Monthly Archives: August 2012

Sorry I’m not sorry I’m not sorry I’m not WHAT? (Alternate title: I’m.)

Since posting my rant against “sorry I’m not sorry”, I’ve frequently found myself itching to say it. Funny how that works, hmm? I just want to clarify that while I do believe in actively improving at being human – even at the occasional expense of our own impulses and desires – I also believe that there are areas in which we have nothing to gain from beating up on ourselves. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Thought Catalog (God, what a 20-something), but a listicle format seemed like the logical way to present…

Five Things for Which I Will Never Apologize
Clearly, ending a sentence with a preposition is not one of them.

1. Not updating my blog. If you ever hear me use the term “hiatus” again, please smack me. If I’m not updating my blog, it’s because I a) have nothing to say, b) have too much to say and am accordingly distracted by all those other things, or c) felt like talking on the phone/painting my nails/baking a hideous loaf of “bread” out of protein powder/teaching myself the choreography to a Lady Gaga music video instead, and I am not sorry. This is exactly the reason I went on my first hiatus (smack)—if I’m going to blog, it will be because I want to, not because I have anything to prove. My blog is a hobby. I like that it helps me work through my neuroses and keeps me regularly writing for pleasure, but I never want my outlet to become an obligation. I joyfully make no promises.

2. Eating whatever I want for no other reason than because I want it. Nothing makes me stabbier than listening to someone disclaim food as they are eating it. “I didn’t eat lunch, it’s fine.” “I went for a run earlier, it’s fine.” The more passive-aggressive “mmm, calories.” Stop it! Y’all know I’m into health and balance and whatnot, but if I’m going for it with a sandwich the size of my face, I don’t need to be reminded that I’m making a poor choice (which is just that: a conscious choice that I am making). By assuring me that there’s no judgment, you are acquiescing to the idea that food choices deserve to be judged in the first place. No. It’s a cookie, not a moral conundrum. Talking about calories will not make your food have less of them—it will only ruin both of our dining experiences. Eat what you want without telling me why you’ve “earned” it, and I will do the same.

3. Being sessualParents, avert your eyes! Okay, in all honesty, this is one of the few topics I don’t feel comfortable discussing on the Internet. Suffice to say: I follow my instincts, which are sometimes good and sometimes bad, and it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Whatever. I don’t want to take a trip down Overshare Avenue or get up on my feminist high horse here, I just want to say: you do you (or others, if you so choose). And speaking of feminist high horses…

3a. Using the C-word. Why is this the last remaining language taboo? Don’t be cunty.

4. Altering my appearance. I get it. My natural hair color is lovely and rare. Here’s the thing: I am physically and mentally incapable of having the same hair color/cut/style for more than four months at a time. I go stir crazy. I get bored. Boredom is the enemy. Hair dye is not the enemy. HDITE is not even a word.

5. Being real at the expense of being cool. Again, not talking about Manic Pixie Dream Girl syndrome here (aka Zooey and Chloe and all of their friends). I mean being intense. Being emotional. Wanting to have deep, substantial conversations—truthfully, I want to know your story even more than I want to tell my own. Sorry I’m not sorry for wanting to skip small talk and go straight to real talk, for listening a little too intently to what you have to say, for remembering silly details that you tell me, or for sending unsolicited texts/emails/messages just to check in or say hello. In fact, I AM sorry for the times when I’m too wrapped up in my own issues to do these things. I may never be cool, but I will do my best to be a good friend and a good person.

Sorry I’m not sorry (except when I am). I yam what I yam (except when I’m not). And now I want sweet potato fries. I went for a run earlier, it’s fine.

For what are you not sorry (grammar excluded)?

Mo’ joe.

You know those pesky days when your body unceremoniously disintegrates?

Yeah, neither did I…until around 4pm yesterday, when a total system failure occurred. Headache, muscle cramps, nausea, the works. Four hours of agony. I was prepared to chalk it up to a delayed-onset food hangover (go to Parm for the limited edition s’mores ice cream cake, but not for the oily sides or merely passable namesake sandwich. End amateur review), but as I lay there moaning and resisting the urge to Internet-diagnose myself with a brain tumor, it occurred to me that there were two more likely explanations:

a) I had unwittingly been made into Voldemort’s eighth Horcrux, or

b) I was experiencing caffeine withdrawal.

I made a cup of tea to test my theory.

My symptoms cleared up within fifteen minutes.

Even the modern writer starts each day with a blank page.

For the past two years, I’ve greeted every day with French press coffee, steeped with cinnamon and tempered with a splash of almond milk. I treasure the ritual as much as the taste as much as the reliable jumpstart that it provides, and I’m willing to wake up at an ungodly 5:45am to ensure at least an hour of slow sipping before the grind begins (pun intended). On days when I’m feeling extra fancy (read: skip the gym), I can even squeeze in a luxurious post-coffee, pre-work nap.

Don’t tell me I could just sleep later. What would be the fun in that?

Every third week brings some new study on coffee’s health benefits and/or destructive forces, but unless it emerges that the stuff is basically arsenic, I have no desire to give it up. As with any other “vice,” I think context and enjoyment justify its moderate usage. That being said, I do side-eye the idea of pounding it all day to stay functional. My skepticism has less to do with the coffee itself than with its substitution for less ambiguous sources of energy. Coffee as pleasure trip? All about it. Coffee as crutch? Not so jazzed.

I could afford to be holier-than-thou in college, when my time was my own. I cut myself off after one morning mug and relied on a potent brew of power naps and dance parties to get me through the day. Needless to say, this system has short-circuited in the face of full-time employment, and these days, I find myself plowing through a lot mo’ joe. A cup when I arrive at work. A cup when I return from lunch. Only tea* after 3pm, because my bedtime looks like your grandma’s. Even still, three cups a day isn’t exactly what I’d call moderate usage.

I was fine with drinking my words until yesterday, when one caffeine-free morning saw me sprawled prostrate across the couch like a junkie. Sure, coffee is legal and natural, but the idea of physical illness in the absence of any substance freaks me out. It’s been an iffy month for me and healthy living, but even when I was a lean, mean, salad-worshipping machine, I hit that same late morning/early-afternoon wall. I’m stumped on how else to navigate around it. Staring at a screen all day is not natural (and should not be legal). I’m going to see if I can take my consumption down from three cups to two, but I’d love to know how you handle the caffeine conundrum.

*I went on a tea-buying spree at World Market last year and have enough to last several decades at least (hazelnut chai? Whiskey green? Red velvet? Got you covered), especially since I’m one of those stingy nutjobs who reuses each teabag twice. Sorry I’m not sorry I’m not sorry. Anyway, I drink a lot of tea, but it doesn’t serve the same function for me. Tea is for taste, not energy.

Are you a coffee drinker? How much coffee is too much coffee? Desk jobs, what are those all about?

Sorry I’m sorry.

Have you heard that today’s youth are under a lot of pressure to be perfect?!

You know it. I know it. The New York Times knows it. Cosmo knows it, though you’d never guess they cared. My generation – especially my generation of women – is bending over backwards to be perfect. We are running ourselves into the ground in pursuit of an ideal that doesn’t exist.

Except that I don’t buy it. Most of the women I know are over being perfect. Instead, they’re “quirky.” They’re “owning it!” They’re “#realtalk.” They’re “such a Liz Lemon.” Aggressive imperfection has become the new perfection, and we are sorry we’re not sorry.

“Sorry I’m not sorry” has released us from responsibility for our actions. We can be as obnoxious as we want, just as long as we’re self-aware. We can sling snark like we’re doing each other some kind of favor—after all, someone had to say it, and besides, it was witty. We can tell racist jokes, because we’re so unracist that racism itself has become a punch line. Only a racist would think that racist jokes are racist! Self-censorship has become its own taboo, and “sorry I’m not sorry” has become a catch-all excuse for cultural Tourette’s.

Ironically, in this age of delete buttons and Internet personas, we have more control than ever over what we project. We call people out on being fake and unapproachable, but in laying it all out there (while disclaiming that we are sorry we’re not sorry for whatever we’re laying out there), we end up talking out of both sides of our mouths. I have this information, but I am choosing to ignore it. I know this is rude, but I am choosing to say it anyway. Oh, you think I’m a bitch/bigot/idiot? Guess you just don’t get me. Sorry I’m not sorry.

Are we becoming more genuine, or are we just becoming lazy and immature? I’m not talking about doing that tee-hee-I’m-so-weird Zooey Deschanel thing, though that can be grating as well. I’m talking about flouting established norms of ethical human conduct. “Sorry I’m not sorry” has inflated the value of shock value. Kind is important. Fair is important. Informed is important. In my opinion, acknowledging a discrepancy between what’s right and what you’re doing is not enough. If you’re sorry you’re not sorry, you are just not sorry.

For much of college, I prided myself on telling it like it is, aka being a huge asshole. So smug. So judgmental. Call it an overcompensation for years of doormatty behavior—whatever it was, it was not cute. When I got knocked off my high horse, I became less of an asshole, but I also started to care more about where all that attitude was coming from—about the line between being sassy and, well, being a huge asshole. It exists for me, and it exists for other people, and they may not be the same line. Am I allowed to care? Does empathy have to go hand-in-hand with self-doubt?

I’m sorry. What more, I’m sorry I’m sorry. I wish I could just own that I’m a jerk some days or a mess most days and not analyze it all to pieces. My need to extract value from my shortcomings is exhausting for everyone around me. It’s self-involved. I’m sorry I’m self-involved. I certainly hope that other people can relate to and/or benefit from my self-involvement, but I get really tired of thinking so much. I can put it out there and still judge myself for not having it more together.

I guess what I’m saying is, sorry I’m not sorry I’m not sorry. Life is complicated. So is sentence structure.

Are you sorry?

Marry the knife.

On Saturday, I went out to brunch. My bill was $30.

On Sunday, I bought groceries for the week. My bill was $30.

New York budgeting continues to be an adventure. I spend nearly 70% of my income on rent, which is just plain foolish—I could (and maybe should) live in a shittier apartment, but my living situation is what it is, so I cut corners where I can. I live ten blocks from work, so I skip the unlimited subway card and hoof it around the city during daylight hours. I forego a monthly gym fee for a flat rate at the public rec center. I brew my French press coffee at home every morning. I turn tricks under the Brooklyn Bridge when things get tight.

My splurges are mainly food-related, and those are significant. I cooked almost every night at first, but the hobby is relatively new to me (my mom still likes to laugh about the fact that I asked her how to boil an egg two years ago) (which is about what she did when I asked her how to boil an egg two years ago), and the New York restaurant scene is an enticing rabbit hole. Exhaustion and curiosity have weakened my resolve. Unfortunately, I have yet to meet a sugar daddy under the bridge, and dining out is ravaging my already threadbare wallet.

I ate far beyond my means for most of July, and you know what? It wasn’t worth it. I spent so much mental energy trying to stretch my budget that the hassle colored the experience. I not only wasted a ton of time plotting strategic grocery lists, but also ended up eating minor variations on oatmeal and scrambled eggs for most of my meals. Really now? I don’t empirically dislike either of those things, but every day? Sometimes multiple times a day? How joyless. How disrespectful of my own sensory needs. How…boring.

If I may be reductive for a moment, I believe that satisfaction is a function of what we think about versus how we spend our time. If I spend hours drooling over Andrew Carmellini’s latest venture while shoveling down the same bland oats, that’s going to kind of suck for me. Even if slashing everyday costs means I get to eat out four times a week instead of two, that leaves a whopping seventeen meals unaccounted for, which hardly seems a reasonable tradeoff. I have to contain an interest in a world that just isn’t my reality.

Financial concerns aside, I have to remember that cooking changed everything for me. Cooking sold me on health. Cooking taught me that wellness is more than Fiber One and indulgence is more than Little Debbie. Cooking is a way that I practice Self-Love (Action), which forms the baseline for Self-Love (Emotion). Expense account or not, cooking is not expendable for me on any level.

While there will always be room in my New York life for okra bloody Marys and goat cheese bread pudding, there must also be room for Sunday nights at the stove prepping weekday lunches. If I’m going to bypass Seamless delivery and not feel pissed about, it’s sure as heck not going to be for celery sticks and yogurt. If that means I get to eat out two times a week instead of four, so be it. I will savor the bejeezus out of those two meals, but I will make the other nineteen of them worthwhile.

For the record, this soup blew 90% of restaurant meals I’ve eaten in New York City out of the water. How do you like them radishes.

Soup Off the Cob

This tastes like a tamale in a bowl. While the prep is labor-intensive, the final product keeps/freezes/reheats well (making that hour well worth it) and the timing is unfussy (meaning that as long as you follow a rough order, you can chop as you go). A word to the wise: YouTube is a gold mine of slicing and dicing tutorials, something I would have done well to remember when it was raining corn in my kitchen last night. At least my countertops match my sense of humor. Very minimally adapted from Eats Well With Others.

1 onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons coconut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 (15 oz.) can white hominy
1 (14 oz.) can lite coconut milk
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
3 ears corn off the cob
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté onions about five minutes, or until tender. Add garlic and spices. Push all that around for a minute or two, then add one cup of water, sweet potatoes, radishes, and pepper. Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until tender.

2. Combine hominy, coconut milk, and the rest of the water in a blender or food processor. Add to vegetable mixture along with tomatoes and corn. Bring to boil, then immediately reduce to simmer.

3. Stir in lime juice and cilantro. Serve with sliced avocado. Serve inside an avocado. Eat some avocado toast. Whatever. I don’t know your life.

She ain’t much to look at, but she’s got it where it counts.

See you under the bridge, baby.