Letting Go, Letting In

Recently, mid-week insomnia led me to my computer to write on something more personal and that which has sat in my heart and my Drafts for months. Truthfully, I have been mulling over this particular topic as a post for so long I can’t remember when it actually germinated.

I’ll start with this:

If you Google “friendship,” you come up with a ton of photos with inspirational quotes on them. Here is one such quote:

A Friend

It’s a really nice sentiment–at least I tend to favor this particular one.

Lately, I have begun to question whether I’ve ever had that kind of friendship in another person who wasn’t a significant other. I read and hear all the time about friends who are as close as siblings, who can be their total messy selves with one another, and I think, “What must that be like?”

My recent experiences with certain friendships have bestowed upon me a few layers of cynicism–several more than I care for. That cynicism rendered me unsure of what a “real” friend is supposed to be or do for someone. I began to believe that the notions I’ve held somewhere in my mind, perhaps some might call them fantasies, created a set of ideals to which no one can be upheld. As I continued to find myself healing from some wound or another, I began asking myself, “What was my part in all this?” lest I completely victimize myself and throw a pity party to which no one would want to come, not even me.

I have been fortunate to have had a handful of friendships with people whom I thought would be by my side for a lifetime. It just turns out that those lifetimes were much more quantifiable. They have all since faded from active existence in one way or another and while I’m okay with that now, it has taken me a while to grasp the lessons from each and be at peace about their current stasis.

Grieving a friendship has its own peculiar flavor for each particular person, I find.

In one instance, I lost one of the closest friends I had in the world. My heart was broken for a very long time. I dreamt about this friend and our relationship on a regular basis for years. I would cry at random intervals. My soul ached for some kind of closure. Eventually, we were able to put some things to rest after what felt like an era had passed, though the damage that had been done affected the friendship permanently. The grieving dreams have ceased but occasionally, I have a happy one and I reflect on the friendship and the person with nostalgia and tenderness.

In another, the friendship simply faded away of its own accord. We didn’t have anything in common anymore, despite being long-time childhood friends. At least from my perspective, it felt mutual. No words were ever exchanged, no acknowledgement of the end of the friendship occurred. It was a natural drift. Because that drift happened when I was in my late teens, it turned out to be easier to accept the gift of that person in my life for a specific period of time and move on.

Most recently, a friendship of mine ended on such a strange and abrupt note that I still have to remind myself of it. This person was a part of my life for close to twenty years, though the last three to four were plagued with issues that we attempted to work out. Suddenly, though, I had to shift my thinking from present tense to the past. The loss hurt primarily because I had believed we were making progress at finding our way back to the foundation of the friendship to reclaim what once was lost. Alas, the falsehood of this belief revealed itself, and I was left to make sense of the sudden rejection. What struck me most was that I did not wail or fall to pieces for this relationship that disintegrated into nothingness with a singular piece of correspondence. All of my anger, grief, and a multitude of other (caring) feelings for this person had already come and gone over the course of several years. Poof! I simply had to reconcile that the end had come without my knowing it; until she told me, that is.

There will always be a part of me who wants to go back and pick things apart, convince myself that if I can find out where things went wrong, or apologize just one more time for my role in the mess, that the friendship has a chance.

Old habits die hard.

And while I muse on these heretofore vital friends and relationships, I continually remind myself that letting go of something means I also have room to let something–or someone–in. The journey continues, and who knows whom I’ll pick up on the way?

Maybe they’re already here.

Maybe they’d like to learn a new song.

I know I would.

 

The Best Blog Post You’ll Ever Read. Period.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hyperbolic headlines. They plague even the most banal of stories these days.

I can’t scroll through nary a social media feed without reading grabbers similar to these (totally made up by me):

“This puppy walked by a church….and what this grandmother did next will blow your mind.”
“The Ten Most Amazing Habits You Should Always Do for the Rest of Your Life.”
“Five Post-It Note Colors You MUST Have in Your Office Drawer at Work RIGHT NOW.”

I wish I were exaggerating but here is a screen shot pulled from today’s headlines from one of the worst offenders:

upworthy-zoesays

Really? Things I should “NEVER, EVER” say to a teacher? There are “NO” jobs? You want to applaud “for days?”

Words like “always,” “never,” “only, “best,” worst,” and loads of other superlatives pepper hundreds of thousands of posts each and every day, all screaming for clicks and attention. At first, it was kind of novel. The too long headlines, reminiscent of people who write an entire email in the subject line, appeared quirky and stood out.

Then everyone in the free world caught on and instead of being funny or inviting me to click on the article, the tactic simply makes me hate reading anything on the internet. And that sucks, because I love reading, and I enjoy scanning headlines to see what’s actually going on in the world. Don’t make me want to quit you, interwebs. (Which we all know I can’t.)

Look, we all have to make a living, but the creation of these sensationalized headlines for mundane everyday occurrences has become telemarketing for our eyeballs. Can we leave yellow journalism where it belongs–a hundred years in the past?

There is a glimmer of hope. The folks at Google have begun working on this issue; a programmer has created a plugin for Chrome called Downworthy, which takes hyperbolic headlines and translates them into more realistic language.

Examples include “Will Blow Your Mind” converting to “Might Perhaps Mildly Entertain You For a Moment”, “Can’t Even Handle” becoming “Can Totally Handle Without Any Significant Issue”, “Literally” becoming “Figuratively” and “Right Now” becoming “Eventually”.

I can’t say I won’t be downloading that plugin. It’s one creative solution to this pervasive problem, short of authors (“authors”) actually coming up with headlines that are relevant and non-irritating. (You can read more about the plugin on CNET.)

On the other hand, if you’re not completely sick of clickbait, you can take part in this guy’s competition to create the best, most hyperbolic headline: see markpollard.net.

Since I am one of the ones who is completely worn out by the boy-who-cried-wolf compulsive-liar syndrome that is passing for journalism, my plea is simply….STOP IT!

Thirties Equals Skin Changes. Apparently.

Welcome to another edition of The Thirties Series, as I’m haphazardly calling it.

I’ve previously written about my reactions to being in my thirties here and here, in case you want to catch up. I’ve even written about a previous epiphany I thought I’d had about the right skincare products for me.

As evidenced by this update, I’m still adjusting three years in. And if someone had told me when I was in my late twenties that I would experience a major skin change by the fair age of 33, I would have scoffed and laughed in her face.

I have had oily, acne prone skin since….forever. I became aware of my skin type probably around the time I was in junior high. I didn’t know back then to buy products based on skin type; I merely bought for symptom treatment purposes.

In response to the ads screaming, “Keep your filthy teenaged zits at bay!” I would haul myself off to the drugstore to plunk down my little allowance on what I thought would work.

Back then, the types of products I purchased were Clearasil, Clean & Clear anything, foul-smelling Noxzema, and Oxy Pads. I never assumed they wouldn’t work exactly as advertised. I mean, YM and Seventeen magazines wouldn’t lie to me, right?

For the occasional splurge, I’d get my mom to buy me the Clinique Clarifying Lotionastringent, also known as “Clarifying Lotion,” which only came in one type back then, and it was pretty much just pure alcohol. I firmly believed that a stinging sensation must be a good thing. Fun times.

I grew tired of it, though, as I realized it definitely did not help keep the oil away. Of course I didn’t know that my skin was overcompensating being dried out by producing ever more oil.

When I was 25, however, I resorted to getting a set of Proactiv, since I was going through some kind of quarter-life adult acne flare-up that was not being kept at bay with traditional methods. It worked for the time I needed it and thankfully, I was able to move on from using it long-term. (I think it’s safe to say that it works by drying out your skin as if you’re in a tannery.)

This year has brought with it better physical health (I have no more gallbladders to suddenly crap out on me) but also a major change in skin type, something I clearly wasn’t anticipating.

I noticed it earlier in the year when my usual foaming cleansers began drying out my face really badly. I’d get out of the shower and my skin would be tight, red, dry, and flaky. Completely the opposite of what I’ve been accustomed to the last twenty years. The cleanser I was in love with, one by La Roche-Posay, was suddenly too strong and drying. I switched to Purpose by Johnson & Johnson, one of the mildest foaming cleansers you can buy. It’s basically baby shampoo for the face. I didn’t think I would need anything gentler.

Yet my face continued to kick and scream with tight, red, dry skin. At this point, I was blaming the water, thinking we had way too hard water or something. But we actually have pretty great tap water here in central Illinois and I needed to face facts and keep experimenting.

I finally tried the Oil Cleansing Method, which for a brief shining moment, I believed to be the answer to my problems. (I highly recommend trying it if you want to get away from traditional cleansers and you don’t have “problem” skin. Crunchy Betty really knows her stuff!) I was using pure Castor and Sweet Almond oils on my face each night and my skin was definitely moisturized and soft. I firmly believed that I would be “washing” my face with oil until I was a little old lady.

But it didn’t take long for my face to become irritated once again. Despite my oil method at night and rinsing only with water and/or a teensy fraction of a teaspoon of Purpose cleanser in the shower, I could not seem to emerge without having inflamed skin that was throwing a temper tantrum, begging for cooling moisturizer. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that moisturizer didn’t automatically calm my skin down. I began wondering if I was allergic to the SPF, which would have been a living nightmare for me, since I need to protect my fair skin. Even the “Ultra Calming” moisturizer I had bought wasn’t helping. (Can you tell I’ve spent quite a bit of money so far?)

It got to the point where my skin began feeling stinging and inflamed even if it wasn’t red (we’re up to August now). I’m sure feeling stressed about my skin wasn’t helping, either.

The only thing that was remotely working on my skin was Philosophy’s Miracle Anti-Aging Moisturizer, which I was using at night but began putting on before my SPF moisturizer in the morning, thinking that it would prevent my skin from breaking out and/or getting inflamed. To make matters worse, if my skin wasn’t inflamed, I was experiencing chronic acne on my chin, something I had never dealt with previously. I was getting desperate.

I began to do more skin research and landed on a website where I’d purchased a few treatment products previously but hadn’t invested in an entire line or anything. That website was Mario Badescu.

The information on the MB website is thorough and incredibly helpful. I suspected I was in the couperose/rosacea/combination skin categories and short of going to a dermatologist (something I could not afford at this point in time, so please consult one if you have the resources!), I decided to take one last stab and self-diagnose and treat my strong suspicions. I was still reeling from this new change but ready to plow forward.

Overall, here is what I have invested in. From left to right: Glycolic Foaming Cleanser, Keratoplast Cream Soap, Enzyme Cleansing Gel, Kera Moisturizer, Collagen Moisturizer SPF 15, and Silver Powder (the last being a gift).

IMG_9879-Edit

Some of the miracle workers.

The Glycolic Foaming Cleanser has been with me since before this problem arose. It is meant to be used twice a week in place of your regular cleanser, as the ingredients naturally exfoliate the skin. It smells great, is quite gentle, and really works. Even going through The Change, I have still used it sporadically since exfoliation is still important.

The next product is the one that has absolutely saved my skin: Keratoplast Cream Soap. This baby not only smells amazing but does exactly what it promises: calms red, blotchy, inflamed skin. It is non-foaming and rinses in a breeze. It leaves my skin feeling soft, smelling lovely, and most importantly: keeps the skin temper tantrums at bay! I can use this twice a day if necessary, since it doesn’t dry my skin out and gently prepares my skin for moisturizer.

Next up we have the Enzyme Cleansing Gel. This is also a non-foaming cleanser that I thought would be terrific because it’s designed for “All” skin types. HOWEVER: the fruit acid in this cleanser over-tightened my pores and I have found I can not use this one regularly. Oh well. It also smells really “green” and fresh.

The next two items are also part of my new miracle regimen:

IMG_9880-Edit

Hello, loves.

After trying samples of the above two moisturizers based on the MB recommendations and reviews, I bought the full-sized bottles.

The Collagen Moisturizer is lightweight and absolutely perfect for combination skin. I had tried a different SPF moisturizer from MB previously for oily skin and ended up throwing it away. This one will remain as my go-to until my skin inevitably changes again. The Kera Moisturizer is meant for dry skin that also gets inflamed. I take a teensy amount of this stuff and pat it on my cheeks, chin, and forehead. I find that it adds a little boost of moisture where I need it most and keeps my skin from stinging later in the day. I can’t go full Kera because otherwise my skin overproduces oil and then I’m blotting it like crazy midday. My skin is feisty like that.

Last up, there’s the Silver Powder. This is excellent for people like me who have pores the size of Jupiter. It unclogs and tightens them right up. A friend of mine uses this with her Clarisonic brush and swears by it. It has excellent reviews on the MB website.IMG_9881-Edit

I have kept away from using it as my skin adjusts to its new routine but I will be re-incorporating it eventually.

Summation points:

Based on my being a skincare product junkie for a long time now, I have bought all manner of things. One product I knew that might work in lieu of toner is La Roche-Posay’s Thermal Spring Water.

I know. It almost seems like it could be a scam but it really does work. It is not just water in a spray can. Its active ingredient is Selenium, which soothes red/inflamed skin. I have been using this stuff right before I moisturize and it locks in the moisture, keeping my skin dewy and happy. If my skin starts feeling remotely sting-y, I spritz myself with a travel can I bought and keep at work. And…it works!

La-Roche-Posay-Thermal-Spring-WaterSo, here’s a final rundown. This post is entirely too long but I really wanted to share all this in case anyone else is desperately seeking some skincare help.

  • Cleanse with Keratoplast (1-2 times a day); occasionally use Glycolic Foaming Cleanser for exfoliation.
  • Tone/refresh with La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water.
  • Moisturize with Kera Moisturizer and Collagen Moisturizer SPF 15.
  • Night creams/moisturizer: Philosophy Miracle Anti-Aging Moisturizer, Mario Badescu Chamomile Night Cream (only have a sample right now–gentle and REALLY moisturizing), Mario Badescu Honey Moisturizer (working with a sample, has a floral scent and is wonderful for combination skin).

The best parts about MB products: they’re not tested on animals, they utilize pure ingredients, they smell fabulous, they’re extremely reasonably priced, and they really work. It doesn’t get much better than that. They also have shampoos and conditioners and a men’s shaving line of products. I can’t talk up this company enough.

I feel incredibly grateful to have found a product line that does what it says it will and is keeping me from being a guinea pig at the dermatologist’s.

Mario Badescu….to the rescue!

Note: I applaud you if you read this entire post. It’s very TL;DR but it couldn’t be helped this time around. Gold star for you!

Me Me Me: Observations on Facebook Brags

According to many a study out there, most everyone on Facebook is a narcissist of one form or another. And if you’re a frequent Twitter user, it’s probably worse.

I don’t happen to believe that narcissism through social media is linked merely to those two outlets. There are social networks out there I’ve never even heard of. But if you can have followers and if you have enough ego, you can certainly whip up an unhealthy dose of overinflated self-importance.

Ice cream flavor “Facebook”: the “taste of time-wasting narcissism.”

I happen to love social media. That’s probably not a shocking admission. I mean, I have a blog with my name in it. (Perhaps that’s the ultimate form of narcissism?)

But here’s where I want to focus on one specific aspect of social media narcissism, and those are the Facebook Brags. I’ve been watching a lot of The Newsroom lately, so if I come across as if I’m doing a monologue from an Aaron Sorkin production, that would be why.

The whole point of Facebook is to share one’s accomplishments, milestones, the occasional selfie, some vacation photos, a snarky observation or two, and even cute stuff.  And if you’re into debate, there are plenty of conversation-starting articles, too. It’s what makes Facebook go ’round. Facebook takes the narcissism to the next level by advertising every single change and/or update we make: Likes, comments, profile photos, cover photos, job description, etc, as if it’s all equally important; so to that extent, it’s not entirely our fault.

Where self-involvement becomes untenable is the constant (over)sharing of things a person is doing that are “above” his or her friends’ experiences. When your Facebook statuses are all brag and no substance, it makes other people you’re friends with (or “friends” with) want to click Hide.

Recent studies suggest that passive participation, as in, not actively participating, on Facebook makes a person more unhappy. Another blogger went into a lot of depth analyzing the different kinds of updates one can post and their underlying motivations, the main ones being narcissism, attention craving, jealousy inducing, and “image crafting.” Particularly on the subject of blatant brags, s/he writes:

Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just excited and need to brag to someone. Even if that’s the case, the only people it’s okay to brag to in life are your close friends, significant other, and family members—and that’s what email, texting, phone calls, and live talking are for. Your moment of self-satisfaction is profoundly annoying to people you’re not that close with, and they make up the vast majority of people who will be subjected to the status.

I won’t lie–in the nine years since I have been on Facebook, spanning from my early twenties to my early thirties, I’m guilty of having penned most, if not all, of the types of status messages that Wait But Why writes about. Twenty-somethings are absolutely more self-involved than most other age groups. However, as I’ve gotten older, matured, and reigned in my baser impulses, I now much more carefully choose what I decide to put out there; so much so, that I have found myself all the more sensitive to brag after brag after brag, particularly if it comes from one person.

When I’ve realized someone is a Braggart 4 Life, each status message earns an eye-roll and some kind of thought along the lines of, “We get it, you’re fabulous and we should all be grateful to be associated with you,” and I categorize that person as shallow/superficial and on the outskirts of friendship. I’ve unfriended people for less reason than being a braggart, but I could see this type of behavior driving much of the unfriending happening around Facebook.

My point here is not to make anyone feel badly about using Facebook. I check it all throughout the day, even if I’m not posting anything, just to see what my peeps are up to.

The point is that braggy, douchey status updates, if someone just HAS to write one, MUST also be balanced out with other types of posts. It’s kind of like Newton’s third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (ain’t that the truth)): for every hubris-soaked statement or photo you put out there, make the next two funny/snarky/sweet/banal. It’s that simple!

Otherwise, you’re going to find yourself without those who would share in your actual triumphs and joys. That’s a promise.

Breathes There the Man
Sir Walter Scott

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land!”
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonor’d, and unsung.

Whee for E!

If you’ve never seen the above gel capsules before, they are vitamin E. This post has nothing to do with E as in Ecstasy (not that I know a freaking thing about Ecstasy) and everything to do with the SUPPLEMENT and virtuous fatty acid vitamin E. Hope that clears things up.

I wanted to chat about E today because of my own recent experience with needing to use it as a topical solution. So in advance: you’re welcome!

Vitamin E is great because it works both internally and topically. In wintertime, when we are most dealing with colds (read: constant runny noses) and have chapped dry skin, take a needle or pin and prick a vitamin E gel capsule to release the gooey stuff inside. Smear a little around your red, chapped nose or on a patch of painful, dry skin (elbows, lips, knees, legs, etc). You will be amazed at how soothing it is and how quickly it works to get the skin back up to snuff.

Because it is so thick, you’ll want the patch of skin you use it on to remain bare while it is absorbed. When I was a kid, my mom burned her forearm on the oven door. She had a huge brown patch of skin where the oven door touched her and it scabbed over. She smeared a couple of vitamin E capsules on her arm once or twice a day while it healed and she had no scar from it.

I don’t know how vitamin E fares on preventing stretchmarks for pregnant women, but I would surmise it definitely helps.

E is literally “the most effective naturally occurring beauty product.” I took that from the premiere source on this vitamin, which is a well laid out and helpful read on all its fabulousness. And, if you’re in a reading mood, check out this article on fundamental skincare basics, which includes incorporating antioxidants in your diet and your skin creams.

Internally, E kicks ass and takes names. Your cells are like, totally BFF 4 Life with vitamin E. Keeping cells healthy means you’re helping yourself preventing certain cancers, heart disease, and even acne. Truly!

So get your E on. Zoe Says do it, as does Dave Starsky played by Ben Stiller. Do it. Do it. C’mon, do it.

For Serious Hot Chocolate Lovers

Hello friends and countrymen! I’ve been watching and becoming obsessed with Downton Abbey lately so I’m even more keen to write formally these days.

My apologies for my small absence away from the blog. Life has been nutso since the calendar turned to 2012. I’m hoping to be able to set aside more time for blogging very soon. I just gotta get taxes and other Adult Responsibilities taken care of in the meantime.

Today, I am sharing with you my homemade hot chocolate recipe. It’s something I’ve tweaked over the years and it’s one of those recipes that can be tailored to just about anyone’s taste, be it more or less chocolate, more or less sweet, more or less creamy–you get the idea.

In college, I made this a lot since it’s relatively easy and when we were feeling a little risqué, we would turn it into Adult Hot Chocolate, which is just adding Bailey’s, Kahlua, or even whiskey, if that is your desire.

I will preface my hot chocolate story by saying that this cocoa will not resemble anything remotely close to the likes of Swiss Miss or anything “instant,” nor does this recipe use a microwave. If that is your idea of what cocoa is supposed to taste like, you’re in for a shock and a treat. This stuff means srs bsns.

Hot chocolate is meant to be made with unsweetened cocoa, milk and/or cream, and your choice of sugar/sweetener. And that is IT. Really! I can’t tell you how many times I go into a restaurant or even coffee shop to find that nobody does it like this – it’s all instant or made with syrups. This is high fructose corn syrup free, people.

All right, let’s do this.

Get yourself some unsweetened cocoa. I used Hershey’s but Nestle and Ghiardelli are also fantastic.

For a single serving, you’ll want to put 2 T. of cocoa powder in a sauce pan. If you’re a cocoa junkie like me, use 3 T. I like mine very rich and chocolatey. For two servings, use 4-5 T. of cocoa powder. For each tablespoon of cocoa powder you put in the pot, put in 1 T. of water.

Now for the sweet stuff. For a single serving, add 2-3 T. of sugar or Splenda. If you like your cocoa REALLY sweet, you can add more. For two servings of hot chocolate, put in 4-6 T. of sugar or sweetener. I would start off with the lesser amount and add more to taste later. You can’t unsweeten it!

Turn your burner on medium or medium/low. This is very important. You can easily burn the chocolate mixture or scald the milk if you have the heat on too high.

Using a wooden or metal spoon, begin stirring the ingredients together. If it seems too dry or thick, add another tablespoon or so of water. The mixture should melt together into creamy, melted chocolate.

The key here is to stir constantly. The chocolate can burn easily or stick to the bottom of the pot. But since you have your heat on medium to medium low, you’ll be just fine. When the chocolate is clearly melted and getting very hot, time to grab your cream/milk!

Because I like my hot chocolate thick and creamy, I use 1/2 C. of cream or half ‘n half and another 1/4 to 1/2 C. milk. You can certainly use 100% milk. If you’re using skim milk, I don’t quite see the point since you may as well be using water, but to each his own. A full cup of 2% milk does quite nicely. For two servings, you may only want to use 1.5 C of cream/milk, but if you want it thinner, use 2 C. of milk.

If you use the cream/milk method, add the cream first, stirring constantly and making sure the chocolate blends in nicely. When that becomes dark and chocolatey, slowly add the milk. Keep up that stirring!

If you use all milk, pour it in slowly, no more than half a cup at one time, stirring and stirring away.

After all the milk/cream has been incorporated and it’s heating up, do a quick taste test. If it’s too bitter, add a a little more sugar or sweetener. If you like it slightly bittersweet, as I do, get it to a nice hot temperature and pour it into your favorite mug.

Optional toppings are marshmallows or whipped cream. If you make your cocoa slightly bittersweet, marshmallows are such a nice option because you’ll get a little burst of sweetness melting in your mouth with the creamy cocoa. But sometimes a naked cup of hot chocolatey goodness really does the trick.

I’d love to hear if you try this out and if you love it as much as I do! This is definitely filed under Zoe Recommends: Homemade Hot Chocolate! Bon appetit!

Hot Chocolate

Photo courtesy of Louish Pixel on Flickr.

Cloudy With a Chance of Sexism

What I’m about to say will absolutely sound biased. But since I’m a woman and not a man and have not yet run into many men with this particular skill, I’m going to go ahead and make a blanket statement.

Ready?

When it comes to coordinating (as in schedules, calendar, appointments), women have men beat by a huge margin.

Coordinating schedules: confused man, smug woman.

If there were a competition or an Olympics of coordinating schedules/events, women would win hands down every time. Gold, silver, bronze. I invite men or women to correct me. However, I’m thinking that it’s going to be more of a “there are exceptions to every rule” kind of thing. (I worked with an exception to the rule at a former job – he’s top notch.)

When I did a Google Images search for “men coordination,” the first few images were of ties which coordinated with men’s dress shirts. Even when I typed in “male secretary,” I got a few stock images of men with headsets sitting at desks but that was all. (And as a woman who has been an assistant at many levels, I can tell you that being a “secretary” does not necessarily mean wearing a headset. There’s a lot more to assisting executives or offices than ringing phone lines.) So anyway, I think it’s fair to say that women are the general image of admins/secretaries (and to quote Seinfeld, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”).

I’m aware more men are in administrative roles nowadays, and that is wonderful, but I’m still sticking to my story.

In light of witnessing the hilarity that accompanies watching two or more men half-assedly coordinate a dinner or an outing, I finally got to a point where I came to this ultimate conclusion. Men just suck at planning shit out, plain and simple. Is there a “coordination” part of the brain? Or a gene which only women have? Because women make excellent schedule coordinators. I’m a crack shot myself. I’ve been paid to be one for years.

To strengthen my theory, I am citing just two examples from which I base my claim.

First instance. I have pretty much given up on asking my boyfriend to coordinate anything with anyone, including his own family members. They become exasperated after trying to reach him and failing, and so they call, text or email me, because they know I’ll respond immediately. When he wants to get together with his best friend for a round of golf, or if we’re all going to hang out together, the best friend’s wife and I just circumvent any communication between the two and we coordinate everything ourselves on behalf of our menfolk. It goes something like this:

Me: Hey, is your dude available for a hangout with Kevin in the near future? They need to get together.

Her: Sure, let me check our schedule and I’ll let you know.

And the thing gets planned with perfection. No fumbling, no taking a week. Date, time, place, and an answer to, “Can we bring anything?”

Second instance. Recently, I went to a meetup with some fellow photographers. The idea came up on Facebook from one of the guys in the group and I was the only woman out of four or five people who responded that yes, I could make it (and of course I was prompt about it). What ensued were sixty comments over the course of three or four days on where, when, and what time. The day and time were settled relatively quickly. But trying for the where was a laborious feat.

No one wanted to choose. I really, really, really, really wanted to cave in and just decide for the group but since I’d been the coordinator for previous meetups and this was someone else’s suggestion, I bit my tongue (er, my fingers, I guess?) and waited to see how long it would take for the decision to get made.

It was soooo painful, you guys!!

It was, “So and so, you choose,” and another guy saying, “I really don’t care,” and someone else saying, “Well I want to go to this place,” and me saying, “No that place sucks, let’s go back to Options 1 and 2,” and on and on and on. I was sort of like a shepherd guiding her flock to the pasture of decision making. Finally, after much back and forth, the original guy whose idea it was to meet up stated with finality where we were meeting. But it was slightly gray-hair-producing.

What else can I say?

I rest my case.

Ergo.

QED.

Where I’ve Earned the Right

At some point during the last five years or so, I accepted the fact that I am going to be bombarded with advertisements of all kinds, during any given activity at any given moment. While I heretofore believed that the one I hated the most was watching a thirty-second ad prior to watching a forty-two second video clip online, a new one has crept into the number one slot.

The new champ iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis: ads and offers I have to decline prior to accessing my bank account online.

They kind of make me want to cut someone.

I always believed that if one places his or her money in an account at a banking institution, that institution is grateful to have that person’s money and that was it. End of story.

If you can tell I didn’t major in finance or economics, you would be right. But I can’t stress enough how uncomfortable it makes me to constantly be turning down offers from my bank, who is only trying to upgrade me in some way to get more of my money, of which I don’t have a lot.

Now let’s talk online banking for a moment. I don’t know of a single bank that doesn’t offer this service anymore. In 2011, we have become dependent on having access to our balance at a moment’s notice, and can perform all kinds of transactions that, in the 90s and earlier, we would have gone to the actual bank to do. Personally, I do love the convenience.

Yet, what I’m discovering is that while it’s a free service which banks love to inform you about (and in my case, most recently, pushed me to sign up for right away), there’s always a catch. It’s actually “free,” not free. They know people want to log on umpteen times a day to check their balance, to see whether their paycheck has hit, make transfers, and so on.

So somewhere along the way, marketing folks said, “You know what we should do, is show them offers they have to physically click yes or no to before proceeding to their account information.” This is where I see red.

Sometimes, I don’t have time for shit like that. Sometimes, a girl just needs to do something really quickly and be about her day.

In the late 90s and very early 2000s, I would physically go to my credit union to deposit my paychecks, withdraw cash, and get money orders if need be. I actually didn’t mind. This was before my debit card allowed me to limit how much cash I needed to have on hand at all times. The tellers didn’t try to upsell me on a simple transaction and I didn’t have to listen to or watch anything prior to doing my business. Ah, the days of yore.

And while I’m grateful banks + technology seem to have a healthy relationship, the constant ads are making me wonder if I’m not better off putting my money in my sock drawer. Or at least just avoiding online banking and going to the ATM more often. (Though isn’t it only a matter of time before we have to watch an ad before seeing our balance at the ATM?)

The convenient but not smart way to bank.

Here’s how I know this is never going to stop:

I recently made the decision to sever my relationship with Citibank (“rhymes with shitty bank,” quoting Bill Maher) after four years. When I was in NYC, it served me well. They were everywhere and had good customer service. But I grew weary of having to constantly change my debit card because people try to hack into their system all the time. I had just changed my card again this summer and what arrives in the mail two weeks ago? A new card, “courtesy” of Citibank, with a note saying to activate it as my account might have been compromised recently.

That pushed me over the edge and I decided to seize the day and bank locally. It’s much more convenient and it’s not Citibank! Plus, though I liked the layout of their online account system, I was not only having to decline offers before proceeding to my account info but having to say no to something BEFORE I COULD SIGN OFF. To me, this is a dick move. If I’ve clicked Sign Off, it means I’m done and I need to leave. It’s the equivalent of someone standing outside a building and shoving a clipboard in your face, asking you to take a survey. Every. Single. Time.

(And also? What’s with pop-up ads while scrolling through news articles online? They give me a tic.)

So far, I’m pleased with my new bank and its customer service and convenient locations. I’m okay living with the ads before the account info online (despite my checking the box that says Do Not Ask Me Again), I suppose, since I really just want to be able to hang on to a debit card for the entire length of its validity. It’d be nice to hang on to one until it expires. What a novel concept.

I’d love to say that online banking is a right. It’s my account, it’s my money, I made the choice to put my money in this place. But the advertisements remind me over and over that that is not how the banks see it.

One might say, “But couldn’t you just opt out of online banking?” I actually don’t know the answer to this, though I think theoretically, one can.

When I signed up for my new account last week, I checked all the boxes for what I wanted from my account and was told a bank rep would be calling me to finalize the opening of the account. When I got the call, I just assumed I’d answer a few simple questions, go over my account options, and be on my way. But in actuality, this woman’s job was to ask me the exact same questions I answered online the previous day. If I had known that it’s moot to open an account online, I simply would have gone in to the bank to open one. It seems like such a waste of time and energy to answer the same questions twice.

But I know it’s because if I don’t remember my answers and I accidentally say yes to one of their “Protection” plans, I’ve given away more of my dough. She also reiterated quite strongly, “Make sure you sign up for your online bank access.” I didn’t really need the nudge so I thought it strange. I have also had to turn down e-banking (where you pay your bills through your bank) three times. I don’t know what the catch is with that one, but anything the bank pushes me to do, I’m inclined to just say no flat out.

This whole thing is just exhausting!

If I want to get away from the 24/7 ad placement that comes with living in the 21st century, where can I go/what can I do?

  • Head to a remote area of the country – Montana is lovely, I hear.
  • Stare at a blank wall.
  • Close my eyes.

It’s all I could think of.

While I understand there is a price for everything, there is just a part of me that feels I’ve earned the right be able to place my earnings somewhere without constantly defending it from the very institution in which it resides. But my options being “Deal with it or live a much more inconvenient life” and “Deal with it but bitch about it on the internet,” I opted for the latter.