Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Marketing Rules!

I work as an office manager, which makes me a juicy target market. On a typical day, I receive all sorts of random sales calls, junk mail, and spam. I love it. As marketing gets more and more targeted, and the sheer volume of information increases, the attempts to reach me just get weirder and louder.

Oh, there’s the usual stuff, like growing my penis, reducing my debt, or finding love the Christian way. But the best spam I ever saw landed in my inbox today. Celebrate Memorial Day with a Honey Baked Ham! There’s no better way to honor America’s fallen heroes than with…pork products.

So now I’m wondering what product tie-ins I’ll get for the rest of the holidays. Viagra for Valentine’s? Should I honor Father’s Day with a Nigerian bank scam? Hey, let’s celebrate Halloween with some high-quality toner cartridges!

I’ve also been trying to figure out how in hell the ham marketers come up with this Memorial Day campaign. Did the marketing team conduct some sort of study? Maybe they did a focus group, where they asked participants to brainstorm new ham-centric holidays. Easter and Christmas are a given, but why not have an Arbor Day ham? Or maybe they paid an outside consultant to come up with a new campaign, “Ham: Not Just for Jesus Any More.”

Either way, I don’t see myself buying a ham for Memorial Day. Saint Walpurgis Day, however, is a definite hamworthy holiday. Well played, Honey Baked Ham people. Well played.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Everything We Needed to Know, We Forgot After Kindergarten

I’m sad to say that I suffer from high self-esteem. On a typical day, I think of myself as pretty damn cool. I’m a good friend, a great cook, and I look cute in a miniskirt and sneakers. It’s devastatingly hard to be awesome.

Right now, I’m picturing my comments section. “It’s easy for you to like yourself, you’re young/a size 2/barely weigh triple digits. Life so much harder for me!” Thanks. Not only do statements like that render my more excruciatingly painful life experiences irrelevant, they reduce me to a body and an age. Life isn’t easy, no matter who you are or what you look like. And, yes, the deck is stacked in favor of some people and against others. Learn to deal and get on with living. It won’t be easy in the short term, but in the long term, you’ll be a lot happier.

Most of all, it really and truly drives me nuts when women tear each other apart. Didn’t we all learn in kindergarten that it’s possible to feel good about yourself without knocking someone else down? At what point did we lose track of that lesson?

A few months ago, I was at a bar in Silver Spring. I had been chatting with two random women in the ladies’ room, and we’d had a blast comparing our cute shoes. Out of nowhere, one of them called me a “skinny little bitch.” Suddenly, I’d gone from one of the girls to an object of derision. I was knocked speechless, which is a rarity for me. Both of them kicked me around a little more, and went on their way. I'm sure they thought they were being harmlessly funny.

I returned to the bar in a petulant frame of mind. When I mentioned the incident to my tablemates, one of the women said, “They weren’t mad at you, they were mad at society.” So, not only am I a skinny little bitch, I represent all that’s wrong with society! This sort of thing is why I mostly tend to hang out with men. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve had more than a couple of girlfriends.

I’m not telling this story to make anyone feel sorry for me. Like just about every woman, I’ve had weird relationships with my body and my appearance. I thought I needed pricy lingerie and perfect hair to be lovable. I went the total opposite direction, as well, and for a year almost exclusively wore ratty sweaters and jeans. Now I fall somewhere in the middle. I like to look good, but refuse to suffer or spend a lot of money to do so.

I’ve seen women rip into each other over more than just bodies. There’s the stay-at-home versus working mom debate. There’s the married vs. single divide, the tomboy vs. princess, and so on and so forth ad nauseam. It’s ridiculous and exhausting. Is this what the original feminists had in mind? Empowerment via nitpicking?

I think it comes down to owning yourself. Own your choices, own your body, own your appearance, own the mishmash of assets and flaws that make you human. Don’t look outside yourself for things to feel good about, and, for the love of all that is sane, don’t pick on somebody else just to feel better. It’s a cheap rush and will leave you feeling empty. From here on out, the next woman who calls me a “skinny little bitch” or rips me up for no reason is going to get an earful. Can we all get on with living, please?

Monday, May 14, 2007

And the Universe Continues to Spin Out of Control

When I last blogged, I talked about the toll boredom has taken on me. Well, it's gotten worse. Ever go through a phase where the majority of your plans dissipate into thin air? My plans for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday all pulled out at the last moment. It's like the universe has gone totally nonlinear! We're headed toward the collapse of civilization!

Yes, I know, it's perfectly OK to stay in and flip through magazines, or, better yet, go out and do something by myself. Sunday I saw some awesome Hawaiian music, walked through a manmade jungle, and bought the new Son Volt album.

I'm amused at how badly I flipped out about the loss of my carefully-laid plans. I'm a somewhat rigid person, it's a flaw I'm aware of and have put a lot of work into improving. I've gotten a lot better over the years. My prior change-of-plans meltdowns have mellowed into mild anxiety and a case of the crankies. I still like schedules and plans, and put a lot of time into organizing events for friends. I'm a shameless extrovert, and don't need a whole lot of alone time. Typically, I'd rather socialize with friends than hang out at home.

So I guess the universe is trying to teach me something. I could probably stand to chill out and spend some time at home. But, wow, I'm going mad with boredom. Stupid universe.

Incompetent Advice

First letter of the relaunch...sorry it took so long!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Unleashing the Crazy

My Fun-o-Meter has been running very low this week. Between a vicious cold and a hectic week at work, I have not done anything social since Sunday. As I normally go out an average of five or six nights a week, this is having a negative effect on my usual sunny disposition.

For me, momentum is the key to happiness. I have an overwhelming need to be scheduled, structured, and busy. Blank time just unleashes the crazy.

What is “the crazy,” you ask? Oh, those usual neuroses I’m usually able to tamp down or find amusing. This is the stuff most of my friends already know and find endearing. I have to break all snack foods in half before eating them. I don’t call people, instead, I wear my friends down with text messages until they call me. I cannot sleep facing a wall, I cannot sit with my back to a door, and I cannot open bills while sitting down.

I don’t think any of those items go beyond the usual level of crazy. I think everyone has a well-edited selection of neuroses and quirks. However, blank time has caused a whole new slew of nuttiness.

Examples from this week: I trimmed my own bangs. With toenail scissors and a measuring tape. I ironed jeans. I had a neurotic girly freakout about my less-than-gorgeous feet. I became convinced that I was mutating because my left boob was larger than the right one (as it turns out, I was just slouching!). I re-reorganized my closet. I made a list of lists I needed to make.

So, what’s a normal level of crazy? What’s a tolerable level? I think the key is knowing how much crazy is fun, and how much crazy is just, well, crazy. Then you need to figure out how to avoid crazy-crazy and get back to fun-crazy. For me, the trick is to stay busy. Boredom is dangerous, so I’m off to pack my calendar.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Congratulations, Graduates!

It’s May, and all over the country the Class of 2007 will be completing college. Many of the smartest kids will come to Washington. They’ll flood our offices and apartment buildings, and alternate between charming us and driving us mad. They've been making me wonder what I wish I'd known at age 22. So, to you, from me, some unsolicited advice on the art of postgraduate life:

You’ve spent the last 22 years being told how smart and special you are. You’re going to spend the next few years being told that you kind of suck. If you open yourself up to this, and let life kick you around a bit, you’ll be a better person for it. If you continue to think of yourself as the greatest thing ever, you’re going to grow up into a royal pain in the ass who sucks the fun out of everything.

You are your choices. People are who they choose to be. Integrity, wisdom, kindness, and strength aren’t inherent, they’re earned. So is self-esteem. True self-worth isn’t that goofy “you’re all so very special!” routine we learned in kindergarten. It’s so much cooler than that, and it has nothing to do with your job, your thighs or your car. Self-esteem is earned by being a good person, taking care of others, and knowing what truly makes you special. It’s also the strength to not care what others think, and to not let anyone else drag you down. Most of all, don’t let you drag yourself down.

Oh, and by the way, you’re not all that special. I’m sure you’re one in a million. But that means there’s a thousand of you in India. It’s a big universe, and you’re only a tiny fraction of it.

At the same time, don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have anything to offer. Today’s 22-year-olds study abroad, travel, and volunteer in high numbers. You see a bigger world than I did at that age, and for that you have my respect.

Know at least one awesome party trick. Get really, really good at beer pong, know how to find Kabul on a map, or be able to drink stuff that’s on fire.

Screw up. A lot. Make out with a tattooed stranger, dance on the bar, quit your job to hike across Nepal, tick off your parents. Show up for work with a blazing hangover. Change your religion. Do ridiculous things to your hair. You’re at a point where your age is still a valid excuse for stupidity. Don’t waste the chance to be foolish. On the other hand, don’t make mistakes that will haunt you forever. Note that I told you to make out with the tattooed stranger, don’t bring him home. Don’t show up for work with a hangover every single day. Don’t burn bridges. Don’t cheat, lie, or steal.

The tattooed stranger brings us to the subject of sex. Your body is the express lane to your soul, and you need to treat it with respect. If you’re too embarrassed to buy condoms, you are not mature enough to be having sex. That goes double for you, ladies. I guarantee that the clerk at Rite-Aid is thinking about what’s for lunch, not what a dirty little skank you are. Also, Plan B is available from most pharmacies in D.C., without a prescription. Buy one, stash it in the medicine cabinet. You never know. Finally, you can get an HIV test from your regular doctor, during your annual checkup. If you make the test part of your routine, it won’t be so scary.

Fall in love. Get squashed. Repeat as necessary.

Five and ten-year plans are for idiots. Have dreams, and make sure those dreams get bigger over time. Do you want your own business? To travel the world? Prepare a perfect white sauce? Have babies? Know what your big dreams are, and the details will sort themselves out. Of course, in a job interview, have a five-year plan. Even if it’s total hogwash, they just want to see if you have a ready answer.

Don’t let fear guide your decisions. Yes, it’s scary to leave home, fall in love, break up, or change jobs. But it’s scarier still to stay in the same place forever. Have a balls-out, madcap, beautiful life.

Ah, your first job! No, you will not be running the place. You will be answering phones, filing, faxing, and doing the basic prep work for the chef (aka, your boss). All offices have grunt work, and it is not assigned to you as a form of punishment. Simply, it’s work that has to be done, and as you’re the rookie, you’re the one that has to do it. The trick is to get so efficient at the grunt work that you’ll have spare time to do the cool stuff.

You don’t have the worst job in the world. Do you clean up after elephants? Are you a coal miner in China? I doubt it.

Administrative work isn’t always the lame stuff you do on your way to something else. I’m an office manager and I do admin work for a living. I’m good at it. Without me, you wouldn’t get paid, the lights wouldn’t be on, and you wouldn’t have pens to write with. So don’t look at work like mine as the obstacle between you and your lofty aims. Your awesome marketing plan doesn’t keep the doors open, my sending in the rent check does.

All honest work has dignity. Tell yourself that at least once a week. If you can put those words to music, and dance around to it while you collate, so much the better.

Cultivate mentors. But please, don’t be one of those annoying people who is always “networking” and seeing your fellow human beings as potential job references. I hate those people. Most people hate those people. Develop friendships with people you admire, and the rest will sort itself out. I’m lucky to have had so many former supervisors who want to see me do well. (So, thank you, Suzanne, Margaret, Dave, Emily, Dorothy, Tina, and everyone else who has guided me in my career and my life. Y’all rock.)

Parents! Aren’t they awesome? Well, the best way you can show them what a great job they did is to carry your own weight. If you must live at home, do your own laundry. Fix dinner. Don’t hit them up for money. Show them they raised a competent adult. It might take them a while to let go, but they will.

Let’s move on to dating. Always be yourself. You have a lot to offer. If someone isn’t buying what you’re selling, find a way to move on. If you have to edit yourself for someone, or pretend to be someone you’re not, what’s the point? Go hang out with your friends instead.

Be selective. Don’t sit around hoping that someone picks you. You should be choosing each other. Find someone who is nice to you and makes you laugh. Better yet, pick someone who loves you not in spite of your flaws, but because of them. Because your flaws are what make you fascinating.

If you learned something, you didn’t waste your time. It’s only a failed relationship if you can’t figure out why it failed. Also, exes can turn out to be terrific friends.

Live big. Have a full life. Don’t let one thing be your everything, whether that’s your job, your significant other, or your favorite TV show.

Be a good friend. Take soup to someone who is sick. Remember who had a first date last night, and take the time to call and see how it went. Indulge cranky moods, because people aren’t always going to be at their best. Listen. Crack them up. Strive to be the person that your friends call when they have a bad day. Your friends are family. But not all friends are worth keeping. Soul-sucking Eeyores, black endless pits of need, and people with mean streaks should be avoided at all costs. If someone isn’t nice to you, why strive for their affection?

When you have problems, you have choices. You can acknowledge, cry it out, and get over it. Or you can embrace the drama and find the whole thing hilarious. Both methods have merit, I like the second. Otherwise, I would have run out of blog posts a long time ago.

We’re all born for a reason. But your task in life isn’t to find out the reason, or spend years in annoying little journeys of self-discovery. Your task is to bring out what is special in others, and they’ll do the same for you.

When 30-year-olds have 1500 words of advice on how to live, it’s a sign of the Apocalypse. I don’t know everything, in fact, I don’t know much at all. And on that note, I’m done. Take care of yourselves, live big, screw up. It’s a fun world out there.