Books I Read in 2019

This was a year of weird reading for me.

I keep a list in the Notes app on my phone of what books I’ve read this year, and a couple weeks ago when I was going through the list I was a little disconcerted to find that I don’t remember reading a lot of these books. This has been a weird year for me in general where a lot has changed in my life, and I don’t remember reading some of these books and also who I was when I read them.

I spent the first half of the year reading during my 90 minute commute on the commuter rail, then I spent the summer reading outside on my porch in my new apartment, then I spent the fall watching Schitt’s Creek instead of reading.

Here’s the full list of what books I read this year, with some commentary on the more memorable ones.

  1. Leisure the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1/14)
  2. Educated by Tara Westover (1/22) Incredibly powerful, highly recommend. A memoir about growing up in a survivalist family/cult, and how education allowed her to escape.
  3. Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber (1/23) I really enjoyed this and would recommend it, but you can probably just read the essay it was based on instead.
  4. Join the Club by Tina Rosenberg (2/4)
  5. The Utopia of Rules by David Graeber (2/6)
  6. Calling Dr Laura by Nicole Georges (2/11)
  7. The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonnette (2/12) The ’90s were a weird time, and the guy who invented beanie babies was nuts.
  8. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (2/24)
  9. The Girls Next Door by Kara Dixon Vuic (3/16)
  10. Pure by Linda Kay Klein (3/25)
  11. Debt by David Graeber (4/3) A history of debt (and thus also of course a history of money). This took me weeks to read, and I wish I had had someone to discuss it with as I went through it. I’d like to re-read this with a little more support.
  12. Waking Up White by Debby Irving (4/13)
  13. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (4/15)
  14. Compliant by Carmen Segarra (4/23)
  15. The Job by Ellen Ruppel Shell (5/3)
  16. The Enchanted Hour by Gail Cox Gurdon (5/7)
  17. Money Rock by Pam Kelley (5/13)
  18. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (5/16) I’m re-reading this every year now and getting something different out of it every year.
  19. The Human Network by Matthew O Jackson (5/19)
  20. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (5/30) I had read this in English class in high school and it was interesting to re-read knowing how the plot goes, and also having learned more about Zora Neale Hurston. If you also read it in high school, I would recommend taking a second look.
  21. Punishment Without Crime by Alexandra Natapoff (6/10)
  22. The New Childhood by Jordan Shapiro (6/16)
  23. How to Disappear by Akiko Busch (6/23)
  24. None of the Above by Shani Robinson and Anna Simonton (6/26)
  25. Heading Home by Shani Orgad (6/29)
  26. You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero (7/7)
  27. Driven to Distraction by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey (7/14)
  28. Bad Blood by John Carreyou (7/21) If you have heard the name Elizabeth Holmes and have not read this book, stop what you are doing and go read it now. What went down at Theranos is even weirder than what’s been in the news.
  29. The Education of Hyman Kaplan by Leonard Q Ross (7/23)
  30. Calypso by David Sedaris (7/30)
  31. The Make or Break Year by Emily Krone Phillips (8/5)
  32. How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell (8/11) This might be tied with Educated for my favorite book of the year. Both pretty accessible and very deep, it gave me more language to think about technology and attention in a deeper way. Highly recommend reading this on a back porch on a summer evening in a place where you can hear both birds singing and subway trains going by.
  33. Why Iʼm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reno Eddo-Lodge(8/18)
  34. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich (8/19)
  35. Moneyland by Oliver Bullough (8/25) I love reading about money and deceit — this book explains all the myriad ways that the mega- and ultra-rich are hiding their money to avoid paying taxes. They are essentially living in a different country from the rest of us — hence the title, Moneyland.
  36. Superbugs by Matt McCarthy (8/28)
  37. Reefer Madness by Eric Schlosser (9/5)
  38. Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy (9/7)
  39. The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins (9/10)
  40. Pledged by Alexandra Robbins (9/12)
  41. The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins (9/16)
  42. Range by David Epstein (9/19)
  43. Beeline by Shalini Shankar (9/22)
  44. Kids These Days by Malcolm Harris (9/25)
  45. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (9/28) I read this in a weekend, mostly under a tree in the arboretum near my house. I think I had read this while I was in college, because the characters seemed familiar even though the plot didn’t. While the book is very powerful it reminded me why I had mostly stopped reading fiction — profoundly upsetting, which I should have suspected when I picked up a book that takes place during the Nigerian Civil War.
  46. Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrick Bachman (10/3)
  47. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston (10/12) Read a little bit about how this book was finally published, then read this book. Zora Neale Hurston interviewed the last surviving person who was kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in the US during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
  48. An Indigenous Peopleʼs History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (10/21)
  49. Children of the Dream by Rucker C Johnson (10/27)
  50. Full Surrogacy Now by Sophie Anne Lewis (11/17) I picked this up because a friend who works in reproductive justice recommended it. This is another book where I wish I had someone to discuss it with along the way, and would definitely like to re-read with a little more support.
  51. Those Who Wander by Vivian Ho (12/4)
  52. 24/7 by Jonathan Crary (12/15)
  53. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit (12/21) I can’t believe this book was published in 2005, because it feels so current and urgent. I picked this up because it was recommended by Rosianna Halse Rojas, and I’d also seen quotes from it on Tumblr for years. I recommend pairing this with How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell — both made me think deeply about attention, time, and space.

Summer in the City pt. 1

June 2019

I finally moved!

3 years after graduating college, after a little over 1.5 years of taking the train over an hour each way to work, I finally moved into the city.

It happened fast — a random Craigslist message on a Monday night turned into moving into a sublet apartment six days later.  And now I am living in Boston and fully facing the responsibility of filling my days so that I don’t go to bed filled with regret. The pressure is on to have a fun summer!

In June I:

  • Hung out with almost all the people I know who live in Boston
  • Attended Dyke March!
  • Went to the Pride Parade with a dear friend from high schoolIMG-1159
  • Rode the entire length of the Orange Line
  • Visited home twice
  • Watched a lot of Jeopardy!
  • Spent a weekend with my Dad in Rhode Island
  • Visited the Museum of Fine Arts


  • Rode my bike to the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain
  • Rode my bike on the Southwest Corridor Bike Path
  • Visited a Bikes Not Bombs store to get my bicycle fixed
  • Visited Revere Beach


  • Had a good performance review at work
  • Went for a walk through Beacon Hill with my friend who works as a tour guide and saw John Kerry’s house
  • Read a book at Long Wharf
  • Walked on the Cambridge side of the Charles
  • Walked around Harvard Square and got stuck in a rain storm in the Harvard science building
  • Took the ferry to Charlestown and back to see views of Boston HarborIMG-1174
  • Thrift-shopped in Jamaica Plain
  • Went to a local farmer’s market
  • Finished 5 books

Not half bad for the first month of summer in the city!

Books I Read in 2018

2018 was the first full year that I spent commuting for an hour each way on a train every day. I started off with the intention to make the most of that time and spend it reading books and not scrolling through Twitter or ruminating on work. My office is conveniently located very close to an amazing public library, so very few of these books made themselves permanent additions to my home, which I’m very grateful for.
Also this year I read almost entirely nonfiction. I realized in April that I was only reading nonfiction and decided to keep that going for the whole year, but then in September I picked up Ayiti by Roxane Gay which I realized halfway through was not non-fiction, but at that point it was too late.


Here are the 55 (!) books I read in 2018. 
  1. Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley (1/3) – a book about learning to swim in open water! very light and enjoyable
  2. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (1/6) – about public shaming in the digital age, pretty interesting and a quick read
  3. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (1/9) – i’m trying to make a tradition where i read fun home every january. 2018 was the second time i did this, and 2019 will be the third. just opens wide my sad gay soul.
  4. Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon (1/21) – i’d wanted to read this book for years and years. really enjoyed it, a little heavy to be carrying on the train every day for two weeks though.
  5. Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley (1/31) – the same woman who learned how to swim in open water also ran a marathon! easy ride and inspirational.
  6. A Whole In the Wind by David Goodrich (2/12) – i think this was about biking across america to teach about climate change? you don’t need to read it.
  7. The Book of Resting Places by Thomas Mira Y Lopez (2/28) – boring and a disappointment. too much about his dad.
  8. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts (3/28) – this was the most important book i read this year. almost cried every day on the train. so interesting, really captured the fear of in the early 80s having no idea what AIDS was. i wanted to do more to learn about LGBT history and this was part of that goal. please read.
  9. The Stranger In the Woods by Michael Finkel – about a hermit who lived in maine! really enjoyed and sent to my grandfather who likes that sort of thing.
  10. Transgender Warriors by Leslie Feinberg – some more LGBT history! enjoyed seeing how understandings of identities have changed even since its publication
  11. Anatomy of an Epidemic by Robert Whitaker (5/13) – highly recommend. about the history of antipsychotic medications. disturbing to say the least – no psych med currently on the market is scientific evidence based at all!
  12. The Book of Separation by Tova Mirvis (5/16) – a short memoir. fine.
  13. The Cost of Being a Girl by Yasemin Besen-Cassino (5/22) – more academic than i was expecting, about how the wage gap manifests in how teenagers are paid for babysitting and the like
  14. Insane by Alisa Roth (5/27) – more about constructions of mental illness.
  15. The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker (6/3) – i liked this a lot! made me think differently about how meetings, parties, and any other gathering can flow.
  16. Live Work Work Work Die by Corey Pein (6/13) – about silicon valley? not memorable enough apparently.
  17. Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer (6/18) – i’m all about female friendships, and this was a nice little look at them.
  18. The Mayor of Castro Street by Randy Shilts (6/23) – a harvey milk biography by the guy who later wrote And the Band Played On. interesting to see how harvey milk was thought of right then and there in san francisco shortly after his death. also dianne feinstein played kind of a large role?
  19. Hunger by Roxane Gay (6/24) – very powerful, and should be discussed with more of a trigger warning when recommended.
  20. Suspicious Minds by Joel Gold and Ian Gold (7/5) – more about mental illness but can’t really remember. it was a busy summer.
  21. Love and Death in the Sunshine State by Cutter Wood (7/11) – a story about a murder in florida. it was fine.
  22. Harvey Milk by Lillian Faderman (7/17) – another harvey milk biography, this time written in 2018 by a jewish lesbian. talked a lot more about milk’s jewish identity, and was interesting to compare with The Mayor of Castro Street.
  23. The Milk Lady of Bangalore by Shoba Narayan (7/21) – terrific. great beach read.
  24. Soon by Andrew Santella (8/5) – about procrastination, i think? read it on the beach and it was good enough for that!
  25. Mad in America by Robert Whitaker (8/6) – more about the constructions of mental illness, very depressing. but i recommend Anatomy of an Epidemic More.
  26. Shrewed by Elizabeth Renzetti (8/8) – about feminism? meh, it was okay.
  27. Miss Ex-Yugoslavia by Sofija Stefanivic (8/14) – weird little memoir, read it on the beach.
  28. El Deafo by Cece Bell (8/19) – a great graphic memoir, my mom read it with her esl students. quick and nice, if you have a spare couple hours.
  29. Operation Chaos by Matthew Sweet (8/21) – this was bizarre, about conspiracies concerning vietnam defectors. didn’t really understand it.
  30. Blue Pastures by Mary Oliver (8/22) – mary oliver poetry! god bless.
  31. Vacationland by John Hodgman (8/23) – very funny. perfect beach read.
  32. Gorilla and the Bird by Zack McDermott (8/29) – memoir about schizophrenia, pretty good!
  33. The Lifespan of a Fact by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal (8/31) – the day i finished this book i saw that it was becoming a broadway play starring daniel radcliffe. weird concept for a book, but i really enjoyed it!
  34. Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd (9/3) – actual writers may enjoy this more than i did.
  35. Start Here: A Roadmap to reducing Mass Incarceration by Greg Berman and Julian Adler (9/7) – depressing but hopeful?
  36. A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver (9/9) – mary oliver soothes the soul.
  37. Ayiti by Roxane Gay (9/11) – thought this was a book of essays, it was not. beautifully written but kind of upsetting.
  38. Political Tribes by Amy Chua (9/15) – interesting to read amy chua outside of the tiger mom arena, though i thought things were oversimplified
  39. Gigged by Sarah Kessler (9/19) – about the gig economy. recommend.
  40. Has the Gay Movement Failed? by Martin Duberman (9/24) – don’t really remember this? i think the answer was no?
  41. The 3rd Bank of the River by Chris Feliciano Arnold (9/30) – really cool book about brazil, written during the world cup and olympics. recommend.
  42. Breaking Free by Rachel Jeffs (10/3) – upsetting memoir by warren jeffs’ daughter. wish i had passed on this one.
  43. The Pursuit of Endurance by Jennifer Pharr Davis (10/6) – highly recommend! about people who try to set speed records on the appalachian trail. very inspirational.
  44. Beyond the Map by Alastair Bonnett (10/10) – book about weird places. it was fine.
  45. I’ll be gone in the dark by Michelle McNamara (10/16) – just the right amount of upsetting and not-upsetting. if you followed the case at all you should read the book.
  46. Tinderbox by Robert Fieseler (10/29) – about a fire a gay bar in new orleans that before pulse was the largest mass murder of gay people in the united states. trying to learn my history.
  47. The Design of Childhood by Alexandra Lange (11/4) – a cool book about how children’s toys and spaces are designed. not something i think about a lot so it was interesting to learn about something completely new.
  48. Every Happy Family by Jeanne McCulloch (11/9) – a kind of depressing memoir, but i enjoyed it.
  49. See you again in Pyongyang by Travis Jeppesen (11/15) – really cool book about visiting north korea! i really enjoyed it.
  50. The Formula by Albert Laszlo Barabasi (11/21) – truly no recollection. probably says more about me than about the book.
  51. Unthinkable by Helen Thomson (11/25) – oliver saks-esque. nice and quick.
  52. Dedicated to God by Abbie Reese (11/30) – about cloistered nuns! a little boring but i liked it.
  53. What Stays in Vegas by Adam Tanner (12/16) – las vegas has all your personal data and it’s being sold all over the place.
  54. A Girl Stands at the Door  by Rachel Devlin (12/27) – how girls were used as the leaders in desegregation movements across the u.s. i want to read more.
  55. The life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo (12/28) – someone sent us this for christmas and so i just threw away half my socks.

Books I’m Still Thinking About Months Later (aka favorites)

Anatomy of An Epidemic by Robert Whittaker

And the Band Played on by Randy Shilts

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon

The Pursuit of Endurance by Jennifer Pharr Davis

The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Goals and Not Goals (January Twitter Vacation)

I spent the first weekend of the new year watching a lot of YouTube videos. Mostly videos by smaller creators, like Rosianna Halse Rojas and booksandquills, who were talking about goals. Things they accomplished or didn’t accomplish in 2017, what they were aiming to achieve in 2018, where they stood on their list of things to accomplish before they turned 30. I really admire these women, the way they speak so thoughtfully, how they express their ambition and compassion. So with their videos and the general resolution-fervor in my mind, I started thinking about my goals for 2018.

I started a new job in October 2017 and right now that involves a 110 minute commute each way. At some point in the coming months (especially if we get a lot more snow) this will become unbearable and I will move closer in to the city. This is something I expect I will do in 2018. If I don’t do it, I will probably be a little frustrated by my quality of life and maybe a little disappointed about where I am in terms of others’ ideas of early 20s success. But because I very much expect this to happen, I feel weird putting it on a New Year’s Resolution list or a list of goals.

For the past five years, either in January or at the start of the summer, I have made a list of things I wanted to do and each year this has included hiking a local mountain. The mountain is not a strenuous hike, I would be physically capable of doing it right now, all I need to do is get in my car, drive there, and hike the mountain. But because I want to do it with friends or family and I was spending a lot of weekends at the beach, I’ve not done it. I find this very annoying, and I still want to do it, but I have chosen not to put it on a goal list for 2018. And who knows, maybe by mid-June I’ll be busy with my new city life that I won’t even think about it anymore.

What I have decided to do is set a goal or challenge for each month. It’s much more manageable, easier to see success, and lower level of commitment for each particular thing. Expectations are low for remembering to pick a new thing for each month, but here we are January 13th and things are going well.

January Challenge(s):

-Take a break from Twitter

-Read more

These two things are very much related. I never feel like I’m reading enough, though I do spend over 2 hours on a train every day , providing a perfect opportunity to do so. I also find that when I’m at home I will be watching TV and scrolling through Twitter at the same time, and I don’t like the feeling of not being present. I also like the feeling of Doing Things, and reading Twitter feels like the exact opposite. My productivity at work will also hopefully improve – I was finding myself checking Twitter too many times during the day, afraid that I was missing out on some new article or news item that everyone was talking about.

So I deleted the app from my phone. Easy.

Pros: I am reading more. While before I would spend about half an hour of my commute scrolling through Twitter, I’m now much better about getting on the train, putting my phone in my bag, and settling into the book or New Yorker article that I’m currently reading. Luckily I work very close to an amazing public library, so getting new books has not been an issue. I’m also trying to be thoughtful about the books I read (last year I don’t think I read a single book that I would recommend) and have been enjoying myself much more. Last week I finished re-reading Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and I’m currently a third into Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon, a book I’ve been eyeing for years. I’ve also stopped scrolling through Twitter while I watch TV at home and before bed.

Cons: For some parts of my day I have replaced Twitter not with a great book but with Snapchat Discover. Yesterday, I read the GOOP Snapchat articles. GOOP! And at work I still find myself checking my phone too frequently, sometimes scrolling through Ask A Manager (the greatest blog in the world) or The Financial Diet (which stresses me out and I don’t really enjoy). I’m still bringing my phone to bed with me and refreshing Snapchat incessantly, which doesn’t even load properly since the Wifi in my room is very weak. In addition, Twitter has been a place for me to engage with a lot of new ideas politically, something I don’t do in my in-person relationships, and I miss that. I also don’t know a lot of LGBTQ people in real life while I do follow a lot of LGBTQ people on Twitter, so I find myself missing that community. Last and least, I still find myself thinking of little tweet-sized thoughts and being frustrated that I cannot post them.

Net result: Yes, I am reading more. But I will be glad to rejoin the outrage and meme cycles of my favorite social media platform promptly on February 1.


Here’s a New Yorker article I just read about New Year’s Resolutions and self-improvement in general (I obviously have lots of thoughts):

Stop Reading the Cosmo Snapchat

Hi, I’m Maggie. I don’t wear make-up , have had boy-short hair for much of the past 3 years, and have zero interest in dating men. Why did I read the Cosmo Snapchat every single day?

I read it all. The articles about what men think about blow-jobs,  about whether bra inserts work as well as a beauty blender, about whatever new product Kylie has come out with. If there are 10 little articles each day, I read the whole text of 8 of them and a heavy scan of the other two.

I could have been reading Octavia Butler. I could have been studying for the Jeopardy! test. I could have been meditating, flossing, petting my dog, or even sleeping for god’s sake. What a waste of time.

In the year since I’ve had an iPhone, I’m becoming disgusted with the amount of time I spend scrolling through articles I don’t care about. Sometimes it’s through Snapchat Discover, sometimes I just click on links through Twitter and scan all the way to the bottom before I realize I don’t care at all. It extends to TV watching as well – how many times have I plopped down on the couch on a Thursday night and sat through whatever Steve Harvey hosted show or NCIS spin-off was playing just because I was already sitting there and it was already on?

It seems silly to have to fight this instinct – reading what I want to read, watching what I want to watch, doing what I want to do, those are things that are supposed to be easy, instinctive even. Yet somehow inertia is so strong, habits are so well developed, that I have fallen into these routines that I do not enjoy.

Even though I have long since stopped going to church, Lent still seems like a time to better oneself. My Lenten goal this year seems self-serving and trivial, but it’s actually been a little difficult: I will not turn on the TV unless I know what I want to watch, and I will not read the Cosmo Snapchat.

The TV goal has been more fruitful. Instead of scrolling through Twitter while Modern Family re-runs play in the background on a Saturday afternoon, I’ve been watching The Great British Bake-Off with my mom. Yes, I am replacing TV with more TV, but this is better. This is debating whether we will ever try to make baguettes at home and rooting for Nadiya and Tamal. This is googling the American word for creme pat and making fun of Paul Hollywood. This is purposeful and meaningful (well, as meaningful as a bunch of innuendos about muffins can be).

Snapchat has been a little more difficult. While I technically have stopped reading the Cosmo Discover page, I have instead substituted in Refinery29, which is not much better, now matter how their brand pretends it is. I have tried to pass on articles that do not matter to me, habits are habits and they do stick.

I’m trying to embrace this more broadly, especially when it comes to media. Don’t listen to a song if silence would be better, don’t push to finish a book you have completely lost interest in. Instead I’ll use that energy to do the things I like, or the things that at least have a benefit to me. If I’m not gonna enjoy it, I should at least benefit from it, right?

So farewell, Cosmo Snapchat. Farewell, Vice Snapchat. Farewell, Dancing with the Stars and the local nightly news. I’ve got better things to do.

Lower Your Expectations

I got a Fitbit about a year ago, paid for with some last-minute expiring airline miles. Since then I’ve been wearing it almost every day, tracking my steps and activity levels for the past 12 months.

In the warmer months, I would fairly easily reach the standardized goal of 10,000 steps per day, especially if I went for a bike ride (somehow it knew my legs were moving?). But as I started working again, the combination of sitting at my internship, standing in place at my retail job, and lying around exhausted at home meant that on the average weekday I would only get 6,500 step – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. This was significantly far off the goal of 10,000 and there was no way that I would go for a 3,500 step walk after I got home from work. Nope, 6,500 would do for the day.

10,000 steps is the “recommended” amount of steps to maintain weight, but it’s also just one indicator of activity, and a pretty arbitrary one at that. That’s why in January, I lowered the goal on my Fitbit app to 8,000 steps a day.

At first I felt guilty. Couldn’t I just step it up? Was I really so lazy/out of shape/worthless/exhausted that I couldn’t meet this bare minimum? This was supposed to be a key barometer of fitness?

Over time I realized that though I had decreased the expected steps per day, I was actually walking more. Instead of averaging 6,500 steps, over the past month I’ve hit 8,000 every single day. Now when I get home from work with only 6,500 steps, I know that just one quick walk with my dog to the cul de sac up the street will get me to my goal. I’m much more likely to do that quick walk than try and rally myself for a 30 minute plus hike to get to 10,000 steps. And once I started hitting my goal regularly, I found myself even more motivated. now that I’ve hit my step goal every  day for a month I am reluctant to break the chain of success. Now even if I’m 2,000 steps off of my goal I’ll walk in place while I watch TV or pace around the house while I’m on the phone.

A lower goal has actually led to increased activity.

I’m trying to apply this logic to the other goals in my life. Sometimes that means shifting my thinking from “play ukulele for 30 minutes a day” to “play ukulele every day”. Sometimes that means being more realistic about how much money I’m actually expected to make this year and pushing myself to earn just a little bit more than that.

Setting a more attainable expectation means that I’m more likely to achieve it,  rather than giving up along the way, and thus I’m able to slowly increase my goals, meeting them along the way.

Those Boys Ain’t Worth Your Time

Five years ago when I was a senior in high school I started occasionally hanging out with a group of guys who went to the other high school in my town, a boys Catholic prep school. A girl I was friends with had started dating one of those boys and I slowly got invited to hang outs and parties. It felt so cool and new – the first three years of high school had been spent at pep band rehearsal and speech and debate practice; this was fresh and exciting. I admired these guys so much – they had cooler taste in music than I did, they seemed smarter than I was, they made funny witty jokes all the time. I desperately wanted their approval, I wanted them to think I was cool and funny and smart just like them. When I hung out with them I laughed extra hard and bit my tongue constantly, hesitant to say anything as I doubted whether my comments and jokes would be as good as theirs. I felt so lucky just to be there and wanted to make sure I wasn’t too loud.

When I was getting ready to leave the first college I went to, I spent a semester desperately craving approval from yet another group of guys. They listed to Neutral Milk Hotel on a record player in a tiny dorm room and drank way too much PBR (like, way too much). I laughed so much on those Friday and Saturday nights as they carefully analyzed everyone’s Meyers Briggs type and debated absolute minutia. I spent hours on weekday afternoons listening to the bands that they had mentioned, trying to be cool and knowledgeable enough to be seen as a reputable Modest Mouse fan. We were all struggling through a particularly bad semester of Linear Algebra, and when they asked me for help on a problem set late on a Thursday night, my heart and ego soared. I wanted needed them to think I was cool and chill and smart.

Those boys are not the ones who helped me get over my travel anxiety the summer before college. They are not the ones who sent me text messages the mornings of big exams. They did not congratulate me when I got into the college of my dreams, nor offer reassurance when I had to go somewhere else. They are not the ones who threw me a going away party when I transferred; they are not the ones who wrote me letters and text messages when I had moved away. My female friends did that.

These aren’t the only times I found myself admiring a group of guys like this. I can recognize this pattern in the friendships I had in 6th grade, 8th grade, the group of spring transfers I was close with at my second college. Meanwhile I was not putting effort into the girls who were surrounding me with real friendship; approval and acceptance that I did not have to earn with a chill girl attitude poorly masking desperation seemed to mean less.


(This little Tumblr post spoke to me).

I am almost a year out of college living in my parents house. I have lost touch with all of those boys. I am finally investing my energy in friendships with women, women who respond to my Snapchats and letters. Girls who call me on the phone and talk me down from my hypochondria. Girls who I don’t have to feel embarrassed around when I talk about watching The Bachelor and Fresh Off the Boat.  Girls with whom I can be loud and silly and not worry about sounding stupid. It seems crude to view platonic friendships in terms of return on investment, but I finally feel out of the red.

Haircut Procrastination

I have been procrastinating on cutting my hair for 7 months.

Getting a pixie cut three years ago made me feel incredibly confident. It was a change I had wanted for a long time – ever since Emma Watson (the personification of my hero Hermione) reinvented herself after Harry Potter. I was looking for reinvention after a shitty freshman year of college, and I found it in that pixie cut. I felt free from having to put my hair up every day, free from the toxic friendships that had marred that freshman year, free from my past selves, free to be out and open. I frequently refer to that first cut as the best decision I have ever made.

Since then there have been a couple of dorm-bathroom buzzcuts, a couple of salon visits to keep it professional but short, and one semester with a ‘man-bun’. Until this year.

In January I went to the salon to get rid of the man-bun and prepare for the slew of interviews that I was sure would be along shortly.   I even got a trim in June, though this time at a barber shop where he decided to “leave it a little longer in the back, keep it feminine”. I think this is where things started to go wrong. I knew a couple months after this that I should have gone back to the salon, but I procrastinated and procrastinated. i was working two part time jobs and suddenly couldn’t spare the $40. I just kept not getting a haircut, and then I realized that at this point I was actively ‘growing out my hair’.

It is now January once again and I still have the mullet (thanks to that barber in June).My hair is long enough that it looks cute and I can put it in a pony-tail (plus side bangs). I like it how it looks right now, most of the time, especially when I have it up.

But I find myself constantly agonizing over how to move forward. Should I cut it short again? Or return to the bob I had in high school, even though I wore that in a ponytail every day and resented having to use conditioner? Was the liberation I felt with short hair limited to the queer casual spaces I inhabited in college? Am I willing to commit to the maintenance that having professional looking short hair requires? Am I having a gay life crisis, trying to hide myself behind my hair?

I don’t know why this feels so important to me, why I’m devoting so much time and ink and energy to debating what to move next. I hate that hair and presentation feels so important to me and I hate how much I know it impacts how I am viewed. I hate the weight that I’m placing on this next cut, as though I’m definitively choosing one path over another. I hate that I feel compelled to write these paragraphs. Short hair shouldn’t feel like such a statement.

For at least another few weeks I’ll let this mullet grow out more, putting it half-up in a bun for most of the day. We’ll see.

How to Survive Your Period at Work

Getting my period has long been a big problem in my life. In high school, I would almost faint from cramps, and in college pain and nausea would have me lying on the floor of my dorm room instead of sitting in class. I remember being worried about how I would handle this when I started working full time – I wouldn’t be able to miss a day of work once a month, every month!

After a couple of summer internships and a few months in my current office job, I’ve found some office-friendly solutions to keep me pain and nausea to a minimum, at least until period leave becomes a reality. While the pain still hits me like a bus, at least now I’m prepared, any day of the week.

1.  Track

When I got my first smartphone a year ago, one of the first apps I downloaded was Clue. One of the most popular period-tracking apps, I like it because it’s easy to use, not overly feminine, and has greatly reduced my anxiety about when my period is coming. Being able to plan and no longer being caught totally off-guard means I can have my anti-period-pain tools at the ready. The longer you use the app the more accurate it is, and I am now really reaping the benefits of being on top of my body’s cycle.

2. Keep supplies at the ready

In my work’s Secret Santa gift-swap, I was given a small bag that is the perfect size to keep in my work tote bag. I think it was originally a nail care kit, but I have instead filled it with a couple of pads, two types of pain reliever (you can take Advil and Tylenol together!), some mints that help me with nausea, and some band-aids (I handle a lot of paperwork and am prone to paper cuts). I don’t have a desk to keep personal items in so I bring it back and forth every day in my tote bag; even if I know I’m not getting my period that day (thanks, Clue!), I also am prone to stress headaches so it’s good to have those meds on hand throughout the month.

3. Bring a heating pad

When I was in high school I wasn’t able to swallow pills, so heating pads were a life saver for me, and in fact I’m still a little wary of excessive medication so I still rely on them every month. The one I have is relatively inexpensive, I think it cost around $14 at  CVS. At an office job, it’s very easy to have it plugged in by your chair, resting on  your back. Keep one at your desk if you can, or bring one back and forth when you need it like I do.

4. Take a walk

It’s the last thing I want to do on the first few days of my period, but I notice relief even from the four block walk from my car to the office. I usually spend my lunch break camped out in a Dunkin’ Donuts scrolling through Twitter, but taking a 20 minute walk makes me feel a lot better any time of the month. Since I’ve noticed this connection I’m trying to commit to moving throughout the day, not just sitting motionless at my desk until lunch. I find this keeps the muscles throughout my body a little looser, not to mention the ever-present relationship between exercise and endorphins.

How to Survive Your Post-Grad Retail Job

1 . Be prepared to be tired.

If your college jobs involved sitting at a desk, babysitting, or an occasional 2 hr barista shift, your body has forgotten the stress and fatigue of retail. The first two weeks back, your knees and feet and shoulders will ache. Invest in some good shoes, pop some ibuprofen, and take a post-shift nap until your body adjusts to the new routine of standing for 6+ hours at a time.

2. Look forward to something at work

I work in a copy center right now, and because I’m somewhat new I am still looking forward to learning new skills (like custom stamps and laminating foam board). There’s also a customer who comes in every Thursday night to have a meeting agenda printed in a very silly font. Knowing he’s coming in around 7:30 gives me a little bit more energy through a closing shift. Consciously picking something to look  forward to makes a long shift or a long week a little less draining.

3. Do something outside of work every day

Before I go to bed at night, part of my evening routine is writing down in a notebook what I did that day. It’s a little bit of purposeful reflection that prevents ruminating in the dark. But when all I did that day was watch Youtube videos and eat chips until I went to work, I don’t close the notebook feeling very good. To prevent this, I try to accomplish one specific thing outside of work every day. Sometimes it’s mundane, like doing laundry or booking a doctor’s appointment. Other times I bake cookies or go for a run or talk to a friend on the phone. Making time and energy for these personal things keeps me grounded and reminds me that we all have lives outside of careers.

4. Remember: you are not your work

In the age of “do what you love”, I feel bombarded by messages that your identity is entirely wrapped up in your major/career/job/parenthood status. Break away from that. Your job is how you make money. Maybe it’s emotionally fulfilling, maybe it’s not. But either way, you have an identity and worth outside of whatever you do to earn that paycheck.

5. Get over yourself

Is there a voice in the back of your head insistently whispering that you should have a ‘real job’ by now? That this doesn’t count? Maybe that voice isn’t just in your head – maybe these are things you actually say out loud. Shut that down and get over yourself. This is real work, real work that millions of people do every day. This is work that keeps society running. I feel very lucky that in my store there’s people at all stages of life: managers who used to work at corporate, high schoolers, students working their way through college, people who studied graphic design, a recent engineering grad who hates offices, middle aged moms. This is not any more or any less of a job than whatever your old roommates are doing in Manhattan. I’m not saying you have to work here forever, but please, quash those elitist thoughts before you sabotage your relationship with your coworkers. Take some ibuprofen, pick something to look forward to, and put on your nametag.

It’s time to go to work.