"Being an adult is about recognizing that the right to say something doesn’t make it okay to say. It’s about recognizing that you are not the only person with feelings and opinions. It’s about understanding power differentials and the difference between criticism and bullying, and learning to examine and be accountable for your own actions and their consequences. It’s about caring more about not harming other people than about whether their subsequent upset inconveniences you. It’s about being decent as well as being right."
Anonymous asked: What makes you, you? How did you come into This Recording? Why should I be good? Why are you so talented and beautiful? First record you bought? Given the choice of your social media followers and followees, whom would you want as a dinner guest? If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be? F*ck, marry, kill. Where’s Waldo and Carmen Sandiego? When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself? Favorite Smiths or Morrissey song? Julie Gayet or Carla Bruni?
A curious and often maddening blend of self-consciousness and courage.
I was asked to write for This Recording right after I graduated from college and I jumped at the opportunity. The rest is history.
I bought one of Celine Dion’s albums, although I don’t remember which one. There was a period of my life when I only listened to Celine Dion. (I know!)
Nobody who doesn’t agree with me putting a stick of butter and heavy cream into everything.
Old, because as Madeleine L’Engle says, “I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be… This does not mean that I ought to be trapped or enclosed in any of these ages… the delayed adolescent, the childish adult, but that they are in me to be drawn on.”
I’ll answer, but only if you pass this to me across a classroom on a tiny piece of paper and I have boxes to check with my favorite gel pen.
Waldo and Carmen Sandiego moved to New York City to try and make it as artists.
“This Charming Man”.
(This was fun!)
These days you can’t slaughter a fluffy, innocent lamb without getting blood on someone who doesn’t eat meat, which has really thrown a cramp in my Friday night plans. Navigating the world of vegetarians, by which I mean eating with them, requires some discretion, as not all human herbivores live by the same rules. Thankfully, most of them fall into at least one of the following categories:
1. The Walking Carbohydrate
This was your friend in college who, once out from under the parental wing, decided that their days of immoral meat-and-potatoes were over. Plus, think of the health benefits of not eating meat! Blithely, this friend stuffed their face with as much cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, Velveeta and tortilla chips, and grilled cheese sandwiches as they could possibly get their hands on. “Cheese is a great way to get that extra protein,” your friend claimed. “Wait, why is there lettuce on this?” The “veggie” part of their name refers less to their diet and more to their alarming ability to become a couch potato overnight, arm covered in Cheetos dust.
2. The Eggs With a Side of Facon
This mournful soul would never admit it, but they miss their meat-eating days with a vigor that they assuage with vegetable matter molded into the shapes of popular charcuterie. “It tastes just as good as the real stuff,” they say, chomping on a dry black bean burger.
3. The Moralizer
You’ll be sitting at your desk minding your own business, eating a delicious breakfast sandwich (if by breakfast sandwich you mean mostly sausage) when they stop by, lift their nose in the air, and seethe in outrage. “Oh my gosh,” they say, “are you eating sausage?” Your mouth full, you nod, blinking, while they sigh dramatically. “I remember when I ate sausage,” they say. “That was before I knew where meat came from. Do you know where meat comes from?” Before you can mention that yes, you grew up on a farm and raised a for-the-purpose-of-slaughter piglet you affectionately named “Hamlet”, they launch into a tirade about how disgusting it is for humans to eat meat, how bad it is for the environment, how it’s basically like killing your own mother and putting her in a soup for a rainy day. This type of vegetarian thinks they’re doing a public service by merely allowing others to eat meat without too much complaint. “Anyways,” they smile, “enjoy your breakfast!”
4. The Newbie
This is when you’re ordering lunch for a bunch of people at work from a place that serves mostly pesto-infused quinoa with pumpkin seeds for garnish and fruit smoothies with all sorts of boosts. The newbie will send you a million chats in a row saying, “Can you please call and make sure my acai berry coconut milk vitamin K shake has no meat please? I’m a vegetarian now,” and you burn your office down.
5. The Health Nut
This person chomps through their salad with smug dressing on the side and chirps, “You know, when I’m 75 and running marathons and you’re all sitting on your couches leaking diabetes into your catheters, you’ll be sorry you ate meat!” forgetting that hey, everyone dies, and all their pizza-loving friends will probably be dead and eating $5 Hot ‘n’ Ready’s and laughing in some celestial Little Caesar’s while they cross the finish line alone.
6. The “Oh yeah, I don’t eat meat, but no biggie”
This person makes you kale chips that are so good you seriously consider giving up your penchant for binging on slim jim’s while watching Say Yes to the Dress deep into the night. This person picks the sausage off their pizza when their undeserving, ingrate friends forget to order a plain cheese. This person is the buddha who convinces you to get up on Saturdays and go to yoga and will eat burritos with you, even if theirs is full of beans. This person readily admits to missing bacon but is so peaceful about it you kind of want to be a vegetarian too.
luonlu asked: Hi there, this may seem odd, but I have two very silly questions for you...One, with the amount of books that you read, do you use a kindle? Two, do you perm your hair or is it natural? If it's a perm, what's the technique? It's stunning! Love your work, -Lulu
Hello! I don’t think these are silly questions. I’m often possessed by the irresistible urge to ask very similar questions to all the people I follow here. What do you eat for breakfast? How do you get to work? What do you sing when you’re in the shower? I think it’s just a natural instinct to feel closer to people, to understand how they get going and what makes them tick and how they became themselves. Anyways.
I do use a Kindle. I’d say it’s about half and half now, the amount I read electronically and the amount I read in print. I have zero qualms about reading books on my Kindle because I feel like as long as I’m reading, who cares about the medium? This is one of those questions that I feel will die with our generation — Am I spending too much time on my phone?! The internet?! Should I be spending more time outdoors?! just because our introduction to technology was not organic, like it is for kids nowadays. We actually remember a time when we played outside, when we ran to answer the phone because it was halfway across the house, when we unplugged it from the wall because we wanted to sit in the bathtub and not be bothered. That won’t be a problem for subsequent generations. Maybe that’s too bad, I don’t really know how it’ll turn out. We’ll just have to make the best of it, in any case, take the good and do away with the bad, just like we’ve always done. In any case, as long as people are reading, I really, really don’t care how. I also like how easy it is to travel with books now.
As for my hair, it’s a perm. I have naturally wavy hair but I’ve always had a soft spot for wild curls. I’ve gotten two perms in my life, and my hair holds the curl like nobody’s business — the proof being that it’s almost as curly today as it was when I first got the perm 8 months ago — except, of course, for the part that’s just recently grown out.
I’ve always gotten a standard chemical perm, which is very bad for your hair and I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t have really strong hair to begin with. Even though I take good care of my locks, they took a pretty severe beating from this treatment and I’m babying them as much as possible right now as they grow out. Aside from the damage it incurs, it’s also really hard for stylists to know how a perm is going to work in someone’s hair, so you might go in with an idea of how it’s going to turn out and it could be totally different. It’s important to find a stylist who specializes in them or has done perms before (recently, not like back in 1984) so that you know you’re getting the latest and greatest in perm technology. I’m only somewhat kidding. It’s also super important that you go into the whole process with the knowledge that the end result could be very different from what you envisioned.
Also don’t do it at home. Take my words with a grain of salt, too, since I’m obviously not a professional like, say, this wonder woman.
Thank you for the compliment! I’ve had a lot of people say it looks very natural, which is pretty much the apex for me when it comes to my beauty routine. That being said, I think this will be my last perm. I miss my weird waves.
You know how there are all these pictures of apartments and houses with pristine white interiors floating around? They’re very pretty, I like all the shades of white, the white bedclothes perfectly rumpled against the white bed frame pushed almost up against the unmarked white wall with an abstract black and white painting hanging above it and the white cat sitting on a really light gray chair
Okay. How do you — live in this sort of house? How do you eat pizza in this house? How do you drink wine in this house? Just the other day I had some friends over for homemade minestrone and red wine and, a little jolly, I flung my hand out and knocked my glass over and it spread like a wildfire across my (admittedly brown) rented carpet.
As I poured baking soda and apple cider vinegar on the spot and giggled I started thinking about how terrible, how Truly Awful, it would have been if my apartment had white carpet, or any white furniture at all. I’d have panic attacks all the time! I’d never want to have anyone over. I’d only eat oatmeal and even then I’d have to sit on a junky towel on my bathroom floor because I’d be afraid of spilling.
So… how? What?
itisatmoments asked: Would you consider writing a bit about your job as a copywriter? I am about to take my first steps down that path and would greatly appreciate any insights that might light my way. Also, I wanted to say that I often find myself thinking about your piece 'Marie'. It is such a brilliant example of how powerful and moving writing can be and I am so glad you chose to share it.
I don’t write much about my job here, mostly because everyone’s (including my own) first instinct is to complain about work and I feel that in a public space like this one, complaining about your job is unprofessional. My job isn’t always a bed of roses, but I worked hard to get to where I am and most of all, I’m very grateful to be employed.
By now, you’ve probably guessed what I’m about to tell you: being a copywriter isn’t my dream job. On the other hand, my dream job is writing. So if I’m able to do something that allows me to develop skills for what is one of the most important aspects of my life, then I’m grateful. As a copywriter, I’m learning what it means to share ideas without being afraid that they’re not the “right” ideas, to write without getting stuck because there’s a deadline and the work needs to get done, whether or not I’m feeling particularly clever or witty or inspired. That’s invaluable and I am so glad to be getting that sort of experience — and to be paid to get it! — in my current position.
I had a few misconceptions about being a copywriter. One of the big ones was that it would be super creative and stimulating all the time. Reality: most of the time, you’re writing something for a client, and it has to align very particularly with their brand and their business objectives, which tends to take a lot of the “fun” out of it. Of course, once in a while you get to flex your creative muscles, but most of the time, I’ve found the assignments to be very straightforward. This isn’t bad; it’s just, well, different.
When I first began, my manager sat down with me and we chatted about the difference between the writing I do for myself and the writing I do for the company. He said that there are excellent copywriters who can’t write creatively, for themselves, and that there are some creative writers who can’t write advertising copy to save their lives. I’ve found that to be absolutely true. Copywriting uses different mental muscles. I’d go into it thinking about it as a very pragmatic, very focused, very goal-oriented type of writing. Almost technical, in a way. It is satisfying in a completely different way and tiring in a completely different way.
Even though it hasn’t turned out exactly as I expected, it’s been a great opportunity. I hope you find that to be true of your own experience, too.
"I feel really lucky and grateful that I’m able to write and edit for a living. There are different modes, certainly, but I don’t really find it hard to switch between them. I guess the biggest difference is between the content you generate yourself because you just can’t not write about it, and then when you need to find the most interesting or important angle of a topic that is selected for you. I think that doing “non-creative” writing is a huge help for when I do write creatively, because it has made me realize that writing is largely about work. Sometimes you don’t feel like it, but that’s too bad! Do it anyway. The work I do at the United Nations is kind of a cross between technical writing and reporting. It’s about synthesizing a lot of complex information very quickly, and writing about it in real time in the middle of a meeting about the Arms Trade Treaty, or chemical weapons use in Syria. What my team and I publish at the end of each day usually amounts to something like ten-thousand words. So it’s incredible to realize that you’re capable of that kind of volume. It’s been a real eye-opener and a killer of excuses for the rest of my work. Like, I know I’m capable of producing five-thousand words of clean copy a day. It doesn’t mean it will all be brilliant and evocative, but it’s somewhere to start."-
I feel very similarly about my job as a copywriter. It’s been so incredible to learn that “not feeling like it” is something that can be overcome — simply by pushing through and doing it. It’s a valuable lesson that all writers, at some point or another, have to learn.
"Another theme,” she went on, “is when people take advantage of you, is it smart to fight back? One of the blessings of my childhood was being a fighter and a scrapper, but being a fighter and a scrapper is a curse too. I’m just learning you don’t always have to fight. That’s been the revelation with ‘The Glass Castle,’ the kindness of people. It’s completely defanged and disarmed me. It’s one of the reasons I quit doing gossip. It’s so ironic. I was campaigning, crusading and exposing other people while I was hiding my own secret. Shame on me. I was convinced that if people knew the truth about me, I would lose my job. The revelation is if you’re willing to discuss what you’ve been through, people become unashamed of their own secrets."-
Jeannette Walls, in this article
I recently finished The Glass Castle and its weight is just starting to settle on me. I almost can’t breathe. I sped through it in a morning, in a gulp, and now I’m feeling a bit dizzy, a bit too full. For a book that’s easy to take lightly — it’s written so simply — it’s very difficult to digest.
Highly recommended. But tread carefully.