Month: March 2017

The Day I Decided to Clean Up My Hometown

I live in Des Moines, Iowa. Once known mostly as a “fly-over” state, we are now a fast growing city whose inhabitants strut around with intense pride for their thriving cultural accoutrements and affluent economy. Des Moines is often described as mid-sized, safe, clean and accessible — a place where you can make an impact, see the ripple effect and still leave your front door unlocked in the event a friend wants to deliver a homemade pie. But this spring as the snow melted, I started to see that my prideful perception of my perfect little town wasn’t quite accurate: The “clean” landscape I frequently boasted about now appeared trashy and unkempt. And I was embarrassed. En route to a favorite brewery one day, I happened to glance out the window, acutely tuned in to the surroundings. One side of the road was a big lot filled with semi truck trailers. The other side was lined with trees and brush — and should have been the side of the street that harkened to nature and …

I Let My Student Talk Me Into Botox

Dr. M wasn’t my doctor; he was my student. Normally at 10 a.m. on a Monday morning, we were in his office having English class. But today, I was lying on the big black chair in his clinic, trying to keep calm as he prepped a needle. Dr. M was Turkey’s most prolific Botox practitioner. He had a certificate above his desk from the Botox suppliers recognizing the record number of vials he’d administered, mostly to Turkish TV stars and society women. He appeared regularly on the Turkish equivalent of Oprah, the host of which he had filled with youth-enhancing chemicals. As an English teacher, I taught a lot of rich Turkish people and their children, but Dr. M was my first near-celebrity. Located in the fanciest part of Istanbul, Nişantaşı (the Turkish Beverly Hills), the Director (who I also taught) would sometimes introduce me to perfectly made-up, glossy-looking actresses or TV personalities. I never had any idea who they were because I’m British, but I still felt underdressed and out-of-place in their world in …

The Tyranny and Terror of Proper Recyling

I live in fear throughout the year. I live in fear of trash. And trash receptacles. The refuse chute. Trash cans. Garbage bags. Those misleadingly cheery green and blue plastic bins with imprinted arrows, infinitely chasing each other in a relationship that will never be consummated, forever and ever and ever. This phobia began when recycling laws went into effect in our hometown. My mother took the rules very seriously. We’d hear her asides about the trash habits of our neighbors, who, without a care in the world, would cavalierly fling empty pizza boxes into the bins marked “Glass Only.” There were only a half-dozen bins marked “Paper Only” waiting to accept their refuse, but no, these thoughtless yuppies tossed their artisan Otto’s Pizza boxes into the bins reserved for glass. Every evening, for as long as I could remember, newspapers, plastic, boxes, cardboard and metal bric-a-brac were separated and dutifully carried to the green square cans labeled “Paper,” “Metal” or “Plastic” on the curb, first by my Father, and then, later, by us kids. …

10 Ways We Remember When Music Was a “Thing”

Remember when music was a physical object — before it was just an ethereal file floating from one digital device to another? There were technical snafus, social mores and some heavy lifting that went along with the era of vinyl and magnetic tape. Herein, a few: 1. Using a pencil to fix an unraveling cassette tape. 2. Moving boxes and boxes of LPs from dorm room to apartment to apartment (Sorry, Dad.) 3. Merging record and CD collections with your partner. My rule: Do not merge until married. (And even then, Dave Matthews is never allowed to mingle) via GIPHY 4. Taping over someone else’s mixtape. The ultimate diss.    5. Using Scotch tape as a cassette-tape wonder tool. By taping over the little notches on top to record a mixtape over an unwanted cassette. 6. 8-Track Tapes And that satisfying sound of the 8-track tape clicking and connecting into its gears in your parents’ Buick Regal car radio. 7. When people actually cared about speakers. via GIPHY 8. Losing the 45 spider Aka that …

To My Lopsided Nose Job

“The Jones Nose.” That’s a thing we talk about — and not fondly. Meaty and bulbous, it’s the nose a child makes from a big ol’ pyramid of Play-Doh to stick on a sphere that acts as head — both geometric items approximately the same size. It’s a Shel Silverstonian creation. It’s not the kind of nose that outsiders look at and think, “Jesus, that’s big,” though. I’m no Cyrano. It’s an unassuming big nose, one that blends in fairly well when plopped in the middle of a rather large face and head. But — and I say all this in all honesty and not with self-loathing or an overly critical eye — the thing is big. If there were some kind of ratio formula that declared the ideal acreage your nose should occupy on your noggin, something like the Vitruvian Man, but for women and faces, I could prove to you without prejudice that my schnoz is oversized. So when I got to the point that I had enough money to do somewhat-frivolous things, …

Margit’s Note: The Girl in the Plastic Bubble

We Gen-Xers have lived a life full of plastic: Our shag rugs strewn with high-arch-footed dolls, Legos, bubble wrap, Tupperware containers, six-pack rings, vinyl records, cassette tapes…you name it. “There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?” says Mr. McGuire to Benjamin in The Graduate, a movie that debuted the year many of us were just babes, 1967. And then a few years later in 1970, after the first Earth Day and the backlash due to rising energy costs, we met the movement to make things green again. Consumer recycling took hold in our lifetimes — which is kind of weird to think about. (Although, who knew, Plato first discussed the idea in 400 B.C. “Socrates, dude, these bronze spikes would be super cute as a necklace.”) For as long as we can remember, we’ve been battling a tug of war between man-made and earth friendly options.  Paper or plastic?  This nose or that one? Fake or authentic? Here’s a little irony for you: “Plastic” means “capable of being …

The Woman Who Taught Me to Chase After My “Big Life”

The room was quiet. Ann Shoket, Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen, had just finished giving a keynote address to a room full of hundreds of young women at a HerCampus conference in midtown Manhattan. When she asked for questions, you could feel the room hesitate. What do you say to someone who you’ve looked up to for over five years? I was an upcoming senior in college, and something in me knew this was my chance to start planting seeds for my dream job — becoming Ann’s assistant. I raised my hand, not really even knowing what I was going to say, and managed to ask, “Ann, considering what everyone is saying about the magazine industry right now, what would you say to parents like mine who worry about me chasing my dreams of becoming a magazine editor?” She started to answer and then paused. “Do you want to record this to send to your parents?” she asked. I pulled out my phone and, with a shaky hand, recorded an answer I will always remember: “Your job …

How NOT to Find a Mentor

I had just gotten off the phone with a friend telling me how her mentor recommended her to a new job that she was thrilled about. Just the same week, another pal described her amazing lunch with her mentor who gave her feedback on her business plan and introduced her to potential investors. Another friend was going to a book party for her world-famous mentor. The idea of a mentor sounded great! How could I get one? These same friends told me varied acquisition stories, from being assigned a mentor during their stints at big corporations to reaching out to industry leaders cold (and then somehow magically transforming the acquaintanceship into a mentor/mentee arrangement). No place where I had worked offered those programs, and, if they did, they weren’t geared for those of us in editorial. And as for the reaching out cold, I just didn’t see how that was going to work. I considered my job history. Maybe I had a mentor and didn’t realize it? Thinking over my early years in the job force, …

7 Unexpected Business Lessons I’ve Learned From Millennial Women

I am a VP and editorial director at a large media company. Now 56 years old, I follow with interest debates about whether women at my level do enough to mentor millennial women — a heated and sometimes fractious discourse that covers why they do or don’t, if they should or shouldn’t and so much more. Famously, there’s Madeleine Albright’s “special place in hell,” arguing from the “should” camp (although she’d later characterize the statement as “undiplomatic”). There’s Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s supposition that women feel obligated not to show a gender bias, leading the “why they don’t” discussion. And then there’s the less discussed but pervasive — and patronizing — attitude of a certain kind of senior leader toward her younger female colleagues. The sentiments shared with me, because I am old and it is assumed I will feel the same way, are as follows: Millennial women are entitled, brash, not deferential enough toward leadership, look at their phones when I’m talking in meetings and let’s not even get into what they wear …

Honoring the Women in My Maternal Battalion

Technically, my godmother is some white lady. Those three words are literally all I know about her: some, white, lady. And it took some digging for me to even get that little bit of information from my parents. At first, I sent my mom a text message that simply asked, “Who is my godmother?” Her reply: “I can’t remember. Curtis will remember.” So, I called my dad (Curtis) and he said, “I don’t think you have one. I don’t think your mother believed in godmothers.” Then, of course, I called my mom to verify my dad’s theory. And, of course, she disagreed. “That’s not true,” she said. “You have a godmother. Your godmother is some white lady who your father knew when we lived in Baltimore.” [pullquote]Just because we grown-ups don’t need legal guardians doesn’t mean we don’t still need support from people who are more grown-up than we are and who can step in when our parents cannot be there.[/pullquote] I considered calling my father back with the new “some white lady” clue to …

25 No-Bullshit Things I Wish Someone Had Told My 25-Year-Old Self

We live in a cult of youth. This is nothing new, especially if, like me, you grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s and every bit of our pop culture pointed at old people and laughed. I always assumed I would never be one of them, or, as Deanna Carter sings in the 1995 country song “Strawberry Wine,” “I still remember when 30 was old.” Not much has changed these days except semantics. Now it’s all about the millenial demographic…but why? My high school days were so bad that I used to say, “If anyone offered me $10 million to be 16 again I’d punch ‘em in the throat.” While my 20’s and 30’s were better, I still feel the same (minus the physicality) because, despite my back starting to ache and my body breaking down in ways I’d only ever read about, I finally realized that I get better as I get older. When I was 25, I was a brash, bold, smack-talking, I-can-do-anything kind of girl on the outside. But in reality, I was insecure, …

Darian’s Note: Are You My Mentor?

The word “mentor” used to make me feel uncomfortable. The idea of another person helping to guide my career in a formal way made me cringe growing up — but today I also cringed as I wrote that sentence. Because I realize now that my uncomfortable-ness was founded in nothing. In fact, my entire life, good people have been gracious enough to guide me through my passions, and I see that I wouldn’t be where I am without them. Now that I’ve been working in media for the past three and a half years (which is not long, but the 2016 election makes it feel like a lifetime), I understand how crucial women like Maria Stephanos, who taught me how to survive in a newsroom, or Kela Walker, who I’d Facetime to practice for an audition, are. Or Danyel Smith, who has really become more like a good friend. Or Yvette Noel-Schure, who welcomed me into her home when New York City felt less than welcoming. Quite frankly, there is no room to feel uncomfortable …

gossip tuenight hearn

How I Avoid Gossip in a Small Town

I hate to admit it, but I love gossip. It’s fun, it’s easy, and as I am a naturally nosy person, completely satisfying. But as with drive-thru French fries, some delicious habits simply are not good for you. Despite my love for it, I’ve had to reduce my indulgence. I live in a small wine country town, and, as you can imagine, we socialize at lots of wine and food events. In this kind of atmosphere, it’s a real challenge to avoid talking about each other. Wine-fueled + small-town = the perfect storm for gossip. A quick definition: Gossip is social talk that judges someone when they’re not there to defend themselves. It’s usually personal, sensational, or far too intimate. Often, gossip is mean-spirited. An easy test for me to decide whether or not something is gossip is by asking myself the question, “Is this something I want the subject to hear?” If the answer is no, well, it’s gossip. Avoiding gossip is tough because we humans are hard-wired to share information about each other …

Silly Things People Have Said to Me When I Tell Them I’m Not Having Kids

There will be no children in my future. Ever. Yes, I am married. Yes, my husband knows that I do not want children. Yes, we both realize we’re extremely fortunate to be able to elect to live childfree. He doesn’t want kids either. It’s part of the reason I married him. (That, and he has excellent hair.) He married me knowing that and also because I always clean the litter box. I probably brought up the topic of kids on the second date — it would have been a deal breaker. My husband would make the world’s greatest father. But that alone isn’t reason enough for me to become the mother I’ve never wanted to be, to take on a crushing financial burden or to add more to my already too-full plate. I love my friends’ children. Because I don’t have to take care of them. Their cuteness is there to fulfill my need to see cute things. I don’t expect them to behave for me, and they don’t expect 18 years of dinner from …

TueNight Live: Photos From Our Night of #FAIL

This edition of TueNight Live was a disaster! A flop! A miserable wreck! We jest — it was just our stories about tragic jobs, bad (and smelly) dates and persistent pain that made our evening one big FAIL. For this edition, we huddled into the gorgeous Friends Work Here co-working space in Brooklyn, gabbed and drank with our readers and writers, and enjoyed a riveting, emotional, hilarious evening of snafus and storytelling. Here are a few snaps:                                        

gossip tuenight gossip columnist

Why Being a Gossip Columnist is the Best and Worst Job You’ll Ever Have

The elevator was too small for the big personalities stuck inside of it. I had just left a fancy cocktail party at the home of a very famous wedding dress designer and at first I was delighted to find myself trapped in the elevator with two of my very favorite television stars. That was until they turned on me. We were stuck and tensions ran high. It was one of those small elevators, cramped as hell and someone hadn’t put on enough deodorant that morning. Looking back on this night ten years later, I tell myself they were just hungry. They probably hadn’t had bread or sugar in more than a decade. “You’re that gossip columnist,” one carped when it became clear that we would be waiting in the small space together for some time and everyone should settle in and get comfortable. [pullquote]I can tell you without a twinge of doubt, guilt or shame that most celebrities deserve the intense scrutiny that the celebrity press puts on their lives.[/pullquote] I shrugged. “It’s not really …

tuenight judgy margit ovarian rhapsody

Silly Things People Say to Me When I Tell Them I’ve Finished Chemo

This piece was originally published on August 2, 2016.  Yes, I’m done. Finito. I finished chemotherapy almost three months ago and have moved on to what my doctor dubs “Survivorship.” Great. I mean, no, it’s awesome. It’s incredible. Yay. Ok, I am not exactly ecstatic. “But you’re DONE, OMG, you must feel amazing!” To which I find myself essentially wanting to say firmly: “Ahem. Shut. It?” You have no idea. Done ain’t done. As I’m learning, it’s a process. That last infusion on May 2 was a bitch. It took the first three weeks just to pull myself out of the brain and pain fog, to get my appetite back, to have normal poops, to be able to walk up my two flights of stairs in less than 20 minutes. And there are a few residual goodies mostly to do with my left leg (toe, neuropathy, chronic vein issues and – brand new! – plantar fasciitis). So there are (literal) hills to climb. Yet, people still want to tell you how to feel. They mean well. They …

Silly Things People Have Said to Me When I Tell Them I Don’t Want Pets

I know, I know, you think I have no heart. Everyone does when I tell them that I don’t have (or ever want to have) a pet. But I do have a soul, I swear. I’m just not that into four-legged, furry creatures, and I certainly don’t want one running around my cozy one-bedroom apartment. Listen, I never said I don’t like pets. And I don’t think I’ve ever implied that I’m “anti-animal.” I’m just not a “pet person” (and neither is my husband, thankfully). But still, people just don’t get it. Recently, when I told a friend that my husband and I were thinking about starting a family next year, she said: “Get a pet first. That way, you’ll know you if you can handle kids.” When I told her no way, and that I’d take a baby over a dog any day, she looked at me as though I had just murdered a bunny rabbit. To me, a pet is just as much of a responsibility as a baby, maybe even more of …

Margit’s Note: What Did You Just Say?

There is almost nothing that we can share with anyone — or anyone can share with us — that we haven’t already seen six ways from Sunday on our social feeds, the news, the TV or a phone alert. My husband and I will be laying in bed in the morning with our iPhones (I know) and I’ll say, “Did you see the…” He’ll interrupt, “Yes. I saw the BBC dad, Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions and what Trump said about….” Sigh. It’s depressing. Like, I want the glee of being the first to share Tank and the Bangas’ brilliant, innovative tunes with you. “Please, I knew about them, like last week.” Sigh. But there are still a few things in life that get shared the analog way, mouth-to-mouth, ear-to-ear; things people say in private; things we overhear walking down the street. Like the time that random person walked by my husband and me on a Brooklyn sidewalk, leaned in and just quietly muttered, “Asshole.” (We still debate the intended recipient of that moment.) And …

Pain in the Present Tense

For me, failure is a feeling. It’s a heavy weight in my stomach. I get hazy and lightheaded.  Things start to slow down. Lately I feel very heavy. When I feel this, I retreat. I isolate. I pick apart all the moments, actions, words that led to this particular moment and I evaluate them, polish them, put them in a line like dominos and knock them all down with one touch, only to pick them up and reorder them again. Glennon Doyle Melton, the author of Love Warrior, wrote something that caught my attention the other day and resonated with me. She said: “We have to choose carefully where we do our truth-telling… If you are going to share widely – make sure you’re sharing from your scars, not your open wounds….When we truth tell widely in real time, it’s alarming to people because it can feel more like a cry for help than an act of service. You have to be still with your pain before you can offer it up and use it to serve …

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The Story of the Guy Who Crapped in My Bed

I knew he had a girlfriend, but that didn’t stop me from liking him, nor did it discourage me from making out with him at any opportunity. He told me all the old standard lies — she was a bitch, she was crazy, they never had sex anymore and they were pretty much dunzo anyway — and I chose to believe him. Sigh. Yet due to some sort of highly flexible boundary system he had worked out in his head, though we would fool around, we never actually had sex. Because somehow being handsy and mouthy was fine, but actual p-to-v would be cheating. Sigh times a thousand. Maybe it was because I had been single for so long, or dating jerks, or catching a case of the incredibly stupids, this went on for some time. I lost sleep, moaned to my extremely patient friends, and basically acted like a complete asshole. “He’s so nice,” I’d bleat, savoring the little crumbs of affection I’d collect whenever we’d manage a few minutes together. Like every other …

I Was “Breakup Girl,” And Then My Job Dumped Me

This will not endear me to you: Until my mid-20s, I was convinced that I was special — that my life was actually charmed. That was the through line to my life story: Things just went my way. Hard work paid off. I earned good grades, had halfway normal parents and halfway decent boyfriends. My high school graduation speaker was Gloria Fucking Steinem. I got into Yale. I had the time of my life. I had an amazing dog named Montsi — a gorgeous white shepherd/tundra wolf mix who was my protector and soul sister. My books got published. I always had cool, land-in-your-lap life-changing experiences, like living and bonding with a family and “sister” in Mexico who looked just like me — whom I’m still friends with — and lucking into an awesome apartment with my best friend in Boston and winding up on both Geraldo and Ricki Lake in 1994, just because I looked exactly like Tonya Harding, which is a long story. It wasn’t that things never went wrong. They did. All …

My Company Sank and Nearly Took My Morals With It

I’ve never been afraid of failure. I always think of the potential for failure as pure “dare”—and can’t resist staring it straight in the face to see if I can beat it. I always thought this was a noteworthy trait of mine, a good trait. Hell, I even gave speeches about the benefits of not being afraid of failing: learning, experience, trying out innovative ideas, pushing your boundaries, surprising yourself. The trick, I say in those speeches, is to pick good failures, failures that give you more than you lose, whether insights or learning or experiences or, heck, even just great friends or one helluva a good story. You weigh the pros of what you might achieve and accomplish against what the worst-case scenario might be and say: Can I live with the worst, if it comes to that? I had always taken risks in publishing, tried to do things people said “couldn’t be done,” made things from scratch without enough money or enough time or enough team or all three. I did these things, …

I Lost $52 Million and Lived to Tell About It

“I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear, but I promise you this is the very best thing for the business,” he said. “Yup, I know. I’m 100 percent on board,” I exhaled. And with that, my then CFO and I knew we were ending a $52 million contract. Making that decision was the best thing I’ve ever done for my business. I’m here to talk about failure, but, to be clear, losing this deal wasn’t my big failure. Sure, I felt like a failure to my team. We felt totally incompetent, like we had been playing a game of checkers when my supposed collaborators had been playing chess. And, sure, I felt like the business was going to take a nosedive towards a dramatic end. But still, those things didn’t make me feel like a total failure. The failure was in ignoring the warning signs that had been looming for at least two years. Anyone looking at my predicament could have spotted this dramatic, climactic ending 50 miles away. And when I look …

Margit’s Note: It’s a Flop!

It’s really hard running a website. No, it ain’t brain surgery, as a favorite colleague used to remind me at AOL (no comment). But even for someone who has a gazillion years experience running editorial teams for dot coms, there are days when you want to hit the big red “delete all posts NOW” button. It’s especially hard when it’s your baby. Your own creation. Your side gig. Your passion project. Your potential business. Your “Hey!! Look over here! Don’t you want to pay me to do this? You know you do.” Wink wink. Hip flick. Google Analytics tells you no one liked that “PETS” issue, you’re on your sixth Art Director (because your vision, their vision and your micro-manage-y approach has led to you making Picmonkey art at the last minute…more than once) and three people have unsubscribed from your newsletter. I speak theoretically, of course. The grind of a weekly publication is no joke. But then, the next sunshine-y day, you get a traffic bonanza for a meaningful essay, 50 people attend your …