Whelmed.

UntitledI find myself in a somewhat unique position. I have this blog. I have lots to say. I’ve just been holding back, holding off in a months-long fit of anxiety about what I’m going to write, how it’s going to affect other people (much less myself), and general “OH MY GOD I CAN’T DO THIS” writer’s block.

However, my therapist says that it might be cathartic if I simply stopped caring about what people think about what I have to say and I just say my piece. So I’m working on that. Starting now.

She also says that I should be a stand up comedian. Apparently, I’m a laugh riot when relating the shenanigans that are my life. I’m simply just wondering if it’s really fair that I should have to pay a $15 copay per session for her to have a good chuckle. Shouldn’t I be the one getting paid then?

Moot point since y’all are reading my life for free anyway. Here’s hoping that I can:

A) Keep this up.

B) Make it funny.

C) Have fun with it. 

 

Adulthood: fake it until we make it?

I start a new job tomorrow morning as a marketing project manager for a health system. It’s an ongoing freelance opportunity and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Being unemployed for the past 24 days has been the epitome of stressful. I suppose that in the grand scheme of things, I really don’t have much to complain about. Courtesy of my parents, I have a roof over my head and food in my belly.

However.

It galls me that at the age of 25, I don’t quite feel as if I have it together. I’m living with my parents, working a temp gig, and trying to scrape together an existence that somewhat resembles responsible adulthood. What’s really funny about my quest to get my act together, though, is that I’ve come to the conclusion that adulthood really is an act.

To me, my friends who live on their own with jobs, houses, spouses, kids, seem like they’ve entered this awesome club where self-doubt, anxiety, and the overwhelming sense of not having a flying clue what they’re doing simply don’t exist.

Part of this perception is due to the proliferance of social media and the cult of the hashtag #humblebrag. A friend of a friend wrote an amazing blog post on tumblr about the ways that we mask our insecurities on Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, instagram, Vine, and she says it all so much better than I think I could at this point. She noted:

“When it comes to public social expressions of emotion, only the good stuff seems welcome. The consequences for such a dynamic go far beyond fears of measuring up to the false positives, and beyond the self-image and achievement perception deficits; what we really are engendering is a lack of space for vulnerability and support for one another through times of struggle.”

I talk to the friends I think have adulthood figured out and after maybe fifteen minutes of conversation, the insecurities begin to seep through the cracks in the facade. The relationships that aren’t panning out they way they’d hoped, the jobs that aren’t what they wanted but pay the bills, the isolation of living in the big city, you get the picture. You only get the real stuff IRL, and only when the other person is willing to lay it all on the table for you to see.

What really got me thinking about the idea of adulthood and the concept of faking it until you make it was a conversation I had with my little brother yesterday. He’s entering his senior year of college this fall and is struggling with the concept of truly being on his own. Having spent the majority of his life being guided by teachers, parents, coaches, and on occasion, me, the thought of having to be his own guide is terrifying.

When he told me about his misgivings about the future, I turned to him and asked, “Do you think have any clue what I’m doing?” As he nodded slowly, I burst into hysterical laughter.

After I got my breath back, I managed to get out possibly the most eloquent bit of advice I’ve ever given the little bro, “Boy, I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. You just gotta fake it until you make it. All those people who have been guiding you for your whole life? When you’re wondering what decision you need to make, think about what they would say. Then do it if it feels right. You’re going to make mistakes, but at this age, there’s no better time to make them.”

So for those of us who are still figuring out the whole adulthood thing, I have a few tips that I’ve been abiding by:

1. Assume that your friends, unless they are confiding to you in real life, are LYING THROUGH THEIR TEETH about how happy they are on social media.

2. Find something you love doing, and find a way to do it regularly.

3. Know what you don’t know. There’s going to be a lot of things that you aren’t going to know the right answer to. Recognize what you don’t know when it comes up, educate yourself, and then move forward.

4. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re going to make mistakes, and sometimes, you just have to laugh at yourself.

5. Just keep on trying. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

So, I’ll be over here, in this corner, pretending to be an adult until I eventually feel like one. With my box of Cookie Crisp cereal. Wearing a Jurassic Park t-shirt. Watching The Lion King. Don’t judge me.

Tell Me What Is Being Done In My Name

Tell Me What Is Being Done In My Name

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about the NSA and Prism and Edward Snowden (and confusing his name with Eddard Stark…so I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones, sue me) and the government and the Obama Administration and the levels of transparency and opacity that have been revealed as of late. 

That’s a lot of g-d damned thinking, y’all. And my head hurts. And I can’t iterate how much I hate it when things that I’m supposed to be actively involved with proceed without my knowledge. Like my government. Or my current job search (that’s another post for another time). 

So I found this article on Esquire that pretty much sums up how I feel right now. Just keep us in the loop, guys in office. We hired you, therefore you are accountable to us, especially when your actions bite us in the ass.

In absentia

I seem to have taken an unintended hiatus from writing. This is due to several circumstances:

  1. After the huge kerfluffle that was “Dating while black and orange,” I was struck by an almost paralyzing anxiety about producing content for this blog that would live up to that post. I mean, how do you really follow up a post that achieved upwards of 2,000 views in less than 48 hours on your personal blog and in the same span of time, is picked up by BuzzFeed with over 40,000 views there?! Honestly, I had no idea what to say or how to leverage the extra eyeballs on this page to accomplish something that seemed worthy of all your attention.
  2. Graduate school. For those of you reading this that don’t know me IRL, I’ve been in grad school pursuing a master’s degree in English. I wrote that first post during a long paper-writing session towards the end of the school year. I’ve been doing nothing really but catching up on papers, emails, presentations, and academic networking. Though I technically graduated in April, I’m still finishing my long-procrastinated thesis this summer to fulfill the final requirement to receive my diploma.
  3. Job hunting. Yup. This Princeton graduate is looking for a job. I moved back to the Chicagoland area to be closer to my family (read as: taking advantage of their unconditional love + free rent and food) and to be closer to my boyfriend (read as: pissing off my parents by not following Patton’s advice…go figure). 

So the tl;dr version of this is: I’ve been busy. But only superficially so. I’ll try to start posting more often now that I have the luxury of this thing called “Free Time.” It’s definitely something I’m not used to having and it’s an adjustment. 

My goal is to have a posting schedule of M/W/F starting either sometime later this week or early next, so check back periodically to see what’s up!

You can always get updates on this blog by subscribing (there’s a button around here somewhere), or if you’re feeling particularly brave and really want to submit yourself to my ramblings, follow me on Twitter (@BrittneyWinters). 

Thanks for reading, y’all. It means a lot.

Dating while black and orange (BuzzFeed edition)

Dating while black and orange (BuzzFeed edition)

Hi y’all, if you’re reading my blog right now, either you’re a friend of mine or someone referred you to here or you saw my article on BuzzFeed. For those of you who just happened to stumble on this, hello! 

The BuzzFeed version of the blog post “Dating while black and orange – a response to Patton’s advice” is definitely a shorter one and if you read that one, I really think you should take a read of my original post below (and linked here).  Feel free to leave feedback, comments, what have you. 

Thanks for reading!

Dating while black and orange – a response to Patton’s advice

When I read Susan A. Patton’s letter to the Daily Princetonian, I can’t say I was all that surprised. As a recent Princeton graduate, I’ve heard variations on her “advice” to female Princetonians ever since I got my admissions letter in 2005.

Nassau Hall, the university's oldest building....

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those of you who haven’t borne witness to the “letter read ’round the world,” here is a quick summation. Patton, an alumna of Princeton University’s class of 1977, wrote a letter to the editor of the Daily Princetonian, Princeton’s student-run newspaper that was published on Friday, March 29, 2013. The contents of this letter have been so widely distributed that the incoming traffic crashed the server. The Daily Princetonian website has been down since Friday afternoon. (If you would like to read this letter in its entirety, it’s been Google cached here.) This letter, entitled, “Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had,” offered to female Princeton undergraduates the admonishment that they should marry their male classmates, and quickly, lest they find themselves successful, intelligent, accomplished, and very much alone.

Patton offered such choice nuggets of wisdom as:

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.

and

Men regularly marry women who are younger, less intelligent, less educated. It’s amazing how forgiving men can be about a woman’s lack of erudition, if she is exceptionally pretty. Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal. As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are. And I say again — you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Being the proud mother of two (male) Princetonians, one who graduated in 2006 and “had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his, [but] could have married anyone,” and another who is currently enrolled and whose marriage prospects, according to his mother, are “limitless” (though I doubt the same can be said for his dating prospects on campus for the next few months), Patton appears to believe that the young men that she has raised are quintessentially Princetonian and deserve quintessentially Princetonian wives, but failing that, any pretty, dumb female will do.

Her views on the young women that attend Princeton are just plain ignorant. While I do agree that for enterprising women who choose to someday marry and raise a family, choosing a compatible partner with whom to share a life is important, I don’t, and let me emphasize this, don’t believe that a Princeton man is the end-all, be-all for potential spouses of future Princeton alumnae. I especially don’t believe that a female Princeton undergraduate is responsible for snagging and bagging her future husband before she matriculates.

In an interview on CNN, Patton clarified that what she meant was that in the pursuit of a high-powered career, young women shouldn’t forget about their personal lives, and that they should take the time to see the caliber of men with which they are surrounded on campus. That, I also don’t necessarily disagree with.

However, as an African-American woman, I found myself in a very small minority at an institution like Princeton. In my experience, and I am going to ask you, dear reader, to remember that this is entirely anecdotal, trying to get a date as a black woman at Princeton was harder than getting an A on an organic chemistry exam after doing a Prospect 10 (I think it’s a Prospect 11 these days. Campus Club was closed back in my day, but I digress).

I remember sitting in the student center my freshman year with a group of friends, discussing our dating prospects. Having been told that our “stock” had never been higher, since we were freshmen girls, we lamented our lack of dating options. We broke it down to a rough estimate of how many men were available as potential husbands in just our class year alone in a very crude “flowchart” of how dismal our prospects were as minority women.

It’s been 7 years since we came up with that flowchart and that dingy piece of paper has long been lost, but according to our calculations (all of us were humanities majors, so our math was probably definitely off…cue sexist “ladies and their maths” jokes), out of that class of 1,200, there were approximately 5.67 men available. For approximately 600 women. This chart, which clearly was an exaggeration of our “dire” straits, accounted for the already taken men, the fact that we never saw our male engineering friends unless they took a break from studying (ditto for the student-athletes), discounting the young men we knew weren’t interested in monogamy or, y’know, consent (Statistic alert: 1 in 4 of us college girls will be sexually assaulted! More than likely by someone we know!), recognizing the ones who weren’t interested in women at all, and acknowledging that the majority aren’t at all interested in black girls.

Yup, I went there.

Finding a date that is interested in you as a person and not a phenotypical representation of their Africanist fetishes? Really difficult. I can count on one hand the number of non-minority men that approached me and I only need one finger to let you know how that went overall. (Spoiler alert: That finger ain’t for countin’.)

Then there was the quagmire of dating “in the race”. The ratio of black women to black men when I was at Princeton was approximately 3:1. Not exactly inspiring odds if you want a monogamous relationship that will eventually lead down an aisle.

There were quite a few of us who “beat the odds” and met their future husbands in the “orange bubble.” I wasn’t one of them. And I’m so much happier for it.

I’ve only seriously contemplated getting married twice. The first time, I was 19 and dating a guy in the year below me at Princeton. It was a disaster and I have the passive-aggressive, teenage-angsty Facebook statuses from 2006-2007 to prove it. We thought we were going to get married after we graduated from our respective graduate schools (law for him, medicine for me, though it was expected that I would become a stay-at-home mom after giving birth).  What. A. Joke.

He dumped me two weeks shy of our 10 month anniversary (the fact that we even celebrated “month-aversaries” was one of many signs we had no business even thinking about marriage at all, let alone marrying each other). Ironically enough, losing out on that potential Princeton husband was a blessing. Without feeling the need to define myself by the plans made to accommodate his future, I was able to fully focus on my own future. I took a break from dating, made some new friends, joined an eating club, took trips abroad. I switched majors from Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to Comparative Literature, graduated, spent a summer in South Korea, came back, couldn’t get a job and became semi-famous for being underemployed, wrecked my car, got into grad school, and fell in love. With a non-Princetonian.

Which brings me to the second time I’ve seriously contemplated getting married. I guess it’s not fair to say that I’m “seriously contemplating” getting married when I’m actively planning to tie the knot after my boyfriend finishes his bachelor’s degree. We’re the same age, but as a result of paperwork lost in U.S. immigration’s bureaucratic processes, he was unable to enroll as a permanent resident of the US (and applying as an international student is prohibitively expensive) until a few years ago. So he’s going to a school that I’m sure most Ivy Leaguers have never heard of, getting his bachelor’s degree approximately 5 years after I got mine, and guess what? It doesn’t matter because he’s everything I could have ever wanted in a spouse. He’s intelligent, kind, charming, caring, supportive, and most importantly, is not intimidated by or dismissive of my Princeton heritage.

Admittedly, after the kerfluffle with the Patton letter, he informed me that for the first six months of our relationship, he wanted to muzzle me because most of my stories began with “This one time at Princeton…,” but unlike Patton’s non-Princetonian ex-husband, he thoroughly embraces the orange and black. We’ve gone to Reunions together and he’s currently pressuring me to vote for the “Oktoberfifth” theme for my 5th Reunion next year because he really wants to wear liederhosen for reasons I can’t possibly begin to fathom (I insist that I will not look good in the matching dirndl). He respects the large influence that Princeton has had on my life and accepts that I will probably always be a little bit elitist (I may or may not have sternly told him that “Good girlfriends don’t let their boyfriends apply to Harvard Business School”), and we ultimately know that what’s important is not our schooling, but our character.

My point is (and it’s been a long time in coming – congratulations to those of you who have made it this far) that I didn’t know myself at 19. I know myself marginally better now at 25, but that margin makes a significant difference. I could have let Princeton define me, my relationship, my entire life, but instead, I incorporated Princeton as only a small chapter in my life. It took time and distance to come to the conclusion that I am more than my Princeton pedigree and I wish Susan Patton had realized that maybe it wasn’t her husband’s degree, but their incompatibility and probably her rather obvious elitism that  doomed her marriage.

In addition to that, I hope that her “advice” to the “daughters she never had” is a parallel speech to the one that she gave to the sons she did have. Because if she’s going to be a classist, elitist, borderline microaggressive racist (come on, do you really think she was speaking to minority women at Princeton, too?), heterosexist (um, some ladies want wives), retrogressive throwback to the 1950s, she should at least try to dodge the sexism charge by telling her boys that “you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of women who are worthy of you.”

Because we’re more than worthy. We went to Princeton, bitch.