What a Single 20-Something Woman REALLY Wants for the Holidays

Despite some post-grad hiccups, I’m really grateful for a lot of things.

I’m so thankful that, while the average person only has two close confidantes, I’ve been blessed with two handfuls of invaluable friends who’ve let me crash out their places without notice, thrown me surprise birthday parties, listened to me rant and cry, and then in the blink of an eye been able to get me hysterically laughing. I know people like you are rare, so to all the friends reading this: thank you.

And I’m thankful for my small but close family, especially since I’m pretty sure my mom is one of the only five people who regularly reads this blog. Hi mom!

I’m really glad I was able to go to a top college, to take some time to travel, to find volunteer work that fulfilled me and changed my world view. Even if I get nothing else this holiday season, I feel I already have enough to get me through the year (but, um, please still get me presents).

Anyway, I normally don’t feel the need to respond defensively to narcissistic listicles, but I’m a bit appalled by the lack of humility in Lauren Martin’s list of holiday wishes in Elite DailyYes, we all have our own selfish wishes, and I’m sure at least some of her points are sarcastic. But besides throwing her mom under the bus for buying her J. Crew sweaters (at least say thank you before you complain!) and asking for someone else to call her grandma, she makes it seem like all 20-something single ladies want cheap and safe liposuction, Beyonce’s thighs, Kim K.’s ass, and the ability to eat cake without getting fat.

But what saddens me is that a lot of women might actually relate to her list. If you could ask for anything, then you must be in a lot of internal pain if half of your wish list includes surgery and changing your looks. Actually, this is one of the reasons I stopped reading a lot of “women’s health” articles–no one should have to be taken down like that on a regular basis. I steer clear of anything related to weight-loss whenever possible, instead opting for NatGeo, Washington Post and any blog with pictures of baby animals.

So for all the ladies who felt disenfranchised by that list, I offer you my own. I don’t think anyone will agree with everything here–and I encourage you to comment with more recommendations!–but I want to show people that many young, unwed women want things other than permanent eyeliner and hookups:

  1. The means to spend significant time traveling
  2. A job related to the career we eventually want
  3. For our favorite nonprofit to get a steady stream of donations
  4. To get cheap, attractive clothing that’s actually comfortable
  5. Good health!
  6. A puppy who’s potty trained
  7. Also, a pet sloth. Also potty trained
  8. An end to catcalling–I agree with Lauren on this one
  9. Enough money so our parents can comfortably retire to Boca Raton or wherever all the cool old people go nowadays. Ontario? Portland? Um, Tucson?
  10. More time and money to spend with friends
  11. To actually live in the SAME BUILDING with all our besties (slumber party, every night)
  12. More brunch. Doesn’t even have to be bottomless, like Lauren requests
  13. To finally get recognized for our talents
  14. A car with its own driver
  15. Plan B: for the bus to ALWAYS arrive right when we do, and wait for us to board
  16. A rent-free apartment in a great area. Lauren also got this one right
  17. Unlimited dance lessons for a year, in an assortment of the best styles
  18. Free snowboarding for the winter, including lessons
  19. The ability to use that free snowboarding wish without breaking an arm
  20. A summer home
  21. A dishwasher so we can cook and bake with impunity. And by dishwasher, I mean an actual person who magically gets paid a living wage to do this
  22. Actually, yes, a living wage would also be nice
  23. And maybe a chef, so someone else can cook and bake with impunity
  24. And a maid, because the modern woman isn’t always a domestic goddess. We’re so busy taking over the world that sometimes we forget to take out trash for a day…or week…
  25. The ability to take back what we say on the interwebz or email
  26. For the library to always have the exact books we want, without having to order them
  27. For Netflix to actually have movies we want to watch. It has maybe five at the moment
  28. The ability to wear PJs into the office, everyday
  29. A portable phone charger, because the newer batteries seem to die within two hours
  30. A shiny new bike. Some things never get old
  31. For it to be socially acceptable to play and be childish
  32. Also, for it to be socially acceptable for women to burp and fart. Men can do it!
  33. Ok, one “thirsty” one: for the nice, attractive guy to actually be straight AND single
  34. One good turn deserves another: to be able to meet that guy offline
  35. Ok, ok, and also for that guy not to be a horn dog
  36. …And to be really good at killing bugs and mice
  37. An electric guitar/keyboard/bass. Because we’re badass.
  38. For the nerds: for Congress to ACTUALLY pass a woman-friendly bill
  39. To never again encounter a stale or subpar slice of cake
  40. To have a generous stranger pay off our student loans
  41. For that generous stranger to reappear and sponsor our grad degree
  42. Actually, free tuition. If Germany can do it, so can we
  43. To have software that can translate other languages in real time
  44. To finally catch ‘em all. Pokemon!
  45. To be a more persuasive speaker and writer
  46. A sled and a good hill (mom, if you’re still reading, can I have this?)
  47. To have a kick-ass soundtrack play during our most dramatic moments
  48. For delicious food to be on the table at every meal
  49. And to be able to share that food with the local homeless people
  50. To ALWAYS be the party
  51. And finally, to spend the holidays with all our favorite people, every year

Happy holidays, and thanks for reading my long list!

We Choose To Grow Up

I remember walking into a toy museum a couple years ago, excited to see historical dolls, prehistoric clay figurines and obscure international games. But the ticket clerk simply looked me up and down, confused, and asked if I had a child with me.

“No,” I replied, equally puzzled. “Is this museum not appropriate for adults?”

He bashfully smiled in apology and replied that the museum was appropriate for all our inner children. So with that, I put plastic slippers over my shoes and entered upon something unexpected: a life-sized toy box.

This was in no way an educational museum. There were stuffed animals to play with, mazes, even a slide. Admittedly, I felt quite out of place. But, this little misadventure reminded me of an important concept that we often forget about we grow older: play.

“Age is but a state of mind.”

–Says anyone hoping to find their very own May/December romance. We have all kinds of ways of labeling people who try to defy their chronological ages. Of course, we have cougars and cradle-robbers, people with “Peter Pan” Syndrome and, my personal “favorite” sexist stereotype–the idea that men are all children.

But should we really be so proud to lose our youthful innocence and positivity, our playful spirits and boundless imaginations?

As a 23 year old, I find the concept of “adulthood” eluding. Technically, I’m still adolescent until I turn 25, but the ladies in my age group have already decided that “playtime” no longer means sitting on the floor to bead necklaces, shooting hoops or playing silly pranks on our friends. No, playtime now somehow means putting on stilettos, drinking, and either finding a man or keeping our current men engaged. Or worse: we’ve forgotten that playtime was ever even a concept, and instead lose ourselves to Netflix and big lazy plates of spaghetti with half-cooked sauce.

Understandably, we don’t have as much free time as we used to, what with jobs and errands and paying bills. We get tired. We get cranky. We get into relationships and get so wrapped up with the intrinsic drama of maturation that we forget to keep up with our friends.

The average British 22 year old has 1,000 Facebook friends. Meanwhile, the average person of any age has only two close confidantes.

I’ve heard from countless people that I should expect to grow apart from my friends as we start having families and moving to other cities. And it’s apparently much harder to make new friends post-school. Unlike when you’re five and you can ask someone in the school yard to be your best friend–and find that it works–we ask people to be our “friends” on Facebook and rarely talk to them again. How depressing.

We become introverted. We turn to our computers and phones, to our tablets. We dress for fashion, not for ease of movement. This isolation, along with the lack of exercise that comes from taking part in such activities as playing catch and rollerskating, starts to take a toll on our health.

Find and cultivate your inner child!

Well, that’s easier said than done. We’re no longer each others’ playmates. When we were children, I’m sure we all dreamed of using our grownup independence and money to buy all the toys, to install slides and pools in our houses, to play with all the kids in the neighborhood until well past midnight. And, well, we’re kind of doing that–we stay out well past midnight at clubs and bars, or watching TV, although we generally don’t play nice with most of the other kids. Our “toys” are our cell phones and leather boots (does anyone remember a time when getting clothes for birthdays was a grand insult?). And pfft, who has the money to get a pool nowadays?

Kid Laura would be so disappointed at the lack of booboo-inducing activities.

Ultimately, we choose to grow up. The pros are that we can cook whatever we want, do whatever we want after work, and only invite our favorite people to our birthday parties–mom can no longer make us invite everyone in class. We need to mature in the end, because otherwise society would cease to function.

But no one said we needed to stop playing and being silly and being creative. No one told us to stop cultivating our friendships and to become afraid of our dreams. No, we’ve done this to ourselves. And it’s not fun.

OPINION: Why We Don’t Care About Nature

Somehow, in our collective pursuit of material success and economic stability, our infatuation with glitz and city life, and our desire for creature comforts, the term “nature boy” has become a bit of an insult.

I’m kind of a unicorn environmentalist in that, although I will fight tooth and nail against such issues as fracking and oil dependence, I am the worst outdoorsy person out there. I still can’t ride a bike, for instance. I’m still often afraid to swim at the deep end of the pool. And I’ve never been camping (in fact, it’s doubtful I’d even know how to camp).

It has also occurred to me that if I one day decided to change this, very few of my friends or even acquaintances would be able, or even want, to join me in becoming an outdoorswoman. You could blame this on the fact that I live in Philly, but this excuse falls flat as soon as you realize that Pennsylvania is chalk full of state forests and parks, with hiking trails galore. Not to mention we’re only about two hours from some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the area, in the Poconos.

So why are we so violently turning our backs on nature?

A pristine park. Don't you want to be here?

A pristine park. Don’t you want to be here?

Surely, it has nothing to do with the myriad health benefits of playing outside, including weight reduction and better vision. Similarly, I’m sure it’s completely unrelated to the mental and emotional benefits of being out in nature, such as reductions in depression, anxiety, and ADHD symptoms.

One issue that I see–besides the obvious obsession with attention-sucking electronics–is the commodification of what should be a birthright. Many outdoor activities now require so much money that those without expendable incomes find themselves excluded. For instance, skiing and snowboarding are probably some of the most expensive activities you can take on. Even at a local, small ski resort, it can often cost $100 for one day of skiing or snowboarding, including rentals, a pass and a group lesson.

Then we have bikes that can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Sure, you might eventually make back that money on gas and bus savings, but you need to have that much money saved up, and you need to be ready to pay that again if and when your bike breaks.

Then there’s the question of equipment. We have megaliths like Patagonia and REI that, although producers of superior products, are too expensive for your average Joe. Even activities like hiking start to get pricey when you have to buy the gear, including proper hiking boots that you can really only use for hiking, and possibly special moisture wicking layers and jackets.

And then if you’re a city kid like myself, you’ll also have to pay for lessons on how to do all these things–because, trust me, even something as simple as hiking can be daunting to us.

You could argue that if we spent less money on electronics, we might have the funds for these activities. Well, maybe, although a season ski pass can cost about as much as a new iPhone. But then you also have to consider how we’ve all been successfully babied into believing that nature is scary.

Rittenhouse Neighborhood

This is where most of us live (more or less).

For the first time in history, more than half of us live in cities. This means that we can’t POSSIBLY step outside without bug spray, because, OMIGOSH BUGS! And we can’t hike or snowboard in normal shirts. Nope. We need MOISTURE WICKING SMART TECHNOLOGY SUPER DURABLE SUN PROTECTIVE FABRIC because otherwise we…could get slightly damp.

I also have a personal belief that many of us have forgotten how to dress for the weather. For instance, most women I know just cannot be talked into wearing baseball caps or any kind of hat during the summer because of hat hair. And then they have to deal with both sunburn and dehydration. Similarly, we seem to have forgotten the importance of layering and wearing long underwear in the winter. OF COURSE YOU’RE GOING TO HATE WINTER if you have only a thin layer of fabric between your legs and 30 degree winds.

So let’s put this all together: you’re a middle class chap with little expendable income, and maybe the few things you splurge on occasionally are video games, cable, and a phone upgrade. You like the idea of doing outside sports, but at the end of the day, you’re exhausted and have no idea what or how to do outdoorsy things. You can’t ski, you’re swimming skills are okay at best, and you’re really rusty at riding a bike, which you figure you can’t really afford right now anyway. TV has told you that you should be able to hike and mountain bike like an expert as soon as you get outside because THIS IS NATURE, DAMMIT. But you’ll still get very sick, even if you are rugged, if you happen to get bit by a mosquito or forget your moisture-wicking fabrics.

BUT THEN WHAT OTHER EQUIPMENT COULD I BE FORGETTING? THERE’S SO MUCH!!!!!!!

Me after snowboarding. One of the ONLY times in which I was standing upright

Me after snowboarding. One of the ONLY times in which I was standing upright

So we continue to embrace our creature comforts: Netflix, Louis Vouton bags, warm showers. We enjoy nature from afar, in TV shows and movies. And meanwhile, things like deforestation and mountaintop removal will mean little to us, and we’ll find ourselves faced with these unknown demons who might disappear with adequate sunlight and fresh air.

Environmentalism = Public Health

Divestment.

Upcycling.

Triple bottom line.

LOHAS.

Yes, we environmentalists love our lingo. One of the things that struck me about the environmental movement was that its language was greatly at odds with its message: while the people tend to be very liberal and accepting, and care very deeply about their world, the jargon they use and the references they make can be highly impenetrable. Even as someone who minored in environmental studies, I still occasionally struggle to keep up.

That’s why it shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of the movement’s most important issues–public health–has been overshadowed by faux-science, political banter and photos of lone polar bears.

This movement is not about trees. It is not about bears, or ice like you put in your soda, or warm beaches or cold winters.

It’s about the people who jog and eat salads because they are terrified of cancer but then unknowingly expose themselves to carcinogen-rich pesticide. Can’t jog in the woods without bug spray, right?

It’s about the babies who are 30% more likely to have congenital heart defects and who are 25% more likely to be born underweight when their mothers have the misfortune of living near gas wells.

Similarly, this is about how pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to the NIH, can lead to heart and lung diseases, asthma, cancer, and brain damage.

And lest we forget about one of our country’s major epidemics: this is about childhood obesity and how it relates to the endocrine disruptors found in car exhaust. Although, it should be noted that while obesity in and of itself does not cause health problems, it often can.

It’s about water catching fire and nail polish containing a terrifying cocktail of carcinogens dubbed “the toxic trio” and more intense storms that we just don’t have the resources to address but that will nevertheless cause significant accidents and injuries.

I’ll say it once and for all: most environmentalists don’t care too-too much about that polar bear stranded on a chunk of ice. We’re more concerned about the kids living in the inner-city who have asthma from air pollution and all the people who will struggle with proper nutrition once global climate change alters crop yields (our beloved coffee, wine and chocolate are already jeopardized).

We love to chant about “climate justice.” But when we say this term, what exactly do we mean? Well, we’re concerned about the poor and minority groups who will be disproportionately effected by the building of power plants and their lack of available resources to combat food shortages when they happen.

So please, let’s get this right. I’m a PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIVIST whose focus is on environmental hazards. My fellow environmentalists are also PUBLIC HEALTH ACTIVISTS.

And for the record, you don’t need to be a granola hippie to care about the environment, or to put your vote and dollars towards a greener future. You just have to be someone who gives a rat’s behind about other people.

Or, alternatively, you could just be someone who doesn’t want cancer. We don’t discriminate.

Back In Philly!

My adopted city is gritty, underdeveloped and dangerous in parts, artsy and hipster in all the right ways, and capable of being so much more than it is.

View from 30th Street Station

View from 30th Street Station

Philadelphia, I’ve missed you.

There are many reasons why I chose to move back to Philly from my hometown of NYC. But one of the main reasons for my return to Philly is that, unlike NYC which has systematically pushed me–and many other natives and aspiring young folks–out of its reach, Philly has made space for all our millenial seekers and dreamers.

Instead of being overrun with Starbucks and generic imitations of character, Philly is chock full of mom and pop cafes, innovative restaurants and hidden artistic gems. Walking down its streets and alleyways, it’s easy to feel as if you’ve been transported back to this nation’s birth, to a time of unbridled potential. And it’s all a much more affordable experience than in many of the other big cities.

I’ll always have a place in my heart for NYC. But right now, my feelings towards that grand city are love-hate. The city has surely become a subject of jokes; according to The Onion, all 8.4 million New Yorkers left the city in a mass exodus because they needed to, “get the hell out of this sewer.”

NOT IN MY BACKYARD!

Columbus Circle during the winter.

The article was certainly worth a chuckle. But then I saw that the New York Daily News published a story just yesterday about how and why various people chose to leave the “huge expensive prison.”

As a cab driver once told me, Philadelphia is “the largest small town.” It’s easy to see why he felt this way. Subjectively, I’ve noticed a sizeable number of community non-profits that focus on the betterment of specific neighborhoods and the city as a whole. Philadelphians are very proud of their city and all that it has to offer. Many of its buildings and homes have remained intact for over a hundred years. And at a micro-level, the Philly accent is so unique that it has been credited as changing the language more, at a faster rate, than anywhere else in the English speaking world.

It’s “Cheesesteak” speech, according to writer and native Philadelphian Jim Quinn.

Unlike in New York City, in Philadelphia you’re allowed to smile at people, and talk to shop clerks and cab drivers. The city is a constantly changing, user-friendly interface that is a beautiful amalgam of DIY, Handyman special and old world charm.

Ultimately, I think one of the main aspects that differentiates Philly from my hometown is its local authenticity. It’s not trying to be anything else–at least, not from what I’ve seen. Sure, it ebbs and flows like any other city, morphing and regenerating, improving and taking steps back.

But while New York City residents wear their city like a title, Philly residents wear it like a nickname.

Philly is undergoing a glorious renaissance, carving a new niche for itself while maintaining a very universal appeal. I’m excited to continue growing with the city where I went to college, where I came of age and became a person.

Philly, thanks for welcoming me back.

Rittenhouse Neighborhood

Rittenhouse Neighborhood

Small Ways In Which We Attack Ourselves

If I had a nickel for every person who has told me that I’d be “so pretty” if I wore more makeup…

…Or that I should eat less because otherwise I might get fat…

…Then I’d actually be able to afford my Chipotle addiction.

As women, we really do a job both on our own and on other women’s self esteems. We carry around this idea that we “can’t be pretty unless [FILL IN THE BLANK].”

And that [FILL IN THE BLANK] is constantly changing.

I’m not just talking about the oft-mentioned complaint that women think they’d look perfect if only they could lose those last ten pounds (those bastards!). What we’re dealing with is an attack that’s not only hurting us emotionally, but also physically.

For instance, have you ever heard the phrase All Women Should Color Their Hair? No? I’ve heard this piece of advice spouted like the secret to happiness on several TV shows, including Millionaire Matchmaker.

How about the intense pressure we have to forego open-toed shoes if our nails aren’t polished? The mani-pedi is so ingrained into our society that, even though many of the chemicals in nail polishes are highly carcinogenic, we hold mani-pedi fundraisers for breast cancer research, and bond with our daughters at the nail salons.

In fact, many cosmetics are untested or believed to be quite toxic. But don’t even think about going au naturale, because that’s a revolutionary new movement, and you still want to fit in and get dates and jobs, right?

And then there’s clothing. Apparently, to be a proper lady, you need to go broke buying shoes and bags. My apologies, but maybe I’d prefer to have one good pair of shoes and purse and save the rest of that money for rent and travel.

Every time I walk down the Upper East Side, my bare face and casual outfit get looked up and down. I have been raised to never go on a date or to a job interview without makeup (though nixing makeup for interviews may indeed be a don’t in today’s society). And I can’t tell you how many times people have told me: “You’d look so nice if only you wore MAKE UP!”

Another phrase I hate? She looks like she doesn’t take care of herself.

And stranger, how do you know she doesn’t take care of herself? Would plastering carcinogens on her face and going broke on designer clothes mean that she actually is taking care of herself? Are we going with the old, outdated motto that red lipstick brings confidence and that beauty means self love? Sorry, but this is something we can’t completely blame on the media.

Let’s all try something. It’s kind of radical, but it’s pretty fun. Let’s just Not Pay Attention To Our Looks.

Instead of spending hours on hair, makeup, and clothes every morning, take the time to read the newspaper before work over a nice mug of tea or coffee. Or engage in new hobbies, now that you’re not worrying about the state of your hair or tummy.

And put down the fashion mags. One of the things I miss about Europe was the paucity of ads and media targeting female insecurities. The less you look and buy, the more likely that these companies will get the picture.

Ladies, let’s stop adding the qualifiers already. In fact, let’s stop talking about beauty in general. Get out of the salons and go live!

Missing College? It’s Kinda Our Faults

“College will be the best time of your life!”–Every obnoxious person ever

The time we spend in college really is a very unique period in our lives. Never again will we have such freedom, such passion, such abandon. If we make a mistake, that’s okay! we’re learning.

If we run out of money, our parents will just flush our bank accounts with cash.

College is just a big, drunken, sex-filled party that’s some work and all play.

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Except that’s not accurate for all of us. Some of us are poor and have to budget even more when we’re paying for skyrocketing tuition. And many of us struggle to find our niches among the hordes of newly independent, overgrown teenagers.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun times in college. But have you ever wondered why we can’t seem to recreate those wonderful moments? Why does the fun seem to stop after college?

A picture I took of my campus after the rain

A picture I took of my campus after the rain

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually our fault if our lives go downhill after college.

Let me explain:

In college, it’s expected that your neighbors will barge in at odd hours to play video games. It’s almost a ritual to get McDonalds with your best friends several times a week at 1am. And we’re told to use doorstops so we can, you know, make new friends and welcome the old ones back into our roach-infested bedroom-closet hybrids.

Unlikely friendships--like some of the ones that happen in the college--can be the best kinds of friendships!

Unlikely friendships–like some of the ones that happen in the college–can be the best kinds of friendships!

As adults, we lock our doors. We don’t talk to the person living next door, or invite the lady upstairs to coffee. And at the actual coffee shop, there’s a 99.99% chance you won’t talk to any strangers. We have “meet up groups” which are these artificial “clubs” that kind of force you to make friends, and we join these instead of legit organizations that we never had time for at school because sh*t’s scary, man. And that’s if we join anything at all: why drunkenly meet a new boy(friend) at a party or soberly meet a future spouse in a library when you can drink vodka on OKCupid or, better yet, Tinder or Grindr? Frankly, I get the feeling that we forget how to bond post-college.

I also feel like we get less spontaneous and that we lose our passion as we age. Sure, we have things to worry about now, like taxes and bills and enlarged prostates. But that doesn’t mean we need to forget how to live life to the fullest. I think there actually is a benefit to out-of-control hormones and poorly formed frontal cortexes because as college students we’re more willing to go backpacking for months on end, or stay out until 5am at a concert, or study something useless for four years just because it seemed like a good idea at the time (like English *cough*).

Don't let life pass you by!

Don’t let life pass you by!

As college students, we get close because we’re scared. There’s safety in numbers when we’re first learning the ropes, and after that the extra company just makes life more comfortable.

Post-college, as we take on adult jobs and mortgages, the fear sets in again. Only this time, instead of causing us to embrace the happy-awkward-awful soup of emotions and insane but lovable characters that populate our campuses, fear paralyzes us.

We could extend college through old age, if we wanted to. Imagine a world where we continued to take classes, hang out with our neighbors on a daily basis, and go on irresponsible road trips just because we wanted to try authentic chicken with waffles and someone just happened to have a car? What if we could schedule “study dates” with that cute guy in anthro who will never, ever know about your crush on him unless he, like, texts you ON A WEEKEND?

What if we got really involved in things because we were cock-eyed optimists or going through a phase and we protested things like fossil fuels and random wars that were due for a backlash anyway?

And let’s not forget the care packages from parents (I’m sure our parents and/or older relatives are dying to send us cookies) and experimenting with poor lifestyle choices like leggings as pants and going after our dreams because a disgruntled professor or boss hasn’t gotten to us yet.

Junk food in care packages = lots of caring <3

Junk food in care packages = lots of caring <3

Does this sound like college? No? Well, this is what nostalgia can do. These are the best parts of college, and now that we’re old enough to realize that, why settle for adulthood? We’re old, not dead. We are in the best possible position because we now have the indpendence to pick and choose which parts of college to keep, and which ones to nix forever, such as exams and bad dating prospects.

These are the best years of your life. Don’t let them pass you by.

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