HPV and Me

Welp, I have REALLY broken my goal of blogging once a day this time, haven’t I? But it’s the beginning of a new week, so let’s start fresh. On January 30th, I was working on a post about American Horror Story: Coven and how disappointed I was with the season, but the next day something really big happened to me. I wanted to write about it all weekend but I was so busy getting ready for a Super Bowl party that I never got around to it, and then I left to travel for work for the entire week, put in long hours there and just got back last night. So instead of recapping what’s been going on in the last week + of my life, I’m going to focus what happened to me on Friday, January 31. But first, a little backstory.

In 2011 I was young, much more naive than I thought and in love with a man I hoped to marry. Like many things in life, it didn’t work out. I was heartbroken, devastated… and then a little less than two weeks after we broke up I found out I had an abnormal pap smear. We’d been together just shy of a year; I’d had a clean pap right before we started dating and got my yearly pap right before it ended. The results came in at a terrible time. He had dumped me over the phone, out of the blue, saying that he was incapable of loving me (this, mind you, only a few weeks after giving me a Valentine’s Day card that called me his soul mate).

I went to the doctor that day nervous, but not overly anxious. I had no symptoms of STDs that I could see, I’d been with only the one person all year and was very confident that, while he might not have ever loved me, he hadn’t cheated. Google said there could be plenty of reasons for abnormal paps, so I figured I would probably just need another pap and see what the results of that one would be.

When I got to the office, they escorted me into a room that was a lot different than the typical exam room. The nurse told me to strip from the waist down, put a sheet over my lap and sit and wait for the doctor. The chair was odd, with a short seat and tall back. I sat and waited. My doctor came in and breezily gave me the news: I had HPV. High risk HPV to be exact. She said this put me at risk for cervical cancer. She said I should immediately get the Gardasil shots (I never had before because it wasn’t recommended for women until after I’d gone off my mom’s health insurance and I didn’t get any of my own until mid-2010) and I’d be getting a colposcopy today.

She tilted the chair up and back, so that I was hanging at about a 30° angle with my head tilted down and my feet up by her head. I struggled to hold in my sobs. I had kept my phone in my hands and was frantically texting my best girl friends and my sister. Most were shocked. Only one of my friends had had HPV herself, and was trying to calm me down. The texting was helping a bit, as it distracted me from what was physically happening. I didn’t get a good look of course, but this is what it felt like: my doctor misted me with some sort of spray, then insert a long tube inside of me. A nurse came in to help her with the biopsies. Biopsies. This morning I didn’t know what my abnormal pap meant and now I’m getting biopsied. She put what seemed like long scissors inside of me and asked me to cough. When I coughed, she cut a piece of infected tissue off, pulled it out and placed it in an open container the nurse held toward her. She did this again.

After she lowered me back, she gave me the largest pad I’d ever seen and warned me that I might experience some bleeding. She also told me that I’d receive a letter if the samples were negative and a call if they were positive for pre-cancerous cells. She didn’t give me any pamphlets or anything describing what was happening to my body. I was left with Google and my fears.

The first thing I did was call my mom. She calmed me down, and started looking up facts. Almost every sexually active person will get one form of HPV or another in their life. Many people never know they’re infected, particularly men, since there’s no way to test them for it. You can get it even if you’re always using a condom. There’s high risk (may lead to cervical cancer) and low risk (genital warts). I was glad I didn’t have genital warts.

After I’d calmed down over the course of a couple days, I called my ex. I figured it was only the right thing to do, since he had been the carrier in the first place. It was so difficult. We hadn’t spoken since the breakup, and I really wasn’t ready to speak to him at all at that point. I wasn’t accusatory, I simply told him what had happened, choking back tears, that I had high risk HPV, meaning I had the potential to develop cervical cancer. I said that he was a carrier, but guys couldn’t get tested. “I know,” he said, “I’ve asked to be tested before.”

I sat on the phone in silence for a few seconds and then quickly ended the conversation. I didn’t want to get into an argument about just why he would be asking to be tested for HPV (the logical reason, in my mind, being that a former girlfriend had tested positive). I didn’t want to start that. It wouldn’t change what was happening to my body. He made me promise to update him when I got the results back and we hung up.

My letter came two weeks or so later, letting me know that my samples were negative, but that I needed to schedule another colposcopy in six months. The hardest part in those first few weeks was talking about it to friends. I had the one-two punch of being dumped and getting this diagnosis and my friends wanted to understand just why I was taking everything so hard. Many people recoiled, like they thought I’d gotten HIV instead of HPV. I didn’t experience too much slut shaming, but I definitely worried about it. I had never slept around in my life. For God’s sake, I had waited until my 20s to lose my virginity. I was always the kind of person who wouldn’t even go out with someone for more than a single date, maybe two, if I didn’t feel a really strong connection. And there I was, 25, and, in my mind, ruined.

I felt like I had been punished. Punished for loving the wrong person, punished for having unprotected sex (even though I was on the pill and in a serious, committed relationship), punished for being naive. People tried to tell me I was crazy for thinking that way, but it doesn’t change the deep, resonating feeling that they’re the ones who are wrong, and that you failed to be perfect, so your body is failing you. It’s irrational, I know, but even now getting back into the mind zone to write this, I remember how true it felt.

Six months passed by. The second colposcopy was way worse than the first. I think the pain from the biopsies the first time was dulled by my shock. This time, knowing what to expect, I felt it all. A week later, just after 5pm, I got a call from a number I didn’t know, so I let it go to voicemail. When I checked the message, it was my doctor, asking me to call back. My heart dropped. A letter for negative, a call for positive, I remembered. I frantically dialed my doctor back, but since it was after 5 it went directly to voicemail. I couldn’t reach anyone to connect me to my doctor, even though she had called me only 90 seconds earlier.

I think I saw spots. I was frantic. I called my mom sobbing (wow, I cry a lot in this story), convinced I had cancer. Convinced I was barren. Convinced my entire cervix had to be removed. She calmed me down, but even she couldn’t keep the worry out of her voice. I vomited. The worry stayed with me all weekend, strapped to me like a dog pulling a sled. It weighed on me. I tried to channel my anxiety into anger–I mean, WHO calls and leaves a voicemail like that for their patient after 5pm on a Friday?! When Monday morning finally came after three sleepless nights, I called my doctor. She was at another branch that day, but they would give her the message. Great, I thought, just what I need: more time to worry.

When she called me back she told me that my sample had been tested, and they could not rule out dysplasia. It didn’t test positive for it, but it didn’t rule it out. She wanted to let me know they were sending it to another testing facility. So basically: no news. I looked up what a dysplasia diagnosis meant, and it meant a LEEP. Oh boy, did I not want a LEEP. What it basically means is that they cut away an entire layer of your cervix, and that can make it incredibly difficult for some women to have an embryo attach. Fuck. More worrying.

Luckily the letter came a week or so later letting me know the samples were negative once again. After that, the colposcopies kind of blended into each other. I learned to take ibuprofen before I went to help numb the pain. There was the time I didn’t stop bleeding for a full day and the time I had such bad cramps I could do nothing but curl up in the fetal position and try to sleep through the pain. 90% of HPV infections go away by themselves within 2 years. Well I’m part of the 10%. Two years came and went, and still every six months I had to get shit cut out of me.

I had my latest colposcopy last month, almost exactly three years after I got that abnormal pap. After she lowered me down, another two biopsies out, I said, “I thought HPV usually went away in two years.” She nodded. “It’s been three for me.”

Again she nodded. “You have a very persistent case.” Silently I started crying. She must have seen my tears as often as she saw my vagina in the last three years. “You’re still so young,” she continued, “I don’t want to have to do surgery just yet. We’re going to keep up with this and we just have to watch it very carefully.” She handed me another Madam Maxime-sized pad and left.

Last Friday I was working from home when the mail came. My landlord likes to slip it under my door when he brings it in. I could tell from the envelopes alone that I had received my pay stub, a free room offer from a casino (yup, Ems likes to gamble) and that requisite letter from my doctor’s office. I opened it without a thought, expecting to see the normal request for a follow up visit in 6 months. I looked down for confirmation, not even reading the whole thing, when I noticed something strange. It said one year, not 6 months. My eyes flickered to the top of the page. I read it once, twice, three times. Then I started screaming. I was clear. I needed to schedule an appointment for a regular pap one year from now. I cried, of course. I called my mom. I texted my sister and my best friends. I vowed to frame the letter from the doctor (don’t worry, I won’t be). It was over.

Why am I writing this now? Because I had no one to turn to when I was diagnosed who really knew what I was going through. For as common as it is, I only had one girlfriend ever be diagnosed (well, that I know about at least), and she was so scared she didn’t even schedule a colposcopy. She actually changed doctors and didn’t go back for another pap for a year and a half, and then was told her pap was normal. She never had a single colpo. Lucky bitch.

Those feelings I was having were real, if not completely sane. HPV is so common, but no one really talks about it still, and I felt completely alone. But I’m happy to talk about my experiences. If you need a stranger that you can completely trust, please reach out to me (emmakelliot@gmail.com) anytime. It’s a painful process, but stats don’t lie, and so few HPV cases actually result in a cancer diagnosis, particularly in people in the first half of their life. You can still have sex with HPV. Condoms do lower the chance of transmission, although they cannot fully protect from it, and once your partner has the strain of HPV you have, you can’t continually pass it back and forth to each other. It has nothing to do with how many sexual partners you’ve had. You can get HPV if you’ve only had sex with one person your entire life. You can never know you’ve contracted it or never have any symptoms.

Don’t worry. Well, worry all you want, but it won’t do any good (believe me: I’m a First Class Worrier). Trust your body. Think good thoughts. Don’t jump to conclusions, and don’t fret about the future. Take it six months at a time.

Moods, Muppets, Museums and More!

My bad mood hasn’t really lifted yet this week. It’s been difficult for me to find the inspiration to blog anything because of how just generically down in the dumps I feel. I hate writing when I’m being a downer. It always seems to come across like some emotastic pre-teen who thinks that Fall Out Boy is the zeitgeist of creative expression.

I still haven’t decided what to do about the friend I mentioned yesterday. I’m supposed to go to that party on Sunday but I still haven’t figured out what’s best for me. So there’s that.

On a happier note, I’m traveling for the first time in 2014 next week! I’m off to DC for a convention. I love DC (big museum fan here) and have been a handful of times in my life, but always excited to go back. I’m traveling with a coworker who has never been, so that should be fun. I’d like to get some time to stop by the Smithsonian Museum of American History and see the new Puppetry in America exhibit. The Jim Henson Company donated a bunch of puppets sometime last year to the museum, and I’d definitely like to take a look around and see. Speaking of the Muppets, next year I’m also planning to take a trip down to Atlanta to see the new Jim Henson wing at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Check out how amazing it looks!

In case the last three sentences were too subtle for you to pick up on, I’m a really big Jim Henson and Muppet fan, and have been every since I was little. The Muppet Movie has been one of my favorite movies since before I can even remember, and I grew up watching “The Muppet Show,” “Muppet Babies,” “Fraggle Rock” and “The Jim Henson Hour” on Nickelodeon. When my little sister was born, I introduced her to them, and at 15 kind of got to experience seeing everything for the first time again through her eyes. I’ve even met some Muppets and Muppeteers!

Me and Gonzo in '07, pixelated to protect my secret client-facing identity

Me and Gonzo in ’07, pixelated to protect my secret client-facing identity

Steve Whitmire, who's played Kermit since Jim Henson's death, myself, and Dave Goelz, who plays Gonzo

Steve Whitmire, who’s played Kermit since Jim Henson’s death, myself, and Dave Goelz, who plays Gonzo

I have yet to meet Kermit the Frog, but I have sat in the same room next to him, which was an amazing experience into itself.

At a Muppet movie festival in 2008

At a Muppet movie festival in 2008

Now that they’re owned by Disney the Muppets themselves don’t seem to be quite as accessible as they once were, although the Muppeteers continue to make public appearances and chat, but hopefully one day I’ll fulfill my lifelong goal of singing a few bars of “The Rainbow Connection” with Kermit.

Back to DC. If we have time, I’d also love to take my coworker to the International Spy Museum and play the Operation Spy interactive exhibit. Finally, I’m definitely a bigger fan of New York’s own American Museum of Natural History than the Smithsonian version in DC, but they do have this face, which is always worth a viewing:

Natural History

Everything is quiet in the office today. Half the company is at an event we’re running for the Super Bowl, so it’s just me and a couple other people. I wish I had more things to add here! I’m planning on seeing American Hustle before the end of the week, so look forward to that review!

A Perfect Storm of Awfulness

Yesterday sucked. It was like Friday the 13th, but a Monday and the 27th. It came at me in all directions. Sunday I had a great, productive day followed by dinner and drinks with a couple friends, and went to bed at a decent hour. Then Monday at 4am, my hell day officially started.

A quick note: this is my first really personal blog post. I’ll come right out and say that this blog is under an alias. It’s pretty obvious if you look carefully; nothing about this name existed before last week. I’m in the client service industry and I wouldn’t feel able to write freely if it could be connected back to me; that’s why I ended my other blog years ago when I got this job. The internet never forgets, and I don’t want a client to Google my name and read something personal about me that may alter their perception of me. I also haven’t told any of my friends about this blog so that I can speak freely about them without hurting any feelings if the time comes. End note!

I woke up from a dream around 4am. In the dream I had been laying into a friend about something that has been bothering me for awhile. I’m not a confrontational person; if I do need to speak to an issue I tend to do it in a calm, almost businesslike manner, to keep tempers even and focused. The only person I really lose it with is my sister; even the time I kicked an old roommate out I stayed calm even though my blood was boiling as she called me a princess when I asked her to clean her hair out of the shower drain and told me that she’d leave on her own terms instead of mine (in the end she had no choice: it was my lease and I gave her more than a month’s notice). I’m the kind of person who swallows lesser offenses for the sake of peace, so a dream about confronting my friend really tells me that this matter is going pretty deep and I need to address it soon.

The issue is complicated, but comes down to this: at a party she was hosting a few weeks ago, I fell down and hit my head very hard. It turned out that I actually suffered a concussion, as I found out when I went to the ER the next day. There were a lot of signs that something was really wrong that everyone missed, I’m not blaming people for that. It was a party and everyone was drinking. What I’m really upset about is I have no memory of the night from after the time I fell, and when I was discussing what I missed with my friend, she told me a few really humiliating things, including that I hit on a longtime platonic friend right in front of his girlfriend, whom I’ve only met twice, and who was apparently really pissed at me. I was mortified, and said I needed to reach out to the girlfriend to make my apologies. She told me not to, that no one would remember it anyway because everyone was so drunk.

I didn’t listen. I emailed the girlfriend the next day, humiliated and profusely apologetic. She emailed back a short while later… with no clue what I was talking about. She said it never happened, and that she wasn’t really drinking and remembers the entire night from start to finish.

I was very hurt, and wanted to confront my friend about it. She made me feel embarrassed to be around these people again, and made me think I had tarnished a longstanding friendship. None of that was true. I needed to say something to her, but I didn’t want to do it over the phone or through text. I wanted to look at her face when I asked her why she lied to me. The problem is that my friend and I work opposite schedules; I’m 9-to-5 and she’s a consultant who works mostly evenings and weekends. I haven’t seen her since the day she told me about what I had allegedly done. I’ve been keeping my distance, because I don’t want to be friendly via text and then confront her the next time we hang out.

I’m supposed to go to her house on Sunday for a Super Bowl party. There will probably be 20 people or so there. That’s not the place to confront her. I’m actually thinking about not even going at this point. So, back to the original plot of this blog, that’s where I am at 4am yesterday morning. And then my brain started running. And running and running. I thought for hours about what I should do, how it could go down, etc. Before I knew it, it was 7am and my alarm was going off. I was exhausted, already pretty emotional, and in a good bit of pain (my back was hurting all weekend, for some reason). Also I had dropped my laundry off the day before, including every pair of jeans I own. At the time I’d thought, “Great! I’d wanted to start dressing better to work!” But after 3 hours of desperate tossing and turning, having to put on tights, a dress and heels felt like a Medieval torture device.

I was moving slowly due to all of the above and missed my usual train, which meant I had to cram into a train car that was even busier than my normal one. I got to work already in a bad mood. I had been stressed for the last week because a client wasn’t giving any feedback on a proposal and the deadline was coming down fast. He had set up a call for 10:30 that morning, which he missed, and then couldn’t be reached. I soured at my desk for an hour. I had turned around the initial proposal in two days, and then waited for four days for any feedback (which came on the Sunday of a long weekend), and then turned the revised draft around in one day, only to not get any feedback for a full week, and now the call was missed.

I spent a little bit of time on Clients From Hell, which made me smile and siphoned off a little of my bad mood.

Then I found out from one boss that the other boss had spoken with my client, and he wanted to change directions completely, but that boss was unavailable to speak with me at this point. The one speaking to me only had a few second-hand facts. This is when I put down my head and cried. Yes, that only happens at work when I am PMS-ing, but the thing about PMS is that it takes away your control of your emotions. Had I not been PMS-ing I still would have wanted to put my head down and cry, but I would have been able to will myself not to. As hard as I tried I had to give into my emotions. I had a team of two working their asses off trying to get me what I needed on our already tight deadline, and now I didn’t even know what direction to steer them in. I wasn’t included in the conversation and, as the hours ticked by, I wasn’t getting any tangible information to work with.

My boss called at 4pm and wanted to see something within the hour. I missed that deadline only by a few minutes, and then waited around for a reply, which never came. Sad songs kept coming on my iPod on the ride home, which really helped. I got home around 7pm, hungry, but not willing to really cook anything or wait for anything to defrost… so I made some nachos and a glass of wine and then later some ice cream with probably a larger ratio of sprinkles : ice cream than there should normally be. I couldn’t bring myself to write anything and the new episode of How I Met Your Mother, which left some of my friends in tears, left me kind of cold.

And that, ladies and gents, was my terrible day. I don’t like putting negativity out into the world like this very often, but bad days happen to everyone, and I think writing down my experience helped me realize it really wasn’t as bad as it felt going through it. Today I’m better. The sun is actually out, even though it’s a colder day, so that helps a bit too. Ooh! And today I wore a really cute dress:

Colorblock dressModCloth, sadly no longer available

August_Osage_County_2013_poster

Oscars 2014: August: Osage County

(It’s 10:30pm right now so hopefully I can finish this before midnight to keep with my one post a day goal!)

Another film down in my aim to watch all movies nominated for Oscars in the major categories before March 2nd! Today I’ll be giving you my thoughts on August: Osage County, which is nominated for Best Actress (Meryl Streep) and Best Supporting Actress (Julia Roberts). The movie is based on the Tony Award-winning play that I somehow never got around to seeing on Broadway.

Quick SynopsisAugust: Osage County is the story of one week in the lives of a very dysfunctional family. Streep plays Violet, the matriarch of said family, whom everyone gathers around when her husband has gone missing, and is later found dead of suicide. Violet is a self-admitted drug addict with a vibrant rage that can turn on a dime. Roberts plays her eldest daughter, Barbara, who has been estranged from her mother for years. Throughout the days everyone spends together, tempers flare and secrets are revealed.

Thoughts- Okay, I’m really going to try to avoid major spoilers here. My gut reaction after I finished watching the movie was, “Wow, what powerful performances!” But after I let it sit for awhile the film just kind of… floated out of my mind. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy what I was seeing, and every actor on screen was at the top of their game, but for whatever reason, the film as a whole didn’t overwhelm me. I can absolutely see why it mesmerized people as a play; to be in the same room and feel the energy coming off of the actors in those roles must have been a simply intoxicating audience experience. But thought the camera something is lost, and I’m not familiar enough with the source material to exactly describe why.

Meryl Streep, who is always amazing, is of course amazing here, but what I really love about her performance is how dirty it gets. She is not afraid to crawl in through the grime of Violet’s soul and really let some demons fly. Her vocal work alone here is stunning. Like I said, she’s always great, and I expected nothing less. Julia Roberts though… I went on her IMDB page to figure out just what the last Julia Roberts movie I saw was. Negating Mirror Mirror (which everyone really should, as it was shit), the last Julia Roberts movie I saw was Oceans Twelve in 2004!!! (I also saw her in Closer that same year.) I never got around to seeing Charlie Wilson’s War, purposely avoided Valentine’s Day and Eat, Pray, Love, and forgot Larry Crowne was even a thing until I clicked on the link. It’s been 10 years since Julia Roberts has really made any kind of impression on me and, dear God, is she good. I haven’t seen Erin Brockovich in years but her performance here blows what I remember out of the water. Talk about playing in the dirt. She is disheveled, almost gargoyle-esque at one point, every emotion on display. Please, please, please. See this movie just for her, to remind you what a force she is. You will not be able to tear your eyes away from her.

The rest of the cast is also terrific, across the board, but I want to pull out three people in particular. Margo Martindale has always been a wonderful supporting actress, and she’s finally been getting the recognition she so rightfully deserves in the last few years. She is fantastic here, oscillating between ease and tension within seconds. Chris Cooper, as her husband, plays one of the only truly warm people in the entire movie, and his quiet presence is at first mistaken as weakness until later in the film when he shows how strong he can be. It wasn’t until I was writing his name right now that his rap from The Muppets even entered my mind. Finally, there is Julianne Nicholson whom, I have to admit, I only recognized from that terrible Brittany Murphy movie Little Black Book. Yikes. She plays the youngest sister, Ivy, who never left the town she grew up in and is finally deciding to stand up for the life she wants to lead. I don’t want to give anything, but the scene towards the end between her, Violet, and Barbara was probably my favorite scene in the entire movie, all thanks to those three women really forcing each other to up the stakes with every line.

(I want to give a special shout out to Benedict Cumberbatch who really isn’t given much to do, but makes quite an impression in the very few scenes he has.)

There are so many themes running through this movie that I don’t think I should really get into all of them, but I did want to discuss one that really struck out at me: becoming our mothers. Violet’s mother was a taunting, reckless woman who didn’t seem very concerned at all for her daughters’ happiness or even safety. Violet monologues about what a better life she’s given to her daughters but in the end, she is also taunting and destructive, and she doesn’t have a single healthy relationship with any of her offspring. Neither does her sister for that matter. Finally, for as much as she loathes her mother and resents her childhood, Barbara lashes out at her daughter in a way that directly parallels how her mother treats her. In the world of August: Osage County, we are fated to carry on the sins of our parents, and to have those relationships influence everything. Karen, played by Juliette Lewis, the middle daughter, is desperately seeking her mother’s approval, and so she turns a blind eye to the flaws of her fiance, determined that something will work out for her, for once in her life. It’s an interesting construct that is never played too heavy-handedly.

The writing was superb. The original playwright adapted his script and, aside from one scene where Barbara and her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) argue about the word “forsook,” it doesn’t really seem as if it was intended for the stage. Still, and I can go on and on about the performances forever, there was still something missing in the end. I guess when it comes down to it, I’m left wondering why it was adapted into a film. The direction didn’t bring anything new to the table and, as thrilled as I am to have these actors on tape, the story of this family seems meant for the immediacy of live theater. The camera does nothing except show us what is there. Compare that to 12 Years a Slave where what or how the camera chose to show you every shot directly influenced how the audience themselves felt. I was captivated by that movie; in August: Osage County, although the acting thrilled me, I simply felt like I was being kept at arm’s length.

(11:36pm: made it!)

Grown Up Clothes

If the title didn’t give it away, this is going to be a girly post.

I’m really lucky that I get to work at a company that likes to maintain a casual atmosphere and lets its employees wear pretty much whatever they want to work. Nothing scandalous, of course, but comfortable and casual. In the summer, I go in wearing a sundress and flip flops, and in the winter I’m almost always in jeans, warm snow boots and a sweater. I’m also in the client service industry, however, so when I am out of the office meeting with clients, I have to dress in a more professional manner. I’ve had my handful of client-ready outfits for years, but they don’t make up the majority of my wardrobe since most of the time I can get away with a lot less.

Here’s the problem: I’m 28 years old (shocking, I know, considering yesterday’s Frozen versus Tangled rant), and my cheap, cute, comfortable clothes from Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe are really no longer age appropriate. I look very young for my age, so I’ve gotten away with it probably longer than I should have, but I can’t pull them off for much longer. I’ve been wearing the same client-ready dresses for years. I don’t own any pants that aren’t jeans or intended for exercise, and I hate blazers (the reason for that being twofold: first, in my initial post-college job I had to wear blazers every day, and I looked like I was a child playing dress up in my mom’s closet; second, the trend now is 3/4-length blazers, which are cute, but always leave my forearms cold. Also shoulder pads suck). The last time I cleaned out my closet I realized I need to get some grown up clothes, and fast. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

1. Money
Grown up clothes cost money, yo! I mean… seriously. I’m used to shopping at Forever 21, where the most I’ve ever spent on a dress is somewhere around $35. I also do a lot of Mod Cloth shopping but, aside from an $60 dress I bought for a wedding back in 2012, I typically like to buy dresses from them on final sale, when I can spend at most $30 on a dress. Grown up clothes are never that cheap. The last time I was in Macy’s (Macy’s! Not even Nordstrom’s or Lord & Taylor!) a simple Calvin Klein top I liked cost $45. $45 for a shirt! It was definitely nice, slate colored with a draped neck and made of good material, but I balked at the price. I mean, $45 for a top, and it didn’t even have sleeves!

I have to get over the money thing. I’m at a disadvantage here since, for the last four years, I’ve never had to buy a single outfit that I couldn’t wear to a sports bar on a Sunday afternoon to watch football, whereas a lot of women my age have spent the last seven years slowly building their wardrobe up with adult pieces. But I need to make those changes, especially if I want to advance in my career (no one wants to see a 35 year old woman giving a presentation for 20 people in a floral dress from the Junior’s section). I need to figure out–and fast–what my clothing budget per month should be, and what I need to sacrifice in order to do that. Maybe that means a couple less dinners out per month, or a few more meals actually eating leftovers instead of letting them sit in the fridge until they smell before tossing them.

2. My Style
Oh boy oh boy, my style is pretty young. First of all, I love dresses, and if you take away my evening dresses and the handful of professional dresses I’ve mentioned before, what you’re left with is a ton of sundresses. Boy oh boy do I love a sundress. And polka dots. I have a polka dot problem. I’m acutely aware of what clothes look good on my body. I’ve got a full chest, small waist, short torso and long legs: sundresses above my knee fit my body and personality perfectly. Here are a couple dresses I bought from a Mod Cloth sale this past summer:

ModClothDresses

 

All three are casual (although the polka dot one can be dressed up, which I did for my birthday dinner), cute (I have a major thing for polka dots), accent the waist. Also, all of them are prints. I own very few solid color dresses. I’m trying to get better. In the fall I bought this Rachel Roy dress from Macy’s:

rachel roy dress

 

Cute right? It works really well for work, clients, or going out and, although it has a pretty high neck for me (you will NEVER see me in a turtleneck), it cuts my leg in a nice place and hugs my curves without being inappropriate. Of course, I bought it at $90, which goes back to the money thing, but there you go. New York & Co and H&M are also some nice transition stores when it comes to a more adult style without sacrificing a lot of money. Here are a couple of cute tops I got from H&M in December, each only $25:

h&mtops

 

Bottom line is… I’m trying to figure out what my style is going to look like for the next 5 – 7 years or so, as opposed to continuing to buy clothes that fit my style from the past 5 – 7 years.

 

3. My issue with Long-Sleeved Shirts and Dresses, or Sweat
I’m a New Yorker, and I sweat every day. I don’t have a sweating problem, it’s just the price you pay for living in this great city. Honestly, if you’re a New Yorker and you DON’T sweat every day, please tell me about it, I want to know what sorcery you have and why you own’t share. Picture this, non-NYers: It’s 8am, time to leave for work and it’s 9 degrees out. You have tights under your jeans, warm socks, snow boots, a sweatshirt over your sweater and under your winter jacket, a scarf, a hat and knit gloves. You leave your apartment as bundled up as humanly possible to walk to the subway, hands in pocket, head down. You descend into the subway station and start to disrobe piece by piece: hat first, then gloves, which you stick in your purse, and then you unzip your coat a bit to let the air in. The train comes, and you board, stuffed into a car so filled with people that you have to place your laptop bag between your feet. Strangers breathe on you and jostle into your sides every time the train sways. The sweating starts in earnest now. After the longest 20 minutes of your day, you squeeze out at your stop and, as you leave the subway, start replacing your hat, gloves, scarf. Almost immediately upon hitting the fresh air, the sweat you created underground freezes on your body. Yes, it is as gross as it sounds. You walk to your office building as fast as possible to escape the cold, but the heat you create from your power walk has the added benefit of defrosting said sweat while creating it some friends. Finally you reach your building and as soon as you step in the elevator you start stripping again, because the office building keeps its temperature at 78* year round.

Grown up clothes never seem to want to let you breathe. Cotton may be a cheap fabric, but at least it lets the air in and is easy to clean. If I sweat in dry clean only… well, that’s why I don’t own a lot of dry clean only clothes. I just need to get over that one.

So that’s what I’m dealing with when it comes to building up my Grown Up Wardrobe. I’d appreciate any advice or helpful hints from women who have found themselves working through a similar transition! In the meantime, I’ll be here on my couch in my sweatshirt and PJ pants…

Frozen sister hug

Disney War: Frozen vs. Tangled

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I first saw Frozen with my sister over the Christmas holiday and instantly fell in love with. The moment I left the theater I started raving to everyone who would listen that they should run and see it immediately. Now, a lot of people that I recommended it to loved it (my coworker likes to break the tension during stressful work days by blasting “Let It Go” at random times), but I’ve also heard from multiple people (five and counting) this exact sentence: “It was fine, but I liked Tangled better.”

Okay what? At first I couldn’t understand why you would compare the two. Tangled came out in 2010, almost four years ago, why would they be in direct competition with each other? But then, after the third time I heard that reaction, it started making a bit more sense. They’re both the only two Disney princess movies created using CG characters, and both went through title changes to distance themselves from their original fairy tales and become more “boy-friendly” flicks. After last night, when yet another friend compared Frozen to Tangled, I thought it could make a fun blog post to argue my thoughts on the matter. Thus, here is why I prefer Frozen over Tangled. Please be sure to leave me a comment and tell me what you think! I love to debate these things (obviously).Tangled

(I should note, lots of spoilers below if you haven’t seen both films–and if so, seriously what are you waiting for?!)

Plot
Both movies quickly set themselves apart from their source material. Tangled is not just the story of a princess needing to be rescued from her tower by a handsome prince; instead, Rapunzel’s story is more about her quest for self-realization than just fleeing a witch. Frozen has almost nothing in common with “The Snow Queen” fable that I grew up with. Basically there’s magic and snow… and that’s about all that overlaps. For those of you who haven’t read the original Hans Christian Anderson story, it is about a young girl who goes on a long quest to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil Snow Queen. Frozen is about sisters, secrets and love. This one’s really a toss up, based on your own preferences. For me personally, Tangled is a fun adaptation of a classic story we all know but not much more than that, whereas Frozen is completely unique and really speaks to me, as both a modern feminist (I use that term more in the “women can do anything!” meaning and less in the bra-burning sense, by the way) and sister.

Heroines
Frozen is already ahead of Tangled here just by the 1-2 punch of having two kickass princess leads, whereas Tangled just as Rapunzel. All three princess have spent their lives locked up away from other people, and that definitely influences their characters and their choices. Rapunzel is naive, enthusiastic and energetic, and my favorite part of the movie is the scene where she flip flops from being thrilled to terrified after having finally left her tower. Anna actually shares a lot of traits with Rapunzel, now that I look at it this way. Both are a little awkward  and funny, and both prove to be quite adept at handling the outside world, having never been out there before. I guess the biggest difference between the two are the stakes at hand. Rapunzel’s whole purpose of leaving her tower is to go see the floating lights without her mother knowing; Anna needs to salvage her relationship with her sister and bring back summer before her entire kingdom freezes to death (a direct consequence of her publicly pushing Elsa past her breaking point). When Rapunzel’s stakes finally do get high (given the choice between her freedom or saving Flynn/Eugene), she doesn’t actually get to make the choice. Eugene chops off her hair himself, sacrificing his life for hers. Anna also has to decide between saving herself or saving her sister, and she instinctively chooses to sacrifice herself for her sister (not knowing, of course, that doing so will break the spell).

Anna is definitely the heroine of Frozen, but it would be wrong to leave Elsa out. Her journey is an internal one, as she goes from letting her powers control and define her while locking herself away from the world in fear, to finally accepting her powers, learning to control them and letting herself be loved. It’s still a heroic journey, in my mind, although not the traditional one.

Anna Elsa gif Tangled gif1

 

 

 

 

 

Hero/Romantic Lead
Flynn smolderI won’t fight it: Flynn Rider (or Eugene, whichever) is awesome. He’s a bit arrogant at first, definitely in the category of Reluctant Hero, but he shows himself to be charming and sensitive, and he really seems to love Rapunzel, enough to sacrifice his life to keep her from remaining Mother Gothel’s prisoner. That said… dude’s still a thief. I mean, I know he allegedly gave up thieving after falling for Rapunzel but, unlike Aladdin, he didn’t steal because he needed to eat, he stole to get rich and because he really liked stealing. And then he’s rewarded by… marrying the princess and getting rich. It’s just a little weird to me. Plus, The Princess and the Frog had done a similar arc with Naveen just a year earlier. He too just wanted to be rich and have an easy going life, but he falls in love with Tiana and lives happily ever after… working really hard to make he dreams come true for the rest of his life.

Frozen doesn’t really have a hero in the traditional sense of the word. In saving her sister, Anna saves herself. But there are twohans anna love interests. First, there’s Prince Hans, whom Anna meets literally seconds after she steps outside the castle for the first time since she was a child. That night after about an hour and a half/two hours of conversation and one rousing song complete with the robot dance (hard not to love a man who can robot), they’re engaged, and about 20 minutes after that (give or take) she’s leaving him in charge of the entire kingdom in her absence. Yeah… Anna’s been reading way too many books from Giselle’s library. But then in an awesome twist I seriously didn’t see coming (although my sister did, or at least she said she did), dude’s evil! His entire reason for being in Arrendale for the coronation is to claim the throne by getting either sister to fall in love with him.

Kristoff trollsFrozen also has Kristoff, who falls into the same Reluctant Hero trope that Flynn does, and although he slowly realizes that he is falling for Anna, his story ends up with only a kiss, not a declaration of love or marriage proposal in sight. Tangled follows the more traditional structure of love interest, whereas Frozen subverts it making the bolder, and more modern view, in my opinion, of having the final moral be about familial love as the love that saves, not romantic.

Here’s a funny comparison: both Rapunzel and Anna fall in love with the first person they meet outside of their tower/castle. Rapunzel ends up married to the guy; Anna ends up getting engaged but then learning that he’s a douchebag in a nice outfit, and that it’s silly to marry the first person that sweeps you off your feet. Love it!

Villains
Mother Gothel is a great villain, manipulative in a sense that reminds one of Scar or Ursula. She knows exactly what to say to gothelcontrol Rapunzel, and she utilizes it to her advantage almost every day. That said, the one thing I really didn’t like about her role within Tangled is that Rapunzel 100% believes her to be her mother (until the end of the story) and loves her as one for 18 years, and then as soon as she finds out she’s not really her mother, she flat out despises her and doesn’t blink when she dies. That’s a little weird for someone you believed was your mom for your entire life.

WeseltonFrozen doesn’t have a stereotypical villain, but I don’t think it suffers from this. Elsa can almost qualify as one, although she really only uses her powers against people out of fear, in self-defense or, as in the confrontation with Anna, to protect her sister. The Duke of Weselton is a minor villain, ordering the death of Elsa to protect his interest in trades with Arrendale, but aside from a terrifyingly accurate version of Lindsay Bluth’s Chicken Dance, he’s of little consequence. Prince Hans is the truest villain in this form, although we aren’t aware of his nature until the last quarter of the film. Up until that point, he proves himself to be a very capable leader and in tune with the suffering of the kingdom, which I don’t think could all be an act. When he admits his plan to rule Arrendale to Anna, and then later tries to kill Elsa himself, he claims the role of the primary antagonist and is rightfully brought down… but I can’t help but think he wouldn’t have been a half-bad king if his plan had worked out. I’m glad it didn’t, but it was an interesting choice for Disney to make him ambitious without eliminating all of his compassion. Okay I’m rambling.

Music
Let It Go 5Hands down I think Frozen has better music, and “Let It Go” in particular has skyrocketed quickly into the kind of universal popularity that a Disney movie hasn’t seen since “Colors of the Wind.” I was at a drive through ATM the other day and this song was playing and the teenage boys in the car behind me called out without a hint of sarcasm, “Turn it up, I love this song!” I could see in my rear view mirror that they knew every word. That’s pretty unique for a song from an animated movie. “Let It Go” trumps the entire soundtrack of Tangled by itself, but let’s take a closer look and examine the other songs we’re working with.

For “I Wish” songs, we have “When Will My Life Begin” from Tangled and “For the First Time in Forever” from Frozen. Now, I’ve foreveralways been a big fan of “When Will My Life Begin,” but when you compare the two directly, you immediately notice that it’s basically just a list of activities sung to a fun melody. Comparatively, “For the First Time in Forever” is chock-full of personality. I’d have to give the edge to Frozen on this one as well.

tangled lightAs far as love songs go, Tangled has that contest in the bag. “I See the Light” is a traditional Disney love ballad, and nothing really compares to it in Frozen. “Love is an Open Door” is much poppy-er and can’t really fit in the canon of songs that include “A Whole New World,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Kiss the Girl.” However, it’s much more suitable for those characters in this particular story (especially with the twist that happens) that they don’t have the traditional ballad.

“When Will My Life Begin” (which gets reprised twice, ugh!) and “I See the Light” are really the only two songs from Tangled that stick out after watching it. Donna Murphy does an amazing job with what she’s given on “Mother Knows Best,” but its Broadway style panache doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the pop-infused score, and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever listened to “I’ve Got a Dream” outside of watching the actual movie. Why do we give an entire song to secondary characters we’ll never see again? Obviously Frozen has “Fixer Upper,” but the purpose of that song is to let Anna and the audience know more about Kristoff than it is about the people who are singing it.

Frozen FTW.

Let It Go 6

Note: I cannot take credit for any images used on this post. All .gifs were acquired from giphy.com. If you would like your gif removed, please let me know and I will happily take it down!

Oscars 2014: 12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

“12 Years a Slave” was the first Oscar nominee I watched this awards season. Now I don’t want to make a judgment about the other films that I haven’t seen yet, but after seeing this I can’t imagine why American Hustle swept the Globes instead of this film. But I’ll get more into that after I see Hustle.

Quick Synopsis- “12 Years a Slave” is based on the true story of Solomon Northup, who was a free man living in the north with his wife and two children before he was kidnapped, brought south and sold into slavery. The film documents his time as a slave, as well as his struggle to keep believing that he will one day see freedom again as he endures countless, unbearable hardships.

Thoughts- In my opinion, this movie has all the makings of a Best Picture winner. Or at least the tropes. It’s an inspirational (1) historical (2) biopic (3) based on a book (4) about a man facing extreme suffering (5). Whew! But honestly, it’s a great film. As excruciating as it is to watch, you can’t tear your eyes away. The acting across the board is superb; the pacing is deliberate but entrancing; and the film stays with you long after you leave it.

Steve McQueen is a fearless director here. He uses every tool in his arsenal to keep the audience as close to Solomon’s suffering as possible, and it works. I felt like I didn’t breathe for the entire length of the film. Chiwetel Ejiofor is just as fearless, and every new pain seems different and deeper than the one that came before it. His relief at being freed at the end is beautiful, and I dare you not to weep. His journey is long, but his performance is never anything less than 100% committed. Michael Fassbender, playing Solomon’s seriously sociopathic second master, is terrifying and unpredictable. The tension between him and Ejiofor is fantastic and stomach-churning. Lupita Nyong’o plays the object of Fassbender’s obsession (to the ire of Sarah Paulson, his wife). Her desperate plea to Solomon is heart-wrenching. I know I’ve used way too many adjectives here, but I seriously cannot describe this film positively enough. Like I said before, I can’t imagine any film besting this one in my opinion, but it’ll be interesting to watch them try!

I’ve heard people say that it didn’t do very well at the Globes (taking home the top prize for Drama but none of the acting or directing prizes) because it’s too difficult to sit through. I call bullshit on that. Yes, it is difficult to sit through. But it’s important to sit through. Human suffering shouldn’t be easy to watch. For too long in American cinema, slavery has been a supporting character  to the Civil War or simply breezed past… It’s beyond time for a major film to deal with it in an honest, brutal way. Slavery was a major part of our country’s history and we need films like “12 Years a Slave” to spark a conversation, and to continue to help heal our country (because if you think racism is dead, get to know more people and go to more places). I know I promised no more pretension, but I can’t help it here. Everyone should watch this movie, and everyone should be talking about it.

Oscars 2014

I say it every year, but this year I am really going to make an effort to watch all of the Oscar nominated films from the top categories that I can. So far it’s not going too well, but I still have a little less than 6 weeks. Here’s what I’m planning to watch:

“12 Years a Slave” (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay)
“The Wolf of Wall Street” (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay)
“Captain Phillips” (Best Picture)
“Her” (Best Picture, Original Screenplay)
“American Hustle” (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay)
“Gravity” (Best Picture, Director, Actress)
“Dallas Buyers Club” (Best Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Original Screenplay)
“Nebraska” (Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay)
“Philomena” (Best Picture, Actress, Adapted Screenplay)
“Blue Jasmine” (Best Actress, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay)
“August Osage County” (Best Actress, Supporting Actress)
“Captain Phillips” (Best Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay)
“Before Midnight” (Best Adapted Screenplay)

I didn’t include any of the Animated Features because none of them besides “Frozen” (which I’ve already seen twice) appeal to me, and “Frozen” is pretty much a sure bet to win. “Let it Go” better win for best original song too!

I’ll update more as I accomplish these.

In the beginning…

There are a lot of people out there who call themselves a writer, even when the only things they write are grocery lists. I am not that kind of person. I am not a writer just because I have the ability to put coherent thoughts or descriptions on paper and minored in Creative Writing. Thinking about writing isn’t being a writer.

That’s where this blog comes in. I have a story I’ve been wanting to tell for almost 10 years now, and although it’s completely built from start to finish in my mind, I can’t make the time or find the discipline to actually write it down. But writing (or so I’ve been told) is as much about practice as it is about talent. Don’t worry–his isn’t going to be a blog about the writing of an amateur novel. I’m going to use this space to write whatever I feel like on as close to a daily basis as possible. Hopefully making writing a daily ritual will help me with my other project.

I promise,  no other posts will be as pretentious as this one.

I think.