingy and has bad breath? No, I’m not going to say anything.  Would you? I mean, when was the last time a friend told you honestly how they felt about your boyfriend or girlfriend? Everyone is generally too nice and polite to say anything.  It’s like some secret girlfriend code, and I guess it makes sense.  We dance around the truth, our real opinions, because falling in love is so magnificent and treasured, who wants a friend saying, "umm, your boyfriend sucks..."?

I myself bounce back and forth.  Sometimes I feel the urge to be unapologetically honest, and sometimes I just can’t find the guts to do it.  (i.e.; yeah, that dress looks nice!) At the end of the day, I think it boils down to one thing; being brutally honest goes against the grain of society. We’ve made so much room in our social lives for little white lies. It keeps the engine running smooth.  You know when a waiter swings by your table mid-meal and asks how the food is?  And is already walking away as you begin to respond? It's easiest to just say, "good, thanks," even if it's completely untrue.   

When I spend a lot of time with that especially honest friend, I find that my shoulders are constantly clenched.  It’s exhausting, and after awhile, I kind of wish she had the capability to lie just a little. But then I remember that she’s such a rare breed, and I might as well appreciate her gift. 


Thursday, May 9, 2013

On the WTF Moments in My Life

The other day my friend asked me if I ever have WTF moments about quitting my job, moving to the cape, and pursuing my writing career.  My answer? YES.

They are often and frequent and range from “wtf” to “WTF” to "w.t.f."

I know that writing is my “dream” in many ways, I’ve been writing since I literally learned to write and nothing and nobody will stop me, damnit, but the act of chasing it is slow, sometimes confusing, often disheartening.  I question it, I lose interest, I get distracted.  There are countless WTF’s, and they never get old, even though a lot of them end up being the same. (There was one day not long ago that I literally was so filled with WTF's that I sat completely still at the counter of my local coffee shop for the entire afternoon, my mind reeling, wondering how I would be able to move when the place closed.  Anyone that sat down next to me I begged to give me answers as to 'what I was doing.')

But then something happens everyday, almost without fail, little tiny signs that tell me I’m doing the right thing.  They’re so tiny and fleeting that I can’t actually think of any right now (ha), but they feel sacred somehow, and they keep me going.  Today, the sign was exceptionally big and in my face- it’s this article.  

Hope everyone is having a good week. Sing your WTF's loud and clear!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Do or Don't: Men With Tote Bags

While I was back in New York, I was riding the subway one day when a sexy, rugged man stepped onto the train.  He had that tousled hair and soft tee shirt combo that's to die for.  

I was (innocently) admiring his looks when I noticed....he had a tote bag slung over his shoulder. My initial reaction? Eeeeeh.  If it were a Murse (i.e. a sturdy, leather bag) then I think it'd be different.  But there's something about a wimpy tote bag, you know, the ones that have a charming little print or saying, that I'm not quite sold on. But am I being close-minded?  Picture: Ryan Gosling with a tote bag.  He could pull it off, right? Right.


(photo from A Gentlewoman, lol)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let's Talk Body Image

The other day, I invited three of my friends over for pizza and iced tea.  Two of these friends are 12 and 14 years old—they’re sisters and I’ve babysat them forever.  They are the closest thing to daughters that I’ve ever had, even though I’m not that much older than them, I love them fiercely and feel very protective of them.  I remember when they went through a strawberry milk phase, when they went through a sleep ass-naked phase.  I know which one likes their hot dog without the bun, and I know which one would lie about brushing her teeth by putting a dab of toothpaste on her tongue, breathing hot hair in my face and saying “seeee?”

And now they are preteens.  They have Instagram and they go to Taylor Swift concerts.  One is fresh and witty, she tells me she’s going to be an actress.  The other is tooth-achingly sweet and innocent.  They’re both striding through the preteens with such grace and ease that it’s kind of shocking. 

Anyway, when I had them over, my good friend (who’s my age) joined us.  We all hit it off, devouring margarita pizza.  And then, half way through dinner, my friend said she needed to stop eating.  My daughters, that’s what I’ll call them, looked puzzled. “Why?”  They asked.  So my friend explained.  “My thighs,” she said.  “And my ass.  Have you seen these?” 

This, of course, is nothing out of the ordinary.  We’ve all been there, and we’ve all talked about it, over dinner, over coffee, whatever.  I’ve had this conversation many times, idly complaining with friends about how if we could only get a few inches off this area, then everything would be perfect (ha). 

But in front of my daughters?  I found myself leaping to protect them, wanting to cover their ears.  I remember, very vividly, sitting on the beach one late afternoon when I was about eleven or twelve.  My mom was swimming and I was sitting next to an old family friend and her friend, two women in their young 30’s.  I was diving into a baggie of goldfish and listening to them chat.  I had always deeply admired one of them.  She was quick and intelligent, warm and hilarious, with long curly hair and tattoos.  There was nothing not cool about her.  But that afternoon, I remember she was talking about her weight.  She was talking about wanting to lose weight, wanting to feel skinny, etc.  And I was floored.  She was curvy, but that’s what I loved about her.  She owned it, she was beautiful, and I couldn’t wrap my head around her being displeased with herself, when all I wanted to do was be her when I grew up.  I remember looking down at my own thighs, pieces of my body I had never thought much of, and wondering if I should be feeling something about them, if I should wish them to be otherwise.  It was entirely new to me.  Frankly, it opened a door that is a lot harder to shut. 

So this is why I jumped to protect my daughters.  I’m not saying people shouldn’t ever want to lose weight or get active or change their bodies (and, in fact, my friend from pizza night decided she wanted to get in shape and is kicking ass).  But I want my daughters to think nothing of their bodies until they absolutely have to.   Because they are healthy, they work, and there is so much more to worry about in life.  For now, it should just be the little things.  


photo by Norman Parkinson, 1971 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

3 Things I Forgot About New York City

I'm back in the city for two weeks.  Every time I return, it takes me a few days to adjust, and there are always a couple quirky NYC ticks/qualities that catch me off guard.  Let's be real, there are a MILLION, but these are a three I forgot about THIS time:

1. Eye gaze.  Walk down an active street in the city and you'll notice, everyone is looking in either two directions: downward (either at their phones or a few feet ahead), OR, directly ahead and slightly above eye level. This is why, I believe, you often see friends or acquaintances literally bumping into each other, rather than spotting one another ahead of time. People aren't generally looking, they're walking.

2. Frozen Yogurt. People being obsessed with it.  People eating it, all the time.  Pink Berry. 

3. The smell.  This only lasts a few minutes, right when I'm entering the city.  It's so hard to describe.  There's the obvious top notes- cement, dirt, skin, garbage, then the middle notes- subway tunnels, food carts.... but the base note?  You know when you don't wash a pair of jeans for a month?  It's kind of like that. 

And 4 things I always remember: 

1. Tourists.

2. The abundance of beautiful, fashion-forward-subway-riding-women.  Dang. Where'd you get those shoes?

3. The precarious nature of a cab ride.

4. "Stand Clear The Closing Doors Please." 

P.S. Did you see this chart from the New Yorker?  Pick a subway line, find a spot, and see the median household income. Fascinating....and shocking.


(photo from Renovatio)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Fool Proof Guide to Hitting On A Woman

Recently, I was hit on by a guy at a bar.  His pick up line was: do you have facebook?

It was so eye opening that I thought, I have to write about this.  So here are four little rules I think should always apply...

1.  Read body language.  It tells you everything you need to know, I swear.  Is she relaxed, dancing, swinging her arms? Or are her arms pinned down by her sides? Is she constantly checking her phone (read: another man) and clinging to her girlfriend? These are all signs!  If you look back at photos of Brad and Jennifer on the red carpet months before their tragic divorce, their pelvic bones were facing away from one another.  It’s ALL there. People study this stuff!

2. Do not linger.  Lingerers are the worst.  They circle, they lurk, and most of all, they send off the message that they are preparing themselves.  Eeek! I don’t think it’s really a turn on to anyone.  

3. Do not start off by offering to buy her a drink.  This thing happens where the girl feels pressured and obligated to accept and speak to you, even if she isn’t interested.  Start up the conversation first.  Get ten minutes into it.  Is she still smiling? Is she leaning in to hear you? Then buy her a drink. 

4. Do it solo.  There's something about "teaming up" with a friend or two, then approaching a group of girls together, that comes across as a little too goal oriented, and kind of like a cop out!

What do you think? Have anything to add? Bar culture, in general, is so odd...


(photo via tumblr

Monday, April 22, 2013

Do I Go To My Middle School Reunion?

If you asked me what my worst memory is, I’d tell you: middle school.  Three years at a tiny Episcopalian School with annual Christmas pageants and uniforms.  Besides having a cute boyfriend and few sweet friends, my middle school experience was fairly excruciating.  There was endless bullying.  There was an itchy plaid skirt.  There was getting my period in the middle of history class.  There was this unacceptably miserable English teacher who looked like she wanted to hack up some spit and then murder us all.  During chapel everyday I silently prayed and asked for Elijah Wood to rescue me (or at the very least, ask for my number).  After school, I often went to my friend’s house across the street and binged on powdered donuts. Mostly, there was this general feeling, all the time, that I desperately wanted to escape.  I look at middle school girls now and they seem so small and very innocent, but I remember feeling deeply old and weathered.  I dreaded high school.  I dreaded girls, their cattiness, the way they could be SO mean.  And then I was mean, too, and that didn’t really work. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

The other day, I got an email about the reunion coming up.   And instead of just dismissing it, I starting thinking about what it would be like. We all practically lived together during the most awkward times of our lives, and I’d love to see my formal classmates, all blossomed and living their adult lives.  I imagine it’d be kind of awesome and awkward!  

(and here's the song that got me through middle school)


Friday, April 19, 2013

The Book That Changed My Life

The most common and frequent question I think I ask my 22 year old self over and over again, is......

Is this normal? 

Like, is what I'm doing/thinking/feeling/wanting in the realm of normal?  Because "normal" right now seems like an incredibly vague and wishy-washy place.  A shrink, in this case, would be useless. ("do you think it's normal?")

And then I got this book as a gift.

It's frank, loving, and hilarious.  Cheryl Strayed does something as a writer that I really admire and strive for: she isn't afraid to go there.  She doesn't pull any punches.  What results is something kind of spectacular-- anything that might normally come across as cheesy is so unapologetically so that it works....really works.  She's better than any shrink because she basically says, "maybe it's normal, maybe it's not, but who gives a shit? Own it, embrace it, ask it questions.  Push it around a little."  

I highly recommend it. 

Have a great weekend, everyone! See you Monday :) 


(Collage from The Rumpus)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On One of The Coolest People I've Met This Year

There’s a guy in town who’s a mini celebrity. He’s tall, with a healthy mop of brown hair and an easy smile.  He looks like a cute Where’s Waldo and he’s fearless: last year, he stepped out of his backdoor in Pennsylvania and walked across the country.  He had a backpack, some water, and a tape recorder.  He was twenty three.  For an entire year, he walked the highway and spoke to anyone who would talk to him.  He just wanted advice.  He wanted to meet people and listen to their stories.    

Here’s what really floors me about the whole thing.  Besides having an end goal (sinking his feet into the Pacific Ocean), he didn’t really have the whole thing fully planned.  He often didn’t have places to sleep at night, and even had to sleep under a bridge a few nights.  He literally lived day by day, and he walked- he walked 4,000 miles.  

To me, he is a creature of another species.  I want to learn from him, because I am so unlike him.  I still kind of panic if I realize I have to spend the night at someone’s house without a toothbrush.  I like planning so much that I’ve realized it actually holds me back. Moving here was barely planned, and I think that’s why it actually worked out so well. 

Anyway, I want to share his story with you.  It’s truly, really fascinating.  Take an hour tonight, stretch your legs, and listenI think you will enjoy it! (Sorry, ladies, he's taken...)


(photo from his blog

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

9 Things I've Admitted to Myself As I've Gotten Older

1.  That I don’t like skim milk.  Somewhere along the line, some woman’s magazine engrained in me that skim milk is the answer to all skinny girl’s happiness and that I wouldn’t notice the difference…but I do.  It's not as good.  I'm sick of pretending. 

2. That not everyone will like me, I don’t like everyone, and the world continues to spin. 

3. That I don’t go running because I enjoy to run or because I get a runner’s high but simply because I know, without fail, that it provides my mind and body with good and healthy things.  That’s all.

4. That pears actually taste good.

5. That I was in love with my high school biology teacher.  Please, I hope you don’t see this……

6. That I’m still not okay with my mom being right.  With time, Mom, with time. 

7.  That I get quickly turned off by shy, quiet people, and often dismiss them as non-friend material, when, in fact, some of my greatest friends have at first been painfully shy.  (Hi Lucy A, Shannon H, Sasha DB).   I still need to work on this. 

8.  That I am a “horse girl.” Shudder.

9.  That getting 7 hours of sleep doesn’t constitute as being sick.  

There's so much more...what have you admitted to yourself recently? 

(photo by me) 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Three Shockingly Simple Things that Make a Relationship Work

I met him at a Halloween party the day before Hurricane Sandy hit.  We danced to Azealia Banks and then snuck out onto the porch where we drank a beer in the wind. At one point, I took his hand and said, “I feel like you know me, and I know you.”

Weeks later, he would poke fun of me for this.  I still cringe when I think that I actually said that, that I took this guy’s hand in mine thirty minutes after we met. It was one of those heady, alcohol soaked, 22 year old girl moments…you know what I mean.   

There’s six solid years between us.  That's six years of his own experience, with relationships, heartbreak, falling in love...and this is what I've learned so far: 

1.   It’s okay not to spend every minute together.  It’s easy to end up spending all your time together, but I think it’s important to spend just as much time apart.  We both have our own projects, our own ways of passing a Sunday afternoon. Sometimes it can be oddly difficult to walk away from him, but once I’m on my own, I can check in with myself (then light candles and play Sheryl Crow). 

 2.  Value your time together.  One night we were watching a movie, and I received a text from a friend.  My phone was on the bedside table, so naturally I checked it, and then responded.  Another text, another response. Repeat x 25.  Finally, he turned to me.  I hadn’t even realized how that might be annoying.  Now I put my phone away during date nights, and he does the same.  It’s such common sense but it makes a difference. 

3.   Take it day by day.  I have the unfortunate tendency of wishing, all the time, that I could control the future.  I call it “anxiety fantasizing.”  He encourages me to stay in the present moment with our relationship.  I actually panic slightly, when I realize that I haven’t been planning my future, but when I force myself to take a deep breath, I relax and eventually feel kind of...relieved.  It's much more manageable to just know you have to tackle one day instead of every single day ahead of you for the rest of your life.

(photo of the Royal Lovebirds via CNN)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Why I Left New York

Almost six months ago, I packed a suitcase and left New York City.  I literally just left. 

I needed to get away.  You know when you’re having a dreary day and you feel swallowed by a lopsided, uncomfortable haze and you decide, with incredible effort and bravery, to just go outside and look at the sky?  And then, very suddenly, that haze lifts?

That’s why I left home.  I had screwed up a relationship, I had quit my job, and New York was feeling like the inside of my head; claustrophic, distracted, and constantly going, like the line at Starbucks.

So I took a bus to Cape Cod, with one intention: to pick one goal for myself, and just do it.  This, in itself, seemed foreign and refreshing.  I chose to write an article for the Modern Love Column of the NYTimes.  I spent thirty days writing.  I submitted it, had a drink, and then just waited.  I got my rejection email during a walk home.  I remember feeling oddly rejuvenated. I was walking up a hill, panting, and I realized I was walking fast because I wanted to get home and write more. 

…Fast forward six months later, and I’m still here!  Now I know every sound of this creaky house. I have new friends and the start of a novel, and one full winter of uninterrupted writing, reading, cooking, and THINKING.  I’ve adjusted to life without internet.  I still love my quiet mornings but now I plan my weekends with someone.  Being twenty-two is like nothing else.  No, you know what it’s like?  It’s like PMSing 24/7.   It’s exhausting.

When I arrived here at the end of October, the haze lifted.  It was simple and tangible, it just lifted. Every once in awhile, this new feeling creeps over me.  It tingles slightly, like being sprayed by a mist of water, and I realize that it’s the absence of that haze, of wanting to escape.  I want to be here.  I also want to tell you things, my readers, things I think and notice everyday, simply because I think you will enjoy relating.

See you tomorrow:)

(photo by moi