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How to Break a Heart (or Two)

Step one: Find someone who fascinates you thoroughly and profoundly. (This is my standard for being exclusive.)
Step two: Disregard incompatibilities, both knowingly and blindly.
Step three: Happily fall in love anyway.
Step four: Enjoy life together, though it is going nowhere.
Step five: Deny that, deep down, hope does grow.
Step six: Buckle up as the road bumps get rockier.
Step seven: Ignore (mostly) when that quiet part deep down waves sadly as you grow apart.
Step eight: Blink away the denial to see what has to be done.
Step nine: Figure out how to tell someone you love that it is over.
Step ten: Fight to breathe as both hearts shatter.

I don’t know what happens after step ten. This is unknown territory. Maybe accept that you know it is your fault, willingly falling in love with an expiration date. Learn to live with your own masochism.

By the time I reached steps seven and eight, my stomach had grown into a knot that made me want to become physically ill most days. There is a vice circling my heart. Little things like a stranger complimenting my dress or a friend doing something normal like giving me a hug or thoughtful gift sends me into a spiral of emotions and tears. It’s baffling, since no one knows of my impending breakup. And I’m not one to cry often, especially in public.

It’s an unsettling experience, to simultaneously know that your actions are both the best and worst thing you could do. I am about to completely shake my life off of a crucial foundation; about to throw myself into a wrenching tornado, knowing it will eventually be healthier for both of us.

But looking into the eyes of someone I have and still do truly love, with these words on the tip of my tongue, sends a knife into my gut. I am afraid.

I’m scared of how much it will hurt us both. I fear for how he will react, how he will throw himself into drinking dangerously, how he may get hurt physically in addition to emotionally. That he won’t find someone good enough to be with after this, that all of the beautiful ways he’s grown the past few years we’ve shared will shatter to the ground with his heart and never grow back. I’m scared I’ll break him; he’s so precious to me, I cannot bear to think about it.

I keep thinking about the positives for myself, how I do sort of miss dating and look forward to the joy of exploring new people. The newness. The beauty of people. The unique validation of a stranger’s compliments on a first date. Feeling wanted and desirable. The freedom from the pain I have felt as our relationship slowly died. The knowledge that the little mistakes made at the beginning of dating won’t matter so much, since the newcomer likely won’t last. It’s a liberation from shared consequences, and a comforting return to taking care of just myself.

But I don’t think about the cold, empty nights coming my way. The crying into my dog’s coat as it overcomes me. Knowing she will also be sad alongside me, missing him, too. Going through the home we have shared for the past years and continuing to find his things. His smell. Echoes of his voice. Unfriending his siblings on Facebook. Obsessively keeping an eye out for him on the street; DC is too small of a town. Wondering if he rebounds/dates someone we know. Avoiding the Dupont neighborhood as a general rule. Watching some of my friends drop off as they pick sides. Celebrating July 4th without it jointly being his birthday.

I try not to think about not seeing him every day. But the closer the final breakup conversation came the more it popped into my mind.

We became a couple in a whirlwind of infatuation and realizing we had become each other’s best friend. We stopped being good for each other, so we have to now redeem ourselves as friends by breaking up. And then say goodbye to my best friend as we move on with getting over each other.

And now I have had the joy of experiencing what I’ve heard about for years: the tainted emotion of listening to holiday music while brokenhearted. Hilariously painful. Happy New Year, everyone.

Bartender or Whore?

“What’s the difference between a bartender and a whore?”

We come in all shapes and disguises.

We come in all shapes and disguises. This is “covert”.

Apparently not much.

Lets talk about decency, and the lack thereof, one deals with in the hospitality industry. I was looking back at my writing this past year, and one episode stood out that missed publishing. The audacious depths of depravity involved in that night still set my nerves on end. This is the story of why I left the restaurant business.

I was working at the Pub that night, and had a rowdy group of 40 something’s. From the off, we had a stellar repertoire; very playful and assertive. I liked it. I had the women flirting and complimenting me and the men puffing up all flattering and grandiose. But towards the end, one of those charmers didn’t just cross a line– he charged it. He stormed the goddamn castle, sowing salt behind him.

After a night of excellent service for well over four hours and particular attention to my many attributes– both physical and intellectual– I was finally being cut (translation: let off work for the night) and cashing everyone out. While working on that, the big, belligerent bull of a lug went for the gold.

“So what’s the difference between a whore and a bartender?” he drunk-whispered as he leaned over me, more than invading my personal space.

Thinking he was starting a tasteless joke, I half laughed while spacing myself back to a polite distance. “I don’t know, what?”

“No, seriously, where is the line drawn? Because I want you to make out with this guy behind us. I wanna fuck his sister, but he’s looking all pathetic and needs a girl. She won’t do anything until he’s good. So you hook up with him and I get his sister.”

Just stop.

You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me. The aforementioned Sad Man was indeed looking like a half-drowned puppy swaying on a bar stool. His sister, well past drunk, was my biggest fan in the bunch. While I had a growing suspicion through our time together of an impending threesome proposition– which I typically find flattering or hilarious– this was unexpected.

“That’s not going to happen; here’s your check.” That didn’t satisfy him.

“No seriously, he’s not bad looking. If you’re a little drunk and like nice guys.” His suggestive leer did nothing to improve the ice running through my veins as his determination to disregard personal space actually cornered me.

“I’m sober, and have a boyfriend. No, thank you. Here’s your check.” He really can’t push this any further; there’s no way I’ll have to decline more than twice, right? 

It gets better.

“I don’t fucking care about you having a boyfriend or any of that, just do it. He won’t know. I really need to get with this guy’s sister. You’re my last shot,” the Lug said, dangerously unaware of the precarious situation in which he’d placed himself.

Know the fear.

Know the fear.

I silently handed him his bill, doled out the rest of the checks, and walked to the safety of the kitchen. Quickly. Before the explosive, homicidal rage overcame my desire to evade prison.

I’ve had nights involving sexual harassment many-a-time before; it comes with the territory, as a woman in service. But I generally squash those attempts and shame the perpetrators. Tonight was different: he hadn’t paid me yet. I had rendered services–apparently extensive services, given recent absurdities– and I deserved my pay.

Hold the phone.

How was I any different from a prostitute now? We both perform requested actions and are paid wages on a discretionary, performance-based scale. Now that I think of it, don’t they have a set, pimp-enforced price, rather than hoping to be paid what they deserved? So, in a way–and take this with a biting grain of salt–they are theoretically better-off. (Ok, that’s a thought that is going to fester.)

Well, I hadn’t received my due yet. So I punched a sack of potatoes in the walk-in fridge (to my immediate regret), and steeled myself for round two. I shamefully laughed it off, navigating the group until I got the receipts back. What’s the saying, fool me once? Yep, shame on me.

He tipped me under 10%. In this line of work, in this country, and considering my practiced expertise, this is wholly unacceptable. Especially considering the time I put into them and the horrible trash he’d dragged me through.

The sole redeeming moment: the evident look on my face upon reading his receipt did not go unnoticed. His buddy came over to ask if I had been appropriately taken care of. Out of sheer exhaustion and dejection, I shook my head and squeaked out a quiet, “Well, not exactly, no.”

He took the slips back and asked for my help doing math; the woman supposedly won over by the Lug joined in. Look– I’m no walking calculator myself, so when drunks request assistance in paying me properly, I’ll always be more than happy to help. He said the one sister meant to put 20%, and bumped his own check to 30%. Between the whole lot of them, I think I ended up walking with over $150, for a total of $350 for the night.

I can put up with a ridiculous mountain of shenanigans from customers (and coworkers), but I refuse to provide my industry prowess in an atmosphere where I don’t feel safe. The managers and doormen were appalled that I hadn’t immediately grabbed them, to their credit. And while I might have done so in the past, I had reached a point in life where I won’t work somewhere that allows room for this to slip by unawares. Most other women working there were shocked; they said they had never experienced anything remotely close. However, one of my favorite coworkers was the only one to speak up that she wasn’t surprised, and had been in the same boat many times over the years.

Even so, that was the night that broke this camel’s back; I put in my notice a week later. If I make $350 in one night and am still showing up at home in tears, I’m calling it. As much as I miss making rent in one weekend, the emotional damage really isn’t worth it. I left the industry in favor of committing to a real-world professional (read: office) career move. If I’m going to “whore” myself out– because let’s be honest, a lot of jobs feel like that sometimes– it’s going to meet my standards.

I’m going to be a happy whore.

jawsomeBonus story time!

In a jam for money this fall, I tried rejoining the serving masses at a well-known tapas spot in the U Street area. The hiring manager had boasted two visits from Michelle Obama in as many months, so I looked forward to finally bragging about rubbing elbows with the upper crust to Big Bro up in Philly, where he routinely serves the fabulous and famous. I didn’t have to wait long.

On my third day of training (already convinced I’d made a great mistake, and was planning a graceful exit), the hostess informed my trainer and I that a VIP was assigned to our section for dinner. She didn’t know who it was, but told me “Valerie something” when I asked after the reservation.

“You mean Valerie Jarrett?” She nodded, looking no more enlightened. Everyone else is still oblivious. “Valerie Jarrett is a Senior Advisor to the President.” Still nothing. “She’s Obama’s best friend.” A few faces lit up. I instead talked to a manager, who absolutely knew the name.

When a Secret Service agent showed to post up at a table nearby, I kept thinking about how advisors don’t typically go about with escorts. Two young black girls arrived at the table first, but I assumed one was her daughter. It still could just be her. Then my trainer bolted over to me across a packed dining room.

“Please don’t freak out. I know you’re new, and I don’t know if you can keep your cool or not. But Sasha and Malia just sat at our table. Get bread and water and please, please do not embarrass me.”

For a group who didn’t know Valerie Jarrett’s name, they sure make a fuss over the First Daughters. I had to subtly shoo away multiple coworkers who stopped and gaped at the table. One server even nudged me while I was refilling a water glass and not-so-quietly whispered, “Are those the Obama girls?” My face was not pleased. Jarrett did indeed accompany the girls, along with some school friends. My only moment of nervousness was when the girls thought about ordering another soda from me along with their churros, which put me on edge.

I’m sorry, girls, but I wouldn’t want to face your mother’s disapproval. I sort of worship her. You understand.

Lost in Transmission

I just can’t get over it. There has been a plane missing for twelve days. And that last blip of the radar has been heard around the world.

Possible debris, satellite image from Chinese Defense Ministry

Possible debris, later ruled out
satellite image from Chinese Defense Ministry

I know random world events aren’t my usual cup of tea on here, but it can’t be helped. And after reading articles from all over the communicationsphere, I’m profoundly freaked out. First there was a missing plane with no distress signal, sign of bad weather, or mechanical trouble. Then some mention of debris in the Pacific. Now the media has latched onto the eerie lack of passengers’ cell phone activity. The fact-proven details of the flight are few: on March 8th, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, with 239 lives on board, lost contact. The plane took off east towards Beijing, the transponder was turned off, the plane was then tracked completely changing course, and eventually was lost even to military radar over the Indian Ocean. But the question still bouncing around my head was one of the first, “Why did the transponder stop transmitting?

An unsettling query with only a few answers, the most common being a hijacking. Which, considering the alternative of a Lost-esque crash on a magically moving island-creature-afterlife deal, seems frighteningly likely. I could wax paranoid for hours of conspiracy theorizing, but CNN is the one paid to do that. So I’ll move on. What I would like to know instead, dearest FAA and all post-9/11 flight codemakers, is this: not why, but how is it POSSIBLE for a transmitter to stop working? Not meteorites, engine explosion, or someone actually turning it off– I mean how is it that the transmitters were constructed in a way that allows them to ever turn off in the first place?

My new housemate’s phone was stolen when she was moving her stuff in this past weekend. After spending the day refreshing Verizon’s GPS Locator page, she was at her wits’ end. I thought the entire point of having GPS technology in my phone was for this exact reason. If some delinquent jacks my phone, I want to be able to lojack their ass. My house was once broken into, and the cops eventually found the kid by tracing the IP address of the stolen X-Box he was playing. So how can the Apple Geniuses not turn on an internal GPS trigger and find my roommate’s phone? Answer: the doorstop who stole it just turned off her phone. Next question: why hasn’t Apple created a GPS locator that intrinsically cannot be disabled by hooligans simply turning it off?

We're in an age of color film, for fuckssake.

We’re in an age of pocket-sized computers, not B&W film!

In a much grander and critical scale, how can it be that a Boeing 777 with hundreds of lives on board has disappeared? This isn’t 1937, and science has come a long way since Amelia and her Lockheed Electra went missing. If we had the technology for my mom to track me down via cellphone GPS at a high school party ten years ago, then the joined forces of global intelligence– the CIA, NSA, Interpol, Chinese intelligence, and God knows what other cloak-and-dagger shit that goes on out there– should be able to locate one rather large plane.

Apparently we missed the lesson with Flight 447. It has been five years since they went down in the first “mysterious tragedy”, à la Titanic hubris. Yet, we still did not adjust and figure a better way to track our metal birds. Do you know how far technology has come just in the past decade? The iPad was invented, with a new one each year. The iPhone 4, now -5, birthed Siri. Our phones tell jokes. Google is taking us further into Jetsons’ territory with their driverless car and Google Glass, a undeniably disturbing-yet-incredible spyware eyewear that Googles someone you look at by facial recognition. In 2009, as Flight 447 crashed, the NSA was kick starting a new program: developing the ability to record every cell phone conversation in a country for an entire month. As of yesterday, reports claim success. And as of today, the fates of 239 people on Flight 370 are still a mystery. You would think Apple, Google, or the NSA would have spent one day configuring a solution to losing an entire plane. Maybe hidden ones even the pilots cannot find and disable?

But they haven’t. When I look into the post-9/11 flight regulations and practices, they are mostly human-threat-based. Sky marshalls, TSA monsters, and no-fly lists. Invasive body searches toeing borderline rape. I remember the conversation on the black box location and security, and reinforced cockpits. So, in an age where we can pick up a phone to call the other side of the world, tin boxes orbiting space, and 20,000 leagues under the sea, I do have one answer. It hasn’t occurred to anyone to install GPS locators in every single plane as a regulation safety standard.

The biggest difference between Flights 447 and 370 is that one simply crashed. If today’s reports of debris turn out true, and MH370 crashed as well, there is still the matter of human action to turn off the transponder and turn the plane completely around. What this says to me: even if MH370 crashed somewhere, it offers a new option to terrorists. The fear is building and conspiracy theories run rampant. My friend Sally thinks it’s the North Koreans, and Abigail keeps talking about episodes of 24. Junior just gets quiet. Paranoia abounds. There were a lot of changes made, once 9/11 introduced the concept of weaponized planes. Is this the next step? Are we being introduced to an even deeper level of plane weaponization? Up until now, it has only occurred to us that, if a plane were hijacked for terroristic purposes, then naturally it would be used immediately while in-air. Because it would be impossible for terrorists to steal an entire damn plane to literally “save for later”. Right?

Evidently not.

Regardless of the plot, this story has a sad ending. If it eventually comes to light that Flight 370 has been lost at sea, it is already sure to be mourned worldwide. Loved ones and strangers alike have flooded Kuala Lumpur, Beijing, and the blogosphere with their keening cries. Even if we never learn of their fate, 239 people have disappeared from their lives, families, and world.  Frightfully, without a trace more than a last radar blip, the world wonders for lack of answers. We are left in a void of mystery, like many tragedies throughout time, asking ‘why?’, ‘what happened?’, ‘where are you?’ The only record in place of goodbye is the last transmission from the co-pilot, before the transponder was switched off: “All right, good night.”

What I would like to end with is not a question, but a command. To the combined scientific and intelligence communities: get your shit together. Stop creating another damn smartphone or bomb for one day– one single day– and figure out the how, where, and what of GPS locators on every plane. Chat with the FAA and airlines, they’ll be down with this. Work together; please. We have thousands of people hurtling through the air in tin cans every second; how about we make it so their families can properly grieve, in case one fails. Or worse, for when the really bad guys are one day as smart as you and start stealing them.

malaysia.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo[1]

My thoughts and heart are with the loved ones, the real reason Flight 370 won’t leave my head.

Blood vs. Water

Unsurprisingly, the least-creepy phrase image when Googled

Unsurprisingly, the least-creepy image when the phrase is Googled

There’s that old saying about which is thicker, and therefore deserves the ultimate loyalty. (One is decidedly more drinkable; please don’t test it.)

But I learned from a Cracked article [where I learn most of my baller/ meaningless trivia] that the proverb’s been twisted. It doesn’t refer to your biological family like we think these days– it means the one you picked. Blood, as in blood-oaths and war; water, as in of-the-womb relatives. In short: your buddies are better than genetics, because you actually CHOSE them. You love family because you have to; you love your friends because you want to. And life is a fucking battle, so choose wisely who has your back.

I’ve always said something similar: one of the greatest things about growing up is this ability to choose your family. Because that’s who your friends become. The further away from the biological you move and grow, the more you turn to the surrogates in your life. The girlfriends who build a new sisterhood. The guy who steps in as an older brother, to roughhouse and/or protect you. A boss with those mystical parental powers of approval and judgement. On a very basic level, the majority of us will always have some makeshift family dynamic in our day-to-day lives. Whether you find them in the workplace or social circles (or both), the family dynamic is inescapable and omnipotent. It shapes your life.

As kids, friendships are forged mostly by default. You’re the same age, in the same class, seated next to each other alphabetically, or managed to have the same Ninja Turtles backpack. In high school, you shared the same athletic/academic/artistic talent (or mutual lackthereof), and were in the same clique. And college isn’t much different. Majors stick together, and dorm-mates bond. But out here in the real world? It can be harder as adults to find your family.

Is it just me, or is that big a fucking moron?

Is it just me, or is that bird a fucking moron?

Freshly pushed from the collegiate nest, we wander like hatchlings [read: idiots] around our new adult lives for a while crying “Are you my mother?” Think about it. For those of you who moved to DC without a support system– and knowing this city, it’s a large majority of us– there was a deep part of you starving for that close-as-blood connection. Some of us turn to classes or clubs to find it within similar interests (fuck bocce ball; but hashing is a “Jules Approved Activity”). Others simply go to a bar to meet people (arguably a similar interest, to those of us alcoholically-minded). Nearly everyone throws themselves into work until life figures itself out.

I don’t know what it’s like to move here without a single friend. Two of my best, Otoño and Sally, were already here. And that was hard enough! But between work and play, I found a few family trees to graft on to. My Restaurant the first year adopted me into a polyglot family spanning over a dozen global cultures. I had a fierce bunch of aunts and uncles, big brothers and sisters, all making sure I ate enough food and had the hugs needed to keep spirits up. Team United Nations pulled me into the wild world of clubs, DJs, and partying the sun to rise. Josef and the Roomies fill in as older brothers keeping me in touch with the art world.

And now, My Bar serves as home base. With a majority of the staff fighting in the DC job market, yet taking pride in Industry life, we understand each other on a very real level. In addition to our “Sunday is Coming” tradition, which kicked off to an awesome start on Easter, we typically meet on Mondays. The Pinch, our friendly neighborhood dive, has made Mondays their Industry Night– meaning certain astronomical specials for those in the know. The rest of the week, we knock off work and set up camp at the corner table at Wonderland Ballroom, where similar benefits are ensured. We take full advantage of industry connections, and have established strong familial ties between our bars.

My attitude, if visits don't happen soon. Everyone's been warned.

My attitude, if visits don’t happen soon.
Everyone’s been warned.

With that said, sometimes there’s nothing like your literal family. Junior visited with Abigail only once since Inauguration, and it almost felt like a tease because I had to work all weekend. Last week was Fabala’s spring break from high school, and it nearly broke my heart that a visit fell through. On top of it all, my dad was in the hospital for a fair bit (he’ll be alright, but a reoccurring worry). I had to work so much that I still haven’t gotten to pop home and see him. I’m currently the only veteran server at My Bar, and responsibility lays heavy.

The one thing keeping me going: I did get to visit Big Bro up in Philly a month ago; it was ridiculously awesome. He toured me around his favorite bars and restaurants, hopping from one bangin brewery to another craft cocktail bar. He works at one of Starr’s places, the Dandelion, where even their TOAST will make your mouth orgasm. I now have both a new favorite beer and drink– Triumph Brewery‘s Scotch Ale and Continental Midtown‘s ‘Blood and Sand’, a blood orange and scotch drink. I love DC and everything in it, but Philly’s mind-blowing food and drink culture reminded me why I almost moved there or NYC. [No worries, I don’t regret my decision.] One of the greatest things I left my visit with, though, was a strong calm with being an industry worker. Philly is such a great blue-collar-creative environment, and seeing everyone’s pride in their restaurants gave me a sense of peace I hadn’t felt in DC. So thanks to Big Bro, his lady, and all those goobers for the heaps of Brotherly Love.

Which I soon have the chance to return. Junior and Abigail are talking about visiting next weekend. The week after is Big Bro’s and my group of friends’ huge family reunion concert in Philly with our boys, The Heavy Pets (definitely check them out). A month later, the Phillies come down to play the Nats, which ensures a whole bundle of crazy along with it. Then Jules Junior, my pride and joy, graduates from university and officially begins the permanent move back to Our Nation’s Capital! In between all the Clan Jules activities, you can be sure there will be a pile of trouble with my District Family. Because life is best when you have a bunch of love from all corners. Stay tuned.

And because I can’t let the opportunity go to introduce you, this is from last year’s show:


EASTER IS COMING

So cute, I just wanna sink my teeth into them! *Caution: vegetarian with a sick sense of humor.

So cute, I just wanna sink my teeth into them!

Hey, folks! After quite a hiatus there [sorry about that], I’m back! And what a weekend to swing back in on. Happy Easter-Who-Thrones-fest!

So we all know I’m an epic nerd, bringing new levels of kickass to our geek chic culture here in DC. Not only is it Easter, the world’s best-sundressed holiday for eating fluffy things in every shade of pastel, but it’s been a two-day marathon of the most looked-forward to season premieres in all of Geekdom: Game of Thrones and Doctor Who. I will be abstaining from reuniting with my time-travelling love, in hopes of visiting the family later this week and watching it with Junior and Fabala… but my self-restraint stops there.

Caution: vegetarian with a seriously twisted sense of humor.

Caution: vegetarian with a seriously twisted sense of humor.

Tonight, Adina and I are hosting an all-out spring dinner feast, complete with the proper blood-sacrifices traditional to celebrate the resurrection of House Stark: bunnies!

Alright, I may be joking on that count. But we have some serious menu items in the works [that is, after I finish procrastinating with this…]. I’m making my potato-leek soup, caramelized onion-goat cheese turnovers, and pumpkin bread pudding with candied ginger and buttered whiskey sauce. [Yes, your mouth just orgasmed. It’s alright, that happens a lot.] The Teambuilders and other friends will gather for food and festivities.

After eating all our delicious food, everyone will shutthehellup at 9pm for exactly one hour, so I can pay homage to the Starks. *fingers crossed for dragons* Big Bro and the rest of the Jules Clan have been geeking out over every trailer for months [one courteously included at the bottom of the page].

Because I have to keep a few tricks up my sleeve to impress new friends and enchant boys via their stomachs, I’ll only list one recipe. The turnovers, I first made for Sef’s birthday last summer on a whim, and they’ve been a hit ever since.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 heaping tbl Dijon mustard
  • 4 oz. goat cheese

desDirections:

  1. Preheat to 450.
  2. Cut butter and cream cheese into cubes and mix with flour; knead into dough and cover with wet towel in fridge.
  3. Heat oil and fennel until lightly brown, then add onion. Stir slowly on medium until caramelized (~30 mins).
  4. Combine caramelized onion, Dijon, and goat cheese while warm; refrigerate.
  5. Roll out dough on heavily floured surface to cut into ~4 in. circles, and brush edges with egg. Spoon half tablespoon of filling in, and pinch edges closed. Prick tops.
  6. Space on ungreased pan and bake ~12 mins.

And since it’s Easter, and the day isn’t complete without actually eating cute, helpless things in effigy… we will indeed be creating the deviled egg chicks. SO STOKED.

Happy Easter-Who-Thrones Day, everyone. ❤

Subterranean Sophisticate

NYC restaurants are staffed by budding actors and LA is crawling with wannabe models, all starving for both carbs and attention. It’s a classic story: a waitress carries headshots in her apron, just waiting for her chance to lay it on a producer’s table, right next to his filet mignon. She’ll say “I’m not a waitress, I’m actually an actress—this is just my day job until I get my big break.”

[I wrote this a week ago, and haven’t had the heart to post something that’s so down. But, in an effort for full disclosure and to accurately represent what a 20-something’s life deals with in DC, I’ve decided it’s something that needs covering. Read through to the epilogue: there is a light at the end of the tunnel.]

Story of my life.

It might surprise you, but DC is much the same way. I don’t think it’s possible to throw a rock without hitting some aspiring politico or journalist barely eking out an existence on an internship stipend or restaurant tips. We have countless accounts on Idealist, Devex, Indeed, Monster, and, of course, LinkedIn. Our MacBooks are filled with multiple resumes catered to different job descriptions, which we incessantly update and occasionally completely trash to start from the beginning. Maybe it just needs a new look? I bet that’s why I haven’t gotten any calls—I should have put my personal information in the top right-hand corner instead of centered in the middle! DUH.

We all talk the big talk about our areas of expertise and future professional brilliance, but each day laughs at us as we tie on our Starbucks apron strings or hostess nametags.

Apparently OPI named a fantastic color red after us. Hello, Easter present!

It wasn’t so bad, right at the beginning. When I moved here nearly a year ago (my god… a year??), I had just graduated and had no problem hosting while I job hunted and acclimated to my new city. It gave me the time to decompress and evaluate this new post-college world. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted a job in non-profits, or did I want to pursue my West Wing dream and break into political life? When the eventual “so, what do you do?” question arose, I’d laugh and say “I eat free hummus and boss my servers around in Arabic”. The world was my oyster, and all that. I’d graduated high school early at sixteen and was already ahead of schedule, no need to rush! Then I would talk on about one unpaid internship after another, increasingly clinging to the shred of intellectual legitimacy my free labor offered me among actual young professionals.

Because that’s all I am: an aspiring young professional. As if the term isn’t condescending enough, I have to add that I’m not even at the bottom of Washington’s food chain yet. I’m lower than that—my existence is subterranean.

I feel like a cliché—I am that actress/waitress. [Or is it waitress/actress?] I could have volunteered abroad. I could have pushed myself to find a job somewhere else, like Lebanon or Jordan. I should have taken the Foreign Service Exam last year, so that I could re-take it and actually pass this year. I could have been studying for the GRE’s this whole time, or knuckling down and focusing on working towards Arabic fluency. It’s stupid to say ‘I should have done this’ or ‘why didn’t I do that?’ It’s a waste of times and I don’t like regrets. But I can’t help it. When I talk about my job difficulty, people always have something to say.

“Have you tried USAJOBS.com?”

“The Senate and House post openings on their websites!”

“You’ve graduated into the worst job climate since the Great Depression, you know.”

Gee thanks, asshat. I have a degree from a well-respected university, but needed your condescension to clear that up for me! I hadn’t the foggiest before now.

So I bite my tongue. I know everyone’s simply trying to help; they feel like they have to say something. And just as there is no good way to break up, there’s also no good way to respond to someone’s job woes unless you can offer them one. Going off the handle on well-meaning people is no way to behave; it’s ungrateful. So I swallow my frustration and grind my teeth into a smile.

“Yes, thank you—I’m well aware of all that. It just isn’t that simple. In DC, you have to know people. You need to be practically related to half of the staff to even receive a phone call, let alone gain an interview. And before you suggest it, no, you cannot walk into an office on the Hill and hand-deliver a resume or inquire for a job. That severely pisses them off. Yes, same goes for phone calls. No, I haven’t been interviewed anywhere yet. Yes, I mean anywhere. I haven’t had a single interview since moving to this seemingly godforsaken city. No, I have no idea why—I’m obviously awesome.”

Yes, brains plural. It seems like there's more than one brain chattering on in my head when I'm sleep-deprived.

Without college to guide me or an internship to structure my life, it feels like I’m left with nothing. Some weeks, I’m borderline nocturnal. I fight it to retain some sense of normalcy, but my late restaurant hours mix with sleepless predispositions, and next thing I know it’s 4:30 a.m. and I’m just getting ready for bed. I’ve always been a night owl, and definitely struggled with insomnia in college, but this is ridiculous. Sometimes I swear those red numbers glare at me tauntingly in the dark, ticking my life by painfully. I try to get my ass back on a normal, healthy schedule, but it’s a daily struggle. I’m going through the motions, but not getting to live the actual life. And all those bottled-up retorts to job advice have been building my internal pressure for months. I’ve officially reached my breaking point.

I think today is the first day I have actually hated it here. It was bound to happen eventually, I suppose, but I didn’t expect it to hit me quite like this. Suddenly, I feel like the city around me is cold and patronizing. I hate being sad. I hate worrying about making rent. Most of all, though, I hate hating DC….because I love DC. This is where I’m meant to be, I know it. I belong here, even if Washington disdains to recognize it yet. I think one of the best things about dating so much here is the distraction of it all. Romantic rejection is so superficial that sure, it stings, but deep down I don’t really give a shit. There are always other guys, and they’re likely cuter, smarter, and funnier. But my employment abandonment hurts far deeper. This radio silence on the job front is just breaking my heart.

Some days, all a girl can do is sit on a park bench, call her mom, and cry. So I did.

Epilogue: Like I said, that was a week ago. I actually did cry to my mom over the phone, and definitely got some glances from the few people walking their dogs in the mostly-abandoned park near my restaurant. I didn’t really care—it felt good to finally let it out. I’m not the kind of girl that cries, well… ever, really [except when I watch the movie Up; you don’t have a soul if you manage that opening montage dry-eyed]. But I also have no shame in admitting the times I do cry, and it’s definitely a part of coping with the job-hunt struggle.

Since then, my mom came for a day visit. She brought my family’s new puppy and ordered in from my favorite pho restaurant. We spent the entire rainy afternoon reworking my resume and cover letter, and I began to feel much more confident. [Cuddle time with a three-month old puppy definitely helps.] As I explained the confusing way the House and Senate job bulletins are constructed [most of the time, you don’t even know which state you’re applying for—only their partisan orientation], she asked me to pull an example up.

I brought up the Senate Employment Bulletin, and right at the top were two openings for one of my own Senators. I’ve wanted to work for my home state here in DC since I was in middle school, and email their offices every few months. They ‘have my resume on file’, but I don’t trust that. Needless to say, we both freaked out for a hot minute at the kismet of it all before knuckling down to write a stellar cover letter. Then I pulled up the emails with one of his staff from the fall, and replied to her again in addition to the general Senate email listed. Both shot back the generic ‘only applicants selected for interview will be contacted’ automated response.

The next day, I also received an email from a girl I went to grade school with and ran into months ago– she works for his office, too, and asked for my resume if interested. The fact that she remembered me and put in the effort to reach out genuinely made my week infinitely brighter. Now I have hope that I might at least be called, if not become an actual candidate for the job. Now all I can do it wait and pray with all my fingers and toes crossed.

Happy Anna Howard Shaw Day, everyone!

As a social blogger, I would be remiss if I skipped over February 14th. So happy Tuesday!

Lite Brites + chocolate and funfetti cookies = BEST morning surprise for the roomies

I’ve always been single on Valentine’s Day, and it’s never ruined the day. Yes, it’s an over-commercialized American-invented holiday– but then again, so is Halloween, and that is my FAVORITE holiday of the year. So I don’t let that get in the way of me appreciating chocolate, plushies, and terribly cliche cartoon Hallmarks.

Like I said: I’ve always been single on Valentine’s Day. Mostly by chance, but a few times by choice. The pressure of the season isn’t just felt by skittish guys. One year, I’d come back from a weekend visiting a college friend the week before V-Day. We’d always had chemistry, and let’s just say the underlying potential had finally sparked into some memorable fireworks.

What's a girl to do?

After getting back, I hadn’t realized what week it was until reading a text from him asking my exact address on campus. I remember my roommate laughing about it being Valentine’s later that week, and how maybe he was coming to visit as a surprise. I managed to evade his hints that he could visit from DC, already freaking out from intentions way too serious for my level of interest. But I did wake up the morning of the 14th to a package at the door from an impressively professional florist with rather breath-taking tulip buds that would bloom throughout the day. The personalized message: “You truly are one-of-a-kind”.

Yea, I was a bit of an idiot to let that slip by, but no regrets. I was still young and stupid at that point, and pretty clear from the beginning that long distance isn’t my thing.

Story of my life.

Every other year, though, it’s been platonic-love-only. I grew up with my dad giving each of my sisters and I presents along with our mother, so he’s always been the first man I think of along with Valentine; I’m happy with that. In school, they had everyone give everyone cards, to promote inclusion. Later in high school, since I never really dated anyone, it was very friends-focused. College wasn’t much of a change, since I didn’t do the ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ thing very often. My most committed relationships were my friends.

And that’s how I like to celebrate today. Lovers come and go, but in my world, friends have made much more lasting marks. All relationships are transient in the end, so I prefer the ‘carpe diem’ approach and be grateful what I have when I have it. Don’t get me wrong, the people that say “V-Day sucks, every day should be a celebration” are right, too. I do random acts of appreciation year-round. [Ask anyone that’s gotten one of my absurd handmade cards, they’re great.] But there’s something about putting aside one day where you blatantly and ridiculously go out of your way to show people you care that gives me warm fuzzies. I don’t see anything wrong in smiling at the thought.

So I baked cookies tonight. Everyone at the restaurant was a bit on edge [apparently the current conferences in town think that tipping their servers is a distasteful extension of the welfare programs their Tea Party wants to cut; fuck them]. The servers could definitely use some cheering up. My housemates have been cleaning a bit more than my schedule’s allowed lately, and I’ve been planning on baking anyway, so tomorrow’s perfect. I knocked out God knows how many cookies, frosted and sprinkled them, and had gotten to work on writing out a message for my roomies to wake up to on our nifty Lite Brite boards when one of them came home.

I felt like Santa caught halfway up the chimney! I’d planned on it being a surprise in the morning, to come down with three packages of cookies to bring to work in front of the glowing Lite Brites, but that sneaky boy got a jump on the presents. It’s okay, though, because I got to see the happy smile on his face and a big hug with ‘you’re the best roommate ever’! Everyone loves appreciation, even this failure of a Valentine’s Santa.

Cookies, cute humor, and the suggestion to acquire vodka is all I need for a happy V-Day

So I’ve already gotten the day off to a happy start. I’m now looking forward to a double-shift of making other’s dates go smoothly at my restaurant, getting servers to smile, and definitely snagging a molten chocolate cake from the kitchen. And if by the end of the day, I’m not exactly cheery, I know I have a few great friends to call up.

And that’s what makes me celebrate Valentine’s Day.

I leave you with these words of wisdom, from the ultimate guru, Liz Lemon:

Trans-living in the USA

My darling DC has all sorts of people; it’s something I love most about my new home. At work, I’m constantly approached with ‘I have a question? Explain this for me please, yes?’ It makes time fly by with frequently hysterical cultural-bridging convo’s. This week’s big-ticket topic was trans-gender issues.

A lot has been going on this week, and most of our conversations have been on equality and how to treat people anyway, so it was great timing. A women’s health charity hypocritically tried to pull funding from the number one organization actually helping real women. Hundreds of people that managed to survive a revolution were injured or killed at a football game in Cairo. And Mr. Soul Train, Don Cornelius, passed away after a lifetime crusading for equality and understanding.

I’ve talked about my Middle Eastern restaurant before– it’s a damn fun place to work, and I adore it. I’m also the only white girl there, and have become a sort of Urban Librarian for everyone. I’m called upon to explain everything from whatever the hell the Republican debates are talking about to the meaning of the term ‘rain date’. [I’ll have to explain that one later, it was an adorable conversation.] Our customers are always the best source of topics, though. We serve people from all kinds of backgrounds: political, social, national, linguistic, sexual. The staff are all generally accepting, but sometimes they still manage to surprise me.

The other day, I went to find a server to tell them he had two women at a table of his. Three of them were discussing something when I walked up, and they turned, looking thoroughly confused.

“Is that woman a man?”

I knew it was coming, obviously. When I first seated her, I could feel it building. She was an older woman, in a skirt-suit and sweater any other 50-something woman in DC would wear, and possibly still in the transition process. The only reason I noticed it so clearly was to start forming how to explain it to a few of the guys. It didn’t take long for the conversation to come.

I smiled at the guys and shook my head, “No, she’s a woman. She’s trans-gendered, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t female.”

The server that had brought them drinks and was the one to ask in the first place shook his head. “No, I know that, I just meant… was it alright that I called her ‘ma’am’? Because when I asked ‘would you like anything else to drink, ma’am?’, she gave me a weird look.”

That took the wind out of my sails– here, I’d assumed I would have to explain what ‘trans-gender’ means, and then work through some cultural barriers and stigmas. They had no issues with it, and just wanted to know which pronoun to use before approaching the table. As one of the managers likes to say, ‘Sorry, Charlie! No bananas!’

So I told them that maybe she’s still new to post-transition life, and was just reacting to being treated the way she always should have been: as a woman. She still had a very deep voice, which definitely threw the servers for a loop, but I was sure of the correct pronoun. When the other woman had arrived, she said “I’m meeting a friend– oh, she’s already here!” So I admit, I was cheating a little bit. But from what I’ve learned, the general rule of thumb is go with your gut reaction– the first perception is probably who they really are.

What made me smile the most, though, was how chill the guys were with it all. I have plenty of good-hearted friends that believe in LGBT rights and fight for civil rights in general. They’re American, and I’m sure they’d be just as confused as my Moroccans with how to interact with some transpeople. So this high comfort level among my co-workers just gave me all kinds of warm, fuzzy feelings inside. I call them my DC family often, and it’s times like this that make me proud of the association.

I’d like to link everyone to a fellow blogger I tripped over and follow religiously now, The Adventures of Transman, “Just another middle-aged guy raising a family… except I gave birth to mine.” His perspective as an in-transition transman and parent is breathtakingly profound, and without a doubt will have you crying with laughter. Since I found him on here, I thought it was perfect timing that I had such a conversation at work and felt compelled to make it my post today. Happy reading!

In honor of Don Cornelius, Transman, and my wonderful LT family, let’s boogie:

Shit Charming Guys Say

I’ll admit, the “shit people say” trend is cracking me up. I’ve ignored most of them, but a few snuck by and stole a few giggles. What I’d love to see one for, though? Pick-up lines. They’ve been on my mind lately.

Who am I kidding? That’s always on my mind. I’m what you’d call a pick-up line connoisseur. I blame Night at the Roxbury; those SNL goobers instilled a love of the ridiculous in me at a very young age, and I’ve never recovered.

For me, the more absurd the line, the better is works. My theory is that a guy with the guts to walk up to a girl he thinks is pretty and knowingly make a fool out of himself deserves at least a drink. (Note: key word being ‘knowingly’; guys that pull those lines thinking they’re smooth are just gross. It’s a fine line to walk, so please know you can pull it off before opening your mouth.)

Last Saturday, my group was out in Dupont Circle. We like to start the night at a sushi-place-turned-nightclub because some friends work there and great cocktails should be enjoyed while still sober. We ended up befriending two men that had been at the end of the bar and looking our way awhile. The attractive Lebanese one seems to take to one of my friends pretty well, and joined us for our night of club-hopping. [This eventually led, once the other guys went home, to me spending the later part of the night with two couples.]

At one point, though, the new guy told me that I looked like ‘someone he used to know’. I could tell by his look that he was genuinely being appreciative, but I still replied with a raised eyebrow and “I’m not really sure how to take that. Who?”

“Don’t worry about it. But it’s a good thing.”

Look, guys, if a girl looks like an ex- and you want to compliment her appearance, just tell her she looks pretty and leave it at that. Don’t try to be clever– because ‘someone I used to know’ makes me feel like I look like I’m your high school girlfriend. No woman wants to be a walking reminder of teenagehood– it was all pimples, hormones, and angsty confusion. At least I don’t; but maybe because it’s still in my semi-recent past? Weigh in on this, ladies.

A friend at work says that his approach is simple: if he’s out and thinks a woman is beautiful, he walks right up to say hello and ask if he can buy her a drink. (Full disclosure: working at a Middle Eastern restaurant means that my ‘friends from work’ are foreign, charismatic, and possessing those great accents that trip over the English language in an adorable way. This man is no exception.)

I’ll also say that if this man walked up to me at a bar and asked to buy me a drink like that, I’d find myself in a deep conversation about the beauties of Morocco before I could blink twice. He’s confident, naturally charming, and very comfortable in his own skin. Chalk it up to age, but he’s grown out of the younger-man’s conviction that having game involves complex approaches. You don’t need battle tactics, boys, we aren’t a football game. It’s tennis: volley an opening our way and wait for a response. Simplicity! And this is the advice of an anything-but-simple girl.

Don’t get me wrong, ingenuity has its rewards, too. If you have a unique way to make contact, then go for it. After migrating to our favorite DJ-established vinyl-and-bands lounge and then spending enough time with the two couples, I grew tired of 5th wheeling it and went to the dance floor to listen to the jazz band.

I could tell that a guy nearby was looking, but wanted to see what he’d do. What can I say? I’m a curious girl. To his credit, it wasn’t a long wait. A guy in front of us was blatantly taking up too much room, flailing about like an idiot, and kept knocking into me. I was happy enough listening to a great band, so it was more amusing than anything. In this guy’s favor, it made me back up several times, and the last one that almost knocked my Manhattan from my hand was the last straw. Cute boy went from a smile to busting out laughing and leaned closer to my ear to suggest I fight back.

Threaten my whiskey at your own risk, buddy.

Sure, such romantic comedy opportunities are rare enough outside of Hollywood, but it’s extra-special when a guy is clever enough to take advantage of it. We went on to have a great conversation over jazz, music, and eventually the fact that he claimed to know how to dance. Naturally, I asked him to prove it. I was far from disappointed.

So sure, sometimes things that would otherwise seem trite actually do work– if you can back them up. And the absurd might pan out, if you’ve the humor to play to the right audience. But the best way to go really is the easiest.

Because in the end, the most charming guys aren’t the ones with the most interesting pick-up lines, which take a deal of contrived forethought and are likely recycled. No, you want to know the shit charming guys say?

They say, “Hello.”

Big D and the Kids Table got it right in their stroll song, A Kiss A Week:

How Many Is ‘Too Many’?

Self-judgment is an ugly feeling. It’s always so much easier to play the comforter to friends, listening to their woes and validating their decisions. The fallout zone always seems so much more frightening when it’s in your own life. Foremost among many 20-somethings’ sexual concerns is their Number.

The ‘modern woman’ has been struggling with this for decades, since the sexual revolution really took hold and broadened social norms to allow some wiggle room on the whole pre-marital sex deal. It’s rarely ever ‘boy-meets-girl, love at first sight, and get married for the 2.5 kids with a white picket fence’ anymore. Chastity belts have been traded in for liberty, exploration, and more frequent free-condom-raids to the local Planned Parenthood.

My mother taught me to test drive a car before you buy it, and I hold to that wisdom. [Hey, even if you don’t make the purchase, the test drive can still be a whirlwind of fun!] Adventuring isn’t without its risks, though. (It wouldn’t be an adventure if it were totally safe, now would it?) Those Planned Parenthood trips aren’t only for condoms, and haven’t always been stress-free jaunts with girlfriends. Sometimes, they’re there for moral support as pregnancy tests are processed… and that’s somehow the least of the worries. This is a frightening new world we’ve been born to. Sex isn’t just fun—it can kill you.

It still is tough when the casualty is something like your heart,rather than your health. Sometimes I think that the stronger women hurt deeper. Everyone likes to treat us like we’re indestructible. They can throw anything they want our way, and we’ll keep trucking with barely a cold glance thrown their way. Hey, the higher you fly from hurt, the harder you fall, right? But more than anything, it’s likely just your bruised pride. [It’s total bullshit anyway, of course, to think my ego is more important than some vapid girl’s. A hurt girl is a hurt girl, bottom line.]

What I’ve always struggled with is the disconnect between my mind and my heart. I can examine, rationalize, and excuse an entire situation from beginning to end, but no degree of intellectual understanding will ease the emotional havoc surging through my veins. That I liked a guy, but never planned on committing because that spark wasn’t entirely there. I’m too young to settle down. He isn’t what I’m looking for. All those reasoned practicalities I figure out as I’m dating someone, they all go out the window when rejection walks through the door. Especially when it comes from a guy that slept with you, and turned around the next week with “I met someone else and want to try and see where it goes with her”. Via text. What a douche.

Even more so when at one point that night, when skirting around the question of what our Numbers are, he laughed and said, “well, not nearly enough to have to make a New Year’s Resolution about not sleeping with people, like you did”. Or something to that effect. I didn’t write it down, so don’t quote me word-for-word.

Yes, I had told him on date two that I wouldn’t sleep with him because I barely knew him. That only 24 hours from meeting, I wouldn’t be with someone past the PG-13 degrees of PDA. When pressed, I joked that it was a NYE resolution. After he said this the night that I did [perhaps mistakenly] sleep with him, I jerked up and set him straight. No, my number isn’t astronomical—it’s actually entirely average for my age. The need for a resolution isn’t a sexual one, it’s an emotional one. I went through a very dark time two years ago when I dealt with far more death, divorce, abandonment, and entirely life breakdown than a lot of people will experience in much of their lives. Even though I shouldn’t have needed to defend myself, I told him that my friends and I pulled through that year by any means necessary—and yes, sex was a key coping mechanism. But I’m not entirely back to how free I was at that time, because sexual liberation is still linked to mourning in my head. The emotions are a bit tangled, so I need to work on it a bit.

Not that it’s much of his business, to be honest. He didn’t comment much else on the topic, and I let it go, thinking it was just a moment of honesty in a conversation with a potentially consistent new guy. With my nifty 20/20 hindsight now, I wonder if that translated wrong to him. And by wrong, I mean that HIS perception is off, not my past. Because I damn well don’t regret my life and how I’ve survived grief—anyone that thinks I should feel ashamed can bite me and piss off.

And that’s the sexual long and short of it: women are shamed; men are acclaimed.

*REALLY*, Puma? That’s the angle you chose to catch my business?

We have to do battle with the double-standard of sex. Among other gender inequities, women bear the humiliation while men get the benefits. Have you ever heard someone looking at a hungover guy walking home on a college campus at 7am laugh and comment on his Walk of Shame? No—because that’s something GIRLS do. Right? Today’s modern girl has to balance the empowerment of ‘I can explore my sexuality the same as any guy’ with the internalized repression that ‘girls who give it up are sluts’.

So where’s the trade-off? How do guys ‘get laid’, while girls ‘get trashy’ by committing the same act? Guys grow in each other’s esteem after sharing the news of another conquest, yet those girls’ stock plummets. They are lesser. Suddenly, they’re ‘undateable’. She’s now the kind of girl you meet at a bar or party to get drunk with and make stupid decisions. She’s never the girl to take to the movies, or meet for dinner. Which is amusing to me, because many guys have told me the reason they wouldn’t casually date me is because I’m the kind of girl you make your girlfriend. [Even if that’s not what I want at that time.]

I’m still figuring out where this unbalance happens, and how they [such men] could possibly think it’s just. I guess we’re all still trying to puzzle this one out, taking each obstacle as it comes. Yes, I struggle against my society and the internalized repression it still has instilled in me. Sure, I fight against the judgment of others for my sexual life. All I know is that for the most part, my Number is just right for me and my life, and I sure as hell won’t let anyone take that hard-earned knowledge from me. Because I know that with each of those numbers, I’ve climbed mountain after mountain of self-understanding that have taught me who I am. And I’m not done adding to that Number, or climbing those mountains. The rest of the world can just settle themselves down and mind their own fucking business.

Though I’m not genuinely this bitter, I can’t help laughing at dedicating this as a farewell to the Stealth Hippie: