Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Working Girl

I quit my job last week.

I gave a months notice. My last day is the day before Thanksgiving. I have a sort of plan about how I’m going to freelance (and how I hope that teaching position comes through with FIT) but mostly I’m swinging between electric excitement and paralyzing fear. I mean, our whole lives we’ve been taught to go to school, get a job, work 9-5, get married, have kids then die. Sweet. There’s no hand book for off- roading and when I’ve told people I’m quitting I’ve been getting looks like I decided to jump off a bridge. In some ways that’s exactly what I’m doing and for once in my life I’m thrilled at the unknown. Geronimo.

I don’t know how many of you have the luxury of working in a field you love. But I do. I design lingerie for a living (which is what I studied in school; yes that is a THING) and I’ve worked with prestigious design houses all over NYC. I love the thrill I get when a new project comes in, when the seasons turn and I have to research colors and trends, when my clients glow with pride at my designs that have sold out immediately. I love all of that. But there’s another side to working in the fashion design industry that people outside don’t know about. A constant, throat slitting struggle to stay relevant and updated, to impress and reinvent and make yourself worth more than the 300 girls who just left Parsons and FIT and look at your job with a manic gleam in their eyes. They’re younger and faster and they’ll take half your salary just to sit at your desk. Your bosses adore them and you want to hate them, but the truth is that was you 10 years ago. The revolving door of the industry never slows down and if you can’t make yourself worth every dime, you’re out. There is less loyalty here than there is between enemies and while your presented with a sugar sweet smile everyday they are slowly tipping poison into your coffee. The unemployment rate among designers is staggeringly high.

The natural reaction of course is “Well, just make yourself more valuable.” Let me explain how that works in fashion. We come in early to impress the bosses. They love it. Can you skip lunch today? Of course! Oh, that project really needs to be done by 9am, will you stay late. Um, sure. I love my job! Would you just be a dear and come in this Sunday to wrap things up? Oh, I have church with my family on Sunday. Yeah..well that project really needs to be done. Oh, okay. Yeah, whatever you need. There is no leaving early for weddings, skipping days for your kid’s soccer practice or calling in sick. You’re a beautiful slave to the industry and being needed because the moment you slip up even a little, the hungry younger hordes are ready to fill your shoes. I’m not trying to come off as bitter because there is good here too. I love my clients and my team members. I love the actual art of designing. I love the way fashion makes me feel (even if you think it’s shallow) and I love the confidence I see in my customers eyes when they look at me. All in all, I do feel like I’ve done a pretty decent job of making myself relevant and because I have a high opinion of myself and my work, I believe they do too. But there is a joke in the industry that if you make it to 30 years old here you’re essentially a superhero. 29 and counting.

A few months ago I woke up early because I had clients coming in at 7:45 for a meeting. I sat up in bed and just thought “What would happen if I didn’t go into work today?” What would actually happen? My clients would be pissed that they flew from LA to meet with me; that’s for sure. My bosses would be mad. They might actually fire me. Was my job worth all of this uneasiness and plight? Was fashion so important to me that I would be a slave to the industry forever? What will I do when I have children? Will they understand that I can’t see their school play because my clients are in town? Bright and loud and neon like a lighthouse beacon the answer was universally no.  I needed to make some changes.

I started with going into work on time and leaving on time, more or less. I took my hour lunch break (most days) and sat outside in the sunshine or met with friends. But most importantly I worked toward a goal of leaving the industry as most people view it. In one year I promised myself, I would have saved enough to quit for a few months and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. When I tell people I left my job and I get the “Wow must be nice” comments I think, no it wasn’t nice. Crazily, in the midst of an insane job, I took on more work. I took freelance jobs at every available opportunity. I started an Etsy shop selling invitations and logo designs. I created banners and street signs and truck stickers for people. Turns out, there’s always someone who needs something and for the past twelve months I hustled my ass off everyday to find them.

I’m not sure I’m there yet but a few weeks ago, after a particularly painful day at work, I knew it was time to try. I gave my notice for the day before Thanksgiving. It’s funny how once you’re unavailable, everyone needs you. C’est la vie.

Frightening though it is, I am honestly excited to start this next chapter of my life. For once, I feel like I’m making a decision for my own selfish reasons and no one else’s, which is amazing and liberating and terrifying. I’ve been working with FIT as a Design Critic for the students there now and am working towards becoming a Professor as well. December will be a month for me and family and self reflection and cookies. J

Sometimes being pushed off of a precipice becomes a gifted jump into the unknown. I’m not sure I would have ever come to this decision otherwise. I’m sad to leave some of my fashion past behind but also really happy about the direction my career and life is going in. Life is short. Time to make every minute count.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Over the past month it’s come to my attention that there is a serious problem with the lack of understanding of “courtship” between men and women. Sorry, this isn’t a funny post. It’s an actual problem we (as women) face everyday and one that is largely ignored by society in general. Men and women. Please note I am not lumping all men into one expedited fucked up rape culture organism, but I think it goes without saying that knowledge is the key to prevention.

A few weeks ago I overheard some guys in a bar talking about how they hate it when women are instantly “offended” at their friendly advancement. “Like I just want to talk I don’t care that you have a boyfriend” or some such nonsense. Guys, imagine you weigh half your actual weight. Shave 5 inches off your height. Make yourself an instant beacon of glaring brightness in an otherwise dark street, immediately attracting the attention of everything bigger than you. Now, imagine your ENTIRE life, these bigger something’s have shouted at you, grabbed you, followed you to your house and forced their friendly conversation on you. What would you do to prevent them from getting too close?

It’s unsettling to think that other “excuses” will not deflect this unwanted attention but it’s a sad truth and defense move on all women’s part.  Another males “possession” is respected out of respect for that male. I could never simply not want your conversation…I have to be previously engaged with another male and therefore my excuse is a valid one. It’s sad and shameful but I think I can speak for many women that we have played this trump card many times over our young lives. Guys, please take some gentle advice and leave her alone if she says so. She doesn’t need any excuse to not want to talk but if she gives one, heed it.

There is a realistic part of me that does feel badly for many guys who are immediately vilified because of their predecessors. I’m sure some of you are generally nice guys, honestly just wanting some conversation but the next time you approach a woman please think of her side. Our whole lives we’ve been taught to fear men one on one. We’ve been told not to get into strange cars, always carry pepper spray, never walk alone. Don’t talk to strange men (all men), don’t get involved with men you don’t know (most men). Every pinpoint of anxiety has been carefully balanced on this tipping scale between being taught to FEAR everything we have to someday find and fall in love with. Can you blame women who shy from your friendly chit-chat?

A few weeks ago I went on a trip with my sisters and friends for a bachelorette party. 12 girls. A basic wildfire in a pool of darkness to every moth within 6 miles. Except these moths could kill us in 15 minutes if they so chose. We went out to a bar, had a beer and sat down outside. Wouldn’t you know it within 8 minutes a guy saunters up to our table and wearing his most atrocious shit-eating grin and says “Hello beautiful ladies…which of you are married?” Every hand went into the air. Red Flag, but of course, not being so easily deterred, he stayed just to “talk” expounding upon his charming qualities as a human being. Every girl had the tense body language and terse answers that scream, “Get away from us”.  My defense in these sort of situations is to viscously mock everything the man says until his ego is so beaten he limps away. It rarely works. For twenty minutes he endured my abuse tossed at him about his choice of clothes, his weak handshake, his haircut (all of which, I’d like to say were actually fine). Deeming me “a firecracker” he proceeded to stand behind me in our group of girls and talk to my sister about how nice my hair was. Guys, this may sound like a strange scenario to you but you should know THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. It’s not funny, or cute and it does absolutely nothing to endear you to us. It makes us feel defensive and hyper aware that you’ll follow us home, grab our hands, force yourself upon us in every way we do not want. What would you do in this situation?

Please don’t assume I’m a rare case who has come across some mentally disturbed men, and that this doesn’t happen to all girls. I have recently seen the hashtag #ALLWOMEN sprouting up on Facebook and Twitter and I cannot think of two single words more appropriate to describe what is happening in “rape culture” right now. (I hate those words too). Yes. ALL WOMEN. Yes it happens every day. To your sisters, and friends and colleagues. When we walk down the street and are catcalled to, when we are alone anywhere really, unwanted attention is thrust upon us because we are indeed alone. I’m not the only one, but yes I have been catcalled to, approached in bars, chased to my font door on one particularly frightening occasion. I am five foot two on a good day without heels. I weigh 140 pounds. 90% of men who so chose could hurt me. If my husband took it upon himself he could send me to the emergency room with one backhand. (This will never happen as my husband is a strong, intelligent and loving man) But it is the physical truth.

I’m disgusted and hurt by the stories on the news today. She was “sexually assaulted”. Stalked home…killed. Brutalized. He shot her seven times in the head point blank for “leading him on”. Her skirt was short so she deserved it. She should’ve just said no. No. A word. If only she had known when he had the knife to her throat that no would have made him stop. Ignorance breeds acceptance. Stop acting like this is an okay thing to happen.

Please, guys, be mindful of her when she looks at you with fear in her eyes. Let her know you’re walking behind her on your way home. Jingle your keys. Don’t force your conversation on her just because she’s alone. Don’t assume she’s easy because her skirt is short, or that she owes you anything, because no one owes you anything at all. We all earn what we work hard for, not what is handed to us, or worse taken without consent. Be mindful of the long list of things she has been taught to fear and that you are at the very top. Teach your brothers and friends and sons that making women feel like objects isn’t okay. Teach them to respect women. Maybe, someday, knowledge will breed respect.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Today is my mothers birthday. I think she would’ve been 52. It’s a sad revelation that I cant even remember her age because those tiny memories have been buried under the stacks of debris that rose to the surface when she died. When she died I was 18, in Mexico with my friends for Winter Break, drinking too many pina colodas and acting like my life was a party- and that she and all her endless problems had no effect on me anymore. The last time I spoke to her was a long distance phone call when she must have wrestled the receiver from my father’s hands the day before she died. She could’ve been high or she could’ve just been worried.  Aren’t all mothers worried when their teenage daughters run off to Mexico with their boyfriends in tow? She sounded sleepy and in love, the way she always did on the phone. So much is lost in the memories we forget and things we said and did that never come back to us. But I remember some of it. She told me to be safe. To have fun for her. I was so mad that she even had the audacity to try to make my vacation anything about her at all. I hung up the receiver with a tired sigh like I had a million times before. She died the next morning.

Am I old enough now to face the problem she was in life in order to make peace with the shade she is now that’s she’s gone? People hear your mother died when you were young and a look of pity and compassion mars their expression like you’re a little dog left in the rain. That made me angry for so long I didn’t know what to do when people asked about her. I fantasized about making up stories for a woman who was so much glamour personified…the woman she would’ve been had the cards not been stacked against her. The romance of trips to Paris and the clothes stacked like magazines in the huge closet. The frilly lace pieces of lingerie she kept in baskets all testimony to a dying star. An ember burning bright then extinguished by her own selfishness disguised as the need to be loved. What do we do with the tangle of pain and hope and love left behind? What does anyone do when you hope in the idea of an afterlife if only to say I wish things could’ve been different. Is it even worth saying after so much time? I hope in the idea of hope, like I have so many times before.

I like to think I’ve come to an understanding of my mother at the very least. That her ghost has hung like a veil over my shoulder since I was young…even while she was alive. She was drowning in her own self pity for so long her fantasies were in fact her reality. When the drugs and alcohol exacerbated the deterioration she was simply sick. Migraines and head colds and insomnia packed up behind towers of prescription bottles like orange beacons on the bedside table. Beacons to light her way home. I want to feel like I am mature enough to see through the lies and pain in order to see the person she saw. Someone sick and in love with love but never having received enough, no matter who loved her in the end. Beautiful but scarred. Mature but naïve. Selflessly kind yet overwhelmingly selfish. A perfect paradox; my mother.

And yet here when I think I’ve come so far I remember her more fondly than anything else, despite the gaping wounds she inflicting with the touch of a finger. The slice of a word she’d hurl into the air like confetti until it crashed down around us like glass exploding. She was still my mother. She was indeed one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known. She was whimsical and adventurous. She was so giving it crippled people to see kindness on the face of a Goddess. She was set in motion by her own ability to make people believe the things she wanted them to and fueled by the honest to god truth that people would always go out of their way for her. She convinced men to give her presents and women to give her friendship. She was a fire. Both arrestingly beautiful and simultaneously destructive. That is how I best remember her. Burning, burning, burning. But so bright, it was blinding white light.

Happy birthday Mom. I do miss you and in my own way, I love you very much. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

15 Signs You're Planning a Wedding. A Realists Version.

1. You slowly develop the kind of OCD your mom had before guests came over when you were a kid. She’s be on hands and knees scrubbing the baseboards with a toothbrush and now you sort of get where she was coming from. Because if the stamps on your invites aren’t at a PERFECT 90* angle, you’re convinced your wedding will be ruined! And you kind of hate yourself for it.

2.  You’ve taken to sporadically speaking in tongues using previously unheard of words like organza underskirt, place card and bustle. Also, your understanding of Bridal Blog acronyms has becomes so worrisome your girlfriends hosted an intervention for you. WHAT do you mean the MOG is wearing white to the RD!? DH better fix this before the JP has to find him a new FW!!!

3.You hide your collection of wedding porn (ie the STACKS of wedding magazines, blogs, clippings and pieces of tattered ribbon) whenever anyone comes to your house. Whenever anyone isn’t there your fiancée has to swim through the page clippings and magazines thrown open all over the couch, coffee table, dining room table and kitchen counter, while stepping over you on the floor with your Macbook open to your Wedding Board on Pinterest. Whenever anyone else walks into the room you minimize your screen like they caught you looking at porn. This is a daily occurrence.

4.  You can’t make decisions about ANY aspect of the wedding without consulting at least four other of your girlfriend’s opinions. Red roses or white candles? Vanilla or chocolate? Black suits or grey suits? They’ve taken to blocking your number.

5.   Eating, food shopping, laundry and cleaning have generally become second, third and fourth thoughts in your list of things to get done. Whenever your fiancée comes home from work to ask what we’re doing for dinner you get a maniacal gleam in your eye like how could anyone POSSIBLY think about eating at a time like this!? The Save the Dates have to go out by THURSDAY!

6. You would rather watch The Ring on loop than plan your seating chart.

7. You half finished lists of everything that needs to get done all over your house. Post-it’s in the kitchen, 6 started lists on Notes and ripped sheets of loosleaf stuffed haphazardly in your purse. So far, you’ve only successfully completed four things.

8.  All you wanted to talk about was your wedding the first four months of being engaged but by month 8 you hate everything white. When your friends ask how planning is going it’s all you can do to keep from breaking down in hysterics and twitter nervously like you've just killed someone and hid the body in your car. You can only be calmed by the alluring fantasies of your honeymoon, relaxing in the sunshine, pina coladas and white sand.

9. People you’ve only just met want to give you all their advice on how to run the perfect wedding. Oh, you’ll need to make sure the caterer is there four hours ahead of time, and oh, no did you order an Ivory dress? And gosh, you chose candles over flowers? WHY?! You can feel your palm twitching with the desire to slap these people across the face.

10.You’ve taken up drinking like an extreme sport. It started with sipping champagne while stuffing invites with your bridesmaids and quickly escalated to two shots of Patron before you could even look at your guest list. Four or five beers on a Tuesday night seems completely legit these days. Did I say night? Better start at lunch.

11. You convince yourself you’re crafty enough to complete those artsy projects online to save a few bucks. A supposedly twenty minute project takes you six hours of sweat, hot glue and makes your hair look like you just left Orlando in July. What results is centerpieces doused in glue and glitter that look like they belong at the Russian Stripper Prom. Nailed it?

12. You have recurring nightmares about being at your wedding and not having everything ready. You’re about to walk down the aisle but your naked. Your photographer just forgets about your wedding completely. Your cake is black and gothic. You wake up in a cold sweat screaming, alarming your fiancée so much he falls out of bed. You hold up your ring finger to him and scream "YOU did this to me!!!" 

13. You look forward to the day after your wedding if only for the simple fact that your bank account will then slowly begin to level out. Whenever you open Chase you get the same sensation you get while about to head over a steep drop in a roller coaster.

14.  Everyone offers to help you put invitations together and tie bows onto favors but no one actually shows up to help with those things so you force your fiancée to tie ribbon onto the tiny bottles of bubbles while he stares at you with disdain.

15.  All your friends think planning your wedding is so super fun but the truth is you’re pretty much stuck in a horrific vortex of satin, cake, ribbon and lists of people you mostly don’t know or hate.  You consider a week where you only have two meltdowns a true success. Is it almost over yet?? 

Friday, May 24, 2013

20 Somethings I would tell my 20 Something Self About Living in NY

1. Stay out past your bedtime. You’re paying nearly two grand for a one room shack in the less than glamorous part of a neighborhood your parents warned you against when you were a kid. There’s no luxury in our homes in NYC- we find our wealth in the unexpected rooftop parties, the “I swore I wouldn’t drink tequila” shots at 4am and the sunrise over the east river. Don’t go home. Go out until you’ve got no energy, no money, no problems but the simple question of “How will I survive work today?” Don’t worry, you will.   

  2. Keep a few singles in your pocket at all times. In a world run on the credit card it seems like a silly things to do and most New Yorkers NEVER carry cash for fear of A. losing their bags or B. having them stolen (which have both happened to everyone) However, a few singles could be the bottle of water you’re dying for at the bodega who has a ten dollar minimum, the tip for an unexpected taxi ride, beer or doorman or the least you can do when that homeless man walks by with no shoes on, dragging a suitcase behind him with death over his shoulder. And you don’t normally give out to the homeless but when something inside you breaks looking into the face of someone who has lost EVERYTHING you press the few singles into his palm wishing it were a hundred. Carry singles. 

3.       Don’t assume the world is out to get you. Because in reality it probably isn’t…it’s just that New Yorkers are prone to mistrust having been abused for so long by the comrades we share our city with. We are rude, distrustful, impatient and mean. And when you feel the subtle flush creeping out into your finger tips just looking and the idiot in the doorway of the subway who refuses to move even with the Bitch Stare and a curt “excuse me” try to stay calm. He wasn’t sent to ruin your entire day and before the day is over you’ll encounter something much worse. Move on.

4.    Walk everywhere. If it’s not raining or snowing and even if it is, walk. There is seldom anything more moving in this life than a city street hushed by a torrential snow storm. City blocks turn into seconds once you get your stride down. New Yorkers walk faster than most people run. So walk. It’s likely that you’ll leave NYC someday so catch all the mornings on 34th street you can, all the drunken stumbles, the broken high heels and the blisters. The scars will always bring you your memories even after you’ve left.

5.     Once in a while walk around by yourself with your headphones on. It’s strangely exhilarating to feel “alone” in a city of millions of people. 

6.       Don’t be a New York snob. And don’t act like you don’t know what that means. When your friends from out of town visit don’t roll your eyes and sigh exaggeratedly when they want to see Times Square. Of course they do! They’ve never been here and once upon a time you wanted to see it too. So don’t deny them what you’ve had for so long. Go back to Times Square (yes, even on a Saturday) and climb the Empire State and jostle through the crowd of Rockefeller Center. All those great places and swarms of people are what made this city. Go to them lovingly like an old flame and take your friends to an obscure underground bar after to prove your street cred. 

7.       Once in a while leave New York. Go travel to another wild city, talk to strangers and eat weird food.  Visit your parents in their sweet suburb and enjoy a little silence. You’ll prattle on with old high school friends about how it’s so expensive in NYC and everyone is hot wired to be super efficient and everything is so dirty but there’s that gleam in your eye about it and you’ll spring to it’s defense should anyone else utter a word against it. You’re a New Yorker now and you proudly wear that badge when your away from it should anyone ask.  There’s nothing and I mean nothing half so soothing as flying onto the tarmac at JFK with the NYC skyline in the background. Go away. You’ll always find your way back.  

8.       One night stands are like snow storms. Inevitably, t hey happen once in a while and are beautiful while you’re caught up in the middle. But after the snow settles and is trampled by a million muddy boots the glitter becomes grimy and you need to go home and take a shower. 

9.       Join a gym. Yes you’re walking everywhere and probably getting more exercise than you ever have in your life. But you need a gym. A- it will motivate you to get your lazy ass up after a night of furtive drinking and go for a run (I understand this is not probable which is why we have reason B) B- It gives you a place to pee, shower and change before happy hour (the most commonly used reason for gym memberships in NYC) 

10.   Money can buy happiness in NYC and don’t let anyone fool you into believing otherwise. No, it can’t mend a broken heart or snuggle or tell you everything will be okay. But it can buy those cocktails at the hot new bar in the village with your friends, Yankee tickets to the opening game, those stilettos you’ve visited in Bloomingdales everyday for two months and the souped up laptop you’ve coveted since its debut. Chances are you won’t remember the $100 you put into your savings account in July of 2013, but you’ll always remember the homerun Jeter hit in the bottom of the ninth, the laughter of your friends after a broken heart in your favorite bar and the night you met your boyfriend in your new shoes. Saving is great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes spending is great too.

11.   Go to museums, Broadway shows, fashion shows, sports games, concerts and cabarets WHENEVER you can. You’ll rarely regret it.

12.   Visit the Strand Book Store. They have literally thousands of books- old, rare, out of print, new and used. It’s a wonder to just see the volumes and volumes of bound leather and torn pages and the doggy eared folds from people who enjoyed them too once upon time. Don’t give your entire life over to your laptop and kindle and cell phone. There is something universally sacred in the weight of a real book and the smell of the dusty pages.  Try not to let technology rob you of those prayers.

13.   Beer before liquor never been sicker sort of looses meaning 8 pitchers of beer in. By that time shots of jager go down like orange juice…and you can’t remember climbing onto the bar to dance but you’re best friend has a picture of it. Try not to forget your shoes in that random diner you’ll end up at around 5am. 

14.   If you’re not a violent person before your first cup of coffee try to catch the sunrise at least once in Manhattan. When the first rays strike off the glass and chrome the whole city is lit up in a silver gold glow that mere words can’t describe. Everything glitters. And for a few brief moments before New York wrestles itself awake there is the silence of peace that sets everything in the world to rights. It is actual magic.

15.   Learn how to cook. You will save hundreds of dollars (that you can later spend on Knicks Tickets)

16.   Try not to walk around glued to the screen of your phone. Yeah Angry Birds is totally important, I get it. But there’s a lot to see in NYC and if you’re more focused on flinging birds into a digital sky you’ll miss it. All the strange shops and wonderful smells and interesting people. You need eyes to see that. Plus, the rest of us are tired of you walking into us.

17.   Smile a lot. I know that contradicts your entire bitchy New York attitude but it makes the rest of the world more open to you. A smile may fix someone else’s day without you even doing anything. It’s also better than the painful looking grimace most people adorn while aimlessly walking. Think about what you’re presenting to others…a smile goes a long way. (On a side note this also encourages strange men to shout inappropriate things at you. A simple good morning is enough of a response. I’ve always been wary to ignore those sort of things with strangers because you never know when someone is going to snap. If they say it nicely a polite response won’t kill you. Just say thanks and smile and walk on)

18.   Wear those weird pants with the strange print and the mini skirt with the ruffles and the 80’stee shirt and bizarre sneakers. One of the best things about fashion in NYC is that there are pretty much no rules...and there’s a 100% chance you’ll run into something MUCH weirder before lunch time. Try not to compare yourself to others so much and you’ll stand out more for it. So don’t feel shy about trying the new odd thing in that store window…you may regret it in 10 years but chances are you’ll regret all your fashion choices anyway. 

19.   Make mistakes. At work, in relationships, at home, with your friends and parents. It’s the only way to learn how to do things right. At least you can take something away from your mistakes.

20.   Try to be a good person. This world is full of horrors. You can’t changes everything or save everyone but you can do your best to be kind and helpful when someone needs it. That’s the best any of us can hope for.