Archive for May 2012

Are You More Successful Than Your Parents Were?

My adorable parents.

That’s what the headline I just read asked me: Am I more successful than my parents were? When I read it, it was weird, the answer called out by my inner-monologue was swift and immediately, “Yes!” But when I thought about it for a few more seconds, I realized: No. I mean, monetarily I am way less successful. Societally, I am not successful at all.

I am 37, a first time newlywed, I have only held down a handful of “real jobs” since college, at least two of which involved a uniform. I am childless. I still wear concert t-shirts to “go out.” I only own one actual “outfit.” And my car has twenty three dents that I am aware of, a cracked spoiler, a faulty defogger and no heat or air conditioning.

So then, why did my brain immediately default to, “Yes,” when met with that little question? My mother had a graduate degree in education, two kids, a dog and a nice home with a porch when she was my age. She had a really good haircut, at least six blouses and a closet full of expensive shoes. My father meanwhile was a practicing physician with two kids, was well on his way to opening his own practices, buying a summer home and a speed boat with a closet full of weekday suits and weekend flannels. He bought Mercedes cars outright, without a lease.

There is no sad story here. My parents were in every way successful. They had, if not a perfect marriage, a nice one. My sister and I grew up feeling safe and loved. We were good kids, too. No one ever had to bail us out of jail or sit us down for “talks” and it wasn’t until I started making really bad choices in my late twenties when they were no longer responsible that anyone ever really had to worry. But by then I lived out of state so they never needed to know they had to worry until right now when I told them.

But I know that their life was in every way following the rules. They never said it, but I know they didn’t always ask questions before reacting to an order to jump. It wasn’t their fault. It was their generation. Success was defined differently then.

I feel like my life is as it should be. I guess that’s the reason the Pollyanna that lives in the recesses of my brain shrieked “yes!” upon being asked if I had exceeded my parent’s success. I had, because I had lived my life to this point in every way on my own terms. After college I moved to Europe and worked really insane jobs on which you didn’t have to pay taxes to make ends meet – but which usually involved excessive drinking. I moved to San Francisco where I helped my best friend start a business that ultimately failed but taught me a lot about failure (a lesson with which I am now intimate, thankyouverymuch). I moved to New York where I tricked everyone into letting me write a book. I met the man of my dreams and married him. I have a tiny Brooklyn apartment, a crappy car, two dogs who smell like dog, amazing friends, manageable debt and the promise, hope and optimism that someday I will pay it off because “They” will have turned The Stoned Family Robinson into a TV series starring Sean Penn (please, God, if you’re real…).

My parents might disagree, especially when I call and ask them to help cover a car repair or twelve…But I think in some ways they would also agree. Their choices weren’t bad, but I don’t think they were always on their own terms.

So, I feel more successful. Even if my retirement fund is a baseball signed by the Republican who owns the Texas Rangers and my great-grandmother’s fox fur stole that has a dried out fox head attached and terrifies my dogs…I look around and think: So this is what success feels like…It’s different then I thought it would, and sometimes includes the cheap chicken with a lot of hormone injections instead of the fancy organic kind, but I’m proud of it. Not always the chicken, but, you know…

Turning Legal Obsticles to Legal Popsicles

Two things happened within two days of each other: North Caroline passed a bill making it very hard for unmarried couples to be couples and Obama came out as a supporter of gay marriage. I have to admit, I don’t completely understand what’s going on in our country. I live in the middle of the proverbial choir. My political beliefs are very like almost everyone I know.

In New York and particularly New York City, you’d hardly know there was an election coming up, so predictable and un-swayable are we in how we vote. But there is an election coming up. And occasionally its “crazy” seeps into my world and I can’t ignore it. And I’ve been trying really hard to ignore it.

I was advised about a year ago by a professional that I should try to limit political rhetoric on my social networking pages if I am going to try to sell books like The Purity Test and The Ultimate College Prank Book. (Right?) But seriously, unless I want to build a career out of political rhetoric, it’s better to avoid it. Frankly, I am not smart enough to build a career out of political rhetoric. My jokes are aimed pretty squarely at a forth grade demographic. And they can’t vote so kind of a waste.

So I am not going to address in this blog everything that I actually think, because I want people, even those with views I abhor to continue buying The Best Life List by my good friend and dog, Dee Dee Clermont. (You know who you are, Malakili the Rancor Keeper.)

But what I want to say is this: I understand that it is counter to American sensibilities to allow civil rights issues to go to a popular vote. Historically, it has never been done. So, in fact, what North Carolina voted into its constitution the other day will very likely prove unconstitutional. But what I find so worrisome, even beyond the issue of gay marriage, is how far apart the views have grown from left to right across the board.

Has it always been this way? I feel like it hasn’t. I feel like there was a time you would throw things at each other and call each other names, but there was still some meeting point because as Americans the conviction that transcends all convictions, that is fundamentally American to its core, is that we are all allowed to believe what we believewith the respect, value and honor due all Americans, all of humanity. It is expected. It is welcome.

Everyone in this picture is straight. Just drunk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But lately, that feels less and less the case. While one party preaches small government, on a social level they are putting as many legal obstacles in our way as they can. (I wish they would make them legal popsicles. That would be better. Can we all at least agree on that? Legal popsicles for everyone? Cherry flavor so you get the cute red pouty lips while you’re eating it?)

We are so lucky to have our first amendment because it protects our religious freedom. By that same token, as a nation we are beholden to protect the rights of every citizen. We are each allowed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. There was a time when everyone agreed with that. I’m so confused about when we all stopped agreeing with that.

In conclusion, I don’t know when people started wanting to control the behaviors and beliefs of their fellow Americans by legal means, but I want them to stop doing that. I don’t want you to marry someone of the same sex if you don’t want to. I don’t want you to go on birth control if you don’t want to. I really don’t want you to smoke pot if you feel like it is something you shouldn’t do (unless you kind of know you’d be doing everyone a favor. Kidding. Just kidding.) I would however, love it if you would leave the judgement, punishment and obstacles to the God you are making so much noise on behalf of. I think She can handle it without your help.

As for the popsicles – Let’s make it the third Wednesday of each month, around five PM, choose your flavor. The government is too broke to subsidize the program so you’ll have to buy your own. And if you get caught not eating one, it will be ten years in the slammer and fifty-thousand in fines.

Who’s with me?

Break Ups: When Life Changes Against Your Will

I’m smiling, but I mostly felt greasy when I was a producer.

The other day I ran into someone who once fired me. This is the biggest problem with living in a city whose population travels mostly by foot. You run into all kinds of people. Brooklyn is like an enormous college campus with thirty and forty something’s on skate boards. That’s how my ex-boss was traveling when I saw him swish by.

Now, to be clear, normally I am a grudge holder which is why I tend not to stay friends with exes. There is literally one exception to this rule, but it only works because he lives in another country so the term “friends” can be applied loosely. But when I saw my ex-boss I called out to him. And then we chatted…amicably. I cooed over pictures of his beautiful daughter. I introduced him to my unruly mutts. We hugged and then he rode on.

As I walked away I had one prevailing thought: That guy changed my life.

I thought back to the day he called me into the back meeting room of our new production offices, sat me down and said simply, “We’re going to let you go.”

There are very few words more humiliating than those, but for the record they include, “get out of bed and get dressed,” “no more ice cream for you,” and “I’m cheating on you with your hotter, much younger sibling.” But “We’re going to let you go,” is right up there. And it sucks.

It wasn’t the first time I had heard it. And I am not so stoic as to not cry when I hear it. So I did. I just started crying. Then something miraculous happened. Instead of telling me to get my stuff and take myself to the movies, (horrible-boss-who-fired-me, 2005), he said, “Let’s go to lunch.”

I have only ever had one really good break up. My friends love this story and often ask me to retell it. I had been seeing this terrific guy for all of three weeks. But I had cyberstalked the poor kid to the point of obsession. He was a writer and had an impressive web presence. I am not suave enough to act breezy when I feel obsessive-y (think, crazy-eyed), so fairly quickly, my phone stopped ringing. After spending a good week planting myself within a three block radius of his house wearing lipstick, he finally asked me if I would go for a walk with him.

From my “illustrious” career as a writer.

Now you could suggest this break up might have turned down a darker path if we had actually dated for any real significant amount of time. But all I can say is that by the end of our walk, he had “let me go,” AND I had agreed to purchase real estate with him — Both things. One walk.

It was magical. I remember walking away from him, a huge hug and kiss good-bye, perma-grin extending violently across my face when it dawned on me in Hollywood slow motion, I had just been dumped. I started laughing. I had been dumped and I felt amazing! Somehow as we’d walked, he had me believing in every break up cliche in the book: I DID deserve better than what he could offer. I WAS amazing and he WAS so lucky to have gotten to spend this time with me. It WAS him and not me. And if the house he rented went on sale, of course I would go in on the down payment!

When I was fired by my skate boarding boss, our lunch had gone similarly. “You should go be a writer,” he’d told me. I had just gotten my first book deal. “Do you know how many people wish they had an opportunity like that?” He also pointed out that I didn’t really love my job. I wasn’t a filmmaker. I didn’t want to be. So, in short, I DID deserved better than what he could offer,  I WAS amazing and he WAS lucky to have gotten to spend this time with me. It WAS him and not me. But I would, I had to admit, still buy property with him.

The key to these break ups was the fact that these guys left me hopeful. They left me with a vision for what my life could be without them in it. And in that vision I was amazing. So what if they had (basically) sold me a bridge? I bought it because they sold it well.

And what’s even more important is that they both changed my life because I believed them. I walked toward the future that was better without them. And, looking at my husband, my career and the property I do not own, I’d say they were right.

Now, just let me know if you need me to kick in on your next big purchase…