1 Thing: Endless Summer Edition

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Thursday is a great day to do that 1 thing you don’t want to do but also don’t want to continue thinking about doing.

Summer is nearly over and I missed all of it. We’re going to the beach next week, though, as soon as lower hotel rates hit post-Labor Day. How do you take a baby to the beach? My guess is, “Not easily.” Okay but my 1 Thing has nothing to do with that, just wanted to share.

I bit the bullet and picked up the phone to call about one of the pediatrics bills I’ve gotten in the mail from when I had birth done to me. The woman on the phone said her name was Bunny. “Hi Bunny.” I told Bunny my account number and name and held my breath.

“Oh you have one of those Obamacares?” READ MORE

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Even Reese Witherspoon Has Impostor Syndrome

tracy-flick ElectionKyle Buchanan at Vulture asks great questions of Oscar-winning, A-list, teacup-sized-person Reese Witherspoon and, because sometimes that works, gets great answers:

Cheryl had never been backpacking before she set off on this hike, and yet she did it anyway. As an actress, have you had similar moments where you felt like you were in over your own head, signing on to do something incredibly daunting and barely able to believe that you could make it work?

Oh yeah, a lot. Half the time on set, I feel like I’m hanging on by the seat of my pants and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing. I basically have a new job every three months where I’m like, “Uh, am I qualified to do this?” And I find out during the process whether I am or I’m not. This film was really a gift, and it’s exciting to not know if you’re gonna make it, or if you’re gonna break down in the right place. Really interesting creative things come out of that process.

Maybe Polly Pocket is feigning modesty here, doing a ‘Stars: They’re Just Like Us!’ routine. But she seems sincere, perhaps because she also comes off as thoughtful, and that’s harder to fake. (“I’ve never seen a film like Wild where a woman ends up with no man, no money, no family, no opportunity, but she still has a happy ending.”) Starting a new job every three months sounds incredibly stressful, after all; you’d have to have the preternatural self-confidence of a Tracy Flick not to let it get to you.

Another high-profile victim of Impostor Syndrome: Hello Kitty.

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The Cost of Things: One Year of Breastfeeding

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Ever since I read Meaghan’s comment, “I will say that part of me is convinced that there can be no feminism with breastfeeding,” I have been discussing it with everyone from my mom friends to my dental hygienist. I feel the truth of this statement everyday when I think of the work events I can’t attend, the trips I cannot take, and the sleep I am not getting. I know it is a choice, but I don’t think anyone understands what that choice really entails until, as Meaghan said, we are too “in it.” Breastfeeding is not free. It takes its toll on your marriage, your job, your other children (if you have them), and sometimes your sanity.

Below is a breakdown of the actual monetary cost of one year of breastfeeding. I can’t put a price on my sanity, but I can tell you that my son and I cheerfully weaned each other days before his first birthday and never looked back.
 

 
Nursing Bras:
 

$100: sleep bras and daytime bras, all purchased at Target. I am lucky I didn’t need any special order action.
$40: a sports bra so that I could exercise to maintain my sanity.
$0: (luckily) for a double-pump bra that should have cost $30+ so that I can pump hands’ free at work. My friend didn’t use hers and so passed it on to me.

 
Boppy Pillow:
 

$0 (would have been $30): Essential. Another hand-me-down. I got nervous when I didn’t have my Boppy with me at all times. My baby liked to just lay on us when he was tiny even when he wasn’t nursing. READ MORE

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B&B, Air B&B, or Kink B&B?

Tour-Dragonfly-Inn-dining-rm-set-611x458Why get a regular room somewhere when you travel when you could get a deluxe experience, and I mean deluXXXe, as detailed in this Refinery 29 profile of the NoCal hotel Stay & Play:

“It is a free-standing, two-level adult playhouse,” [Diva, the proprietress] explains, “like an adult treehouse.” Three years ago, the “adult treehouse” was a barn used primarily for hay storage. Now, the farming tools have been replaced with a menagerie of props for submission and domination. “I am not a submissive. It doesn’t work for me to play that role — it’s oil and water,” Diva tells me. “In corporate America and in S&M, people equate being a dominant woman with being a bitch. I always thought you could attract more flies with honey.” 

A weekend night at Stay & Play costs $300, minus $50 if you stay through the weekend. It includes full usage of the S&M facilities and (of course) comes with the sweet touch of a home-cooked breakfast. Couples are the usual guests, but the occasional threesome or larger group isn’t unheard of. Guests range from S&M newbies who are curious about the lifestyle to old hands. 

This sounds terrifying, but perhaps no more terrifying than the average B&B, which forces you mingle over scones with strangers, or the average Air BnB, which might catch fire. At least this B&B, like the best ones, has character.

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How Much More Are You Spending at the Grocery Store?

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On Aug. 11, Mary Ellen Burris, a senior vice president of consumer affairs for Wegmens, a family-owned grocery chain in upstate New York wrote a blog post titled “Sky High Beef” to explain to customers why beef prices have risen lately:

We get used to ups and downs in meat supply but current costs for beef are higher than I’ve ever seen in my 41 years at Wegmans. Our meat experts tell me the current inventory of cattle in this country is the smallest in over 60+ years! Small supply of course translates to higher costs and retail prices. The supply is especially tight for dairy cattle, the traditional source of lean beef for making ground beef.

Sustained droughts in the West in recent years made the price of corn go up, which affected feed costs and discouraged farmers from expanding their cattle herds. For families who rely on beef as a quick and easy source of protein, Burris suggested buying their “family pack” to get “the best value in the meat case.”

It’s more than beef. The Wall Street Journal reports that diseases among pig populations have caused pork prices to rise. Bacterial infections have affected shrimp populations. Dry weather has affected fruit, vegetable and coffee prices. (Remember the Great Spring Lime Shortage?) One grocery shopper the Journal talked to noticed she has gone from spending $130 a week at the grocery store for her family of three to more than $200 a week.

“I don’t even buy chips, snacks or any pre-made salads anymore,” she told the Journal. “What is going on?”

All of this prompted me to go through my bank statements to examine grocery spending for the past few months, and sure enough, what used to be $40-$50 grocery store trips have risen to $60-$70 grocery store trips. Shoppers who’ve made attempts to save have tried buying cheaper cuts of meat, buying in-season produce, and shopping the sales (here’s a cereal tip!).

And what about you? Noticed any increases while grocery shopping?

Photo: Jaro Larnos

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Going Above and Beyond Doesn’t Help You

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We’ve all had that job evaluation, right? The one where you get ranked along a scale, and “Meets Expectations” is in the middle of the scale, followed by “Exceeds Expectations” and “No, Seriously, This Person Demolishes Expectations?”

When you see a scale like that, you know that in this company “Exceeds Expectations” actually means “Meets Expectations.” There’s a certain sadness in this reconfiguration of the language, in the idea that you have to figure out what the secret expectations are and then meet them so you can be marked down as having exceeded the original expectations.

Because, according to a new study in Social Psychological & Personality Science, people really do just want you to meet the expectations. They don’t actually want you to exceed them.

I read about this study in The Atlantic this morning, and it rang true like a bell. Of course people don’t really want you to go above and beyond; the social contract goes much more smoothly when everyone does what they say they’re going to do, and when everyone does what’s fair. Or, to quote Atlantic author James Hamblin:

Imagine you’re a kid with a cookie and a friend who has no cookie. What happens if you eat it all? Your friend will be upset. What happens if you give all of it away? Your friend will like you a lot. What if you give away half the cookie? Your friend will be just about as happy with you as if you gave him the whole thing. His satisfaction is a pretty flat line if you give anything more than half of the cookie. People judge actions that are on the selfish side of fairness. Maybe because we denigrate do-gooders, or because we’re skeptical of too much selflessness, the research shows that, as Epley put it, “It just doesn’t get any better than giving half of the cookie.” 

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A $455,000 Child Vs. A $145,000 Child

is it wrong to hate a childIf you invested almost half a million dollars into raising one horse and only a fraction of that raising a second horse, you’d expect the first horse to do better in life, wouldn’t you? Be shinier, sleeker, more confident, faster. Maybe it would jump higher, eat more apples. Brush its own hair, I don’t know, whatever good horses do. Maybe you’d think of it as more valuable. But what about children?

High-income families who live in the urban Northeast, for example, are projected to spend nearly $455,000 to raise their child to the age of 18, while low-income rural families will spend much less, an estimated $145,500, according to the report.

Part of this can be chalked up to the astronomical cost of childcare, especially in certain regions:

In 2012, center-based care for one infant was greater than median rent payments in nearly half of the states, according to Child Care Aware of America’s most recent report. In Seattle, Britta Gidican and her boyfriend spend $1,380 each month on daycare for their 17-month-old son, just $20 less than they spend on their mortgage each month. “When I was pregnant I knew daycare would be expensive,” said Gidican, a public relations manager. “But I didn’t expect to pay two mortgages.”

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What Killed the Metrosexual?

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When was the last time you considered the metrosexual? If you are a reasonable person—not this guy—it’s been about ten years. Or at least I thought so, until, after a decade of silence, three people mentioned metrosexuals to me in the same week. Perhaps because it’s the twentieth anniversary of its coining and the tenth(ish) anniversary of Queer Eye.

In reconsidering the metrosexual, we must first distinguish between the metrosexual’s imagined and actual properties. Like hipsterism, metrosexuality is an insult more readily slung than substantiated. According to canon, David Beckham is the ur-metro. Although Beckham initially goes unmentioned in the word’s first printing (in 1994), the word’s progenitor, Mark Simpson, introduced American readers to metrosexuality through the British football star in 2002, when he called Beckham a “screaming, shrieking, flaming, freaking metrosexual…famous for wearing sarongs and pink nail polish and panties…and posing naked and oiled up on the cover of Esquire.” Other icons of metrosexuality of the time included Mark Wahlberg and P. Diddy. This was somewhat shocking to me, since I associate metrosexuality with men who resemble heterosexual twinks—your Zac Efrons, your Ryan Seacrests. Hair that swoops, cheeks that apple.

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Job of the Day: NASA Test Subject

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Here’s another “Would You Rather:” would you rather not have a job, or spend around 100 days in a NASA bed rest facility watching your muscles decay?

NASA has re-opened its application process for individuals interested in becoming subjects in the CFT 70 Countermeasure and Functional Testing in Head-Down Tilt Bed Rest study. To quote NASA: “Head down bed rest is a good way to mimic a person traveling in space without gravity.”

And sure, we’re all going to try a little head down bed rest this evening to see if it really feels like floating through space, but only a handful of us are going to apply to spend “70 days lying in bed, with your body slightly tilted downward.” 

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Around the World on $80 a Day

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In March 2012, my fiancé Eric and I flew from JFK to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, to start an eight month trip through Southeast Asia and Europe. Eric had been planning and saving for the trip for three years while he worked at a major law firm. We had a rough idea of where we wanted to go, but no actual itinerary. Our budget was $80 per day. We tracked our daily expenses in a shared spreadsheet. In some cities, $80 was more than enough, but in others we struggled to keep costs down without sacrificing parts of the travel experience we wanted.

The exchange rates listed below are estimates for when we were in each country two years ago.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

$1 = 4000 riel

Siem Reap is the city closest to the Angkor Wat temple complex. Eric lived there for six months while working at an NGO after law school. We spent three weeks at a guest house while Eric showed me around. Though Cambodia’s official currency is the riel, the American dollar is used everywhere. It took me some time to get used to paying for a $0.50 soda with a dollar bill and getting 2000 riel in change.

Daily spend:

+ $7 for a double room with private bathroom (cold shower) and overhead fan. Geckos are free of charge.
+ $3.50 for lunch for two, usually stir fry or curry
+ $1.50 for coffee and a snack
+ $3.50 for dinner for two
+ $10 for drinks

Total: $25.50

Aside from buying books, paying for the Angkor Wat entrance pass, and once splashing out for a $4 per person steak dinner, we usually spent less than $30 per day.

The Gili Islands, Indonesia

$1 = 10,000 rupiah

The Gili Islands are a trio of small islands near Bali. Eric and I spent a week there relaxing after we each had a bout with food poisoning when we first got to Indonesia.

Daily spend:

+ 150,000 rupiah for a homestay with a cold salt water shower. The next night we upgraded to a 250,000 rupiah room with a fresh, hot shower and a working fan.

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