The Best Time I Was A Child Con Artist

My family has many unwritten rules. The second most important is: do not open the door if the doorbell rings only once. In our family, if the doorbell only rings once, you were either a salesperson or a canvasser. And salespersons and canvassers are liars and thieves.

My mother came to this conclusion shortly after she first immigrated to Canada; two scam artists pretending to work for the government tried to enter our home. Looking back, this is probably why I couldn’t make it as a (sort of) con artist, selling chocolates on the mean streets of southwestern Ontario.

Nighttime In The Devil’s Garden

It was early fall 2005 and I was driving cross-country in a station wagon I had impulsively bought from a woman in a department store parking lot in downtown Seattle. (What? She had the paperwork. It was fine.) I had given her most of my savings, so I decided, when possible, to car camp my way back home to New York City. In Moab, Utah, at dusty, red Arches National Park, I found a campground by the Colorado River. I would sleep in the shadow of the Fiery Furnaces, and I had even seen signs for something called the Devil’s Garden. I hadn’t meant to get Biblical. I just wanted to save some money.

An Important Conversation about Choices and Business

Meredith: Yay, a chat!

Michelle: I think this is a really great idea for our first day!

Meredith: Heartily cosign. The world needs more us talking to each other.

Michelle: Seriously. So we just had a really important business meeting last Wednesday to discuss big editorial things for this week…and I’m trying to remember everything we talked about because rosé…

Meredith: We definitely talked a bunch of rosé, but I’m pretty sure we also touched on important business topics, like boys, what the problem with boys was, how we could fix the problem with boys…

Michelle: Yeah, I’m really surprised more hot babes weren’t hitting on us at the Belgian wine bar/small plates bistro we met at while discussing Millennial dudes and their emotions

Meredith: I don’t remember our waiter or waitress but I am pretty sure he and or she found us delightful? It was probably the screeching that clinched it. And the lying about how we would order food but then just ordering rosé and taking up a table. But I know at one point I said, “that’s a good idea, write that down!” and then drunkenly spilled some wine.

Michelle: OMG yes we wrote things down!! Ok [opens up iphone notes]…Ok. I wrote down “Reality Bites – Meredith doesn’t like Ethan Hawke, but I feel weird for liking Ben Stiller cause I love that he plays the reggae version of “Baby, I Love Your Way” as make out music.” Also I wrote down “Summer turtlenecks” ??!!

Taking a Bite Out of Networking Events: A Guide for Beginners

Hello, recent graduate. As you begin to progress in your career, you will likely begin to be invited to various “networking” and “schmoozing” events. Some will occur after film screenings, book launches, or discussion panels. Others will be designated “networking cocktail hours” for “young professionals.” Whatever the context, such events are very important for your launch into the wider world, and your own upward trajectory! So how do you maximize your time at these shindigs? How do you “work the room”? I’m happy to say that after 10 years of attending such events in person, I can offer you some hard-earned advice that will help you really get every crumb and morsel of worthwhile interaction out of these events. So get your pen or your iPhone ready, and be prepared to memorize a simple checklist for networking success.

1. When you enter the space, scan the room.

Ask yourself two questions: The first is whom do I know here, and the second is where is the cheese table? Good. Now combine these two questions: whom do I know here who is closest to the cheese table? After you approach that person and begin to chit-chat, slowly position yourself, shifting your angle while you talk, until you’re within arm’s range of the cheese. Then put that arm to work. Eating cheese.

Snackwave: A Comprehensive Guide To The Internet’s Saltiest Meme

Over the past few years, an aesthetic we like to call “snackwave” has trickled up from Tumblr dashboards. Now a part of mainstream culture, snackwave is everywhere: it’s printed on American Apparel clothes and seen in Katy Perry music videos. It’s the antithesis to kale-ridden health food culture and the rise of Pinterest-worthy twee cupcake recipes. It’s the wording in your Instagram handle, a playful cheeseburger selfie, Jennifer Lawrence announcing on the red carpet that she’s hungry for a pizza. In snackwave world, everyone is Claudia Kishi, and your junk food drawer is also your blog.

What we’ve written here is merely a guide to understanding the rise of this very Internet 3.0-specific aesthetic. Snackwave is no longer a lowbrow joke bonding tweens across Twitter feeds and Tumblr blogs. It’s being co-opted by corporate Twitter accounts and fashion companies, both of whom are seeking to talk just like their ‘net-savvy young consumers.

Both of us are very much a part of this scene—in fact, we’ve got McDonald’s Sweet ‘n Sour sauce IVs hooked up to our veins right now. We know snackwave inside and out. So grab a bag of Funyuns, a sleeve of Oreos, and get ready to ride the snackwave.

The Best Time I (Maybe) Got Rabies

The August before I left for my freshman year of college, I received a letter containing my dorm assignment: a two-room double with a girl named Amy. All I know about Amy is from a five minute phone call. She’s from Lawrence, Kansas, and she’s willing to go half on a microwave. All she knows about me is that I’m from New York and can bring the microwave with me. What she’s going to find out is that I am fucking chaos, a fact that, as I prep to leave, all my petty criminal friends are excited about. “Lola, you are going to blow this girl’s mind,” they say, and I was like, “I sure am, I hang out with people who do HEROIN. Better go pack my REALNESS BOMB for tomorrow.”

On move-in day, my parents and I arrive early to make sure I snag the better, more private, room of the double. If you are thinking that is something I should wait and talk to her about before just putting all my shit down, you are WRONG. I’m way fucking cooler than a girl from Kansas and therefore need the privacy because I will definitely be getting laid more.

Amy comes in much later, having flown from Kansas with a single piece of roll-on luggage. She’s stuck with the outside room, which you need to walk through to get to the hallway. I offer her a drawer in my room (I also took the closets) and head to hang with my friends, who are juniors, because I already know juniors.

I come back later that night to see that, within six hours of her arrival off the plane, Amy is bad-breath-distance from some dude. Music is playing. Weed is being smoked. College is happening. “Hi Lola!” she says. “This is Tim. We met at the ice cream thing after dinner!” I run into my room.

The next day she beds another one. The next day, another. Every night, Amy’s dudes get more basic and, like freshman Scheherazade, her excuses get flimsier: I walk in to her in a bra straddling some dude lying on his stomach and she tells me, “We’re having a backrub party!” One afternoon I find a note on my bed, written in purple marker on the blank side of a piece of a Pall Malls carton: “Lola, Sorry for the sex. Love you, Amy”

How to Live With an Ex in Five Simple Steps

New York is a town with a double edge. It’s a city where you can cheap out and spend a day in The Met for a $1 (and almost feel good about it until you realize you should have given at least $5, why are you so cheap?), but then afterward, go for a walk in Central Park and not think twice about forking over $4 for a so-so cup of coffee.

It’s a city where you can have a negligible amount of money in your checking account and a non-existent savings, but when you walk around the West Village—and specifically West 10th Street—stalkily peering into the windows of the bottom floor apartments that forgot to shut the blinds (sorry not sorry, residents of West 10th Street) you say to yourself with absolute conviction, “I can’t wait to live here one day.”

It’s the type of metropolis where the cozy little corner you built with a significant other can quickly become a nightmare when you break up and neither wants to, or truthfully can afford to, move out. For several months. Okay, for like six months. Even if it seems obvious that one of you should go immediately because only one of you actually did the super hard work of even finding this kick-ass apartment to begin with. In this case, let’s call said person Lia.

This overall experience is weird and sad and hard for a number of reasons, but the good news is there are a few ways to get through it. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way.

Just to level set, the range of the spectrum for how bad this situation stinks—should you find yourself needing to measure against it—is terrible to horrible. The midpoint of the spectrum is the phrase “this is the worst.” But I lived through it and so can you.

Ask a Fancy Person: Occasionless Gifts, Chemo Baldness at the Office, The “Thanks For the Birthday Wishes” Anomie

Dear Fancy,

I am a woman in my 30′s undergoing chemotherapy. As a result, I’m bald. It hasn’t been so bad (well, the chemo sucks, but fashion-wise, I mean), because my friends have lent me many colorful headscarves to wear. I’m also fortunate to have a nice wig to wear for special occasions, but I prefer not to wear the wig all the time.

Sometimes, though, I’d just like to be bald, especially in the summer when it’s so hot outside. Do you think it would be unprofessional for me to go bald sometimes in the office if I still dress well and pay attention to my makeup? I’ve only done it a few times in public and I’ve liked it, but I’m worried about working in the office bald.

Thank you!


Dear Baldie,

First, let me say on behalf of my real self, my alterego Fancy, and all the ‘Pinners, we’re rooting for you and are completely positive you’re going to deal cancer a humiliating loss, akin to the one the Mighty Ducks dealt Iceland in D2.

But you didn’t write me to give you Gordon Bombay-style pep talks via the internet, so onto your question. Feel completely and totally free to do whatever you want. It’s dandy if you want to wear colorful scarves and a wig, and it’s peachy to go without, too. Professionalism doesn’t even enter into that equation. Cancer aside, if you chose to buzz your hair, you’re still presentable in a business setting. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, that’s unacceptable and you can tell them I said that. There are some kinds of styles that aren’t appropriate in all settings, but this just ain’t one of them. Looking the part of the teacher/sandwich artist/graphic designer/nanny/lawyer you are is more about not distracting from your work with a Pikachu neck tat, not about the specifics of the length of your hair. Dress like you’re at work, put on a touch more makeup than you might otherwise to play up your best features, and wear some pretty earrings and people will forget that you aren’t choosing baldness as A Look.

A Wishlist From The Pit of Despair

Have you ever heard of “the pit of despair?” It’s the device noted psychologist/monkey sadist Harry Harlow invented; he put baby rhesus macaques in said pit of despair as an attempt to manufacture clinical depression. They were dark, isolated chambers, and after a few days inside, the monkeys stopped moving. Monkeys removed from the pit of despair after one month were deeply disturbed and anti-social.

Ever since learning about the pit of despair, that’s what I’ve called the worst of my depression. I am basically an immobile baby monkey alone in the dark. Simple, forward progress, like going outside or calling my mother, seems impossible. Instead, I spend my time in the pit thinking of new solutions to my inertia, sadness, and disdain for hygiene. To wit:

Q&A with Amy Shearn: A Grandmother’s Trashed Novella Comes Back To Life

Amy Shearn’s grandmother, Frances “Peggy” Schutze, was always writing: She worked for awhile as a gossip columnist in Kansas, she wrote radio plays, and she hand-made dozens of picture books for her children and grandchildren. “Everyone who knew her understood that she had missed her true calling,” Amy writes of her grandmother. “She was meant to be a writer.” Although Peggy submitted many short stories to women’s magazines, her fiction was never published in her lifetime. She died in 2002.

At some point in her life — no one is sure when — Peggy wrote a funny, energetic novella set in a St. Louis New Deal public housing project in the 1940s; the plot features a phantom pregnancy and some wild political intrigue, and she titled it “The Little Bastard.” Amy recently assembled the scattered pages, added an introduction, and her own mother designed the cover and contributed an illustration. “The Little Bastard” will be published as a chapbook this fall by the Louisiana small press Anchor & Plume. (You can pre-order it now.)

Amy is the author of two novels, “How Far Is the Ocean From Here,” about a surrogate mother on the lam, and “The Mermaid of Brooklyn,” in which a mythological figure disrupts a young mother’s life in Park Slope. She and I worked together at Domino magazine in the late ‘00s, and we chatted recently about the novella, writing about motherhood without being nauseating, and her grandmother’s genius tricks for faking the appearance of housekeeping.

Amy! Can you start by telling me how the manuscript was discovered? It’s an amazing story.

It really is! After my grandmother died, 12 years ago, my aunt was cleaning out her room at the nursing home and realized that my grandfather had dumped tons of papers, photos, letters, even just emptied drawers into these 30-gallon Hefty bags. My grandfather himself was ill (and not known for being sentimental) and my aunt guessed it was all too much to cope with at the time. She peeked into the bags and realized that the pages of typed onionskin paper were Peggy’s writing, thought, “How sad,” and pulled them out. But so much was happening that no one sorted through or read them right away. … It wasn’t until pretty recently that I found myself with the patience to retype the whole thing into a single Word doc, which I think was when I realized how really, really great it is.

So, your grandmother sounds fascinating: She went to journalism school, she eloped, she rode her bike barefoot. She was also a lifelong correspondent of fabulous international journalist and Hemingway wife Martha Gellhorn, which you have written about. In your introduction, you quote your uncle saying she was “crazy but also shrewd and ruthless in a Kansas kind of way.” What do think he meant?

Just the title “The Little Bastard” reveals how she liked to shock people. She really was an artist at heart, and had her own, slightly detached-from-reality way of experiencing the world. But she was also very practical, and I think that’s what my uncle means by calling her “shrewd and ruthless.” … I think the family consensus is that while she was always on the surface almost bizarrely self-deprecating and deferential to her husband, she knew how to get what she wanted. She wanted time to write during the day but also wanted it to look like she’d been doing housework, so she’d sauté onions to make it smell like cooking, and then before my grandfather got home she’d quickly run the vacuum over the rug so it left stripes.

Overheard at a Women-Only Charity Event

“So many wedges.”

“Turn it down for what!”

“When my milk came in, I had like, porn star boobs.”

“Look at all that pasta.”

“This 50 Cent song is all for you.”

“There’s a little pregnant lady dancing. You go girl!”

“She shouldn’t have worn cream to your wedding.”

“Why isn’t this an all-woman band?”

“Why isn’t the DJ a woman?”

“Where the fuck do you smoke?”

“I know that I need to not smoke but I still need it, ya know?”