Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm Not Your Bitch, Thanks for Checking!

Stop asking me to work for free. It's really getting to a point where it's just kind of obnoxious. In the last couple of months, I've gotten two inquiries from the journalism department and one forwarded from a local paper asking if I could just pick up some freelance work...for free. Just go out, report a story or write some copy and hand it over to someone in exchange for nothing.

This would be one thing if a.) I were an underclassman rather than somebody who has already completed a journalism major and has a boatload of professional clips; or b.) I was going to get published somewhere that would give me a really money clip; or c.) I was getting in on the ground floor of something entrepreneurial and awesome. But actually, no I will not spend hours reporting a piece for your free college guide or your bus station music rag. I'm young, but I have experience under my belt, I do good work and I deserve to be paid for it. I've written for free and I've written for a paycheck, and surprise! The paycheck is nicer. Working for free is okay if you're really learning something, or again, if you're getting those million dollar clips. But you're just asking me to do work and not get paid. Period.

I know this is how the business is right now, but it is bullshit. Creative people--writers in particular, but also designers etc.--are in a position where we're all expected to act grateful for the privilege of working for free, and it's crap. Go on or the writing gigs section of Craigslist. Half the stuff on there is unpaid work. Work your ass off, we'll throw it up on our site and take the ad revenue and you get to...what? Get a clip from some shitty website? Fuck that noise.

Nobody expects accountants to work for free. You don't get your hair cut for free, you don't get free car washes. The problem with things like writing and design is that a lot of people labor under the delusion that any monkey with a computer can do them. Guess what? This is actually what I do. It's work. It's as real a service as a haircut, and yes I most likely can do it better than you. That sounds cocky, but I don't care. Unless the New York Times comes knocking (yeah sure) I'm really over working for free.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Humblebragging

"Everybody has to feel superior to somebody," she said. "But it's customary to present a little proof before you take the privilege."
- Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's

I love it when you're having your morning coffee and perusing CNN, by which I mean Facebook, and it pops up that someone can't believe he went for an early morning run in the rain, even though he got no sleep last night because he was working on his green energy startup. Or that she was sooo embarrassed that her professor showed that Faulkner paper to his publisher, or that he's invited to soo many parties that he doesn't know how he'll choose (sadface emoticon). That right there is a humblebrag.

Yeah, it sounds like something Larry David would think up (Seinfeld or Curb, doesn't matter) but unfortunately they're everywhere, in the non-TV world. My generation excels at the humblebrag, so much so that somebody had to coin a word for it. It's those little declarations where you simultaneously put yourself down and, well, brag. And we should all stop it, right now.

If you're going to brag, just brag. When you have a real win, just be a teeny bit braggy about it. Just drop the coyness, we all know what you're trying to do. A girl I went to high school with just got a job at Google, and you know what her status was? "Jane Doe will be working at Google next year!" I mean, that is awesome. Brag about it, girl. Four for you, Glen Coco! (And speaking of Google: ladies--or really everyone, but especially girls-- read the New Yorker's profile of Sheryl Sandberg. I love her advice to women about knowing when to talk yourself up).

But yeah, on the other hand, freaking stop asking for validation for doing normal shit like exercising or cooking. I know we were all raised to think we're special snowflakes but really, no one gives a shit. Stop bragging about being a functional human.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wear Sunscreen, Etcetera Etcetera.

This is my welcome letter/advice to this year's incoming freshmen. It'll be showing up the freshmen issue of The New Hampshire on Friday. I promise I'll get back to real blogging soon, shit's been crazy.

Welcome to UNH. I’m sometimes envious of you—my classmates and I are staring down the barrel of a job market that’s so spectacularly bad for new college grads it would be almost funny if we didn’t have to graduate into it in a matter of months. By the time you graduate, maybe things will be better, or maybe we’ll all be scrambling to learn Chinese. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not really envious of you. Because I’ve learned a lot since I first lay in the top bunk in a sweltering room in Stoke during freshman orientation, unable to fall asleep because I was so excited to begin, to start what you’re starting this week, this big adventure called college. Here’s what I’ve learned since then.

Work hard, but don’t work too hard. Take a late-night walk in the snow, have long talks, hang out with friends at HoCo until it’s time for the next meal, lie on Thompson Hall lawn in the springtime…take time to notice that this is a nice place. Don’t miss it because you’re holed up in the library.

This seems like a big place to you now, but it will start to feel small. Explore everything—internships, study abroad, alternative spring break. Durham will always be here, and it’s a big world out there. And you’ll appreciate our sleepy little town even more if you’ve been away.

The people who are worth your romantic attention aren’t the ones texting you at 1 a.m. asking you to come over and “watch a movie.” Know what you want, know what you deserve, and stick to your guns. And, when you inevitably ignore that hard-won little chestnut from a wizened senior, just remember that every person you date/hook up with/have a weird undefined thing with is part of your story and part of the hopefully functional adult you’re going to become. Don’t disavow that. It’s college. We’ve all been there. (Just use a condom).

Fight for your friends. From this year onward, and progressively for the rest of your life, your friends are going to be increasingly scattered across the country and the world. The friends who were two doors down last semester might be in Kenya or London or New Zealand next semester. Your friends from home may not come back for the summer—they might take on internships in California or summer classes in Cambridge. Make the effort to hang onto the people you care about. It’s worth it.

Finally, don’t get locked into a five-year plan or fixated on a dream career. The jobs I’m looking at now are in fields I didn’t even know existed when I was a freshman. Things happen. You learn new things—about yourself and about the world—and you change your mind. That’s okay (and you’re not even remotely alone). Whatever you think you want now might not make you half as happy as something you haven’t even discovered yet. Yes, have goals—just stay awake to the rest of the world, too. And don't take it too seriously. You're gonna be great.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Tea Partied Out

"We live, too, in the age of the Tea Party, a movement that cherishes stupidity and zealotry and hates thinking, reading, and teaching." -Harold Bloom, Harper's Sept. 2011

I haven't written a ton about politics lately, primarily (heh) because I'd rather let somebody cut off my fingertips with a bagel knife than listen to a lot of these wackjobs. Also, I'm still kind of traumatized by the last New Hampshire primary, in which I was unfortunate enough to throw my hat in the ring of the guy who was schtupping his videographer while his wife had cancer. Like, he was in my living room. My hat was fully in that particular, philandering ring. Anyway.

I felt like I have something I want to say about Michele Bachman and Rick Perry (and Mike Huckabee, I heard a murmur?!) but I wasn't quite sure what it was until today. I realized that the thing that drives me so entirely up the wall about these people (and the Tea Party in general) is that they are such absolutists. I'm not somebody who has a lot of Philosophies, but one thing I really do believe is that you shouldn't listen to anyone who thinks that their particular discipline can explain everything. Religion is not the answer to everything, but neither is science. Neither is meditation or Jungian analysis or psychotropic drugs. All of these things can fall into place and work for particular people at a given time in their lives, some more than others, but they're all just part of a bigger picture.

Today I was driving behind a car whose license plate said "SAVED." And it's just like, really? You're that sure? You want to carve that in state-issued aluminum? Now, I'm not knocking faith. But I cannot stand when people are so smugly self assured that their way--whether it's Christianity or libertarianism or veganism or chiropractic--is the only right way. Seriously, just don't trust anyone who tells you that something that can fit in a pamphlet is going to fix your whole life. (And I'm pretty sure Michele Bachman's version of Christianity can fit in a pamphlet). Life in general is a business that requires both diet and exercise, hard work and luck, psychotherapy and booze. It's not a single-sum game, ever.

Perry, Bachman, Santorum et al. think that their way is the right way, and everyone else is going to hell. Time was, in America, if you wanted to be president you tried to distance yourself from crazy, irrational people. Instead crazy and irrational has become a political base. Frankly I'm pretty scared--especially of Perry, because he's apparently in first place and whips people up into the kind of froth where they stand up and applaud the fact that he executed like 230 people while he was governor. Because Jesus is definitely pro-electric chair.

I have to go bang my head against a wall, I'll catch you guys later.

five hour energy for primary season=liquor and West Wing reruns

Saturday, July 30, 2011

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink: Summer Double Header

So first of all, I'm sorry I totally blow at blogging lately. I'm going to make it up to the four of you with a special summer edition of OWWWP. It's a nice little smorgasbord this summer from Cosmo--ways to hate yourself, ways to be passive aggressive with your man, ways to "pamper" yourself that mostly involve glopping food on your face...really a little of everything. Here we go:

Numbers don't lie, ladies don't get laid
According to a "recent survey" which I can only hope was conducted by Cosmo, they found that in exchange for a perfect body, 85% of women would give up Facebook (okay) and 69% would give up booze (uhhh). They say that 82% responded "no" when asked whether they'd give up sex for a perfect body...which means that 18% of women in this survey were totally okay with giving up sex in exchange for a perfect body, which they would not able to use to have sex. So we know that 18% of Cosmo readers actually aspire to be frigid trophy wives, which honestly seems a little low.

Mix it up
August has a family-friendly little feature called "What Your (and His) Secret Fantasies Mean." It's pretty much copy and pasted from every other issue of Cosmo ever with slightly different graphics, but it does include this little peach: "It's all about role playing...if you want to get edgier, have him don a playful mask--the novelty will fuel both of your libidos." And now you are thinking about a couple banging in Richard Nixon masks. Sorry.

Wake n' bake
"I love cooking for my fiance, but I feel like I'm being taken for granted. Last weekend, I tried an experiment where I asked him to cook breakfast--he kept putting it off and we didn't eat until 3 p.m.! How can I get him to do more? For starters, don't conduct anymore experiments. For only did yours make you annoyed, it failed to get the point across. He may have procrastinated because he felt nagged. Plus guys can get distracted from eating--by the game, his iPad, a car wash at the sorority house across the street--so he might have actually did what you asked. Either way you didn't solve anything."

First of all, I have to set aside the fact that I would actually murder any guy who made me wait until 3 p.m. for my breakfast. (I'm not a murderous person in general, just really susceptible to low blood sugar.) But what the fuck kind of advice columnist is this? You basically told this doofus that her boyfriend's assholishness can all be chalked up to the fact that he's a dude and then didn't even answer her question. And let me tell you something else: any guy who can't manage to make you a fried egg sandwich before 3 in the afternoon definitely can't afford an iPad.

Feel like a million bucks for $1.75
The 25 Ways to Pamper Your Body feature from August includes this gem, which doesn't even need commentary: "#24: Give yourself goosebumps by sweeping a new, clean toothbrush over the curves of your neck and collarbone."

Just to verify, I am not making this up.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Which We Can Be Anything But Mostly We Are Broke

Remember when you were a little kid and they told you could be anything you want when you grow up? That was so nice. "They" of course is Sesame Street, or whatever show those of you who grew up with cable were watching. No, I will not catch most of your references to "Hey Arnold." Sad, I know. But Sesame Street had Spanish lessons and I speak Spanish now, so really, who wins? (The Hey Arnold kids totally win).

Anyway. It was such a lovely idea that you could be anything. A ballerina, an astronaut, a doctor...really anything with a recognizable outfit and an explanation five year olds can grasp. They keep up this farce right through high school and even into college. Remember those motivational posters stuck on the walls of the gym? If you can dream it, you can do it! Really, the idea that you can become anything you want runs deep in American culture. All it takes to achieve the American dream is some elbow grease, bootstraps, grindstones and some other metaphors I'm sure Sarah Palin would be happy to provide. If you can dream it, you can do it.

The worst part, to my mind, is that once you go to college and declare a liberal arts major they keep going with this notion that you can be anything. A liberal arts education prepares you for a huge number of professions, they love telling you. Here, you will learn to write, research, argue, think critically, and here you will become an Educated Person. Well, great. There was a time when that was all you needed to get a job, but it's not anymore--and no one ever sits you down and says, "Okay, let's talk about how you're going to take this degree in philosophy and turn it into something that will eventually cut you a paycheck."

For the record, I believe a liberal arts education is a really valuable thing. The world needs people like us, because otherwise all we'd have is numbers and data and brushed stainless steel. (I guess my world without the liberal arts looks like "I, Robot" with Will Smith? I don't know.) I don't disavow my decision to major in English. I feel like an educated person. But, in one area, I feel like my education has already failed me in a big way. Writing is what I'm good at, but I'm staring down the barrel of the gun that is the real world and nobody's offered me even an inkling of how I'm supposed to take what I'm good at and turn it into a job.

Now, I'm figuring it out on my own, and I've got my fingers crossed that everything will look better in a year. But does UNH actually think that my courses in the Post Colonial Novel and Shakespeare and drawing and art history have actually made me a competitive candidate for a real job? (Technically I'll have a degree in journalism and be qualified to write for newspapers, but these days that's like majoring in physics and banking on becoming an astronaut.) Are the university bigwigs so out of touch that they don't realize that in today's market their students aren't qualified for anything, or do they not care?

Salon recently ran an article called "Is is time to kill the liberal arts degree?." Now, I'm resoundingly against killing the liberal arts degree, but I do wish somebody would recognize that liberal arts students need a little more of a plan than engineers, and that it might be nice if our university could throw us a little guidance. Some personal finance, some computer skills, some basic understanding of business, a little career counseling. Hell, it could be a whole class. No, it's not romantic. It's not living on coffee and cigarettes and scribbling the great American novel in your vermin-infested apartment. It's not grappling with philosophical conundrums. But it's goddamn common sense. Until academia realizes that liberal arts majors need to live and work in today's crazy-ass job market the same as everybody else, all we're going to have is a lot of Latin-speaking bag boys and dishwashers quoting Kafka.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Worst Girls

They think they're hotter than everyone else (but they like talking about how they just like wearing jeans and t-shirts) they like sports (but not as much as they like telling guys how much they like sports) and they just don't get why they don't have any female friends (although what they really love is saying that girls are bitches and they don't want to be friends with them anyway). They're not just girls who are friends with guys, they're girls who proclaim that they can't stand other girls, only want to have guy friends and simply will not shut the fuck up about it.

They are the worst girls.

The worst girls shine in their Facebook pages; where they post statuses about how glad they are that all their friends are guys because girls are awful, and tons of boozy photo albums called things like "my boys <3." Don't get me wrong, it's great that you have boys. I believe that guys and girls can be platonic friends, sometimes. But sorry, if you're a girl who hangs out solely with guys, probably about 50% of them harbor feelings for you or at least a vague sense that they might want to make out with you sometime when everyone's drunk, 45% of them want to sleep with your roommate/sister/mom, and maybe 5% of them want to actually be your friend.

A lot of actresses also suck in this regard. (Megan Fox, I'm looking at you). They're champs at saying things like "Women are just so jealous, I really just prefer guy friends" and "I'm really just a guy's girl, I love football!" (I'm sure you do, January Jones). These factoids--especially the sports (because imagine! A woman who likes to watch sports!)--are constantly trotted out in profiles of actresses like they somehow make them more interesting. So, ladies of Hollywood (because I know you're reading this) it's quite possible that the reason you don't have girlfriends isn't because they're all jealous of your hotness--it might be because you're just really annoying.

Now, I shave my legs and everything but what the hell ever happened to sisterhood? This is simply not cool. If you do this, you are not fooling anyone. We all know that "girls are so jealous" means "I think I'm hot shit, you should too," and that "I just get along better with guys" means "I think all girls except me are bitches." We all get it. But if girls don't like you, you need to a.) take a look at the girls you're hanging out with and b.) take a long, hard look at yourself. Because somebody's acting like an asshole and it might be you.

So ladies, here's the takeaway: stop trashing other girls as a way to inflate your ego, because it sucks. It does not make you remotely interesting or unique that you like football. It just makes you one of millions of other people who like football. (And dudes: I know a girl who can hold her liquor and talk intelligently about sports is hot--not that I can speak from experience--but think twice about dating a chick with no girlfriends. Just...think twice). Most people couldn't care less if you want to have friends of the opposite sex and watch sports and drink whiskey and do whatever other crap "guys girls" supposedly do, so you can stop talking about it now. Sorry, but those are just things that people
do sometimes. You're going to need a new schtick, cupcake.