college, Essay, Halloween

NO PICTURES

As I was on a (what would turn out to be over four hours in the rain and two iterations of Taylor Swift’s 1989) drive back from my Boston Halloweekend, I realized – mid-eating a Chicken McNugget – that I hadn’t gotten a picture for Instagram the entire weekend. “Fuck!” I said, mouth muffled by “meat.”

And over the next few hours, as I caught up on all the social media I had missed – all the Halloween Instagrams of people in their various costumes, all the posed Snap stories and (let’s be realistic) Instagram stories – I felt more and more annoyed. I had let a prime social media weekend slip through my fingers like sand, or silk, or (most realistically) me dribbling a basketball.

It was the second time I was in Boston in October, and I had – on both occasions – made a plan to take a cute Instagram with my friends and completely forgotten. It’s a sober truth, I’ve realized, that when you’re a freelance writer-journalist (slash full-time inspiration and model), your chances for taking cutely candid Instagrams are severely limited. Either I’m working, writing, sleeping, eating, watching Netflix or doing some combination of the aforementioned. And unless my followers want endless versions of my dog with the exact same photo filtering (I do an opaque shadow, get used to it), there’s a limit to the content I’m naturally coming into contact with.

Getting an Instagram is more than an exercise in vanity. This might be dumb – do you know me? – but social media is as much a cultivation of personal branding as it is to remember moments. I want to work in media, and understanding various social media platforms, and being active on those platforms, is important to me. And in a post-grad world where I’m a very small fish in…the ocean? A galaxy? It helps me feel connected to the larger world. And yes, I use those photos for Tinder. Sue me.

Before I came up to Boston in the beginning of October, I texted my best friend. “We have to take a photo together.” She agreed (she loves photos of me). But with the time constraints of balancing family and friends, we forgot. I spent my hours with her, and my other friends, drinking at our favorite bar, hanging out at home, getting brunch. I drank up their presence like a sunflower; it had been so long since I had seen them in person. And I just missed them. And I didn’t want to miss any of them by separating myself through a screen.

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Essay, Life

“ONE—TWO—THREE!”

Neon-green teeth against deep, dark violet skin. A ceiling fan broken from too many hands flinging into the air. Too many bodies crammed into too little square footage, forcing the heat to climb upwards until your white shirt has turned filmy as it clings wetly to your skin.

We see the host, and I grab the drink out of his hand to take a sip of artificial margarita. We set up residence against one wall, some girl’s long strands of hair whipping against the small of my back as she dances with someone else.

Talking becomes a post-lingual experiment. The mouth forms words that will never reach someone else’s ears, instead swirling out and upward into the collective cacophony. You communicate by mouthing simple words, by pointing, by the arching of eyebrows.

That’s a college party. Sound so big it forces you into the corner, heat so high everyone loses water weight against their will, and a Babel tower of red Solo cups.

It’s the kind of thing that could only occur in college. Only occur when there’s an uneven distribution of wealth. Top-shelf liquors mixed with liters of lukewarm Sprite, the kind that our teachers brought in for class parties. J.Crew button-downs with beaten-down Converse splashed with various liquids. You bypass the club with their $10-covers and instead cram in with sixty of your Facebook friends-of-friends and sweat it out to Childish Gambino.

It’s the kind of thing that could only occur when you’re on the razor’s edge between childhood and adulthood.

Before, we stood in her bathroom, me balancing a water bottle of Patron and two shot glasses on the ceramic lid of the toilet tank. I poured the Patron into the glasses, alternately labeled in ridged letters “Don’t Mess with Texas” and “Malibu”. I took care to make sure they were level with each other before handing one off. In between her putting black eyeliner on, we licked the bony tops of our thumbs and dumped salt on the damp.

“One—two—three,” I said as we clicked the shots together.

Lick the salt. Suck down the Patron. Hold the two in your mouth for a second before gulping. We didn’t have limes so I grabbed a bottle of lemonade. The sickly-sweet-sour taste of the lemonade, from concentrate, cuts through the tequila as I made a hasty gulp before passing it on to her. We stagger the second round of shots so that we can have equal access to the chaser.

Lick. Suck. Gulp.

I perch behind her as she tries to balance out her eyeliner. I pull thick swathes of auburn hair into place. We preen, and something warms in the outline of my ribs.

Later it was a bottle of red wine that we passed back and forth. We had to clench our teeth to avoid consuming the coils of foil from the twist-top that had fallen to the bottom of the deep dark red. Afterward, we would have to comb our tongues free of the aluminum scraps.

We went to a birthday pre-game first, one we drastically overestimated the punctuality of its occupants. By the time we strolled in at 9:45, they were already platonically grinding to Top 40, and That One Girl was yelling at people to start requesting their Ubers.

“FIVE MINUTES PEOPLE, CALL YOUR UBERS,” she waded through the clusters of drunk people. “FIVE MINUTES.” This was not a Lyft crowd.

We had enough time to say hi to Birthday Girl & Co and mooch some Smirnoff Raspberry into thrown-together cocktails. But they were annoyingly punctual, and by 10 p.m. we were the last ones to swirl out of the apartment, shoving potato chips into our pockets for snacking on the sidewalk.

At the second party, the purple light burned through the window even as we were approaching from outside. Inside, sweat mixed with liquor mixed with burnt weed. Hawaiian shirts glowed hotly against dark violet skin. Synthetic leis lit up the undersides of chins and matched eerily with the neon whites of people’s eyes.

Inside, everyone is a stranger, even the people I know. The darkness coats everything, so that familiarity becomes a moot point until they’re in your face. I run into people from class, old half-forgotten acquaintances, and former besties. In a party, old frictions are limned over in the alcohol haze.

She and I stand by the bar counter, a square hole in the wall between the living room and the kitchen. Separated by a narrow line of strangers are friends from my collegiate nascence. Friends whom I knew when I hardly knew myself. That clogging nostalgia rises from my chest and coils behind my tongue. The sense is that identity is a series of rolling hills.

You climb one with some cluster of people, crest over the top and skid to the bottom. Then you begin again. And suddenly people begin to drop off. After one hill without them, they become a little blurred. After two and three, you have lost sight of them entirely. But they’re on their own hills, cresting and skidding endlessly over and over. Run up, hover, run down.

And eventually you realize that if you keep looking back, as the hummocks replicate, you’ll trip. So you force yourself to look forward, cresting with new people, ending at the bottom of the hill with new people.

Sucking the foil from my tongue, I lean down to say something to her and come face-to-face with a yelling landlord. Party’s over, he says. The purple light weakens as yellow-bulbed rooms are opened up, the crowd thins, but the music thumps on, as loud as before. It blankets over the scurrying people, grabbing coats, appearing from cracks in the walls and hidden spots like cockroaches.

As I wrestle our coats from the pile, she spills a cup of something over me, her and the floor. Margarita, probably, or Sprite. Something sticky and sweet that dots my jeans like rain.

As we leave the purple light party, our laughter trailing behind us at this long-ago failure of a night, we cut through back alleys to our familiar place. Two identical beers and nearly identical burgers—fries to split between two people.

Our hills have neatly aligned, I realize as we tuck into burgers, the kick of spicy secret sauce hitting the ridged roof of my mouth. Bite of burger, snap of fry, sip of beer. Sloppily sopping up that secret sauce, too drunk to care about appearing proper.

Balancing between childhood and adulthood is like that. It’s the razor’s edge, the series of hills. The ravenous eating of two dollar burgers after wine and tequila and beer. Patron in plastic and curls of foil on tongues. Too many metaphors because I haven’t learned yet that one will do. It’s the here now and the not there yet.

We stand at the bottom of the hill and I reach my hand out towards hers. She clasps it, sweat against sweat. Chipped baby-blue nail polish.

“One—two—three.”

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Humor, Life, Love & Romance

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I TRY TO BE HIP

In the Splash Zone.

“Okay, so take a candid photo of me looking away, but I want to be laughing, and I want to look thin,” I say, punching the emphasis on the last clause, hoping to impress the very dire nature of having a Thinstagram (making that happen?) onto JR, who is not exactly up to the onerous task but is the only person who is sitting across from me, thus giving him the ability to angle the camera in a flattering way.

In the swampy air of the bar, sitting on a reclaimed church pew and in a $10 Uniqlo shirt, I swivel towards Loren, because in this “candid” photo, she’s the one I’m “laughing” with. Sweaty fingers curl around the sweating glass, and as I turn and dive into the first “pose”, the cup slips out of my fingers. The G&T contents douse my left leg but most goes directly into Loren’s crotch as the cup bounces off her thighs and rolls into the nether regions of the Brooklyn bar floor.

JR was kind enough to capture my immediate shock and mortification, so here is that photo.

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Source: Danny McCarthy

After mopping up the church pew and Loren’s vagina, we sat back down and listened to a sixty-five-year-old man backed up by a black woman in Casual Friday realness and a drummer in a Los Pollos Hermanos t-shirt and wedding ring.

Do you remember in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Aberforth Dumbledore was introduced and you were like “Oh wow, there’s someone who’s an even bigger old hippie than Albus Dumbledore?” This lead singer was the Aberforth to Bernie Sanders’s Albus.

Thirty minutes previous.

Sandwiched between Loren and JR and heavily aware that I’m blocking Cool Black Girl in Red Braids and Snapback from seeing the band we came to see, I’m staring at Hot Lead Singer. He’s lean in the way that all indie singers are, with large capable hands and artistic veins tracing up his smooth forearms. He croons into the microphone, the bulb of which nuzzles his hooked nose. The way he sings feels authentic enough, but it’s like watching a TV show of what an indie band should look like. The low, gravelly voice, the scrunched eyes, the intensity. The overlarge Hawaiian shirt open over a sharp-clavicled chest and clashing printed shorts.

As the sweat pools in my lower back, I realize that this could be my future. Dark, swampy Brooklyn bars, JR and Loren, making eye contact with cute boys in polo shirts. Sweating glasses of amoretto sours and clinking bottles of Blue Moon. The wreathing aroma of someone’s last blunt, the ember of which is probably scattered on the front stoop. For the first time, after the initial awkwardness fades, this feels like it could become something grounded in our reality.

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Source: Danny McCarthy// Be honest, is this an Instagram or a THINstagram??

I’m graduating in less than a year. In less than a year, I’ll have to be figuring out my plan for the next few months. If I stay in New York, manage to get a job, and eventually scrape enough money together to move out, I could make this—standing in bars, listening to alt bands, black tees and light-wash denim, gin and tonics splashing onto my shoes—into a life.

Back at Splashgate.

But this is what I get for trying to be a hip Brooklynite: drinkless and sitting next to someone whose vagina is wet because of me (yes, I hear it too. It’s a hilarious joke, but focus on Splashgate).

And when I think I’m all cool and hip, I remember that I ate a Frosty in the car on the way over, and that I still can’t properly pronounce “February.” And these are things—I’m imagining—real adults can do. Not the Frosty part; everyone loves a good fucking Frosty.

Trying to plan for the future feels a little premature when I still feel like such a kid. I mean, all around me, people are growing up, but I think it’s a mark of still being in school—and in that school mindset—that I see myself as a kid. I work with seven-year-olds, and really, their frame of mind is not that different than mine. I have a slighter firmer grasp on economics and a better appreciation for logic, but other than that, we’re the same.

*****

Anywayanywayanyway, this post has been sitting in my “Minimized” folder for almost a week, and I didn’t plan ahead for a blog today—spoiler, I write them ahead of time—so I figured I would just publish this one. Also I’m gonna do a quickie bonus post either today or some other time, of an article I thought was funny, but a little sparse. Kind of like a bald comedian—eyoooooo.

Literally what was I talking about?

BYE.

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Humor, Life

A MILLENNIAL’S GUIDE TO FRIENDSHIP IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Growing up as a millennial can be a unique experience. You have the constant fear of someone bringing up a bad photo of you from seventh grade, or your mom trying to friend you—my mom does not because she “doesn’t want to see what’s on my page”—or your crush reading a message you sent but not responding.

There’s a lot of articles online about dating in the digital age, or doing your taxes in the digital age, or applying for jobs in the digital age. But there’s really nothing dedicated to being friends with someone in the digital age. And not capital-f Friends. We’re not talking Facebook friends—the idea of Facebook friends overlapping with your actual friends is basically an urban myth.

So since I have to guide you into the light—not in an angel-y way, but in a cool way—on other issues—race, gender, what to order at McDonald’s—then it’s only fitting that I guide you through this process. So are you ready? Are you ready? Let’s go!

Here’s rule number one, right off the bat. Group chats are literally Satan’s asshole, but they’re a necessary evil. Just, for the love of all things holy, put it in Facebook so I can at least mute the conversation. I’ve turned a deaf ear to at least half of the groups I’m in.

Rule number two: Do your civilian duty and take yourself off “private” in your social media. The very fact that you’re on social media implies, at least a little bit, that you’re a fame monster (Buy ARTPOP on iTunes). We live in the age of media-stalking, so just assume that someone wants to get a cute look at you.

In fact, the Golden Rule of Social Media: Do unto your social media as you would wish others to do unto theirs. I.e. if you’re stalking, you better open up the digital gates so people can return the favor.

Rule number three: Follow people back on Twitter and Instagram. The only time it is acceptable to not follow people back is if they’re strangers or if you’re a celebrity. If you’re not a celebrity, and I follow you, it’s because I know you. Don’t throw shade and not follow me back. That happened to me once. I met a really cool girl, had a good conversation with her, and then followed her on Twitter. She didn’t follow me back, and now she is on my List. You’re not Madonna. You can afford to alter your ratio. I’m stretching out an olive branch.

Rule number four: But conversely, don’t feel obliged to Favorite, Like, or Retweet everything I do. Sometimes I have an off day and my tweet is a little sloppily crafted. You don’t have to placate me with a flurry of Likes. Save those for when I’m really funny (which is 99 times out of 100).

Note: This does not apply to Instagram. Like my Instagram or I will hunt you down and gut you like a fish.

Rule number five: I will allow you to crop me out of photos if you look really good. I don’t anticipate it happening often, and be careful how you crop. If it’s a simple group chat, go nuts. But if we’re entwined in some sort of gymnastics, and you crop the living sh*t out of the photo to the point where if you click on the photo, it’s just a small square of your face surrounded by black, then we have a problem. I understand that good photos are like shooting stars—they happen only ever so often. But have some sense of decorum.

Rule number six: Landscape, never portrait. Don’t play with fire.

And because I need to preserve my sanity, rule number seven: keep conversations to one medium. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation with a friend in Facebook, and had a separate, distinct conversation with the same friend over text. Okay, it’s only happened twice. But still, it’s a thing.

Rule number eight: Ghost with integrity. If and when you decide to stop being friends with someone, it’s a little harder than just ducking or avoiding them on the street. No. Now that we’re living in an age where nothing ever dies online, you need to learn how to ghost with grace. Ghosting is basically—it’s a trend, and I’m hopping on the trend—when you slowly slip out of someone’s life. You take longer to answer texts. You can’t FaceTime anymore. You “forget” to tag them in your popular blog posts that everyone loves but is too afraid to say that they love, so they ask things like “What’s the Wunderkindof?” and “Oh, I didn’t know you blogged” and—oh, I’m projecting. It’s fine when you want to ditch people. We’ve all done it. Just be smart about it.

Rule number nine: Tag me, but don’t drag me. I look good from approximately two angles. So I can’t tell you how visceral the fear is when I see that little notification pop up in the “Photos of You” tab in Instagram. You can tag me in your photos—actually, please do—but realize that if it’s an unflattering angle or me doing something “hilarious,” that you are putting your life, the lives of your future children, and the life of your iPhone at risk.

Also side bar: No one ever looks good in “funny photos.”

And lastly, rule number ten: social media isn’t a substitute for quality time. Yes, I love tagging Jenny in funny Instagrams, or texting Shelby whenever something salacious happens in the celebrity world, or g-chatting (gay-chatting) with Marco, or sending ambiguous emojis to Mitchell. But that is just a complement to being with them. So rule number ten-b: don’t let social media rule your life. Let me rule your life. Through social media. I understand how confusing this might be. Just give me your Social Security number and everything will be okay.

Living in the digital age is hard; everything should be quicker and more immediate, but it often ends up lost in a haze of misinterpretation. Did he mean to send me that winky emoji? How long is too long for me to return someone’s text? What is “fam” and how is it being used in the vernacular? All of these things are questions that I know that I have.

Ew, bye.

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Essay, Humor

CHICKEN WINGIN’ IT

“If anyone asks, we all ate these wings,” I say to the table as my hand hovers over a plate covered with the bony remains of twelve chicken wings.

I’m sweating profusely from eating twelve chicken wings by myself, and I swipe the back of my hand against my forehead. Around the table, there are four other plates piled with chicken bones.

An actual gif of me.

An actual gif of me.

*****

This post was basically decided for me, thanks to two of my coworkers/friends—let’s call them Melody and Aerin, you know who you bitches are—so, like, know that I was basically forced to write this like some kind of journalistic prostitute.

I had a post all about Go-gurt half-written for today, Thursday, but I switched to this because last night I—strong of body and narcissistic of mind—went out on a WEEKDAY like a goddamn Carrie Bradshaw.

Side bar, I wrote “Carrie Bradshaw” because she’s the only modern working-going out woman I know of, and I couldn’t remember what Samantha’s last name was in Sex and the City.

Wait, also side bar. Is it Sex In the City?

*****

Before going out to the local bar—and by “local” I mean the bar close to my work, which is forty minutes away for me—we went to a camp variety show, where I got a damp ass from sitting on moist benches. It was…a lot.

“Are you serious?” my coworker—hmmm, Evan (?)—says. He stands up and motions a hand down his front, pointing out his outfit. White t-shirt, olive chino shorts.

“Are you FUCKING serious?” I say. I look down at myself. White t-shirt, olive chino shorts. A few weeks ago, we went to a party and wore the same outfit as each other—black t-shirt and khaki chino shorts—yeah I’m not original. I don’t have a lot of non-gym short options, especially because I’ve gotten fatter but not gotten richer.

The fact that I’m apparently subconsciously psychically linked to this sixteen-year-old is a complete and utter waste of psychic abilities. Either that or God has a rude sense of humor.

Me.

Me.

Warren, in his raspy, young Walter Cronkite voice, laughs.

Every one of my friends—I guess I can call them friends instead of just “coworkers—is looking beautiful. But, frankly, I see them in very worn conditions, so just not have sweat stains larger than the rings of Saturn is an improvement.

We order our wings, after the waitress coming over multiple times, and after a quick but heated debate over the appropriate number of wings for Evan to order, it’s settled. I ordered six sesame and ginger and six tossed in a mixture of barbeque and buffalo.

Side bar, if I ever create a TV show, it will be a sitcom about a redhead, played by me, and an Asian, Sandra Oh, I’m assuming, who are best friends and chefs and I’m calling it Sesame and Ginger because I’m culturally insensitive and also hilarious.

*****

“White was not a good option to wear,” I joke. “You can probably see all of my sweat.”

No, you can’t see my sweat, but Melody points to my shirt, at a spot directly underneath my left collarbone. My stomach drops through the soles of my feet and burrows about six feet into the ground.

“What?” I ask, my voice cracking into a thousand pieces. “What?”

She doesn’t say anything, but keeps pointing. I tug at my shirt, tucking my chin down. And on my shirt is a glob of that fucking barbeque-buffalo sauce. On my WHITE, UNIQLO T-SHIRT.

I waddle—again, I’ve just consumed twelve chicken wings within a fifteen-minute stretch—to the bathroom and wring my hands on the doorknob. It’s locked, so I have to pretend to be a normal, functioning human being instead of a psychotic human volcano. The bathroom’s occupant eventually leaves, and I rush in.

First I wash my hands of any treacherous chicken residue and then examine the spot. In the mirror, the spot looks much smaller, but I imagine I can feel deliciousness soaking through the pearly fibers. I dampen it with a soaked paper towel and spend five minutes just batting at it like a kitten with a toy.

Halfway through the process, I look up at the mirror. Oh damn, I look hot. My shoulders look broad and muscular in the white t-shirt, and my hair lays thickly across my head, with the perfect amount of swoop. Not crazy enough to be a swish but not flat enough to be a flop. Sometimes I forget that I’m a broad person. I still think I’m the scrawny beanpole—with a 10/10 face, of course—but I’ve become…wide—in good ways. I look, like, really hot. Fuck yeah.

Eventually, the glob has diminished into a slight smear, that keeps taunting, but I know have another issue. My shirt is a thin, silky-feeling material, i.e. I now have a wet circle of fabric beneath my collarbone that has all the subtlety of a gunshot wound.

I press my hand neatly against the wet, very “Southern belle,” as I leave the bathroom because A) my last-minute frantic attempts to dry it off have not gone well and B) there’s a very small window where you can be in the bathroom without people thinking you’re shitting.

*****

The whole point of the night was to hang out with coworkers at the bar late into the night until everyone realizes that they’re in love with me. They are, they just need to figure it out. But the bar is so often frequented by fetuses—sixteen-year-olds—that the owner of the bar flips on the lights at 10:30.

Everyone hisses like vampires.

“All right, everyone without an ID get out,” he says. My friends—cool fetuses, not lame fetuses—decide to leave before they’re kicked out. So suddenly our friend group is fractioned off.

Then, later in the night, I spotted a hot British guy, one that Melody and Aerin frequently obsess over. I’m standing five feet away, his back is turned to me, so I say to Evan and another coworker—Miles—“Oh my god, it would kill them if I got a picture of him.”

We debate several different ways to take his photo. I say that I should go with the classic “walk up and take the photo over his shoulder and then change my name and join the Witness Protection Program” but that doesn’t go over so well. Miles and Evan spend a hot second trying to take secret swiping shots of him.

I, in my infinite wisdom, say, “Or we could just do this,” and lift up my phone in clear view, zoom in and hit the button. All of a sudden, my flash goes off. I narrowly avoid smashing my phone on the ground and double over, pressing the flash into the fabric of my shirt as the camera goes off. Serves me right for playacting paparazzi.

Also a real gif of me.

Also a real gif of me.

Eventually my friends and I “leave”—decide to vacate the premises before we are thrown out—and I hiss “Fuck you”s to all of the people my age or younger that I pass on the way out of the door who are being ballsy as shit and staying in the bar.

*****

We hang out a park—no stabbings—for a while, discussing various tidbits of gossip, before splitting up to go home.

I guess, as a college student, the night was a technical fail because we got “kicked out” but I ate twelve chicken wings, so I’m counting last night as a win. And that’s all that really matters.

*****

Side bar, should I publish the Go-gurt post? It’s just essentially 400 words of portable dairy conspiracies. I think I just answered my own question: FUCK YES.

P. FUCKING S. I’m so sorry Marco, but I put Sandra Oh down because I figured in between us traveling the world as a pop duo, our burgeoning organic pudding shop and our podcast, we might need a little space. Mistake rectified; Sandrah Oh is OUT.

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