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(Sugar) Baby’s First Date

On a recent Wednesday, my friend Annie1 went on her first date with a man she met through SeekingArrangement.com, the self-proclaimed “leading Sugar Daddy dating site.” Annie, a “Sugar Baby,” has been looking for what the site calls a “mutually beneficial relationship.” In exchange for companionship, the perks for Sugar Babies can include “financial stability,” “experienced men,” and being “pampered.” A day after her date with a Sugar Daddy, she told me about her experience.

James2 was one of the first people I talked to on SeekingArrangement. There are a lot of guys who just trawl the site for the second there’s a new profile to instantly favorite and message; that makes you feel adored, because you’ve literally just made an account, and then you feel like, “Oh my god! I’m so popular already!” But James just looked at my profile and didn’t do anything. I checked his profile and thought it was funny, so I was offended that he hadn’t said anything to me. So, I messaged him; I very much pursued him because I was pissed that he wasn’t paying attention to me. His original messages were pretty removed and not the most authentic seeming, so I just kept chatting him and trying to tease it out. Then it became this thing where he was clearly being much more authentic than I was, or, at least, appearing to be.

We talked for a solid month, at least, maybe a tiny bit longer. The original plan was to meet for drinks on Monday, go shopping, eat a nice dinner, and then probably get drinks at the bar of the hotel where he was staying. He messaged me to try to meet at an exceedingly fancy restaurant on Tuesday night, which I wish I could have done, except he ended up having a meeting with a celebrity. So, we just got drinks at around eleven on Wednesday, at the hotel bar, which was very chill and swanky. I walked into the lobby, where we had agreed to meet. I didn’t see him, and I was definitely the youngest person there. All of a sudden he appeared and was just like, “So, you’re here!” He was dressed really nicely, in a button-down shirt underneath a blazer, slacks and horn-rimmed glasses. He was very, very metrosexual, which surprised me because I’d imagined him as this pretty manly, kind of goofy dude. He was gentlemanly and pulled out my chair when we sat down at the bar.

I tried very hard to make sure we sat close, but also to make sure that ours knees wouldn’t touch—I didn’t want to do anything even remotely intimate, because at that point I had no idea how I felt about the entire situation. James kept complimenting me and telling me how glad he is that we could meet up because I’m always out doing something or meeting someone and how charming he thinks it is that I’m so social. The weirdest thing about it was how it was just like, pretty normal in terms of what we talked about. We talked about movies, art museums, the housing market, and his job. It came up that his real name wasn’t James, it’s Alan3. (I found out his last name as well, because he said it when he set up the tab at the bar, and it turns out that he’s totally Googleable: He’s really what he says he is on his profile and teaches at an Ivy League university.)

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Welcome to Fourth Wave Coffee

Hello! Welcome to Fourth Wave Coffee. My name is Sternum and I’ll be your barista, but you can call me big poppa, Dr. Freud, Mrs. Robinson, or any other nickname that makes you feel warm inside. Warm like our coffee.

Here at Fourth Wave, our mission is to provide a beverage experience that transcends the merely average service provided by ordinary third-wave coffee shops. Fellow millennial, I’m here to make you feel good about yourself. Here’s a trophy, just for coming in.

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I Gave My Cat to a Robot

good news, i’m officially the kind of guy who buys his cat a robot

— Rob Dubbin (@robdubbin) November 13, 2014

Rob! So what happened here?

Like anyone afflicted with toxoplasmosis, I care about my cat. His name is Fernando. We share a one-bedroom place, and I felt like he was getting bored with his small arsenal of feather wands and self-articulating lasers. He used to do these huge, four-foot X-Games backflips going after the feather thing, but those kind of stopped once he realized climbing up a chair would give him most of the benefits of jumping.

He was getting a little lazy, and I wanted to get him back some edge, you know? Fernando was a rescue but not like a mean-streets rescue; someone had left him and his littermates in the basement of a nice Upper East Side building before calling the Upper East Side of animal shelters. It wouldn’t shock me to learn they’d nursed him on tiny bottles of almond-butter smoothie, like the protagonist of a children’s book sold exclusively at Barneys.

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Thoughts Likely to Pop Into Your Head While Meditating at Davos

1. Fascinating conversation with Wim Drexler about how helicopters work. Terrific guy. Princeton.

2. Is my wife’s hair actually blonde?

3. I can’t tell if I really give a fuck about Greece or it’s just been going on so long I have convinced myself. Wait. If my wife’s hair isn’t actually blonde, is that less hot, or more hot?

4. Is it bad that during the Global Financial Council on the Global Financial System I kept thinking about how many we could just get rid of Cyprus?

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Remedial Bicycling

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The Best Time I Fainted While Posing Nude

Twenty-two was my worst year. I was broke, deeply depressed, and wrapped up in an emotionally destructive relationship. The one nice thing I had going was the semi-successful band we’d started when we first got together; but between that, our shared living situation, and the overwhelming sadness which had rendered me inert, I felt trapped.

Thanks to our band’s increasingly ambitious touring schedule, and my seeming inability to do anything other than cry, my retail job was in jeopardy. My boss didn’t support me doing anything that involved running away with that particular boyfriend; she cared for me, and she’d watched my mental health wane over the year I’d worked for her, and was reasonably fed up with me coming in every day with eyes swollen from crying. Indignant, I put in my two weeks.

We started to book more and more shows, but it was never really enough. We’d be home for weeks at a time, trapped together in a one-bedroom apartment. He worked day and night to convince me that our relationship would be fine if I wasn’t damaged goods. Anyone in his situation—stuck with me—would do the same. At the height of his abuse, when I, not wanting to set him off, would simply stay in bed for days, he gave me an ultimatum: get psychiatric drugs, or be abandoned. I would have no band, no job, and nowhere to live, and because I was crazy, I would be alone.

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Why You Should Always Lock Your Car Doors in San Francisco

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, writer Roberto Baldwin tells us more about living in a state of Uber confusion—which is to say, California.

Pulled over to text wife. Someone got in my car thinking it was an uber. Le sigh

— Roberto Baldwin (@strngwys) January 3, 2015

Roberto! So what happened here?

At some point every car in San Francisco will be an Uber and every citizen, a driver, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when a random stranger walked up to my car, opened the passenger door, and started to take a seat. Actually, it’s really my fault. I pulled over to respond to a text from my wife a few yards from the famous-for-charging-too-much-for-toast coffee shop, The Mill. If you’re a car near The Mill, you’re probably picking up or dropping off a very important startup founder or VC. 

Still it was a bit surprising when a gentleman who was on the phone started to get into my car. Before he actually took a seat, he peered into the vehicle and I asked, “Can I help you?” His response, “Oh shit!” He then quickly closed the door and ran off. I mean ran in the literal sense. He actually ran away from the car. 

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Lagusta Yearwood, The Punk Chocolatier

“Women! Let us meet.” This is how Lagusta Yearwood, chef and owner of chocolate shop Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, New York, calls together her employees for a staff meeting. “And Jacob,” she adds, a sweet afterthought, to include her partner of 16 years, who’s running around the small shop taking care of orders to be shipped out. Four women stand around Lagusta, all in vintage aprons, listening as she discusses the business of the day: a new whipped cream recipe, strategies for most efficiently using the enrober to get 1,400 caramels out. Over to the side, I note a “Kill Your Local Misogynists” mug.

She’s a feminist, anarchist, vegan chef. No matter how much like a hippie-skewering skit the sketch of her might seem, this woman is punk. After getting a degree in women’s studies, she attended New York City’s Natural Gourmet Institute and trained in Connecticut at the feminist cooperative vegetarian restaurant Bloodroot. She began her foray into being what she calls an “antipreneur” with a savory meal-delivery service. It was in off-hours from running that business that she began rolling and selling fair-trade-chocolate truffles out of her home. In 2010, she and Jacob bought the foreclosed laundromat that would become Lagusta’s Luscious, envisioning it as a wholesale chocolate factory with a shop up front for selling extras. Instead, the business is about 60-40 retail to mail order, and has become its own little utopia.

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The Truth About Your Smile

I had braces for seven years of my life—a clumsy mix of pallet expanders, headgear, and invasive lip-bumpers that bulked my skinny face at a time when I was already awkward enough without them. I was one of those middle-schoolers whose parents forced orthodontics on them when they were too young to realize what a great investment it was in their future. Instead, I adopted a coping mechanism of smiling with my mouth closed, a practice subsumed by a general feeling that I would forever be ashamed of my smile. What I didn’t realize then was that my teeth were about to look amazing. Like really amazing.

By ninth grade, the timely convergence of puberty and my braces removal made me feel like Pippi Longstocking blossoming into Jessica Chastain. Diligent toothbrushing through the awkward years paid off! Everywhere I went, people told me I had beautiful teeth: strangers, teachers, friends, parents of friends. People I didn’t know asked me everything from what toothpaste I used to whether or not I had my teeth professionally filed (the answer: never). A TSA agent once told me, as she scanned my luggage, “You have a perfect smile”.

When people compliment a feature of yours repeatedly, vanity leads you to maintain it, and over time I realized that a lot of what we think is good for our mouths are myths propagated by popular culture—or by companies trying to sell us something, like whitening strips, punishingly strong mouthwash, or air-flossers that imply through their advertising that they are sufficient to give us the Perfect White Smile we’ve always wanted. Don’t believe the hype, y’all. I’ve spoken with several dentists about proper oral hygiene and technique (I’m a nerd like that) and the reality is much more humble. Our mouths are pretty complicated, and there isn’t one miracle product that solves all the problems (and this make sense, because that’s also true for hair, diet, and skin). The good news is it’s easy to maintain a fresh breath, white teeth, and other forms of smile-related world domination—but you have to know the rules.

Here are the best “healthy smile” tips I’ve picked up over the years. I haven’t had a cavity yet.

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I Was an Amazon Chew Toy

I moved to Seattle five years ago, after being laid off from my job in New York at one of those startups where employees rally around the VC-fueled dream until they’re dumped via email and locked out of the office. A job at a larger, more established company like Amazon sounded good. Solid. For my second round of job interviews, I had been called in for meetings at the department’s temporary office in the Columbia Center tower. In a city where executives wear faded jeans and backpacks to work, the Columbia Center is Seattle’s lone totem to conspicuous consumption: seventy-six floors that hover over downtown’s more modest skyscrapers by a good two to three hundred feet, and are wrapped in reflective black glass.

Amazon prides itself on a rigorous hiring process. For a low-level merchandising job in Amazon’s books department, after passing two phone screens that included a logic puzzle—“How many floors are there in the Columbia Center? No, don’t look it up! Pretend there is no Internet”—I was called in for five back-to-back interviews that lasted from morning through lunch. During a break between interviews, the human resources recruiter, Ashley Jones1, came in to tell me more about the company’s benefits. There is something about the fastidious personal grooming of HR recruiters that makes one feel dumpy; gazing at me behind thick, mascara-coated eyelashes that boasted immaculate lash separation, she talked 401(k)s and stock options while I stared longingly at her frizz-less locks. “And when we move to our new offices, you can bring your dog to work,” she said.

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