the right place
June 2, 2010

Unless Dave’s 13 year-old brother actually follows through with his slightly premature plans to attend Cornell (and I should acknowledge that he’s already picked out his frat and is “physically preparing for pledging”), I’ll probably never have to return to Ithaca again. Or, god willing, all of upstate New York.

I have somewhat of a weird relationship with Cornell, a mentality fused together by these random connections that I use to justify giving the school a lot of shit. Like, my mom went there, and she’s obsessed with it, right down to the ice-cream, to such an extent that it’s difficult not to make fun of her about it. And my ex-boyfriend went there, and I’ll make fun of him for just about anything. Like, “ooh, you had to go to the #15 school in the country, even though you did all my physics homework for me?” Sure, I’ll take it. I’m mature like that.

Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Cornell was, indeed, on my college list. Though nothing really came close to my early decision sweetheart, there was a time that I thought I’d be OK if I ended up at the Big Red, reassured by the fact that it had a large student body to combat the lonely winters.

Now, I’m not so sure. I really do believe that most kids will be happy wherever they go, and that everything works out for the best. But me and Cornell? I think I might have been really depressed. I think I might have had a hard time with the snow and the sorority scene and the intensity of the courses and the whole middle-of-nowhere thing. I read those stories in March about the students tumbling into the gorges, one by one, and my stomach dropped and I was overcome with gratitudes of all sorts, but specifically the feeling that I was so lucky to be given the chance to go to a place where I had the best possible chance of succeeding and finding joy. Not because my school was a few U.S. News spots higher or had really pretty freshman dorms, but because it had the things that I personally needed to stay healthy, even through the rough patches.

I’m not saying that other people can’t be happy at Cornell. I’m just not sure that I could have been.

I felt tinges of it this weekend, sitting in the Johnson City Hampton Inn at 1 a.m. crying into a cell phone on the brink of losing service. There was a lot of stuff going on over those few days – drama with family and friends that I know took its toll on me – but I think at least part of it was that I’m just not meant for upstate New York. Really. The scenery, the pace, the feel – it all just makes me kind of sad.

Of course, the second the Philly skyline appeared in our windshield, I started perking up and even insisted that we take an evening walk to the waterfront.

I really do like it here. And like I said before, I feel so lucky to live somewhere that I adore. I know that not everyone has that luxury – and that I might not always have it either.


Commencing disaster
May 31, 2010

I guess I was due for a less-than-perfect weekend, just to cap off all my babbling about Spring bliss. But I have to say, the last three days of Ithaca-set graduation festivities still threw me for a loop, what with the screaming and the crying and the cruelly non-alcoholic punch at every freaking reception.

Is it just me, or are graduations kind of inevitably awful?

I mean, I adore the pomp and circumstance as much as the next devotee of Harry Potter and the Ivy League. And I couldn’t be more proud of Dave’s brother, a budding meteorologist who’s taking a chance on a career that scoffs at the idea of handing out health insurance and a livable wage, all so he can follow his life-long dream. (Literally, lifelong – he informed me at his Science of Earth System major ceremony that he had an epiphany of sorts during the blizzard of ’96. Also, his nickname is ‘the Blizz.’ Pretty cute.)

But adorable career aspirations or not, the next time someone wraps up their four years (or seven, in the case of one astrophysicist-to-be), I plan on watching the ceremony via CCTV with the old people. As long as it’s old people I’m not related to. You can also expect me to periodically sneak sips from a flask of tequila stowed tastefully under my white sun dress.

Because I firmly believe that commencements are essentially logistical disasters with some fancy robes thrown in to soften the blow. And should not be endured without liquor.

I was trying to explain my theory (regular family members + estranged family members + insanely hot/cold/rainy weather + decades of unexplored issues clearly deserving of several therapy sessions = an event to be dreaded and endured in the same way as dental work, or vacations to developing countries) to Dave on the drive up to Cornell, and he was all incredulous and shit. But that was before the three massive blow out fights (you know, the kind that end with a mutual understanding that you two will be walking in opposite directions as soon as it is feasible to exit the vehicle.) And the emergency late-night, tear-tinged phone call to my best friend from the lobby of a Hampton Inn. Not to mention the escorting of the three elderly grandparents up and down what seemed like hundreds of steps, and the sibling beer pong party where I was repeatedly assumed to be his sister. (Maybe that explains why his parents got us a hotel room with two separate beds?)

Which reminds me, his parents got us a hotel room with two separate beds. Added bonus: the hotel was attached to a Wegman’s! And populated by mulleted women. But I digress.

In the end, I think we made it home with minimal permanent damage done, save a few sunburnt spots and a dependance on having dessert after every meal (this happens to me every freaking vacation, I swear to god.)

Most importantly, though, I think I officially won my “the image of graduation perfection is a total farce” argument. On Sunday afternoon, while indulging in the graduate’s 18th photo op, a sudden hush fell over the group as drama started unfolding across the street. Still clad in her cap and gown, a girl was screaming at the top of her lungs at someone who appeared to be her mother. After about five minutes of berating – complete with violent hand motions! – she turned around and started walking away, only to reverse course a few seconds later to come back for more screaming. I turned to Dave with a smug little smile, satisfied both because I’d obviously proven my point and, simultaneously, lost the award for Cornell Commencement 2010 Most Obnoxious Attendee to a clear front-runner. With graduation drama, it’s always relative.

May 13, 2010

Three things I bet you didn’t remember, yet apparently actually happened second-semester senior year:

1. Chasing Bankers Club shots with celery.

(As I’ve mentioned before, I thought this was an urban legend. The photograph clearly proves otherwise.)

2. Bottle-feeding baby animals at an indoor frat petting zoo.

3. Um, simply attending junior Hey Day.

Or maybe that’s just me?

three years out
May 13, 2010

I graduated from college three years ago today. And, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you did too.

In preparation for the occasion, I spent far too much money on a new BCBG dress and made reservations at a slew of fancy Philadelphia restaurants. My best friend voluntarily gave up a few days of senior week at her Connecticut school to watch me receive my (fake) diploma; my brother unvoluntarily gave up the last few days of his semester in Nicaragua, per my parents’ orders.

The final week of my undergraduate years was a blur of booze and fast food, adrenaline and anticipation, drama and giddiness and fear and nostalgia. The whole last semester was like that, really.

The funniest part is, I don’t really have much to say about it now. As someone who’s introspective and over-analytical enough that she insisted on devoting an entire blog to the all-important topic of HER LIFE, this is a strange feeling.

But I just don’t really think I have much to add to the conversation. It felt like yesterday, it felt like forever ago; I was scared, I was happy – it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, right? And, at the moment, I’m having a hard time even getting myself to care about that hazy soup of emotions from three years past – which is especially alarming when juxtaposed with just how strongly I seemed to feel everything – from fear over not having a job to joy at tasting Greek Lady’s pita chips at 3 a.m. post-Smoke’s – during the spring of 2007.

Today, watching the drunken seniors in their matching shirts stumbling down Walnut for the 40-block bar crawl that at one point seemed to epitomize the brilliance and horror of graduation, all I really had to say was…meh. Whatever. I laughed for a second to myself as I watched some girl continually misstate the name of the Center City bar she wanted her companions to escort her to, and then left it all behind, jogging across the street to catch the tail end of a yellow light. I was rushing to meet a friend at Reading Terminal, where we planned to gather supplies for the dinner we would cook in my apartment, the one with no elevator and no doorman but a big desk in a sunny spot where I get to write my stories, all day long.

I’d like to think it’s what my 22-year-old self had in the back of her mind when she walked down to Franklin Field that painfully early, perfectly sunny May morning.

*Note: Most, if not all, of these photos are not by me; probably some combination of T, our resident photographer, and Allie R.S., the girl who got us all hooked on high school musical just as we were leaving college.

Bad decisions: a retrospective
April 20, 2010

The details from Saturday night are starting to float back to me, thanks to helpful reminders like my Pandora station (“Did I dance to that Black-Eyed Peas song with Lauren’s dad?”), that massive bruise on my thigh, and Dave’s 13-year-old brother’s curiosity (direct quote: “Why was Rachel so wasted?”)

It used to be a familiar occurrence, the learning about the things you did last weekend days after you actually did them. In fact, the Blabbermouth you know and love is the product of a vast history of alcohol-fueled disasters, most of which, of course, were simply known as Weekends at the time. Do you remember me back then? (Crowd nods heads, rolls eyes.) I wasn’t the easiest college roommate/spring break travel buddy/high school best friend to put up with. I was…how do I say this?…pretty much a drunken slut.

I honestly don’t regret any of it – the rough nights, the fun nights, the one-night-stands, the vomit. OK, maybe the vomit. That was gross.

I also don’t regret that I’m a little different now – calmer, more secure, more sober. Different things are right for people at different times, and the lifestyle that came naturally for me at 21 isn’t necessarily a good fit for me at 25. It helped me learn a few lessons and meet a few people, but I’m pretty sure it’s served its purpose now. And one can’t subsist on Big Azz margaritas alone forever, you know.

Except, sometimes, I’ll admit, I have those moments where I miss it a little bit. It’s hard to separate the nostalgia for my days of sex, drugs and Kenn Kweder from my nostalgia for college itself, since the two were so intertwined, but suffice it to say: I liked living with a gaggle of girls. I liked staying up all night. And those cheese fries always tasted delicious at 3 a.m.

As luck would have it, I still appear to be perfectly capable of getting drunk and making bad decisions (see: Saturday night.) In fact, you all were such a rapt audience for this past weekend’s debauchery that I considered doing it all over again tonight, minus the bar mitzvah part (just the alcohol and embarrassment, seeing as it’s a Tuesday.) Then I remembered a- I’m a Reponsible Working Person now, one who has to catch the 7:30 a.m. train to Wilmington tomorrow, and b- I already have tons of amazing stories in my arsenal.

So I was thinking that in honor of Spring Fling – which, yes, coincidentally was last weekend – I would take a little trip down memory lane and share a few tales from my personal archives of shame with you. (Mom, you can stop reading now.) If nothing else, they’ll probably make you feel better about yourself. Consider it a little Tuesday pick-me-up, from me to you.

Christine’s graduation camp-out sleepover, 2003: Kids, thank god there aren’t pictures of this on the Internet (note: if this is not true, please don’t tell me, I’d like to keep living in this bubble. Thanks.) I was 18-years old, thought I was hot shit, and somehow sought to reenact the drama of Dawson’s Creek, season 3, with a few weird twists. To this end, I a-chugged the better part of a handle of cheap vodka, no doubt smuggled in from Bridgeport b- joined a group of boys in baking a tent we had borrowed from our calculus teacher and c-told my boyfriend I was actually in love with a close family friend. (I wasn’t.)

The evening soon evolved into a massive disaster that seriously puts Saturday night to shame. And the kicker is that my graduation brunch – complete with catering and white tent – was the next morning. I don’t know what was more of a tragedy – the fact that my boyfriend, boyfriend’s mother and totally unsuspecting family friend all showed up at the same time or the fact that I was too nauseous to enjoy the fruits of my own omelette man. Sad.

Spring Fling, 2005: Believe it or not, this was actually the  first time Dave and I met. (It still counts if one of us was passed out at the time, right?) After chasing an unknown number of Bankers Club rum shots with Bankers Club vodka shots, I was extremely intoxicated and decided it was a good time to, um, escort my friend Mike back to his room in the quad.

After a sexual experience that was wrong on so many levels (not the least of which being he had already hooked up with about 60% of my friends), I immediately run to the bathroom, where I proceed to pass out on the floor. Cue the entrance of Mike’s roommate, our very own David Matthew. Apparently Mike is still in his boxers, pretty distraught over the fact that he just hooked up with his good friend, who’s now marooned on his bathroom floor. While Mike calls my three best friends to come pick me up, Dave comes up with the fabulous idea to feed me the Passover leftovers his mom had dropped off a few days before. I believe the line was: “Give her the Matzah, man.” (Thanks Mrs. B!) Not only did I survive, the whole ordeal also precipitated The Greatest Photo Ever.

My princess-themed 21st birthday party, 2006: Sparkly tiara + feather boa + pink franzia = a recipe for disaster. That’s really all you need to know. That, and my college house was a shit show.

Alissa’s wedding, 2007: My friend Courtney had been trying to set me up with one of her sister’s friends from college for years, so when said sister got married, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. When the plan actually started falling into place – I sat next to him, we flirted, he graciously offered to grab my tequila sunrise from the open bar – I did what any sensible college senior would do: got extremely intoxicated. In my defense, it wasn’t really on purpose: this was back when I thought champagne didn’t actually count as a drink. Apparently, I was wrong.

Rest assured, I eventually did seal the deal, conquering that hookup goal three months later. (Hint: he played the entire Justin Timberlake cd. And already had a spare contact case waiting for me at his apartment.) But that night it was not to be: I had to be forcibly removed from the after party and brought back to our hotel room at the Ritz, where I hear things went downhill fast. In fact, a few weeks ago, when Bridget and I were discussing possible, theoretical venues for my possible, theoretical nuptuals, currently scheduled for 2060, I insisted that my heart was set on the Ritz in Philadelphia. Bridget’s response? “You don’t get married in the Ritz. You throw up in the Ritz.” Touche, Gidge. Touche.

Senior formal, 2007: See that picture on my about page? The girl in the pink dress popping open a bottle of champagne amid her encouraging friends? Yeah, twelve hours later, that girl was wandering home from a local frat house, sans knowledge of a-what happened the night before and b, most importantly – what happened to the cream-colored satin stilettos she certainly had on her feet upon leaving her house for the downtown venue. She would never see those heels again — though she would eventually find out what transpired in those lost, blacked-out hours. But that’s a dirtier story for a different time.

Admit it – don’t you feel like a better, more capable human being now? You’re welcome.

On not loving New York
April 12, 2010

When it comes to next year, there’s really no denying that New York is the logical, sensible place for Dave and me to move.

There’s a wealth of career opportunities for me there, and a wealth of top-notch residencies for everyone’s favorite med student. Dave’s mother wouldn’t wake up every morning cursing me for taking his son to a state that doesn’t border New Jersey. I could have a Shake Shack burger whenever my heart desired.

But facts don’t necessarily predict feelings, and the sad fact of the matter is: I don’t want to go. I really, really don’t.

Part of the reason is that the residency process, for all its heartaches and headaches, is actually a great opportunity to try something new. Dave and I are both pretty attached to the East Coast on a long-term basis – we know we want to live here when we grow up – so why not experience another part of the country now? It’s just three years. I’m scared that if we don’t go soon, we never will. And while Dave – the kid who’s lived within a half hour of his parents for his other life – is OK with that option, I’m not.

The other reason has less to do with alternatives and more to do with Manhattan itself. I’m just not smitten with it, and I feel like the City That Never Sleeps And Charges You $7 For A Latte is best left to those who are.

Of course, like every Penn grad, there was a time I did love New York, at least the idea of New York, and was convinced I would live there after college. As preparation for my eventual role in the mass, post-graduation exodus up I-95, I spent the summer between my junior and senior years living on the 17th floor of a building that straddled Gramercy and Murray Hill, working two unpaid internships that were apparently totally illegal.

My friend Jon was killing a few months before moving to England for grad school, and together we tried valiantly to embrace our low income status. The majority of our diet consisted of 99 cent Gray’s Papaya hot dogs and $5 footlong Subway sandwiches we would split down the middle (iceberg lettuce on one side, spinach on the other), capped by the occasional dinner at Daniel when my parents would come into town. Jon cooked Ramen noodles in an electric tea kettle, the only appliance in his sparse, un-air-conditioned NYU dorm room.

That all lasted about six weeks. Toward the end of July, a serious heat wave set in, and we escaped to an Upper East Side boutique hotel, blowing $100 on a sushi dinner at Geisha while we were at it. Go big or go home, right?

In a way, the summer was fun – I’m sure I fancied myself semi-Bohemian, like I was starring in my own Coach-wearing, Trader Joe’s-shopping version of Rent. I liked a lot of things about New York: the tall buildings, the weird people, the late nights, the walkability. In many ways, it felt like I was coming home, like these were my people, my city. After all, I’m high-strung. I’m loud. I hate Times Square and tourists and others who insist on walking slowly. I was pretty much an instant native.

The problem is that the things that make me most New Yorker-ish are also the things I would most like to change about myself.  I want to calm down, not stress out. I have judgmental tendencies as it is, so why would I want to live in a city where “status is everything,” as Alex from Real Housewives so wisely opined?

Now, I’m sure most people are perfectly capable of living on that island without having it bring out the worst in them. But you’re probably unsurprised to learn: I’m just not one of them.

The insecurity, the jealousy, the “why haven’t I eclipsed Andrew Ross Sorkin by now, anyway?” thoughts permeated my head that summer. Against the pre-professional back-drop of Penn-in-NYC, the fact that I had no idea what I wanted to do after college was all the more terrifying. I developed a complex about people in finance (try working iBanking hours while attending school full-time, I would whine, to no one in particular), a complex about people who were trying their luck at journalism (it’s impossible, I would say, you/I/we’ll never make it.) I felt disheartened and excluded by a lot of what the city had to offer. Whether it was true or not, I was convinced I had neither the cash nor the connections to really be a part of the big apple.

Since then, some things have changed. I made it into journalism. Wall Street tanked. I surround myself with people who are more likely to be talking about cardiothoracic surgery or Congress than their bonuses. I’m a little more confident, a little more level-headed.

But there’s still ample evidence on this Web site that I have a long ways to go when it comes to Calming The F Down (see: my India trip, last Thursday night.) So why not give myself the best chance possible of actually following through with my perennial New Year’s resolution for a couple of years? I hear there’s a whole state, right across the country, that specializes in that whole ‘laid back thing’ I’m so desperately trying to master.

Over it.
March 3, 2010

So, I haven’t told you about my weekend yet, huh? About how I played beer pong and listened to Lil’ Wayne and OD’ed on sour watermelon candy in the backseat of Dave’s parents’ Accord?

If that’s not reverting, I don’t know what is.

Yeah, I still have a little anxiety about That Awful Birthday. But I actually had a lot of fun playing college senior/honorary member of Dave’s family for the weekend.

There was some car ride interrogation: “Rachel, if David got a residency in New York, how easily could you transfer to [Big, Prestigious Paper my media company owns]?” aka “Don’t even think about taking our son somewhere that would prohibit him for coming home for Sunday night dinner.”

There were no less than three trips to Wegman’s, Dave’s family’s grocery store/restaurant/entertainment venue of choice.

There was a hilarious episode involving Dave’s freshman sister and her freshman friend, who insisted she could get them into a bar with just their Cornell IDs, simply by dropping the name ‘Arturo’ at the door. Um, yeah. FAIL.

There was some quality time with Christie Lee. There was a lot of really gross, gray slushy snow. There was a lot of Natty Light.

You know what there wasn’t?

Nostalgia. Urges to send drunken text message to cell phone numbers I should have forgotten by now. Ghosts of ex-boyfriends past.

It surprised me, actually. I spent a fair amount of time up at Cornell during my freshman year of college, visiting That Kid. And I completely expected to be bombarded by the memories – that frat house where I lost my fleece and engaged in questionable behavior in order to score Mardis Gras beads, the quad where we (probably mistakenly) decided to give the relationship another go after a month-long “break” (in name only.) But the memories, the nostalgia, the ache for the days before I gained the Freshman 15 25 – they never came. I felt nothing the whole weekend – save gratitude that I didn’t have to spend four years in Ithaca. (It’s called a safety school for a reason, people.)*

It was slightly disorienting, to be honest. I was so used to being so affected by him, even long after we ended the relationship (which again, took a lot longer in practice than in name.) Years after my feelings for him had disappeared, the littlest things – a random Facebook message, a Journey song blasting at a bar – continued to throw me for a loop. I’m the queen of overanalysis, of rumination, of Not Letting Things Go. So I kind of thought it would just always be that way. I mean, I really was over him, I was just kind of…haunted.

Who knew all it would take to make the ghosts go away was a trip to upstate New York?

*Harsh, I know. Get over it.

Taking a stand
February 27, 2010

The way I see it, there are two ways to deal with this whole quarter-century thing.

I could sit here in my apartment, staring (horrified) at my gray hairs, examining those creepy little wrinkles that have begun to develop on my forehead, thinking about the fact that one beer at dinner basically did me in for the night. I could sift through my old Facebook photos, marveling at the tube tops I wore and the shots I took and…my god, did we really chase Bankers Club vodka with celery sticks? I thought that was an urban legend.

I could pine for the days when my best friends were one floor away, instead of across the globe, when I could wear my rings on any which finger I chose without fear someone might make a (completely incorrect!) assumption about my marital status.

Or I could spend the weekend partying with a bunch of college seniors in upstate New York.

Look, I know it might not be the healthiest approach. I know I’ve talked a lot of shit about Cornell in my day (in my defense: it’s extremely appealing to make fun of the only Ivy League school that’s worse than your own, plus my ex-boyfriend went there and I mean have you seen Ithaca?) I know sleeping on the floor of Dave’s brother’s room in some gross, all-boys Collegetown house is going to suck and and that our inevitable late night trip to something called “The Grease Truck” is probably a bad idea and that I could barely get down something called a birthday cake shot last weekend.

But it’s just one night. And those tube tops are way too cute to retire already.

A warning to high school seniors
December 26, 2009

It seems like a good idea. He’s cute, and smart, and, by high school standards, good in bed (by bed, of course, you mean the couch in his parents’ basement.) You like each other. A lot. He gives you a sterling silver Tiffany necklace for your one-year anniversary. If that doesn’t say “serious relationship,” what does? What’s the point in breaking up with a boy like that?

So you go to college with a boyfriend, even though everyone tells you not to. Within a week, you decide you want to make out with a boy with a Southern accent (they definitely didn’t have those in New England.)

You break up, you get back together. You pay an obscene amount of money for a fall break flight to a middle-of-nowhere college town. You drink too much. You break up, get back together. You get mono. He gets mono. During finals. You fight.

You break up, for real this time. Except you’re still hooking up. Constantly. It’s messy, clearly unhealthy. You know this. But you can’t stop.

You can’t stop for two and a half years – through a moderately legitimate relationship with a metrosexual-bordering-on-homosexual sophomore, through a transatlantic trip to visit his study abroad destination, through a summer in New York. Until finally – finally! – you cut him out of your life. Oddly enough, this happens to coincide with him finding a new girlfriend. She’s the opposite of you: Christian, Republican, Southern. You’re a wreck.

You can’t possibly imagine that things will get better. You swear to your friends that he’s the best you’ll ever find, that even though he made you miserable, it’s better than being alone.

As it turns out, you’re wrong. Things do get better. You meet someone. He’s a much better fit, and, though your 18-year-old self couldn’t possibly fathom it, much better in bed. (An actual, full-size bed.)

You’re happy – the kind of happy where you don’t have to fake it at all. You rarely think about him, The First Boyfriend, The High School Wonder. You skip over all the Tori Amos and over-dramatic Guster on your ipod, which is really a shame, because that shit was good. But you have no need for it.

At least, that’s how things go for about 360 days a year. January through October, everything is fine. Until the trip home for Thanksgiving. Headphones blaring on the northbound Amtrak regional, you once again find yourself creating music videos in your head (starring you, naturally), outlining your ultimate revenge against the ex-boyfriend you hadn’t thought about in months. Instead of the fantasies that generally accompany your new, healthy, happy self – what if the live-in boyfriend and I got a puppy? what if he could afford a 2-carat ring?- you’re reverting back to old behaviors. You put “2 Points for Honesty” on repeat, close your eyes, and picture yourself (thinner, prettier, in a better outfit than usual) bumping into the ex, nonchalantly mentioning how great your life is, kicking him in the balls.

What, in god’s name, is going on here?

This is the part no one told you about. Your friends, your therapist – everyone who said that time heals all wounds- they forgot to mention what happens when you return to your hometown for the holidays. It doesn’t matter how over him you are, how much you’ve moved on or how far away you’ve moved. There’s something about driving down the same streets you used to cruise in his Jeep, going to the same restaurants he used to take you to on Friday nights, that just momentarily reverts you to being 18 again. You scan every single place you go – CVS on main street, fish store his mother used to shop at – for him. You refuse to leave the house without lipgloss.

It’s a temporary phenomenon, and by the time the turkey is eaten and the presents opened, you’re back on your way to your new city, new life, new boyfriend with no damage done. It’s been three years and you’ve yet to run into him. But it’s taxing. It stirs up anger, anxiety, embarassment you forgot still lingered inside you. It impedes upon your ability to affectively bargain hunt on Black Friday. And even though you know that your high school relationship taught you a lot about what you want and don’t want in a partner, even though you know it helped you grow up and develop into the person you are, still, you think: maybe it would have been easier if I just gave back the Tiffany necklace and went to college with no strings attached.