Okay, I admit it: there’s one place in this city where I am instantly recognized the moment I step in the door. Yes, in a city with three million people and enough tourists to create our own Model U.N. Ahh, the candy store. And really, at first I wasn’t embarrassed, thinking that the staff must have fantastic customer service skills to be able to recognize their patrons (perhaps I shouldn’t give so much credit when I’m the only one tall enough to see over the counter). But as I kept returning, the staff began engaging me in conversation as if we were old friends, reminding me about details of our past discussions and even (gasp!) remembering my husband’s name! That’s when it got out of control.
In all fairness, I tried to stop going due to sheer embarrassment, but there’s something about those walls of sugary bliss that I just cannot, and will not, resist. So as I walked home last week, somewhere between noshing on chocolate raisins and sour gummy bears, I began to wonder why we all can’t seem to resist the lure of our favourite childhood desires. Are we drawn to the memories of childhood, or is childhood a universal place that we never really leave?
Our biggest mistake is to believe that we all stop being kids at some arbitrary point in time and then start being adults at another point. We all grow up assuming that one day we will reach that magical birthday when we shed our childish ways and suddenly feel like adults. But I haven’t met anyone, even amongst the over-the-hill crowd, who has admitted to reaching that point yet. Everyone keeps insisting that they still feel young and carefree, that they are still trying to figure out life. And you can see the proof just by watching The Real Housewives party until they can’t stand up anymore or by flipping on C-SPAN and watching grown men look flat-out b-o-r-e-d for three hours. There isn’t a pre-designed manual on how to act like an “adult”—we all just make some good guesses about life based on our reservoir of experiences and then live with the illusion that everyone else knows what the heck is going on (don’t worry if your reservoir seems to be in the middle of a drought…mine does too).
Only a couple of days ago I ran down the street in my neon-green, orange-laced Nike sneakers, and a five-year-old girl pointed at my feet and exclaimed: mommy, preeetty shoooes! I chuckled inside, not because of the memories of youthful jubilance, but because when I found those shoes at the store last summer, the voice inside my head sounded exactly like that little girls’. Ohhh, preeetty shoooes! Yes, I know I’m an adult by my age. I just don’t feel like one.
So the next time you order ice cream with extra sprinkles on top, dance to the Spice Girls in your bedroom, or nab that extra scoop of sour gummies, remind yourself that everyone else is permanently young and carefree, too. And nobody has quite figured out what it means to be a grown-up, whether they admit it or not.
Even the gents on C-SPAN have probably done a cannonball or two in their lifetimes.
I’m pretty certain my future self is a manifestation of New Girl’s Jess Day. In two years, I completely plan to be a chilled teacher with effortlessly fantastic hair and the perfect group of friends waiting for me when I get home. Oh, and of course I’ll have a seemingly coy and nerdy look that everyone actually sees as really rockin’.
This is the future I choose to see, rather than the future I hear about in the newspapers: overworked teachers shifting through unachievable curriculum in unsafe neighbourhoods, only to come home to their tiny studio apartments, because (once again) their salaries have been slashed. Yes, I made the choice to believe that life will be rosier than that—because of what I see on the screen. And I know I’m not the only one. I mean, who hasn’t briefly considered becoming a doctor since the on-call-room sex and thrilling surgeries on Grey’s Anatomy? (Granted, this is no longer an aspiration as I’ve watched the whole cast die-off from unusually catastrophic events.) But is it actually bad to have a more idealistic view of our realities? Does living the illusion mean you’re setting yourself up for disappointment, or does the illusion slowly alter how you perceive your reality…maybe enough to permanently change it?
When Top Gun came to theatres in 1986, the Navy reported increased numbers of recruits wanting to join the Aviation Officers Training School and become part of the famous teams of fly-boys. This, of course, was not a coincidence. But these eager young men who watched Maverick triumph in the skies, enlivened by the memory of his beloved wingman, and then return to the arms of his blond-bombshell former teacher, must have known that being part of the Navy is not actually like that. Unfortunately. But even though they probably knew that signing up would not allow them to have a job quite this lofty, what they did gain by seeing their futures through “Hollywood glasses,” is a vision of excellence and distinction. And this is something that they could make a reality with or without Kelly McGillis.
So to have the same vision as these future Navy-men, means you would have to prescribe to the old adage that “perception is reality.” The way you view your future self is actually who you are. And even though the “reality” might only be in your mind, if you begin to live the life you wish to have, that reality will magically creep into sight. In other words, if you walk, talk, and act like a duck (which I don’t recommend you to do), you will get pretty close to being a duck. Living the illusion helps bring your illusion to reality, so maybe letting TV alter your view of it is not such a bad thing.
Remember that when you bring your kids into my classroom and mistake me for Jess Day.
Anyone who watched the NATO news coverage last weekend would have to agree: the Chicago Police Department came out of the whole ordeal looking like shining stars, calmly maintaining composure after being punched and provoked by deodorant-less, mask-donning protestors. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, they warded off angry demonstrators trying to forage across the Chicago River Bridge to claim Michigan Avenue as their own. Day after day they tried, but to no avail. In fact, the NATO weekend came and went with the protestors barely making a dent on the city or on the American public.
But had these protestors made it to the Magnificent Mile to spread their messages, would the outcome have been different? Would more Chicagoans have been influenced by their angry messages and meticulously crafted signs? Would they be able to sway those darned American families who insist on patronizing corporate America by taking their hard-earned cash out of the evil banks just to spend it frivolously on education and mortgages? Would the protestors have prevailed if only they could reach this Chicago population?
And this isn’t because I don’t think that demonstrating free speech is effective in relaying messages to the public or creating a dialogue about important issues. In fact, past demonstrations have achieved remarkable milestones for Americans, especially in efforts to grant equal civil liberties. But this protest held a different charge, lacking in many ways when compared to forerunning demonstrations. How?
- Police Preparedness: This summit was not the first time the United States has hosted a multi-national political event, and Chicago P.D. was able to use this to their advantage. In fact, the 1999 World Trade Organization Meeting in Seattle was a perfect way for the police to refine their tactics by looking at what did and didn’t work when trying to keep protests peaceful. What catches more news coverage: a line of police firmly (but calmly) standing their ground while protestors chant and raise their signs, or rioting anarchists throwing Molotov cocktails? The police just didn’t give the protestors a chance to be violent the entire weekend.
- Disjointed Messages: Unity is dead—nobody’s messages this weekend were coherent. Some folks were marching against corporate greed, others against the institution of higher education (ironically they were students from a state university), and still others whose issues didn’t even warrant protesting (“NO PORK ON MY FORK”…easily solved by just not eating pork). In the end, most protesters were not fighting for any succinct (or rational) cause. And even if they were, their logic was completely disjointed: corporate greed is one thing, but shouting for “a world without work or money” is farfetched and impossible unless you want to live alone in the woods.
- Outdated Tactics: What is the best way to express a desire for the government to assist the hardworking lower and middle classes who can’t seem to make ends meet? Probably not by splurging on $3.00 bottled water and cigarettes and then fighting police officers who, themselves, often fall into the 99%. What would be impressive, however, is if the protestors all banned together to build houses and tutor kids in Chicago’s Southside. Now that’s making a bang. Not only would the protestors gain respect and worldwide news coverage for their causes, but everyone would be so impressed by their efforts to work towards change rather than complain about it, that it would likely make others attempt to better the world as well.
So perhaps protesting in America is just not the most effective way anymore. Perhaps the best way to express frustration for government, foreign policy, education, and environmental issues is to find a group of like-minded thinkers and work towards the cause. Hate that we are still in war? Educate yourself on effective ways to stabilize a country and volunteer to work towards that cause abroad. Wish every American had an equal opportunity to be educated? Volunteer to tutor in low-income neighborhoods and then get involved with state-or nationwide educational policy.
Don’t chant about change, be involved in change. And don’t be afraid to do it in a peaceful and respectable way.
Let’s be honest: all of us savvy shoppers aren’t scouring our cities for bargain deals because we love itchy synthetics and crooked seams. Or because we love the sport of racing other espresso-crazed women to the last pair of AG jeans marked down at The Rack. We do it because we’re committed to looking like a million bucks—even though we know we’ll never see that much in our bank accounts.
We don’t skip to the “look for less” pages of our magazines because we’re not interested in the perfectly-pleated, dry-clean only, oh-so-soft designer pieces. We do it because copying Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe would cost us six months’ rent (on a diet of Lucky Charms). And while I’m being perfectly honest (and somewhat winey) let me say this: it’s just downright depressing that we have to work this hard to copy our dream wardrobe with less-than-satisfying substitutes.
And it’s just not our fashion horizons that the sun keeps setting on. It’s our home décor too. Sure, finding vintage, hand-painted tea cups at a quaint Maryland antique store seems like a great find. But not when you take them home and put them on the used vinyl kitchen table you bought on Craig’s List. All of a sudden the teacups aren’t vintage—they’re just old. And while you’re thinking about it, you never should have painted your walls bright blue to match Carrie Bradshaw’s trendy Manhattan apartment. It’s just not as glamorous when you live in a first-floor studio apartment in Kansas…and you used a hue that eerily resembles your college colours.
So obviously “looks for less” are pretty useless if you don’t have a few nicer pieces to pair with them. It’s the difference between this: “I just thought this vintage scarf from the thrift store…I really think it will compliment my Dooney and Bourke bag” and this: “I found these great bangles—all ten for 25 cents! And I still have enough money left to buy five Cup-o-Noodles for my lunches this week!”
There’s a very obvious difference between these statements.
And don’t get me wrong—I don’t think you have to buy shopping carts full of designer outfits to look good either (Shopping carts? Do they use those at Burberry, or is that just a Target thing?). But not every store we walk into has to be decorated with red and yellow clearance signs, either. There has to be variety in our wardrobes. So here are a few tips to get you started on your next shopping excursion:
- Look through a celebrity’s garbage. Over time they’ve accumulated lots of free clothes and not enough time to wear it all. Of course, you would have to be okay with eventually trading in that $200 dollar romper for an orange state-funded jumpsuit. So perhaps this is ill advised.
- If their garbage isn’t accessible (or orange isn’t in this year), just follow the news to see what they’re shopping for. When your favourite celebrity picks up that Spring Collection Coach purse, you march right over and pick up the matching key-chain. Your Superstore skirt will look much more sophisticated the second you pull out your house keys.
- Give up something else you typically pay for in the name of fashion. Do you really need to have someone come fix your air-conditioning unit? Be hard-core and tough it out for the summer (disclaimer: not recommended if you live in Phoenix).
But seriously, get out there and pair those clever finds with some of your more polished and sophisticated looks from home. Vintage is in. But don’t do yourself a disservice by turning shabby-chic into just shabby. Your discount, sunflower-yellow belt will look much better with a carefully tailored A-line dress than one that is half the cost and balloons out at the waist from poor stitching (Big Bird, anyone?). Bottom line: it’s about making smart choices and not imprisoning yourself only in cheap finds. And as an added benefit of paying more for that dress, it won’t unravel as you walk down the street like its cheaper counterpart might. This isn’t Hansel and Gretel—you don’t need to leave a trail to find your way home.
Now get out there and shop until your heart’s content, because all of us women deserve to feel like the princesses we are. And most importantly, remember this: no matter how much you love the finer things in life, you are beautiful no matter what you wear. Or, as the old adage goes: it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
After all, you wouldn’t buy that Hermes purse if it didn’t have a gorgeous silk lining, right?
- You’ll be forced to run in place because of stoplights on every corner. This inevitably makes me wonder why I didn’t just run at home on my treadmill where the whole city doesn’t have to see my butt jiggle in my spandex.
- Your music will likely cause you to yell at people. Not on purpose. But if I have to mutter a quick excuse me as I high-jump over someone’s dog leash, it usually sounds more like EXCUSE ME due to the blaring music in my ears. Tip: don’t make eye-contact after the jump—it will prevent the receiver from having a chance to give you a nasty look.
- Segways always have the right-away….but the pay-off is that you can silently chuckle inside as they wheel past you. And trust me, this should not be considered snarky and cruel—what would be cruel is if they dressed up in their helmets and fanny packs, did donuts around the park, and expected you not to be a little entertained.
- Most adults have forgotten how to walk in a straight line. This (surprisingly) doesn’t make me mad. But it does make me feel guilty, because on many occasions I find myself clipping someone’s suitcase as I run by like lightning (well, if lightning bolts flash by in slow motion).
- Never run on Sunday morning. You will be intoxicated by the aroma of brunch as it seeps out of every restaurant, which means you’ll end up thinking about bacon and eggs the entire run. No joking here: even if you’re a vegetarian, Sunday morning bacon-aroma will Take. You. Down.
- If you’re used to running in the suburbs, you’ll have to kick some of your old habits. As you’re pleasantly jogging by people in the suburbs, it’s nice (and polite) to nod and say “hello,” but if you do that in a big city, you’re going to feel like you’re having a seizure the entire time you’re running.
- Don’t use store windows as mirrors as you run by. No matter how fantastic your gazelle legs look in leggings, no matter how cute your ponytail is when it bounces up and down, please please resist the temptation to look at yourself in store windows. Trust me, it looks stupid. I’ve done it before and I’m still judging myself for it.