Monthly Archives: May 2011

Wake up call

Every once in a while, something happens that just makes you snap the hell out of it. Sometimes, it’s some kind of life-changing event. Or other times, it’s your friend who very bluntly tells you to wake up and move on. Or, it’s realizing that it’s 3 AM and you’re crying on the bathroom floor (again) and drunk dialing your best friend (again), except this time, there’s a 12 hr time difference because you’re in China and she’s in NY…

Gosh darn it.

It seems as if after all my soul-searching in Europe, all it really took to send me over the edge, into I-want-a-boyfriend-Land, was some nagging on the part of my family. I could put up with it back in NY. With my mom going on and on about how I wasn’t getting any younger and my dad rolling his eyes next her, the you-need-a-boyfriend converstaion in my parents’ dining room was actually pretty comical. But not anymore.

Here’s the lowdown: My buddy from high school, let’s just call him Eligible  and Compatible Bachelor (“ECB”), decided to visit me in China. We’ve been really close friends since high school, with the exception of senior year when we got into a huge fight over prom, but whatever, water under the bridge now. So of course, I was excited when ECB told me that yes, he will actually visit me in China – 10 days, it’ll be great. Did I think that it would be more than a platonic visit? Eh, a naggy little voice (which sounds very much like my aunt’s) said that it was a possibility. After all, we often joke about how we’re gonna get married etc etc.

ECB knows me pretty well but the poor thing had yet to see me in a bad mood. And boy was I in a bad mood the 3rd day he was here. My parents were calling me from the States, asking about him, whether or not he would make a good husband. HELLO? EXCUSE ME? We’re not even dating. Then the nagging became so overwhelming that I finally snapped. I began thinking, well what if they’re right. What if this is it? I’m not getting any younger, you’re right Mother. He’s eligible and compatible, I should probably lock it down now. So began the start of a 3 day funk, when I started lamenting the loss of Ex-Boyfriend and my loneliness blah blah blah cry me a river and hand me a razor. EMO.

Thank goodness for ECB because that boy did not spare me. ECB called me out on my depressing behavior and just let me have it and you know what, he was so right. 2 years ago, he was just like me, so sad and depressed over his last girlfriend. All he wanted to do was get over it, move on but he couldn’t because he kept on talking about it. And so he told me, you just gotta shut up and do it. Don’t talk about where you’ll be working in 5 years or when you’ll meet Mr. Right. Stop making all these plans. Planning doesn’t get you nearly as far as doing.

ECB had a great point. So apparently, does Nike. Just do it.

But honestly, it’s more easily said than done. Case in point, our trip to Shanghai last weekend. It’s a great city really – a combination of New York, Beijing, and Europe. Truly something special (pictures to come later). The nightlife is great too, lots of bars, clubs and oh blubs (bar clubs). Things were going quite well until yours truly had one too many drinks and the next thing you know, I’m sobbing and asking to talk to my best friend, L. ECB, being the great friend he is, calls up L, long-distance, on his iphone. I proceed to lock myself in the bathroom and cry to L about how I can’t believe I’m still crying over Ex-Boyfriend after ALL. THESE. MONTHS. UGH! I’m actually just sick of it.

So, the wake up call was more a drunk dial. It’s been almost a year since Ex-Boyfriend and I broke up and I’m still crying about it? ECB said, the only way to get over it is to get over it. Let go 100%. And I guess I’ve still been holding on just a tiny bit so it’s time to make the final move and just freakin’ do it.

I wanted to share this with you because these past 10 days with ECB made me realize how often we talk about doing something and how little time we spend actually doing it. Instead of telling everyone about your new healthy diet, just do it. Stop whining about needing a vacation. Just book that flight to Hawaii. Actions speak louder than words and results are even louder. We can’t spend our lives looking nostalgically at the past nor can we spend all day looking forward to the future.

So heed the call, live in the now and most of all,  just freaking do it.

– Mag

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Can you have it all part II

My mind has remained on this topic since I last wrote about it and what prompted this new post was a response from one of my closest friends who said that she has pondered this dilemma as well. So I questioned, that change we need to make, well, is THAT even possible? Can the work-family COI reach a resolution?

First, let’s start at the root of the problem. Why does it even exist? Why do we want to attain these seemingly two incompatible goals? I think that maybe this COI is a result of evolution/biology as well as societal pressures. Think about it, in the biological sense, we were made to bear children. How can you not be attached carrying around this baby inside of you for 9 months? We were anatomically made to be mothers first and foremost. So we’re already at a disadvantegeous right there, from the moment we were zygotes.

Next, as we’re growing up, especially the 20-something generation, society is telling us that:
 1. We should have a job. The feminist movement has brought us this far, we would almost be a disappointment if we didn’t grow up to be whatever we could be (i.e. presidents, doctors, astronauts, lawyers) because we can! After all, it’s not like the 1800s or even the 1920s when women in the workplace were looked down on. If a 5 year old girl said in 1920 that she wanted to be Secretary of State, her parents would have said, Sweety, girls don’t do that. You can be First Lady.
2. But at the same time, what does society think of the MIA mother, the mother who’s never at her child’s soccer games, never makes an appearance at PTA meetings, because she’s too busy at work? She’s looked down on by others. She’s irresponsible, putting her career first, instead of tending to her children. Society still believes that
a woman’s primary duty should be her family.

So, we end up trying to attain this “mystical balance” of which my girlfriend spoke because now that we technically, as in legally, can accel right alongside our male counterparts, we feel the pressure to do so. However, in addition to that, society pressures us to be  good mothers and wives and biology reenforces all that. So where does this leave us?

I know I said that we should be the change we want to see but until promotions and work depend less on hours billed and more on efficiency and quality of work, we’re stuck where we are. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Princeton alum or went to WCC, at the end of the day, our actions are still largely dictated by society and our anatomy.

But here’s something else to chew on: What about CEO daddys and the 50 year old male partner at your firm with the 6 year old son? Don’t they suffer as well? Granted it was probably easier for them to reach those positions because they didn’t have to take as much time off as their wives post-birth but afterwards, aren’t they just as likely to be MIA? Perhaps, the biggest problem of all is that these days, especially in America, we live to work instead of work to live. Although this statement doesn’t apply if you really love your job. In that case, maybe we should just ignore what society thinks of us. If you want to work, then work. If you want to stay at home and take care of the kids, then do so. This method may not allow you to have it all (all being career, kids, loving family etc.) but you certainly can have all YOU want.

Still, it all goes back to you being that change. If you don’t want to be judged, then don’t judge others. Don’t assume that the stay-at-home mom married to the millionaire VP is stupid and a gold digger. She probably just wanted to spend time with her kids. There’s no way you would know that she has a degree from Yale hanging up in her study. If you want to work, then when you reach the top, don’t treat the new younger versions of you like you were treated. Just because you had to struggle to reach the top, sacrificing your love life doesn’t mean they should. The bigger picture is about advancing women, as well as society, as a whole.

I’m an optimisti so I think the COI can be resolved, this balance can be attained. Resolutions usually involve compromise and this situation should be no different. It’s not going to be easy and small sacrifices will need to be made but if you’re willing to put in the effort, then yes, I think you can have it all, in one form or another.

– Mag

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Can you have it all?

These past few days, I’ve been sitting here at my first cubicle job (a short stint of Chinese corporate life), alternating between revising agreements, checking out the corporate culture in China (post to follow) and skimming whatever websites the Chinese firewall has not blocked. My online wandering has led me to this website. This kind of blog dedicated to the modern professional woman has been a growing phenomenon recently. While these women are younger than my mother’s generation, they are just a few years older than me – I’d say 5 to 10 years older so while I’m not quite their age or status, I can relate 100% to what they’re saying because I know that I’m going to be there in the near future. And it scares me.

For a short while, before my last job really started to pick up, I would get weekly dinners with two of my girlfriends from high school – one working at a big publishing company and another at E&Y. Topics would range from the latest gossip to our latest dating distaster. Soon, our work schedules got so hectic, we could only manage dinner every few months or maybe drinks for a special occasion and the topics also began to change. They became more, well, we could say “adult”. One of us will be thinking of going back to school, another about switching jobs, one will lament the recent wave of layoffs or the measly bonus. Boys? Who has time to date right now? Not us. 3 margaritas later (Mexican food is our standard rendez-vous dinner), we always find ourselves pondering the same question: Can you have it all?

Between clawing climbing our way up the corporate ladder, attending all of our non-corporate friend’s weddings and get-togethers, and attempting to prevent becoming victim to the corporate 20 (that’s the 20 lbs you gain post-school sitting at your desk drinking red bull and coffee), how do we  entry-level, SFS wannabe’s view our idols – the women who are top dogs at their firm, glam, successful but most often than not single? Is there anyway we can get there without sacrificing well, our personal lives? We’re not even making six figures yet but we already don’t have time to date. Can someone please tell me why some of my 20-something friends are on online dating sites? I have nothing against these sites but aren’t we supposed to be young and active enough to be “out there” “meeting people”? Apparently not. Is it bad that I can relate to this post?

Truth is, I’m not really sure if we can have it all. I mean to say, not sure if we can have it all at the same time. This is why and I’ll lay it out for you through an example via the law profession:

Graduate college at 22 and go to law school (this is assuming you don’t take any years off in between, though many, Mag included, do). Spend your first summer interning as a clerk or summer associate after you’ve busted your ass as a 1L. Spend 2L busting your ass if you’ve managed to make law review. Second summer is spent slaving away at another firm, hoping to secure a job post-graduation in a crappy economy. 3L makes life much easier but as soon as you graduate, assuming you’ve found a job, you spend the summer studying for the bar. You are now 25. Start work, pulling multiple all-nighters and sleeping under your desk. You want a successful career so maybe you want to make partner. That means you must bill more hours than any one else. Life proceeds in this manner for the next 8-10 years until (if) you make partner. You are now at least 33.

So, where in that timeline do you see an opportunity to, oh I don’t know, meet a guy, go on more than 3 dates before he gives up on you because you’re too busy, get married, go on a honeymoon, get preggers and start a family? Yeah, I don’t see many openings either. But what if it went like this:

You do the entire law school thing, start work, but because you don’t WANT to make partner, you don’t put in as many hours, thus having time to date, meet Mr. Right, work for a few years, getting married at some point while you’re a lower-level associate, then quit when you get preggers, then have a family!

Is the latter option cheating? Will you be selling yourself short simply because you didn’t go all the way? Herein lies the problem, the conflict-of-interest (COI) if you will. No matter what any one else says, the corporate world is not a female-friendly environment simply due to biology. Guess what, when a man’s wife get’s pregnant, he can and probably will take paternity leave, but he’ll be back a lot faster than his wife who’ll be recovering for quite a while since she just pushed a baby through her who-ha. Not to mention, science has shown that women NATURALLY want to spend more time with their children. They say, the bird that returns early and bills the most hour gets the promotion, I mean, worm. Unless your company is very understanding or has different standards, evidence shows (and by evidence I mean all the single, divorced, or mother MIA female partners I know) that a stable family life and becoming top-dog at your company aren’t compatible. Perhaps at some point, you do have to choose. Maybe, you’ll be one of the lucky ones who has an understanding boss or is at a female-friendly company but for all the others, it’s very possible that there’s no other way around it but to prioritize one thing over another.

Or perhaps we need to be more proactive. Instead of waiting or wishing for a company that understands this COI, maybe, by working our way up, we can institute these policies, create the environment we need so that we can indeed have it all. Our biology may lead us to crave more of a domestic life at times but our intellect and drive do not have to suffer and be held back as a result. What’s that phrase? “Be the change you want to see”. Yes, instead of pondering the question, let’s just make it happen.

– Mag

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About a whore and a stripper

Note: This post is LONG overdue but travels and general laziness has prevented its publishing…

Although Amsterdam is usually the city that comes to mind when one says “red light district”, I’ve discovered that Frankfurt, Germany also has a pretty happening red light district. To save money and time, I booked a hostel in Frankfurt. It was only 2 blocks away from the train station and had decent reviews. It was also smack in the middle of the red light district in Frankfurt, lodged between a casino and a peepshow club.

I had never been to a strip club before and after dragging around my (male) travel buddy to countless churches and museums, I agreed to accompany him to a strip club. It turned into quite the night and would you believe it, I felt like a much more empowered woman by the end of my adventures in the Frankfurt world of vice.

This story must be prefaced by explaining where I was before Frankfurt and why. I was in Munich, essentially the iconic city of Bavaria and a city most well-known for their beers. While I did want to visit Munich for its beer and history, I really wanted to go for – dare I say it? – a boy. Now for the most part, I’ve taken a very strong stance against doing anything for a boy but I made an exception this time. I met this particular boy 8 years ago, when he was visiting his sister, an au pair for a girl in my high school, in the US. It was something like love at first sight. He barely spoke any English and we were “together” for all of 2 days before he went back to Germany. My German boy, at the age of 14, was the cutest thing ever. Of course, we had a magical kiss (both of us had braces) before he went back to Germany and grace à facebook and the internet, managed to stay in touch throughout the years.

So when I decided to do some traveling after my employment in France, I decided, hey, why not see my dear old German boy? We exchanged multiple emails/facebook messages/bbms and he seemed overly excited to see me and you can imagine that I was as well. In hindsight, my expectations may have been a little too high. I imagined a rather romantic reunion, dropping my suitcase at the train station at first sight of him, running towards each other, embracing like lovers… Ok I didn’t expect that exactly but I didn’t expect how much he had changed in the past 8 years. I still thought he’d be the cute little German boy who spilled coffee on himself and then didn’t know the word for napkin. Instead, I met a cocky 20-something year old dude who reminded me so much of Ex-Boyfriend that it was beyond freaky. So instead of an emotionally charged reunion, we had 3 decently awkward days where German boy spent most of his time on his blackberry facebooking or bbming. Real nice right?

So I arrived in Frankfurt with German boy and Ex-Boyfriend on my mind, wondering why boys like them continue to make disappointing appearances in my life. My self-esteem felt a tad deflated, seeing as how facebook was more interesting to German boy than I was, but that all changed when I met some of the most powerful and confident women. I know female partners, doctors, strong working mothers, students who manage to juggle many things but I never expected to feel as much awe as I did when talking to a stripper.

The strip club was loud and dark but nothing could hide her breasts which were pouring out of her shirt. As I looked around, I thought, these poor poor women, degrading themselves to make a few bucks. And then the stripper sitting next to me, the one with the huge overflowing breasts, started talking to me. Obviously, I was here with a friend and obviously I was not a stripper, so what was my story? I shared my story with her, including why I was in Germany and she was nice enough to share her story. She was Argentinean and studied dance when she was younger – Salsa, Meringue, you know, real dance. Not being able to find a job, she and her mother went to Mexico where she found a job as a dancer, just not the kind of dancer she wanted to be. Sad story so far right? Well, she went on to describe how strip clubs in Mexico heavily differed from those in Germany. In Germany, the girls make great money and receive all kinds of benefits, including insurance. For some of these women, they are the sole breadwinners in their families, or if not, they make more than their husbands and boyfriends. And men look at these girls, dancing in their 6-inch stripper heels in awe. In this situation, even though men are the clients, they have to be on their best behavior. Yes, the women have to make money but they can still choose their clients. The power they hold is that of sex.

I had never seen so many confident women. They didn’t feel ashamed of what they were doing. Now in contrast, the whorehouse I accidentally visited, was a completely different story. The owner was nice enough to chat with me and my friend (while swindling tons of money from him) and told us that while these girls also have benefits and make lots of money, they are ashamed of their profession. If he wanted to enter into the back room, I’d have to wait for him at the bar.

I had never thought highly of either strippers or whores, nor did I distinguish between the two that much. However, it seems that there is a big difference. Why is it the Frankfurt strippers are proud while the prostitutes are ashamed? What makes one powerful while the other one meek? The key is sex and more specifically, the withholding of it. We all know that sex sells. Just look at any billboard, magazine, commerical. What does sex have to do with soft drinks? Apparently quite a lot because take a look at the Fanta girls. Dont’ you wanna Fanta? Sex is a weapon, a bargaining tool almost, but it is also a point of vulnerability. It shouldn’t be given out freely, it is of value because it makes you powerful. OWN IT. I’m not saying, be a stripper. I’m saying, know your value, respect your body. You wouldn’t whore your friends around (well, not most of the time) so shouldn’t you treat yourself with the same kind of respect? I say all of this because I’m still trying to follow my own advice (but you know how tricky alcohol can be…)

Economics can be broken down into a basic principle of incentives because all humans, no matter how good or how evil or how stupid or how smart they are, are all driven by incentives – be it moral, economic, or social. Prostitution and stripping, they’re all just businesses, careers. Whether we are lawyers, doctors, or waitresses we all provide services to our clients in exchange for money. We are worth more than the money we make and sex is worth more than a few too many shots of whiskey. Ex-boyfriend used to say: “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free”. He sucks, but he was right.

So own your sexuality, know your value and make ’em work for it! Remember the difference between a stripper and a whore.

– Mag

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