The Gray Turtleneck and Black Pencil Skirt Story

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had a raging case of what is called “Peter Pan Syndrome.” I did NOT, under any circumstance, like the idea of growing up. Sure, I wanted adult-y things, like money and an awesome sitcom-esque apartment where all of my friends would congregate, but the idea of actually maturing into an adult human was pretty off-putting.

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Once upon a time, this was nearly my motto.

I dug my heels in hard where growing up was concerned. My mom, who I was living with at the time, was not thrilled with my attitude. I refused to look for jobs in my field of study (which I love). I sought and took jobs that seemed “silly” because they delayed the inevitable: growing up and moving on to my career.  I did this because I decided that once I got to THAT place where I had THAT job, I’d automatically become this boring, dried-up version of me. Every day, “adult” me got up, slicked her hair back in a tight, sleek bun, donned a gray turtleneck, black pencil skirt, black stockings, and black heels, like one of those girls from a Robert Palmer video. Adult me carried a black briefcase and walked into work every day with her face drawn and her old, fun life tucked inside that precious briefcase. I was convinced I would be stuck in this ritual until retirement and that adulthood meant I’d have to set childish things aside and I’d never have any fun again.

Were these expectations a bit unrealistic? Yes, definitely. But the fear of growing up after college was very real, and it ate at me like a plague.

Fast forward roughly ten years, and I’m finding more and more that I think my “Peter Pan Syndrome” was a fear of failing, rather than a resistance to growing up.

I am (technically) an adult. And (shocker!) I still know how to, and participate in, having fun, on a regular basis. I may “fail” at adult things from time to time. For example, I may eat a giant cookie for dinner when I know damn well that it’s a bad choice and I should choke down a protein, starch, and a vegetable. Or, perhaps, I may avoid the post card my dentist sent me about my yearly cleaning because I just don’t have time for his shit right now.

I’m an imperfect adult, but we’re all imperfect adults, aren’t we? I’m not the adult I thought I’d become when I was lamenting over it at twenty, and that continues to impress me nearly every day.

My adult friends are amazing. Every single one of my friends is still who they were pre-adulthood, but with a (slightly) larger bankroll and more responsibility. We’re still essentially us even though we have jobs, houses or apartments, sometimes relationships, and bills to juggle. We’re still feeling young (most days) and we still get to experience a lot of fun.

Life doesn’t suddenly end when you pass a certain age – today’s world isn’t a post-apocalyptic, dystopian, young-adult novel. If you keep chasing your dinosaur, you can let your inner Peter Pan go and enjoy the life you have.

I’m failing at adulthood from time to time. But the upside is that I’m not afraid anymore. Every day isn’t great, but many are, and I’m so happy for that. I’m learning from my mistakes and failures. I’m growing as an adult and it’s not at all what younger me thought it would be.

Full disclosure: the black pencil skirt is very real. I do own one of those.

So….Why Are You Still Single?

At times I’ve found it extremely hard to understand why I’m still single in my thirties. I certainly hadn’t planned for this. As an early twenty-something I had grandiose visions of being finished producing my desired number of original small humans by the time I was thirty.

People like to say cliche and trite things when you’re single in your thirties. Anyone who’s anyone (strangers and friends alike) becomes the leading expert in love-finding, once they’ve managed to establish a romantic relationship in their life that feels good and stable.

“It’ll happen when you least expect it!”

“There are plenty of fish in the sea!”

“There’s a hat for every head!”

“You should totally try online dating! My (friend/cousin/brother’s boss) met their spouse on eHarmony/Match/OKCupid!”

All of these sentiments are accompanied by nodding heads and smiling faces, which are met by my highly indifferent facial expression. If you’re single in your thirties, I’m positive you’ve heard these and more before, ad nauseum.

After years of pondering (and a handful of ex-boyfriends who taught me more about what I DON’T want in a partner than what I DO want in a partner) I finally reached a reasonable hypothesis as to why I am still single.

I’m a mushroom.

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It’s kind of cute and endearing, is it not?

Yes, I said I’m a mushroom. No, I don’t think I look like a mushroom. But, I’m a mushroom.

Most of my married or coupled-off lady pals strike me as flowers. Hell, even some of my remaining single girlfriends strike me as flowers. The flowers are the girls’ girls, who are and always were able to effortlessly communicate flirtatiously with the men (or women) of their dreams, while looking feminine, poised, and graceful. It’s as if their hair was gently blowing in the wind and they’ve been surrounded by a halo of light since their teens, immediately projecting their overall awesomeness out into the atmosphere.

Then, there’s me.

I’m awkward, but funny. Nerdy, weird, a little intense, quirky as hell, and I stubbornly wear Converse sneakers to as many events as I can, because nearly any life event is made infinitely better by being able to wear sneakers.

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Wedding at a castle? Sneakers seem appropriate.

I’m loud and unapologetically unpolished – I curse without flinching, and I use more innuendo in my day-to-day speech than Michael Scott could shake a stick at. (That’s what she said.)

I’m an acquired taste. I’m a mushroom. You (gentlemen) have to get past the initial shock value in order to appreciate the goodness I possess. I’m not polished and fancy, and when I stand in front of a fan my hair blows in my face instead of flapping gently behind me in the breeze, but I’m something special. Not everyone likes a mushroom, but some dudes love mushrooms, and I guess that’s who I’m holding out for. A sense of self-awareness is important and can most definitely open doors for you, even in the dating world.

Still, I probably shouldn’t lead with the “mushroom” thing if I ever get asked on a date again…

Speak Loudly and Carry a Big…Purse…Bitterly

I’ve never truly enjoyed shopping. I’m a simple kind of woman. If I had one necklace, one pair of shoes, and one pair of earrings for the rest of my life, I’d be totally happy. In fact, nearly anything I own that’s considered “cute” or “nice” by my female brethren (sistren?) was usually gifted to me by a dear friend who knows my disinterest and deficit in shopping and accessorizing.

Along with this disinterest in accessories is my contempt for large purses or bags. I carried a “wristlet” (read: glorified “wallet” on a strap) for as long as I can remember. Back in the days when I was a heavy smoker, all I felt I needed to carry was my pack of smokes, my flip phone, an ID, and some money.

Purses, in my opinion, collect crap. I had seen it happen in my mom’s bag as a little girl. Larger spaces invite more things with which to fill those spaces. Surely, you’ve seen women walking around with purses the size of overnight bags. You KNOW those bags have more than basic necessities in them. Looking for some scotch tape on the fly? Ask a woman with a big bag. Spare pair of socks? She’s got them. Gum? Which flavor would you like? Need a pen and paper to jot a quick note? She can offer you a pen, or a pencil, or a Sharpie, or maybe even a small set of colorful art pastels that found their way into that junk-collector she tosses up onto her shoulder each morning.

I had an “incident,” let’s call it, at the tail end of last summer, where I was stung by something with a stinger. I can’t be sure what it was, because it was one of the many species of stinger-ed, flower-loving things that was buzzing around what I lovingly call the “death tree” in front of my father’s house.

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My grandma planted and nurtured this tree. I stare daggers at it.

I was leaving dad’s place to head to mine, felt a sharp pinch in my back, and had what an EMT friend later told me was the beginnings of a fairly serious allergic reaction. Long story short and a doctor visit later; I’m anxiously packing EpiPens and avoiding the crap out of all things with stingers (and probably comically so).

My doctor smiled brightly as he entered the room saying, “You just became the proud owner of an EpiPen!” He proceeded to stab me with the “trainer” device midsentence, while I panicked, and he explained how to use the EpiPen on myself. When he was done, I looked at him blankly and said, “That’s not going to fit in my bag,” gesturing to my wristlet on the chair across the room.

“Sure it is!” He said, with gusto. “My wife carries tiny bags like this sometimes and I know…” he trailed off while he opened my wristlet and tried to fit my EpiPens inside. He paused for a minute. “It’s not going to fit in your bag.”

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RIP, wristlet. We had a good run.

“But you’re not to leave the house without them. Ever again. Always carry Benadryl. That’s your first line of defense. If Benadryl fails, you deploy one of these and call 9-1-1.”

I left the office, texting friends to gripe about having to buy a bigger bag (allergy gripes and concerns were saved for another day) and went to Target to purchase the most modestly-sized, non-intrusive, run-of-the-mill bag that didn’t make me want to roll my eyes at myself.

And you know what? I keep my purse pretty empty.

But my EpiPens fit in my bag.

The Time I Brought My Own Liquor to a Wedding

I went to the wedding of a dear friend last weekend.

I love weddings. I love nearly everything about weddings. I love that the bride and groom are getting married and committing to each other for a lifetime (that’s so freaking RAD). I love the romance of it all. I love the bride’s dress and the groom’s face while she walks down the aisle and all of the men in suits and tuxes. I love the cocktail hour, the fancy dinner, and the open bar. I love the honor of being invited to share it all. I thrive on the music and the dancing.

I.love.weddings.

Almost independent of weddings, I do NOT love that I have what I am learning to call food “allergies” to anyone who plans to serve me anything. Truthfully, what I have is a digestive disorder called Fructose Malabsorption, but that’s way too complicated to get into with servers and waiters and maitr’ds. I hate being that “needy” or “difficult” person when I go out to enjoy a meal with friends, so I try my best to just quietly make sure I have something to eat without panicking.

The only alcohol I’ve been able to drink without reaction since my diagnosis of FM, is my good old pal Jameson. Jameson is pretty common and widely known, so it didn’t occur to me to ASK if they served Jameo at the wedding while I was e-mailing back and forth with the wedding coordinator to make sure I could eat SOMETHING at dinner time. After all, I have learned pretty quickly that drinking Jameson highballs all night without eating properly is a recipe for fun disaster adventure in the form of browning out.

I didn’t count on not seeing anything I could drink behind the bar. I may have gone into panic mode. I’ve NEVER EVER done a wedding sober. At last count, I’ve been to 16 weddings since I’ve been old enough to drink or care about drinking.

The maitr’d may have become my best friend that evening. I asked her if she could find out if they had any Jameson in house for me. After a brief pause (and 2 toasts, I have never made it to the toast portion of the evening while hungry AND sober) the maitr’d informed me that they do not have Jameson. I then asked if I could go get my own liquor, as a friend in attendance had a car and would be willing to take me, but I wasn’t sure if I could bring it in, because of liquor licenses and such.

Maitr’d disappeared again for quite some time, only to return and tell me, with the most deadpan of deadpan faces “I’m sorry but I can’t allow you to bring in any liquor. But I want you to know that I don’t know about anything I don’t see. So, if, for example, you were to have a bottle of liquor under your table, I wouldn’t know about it.”

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Well, hello, old friend.

Naturally, I grabbed my pal and high-tailed it out of there to the nearest liquor store. It was quick, and before I knew it, I got to imbibe with everyone else, Jameson under the table, making my own highballs discreetly and swiftly, and catching up with the party vibe.

It. Was. Glorious.

The evening may have ended in my sitting on the floor outside of my hotel room while I waited for my friend to see why our room key wasn’t working.

But, I remember all of the evening…so maybe there’s something to this whole “not drinking till after toasts” thing.

Or maybe not.

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That rug really tied the room together, did it not?

Religion is Polarizing.

I’m agnostic.

Bear with me – don’t close your browser. Religion and personal beliefs, like politics, are polarizing. I feel like I should give you a guarantee here that I’m not some sort of immoral heathen shuffling around and stirring up shit in my earthly body. I am most definitely not that, and I’m not sure I personally know anyone who is.

I was a closeted agnostic for a long time. I didn’t even know that the “thing” I was, was agnostic. I know that as a pre-teen, every church-related thing I did was for my parents.

However, at my confirmation, I vividly recall being in that robe and thinking, “Well, at least if I ever want to get married in a church, I won’t have to make a late confirmation as an adult.” I questioned church – THE MUSICAL – and how it could bring anyone closer to their god, even in middle school. Stand up, sit down, kneel, hands at the ready, eat the communion cracker, swig some wine, and break out in seemingly spontaneous song in a dreadfully minor key every Sunday, and you may go to heaven, if you’re good enough.

Then, one day, not long before my big three-oh, I heard someone use the term agnostic, and like any self-respecting 29-year-old with a thirst for knowledge, I took to Google.

I remember how I felt when I read what agnostic meant. It was a combination of elation, relief, and finally feeling rooted in something. I feel agnosticism is pretty fluid in nature. My agnosticism doesn’t necessarily look like the agnosticism of the closest agnostic in my vicinity (I’m not even really sure where the nearest agnostic is…It’s not like we wear signs or flashy non-secular jewelry).

My agnosticism looks like this:

  • I believe in reincarnation (and that THIS life is not my first rodeo).
  • I believe you get what you give. If you’re good to the universe and its people, the universe and its people will be good to you. Or, in a more simplified, opposite sense, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
  • I’ll attend your church wedding, bow my head and say grace with your family, or thank you graciously if you mention that you’ll keep me in your prayers, out of respect for your beliefs. It makes me a little uncomfortable, but I’m sure my beliefs make you a little uncomfortable if you identify with a religion.
  • I believe your personal energy gets murky sometimes and when that happens, you need to make shifts to improve it.
  • I believe there is good in all of us, but it’s much harder for some of us to access. I try to access a great deal of good every day. I don’t always succeed, but I’m sure you don’t, either. We are all human.

Of course, this isn’t everything, but there’s so much overlap between who I am and what I believe, that this could easily become a thesis-length paper. And I never want to write a 75-page thesis again.

Just know this: I still do, and always will love the CRAP out of shopping for Christmas gifts for my friends and loved ones. I will always watch Elf and have a drink while I expertly wrap said gifts and place them under my carefully decorated tree, and I will always wait eagerly to present my friends with said gifts, because something about Christmas is magical in a nonsecular way.

But as far as I’m concerned, that Easter Bunny creep can go take a hike. He makes kids cry and it doesn’t take religion to see that that’s just wrong.

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LOOK AT THIS CAR! IT’S THE SIZE OF MY WINGSPAN!

Mac: I browned out that evening

Frank: Browned out? What’s browned out?

Mac: Oh, it’s when you drink so much that everything goes brown. It’s not as severe as a blackout, cause I remember bits and pieces. I like to call it “browning out.”

Dennis: I’m pretty sure at a certain point we all probably browned out.

(from Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

I went to a bar crawl last week.

And by “bar crawl,” I mean “bachelorette party.”

It was low-key as bachelorette parties go. Only one item had any kind of phallus on it, and it was the evening’s gag gift. There were no limos, no pomp and circumstance. We walked (stumbled) from bar to bar. We did don matching t-shirts, each with a special nickname, and the bride had some sparkly silver letters and a veil.

The bride got tired of said veil. It was placed on my head at the second bar, where I dutifully returned it to her before entering the next bar because “Everyone will think I’m the bride. Don’t put that on me.”

The bride placed said veil on my head again at our last stop, many strong drinks later.

Everything changed. Suddenly, I was the bride. Me, single to bride in a matter of seconds. But no one knew that, except for my friends and anyone smart enough to look at my left ring finger. It was strangely exhilarating. I was the bride as far as any of the patrons and the staff at that bar was concerned.

I can’t lie: wearing that veil felt pretty special.

I felt special in part because I felt like the prettiest girl in the room.

But mostly, I felt special because people kept congratulating me and serving me drinks faster than anyone else in our party.

Where the night went from there, I know only in glimpses, ellipses, and phrases. I DO know it was a lot of fun being the “bride,” drunk and surrounded by my friends and waitresses who were happy to get me whatever, whenever I wanted. I know I made a deadpan phone call to my imaginary groom on a banana. I know I sang loud and often while dancing to a collection of early 90’s hip hop songs in the middle of the bar. I know I was in my absolute, white-girl-wasted glory.

I ALSO know I should have found something, ANYTHING to eat in order to compliment or offset the Jameson Highballs I was drinking for 6 hours.

I Irish-exited at the conclusion of those 6 hours, got picked up by my brother, made a phone call and went to bed.

I woke up in a sorry state the next morning.

Heavy is the head of the browned-out, hung-over woman who used her phone too much the night before. I always have this moment when I wake up after a night of hard drinking with a pit in my stomach as I think “WHAT HAVE I DONE?! Did I post a manifesto about my life or wax poetic on facebook? Are my tweets sensible? How many times did I make someone take a picture with me and post it to Instagram?”

Drunken adventures were much easier when they didn’t involve the danger of exposing all of your closeted skeletons for everyone to see. I’m super grateful that smart phones weren’t a “thing” in my college years.

Thankfully, despite my panic, this particular evening’s social spoils were pretty benign.

The hangover was another story entirely.

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Me, in my day-drinking, bar-crawling glory, from Instagram.

Another Post With a Dinosaur in the Title

“When I was a kid, when I was a little boy, I always wanted to be a dinosaur, I wanted to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex more than anything in the world, I made my arms short and I roamed the back yard, I chased the neighborhood cats, I growled and I roared, everybody knew me and was afraid of me, and one day my dad said “Bobby you are 17, it’s time to throw childish things aside” and I said “OK Pop”, but he didn’t really say that he said that “Stop being a fucking dinosaur and get a job…. The point is, don’t lose your dinosaur.” –Dr. Robert Doback, Step Brothers (2010)

As long as I can remember, I’ve been goofy and quirky. I was the kid purposefully dressing myself in mismatched clothes and feeling pretty good about it in elementary school. Throw in the facts that I was super smart, painfully shy, and loved school; I bred myself to be a first-class, Type-A weirdo. And you know what? I love that about me.

It’s the Type-A part that was getting me down recently, but that changed a few months ago.

I broke my mold by deciding to take a trip to Buffalo, NY. Normally ANY trip for me is heavily premeditated. Months of thinking, saving, and packing list after packing list, just to have a little bit of fun. But not this time. I was invited to visit Buffalo, I booked a flight, trusted my gut, and I went. (I did write two packing lists in the process, but I digress). Still, I went, without planning and worrying and perseverating about all of the ins and the outs of the time I would spend there.

I had a FANTASTIC time. I was the most “in the moment” I had been, in a long, long while. One of the highlights of the time I spent there was that I was asked how I’d rate my life. Being a Type-A individual, I decided I should quantify it, on a scale of 1-10, and rated it at a 6.5-7.5, depending on the day.

I’ve ruminated about that rating a LOT since that night. I thoughtfully assigned my life a rating of “mostly a 6.5.” I’d been allowing myself to settle for a “6.5 life” for a great deal of time without ever really knowing it. I decided when I came home from Buffalo, my 6.5 life is not ok.

Sure, there are things about my life that I can’t improve on my own. For example, I can’t fall in love with and then marry myself, and have kids with me. Though I’m pretty awesome, it’d be pretty unfulfilling and impossible.

However, I can start to DO better, and DO more for me, to reach towards my 10.

I’ve been speaking up more, allowing myself to be more emotionally vulnerable, running more, doing yoga, painting and writing, and thinking a lot about how to manifest the lifestyle I want. It may mean taking improv classes or trying my hand at stand-up comedy. It may mean a change in location. It may mean a change in career. This stuff is all TBD, but I’m thinking on it and working towards it. Call it soul-searching, if you will.

I’ve been calling this transitional phase in my life “chasing my dinosaur.” (I just wouldn’t be me if I didn’t grab a life philosophy from a comedy movie.) I just can’t lose my dinosaur. I can’t settle for a 6.5 life. I’m worth a 10. I want that massive 10. I want to get to a point where, when I go to sleep at the end of the day, I feel like I made my arms short and I roamed around the neighborhood scaring kids because that’s what I want to do.

There’s a lot of joy and freedom to be found in chasing your dinosaur. The process is kind of sucky, but life is imperfect. But sooner than later, I’m confident that my imperfect life is going to be rated much closer to a 10.

My conclusion (thanks to Buffalo) is this: It’s not ok to settle. It’s not ok to hope that the “next thing” is going to be better than your now. You deserve great things. You deserve to feel great things, no matter who you are, or how much money you make, so CHASE them.

The point is, don’t lose your dinosaur.