Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

Category: success

“No one asked you to change it”

I read a wedding post today where it was noted that “the wedding is kinda like married life, it often comes with unresolved feelings.”

Now that wedding day is more than a month behind me. Jon and I have continued into married life, which, to those who ask how married life is treating me, I have to admit is much the same. Of course there is a legitimacy that comes with our legal union. As Jon quotes from a Seinfeld episode, Everything sounds better with ‘my wife’ in it. (And Kramer confirms with “My wife has an inner ear infection.”) We can now pick up each others’ dry cleaning, and I don’t feel so weird going to the vet, where I used to hope they wouldn’t refuse treatment because my last name was different from our dog’s. Now it’s the same.

But I also changed my name at work. And in addition to all the bureaucratic hoops that I have to navigate to make sure I still have access to email and people can still find my phone number on the directory, it seems I also have to confront social opinions on marriage and the choices that come with it. It’s something I admit I naively didn’t think I would encounter by following the social norm and taking Jon’s name.

A senior member of my department came by wondering why he couldn’t find me on the office chat. I explained that IT had just fixed it so there might be a lag before it showed up in searches. I concluded with, “Oh, this whole name-change thing is quite a process.”

“Well, no one asked you to change it,” he said with a pointed look. And walked away. (Yes, he studied gender studies at a school in NY and no, his wife did not change her name)

First of all, society kinda does ask me to change it. But I esteem those women who keep their name because they feel a connection to their father’s family, or because they have an established professional reputation, or simply because they were born with that name and they see no reason to take on this new family name for the sake of society’s preferences. Those are good reasons. And what’s more, women who keep their name put up with a lot of snarky comments and confused reactions. But none of those reasons really applied to me. I wanted Jon and I to have the same name because we’re in the same family now. This seemed the easiest way to do it.

But this comment, aside from popping a little How dare you! thought bubble in my head, makes me question how wifedom is changing my view on feminism. Maybe not necessarily my own view, because I’ve always taken the side of Women Have Choices! Yay! Let it continue! But more the side of those who advocate breaking all gender roles. I find that as I wife, while I do break some traditional gender roles, I actually like others. And what kind of feminist does that make me?

Unresolved feelings indeed.

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Coffee shop mommies

I open the door and squeeze in between strollers, the smell of coffee and friendly chatter replacing the rumble of buses and cars on the street. My eyes wander across the strollers with wispy blond hair escaping from underneath blankets and hats, mothers greeting each other and other women wearing expensive looking sweatpants.

How my morning coffee spot has become the Mommy Coffee place rather than the more typical Morning Suit Coffee locale, I’m really not sure. But I’m definitely the only one wearing a pencil skirt and tights.

I nod to the owner, indicating that I’d like the usual. Coffee with milk, no sugar. And while it’s true that this is my favorite coffee in town, I’m not sure I would come here at 9 a.m. every morning if I wasn’t on my way to work.

Saturdays, vacation days, even sick days for me are an opportunity to sleep in, spend more time at home with the dog, read my Kindle on the sunny third floor. Why is it that these women leave the house? It’s cold outside, the coffee shop is packed, and while it does allow dogs and has free wi-fi, none of these women are taking advantage of those two features.

Maybe, like me, they just like good coffee. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s something that happens when women have children — that they just need to get out of the house for some adult company? Or do they want to show off their fancy strollers and the luxury of being able to wear sweatpants at 9 a.m. on a weekday, of being clearly well provided for without having to work.

The shop owner and I exchange coffee for a handful of quarters and I step back out onto the street with the suits.

An itch for a dream

I have an itch. For days I haven’t been able to find it. To cope, I’ve been short with people around me, jittery at my desk. Frowning more than smiling, and spending way to much time and money on online designer discount shopping sites.

And then this morning I read an APW post on dreaming bigger:

I’d forgotten what it was like to knock on door after door after door, and get told no, over and over again. I’d forgotten how depressing it was. I’d forgotten how determined it can make you. I’d forgotten that confusing, partially excited, mostly terrified feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach when someone finally says yes. I’d almost forgotten that art is my hustle.

As for me, I had also forgotten, and it made me lazy. During the day, I add 20 pages of footnotes to a manuscript because the author didn’t know how, and then I listen to Lily Allen radio, read BUST magazine, plan my wedding with an open, practical mind, and expect that to be enough. As if surrounding myself with smart, ambitious, daring women would naturally lead to the success of my own big dreams. Despite my comfortable existence as an editorial assistant.

But now it’s my turn to knock on doors. To be rejected so that I can move on from my safe little cocoon of entry-level work that I’ve perfected over the last two years.

And the itch? It’s the pit in my stomach. Because I know that a door is about to open. Now I have to walk into it. And it’s terrifying. Without really knowing what I’m doing, I have to work with authors who don’t know what they’re doing. See if the executive editor likes my work, and if he doesn’t move on. Because I’ve learned all I can in this position.

I need to blog more, find an interesting job, and build on the community of women that has been supporting me.

Or maybe I’ll go to law school. Who knows.

Happiness, Bliss and a Homeless Man

We’re engaged. Gah!

I ordered the belt, and then he proposed about four hours later. I guess we were definitely on the same page, which is what I was going for, the ring is beautiful, and I still have a surprise for him! So I have no complaints (quite the contrary).

So, the story of the proposal…

As you know, the plan was to go English Country dancing. He knows me so well! But I screwed it up and brought shoes that would scuff the floor of their rented facility. Not allowed. I was a bit heartbroken, but we decided to go on another Tuesday, stopped by a bookstore and then came back to Hoboken.

Why don’t we walk along the water, it’s such a nice night, he said.

So we did. And then he took an abrupt right onto the pier.

We walked all the way to the end of this pier, and looked out on NYC

Well darling, he said, if we had gone English Country dancing tonight, I would have said that you had a very pleasant temperament, and you would have commented that the dance was nicely done. And I would say that although I may not have the annual income of a Mr. Darcy… (which is 20,000 a year, ha!) I feel that I can still provide for you. And I care about you very much, and love you, and Alice…

He got down on one knee…

Will you marry me?

Yes. Yes! Yes!

Did I know he was going to propose? It ran through my head that this would be a good setting, but I don’t think I actually believed it was going to happen. I was also slightly worried about how close the ring would be to the water, but luckily that was not a problem.

So we’re standing there blissfully in our own world, when a homeless man walks up.

Excuse me, he said, I just have to tell you that you are a beautiful couple. I saw you from all the way at the other end of the pier and you’re just glowing.

Thank you! (I probably started “glowing” even more at his comment).

I don’t know much about these things, I’m a homeless man, but you look like you’ll be very happy together. And thank you, for allowing me to tell you.

And he walked away. I don’t even know if he knew we had just gotten engaged. Talk about perfect validation.

The ring? Sorry, I was so caught up in our blissful state, I forgot to tell you about the gorgeous ring:

So sparkly!

I love it. So we went out for dinner, and called family and friends and had a lovely, overjoyful night.

Exciting But Risky

When was the last time you picked up a dictionary and looked up a word?

Actually, I  did this yesterday, but that’s because I have about 70 of them on the shelves of my desk.

I’ve always loved dictionaries. They hold a list of the little pieces that we use to create stories, draft contracts, post LOST DOG signs, talk on the phone.

In the age of Google, dictionaries are a bit constrained.  While language naturally evolves and expands, dictionaries are bound to a certain number of words, of pages.

But I still like dictionaries. And I think I want to help them keep up with language and technology.

Wordnik , among other similar sites, is doing this pretty well, but with a few key problems:

  • Misspelled words
  • Foreign words, which have no definition listed because the site’s definitions are based on English dictionaries
  • Not enough time/staff to keep up with the words

And perhaps the biggest problem with sites like this:

  • No profit

How to make a profit on words in a digital world without overwhelming viewers with advertising? As my boss says, it’s an interesting business problem. Exciting but risky.

I see memoirs, self-help books, philosophy essays on TV shows, and other “infotainment” literature fly through the files on my computer on a regular basis, but the dictionary stuff makes me think the most. Maybe I can save them…