Half a Badass

For a period of about 10 weeks, between early August and late October, I spent a lot of time wondering what motivates us to do things we know are going to be painful. We push ourselves at the gym to run that extra mile, or hold that stretch for another five seconds, in spite of aching muscles, stilted breath and a soundtrack of “TAKE A BREAK” on repeat in our heads. We keep eating that particular spicy food, fried rice at Spice Market or a burrito bowl from Chipotle, despite watering eyes and the constant burning from the tip of our tongues to the back of our throats. We hold on to that tiny bit of hope, thinking maybe this time the phone buzzes, it’ll be the “long time no talk” message we swore we weren’t waiting to see. It’s like every time my partner-in-crime R convinces me it’s going to be a good idea to go back to Village Tavern – I know it’s going to end with me eating pizza at 3 a.m. with beer spilled down my dress, but there’s a part of me that knows despite the imminent pain the next morning, everything is going to be awesome.

About four weeks into the aforementioned 10 of contemplation, I had this weird feeling that the reason I spent those weeks pondering on pain wasn’t going to happen. Every time I talked about it with friends, every time I thought about it, every email exchange and every week that went by, I had this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that it wasn’t going to happen as planned. I knew it was going to happen eventually, but October 22 just didn’t feel right, and I couldn’t explain why. I shared this sentiment about five weeks into the 10 with my lovely friend M and my fashionista C, who laughed and told me I was just anxious, and it was going to be fine. So I kept thinking about pain, and how to prepare for pain when intuition is saying that it’s not going to happen as planned, but everything is going to be okay. When it came within 24 hours of the scheduled start time, I tried to breathe a sigh of relief, thinking it must have been nerves that had my mind running around with this idea that this major life event wasn’t going to happen. And then my phone rang, and just like that, everything changed.

So innocent on paper...

So innocent on paper… (Done by Mikhail Andersson at White Rabbit Tattoo, NYC)

Pain is a funny thing. No one wants to be in pain, whether physical or emotional, and there are some kinds of pain that make you wonder if it will ever go away. But with most pain also come strength. It’s pushing yourself into that last mile in a long run, dealing with the extra ten minutes of pain so you can spend the rest of the weekend elated you beat a personal record. It’s realizing after a while that you’ve stopped looking for that same number and the “long time no talk” message, and how nice it feels to know you’re moving on. On that fateful October day, I was in a different type of pain than expected, an emotional vulnerability that comes with dreaming of something for so long and having someone tell you to keep waiting. But I told myself the strength from an extra month of preparation would be worth it in the end, and at the end of the day, a month in the grand scheme of forever is barely a speck of dust on the radar. I felt stronger, having waited and anticipated longer, and by the night of November 24, fielding “good luck tomorrow!!” texts left and right and nearly working myself into a panic attack from high levels of excited and nervous energy, I felt like I could handle anything.

"This is going to be great" - me, five minute prior to start.

“This is going to be great” – me, five minutes prior to start.

On November 25, I walked into the same shop I’d entered back in March to meet with the same artist, M by my side and nervous excitement in my head. I saw the stencil on the page, even more beautiful than I’d expected, and I saw the stencil on my body, even larger than I’d expected, and I braced myself for pain that I really thought I could handle. After all, I’ve spent the past year dealing with everything from post-Spartan ankle injuries to a twice-broken heart. And this was a pain I’d experienced before – four times, in fact! “I can handle it,” I thought, as I laid on my side, arm over my head and M’s hand in mine for reassurance. I took a few deep breaths, settled in to the stiff position of my body, stuck in my headphones and gave the thumbs-up to the artist. And then, the whir of the tattoo machine started and I entered into a world of pain I have NEVER experienced.

The next four hours felt like post-Spartan, post-breakup, all job-related and all love-related pain combining to form a miniscule blip on the pain threshold. There were moments I didn’t think I could make it through, but I kept sitting, eyes closed, hand clenching M’s so tightly I’m surprised it didn’t fall off, because I knew it wouldn’t last forever, and it would be worth it. We took two ten-minute breaks, two hours in and then three hours in, and in each break my body would shake uncontrollably, coursing with too much adrenaline from the needles raking over thin skin and from all my excitement; it felt like going down the big drop in the roller coaster over and over until you can’t feel your body anymore. It was the best worst pain I had ever experienced, and walking up to the mirror after those four hours, I had never been so relieved, excited and fucking nervous all at the same time. I turned towards the mirror for the moment of truth, and in an instant, none of the pain mattered.

"This is beyond" - me, five minutes after. Tattoo by Mikhail Andersson at White Rabbit Tattoo

“This is beyond” – me, five minutes after. Tattoo by Mikhail Andersson at White Rabbit Tattoo

That’s the thing about pain, really. It makes you stronger when you least expect it to. It makes you understand your threshold, physically, emotionally, to handle anything. If I can sit through four hours of needles scratching the thin skin around my ribcage over and over again, who’s to say I can’t push myself into tittibhasana in yoga practice, or can’t stay an extra hour after work, regardless of how tired I am, to make sure everything is perfect? I feel like I can do anything after this, like I know my limits are so much farther than I’ve ever pushed them in the past. Our tattoo artist joked around when my anchor G was getting her rib piece back in July that to get a piece on the ribs makes you Half a Badass, which is promoted to full badass if you get a piece on your spine. I may never get to that level, so nervous am I just to go back and finish this piece next month, but I think for all of the pain I’ve experienced in recent days, half a badass is all good to me.

Anyone in the NYC area looking for ink, I seriously can’t say enough wonderful things about my artist and shop. You can find the artist on Instagram (@micleandersson) and his website (www.tattookarma.com), and the shop is White Rabbit Tattoo (www.whiterabbittattoostudio.com). 

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Turkey Time!

Hooray for long weekends focused on food and sale shopping! I’m hunkering down in Connecticut with the rest of the family for a few days to rest and recharge on this snowy and cold Thanksgiving week. I’ll be back next week with holiday-themed everything until T tells me to stop (she’s very particular about how/when/where the holidays should be celebrated.

In the meantime, here’s a list of the top things I’m thankful for this year:

  • Surviving #eleven25. Check back next week for details!
  • Little miss and her terrible cuddling skills.
  • Salsa Sun Chips.
  • The new Taylor Swift album.
  • And the new videos too.
  • Sharpie pens. (Have you used them? You’d be thankful too).
  • PLDs. My life wouldn’t be half as fun if I didn’t make a mess of it on the reg.
  • WINE. Always wine. All of the wine.
  • The Nickname Posse. You betches make my life complicated and a million times better, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • Family, and especially my Twinster, for being fully on board with my wearing a jumpsuit as her Maid of Honor next year.
  • This Chronicle. What an awesome time I’ve had writing this over the past nine months.

Until next week – Happy Turkey Genocide Day, all!

Friendsgiving: A Recipe for Success

For my American readers, this time of year is the magical time where excessive food and alcohol consumption is encouraged and we all pretend the calories don’t count. I’m not referring to Thanksgiving quite yet, however – this past weekend for many of us was the new-ish magical time known as Friendsgiving. For those who aren’t familiar, here’s a recipe to make your get-together as successful as ours was this past weekend.

Friendsgiving Recipe (Serves as many people as you invite)
YOU WILL NEED:

One (1) Nickname Posse (or whatever variation you have)
One (1) group email
One (1) group text
Eleven (11) bottles of wine
One (1) pitcher of homemade pear/rosemary cocktails
Two (2) pies of your making
Three (3) cheeses
One (1) trip to Whole Foods

TO MAKE YOUR FRIENDSGIVING PERFECT(ish):

  1. Start a group email chain about a month out with your Nickname Posse. Make sure that very little actual information is included, and use it more as a sounding board to annoy each other and plan other weekend activities.
  2. Decide against a potluck dinner because it’s complicated and the group is lazy, and instead order a fully-cooked meal from Whole Foods. Congratulate each other on fantastic planning.
  3. Two days prior, realize no one has confirmed important things like time of arrival and semi-formal dress code so send a group text with details.
  4. Allow group text to delineate into discussions of who’s showing up naked and who’s bringing assless chaps.
  5. Attempt to make pies the night before. Forget crucial ingredients, say “screw it” and drink wine with lovely friend and her boyfriend instead. Plan on making pies in the morning.
  6. Burn pie crust in the morning. Curse poor planning.
  7. Start drinking at 11 a.m. Someone has to test the cocktails, natch.
  8. Everyone shows up on time. Turn on football and hope the turkey will fit in the oven.
  9. Make adorable labels for all the food and somehow get everything in and out of the oven with a level of grace and decorum. Serve food to happy crowds.
  10. Realize by 4 p.m. everyone is pretty drunk and REAL full. Decide to take a walk around the Heights with the dogs. Neglect to tell a certain fashionista that it will be a legitimate “walk” so she’s forced to wander in stilettos. Find yourself impressed when she doesn’t complain.
  11. Eat pies upon return from walk. Eat too much. Like, way too much.
  12. Everyone falls asleep on the couch by 7 p.m.
  13. Everyone leaves full, happy and very tired by 7:30 p.m.
  14. Everyone promises to do this again next year by 7:45 p.m.
  15. Fall asleep by 9 p.m. following a very satisfying weekend.

I’ll list out things I’m thankful for later this week, but for now, let me just say a quick “toast”: To old friends, new friends, and to the family we choose. To my Nickname Posse, I love you all so dearly. And to Friendsgiving in 2015, where one hopes we’ll have learned self-restraint in the face of too many desserts.

Blood and Water

For the first eighteen months I lived in Washington Heights, the best part of my early mornings was the 7:42 a.m. A-train subway conductor. Most people, myself formerly included, don’t pay attention to the subway conductor, either woefully stuck with the same disembodied robot voice announcing that “The next stop is 42nd Street,” or a muffled and disgruntled voice ordering everyone to “Stand clear of the closing doors (please).” But in my first few months in the Heights, I noticed that if I left my apartment by about 7:35, I would get on the same train, where the conductor always sounded like he was in a good mood, and strayed far from the typical conductor script. On Mondays, he’d tell us “Welcome back from the weekend! This is a downtown bound A express train,” and every day at every stop, he’d announce “This is [station stop] – hope everyone has a [beautiful/wonderful/stellar/fabulous] morning.” Every Friday he told us “Happy Friday! Have a warm and cozy weekend.” It was so minor, these little quips, but so endearing that I would race every morning to make that train, just so I could tell myself “Well, looks like I’m going to have an exciting day today!” or “It is a beautiful morning.” In June, all of a sudden he was gone, likely reassigned to another train time or track, and my commutes went back to silent staring at nothing with headphones turned all the way up.

Sometimes people have an impact on your life that is, at a glance, insignificant, but powerful in its own way. From the outside, my morning conductor is just a blip on the radar, but the cheery greetings, without fail each morning, put a little more of a bounce in my step, and every morning I still hope his voice will surprise me as I head down to the Village for another day at the office. I mean, I don’t even know what he looks like. I never introduced myself or saw him walking through the cars, or maybe I did one day but wouldn’t ever know it was him. But there are people in our lives sometimes who are important because we want them to be, and not just because they’re supposed to be. This holds true for things as minor as a usual conductor, and for things as major as the traditional definition of family. I don’t mean that garbage about “traditional family ONLY MEANS a mom and dad,” but the idea that your “family” is limited to the people that share your genes, “blood is thicker than water” and all those great cliches.

This is not to say I don’t have I have the most amazing, ridiculous, and large (quantity, not physique..) extended family. I was so blessed to be born into this clan, the crowd that still tops 30 people for the “small get-togethers” on all the major holidays; I don’t envy T having to sort through how many save-the-dates she needs to send for my dad’s side alone. Growing up, it was hard enough trying to remember which cousin was on whose side, and what aunt lived where in all these family gatherings, so imagine my surprise when at about age 9, I found out one of these families, my aunt, uncle and two cousins, were not actually related to us. CUE KIDDIE LB GASP. The one family I knew by heart, the one who spent summers by our pool, kids splashing each other and adults leaving us be (/drinking heavily, I’ve since learned), weren’t the same as my other aunts and uncles that we saw on Christmas?! “So they’re not our family?,” I remember asking Mama B after I found out, trying to sort through this weird new information about my favorite aunt and uncle. She laughed a little and let me rest my head against her side. “Of course they’re family,” she told me, stroking my hair. “They don’t have to be our blood to be our family.”

This week we said goodbye to a woman that inspired me with every breath she took, a damn good fighter until the very end. We watched her health move like a roller coaster for nearly a decade, the miracles that gave us years we never thought we’d have and the final valley where she chose, on her terms, to stay, surrounded by love and understanding. She spent her entire life surrounded by love; she was so loved by her doctors, her coworkers, her friends, the family she was so fortunate to have and the ones she chose. She was soft-spoken and poignant, poised and caring; she is and was and always will be family, she will always and forever be remembered and be loved and be missed.

Through a sea of black and tears last night, I found my cousin, someone with whom I’ve been so fortunate to share amazing memories since really reconnecting about four years ago: spontaneous happy hours, meeting his “new girlfriend,” going to their wedding, and everything in between. His sister, my other cousin, and I had hugged, and cried, and shared our favorite memories, while his dad, my uncle, kept a brave face for everyone, but my cousin and I just kind of stopped and held each other for a brief moment, and I told him “I’m so sorry” and he just hugged a little tighter. I grabbed his wife’s hand after that, the most recent, wonderful addition to our better-than-family, and told them both I promised to stop flaking (per ushe) and I would make sure we all did another city dinner soon. As I left them, we all looked each other in the eye, and with tears attached to good and sad memories, just said “Love you much.”

It’s a terrible lesson to learn, but knowing my aunt is at peace gives us hope and happiness for her. My heart breaks for my family, and what they’re going through, and it’s making me hold my siblings and my parents a little closer, these sad, cold nights. We’re all so fortunate to have and have had them in our lives for this long, and I will cherish the memories we’ve made and the ones to come forever. It’s a terrible lesson to learn indeed, losing someone you love, but it’s a reminder, and a big one, that family, and the ties that bond us, run so much deeper than blood.

And I sighed.

There are these moments in life where your mental guard slips for just a moment, and you think something you immediately regret. Much as I know that no one else is listening to my inner commentary, I still feel guilty when my mind comes up with “Chivalry isn’t dead bitch, do not fight me for that spot” while eyeing an empty seat on the subway at the same time as someone else, or “Is she aware of what she looks like in a crop top?” while wandering around the Heights. This usually happens when I’m tired, or annoyed, or some combination of the two; the concrete wall that keeps negative thoughts at bay falls down for just a second, just enough for the words to slide through. Sometimes the thoughts are a little funny, frequently they’re a lot offensive, but most of the time I forget eventually that such a thought crossed my mind, and I move on, no harm. Sometimes, though, something crosses my mind when I’m least expecting it, when I’m really happy or really content, and all of a sudden the mental guard slips and I’m stuck with a thought that isn’t offensive, or funny, and it stays with me, stays far past its welcome and far past the time I want to devote to that feeling.

It was one of the rare times when we were all together, all seven of us, and it was perfect. I watched the way they talked about the future with a carefree ease, next week, next month, next year. How they’d smile at each other when everyone was looking and how that smile changed when the others were turned. We were all running around mad with details, colors, styles, dates, locations, and they were smiling, completely relaxed, like it was the most natural thing in the world to be so calm and ready, while the rest of us couldn’t stop for excitement. And in those moments, when they were talking like that and smiling like that, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart skidded, because that was the split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I want that.

And sometimes there are moments where we’re all together, just the three of us or all six of us, and it’s perfect. We’re all laughing and carefree attitude, enjoying this time in our lives for exactly what it is, celebrating anything with a glass of wine and a crazy night out. Sometimes in the midst of the crazy or in a quiet moment downtown, I’d turn and see him giving her this look, that look, and remember how new this all still is. She’d catch him staring sometimes, and return a secret smile or a wink, a brief shared moment for just them. And in those moments, when they shared that small yet infinitely powerful exchange, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart faltered, because that was the split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I want that.

It’s been a year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, since I stood up from his bed where I’d spent so many nights for the last time, tears streaking my face like a summer thunderstorm, unrelenting and messy and powerful. It’s been a year since I leaned in for the final kiss, a year since I said “I love you” and he just said “Okay” as I left his apartment for the very last time. Somewhere in this year I stopped playing the previous four over and over, somewhere I stopped wondering what he was doing all the time. Somewhere in here it stopped being so painful to see his name in my gchat, on social media, and somewhere in here I stopped hoping to run into him each time I’d find myself by that apartment. It’s been a year, 12 months, 365 days, since starting life on my own, really on my own, for the first time, and it’s been the craziest year of my life. And today, as I felt myself falling into memories and a sweet nostalgia of that time, and that LB, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart clenched, because in that split second the big wall around me crumbled, and I sighed and thought I miss that.

I wouldn’t change anything about the past year, the roller coaster of learning experiences and PLDs, and I wouldn’t change anything from that day, 365 days ago, 52 weeks ago, 12 months ago, a year ago, because I’m not that person anymore and I’m sure he’s not either. I wouldn’t change anything about my life right now, wouldn’t give up the nights alone with little miss and a bottle of wine, wouldn’t trade weekend yoga and a run in the park for those mornings snuggling on the couch, watching The Sopranos and reciting along, fat with bagels from the same place and a comfortable love. But I couldn’t stop that thought from entering my head, couldn’t stop looking at the Maybes and I Wonders, and for a minute I let that thought seep into every single memory from the past year, blurring the edges with a powerful image of how different things could have been. It’s in these moments, with these thoughts, that I have to steel myself to raise the mental gates again, lest the split second of weakness force the whole foundation to fall.

But as that forbidden thought crept uninvited into my head, I felt my phone buzz with a funny message from my lovely friend M, the only other person awake this early on a Saturday, and I smiled, wide, the kind of smile attached to memories of spontaneous trips and nights out that turn into mornings. And all of a sudden I was overcome with how much really has changed in such a short period of time, in just 365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months, a year. I’m so curious about what another year will bring in this life I’ve been building since I had to learn how to schedule around my time and not somebody else’s. And as I started to think about the upcoming year of weddings and surprises, of trips, concerts and all of the PLDs, I had to stop and catch my breath for a minute as my heart swelled, because in that split second I forgot I built a wall around me one year ago, and I sighed and thought I’m good.

Waves

Things have been going really well lately. Like, surprisingly well. I’m busy at work which is keeping me engaged and occupied, I’ve been excelling more quickly than I’d anticipated in yoga practice, I’ve had some great time with my family and my friends, and I have some exciting events coming up in the next few weeks, like the shared birthday for my lovely friend M and my work buddy S, and Friendsgiving with the Nickname Posse. The holidays are my favorite time of year, between the food, the family, the time off of work, and of course, the food (I really like eating). I know life isn’t a straight trajectory, marred with surprises and the natural ebbs and flows that come with being emotional creatures, but I was feeling really good about the past few weeks. Up until about 10 last night, when the third straw in an already emotional day nearly put me over the edge.

My partner-in-crime R and my fashionista C probably know better than anyone that things tend to happen in waves, something they reminded me last night as I sat quietly in my apartment, trying to sort through the tangled mess that comes when confronted with life’s inevitabilities. And M made the point that these things tend to happen in threes, two very upsetting pieces of news, and an unwanted email; the first news was bad enough, the second was enough to be a bad wave, and the email was the final straw in unwanted information. I’ve been able to compose myself today, and with everything else on such an upswing for the first time in a very long time, I’m feeling like I know how to handle this particular situation. But it’s hard to have things finally going well, and then to have a wrench thrown in the middle, like a heckler in the punch line of your best performance.

Good things and bad things are a yin and yang that we can’t predict or control. Sometimes you’re on an upswing as simple as the person at Starbucks spelling your name correctly in the morning and finding free snacks in the work kitchen in the afternoon. Sometimes the bad things are as trivial as someone else getting to that subway seat before you do, followed by more dirt in your shower when you get home from work in the evening. Sometimes a text from an old friend will make you smile, and then in that same thought you’re wishing the text came from someone else. Life isn’t perfect any of the time: there’s good moments in the bad weeks, and bad hours in the good days. It’s so easy to seek out the bad in the good, the self-doubt and the second-guessing, but so infrequently do we try and find the good in the bad. I’m working on the latter today, reminding myself that I’ve seen miracles and those miracles gave us four years of borrowed time, and finding relief in an email that finally cuts all ties, removing all traces of his presence in my life so I never have to see him again.

I have a journal that I write in from time to time, a full-secret space where I can use names and talk about work and chronicle my life through my eyes, for my eyes. There was something I wrote just under a year ago, which was a pretty significant time, and the words came back to me last night while texting the girls. Out of context, it reads:

(Autumn, 2013): It moves, undulating like a wave. Up and down, back and forth. Gone and back again. It moves within me, rocking me back and forth on my heels, my toes. Throwing off my balance like a rag doll, all fluid and no bones. I feel like I’m wobbling on a precipice of happiness, depression, healthy and sick. One comes, the other follows. Happiness lurks as depression looms, then dominates loudly and large, bringing healthy with it until I can be healthy no more, when everything rises up again… Happiness is fleeting; it comes and goes as quickly as it came and went the last time. I suppose I’m on the bottom of the curve these days, but if I swing hard enough tomorrow perhaps I’ll land at the top.

I think about two weeks ago in the middle of the months-long funk, I pulled on what was holding me back and swung away from it with a fiery fervor, a Hail Mary, last-ditch, all-or-nothing effort to get myself back on top before this weekend, because this Saturday is going to be an emotional day. I’ve been mentally prepared for the feelings I know are going to surface on Saturday for a few weeks now, knowing it wouldn’t be a sad day, but more a day for deep reflection on how things change as quickly as the second hand of a clock. The waves this week are a blow to the upswing, calling me back to the chaotic ocean without promise of a raft, but the view from the top of the wave is too good to give up. I’m going to keep seeking that good in the bad, finding the small pockets of sunshine where I can and sharing them with the friends and family who need all the positive vibes I can send them right now. And I would ask, for anyone who has a few good vibrations of their own to spare, to send them out to people in your life that need them as much as my people need mine. Because now and then, we can all use a little push from the bottom of the wave.

Come. On.

Guys.

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It’s happening.

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It’s happening again.

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The shower from hell is back.

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Just in case anyone thought I was kidding when I said my shower rains dirt from the ceiling. Because I’m not kidding. And it’s terrible. Omfg. Do you know what it’s like to have to clean your bathroom LITERALLY EVERY TIME BEFORE SHOWERING. I hate cleaning the bathroom. It’s like looking at your feet after walking around the city in flip-flops all day. It’s always grosser than you’re planning for and getting it completely clean takes so much longer than you’re expecting. Allegedly, my building manager is sending a contractor this Friday to fix the problem with more than just caulk and a prayer, as my super has been doing for the past two years. Allegedly.

This is a pretty useless post but I need to immortalize the dirt-raining shower in the extreme hope that this will be the last time I can complain about it ever. There’s a good chance I’ll be live-tweeting the whole process this Friday, so if you don’t follow me yet (@LBthe20whatev), #showergate2014 is going to be a good time to start. Hoping everyone is having a much better (and cleaner) week than I am!

Are you saying…

My twinster and I are both the kind of excessively cool people that stay in on Fridays for the sole purpose of watching Say Yes to the Dress on TLC and commenting on everything, the dress choices, the dramatic stories, and of course, the crazies. For those of you that have a social life on Fridays, just to explain: there’s always someone on a wedding-related show who is just nuts. Like, full-on crazy. Sometimes it’s the bride who’s tried on 100 dresses and can’t figure out why she’s so confused, sometimes it’s the maid of honor that is clearly pissed off she’s not the one getting married, and other times it’s the bridesmaid who’s clearly pissed off she’s not the maid of honor. Regardless, when Twinster, mama B and I made plans to shop for T’s wedding dress this past weekend, we promised each other that no matter what, we would NEVER be like any of the crazies. So naturally, within 10 minutes of stepping into the bridal salon, I went from smiling and quiet, to a loud-mouthed pain in the consultant’s ass.

Let me back up quickly. I did not insult dresses T loved, or harass the consultant, or make snarky comments because I’m not the one getting married. In fact, we had a total freaking blast that afternoon, and the entire staff at the salon thought we were hilarious. But T, bless her heart, is the kind of person that was never going to have the big bridal moment, and she wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted in a dress, so as her twinster and her maid of honor, those duties fell to me. From the start, none of us really expected T to walk away with a dress that day. It was her first time shopping, and if you scrolled through her extensive board on The Knot, it became clear girl had NO idea what she wanted. So when the consultant started with “What are you looking for?” she got a panicked look on her face, stared directly at me, and I stepped in pretty brusquely: “She doesn’t want strapless, no cupcake gowns, a little poof is okay provided the dress is a trumpet or mermaid silhouette. Pure white is a hard no, and we like color. Beading and lace are okay, corset back is not. Go.”

As T stepped in the room to try on the first dress, Mama B and I casually poked through some of the dresses on the racks, laughing at a few and sighing at the others. One dress in particular caught my eye, partly because it was certainly more “my taste” and less “traditional bridal,” and also because it just looked special, like something you want to see someone wear and wear well. Since we already had about 10 dresses in the room for T, I decided to hold on saying anything, lest I be the one to confuse her with even more choices. And then she came out in the first dress, and everything became very real.

T kept telling us she felt like a kid playing dress-up, like she wasn’t really shopping for a wedding dress, but I couldn’t see her as anything other than a bride, the beaming emerald ring on her finger and a flurry of dresses fit for a woman. But thing was, T looked beautiful in everything. Like, literally all of the dresses. So every time she came out and looked in the mirror, she’d say she liked it, and Mama B would say she loved it, and Mimi, our spitfire of an almost-90-year-old grandmother, was just thrilled to have been invited. This left me as the only one willing and able to say No to the bad ones. I mean, T is not the type of person that would wear a traditional bridal gown. So yes, she looked stunning when she came out in a satin mermaid gown with intricate beading along the train, but it wasn’t the right dress! It fell to me to be the one that did such mature things as miming a vomit face at a neckline that made her look like a linebacker (sorry T but you know it did), or say such helpful things to the consultant as “That lace looks like it went through a paper shredder.” Yes, it may have been on the harsh side, but apparently it worked, because eventually, the consultant pulled what she called a “wild card dress” based on my crazy feedback, and wouldn’t you know, it was the dress I’d nearly picked out for her before. When T walked out of the dressing room in that gown, call it intuition, or even twintuition, but I took one look at the smile on her face, and I knew we’d found the one.

People always ask us the same questions when they find out we’re twins: Are you the same person? Can you read each others’ minds? We’ll joke and say yes, obviously, but honestly, there are weird connections you have as a twin that can’t really be explained. Sometimes we’ll both have the same reaction to something that Mama B tells us, or sometimes I’ll pick up the phone to call her only to have it start ringing with her on the other end. Sometimes I’ll text her when I’m in a weird mood, and find that she’s experiencing the same thing. And apparently, when she came out in a dress that I’d had a feeling about earlier, we both knew in a moment that she’d found the gown. We still made her try the first dress again, still made her try just one that was super-traditional bridal, but when she came out for the second time in the dress I loved from the get-go, you could see it in her face that she didn’t want to take it off. As I mentioned, T is not the kind of person that would have the bridal moment, the tears and excitement and drama, but I absolutely am. So when she stepped onto the pedestal wearing the dress I knew in my heart was hers, just like that, I started to cry. “It’s your dress, twinster,” I told her, voice high-pitched and shaking with feelings I’d never had before. She took one look at me, as I desperately tried not to streak my mascara all over my face, and with a big smile of her own said “Oh for the love of God, pull it together. But yes, I think this is my dress!”

All day today I’ve been showing off photos from the weekend to everyone, so excited that “We” found a dress; you’d think that I’d be the one getting married for how excited I am about that amazing, wonderful gown. But she’s my sister, my twinster, and my best friend, and I can’t wait to see her wearing that dress, her dress, on the big day. Plus, now that she’s all set, we can finally begin the most important part of her wedding: finding my maid of honor dress!

Just a little, oh, little

Everyone gets perks of a kind at their job, whether it’s a free lunch on Fridays, a break on your data plan or the promise of an annual bonus. In New York City, those perks exist, of course, but every once in a while you get an opportunity for something amazing, like the chance to see a Tony-nominated Broadway musical with as many people as you’d like for free. This is how my lovely friend M, my fashionista C, my dearest K and I found ourselves right outside the hellhole that is Times Square on Tuesday night, smiles on faces and orchestra tickets in hand for If/Then, a wonderful show I highly recommend. For anyone unfamiliar, the general plot is about how a single decision can shape your life, but it doesn’t necessarily change your path. The show is hilarious and poignant, somewhat predictable yet surprising at the same time, and the constant comments about bad decisions and wrong decisions had us all rolling in our seats with laughter, miming “Preach” when the main character stares at herself in a mirror and just belts “What the fuck?!” M turned to me in a particular funny song and commented “This show is like reading your blog!” which prompted another round of silent laughter, because honestly, the thought may have crossed my mind once (or twice) as well.

Now, unfortunately for me, I don’t actually have that much in common with the main character. She’s got a PhD, works for city development, dates a hot soldier (who can SANG) and takes a really wild journey on both paths she forged for herself. I, on the other hand, almost left my apartment without a shirt on this morning, recently determined that going on a fourth date with someone who really likes me isn’t worth giving up a weekday plan of sweatpants and leftover pizza, and I don’t know if I’m forging any paths for myself, save for the clean line in my living room amid laundry and shoes leading from the couch to the fridge. She’s also a pragmatist, making decisions based on facts and stats, to my idealism, with the constant wonder of what might be, if only everyone else could see inside my head. Yet the biggest thing that stuck out to me, is that through both her paths, she never allows her self-worth to be defined by a man, regardless of whether he’s her boss, her best friend, or her really, really hot soldier (who can SANG).

I probably wouldn’t have been watching for her to melt into a puddle of man-related mush had I not been on the receiving end of a stinging comment recently from an old friend, after I mentioned I was going on the first of the aforementioned dates a few weeks back. “You’ve got a new guy every time I see you!” he told me, shaking his head theatrically. “I don’t want you to keep putting self-worth in someone else.” I tried to argue with him that none of that was true, and followed up by complaining to M, trying desperately to insist I’m not that person. She let me talk for a little while, venting out my frustrations, and then hit me with a truth bomb, like she always does: my greatest virtue is my greatest flaw. I don’t give up on people unless absolutely forced to. So even as things are clearly falling apart, I’ll cling desperately to the idea that I can fix it, that I can make it all better, and I’ll lose myself in the idea of someone else rather than facing the reality of the situation. She cited a day last year that I haven’t forgotten either, where a short phone call from her bedroom with my then-boyfriend ended with me hanging up the phone, dropping to my knees with my hands on my face and starting to cry. Shaking, jagged-breath, ugly crying, asking why he couldn’t just meet me halfway, why I just couldn’t have a day with my girlfriends without drama, and why, why couldn’t I fix it. “You looked so broken,” she told me, as I realized she had a point. “It was like watching you finally give up. And it was so, so hard to watch.”

I was so frustrated after the initial comment from my old friend, while convincing myself to go on that first date, because he kind of had a point. I have met a lot of people in the past year from all over the city, allowing myself and self-worth to get lost in the colorful high of meeting someone new and clicking instantly. The frustration here came from the fact that despite an actual date with someone cute and sweet, someone else kept showing up, uninvited, into my mind, every time I started daydreaming of possibilities; it felt like drowning in my own thoughts, gasping for breath as I tried to push down the memory of his smile, using the distance and bad timing as reminders that life isn’t a series of What Ifs. I think I’ve had too much experience with fireworks now, people bursting into my life with a flash, mesmerizing me with the colors and the light, before abruptly disappearing, leaving me with a memory of something beautiful and a scar from getting burned. M made a great point above, that giving up is something I don’t do quickly and I don’t do it well, and it’s probably what prompts me to fall into a low kind of love with the fireworks, despite knowing the scars are ugly, twisted and tough to crack. It’s the part of my personality that resonates with a song where the main character smacks herself in the mirror and just says “What the fuck?!”

I’d like to say that the show last night inspired me to get my head out of the clouds for a little while, stop dreaming in these grand scenarios where someone takes my breath away and holds on to it, rather than blowing it like chimney smoke back in my face. It was just a Broadway show, though, and I’m just a girl who puts her head in the clouds, come hell, high water or another fireworks display. The show did, however, made a great point that things happen sometimes, and it doesn’t matter if you dreamed them, expected them, or planned for them, because they’re going to happen no matter what. It’s a lesson I’m hoping to remember the next time I’m feared up about returning to reality after dreaming about someone impossible with a wistful sadness of the What Ifs. And if I start to tie my happiness or self-worth into someone else again, it’s a great reminder to look at the person I don’t want to become straight in the mirror, smack her in the forehead and tell her loudly “What the fuck?!”

Quick Thoughts: Halloweekend

I love Halloween. I’m not crazy for it, since forced revelry in costumes isn’t necessarily my ideal night, but I do love a good excuse to dress strangely and solicit candy (i.e., shots) from strangers. I’ve been trying to put together a good recap of all the fun, but honestly there isn’t too much to tell. The Nickname Posse got all dressed up and spooky for a night at my partner-in-crime R and her Scot H’s apartment, followed by a pit stop at a bar for the sole purpose of using its photo booth before we all went home. A somewhat casual-ish night where I managed about 83 percent on memory retention and 100 percent on regrettable decisions upon waking up the next morning, but all in all, nothing too wild.

There are, however, a few lessons I wish I’d known heading into Halloween this year:

  • If you’re creating an elaborate skeleton face with dark makeup and wearing a white lace top, perhaps hold getting dressed until after the black powder all over your face and neck has settled.
  • If you know the weather is going to be on the ‘aggressive’ side of windy, perhaps wear a skirt that doesn’t flip like a dolphin in a minor breeze on a good day.
  • If you’re going to force an entire party to listen to the new Taylor Swift album, be prepared for both backlash from non-fans, as well as for an overexcited drunk Bane knocking you over to share the spotlight for Blank Space.
  • If you’re going to take drunk photobooth pictures at Iron Horse (per ushe), don’t force yourself in the middle and then insist you do a “kiss on the cheek!” picture because you may accidentally leak skeleton paint on Barbie and Cleopatra.
  • If you’re anticipating a lazy, post-party Saturday, having a full fridge will prevent you from justifying that second order of tortas and empanadas on Seamless.
  • Actually just kidding, I don’t care if Gordon Ramsay prepared a meal for hungover LB, if she wants Seamless tortas, it’s gonna happen.
  • And of course, the biggest lesson of the night: I look damn good in skeleton makeup.

November is already gearing up to be a wild month, but no more wild than riding a subway car with two women in homemade Ebony/Ivory angel costumes that whip your face with their wings every time the train lurches. There’s really nothing quite like autumn in New York City, after all.