Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Best Time I Called in to a Radio Advice Show

This post originally appeared on March 29, 2012.

If you grew up in the mid to late ‘90s, you probably listened to Loveline, a brilliantly conceived radio show for young people to call in with their sex and relationship problems. I’m jealous of you. Somehow, I missed it. I was mysteriously, tragically deprived of the sage, poignant advice of Dr. Drew Pinsky and his comedian co-host Adam Carolla to help guide me through the conflicting desires and general emotional turmoil of my adolescence.

Those of you who know Carolla only from his work on the critically unacclaimed Man Show, or, God forbid, Dancing With the Stars, may have difficulty believing that, on Loveline, the man was clutching-your-stomach-from-laughter-induced-pain hilarious. He knew when to mercilessly mock the particularly clueless callers (most of them), and when to tone down the teasing in favor of offering real advice (usually along the lines of, “Whatever you do, don’t get pregnant”). He referred to many of the female callers as “babe” in a way that managed to sound sincerely affectionate rather than condescending. His sarcastic refrain in response to callers with especially traumatic histories or outlandish predilections: “Perfectly normal, perfectly healthy.”  READ MORE

The Best Time I Fell Down a Hill in a Back Brace

This post originally appeared on March 12, 2012. I crouched at the top of the hill on my middle school’s campus where everyone ate lunch. I had a wedgie and was too embarrassed to pick at it, because every move I made while wearing my back brace generated a clunking sound that I feared attracted attention. So, I decided to surreptitiously make a pull for my undies as I loudly sat down, rationalizing that the normal noise I made every lunch hour would mask any suspicious hand movements. In doing this, I lost my balance and fell backward in slow motion, and then rolled in very fast motion to the bottom of this hill. I stopped only because I got lodged in a rain gutter, where I remained stuck on my back like a tipped-over turtle.

To say my middle school years were awkward is an understatement. In addition to the run-of-the-mill dorky braces, greasy hair, ill-fitting clothes, and acne issues everybody got, I spent half of eighth grade in what I guarantee is the bulkiest back brace that ever existed. My twelfth year on earth greeted me with a rare, very noticeable spinal deformity that required a major surgery. I had kyphosis, which is like scoliosis, except you fall forward instead of to the side. The upper half of an average person’s spine gently curves at about 40 degrees; mine curled into an astonishing 110 — a record-breaking number! my orthopedic surgeon would excitedly tell me later. By the way, can he take a picture of me for the research he’s hoping to publish? Yes, eighth grade was awkward.

It’s assumed my spine lurched forward because I hit my growth spurt eons before most people do — when I was a small child, my pediatrician even misdiagnosed me with gigantism and projected I would be a soaring seven-and-a-half feet tall. Prior to taking me to the orthopedic surgeon who would eventually straighten me out, my mom first sought out physical therapists, an acupuncturist, and a crotchety doctor, all of whom diagnosed me with low self-esteem. Because I was so freakishly tall at such a young age, everyone assumed I was embarrassed of my height and thus slumped. And it’s true: I did have unique body issues. While most preteen girls are worrying about whether they have an apple- or a pear-shaped butt, I was wigging out that my torso was uncontrollably rounding itself into a donut despite the fact that I was trying my darndest in physical therapy. READ MORE

The Best Time I Was an Extra on Dawson's Creek

This post originally appeared on Feburary 16, 2012.

The summer before ninth grade I flew from Pittsburgh to Wilmington to be an extra on my favorite show, Dawson’s Creek. I had an inkling that this wasn’t a normal thing, but I was a clueless teenager with Hollywood dreams. I read InStyle and W and Vogue, I knew things about celebrities, I devoured movies and awards shows, and I had been in a junior high production of Oliver! I was convinced that eventually I was going to be famous, and that magazines would ask me things like what sort of lip product I used. I would have said Benetint. Not because it was true, but because in 1998 it seemed like all the celebrities used Benetint.

Of course, it helped that my dad had gone to summer camp with a guy who ended up owning the studio lot where they shot the show. And I had little sense of how decidedly unglamorous a flight from Pennsylvania to North Carolina was.

I arrived at the lot, filled out my first employment form, and then was sent to wait in one of the classroom sets with the other extras and stand-ins. I remember one gorgeous blonde girl waiting with her parents. She had no fewer than 10 wardrobe changes, all with the tags still on them. I panicked. They told us to bring two outfits! TWO! And I brought TWO because I followed directions, dammit. Both were from my closet and I was WEARING ONE. Was I supposed to have purchased a whole new wardrobe? I like to imagine that I felt the provinciality of my Pittsburgh roots for the first time. That somehow, despite being in Wilmington for a television shoot, I sensed something like blue-collar rust-belt pride. But probably I just felt embarrassed. READ MORE

The Best Time I Rescued Patrick Stewart

This post originally appeared on March 16, 2012.

The summer of 2009 I threw together a really lame Steampunk outfit complete with feathers and gears, and traipsed down to Atlanta for my first Dragon*Con.  Dragon*Con is an amazing sci-fi and fantasy convention that happens every Labor Day weekend. Tens of thousands of people like me — people who think David Bowie in Labyrinth is the epitome of rock god, who read enormous and multi-volume epic fantasy series like A Song of Ice and Fire (before it was on HBO and everyone started reading it, ungh), and who were devastated (devastated!) when Caprica got cancelled — descend upon several square blocks of downtown Atlanta for a weekend of drinking, costumes, fandom, and happiness. It is the best.

I’ve returned to Dragon*Con every year since — with better costumes because, thankfully, I got over Steampunk — but my first year was notable because a) I lost my nerd-con virginity and b) I talked to Patrick Stewart, who is also the best.

I wish this were one of those random, “So I was crossing the street and I passed Edward James Olmos and Richard Hatch hugging it out on a corner” stories, but it isn’t. The Edward James Olmos and Richard Hatch thing really did happen, though, at the start of my second Dragon*Con. I sort of stood there grinning at them while they hugged, and then they looked at me like I was nuts, and then I shuffled away like an idiot instead of yelling “So say we all!” at them, which probably would have been just as awkward. Sorry, I got sidetracked. So. Instead of bumping into Patrick Stewart randomly, which would have been neat, I saw him at an official, organized Dragon*Con panel. Which was also pretty neat. READ MORE

The Best Time I Ate So Many Cookies I Went to the Hospital

This post originally appeared on December 13, 2011.

The summer I turned 21 was a bad one. I had just finished at beauty school — more on that here — and was working as some sort of hybrid cosmetic sales rep/office administrator at The Hudson’s Bay Company, in Toronto. I floated from counter to counter based on promotional events — one week, I would be at Clinique for their skincare event, the next at Elizabeth Arden for their “buy one, get one” event. I would spend some days on the floor helping the sales people and the rest of the time in the office crunching numbers for the head office. I was starting to realize I didn’t want to be a makeup artist after all, and I definitely didn’t want to do that sort of office work. By the time my birthday rolled around, The Hudson’s Bay Company was in the process of being bought by Lord & Taylor and hours were getting cut, so I was working fewer than 20 hours a week, anxious and stressed, and feeling generally unpleasant.

My boyfriend Daniel had just finished his last year of film school, and we were spending a lot of time with his classmates. I had worked as a makeup artist on many of their final films, and we were all really close. Earlier that year, his friend James had taken us to this special “cafe” on Yonge Street. I say “cafe” because it was just a place that sold weed baked into the usual suspects — brownies, cookies, etc.

I know all you Americans are probably like “OH PLEASE, CANADA, DON’T ALL YOUR COOKIES HAVE WEED IN THEM?” And the answer is no! Even though marijuana was decriminalized in 2007, it’s still a deal to be be caught with weed. It’s just not a “go-to-jail-for-the-rest-of-your-life” type deal. I don’t know how this place operated so openly for as long as it did, but it was shut down not long after my birthday.

We went in February and had their famous brownie milkshakes. I got high, sure, and ALLEGEDLY danced with a bag of potato chips at an all-night convenience store (I don’t remember that, and I still sort of suspect my friends are making it up), but it was otherwise uneventful. We just drank the milkshakes, giggled a lot, and then played Cranium until 2 a.m. We would have done the same thing sober. So James suggested we go back for my 21st birthday.


The Best Time I Rapped on the Internet and Everyone Hated Me

This post originally appeared on November 28, 2011.

This October, a social media contractor at my advertising agency was charged with making a viral video to acquire more Twitter followers for one of our clients. (For the record, that is the most 21st-century sentence I have ever written.) She decided to go the parody route and wrote a rap about the newly released Windows Phone, but was too shy to actually perform it, so she approached me and asked if I would record the video. “I think you’re the only person who could keep a straight face for this,” she pleaded. I said sure.

A week ago, I was walking into my office in downtown Seattle when I felt my cell phone vibrate. The text preview screen informed me it was from an unknown number and said something about Windows Phone 7. I figured it was work-related, so I slipped my phone back into my pocket, message unread, and went inside.

At my desk, I started to get to work when a message from a friend at another agency popped up.

Nick: how is it going
me: It’s fine. I’m bored.
Nick: Just fine? I was reading a blog that I check out every day and came across this article. Do you know the article I am talking about? It is on Gizmodo.

What? I was puzzled, both by the serial killer way Nick was typing, and also because I had no idea what he was talking about. Then it dawned on me. I grabbed my phone to pull up the text I had received a few minutes earlier. The unknown number turned out to be a public relations guy I had gone out on one date with, months ago, and then promptly forgotten. “Haha,” I thought smugly. “I must have really left an impression.”

Then I actually read the text. READ MORE

The Best Time I Met My Birthmother

This post originally appeared on November 11, 2011.

I have no memory of my parents telling me I’m adopted. They started talking about it so early that it was always simply a fact of my life. I know other adopted kids who had the “big reveal” happen, or worse, the “big figured-it-out-on-my-own” when they were thinking, cognizant humans, and that was always a traumatic drama bomb. For me, being adopted was normal, even before I totally understood what it meant. (As a child, I imagined Adoption Agencies were like retailers, with rows of slanted shelving like Payless Shoes, but instead of pumps and sandals, there were babies, wrapped in pink or blue, lined up for easy viewing.) I don’t feel touchy about it, and I never mind talking about it — though I do take some pleasure in making people squirm a little when they treat it like a taboo topic.

My adoptive parents are my parents, my real parents, and that has never been in question, but despite my absolute security in their love, I was curious. (I’ve also met those weirdly well-adjusted adoptees who are all “I know who I am, I don’t need to seek,” and come on, they have to be full of it, right? Doesn’t everyone have a wonky eye or something that demands a genetic explanation?!)  From an early age, I knew I would eventually search for my birthparents, though it always seemed like something I’d do “when I was a grown-up” (stay tuned for that happening). There are so many horror stories about birthparent searches that I always assumed I would need a private detective, years to dedicate to the search, and a sizable amount of money to find even the smallest amount of personal information.

In reality, it took 20 minutes on Google and — boom — I had a name, which, in terms of closed adoption inquiries, is definitely the crest of the uphill climb. In the last semester of my senior year at the University of Pittsburgh, I dreamt that I found my birthmom on a message board. Jolting awake, I wondered how I had yet to try the internet. How could I, nosey Googler of nearly everyone I have ever met (if you’re wondering, yes, probably you), not have thought to Google the people whose DNA I share? READ MORE

The Best Time I Visited Times Square

This post originally appeared on October 2, 2011.

I try to avoid Times Square. Actually,  I'm one of those really ordinary New Yorkers who make aggressive, snide comments about it to out-of-towners who were thinking about checking it out. Like, "Oh please. You get run over by a bunch of tourists." Then, one day, hoping no one I'd ever talked smack about Times Square in front of witnessed it, I had to walk through there on my way to meet someone. And I was in a terrible mood. Not just because of the hating Times Square, but because I felt ugly.

It was not the first time in my life I'd felt ugly.

I'm a body image blogger. I write about beauty and learning to love myself and how other people should learn to love themselves. Sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn't work at all, and then I'm kind of embarrassed, because my mom calls me on it and says, "Do you even read your own writing? Maybe you should go and read your own writing." I used to feel bad when I felt ugly because I felt ugly. Now I feel bad when I feel ugly because I am failing at not feeling ugly. And I should know better.

It's complicated. READ MORE

The Best Time I Met Vincent D'Onofrio

This post originally appeared on October 27, 2011.

I had become, quite recently, very interested in interviewing the actor Vincent D'Onofrio.

This started, innocently enough, when I fell into what could best be described as an internet k-hole. Like all internet k-holes, it began with Wikipedia. Specifically with the Wikipedia entry for the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Icarus," which it had been reported at the time was going star Patti Smith in a guest role. For serious? To the encyclopedia of obscure knowledges of television programs!

This was exactly the sort of detail that would get my boyfriend, finally, to appreciate Criminal Intentfor what it is: the clearly superior flavor of Law & Order of the dozen or so (or how ever many) flavors there were. And why this was so was because of the Detective Goren character, played by Vincent D'Onofrio.

Plus Patti Smith = no contest. READ MORE

The Best Time I Drank My Friend's Contact Lenses

This post originally appeared on October 17, 2011.

I spent my junior year of college studying in Italy in a program that encouraged us to travel as much as possible, so after a field trip to Naples, many of us made plans one weekend to tour southern Italy.  After seeing the ruined city of Pompeii, three friends and I checked into a hotel in Sorrento.  We were excited because our room, which had two sets of bunkbeds, had a miniature patio attached to it. My friend Chris and I posed for photos on said patio before we headed out to carouse with our other friends.

I wasn’t feeling well that night so we stopped in a Farmacia to find some cold medicine. My Italian wasn’t strong enough to discern whether my meds were the type one could drink on, but Chris, who I should mention was kind of an asshole, told me not to be a pussy and go ahead.

So, we drank several bottles of wine at dinner, and then we drank more afterwards at a bar with some friends.  In fact, we all got pissed. I remember sweet little Iona, who hailed from New Jersey, going berserk when we met an Italian guy who asked us the following joke:

“What’s the difference between trash and a Jersey Girl?”

“Trash gets taken out once a week.” READ MORE

The Best Time I Got Hit by a Car

This post originally appeared on October 12, 2011.

Let me be clear: I am in no way endorsing getting hit by a car.

In 2002 I was living in Washington, DC. I had just graduated college and bought a moped. Not a Vespa or a motorcycle or anything else cute, but a crappy moped. Those kind of bicycles on steroids that delivery men ride and that shake when they go above 20 miles an hour. I got it because I was too broke to buy a car, and also because riding it made me feel romantic and European as I buzzed along to and from work each day in my drab office clothes. It also was a really easy way to pick up boys. “Oh, I rode here on my moped,” I’d tell them, as I’d shake my hair slightly and smile. “It’s just out front. Do you want to see it? And maybe take a ride?”

“Shouldn’t you wear a helmet on this thing?” was something they’d often ask as they climbed on the back of my bike “No way,” I’d reply. “Legally you don’t have to wear a helmet unless your vehicle goes over 60 mph. This thing barely goes up to 25!” READ MORE

The Best Time I Did Yoga With Someone From Friday Night Lights

This post originally appeared on October 3, 2011.

Friday Night Lights just received a much-deserving benediction at the Emmy Awards, despite the fact that those stuffed shirts can never undo the great injustice of snubbing Mrs. Connie Taylor, a.k.a. best person/mom/actress/my personal idol. But that was it, Hairpinners and lovers of gritty television realism: Coach has moved on to playing very serious policemen in E.T. rip-offs, Tim Riggins has become one of the X-Men, and Lyla Garrity is a Charlie’s Angel. Friday Night Lights is over.

But the time I did yoga with Matt Saracen, QB1 of my heart, will endure forever.

If you’ve never heard of Friday Night Lights, OK, fine, I understand that you’ve been in a space ship for the last 17 years hanging out with Wall-E or whatever, and now is the time for you to immediately right your wrongs.

If you have heard of it and persist in neglecting it despite the fact that it, like Bon Iver and Downton Abbey and Feist, is essentially a Hairpin pop cultural mascot, but you’re willing to give it a try, do so now. It’s on Netflix streaming, and I bet your boss will let you take the week off when you tell him it’s for a show about high school football THAT’S NOT REALLY ABOUT FOOTBALL! IT’S ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS!  ALSO: RACE! BIRTH CONTROL! CLASS! Bosses totally love shows about class relations, trust!

And if you’re one of those people who wish that all of us would just shut up with our “Texas Forever”-ing and “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose”-ing and “Tim-Riggins-Take-Off-Your-Shirt”-ing, then close the browser, because I am about to make it smell like super fangirl up in this piece. READ MORE

The Best Time I Almost Joined a Cult

This post originally appeared on September 29, 2011.

Last year, I was d-e-p-r-e-s-s-e-d. I had just been dumped by my stoner boyfriend (and then rebounded with a dude who asked, in all sincerity, if puppies were born live or hatched out of eggs), my freelance work was drying up, and I thought all of my friends hated me and that my life was descending into a black hole of quicksand.

So at a fancy dinner party over the holidays, I met a cool girl. We’ll call her C.

C and I bonded over music and being vegetarian, and I secretly coveted the way she could get away with wearing thigh-high wooly socks with shorts, all the while shoving tiny pieces of cake into her mouth. She shared my disappointment over our lack of meaningful work, the demise of our dreams, the burdens of modern life. Maybe it was the wine, but I felt like she got me. She just looked at me with her big round eyes, empathizing. You know how you meet someone and you instantly feel comfortable enough to tell them all the weird shit that goes on in your head? I usually do this on first dates (which obviously never lead to second dates). READ MORE

The Best Time I Didn't Sit Next to Harrison Ford

This post originally appeared on September 13, 2011.

I went to college in Malibu, and one of the greatest (weirdest?) things about it was seeing celebrities in the most banal circumstances: Tom Hanks in line in front of you for frozen yogurt, Martin Sheen coming out of the pharmacy as you’re heading in, Britney at the Starbucks.

I never knew quite what to do when this happened. Of course, I always wanted to stare, but also really wanted to be above that — you know, resist all the Hollywood hype and celebrity worship that surrounds these people. So I’d usually go out of my way to act cool and avoid eye contact, which is kind of ridiculous, because, who am I kidding? I totally read Us magazine every week.

The fight between these two opposing impulses (must avoid celebrity worship/must give in to their all-consuming life force) finally came to a climax for me one night during my junior year when I saw Harrison Ford. READ MORE

The Best Time a Waiter Convinced Me to Not Get a Tattoo

This post originally appeared on September 23, 2011.

When I was 17 I knew exactly the tattoo I was going to get when I turned 18. It was the best tattoo: delicate yet totally punk rock. It was going to be a red-and-black (or blue-and-black, that was still up in the air) nautical star on the inside of my wrist, with tiny red stars and black music notes going around the rest of my wrist like a bracelet. It was going to be so hot, and I could cover it with a thick cuff. Oh man, this tattoo was going to make me so cool. And then Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 would finally want to make out with me. What do you mean, "What does the tattoo mean?" It means I like music and I think nautical stars look cool. Do tattoos have to mean more than that? Whatever, I was convinced this tattoo was going to make me the coolest. But first I had to go to lunch with my mom. READ MORE