Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sloane Crosley: Columns, Interviews And Quotes

I've read both of Sloane Crosley's essay collections ( I Was Told There'd Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number ) and enjoyed them immensely, mainly because I like her "voice"- her style of writing, her humor and how she presents some interesting ideas and insights.  I wanted to read more of her stuff so I checked online but there didn't seem to be any comprehensive repository of her writing.  I ended up having to go to several different places where I found a bunch of new articles and columns that I hadn't seen before.  They were just as enjoyable as what I'd read previously so I am putting them all here in one place so other people can easily find them and appreciate them too.  I'm quite looking forward to her upcoming fiction book and although I don't have a Kindle, I'll have to get hold of her Kindle single Up The Down Volcano .  Jump right in and start reading.  I know you are going to enjoy these too.

Disaster Preparedness
(By Sloane Crosley, New York Times, October 31, 2012 )

You wonder how you would react if you didn’t know any better. If there were no warnings, no wind-flapped newscasters standing in rivers-come-lately, no tin shelves cleared of water and bread. What then? Would you just go about your day thinking, I guess it’s really autumn now, huh?  On Sunday there was an undeniable energy in the air. Undeniable if only because New York City’s streets, bars, restaurants and bodegas collectively agreed on its undeniability. What was in the air wasn’t a storm system, exactly — it was bits of overheard conversation. All you had to do was stop at a crosswalk, let the circulation come back into your fingers after carrying all those plastic bags of bottled water, and listen. What you heard was a glimpse into what it must be like to live on Capitol Hill or in Hollywood — everyone was having a version of the same conversation.

Starting Sunday, social networking sites exploded with photographs of people’s pantries, still life after still life of bottles of booze, noodles, a package of Swedish fish and a caption: “Disaster Preparedness!” Why do we make mass quips about the distinct possibility of forced hibernation? Maybe it’s for the same reason most of us intentionally ignore the location of the oxygen masks on airplanes. We figure: If we’re going down, that’s that. Or perhaps it’s that even the too-cool among us need to feel part of a community at times like these. Or perhaps it’s simply part of the modern condition to take pictures of food as digestive foreshadowing.

After the weak showing that was Hurricane Irene last year, who could blame us for being flip about Sandy? But I would argue that our flippancy isn’t just hubris and humidity. Instead, it stems from New York’s complicated social idea of an emergency. We know what to do logistically. We know to buy batteries, shut the windows and turn up the freezer. But then what? Regardless of the outcome of the storm, the loss of power we fear is the kind that comes with overreacting.

It’s nearly impossible to find the balance between overreacting and underreacting when you’re trying to gauge eight million reactions to the same event. Where is the line between becoming an isolated premature hunker and a jet-skiing moron? Even after the lights had, indeed, gone out (I wrote this in a race against the battery icon on my computer, one block north of where a building facade caved off a hotel, turning it into a dollhouse), I wasn’t certain of what was appropriate behavior. Monday night I got skittish, decided not to venture out to be with friends and loved ones uptown or in Brooklyn. Instead I stayed home, texting those people and listening to WNYC by candlelight. Not the most socially risky hurricane. I peered out my window at the street-level flashlights, fell asleep to the sound of a neighbor’s multiple orgasms and thought: Well, this was an unnecessarily cautious course of action on my part.

This hadn’t been my plan 24 hours earlier. I remembered the 2003 blackout as being 20 percent inconvenience, 80 percent adventure. But Sandy’s “energy in the air” finally got to me. During brunch Sunday morning, I sat at a booth in a normally crowded SoHo restaurant. Already people were fleeing the city or locking themselves in their homes, panic eating the boxes of cookies they had just purchased. I met a friend from Los Angeles who was unable to go home. We ordered omelets and wondered: Would these be our last eggs before the gas shut off and the water ran out and all the chickens in America had perished?

My friend had spent her life dealing with impact-based natural disasters — tornadoes as a kid in the Midwest, followed by earthquakes as an adult in California. So her fear about the storm was far more naked than mine.  Her memory told her that a house could be there, and then, in a matter of seconds, it could be elsewhere. I was purposefully blasé with her.  But on Tuesday, I woke up to find that my friend’s fears were warranted. Subways flooded, hospitals lost power, people were fatally wounded. It takes two seconds to write a joking tweet, and it takes two seconds to pay attention and know where the oxygen masks are. I’m not suggesting one is right — I think both are right.

As a New Yorker, the line between “in case of emergency” and “smack dab in the middle of an emergency” can be unclear. On the one hand, our city prides itself on being tough, keeping a level head. On the other, we are not above imagination: We have seen the horrifying footage of Katrina, and we’ve been to the movies. New York may major in romantic comedies, but we minor in post-apocalyptic suspense thrillers. “The Day After Tomorrow” alone turned us all into experts in spontaneous bird-migration patterns.  After we finished brunch on Sunday, I announced, “I’m taking some of these,” and grabbed a couple of boxes of matches as we left the restaurant.  “Oh,” my friend’s eyes widened, “good idea.”

I didn’t tell her this, but I took them because I have an affinity for cute-looking matches. Most of the time I don’t even use them. They just sit in a jar in my kitchen. But after the power went out, after I took them out of my pocket and lit the candles, I was careful to blow firmly on their charred ends before I put them in the trash. The last thing I needed was to do something dumb like set the house on fire.

Don't Make A Scene Of The Crime
(By Sloane Crosley, GQ, March 2012)

They cornered my friend Erik (* Name changed to protect the mugged.) first. We were walking through Greenwich Village, a neighborhood where one can see chandeliers dangling in brownstone vestibules. We found ourselves funneled into an enclosed stretch of construction scaffolding. It was the kind of blind-spot-laden hamster maze that one is taught, as a woman, never to enter alone. But which one tends to anyway, usually without consequence.   Two guys in their twenties had been walking ahead of us. They stopped short, waited for us to catch up and signaled to a third guy across the street who blocked us in from behind. They claimed to have a gun and a corresponding desire "not to have to use it." Then they took Erik's money. As I waited for my turn to be robbed, standing an ATM's length from the transaction, I was more irritated than frightened.

Having lived in Manhattan for over a decade, I found the experience to be in the same orbit as a stranger asking me if I'd like a bicycle tour of Central Park. Sorry, am I dressed like a tourist today?  It's possible that they really did have a gun. It's also factual that one of them called me "miss" and they only took cash, leaving me with my credit cards, jewelry and a sense of relief that I didn't have to be the idiot who gets shot for negotiating over a cell phone. When it was over, they respectfully requested that we "cross the fucking street."   "We just got mugged," Erik said, stunned. "Are you okay? That was really violating."  Was it? I mean, it wasn't the most ideal walk home. Not something I'd want to do again. But the only damage done was a bit of jumpiness the following evenings and a nightmare that night in which a bunch of menacing cartoon giraffes attempted to break into my apartment. Most of friends had the same delicate suggestion: that I conversationally downgrade the crime from "mugging" to "elaborate bullying."

"I'm okay," I told Erik, because I was. But I could see that he wasn't.  I invited him up to my apartment where we sat on my sofa, drank beer and said "holy shit" a lot. It was clear he was torn between wanting to protect me and knowing it was a little late for that. As we replayed what had just happened, I could feel him searching my face for signs of shock or imminent collapse. Perhaps the ordeal hadn't "hit me" yet. Not the way it had hit him, which was immediate and hard. That's when he began deflecting his concerns my way. "How do you feel?" he asked again and again.  "I think I might go to bed," I said, checking my phone, grateful to still have it, "Are you okay?"  "Of course," he put his half-full beer down and grabbed his coat, "I just want to make sure you're okay."

I wondered if one of us, namely the one of us with boobs, really needed to be in distress in order to maintain social order? As I said good night to Erik, I began to realize how emasculating this was for him. But I couldn't figure out a way to tell him it shouldn't be without aggravating his current state. I imagine the balance of masculinity is as difficult to achieve as the balance of femininity when every movie, book and magazine article including, ultimately, this one, winds up saying: be a man but not that much of a man. Or be a woman but not that much of a woman. In other words: fulfill your stereotype but try not to do anything that might get you killed. To me, Erik "allowing" us to get mugged—not intervening to stop it—had been more about common sense (common to both genders) than him lacking the instincts to protect us.

The next day, fresh from my giraffe nightmare, I decided to file a police report. Those muggers had been pretty organized and I wondered if they might strike the same block twice. I explained what happened to a cop behind a glass partition.  "This was last night?" he looked skeptical, "Really?"  He led me upstairs where I met with a detective who asked me to have a seat. I expected to be presented with a gold star. Or paperwork. I smiled at him because I was raised to smile at anyone who has a Lego figurine avatar: cops, firemen, teachers, doctors, crossing guards. 

"I have to tell you," he said, his tone mirroring that of the cop downstairs, "your story sounds fishy to me."
"Excuse me?"
"If we pull the tape of the mugging and what you're saying didn't happen as you've said it, you'll get thrown in jail."
"There could be tape?" I perked up, excited by the idea of catching these guys. "Normally," he said, "a young woman comes in here, held up at gun point, that's a traumatic situation. You don't seem shaken. 25 years of experience tells me that you're lying for some reason."

Lying? What special combination of psychotic and bored would I have to be to spend my morning baiting the NYPD? Last night, Erik had tried to mask his own reaction behind concern for me (as he would continue to do, checking in daily for the next week). And now I was being punished by the cops for not being hysterical enough. Erik's grasp on his own role as a man and mine as a woman was muddled by our being the victims of the same crime. But the police were far more cut and dry regarding my reaction: cry or get out.
"But I wasn't held at gunpoint."
"You don't need your brains blown out to be held at gunpoint."
"I guess that would have made things easier for everyone," I said, done with this whole business, "because then I wouldn't be able to sit here and lie to you."

After several hours of my trying to convince them I was actually mugged, I called Erik and asked him to meet me at the station. Once he arrived, eager to finally come to the rescue, the cops eased up and took both our statements. As we walked out, I told Erik I was grateful he was there the previous night. Imagine, I said, if that had happened to me alone. I might be singing a more gender-stereotypical tune. He nodded, his pride soothed by this new logic. Of course, the truth is it might never have happened if I had been by myself, been more aware of being alone and sporting my patented Who's-To-Say-I-Don't-Have-A-Black-Belt face. I also would have gone down a different street. And there's the ugly possibility that we were mugged because we were a "we," two people conversing and not paying attention.   But it doesn't matter. What was Erik supposed to have done? Wrestled the muggers to the ground? Prayed the "gun" was made out of fingers instead of steel? I would have been horrified and he would have been, worst-case scenario, dead. Not only was it okay that he didn't put up a fight, it was okay for him to be upset. Just so long as he was man enough to handle the fact that I wasn't.


This Summer, the Guilt Is Gratis
(By Sloane Crosley, New York Times, 02 July 2011)

Do you have a minute for gay rights? How about Planned Parenthood? The A.S.P.C.A.? Greenpeace? Save the clock tower?  It’s that season again. Of the many telltale hallmarks of summer in New York City perhaps the most unsung are the sidewalk volunteers. See them stationed there in their matching neon T-shirts, facing each other at either end of the block, requesting your personal information and your money. The world is their foosball table, and you are their teeny-tiny ball.  Most are well-meaning volunteers or college interns looking to thicken their résumés. Many are too young to have heard the Mitch Hedberg line regarding strangers who accost you on the street: “When someone hands you a flier, it’s like saying, ‘Here — you throw this away.’” In any case, these binder-brandishers aren’t really handing out paper; they’re doling out guilt. And that we already have on us as we round the corner.

The use of “Do you have a minute” over, say, “May I speak with you” or a simple “Excuse me” is pure genius. You can try a rueful smile and a shake of the head, or urgently attend to your cellphone, but it’s no use: keep barreling toward these people, and you are putting yourself on the wrong side of history simply because you happened to take a poorly timed trip to the grocery store. All you wanted was some yogurt and juice. Now here you are saying, in effect, that you cannot spare 60 seconds of your cushy life to address other people’s civil liberties. Not only are you a bad person; you’re a bad American. I hope you accidentally bought the yogurt that expires tomorrow, you utter jerk.

If I cared just a little bit more, I’d stomp back and defend myself. As it just so happens, I adopted my pet; I recycle; I live in Chelsea, a few blocks away from a store called the Rainbow Station, which, let me tell you, does not provide parking for rainbows; and I am scheduled to give a talk at a Planned Parenthood luncheon this fall. Do I have a minute for these causes? I have a lifetime for them! I live with them!  Blame my mother, but I was taught not to engage with strangers. So I keep walking, faster and faster. I treat street guilt like scaffolding and just swerve around it, despite knowing that there’s always more around the corner.  But O.K., is the situation really so bad? Are these people any more of a summertime inconvenience than a subway car without air-conditioning or a malodorous city block? Wait: did I just liken unpaid volunteers for good causes to bags of trash? Speaking of bad people, it takes an extreme specimen of one to rant for an extended period of time about unpaid volunteers. So let’s move on. Let’s move on to the soap.

This summer there’s been a real boom on the product giveaway front. Several stores have stationed round-the-clock hipster girls and boys whose mission is to shove tiny soap samples (along with granola, candy and shampoo) in pedestrians’ faces. There is no social issue at stake here, unless you count basic hygiene as a social issue. And they want nothing from you, not your phone number, not your signature, not a donation.  But that doesn’t make it any easier to say no to them. No sooner have I dodged the teenagers with the clipboards than I find myself confronted with a fistful of promotional lollipops. Unlike fliers, these goods actually have value. Yet I can’t get away from them fast enough.

I recognize that it’s not a big deal for someone to give you a lollipop so long as that person isn’t standing in front of an unmarked white van. In the parallel universe known as the rest of the country, free stuff induces no crisis — just the occasional “thank you.”  But when you make your home in the middle of such an urban mess, it can be difficult to differentiate the motivations of one person trying to stop you from another person trying to stop you. In the end, it’s that decision — even the consideration of the attempt to make that decision — that you can’t afford to waste the 60 seconds on. Otherwise you’d never get anywhere.  Besides, what am I going to do with a miniature sliver of soap? Wash one of my arms? I am a bigger person than a little foosball man, if only on the outside.

Sloane Crosley On Her New Kindle Single And How Bad Experiences Make For Funny Stories
(By Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly, December 13, 2011)

Book publicist turned best-selling author Sloane Crosley doesn’t have a new book coming out any time soon, but for those of us who are eager for more of her hilarious, perceptive observations, it’s lucky she’s gotten into the digital publishing game. Up the Down Volcano, Crosley’s first full-length essay since the publication of her second collection How Did You Get This Number, is available exclusively on Amazon as a Kindle Single. This hilarious yet harrowing account of summiting the Ecuadorian stratovolcano Cotopaxi — Crosley-style — reads more like an epic than her previous works, yet it retains her signature brand of intelligent humor, which stems from keen observation and honest self-assessment. EW caught up with this busy writer to talk about her new Single, the ways digital publishing can resemble the music industry, Arrested Development, and a lot more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I laughed out loud while reading “Up the Down Volcano,” but I was also very conscious of the fact that your experience couldn’t have been funny when you were going through it. Are many of the experiences you write about only funny in retrospect?
SLOANE CROSLEY: Yes. Those generally make for better stories. I think that if you can see the humor while it’s happening – this is cliché – you’re tempted to not live in the moment, or it’s already fermenting into a story in your mind as it’s happening. You start mentally taking notes; that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t come out as funny or a worthwhile story on the other side, but for me personally, it’s more rewarding if there’s something [deeper] going on. Part of me thinks that it’s a defense mechanism that takes the pressure off of just trying to be funny, but most of me thinks that’s where people need humor the most, both as readers and as writers.

To me, the most relatable aspect of this story was the notion of your body betraying you — in this case, in the form of altitude sickness — and how that experience can catch you completely off-guard.
There are some social, casual diagnoses we make toward our fellow man that actually have real medical basis behind them but they get bastardized. For instance, if you said someone is “totally an alcoholic,” or “totally an anorexic,” those are things that actually people suffer from. So you almost have to step back and say, “No, I really mean it.” For me, a good example is, “Oh my God, I’m having a panic attack.” A panic attack hits when you’re not panicked – when your body’s actually relaxed enough and it knows that there’s nothing else going on, and now’s the time to unleash the fury. It’s that kind of thing where you think, “Is this actually what’s happening to me right now?” I was working at my old office job, and I was in the middle of talking to somebody in the hallway who was incredibly superior to me, and I was trying to make a good impression. It didn’t help that I thought my heart was going to fly out of my chest.
Do you think a lot of humor has its roots in trauma?
I’m trying to figure out if I mean what I’m about to say – I think I do: I can’t think of one really bad thing I’ve ever heard of where there isn’t some sort of humorous art form that has come out of it. It’s not always successful: Life Is Beautiful is the biggest piece of trash ever and should be burned. [Laughs] However, there’s some pretty funny stuff. If you read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, there’s weirdly a lot of humor in that he can only blink with one eye. What that man went through is, to my mind, one of the heights of individual human suffering. There’s a lot more mass suffering, but I’m just trying to give an extreme example. Even in something much more everyday — like a trip up a mountain everyone climbs — there’s something. Even in the two days since this essay has come out, friends are like, “Oh, I’ve climbed Cotapaxi.” It’s a little insane but not totally unheard of. The more common it is, the more you’re going to be able to derive some kind of humor from it.

In the essay, you talk about the virtues of being a “light packer,” or a “light planner.” Does a certain level of unpreparedness make life more interesting to write about?
I can’t see the forest through the trees, except the trees are people. You have to get in certain situations to begin with — leave the house. I have a disproportionate amount of faith in the goodness of the world and that everything will actually work out okay. I had an author I worked with at Vintage who pointed out to me, “Now everything in your life falls into one of two categories: It’s either a fine experience and it all works out, or it doesn’t and it makes a good story.”
As someone who’s worked in the business of selling books and now writes them, how have your attitudes about Amazon and digital publishing evolved?
It’s so funny how my personal loyalties fluctuate a little bit, being a company girl for so long. I truly adore Knopf — I think it’s amazing, but my first job was for a literary agent, so back then, it was like we were defending the author against the big bad publishing house. Then I get to the publishing house, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, don’t any of these outside forces realize what we’re up against trying to produce good books?” [Laughs] Then I leave, and suddenly, Amazon creating its own publishing program doesn’t quite seem like the end of the world anymore. Also, it’s the timing of it that makes it totally okay for everyone. I don’t have a book coming out in the next six months where this is going to interfere. It’s all good for everyone, so that was part of my reason for doing it.

Isn’t this format kind of perfect for you? Some of the best parts of your essays are the asides and their rambling nature — it’s cool that you’re not beholden to a strict word limit like you’d be for a magazine.
I had written this essay not just for fun – I thought it’d eventually go into a future essay collection. Then it got bigger and bigger and bigger, and as it did, I thought, it doesn’t fit anywhere now. I can’t get it through the doorway – awkward! [Laughs] David Blum at Amazon told me more about the program and the kinds of things they publish and why. You don’t want something to be unedited, but there’s a difference between chopping of 2000 words and chopping off 6000 words.
It’s also a way of singling out an essay that might be sort of “special.”
Having published the two books of essays, you’re not supposed to pick favorites amongst your children, but I say if I were to have 24 children, I’d sure as shit have favorites. [Laughs] You know in Arrested Development, Lucille defends herself saying, “Don’t be ridiculous. I love all my children equally.” Then it shows her earlier that day holding a martini at lunch and saying, “I don’t particularly care for Job.” [Laughs] I feel like that about the essays. But I could sense this one being one of the “big ones” for lack of a better term.

Yes, some essays have to stand out. Just as a reader, I got the sense that you must have singled out that wonderful final essay in How Did You Get This Number as one of the special ones.
I did! And it was one that I didn’t really want to write, which was funny. There’s always the one that feels different for me, and it’s always interesting in terms of response from readers and reviewers — how they feel about the two or three that always feel different. Sometimes it’s the pies de resistance, and then sometimes they say, “This is her one misstep — it doesn’t make sense.” I used to tell my authors, “As long as it’s a mix.” You know you’re in trouble when everyone finds the same problem, be it Us Weekly or the New York Review of Books. If they have the same issue, it’s probably there. [Laughs]
From a business standpoint, do you see the Kindle Single almost like a single in the music industry? Like a tease for a future collection?
I do! It’s funny that you mention this: Authors price the Singles themselves. You don’t want to flatter yourself too much, and I think also, both for my audience and my kind of readership, I very much liked that the price of it really is the same as a new song on iTunes. I’m not sure if I really thought of it that consciously, but I think that was in the back of my head a little bit. I mean, it’s got a lot more words than any song in the history of man. [Laughs] I can say that with confidence. Even if we dig up some 17th century Austrian choir piece. In that way, the bang for your buck is pretty good. I also like the idea of telling readers, “Hey, here’s the direction I’m going,” although it doesn’t mean that I’m going to do a book where I climb every single mountain in the world.

You quit your day job as a book publicist last year, but you have so much going on: developing your HBO show, writing books, writing articles … what does your average day look like when you’re not traveling?
I’m standing here in my apartment looking at a half-eaten plate of cheese — I’m trying to find a way to put a good spin on this [laughs]. I tend to write in the morning. I have certain rules that I’ve established for myself that took a while post-day job to figure out. Everyone says people who freelance or are writers struggle with the structure of it. I’m not allowed to check email before a certain hour. I’m not allowed to run errands during the day. I have to write a certain amount every day. You start thinking of your life as this giant kitty, and you’re just contributing to it. My blueprint is so much the nine-to-five or nine-to-nine job that I don’t take enough advantage of the fact that I can do anything with my time. The fact that I can be up at 4 and asleep at 11 doesn’t do it for me. [Laughs] You start feeling very strange.

I loved the essay “The Ursula Cookie” from your first collection in which you talk about your bad first job, and your struggle to break into publishing. Is your current reality the dream your early-20s self envisioned for herself?
No. [Laughs] Let me put it this way: I don’t feel as settled as I look. I think that’s true of everyone, probably. Except for Beyonce and Jay-Z. I don’t think they wake up and think, “Ugh, when’s it going to work out for us? Why can’t we catch a break?” Aside from them, I’m pretty sure everyone’s life feels a lot less intentional. I just interviewed Joan Didion at the Public Library, and I asked her, “When did this all stop feeling like an accident?” She talks about in After Henry, which is one of her later essay collections. Henry Robbins comes out to California and visits with her and John, and she feels a little bit self-conscious that he kept talking as if she were a real writer, and she felt the need to go along with it. I saw that and asked her, “When did that stop?” And she said it all feels like an accident. I don’t think there’s a moment where you start thinking, “Well, now this is my career.”


The Rumpus Interview With Sloane Crosley
(By Alec Michod, The Rumpus Room, August 1st, 2011)

For a writer, Sloane Crosley’s a pretty fancy young lady. For starters, she’s been in the New York Times—for her fashion sense; she’s gone head to head with comedic Scottish bulldog Craig Ferguson and held her own; and she’s been knighted—OK, not yet, but she is the author of two bestselling books of rabidly funny essays, I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number, which has a pretty nifty Moby-winning book trailer. And if you don’t already hate her, check out her writing space.  We planned on meeting at a coffee shop in the West Village, but ended up wandering along the banks of the Hudson, where we were promptly swarmed by one too many middle-aged dudes in gold Ed Hardy t-shirts.

The Rumpus: You’ve written about everything from douchebag ex-boyfriends to cat porn and Portuguese clowns. It’s frightening to think where all this stuff comes from.
Sloane Crosley: It’s a “Where do babies come from?” kind of thing, where I—although wait, that’s actually an unfair analogy. Because that’s an easier question.
Rumpus: “Where babies come from”?
rosley: Yes, because there’s an answer to that. A singular one. It’s not like, oh, they come from someplace different. Some people get them from the store—Gummy-bear babies—and some people get them from sex, you know? So in a way, that’s the answer to your question about what I write: Gummy bears and sex—because this stuff comes from someplace different every time. Sometimes you have a broad theme in mind, and you hone it in. And sometimes it’s a random funny story you expand upon. I mean, if you told me to write an essay about absolutely anything right now, I’m not sure what I’d write about.
Rumpus: Well, if your first two books are any indication, it’ll probably come from somewhere in your autobiographical past, right? As opposed to something about, say, Goethe.

Crosley: That one’s on the docket! But yeah, that’s not exactly true. I just finished writing a piece for Playboy about mohelim, the rabbis who chop the foreskin off the babies, interviewing a ton of them, researching bris culture, figuring out what clamps they use—and that’s certainly not my own life, because I don’t have a penis and it’s never been chopped. But you’re right, I do mine my own life a lot, but then everyone does. You have to have some connection to what you’re writing about, I think. It’s really hard to get away with stream-of-consciousness ruminations about miscellaneous topics without knowing what you’re talking about.

Rumpus: You’ve been attracted to the form of the humorous personal essay, like David Foster Wallace, David Sedaris.

Crosley: David Rakoff. All the Davids. It’s funny, the Jonathans take over fiction and the Davids take over nonfiction. What’s up with that? That would be great if that was your question—why don’t you end every question with “What’s up with that?”

Rumpus: Yeah. OK. What’s up with that—that form, the humorous personal essay?

Crosley: I think it’s what comes out naturally. The interesting thing about the question “why are you writing about what you’re writing about” is— The dirty secret of the answer. That would be that I don’t know. But that doesn’t make for a very interesting interview, does it? People assume that once you have a modicum of success that everything you did up until that point happened on purpose. And that you have the answers. Because you didn’t fuck up. But you do fuck up. I mean, there are essays I wrote that will never see the light of day. There’s a novel I wrote that will never see the light of day. The writing isn’t the problem, hopefully. By now I feel comfortable saying, OK, that’s on purpose, that’s not an accident, X is what I’m doing and Y is not. Meanwhile I try to figure out what I’m actually doing.
Rumpus: You mean your voice—finding your voice?

Crosley: Not really. For me, plot is the hardest thing. Structure is the second hardest. And I feel like that’s true for every aspect of my life. Whenever I move in to a new apartment—if you came to my apartment right now you would think that I’ve lived there for eight years, and in reality I’ve lived there since October. That’s because I like to get all the little details right and then I consider the more practical things. The pictures are all hung just so—I have a power drill, stuff goes into the wall right away. But whoops, I’m sitting on the floor and maybe I should get a sofa. And I write the same way. I move in from the least logical point and figure it out later, and luckily that works very well for humor writing.
Rumpus: My favorite essay in the new book is the last one, “Off the Back of a Truck.”

Crosley: I just started writing this thing. It’s really about two different people, and that was hard, because on the one hand the facts of the case are this one person, but I’d forgotten how that relationship felt—I had no emotion about that. I remember it being bad. I just didn’t remember how it was bad. And one of the first things I wrote in that essay was the line equating the brain to any other organ in the body. If you’re kind and healing to it, it will be kind and healing to you: it’ll do you a solid. But when it came time to writing about what happened, how do you dig up the memories you threw out? I got around that by applying what I felt about a more recent heartbreak—there really have been two big ones—and so that was an extraordinarily difficult essay to write. Imagine taking the two worst romantic slights you’ve had in your life and combining them into this one two-headed monster. Now think about it constantly like your book depends on it. Because it does. It’s a lot like The Incredible Hulk.
Rumpus: Like The Incredible Hulk?

Crosley: OK, not like The Incredible Hulk I don’t know. I mean, I know it’s different than the other essays in that book, but I don’t quite know how. Which is unfortunate because a lot of people seem to have an emotional reaction to it and I wish I could replicate it, but I really don’t know how to provide them with the ingredients. Or give them to myself. Basically, I thought about writing it and because I had this intense aversion to writing about boys, I thought: How do I make it funny and not stupid? And that was where a lot of essays in the second book come from. How do I take something that’s not really funny and make it funny? A bear gets smacked by a car—how do I make that funny? Is it funny? And in “Off the Back of a Truck,” there were two ways. One, this parallel story of the furniture salesman, and, two, the universal story of getting over the breakup. I think it’s really funny, how people get so devastated over breakups and can’t see anything else in their lives. It’s the water boarding torture of the human heart.
Rumpus: Yeah, there’s a sadness in the second book.

Crosley: This is what happens when you write a funny book when you’re a little more than casually depressed, I guess. This is what comes out: Round 2. I think some people are disappointed by this book, to be frank.
Rumpus: What? Why?

Crosley: I think they think it’s not funny enough. It’s like with Saratoga Springs, New York—there’s more bars per square block in that town than anyplace outside, say, New Orleans. And I think that’s what people wanted with the second book—just replace beer with jokes. It’s not like I got bullied into anything. I knew what I was doing eventually. But when people complain that the second book isn’t quite enough like the first, I’m, like, listen people, there’s a line of progression here. It’s not like I gave you a pop album and then produced an album of ukulele music.
Rumpus: You’ve been called the “voice of your generation” and “the lady Larry David”—or was it Larry Charles?
Crosley: Larry David is another David! A hidden David.

Rumpus: But the pressure’s on, you’re supposed to be writing for some generational zeitgeist, right?
Crosley: I didn’t even know I had a generation. There’s a great line from Dazed and Confused: “The 60s were great, the 70s sucked, so the 80s are going to be amazing!” And as a viewer you’re like oh, man, little do you characters know the nostalgia that will develop for the 70s. It’s that whole idea from Midnight in Paris, of not loving the one you’re with. For me, when I get too detailed with my childhood references, I’m just glad that people get it. So I don’t see myself as the voice of my generation, whatever that is. I think it would be unfortunate if that were true, because then I should be saying a hell of a lot more.
Rumpus: Now it’s like The Gossip Girl generation, and nobody seems to be saying anything important about that.

Crosley: Is that our generation as well? God, I hope not. I think I come from the Facts of Life generation. I wasn’t allowed to watch Married With Children or I might have come from the Married With Children generation. But the Facts of Life generation was very floaty and weird, because I just feel like we didn’t have the technology. I very specifically remember—
Rumpus: Before email. We grew up before email.

Crosley: Yes. My senior year of high school, there was this girl named Leah. We were kind of friends in high school. We weren’t great-great friends, but we were both chatty enough to be like “are you on AOL Instant Messenger? I am too!” And I remember typing to her the next day how weird it was that we had this alternative life, this disconnected conversation. Then I went to a small school for college and—I wonder if they still have this—there was a list you could check to see who else was online at six in the morning, and it would only be a few people. We were still learning how to use all that email stuff to inform our romantic relationships. It wasn’t supplementary to human relationships. It was completely separate. Then it went through a phase of being supplementary to human relationships, and now the majority of our relationships with people are online or via text messages. And then after my generation, I don’t know. There were a lot of people named Cindi.
Rumpus: After us?

Crosley: Before us. Sorry. But that’s what I mean, is you and I are in this weird in-between land of hyper-colored shirts and Kudos bars. Do you remember Type 1 versus Type 2 tapes? Those are ours. But a detail like that is so fucking subtle. And I think that’s why nostalgia is such a powerful thing for us. We had so much change so quickly. It was so hard to hold onto a movement or a trend. Then with the web, our actual day-to-day interactions with each other fundamentally changed from the time we were in high school until college. We’re on the line. We didn’t grow up with the Internet and we didn’t grow up without it. [Dude in a gold Ed Hardy t-shirt walks past.] See, that’s not us. That’s someone else’s generation. The D-bag Generation. Oh, which is also something we didn’t have. We didn’t have the term “douche.” Or we did, but it was literal. It was something you did to yourself.
Rumpus: Now we want nostalgia right away. We want it packaged up, like Twitter or Facebook—we want to record our own history while it’s still happening.
Crosley: Yeah, but that’s just wanting fame. That’s nothing new. But I do think we’re more obsessed with nostalgia because of all this stuff. Honestly, if whatever you want to do with your life is ingrained in your personality enough, the latest technological fad is not going to affect it. Not at all. If you feel that being on Twitter is going to encroach upon what you’re going to write, then whatever you’re writing is probably pretty weak and not of huge value. I believe in distraction. I’m distracted right now but it’s not the Internet’s fault. It’s like saying looking at real-estate porn all day is affecting my ability to be an architect. I mean, it’s distracting as hell, but so are a lot of things. TV is distracting, living in New York is distracting, flowers are distracting. Look at the birdie out my window. I didn’t have the Internet at home for a long time, but now I do. And it’s really distracting and sometimes I want to punch it but my computer was really expensive.

Rumpus: You should pull a Jonathan Franzen and cauterize your Ethernet port.
Crosley: I should totally do that. It’s so funny to me when writers get extremely Spartan. I was talking to a writer I worked with once who said she was so disgusted by her own TV-watching that she unplugged the TV, wrapped the power cord around it and threw it in the closet. I mean, don’t be so dramatic about it. Just turn it off. Also the Internet can be a good thing. Sometimes you’re working on something that calls for a Google search.

Rumpus: As long as you don’t spend all day Googling yourself.
Crosley: I guess that’s better than spending all day douching yourself. Or is it the same thing? How does a douche work anyway? Clears everything out? I should Google that.

 Sloane Crosley Columns For “The Independent”
(By Sloane Crosley, The Independent, 2011-2010)

When Creating Meals I Ask: 'Is There A Way We Can Make This More Difficult?' (16 July 2011)

The reason that war is such a fascinating subject for writers is because it's a revealer. Put a bunch of people in an adrenaline-fuelled, life-or-death situation and their fundamental behaviours are exposed, the scrim is taken away and the motivations behind each personality come out to play. But sometimes you don't need a foxhole to expose one's true nature. Sometimes all it takes is a reclaimed barn-wood kitchen.

I will be spending an upcoming long weekend on Cape Cod with some old college friends. Lest visions of The Big Chill dance in your head, no one has met a violent end – yet. The point of this little vacation is not to go to another town but to get away from towns and cities in general, so we intend to grill, drink, swim and play on the premises of my friend's home. That's one very big grocery trip. The hyper-organised host has sent out a spreadsheet of cooking responsibilities in advance. I, along with three friends, am tapped for "Sunday brunch duty". The preparation e-mails among our little group are already revealing.

Now seems like a good time to mention that I am a pretty good cook. Not a great one, but I can make a lemon ricotta pancake that will make your head spin and, despite my vegetarian condition, have never served undercooked bacon. My personality, when tasked with creating meals, goes something like this: Is there a way we can make this more difficult? Because let's do that. I don't mean to complicate things. It's just – why buy pre-packaged potato salad when you can spend your morning boiling potatoes and flipping out because there's no dill in the house?

Another member of this group is the default ringleader, laying out unsolicited plans from a near lawyerly perspective. One has to read his e-mails carefully, because when the fruit salad falls though, he will say he'd raised concerns about it weeks ago. The third is a professional eater. Last is a sweet, quiet woman who has yet to pipe up in e-mail form and offer her opinions. I think she just wants to sun tan, relax with friends and pitch in when she can. Silly girl.

'I'd Rather Have A Root Canal Than Have My Photo Taken'

There are certain tricks all adult women are supposed to have mastered by my age. Most of them revolve around the delicate matters of maintenance and hygiene. Some revolve around the opposite – you should know how to use a power drill, how to negotiate, how rent a car, how to boil water.  But behavioural maturity requires little instruction. We grow up. Of course, I wouldn't be writing this if I weren't already thinking of a personal exception.  For me, nothing brings out my "born yesterday" idiotic qualities quite like having my photograph taken. This may seem like a small thing, being rendered uncomfortable by the camera, but in this age of social media and Google image searches, it's a real (if silly) part of everyone's life.

There is a way to do it well. Or so I'm told. When it comes to formal photographs, I have two faces: 1) embarrassed, self-deprecating and scrunched up to the point where I'm blind and 2) you just drowned my hamster and I'm pretty pissed about it. This involves a slackening of the jaw and relaxing of all my cheek muscles in an attempt to look like a "supermodel," although the effect is a closer to "coma patient."  Apparently having my picture taken also turns me rude: I have been known to inform a photographer that I would prefer to have a root canal.

Meanwhile, for candid shots amongst friends, there are apparently a whole slew of rules of which I am only marginally aware. One is to avoid ending up at the edge of a group and close to the camera when the flash goes off. Otherwise one's head looks like a watermelon at the end of a row of oranges.  Another is to cross one's legs so as to minimise knee exposure, turn one's head down while looking up and dear God what is that naked arm doing at your side? It should be jutting out as if trying to elbow an invisible friend in the gut.  So I attempt to throw myself at the mercy of all photographers, amateur and professional alike. "I'm sorry," I tell them, "I'm so bad at this. In other news, I can use a power drill."

'Going To A Museum Is One Of The More Tiring Things One Can Do'

It is one of the more perplexing things, living in a city and never going to that city. I, for instance, live in New York. But I rarely "go there". Not to the street corners with the pretzel stands and the overpriced water, or the tiled Imagine Circle to memorialise John Lennon (who was actually shot outside the Dakota building across the street), nor down 5th Avenue to go window shopping.  Like most citizens of popular and international urban centres, I don't take advantage of the cultural opportunities. Perhaps this comes from growing up in suburbia. Home is where you eat, sleep, read, watch television and ignore your parents. It is not where you go to the ballet and then attend a heated panel discussion about it afterwards.

So the other day, I decided to take a trip to my own town. I went up and east to the Guggenheim and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. Going to a museum is one of those inexplicably tiring things. You're not actually doing anything, more shifting your weight from room to room than walking. And yet it is one of the more tiring things one can do, no matter how thrilled you are by the exhibits.  But unlike outdoor destinations – the Empire State building or Times Square or Wall Street's bull – it's actually a lovely feeling, being a tourist at a museum. Somehow, instead of feeling possessive over your surroundings, you feel bolstered that such an important destination is in your backyard.

In addition to the exhaustion, another museum universal is the question: how long is long enough for me to stare at this piece of art so that I have sufficiently absorbed its meaning before I move on with my life? Stare too briefly and you're an idiot. Stare too long and you start to feel like a teenager who's just read The Bell Jar.  And so after an afternoon of gawking at Impressionist paintings and Art Deco jewellery, I decided to skitter back downtown to eat take-out food in my apartment with friends. Of course, when I told one of them to make himself at home, he instantly dropped and broke a glass. Home sweet home.

'I’m Not Leaving The House With Bare Skin'

I had an idea for a bad performance art project. I could get a bunch of women together, and instead of wearing any clothing on our top halves, we'd buy some double-sided tape and stick all the products we use before we leave the house each morning, to our breasts. We could have shaving cream caps in lieu of pasties, bottles of toner and creams running down our spines, shoulder pads of eye gel, teeth whitening strips along the collarbone. Who's with me? Ladies?

I think the point of said art project – insofar as there's ever a point to making earrings out of eyelash curlers – would be some larger comment on the secret lengths women go to in order to make themselves presentable. But the comment has already been made. If not by beauty magazines, then by the billions of dollars collected by anti-ageing products – products which most women start purchasing in their twenties. I'm one of them.

Admittedly, I am a passive participant in skincare regimens and an even more passive participant in make-up. But when faced with the option of a face cream that promises to make me look 28 instead of 32? Sure, fine, I'll pay for that one instead. And if I didn't flinch each time I approached my tear duct with a pencil, I'd probably use one everyday.  I would love to tell you that this column is barrelling forth towards an experiment in which I go without lip moisturiser for a week or a revelation that none of it really matters and it's what's inside that counts. But it won't. Not being a moron, I already know it's what's inside that counts. And being a realist, I also know there's no way I'm leaving the house with nothing on my skin. Sorry. Hence the bad performance art.

The point of it would not, ultimately, be a statement about beauty and pressure and all that, but about credit. Unlike fashion where it's a compliment to point out when someone's got it right, women are torn when it comes to looks. We want the credit for all we do and yet we don't really want anyone to notice. Maybe in the future it'll be socially acceptable for people to touch your face and tell you they love what you've done with your skin. Oh, this young thing?

'We Wait Too Long To Mention A Significant Other Because We Enjoy The Attention'

Last week one of my very dear and very married friends went on a date by accident. She had been working on a project with another company and one of the staff members suggested they all get dinner one evening. When the guest list dwindled down to just the two of them, she remained unalarmed. This might have been either tantalising or terrifying for a single girl, but for my married friend? She wore a wedding ring.  She only realised that her colleague had failed to spot it when she walked into the restaurant to find him dressed in a suit, pulling out her chair with one hand and holding flowers in the other.

As amused as I was by this tale in retrospect (I loved the idea of people asking her husband about it. "How's your wife?" "Oh, you know, dating a lot, but not really seeing anyone special"). I wondered how she dealt with it. The answer was, simply, immediately. She pretended not to see the flowers in order to alleviate some of the awkwardness and coughed up a little comment like, "My husband took me to this restaurant on one of our first dates". The trick, we both later agreed, was to stick your neck out early.

Though never married, I have been in less extreme situations like this before. We all have. And the reason we wait too long – sometimes whole hours or evenings – to make mention of a significant other is because we're actually thinking of ourselves. We enjoy the attention.  But we also fear that the mention of a boyfriend or girlfriend could be met with a legitimate "...and?" from the other party. The other party who, until that moment, had thought of us as about as sexual as a notepad. Thus, somehow, the "boyfriend" never comes up. Whole holidays are described and as far as this stranger is concerned, you went to a four-star boutique hotel in Greece... by yourself.  As I've grown up, I've learnt that it's worth the risk of blushing in order to put the other person at ease. Better to be up front. One likes to think other people will note the presence of a ring on your left hand. Too bad most of the population is right-handed.

'It’s Difficult To Escape Insomnia'

There are so many good ways to avoid insomnia. As I've grown older and my serotonin levels have dropped and my to-do lists have increased, I have learnt not to take long naps on Sunday if I want to be asleep before midnight. I have learnt not to drink three cups of espresso over the course of a day, only to find myself staring at the ceiling that night, punching my fist into the air, wondering why my brain is terrorising me with consciousness. I have learnt that, when it comes to sleep, the heavy consumption of alcohol is the equivalent of impulse-buying a puppy. At first there's nothing more joyous, but then your body wakes at dawn, whimpering.

Unfortunately, once you're in the grips of insomnia, it's difficult to escape it. True, there are pills that will knock you out, but who wants to get a 3am start on drug use? So you try everything. Warm milk. An eye mask. A turn of the pillow. A move from the bed to the sofa and back. It's not working, is it?  The only psychological trick I know is self-developed and I'm happy to share it now: lie very still, your upper back propped up by a stack of pillows. Pretend you are on an aeroplane and have been in this position for several hours. Now imagine that a flight attendant has inexplicably informed you that you've been upgraded to first class. And not just any first class but "private pod" first class. Remove pillows, lie flat on your back and dream of roasted nuts and hot towels. That feeling of relief, however manufactured, usually does it for me. Just not tonight.

Insomniacs tend to fall into two general categories – those who give up and those who don't. I don't. I refuse to admit defeat by turning on the light. I will not try to read or watch a movie, thank you. Productivity is a crutch of the weak. I will lie there as long as it takes, waiting for the birds and the light and sound of garbage trucks on the street below.  Alas, my resolve has failed me tonight. Some time ago, I left my bed, turned on my computer, which makes a sound that's almost like the "Fasten your seatbelt" sound on an aeroplane. Almost.

'This Is The Season For Weddings And I Love Attending Them'

They say weddings are a pressure-cooker experience for single women. Though I'm not exactly sure what a pressure cooker looks like, I feel certain I've had the opportunity to purchase one from friends' bridal registries over the past 10 years. But this is the season for weddings and I love attending them.  Are there moments when I see unrequited crushes or ex-boyfriends slow dancing with their dates and kind of want to stab myself in the spleen with a salad fork? Yeah, sure. But that's par for the course and where my imagination goes when I think of these people anyway. It has nothing to do with my penchant for a decadent and spectacular wedding. For a long time I was certain the vows I witnessed in a castle outside Dublin on Halloween would take the cake for "most awesome".  I suppose you could say I also attended the royal wedding – along with half my American friends who got up at 6am to make scones and critique hats – but that wedding was contained on a pixilated screen and thus not in the running to make me feel legitimately inferior.  But now, sorry as I am to usurp my dear Dublin friends, I must report there's a new contender for the prize: the wedding I attended on a former plantation in Virginia last weekend.

Though the groom is a very old friend, I had never been down to his home. I can now see why. It's one thing to drive for minutes up one's tree-lined driveway. It's another to find a second driveway and the last single-family-owned former plantation in America waiting for you at the end.  Obviously the mere sight of an actual former plantation in America is a complicated thing. No one can live guilt-free, casually raised on one, without being haunted by its history.  But watching my friends dance under a giant tent last weekend as the thunder and rain came down, it was impossible not to recognise that this wedding was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The ante was upped. And me? I think for once I even used my salad fork to eat salad.

'Get Your Contact Sport Fix By Walking In A Crowded And Intolerable Part Of Town At Rush Hour'

The one sport I ever played with any consistency is tennis, and the term "tennis team" is a ridiculous misnomer, surpassed only by "equestrian team". (Though, at least, the horse pitches in there.) I cannot name you one instance in which my fellow teammates reached their rackets across the doubles line to rescue a missed return, popping back into their own game with a wink and a nod as if to say "You'll get me next time". Nor have I seen swimmers do the 100m relay version of "get out and push". You can root for those on your team, but their fates do not rest on how enthusiastically you clap.  In that way, swimming and tennis are cynical sports. Come-into-the-world-alone-and-leave-it-alone sports. You'd think that solitary sports would be ideal for city life, but you'd be wrong, because it's prohibitively expensive to join a gym with a tennis court or a pool.

So what's a person to do if they want to do more than merely exercise? If they want a little competition along with the sweat? Easy. Find the most crowded and intolerable part of town (in our case, the stretch between Penn Station and Times Square) and walk through it at rush hour. Here you will find your contact sport fix in the form of tourists who wilfully refuse to acknowledge that anyone around them might not be impressed by the Hard Rock Café, which causes them to stop and gawk as if they have seen a spaceship with Tom Cruise's face painted on the side.

Try to find somewhere where the foot traffic ebbs and flows, where you feel alternatively like a salmon swimming upstream and like the stream itself. Have fun with it! Can you make this traffic light before it starts blinking? Can you guess which will be faster, the distracted mum of two or the man in the wheelchair? (The wheelchair wins.) Give yourself points for getting to the finish line early. Perhaps a nap or an ice-cream. Gear yourself up for tomorrow when you will again participate in one of the world's most complex and populated sporting activities of all time: city life.

'If You Should See A Thin Rivulet Of Liquid Trickling Down Concrete In Central Park, Stay Away. That’s Not Water'

Last week I was in a taxicab in Seattle, headed into town from the airport. Suddenly the car in front of mine came to a stop. My driver cursed. He explained to me that the drawbridge was going up and it almost never goes up at "this hour". I do not hail from a land of drawbridges – despite living on an island in New York, there's a real dearth of water that's not hanging around in concave pavement or springing forth from a fire hydrant. (If you should see a thin rivulet of liquid trickling down concrete in Central Park, stay away. That's not water.) Thus, a drawbridge is a novelty for me. Not only did I not mind waiting – an unusual mental state for me in the back seat of a taxi – but I craned my neck to look at the boat in question.

My driver explained that on these rare days, when the bridge goes up before 9am, he likes to purchase a lottery ticket. I wondered what would happen if I did the same back home, on the opposite coast. Inconvenience is a part of the very air in New York, be it an infrequent hindrance such as an exploding manhole or a frequent hindrance such as missing your train because the person descending the steps in front of you decided to film a one-person stop-action film entitled Nimrod Descending A Staircase.  However, there is such a thing as being too self-contained; and so determined are we New Yorkers to prioritise our own comfort, we can throw the baby out with the muddy sidewalk water.

Thus I have resolved to take the next roadblock thrown my way in Manhattan and buy myself flowers right after. Or buy someone else flowers. It doesn't matter. Flowers are a ridiculous thing to buy on a spur-of-the-moment basis in Manhattan, so maybe I'll just buy someone gum and a muffin instead.  Either way, I'm still a better fit for New York than Seattle. For me, forced positive behaviour doesn't trigger a rash of positive thinking in general. But I will say that, as I sat in the back of that car, rolling down the window to take in some of the misty Northwest air, I found myself looking at the back of my driver's head and thinking: I really hope he wins.

'A Juice Cleanse? I Don't Think So'

Juice cleansing has been all the rage for some time. And I used the word 'rage' advisedly; one must push a violent flood of liquidised vegetables and fruit through one's system for at least three days in order to perform a 'cleanse'.  I am on the wrong side of America – ie, not California – to publicly undergo a juice cleanse. In New York, if you weigh under 200 pounds and decline so much as a cookie at a co-worker's party, women will flock to your side, assuring you of your appealing physique. This is how skittish we are about the dangers of anorexia and the pressures of body image.
A moderately intelligent woman, who fits easily through the average hallway, announces she is going on a juice cleanse? I don't think so. And after viewing YouTube videos of people with crazy eyes who had undergone a 40-day Master Cleanse (cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon), the whole idea seemed unrealistic and unhealthy to me as well. So I opted for the most sane option I could find: the Blueprint Cleanse. In this plan, the cleansee drinks six different kinds of juice in an assigned order throughout the day. Really, I chose Blueprint because the company had the most appealing language on its website. Instead of encouraging me to graduate from a vegan to wheatgrass-only diet, it recognised the good chance that I'd been consuming pasta and martinis the night before. And as turned off as I was by beet juice, what really sold me was the inclusion of cashew milk, already a favourite of mine.

The results? It was fantastically hard, I was hungry at night, I thought I was going to fall down on the first day and was at once delighted and disturbed by my own euphoria on the second and third. As most doctors will tell you, cleansing is ridiculous. You know what's been around longer than that state-of-the-art juicer? Your kidneys. And your liver. Still, the cleanse has recalibrated my definition of a splurge. When you're used to the dietary equivalent of a studio apartment, a one-bedroom is a thrill. I still eat those cookies – just oatmeal raisin instead of chocolate chip. Raisins are fruit too, right?

'Whether You Say ‘Queue’ Or ‘Line’, Cutting One Is Both Universal And Instantly Understood'

Brits and Americans have hundreds of different phrases for the same thing. Luckily, it's usually a source of amusement rather than frustration. A flashlight by any other name is still a torch. My personal favourite is "fairy lights", which we boringly refer to as "Christmas lights".  The classic, and most regularly encountered, point of difference between British English and American English, is the concept of "queue" vs "line". And once that's been established, are you "in it" or "on it"? I have always referred to myself as waiting "in line" which apparently makes me un-American. I suppose neither is visually accurate. "On line" makes me feel like an elephant about to sit on one's fellow wait-ers. Then again, "in line" smacks of naughty puppeteering.

But you know what is universal and instantly understood on both sides of the planet? Cutting. At rush hour recently, I was waiting on line to purchase tickets at a train station. An animated English girl waited impatiently in the same queue behind me. After several minutes of dramatic foot-tapping and some supplementary sighing, she decided enough was enough.  She broke out of the line, approached a gentleman closer to the front of the line and explained that her train was set to depart in five minutes. Could she possibly cut in? Maybe it was the accent. Maybe it was the pleading face of an attractive girl. No matter what it was, the man allowed her to cut a line about 12 passengers deep. While one wants to, where possible, curtail one's spiralling decent into curmudgeonry, I think I may have let out an "Are you kidding me!?". It's very nice for that man that his train wasn't set to leave for another half hour – but it was at the expense of 10 other people.

Here's another phrase that should head round the world: tough luck, lady. I wish he'd used it. I got my ticket and bolted to make the train, the doors shutting at my heels. Sitting in front of me, free of heavy breath, was the girl. When it was time to exit the train, I made sure to shuffle swiftly past her to wait in/on the taxi line/queue.

'As We Grow Up, There Should Be Fewer Instances Of Friends You Can Only Take In Small Doses'

There are certain people I just won't eat in public with anymore. It seems strange to compartmentalise one's friendships like this, especially as an adult. As we grow up, it feels like you should either invite people into your life or not. There should be fewer and fewer instances of friends you "can only take in small doses".

I think the rule of thumb should be this: if you preface a sentence about a friend with the phrase, "I love X, but..." more than once in any conversation, you should stop hanging out with them. I know, I know: you've been friends with this person since you were six, or you went to university with them, or they stopped a meteor from hitting you with one hand while tearing out their own kidney for you with the other. They'd be the first one there to bust you out of jail or the first to send flowers to the hospital. Look at them, being an ideal friend!

But friendship is as much a game of numbers as it is of emotions. There are far fewer bus accidents and meteor showers than there are drinks and phone calls and house parties. It is in these seemingly ordinary realms that friendship has its true home. In my early thirties, I hope I have weeded out the worst of these offenders and I know I have been weeded right back. Not every friendship is a perfect fit, just because it's a little long in the tooth.

I have one friend who comes through brilliantly both in the daily minutiae of life and in its grander scenarios. I am lucky to have her. My only issue? She is unbearably rude to waiters, to the point where I find myself mouthing "sorry" to staff on the way out of the restaurant. I know that they've spat in our food. And I doubt, when grabbing our two plates from the kitchen, they bothered to make sure they gave her the spittle-laced dish, and this is precisely the problem. A friend this rude will drag you and your omelette down with her. It would be impossible to say anything (all hints have failed) without offending her. Alas, our friendship will have to be restricted to phone calls and jail cells. For now, at least. After all, no one wants to eat alone forever.

‘I Can Think Of Three Male Friends Who Fell In Love The Way One Might Fall Into An Open Manhole’

Hello, my name is Sloane and I am a social back-up girl. Am I a priority for my closest friends? Of course, and they are a priority for me. But a disturbing trend has come to my notice. Not physically, but emotionally, I seem to be the default option for male friends when it comes to attending stuffy dinners with mum, or a co-worker's housewarmer.

For years I never minded these invitations, because I was under the impression I was using the inviters right back – for friendship. Women are infamous for pulling disappearing acts when they start romantic relationships and OK, I do more e-mails than late-night drinks with platonic male friends when there is someone waiting for me at home. But I make a concerted effort to water and feed those friendships I perceive as established and genuine. Not only in case the guy cooking me dinner doesn't work out, but because I genuinely care about these people.

Perhaps it's precisely because women have this ugly reputation for abandoning our girlfriends, we know how to offset it. But I can think of three male friends who, in the past few years, fell in love the way one might fall into an open manhole. I do not begrudge them their happiness, just as I hope they do not begrudge me mine, but I did find myself administering "how long before you call me" tests and other such games in which no one wins.

About two years ago, one of them stopped calling me back full stop. After years working as a book publicist, the one thing I can do very well is take "no" for an answer. So I let it go. Meanwhile, he got engaged, married and moved homes all without the added bonus of me in his life.  Then, last week, he got in touch for the first time, suggesting we get dinner. Missing my friend, I put aside old grudges and accepted. After all, these ex-pals don't mean any offence. But within a minute of my reply, he asked me for a favour regarding a novel he's about to publish. I told him that alas, I couldn't make dinner after all. I had a stuffy evening with parents to attend – as the guest of one of my oldest girlfriends.

'I Smile At People I Don't Know And Ignore Those I Do'

When I was little I had perfect vision. Until I went off to university, I was consulted on all things near (the ingredients in a can of soup) and far (street signs). "Yours will go too," my mother would say when I tried on her glasses and quickly flung them from my head before they made me dizzy.  Despite this warning about the inevitable deterioration of my sight, I didn't think much of getting my first pair of glasses at 20 years old. Perhaps this is because the prescription was so weak, I still got to retain some of my smugness when friends would try them on and ask if they were "for show". Because I am a horrible flincher, contact lenses are not an option. I'm always envious of contact-wearers.

There are endless reasons to take off ones glasses during the day and as I have grown older, what I don't see has become increasingly pronounced.  If I go into a sandwich shop or anywhere that features "Today's specials" on a chalkboard more than 10 feet away, I have to ask for a printed menu. I smile at people I don't know on the street and ignore those I do. When at home, I often find myself grabbing my "back-up" glasses to search for the better-loved pair I have left on top of my dresser.  Recently, I visited the eye doctor in the hope of being told I need stronger spectacles. "Your prescription is correct," the doctor let me down, "your sight hasn't gotten worse since your last visit."

I wondered if eyesight works the same way a cough does. You're hacking up a lung and then the second you step into a physician's office, you can barely muster an exaggerated throat-clear. Because I swear my vision is getting worse. The other day I was sure I saw something crawl across the floor in my peripheral vision. Because I couldn't see what it was, I went out and bought roach traps as well as mouse traps. This is depressing, I thought, not to be able to tell the difference between a potential mouse and a potential large roach. I still don't know if what I saw was vermin or insect or fuzz. I didn't have my glasses on.

‘I Do Say Sorry When I Slam Into Strangers In The Street, But I Don’t Mean It'

I body-checked two people this week. This isn't a new habit either. It's something I like to do when I want to elevate my feelings about other people's poor street etiquette from "passive" to "straight-up aggressive".  Go ahead, try exiting a shop with your body pointed north and your head turned west and see what happens. Better yet, text while walking. I do say "sorry" when I slam into strangers, but let the truth be told: I don't mean it.

Normally, I am a vocal advocate for "looking both ways" and "knowing the size of one's own body". But working, socialising and simply running errands in Manhattan, means I am bound to break my own rules on occasion.  Last week, I was texting a friend about some matter that felt very urgent at the time. I went to step onto a curb, aiming at what I was sure was the flattened, wheelchair-accessible section. Instead, I kicked the thick crust of stone and fell straight onto the concrete. My phone went flying. People gathered. I was wearing jeans with holes in them (a whole other kind of crime) and I was surprised to see my that my knee bled instantly and profusely. After the third good Samaritan offered to help me up, I told him this was getting embarrassing.  "I think it's one of those things," I explained, my leg throbbing, "where I just have to lie here and bleed for a bit."

It's been a while since I've had such a visible malady. Sometimes I get anxious. Depressed. Moody. The flu. The occasional migraine. But this was a retro accident. As luck would have it, I was already on my way to a pharmacy. Shame, ever the conqueror of pain, caused me to straighten my limp as I approached the counter.  "Excuse me," I said, "I hate to bother you but I seem to have a stream of blood dripping down my leg."  As the pharmacist retreated to her cabinets for disinfectant, I went to finish my text to my friend. I changed my mind. I'll just call her later, I thought. If I could be this calm, this disconnected regarding an issue on my own body, I could stay offline for an hour as well.

‘I've Tried Everything To Quit Biting My Nails'

How do you bite your nails? Personally, I like to go in from the side. In cartoons, when characters bite their nails, they move from left to right as if nervously eating corn. I guess they have differently structured teeth to the rest of us because, as anyone who has experienced a molar issue knows, eating with one's incisors has little impact on the mastication of food and great impact on one's respect for rabbits.  I tend to start in the centre of my hand, turning my middle finger on its side and running it through the small crack in my lower teeth a few times until I hear that gratifying crack in my weakened nail.  It's the keratin version of locating the "tear here" indenture on an individually-wrapped breath mint.

From there, I draw out a smooth line towards the end of the nail before I cycle back around and chew off the rest.  And once it begins, I can't very well let the rest of my nails go unattended. What am I supposed to do? Walk around with one long pinkie nail like a drug addict from the 1980s? I don't think so. I am literally biting my nails as I write this. Difficult? Yes. Unappetising? Certainly. But a fitting goodbye to a 15-year-old habit.  While not as dramatically incongruous as a midriff tattoo on a septuagenarian, I do find it difficult to imagine myself as the kind of woman I hope to become while casually picking at my nails in public and then carefully examining my fingers between bites as if proudly surveying the damage.
I've tried everything to quit. Actually, that's not true. I've never tried that nail polish that smells like dog food, or hypnosis, or willpower. But I have had the occasional manicure and hoped for the best – an endeavour that's a bit like going for a run in the hopes it will prevent one from ordering cheesecake for dessert. It usually has the opposite effect.  But as soon as I finish this column, I'm going to stop. Promises are harder to break when they're made in public. So this is goodbye, my beloved little habit. It's been good, and it's also been gross, but it's time to polish you off for good.

'My Suede Sandals Make A Mockery Of Practicality'

There are two periods of time during the year – the first weeks of spring being one, early autumn being the other – when all of one's limited-edition clothing can come out of the closet and play.  When I say "limited edition", I do not mean an expensive one-of-a-kind dress or some Louis Vuitton toothbrush holder designed by Banksy. I mean the highly specific seasonal purchases so wildly inconvenient, you can almost hear the designers laughing as they sketch out fleece bikinis and fingerless gloves.

I am the proud owner of a pair of white linen, closed-toed pumps and a pair of strappy sandals made of suede. You heard me: suede. These do not scream "practicality" so much as mock it. Next to the size printed on the box or further down on the "dry-clean only" tags should be a series of dates indicating the ideal wearability for these items: these items have life-spans similar to that of a pot of yogurt.

But to free these fashionable treasures from their boxes and drawers and under-the-bed storage bins is an act that signifies the start of spring. Scrubbing the floors, buying flowers and opening every window in the house doesn't have quite the same psychological impact as putting on a sweater so light and so sleeveless that it says "one stiff breeze and you'll be underdressed".

There is a hubris to the wardrobe of this time, an unreasonable faith that its owners will wake up one day and remember what it's like to wear colour.  Throughout most of the year, we dress like we feel. In spring, we tend to let the clothing itself take the first step – until we realise it's near-impossible to wear a straw hat and be in a pissy mood. This is not to say that things can't go wrong on the textile front in spring – consider mud, rain, people at work functions who gesticulate irresponsibly while holding full glasses of red wine – but this is the risk you took, removing a cream-coloured linen dress from the back of the closet to begin with. It was created expressly for the totally impractical and eminently unrealistic gamble of a fresh start.

'I Want To Know What Brand Of Shampoo Charlie Sheen Uses'

There are always a handful of news stories that one sees out of the corner of one's eye. Of the major ones – say, Mubarak being overthrown in Egypt – one knows every detail. As one should. But it's the pure entertainment stories I find I'm happy to let sit on the periphery of my brain, until and unless it becomes absolutely necessary to bring them to the forefront.  Now that I have seen hours of footage of Charlie Sheen and read Twitter posts (countless) on the subject, I am nostalgic for my ignorance. Gone are the days of a few weeks ago when I would have summarised Sheen's story thusly: something about drugs and porn stars and tiger blood? Something about, he drinks it so that he might become a winner?

I've always been like this with anything that involves sex, drugs and rock and roll. Me in 2006: something about Tom Cruise landing in a spaceship and putting his feet up on Oprah's sofa? Me in January of 1998: something about a cigar and a dry-cleaning bill? The easiest stories to latch on to (celebrity scandals – national and international alike) have never held much interest for me.  This is not snobbery. It's the reverse. I am not "above it" and would love to know every last detail about what goes on in Charlie Sheen's house. I want to hear the conversations he has when he's yelling between rooms with his "goddesses" about dinner plans. I want to know what he eats, what brand of shampoo he likes, his most humiliating fart story. 

Alas, when it comes to these type of stories, we will never know the details. So I will never be satisfied. I can learn the facts of a major diplomatic crisis and feel like I have a handle on it, but the scandals of the world? They never seem to run in a linear fashion. Instead, they either free-form explode on gossip blogs or just go round and round in circles until someone shows up with a television camera.  Therefore, until Charlie Sheen invites me into his home, opens his medicine cabinet and gives me his grandmother's lasagne recipe, I'd rather not make myself dizzy trying to keep up.

'Perhaps My Neighbours Are Trapped Under Some Very Weighty Pieces Of Furniture – A Girl Can Dream'

They say it's not the snoring itself but those anxiety-packed moments in between snorts. It's the waiting for the nasal passages of the person lying beside you to strike again. And strike it always does. In the dark, almost against your will, you produce that special glare reserved for people who cannot control their own behaviour. Though I am not currently living with a snorer, I long for the days when I was... because anything would be better than the wait for the neighbours to have their next party.

Allow me to further define what I mean here. When I say "neighbours", I mean the people in the building next to mine, those with the apartment with rooms that match mine, so that there is no escape from every conversation they have or self-taught guitar solo they embark upon. And when I say "party," I mean a gathering that doesn't commence in earnest until 3am, actually wakes me up as opposed to prevents me from falling asleep, and continues until approximately 7am, at which point I casually walk out into the street in my slippers, meander over to the front door of their building, cram toothpicks in their buzzer so that it rings endlessly, and then meander my way back to bed. As moderately psychotic as that may seem, I assure you it's nothing compared to the waves of murderous rage that pass through my brain in the undead of night.

But here's the thing – for weeks, it's been quiet. Too quiet. Each evening I put my key in my lock and turn the knob, praying to see no bright light and hear no loud, bass-heavy music from the window across the way. I realise it's just asking for trouble to write this, but – they've gone silent. Maybe they are trapped under some very weighty pieces of furniture. (A girl can dream.) Yet noise or no noise, the potential for major disturbance is all I think about when I come home at night. This week, though, I have finally started to let go and allow myself to hope for a world in which I can leave my bedroom window open, and not Google "wire cutters" and "industrial ear plugs" the next morning. Fingers crossed. A box of 500 toothpicks is remarkably cheap but a good night's sleep is priceless.

‘I Will Obsess Over A Paper Cut. It’s Not Hypochondria. The Diagnosis Is 'Being A Big Baby'

For the average person, taken to their sick bed, it takes a serious bout of pneumonia or a full body cast to completely forget the life they had prior to falling off the rollercoaster. I, however, will do this over a paper cut on my thumb, obsessing of said cut and being generally consumed by it. It's not hypochondria. The medical diagnosis of my condition is something like "being a big baby."  So imagine what happens if you give someone like me the flu. Oh, and now do a couple of other things, will you? Put me in a fleapit hotel – alone – in Los Angeles. Have you forgotten to add questionable stains on the carpet and a chair that actually breaks when I sit in it?

I was in LA researching a story. The anxiety of missing interviews was not helping my postnasal drip. In my oversized terrycloth bathrobe, I'd shift from the bed to the sofa and then back to the bed once I decided the sofa hadn't been cleaned since the 1990s. I'd stare out of the window at the bright Los Angeles weather and let out a boy-in-the-bubble sigh of longing.  (This is the thing about LA. Unlike every other city in America where you have to locate the main attractions, the sole attraction of the place is delivered to your home each morning, provided that home includes a window. LA knows how to rub it in your face if you're sick.)

I sighed on the phone to family, who wished me well but – what could they do from 3,000 miles away? I sighed to the man at the front desk. He didn't speak English. My voice was barely audible. Friends hung up on me, thinking we'd been disconnected. Was there no-one who would understand my plight? In the middle of the night, out of aspirin, I found a 24-hour delivery service to bring me drugs. When a teenager knocked on my door half an hour later, he said, almost sweetly: "You look terrible. Hope this helps." I thanked him. Here was someone who understood how bad this was!  "No problem," he said, "it's 3am. I'm just happy to be delivering to someone who's not drunk."

‘I Sent A Text To My Friend: “Airline Lost Luggage. Expect Uni-Brow And Vague Musk Of Airplane Loo”.’

I used to think that nails-down-a-chalkboard was the worst sound in the world. Then I moved on to people-eating-cereal-on-the-phone. But only this week did I stumble across the rightful winner: it's the sound of a baggage carousel coming to a grinding halt, having reunited every passenger on your flight with their luggage, except for you.  I have made it three decades without having an airline misplace my bags. That ended this past week when Newark airport experienced a temporary blackout. As is typical, I was already late to check in, so when I watched all the screens go dark, just as my suitcase was being weighed, I had a hunch this would not end well. But there was a kind of lesson to be learnt in the 48-hour aftermath.

I had flown to San Francisco to visit friends and found myself in a house full of boys. Well, two guy friends and one earnest female grad student whom I had never met before. I sent a text to my friend Angela, with whom I had dinner plans the following evening: "Airline lost luggage. What is it w these boys & the homing device they have for low-maintenance female roommates? Not a hairdryer or face wash in sight. Expect uni-brow & vague musk of airplane bathroom wafting off my person".

Now, an airline will reimburse you for reasonable charges accrued when they've accidentally thrown your bag into the ocean, say. But the form-filling is as much of a pain as you suspect it would be. Plus, they finally called to inform me that my possessions had been located and were on their way back to me. I decided to tough it out.  The combination of having no choice and a distinct circumstance on which to blame my slovenliness granted me a kind of freedom. I wandered around unconcerned with my appearance, washing my face with Dial soap (it's a cheap handwash) and putting lip balm on my elbows. When my luggage finally appeared, I found myself running late for dinner. I had five minutes and a choice. I left my suitcase in the hallway and ran scruffily out the door. No one needed to know I had it back yet.

'Suddenly It’s Become Socially Acceptable To Talk, At Length, About The Weather. Enough, I Say'

Chivalry isn't dead here in New York – it's just very cold. Yesterday I tried to hail a taxi, slipped on the ice, and scraped my hands on the pavement. A man nearby took one glance at me, opened the door of the cab and got in. I can't say I blame him – it was the first available taxi I had seen in 15 minutes.  It has been snowing, sleeting and hailing since New Year. In late December, when the first snowstorm hit, it brought with it that rare metrological occurrence: simultaneous thunderstorms and snowfall. Alas, just when we think we're out, we get covered in another blanket of white – with brown slush binding.

The monotonous weather is beginning to wear. Show me the window not frozen shut! Show me the pair of leather boots not stained with sidewalk salt!  And I'm not sure if it was the third blizzard or the 257th, but suddenly it's become socially acceptable to talk, at length, about the weather. Once the domain of the conversationally desperate, the snow is on everyone's lips as well as their heads.

Enough, I say. Enough with Facebook pictures of whiteout streets and sagging power lines. Enough with the tales of city buses beached like whales on the unpaved side streets. Please let the answer to "How are you?" stop being "Cold and wet." Enough with the use of the word 'snowpocalypse'.  I have no idea why cities like New York and London persist in having such short memories and fuses when it comes to the weather. This will all end and before we know it, New Yorkers will be complaining about the heat and taking pictures of kids cooling off in the fire hydrants.  Meanwhile, mindlessly discussing every flake that has the audacity to impede your path is the verbal equivalent of stealing my cab. Do I realise I am, at this very moment, guilty of going on my own tirade about the weather? Well, yes. But at least the typing is keeping me warm.

'I Bought My Just-Engaged Friend Maternity Underwear'

Nothing says love like a pair of discount knickers. For a friend's upcoming bachelorette party, we – her friends (which, by the end of this, may or may not include me) – decided to each send the bride a pair of racy underwear. Given the price limit, I decided it would be better to procure a discounted version of something pricy, rather than a full-priced version of something paltry.  Thus I found myself on the ever-sexy Agent Provocateur website, a company renowned for making women think owning sequinned nipple tassels is a pretty standard affair. There, in the clearance section, I found the perfect gift: a pair of pink and red knickers, complete with silk heart. I was surprised to see an item so relatively conservative on a site selling leather tights, but what do I know?

It was only after I received confirmation of my purchase that I noted the knickers boast of being "under the bump". Ahem... what bump? I explored further, discovering that the range is wearable "throughout the entire pregnancy".  My product had already shipped; it was too late. I'd put the Stork before the Dove and bought my just-engaged friend maternity underwear. I can only hope that an entire pregnancy includes a stage one: not-at-all-pregnant and still drinking and gorging on sushi.

Buying underwear for a friend is already a dicey prospect. Who am I to estimate the size of her ass? I would imagine a good portion of Agent Provocateur's sales, pre-Valentine's Day, are not placed by platonic female friends. A lover has had the chance to check your lingerie for informative labels. But a girlfriend is basing her decision on what your butt actually looks like in clothing.

Though I have not spent copious amounts of time staring at my friends' asses, I do have a basic idea of who is sensitive about what. I was already nervous about choosing a size from the website – and now this. My only hope is that the underwear does not arrive with a list of other suggestions from the range (a matching nursing bra, anyone?) and that I haven't inadvertently signed her up for pre-natal yoga-gear catalogues.


'We’ve Come To Expect So Little From Online Privacy Measures'

The real world is in revolt. Sick of the lack of boundaries online, real-life privacy is now all the rage. When Facebook changed its privacy model last year, the world staged a minor hissy-fit for about a week before it got over it.  But does it really matter if a photo or six leak out into the ether? We've come to expect so little from online privacy measures that public displays of concern about the matter are more or less for show. Being devastated to discover you've been tagged in somebody else's photo has an air of the melodramatic about it at this point.

However, of late I think people are keeping their cards closer to their chests on the street. Women are less trusting with their bags on the bus. Conversations in public places are being conducted at a civilised whisper, and the paranoid over-the-shoulder glare at the ATM appears to have been reinstated. I believe it's because we have so little privacy left in cyberspace, in real life we've gone back to reclaim the discretion we used to enjoy.  Something else I've noticed: when collecting prescriptions from Duane Reade, the US equivalent of Boots, one has to sign one's name in a little book confirming that one is oneself and that the drugs have been collected. For years, I'd scan down the list for the next blank space and scribble my name. Now a law has been passed obliging the pharmacist to cover up the other names on the list with a piece of paper.

I also used to take a nostalgia trip to the lobby of the building where I had my first job. I'd walk in, reminisce, inhale, think of how far I've come, slam into someone mid-reverie and spill coffee all over myself, etc, so forth. Now I can't get past the front door without an electronic key card and two valid forms of identification. I get it. It's not merely privacy, but security, and those are different things. But you know what? I would swap wandering through an ex-boyfriend's photo album for wandering through that lobby, any day.

'New Jersey Is Not Hard To Navigate, Especially When One Lives In Neighbouring New York'

Here are the three circumstances under which elderly ladies in insane-looking pointy hats will ask you to come inside their house:

1. Your name is Hansel.
2. Your name is Gretel.
3. You are standing outside a church on a Sunday morning and the house is the house of God.

I got about as lost as number 1 and number 2 last weekend while trying to find my way to my sister's house in New Jersey. New Jersey is not especially hard to navigate and when one lives in neighbouring New York, there's no excuse for failing in this department. Alas, a few weekend train transfers, a misprinted schedule and the sound of a train door closing behind you when you'd like to get right back on it had landed me in the city of Newark. For a city large enough to have a less-than-desirable reputation, it was oddly abandoned. Where were the bodies that housed the personalities known for drive-by shootings?

With no one to ask about the next train, I meandered down to street level and called a cab service. I was so relieved to hear a human voice, I didn't think twice about "meeting the driver outside the Hilton". The second the phone was back in my pocket, I was faced with that age-old question: What Hilton? I will tell you that as not-ideal as it is to be standing on an abandoned Newark platform, it is even less ideal to go wandering around the back strolling over train tracks and highway entrances to circle around said station. The only building I found was a church. I stopped outside and called the taxi service back. That's when an elderly woman approached me.

"Are you lost?" she said.
"Yes," I replied.
"Would you like to come inside and pray?" she asked.
"Oh, no thank you. I'm –"
"God will save you," she patted me on the shoulder and kept walking. 
Probably not, I thought, not unless God has a car and a GPS. Though when I located my cab driver, he did have a large rosary dangling from the rear-view mirror. So what do I know?

'I Took One Look At This Person I Hadn't Spoken To In 12 Years And Meandered Down The Platform. Why?'

I was visiting my parents' house in suburban New York, and in true parental fashion my mother dropped me off at the local train station about 15 minutes early. One would think that after performing the same drive every day for years when my father was commuting to Manhattan, they'd have a sense of timing about this trip. One would be wrong.  While waiting idly on the cold platform, I spotted an old high-school classmate of mine. Though it may be the face that coaxes one into recognition, I find it's always the body language of another person that keeps one there. Apparently people slouch the way they slouch forever. And by the way he was standing, I knew that this was not only someone I knew in high school, but someone with whom I had been very good friends. We passed notes, ate lunch together, attended parties together, had each other's phone numbers on speed dial...

We lost touch during university, after pathetically nursing the relationship with missed calls and e-mails. I would like to say that my complete ignoring of him on that train platform was a debate. Alas, it wasn't. I took one look at this person with whom I hadn't spoken in 12 years, realised he had not spotted me back, and meandered down the platform. But why? In life's big sea of acquaintances, this man was what you might call a big fish. It's not as if we may or may not have played Spin the Bottle once. I really knew him.

I believe what it comes down to is a mild misanthropy, a passively mean compartmentalisation of my life. As we took our seats on separate train cars, I kept thinking that perhaps if I was in a better mood, if maybe the moon was tilted just a few degrees to the left... It's the emotional equivalent of buying a dress one size too small as a weight-loss motivator. You're either ready to fit into it now, or you're not.  It's not that I had anything against this person, but perhaps it's just that so much of life is out of our control that when presented with an option to avoid surprise interaction, we take it. Who knows? Maybe he didn't want to see me either.

'I Might Say I Had A Girl Crush On Tina Fey, But Not On AS Byatt'

Unless we're talking about old-school, witchcraft-trial violence, can we please phase out the phrase "girl crush"? While we're at it, if we can axe "like, total girl crush" unless Total Girl Crush is the name of a fizzy soft drink, in which case I'll take two, thank you. A Twitter and Facebook favourite, "girl crush" has been the primary means of lady-on-lady compliment over the past few years. Now that 2011 has begun, I say this is the year women take a non-heeled stand against this oddly undercutting and twee acclamation.

Admittedly, it comes from a good place. When a woman wants to compliment someone she admires in a concise manner, using these two simple words will do the trick. Unfortunately, it's used so much that it either looses its meaning or becomes demeaning. There's something weak and self-hobbling about our inability to just say we respect, admire or even love the work of a public figure. Do we have to turn into giddy, pig-tailed does in order to express excitement?

If "crush" is too fun to let go of, let's just lose the gender, then. It's oddly lazy and caging to the recipient. I might say I had a girl crush on Natalie Portman or Tina Fey, but probably not on Meryl Streep or AS Byatt. At what age and level of success do our celebrities graduate in our minds? Can women accept women as talented if their work is meaningful but not personal? It seems to me that "girl crushes" are only to be applied to those with whom I think I'd be friends, but the phrase is abused when it encompasses anyone with talent and breasts.

Of course, the often-homophobic, English-speaking world avoids men having "guy crushes". But at least one good thing has come of it: when men want to compliment other men, they are forced to do so in a slightly less clichéd manner. If the band was good, they have to tell you why. If their favourite team has a new player that sets their dude hearts a-flutter, they must describe his skills. Granted, these compliments often take the form of half-grunts on a bar stool... but at least you get the sense they're earnt.

'We Spend Our Childhoods Trying To Grow Up And Our Adulthoods Nostalgic For Our Youth'

Today at breakfast I sat next to two of the most put-upon people in the world. They complained about people they knew (their friends, their family), then they moved on to people they didn't (the waitress, the hostess, the homeless in general). The proximity of our tables made it bizarrely difficult to sneak a glance at them without arousing a reaction. And judging by the casual vitriol slung at subway employees, I had a "Do you mind?" coming my way if caught.  So it wasn't until I got up to leave that I discovered I had been listening to two teenagers for the past hour. The girl, maybe 15, was dressed in a leopard-print vest with her sunglasses pushed back on her head. She gesticulated with a cherry from a virgin cocktail. The boy, 12 or 13, sat slumped in his chair with one scrawny elbow over the back, as if modelling for a magazine piece on Young Titans of Finance.

I know. I shouldn't do this. Because there's only one direction for this story to go, and that place is called Kids These Days. We all recall the feeling of dying to be older, and it's curious that no matter how you grow up, the element of adulthood all of us choose to imitate is to be "over" everything.  Drugs? Tried them. Sex? Had it. The opposite sex's behaviour? So seventh grade. Nothing betrays youth like newness. Of course, when we grow up, we put a premium on a wide-eyed wonderment of the world. We value a lack of the jaded and the bitter in each other, and do everything in our power to stave off these qualities in ourselves.

As I left the restaurant, I felt myself thinking, "Oh, these Manhattan kids!". Then it occurred to me: I don't think that's what actually bothers me about seeing kids playing at being adults. It's not that they grow up so fast. They don't. But if we spend our childhoods trying to grow up, and our adulthood nostalgic for our youth, when do we just get to be? Surely there must be an exact halfway point. I'm thinking it's 18 in the UK and 21 in America. Because you could be drinking to forget the past, or to toast the future and no one particularly cares. All that matters is that you're meant to be here.

'I’m Afraid Of Speed. To See Me Vibrate With Petrification, Put Me In A Queue For A Rollercoaster'

When I was a teenager, I flew to London with a cold. Which was OK. Until I quickly boarded a second plane to Edinburgh and the swift changes in pressure caused my eardrums to swell to the point of deafness. Quoth the emergency room doctor hours after landing: "You'd probably be in less pain if your eardrum popped a little". Wonderful.  For two days, I curled up in a friend's apartment, my head throbbing in the dark, thinking of how I'd always wanted to move to Scotland anyway. Maybe I could just stay! I could live under my friend's kitchen table and eat scraps of toast and Irn-Bru and beer. No good? OK then, I could take a boat home. Or drive. I'd put the car on a barge between Russia and Alaska and call it a day.

No matter what, I would not be getting on a plane. I knew the pain would eventually subside. But this extra cochlear kick was all I needed to solidify my fear of flying. Now I could put aside all mental hysterics, all wimpy reasoning, and blame my nerves on a concrete problem: I had sensitive ear issues.  It was a perverse relief. I have never been frightened of plane explosions. Air travel is the safest form of travel aside from walking; even then, the chances of being hit by a public bus at 30,000 feet are remarkably slim. I also have no problem with confined spaces. Or heights. What I am afraid of is speed. I have a visceral distaste for rollercoasters for the same reason. If you'd like to see me vibrate with petrifaction, put me on a queue for one.

By the time a flight takes off, I have already spent minutes jockeying with a stranger for the armrest so that I might grip it for dear life during the ascent. Yet when I confess my fear of flying to others, I am generally met with assurances about said flight's limited duration. I am forced to respond: but we have to take off, right? Just checking.  Now I have my ears. Narrow passage ways, you see? It's a medical problem, not a psychological one. Let's just drive around the world instead, shall we?


'I’ve Had Internet Access At Home For One Month. No Need To Check Your Watches. This Is 2010'
(18 December 2010)

Referring to myself as "a bit of a Luddite", I realise, is like calling myself a bit of a drug addict. Or a bit of a warmonger. Or a bit of a Cher fan. You're either in or you're out. But it's hard to reconcile my newfound access to the internet. No need to check your watches. This is 2010. Yet, so long as I had a day job, I had no discernible need to access the internet from my home.  More or less everyone on the planet is familiar with the perils of the internet and its wily attention-span-shortening ways. But as a human who has been self-sealed in a kind of mental Tupperware for the past decade, I will tell you the effects are more complicated than the atrophying minds of our youth. Let the children surf. But as someone of a slightly older generation, my love/hate relationship with 24-hour access to the web is strangely fresh.

For years, I would print out directions and party invites before leaving the office. I never once got an address wrong. I always knew whose birthday it was and when the festivities began. I was the last person in America under 50 still dialling 411 for restaurant numbers and store hours and so found myself having to be excessively patient and well-pronounced at least three times a week. I never travelled with a laptop and thus never held up airport security queues by forgetting I had it on my person. I responded to e-mails in a timely fashion because I had no choice. It was either that, or stay in the office and be serenaded by the dulcet sounds of industrial carpet vacuums.

But now? Now I am well on my way to becoming an impatient, irresponsible, bad friend who will "figure out if it's BYOB later". I have the social safety net of home access to the world. It's been one month. One month since a man came to my apartment and installed the box that will erode my humanity as I know it. After he left, I was so paralysed with the promise of unnecessary information, the first thing I did was look up the weather. Information which, of course, could have been mine by just opening the window and sticking my hand outside.

'In Manhattan, Quitting Your Job Is Just A Bit Of Paperwork. It Registers On The Same Scale As A Flu Shot'
(11 Dec 2010)
I quit my job last week. I apologise, but a decade at the same company leads me to begin this column with that piece of Camus-esque drama. I live and work in Manhattan, where people leave and quit everyday. This is cause for neither parade nor funeral. It's just a bit of paperwork that registers on the same scale as a flu shot – a little pain, and soon you won't even notice. Watch, you'll even be able to put your jacket on like a normal person this time next week.  But because I have found myself in a generation where people leave their jobs every two years, start their own companies, or earn their keep from a single freelance job every six months, I'm a bit of an early-thirties anomaly. A company girl.

As I write this, I am looking at a book-shaped crystal paperweight I received from Random House, commemorating my five-year milestone. It's a bit on-the-nose symbolic. You know, because it's a book and all. True, I have gulped down champagne and mini-brownies at more than one 40th anniversary toast in the conference room. Yet even established companies such as mine seem unprepared for people of my generation to stay so long.  Put it this way: what, you might ask, is the millstone gift for a decade of service? The same paperweight, but with a "10" engraved on it. I suppose the idea is that you'll have accumulated twice as much paper that's put in jeopardy by open windows. One would think you'd learnt your lesson with the first paperweight, and just shut the window.

Either way, quitting to write full-time is going to go one of two directions. It's either a bit like a video game that reaches an end unimagined by its programmer, releases some sad electronic swansong because no one imagined my avatar would get this far and the world as I know it has shrunken down to a single white pixel fading at the centre of a black screen of nothingness.  Or, I'm about to go on a (miraculously productive!) binge of whiskey, cereal, bad decisions, bathrobe-wearing and Real Housewives of Atlanta-watching. Only time will tell, but I'll say this now: if I start using the surface of that paperweight for drugs, please, do call someone.


Call It The New Junk Mail
(By Sloane Crosley, GQ, December 2010)

 Penis. Penis! PENIS!!  That's how the game is played, right? Whoever can shout it the loudest without caving to embarrassment wins. Oh, but who needs a larynx when you have a cell phone? More to the point, when you have Brett Favre's cell phone. To Favre's credit, it's not as if the man invented naughty-picture messaging two years ago when he reportedly sent then 24-year-old Playboy model and Jets game-day hostess Jenn Sterger shots of his junk. He may have been the longest in the tooth to do this, but let us not forget the Cleveland Indians' aptly named Grady Sizemore or the Portland Trail Blazers' Greg Oden and his formidable anatomy, which he clearly rented from Equine 'n' Things. Fame aside, the question is—okay, so there are a lot of questions—but the first one is: How can men be so clueless? What, exactly, do they think is going to happen?

It's not like Annie Leibovitz is taking these photos. They're crude in every sense of the word. Men have a long history of being clumsy when they're attracted to women (see: cavemen + head-clubbing = foreplay), but distributing what looks like doctor's-office documentation of your dick takes things to a whole new level. It's the photographic equivalent of a sentiment expressed by Jason Segel's character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. After being dumped, he finds himself in a desperate semi-fugue state, telling two strange women, "I find you both very sexually attractive. I think that having sex with either of you would be a great treat for me." Bold. Refreshingly honest. Endearing in its honesty. Also? A movie.

Kids in high school are less blunt. Actually, scratch (rub?) that one out: Kids in high school are exactly this blunt. But unlike the Favres of the world, at least they have the technological wisdom that accompanies the act. Young guys know it's pretty much a given that their phallus photos will go, well, viral. To be fair, young women aren't much better. I know one guy who was minding his own business at a keg party when a girl started hitting on him. In order to elicit a stronger romantic response, she took the flirting digital and told him to check his phone. When he did, he saw she had texted him naked photos of herself. Last generation's Dear Hustler is this generation's Dear Verizon.  "It kind of turned me off," he said, "but it's really common. And the pictures and videos always get out."  What I couldn't get over upon hearing this was the timing of it all. Did she scurry away to the bathroom in between rounds of beer pong? I know what'll get him! Quick, grab me a hand mirror and an iPhone.  "Oh, she had them in her phone already. A bunch of them."

The majority of grown women—as in those of us who can ask Hertz, not our parents, if we can borrow the car—are different. We know when to keep our core lady bits on lockdown. Perhaps it's the centuries of being told to "leave something to the imagination," a lesson that even the all-powerful Internet can't erode. Those of us who are inclined toward the perversely pixelated? Most of us do it in the safety of a relationship. At minimum, we can guess where a guy is when he's receiving the photo; we've been to his house, and he's not, say, a cheerleader a couple of decades our junior who has spurned all our prior advances. Of course, it's easy for us to reveal everything from the waist up. It must be really difficult to pose a penis. A penis can't put its hand on its waist, stick its hip out, and turn. It can't cross its ankles in the air and suck on a lollipop or straddle a Vespa in leather pants.

A girlfriend once showed me the sexy pictures she sent her boyfriend. I noticed a guitar leaning nonchalantly against a wall in the background.
"What is that?"
"It's a guitar."
"Since when do you own a guitar?"
"I don't," she said. "My roommate does."
Typical girl, she had taken the time to compose the entire shot. It had finesse. It also had low-grade psychosis. But if you put that aside, there is something to be learned from a woman like this. As a group, we don't respond so well to sloppy. So what's a guy to do when the urge to strip and click takes over? Put in a little effort.

I know one guy who did this well. We were dating for about eight months when he really went for it. I was at a work event, and he sent me about ten pictures in a row from my apartment in various states of comic lust. Him, naked, sensually pushing down on a French press. Him, naked, bathing in a bathtub of open books. As the pictures pinged in, each one a little zanier than the next, I became addicted to them. I looked for excuses to stand by myself and open them. Their comedy was key. Because women look at a guy for the sum of his parts, not the parts themselves. It doesn't matter how much we enjoy chicken: No one likes to handle it raw and uncooked.

In the final photo he wasn't doing anything special at all. Just smiling. With that, he skillfully crossed the line from "this is the clown in your bedroom right now" to "this is the clown with a vested interest in a three-ring circus later." And I could see it on his face because, frankly, I could see his face. Gentlemen, you have to come at this thing less Brett Favre-style and more Lance Armstrong-style: It's not about the penis. Lighten up.

Personal technology has given us the freedom of being able to do whatever we want—and in the case of celebrities and athletes, whomever they want. But it can also serve as a humiliation jetpack. So many new venues for embarrassment! For someone like Favre—who, hi, is already Brett Favre—you really have to have exhausted everything in your flirtation arsenal to send a photo of your dick to someone who hasn't asked for it. (When you are a professional athlete who pulls down, say, $13 million a year, how is it you find yourself thinking, "I just wish I had something to offer the ladies?") Boundaries need to be created. A 15-year-old kid on Facebook knows how to manage his privacy settings. Even the girl at the keg party knew what she was doing. The woman had a curated archive.

There's also something especially creepy about an older generation of men hitting on younger women through text or picture message. No sooner have these women finished teaching Mom and Dad to use the "bcc" function on e-mail than they have to cope with this? And why be so presumptuous as to assume the impulse to share is yours alone? I know how to press the SEND key, too. Information sharing is like getting undressed with the shades open: If you can see the neighbors, they can see you. Favre may not respect the object of his desire enough to put his pants on, but he should at least respect that she hails from a generation that texted their first words and Skyped their first steps. Because in the great penis game of life, nobody wins.


Bobbing For A Lost Apple
(By Sloane Crosley, New York Times, October 27, 2010 )

 The drum of horror holds her sound,
Which will not let me sleep,
When ghastly breezes float around,
And hidden goblins creep.

—George Moses Horton,
“The Fearful Traveler in the Haunted Castle”

In order to properly carve into Halloween, to gut its innards and illuminate it, we have to flash forward to the blight on fun that is New Year’s Eve.  New Year’s, much like baby pigeons, daylight saving and currency, is a myth. It’s an artifice of renewal that does for prix fixe meals what Valentine’s Day does for Hallmark. A pressure bomb dropped on the course of an otherwise enjoyable life — and it causes a ripple effect as far back as Oct. 31.  What makes New Year’s so unpleasant is an Occam’s Razor of a reason: It’s at midnight. Midnight is a terribly inconvenient time to have a holiday in New York. Part of the magnetism of the city is the ease with which one can get from Point A to Point B and the freedom to be completely drunk when doing so. It would be so much better for everyone if we could just move New Year’s to 8 p.m. or 2 a.m. — some logical hour where the threat of being in transit at the precise moment that the next 12 months of your life are christened does not loom so large.

All holidays are measured by varying degrees of stress but New Year’s takes that stress and whittles it down to a single second. Thus we throw money, confetti, booze, anything we can think of at the problem. When that fails, we drop a 1,000-pound ball on it. And Halloween in the city — that otherwise harmless children’s holiday with its adorably occult roots — was weaned on New Year’s.  People living in New York don’t need to let loose on Halloween — their psyches are already pretty unstructured on an average Tuesday.   These sister holidays mark the beginning and the end of the holiday season in New York, with the former increasingly taking its cue from the latter. Streets are shut down for Halloween, costumes are purchased, masks abound, it’s impossible to get a cab, and people seem legitimately concerned about their whereabouts weeks in advance.  Not surprisingly, there has been a conspicuous increase in moaning about “getting out of the city” for Halloween. To be so irked by a holiday that one has to check out of it all together was the one wall separating Halloween from New Year’s. That wall is crumbing. New Yorkers have long responded to New Year’s as if a cinematic plague is about to descend and it’s time to a) leave or b) stock up on batteries/water/the-complete-first-season-of-everything.

But why the desire to physically flee from Halloween as well? In recent years Halloween, sick of dressing up as Robin to New Year’s Eve’s Batman, has taken the Most Intolerable New York Holiday crown. Perhaps it’s because this city has such a buffet of flimsily contained id to begin with. There are a whole lot of people living here who don’t need to let loose on Halloween — their psyches are pretty unstructured on an average Tuesday.  Plus it can be overwhelming to walk the streets with all those clusters of strumpety cats and drunken fairies and sexy bedbugs. And this is coming from someone who likes dressing up, someone who has always had a soft spot for Halloween. For no discernible reason, I own a pair of elbow-length green satin gloves that have carried me though several incarnations, including “peacock,” “dead peacock,” “mother nature” and “a lime.” Yet this year I find myself retiring the feathered false lashes and keeping one eye out — and I don’t mean the kind that pops out of novelty glasses — for an escape.

Just as New Year’s forces us to make a decision regarding locale, Halloween increasingly does so with fashion. The world as we know it can be divided into two kinds of people: those who dress obviously and those who make you work for it. Say what you will about the creativity-in-a-bag that is a Ricky’s costume but at least those people never get asked who they’re supposed to be. This is a question I can barely answer the other 364 days of the year so God knows why I’d be able magically self-actualize on Halloween.  Alternatively, the holiday can bring out the irritatingly clever in all of us: a friend of mine once wore dark glasses, an “I Venice T-shirt and carried a walking stick. She was a Venetian Blind. She parted the crowds on Christopher Street by “accidentally” poking them with the stick.  O.K., so that was pretty good. Wrong. But good.

Beyond dressing-up, it’s that creeping pressure to do something insanely fun for Halloween. This is a trickle-back attitude from New Year’s. What a smack in the face of fun. Other holidays don’t have this problem. The words “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” invoke turkey, familial dysfunction and airport security. It’s a sincere question, not a fishing expedition. Never has someone said “I’m going to my aunt Hilda’s house in Wooster” and been met with a “That sounds great. When are we leaving?” No one covets your plans, no one wonders what you’re going as this year, no one comes up to you with a straight face and tells you the stuffing is brains and the cranberry sauce is blood.  Having grown up just outside the city, I used to envy the thrilling lives of “city kids.” City kids scored higher than us in both the common sense department and the cultural sense department. They were over everything by the age of 5, which left them free to spend the rest of their lives sneaking into dark bars to see bands I wouldn’t hear for another two years. But the fantasy stopped at Halloween. I am a sucker for a well-carved jack-o’-lantern and the smell of leaves underfoot. Thus I found their stories of trick-or-treating via elevator vaguely depressing. Not anymore. Now it just seems convenient, an effective candy distribution system. I long for a house party safe from the vomiting hobgoblins of Times Square.

In the end, is it such a shame if Halloween becomes ruined with overcrowding and pressure and bad costumes? It’s Halloween, not Yom Kippur. It’s a pretty fake holiday to begin with. So are the majority of our holidays, if the manner in which we celebrate them is any indication of their sincerity. What does it matter if I opt out of one Halloween in the city, grab some friends and drive away? Alternatively we can all stay in and watch scary movies, drink beer and order noodles that are supposed to represent noodles.  Either way, I’d rather save the evening of dressing up for the random formal party which ends at 5 a.m. in a greasy diner. I’d rather save it for a night less filled with fake spirits and more filled with the spontaneous spirit of the city. I can always use the idle Sunday night to figure out what I’m doing for New Year’s.


Thy Neighbor’s Duplex
(By Sloane Crosley, New York Times, 20 October 2010 )

Recently, when I was in Austin, Tex., I drove by a house with a helipad.  Rather, I drove under the private footbridge that connected an estate to the lakeside helipad on the opposite side of the road. I couldn’t shake the fantasy afterward that one could only cross that footbridge in black tie, fresh from a benefit in Dallas and holding one’s heels, lest they get caught in the walkway’s steel grate. There would be a photographer waiting on the other side. Not because it’s a special occasion but because this is the house photographer. Like the butler or the chef, he is never not there.

During his rare hours away, the photographer goes home to his graphic-designer girlfriend and complains about the excessive wealth marring his beloved city, the waste of space, the platinum-tiled avocado terrarium. His tirades are a thorn in the side of their relationship. And why? Because she never has to see it. She’s been in some awesome ranch houses, sure, but he may as well be complaining about the boogie man. He grows tiresome in his obsession. Money is tight. They break up. He starts taking up-the-nose pictures of the nouveau riche as they deplane and finds himself out of a job.  Of course, in New York, real estate envy is not only a given but one of the pleasurable pillars of city life.

People who leave New York often claim they were driven away by a superficial but gnawing sense of incompleteness. Everyone is always grasping for a better job, a cooler neighborhood, a bigger and better apartment. There’s a palpable lack of contentment in the air. Which isn’t to say that New Yorkers are unhappy. We’re just happiest not being content.  I have a recurring dream that I open my closet and find an uninhabited, rent-free apartment connected to my own.  In no other arena is this more pronounced than real estate.  Renting or buying, it doesn’t matter. Our envy is greater than the difference. For such an intellectually advanced and culturally diverse population, we sure are easily impressed with dishwashers. It should be noted that I have a dishwasher in my new apartment. It’s completely broken. But so ingrained is my dishwasher adoration, just the idea of having one is a little bit thrilling.  But why is real estate envy so detailed and so pronounced in New York? It’s not as if we’re the highest-earning city in the country — that would be
Washington. And last I checked we too lived in the middle of an economic collapse largely tipped off by none other than real estate herself.
What we are, however, is on top of each other. A bigger, nicer apartment is quite literally lurking around the corner, mocking you with its ample square footage. And the thing is, you have to pass it every day. It is a part of your life, your landscape, your consciousness of the city. You can drown out one crazy person shouting at a mailbox or a few months’ worth of scaffolding, but there is no escaping the simple truth of other people’s homes. A natural curiosity wins out when an invitation to a single-family-owned brownstone finds its way into your inbox. O.K., fine; when an invitation to a party with roof access presents itself.  I wouldn’t dream of critiquing the quick-shifting nature of New York neighborhoods but I think we can agree that window-shopping loses its luster if you’re not Audrey Hepburn. It also becomes downright creepy if you stop looking at diamonds and start leering at dining rooms.

Speaking of which, recurring dreams can be as rare as shooting stars over Midtown, so it’s a bit disappointing to know that the one I have is so common. I dream that I open my closet and find an uninhabited, rent-free apartment connected to my own. Apparently a lot of people have this dream, although for some, they open the refrigerator or the medicine cabinet instead — I guess it’s a vice-dependent scenario.  The only thing that makes mine exceptional is that the apartment in question actually exists. It’s located in the elaborate Ansonia building on the Upper West Side, just down the street from the squat, badly worn building that I lived in up until September. My great-grandmother once inhabited the entire top floor of the Ansonia. This was before she went a bit insane, needed to be moved elsewhere and some responsible family member was forced to give the apartment up. I remember the first time my mother came to visit, she gestured at the curved balcony in the distance, and tossed me this poisonous factoid. And for about six years, every morning I’d scrape open my front door against the stained tile and walk down the crumbling steps to be greeted by the clear view of the apartment I didn’t inherit.

The upside is that New Yorkers’ brand of real estate envy is as adaptable as we are. Like an animal that can camouflage itself or change shape to survive, I find I can control how pronounced it is. I am quite happy in my new apartment. Unlike the old one, it boasts not just one but six doors. Not that anyone’s counting. I am also comfortable with whatever quirks and limitations came with it … until I enter someone’s duplex. While I am in said duplex, my jealousy becomes agitated like a blowfish. All my suspicions regarding the square footage staked out by every casual acquaintance I have are magically confirmed. One friend who lives in a gallery-like space in Cooper Square really does collect art — at one point he had an installation of what appeared to be broken glass on the floor. Would I display the same if the apartment were mine? Perhaps not. But New York real estate envy means longing to have the option to cover a full corner of one’s apartment in shards of glass.

It’s not merely that I’d like a bigger and better apartment. That’s an obvious enough wish. It’s not even that I yearned for my art-collecting friend’s specific apartment. He is a nice man who works hard. Good for him and his library-having. It’s that it’s so easy to feel crowded by the alternative, to feel somehow punished by the sizable lifestyle divide located just a block away. Leaning on my friend’s gleaming bathroom sink, I chastised myself for failing to invent the [insert “Saturday Night Live”-mocked infomercial here] or invest in [insert precious metal here] or be better at [math].  And yet, almost magically, in the course of the walk back home, my envy fish shrank back down to a manageable size. As I walked on the sidewalk, if I looked not to my left or right but straight down the street, I found myself gazing at a plain stretch of pavement where no one and everyone lives. It belonged to me for the moments I looked at it. This was comforting. By the time I put my key in the door, I was happy to be home.


Cat People Are People, Too
(By Sloane Crosley, New York Times, 13 October 2010 )

I only have the one and she’s a rescue so it’s O.K.  So goes the party line regarding my cat. Five years ago, her pregnant mother was abandoned and locked in a warehouse in North Carolina where she gave birth to a small litter of kittens. For days, the kittens survived without food or water before being discovered by a friend who knew exactly where the pictures should be sent. By the next week, I had a gray tabby with snowcapped paws peering at me from the laundry basket in the closet.  I named her Mabel after a store that once existed on Madison Avenue. The store — itself named for the owner’s cat — dealt exclusively in overpriced feline-themed merchandise. And it did so with no sense of irony whatsoever. There were cat-head mugs and wide-brimmed hats with knit Persians curled on their brims and museum-sized oil paintings of cats lounging in the branches of an oak tree. I know, I can’t believe it went out of business either. It was a retail Mecca for crazy cat people. I’m fighting the urge to call it a “Meowca” although, frankly, the store’s owner probably would have wanted me to.

There is no such thing as a crazy dog person in New York. Are there people who are completely insane about their dogs? Hordes. But cat people may as well have whiskers and tails themselves. That’s because their pets’ lack of social need taps straight into our worst fears as the human inhabitants of New York. Cats, after all, don’t have other cat friends. You can’t take them to the cat run. Cats and their owners are on a private, exclusive loop of affection. Thus cats have become symbolic of a community eschewed and a hyper-engagement with oneself. They represent the profound danger of growing so independent in New York that it’s not merely that you don’t need anyone — it’s that you don’t know how to need anyone. 
The feline lack of social need taps straight into our worst fears as the human inhabitants of New York. Cats, after all, don’t have other cat friends.

How did this happen? For as long as I can remember, New York has been set on total canine default with feline being the deviant strain. In other words, if nothing goes wrong and you are, by all accounts, normal, you’d be interested in petting any mutt that crosses your path. Like we do, dogs live their lives on display; they are flashy creatures, status symbols. Their breeds are well-publicized and subject to trend, their owners bear a resemblance to them and vice versa. It’s why cat people compliment their cat’s personality when they say it’s doglike but a dog owner would never flatter their dog by calling him catlike.  The upside to cat ownership is proximity to a sense of dignity, intelligence and lack of garish behavior. The downside is that a cat is something hidden, a secret that needs confessing as the doorknob turns. By the way, I’ve been to the doctor and it turns out … I have a cat.

Even now, I am a bit hesitant to extol Mabel’s many virtues. And they are many. To wake up with her belly-up and demanding affection is to have your heart explode with the kind of joy that compels some people into a life of large-scale oil painting. Alas, I am loath to cheapen her existence and dignify the city’s anti-cat stance by creating a dog-like defense for her. What made the store on Madison Avenue so great is how entirely and unapologetically it gave into the notion of cat craziness. For a city that allows for all kinds of passions and interests, we have so remarkably few hot spots of feline tribute.  All one needs for confirmation is to wander into the Union Square Petco. A pet store is a celebration of dogs’ existence and an explosion of options. About cats, a pet store seems to say, “Here, we couldn’t think of anything else.” Cats are the Hanukkah of the animal world in this way. They are fêted quietly and happily by a minority, but there’s only so much hoopla applicable to them. If you throw a toy mouse and a scratching post in the ring with the splash and sparkle of designer dog collars and organic doggie bakeries — the kitty stuff will lose.

“Don’t talk about your cat,” a friend of mine said when I told him I was writing this, “People will think you’re crazy.”  “I know” — I couldn’t argue — “but why? It’s just a cat, not a sticker collection.”  “Because you’re too young to write about your cat.”  Or, really, not young enough. As much as cats are unfairly associated with curmudgeonly shut-ins, there is something simultaneously sticker-collection-y about them. New York’s acceptance of cat ownership is relegated to the bookends of life (I think Mabel’s sold those, in the shape of Persians). As a culture we never outgrow the joys of puppies. There is no break in our obsession. If a grown man walks down the West Side Highway with an adorable puppy, it can only mean good things for him. But when it comes to kittens, we’re supposed to have cut the cord by age 10 and reattached it around age 100.  As a woman especially, it takes a little self-bolstering to own a cat and be content with publicly adoring it. Did you ever hear the one about the spinster found dead in her pink bathrobe, surrounded by golden retriever puppies? Me neither. I once saw a candid shot of the model Daria Werbowy holding her collection of Siamese and Abyssinian babies and thought: do you have any idea how attractive and cool you have to be to live in Manhattan and own that many cats?

This should all work in reverse. The feline is an ideal lifestyle match for the urban dweller. Cats are compact and quiet. You can leave them be for a night or two and they have a natural skill set which prevents them from urinating on the floor. As if all this weren’t enough, their mere presence deters rodents. Yet we opt to praise dog-owners, giving credence to the unnatural existence of a dog in a yardless landscape via leash laws and doggie daycare. Who amongst us hasn’t seen a Great Dane trotting across Broadway and said: Where on Earth is that thing going home to? Like many of New York’s mass suburbanization efforts, such creatures are better in theory than in practice. See also: swimming pools in dumpsters.

What cats lack in retail homage, they do make up for in embroidered quotations and cheesy poetry. In her more flowery days, Drew Barrymore reflected that “if I die before my cat, I want a little of my ashes put in his food so I can live inside him.” First of all, this is why the words “crazy” and “cat” are bound tighter than a spool of yarn. Second, unless you’re only feeding your cat wet food, it’s totally impractical. Finally, dear Drew, what goes in must come out. And there you’d be, stinking up some crazy cat lady’s apartment, waiting to be scooped up and flushed away.


New York Is Yours For The Taking
(By Sloane Crosley, New York Times, 06 October 2010 )

Would you like to break into my apartment right now?   All you need is the address and the inclination and you will find the keys to my front door in my unlocked mailbox. You’ll even find a note explaining the quirks of each key, which ones turn in time with the clock and which ones fly in its face, all for greater thieving ease. Everything I’ve ever owned is yours for the taking.  I am generally at peace with this risk. Why? Because most New Yorkers, myself included, love pretending we live in a very big small town. Thus, when I needed to leave my keys for a friend visiting for the week, I did what people in suburbs all over the country do: they hide little brass passports to all their worldly goods under car visors and garden gnomes. As I do not live within 20 blocks of a garden gnome, my keys went in the mailbox.

Most New Yorkers, myself included, love pretending we live in a very big small town.  Dorothy Parker supposedly once described Los Angeles as “72 suburbs in search of a city” but New York has the exact opposite problem; it’s a solid city that would prefer to slice itself apart as thinly as possible. Think of Russ & Daughters’ lox. Thinner.  We love our delusion of quaintness so much that we are disproportionately validated by what passes as the bare minimum of civility anywhere else — a dropped glove adamantly returned to its owner, a “you’ll get us next time” gratis coffee from our neighborhood haunt, a local bartender or dry cleaner who learns our name. We brand these gestures as Very New York.  The surest and quickest way to procure our small-town fix? A morally dependent interaction with a stranger. That is: I trust that no one will break into my home, no one breaks in and I am thusly delighted. I ask a stranger to mind my jacket in a café, the stranger makes a joke about fending off the waiter and we are both delighted.

The idea that we’re inhabitants of “Here, You Dropped This” Island somewhere in the “You Gave Me Two 20’s” Galaxy is an appealing one. More than appealing, it’s a kind of survival technique. It’s culturally ingrained in us to disprove the New York clichés of cruelty and rudeness.  New Yorkers have a reputation for skin so thick it feels like rock so we adore anything that undermines this idea and confirms our secret view of ourselves as neighborly and congenial. It’s the social equivalent of owning a really docile Rottweiler. This trust-filled warmth also serves as a salve against urban haters. People who don’t develop an instant taste for New York? Well, clearly they’re just visiting the wrong parts. The problem now is that we’re confusing humanity with safety.

So, for how long and to what degree can we cling to this faux-innocence? Have we gone too far in our quest for the quaint? The other day I witnessed a woman snoring on a crowded subway, her bag gaping, its contents tented only by an open book. She looked so peaceful. On the cover of the book in script that can only be described as inspirational: “We Do Not Die Alone.” But that’s wrong. We most definitely die alone. It’s our living that’s the group activity and it would be wise of us to remember that.

Lately the sight of a woman walking down the street with one purse strap down morphs me into Henny Youngman (“Take my wallet, please”). Now when I see a man returning to his table to find his iPhone has vanished I think, well — what exactly did you expect? When did kindness become a norm instead of a perk? These are not tourists, mind you. These are people who ostensibly know better. These are the same people who assume they’d be a-O.K. in downtown Detroit at 3 a.m. simply because they’re from New York.  There’s a real tinge of the smug to this “the world is my safe deposit box” mentality. It’s a luxury to blithely trust that everything will work out in your favor regardless of precaution, a luxury commonly reserved for the very young or the very super-model-y.

Indeed, we’ve ventured so far out on the trust spectrum that it’s not simply a matter of assuming other people aren’t criminals, but assuming they’re an army of personal assistants. In the past year I have twice found someone’s phone in the back of a cab. The first time a woman asked me if I was still in the neighborhood and could drop it off at her apartment. The second time a man asked me if I could have a messenger bring it to him at his office the next morning because he was “super busy.”  I could do that, I told him. Alternatively, I could break the thing and sell the parts online after I texted every woman in his phone to inquire when they had last “been tested.”

What these new mutated strains of extreme faith have in common is a shortage of charm, the very thing we value the most. They lack humility in the face of the unknown, replaced with a hubris for which New York is infamous. Such a shame because, frankly, most of the time our ego is warranted. We have very best and the very most of a lot things. I just don’t want us to have the very most of the clueless and the gullible.  Even at the airport, that final bastion of systemic wariness, the seams are unraveling. The security line on my way out of town was oddly long, even by Friday-at-the-airport standards. A man in front of me shifted back and forth, craning his neck and sighing.

“What time’s your flight?” I asked.  “4:15.”  I looked at my watch.  “Oh, you should tell them,” I said, adding, “Go ahead, I’ll save your spot.”  And here I felt a thrill at the classic New York honor system. Watch me be a part of the city that will hunt you down like a dog to return your scarf and tell you when your fly is down. I could see the keys to my front door glistening in my mailbox now.  “Thanks!” said the man, as he dropped his messenger bag, laptop included, at my feet and dashed out of sight. I looked around me. The woman behind me snorted. Here’s the funny thing: regardless of the origins of your trust, be they innocent or obnoxious, I don’t want what you have. I should. I should want your money because the economy is terrible, your keys because your apartment is bigger, your metro card because you just refilled yours and your lip balm because I just lost mine.  But I don’t. Because you’re a stranger. Who knows what you’ve been doing with your things, where they’ve been, what you’ve touched before touching them.

As the line shifted forward, I felt conflicted. At first I lifted his bag, walking it a few paces and dropping it before I could be accused of a terrorist plot. I wondered if I should kick it. Had it been mine, I’d have kicked it. But it seemed plain rude to kick a stranger’s things. Finally, its owner returned.  “Security says I have to wait,” he reported.  “Here,” I handed him his bag and smiled, “I stole your laptop.”  And he actually checked to make sure it was still there.


Why Sloane Crosley Will Remain Funny As She Takes Over The World
(By Cole Louison, GQ, 16 June 16, 2010)

Tonight at the Warren Street Barnes and Nobel, author Sloane Crosley will read to what is sure to be a packed house. The event begins her promotional tour for How Did You Get This Number, a new book of personal, expansive, worldly and truly funny essays with its own website, trailer, and glowing blurb by David Sedaris. Yes, things have changed since the winter of 2004, when Ms. Crosely emailed some friends an account of a recent moving day, wherein she locked herself out of her old and then new apartment. The email was soon being circulated a la the early JT LeRoy stories—that is to say rabidly—and found its way to Village Voice editor Ed Park. Soon Crosley was publishing tales about her Jewish family's Christmas tree, a camp kid's idea of a one night stand, and the weirdness of bridesmaiding for an old classmate. The stories would make up I Was Told There'd Be Cake, the best-selling, HBO-optioned collection published when Crosley was 29. Now a seasoned world-traveling writer whose byline has appeared everywhere from NPR to Vice, Ms. Crosely recently sat down with GQ to talk book publishing, Saved By The Bell, and why some people call her Slain.
Are you still a publicist?
I am indeed.

But you're also definitely now a writer. Has that been an odd shift?
It's not a shift if you don't move from where you are. I was a book publicist when the first book came out as well. I don't really know how it works to be honest with you. I just know that I'm a very busy girl who loves books from several angles. And that works for me.
This new book is bigger and better, as is the publicity behind it. You're going on tour, there's a new website, you've got hardcore fans... Does it feel different, or was writing/editing different this time around? How so?
You're asking me to turn into an old cranky grandma here by suggesting this book is bigger and better. You know that whole cliché where you compliment everything on the dinner table but leave something out and she screams: WHAT, SO YOU HATED THE ROLLS?! But yeah, I know what you mean. And I think this one is better too, but please don't let my first-born hear that.

A lot of your early essays are about life in Manhattan, and a lot of these new ones are about places around the world. How does living here prepare you for visiting the rest of the world. Not prepare you? Would you live anywhere else? Will you travel and write more?
I do think New York prepares you for a the crossection or personalities and realities on display when you leave the country, and I'd live somewhere else if I had a reason or burning-the-the-point-of-discomfort desire to do so. I have certainly entertained the idea and in college I lived in Edinburgh for a while, but I'm pretty sure that doesn't count since I didn't have a "job" or have to "pay rent."

The misspellings and butcherizations of your name are a topic in your writing. Can I list a few of the best, and you can explain them?
Let's do it.

This one is generally used by masochists in punk bands with spiked collars and Oedipal complexes. Or just by sweet innocent 5-year-olds who can't pronounce my name.


Outside of the UK, this name hits around the same mark on the rarity scale as mine does. Plus it starts with an "S" have a face, I have a face, you like soda, I like soda...basically the same thing!


This one's my fault. Apparently I lisp on the phone. Or just on my office voicemail. Strangers will call and not even hesitate to say "Flo." No uncertainly. They just plow right through it and state their business.


That I made up for effect. I just couldn't recall all the many nom-de-bastardizations while writing the essay. I don't think anyone has actually ever called me Stacey. And if they have, I haven't responded.


Because it's always appropriate to apply a Saved By The Bell reference—like a warm neon salve—to any human being you meet.


This is a frequent occurrence. Again, my fault. Usually heard in public, if someone says "Slow Down!" to someone else on the street, I'll often turn. Not because I had been prancing along at a dangerously fast clip (though I live in Manhattan so I probably was) but because the word "slow" overlaps with the sound of my name for just long enough to catch my attention and subsequently make me feel like an idiot.

Have you ever encountered your name in strange places?
Yes. My personal favorite is a car dealership in Philadelphia called "Sloane." Their slogan is "There's no  place like Sloane." That one I'll present without comment...

Hard-Hitting Q And A Between Sloane Crosley And Her Publicist

Publicist: How did this book (I Was Told There’d Be Cake) come to be?

Sloane Crosley: While I was moving in Manhattan, I managed to brilliantly lock myself out of two separate apartments – two, count them, two – on the same day. Since moving from walk-up to walk-up in New York is already one of those infamously difficult tasks that really shouldn’t be difficult, I thought that having the same epic struggle within a 12-hour period was a good story. So I typed up what was essentially a play-by-play about the experience and sent it to some friends over e-mail, including an editor at The Village Voice. He worked with me on editing it, cleaning it up, and making it a larger story. And I found that I loved doing it and it worked. So he printed the piece and I started writing regularly for The Voice, followed by other places. Before that, I had only written longer fiction and suddenly I found myself enamored with the other side. Writing the essays specifically for I Was Told There’d be Cake was such a wonderfully fun experience. With a book, you have the room take yourself out for a spin. You can let each essay take its’ own shape and to really tell a story over time. Whereas writing 800 words for a newspaper or magazine can be a bit like – speed dating.


I Am Not a Piece of Candy Twisted Symmetrically at the Ends
(By Sloane Crosley, 01 April 2008, Esquire website)

I picked up the phone and ordered in sushi. This is how I Was Told There’d Be Cake ends -- I pick up the phone and order in sushi. Of course, the book’s a collection of essays, not a novel, so the possibilities of cheating at this analysis are endless. Or, well, generously finite: I have a total of 15 possible endings. That’s 14 other chances for profundity and reflection. 14 other chances to say, “Remember me like this.” Perhaps that’s why I have such a fondness for essays to begin with. There is no thought process, no road taken that you can’t turn back from. It provides a kind of freedom and indulgence that a novel cannot. It’s also a bit less pressure, so long as you like endings, which I do.

With essays, it’s as if the camera is on you for a local news segment. And you’re reading -- I don’t know -- the weather. It’s hailing outside. So you start telling everyone about this one time when you got caught in a hailstorm with your wacky ex-con uncle. And you’re going on and on and it’s like a tangent from hell. You’re embarrassing yourself. But because this just a news segment, because it’s not a major motion picture or a 10-hour documentary film, you get the guy behind the camera mouthing “wrap it up!” Just as your essay collection must move on, so must this show. People need sports and traffic reports!! It’s great.

Thing is, it has to stop somewhere. You can’t just keep writing essay after essay unless you’re dead and “collected.” Eventually you have to make a decision that the last line of the last essay is what some people might remember best about the book. So I had the cameras stop rolling on sushi. All of my adventures and thoughts balanced on a plate of raw fish.  “I picked up the phone and ordered in sushi.” It’s actually kind of awkward and a contradictory mix of words. “Orders” are things that emanate out, not go in. And there’s too much direction in it. The phone goes up and the order goes out. It’s like the sentence has epilepsy. Of course, it’s not actually that confusing. But it is if you think about it too hard as I am doing now. However, it does make you wonder -- with all these potential problems, why is it the very last line of the very last essay?

For one thing, because it feels like less of a cliffhanger than the other essays do. For instance, the last line of the first essay is “From now on I would make a conscious effort to remember -- should I find myself face-to-face or pipe-to-skull with the end of my life -- that the real proof that I have tried to love and that people have tried to love me back was never going to fit in a kitchen drawer.” Without knowing what that particular essay is about, I think you can gleam the general tone of hope and encouragement. I want to know what love is. I want you to, you know, show me. Will I find out? Or will I just be smacked on the head with a pipe in the next essay? Big questions. They warrant further study and they get it.

“I picked up the phone and ordered in sushi” quite intentionally does not have that quality. It is pat and simple and, above all, does not leave a reader wondering who the hell I am as a human. To demonstrate, allow me to take you to the edge of the suspense bluff and push you off: After I picked up the phone, I dialed a number from a sushi take-out menu, eschewing the other menu I have for the restaurant that has faster service but offers both Chinese and Vietnamese fare. Let’s face it, too many selections hurt everyone. I used a credit card and ordered a shrimp tempura roll, a spicy tuna and an eel and avocado hand roll. I was going to get edemame but I changed my mind because among my many small but distinct psychological problems is that I think there’s something gross about having steamed vegetables delivered. Then the sushi came and I ate it, opening up the soy sauce packets and splatter painting them directly on to the rice.

As mundane as this is, I assure you it was even more mundane when it happened. And this is intentional. The essay itself is called Fever Faker and it’s about how I was twice nearly diagnosed as having a potentially fatal health problem. The first had to do with my brain and the second had to do with my blood. One of the major confessions I make in this essay is my desire to have actually developed these diseases. Not because I have a death wish or even its’ wimpy cousin: hypochondria. I just like the idea of having an awesome excuse to explain myself at all times. With the blood thing, if I had it, it would have my reason for bowing out of parties or being cranky. But I would also have to watch my iron intake, which exacerbates the blood thing. Sushi is a common source of excess iron. In fact, it’s the #1 most iron-laden genre of take-out. So me picking up the phone and ordering in sushi is akin to a simple shrug, a “what are you gonna do? Guess I have no one to blame for me but me.” It’s the young city person’s version of surviving a heart attack only to order a cheeseburger with a cigar in it.

Finally, I ended the book like this because, without being a real cliffhanger, there is something beyond the line itself. Like a hidden track on a CD, which the other 14 endings don’t have. Just before the essay ends, I am thinking about how I have to use my phone to call family and friends who are waiting to hear if I have a rare blood disease. But I have had a long day and I decide to be selfish, do the wrong thing, and make toro belly my priority. If the line works, the reader knows that after I give my credit card number over the phone and hang up, the phone is getting picked up again to fulfill my obligations and set other peoples minds at ease. Thus, the essay goes on, keeps living, keeps having minor and major incidents. It’s not suspense, it’s reality.

Personally, I don’t read essay collections from start to finish. I usually read the first entry and then jump around. But I wanted to put that line in there for those more logically minded and patient readers who stuck with me without wavering. To me, it is a tiny rebellion towards the overly simplified summaries so often associated with personal essays. “Here is what I learned about me and about you,” they say. “I am a piece of candy twisted symmetrically at the ends,” they say. “Eat me!” I am occasionally guilty of this myself. The thing about life is that sometimes you do learn valuable things about yourself. But most of the time you really don’t. In my belief, this doesn’t make an experience less worthwhile or worth telling.

A personality is like a filtering system. Occasionally, something gets into the system and alters it for the better and for good reason. But, for the most part, experience reinforces the structure that’s already there. Reinforcement is not without value. So, if the events of Fever Faker had changed my disposition DNA, the essay would have ended with something like this: “Craving raw fish after my weeks of prematurely paranoid deprivation, I picked up the phone and dialed the number for the sushi place. Then, thinking better of it, I stopped. I smiled to myself as I dialed home instead.” This would have been a totally suitable ending if the essay occurred earlier, both in real time and in the collection itself. But it didn’t. And it would have felt right to say if the local news cameras were still rolling. But they weren’t. So this is how I Was Told There’d Be Cake ends -- I pick up the phone and order in sushi.

Compassion: Impossible
(By Sloane Crosley, Village Voice, 28 June 2005)

I knew we were born the same year, Katie Holmes and I. It's one of those facts that crop up in glossy interviews with young actresses. Natalie Portman went to Harvard, Claire Danes to Yale. Rosario Dawson was discovered on a stoop, Reese Witherspoon on Plymouth Rock. Gwyneth Paltrow loved her daddy, Heather Graham won't speak to hers. I don't ask to know these things, I just do. Now, in the tidal wave of gossip crashing down on Tom Cruise's dubious adoration for Katie Holmes, I have been reading a lot more about my pretty Year of the Horse alum. The other day I came across this vital fact nugget: Katie and I have the exact same bust size. I was moderately appalled by the appearance of this information in print (a glorious example of the tabloids' "Don't ask, we'll tell you anyway!" policy), but it quickly caused me to construct a lunacy-soaked logic proof in which Katie Holmes is walking around with my actual breasts. Whereas normally I'd feel flattered knowing that my mammaries are being well taken care of, draped in Carolina Herrera dresses and the like, I felt violated. I knew I was being felt up by a Scientologist.

Despite the consensus that their relationship is a grand mal publicity stunt, there exists the slim possibility of real love between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Only two people blinded by passion would be able to see past the cheese factor of getting engaged at the Eiffel Tower. This is to say nothing of the international implications. If there's one thing Americans enjoy lambasting more than Scientologists, it's the French. Sadly it's likely not you-and-no-other love so much as it is red-carpet love: We live in a televised world and she is a televised girl. At least this second media-friendly option is logical. We must face the timed-release genius of it: more mass exposure for her and more 'tween demographic exposure for him right when their movies come out. If that weren't reason enough, the charade of their union is ultimately validated by speculation that he would have dated Kate Bosworth or Lindsay Lohan if only either had been hard-up enough for the job. Neither of those ladies fits as well as Holmes. In her, he got both Bosworth's girl-next-door quality and Lohan's alleged herpes outbreak. (Though, like Nicole Kidman, the original fembot, none of these women are a truly perfect fit for Tom Cruise. This is a square-peg-into-a-vaginal-hole problem: His love life is best hypothesized with a man in it. And that man is not L. Ron Hubbard.)

At the end of the day it doesn't matter what's true and what's not. Fame is like death: We will never know what it looks like until we've reached the other side. Then it will be impossible to describe and no one will believe you if you try. For now, all the conjecture is on our side of the media fence. And lately it has put Tom Cruise one spoke behind Michael Jackson on the freak wheel. But why do we hate him so? Because she's 17 years his junior? Because he doesn't want Katie even pretending to do drugs on-screen lest she wind up like that Brooke Shields woman? Because he sent psychic vibes to have his Scientologist minions kidnap her so that she missed pieces of April? Because he rudely jumped up and down on Oprah's lovely sofa with his shoes on? There was a time when we worshipped Tom Cruise. OK, I. Iworshipped Tom Cruise. Another similarity between Ms. Holmes and myself is that I too wanted to grow up and marry him. I just never said it in print.

And therein lies the problem. Discovering basic facts about celebrities that are also true of us gives the pleasant illusion of a straight line drawn between their lives and ours. It makes sense that in the age of "reality" television, our celebrities have become famous for their human qualities. "Stars! They're just like us!" proclaims Us Weekly, with NFL play arrows pointing to Sarah Jessica Parker eating a carrot stick. Except they're not just like us. They're just like them, because (a) "us" is the whole country and the whole country is eating Twinkies, not vegetables, and (b) that's an organic Dean & Deluca carrot stick you're looking at and it's going into a multimillion-dollar mouth. Unlike with us, every smaller-than-life thing they do gets recorded—adolescent crushes and bra sizes included. As a result, erasing the past is a luxury afforded to those who aren't famous. While they do not deserve our compassion for their fame and fortune, they do deserve our recognition that they are no longer of this earth and no attempt by them or their publicists will be able to fix that. Yet we persist in trying. Tom Cruise is suddenly and profoundly flawed and human, he's dragging Joey Potter down with him, and we can't get enough. We hate him for sport. We hate him because we can. We don't even hate him, really. We just like to be horrified.

There is a documented lineage to our horrification as complex as the Kennedy family tree. Picture it: North Carolina, 1998, on the set of a new WB series revolving around teenage lust and breaking and entering. Behind the scenes of this girl-next-door-lives-next-to-boy-next-door drama, a similar real-life romance is unfolding. Katie Holmes's first love was Joshua Jackson. With cheek dimples full of equal parts innocence and sex she moved on to Chris Klein, who has about as much edge as a marshmallow but was certainly true to type. After a logical brief relationship with Josh Hartnett, she did the romantic equivalent of turning herself into a symbol à la Prince. Up until a few weeks ago—when she started smiling like a maniac in photos, like she'd won something—we were cool with Katie. Not so for Tommy boy. His love life has been spinning out of control like one of Nicole's frizzy tendrils in Days of Thunder since that fateful film brought Cruise his long-term Australian beard. Throw in a little Penélope Cruz (the logic of that will be explained to us in the next life, when we are all cats), enough anecdotes about his sisters using him for kissing practice, a pinch of Dianetics, and blend. We know too much not to be shocked.

I suppose there might be a glimmer of hope for our girl. Hollywood engagements are made to be broken, and judging from their respective histories above, this one is no exception. Katie is from Ohio, where they make marzipan, preppy liberal arts colleges, and willowy brunettes. Tom is from New Jersey, where they make acrylic nails, big hair, and publicist-firing egomaniacs. It can never work. The harder they scream, "We're in love!" the less equipped we are to believe them. It's all so mind-numbingly transparent. Sure, this has all been a nice distraction from Brad and Angelina, which was a nice distraction from . . . I can't remember, of course. But this too shall pass, and we will target another set of celebrities with major motion picture releases on the horizon. It's a little sad, really, knowing that I don't have Katie Holmes's bust literally or metaphorically. She was always famous in a good way, but now she's been sucked into a celebrity orbit so bizarre that she can never return to earth.

I am acquainted with one young actress who has appeared in the same magazines as Katie. She has that deer-caught-in-the-flashbulbs look about her that celebrities get, but is otherwise a fairly normal and intelligent person. Once, at a private but crowded party, I walked in on her peeing. She laughed and I laughed and I suggested that she consider locking the door next time. I knew what she was thinking—precisely what we've programmed her to think. She should lock the door because a photo of her squatting with her pants down would look great on Page Six. Because people speculate enough about her as it is. Because peeing is a smaller-than-life thing and because people are marveling about her famousness. She would have had a right to her paranoia, but as we walked to the bar together, all eyes trying not to be on her, I couldn't resist making her human again: "Because you're a girl."


From The Book Of J.Lo: We Are Through With The Ass But The Ass Isn't Through With Us
(By Sloane Crosley, Village Voice, 03 August 2004)

White girls with big asses, man. There goes another one, a J. Crew cardigan riding up atop a buttock so big, so out of place, it makes you wonder if Serena Williams woke up this morning wondering where her ass went. Temperatures are going up, taking hemlines with them, and the trendy white ass is hanging out there like a couple of upside-down Tasty-D scoops. They're taking over this city. They're everywhere I turn: in dressing rooms, in store windows, in that pond with the little boats—anywhere I can look down and see my own reflection. Yes, I'm one of them and it seems strange to admit something so plain, but until recently the subject has been almost completely taboo among the SPF 40 set. If I said even now (in front of a man or woman of any race for that matter) that I think I have a big butt, they encourage me to deny it. "You have a great ass," they say. Which, ahem, isn't the issue in question. And all that protesting, all that mutually exclusive commentary about how big versus how appealing, leads a 5-5 pallid girl to wonder: What is it, exactly, about the ass right now?

On the street, men tell us we've got a "phat ass" and most of us immediately jump to some bad comedy film scene where a blue-haired lady in a Talbot's suit whispers in our ear, "That's how 'they' say it, dear. It's a compliment.' " I hate this woman because (a) in my fantasy she usually smells like turnips and (b) she's a bigot. But she comes to me every time, and believe me this means every damn day. The basic difference between white women getting hit on or hollered at for their butts versus black women getting the same harassment is that these men, I think, are surprised by my ass. On the walk to work, on the subway platform, at a bar—they're surprised all over this town. And it is the surprise that validates their double take. I've seen how black women get looked at and for better or worse their whole body seems to register. Their hair, their breasts, their shoulders . . . a gaze may start at the ass, butt it moves right along. Thus I think the white girl's fascination with a flat ass comes not so much from the desire to have a flat ass (also known as a "flass"), but the desire to shift focus onto something else. With no form of below-the-ab-quator entertainment, eyes become bored, wander to more uni-racially appealing parts like breasts or shoulders or nice arches.

In a shocking turn of events, the major women's magazines are trying to encourage this "cover that thing up" mind-set despite every clothing storefront in the city showing off their half-naked mannequins. Since May, magazines have been loaded with rear-view, waist-down pictures of women, and they all say something like this: Big bottom? Avoid horizontal stripes or patterns that draw attention to your backside. Read: "You're a lard ass, honey. Lay off the 4 a.m. China Fun and go see a movie with that disjointed and meaningless makeup ad starring Julianne Moore and Halle Berry [because they really need the work] for similar messages." And you know what? In every damn photo on every glossy page is a little sliver of exposed pale skin. Of course, if that same skin were darker some intern from the suburbs would get more nasty letters than she could open in a single summer. Those same magazines claim that this fall, the miniskirt will die. It will slit its seams with back issues of Vogue or hurl itself on to the runway, but it will be very dead. Time to cover up. Bring out the pearls and the tweed 'cause Prada's got a brand new bag and it's burlap. But can a whole body part really go out of season? Can it be trendy? According to Ludacris it can. From Blow It Out: "Plus I'm the new phenomenon like white women with ass." White girls showing off their big booties is a novelty and, as such, a rapidly endangered concept. So be warned: If the magazines and lyrics have their way, this may be the last season of the ass.

And OK. On the one cheek, I'm fine with that. I have to admit to being a longtime horizontal stripe-ist. In spite of what I've seen this summer, I'm having a tough time letting go of a lifetime of black pants. I'm still sick of not being able to find a pair of jeans that doesn't either gap at the waist or make me look like a plumper. I'm sick of playing musical hangers with department store bikinis and of my reflection lasting a millisecond too long in a store window. What is that passage from The Book of J.Lo? We may be through with the ass but the ass isn't through with us. My ass has a spine of its own, seeming to move in one block, detached from the swooshing of my legs like it's following me around and if I run really fast I'll lose it.

I've tried that once, incidentally. There was one week a few months ago when three—count them—three, free one-week memberships to gyms fell into my lap/mailbox: New York Sports Club, Reebok Sports Club, and the David Barton Gym. I thought, OK, God wants me to burn some carbs. But it was more than that. This ass, I thought. This ass should not be attached to white chicken legs. This ass is on a foreign-exchange program. This ass is lost. Time to send it home. So I piggybacked my free memberships and worked out every day for nearly a month. I stretched and ran and learned the many aspects of treadmill etiquette. Apparently, it's a sort of female version of the public urinal. Eyes front! No smiling! And no, I don't think I would take the same measures if I were black because the majority of black asses I've seen in my life look like they belong where they are—they're sexy and they fit. Their overarching bootyliciousness is a side-effect of plain old genetics. Yeah, well, I'm white as the day is long, so what about me? Unless we start getting used to the idea that some white girls are simply built like this too, I'm completely subject to the fad. Where's my ass's raison d'être? Do I really only get one summer before it's back to the anti-back?

Say it isn't so. I welcome the omigod-Becky-would-you-look-at-her-Nordic-baby-got-back trend and plan to perpetuate my ass off. Literally. Viva la bone-white booty. I don't particularly feel like shoving it in the back of the closet with my horizontal-striped pants come fall. My ass isn't perfect for someone else's body because it's not on someone else's body. It's time to embrace that. Better yet, it's time to have some else embrace that. Either way, the "phenomenon" is just confirming what we white girls with big asses have known for years. There's always been a secret society of us. At our best we smile at each other on the street like honking Jeeps passing in the night, encouraging and sympathetic and exclusive all at once. At our worst, well—at least my ass isn't as big as hers, right? For this summer in this city at any rate, I've found more of the former. White female butts are on display as never before and they're being checked out by people of every race, sex, and contact prescription. Whether that's inappropriate or violating, whether it's motivated by jealousy or lust, is a different issue for a colder day when we're not all trying to show off and get tan in public. For now, anything that makes New Yorkers grin at each other even on a crowded and sweltering subway platform is OK by me.


Sloane Crosley Quotes, Listed On Good Reads

“Life starts out with everyone clapping when you take a poo and goes downhill from there. ”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“If you have to ask someone to change, to tell you they love you, to bring wine to dinner, to call you when they land, you can’t afford to be with them. It’s not worth the price, even though, just like the Tiffany catalog, no one tells you what the price is. You set it yourself, and if you’re lucky it’s reasonable. You have a sense of when you’re about to go bankrupt. Your own sense of self-worth takes the wheel and says, Enough of this shit. Stop making excuses. No one’s that busy at work. No one’s allergic to whipped cream. There are too cell phones in Sweden. But most people don’t get lucky. They get human. They get crushes. This means you irrationally mortgage what little logic you own to pay for this one thing. This relationship is an impulse buy, and you’ll figure out if it’s worth it later.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“There are two kinds of people in this world: those who know where their high school yearbook is and those who do not.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I do want to get married. It's a nice idea. Though I think husbands are like tattoos--you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life instead of just wandering into a tattoo parlor on some idle Sunday and saying, 'I feel like I should have one of these suckers by now. I'll take a thorny rose and a "MOM" anchor, please. No, not that one--the big one.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“It is my belief that people who speak of high school with a sugary fondness are bluffing away early-onset Alzheimer's. ”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I called my mother immediately to inform her that she was a bad parent. "I can't believe you let us watch this. We ate dinner in front of this."
"Everyone watched Twin Peaks," was her response.
"So, if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it, too?"
"Don't be silly," she laughed, "of course I would, honey. There'd be no one left on the planet. It would be a very lonely place.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Sometimes we don't know what we want until we don't get it.”
― Sloane Crosley

“I never asked my mother where babies came from but I remember clearly the day she volunteered the mother called me to set the table for dinner. She sat me down in the kitchen, and under the classic caveat of 'loving each other very, very much,' explained that when a man and a woman hug tightly, the man plants a seed in the woman. The seed grows into a baby. Then she sent me to the pantry to get placemats. As a direct result of this conversation, I wouldn't hug my father for two months.”
- Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Uniqueness is wasted on youth. Like fine wine or a solid flossing habit, you'll be grateful for it when you're older.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Because, ten-year-olds of the world, you shouldn't believe what your teachers tell you about the beauty and specialness and uniqueness of you. Or, believe it, little snowflake, but know it won't make a bit of difference until after puberty. It's Newton's lost law: anything that makes you unique later will get your chocolate milk stolen and your eye blackened as a kid. Won't it, Sebastian? Oh, yes, it will, my little Mandarin Chinese-learning, Poe-reciting, high-top-wearing friend. God bless you, wherever you are.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“It's not that you have lost touch with these people. You haven't. It's just that they have kept in such close touch with each other. When scrolling through your cell phone, you generally let their numbers be highlighted for a second, hovering, and then move along to people you have spoken to within the last month. It's not that you're a bad friend to these people. It's just that you're not a great one. They know the names of each other's coworkers and the blow-by-blow nature of each other's dramas; they go camping in the Berkshires together and have such sentences in their conversational arsenal as "you left your lip gloss in my bathroom." You have no such sentences. Your connection to your friends is half-baked and you are starting to forget their siblings' names, never mind their coworkers. But you're still in the play even if you're no longer a main character.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Ladies. Large masses of girls are often prone to this salutation. I hate being mollified with this unsolicited "ladies" business. I know we're all women. I am conscious of my breasts. Do I have to be conscious of yours as well? Do men do this? Do they go, "Men: Meet for ribs in the shed after the game. Keg beer, raw eggs, and death metal only." I would imagine not.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Time grabs you by the scruff of your neck and drags you forward. You get over it, of course. Everyone was right about that. One mathematically insignificant day, you stop hoping for happiness and become actually happy.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“If you have to ask someone to change, to tell you they love you, to bring wine to dinner, to call you when they land, you can't afford to be with them.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“I thought of a high school report I did on the Belgian artist Rene Magritte and a quote I once read from him, something about his favorite walk being the one he took around his own bedroom. He said that he never understood the need for people to travel because all the poetry and perspective you're ever going to get you already posses. Anais Nin had the same idea. We see the world as we are. So if it's the same brain we bring with us every time we open our eyes, what's the difference if we're looking at an island cove or a pocket watch?”
― Sloane Crosley

“You feel like telling him you're not single in the way that he thinks you're single. After all, you have yourself.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I still think of Oregon Trail as a great leveler. If, for example, you were a twelve-year-old girl from Westchester with frizzy hair, a bite plate, and no control over your own life, suddenly you could drown whomever you pleased. Say you have shot four bison, eleven rabbits, and Bambi's mom. Say your wagon weighs 9,783 pounds and this arduous journey has been most arduous. The banker's sick. The carpenter's sick. The butcher, the baker, the algebra-maker. Your fellow pioneers are hanging on by a spool of flax. Your whole life is in flux and all you have is this moment. Are you sure you want to forge the river? Yes. Yes, you are.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I find that anything culturally significant that happened before '93 I associate with the decade before it. In fact, Oregon Trail is one of a handful of signposts that middle school existed at all.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“It seemed more and more like something out of a children's book - the butterfly that followed the little girl all the way home to her fifth-floor walk-up. How above-the-law children's books are. Hansel and Gretel (littering, breaking and entering), Rumpelstiltskin (forced labor), Snow White (conspiracy to commit murder), Rapunzel (breach of contract).”
― Sloane Crosley

“The children were overwhelmingly morbid. Not a single adult asked me where butterflies go when they die, but this question was more popular than pixie sticks with the under-four-foot set. I cursed parents for not preparing their children. When I was five, my mother and sister sat me up on the kitchen counter and explained the facts of life: the Easter Bunny didn't exist, Elijah was God's invisible friend, with any luck Nana would die soon, and if I ever saw a unicorn, I should kill it or catch it for cash. I turned out okay.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 
“When I was 14, a camp counselor explained what "eating out" was and I vowed to never have it done to me. It seemed cannibalistic and unhygienic. I also remember that she claimed--in front of an entire cabin of girls--to have been "eaten out" by one of the maintenance men in a hot tub. Under hot water. Either something is amiss in my memory of this conversation or she found the most talented man on the planet and all hope is lost for the rest of us.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Hey there.' I cleared my throat. 'How are you?'
I'm engaged!'
Incidentally, this is an unacceptable answer to that question.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I prefer to record all traumas and save them for later, playing them over and over so they can haunt me for a disproportionate number of weeks to come. It's very healthy.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“The nursery rhyme ends when a spider comes along and frightens Miss Muffet straight off her tuffet. I have wondered about what kind of lesson this is for a young girl. If you're eating your curds and whey and a spider comes along, I don't think there's anything wrong with picking up a newspaper, smashing it, and going back to your breakfast.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“I thought we had reached an understanding, the institution of marriage and I. Weddings are like the triathalon of female friendship: the Shower, the Bachelorette Party, and the Main Event. It's the Iron Woman and most people never make it through. They fall of their bikes and choke on ocean water. ”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“When it seems impossible that a deep connection with another person could just go away instead of changing form. It seems impossible that you will one day look up and say the words "I used to date someone who lived in that building," referring to a three-year relationship. As simple as if it was a pizza place that is now a dry cleaner's. It happens. Keep walking.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“I got out on the street and started crying the kind of hysterical tears made justifiable only by turning off one’s cell phone, putting it to the ear, and pretending to be told of a death in the family.”
― Sloane Crosley

“A human being can spend only so much time outside her comfort zone before she realizes she is still tethered to it.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“No affair that begins with such an orchestrated overture can end on a simple note.”
― Sloane Crosley

“On occasion, it occurs to adults that they are allowed to do all the things that being a child prevented them from doing. But those desires change when you're not looking. There was a time when your favorite color transferred from purple to blue to whatever shade it is when you realize having a favorite color is a trite personality crutch, an unstable cultivation of quirk and a possible cry for help. You just don't notice the time of your own metamorphosis. Until you do. Every once in a while time dissolves and you remember what you liked as a kid. You jump on your hotel bed, order dessert first, decide to put every piece of jewelry you own on your body and leave the house. Why? Because you can. Because you're the boss. Because . . . Ooooh. Shiny. ”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number

“Because this is the beauty of strangers: we're all just doing our best to help each other out, motivated not by karma but by a natural instinct to help the greater whole.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 
“It's never good to fall in love with someone whom you'd have to stab in the eyeballs to elicit a response.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“Kids across the country have grown up accepting the idea that no one can harm your family if at least one of its adult members is in the shower. No one knows why.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Most people don't get lucky. They get human. They get crushes. This means you irrationally mortgage what little logic you own to pay for this one thing. This relationship is an impulse buy, and you'll figure out if it's worth it later.”
 Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“Though I think husbands are like tattoos, - you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life instead of just wandering into a tattoo parlor on some idle Sunday and saying, "I feel like I should have one of these suckers by now. I'll take a thorny rose and a 'MOM' anchor, please. ”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“In my lame pescetarian defense, it's very hard to be a girl and say you won't eat something. Refuse one plate of bacon-wrapped pork rinds and you're anorexic. Accept them and you're on the Atkins. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and you're bulimic. Best to keep perfectly still and bring an IV of fluids with you to dinner.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“There is one thing you know for sure, one fact that never fails to comfort you: the worst day of your life wasn't in there, in that mess. And it will do you good to remember the best day of your life wasn't in there, either. But another person brought you closer to those borders than you had been, and maybe that's not such a bad thing.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“Friendship is a Spackle in itself. You'll forgive your friends a lot, and if you're a woman, you'll forgive your straight male friends even more. They represent the possibility of mutual toleration between the sexes, a keyhole into the mind of the Other, and the promise of one day meeting someone just like them except that you want to sleep with them.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“I’m not sure how the ponies happened, though I have an inkling: “Can I get you anything?” I’ll say, getting up from a dinner table, “Coffee, tea, a pony?” People rarely laugh at this, especially if they’ve heard it before. “This party’s ‘sposed to be fun,” a friend will say. “Really? Will there be pony rides?” It’s a nervous tic and a cheap joke, cheapened further by the frequency with which I use it. For that same reason, it’s hard to weed it out of my speech – most of the time I don’t even realize I’m saying it. There are little elements in a person’s life, minor fibers that become unintentionally tangled with your personality. Sometimes it’s a patent phrase, sometimes it’s a perfume, sometimes it’s a wristwatch. For me, it is the constant referencing of ponies.

I don’t even like ponies. If I made one of my throwaway equine requests and someone produced an actual pony, Juan-Valdez-style, I would run very fast in the other direction. During a few summers at camp, I rode a chronically dehydrated pony named Brandy who would jolt down without notice to lick the grass outside the corral and I would careen forward, my helmet tipping to cover my eyes. I do, however, like ponies on the abstract. Who doesn’t? It’s like those movies with the animated insects. Sure, the baby cockroach seems cute with CGI eyelashes, but how would you feel about fifty of her real-life counterparts living in your oven? And that’s precisely the manner in which the ponies clomped their way into my regular speech: abstractly. “I have something for you,” a guy will say on our first date. “Is it a pony?” No. It’s usually a movie ticket or his cell phone number. But on our second date, if I ask again, I’m pretty sure I’m getting a pony.

And thus the Pony drawer came to be. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but almost every guy I have ever dated has unwittingly made a contribution to the stable. The retro pony from the ‘50s was from the most thoughtful guy I have ever known. The one with the glitter horseshoes was from a boy who would later turn out to be straight somehow, not gay. The one with the rainbow haunches was from a librarian, whom I broke up with because I felt the chemistry just wasn’t right, and the one with the price tag stuck on the back was given to me by a narcissist who was so impressed with his gift he forgot to remover the sticker. Each one of them marks the beginning of a new relationship. I don’t mean to hint. It’s not a hint, actually, it’s a flat out demand: I. Want. A. Pony. I think what happens is that young relationships are eager to build up a romantic repertoire of private jokes, especially in the city where there’s not always a great “how we met” story behind every great love affair. People meet at bars, through mutual friends, on dating sites, or because they work in the same industry. Just once a coworker of mine, asked me out between two stops on the N train. We were holding the same pole and he said, “I know this sounds completely insane, bean sprout, but would you like to go to a very public place with me and have a drink or something...?” I looked into his seemingly non-psycho-killing, rent-paying, Sunday Times-subscribing eyes and said, “Sure, why the hell not?” He never bought me a pony. But he didn’t have to, if you know what I mean.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“and there's something about having an especially different name that makes it difficult to imagine what you would be like as a Jennifer.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“The search for one's first professional job is not unlike a magical love potion: when one wants to fall in love with the next thing one sees, one generally does.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“What annoyed me was that I so often attempted to weasel out of things on purpose, it killed me to do it by accident. It seemed like a waste of whatever detailed lie I was going to have to come up with.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I was compiling a list in my head titled 'Reasons to Get Up: You Don't Have to Leave, but You Can't Pee Here.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“When I was five, my mother and sister sat me up on the kitchen counter and explained the facts of life: the Easter Bunny didn't exist, Elijah was God's invisible friend, with any luck Nana would die soon and If I ever saw a unicorn, I should kill it or catch it for cash.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“But now my problems had been set loose. They could be anywhere at any time and I was just like everyone else I knew: almost positive that there was something profoundly and undiagnosably wrong with me.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I was stunned. I pulled the phone away and looked quizzically at the hole-punched speaker. Aside from the blood obligation to be my sister's maid of honor, it had never occured to me that I would get asked to be in anyone's wedding. I thought we had reached an understanding, the institution of marriage and I. Weddings are the like the triathlon of female friendship: the Shower, the Bachelorette Party, and the Main Event. It's the Iron Woman and most people never make it through. They fall off their bikes or choke on ocean water. I figured if I valued my life, I'd stay away from weddings and they'd stay away from me.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“We all deserve to be congratulated, but sadly that would mean there's no one left to do the congratulating.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Not all shabby is chic, just like not every porn actor is a star.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“Suburbia is too close to the country to have anything real to do and too close to the city to admit you have nothing real to do.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“He also tried to block the doorway when she left him. My mother ducked under his arm, ran to her car, and drove away. I remember thinking that this was somehow romantic, as it pinpointed the actual memory of my mother's departure, something you don't see a lot of in television. Real people don't slam doors without opening them five minutes later because it's raining and they forgot their umbrella. They don't stop dead in their tracks because they realize they're in love with their best friend.They don't say, "I'm leaving you, Jack," and fade to a paper towel commercial.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I was taught that candles are like house cats - domesticated versions of something wild and dangerous. There's no way to know how much of that killer instinct lurks in the darkness. I used to think the house-burning paranoia was the result of some upper-middle-class fear regarding the potential destruction of a half-million-dollar Westchester house the size of a matchbox. But then I realized the fear stemmed from something far less complex: we're not used to fire. Candles are a staple of the Judaic existence and, like many suburban residents before us, we're pretty bad Jews.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Every time I open the drawer, it's a trip down Memory Lane, which, if you don't turn off at the right exit, merges straight into the Masochistic Nostalgia Highway.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“The good news was that "biology" turned out to be the magic password for working at the Museum of Natural History, just the way "art history" would at the Met or "trust fund" at the MoMA.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“A lot of people are lonely. A lot of people are lonely even when they’re surrounded by other people.”
― Sloane Crosley, Up the Down Volcano 

“If I could just get my partner to see me how she used to - to fall in love with me all over again - everything would be okay. Every morning I would vow to work harder, and every morning something would go wrong.”
― Sloane Crosley

“In stressful situations, people often talk about a fight-or-flight response. Which, in my opinion, doesn’t give enough credit to the more common reaction of curling up into a little ball. […] For once, I made the decision to play it cool. Or stupid. Whichever came first.

-“Le Paris!” in How Did You Get This Number, by Sloane Crosley (2010), P. 219-220”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“…ten year olds of the world, you shouldn’t believe what your teachers tell you about the beauty and specialness and uniqueness of you. Or, believe it, little snowflake, but know it won’t make a bit of difference until after puberty. It’s Newton’s lost law: anything that makes you unique later will get your chocolate milk stolen and your eye blackened as a kid.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Shortly after this exchange my roommate suggested we start throwing water balloons at the construction workers. Not really at them because, I know, I know, it's not their fault. But believe me, it's hard to look down and see a man with a seven-speed power drill plowing through a brick wall and tell yourself he's not responsible for the noise.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“She makes several references to Paul making her "burn," almost like she's conjugating verbs. I burn for him. He burns for me. We burn for each other. One cannot help but suspect VD as a factor in their engagement. This comes up again when King defines a "hapahali" as "two people jumping around in the same skin," an image which, like the burning, is disgusting.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I have never pictured my own wedding. I do not want to get married. It's a nice idea. Though I think husbands are like tattoos--you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life instead of just wandering into at tattoo parlor on some idle Sunday and saying, "I feel like I should have one of these suckers by now. I'll take a thorny rose and a 'MOM' anchor, please. No, not that one--the big one.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake

“There is something inherently manly about climbing a mountain. Though, taken literally, that would make a deep sea dive the most feminine activity on the planet.”
― Sloane Crosley, Up the Down Volcano 

“[He] is the worst kind of asshole they make - the kind who is completely oblivious to how he sounds, the kind who is impossible to argue with because he doesn't allow for a worldview outside of his own.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I can feel the tingling in my hand as if I've already slapped her, so right does it feel.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“There's a lot of pointing. A festival of pointing and at very close range to other people's eyes, given the width of the space. Also detracting from the exhibit's potential tranquility is the display cabinet of pinned specimens along one wall. I found this disturbing from the start. You don't see a whole lot of stuffed polar bears in the polar bear exhibit at the zoo, for instance. And butterflies have phenomenal vision so it's not like they can't see the mass crucifixion in their midst. I was offended on behalf of the butterflies and thus pleased with my offense. Let the empathizing begin! This volunteering thing was working already. I am a good person, hear me give!”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I think husbands are like tattoos -- you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life instead of just wandering into a tattoo parlor on some idle Sunday and saying, 'I feel like I should have one of these suckers by now.”
― Sloane Crosley
“Names I am most commonly called by telemarketers: Simone, Slain, Siobhan, Flo, Stacey, Susan, Slater, Leanne, and Slow (Yes, my parents named me "Slow". That's because they hate me and made me sleep in the linen closet subsisting only on bath salts and Scope).”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“It's remarkable the logic we'll build around a misapprehension.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“How above-the-law children's books are. Hansel and Gretel (littering, breaking and entering), Rumpelstiltskin (forced labor), Snow White (conspiracy to commit murder), Rapunzel (break of contract).”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“The only bit I have pictured in any detail is the music (maybe 'The Book of Love' by the Magnetic Fields. Or Johnny Cash's 'It Ain't Me, Babe'). It doesn't matter if the selection is slow or fast, but couples shouldn't scramble to select it. If you have ever gone dancing or on a road trip or had a romantic bout of serenaded sex on a winter night, you should have a few to pick from. If not, you probably shouldn't be getting married.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Such innocent confusions are like cognitive magic-eye posters. Most of the time it's impossible to go back to the jumbled mess once you've registered the picture. Sex is the exception. So natural and universal is a child's curiosity about sex and so long are we conscious of it before we do it, that our origical impressions of it leave an indelible mark.”
― Sloane Crosley

“ and some of the people i knew were contemplating our circumstances. our circumstances being poorly paid jobs if we worked in the arts, two hours of sleep if we worked in money, and a newfound sense of intellectual inferiority if we worked in publishing.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Extremists and their supports cause you to align yourself with something you're not in order to get as far away as possible from the something you're really not.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I have never pictured my own wedding. I do want to get married. I think it's a nice idea. Though I think husbands are like tattoos -- you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life..”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“People are less quick to applaud you as you grow older. Life starts out with everyone clapping when you take a poo and goes downhill from there.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Sang’s ass was not so much an ass but a continuation of leg and bone, covered by pockets because society demanded it be covered by pockets.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 

“The “pass” was a normal-sized key with a wooden block the size of a brick attached to it. This was meant to broadcast the administration’s lack of faith in our ability to hold on to small objects.”
― Sloane Crosley

“I am the proud indentured servant of a brilliant art adviser who may or may not have purposely stapled my index finger to a manila folder”
― Sloane Crosley

“It is my belief that people who speak of high school with a sugary fondness are bluffing away early-onset Alzeheimer's.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I had no idea that people thought Jews had horns. Where I came from, Jews had good grades and BMWs".”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Suburbia is too close to the country to have anything real to do and too close to the city to admit you have nothing real to do. It’s purpose is to make it so you can identify with everything. We obviously grew up identifying with nothing.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I have never pictured my own wedding. I do want to get married. It's a nice idea. Though I think husbands are like tattoos-you should wait until you come across something you want on your body for the rest of your life...”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“I thought I'd had another few decades before my noise complaint years.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“The side effects of growing up ‘just outside of [insert major urban center here] are many but practically intangible. This is logical given the fact that suburbia itself is a side effect and practically intangible.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 
“If I ever have kids, this is what I'm going to do with them: I am going to give birth to them on foreign soil—preferably the soil of someplace like Oostende or Antwerp—destinations that have the allure of being obscure, freezing, and impossibly cultured. These are places in which people are casually trilingual and everyone knows how to make good coffee and gourmet dinners at home without having to shop for specific ingredients. Everyone has hip European sneakers that effortlessly look like the exact pair you've been searching for your whole life. Everything is sweetened with honey and even the generic-brand Q-tips are aesthetically packaged. People die from old age or crimes of passion or because they fall off glaciers. All the woman are either thin, thin and happy, fat and happy, or thin and miserable in a glamorous way. Somehow none of their Italian heels get caught in the fifteenth-century cobblestone. Ever.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“At this point I feel I would be remiss to not mention the prevalence of a specific kind of person who enters the field of book publishing. This is the English lit major who never should have left academia, a genius who has read all of V.S. Naipaul but can’t photocopy title pages right side up. This person is very thin, possibly vegan, probably Ivy League. He or she feels as if answering the phone in a chipper voice is a form of legalized prostitution. He or she has a single quirky fashion piece, usually red or black, and waxes poetic about typewriters and the British, having never truly known either. Regardless of sex, they all want to be David Foster Wallace when they grow up.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“Who do you have to sleep with to get laid in this town?”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 

“After a breakup, I'll conduct the normal breakup rituals. I'll cut up photographs, erase voice mails, gather his dark concert T-shirts I once slept in and douse them with bleach before I use them to clean my bathtub.”
― Sloane Crosley, I Was Told There'd Be Cake 
“The mortality rate among sea horses is not to be believed. Because the difference between a dead sea horse and a living sea horse is imperceptible, selling dead sea horses would make a very good pet store scam.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number 
 “I am trying to absorb the situation and would like to do my absorption in peace. In general, I prefer to record all traumas and save them for later, playing them over and over so they can haunt me for a disproportionate number of weeks to come. It’s very healthy.”
― Sloane Crosley, How Did You Get This Number

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