clever girls collective

Love and other subject lines. Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.



My high school choir director never let me live it down: I broke up with my first boyfriend in an e-mail. It escapes me how my high school choir director even found out it had happened, but he did. And I did: I broke up with my first boyfriend in an e-mail. Kyle and I met at the pool the summer before high school started; we were friends for what felt like a long time before he managed one day to get into my locker and stuck a big smiley-face balloon inside with a sheet of college-rule notebook paper taped to it that said, "You're the magic the holds the sky up from the ground. Will you go out with me?" Lyrics from "Magic," a Ben Folds Five song we both loved — even though it was actually about suicide. He also made me a guitar-holding Build-a-Bear with a voice box inside that said, "Paige, it would be BEARRIFFIC if you would go to Homecoming with me!" And I broke up with him in an e-mail.

This is not an isolated incident.

In 2006, I got an e-mail from an ex-boyfriend telling me he'd driven his beaten-up Volvo 240 from Lawrence, Kansas, to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of writing screenplays with his best friend from high school. It was the sole catalyst that eventually drove me to New York City. There were more e-mails, transmitted instantly over 3,000 miles of land, that brought us back together for a few silly, ill-advised months. Our schedules were completely opposite: I had a day job on Eastern time, and he worked an overnight shift covering the police beat on Pacific time. I woke up every morning to a message, sometimes sent just before he left his desk to pass out for a few hours. Those e-mails weren't enough, of course; we visited each other twice and he broke up with me one night a few months later, unceremoniously, though not in an e-mail. I was riding the W home to Astoria and he told me over the rumble and clatter of the elevated train that he just couldn't do it anymore.

In 2008, in one futile e-mail — written over three hours as I watched the Emmy Awards on the sofa in my first Chicago apartment — I begged an emotional cripple to love me. I bared my soul to him. And he didn't even respond. I deleted all his e-mails last week in a cathartic, one-click purge I had no idea I was even capable of.

That fall, brazenly flirtatious Yelp messages and seemingly endless threads of innuendo-fueled emails led to my most disastrous relationship yet (if I had to choose one): the man who barely knew me and, after a little more than a month, moved himself and all his things to Chicago. We spent Thanksgiving together; our morning downtown at the parade is one of my only fond memories of us together. He squatted in my apartment for weeks, yelled at me for throwing away a bag of parsley and asking him to cook my eggs a little longer. I didn't sleep. I lost 10 pounds. And in the end, I sat for hours shaking at my desk in Arlington Heights, writing a 500-word e-mail telling him to get out of my apartment: "The point at which I start being scared to speak to you and don't want to be in my own apartment is the point I need to just be done."

And then there's the Knight. There are no words. Well, there are hundreds of thousands, actually, if not millions. The beginning, the middle, the end. Those e-mails are our relationship playing out in full color — with a soundtrack.

It could be said that this is all a product of the time we live in. That in the world of texts and instant messages and online dating and making things Facebook official, my history of love and other subject lines is nothing new. (It probably isn't.) It could be said — though I never would — that all these relationships have played out in large part electronically, in words, because I'm a girl with no spine. But really, I think I just…haven't ever known how to do it any other way. From my brain to a keyboard, I have a way with words. From my brain to my mouth, words have their way with me. I fumble. I say things I don't mean. I curse, and it kills the mood. I'm another version of myself in e-mails, one I sometimes like better than what I see in the mirror. It happens less and less now — I actually want to have conversations, even when they don't turn out the way I imagined them in my head. Maybe keyboard and mirror me are moving closer to one and the same, and maybe one of these days, one of these relationships will actually stick.

For now: It's not you, it's me.




Never mind the why and wherefore.* Thank you to Yahoo! Mail for sponsoring this post about staying connected. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.


It's a debate I often have with myself: Is it possible for someone you've never met to be one of your best friends? Today is a "yes" day.

Apparently, October 26 of last year was a "yes" day, too. So was November 24. Okay. Never mind — it's not a debate. It's totally possible.

I'm going through e-mails this morning that I've sent to this best friend I've never met, to write about him for his birthday. Because it's beyond the feeble capabilities of my near-exploding brain to have actually sent him a card. Never mind the tiny text up there; I'd have done this even if it hadn't been my task for the day to write about e-mail. No, really.

His name is Apron. My Masonic Apron. Dear, dear Apron.

I don't know when I started reading his blog, and for the life of me, I can't find the first hopelessly awkward e-mail I sent him to the anonymous junk-mail-and-spam-from-blog-readers address when I decided he and I needed to be friends and told him so. (It wasn't even an option for him, except, I guess, that he could have ignored it and never responded. But that's not his way. Any opportunity to put more words out there is one Mr. Apron seizes. [New York Times–style courtesy titles today? Sure.]) It's stressing me out that I can't find those first few e-mails, because I knew from the start that we actually would be friends. That I would ultimately find out his real name, start corresponding with him at the non-spam address, make things Facebook official, stalk the online White Pages for his home address and send him…snail mail. It's reciprocal, of course: He sent me a calculator watch for my birthday. In October. My birthday is in April, and he knows that.

The first message I have from that real e-mail account dates to almost exactly a year ago. I guess the dates don't matter, really. As with any good friend, it's hard to imagine my life without him in it in some form. What matters is that in the past year — or however long it's been — Mr. Apron has become the first person I reach out to in crisis and triumph, and often the only person I write when I have something grossly inappropriate to share. Breakups. Makeups. Sex-you-ups. Family squabbles. Fat-kid revelry and fat-girl self-loathing. He's definitely the first person who knew I was…QUITTING MY JOB:

(Oh lord, I'm just dying over here. What a whore. But for the record, I absolutely would have Asian Supermanned out the window of my office onto a blimp if I had a flair for that sort of physical drama.)



Anyway, he gets me. He's 750 miles away and I've never met him in the flesh (I imagine we'll laugh about that later), but he gets me. I often don't get him — he writes in bizarre metaphors, makes disgusting bodily references and peppers his missives with Yiddish phrases (or maybe that's me) and Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics — but I'm content to be deliriously mystified. His words have this awkward poetry about them that put me at ease before I've even opened a message from him. I know I'll be smiling soon, if I'm not already. I don't write him as much as I'd like to anymore. (Since I started this job, I don't do anything as much as I'd like to, including breathing.) But he's always told me not to apologize for it, so…I won't. Mr. Apron is living proof, again and again, that a person's blog scratches only the surface of who someone really is. And I can only guess that e-mails go only a little deeper than that. He called me on the phone once for advice, and that freaked us both out. (I don't do phones.) But until he decides I'm allowed to see him eat and I have enough money to travel those 750 miles to ambush him and his wife, we will have our e-mails. On Wednesday afternoon, shortly before my date — which I now feel immensely awkward even referring to because, of course, the Flightless Bipedal managed to find my post about it before we went out — he wrote me an e-mail that was mostly very sweet but ended with this: I don't know if tonight is the start of something awesomeballs for you, or if it'll just be... balls, for you, but, at the very least, may it be an evening filled with wit and wisdom, the required awkward silences, visions of giraffes and tigers, titties and beer.

It's not so much e-mail that's changed my life but the people I've come to know because of it. So happy birthday, Mr. Apron, and thanks for all the e-mails. This oink's for you.




* The title of my post is the title of a Gilbert & Sullivan song. I hope he knew that before he read the footnote. I'm sure he did. And now you do, too.

I shall call him Squishy.

Thank you to P&G’s Have You Tried This Yet? program and Kroger for sponsoring my writing about trying new things and breaking out of my everyday routine. Click here to find great savings on high-performing P&G products at a Kroger store near you. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.


It's pretty common knowledge that I was never really happy with my decision to attend the University of Kansas. As high school neared its close, and my perfect SAT–scoring, International Baccalaureate genius friends fanned out to various Ivy League and other top-tier institutions, and I prepared to spend the next four years of my life at Miami of Ohio, in a postage-stamp town called Oxford, I suddenly couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Kansas. (Truthfully, I didn’t even want high school to end; those were the four happiest years of my life.) So I slithered back to the admissions department at the University of Kansas and begged them to find me a spot to live somewhere in the residence halls. I enrolled at Shawnee Mission East, the sequel, and I was miserable. I didn't even try. All I could think was, "My friends are out there, living, and I'm stuck here." Killer of a self-fulfilling prophecy. No — a self-defeating prophecy.

But the summer after my sophomore year, I made plans to try something new. I moved to Philadelphia for the summer. I landed an internship and was going to learn the ropes of the big city and spend time with my best girlfriend, who I'd missed terribly since she left for UPenn. As it turned out, the internship was unpaid (and my wallet had been stolen by the end of the summer), my "big city" apartment was actually on the fringe of the ghetto, and my best friend had other plans for the summer. But life had other plans for me, too, in human form; those plans careened one night into the restaurant where I was hosting, wearing Rollerblades and a black do-rag. Those plans were named Kenrick.

Kenrick took me to see Finding Nemo the first time we hung out. He started calling me "my squishy," and I never tired of it. He was an actor, and a couple of years older than me. He was already 21, knew about wine and could convince any customer to get a bottle of the Amarone, and he sold more side dishes and desserts than I ever thought possible. On one of our first dates, we had Mexican food in a hole-in-the-wall cantina in Old City, just off the Delaware River. (I was underage and we had margaritas anyway; he could walk into any restaurant like he owned the place. I wasn't getting carded.) We strolled through the city that steamy summer evening; he regaled me with stories of his Philadelphia life so far. He talked a lot. But the stories were interesting: He had been a high school outcast in Mennonite country; he was studying fight choreography and taking trapeze lessons out in the suburbs. So I listened.

It was an education.

As we made our way back toward his place — we cut down Smedley Street, still my favorite block in the entire universe — we zig-zagged to South Street for my first-ever mojito in a dark basement bar, then stopped elsewhere for dessert. Flan, I think. And always more drinks. I stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. every night, drinking life in. Most nights, we shared the tiny twin bed in his apartment, all streaky purple- and maroon-painted walls with curtains for doors, and a kitchen stuffed to the ceiling with dishes and strange ingredients and cooking implements. We watched his favorite movie, The Princess Bride, on a tiny TV over the hum of the window air conditioner.

I got up early the next morning for work, barely conscious, and did it all again the next day.

That summer, thanks to him, I discovered red wine. Our restaurant sold a bottle with a beautiful label emblazoned with a feather, the most delicious thing I'd ever tasted; I spent months seeking it out when I returned to Kansas. Near Rittenhouse Square, there's a dangerous little shop called Di Bruno Brothers — just down the street from the equally treacherous Scoop de Ville — that sells cheese. And charcuterie. And about 50 kinds of olives. And quince paste, and about a million other beautiful things I'd never tasted until that summer.

Peter Frampton performed as we watched the fireworks in the park by the Art Museum on the 4th of July. I'd never seen such colors before.

I was in love — truly in awe, for the first time — with him and everything about the life he showed me during those few short months. He made me who I am today: the giddy foodie and wine ingénue, the city girl who forgets how to say no sometimes, the overspender, the life lover. I owe my good taste to Kenrick.

It's the little things. Thanks to Crystal Light for sponsoring this post. To learn more about how Crystal Light can flavor your day with 30 refreshing flavors, visit

I have a lot of friends who are very important. They run their own companies and travel all over the place. They do speaking engagements and have high-profile clients they do brilliant work for. Actually, I guess I'm just thinking of Gini Dietrich. She's great. And probably the busiest person I know. Since I left my full-time job about six months ago, some might say I own my own business, but really, I'm just trying to scrape together enough work to pay my bills. I spend the rest of my time just trying to prove I'm not a total waste of oxygen. Oh, and get dates. (Which is another discussion for another time, but here's a preview: No, it's not going well.)

Even on my busiest days, I still find plenty of time to read people's blogs, write idiotic tweets about the fact that I'm going to see Just Bieber: Never Say Never (tonight! […don't judge me]) and take pictures of my new kitten. But trust me when I say that screwing around on the Internet is not the same as taking time out of the day to live. Relax. Shrug off the feelings of creeping isolation and feel like I'm actually part of the world.

When I was still working in the suburbs, hating my life, I would spiral into this soul-crippling rage as I steered the Shining Camry back to the city. Because I'd spent the whole day living out my slow, painful death in Arlington Heights. And, inevitably, the traffic would jam up around Park Ridge. (Oh, how I do not miss that life.) Instead of pulling over and stabbing a pedestrian — not that there would have been many to choose from — I turned the radio to the classic station and just…breathed it in. Instead of sending irate texts at stoplights, I closed my eyes for a few seconds and remembered that there was more to life than my horrific commute. Little things like that made all the difference. They always have.

Fast-forward to the present: I've had a REALLY awful past couple of days. Related in equal parts to the above statements about the creeping isolation of freelance life and date-getting. And for a most of that time, I wallowed. Until I realized that's not the kind of person I want to be: the kind who stays in bed until 11 a.m., the kind who eats her feelings in the form of four meals a day (plus snacks), the kind who writes hundreds of thinly veiled tweets a day about her problems. Today, I got out of bed and took my life back in tiny increments. I made a to-do list and attacked it. I ate a nice lunch and played with my kitten — just to play with her, not to take pictures I could tweet later. I rode my bike to the Gap and browsed the sale rack, tried on jeans and found a pair that actually fit. I bought socks covered in tiny flowers. I called my mother as my laptop booted up. I had a few extra minutes, because my computer is a piece of crap. Inside the café, one of three little girls who had been running around for half an hour marched right up to me, twirled her cup proudly in her hands said, "This has coffee in it!" By the time I was halfway through my iced tea, I was in love with the world again. Then again, it doesn't take a lot for me. But it's not so much the effort it takes as it is remembering how wonderful it feels when I make it.

February is half over, and spring is on its way. There's always time to fall in love with the world.

Remember, visit to learn more about how Crystal Light can flavor your day with 30 refreshing flavors. I was selected and paid for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.