Thursday, November 13, 2014


Everyday Superpowers

Black Widow Having a weird name: You know not to trust anyone who goes "Oh, that's too hard! Let's give you a nickname!" when you insist otherwise. They keep getting your name wrong, even when you sign your work emails in RED BOLD CAPITALS. But when you will steal their lunch, or fancy pens, or soul, they will have no name to accuse. “[Mangled version of your name] did it!” they’ll cry, after you’ve left the scene. “There’s no one here by that name,” the universe will answer, and you will laugh, the universe chuckling along with you.

Disorganization: You know where everything is in your room, while most people can barely find the floor. Your plans for the perfect soft-boiled egg will stay buried under your laundry forever, far from the eyes of jealous aspiring chefs. Your uncashed checks stay hidden in your desk drawers, away from the prying hands of your bank. Your hair-covered hairbrush is full of secrets. READ MORE


A Banana Takes the Ferry

CityHarvestGetting around NYC is hard enough as a person—imagine what great lengths our food must travel to end up on our plates. What about excess food? Even in our modern age of planes, trains, and automobiles it's not easy for food that would otherwise go to waste to get in the hands of our hungry neighbors who need it most.

Nearly 1 in 5 New Yorkers doesn't always know where their next meal is coming from. City Harvest is dedicated to helping feed the more than 1.4 million New Yorkers who face hunger. This year, City Harvest will collect 50 million pounds of excess food from restaurants, grocers, bakeries, manufacturers, and farms, and deliver it free of charge to more than 500 soup kitchens, food pantries and other community food programs across the city.

Help fight hunger. Donate to City Harvest here.


How to Have a Boyfriend, "Advanced Dating," and Girls With Short Hair

My girlfriend of over a year recently came out to me as a trans man. I've never been in a relationship with a man before: not because I'm unattracted to men—I am sometimes!—but because I've always preferred the company of women, and I love the queer community. I love my partner and support him and I want to stay with him, but I never thought I'd have a boyfriend, and I need some advice on how to proceed.

My boyfriend has told me that he still sees himself as queer, and that we're still a queer couple, and he intends to be open with friends and family about his identity as a trans man. That was a huge relief to me—I think it would have been a dealbreaker if he'd told me he wanted to pass as a straight couple all the time. But what can we do to make our relationship feel like a queer relationship still? How can I still be visible as a queer person when I'm with a man? I'm pretty femme, and usually the only way I've ever gotten recognized as queer is when I'm out with a girlfriend. For years I've used the "mention your girlfriend" tactic as a way to come out to people, because coming out still terrifies me, every time. I can't do that anymore.

Suddenly all the normal, everyday things of our relationship feel different, and I'm finding myself obsessing over the gender dynamics of every little thing, in a way I never did before, when I saw this as a relationship between two women. How can I get over that? I don't know how to be in a relationship with a man.

A lot of this is compounded by the fact that we're about to move together to a new city where we know very few people. We have a great community of queer friends where we live now, but we're going to be starting over again in a few months from scratch. Making new friends is hard enough—now I'm worried about making new friends who also see us as a queer couple. Please help me! I want to keep my queer community, but I also want to respect my partner's gender identity. I don't want anything to change in our relationship, but I know everything is going to. What can I do?

You’re worried about two distinct things here—how your boyfriend’s transition affects your relationship, and how it affects your public identity as a queer person. Try to keep them separated in your head, because they require different approaches, and you don’t want your “but how will people know I’m queer” concerns to spill over into your actual relationship. READ MORE

Where Do Babies Come From?

zelWhere do babies come from? How were my genes mixed up with my husband’s to create this being—this person who is so clearly not like me, so clearly not like her father, but is in fact, her own original work?

Her looks are a smokescreen and a lie. They prove that she is ours, that no switching at the hospital took place, which is reassuring. But it’s also confusing. I have heard that we are “twins” more than once, and I agree that we look very much alike. But that isn’t a whole, undiluted truth, either: I don’t pride myself on my beauty, and when I think about my face at all, I accept it ambiguously. “Yes, yes this is my face,” I say to the mirror. An everyday, generic looking face. But Zelda is terrifically beautiful to my eye, and I don’t think that it’s bias. I think that I would be willing and able to accept and admit if my daughter were less of a looker, but out she came, the most beautiful face I’d ever seen. But if we look so much alike, and I am not, by my own standards, “a looker,” while she is… what does that even mean? And who cares what she looks like, anyway? READ MORE


Love Yourself the Way Drake Loves the Toronto Raptors Mascot

I don't know about you, but I've been having a pretty hard week; a pretty hard month, if we're being honest, and let's be real, this entire year has been uniquely challenging in ways I never anticipated. In conversations with my friends, I feel like it's pretty clear that we're all doing really well professionally and personally, but every year the stakes get a little higher, the lows a little lower, and I think we all struggle with finding the time to treat ourselves properly, self-care being the first thing to go as soon as something else comes knocking on our life's door.

Now that it's November, I urge you all to do the things we need to do to stay positive, productive, and peaceful, even when it's so dark and cold: I urge you to really, truly think about what makes you as happy as hugging the Toronto Raptors mascot makes Drake happy. I implore you to find that big plushy anthropomorphized symbol of teamwork and sportsmanship and hold on tight. You deserve it, Hairpinners.

The Cost of Camping When You Haven't Gone In 10 Years But Want To Be a Person Who Camps

Screenshot 2014-11-11 11.52.51 As a kid, my family went camping. Not often, and nowhere particularly exotic, but we did it and I loved it. It was one of the things I always wanted to do more as an adult – especially now that I live in California, where it seems like everywhere you turn there’s either a gorgeous coastline or beautiful mountain (or both!). Unfortunately, graduate school and then alternating unemployment stints didn’t leave my fiance and I much time or money for collecting camping gear.

In 2013 I got tired of my camping talk and lack of action. I found room in my budget to start devoting some money every month to finding camping supplies and decided we’d go camping sometime in 2014. When I first started buying camping equipment, I thought I might get into backpacking. It seemed the most logical and efficient thing to do – I could go literally anywhere! Everything is so portable! So lightweight! No limits! As I began researching backpacking equipment though, the more backpacking sounded expensive and not all that enjoyable.

It’s really easy to find used camping gear on Craigslist, eBay, and at thrift stores. People are always upgrading or cleaning out gear from ten years ago, or going camping a few times and realizing it’s not for them. But the quality can be hit or miss, and if you’re looking for a tent or stove or sleeping pad that’s not too big but not too small, you can start feeling like Goldilocks. More than once, I would find the perfect item the week after I had spent my dedicated camping funds for that month. I ended up not buying as much used gear as I had hoped.

So how much does it cost for two people to go car camping for the first time in over ten years?

$125, $20, and $40: sleeping gear, Mountain Hardware Pinole 20 sleeping bag, Kelty Compression stuff sac, and Thermarest Z Lite Sleeping Pad, all from Campmor.

I bought my own sleeping gear when I thought I’d be backpacking, so I bought a lightweight mummy-style sleeping bag and compression stuff sac; most sleeping bags come with bags to take them on the road, so the compression sac ended up being kind of unnecessary, and I would have preferred a rectangular sleeping bag had I realized I would change my mind about backpacking. I’ll get to the sleeping pad in a bit. READ MORE


"In an elegant stroke of free-market irony, self-proclaimed enemy of feminism Ayn Rand has become a girl-power commodity several decades after her death."

I mean, it's just like that classic Coco Chanel saying: before you leave the house, take off the last thing you put on that has a mangled quotation from an Ayn Rand novel printed on it.


Black Girls Don't Read Sylvia Plath

It was another muggy summer, the summer I discovered Plath. If I had discovered her legacy later in life, it may have served as a calming revelation, the meat of hindsight. Wonderment not as thorny and beloved.

I discovered Plath through the typical girlhood grapevine: a slumber party. A friend who looked like Stevie Nicks circa Rumors but had suited up in detail-heavy riot girrl gear mentioned Sylvia Plath. She had just finished The Bell Jar. She wanted to know if I had read it. She casually said, like a cowboy flicking a cigarette stub to the side, I think you’d like it. READ MORE


Big Bank Hank, of hip-hop's landmark group The Sugarhill Gang, has passed away from cancer at 58. If you've ever sung the words "ho-tel, mo-tel, Holiday Inn," he's probably the reason. I hope he's at the best afterparty right now.

The Twilight of the Indoor Mall


On Memorial Day weekend, one of the bigger shopping weekends of the year, I stopped by the Collin Creek Mall in Plano, a Dallas suburb. Sitting back about a quarter mile from the highway, the mall has a hundred and thirty stores, over six thousand parking spaces, and more than a million square feet of retail space. It is faceless, sprawling, silent; the exterior walls are fading beige brick. On the day that I visited, it looked like it was going to rain. A security guard in a golf cart endlessly looped the parking lot, which was nearly empty. I was here to see if the rumors, press reports, and Yelp reviews were true: that the mall was dying.

Pharrell's "Happy" played over the hi-fi inside the mall. It echoed down the hallways, bouncing off the walls and overlapping with itself in weird, dissonant ways without the plush, shuffling bodies of shoppers to absorb some of the sound waves. There was almost nobody here. A woman with a clipboard asked me to answer a few questions: When's the last time I purchased sunscreen? Bought athletic footwear? Went swimming? I answered her questions, but kept walking as she half-chased me down the hallway; there were twenty-five yards between us when she asked how old I am. I told her that I am twenty-six, and then realized why she was so persistent: There were around a hundred people in the mall, and at twenty-six, I was one of the youngest. The old people were everywhere: walking laps and playing cards and sitting on benches and staring off into space. None of them had a shopping bag.



The internet is abuzz over Jean-Paul Goude's provocative photos of Kim Kardashian's naked backside on the Winter 2014 issue of Paper. No word yet if the Kwik-E-Mart will be stocking it.

The Uniform I've Chosen for Myself

uniformSome people express themselves through their clothes; they stretch the parameters of office dress codes with unexpected cuts, vintage menswear, and statement jewelry. I admire those people, but I am not one of them. The last thing that I want to do on a weekday morning, or at anytime, honestly, is think about what to wear, but I still want to look good.

So I developed a uniform:
• A gray or black long-sleeved V-neck shirt.
• A gray or black A-line skirt (Brooks Brothers, via Rue La La.)
• A scarf, which hopefully disguises the fact that I'm wearing a T-shirt with no bra to work.
• Tights if it's cold, fleece-lined tights if it's really cold.
• Black heels.

In winter, I swap the gray and black V-neck shirts for gray and black V-neck sweaters that are thin enough to tuck in. If I need to be more formal, I add a black blazer. If I want to be more casual, I swap out the skirt and heels for black pants (ok, glorified leggings) and a pair of flats.

I picked this particular combination of clothing because it's appropriate for my office, reasonably comfortable, and flattering for my skin tone and body type. Obviously, everyone's ideal uniform will look different. My only advice, if you're looking to create your own, is to stick with neutrals. People are less likely to notice that you're wearing the same thing every day if it's unmemorable. READ MORE


But these days I’m far more willing to call attention to the challenges of raising children of color in a fundamentally racist society. I tell prospective adoptive parents to take a good, hard look at their social circles, their neighborhoods, their churches, their communities and think about how those places and spaces will look and feel to their child. I ask them what they’ll say when their kids hear slurs and taunts from bullies, and how they will answer tough questions about the persistence of racism and a playing field that is far from level. I recommend books and blogs by adoptees that don’t mince words about the fact that love has never actually been enough for anyone. And I don’t pretend to have all the answers; these are things I fret over all the time, too, raising two multiracial kids myself. I’m well aware that it’s not easy, and that my girls have inherited a messy and ambiguous legacy from me, their mother who is not white but has never been a “real” Korean.

Nicole Soojung Callahan wrote this lovely, thoughtful piece at The Toast on transracial adoption. There are so many exemplary nuggets to choose from, so make sure you read the whole thing, but this stuck with me. This weekend, my boyfriend and I were talking about our long-term ambitions, all of which don't quite match up just yet. We have a few well-worn arguments, most notably "Is Jazmine actually funny or does she just quote 30 Rock really well?", but this is the one we always circle back to: Should we settle down in the country (where he's from and wants to go) or in a city (where I'm from, where I'd like to stay, and where we live right now)?

Above all, I told him, I want to start a family in a place rich in diversity—same-sex parents, multi-racial kids, the whole nine yards. I want this more than I want to be close to my own family, which is scattered around the East Coast, more than I want to live in a capital of my industry. Hearing people say things like "I was the only black kid in my town" make my mind reel. He and I are an interracial couple, and if we want a family, I'd want to be surrounded by ones that look like our own. He agrees with the importance of all of the above, but wishes we could find somewhere that had all that, plus a little more nature.

Where in the world can one find a location with grace, elegance, taste and culture? A city suitable for a king (that still has grass and trees?!)?

We're thinking Queens.


Canadian Man Wins Canadian Prize

18492619 Sean Michaels, the author of Us Conductors, won the Giller Prize last night; and that's very nice news!! It's a novel based on the Russian scientist Lev Termen, the inventor of the theremin, which is a weird thing I only just found out about when I found out about the book. Read more books about weird inventions, that's my motto. You can read an excerpt here.

In other news, The Awl is down for "maintenance," whatever that means, so I'm finally free to turn The Hairpin into the all-Canadian news site I always wanted it to be.


Self-Care, in Theory and Practice

This column has a singular purpose: to talk to women about navigating a world where they are their own savior.

I've fluctuated between dating a few men after the end of a fairly significant relationship. After sleeping with people who, I learned, were ultimately uninterested in me (and generally incapable of thinking of anything other than themselves) I realized I desperately needed to focus on me. All me. All the time. I had never done that. I was scared, as a lot of women often are, to explore what existed in the great abyss—me. I realized how much I relied on others telling me that I was pretty, so I began to depend, a surfeit amount, on other people's opinions of myself in general, putting emphasis on their assumptions over mine.

After months of self hate and destruction, I knew I needed to learn how to be better. But self-love was this weird concept. I was aware of what it meant but had never interacted with it; I thought it too audacious a commitment. Then I began reading: Susan Sontag, Eartha Kitt, Ruth Asawa—all of these women who I admired, who had also battled with self-care. One of my favorite writers, Jean Rhys, was a raging alcoholic. I used them as examples to be and not be at the same time. I wanted to tap into whatever greatness I knew existed inside of me so I could be happy with myself. Self-love can mean whatever, to whoever.

This column is a way for Sara and I to connect with other women and their self-care habits. We’ll be focusing on more holistic ways of self care, and routines, but also the struggles that come when you’ve been socialized to equate an act of self-love with solipsism.

A few days ago, I met Sara at the Williamsburg apartment we're staying at for the duration of our New York trip. It was 9 p.m. and I had just gotten off an eleven-hour train ride. My body was wrecked, and I felt broken and ravaged by my journey. As I started unpacking, we focused on asking each other how we felt. We often bond over what products use, and how we use these products, because we believe that learning to care for yourself teaches you to comprehend your vastness, your beauty. This is both an introduction and our travel special; please enjoy.