Woes of the Newly-Minted Working Woman, No. 231

“How are you adjusting to life as a  full-fledged working woman?” –> This is the question I’m most frequently asked by those that know me. Not “how’s the new job,” or “what’s your boss like,” but how are you coping with this foreign concept of a 9-5.

Standing in the locker room, in nothing but a towel, I realized I'd have to go to work braless. This wasn't an option.

Overall, I’d say I’ve adjusted pretty well. And then I have days like yesterday and I realize adapting to my new lifestyle is still a work in progress.

This time last year, I was a full-time athlete. My 9-5 involved wearing no make-up, traveling abroad, and working out twice a day.

Since I started my job as a gallery coordinator, my biggest challenge has been balancing the regimented fitness routine  I’m used to with the new demands of a workweek. Despite not being a morning person, I’ve committed to a morning gym schedule — a decision that reminds me why I try not to face the world until I’ve have my two cups of caffeine.

Yesterday, standing in the change room post spin class, wrapped in a towel, I assessed the contents of my locker:

  • Linen military jacket: check.
  • White, curve-hugging, scoop-neck top: check.
  • Printed linen ankle-length skirt: check.
  • Custom made cowboy boots and Navajo belt: check and check.
  • Outfit resembling costume for an extra in the movie of Custer’s Last Stand: assembled.

But wait… where’s my bra?

Had I gone bra-less, I would easily have been mistaken for another kind of working woman.

I held the skin-tight shirt in my hand and considered my options. Being small chested, I’ve frequently ventured out into the world sans support wear. But the elasticized and someone transparent material I was about to don made the decision for me.

Going bra-less would make me look like another kind of working woman.

It was settled: I’d wait for the Victoria’s Secret between my car-park and the gallery to open and buy a new bra. I’d be late for work, but at least I’d be setting the right example — only the day before I had lectured my assistants about “gallery-appropriate quantities of boob-age.”

I inherited 2 filing cabinets at work. One came filled with loan agreements and checklists from past exhibitions. As of today, the other is stocked with clean undergarments.

A working girl must always be prepared.

To avoid future post-gym forgotten underwear calamities, there's now a filing cabinet under my desk that looks like this.

Lessons in Conquering Addiction and Smart Investing

Anthony would agree, this cartoon was written about me.

Anthony had the most angelic set of kinky golden curls I’d ever laid eyes on. All it took was one compliment on them and his magenta blush and I was in, set for life. We quickly developed a special relationship: I was a junkie and Anthony was my dealer.

I was addicted to organic, fair-trade coffee, and he brewed the best espresso on the Upper West Side.

“Girl, you know I love you, but if I were a real bartender, I would have cut you off weeks ago. Do you have any idea how much you spend here?” I appreciated his concern, but I was in a hurry for class and he was taking his sweet time topping off my latte and counting my change.

“Ant, just gimme the cup and I won’t tell Madge about those ‘missing’ double-fudge brownies in your handbag.”

The quarter and penny slapped against the stack of “Perks” cards sitting in my wallet. In addition to Anthony’s cafe of employment, I held Coffee Club cards from Whole Foods, a local deli, and another small NYC gourmet coffee chain. Each were one stamp away from my free cup. None were a first-time membership.

I quickly did the math. Ant was right to be embarrassed for me — I was spending, on average, $12 a day for coffee. When I measured my monthly caffeine expenditure against my monthly college student income, I understood why I no longer had a shoe fund. It was time to seek help.

This little machine may have cost me some credit card debt, but it was going to save me thousands in the longrun

Luckily for me, this economic epiphany coincided with a home-sale at Bloomingdale’s. Rather than quit the bean cold-turkey, I decided to reinvest my coffee stocks.

I bounced home from the Lexington Avenue department store with a french press, a DeLonghi espresso machine with built-in milk frother, a pound of course-ground medium roast, and a can of Lavazza espresso. I was out about $250, but had enough supplies to get me through 3 months of caffeine consumption. Despite accumulating some credit card debt, in the long haul, I was scheduled to come out ahead.

I knew Anthony was going to miss me, but Gary, the shoe guy at Saks, was glad to finally have me back.

Indispensable Desk Items

Happiness is a very small desk and a very big wastebasket. — Robert Orben

Desks are very personal spaces, our life's command station. And to command our lives effectively, some tools are indispensable.

Desks are life’s command stations. From there we apply for jobs, complete assignments, plan vacations, write novels, and scan the internet for photos of celebrity’s cellulite so we can feel better about ourselves in a bikini. As a result, desks, like bedrooms, are very personal spaces and their states becomes a metaphor for our lives in general — controlled chaos, perfectly systematized, completely swamped, etc.

Recycled canisters are Kitschy, functional, and green!

As we curate our workspace, we arm it with indispensable items that help us wrangle our day-to-day, and sometimes, are even pretty to look at. No matter what I throw out on designated clean-up days, these things will never see a wastebasket…

Storage Facilities Made from Salvaged Containers

I’ll never understand why people pay for desk accessories when a washed 28-ounce food can and an old box will suffice. The Tory Burch gift box houses post-it notes, staples, and fountain pen ink cartridges while the recycled can stores my pen supply. Equal parts kitschy, functional, and green!

Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style”

Sometimes, I forget how to use commas. This little book reminds me when punctuation is necessary.

Kiehl’s Hand Salve and Chantecaille Lip Chic gloss stick in Zinnia

For when the postman rings twice, hand cream and lipstick are never far from reach

Moleskin Calendar

It’s red, compact, portable, features monthly as well as weekly calendars, and gives me note pages. The added bonus of stickers makes me feel both organized and like a kid again — how can I miss martini night when there’s a bright neon green sticker to remind me!?

Vintage Stapler loaded with colored staples

I'm very possessive of my stapler and its colored staples

When it comes to staplers, I’m very fussy. Milton Waddams ain’t got nothing on me. This one has been in the family longer than I have and I refuse to share it. I gave up on standard silver staples in high school — the red slash in the corner of my resume is my version of Elle Woods’ scented paper.

Vitamin D3 Supplements

Vitamin D is the new super vitamin, apparently. Spending most of the winter cooped up inside depletes resources. I take my daily dose to stay happy and healthy, do you?

Quiet, Supportive Companions

It's always good to have silent, supportive companions my your side to cheer you on through the work day.

Meet Jorge, Mozart and Mooey.

Jorge is my traveling NY Yankees gnome. I bought him one night after watching an Amazing Race Travelocity challenge episode. Jorge has seen some pretty cool places since then.

Mozart is a reminder that I’m cultured.

Mooey is a flashlight that moos, and is the only thing that will stop my dog from trying to eat my bird for dinner.

A 5-lbs Dumbbell

Just because you’ve got your ass in a chair and deadlines to meet, doesn’t mean you can’t pump some iron and workout those biceps. Can you tell I’m a big believer in multitasking?

So, common, your turn… what’s on your desk?

How Suburbia Changed My Monthly Reading Material

My UWS pre-furnished studio had little to recommend it (storage was surely lacking), but it was perfectly surrounded by bookstores

My studio apartment on the Upper West Side had few advantages. It was a narrow shoebox with terrible lighting and a kitchenette with a microwave that sat less than a meter from my pillow. I look back on it now with amazement that I didn’t develop any new phobias or a brain tumor.

The one advantage it did boast was location — it was perfectly positioned among several bookshops. It was part of my daily routine to drop in and check the newest hardcovers while I sipped on the most exquisite cafe au lait from the coffee shop next to my building.  After lingering over the week’s releases, I’d usually stroll out with the latest  New Yorker and New York Magazine, ArtNEWS or Paris Vogue, Self or Vanity Fair. What I could have saved by subscribing to these magazine, I’ll never know.

In the suburbs, bookshops live in malls or shopping plazas. It’s rare you can just stroll from your door into one, morning coffee in hand. Going to Barnes and Nobles requires planning — it had better be on the way home from the supermarket if I want to drop in for a browse. If all I want is a new New Yorker, I always have to ask: is that worth the parking fee?

In the suburbs, bookstores live in malls and shopping plazas.

But I suppose, while suburbia and its sprawl lack certain conveniences, when you move back to your parents’ house you gain the benefit of inheriting their magazine subscriptions. Who needs to tromp outside when things come to your mailbox?

Alas, when I moved out, my parents canceled my subscriptions to Vogue and Vanity Fair and replaced them with National Geographic, Martha Stewart Living, and Newsweek — a thoroughly grown-up assortment of publications. Generally, I found this new selection both educational and useful (Martha’s recipes are usually winners).

While most 25 yr old females are learning beauty and sex tips from Cosmo, I'm checking out AARP the Magazine. To each, her own

Most 25 year old females get their monthly beauty tips and a new carnal challenge sex position from Cosmopolitan, meanwhile I was reading about “Sex and the Empty Nest” and “Robert Redford at 74” in AARP The Magazine. Apparently, “Sex in your 70s can change — for the better…78% of couples enjoy at least as much sex a they did before retirement.”

Bet you Cosmo girls didn’t know that little factoid. I have an extra subscription card, if you’re interested. 

If You Buy it, He Will Come:Or My Mother’s Alternative to eharmony

“Forget about a puppy!” Ivy teased when I told her what I hoped to get  for Valentine’s Day. “How about a hubby! I bet your father wouldn’t say no to a hubby!”

What do you want for Valentine's Day? A puppy or a hubby? I'm leaning towards the puppy...

Ivy was probably right — my father sees no reason to bring another dog into the family, but I don’t think he’d object to the addition of an able-bodied human male to watch football with. Well, bad news daddy, it looks like you’re going to be paper-training a terrier long before you’ll be welcoming a son-in-law.

Then again…maybe not.

Thanks to a weekend in Dallas, my mother has written a new marriage mantra which she is convinced will produce my prodigal rich husband in no time:

If you buy it, he will come.

Buy what, exactly? The wedding dress, of course. Surely, there’s a superstition about that, Mom.

The trip to Dallas was for business rather than pleasure, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s never let a little business get in the way of a good shoe sale. Neiman Marcus was broadcasting a designer footwear clearance that weekend, and Dallas just so happens to be the Neiman Marcus mothership. It was a good thing I brought my big suitcase.

The Kevan Hall wedding dress conjured in a dream found in Dallas, Texas

Inside the famed department store, the sea of shoppers parted allowing me a clear line to survey the couture ahead. There, radiant under a single spotlight, stood the wedding dress I had seen only in a dream. Equal parts Victorian and modern, it was perfectly me in beige-pink lace.

“So are you planning a wedding?” the sales associate asked as I gently fingered the beading on my way to a price tag.

The real answer was “no,” but because I didn’t want the woman to think I was some crazy, desperate single girl who spent her weekends trying on wedding dresses for no one, I lied.

No matter where I went in the store, I couldn’t shake the dress from my mind. Not even Diane Von Furstenburg could hold my gaze. I had eyes for nothing else.

“I think you should just buy the dress,” my mother whispered when 20 minutes later she found me back in the bridal salon, dazed and drooling.

“But, I’m single.”

“Doesn’t matter. If you buy it, he will come.”

“My life isn’t a Kevin Costner movie.”

“Well, it’s not like anything else has been working for you. Let’s see if they have it in your size.” Sometimes, my mother is a bad influence.

So at the end of the trip, there were no size 8 1/2 Manolos or Louboutins, Jimmy Choos or Diors packed into my over-sized Delsey roller bag. Instead, just a receipt for a fairytale-sized confection of silk and satin and the promise of my mother’s voice saying “if you buy it, he will come.”

Unwrapping Christmas Presents Past: an Inner-Child Grows-Up, but Only Just a Little

It was a snowy Christmas morning when I was 4 and found myself standing in front of a large, me-sized box wrapped calico-style and adorned with a shiny, red, stick-on bow. I had asked for an Easy Bake Oven and given its size, I was sure this box was not my easy Bake Oven. I was somewhere between being tickled pink with anticipation and overwrought with disappointment.

It wasn't my Easy-Bake Oven. It was a lavender bike with a wicker basket and streamers. And it was snowing outside.

As I tore away the paper, I quickly saw I was right: this was not my Easy-Bake Oven. Instead, Santa had given me a lavender bicycle with streamers and a white wicker basket. I looked at the picture on the box then turned to the window.  The snow on the lawn was blinding white and the ice clean-up trucks chugged noisily down my street spraying salt and sand as they went. I was doubtful that this present would produce any immediate gratification. But I had seen enough Christmas movies and heard enough stories from my friends to understand that a bike for Christmas was a big deal. So I followed convention and starting jumping with joy, encouraging Daddy to put it together ASAP so I could ride it around the living room.

“No. You can’t ride the bike in the house. We just refinished the floors.” My mother didn’t realize what lasting effects this command would have.

I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was 17 and I never mastered turning. Now, the only bike I ride is a stationary spin one. Meanwhile, despite never having got my Easy Bake Oven (I asked for it every Christmas up until I was 11), I’ve become a bake-o-holic. My parents claim that it’s because I never had an Easy Bake that I’ve become such an able-bodied, all-from-scratch cook — I had to learn how to use a real stove, not one powered by a light bulb. One can never argue with a parent’s logic.

So far, my dinner guests have gotten more use out of my guitar than I have. But it's not too late for me to become the next Jewel

Yet while I can now churn out cakes, cookies and pies like nobody’s business, I’ve never gotten over the Easy-Bake Oven. Determined to prevent Santa from once again confusing “bakeware” with “bicycle,” I started writing elaborate Christmas Wish lists, complete with figures, web links, and product numbers. Each list has reflected whatever stage of my life I had entered — from preteen to early adulthood. A remote controlled plane, Backstreet Boys concert tickets, a watercolor box set, a Play-Station 2 with Guitar Hero, a real guitar, books by my professors, Kate Spade flats — for sure, with each item comes a flood of memories from not only that Christmas, but from that year in my life.

But in 2010, I couldn’t be bothered writing a list. Surely, after 25 years my parents knew I was easy enough to please that as long as it wasn’t a bicycle, I would be happy. My mother cursed me as she roamed the mall and racked her brain.

“Look, why don’t you just get me a cookbook or something.”

“You don’t need another cookbook.”

It was nothing short of a miracle that, come Christmas morning, there were presents waiting for me under the tree. My mother handed me an armful of crudely wrapped items with a look of both pride and concern on her face. “I don’t know why I bought you these,” she said. “But I figured we’ll need them later.”

I felt like I was 4 again as I shook the boxes. The sound of liquid sloshing around had me stymied. As I ripped away the paper and bows I was surprised to see a set of martini glasses, a bottle of Tanqueray, a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice, and a copy of “Vintage Cocktails,” a book featuring recipes from Pegu Club, my favorite cocktail lounge in New York.

“Now, just remember, when you make things out of this recipe book you’ll not only get fat, you’ll get drunk,” Mum said as she cracked open the gin.”Go easy.”

I guess that’s why she neglected to give me a drink shaker.

Unlike the lavender bike, it didn't take me long to put these Christmas presents to use... despite the missing cocktail shaker