When You Lose In Love

It really isn’t a surprise I guess, but Josh turned out to be untrue to me. The statement itself makes me sound like such a weepy ninneymuggins- I can’t say it out loud without the added drama of holding my fist to my heart in woe. But his mistake has cost him and myself any sort of stable or safe harbor to dock ourselves in as we navigate through this adventure we embarked on together. It is my fault of course, because I chose this, I chose him, carelessly, and recklessly. What he doesn’t realize is that when I look at him now, he appears to be the same. I don’t see him as smaller, or as a ninneymuggins himself. It’s myself that has changed to me. When I look in the mirror now, I see someone smaller and of less worth. Someone who is not enough. And this has turned out to be a dangerous feeling. It has overwhelmed me, and knocked me down into the trenches, and when no one is around, you can get left there, until you are able to pull yourself out- which can take some time.

When down in the trenches I often think of ninneymuggins things like how one of the most beautiful, rare and invaluable gifts of life, is this idea of love. Love reassures you that although you are capable of overcoming what may come your way on your own,  when you find yourself at your weakest, there is a person more courageous than you at the time, who will just be there. Humans are not perfect, and therefore nothing we do will ever be, but love highlights human beings and human nature at both our worst and our best. This courage that you can show someone else, is one of the most important and rewarding parts of love. But courage requires incredible risk, and this is why love is so fragile. If we fail in love, we ourselves risk breaking. Cowardice will leave you fully formed, unbroken and unscathed, and completely alone. But there is always hope, where there is weakness, there is always bravery.

Cowardice is loud. It screams, “I’m writing you off. Go away. You deserve worse and I deserve better.” It’s the Rihanna song “You look so dumb right now/ Standing outside my house/ Trying to apologize/ You’re so ugly when you cry/ Please.” Or the Beyonce song about packing up all the boxes to the left and “get gone.”  But courage is quiet and forgiving, it’s more of a soft and poetic James Taylor song or Stevie Nicks talking about how “rulers make bad lovers, so you better put your kingdom up for sale.” James Taylor and Stevie love and lose and learn and forgive and let go- they are ninnymuggins too. Celine Dion too, she’s the biggest ninneymuggins of them all- but my God how can you not realize the enormous capacity at which hearts can break and heal when Celine is wearing glittery gowns and declaring her heart will go on in a high falsetto while pounding her chest on stage in the middle of Vegas? Courage isn’t always dramatic or bold though. It can be as understated as not leaving when someone is upset, actively listening to someone else, reaching out to hold another’s hand, any small gesture that quietly tells another “you aren’t alone, I’m down here with you and I’m not leaving you here, because you are enough.”  I believe everyone is deserving of that feeling.

But sometimes you just won’t be enough or you will make someone else feel like they aren’t enough- and this is where you will get stuck. Either standing outside someone’s house trying to apologize while they call you dumb, or being inside the house packing everything they own in a box to the left and telling them to “get gone”- I’ve been on both sides. And both sides leave you completely dumbfounded, wondering what to do next and what to make of our relationships when we have lost in love. When you’ve made a mistake, do you put up your defenses, scatter eggshells around yourself so that anyone who tries to approach you has to tread so lightly that they will never be heard?  I have learned that defenses only build castle walls around yourself (and rulers make bad lovers), whereas admitting “I was wrong,” can be a very strong beginning.

Love can be many different conversations, but it is never silencing. It is not one person on a soap box, if anything it is two people down on the ground, and at an equal level, sharing and listening to one another. This is hard for people, we seem to live in a world full of alphas, and love is disappointing to us in so many ways because it is a blaring reminder that we are imperfect, at times dishonest and ugly, and at times regular human beings. We spend so much of our time trying to hide that from one another. But what’s the point? I’ve made mistakes, let me tell you about them, let me teach you what I have learned. We are each others greatest teachers, especially when it comes to love.

Maybe you can never lose in love for this reason, it is a constantly evolving and in flux dialogue that we will share with others (romantic or not) all of our lives- or as long as we are alive and part of the human race.

Maybe.

Wearing Scrubs In Hawaii

When I got to Hawaii, I had no idea what kind of job I would get. I, like usual, had no plan. If anyone asked I would tell them, “I plan on teaching….or working in hospitality.” The two are not related in any way, and all it really revealed to anyone was that I had no plan at all. I applied to almost every hotel on the Big Island and got absolutely no call backs, but I did however have a few interesting teaching interviews:

“And what did you do at David LaChapelle?”

“I worked on photoshoots. On set I would do all sorts of things. Run errands, cater to the talent. I worked with all sorts of people, like Amanda Lepore.  I also was responsible for making chains of life out of photographs of naked bodies.”

“Chains of nak-who is Amanda Lepour?”

“A transgender pop singer. One of her big hits is ‘I don’t know much about clothes but my hair looks fierce. Wait, I think it might just be called my hair looks fierce, but that’s the hook.”

“I am not familiar..so why do you want to work with…special needs children? Is that why you moved to Hawaii?”

I paused, because it had all become very unclear. One day, after another awkward and confusing teaching interview, I received a call from a veterinary hospital asking me to come in for an in person interview. My in person interview ended with a follow up working interview the next day. “Do you like animals?” My friend asked me once I got home and told her. “Of course! I like cats in theory but I would never actually want to care for one. Feral cats are cool, I think I like cats because they are so bitchy and to themselves, ya know? Although, I think everyone should be the kind of person their dog thinks they are. And I am very fond of sea turtles.” My friend was quiet, and we sat together in silence, but a blaring silence, one that screamed impending disaster, hopefully one that didn’t involve death or lawsuits.

I had never really given animals much thought before. I love to look at cute pictures of puppies wearing funny hats as much as the next person, but other than that I never really… reach out to them. If I see a dog in passing on the street, I never pet it, I just smile at it and keep my distance, because animals are unpredictable. That dog could sense my fear and weakness and just go for my jugular. I have no idea. They are wild and have really tamed them? These beasts we walk around on leashes and buy fake stuffed squirrels for?  I mean, who do we think we are?

When I was a child I was scarred by three incidents involving animals. The first was involving snails. When I first learned to walk I would toddle around my grandmother’s garden stomping on snails who were eating her plants. “Smash them!” My grammie would instruct, pointing at one, slowly trying to escape the pathway leaving a trail of shiny, fluorescent slime behind. I would toddle over to it, wobbly and unstable in a way that made it look like I was dancing over it’s body, smooshing their gooey guts all over the sidewalk while my grandmother cheered me on. Later in life, the guilt of this would lead to me becoming an advocate of shelled slugs. When I saw a group of kids at recess, all gathered around an overturned snail, slowly sprinkling salt all over its boneless body and squealing as it bubbled up in pain, I would go a-wall. Tattling on them and calling them killers. In retrospect, I probably scarred them more than they scarred me, but I had a debt to repay.

The second, was my friend rolling her hamster, who was trapped in it’s “hamster ball,” down a flight of stairs. The hamster lived, but I don’t know how. I also called her a killer, even though she didn’t kill her hamster, and I’m not sure what her intention was. Some sort of sick enjoyment, rolling a tiny rodent down a flight of stairs in a plastic neon pink ball. Senseless. The last was when my friend’s older brother shot a cat with a bb gun. The image has been burned into my memory forever. The cat was white, it’s fur stained with red blood, running away from my friend’s evil older brother who was chasing it with a gun. I ran home screaming to my mom about blood and dead cats and I wept for days. My so-called safe, suburban childhood was full of animal abuse. Before going into my working interview I contemplated whether or not I should share any of these stories with the veterinary technicians or even the doctor- perhaps they would make me memorable or set me apart from the other candidates. I decided it absolutely would. “Don’t just offer that stuff up,” my friend told me, adding, “no offense.” I was offended.

When I got to the hospital which was surrounded by banana trees and in a huge blue house  that has been converted into an animal hospital, making it seem cozy and safe instead of sterile and scary, I was met by a group of girls who all looked around twenty-five, and all wearing scrubs. I was given a pair of scrubs to wear and told to change in the bathroom. In the bathroom, I stood looking at myself in my new uniform. My scrub top fit ok, but my bottoms were a little too short, and too wide around the waist, resulting in them sagging down my butt, but still awkwardly hovering above my shoes. I did not look like a doctor, I looked like I was wearing an ill fitting last minute Halloween costume. I had also been instructed to wear my hair up, so I fashioned it in a bun. When my hair is in a bun on top of my head I look like a ballerina, but when worn with ill fitting blue scrubs I look like a lunch lady. I gathered up the waist of my pants to hold them up and went to join the others.

I was immediately put in front of a phone and told by a vet technician to “do the recall list.” In front of me was a long list with names and numbers. “These are pets that we need to check up on, some of them have had surgery, some of them had vaccines, and so on and so on. Look up their records here.” She started clicking boxes on the screen, pulling up medical records. “And ask them the basic questions, are they eating and drinking normally, are they vomiting or having diarrhea and what their bowel movements are like. Any questions?” She sat down next to me, “I’ll be here if you need anything.” I looked at the list and realized residents in Hawaii name their pets interesting things- “Elehu, Pounder, Bijox, Moo, and Spit” were all cats. There was a “Bo,” a “Beau,” and a “BoBo,” all dogs, five “Konas,” also all dogs, three “Coco’s” two of which were cats, and one was a dog, another dog named “Kevin,” and the last name on my list was Hitler- a male cat, not neutered.

The first name on my list was “Zaboomafoo Leons.” When I looked at Zaboomafoo’s record it stated that Zaboomafoo was a male cat, who had just gotten neutered. I looked at the tech sitting next to me, who smiled at me encouragingly. I picked up the phone. In Hawaii, when you are making calls you begin with “Aloha!” and you end with “Mahalo.” “Aloha!” I squeaked, “This is Jennifer, calling from the Kona Veterinary Hospital. I am just calling to check on Zaboomafoo and see-” “Oh I was just about to call you!” the voice on the other end of the line said. “We noticed Zaboomafoo has been having watery poop, is this normal after the surgery he had?” I started to sweat. “Watery…waste?” I repeated, I somehow couldn’t bring myself to say “poop.” “Yes, yesterday it was hard but today its much softer. He’s been eating a little more than yesterday, but why is his poop so watery? What does that mean? Also we are having a hard time giving him his pain meds, what do you suggest?” I could feel myself clench my butt, something I do when I’m nervous. “Um, you could try putting the pill in cheese,” I said, who am I? Does cheese kill cats? Put them on hold! “Cheese? Really?” I looked at the tech sitting next to me, who was nodding, like she could hear the whole conversation on the other end through the phone, and then gave me the thumbs up. “We also sell pill pockets in different flavors, cats like the salmon flavored ones,” she whispered to me. “Yes cheese, and maybe that would harden up his waste?” I said, half like a question. The tech frowned. “We also sell pill pockets that taste like salmon,” I added. “Has Zaboomafoo been drinking water?” I asked. “Oh yes, yes. You know what we will try the cheese and get back to you, we’ll keep you updated, but if you could ask the Doctor about the watery stool that would be great. Also if you could ask the doctor if we do a fecal test, does sunlight affect the stool sample?” I paused, “Like if it’s been sitting out in the sun?” I whispered. “Yes, would it mess up the results in any way?” I paused. “I will ask. And then…I will call you back about the runs I mean watery stool and sunlight..”I trailed off. “Ok great thank you!” “Um, mahalo,” I hung up. The tech smiled, “Great, now I’ll show you how to record what they just told you.” Inside, I was panicking.

Next was answering a phone call. “Aloha, Kona Veterinary Hospital, this is Jennifer how may I help you?” “My dog got hit by a car, his leg is bleeding, can I bring him in right now?” My butt clenched so hard. “Hold,” I said and pushed hold. In emergency situations, my natural reaction is to pass it on. Hold! Let me go find someone who can handle this, I yell as I run away my butt cheeks tightly pursed together. I repeated this info to the tech, who did not seem the least bit rattled, in fact she seemed calm, like aloha mucho calm, as she soothingly instructed me to get back on the phone and ask how far away they were, if they were a current client and if the dog was breathing. I tried to mimic her nurturing and soothing voice. “Alohahankyouforholding,” I said all in one monotone breath which made me sound like a sex phone operator. I could feel my ill fitting scrub bottoms drooping, and am pretty sure my neon colored underoos were on display as I hovered over the phone trying to scribble everything down on a piece of paper.

Whoever I was talking to was cutting in and out and I could barely hear him. “Eee-hoo is my dogs name, the last name is Kai. He’s breathing, we are about an hour away.” I typed Ehu Kai into the patient database and a client listing came up. “Ok we have your information, we will see you in an hour.” I said hanging up. I told the vet tech the information, and she told me to come with her while they alerted the other nurses and the doctor. “What kind of dog is Ehu?” she asked. I looked at the file. “It says a chihuahua,” I said reading off the computer screen.

Then it time for a prescription filling tutorial. “People will call with prescription request, just always look in the file,” she started clicking buttons on the computer as I stared into cupboards filled with animal drugs, needles and syringes. “This,” she said opening a cupboard below all the prescription drugs, “Is the dead binder. Anything that dies, the paperwork goes in here.” I cocked my head to the left, “Anything that…dies...” I repeated, trailing off. “Yes euthanasias mainly,” she explained. “Euthanasia…” I repeated. She then motioned to a large freezer, “And that is where the bodies go,” she said nonchalantly. “Next I’ll show you the exam rooms,” she said leaving as I stood staring at the large white freezer, half wishing she had opened it so I could stop imagining what lay frozen inside. As I followed her out into lobby we were interrupted by a large Hawaiian man who appeared on the lanai holding a sturdy drooling pit bull whose leg was covered in blood. He burst into the lobby a flurry of energy and chaos. “We are here, Ehu Kai is here!” he exclaimed, holding Ehu under one arm and fanning himself with his other hand. He was the first gay man I had ever encountered on the island of Hawaii, and he was holding… not a chihuahua. The vet tech looked at me. “That’s not,” I finished her sentence, “the right Ehu….”

Around 4 pm, I had experienced a work day so different than anything I had ever done, that I felt like I was on another planet. I had not shared any of my animal stories but I also imagined that “the girl who got the wrong Ehu,” surpassed memorable, and would create a legacy for others who would have working interviews. “Don’t worry, you are doing great. Let me tell you about this girl who got the wrong Ehu on her working interview,” vet techs would tell possible employees, laughing at how incompetent and confused I was. “Jenn,” the vet tech I had been with all day told me. “Our boss would like to talk to you in her office,” she said. I gathered my the waist of my scrub pants and walked slowly to the back office lurking creepily in front of my potential new bosses desk. “We’d like to hire you,” she said looking up. “Hiuh?” I said accidentily letting go of my pants and then gathering them back up as they sagged back down. “We really liked you,” she said. “Can you start tomorrow?” “Yes of course, thank you,” I said and started to wander out of her office. “Oh and Jenn?” she called after me. “Yeah?” I turned around. “We will order you some extra long scrubs in size small,” she said and smiled. These are kind, kind people who do good work here at the Kona Veterinary Hospital, I thought as I gathered up my pants again. And then, what did I just get myself into? 

If I have learned anything though, it is to go through doors that open for you. There’s always some reason and rhyme to why they do- if nothing you realize how much you can learn and do, how truly capable you are. I’ve gone through doors where I have been on set helping a transgendered pop star sit onto of a plastic life size unicorn, sending lunch meat via airmail to my boss in Utah for Sundance, posing as Katy Perry’s arm stand in on set, sitting behind John Legend as he played the piano for a commercial, made chains out of photographs of naked models, sat in a teepee at different music festivals gifting musicians tie dye tank tops and now taking fecal samples and handling animal emergency situations. Just, always say yes. Say yes and let life surprise you.

Boss Girl

I believe there’s a big difference between being a “boss” and a “leader.” You’ll hear people call themselves “the boss” but very rarely does anyone call themselves “the leader.” To me, declaring yourself “the boss” is similar to screaming “I’M IMPORTANT” out the window of your apartment to random passer-byers on the street. Someone who is capable and focused on climbing the ladder, someone who works hard, mainly for themselves and who believes that the people underneath them owe them their time and hard work. Leaders seem to possess a sense of keen self awareness that allows them to be a quieter type of person. Someone focused on a bigger goal which is bigger than themselves, and someone who views the people working for them as valuable assets, a team of dedicated individuals whom without, their dream or company would be unmanageable. The difference is one way of thinking is simple and easy and the other way is harder and much more work. And this is why: Leaders know their people. People are complex, they aren’t just what is listed on a resume, or recommended by a professional reference. People have dreams, passions, skills, talents, they grow, they change, they need, they want. Leaders not only understand this, but they take the time to really understand the people on their team- discover who they are, which is a lot of hard work. It involves a lot of asking, and a lot of listening.  Leaders know that taking the time to devote to understanding the other people they are working with is important because life is not just work.

Leaders see the “big picture.” The big picture always involves more than just a single person. The big picture is that life is not just your one self, or your own personal work. The big picture is life- which includes many many other people. Life is family, it’s relationships, friendships, love, it’s exploration, it’s experiences, it’s a roller coaster, and work is just a part of it. A leader understands that each person they are accountable for is living their own unique, complex life- full of their own unique struggles, passions, disappointments, successes and hopes. This is important because when you lose sight of the big picture you end up shrinking your world when in actuality you want to expand.

Leaders lead by example. Leading by example doesn’t mean that everyday at work you are flawless, it means that everyday you are at work you are honest, you try your best, you are sincere, and never give up. A good leader can have a bad day, but won’t let those bad days get them down in the long haul, they never lose hope. A good leader admits mistakes, takes accountability, honors their word, and respects others.

Respect is something that bosses seem to believe their employees owe them instantly, just based off some hierarchy put in place to create a sense of structure. But leaders know that respect is not only a two way street and something that every person is owed, but also something that is earned and can be lost. Leaders don’t talk down, or shut down people working with them- they don’t use their authority to belittle others to build themselves up. They don’t see value in silencing people they may disagree with. Because the rare, intelligent, and talented people won’t follow a leader who breaks them down or disrespects them forever. People of value won’t stick around and let you beat them down, they will leave. And true leaders know that no one can accomplish anything alone.

Leaders know how to communicate. They can do this because they know their people, they see the big picture, they respect others and therefore they can easily communicate their thoughts and feelings to others who are looking to them for answers or advice. They don’t manipulate. They can explain things clearly. They know how to actively listen, they can make tough decisions, they can handle problems or concerns with sensitivity and awareness. They are direct, they are positive, they are firm and they are never all-knowing. They are thoughtful and they are honest when speaking to others.

Leaders have imagination and can laugh.

Leaders have swept the floor, they aren’t above anything.

Leaders say thank you.

Leaders are FAIR.

Leaders reward hard work.

Leaders call bullshit.

Leaders take action.

Leaders appreciate.

Leaders observe and learn.

Leaders can be anyone and everyone.

My generation is an entrepreneurial generation. We have a lot at our fingertips and plenty of ideas but that’s not enough, we have to learn how to lead. It’s inevitable that if you aren’t working towards your own dream you will spend your time and energy tirelessly working to make someone else’s dream come true. I think no matter what, we all need to resolve to learn as much as we can from people in power, really put thought behind what we experience and see, so when the time comes, we can get it right.

How To Be Beautiful

My co-worker Chance is a Tinderella. He will sit on the porch of our store flipping through picture after picture of girls, assessing and rating them all. I will perch above him, bursting, full of questions. “How can you tell if someone is prettier than someone else?” “You just can,” he said. “I don’t know, can’t you tell if a guy is better looking than another guy?” I thought about all the men in the world. How does one compare Ryan Gosling to David Beckham? It’s like comparing a sunflower to a rose. They both are so beautiful. But then I have always been strangely attracted to Adrian Brody, he would be like a cactus, which is also beautiful in a unique and mystical way. “Yeah ok, but who has the better butt?” Chance said, in all seriousness. “I mean David Beckham is a pro athlete…can you google Ryan Gosling’s butt? I’m having a hard time picturing it.” After I said it, silence settled all around Chance and I, the kind of eerie, calm silence that happens in movies where natural disasters are about to strike. “No, just forget about i-” Chance said quickly but I cut him off. I had stood up and begun to pace back and forth in front of him..yammering away. “You know, if you exclude the fact that attraction is an important factor in mating-” “NO NO NO,” Chance looked pained as I carried on, “And you just think about the concept of beauty in general, I mean in such an image obsessed world, being beautiful seems to carry a lot of clout. But why? And women just seem so much more forgiving. A woman will look past a crooked tooth or wonky eye and go on and on about a man’s character, or how he bought her flowers, or their sense of humor. But men are so visual.” “I do have eyes,” Chance now seemed like he himself had aged forty years, agitated and crotchety and set in his old man ways. “Please stop, just forget about it.” I was going femme fatal on him. Shut up neanderthal MAN, listen to me, to prohibition sally-girl-boss-hilary-clinton-spice-girls-and-all-other-things-that-men-wince-at-girl-power-things. Chance was looking for exit routes, his eyes scanning all around before focusing on the horizon.

“Everyone wants to be beautiful, but in a strange obsessive way, a way that suggests we all suddenly drop dead at the age of 40, at the first sign of a forehead wrinkle or pound of weight gained, leaving behind nothing but an Instagram full of beautiful filtered selfies of us at our best angles and in our prime. But hey hi hello, life isn’t over, your twenties are ten years, that’s it! One day we will be sixty and our twenties will be a distant memory.” Chance groaned, but I had said something that made him pause and he was now staring at me, listening. “If we spend all our time trying to be beautiful on the outside, or being dazzled by physical beauty, what are we going to do when we all get saggy and old?” I could tell I had baited him but immediately lost him once I uttered the word ‘saggy.’ “I don’t like old people..or babies,” he said cringing at the thought of birth and death. I narrowed my eyes at him and he shrugged. “It’s a biological fact that you get saggy as you age, our bodies break down on us. But your soul never grows old and saggy, we should all be spending time developing that so we can emulate beauty all our lives.” Chance rolled his eyes, “Ok Thoreau. And how should we develop our souls?” After he asked it, he closed his eyes in immediate regret, similar to how people look after they take that final last shot of whiskey at a bar- the shot the takes you down.

In no particular order:

Sense of humor (especially regarding yourself). Nothing is more beautiful than a man or woman who can laugh at themselves. It’s a sign of confidence. Life is fragile yes, but it should be enjoyed, and that means you can’t spend it taking yourself so seriously that you never have a good laugh at yourself. Humor can save you, if you can laugh or see the humor in any situation, you can survive anything. Humor also attracts people to you, everyone wants to be around someone who can make a seemingly dull or challenging or even stimulating situation fun and interesting.

Sense of adventure. You want to be a person who can’t wait to trek up a mountain in Nepal to visit ancient temples and monkeys, or sail around the world, but you also want to be the person who can see the adventure in the everyday boring things, like going to the grocery store, or making a trip to the DMV. You wouldn’t think this is possible but I have had some wild times at the department of motor vehicles- you just need to be observant and have a wicked imagination.

Dope Style. This does not mean you are decked out in designer everything. This means you have developed your own sense of style and you rock it, with confidence, no matter what it is. Fashion and trends are bullshit, wear what you like, mix and match things, feel comfortable in developing your own personal style. I saw a Grammie the other day having brunch in Malibu wearing a neon red sweatsuit, flip flops, black rimmed glasses and drinking a mimosa on a Wednesday at eleven in the morning. And Grammie looked doooooope. She outshone all the young giltteraties who were all wearing different versions of big rimmed hats, drinking green juice and picking at egg whites.

Compassion. When you get old and saggy, shit hits the fan and compassion becomes a big asset. But compassion is a learned skill, it requires empathy and experience, it’s a higher level of thinking that most people sadly never really develop or reach. It’s a skill we all should be working on perfecting- constantly. Nothing is more beautiful or strong than someone who can extend kindness to everyone they encounter. Or someone who can see all sides to a story, or someone who is tolerant and open minded.

Sense of Wonder. I’m sure we have all been on a date where we sat in silence and listened to someone’s life story. These blabber-ers are not beautiful, they are annoying. Beautiful people do not think the world revolves around their own beautiful face, they are curious about others, about life, about everything they encounter on a daily basis. They wonder. The sense of wonder will keep you young forever.

Independence. We are all different. The ability to come to terms with yourself, to be self aware and  embrace your own being allows other people to embrace who they are. An independent person is someone who has blossomed, and therefore makes it easy for others to blossom around them as well. Independent people can celebrate others because they do not fear what is different than them. They can stand outside of a group as themselves happily.

Intelligence. To me, this means having the ability to challenge someone or something at an appropriate time. To think and then speak, to give voice to an opinion shows guts, and to be able to do it with grace shows incredible power. I mean, a nice pair of boobs will never be able to do that. Ever.

Going To Bars In Your Twenties

The Bungalow in Santa Monica is full of men. If you are a straight male who owns a blue pinstriped button down you are probably at the Bungalow drinking mojitos with your friends on Friday, Saturday or Sunday night. In LA on any given night bars are packed with people but for some reason, Santa Monica’s The Bungalow attracts more straight males in their twenties and early thirties than women. It’s designed to feel like you are at your richest friend’s house, a breezy Baja-style beach house surrounded by lushly landscaped gardens. There are various different rooms you can walk through, all with high soaring ceilings and wood rafters- a game room, a study, a great room with a wood burning fireplace, all of which lead out to outdoor patios covered in twinkling lights and comfy couches and tables.  I went there with my girlfriend Kristen one night after work and we were completely overwhelmed by….all of the men. I was more overwhelmed and slightly enchanted by all of the blue pinstriped button downs. “This place is packed with dudes,” Kristen whispered to me as we squirmed our way through the crowd. “Do you think they all get these shirts at the same store? They all look the same how do you pick one? Maybe I’ll ask each one how much they paid for their shirt, and whoever paid the least is the one I’ll talk to.” Kristen and I had made our way to the bar and instead of ordering mojitos we ordered shots of whiskey. In an outdoor space with hummingbird feeders hanging from the trees and full of primly groomed men holding drinks with lime wedges floating in them, I felt like a wench at a bocce ball party.

As I scoped out my surroundings I made eye contact with a pinstripe, who promptly made his way over to me. “I’m Conrad,” he said. “I’m Louisa,” I responded without even thinking. “That’s a pretty name.”  I nodded, “Louisa May Alcott.”  “Beautiful name,” he said and added, “And what do you do?” I sighed. The real Louisa May Alcott died in 1888 and is the author of Little Women. This is my favorite fake name to give to pinstripes because they one hundred percent never know that. If anything they just remark on what an old timey name you have. “Louisa? That’s like a grandma name.” I don’t know what I expect, for some boy to say, “Wait a minute, you just gave me the name of a dead feminist author!” More than half them men I meet don’t read books, or even know what feminism means, let alone support it. And why should they, they are men, they are strong, they have no feelings to express, they are just looking for a pretty, docile, quiet women to stand next to them. An empowered women with thoughts and ideas who is always yammering away is alarming, and not in the good way a long lean pair of legs with a nice butt is alarming to them.  “I’m a… hostess,” I told him. “At a restaurant?” he asked. “A restaurant on a golf course,” I smiled coyly. “I love to cook,” he told me, a half smile spilling across his face. He was very attractive. “I’m from L.A.,” he went on without me asking. “I love it here, I just moved from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica, it is so much prettier by the beach let me tell you.” “Downtown LA has some charming places,” I commented positively. A flashback of a very scary looking homeless man I had seen the last time I was in Downtown LA filled my head. He had been wearing some sort of cloak with no shoes and was hobbling across the street to the public toilet at the corner of an intersection and I remember I couldn’t look away, I just kept watching him like he was in the zoo, it was such a haunting image. I realized that while I had drifted off, thinking all this, pinstripe had just been talking. “I’m a producer, it’s a really high stress job.”

“What is your favorite thing to cook?” I asked him. If I ever have a daughter I’m going to tell her that she should genuinely be interested in others. I’m going to encourage her to be engaged in other human beings on the planet. Get to know others you encounter through being empathetic and interested, ask them questions about themselves! But I’m also going to tell her that if she ever finds people who not only ask her questions about herself but who also listen to her responses sincerely, those are the people to keep around you. Like when you are walking down the beach and you stumble upon beautiful shells amongst all the grey rocks and seaweed. Collect those shells and put them in your pocket. My pinstriped chef was staring at me, he had gone quiet, thinking, and then finally said, “Salad.” My eyes lit up. “Salad!” I said excitedly. “Salad!” he repeated again but more enthusiastically. “I love salad!” I exclaimed. “What kind of salad do you make?” I asked. He paused again. “Lettuce and herbs.”

Even though he was handsome, this guy was clearly a Daryl who had me confused for a girl who would throw herself at him because he was tall and attractive. After awhile if you are boring, which lets face it, producers who make salads, and the way this conversation was going was not very promising- I stop caring about how dreamy your eyes are. Good looking people are everywhere in LA, if that’s the reason why you hold yourself in high esteem, good luck out there amongst all the glitter. I had begun to eat the olives out of the bar tender’s mason jar, the one next to all the cut up limes and lemons. The bar tender was busy and not paying attention and the olives were in perfect reach from where I was standing. As I popped two in my mouth, I was just at a loss at where to go with this. “Do you ever put olives in your salad?” I asked, holding one up to my face like I was in an infomercial. Kristen appeared with two old-fashioneds. “Kristen, this is Conrad, he enjoys making salads,” I introduced them, remembering my manners- introduce people using thoughtful and interesting details! Conrad shook Kristen’s hand, “I’m a producer,” he told her. As I nonchalantly reached across the bar to pluck another olive out of the jar my eyes met the bartenders. I coughed. The bartender stood across from me firmly, his eyes locked on mine as he took a lid out from under the bar and promptly screwed it onto the olive jar. I took Kristen’s arm and looked at Conrad. “It was a pleasure meeting you, good luck producing your lettuce dishes,” I said with genuine good will, and whisked Kristen off into the crowd.

After we finished the old-fashioneds, we went to use the bathroom. The girls restroom at any given nightclub or bar is full of your new found sistas. These are girls who, if you saw them on the street wouldn’t even smile at you, but once they are drunk and in a bathroom they only want to shower you with love. “You are SO pretty! I LUHVE your skirt! The lock doesn’t work in that stall let me hold the door for you!” I am reassured as a female with very few girlfriends, that the night before my wedding I will be able to round up bridesmaids by going and hanging around a women’s bathroom at a bar. I can only imagine- “You’re getting married! Oh my God! You want ME to be in the wedding! Oh my God, of course, I LUHVE you!” As we wandered back outside, Kristen’s phone began to ring. It was a cute boy who she had been out with and who was absolutely smitten with her. “Answer!” I reassured her. “I’ll be over there..” I said pointing to a nearby bush. As she was on the phone, I realized I had begun to feel slightly drunk. I looked around, the whole room stripes of blue with splashes of brown and blond swished back hair. “I like your hat,” a passing pinstripe said to me. “Thank you…it’s my adventure hat,” I whispered. These people are scary. I don’t want to meet them. Strangers. People I know, where are they? I know where! They live in my phone. I pulled out my phone from my motorcycle boot and began to fire off texts:

“Let’s raise a rabbit together!” I’m pretty sure the person I sent this to blocked my phone number the next day.

“Our love is forever and ever and ever.” That one got sent out to both an ex-boyfriend and a boy I went on exactly one date with.

“This tavern is full of city men. I wish I was at a saloon with sailors, or cowboys…wait who goes to saloons? Not Indians, they party in teepees. Eskimos party in Igloos.” This was sent to my best friend Breck. He responded, “Mam, don’t be weird. My good ho, get yourself an Uber and get the fuck out of that gambling den!” Breck is one of the shells I found on the beach.

“I can’t find pizza.” That was a mass text I sent to everyone I know, I think in hopes that someone would help me.

I pity Louisa May Alcott for being alive in a time period where you were unable to reach out, with ease, and in a drunken state, to people who were not physically with you. What did Louisa do when she was standing around in an idle moment in a ballroom waiting for some man who had asked her father months in advance if he could have the honor of a dance with his daughter, to approach and bow in front of her? If she was thinking about pizza she just had to keep that thought to herself. There was no way to alert anyone who wasn’t physically and geographically near her that she is craving piping hot cheese and dough. And what about the ability to pop into a past lovers life like a manic ghost they can’t get rid of unless they call their cell phone provider and blacklist your phone number? Louisa just had to let her lovers go and die on their own, she didn’t get to monitor their social media activity and lust after the good times. She didn’t have the ability to live in both the past and present simultaniously. No wonder she had the time to be an abolitionist.

Suddenly I felt my hat leave my head. I turned around and there it was, floating through the crowd. Who is holding it?  I squinted and saw that it was now being adorned by a tiny furry man. He was easy to spot not only because he was so short but also because he wasn’t wearing a pinstripe shirt. When I looked closer I noticed he had a beard and very fury arms, the kind of arms that were coated with a thick batch of dark hair, arms that suggested he also possessed hairy knuckles and probably a very hairy big toe. “Kristen!” I said, my eyes wild, “That hobbit took my,…me, I, the Louisa May Alcott’s hat!” Kristen hung up the phone and we went following the hobbit through the crowd. We cornered him by the outdoor bar and when I approached him I realized I towered over him. I plucked the hat off his head and he peered up at me. “Sorry,” he shrugged. “Lil buddy you can’t just-” I was ready to take out my life’s frustration on this small stranger when I noticed his T-shirt. It was a black crew neck with a graphic of a smiling taco underneath the words I love tacos.   “Your taco is so cute,” I said, admiring it’s tiny eyes and big grin. “I love tacos too,” I told him. “You do?” he asked meekly. “I love tacos too!” Kristen joined in. As we all shared a moment, I reveled in the fact that it is fun to go to bars in your twenties, not to meet your future husband or wife, or anyone who will be of great significance to your life really- they aren’t there, they are in a supermarket or library, mine is probably working hard as a character on a Disney cruise ship (we will meet off the coast of Florida after I have given up and decided to sell all of my belongings and float away at sea on a makeshift raft built out of various different Ikea furniture parts. He will see me, bony and exhausted from my journey and I will see him, wearing a teeny tiny hat with a tassel and dressed as Aladdin, and I will just know I finally found him, the struggle will be over and well worth the fight).  Anyways, it must just be fun to go out in your twenties because life can be so confusing and difficult that sometimes it’s nice to just blow off steam with your friends, or be in a space decorated to look like someone’s backyard, in an altered state of mind, where you can just love tacos with other people, strangers and friends, together, as one. I often reference this in troubled times- we may be at odds now, but we probably both love tacos, or salad. Let us let bygones be bygones like we do after a large bouncer named Boris cards us. Cheers! 

The Top Five Best Worst Dates I Have Been On

My 25th year of life has been a year of job interviews and dates. Basically a year of me sitting across from some stranger trying to convince them that I am fun/sexy/cool and incredibly punctual, reliable and a good candidate to grow with the company. And, not to be overly dramatic, but at this point, I don’t know if I will make it to 26.

The Top Five Best Worst Dates I Have Been On:

1. The guy had the flu. I kind of only want to go out with men who are experiencing both a fever and the chills from now on because in their weakened state, they are kinder, softer, more open to being vulnerable, and interesting conversation just flows with ease. Sitting in a booth with a tall sick man crumpled up next to you and force feeding him soup fulfilled my feminine desire to care for another, while also giving me the ability to tell stories about my favorite childhood pet to someone too weak to do anything but listen and engage me. “Your cat Fred sounds like such a fun pet,” the guy told me, his face twisted in pain. “I can’t believe he ran away as a kitten and came back months later obese, who was feeding him?” I put my fork down, “I know! No one knows!” As soup dribbled down his face, I wiped it off with a napkin. He took his napkin and wiped cheese off my face, “you have Mac and Cheese in your hair too,” he said. I picked pasta out of my locks as he put his head down on the table, “I’m going to die,” he moaned. I rested my head on my hand and twirled my hair, “Me too…we all are, we just don’t know when..” Afterwards, I texted my best friend: “Omg, had such a good time, I think we really have a connection. Like, I think I’ve met the one.

2. The guy turned out to be incredibly old. I didn’t know he was old at the time he asked me out, he looked around twenty-eight or twenty-nine but he turned out to be thirty-six. I found this out by accident, we had been casually talking about siblings while browsing the menu and when I asked how old his sister was he said, “Oh me? I am thirty-six.” In the moment, I didn’t really think anything about it but later on when I started doing the math I realized that when I was zero, he was eleven, and when I was eleven, he was twenty-two. I know age ain’t nothing but a number, but you’ve got to question the man with age defying pores who is still asking out twenty somethings. The main question being what is his skin regime because he looks incredibly youthful and glowy. It made me think of my future self, me at the end of my thirties- where will I be? I really have no idea but if I am still single, not even a divorce to my name, I will absolutely be living amongst a colony of mute nuns on top of a remote hill in the Netherlands because at that point, I am just one of the unlucky ones meant to share their life with no one except The Lord.

3. The guy is best friends with someone I’ve previously dated the week before. L.A. is actually quite small and I’ve decided that when you’re on the third or fourth date where you meet a guy’s group of friends, instead of trying to impress them by being the hot fun girl all the bros are jealous their friend gets to date, just pick their cutest bro friend and start dating them as well. This is effective, especially for those women commonly dismissed as sweet and timid, because no one sees it coming and it gives you an air of danger. I think Stevie Nicks tried something along these lines and the result was the end of Fleetwood Mac, but all I conclude from that is that it’s not a good idea to solidify all your conquests in the form of a musical group who shake tambourines and sing together. Baffle the bros. They won’t turn on each other- because without their bro who are they? They will just be confused together, essentially strengthening their bond while, if you go about it with class and sincerity, they won’t turn on you either and you surpass the crazy ho category, and get placed in the one just above it, the one where all the beautiful mysterious creatures who can’t be tamed go. If I were an animal in the wild, my defense mechanism to escape predetors would not be camaflouge, or the ability to turn my ribs into spikes, it would be my ability to confuse my enemy in such an intense and volatile way that all they can think of to do is run away as fast as they can.

4. The guy is/was/has been/ an underwear model. I’ve dated two men who, when you Google their name, fill your browser with pictures of them in tight, low rise white briefs and let me just say there are two types of attractive guys: those that pose with their arm over their head while a stylist greases their abs, and those who don’t, but who can run five miles shirtless without any shame. I can tell them apart now when they approach me. Men on the Google in their underoos have an air of confidence that regular muscley men just don’t possess, I think it might even be classified as a type of insanity, but I’m not sure.

5. The guy who isn’t scared away by your Instagram handle and still takes you out to dinner. I guess it’s a thing now, for people you meet to show their interest in you by following you on Instagram. This is wildly unfortunate for me because in the past few months my Instagram handle has changed from:

Aloha_Big Jenny to Hamburger_Jenny to Big_HambergJenny to Regular_Old_Jenny1973.

I already have my next handle picked out: Sad_Flat Chested _Jenny but I’m still deciding if I should throw an 88 on the end or not. There is nothing more thrilling to me than having a man with perfect hair and teeth ask me if I’m on Instagram. “I am, I’m Regular Old Jenny 1973.” The silence that ensues could cut glass, and if you’re lucky they ask you to repeat it and you get to introduce yourself as Regular Old Jenny 1973 again. It’s an excellent way to weed out people early on because for some frail and unadventerous men, that’s all they need to hear to know that Big Hamburg Jenny is a huge red flag, a ticking time bomb, stay away. I need a strong, creative man, one with a heart of gold, one who isn’t going to question why 1973? 

You Will Learn

The other day I was writing in Starbucks, like I always am, and I couldn’t help but overhear two teenage girls talking about boys. “I’ll text him and three hours later he will respond,” one girl was telling her friend. “And you can see that he totally read the text!” her friend exclaimed, disgusted. I started to sweat. This was one of those moments. A moment where I, an old woman, or an older woman than these sixteen year olds, can now bestow my hard earned wisdom to a pair of souls on Earth. “Ladies,” I began, butting my head in between the two of them, causing the brunette to let out a scream in alarm. “As an… elder,” I continued, “I can give you some knowledge….some very hard earned knowledge, knowledge only gained through painful, horrifying mistakes.” They looked at me in equal parts alarm, suspicion and awe, and I felt like Ursula in The Little Mermaid– a terrifying overweight old octopus woman, who if existed in real life would most likely be a participant on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, about to tell these girls that the only way to find true love is to surrender their voices to me, the evil drag octopus queen. “Send one and only one text,” I instructed, their eyes growing big. “What?” they asked. I paused dramatically. “Text, ‘hey’ at 2 am…..and then just turn your phone off.” They stared at me. “Then what?” one of them asked. My brow furrowed. “You just go to sleep,” I said in a tone that suggested, look at me, I clearly get all of the menI could sense from their silence, I was losing some, if not all my credibility. “Men today are slobs,” I declared in a hushed tone. One girl sighed like she just figured out that I was not a person to take any advice from ever. I was losing them. “Give your voices to me or else Prince Eric will never love you…” I trailed off. As they both ran away, I was left sitting there to stew, in shame.

As I watched them from the window I realized they would most likely go home to their parents overwhelmingly disturbed by the scary woman in Starbucks. “I’m sorry…” I called after them. In retrospect, I would have just told those girls that if he doesn’t text you back don’t worry. As you grow up life is going to throw so many more obstacles in front of you, boys will be the least of your concerns. I started to think about myself as a sixteen year old- I looked like a stick bug and I spoke to no one- and myself now- I still look like a stick bug and I talk to like, three people,  but there have been so many things I have learned since being sixteen, valuable things I could share with someone younger than I.

I would have admitted that the hardest part about growing up will be not becoming that scary woman who has let all the painful lessons and failures of her life leave her jaded and bitter. Because there will be boys who don’t text you back sure, but sometimes you won’t text boys back, and there will also be boys that tell you they love you but don’t really know how to, and you will tell someone you love them but end up not knowing how, and there will be boys who use you, and you will use boys, and you will make and lose friends, succeed and fail at jobs, fall down over and over and have to get back up. And you will always have to get back up and keep going.

You will go out into the world, and nothing will be fair. It will shock you. You will have to figure out which battles are worth fighting for and you will realize everything in your life will be a choice. You will have the choice to fight or not to fight. You will have the choice to blend in or stand out. There will be moments when you will need to be brave. Moments when you will need to listen instead of speak, and moments when you will need to speak instead of listen- and you will need to know the difference. You will need to figure out how to love yourself, others and the world- in that order. Your heart will get blasted into a million pieces and, this will be one of those moments you will need to be brave, you will need to put it back together using yourself, others and the world- the very same things that shattered your heart to pieces in the first place. You will have the choice to let your defeats, embarrassments and failures define and weaken you, or make you a more empathetic and courageous human being.

You will have to face a media shitstorm. Everywhere you look there will be someone to compare yourself to, something to live up to, some person making you feel inadequate, threatened or afraid. And you will have to be smarter. You will have to investigate for yourself, you will have to form your own opinions and ideals and it will seem impossible and lonely at times, but it’s a struggle worth embracing- and it may take a lifetime, so don’t ever surrender. You will want to be beautiful. You will see beautiful women everywhere. You will hear men talk about beautiful women. You will have to define beauty for yourself because one day you will hopefully be a wrinkly old woman, and you will have to look at yourself in the mirror. You will be disappointed by how the world is presented to you. You will need to be more than creative, you will need to be innovative and take what’s given to you and recreate it. You will have to learn to seek- to really hunt for the good, and you will realize you have to be the good in the world, and you will have to figure out how. You will have to follow through. You won’t always follow through or honor your word- and you will learn how detrimental that will be.

You will lose things- innocence, dignity, pride, friends, lovers, family members. Your parents will get older- their hair will turn grey, they will get sick, you will need to be there for them. You will need to suck it up and be strong for others. You will have to prioritize your time and energy. You will have to determine what and who is important. You will have to be dependable for the people you love. You will need to stop thinking of only yourself. You will need to take responsibility. You will need to care. You will need to connect. You will need to be able to recognize those who are toxic to your wellbeing and you will need to learn to forgive them and let them go- because, you will learn, that sometimes you too, are toxic and worthy of being forgiven and let go.

You will feel sad. There will be some days where you won’t want to get out of bed and try. But there will also be some days where you can’t sleep because you are so excited about something, there will be moments when life will feel perfect. You will learn to remember the good days on the bad days and you will get out of bed and keep trying.

You will learn how complex you are.  You will surprise yourself. You will disappoint yourself. You will be proud of yourself. You will hate yourself. You will love yourself.  You will realize others are as complex as you are. You will learn not to fear different people, or opinions, or lifestyles. You will learn to embrace everything foreign to you with open arms. You will learn to be tolerant. You will become more interested in people, more forgiving, and more loving because of this.

You will learn that people in power are sometimes cruel. There will be people who have authority over you who will abuse you. You will have to learn to stand up for yourself. You will have to remind yourself that you are powerful too, even if they don’t think you are. You will learn how to help others see their own power- you will learn that breaking others down is a sign of weakness, not strength. You will learn how to be a leader and not a dictator.

You will learn to laugh. Laughter will be your saving grace, and you will realize it’s the only weapon you will need in any battle. You will learn that people who can laugh at themselves always win.

You will learn it’s worth it to pay attention to everything and everyone, even though everything you see, experience or encounter will most likely leave you completely bewildered and confused. Be conscious. Don’t ignore things just because it’s easier.

You will find soul mates. People who, in a crowded room, you can make eye contact with and just know what they are thinking. You will know who these people are because they will be around for all of it, they will endure your messy life with you. This doesn’t mean they will be physically with you all the time. Your soul mates will be traveling along on their own path, fighting their own journey, but along the way you both will be each others teachers and safety net. They will let you go out into the world and be there in some form when you come back completely fucked up from whatever happened to you out there. You will exchange stories with them. They will challenge you, they will see the best in you, they will bring out the best. They will remind you of all your strengths when you are downtrodden and they will call you out when you are being an idiot. They will protect you, sometimes from yourself. You will learn that being someone else’s soul mate is even better than having one.

You will love and lose. And love and lose. And love and lose. Each love will be different, and awesome, and horrifying. And you will learn to always be brave enough and willing to love again. And when you find that love you can’t live without, you will learn to fight for it every. single. day.

But most of all, you will learn to keep learning and re-learning. You will learn that your mistakes make you a good teacher, a more empathetic member of humanity. You will learn that throughout the different stages of your life you will make new mistakes, and that you will be ever evolving and in flux. And you will hopefully learn to make peace with this and accept your own humanness. And I hope you will, at the end of it all, have enjoyed being alive.

At this point, I had begun to weep- in the middle of Starbucks. As I blew my nose into paper napkins and rubbed my gigantic red watery eyes, one of the baristas stopped wiping down a table nearby and put her hand on my shoulder. “Uh, are you ok?” she asked. “Life is so crazy, but so beautiful…..so sorrowful.  I just didn’t want to be Ursula, I wanted to be Grandmother Willow,” I told her. She nodded kindly and said, “There’s always tomorrow.”