As a semi-professional woman living in one of America's
coolest coldest cities, I have a front row seat to the latest trends among the so-called Movers and Shakers - who, btdubs, are no longer referred to as "Movers and Shakers," that being a term that was retired 11 minutes ago, in favor of "People with Jobs," and also by their hashtag, #PWJs.
It can be very hard to keep up with these people, given that they are in a near-constant state of moving, shaking and otherwise doing the things that the rest of us will be trying to do 6-18 months from now, depending on our demographic group and proximity to the Heartland - which, our sources tell us, will be super
cool cold in 2015 and redubbed "SoHeart."
But my point is, you can't throw a desk chair anymore without hitting someone trying to sell you on their services as a "coach" of some sort. At the high-powered professional lunches I attend in America's Coldest City, I am regularly approached by every manner of coach, offering to improve my life/career/wardrobe/parenting/soupmaking/spiritual fitness/blowjob skills with personalized coaching and inspiration.
And while I am probably a little closer to the so-called "slicing edge" than many of you, there are still many areas of my life that are "less than the number of golf strokes at a given hole." But where to begin? With so many options, it can feel as if you need a Coaching Coach just to know whose services to engage.
As someone who would almost certainly be a super successful Personal Trendspotting Coach if not for a terrible decision to major in blogging 10-30 years ago, I've been able to put together the following List of Coaches You Will Need to Reach Your Full Potential in 2015:
1. The Coaching Coach: There is no better way to start off your 2015 Self-Improvement Effort than by hiring someone who specializes in telling you exactly how you need to self-improve. In 2014, this role might have been assumed by your mother-in-law or your spouse, but that won't cut it in 2015. You need someone with a business card. And that business card should be very small and have one of those black scanning square thingys on it.
2. The Selfie Coach: If there's one thing that will destroy your online cred faster than "duckface" in 2015, it's being the last person in your peer group to know that, hey, we're all doing turtleface now. Duh.
3. The Foot Coach: Move over six-pack abs. Your term is up, Michelle Obama arms. Our research shows that in 2015, the body part to obsess over is right in front of you, assuming you are lying on the couch. You might not ever have Kardashian toes, but in 2015, you should at least aspire to.
4. The Celebrity Twitter Coach: Twitter turns 9 this year and teenage girls everywhere are already celebrating its 16th birthday. That's how behind you are. It's not enough anymore just to hire a coach to help you keep up with the right celebrity T-feeds; in 2015, your coach must be an actual celebrity, or at the very least a celebrity look-alike.
5. The Food-Coach: Food is going to be even more complicated this year, as the proverbial "15 minutes of fame" for cool ingredients shrinks to just under 10. Just because you were one of the first people to jump on the kale shake bandwagon doesn't mean you're ready to eat in 2015.
6. The Instagram Coach: Appetizers photographed in low light will just make you seem old in 2015. What will the cool kids be IG-ing this year? Still appetizers, but the lighting is going to be completely different.
7. The Facebook Status Update Coach: You already know how important it is to get this right. But in 2015, you can add your mother to the list of people who will be judging you. It's a cruel, cruel, not real world.
8. The College Major Coach: Who has time to keep up with the flood of new "studies" and "almost-like news articles" documuenting the repercussions of the loser college major you settled on decades ago? A college major coach will send you personalized daily text updates on how much more money/sex/life satisfaction you would have achieved by now if you had done almost anything else.
9. The Sexting Coach: If you're still having sex with other people in person just because that's the way your parents did it, #Eww. Who wants to think of their parents having sex? Join the 21st century, but by all means, get professional help. Sexting Gone Wrong is like herpes, only more viral.
10. The Micro/Extreme-Hobby Coach: Want the boss to finally notice you in 2015? It's what you do outside the office that will get you the raise this year. This is not the year to finally take that painting/photography/scrapbooking class you've always wanted to try. Unless you want people to think you're over 30. (Over 30, in case you've been dancing in a cave, is the new Over 35, a.k.a. "Career Suicide.") An extreme hobby coach can introduce you to roller parachuting or cave dancing instead. He or she can also keep you "ahead of the curl" by letting you know the exact moment when cave dancing starts to go lame.
It turns out that my expertise on the subject of romance may be limited to a relatively narrow demographic. In my defense, there is very little call for it on the ACT.
He had gone from apologizing, to begging for forgiveness, to contemplating a campaign to win her back. As his college entrance exam tutor and a woman barely 30 years out of high school, I knew he was making a mistake.
"You're overthinking this," I said. "It looks like chemistry, but it's really just a logic question."
It was just as true in romance as it was on the ACT science test. I was sure of it. Plus, I had the answer sheet right in front of me.
When it comes to getting the girl back, less is more. "More" telegraphs weakness, whereas "less" is the stuff that makes people want "more." Also, there are so many ways the grand gesture can go wrong. I didn't have time to enumerate all of them and bring his ACT score up.
But later, as I recount my sage advice to Girl Kamikaze, whose credentials include actually being a teenage girl, I get back the look she uses to signal that I have just said something so mind-bogglingly stupid it isn't even worth tweeting.
The correct answer, apparently, would have been this: Take your biggest idea, then multiply it by a factor of too much.
According to the girl, whose instincts have been honed in a graduate degree's worth of Zac Effron movie deconstruction seminars and "literally" millions of YouTube prom proposals, the only way the Big Romantic Gesture can go wrong is by not being big enough. Assuming it has been vetted by a committee of her 200 closest friends.
It seems so obvi to me now; I can't believe I missed it.
There are limits of course, to what an ACT tutor can do for you, even one whose command of pronouns is as solid as myself. But I really should have subcontracted this one right from the beginning. I know that now.
10. Sometimes when I say I have to go to bed early, it is just an excuse to get away from you and read in bed. 9. Sometimes when I say I have to go to bed early but I am really just going upstairs to read in bed, I don't even read anything. It is enough just to get away from you. 8. Sometimes, when you accuse me of never answering my phone I think, "Gosh, what if they were trying to reach me with some kind of emergency?" And then I laugh so hard. 7. Sometimes when you call or text me with food requests and poster board emergencies, my second thought is "I should really be grateful that poster board and spicy chicken cravings are what pass for emergencies in my family." But my first thought is usually, "Are you fucking kidding me? How much poster board can one family need?" Because seriously. How much poster board can one family need? 6. I only go to the grocery store when we are out of wine or olives. And sometimes capers. I know you already knew about the wine and the olives. Now I'm just coming clean about the capers. 5. You know how when you text me from college, or work or high school gym class just to be sure that I got your previous five texts asking me to look for your wallet, mail your retainer ASAP!, buy poster board or pick you up from school because you forgot that your period comes every single month? I don't really mind that much. 4. We really do have a money tree in the backyard. I just told you we didn't so I wouldn't have to explain the real reason we take so few family vacations. Also, picking money is hard work. 3. Remember that time when the tooth fairy left you nothing and I explained that your tooth value was tied to a weighted commodity futures index fund that also included agricultural products, oil and metals? That was not entirely true. 2. Remember how when you were little and your father and I said we had to go through all of your Halloween candy to be sure it was okay to eat and then it turned out that none of the Twizzlers and only about a third of the Snickers bars were safe to eat? Your father ate all of the Snickers. 1. It might seem like I complain about you a lot, but the truth is, I wouldn't trade you for
anything many things.
from the archives: Parenting is an art and we are all out of poster board
In the course of a recent interview for the cover of PTA Mom Weekly, I was asked what "Suburban Kamikaze" even meant.
It stumped me for a minute because 1) Nobody told me the name of your blog was supposed to mean anything, and 2) I was in the car with Veruca Salt, 15, who insisted on turning up the radio in the middle of my telephone interview because the latest One Direction song was playing and it had been almost 10 minutes since the last time she'd heard it, and 3) I always assumed that anyone who came here would figure it out. And then explain it to me.
I'm working on a better story for the next person who asks because if blogging has taught me anything - and I am not saying that it has - it's that you had better be prepared for your 5.3 seconds of fame-ishness, because there is really no second chance to get it right when the Daily Planet is on the phone.
The trick is to condense your story into a "sound bite" - which is journalism slang for "Seven to 12 easy-to-spell words, at least two of which should reference a celebrity, or a cat."
The long version: When I first moved "here" from This is Living, I felt like an alien. I was so much cooler than the other women I met, which scared me a little because in other parts of the world I was never more than like the third or fourth coolest person. When I showed up at their get-togethers, I'd be the only woman in the whole place wearing a bikini, or drinking a Margarita. And then one day it dawned on me: It was 15 degrees. Also, I was at a PTA meeting.
Eventually, I learned to adjust to the rhythms of my new life in the so-called "Midwest." And by "adjust" I mean, "complain loudly about how much I hated it here." It didn't help that everyone I met told me I was going to hate it here. And that I was crazy for moving to Chicago from a place where they imagine everyone sits around the pool all day drinking mojitos under the palm trees, while handsome men in Disney costumes feed them guacamole and cocktail shrimp.
I lived in South Florida for 15 years and that sort of thing probably happened less than twice a week.
But the point is, when you spend all your time complaining to everyone you meet about how cold you are and how hard it is to find a decent mojito in the suburbs, eventually, you will run out of people to complain to. (Also, in one of the truly charming quirks of the Midwest, people will start planting mojitos in their backyard gardens just for you.)
The Internet provides a practically unlimited audience of people you can complain to. So, I started a blog. I named it Suburban Kamikaze because I didn't have the business savvy to call it Justin Bieber's Cat.
10. Your beach house.*
9. Hair color that doesn't come in a box. Ditto for wine.
8. Fancy toilet paper that comes on a roll.
7. Plans for your rainy day couch cushion money that do not include toilet paper.
6. The olive bar.
5. Overdeveloped sense of dignity that keeps you from sampling from the olive bar.
4. Forgetting to cash that $1.50 refund check that's been sitting in the the kitchen drawer for six months.
3. Eating on odd-numbered days.
2. $11 shopping sprees at Forever 21.
1. Your other kid
*Just kidding. Many USC parents actually have to give up only one of their beach houses.**
**Apologizing in advance to my new BFFs, USC parents with beach houses.
But which day?
I came home from BlogHer13 last night, tired, inspired and carrying sex toys in my luggage, just like last year. But the conference was in Chicago this year, so I didn't have to do a lot of tricky logistical planning like getting to the airport or synching myself up with the time-space continuum.
When the alarm went off at way-too-early this morning, I knew it was time to resume my schedule in the non-blog world, where nobody texts you at 3:45 a.m. to ask why you left the party early, and there is not nearly enough champagne vacuuming.
I got up, got ready for work and drove to the office, resigned to the prospect that it was going to be a very long Monday. I could not have been more wrong.*
My first thought was that I wasn't the only one coming off a crazy weekend; the parking lot was completely empty.
I would like to tell you that I figured out my mistake before I unlocked the office door, but I can't because at the conference on Friday I told a roomful of bloggers that, much like a tax return, humor writing is better when the underlying facts are unembellished.
Photo: Champagne vacuuming. This really happened. Plus other stuff. More later.
*It was Sunday. Technically it would have been more wrong to have imagined it was going to be a really long Tuesday, or Wednesday or even Thursday, but that is an example of a rhetorical point, which is not subject to the same standards of accuracy.**
**I point this out merely to give you a small taste of the wisdom I shared during the humor writing panel, where bloggers Georgia Getz, Krista Burton and Elizabeth Jayne Liu said things that were actually useful.
They also made me laugh so hard, I forgot what day it was.
Despite what you may have heard from my family members, I am something of an authority on the subject of humor. I know this because I have been asked to participate in a roundtable discussion on the Anatomy of Humor Writing at an upcoming conference. So, yeah.
As a small display of my expertise, I am going to share with you my nearly foolproof "flow chart" system for producing hilarious blog posts.
I came across the flow chart concept in the office of a business executive who had engaged my services to develop a system of communicating the important businessy stuff he did all day into something that people could read without succumbing to a coma.
Being something of a fraud in the business world, despite my Forever 21 wardrobe and afternoon wine breaks, I recognized the flow chart's potential for comedy, notwithstanding its provenance as a tool MBAs use to make a simple idea look like something you'd need a graduate degree to think up.
Now my blog practically writes itself.
Another Mother's Day is almost here. Go ahead, pretend to care. We see right through your shabby little arts and crafts efforts. Who do you think is going to have to vacuum all that glitter spilling out from your sticky tribute? Who is in charge at that preschool anyway? Just kidding. You're adorable.
Whatever, middle schoolers. You can't buy us off with some cheap chocolate your dad bought for you at the last minute just because you can't drive and you don't have any money. You think we don't know what you tweet about us? Well, we don't actually. We are too busy trying to get that smell out of your bedroom.
Just kidding. We know you care.
OMG high schoolers! You are going to clean the house for us? That is so sweet, even if you are the ones who made it such a mess in the first place. There is nothing as satisfying as the smell of cleaning products and burnt toast on a Sunday morning. Unless it is the smell of cleaning products and burnt toast accompanied by the sounds of a protracted argument over who has to do the vacuuming. Why should you have to do it anyway? It's not like you are going to do a good job. You can't even make toast. Who is going to eat that?
Seriously though, keep it simple. Last year's 11-course champagne brunch was lovely, but a little over the top.
I am only joking. It really is the thought that counts. I am not sure whose mom said it first, but it is just as true today as it was then, or whenever.
Because once you have looked under the couch cushions, where does it end?
Your children will just use it as an excuse to eat more salsa.
There is very little to be gained from knowing what is under the rugs in a house full of teenagers.
It will take you weeks to reset the bar on what constitutes "clean enough."
A clean house is a sign that somebody is not living the life somebody deserves. Anybody?
The longer you put it off, the later in the year you can celebrate Clean House
(Clean House Hour celebrations never end well.)
Trust me: You don't really want to know where that smell is coming from.
Caring is the first step on the road to Utter Resignation. Why not just get there already?
If you really believed it would do any good, you would have already done it.
from the cleaning archives: CSI Suburbia
The boy and I are in New Orleans to visit a local university where everything is covered in Mardi Gras beads and smells like crawfish. It's awesome, frankly, and I briefly consider enrolling myself instead.
But, as the result of a bad decision many years ago by Richard Nixon, the boy's father and I have not managed to save
enough any money to pay the ridiculous cost of room, board, books and tuition at our local beauty college, let alone Crawfish U.
The boy has earned some scholarship money, but there's still what might be called "a gap," or less euphemistically, "a shortfall," or in academic terms, "a magna cum big fucking hurdle" between what we have and what we need.
The financial aid counselors have been extremely helpful, pointing out the various organs we are still young enough to sell and noting that if we were to sell our house and all our possessions, we could pay off our college debt by moonlighting for no more than a few years.
But they don't call it The Big Easy for nothing. I haven't even started drinking yet when I stumble into a witchcraft shop somewhere in the French Quarter, where two practitioners tell me my troubles are over.
All I have to do is purchase the right spell, light the incense and say the magic words three times. Then I have to come up with $20,000 to $30,000 a year over the next four years. Needless to say, I jump at the opportunity.
Photos: Top left, crawfish remains on the French Quarter, making magic at Esoterica Occult Goods on Rue Dumaine, and a beaded tree on the Tulane University campus.
For many people the clash of economic theory and home entertaining can trigger a sharp upswing in the Household Anxiety Index. Not that Ben Bernanke seems to care.
But there's no reason to panic. We're here to walk you through it.
If you are like most people, the rekindled debate among competing economic theories has thrown your dinner party planning into disarray.
From the seating arrangements – classical-Keynesian-classical-Keynesian? – to the menu, there is virtually no part of the evening immune from potentially awkward clashes of methodology or ideas.
It goes without saying that the demands of completely unfettered, free-market style entertaining cannot be reconciled with the requirements of etiquette. No one really wants to compete for pie, no matter what their philosophical views.
And while some guests may not approve of overt attempts to orchestrate the course of the evening, a little central planning can greatly reduce the risk to your social currency.
A well-planned cocktail hour will start things off on the right note no matter what the Fed chairman says. Trendy, Depression-era cocktails, however, should be avoided, as these are likely to spark protracted bickering over the wisdom of government intervention in the economy.
Wine is a safer choice. While the trade-offs are subject to debate, a good rule of thumb is to open a Keynesian bottle first. Fans of the champagne loving John Maynard Keynes would rather spend too much than live to regret a lesser vintage.
This can also serve as enough of a distraction to keep them out of the kitchen, where they are prone to bouts of tinkering that may or may not improve the state of the moussaka.
Stick to topics of broad general agreement: the real cost of a thing is what you have to give up to get it, a rising tide will lift at least some boats and nobody looks good with a Greek haircut.
Be sure that your planning includes extra dessert, no matter how many guests have offered to bring one. This will smooth over any embarrassment over the fact that the disciples of Adam Smith and the Austrians, acting on nothing more than individual motivation, have all brought pie. No one knows why this happens, but it is every host’s nightmare.
Does everyone get an equal piece of the pie? Should the pie be larger? Is pie even a good idea? What do you do with all of the leftover pie?
These are questions that can throw the best laid table out of balance. But a quick-thinking host can restore equilibrium by substituting other baked goods for the surplus pie.
As Milton Friedman might have said, it is very hard to fight over cupcakes.
This piece first appeared in Crain's Chicago Business.
from the economic indicator archives: It's not the economy so much as the pull-up bar, Stocks rally to reports of sixth-grader's birthday repeat
People are always telling me, "Suburban, you are like the perfect wife."
Okay. That's not true. My friends are always telling me I am the worst wife ever. But there is no possible way they have done the kind of research that would be required to support a statement like that. As far as I know, no such research even exists. Who would do it? And what sort of criteria could pass for objective?
I think I am as qualified as anyone to say that Mr. Kamikaze is a lucky man, plus or minus a few percentage points for margin of error. But I am not one to rest on my laurels. You don't get laurels that look like this by resting on them.
Even so, I am always looking for ways to be an even better wife. Than some.
After 11, 14, or possibly 20 years of marriage, I find it often comes down to the things I don't do. I don't buy him tickets to the theater or the ballet unless I know there will be nudity. I don't ask him to go shopping with me. I never ask for his opinion on matters of fashion, personal grooming or song lyrics. I don't tell him my dreams, unless they're dirty, and I don't expect him to remember what I want for my birthday, Christmas or Valentine's Day. I write it down for him and tape it to the front of the refrigerator. Then I e-mail it to him at work. Then I just buy it for myself and tell him thank you.
I'm not saying it's a perfect system. It's just better than yours. Possibly. It's also possible I am doing everything completely wrong. In which case, you should probably do it differently.