Dude, Eat Carbs While You’re Out: The Struggle for Body Confidence

Editor’s Note: After three years in the game, this is my 100th blog post! To honor the occasion, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone of humor and posting a thoughtful essay on body image. I’m also doing this because I skipped the gym twice this week and I’m pissed at myself for being pissed at myself about it, which sounds redundant because it is.

A few years ago I had a boyfriend – let’s call him Lionel – who accused me of being unfaithful. I wasn’t, but our relationship was in the process of unraveling and I had more or less withdrawn from him at that point, so I can’t say I was surprised by his bout of paranoia.

One day it led him to Facebook-message my ex-boyfriend.

“When you and Nic were together,” Lionel asked, “did you ever suspect he was cheating on you?”

My ex replied, “Nic? LOL.”

I’m able to quote directly because I uncovered the message history on Lionel’s computer one weekend while he was away for his army reserve duties and I was staying at his apartment. By then Lionel had already caved into his guilt and told me about the exchange himself, so these initial findings were more or less expected.

But then there was something else.

“By the way,” Lionel wrote right before signing off. “Nic is in really great shape these days.

“He’s super toned.

“Hot.”

I felt like he was insecure for me.

Throughout the course of our relationship, Lionel had always answered my habitual laments of, “Ugh, I feel really fat,” with military-inspired suggestions as to how to get in better shape. “So you agree?” I’d usually snap back, channeling my inner Regina George. “You think I’m really fat?”

I was 6’3” and weighed 170 pounds – thin – but that didn’t change the fact that I had some flab on me where there could have been muscle.

“Shut up,” he’d laugh. “You know I love your body the way it is. I’m just saying that if you want to tone up, I can help you.”

I eventually accepted the offer.

I love your body the way it is. I had always believed Lionel when he said this, but his comment to my ex-boyfriend that day suggested that perhaps he loved it more after I adopted his pushup routine. I mean, the proof was in the transcript. “Ha! You had soft-bodied Nic,” he might as well have declared. “But my Nic is better. My Nic is the one worth having.”

Of course. The One Worth Having: In really great shape these days.

Super toned.

Hot.

***

I’d always known men could be shallow.

When I was eight and nine years old, a few members of my dad’s old-school Italian family violently chucked fat slurs at my mom like jagged rocks at an innocent duck after she filed for divorce from him. “That fat bitch,” I heard them say to each other. “You fat bitch,” I heard them say to her face. “You’re divorcing him?”

Sometimes I wondered how much more diplomatic their divorce could have been if she had just dropped twenty pounds before filing.

It wouldn’t be too long before my friends expressed similar attitudes, openly discussing how they could never even think about being attracted to “fat chicks.” This sentiment pervaded my small hometown. I remember being at a friend’s house one day after school and getting caught up in a conversation about baseball cards or some shit when we accidentally left the television on whatever station aired the Rosie O’Donnell Show. His dad got home from work a few minutes later and asked, “What are you guys watching this cow for?”

I was a significantly overweight kid myself while all of this was going down, so I took everything a little more personally than I probably should have.

But! I’d tell myself. This is a female problem. Sure, some kids teased me for my weight, but the teasing never suggested that my fatness made me unlovable. When it came to love, it was always the men who didn’t want their women to be fat. Overweight guys got beautiful girls to marry them all the time; they just had to endure being jocularly called a fatass by their friends sometimes.

I’m ashamed to say that this fucked up, misogynistic double standard actually gave me comfort for a few years of my adolescence.

That is, until I’d remember that I was gay. Until I’d remember that I, too, would eventually have to possess a body worthy of male desire.

***

“I’m finally starting to realize that a good ninety percent of my insecurities stem back to my being a fat kid,” I lamented to my mom over the phone earlier this week. “And I’m so sick. I’m so sick of reflexively sucking my stomach in when I look in the mirror. And I’m so sick of hating myself on the days when I skip the gym. I’m so fucking sick of having to give a shit about any of this.”

“Believe me, Nic,” she said. “I get it.”

The craziest thing? I’m in really great shape these days. Super toned. Hot. People tell me all the time. Co-workers tell me after I casually turn down the birthday cake. Friends tell me after I yell, “If I have a double chin, we’re deleting this!” when we pose for group pics. My mom tells me when I call her on the phone having typical emotional upsets like the one referenced above.

People tell me I’m too skinny. In text messages and voicemails and Instagram comments.

starvingEat carbs while you’re out. Statements like these shouldn’t feel like compliments, except they do. The validation swoops me up and flies me around for maybe a good three seconds, but then it lets go just as quickly, flinging me down into a pit where the words GET YOUR ASS BACK TO THE GYM are etched into the surrounding dirt.

If the validation is coming from a man with whom I’m sleeping, maybe the high lasts closer to six seconds. But, oh. Since Lionel and I broke up, I can’t even tell you the number of dudes I’ve gone home with only to soberly decide in the eleventh hour that we can’t go through with hooking up because I don’t feel comfortable getting undressed with someone new and contorting into sexual positions that I know would make my stomach look – oh, my God – not flat.

When I do allow myself to go there with guys, I avoid bringing up the subject of fatness altogether out of fear that if they knew how much I really cared – how anxious and conscious and aware I can sometimes be of my body – they’d scrutinize it that much more.

Plus these aren’t just any men I’m dealing with – these are men like me.

***

Insecurities make no sense, and yet they do. Depending on your mood and vantage point they can either be silly little clowns or great, intimidating monsters. Sometimes both.

Most days I’m able to just point and laugh at how utterly absurd and hilarious my fat issues are, acknowledging all the bullshit that called them into existence in the first place and saying to myself, Wow. I’m so glad none of this shit actually matters in the end.

But then catch me on a shitty day and I’m capable of breaking down under the weight of it all – sometimes even to the point of calling my mom in tears and/or writing self-pitying personal essays about the Struggle for Body Confidence.

Of course I’ve perused enough self-help to know that everything is just a choice. At any moment we can choose to stop caring about other peoples’ perceptions and start loving our bodies as they are. Right. Fucking. Now. We can claim our power. We can strip ourselves of our clothes – whatever their sizes – and stand proudly, flipping off anyone who’s ever made us feel like the shapes of our stomachs have anything at all to do with the worthiness of our spirits. We can stop letting wounds get in the way.

On my best days, I’m actually capable of this.

Because deep down I know I’m worthy and important and loved. Because I know I’m talented and empathetic and smart. Because I know just how much more than a body I am.

But also — and it fucking kills me to say this — because I’m in really great shape these days.

Super toned.

Hot.

 

My Day as a Psycho Celebrity-Spammer on Twitter

So, let’s talk about CELINE FUCKING DION. (You’re welcome.)

This story starts a few months ago, when some literary agents were telling me that my author platform wasn’t strong enough to warrant a book deal in today’s sure bet-driven marketplace. Which, in other words, means that I don’t have enough Twitter followers. Which, in other words, means that I’m not popular enough. Which, in other words, means that the publishing industry is basically Mean Girls and — Oh my God, Danny DeVito I love your work!

The fucked up thing about it is that if I actually did have a hundred thousand Twitter followers, I’d probably be one of those entitled, douche-y assholes who’s all, “Duh. Get with the times. Of course I have a huge platform; what do you think I am? A loser?

So maybe I’m a hypocrite, it’s fine.

One day in March, coming off the bitter sting of a fresh rejection, I was IM-ing with my friend Kaci.

  • Nic: Ugh. Still not popular enough
  • Nic: How do I get more followers on Twitter???
  • Nic: Maybe I should just start harassing celebrities in hopes that they’ll retweet me?
  • Nic: Which ones, though?
  • Kaci: Celine
  • Kaci: obvi
  • Kaci: I need to start getting cats and committing to dying alone
  • Nic: That’s it!
  • Nic: I’ll ask Celine to adopt a cat with me

And then a monster was born.

1

RE: the whole “Aegean” thing: basically I just Googled “cat breeds” and then chose the one that I felt would read most elegantly within the context of a tweet to Celine Dion. But apparently my elegance didn’t matter, because Celine ignored me as if I were a creepy Internet weirdo or something.

But then! I figured out why:

2

Still nothing. So then I moved into the anger stage and was all, “Fuck Celine! I’ll branch out to… Martha Stewart.”

3 4

DROP G’S! I thought it was brilliant. But Martha clearly wasn’t amused, as she ignored me too, forcing me to wonder if maybe my Internet fame wouldn’t be best found through middle-aged divas (one musical, one domestic) catered to the daytime-TV-watching crowd, so I went after the Jonas Brothers.

5 6

BUT NO LUCK THERE. (On the kitten or the marriage.)

So then I went back to Celine in a final, desperate attempt to get her to at least adopt something with me, but for some reason by that point in the day I became an incoherent mess who required three tweets to finish a thought and close a set of parentheses:

7 8 9

Celine continued in her staunch dedication to not acknowledging that a crazy person was spamming her on Twitter, which made me frustrated.

Frazzled and feeling like if I didn’t get at least one celebrity retweet by day’s end that I’d NEVER GET PUBLISHED, LIKE, EVER, I proceeded to do this:

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By the end of it all, I reviewed my timeline’s activity and felt highly, highly ashamed of myself. Who does shit like this? I wondered. This is pathetic and embarrassing.

But then my thoughts wandered into a more gratitude-y place — feeling relieved that, well, at least I didn’t have a hundred thousand followers watching.

 

I Actually Wouldn’t Sleep with Justin Bieber, Probably

Earlier this week, I was IMing with my friend Steven.

  • Steven: I’m in a weird state of mind
  • Nic: Why??? Are you finding yourself sexually attracted to Justin Bieber BUT ONLY IN CERTAIN PICTURES? Because I might be
  • Steven: Haha, ew
In my defense, it was only one picture, which I will share below (complete with Paintbrush annotations that I’m pretty sure justify my controversial opinion):

I mean, look at that neck.

In light of Steven’s “ew,” though, I decided to survey other people via IM to gauge their opinions and find out whether or not I actually have a problem.

With my work-wife Mila:

  • Nic: Is it just me or is Bieber kind of hot in this pic?
  • Mila: NO
  • Mila: I will not let you go down this slippery slope
  • Mila: I love you, you’re better than this

With my work-wife Jenny:

  • Nic: Is it just me or is Bieber kind of hot in this pic?
  • Jenny: NO!
  • Jenny: it’s the tattoos, isn’t it?

With an anonymous friend of mine from grad school:

  • Nic: Is it just me or is Bieber kind of hot in this pic?
  • Anonymous: [long period of silence/on-and-off typing]
  • Anonymous: hot
  • Anonymous: just in that pic though
  • Anonymous: and you can never tell anyone i said that

I think this means that deep down everyone agrees with me and I win.

P.S. I just thought about it for a second, and actually? There are no winners in a blog post dedicated purely to whether or not Justin Bieber is hot.

P.P.S. Except for Bieber himself, maybe, because out of all the Bieber news coverage this week, this is probably the least likely to get him hate mail.

P.P.P.S. You’re fucking welcome, Justin. And no, I have no idea why I suddenly switched from calling you “Bieber” this whole time to calling you “Justin.” Maybe because the whole last name thing feels too impersonal and now that I’m addressing you directly I’m trying to make us all a little more comfortable?

P.P.P.P.S. By the way, did I really say “hate mail” before? Is this 1993? I meant to write “hate tweets.” And I’m sorry dude, but you kind of asked for them. Stop being such a jackass.

 

When It Comes to Altruism, America Might be Screwed

Every spring, the company I work for gives employees a paid day off to go out into the world and volunteer for pre-arranged community service projects, possibly on account of their awareness that New York is filled with career-driven narcissists who don’t give enough of a shit about philanthropic causes to volunteer their actual time to them.

This year, my work-wife Jenny and I signed up for a project called Walk and Play at the Humane Society. This was a major accomplishment for us, as the pet shelter-related opportunities are limited and always the first ones to get filled up. Because puppies.

Jenny and I were elated about having managed to snag not one but two of these highly coveted spots. It was like being awarded VIP status on the guest list to one of those super posh nightclub openings that used to happen on Sex and the City all the time but happen infrequently (and also, suck) in real life. (Remember the place with all the beds? There were so many beds.)

“WHOOMP, THERE IT IS! PUPPIES ALL DAY, E’RRY DAY!” I proclaimed to Jenny as we victoriously high-fived each other post-sign-up. “Or at least puppies from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Friday, May 16th.”

“Okay Nic, let’s make a pact,” Jenny replied. “Neither of us is allowed to adopt a dog. No matter how much we may fall in love while carelessly frolicking with them through parks, we can’t afford to just be adopting creatures willy-nilly.”

“Deal,” I said, relieved that there would be a formal checks and balances system (did I just misuse that term?) in place to combat my probable impetuousness amongst puggles.

Friday morning came quickly, and Jenny and I found ourselves on the fourth floor of a rundown Midtown East building surrounded by donated doggy clothes (because that’s what rescue pets give a shit about) with nine other volunteers from our company, none of whom we knew personally.

The volunteer coordinator was a petite young brunette with leggings and a nose ring who instantly reminded me of delightful country breakout starlet Kacey Musgraves.

“Okay, so we need two volunteers for the kitty hospital room,” she said.

Everyone immediately looked down as if to say, “Hell to the no; I’m holding out for a hero the cute, non-hospitalized dogs.” But then two brave souls looked up and sacrificed themselves for the greater good and I pitied them a little but mostly just felt major relief because (a) I’m vaguely allergic to cats, and (b) I’m made up of twenty percent Selfish Asshole. (And eighty percent Mariah Carey.)

“Now we need five volunteers to play on the roof with the large dogs.”

At this, the remaining people threw their hands up in a tizzy. Not Jenny and I, though; we just looked at each other and came to a mutual telepathic understanding that we were going to be savvy and save our hand-raising for the small (or at least medium-sized) dogs. Ain’t nobody got time for large dogs, we told each other with our eyes.

“Great!” Kacey Musgraves said, selecting the first five volunteers to play with the large dogs. Then she motioned toward the rest of us. “Now you four will have the pleasure of cleaning literal shit out of cat cages for the next three hours.”

She didn’t actually put it in those words, but she should have because that’s exactly what ended up happening. WE WERE BAMBOOZLED. Why the dogs were qualified as “large” before is beyond me. THE LARGE DOGS WERE THE ONLY DOGS.

I considered sticking my neck out and saying, “Ohhh, sorry, I’m allergic to cats,” but then figured that that’s exactly what someone who’s not allergic to cats would say. (Kind of like in movies when the killer is all “I’m not a killer!”) Plus I didn’t want to face the possibility of them saying, “Well then why didn’t you raise your hand for the dogs?” and me instigating a whole argument over how Kacey’s categorization of the dogs as “large” was misleading and cruel.

So I just accepted my fate and planned to avoid directly touching the cats/my eyes.

We were soon escorted to a room filled wall-to-wall with cat cages. The cats were cute enough, but the stench in the room was gross and a problem. It smelled like someone had murdered a carnie, locked it in a closet, peed on the body every morning for approximately a full year, and stuffed its pockets with Gouda at some point around the five-month mark.

(Wow. That was some fucked up and macabre imagery, and I apologize. I hope I didn’t ruin Gouda for you. Or carnies, for that matter.)

We were instructed that every cage had to be cleaned, and it was best that we split into pairs so we could tag-team the cat piss. The cage cleaning process entailed setting the cats free to roam around the room while we dumped out the litter boxes, sterilized and refilled them, brushed hair off the cat beds, and cleaned/disinfected the messes on the floors of the cages. These tasks involved maneuvers like bending down. And reaching for things. And lifting things.

Also, getting dirty.

Jenny and I smiled enthusiastically as we put our disposable gloves on and prepared to get to work, but deep down we were both spoiled, ungrateful bitches who were not amused.

“I bet HR has diabolical intentions with this whole community service thing,” I later whispered to Jenny as she scrubbed a cage floor and I lined a freshly treated litter box with newspaper. “They’re probably all, ‘Oh, our employees want to complain about their cushy jobs? Let’s have them perform manual labor while locked in a sauna of broken dreams and cat shit for three hours! That’ll take care of that problem!’”

After I said this, I realized how ridiculous and first-world-problems-y of me it was to be wasting my words on complaints.

And I wasn’t giving the good side of myself enough credit – there was a part of me that truly didn’t mind the work and was genuinely pleased to be helping out. Like, it felt awesome to get outside of my ego for a little bit and put my energy into something that didn’t benefit me directly.

But then I also had to acknowledge that if I weren’t receiving compensation (a whole day’s worth, nonetheless) to do this project, there was no way in hell I’d have opted myself into it in my cherished free time – which I think makes me a horrible, entitled person and also what’s wrong with America.

As we neared the end of the shift, a charismatic orange-haired kitty named Felipe started eagerly sticking his little paw out of his cage and trying to latch onto my shirt/generally touch me everywhere. And so I promptly forgot about all the philosophical issues the day’s activities were raising in my mind and just fell in love with him.

I’m not much of a cat person, but Felipe was really cute and I’m not a heartless bastard. Felipe was precious. Precious enough to melt my heart and make me glad that I got bamboozled into the miserable cat sauna, even. As I lovingly gazed into his tiny cat-eyes, I thought about how much it would pain me to see him alone on the streets. Or worse, hungry. Or worse, abused.

It was in this Scrooge-at-the-end-of-A-Christmas-Carol-y moment where I realized why one might willingly choose to volunteer at the Humane Society. Because Felipe (and every other cat ever) deserves to be loved. They deserve to not live in cages. Or at the very least, they deserve to live in fucking clean ones.

Then Felipe got all scratchy on me, but I secretly liked it.

“Friiiskey, are we?” I said, masterfully replicating the voice of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. “Jenny! How CUTE is this little guy? Take a pic!”

10371392_875058025122_7128745751022172651_n

Because I’m a super authentic person, I immediately posted this on Instagram with a caption that was all, “Delighted to be helping out for a great cause! #community”

When Jenny and I returned to our normally scheduled lives in the office on Monday morning, we learned that as a gift for all our hard work on Friday, the building was going to transform into a funhouse of treats and refreshments – stations with free beer, margaritas, wine, tacos, fries, sushi, Pinkberry frozen yogurt, and hot dogs were being set up for everyone who volunteered. Because America is nothing if not dependent on questionable motivation techniques and absurdly lopsided reward systems.

“Well, they did bamboozle us into busting our asses and cleaning up cat feces in a stench-filled shitbox for three miserable hours,” I said to Jenny. By then I had forgotten what Felipe even looked like. “It’s the least they could do.”

 

That Married Dude I Made Out with Last Year? SAW HIM AGAIN

Last November I met a man on a train. Let’s call him James. James and I bonded all the way from New York to Connecticut, and then we passionately made out in his car like a couple of horny high schoolers until we decided to cut the party short due to the fact that he had a wife whom — no big deal — he almost forgot to tell me about. It was a debacle, and really you should just read my entire original post about it to get the full effect before continuing, because OH MY GOD – I saw him last week.

I was stuck at the train station due to a delay and decided to treat myself to a large iced coffee to ease the pain (because large iced coffees always ease the pain — they’re a lot like Vicodin and/or puppy therapy in that way).

As I approached the Dunkin Donuts stand, I noticed that there was a man with an effortlessly strong build standing at the front of the line in sharp tan suit pants and a white T-shirt. His suit jacket and dress shirt were cradled loosely under his hot right man-arm.

I’d so hit that, I thought to myself, apparently not requiring any knowledge whatsoever of what his face looked like.

Then he turned around and our eyes met.

AND IT WAS JAMES.

We hadn’t seen each other since the night we met, so this was kind of a BFD. (That’s “big fucking deal” for those of you who actually put your educations to use and therefore don’t speak in profane teen girl abbrevs.) (Abreva?)

I immediately went into super-adrenaline mode and decided that I would just pretend I didn’t see James in front of me or that I did see him but had absolutely no idea who he was because I’m the type of person (in this imaginary scenario of me not recognizing him, that is) who just makes out with strangers on trains all the damn time and so trying to keep track of them would be like trying to keep track of the number of nipple rings at a Bear convention.

(Explanatory side note for straight people: Bears are large hairy gay men who are traditionally into body piercings and leather. And conventions, apparently.)

Our eyes met again as James stepped to the side to wait for his coffee and I moved to the front of the line. He looked nervous.

“Large iced coffee, please,” I said, trying to look as directly at the cashier as possible. “With milk only.”

I spoke loudly, immaturely hoping that the sound of my voice would initiate some kind of nostalgia or arousal or regret or why-isn’t-Nic-saying-hi-to-me?-ness (emotion of any kind, really) in James.

I wanted him to notice that my outfit was similar to the one I wore the night we met seven months ago – a button down shirt, slightly open at the chest with two chains of contrasting lengths showing (because yes, on Tuesdays I dress like the owner of a pizzeria). I also wanted him to notice that I had a bunch of new half-hippie/half-someone-who-hangs-out-on-boats bracelets on my left wrist, so I made sure to really stick out my hand as I reached forward to pay the guy behind the counter.

Why did I so desperately want James to notice everything about me?

Maybe it was just my way of acknowledging how bizarre it was that last fall we shared an intimate moment – a moment that I’ve since written and talked and thought about at length; a moment that has been the subject of blog posts and essays and bar conversations and marathon phone calls and so much else – and here we were pretending to be total strangers.

It felt rather dishonest.

But it was all either of us could bring ourselves to do, I guess. And so James and I continued to stand there in awkward silence until we each got our respective cups of fuel for the morning.

“Thanks,” I said to the DD guy.

“Have a good one,” James told him.

And then we each sped off in directions so completely opposite that anyone watching would have never known we were both going to the exact same place.

I couldn't really think of a good picture to accompany this post. So here's me squatting on a rock during a hike a few weeks ago. There's a message here somewhere, maybe.

I couldn’t really think of a good picture to accompany this post. So here’s me squatting on a rock during a hike a few weeks ago. There’s meaning here somewhere, maybe.

P.S. It just occurred to me that, when left open to interpretation, the last line of this post could totally make it sound like I was insinuating that James and I took roundabout routes to the men’s room and then gave each other blowjobs in the handicap stall or something – and I’d just like to clarify that that’s not what happened at all. I just meant that, you know, we were both commuting into the same city. There was probably some underlying metaphor there, too. I didn’t need to clarify any of this, did I?

P.P.S. How gross would it be to give a blowjob in the stall of a train station bathroom? How gross would it be to do anything that involves heavily breathing through your nose in a train station bathroom? Just, ew.

P.P.P.S. No judgment, though, if train-station-bathroom-blowjobs are your thing! To each his own.

P.P.P.P.S. But still I probably wouldn’t share a drink with you.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Unless that drink was a vodka gimlet. Or a Guinness. Or a White Russian. Or a jalapeño margarita. You know what? Never mind.

 

Sometimes Life (and/or Oprah) Gives You Exactly What You Need When You Need It

Like many writers – cough, Cheryl Strayed, ‘achoo! – I enjoy taking long, meditative walks.

I used to walk all over my hometown as a kid, so walking all over my current town kind of reconnects me with my inner child. Plus something about being alone and surrounded by nature gives me the sense of space and freedom I need to contemplate shit that I might otherwise leave bottled up.

The results of any given walk are typically healing and awesome.

During my after-dinner walk on Sunday, though, things didn’t start out so well.

After thinking about my career aspirations for a few minutes, I found myself on the verge of falling into a spiral of self-pity over the fact that I want to do everything. I want to write everything. Book concepts, blog ideas, freelance gigs, ALL the essays, short stories – these things ganged up on me like a mental army of “YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO DO IT ALL!”-screaming assholes.

I started thinking about how beginning one project always feels a lot like neglecting another project, which, given the fact that I have a full-time job and a highly active social life, feels a lot like making a big ass commitment to something that might not be the best project – which then makes it really easy to just be like, “Okay, fuck it. I’ll do nothing.”

I approached a big hill and kept walking. As my elevation increased, I moved on to feeling pity for myself over the fact that I’ve already devoted two years to finishing a book which is still yet to be represented. Then I felt more pity for myself over the fact that it’s probably because I don’t have enough space or time to write (or edit, for that matter) to my highest potential, because again: full-time job and highly active social life.

These are ironic and silly things to be upset about. These things are blessings.

So then I went into angry, tough-love mode on myself: Why are you so fucking impossible to satisfy? Boo-frickety-hoo, Nic! You work for a great company and you’re just too popular? Man up and figure your shit out. Stop sleeping so much. Maybe don’t go to happy hour. Maybe write. You could be writing right now instead of walking. MAKE A DAMN SACRIFICE, ASSHOLE.

And then finally I gave in and was like, Yeah. I just need to write. Start something new. I’ll do that.

And then I thought about all the book concepts, blog ideas, freelance gigs, essays, and short stories I want to work on — and I soon found myself right back at square. Fucking. One.

This walk had set me off on a mental cycle of doom, and it was a problem.

I started picking up the pace and feeling extremely tight and anxious – sensations that are usually reserved for when I obsess over my career in less tranquil scenarios such as when stressing over my workload at the office and/or peeing in dirty commuter train bathrooms.

As I reached the top of the hill, I saw an intriguing piece of litter sitting by the curb outside someone’s driveway. As I got closer, I saw that it was a coffee sleeve.

I soon recognized it as one of those new green Starbucks coffee sleeves that are given out to promote Oprah Chai – the new Oprah-Starbucks-Teavana partnership that benefits educational opportunities for youth.

I immediately thought to myself, WWOD?

(Note: This means “What Would Oprah Do?” and I should mention that it’s unusual that it took me coming across a discarded coffee sleeve of hers to finally ask this question in this situation. Usually it’s the first thing that comes to my mind in periods of distress, sleeve or no sleeve.)

The timing of this query couldn’t have been better, as each Oprah Chai sleeve comes complete with an inspirational Oprah quotable.

I bent down and picked it up to read my fortune:

Live from the heart of yourself. Seek to be whole, not perfect.

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And THIS is why Oprah fucking WINS. AT. EVERYTHING.

Because of Oprah, litter is no longer litter. Because of Oprah, litter can now change lives. Or at least momentarily brighten them.

Because of Oprah, my anxious, existential crisis-y, mental-cycle-of-doom walk led me straight to an undeniable sign from God that everything is going to be okay. I can trust my intuition. I don’t have to be perfect. I do have to be myself.

Everything is going to be okay.

And then I saw a bunny.

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It was less blurry IRL; this is just what happens when I quickly take a picture of a moving bunny while my phone camera is all zoomed in. Is it just me, or does it kind of look like a Monet?

 

Like the Tour of Italy at Olive Garden, Except Less Caloric and More Write-y (#mywritingprocess)

The title of today’s post is mostly obnoxious and misleading, as it has nothing to do with Olive Garden’s delightful (OMG my big Italian family will have me off-ed if they ever find out that I just described something at OG as “delightful”) chicken-lasagna-Alfredo dish the Tour of Italy. But it does have everything to do with the fact that I’m participating in the #mywritingprocess blog tour, which has the word “tour” in it… so yeah.

The tour torch (tourch?!) was passed to me by the brilliant Ross Murray, whom I like to think of as David Sedaris except straight, Canadian, and with offspring. I actually have to pay attention when I read Ross’ stuff, because the humor is that good and sneaky and true.

Sometimes I kick babies things and eat gallons of ice cream out of frustration with my occasional fear that I’m lame and nothing I ever write is even remotely funny, but then Ross will comment on a post of mine and I’ll be like, “Okay, well if he’s still here, I can’t suck that bad.” (Either that or I’ve just become a habit.)

Ross answered the following #mywritingprocess questions last week, and now it’s my turn!

1. What am I working on?

So last year I wrote a book about my life and then spent a few months querying it and then some literary agents requested it and then they spent a few months reading it and then a couple of them rejected it and it was probably because I use “and then” in a run-on sentence-y kind of way far too often—and so I’m working on doing that less (starting now). I’m also taking all the agent feedback I’ve received (much of which was really insightful and definitely made me feel like the universe blessed me with a free professional critiquing service) and revising/editing/perfecting.

Aside from the ongoing book saga, I’m also working on figuring out where to go with this blog and how to make it take over the world. Lastly, because I’m an overachiever, I’m working hard on crafting a good tweet for later this week that I’m hopeful will net me two or so new followers.

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

My voice, I guess? I mean, it’s all like, mine and shit. Also, I’d say my work is more “I’m an occasional hot mess who contradicts himself often” and less “I have everything figured out” than others in the memoir game. Oh, and it’s probably riddled with more casual Mariah Carey/Clueless/Jim Carrey/penis references than any other author’s work ever. Why I haven’t won a Pulitzer yet is beyond me.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always been great at talking about myself, and so yes, you could say I’ve always been a narcissist. I’ve also always been great at writing. So one day I combined these skills and later found out that what I was doing was called “memoir.”

Why humor? Because it’s fun, and I like fun. But don’t get it twisted; my book has plenty of surprisingly dark, serious moments – they just don’t last very long because every time I write dark I eventually get to a place where I’m like, “Wait. I really want to insert a footnote about how what I just wrote is eerily similar to that scene in Friends where Monica got stung by a jellyfish and Joey had to pee on her leg because she ‘couldn’t bend that way.’ Can I go back to being funny now?”

Yes, Nic. You can.

4. How does my writing process work?

Usually there’s a lot of meditating, going to the gym, cleaning my apartment, playing the guitar, calling my mom, drinking wine, and watching the OWN Network that goes on first before I ever sit my ass down and write. Then I finally sit my ass down and write. Then I treat my Word document as if it’s my best friend/therapist and it feels awesome and I’m just like, “Jesus, why do I always procrastinate doing something I love so damn much? Am I self-sabotage-y? Am I a hazard to myself? Am I my own worst enemy? DON’T LET ME GET ME!

Okay. Before my descent into early 2000s P!nk lyrics goes any further, I think it’s time to pass the tourch (!) to someone else.

And I nominate…

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EKGO!

Ekgo is one of my favorites in the blogosphere. She lives in one of my dream locations (amongst mountains), grows garlic, and sometimes offends people. We found each other via our mutual hero the Bloggess, and I think that says it all.

Much like how Ross can make me get over the occasional “I’M NOT FUNNY AND I SUCK MORE THAN MONICA LEWINS…A VACUUM“ spiral, Ekgo too will show up in the comments with something so ridiculously hilarious and outlandish that I have to laugh and say to myself, “YES. Ekgo gets it.”

And then I’ll keep scrolling and be like, “…and so do ALL of these other incredible readers!” So if you’re reading this, thank you. Seriously. I love you all and would hand out 1,463 tourches (You get a tourch! YOU GET A TOURCH!) if I could.

 

Am I the Only Person Who Gets Randomly Accosted by Crazy-Pants McGhees at Connecticut Bookstores?

One thing I really like to do with my life is watch Super Soul Sunday on the OWN Network every weekend and then immediately haul ass to the New Age section of my local Barnes and Noble in order to impulsively buy every book ever related to that day’s topic while telling myself that it doesn’t count as spending money because it’s food for my spirit, and spirit knows no money so I’m good. Or something.

Anyway. So this is what I was doing recently when, out of the fucking blue, some random dude tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I don’t much care for it.”

If you’re craving a little more context right now, here’s the set up:

  • Me: Wearing a dark gray hoodie-tee-shirt (yes, I dress like a tween on the weekends) and a Patriots hat. I have an open copy of The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav in my hand and, up until the aggressive shoulder-tap from the rando in aisle seven, am reading it with zeal.
  • The Shoulder-Tapper: White male. Appears to be in his forties or fifties. Kind of out of shape but not necessarily fat. Wearing a blue sweatshirt, jeans, and Nike running sneakers. Is kind of twitchy but has the general look of a normal person.

One might reasonably assume that by saying “I don’t much care for it,” the guy was informing me that he had read The Seat of the Soul and was not a fan. Which is what I assumed (and took major offense to, side note, because anybody who “doesn’t much care” for a book that Oprah credits as changing the very direction of her life back in 1989 is clearly a bad a person and probably a hazard to society) at first.

But then he was like, “I used to live in New Rochelle.” And then he paused and took a dramatic breath in, and I was like…?

My first thought was that maybe he was going to say something about my Patriots hat – something along the lines of “I used to live in New Rochelle… and I too am a Patriots fan, so it was rough being in New York during that time. But then I moved to Connecticut and now people are slightly more open to my New England affiliation, but we’re still close enough to the New York border that, well, I don’t much care for it.“

But no.

Instead he followed up with “…until my house got flooded.”

So then in my head I was all, Okay so either he’s going to ask me to make a donation to his cause, or he’s going to murder me.

Help

“And then after the house got flooded,” he continued, “I left and moved to a really nice place up in the Catskills. It was beautiful, new, and surrounded by nature. But then that house got flooded too. So I got another house right after that, but then that one went up in flames and I was put in jail for two weeks until they were able to prove that the fire actually started from the dryer and I had nothing to do with it – which is what I told them all along, but nobody believed me.”

What I might have said in my head if I was as enlightened as I hope to someday be:

  • Aw, I’m honored that this nice man is sharing such personal details of his history with me. We’re all one, and I see myself in him. I sincerely wish him luck in finding a living situation that doesn’t involve catastrophe and disaster. I shall hug and bless him now.

What I actually said in my head:

  • WHY IS NOBODY COMING TO MY RESCUE?! OMG, I feel like Sarah Michelle Gellar in I Know What You Did Last Summer when the killer is like, maiming her with a hook by the large stack of tires and nobody knows about it even though it’s all happening in the midst of a busy parade and you would THINK that one couldn’t get murdered during something as public as a fucking PARADE but somehow there was no one else there in that little area with all the tires at the time, much like how there’s no one else here in the NEW AGE BOOK SECTION OF AN OTHERWISE WELL-POPULATED BARNES AND NOBLE.

What I said out loud:

  • “Oof. That’s rough, man. Sorry to hear it.”

And then he was all, “Yeah—” and then I cut him off and said, “Okay, well, take it easy!” and I immediately darted to the bargain books because there were a solid four people in that section.

I managed to avoid him for the rest of my duration in the store until I left to go have pizza with two friends of mine, both of whom were as confused as I was when I gave a dramatic retelling of the event.

“Why does weird shit always happen to you?” they both asked.

“I don’t know…” I replied. “Maybe because the Universe knows I’m always running out of things to blog about?”

And then we all nodded in agreement.

 

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