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Archive for May, 2013|Monthly archive page

The Sunshine Award, Just in Time for Summer!

In Just for Fun on May 28, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Peter from the The Deliberate (Belligerent) Literate recently nominated us for the Sunshine Award. I wasn’t sure if anyone would even read SmartAssy when Jane and I began blogging, so it’s really great to be recognized. Thanks, Peter! Please check him out at debelit.com. He is a very incisive and entertaining writer; you won’t be disappointed.

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That’s enough gushing for now, so on to the rules of the award:

1. Post the Sunshine Award logo

2. Nominate eight to 12 of your favorite blogs –  the ones that you can’t wait to read. Announce the news on their blog and link a pingback to the Nominator’s Blog.

3. Share a bit about yourself by filling in your own responses to the Q&A below.

My favorite season: 

It has to be a spring-fall tie. I’m such a sucker for all the stereotypical trappings of these two seasons: snow melting, bursts of green, apple cider, multi-hued leaves, and so forth.

I could say some more stuff about the beauty and ephemerality of life and how they’re perfectly encapsulated in these two seasons, but truthfully, I just like being able to walk around without sweating profusely or freezing my ass off. What’s more poetic than that?

My favorite things: 

This is so broad! I’ll catalog a few random things that bring me joy.

1. Books. I have always loved reading, and there is something comforting to me about being surrounded by novels and non-fiction alike. Libraries are like a security blanket for me.

2. Taking solo walks. I’m a textbook over thinker, and a contemplative stroll here or there is just what I need to clear my mind.

3. Cereal. I don’t think I’ve ever met a flake, sweetened oat cluster, or rice confection that I didn’t like. Conservatively, I’d say about one third of my caloric intake comes from milk and cereal.

What I love the most: 

What I love the most is really who. However much affection I have for cereal (apparently I’m not concerned about sounding like a total weirdo today), I obviously care more about the people in my life than any “whats.”

My weekends:

Looking for a job is a funny situation when it comes to weekends. They don’t mean the same thing to me as they do to the gainfully employed. It’s not like I need an extended weekly break from job applications, but I often find myself pretending that “lazy Sundays” are perfectly acceptable anyway.

I start my new internship next Monday, so normal weekends will finally resume!

What I don’t like:

I have a childhood fear of intense thunderstorms that never completely went away. In my defense, there are way dumber things to be afraid of than lightning and damaging winds.

More abstractly, I don’t like when people make thoughtless or cruel comments. This might seem universal, but it’s not uncommon to hear cringe-worthy statements in any company. These types of remarks have always bothered me, but I was too shy to call anyone out as a tween/teen. Thankfully, I’m no longer such a conformist and will say something if I’m uncomfortable.

What I have accomplished: 

My most significant accomplishment to date is graduating from college with honors. It marked the first time I really gave something my all, and that felt good.

A bit more recently, I received the CALI Award in Legal Writing, which means I got the highest grade in my class. Since I dropped out of law school after one semester, this matters exactly zero percent. Still, I had classmates who went to fancy schools for undergrad, such as Columbia and Wash U, so I consider it an accomplishment nonetheless. I know this kind of makes me a smug asshole, but it also makes me feel good about myself – sort of proof I could have done well as an attorney, I simply wasn’t feeling it.

Whatever. I’ll let it go once I find a paying job.

Last but not least: 

A quick thanks to anyone reading this blog. I am so enjoying writing for my own personal satisfaction, and it’s icing when other people enjoy it, too!

My nominees (I’m doing five):

http://areyourtwentiesajoke.com/

http://skeletonscribble.wordpress.com/

http://farahcolette.wordpress.com/

http://mattthericker.wordpress.com/

http://inbetweenure.com/

Humbly,

Leah Morris

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What about the Size 6s? or Why I Love Jennifer Lawrence

In Encouraging Thoughts on May 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm

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I don’t usually pay much attention to news concerning weight and body image. “Body acceptance” was a big issue for me as a teen, but I’ve been in a really good place for a while now. Hence, I’m not interested in the media’s lbs-obsession that swings between “every size is beautiful” and “obesity is a grotesque epidemic.” I’m a size 4 or 6, depending on the store, and I try to exercise and eat healthy.

However, the recent uproar over the Abercrombie & Fitch CEO’s diatribe against “fat people” has bombarded me at every corner of the Internet. I bring it up because the story and subsequent backlash have gotten me thinking about body image. Specifically, it made me remember the insecurities I had in high school. At 5’ 6”, I fluctuated between 135-145 lbs. and wore a snug size 6. I felt like a beached whale.

There was this series of artsy Chloé ads that I ripped out of Vogue and used as a border around my Georgia O’Keefe poster. Some of them were only pictures of handbags, but one of them featured a super slim, glamorous-looking model, and I remember thinking “I wish I had the willpower to have those thighs.” I didn’t work out enough in my teens or eat that well, but I don’t think any amount of behavior modification could have cut and pasted those legs onto my frame. At its fittest, the figure I have just isn’t made to look like that.

Sadly, I know that these kinds of worries are not uncommon for girls that age. I fell into what I saw as an in-between category: my shape didn’t correspond to conventional-model skinny, nor to plus-size model voluptuous. There weren’t a lot of girls who looked like me in magazines, on the runaway, or gracing the red carpet. From ads to movies to TV, it seemed like there was the society-approved slender set with a full-figured woman here or there, applauded for challenging what is sexy. I wasn’t that full-figured woman; I couldn’t take pride in having a similar shape. To a self-conscious 16-year-old, this meant that if you weren’t naturally plus-sized, you had no excuse for not looking like Kate Moss & Co.

Flash forward seven years, subtract the insecurities along with about 10 lbs. due to a better body image and lifestyle, and you have the present-day me. I’ve gotten over the fact that my physique, a natural weight around 130 at 5’ 6’’, is just not very present among the ultrathin of Hollywood or the bigger women who have defied the norm. I’m not Rooney Mara or Adele (though I find both striking).

And that brings me to Jennifer Lawrence, someone who looks like me in terms of build. I won’t pretend that she’s the first female of her size to become famous, but her catapult to fame has allowed many girls to look at her and say “Hey! She’s like me!” J.Law may be smaller than a size 6, but she’s not your typical Hollywood-svelte. She appears fit and happy to be herself, which is extremely refreshing to me. I hope teen girls around my size see her and remember that it is fine to be your natural weight, that just because you’re not plus-sized doesn’t mean you need to be curve-less.

For the record, I recognize that it can be hard growing up at any size. From thin to full-figured, women (and men) have to weather abuse for the build that they were born with, and the media doesn’t seem to care whether we eat well and exercise. Their aim is often to blindly criticize.

In my experience, it is 100 times easier to maintain a balanced lifestyle if you stop hating yourself and don’t attempt to live up to the unrealistic expectations of anonymous Internet critics or the unforgiving media. Listen to your doctor, and listen to your body.

Bottom line: no matter how big or small we are, we can’t win with everyone. We might as well stop playing the game and love ourselves for who we are meant to be.

To our health,

LM

 

[Image Source: jennifer-lawrence-jan-28.jpg]

A Year Wasted?

In (un)Professionalism on May 21, 2013 at 8:20 am

In a few weeks, it will be the one-year anniversary of my college graduation. Thinking about this brings a mass of complex emotions to the forefront of my mind. The cause of my complicated feelings about one year in the real world? The reality that I have yet to actually enter “the real world.”

My suspension between Animal House and Working Girl is far from straightforward. It requires just as much untangling as that ball of graduation emotions, but I promise to bare my soul if you promise to bear with me.

The seeds of this lost year were sown long before I received a B.A. I spent the better part of college preparing for law school, fully intent on sitting for the bar three years after graduating with a degree in literature. I signed up for writing-intensive classes, took the LSAT, applied to schools, and sent in my seat deposit.

At commencement, I remember my dad gently disparaging the summa cum laude on my diploma with comments about grade inflation in the humanities. That felt good. However, on that day, nothing could tarnish my happiness. I don’t think I had ever been so proud of myself in all my life. Later, my mom sent me a picture of the whole family taken after the ceremony – me in the middle, grinning euphorically in my cap and gown. It sits framed on my coffee table, a reminder of past achievements and present failures.

Though I did end up attending law school, it was only for one semester. From almost the beginning, I experienced this horrible disconnect from the subject matter, from my fellow students, and from the prospect of practicing law for the rest of my life. It seemed limiting; I felt boxed in. Many people have asked me why I withdrew, and the short answer is: it just felt wrong.

With a semesters-worth of the year accounted for, you might be wondering what I’ve been doing since January. Here’s another short answer: not much. To be fair to myself, that is an exaggeration. I have been job searching, following up on leads, and securing a few interviews. But I have not been working nearly as hard as I should be, and this makes me feel guilty as hell.

This guilt stems from luck. I’m so, so lucky in a multitude of ways, and when I’m lazy, I feel undeserving of the privilege I acquired at birth. My father is a doctor. I didn’t really understand what this meant in terms of money when I was younger. We lived in a modest home, our garage housed Hondas, and the Morris children went to public school. My parents are what you would call savers. Big time. And their kids are the primary beneficiaries of this frugality. None of us have any debt from college, and I have had enough money to live on while I job-hunt.

At long last, this guilt-ridden search has led me to an unpaid internship at an art museum. I will be starting it just shy of a year after that proudest of days, and while I’m excited for this opportunity, I wonder if I have just wasted an entire year of my life in the interim. I can’t deny the unsettling thought that I could have been in this exact place 12 months ago if only I had decided against law school. Or maybe I would even have a paying job (the idea!).

Hopefully, I will look back on this time and be able to draw some wisdom out of all the tumult. Right now, I’m at a bit of a loss; it’s too real, too raw. The disappointment in myself is still there, but I know that this can be a fresh start, a new chapter. And perhaps I will create some luck of my own, so that my kids can look back on their college graduations and feel guilty for all that I gave them.

Cathartically,

Leah Morris

What I Learned from My Fling with the Republican Party

In Let's Get Political on May 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

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I have a complicated relationship with politics.

This is not exactly an uncommon pronouncement for a young person such as myself.  Many peoples’ views evolve as they are exposed to new ideas, especially during college. After all, universities are “liberal bastions,” as Rick Santorum smartly (but NOT intellectually) pointed out last year.

It just so happens that my political ideals are not a product of life-of-the-mind, ivory tower brainwashing. There have been a few tweaks here and there, but I fundamentally believe what I believed the day I moved into my freshman year dorm. My tried-and-true political philosophy? I care what happens to other people. Everything pretty much takes shape from there.

My complicated relationship with politics instead stems from a malleable personal code of ethics. To be clear, I’m not completely devoid of a moral compass. I don’t cheat or steal, and my lies are more white than pathological. However, I’m not above Benedict Arnold-ing a bit on my beliefs in favor of personal advancement. Maybe this paragraph seems at odds with the Mother Theresa overtones of the last, but I see no reason why “bleeding heart” and “opportunistic” should be mutually exclusive characteristics.

In my case, opportunism led me to work for the Republican Caucus, and my bleeding heart is better for it.

It all started sophomore year of college, when I figured it would be a good idea to have something besides “Work Experience: Panera Bread Associate” on my resume. I had always been slightly more interested in politics than your average young adult, so I decided to look for an internship in this area. My alma mater is located in the state capital, and there is no shortage of opportunities for the politically-minded co-ed.

As I sifted through job postings on the university career services website, I stumbled upon perfection: a legislative internship at the Statehouse…working for the Republican Caucus. Tar and feather me, but this last bit seemed too minor a detail to pass on something that sounded so legit. Had there been a Dem equivalent, I obviously would have gone for that first, but those asses (get it?) were only offering campaign internships. I just don’t have the constitution for literature drops and phone trees.

Though I did score a legislative internship, I can’t really pat myself on the back too much because the Republicans were in the minority at that time, meaning they needed all the unpaid help they could get. But I was excited nonetheless. After a few months of replying to constituent mail, they figured out I was a decent writer and shuffled me into their communications department.

Over the next two years, I mastered the art of making collective bargaining reform sound uncontroversial, learned what collective bargaining is, and used the term “fiscal responsibility” enough to last the staunchest Tea Partier a lifetime. There were moments when I felt sick for writing in support of ideals I oppose. But more importantly, in my estimation, I came to see that political issues are not black and white. You can’t just stamp a party-line solution on them and be done.

While coming to this realization, I also became work confidants with Liam, my cubicle neighbor. He would share the office gossip, and I would lament the guns-in-bars bill or the unnecessary controversy surrounding the individual mandate. As one of the few Jews he’d ever met, I taught him the story of Hanukkah. He taught me that I could be friends with a social conservative.

I won’t pretend that every caucus employee was reasonable. But, at least within communications, I was surrounded by rational, well-spoken individuals who could write a mean editorial, and I came to respect each of them. My liberal convictions were not altered during the course of my job. What changed was my perception of and receptiveness to opposing views.

I still make cracks about Rick Santorum, but I don’t belittle the Republican Party as a whole. “Republican” is not a one-size-fits-all category. I’m not Michael Moore, and not every conservative is Ann Coulter. How can we expect our Congress to find common ground if we can’t do it ourselves? Our legislative bodies are supposed to be representative of the people, and if we are fiercely polarized, then it’s no surprise the sequester is a reality. I’m oversimplifying by leaps and bounds here, but I think the stakes are high enough to warrant a little compromise from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Politcally,

Leah Morris

 

[Original Image Source: republican-for-life-t-shirt-choiceshirts-2.jpg]

A Little Inspiration from “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project”

In Encouraging Thoughts on May 8, 2013 at 1:51 pm

mindy and jess

This past year, I have become a big fan of “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project.” Both shows are hilarious and quirky, and I find the lead characters, Jess and Mindy, to be endearing and relatable in a larger-than-life sort of way. However, I have realized that I connect with each sitcom for reasons beyond my enjoyment of their basic ingredients. NG and TMP assuage my fear of becoming boring and flat as I tack on the years. I’m quickly moving from early to mid twenties, and I can’t deny that I worry about losing the enthusiastic, carefree part of my personality that was so present during college.

It’s not that I have this huge fear of growing older. From where I’m standing, I can see so many exciting stages yet to come in my life: advancing career-wise, achieving complete financial independence, moving to new places, possibly getting married and having children, and so forth. Yet, I have this low-grade, lingering anxiety about undergrad being “the best years of my life.”

I never used to put much stock in this (depressingly) common refrain because, for me, the greatest part of those four years was not the lifestyle that only a party school can deliver. I don’t need to take shots on shots on shots to have a good time now, nor was this ever the case. But I do treasure the intense zest for life that caused me to act recklessly and sometimes make questionable decisions. This was the same fervor that made me so starry-eyed when I read Marquez and Rushdie, so eager to soak up theories on social change and global inequality. College made life incredibly fun and enjoyable; it imbued me with a passion I had never felt before. I am thankful for having such a wonderful experience, but I’m also terrified that this fun-loving reality morphed into history when I moved that tassel from right to left one year ago.

I know that “New Girl” and “The Mindy Project” are not at all serious and fairly unrealistic, but they give me hope that no great change occurred when I received my degree. The characters are in their early 30s. They still have fun, still end up in funny situations, and still possess that joie de vivre that I seem to have mistakenly categorized as a singularly collegiate feeling. Perhaps undergrad is really just a blip on the radar of our lives, a place that breeds passion and excitement, but does not extinguish these feelings when we step out into the real world. Maybe I am trying to draw too much from these light comedies, but I don’t think my conclusions are misguided. And there’s no reason why Jess and Mindy can’t be a little reminder each week to enjoy life, no matter our age.

(Still) Passionately,

LM

 

[Image Source: fallon_thenewproject.jpg]

On Friendship, Pain and Other Cheerful Topics

In Love & Relationships on May 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm

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I take friendship pretty seriously. To me, “friend” is not a synonym for “casual acquaintance.” When I decide I’m friends with someone, it means three things: 1) I love the person, 2) I could talk to him or her about almost anything, and 3) I care about the person’s happiness as much as my own. I realize that everyone isn’t so conservative in their application of the term, but I do know that most of us have people in our lives who fit these criteria, and that’s beautiful. I think platonic intimacy is one of the best parts of life.

However, there is a sort of responsibility attached to becoming so close to another person. This responsibility is obvious in romantic relationships because people butcher it so often. Cheating, lying, playing with emotions and so forth are all ways to shirk your responsibility to your partner. Duh. But in friendship, betrayal (for lack of a less melodramatic word) isn’t always so blatant. Maybe that’s because there is less passion associated with it. How often are you jealous of how much time a friend is spending with someone else? Friendship is assumed to be a steady arrangement; it’s not this tumultuous relationship that could bend or break with each disagreement. At the outset, we expect it to last, whereas we expect most of our romantic relationships to have an expiration date. BFF, LYLAS, and all that.

But the very fact that friendship is supposed to be a more solid bond makes the pain friends cause each other all the more poignant. We don’t steel ourselves for the blow of hurt inflicted from friendship as we do for romantic relationships, and that leaves us all the more vulnerable. Because, yes, we don’t usually “break up” with friends, but that certainly doesn’t mean that we don’t hurt one another.

Last year, I was administered a healthy dose of this friend-style pain, and it was a rather unpleasant experience. I find it a little tragic that the people with whom we are closest are the ones who have the ability to cut us the deepest. I guess it makes perfect sense; you can only “betray” someone if he or she trusted you in the first place, and the greater the trust the worse the pain. I’m not trying to cast a shadow over the concept of friends, but I think it’s important to remember that just because friendship is sturdy doesn’t mean it’s invincible. With great friendship comes great responsibility, so don’t fuck it up.

Fondly,

Leah Morris

 

[Image Source: P14501098.jpg]