Two Broke Girls

I pulled my credit card out of my wallet last week and punched in the numbers, trying not to memorize them as I’ve done with most of my other cards, and rationalized as the website check-out loaded: I’ve been eyeing this dress for weeks. It’s a quarter of the original price! THEY ACTUALLY HAVE MY SIZE. I don’t know what else I could wear to H the Scot’s birthday celebrations this weekend! Despite that last one being horribly untrue (e.g., already had something in mind), I hit “Submit” and then immediately checked my credit card statement and mentally subtracted what I’d need to cut out of my budget that week to cover the dress. “Welp,” I thought as I happily shared the link to the dress with a coworker, who agreed it was totally worth it, “looks like I have a long week of frozen veggies and canned tuna till pay day.”

I am in the unfortunate position of being a fashion-obsessed 20-something with a decent salary living on my own in New York City. “Unfortunate?” you ask. “That sounds ideal!” But no, it’s unfortunate, because that sentences really translates as this:

  • Fashion-obsessed 20-something = Talks about saving money and then spends it on shoes.
  • Decent salary = Enough to cover rent and bills like 65% of the time.
  • Living on my own in New York City = Okay this part is true. And also rocks.

Usually, I find myself in one of two positions: it’s within 24 hours of payday and I feel like a millionaire, or it’s more than 24 hours after payday and I’m reminded that being an adult, and especially a New Yorker, is expensive and hard. My fashionista C and I bond over this in particular on the weeks after paying rent, swapping “I’m so broke until payday”s and “I’m serious, I can’t even afford dollar oysters this week”s, and yet our conversations frequently end up leading to “LOOK AT THIS NEW DRESS” and “Should I buy this purse? Just kidding I already did.” Last week in particular was a doozy of budget discussions, as we had a whirlwind weekend ahead, birthdays, bachelorette parties and a fast-approaching trip to Maine. With big Saturdays on the books for both of us, and C and I going on vacation in a week, we decided to spend Friday at her place, a low-key night of wine and on-demand movies.

Saving money is not fun. Sorry, but it’s just true. I know I can’t pull $600 out of savings for an impulse buy, but when that new Marc Jacobs purse is emitting a siren call while I’m “just looking” on Net-a-Porter, it’s so, so hard not to listen to it. It was more difficult in the early city days, the unstable months adjusting to the city, to biweekly paychecks, to the constant pull to buy every meal on Seamless and overspend on accessories, but even now that I’ve got my feet under me, it’s really hard to budget. I wonder sometimes, looking at an uncertain future, if I’ll regret going to that concert last-minute instead of putting that money towards my upcoming bedroom redecoration, wonder if I’ll berate myself for taking all those cabs over the years without sucking it up and taking the subway. I wonder sometimes if I’ll be the person that is always broke in the city, taking care of myself alone, or if someday it might get easier. Wondering all of this all the time can be overwhelming, anxiety-inducing even, when I’m trying to figure out if I really can survive on a can of tuna and salad greens until Wednesday this week. But a quick ping on Gchat from C makes me laugh and calm down a little, because whether it’s a 20-whatever thing or a New York City thing, at least I know I’m not the only one.

Friday night, for a grand total of $60, C and I got very drunk and stuffed our faces with what may be my new favorite pizza in the entire city, shrieking at the television when it stalled during a crucial scene in Belle and reciting along to Gone with the Wind until the third bottle of wine put us to bed. It was the kind of Friday we both needed after long weeks, a chance to forget our dwindling bank accounts and just enjoy a night of gossip and girl talk. It sucks to be broke most of the time, sucks to be the kind of person that will impulse-buy a dress she probably doesn’t need without realizing that money could go to groceries down the line. But I don’t think I’ll be too angry with myself in 40 years for spending that money now. After all, I may be a broke girl trying to make my way in New York City, but all things considered, I’ve made some pretty rich memories along the way.


On what to wear on your last day of work.

I have a lot of clothes. There, I said it. I’d rather go shopping than pretty much anything else. So at times, I find myself in a bit of a pickle trying to put together an outfit for work after a: oversleeping; b: forgetting to pick up laundry; or c: oversleeping. It takes a really long time to rummage through a wardrobe, closet, dresser, under-bed storage, 2 trunks and shoe closet just to realize the shirt you need is under old gym clothes in your hamper. (Aside: “Why do you live in Washington Heights?” just answered itself there. End aside.)

I took an especially long time getting ready this morning. First, I’m sick of this weather. If I have to wear rainboots 5 days a week for the next month, I’ll just start crying for bittersweet memories of the 2013 heat wave. Plus, every time I wear a sweater I end up sweating a LOT on the subway and then I’m just gross in the office all day. It was only Wednesday, so I didn’t want to wear jeans, though I work in a pretty cool environment so no one would have cared. I just ripped my only pair of winter-friendly tights, so a dress is out, and my basically-denim-but-looks-fancier-because-faux-leather-stripe pants were in the aforementioned hamper. I was haphazardly throwing clothing around, mentally running through my catalog of outfits with no decision in site.

I’ve been at my current office for just over a year, after a pretty intense introduction to the industry at my first job. I can’t speak highly enough of the people I’ve worked with at this place, the experiences I’ve had, the experience I’ve gained and my now lasting appreciation of a rooftop mariachi band. And yet here I was, stuck in front of my mirror, half dressed with less than 5 minutes till I was officially running late, and I couldn’t figure out what to wear as I went there for the very last time.

Changes come in waves, either nothing at all or everything at once. For me, the past few months have been a whirlwind of life-changing events, from things as minor as selling my car to the whole “single LB” thing. The final push in turning my life completely upside down came in the form of an out-of-the-blue email from someone asking me if I would be interested in a new job. My initial answer was “no, I’m settled,” but I was in a good mood and didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings, so I said “why not.” Why not, it seems, works in my favor.

I finally decided on an over-sized sweater with black leggings, a statement necklace and ankle boots, the perfect mix of “Who cares I’m leaving!” with “I’m trying to impress you all for the last time, because I respect and admire you so much.” Speaking from 4 hours in the future, maybe the ankle boots were a bad idea given that the sidewalks are still covered in ice and dirty snow. Fine they were definitely a bad idea. Perhaps something I’ll have to remember before I start my new adventure next week.

A love letter to heels.

OMIGOD. Shoes.

OMIGOD. Shoes.

“Oh you’re in flats today! Are you sick?”

There’s a running joke in my office that something is wrong if I’m not in heels. My collection of shoes topping 5 inches is almost alarming, as is the comfort with which I can walk around in them. Bragging? Yup. It’s taken me four years not only to be comfortable wearing shoes that have a tendency to squish your toes into numb blobs while simultaneously restricting blood flow to your arch like a straitjacket, but to be comfortable with myself while wearing them. At 5’7″, I’m not a short person necessarily, but strap on a slingback and suddenly I feel like an Amazon, towering over everyone around me as they look up in wonder at this strange creature rumbling the halls.

Heels were a NOPE in college, where I regularly went out in sweatpants, and in my first few months in the city, I couldn’t imagine teetering around the rocky sidewalks in pumps. Even going out, my ex and I were about the same height and I was horribly self-conscious about being taller than him. To his enormous credit, he really didn’t care (and actually in some instances, preferred the heels), but I would become so self-aware that I’d end up in a bad mood, try to “drink the foot pain away” (PLD alert) and then pick a fight with him over something stupid – all because I couldn’t just relax over something as arbitrary as height.

My most important files.

My most important files.

A few months in to city life, I started packing heels with me to wear around the office only, testing the waters of heels without fully committing. A few impulse buys that had been buried in my closet for years started to make their way into the open, and lo and behold, I found myself inadvertently feeling more and more confident. I started wearing heels daily, amassing an impressive collection in what was supposed to be my file cabinet and rotating new shoes daily. As I began moving up professionally, the heels became somewhat like a confidence coach, forcing me to stand up straighter, look people in the eyes and generally assert myself as a tall-ass force to be reckoned with. My feet adjusted to the now constant, dull ache that accompanies essentially standing on tip-toes all day, and I started wearing them outside the office, whether running errands in Bucco booties or dancing on the bar in some killer purple wedges.

One of the first nights I really went out with my girlfriends since entering single life a few months back, I slapped on a pair of my tippy-tall boots, despite knowing I’d be drinking, dancing and likely falling within a few hours of that decision. And yet clomping around the city, even as the bars started to blur, felt great. I felt confident, tall, in-charge and hell yes, I felt sexy. Inevitably we heard Beyonce at one point that night, and I couldn’t help myself for grabbing my girlfriends into screeching along,”BOW DOWN BITCHES,” dancing like everyone was watching. I’ll always hold that moment in those tippy-tall boots, lost in ourselves and the moment of feeling alive.

As I look towards an exciting future, starting a new job and finishing the adjustment to the single life, there’s a lot of uncertainties running on repeat in my mind – will I do well in this new position? Am I really about to start dating? What other changes are in store for me? If nothing else, I know I can hold on to the absolute certainty that wherever this future takes me, I’ll be following that path standing straight in my stilettos, walking confident and very, very tall.