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One Type of Man You Need to Dump Immediately

September 8, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Relationships

Conflict between man and womanDo you feel uneasy in your relationship, like the guy you’re dating has you on edge all the time but you can’t quite put your finger on what is wrong?  Does he get mad at you for stupid things?  Is he moody?  Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around him because you don’t want him to snap at you? 

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, he sounds like a total jackass.  But more importantly, you could be in a verbally abusive relationship and you might not even know it yet.   

Many women hear the words “verbal abuse” and they immediately think “No woman in her right mind would put up with that kind of crap.”  But many smart, confident, successful women do find themselves in verbally abusive relationships because this type of abuse isn’t always easy to detect at first.  These men don’t yell and scream and hurl insults on the first date.  In fact, these men can be very charming and charismatic. 

Their abuse starts out in very subtle ways.  Then, they step it up over time becoming increasingly manipulative and controlling.  A woman in this situation grows accustomed to the abuse, adapting to it in a way that makes it difficult for her to see it for what it is.

Here are just a few behaviors that you might not recognize as abuse right off the bat:

*  He refuses to talk to you or listen to your feelings or concerns.  He basically ignores you when you want to talk to him about something that is important to you.  It’s not like he ignores you once in a while when he’s watching a game on TV.  He does it all the time.   

* He contradicts most of the things you say.  He never agrees with you or affirms your viewpoint.

* When you get upset, he tells you that you’re too sensitive or that you overreact to everything. 

* He judges you and criticizes you all the time but then says “I am only trying to help you.” 

* He insults you but insists that he is “Just joking.”

* When you point out to him the fact that he is doing these things to you and that it is hurtful, he refuses to admit that he’s done something wrong.      

The very subtle nature of verbal abuse is what makes it so incredibly dangerous.  It can go on in a relationship for weeks, months, or even years before a woman fully understands what is happening to her. 

And abusive men do have “good days” when they are kind and caring and funny.  These men aren’t always crazy and controlling.  These “good times” make it harder for a woman to recognize a guy’s behavior as abusive. 

In fact, many women blame themselves when a guy acts in an abusive way.  They think “Maybe I did something to set him off.  Maybe I am overreacting.  Maybe I’m too sensitive.  Everyone else thinks he’s a nice guy so I must be crazy.” 

But you aren’t crazy!  If you are dating or married to a verbally abusive guy, he is slowly sucking the life out of you and you need to get out of the relationship.

If you think you might be in a verbally abusive relationship, I highly recommend you read the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans.  It provides an in depth look at verbal abuse, what it is, how it makes you feel, and how to respond once you realize that you are in a verbally abusive relationship.

The Sweet Smell of Our Culture on the Decline

August 22, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Entertainment

jerseyshoreI just read that Mike from the show Jersey Shore is launching his own “fragrance.”   The trades are referring to it as the Situation Cologne or “The Sitch” for short.

On some level, that cologne sounds appealing if it does what the name implies and changes to fit a man’s situation– becomes less pungent when he enters an elevator or any small public space so the rest of us don’t have to smell him, becomes stronger when his body odor kicks in to mask his personal stench, and turns into a bug repellent when he’s outdoors, thereby saving everyone in his vicinity from mosquito attacks. 

Imagine if you could give the situation cologne to your boyfriend for his birthday, and it would suddenly smell really crappy when he was around other women, thereby warding them off.  

If “The Sitch” does anything along these lines, I say “bring it on Mikey.”

But I am pretty sure this cologne is not going to do be that inventive and useful.  My guess is that it is simply going to smell, like Mike wants it to smell – and tha’ts a scary thought to me.   Because Mike and his fellow cast members have way too much pop culture power lately.  They are already all over the TV.  And a few weeks ago they rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.  Now they are launching a product line and telling people what to wear?   I mean, seriously? 

Something about the cast of the Jersey Shore infiltrating every aspect of our culture just smells funny to me.   There is more to life than “Gym, Tan, Laundry,” isn’t there?

Study Reveals that Women Find Different Men Attractive Depending on Where They Are in Their Menstrual Cycle

You might be familiar with the study that revealed that women who are ovulating prefer men with masculine, rugged features.  Whereas, women who are at other points in their cycle do not show the same preference.  Here is a link to an article about this study in case you haven’t seen it:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18077810/wid/11915773?GT1=9303

Hit meI really wish I could take credit for the alternative take on this study that I came across this week: 

A study revealed the kind of face a woman finds attractive on a man can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle. 

If she’s ovulating, she is attracted to men with rugged & masculine features.

If she’s menstruating or menopausal, she’s more attracted to a man with duct tape over his mouth & a spear lodged in his chest while he is on fire.

No further studies are expected.

 

Whatcha Gonna Do with All that “Man Junk” in His Trunk?

junk1There comes a time in every woman’s life when she moves in with the man she loves and finds herself surrounded by a mountain of “man junk.”

I’m not talking about a guy’s big old butt.  I’m talking about all the junk in his house or apartment — the old posters, DVDs, bizarre figurines, beer mugs, trinkets, Mardi Gras beads, wires, and plastic pieces from old gadgets that that he threw in a box in his closet.

In fairness to men, they don’t see these items as “junk.”  This clutter is their personal treasure, a special little slice of their bachelor past.  They believe there is intrinsic value in that can opener they picked up at Oktoberfest 2002 or the swimsuit model cheese plates they got for their 21st birthday.

And in their defense, some of these items might be worth something someday to someone, somewhere…maybe.  That old rusty electronic thing could be a valuable antique if you hold on to it for another 500 years, couldn’t it?

The problem is that we, as women, do not want to eat, sleep and live our life amidst a mountain of man junk.  We want to live with him, not with his statue of Chewbacca.

So, sometimes no matter how much we love the man, the man junk has to go.

But what’s a girl to do?  Out of respect and courtesy for the guy we love, we can’t just throw away his man junk when he’s not around.  We can’t erase his precious past with one trip to a nearby dumpster no matter how much we want to.  If we lose his junk in this rash and thoughtless way, we might lose him too.

So we have to take it slow, removing the junk a little at a time, deliberately, and with great care so we don’t destroy his ego right along with that ugly sugar bowl in his kitchen.

Here are your main options for getting rid of man junk:

#1: Donate it. The Salvation Army can be your Salvation ladies.  Every month, hold up a few of his items and say to him “I wonder if someone out there would get more use out of this old mug than we do?”  Many times, he’ll agree with you and then you can get these items out of your life without feeling guilty about doing it.  (Just be careful not to dump his dirty movies in the church donation bin or you’ll give a nun a heart attack.)

#2:  Create a “man cave” for his “man junk.” Find a special nook in the house where his furry chair covers can rest peacefully, alone, far away from you and anyone who might stop by to visit.  While a man cave might seem like a painful concession because you’re giving up valuable space in your house, over time you’ll find that it’s worth the sacrifice because you can just shove all his crap inside the room, shut the door and forget about it.  Then, he can go into his man cave, surround himself with furry furniture and roll around in old Farrah Fawcett posters until his heart’s content.

There is one more way to deal with man junk, but it is for extreme emergencies only.  When he owns an item that you despise and even fear, an item that keeps coming back from the dead like a zombie, showing up in the living room again and again no matter how many times you try to bury it, it’s time to use the old “woops, I broke it” routine.   You can rip that smutty pornographic poster right down the center “by accident” when you walk by it.  But remember, ruining his stuff is not cool so this tactic is for extreme emergencies only.

The key to excavating a bachelor pad successfully is to work slowly, carefully, and respectfully.  Don’t try to rid the space of its dingy demons all at once or he’ll definitely freak out.  When it comes to dealing with man junk, slow and steady wins the race to a cleaner, nicer, well-decorated living space.  Copyright © 2010 Alison James

junk4

junk3

A Tribute to the Woman Who Brought Me Into this World

July 9, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Beauty & Style

Today is my birthday and given I never did a Mother’s Day tribute, I think it’s only right to take a moment today to say “Thank You” to the cool, funny, awesome, and somewhat crazy woman who brought me into this world and supported me through fat and thin. 

She taught me so much but she didn’t teach by preaching at me.  She taught me important life lessons by leaving really long messages on my answering machine.  

And she also taught me by example.  She tried to live her life the way she wanted me to live my own. 

She showed me that a mother’s love is unconditional and encouraged me to reach for my goals.  She taught me that you should never put a pillow over a man’s head when he snores or you might hurt him; that balancing goopy, saucy casserole dishes on top of the fridge is just a bad idea; and, she taught me that when you paint the bathroom, you should never paint all the pipes, the vanity, and the inside of the tub or your husband will get really mad.

And perhaps most importantly, she taught me that it’s never wrong to have your own sense of style….. well, almost never…..

My Mom in the 1970s

mompic

 

My Mom Today

mom&alison

Thanks Mom!

Crazy Glue: Nothing Brings Women Together Like Our Shared Frustration with Men

June 21, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Favorite Posts, Relationships

There are thousands of organizations that aim to transcend racial and ethnic boundaries and get people to bond as human beings, as citizens of planet Earth.  Yet, none of these organizations seem to accomplish their goal because quite frankly, we all don’t like each other much.  The fact that we share the same biology doesn’t change the fact that we don’t share the same language, habits, beliefs, values, fashion sense or food preferences.

Nevertheless, there is one topic that does bring women from all cultures together, one bond that can make a room full of diverse women with absolutely nothing in common nod at one another in a rare moment of solidarity.  That topic is men – and our shared frustration with their bad habits and crazy ways.

Case in point: Last week, I was sitting in the dentist office waiting room and there was a girl sitting across from me.  She had freckles, a pony tail in her hair, and she was wearing jeans and t-shirt.  She could have been the poster child for “All American twenty-something.”

As we sat there, a woman walked in wearing a traditional headscarf and spoke to the receptionist in broken English.  Just as she sat down near us, the freckle faced girl’s phone rang.  She answered it and I could hear a guy yelling at her.  She argued with him and it became clear that she was dating the guy.  When she hung up the phone, the woman wearing the headscarf turned to her and in perfect English said “What a jerk. Dear, don’t waste your time on that man.”

All three of us laughed in a special moment of inter-cultural female bonding that the United Nations can only dream about.

So, today, I would like to thank men for their bad behavior for a change.  It is the crazy glue that bonds all women together regardless of where we live, what color our skin is or what clothes we wear.

 

frustrated-woman3        frustrated-woman   

frustrated-woman2   frustrated-woman4

Is Life On Other Planets as Annoying as Life on Earth?

June 14, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Technology

I was reading an article about the size of the universe and apparently, it is a quadrillion times the size of anything we can imagine.  The author Bill Bryson says that if a galaxy like the Milky Way was the size of a pea, the universe is the size of an auditorium filled with those peas.
 
So in light of how ridiculously vast the universe is, I cannot figure out why we waste our time debating whether or not there is life on other planets.  Of course there is.  We can’t possibly be that special.  We can’t be the only planet in the sea of peas that happens to have creatures on it.  
 
Therefore, I’d like to change the focus of the scientific debate.  I would like to shift it away from asking “is there life on other planets?” and raise a new, more interesting question:  “If there are aliens zipping around out there in the universe, is their world as painfully annoying as ours is?”

For example, is there an alien somewhere out there who has to get up for work on a rainy Monday morning? 
 
Will she sit in spaceship traffic for an hour, or ride a miserable alien shuttle bus to a city full of annoying aliens?

Will she get stuck sitting next to another alien who won’t stop talking?

Does that alien sit in a windowless cubicle and spend her days wishing she was somewhere else?

Does she count down the minutes to the weekend?
 
Do alien men snore?
 
Do alien men get yellow armpit stains on their undershirts?
 
Do alien women get really frustrated with alien men because they can’t seem to communicate?  (Maybe all aliens are men and that’s why they haven’t communicated with us yet…)
   
One day in the distant future, we might land our own spacecraft on another planet and discover a new world teeming with life.  But when we step outside, there might not be any fanfare, no band playing or fireworks welcoming us.
 
Instead, we might be accosted by an alien meter maid who raises her antenna and says “Excuuuuse me.  You can’t park that piece of junk here!”

And then we’ll finally know the answer to our question: our world might be really annoying but everyone else’s is too.
  

  alien

Does Your Mother Get All of Her News and Information from Email Forwards?

mom-computerDoes your mother get all of her information from email forwards?  Does she stay up at night worrying about missing children who aren’t actually missing, or cologne that can be used by criminals to knock people out in parking lots just because she read about these things in emails from her friends? 

Has she replaced whatever notion of U.S. history she learned in school with information she pieced together from emails forwarded to her by people you only know as snookie3522@aol and grammylove2000@hotmail?

If so, you are probably distraught by your mom’s bizarre information sources, but don’t worry.  You can stop her from being indoctrinated further by spam in one easy step:  Just tell her that every time she opens an email forward, a random stranger at an offshore bank can access her credit card information and take a picture of her.  Make sure she knows that this invasion of her privacy can happen even if the email comes from her very best friend. 

Before you know it, she won’t be spamming anyone anymore, including you.

Go Ahead, Eat That Extra Piece of Pie!

May 27, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts

I have no idea how I ended up on the mailing list for these bizarre catalogs like “Home Trends” “Collections Etc.“ and “Lillian Vernon.“  But every month the postman kindly drops several of them in our mailbox and they are addressed to me. 

At first, I was freaked out when I opened one up and saw products like hair nets and denture cream.  I figured someone is playing a joke on me or the universe is trying to remind me that I’m getting older.

But after flipping through a few pages, I was hooked.  These catalogs are priceless gems that provide comic relief like nothing I have ever read before. 

Here are a few of the items featured in one of the catalogs that arrived last week.  After seeing these babies, I am looking forward to eating that extra piece of pie this weekend!   

pantsextender

inchmaster

tightjeans

So Many Fun Ways to Torment Men, So Little Time

If you are looking for a fun way to torment the man in your life, here is one that works every time. Your boyfriend, your husband, your coworker and even your roommate will react to this subtle form of playful emasculation. 

Here’s what you do:  Regardless of what he’s wearing — a business suit, a t-shirt and jeans, athletic gear, or a service uniform of some kind — look at him and in the most sincere voice you can muster, say “Wow, I love your cute little outfit.”  Then, excuse yourself to use the ladies room and let the words seep into his brain.

Men do not think of the clothes they wear as an “outfit,” let alone a “cute little outfit.”  So when you zing these words his way, they will catch him off guard and strip away his masculinity before he even knows what hit him.

You can use this torment technique on a guy just to tease him, or you can use it to really annoy that egomaniac in your life. 

Just imagine these scenarios:

The jerk you work with comes into the office one day wearing a nice, expensive-looking, classy suit.  He clearly thinks he looks awesome.  What do you do?  You go in for the kill of course.  Catch him in the hallway when a bunch of other people are around and yell out “Wow, I loooove your cute little outfit.”  Then, promptly walk to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.

Or

Your college boyfriend has been a schmuck lately.  Now, he’s looking for his baseball uniform before his big game.  His friends are waiting for him at the door.  What do you do?  You help him out of course.  Yell to him “I think I saw your cute little outfit upstairs hanging on the back of the door.”

But remember – it’s all in the delivery.  When you say “cute little outfit,” be sweet, sincere, and nonchalant, as if there is absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about those words.   Let the phrase roll off your tongue so it takes him a minute to realize that you just hit his manliness in a way that it’s never been hit before.   

Sigh…so many fun ways to torment men, so little time.  

 

 

Copyright © 2010  Alison James

Now You Want to Be My Friend on Facebook?

May 10, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Relationships

Whether you’re going through a breakup now, or it’s been a couple of years since your last hellish relationship debacle, here is a song you will surely relate to.  It’s a personal favorite of mine!   I really don’t need to say much more about it.  Kate Miller-Heidke says it perfectly….  

 

  

 

Stop Making Excuses for the Loser in Your Life

April 24, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Relationships

Not all men are created equal; some are total jackasses.  Yet, even when we are dating the biggest jerk on the planet, we come up with a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t dump him.  We think “What if I don’t meet someone better?” or “Maybe it’s my fault that he acts like a total psycho sometimes.” 

Don’t let twisted rationalizations stop you from moving on to bigger and better men. 

Never continue to date a guy just because:

*  Your mother thinks he’s wonderful.  She also thought that puke green sweater was cute that she bought you for your birthday.  What matters is how you feel about him and how he treats you.

*  You are used to him.  You could also get used to a giant wart on your hand but you’d still be better off without it. 

*  He promised to get help for his anger issues and this time he really means it, damn it!

*  He hasn’t done drugs in an entire week and you think this is a sign that he’s finally overcoming his addiction.

*  You feel bad for him.  All men can be pitiful at times but if you feel pity every day when you look at him lying there, it’s time to call it quits.

*  You feel like someday he might hold down a decent job.  Don’t love him for the man you imagine he could be.  Break up with him for the half-a-man that he is.

*  There is a wedding, holiday or other family event coming up in a few months and you need a date.  There are plenty of potential dates out there.  Don’t waste a month of your life dating a loser just so you don’t have to face your crazy relatives alone. 

* He’s the first guy who ever called when he was supposed to.  If those phone calls are making him shine above the rest, it’s time to meet more men.

* All your friends are dating someone or married.   If this is the case, it’s also time to make new friends!

* Because you are afraid you won’t meet someone better.  There are a gazillion single men in the world, which means no matter who you are dating, there is someone better.  

If a guy doesn’t treat you with the respect you deserve, it’s time to kick him to the curb along with all the excuses and rationalizations that have been keeping you in the relationship.  Remember: if you’re willing to settle for less than what you deserve, you will get it every time. 

Copyright 2010 © Alison James.

Do Trampy Women Cause Earthquakes?

April 19, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Beauty & Style, Fashion

Do trampy women cause earthquakes?  It’s a question I frequently ask and today the answer to this mystery was finally revealed.  “A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes” the Associated Press reports.  Here is a quote from the article:  

“Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes,” Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.  Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday prayer leader.

I don’t even know what to say.  I’m speechless. 

I mean, how did he know?  How did he finally figure out that we, in our glorious slut gear, are responsible for plate tectonics? 

This is how it happens:  Women go outside revealing a little too much leg, (or if you are in Iran, a little too much wrist).  Then, within hours, the earth opens up and swallows an entire city.  

It’s that simple.  Yet, oddly enough, even my college Geology professor didn’t see the link. 

Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi – you’ve really done it!  And in your honor, I think it is only right that scientists call your discovery “The Ho Theory of Plate Tectonics.” 

Here is a link to the full article on yahoo news.  Read and enjoy!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100419/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_earthquakes_promiscuity

 

How to Avoid Being the Job Candidate from Hell

April 16, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career, Featured Posts

Many people are out of work because they live in an area where there aren’t enough jobs to go around.  But some people are out of work for another reason – they scare the crap out of prospective employers. 

Friends of mine who have done some hiring at different companies shared with me horror stories about the resumes they’ve received and the scary candidates that they’ve met.

Based on these stories, I would like to offer a few job search tips.  Please pass these tips along to your flakiest friends, email them to your clueless neighbor, and share them with that unemployed guy your roommate is dating who has been living in your apartment for six months. 

Get the word out to everyone. If you want to get a job, there are some things you simply should not do, for example:

*  Spell the name of the company wrong that you are applying to work for — or spell anything wrong for that matter.  For god’s sake, have someone check your resume over before you send it out the door!

*  Explain gaps in your employment history with bizarre details about your personal life like “Had female issues” or “Broke up with my boss and therefore had to quit.”

*  Stroll into an interview fifteen minutes late and tell the prospective employer that you got sidetracked because there was “a big sale going on at the store across the street.”

*  Show up to an interview wearing giant sunglasses and never take them off the entire time.

*  Stink like you’ve never stunk before. Before meeting your prospective boss, work up some good B.O.

*  Talk about really depressing things so that by the time you leave, the person interviewing you wants to jump off a cliff. 

*  Tell the prospective employer that your “biggest flaw” is that you really hate working.

*  Bring a sandwich wrapped in tinfoil to the interview and start eating it halfway through.

*  Take a cell phone call during the interview and finish making your Friday night plans with your friend while the interviewer waits patiently.

*  Tell the prospective employer that the reason you want to work for their company is because you are totally desperate and right about now even a crappy job will do.

If you are doing any of these things, it’s time to reevaluate your job search approach. Fix up your resume, practice interviewing, and make a firm commitment to personal hygiene. These three small changes will dramatically increase your chances of getting a job and help you avoid earning the title of “Job Candidate from Hell.”   

Copyright © 2010 Alison James

Tax Q&A: Can a Bad Date Ever Be Deducted as a Charitable Donation on Your Tax Return?

April 15th is right around the corner so I want to take the time to answer a question that a lot of women have, one that the IRS website simply doesn’t address:  Can a bad date ever be deducted as a charitable donation on your tax return?

It probably seems like the answer should be an unequivocal “yes” when you recall some of the dates you went on last year that felt more like extraordinary acts of altruism than the beginning of romance. 

You might be thinking “I tried to teach that guy basic social skills out of the kindness of my heart!  Doesn’t that count for something?” or “I kept that scary dude off the market for six weeks while I dated him.  Isn’t that sort of like law enforcement?” 

It seems like women often have to step in and help out where a man’s parents have failed him, the educational system has failed him, or worse yet, psychiatry has failed him.  But unfortunately, despite all of these acts of giving that we do each year, most men do not qualify for the 501(c)(3) status that would make them a tax-exempt charity.  So, the time we spend dealing with them is not deductible. 

Someday, when more women work for the IRS, I fully expect this rule to change.

Men Visit “Peep World” in Honor of Easter Holiday

April 2, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Holidays

I’m excited to report that a few days ago I came across an establishment in New York City dedicated exclusively to our yellow marshmallow friends, Peeps!

Much to my surprise, dozens of men were hanging around outside this hole-in-the-wall shop waiting to show their dedication to these little chicks.

It’s always nice to see men getting into the spirit of Easter.  Happy Easter everyone! 

 

Is Obama’s Package Way Too Big?

March 25, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Health

Ladies, we all know that size matters.  When a package is too small, we shudder when we see it knowing that it won’t have much force, it can’t get much done and ultimately it won’t satisfy us.

But isn’t the same true when a man’s package is too big?  Whether you like a guy or not, and whether you agree with him and think he’s cool or not, when he presents you with a giant package, I mean an extraordinarily large, enormous package, isn’t that just as scary as a tiny one?

If a man’s package is too big, we have to be afraid of what it can do.  We have to worry that it is going to hurt us even if that’s not what he intended.  When a package is gigantic, it often has too much force and unintended consequences.

When I saw that the Health Care Bill Congress just passed was thousands of pages long, I immediately thought “It’s so long, thick and complex that we won’t truly know what it means for us or how it will affect our country for years to come, and no one in Congress probably really knows either.”  And that notion scares me a bit.  When a package is that big, it just seems like a guy should take it slow.  You know, ease into it.

Even though I do agree with parts of this plan, I am having trouble getting over the fact that it is seriously one big ass package.   Copyright © 2010 Alison James

When Men Bake Saint Patrick’s Day Cookies

March 16, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Holidays, Relationships

It’s not every day that a guy bakes Saint Patrick’s Day cookies, but believe it or not, last night it happened. He got out the cookie sheets, a roll of Slice ‘N Bake sugar cookie dough, and went at it.

It was all going fine for a while. Nothing was on fire, the kitchen was still intact, and no alarms were going off. But at some point, the testosterone-filled part of his brain took over and he started adventure-seeking – in the kitchen. I could see the gears turning in his little head, searching frantically for a way to spice up the cookie baking experience.

It all went downhill from there.

I would hear him mumble under his breath “I wonder what would happen if [insert insane suggestion].” And finally he had a bright idea that he put into action. “I wonder what would happen if I baked the green gel right into the cookies instead of putting it on top of them after they cool.”

So, here you have it – a Saint Patrick’s Day sugar cookie…sort of.  He is calling it a “lucky cookie” but it looks like its luck ran out a long time ago.

Some of the Greatest Lessons I’ve Learned in Life Have Come from Office PowerPoint Presentations

March 6, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career, Featured Posts

If you don’t work in an office setting and you’ve never received a 30-page PowerPoint presentation outlining someone’s latest and greatest new business idea, you might not appreciate this post. 

Everyone else will understand what I mean when I say some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life…or should I say “insights I’ve gained”…have come from PowerPoint presentations that my coworkers have given. 

PowerPoint presentations teach us that:

  • Even the most dumbass idea looks intelligent if you present it with colorful charts and graphs.  
  •  

  • It is actually possible to say the exact same thing three hundred and fifty different ways.
  •  

  • If you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, you can cover it up by telling meaningless stories.  It will take people a while to figure out that you aren’t really making any point.
  •  

  • Use big words if you want to hide the fact that you’re dumb as shit.  Throw into the discussion phrases like “synergy savings” “best practices” and “core competencies.”
  •  

  • Men are like children — If you want them to pay attention, you have to present information with music and colorful animation. 
  •  

  • Encourage people to express their opinions.  Once they get going, you can tune out and think about your plans for the weekend.
  •  

  • Almost every really good idea can be summed up in two sentences.  If it takes longer than that to explain, someone is trying to pull one over on you.

 

Are the Gift Cards in Your Wallet Controlling Your Life?

February 15, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts

We all receive gift cards on occasion – those plastic little nuggets of kindness that people sometimes give to each other as a gift in lieu of a tangible item.  While we always appreciate the gesture, all too often we file these gift cards away in the back of our wallet and promptly forget about them. And it is there that the trouble begins. These cards lie dormant for weeks, months, or even years, exerting subtle influence over our life and torturing us in ways we don’t even realize.

Are your gift cards controlling your life? Do they have you trapped inside a plastic prison? Here are the signs to look for:

• Every time you open your wallet and see the gift cards tucked inside, you experience an intense flood of negative emotions – anxiety and guilt because you haven’t used them yet, fear that someone is going to steal your wallet and take the gift cards and you’ll have no way to prove they were there, and anger toward the gift giver for placing this burden on you in the first place.

• You rack your brain trying to come up with things you can purchase with the gift card that might be vaguely useful. You find yourself thinking “Hmm… a battery operated travel-sized shampoo dispenser isn’t such a bad idea after all! Or maybe I can use one of those magic balls that absorb dust from the room!”

• You plan your weekend shopping trips around getting to those stores where you can use the gift cards.

• You make a purchase at the store, but forget to use the gift card, and then beat yourself up relentlessly because you didn’t use it.

• You live in chronic fear that the gift card is too close to your ATM card in your wallet and is somehow going to suck the life force out of it or gnaw away at its magnetic strip.

• You find yourself pulling out the gift card by accident at the most inopportune times. You accidentally flash your Victoria’s Secret gift card at the creepy security guard in the lobby instead of your identification, and then freak out because you know he is now picturing you wearing lingerie.

• Your sense of value is becoming distorted. You are holding on to a gift card that’s more than two years old solely because it has a remaining balance of $1.75 on it. Yet, you lost that much change on the street last week when you dropped your wallet and it didn’t even faze you.

• When you watch the news and hear stories about companies going out of business, you feel fear in your heart that your gift cards won’t be honored in federal bankruptcy proceedings.

• You measure your net worth in 401(k), savings accounts and gift card remaining balances.

Do any of these conditions sound familiar? If so, your gift cards are controlling your life. But don’t worry — you can fight back and reclaim your freedom using the three R’s of recovery:  Recognize the symptoms; Remember that you are a strong person and you don’t have to put up with this crap any longer; and finally, and most importantly, Regift those gift cards!  Copyright © 2010 Alison James 

Do Couples Who Announce “We Are Pregnant” Know Something I Don’t Know?

I recently heard a woman announce to the world “We are pregnant!” and I was a little confused.  I distinctly remember learning about reproduction in high school biology class and the idea of a man being pregnant never came up even once.  I’m pretty sure that unless something has changed, the state of two people being pregnant together in some weird fusion of reproductive organs is technically not possible.

I asked my friend why couples these days say “We are pregnant” and she shed a little light on the situation for me.  She said that couples make a deliberate attempt to use this terminology so the guy doesn’t feel excluded from the pregnancy process.  And I guess that explanation sort of makes sense.  I can see how the “we” terminology might help the guy accept the pregnancy situation without going off the deep end.  For example, instead of thinking “My wife is getting fatter and has permanent PMS and it is all my fault,” he thinks “My wife and I are pregnant together!  This is so exciting and fun!”

But I remain baffled by the notion that a woman would voluntarily give away even an ounce of credit for enduring a complex, harrowing nine months of her life.  The way I see it, “we” might have conceived a baby, but until the man has raging hormones, a live being growing inside of him, and plans to pass a watermelon through a tiny crevice in his body, “we” are definitely not pregnant in any way, shape or form and “we” never will be.

Nevertheless, it is in vogue today to say “we are pregnant” so I don’t see this terminology going anywhere.  When someone says “we are pregnant” on television, only about half of the people in the room look confused and the other half accept the comment as a normal way to speak about the state of female pregnancy.

But I think the other half would jump on board too if the term “we” was applied in a more fair and consistent way.  For example, if couples are going to say “we” are pregnant, shouldn’t they also say “we” worked until midnight last night, “we” got promoted, and “we” got a huge year-end bonus?  If a man is going to take credit when a woman successfully carries and delivers a baby, shouldn’t a woman take credit when he successfully endures a hellish nine months at the office?  Just a little food for thought.

I know one thing, I just talked to my guy and learned that “we” won quite a bit of money playing poker last night.  I can definitely get used to this “we” thing.  Copyright © 2010 Alison James

How to Make a Bed: A Visual Guide for Men

January 11, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Personal Growth

Many women complain that the guy in their life never makes the bed or cleans up after himself.  They say things like “He doesn’t do a thing to help out around the house” or “He’s such a slob” or “He doesn’t even notice when our apartment is a mess.”  But let’s give men the benefit of the doubt for a minute.  Maybe they want to make the bed in the morning but they don’t do it because they simply don’t know how.  

This blog post is a special treat for all the men out there.  A visual guide that you can follow the next time you see those sheets and pillows in disarray:
 

Some Questions Aren’t Meant to Be Answered Honestly

January 5, 2010 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Personal Growth

Honesty is the best policy…most of the time.  But when you get into an elevator and a coworker asks “How are you?” you know you aren’t supposed to launch into a story about your mysterious itchy rash or dysfunctional relationship.  It is widely understood by almost everyone that the question, “How are you?” is not meant to be answered honestly. 

Unfortunately, other questions are a little more ambiguous, so sometimes people respond with the truth.  And the truth can be pretty darn creepy.  Whenever I hear someone ask “Why are you so tired today?  Did you have a late night?” or “Isn’t her baby just the cutest thing?” or “How is your husband doing?” I have to cringe because there is a decent chance the conversation is about to take a turn for the worse.  I’m just waiting for the person to answer “I’m tired because my boyfriend and I were up late, you know, doing stuff….” or “The baby is actually kind of hideous.  Poor kid looks just like the father, doesn’t it?”     

Recently, I overheard a woman in an elevator ask another woman a question that should be barred from public conversation:  “Why are your lips so chapped?”  Would you ever really want to know why someone’s lips are chapped?  Aren’t there a million reasons why someone’s lips could be chapped that fall into the “holy shit that’s weird” category? 

We ask each other questions all the time without even thinking about the potential social disaster that awaits us.  Most of the time, the other person gives us a mundane, typical answer without revealing much about their life.  But every once in a while, we get an answer that is weirder than we bargained for.  Copyright 2010 © Alison James.

An Age-Old Mystery Unveiled on Christmas

December 25, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Holidays, Relationships

Have you ever wondered why so many women are attracted to men who are unavailable, sneaky and evasive?  You know the deal – your best friend is completely infatuated with a guy who is never around and rarely calls.  Every now and then, he shows up in the middle of the night without warning and she thinks it is cute.  To make matters worse, the guy doesn’t have a steady job, he’s overweight and he’s obscenely hairy. 

The reason why so many of us fall for this type of man has been a mystery for years.  But if you think about it while listening to Christmas music, you might have the same epiphany I had.  Psychologists often say that we seek out men in adulthood who resemble those men we idolized as little girls, right?  I’m not sure how we could have missed this connection all these years….

       

Copyright © 2009 Alison James

How to Craft a Memorable Goodbye Email to Send to Your Coworkers

December 17, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career, Favorite Posts

goodbye-emailAs the year draws to an end, many people are preparing to leave their job behind and move on to bigger and better things.  Whether you’re leaving your job voluntarily or you are a casualty of someone’s brilliant restructuring project, you don’t want to burn any bridges so it’s time to write a pleasant, diplomatic goodbye email to your beloved colleagues. 

As you contemplate what to write, there are lots of important questions you’ll need to answer like “Should I tell them I’m going to miss them all even though I’m definitely not going to miss that creepy guy Jerry who sits in the cubicle near the window?  Should I leave them my contact information knowing they might email me with work-related questions six months down the road?  If I don’t have a job lined up, should I make it sound like I do to save face?” 

If you are looking for inspiration, here is a goodbye email that is one of my personal favorites (edited to protect the anonymity of the sender):      

I just wanted to reach out to all of you and say what a fantastic ride the last 10 years have been for me.  It’s truly been something special, and I have many fond memories of this company that I’ll always take with me. 

I’ve also taken with me 7 computers, 3 fax machines, 12 toner cartridges, all of the phones on our floor (no one’s using them anymore, right?), a suitcase full of staplers, scissors, and scotch tape, a color Xerox machine (which was a bitch to get past security I’ll have you know) and a box of white-out from Michelle’s office (which explains why her computer screen is almost completely white…)  As a matter of fact, I’m in the process of opening up a little office supplies shop out of my home, so I hope you all wish me well in my new venture!

In all seriousness though, it doesn’t seem possible that I’m saying goodbye to everyone here.  Though I’m leaving behind a job, what I’m leaving with is something that will always stay with me.  The friendships that I’ve made over the last decade will never be forgotten, and I want to thank each and every one of you for touching my life the way you have. 

Please take care, and thank you for being the absolute best group of people a guy could ever have the privilege of working with.

All the best,

[xxxxx]

Goodbye

Give Him the Gift He Really Wants this Holiday Season

November 16, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Holidays, Relationships

The holidays are upon us and that means it’s time to start searching for the perfect gift to buy the man in your life.  Don’t let your guy fool you into thinking he wants a flat screen TV or some other high-tech gadget for Christmas this year.  Deep down inside, he longs for the same warm, fuzzy gift that every man craves: a Snuggie.

I know what you’re thinking, “I bought a Snuggie for his grandmother last year.  How could he possibly want one too?”  But you see, the male Snuggie is not the same as the one loved by elderly women everywhere.  It looks the same, and feels the same, but the masculine words “Lodge Wrap” on the package make it manly enough to appeal to even the most macho guy you know. 

Just look at how happy this guy looks using his Lodge Wrap. Don’t you want your guy to be this happy on Christmas morning?

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lodgeblanketwrap

(from the Terry’s Village catalog. terrysvillage.com)

So this year, forget about the iPhone accessories and DVDs, and instead, get him the gift that says “I am a woman who truly understands your needs.”  Buy him his very own Snuggie and make this a Christmas he’ll never forget.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

What is so Fun About “Fun Size” Candy Bars?

October 30, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Diet & Fitness, Holidays

Drag out your giant bags of Halloween candy, if you still have any left, and check out the packaging.  Do any of the bags you purchased say “Fun Size!” on the front?  Does anyone have any idea what this term means?  What is so darn fun about “Fun Size” candy bars?

We all know from experience that it’s certainly not fun when you have to unwrap 25 of those tiny little suckers to feel even remotely satisfied.  They are so small, that if you sip water with them, they slip down your throat like a vitamin. 

There is nothing fun about trying to shove all of those wrappers in your pocket at a party so people don’t notice you’ve been eating fun size candy bars all night. 

It is definitely not fun when someone eats all the good ones and you get stuck digging through a giant bowl of Charleston Chews trying to find the one Kit Kat they missed on the bottom. 

And there couldn’t be anything less “fun” than watching someone eat just one and walk away.  Meanwhile, the rest of us stand near the bowl like junkies saying “I’m just going to have one more Reese’s peanut butter cup…seriously, I really mean it this time.”

It’s tough to figure out what the candy marketers were thinking when they decided to call these menacing little treats “Fun Size.”  A fun size candy bar to me would be one too big to fit in the front seat of my car.    Copyright © 2009 Alison James

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funsize2

Friendships that Feel Like Jury Duty

October 25, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Relationships

We all have friends we love, people we can spend hours with and never get bored. These are the friends we can call when we’re miserable and we never feel like they are secretly happy we’re suffering. But there are other friends we keep in touch with and we’re not sure why. At one time we went to school with them, or we knew them at our last job, or we met them a few times through an old roommate. Now, years later, they check in all the time via email or Facebook, sending photos and updates about their exciting life.

We’re fine with their occasional contact, as long as it remains occasional. But what do you do when these people cross the line, when they try to take the friendship “to the next level” and they want to start hanging out again? And what do you do if you never really liked them much in the first place? Do you just ignore them entirely? Do you hang out with them out of guilt, laying yourself up on the altar as a social sacrifice?

Most practices instituted by the U.S. government would not work in other areas of our lives, but a civic responsibility provides the perfect solution to this uncomfortable social situation. If hanging out with someone feels like jury duty, why not treat it as such?

Picture this: you go to lunch with your long-lost buddy, you grin and bear the small talk for about forty-five minutes, and then when you’re done, you get a stamped piece of paper guaranteeing that you will not have to do it again for at least two years, possibly even four. You’ve done your duty, you didn’t offend anyone or burn any bridges, and now you’re off the hook for awhile! And if you’re lucky, you might be able to move out of state before the term expires.

Just think of how great it would when they email you the next day to find out if you can go to lunch again soon and you have a certified piece of paper to get you out of it. You don’t have to invent excuses, lie about how busy you are at work or how sick you’ve been. You just read off the number on your form, letting them know that you have another 24 months before you have to meet them back at Pita Heaven.   Copyright 2009 © Alison James.

Coffee Break

How to Diagnose Your Own Exotic, Deadly Disease

October 3, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Health

Sick DayFlu season is here and everywhere you turn, you’ll find information on how to keep yourself safe from the new diseases and suspicious germs floating around out there.  But if you end up being one of the unlucky people that gets sick anyway, don’t assume a swig of Nyquil will do the trick.  Do your research online.  The internet provides a host of valuable information that can help you determine what rare disease you have without ever setting foot in a doctor’s office.

For example, does your body ache? You might have the flu, but have you considered the possibility that you could be suffering from the Ebola virus or Rat Bite Fever?  Are you covered in a rash?  It might be an allergic reaction to the new lotion you purchased, but if you look online, you’ll find that it could just as easily be a case of Smallpox or the onset of River Blindness.

Whatever symptoms you have, remember to remain calm while you do your internet homework.  Sudden movements can put unnecessary strain on Elephantitis-ridden limbs.

We all need to be aware of what our body is telling us.  And it’s easy to do thanks to all of the medical websites out there.  Just turn on your computer, pull up a symptom checker database, and a few clicks later you’ll know if your drippy nose is about to turn deadly. Copyright © 2009 Alison James

List of Common Symptoms Courtesy of Emedtv.com

illness-flu

Long Overdue Tips for Guys Who Love to Catcall

September 20, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Featured Posts, Personal Growth

These days, it is easy for men to find information and tips on how to be a better golfer, how to build their pectoral muscles, or how to behave on a date.  But if they want to learn how to catcall, there is a surprising dearth of data and guidance out there. 

Whether a guy is working at a construction site or playing basketball with his friends, when a woman walks by and he feels the urge to say something, he’s on his own.  There are no helpful hints available, no where he can go to learn how to whistle, hoot, and holler properly – until now!

Here are a few long overdue tips for those men who love to catcall:

1.  Be self-aware.  Gentlemen, if you are missing teeth, have a tattoo of Satan on your arm, and you are carrying a giant saw, you are better off keeping your mouth shut entirely.  Your comments will scare the crap out of any woman who walks by.  Your goal is to flatter a woman, not to inspire her to invest in pepper spray and a high-tech security system.

2.  Geography matters.  While it might be proper to say “hello Ma’am,” in the South, if you are North of the Mason Dixon line and you call a thirty-something woman “Ma’am,” you might get punched in the face.  “Ma’am” is akin to saying “Hey old lady.” Always use “Miss” in a catcall. 

3.  Think about the words you’re saying.  It is simply not in your best interest to say things like “Oh baby, I wanna take you home to Momma.”  Women perceive a comment like this one as a threat.  She does not want to meet your mother – ever. 

4.  Don’t play favorites.  Do you have to yell at the scantily clad nineteen year-old woman when the rest of us are walking by in our baggy frumpy work clothes?  Your comments serve as a painful reminder that we can no longer wear short shorts because we have bigger buns than Cinnabon.  Remember: when you whistle at that girl, you gain one friend, but you make a thousand enemies who will never forget your face or the fact that there is a sledge hammer sitting three feet from you every morning.

5.  A woman is not a giant pork chop.  What is with the food sounds? Slurping, drooling, or whispering “delicious” in a creepy voice is not flattering to any of us.  We are women, not a juicy slab of meat.  When we hear these sounds, we can’t help but wonder if you are about to chase after us with a bucket of marinade and a steak knife. 

6. Keep dating.  Chances are you will not meet the girl of your dreams by yelling at random women from the top of a scaffolding platform.  Perhaps you’ve already figured this one out, but it is worth mentioning again here.

There comes a time in every woman’s life when she is thrilled if a dirty guy standing in a sewer calls her “yummy,” but none of us are there yet.  So, please stick with the standard catcalls like “Hey beautiful,” “Smile honey” and the like.  When we hear these comments, we can go on our merry way feeling flattered that you noticed us and, you can go about your day knowing that you’ve done a good deed for womankind.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

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You Know It’s Time to Drag Out Your “Fat Clothes” When…

September 8, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Diet & Fitness

Unless you’re one of those naturally skinny chicks out there, you inevitably have ups and downs with your weight like I do.  And like me, you know when you’re headed down the road to chubby land – your jeans get tighter, your shirts seem smaller and your bra feels like a tourniquet constricting blood flow to your upper body.  These signs are quite common but there are others that catch us by surprise.  Sometimes life screams “Hey fatty” in a way that catches us off guard and sends us scurrying to the gym.

One of these moments happened to me a few days ago.  I was washing my hands in a public restroom when I leaned over the sink and something horrific happened – my butt triggered the automatic paper towel dispenser.  Yes, somehow that thing detected motion coming from below and spit towels my way.  At first I thought “Why do they have that thing so close to the sink?” but then another woman came out of the stall, washed her hands, and nothing happened.  The dispenser lied motionless while she stood near it.

You know it’s time to pack away your skinny clothes, and drag out the black pants and baggy shirts when your butt starts triggering automatic devices.  My new rule: if the neighbor’s garage door opens when I walk outside in shorts, I know I’ve got a problem on my hands.   Copyright © 2009 Alison James

sink-papertoweldispenser1

One Way His New Job Will Affect You That You Didn’t Think Of

July 16, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career, Featured Posts, Relationships

If the guy in your life is looking for a new job, at some point he will ask you for your opinion on where he should work.  As you consider his options, you’ll probably think about how much each job pays, what his responsibilities will be, and the type of people he’ll be working with.  But before you give him your recommendation, there is another critical factor you must consider:  What stores will be across the street from his new office?

Why, you ask?  Well, think back to the gifts he gave you for your birthday, your anniversary, and other holidays.  Do you see a pattern?  He bought all of them at one of the stores near his office, didn’t he?

Men buy gifts at the last minute.  They run out during their lunch hour on Valentine’s Day and buy the last card on the rack at CVS.  They stop on the way home from work on your birthday to buy you whatever they find at the front of the nearest store.   So, if your guy works near a Taco Bell, you can pretty much count on receiving a coupon for a bean burrito for your next anniversary.  If you don’t like bean burritos, you might want to steer him toward that job in the jewelry district.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

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A Special Thanks to the Older Lady Wearing the “Got Beer?” T-Shirt

Every year on my birthday, I can’t help but wonder if my look and style are still appropriate for my age. I ask myself questions like “Do I need to cut off my long hair? Am I looking haggy? Can I still wear sexy clothing? If I put glitter on my face for a party, will I look like the old person who is trying too hard to be cool?”

This year, I came to the realization that my concerns are unfounded. Anything can go at any age, as long as you have the attitude to pull it off. And I have this woman below to thank for my revelation. She has to be at least 60 years old and here she is, running errands in a t-shirt that I haven’t seen since college. I want to thank this woman because she reminds us that we are never too old to show our flair for fashion and our love of alcohol.  And we are never too old to ask the truly important question “Got beer anyone?”   Copyright © 2009 Alison James

 gotbeer

 gotbeer21

The Best Protection Against Identity Theft is a Really Messed Up Identity

July 13, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Technology

Driving Me CrazyA few days ago, I was sorting through old papers in a drawer, the kind you keep for years because you’re convinced the obscure barcodes or customer numbers yield top secret information about your life. As I ripped them up, I started thinking “You know, if someone goes to the trouble to rifle through the garbage, tape together the millions of little pieces of paper, and steal my identity, they get what they deserve.”

Soon after becoming me, a thief would have an array of lovely experiences to look forward to! He would receive lengthy voicemails from my mother on his answering machine, surprise visits from my drunken ex-boyfriends, and emails from weirdos saying things like “Your book made my girlfriend break up with me so I plan to find you and punish you.” Eventually, the greasy guy from my high school gym class would locate him on Facebook, my Born-Again Aunt would bombard him with Bibles, and the CVS automated pharmacy system would call him in the middle of the night to thank him for his customer loyalty.  I predict that it would take about six weeks for the thief to lose his mind, contact me, and beg me to take my identity back.  But by then, there won’t be much I can do.  My mother will already be on a bus on her way to visit him.

We all need to try to protect ourselves from identity theft through the standard means recommended by experts everywhere (see article link below). But the best protection of all is having an identity that no thief in his right mind would want to steal.  When a thief says to his buddies, “No amount of money is worth being that chick for a day, man,” you can sleep at night knowing your shredded bills will make it to the landfill without incident.   Copyright © 2009 Alison James

http://www.consumerlaw.org/action_agenda/seniors_initiative/identity_theft.shtml

 

The World Without Women: A Photo Progression Analysis

June 30, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Favorite Posts, Relationships

Did you ever put laundry or other items on the stairs expecting your guy to carry them up, only to find that hours later, they are still there?  I put a towel on the stairs and it did not move for two days.  I started thinking “What would happen if I wasn’t around?”  So, I turned the problem over to the FBI and they used age progression photo techniques to determine what the scene might look like if men were left to their own devices and women were no longer in the picture.  

 

The Towel on the Stairs – Present Day (Year: 2009)

towel

  

The Scene 200 Years After Women (Year: 2209)

towel-100years

  

The Scene 1,000 Years After Women (Year: 3009)
 stairs-stone-2002

 

 The Scene 100,000 Years After Women (Year: 102, 009)

towelunderwater2

Copyright © 2009 Alison James

 

 

 

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett…Watch Out Hasselhoff, You Might Be Next!

June 26, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Entertainment

It’s hard to believe two major celebrities passed away on the same day.  Just about everyone is in shock.  I used to love Michael – his awesome music, his funky dance moves, and his idiosyncratic neurotic ways. My mother is currently searching for a photo of me wearing Michael Jackson “stuff” from when I was about ten years old so I can share it with everyone.  The news coverage brings back memories of a simpler time when my friends and I would do the moonwalk at slumber parties and fight over who had the most Michael Jackson pins.

But isn’t Farrah Fawcett getting the short end of the stick here?  Her death got the world’s smallest headlines today. The woman was one of Charlie’s Angels for God’s sake! She was a cultural icon too.  Men loved her. Women wanted to be like her (even if they did hate the fact that all the guys had her poster above their bed).  Countless brunettes had peroxide orange hair in the 1970s and 80s in a vain attempt to emulate her blonde, feathery locks.  She was a symbol of beauty and strength right to the very end.

I think Farrah deserves more front page coverage!  (And it’s not every day that you’ll hear me argue that the hot, blonde with a nice body should get more media attention)

Imagine working your whole life to build your career, and then you die and someone more famous than you dies a few hours later and steals your thunder. If I were her, I would standing in the famed “light” on the other side with my hands on my hips saying “Way to go MJ! You couldn’t have waited 24 hours?”

Below is my little photo tribute to Farrah and Michael.

Any way you look at it, yesterday was a sad day. Two people who touched men, women, and children everywhere passed away and we will miss them both.   Copyright © 2009 Alison James

  

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Alison-Joann-mjphoto-front1

mjphoto-back

I Want to Tie Down Skinny Women and Force Feed Them Donuts

June 26, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Diet & Fitness, Personal Growth

donut1I was reading the news coverage of Jon and Kate’s divorce and I feel really bad for those eight kids. The whole situation will definitely take a toll on them. But I am also a little embarrassed to admit that their story made me breathe a sigh of relief. When I read about someone’s marriage on the rocks, celebrities doing really stupid things, and all the problems other people have, sometimes I get this odd sense of personal comfort. It is not that I am happy that others are suffering. I don’t want to see other people in pain (unless I get to pick the person and do the deed). These stories make me feel relieved because they remind me that I’m not alone in this world, that my life isn’t the only imperfect life out there.

The Germans have a word for this phenomenon: Schadenfreude. Wikipedia says it means “pleasure derived from others misfortunes.” I hate to inform the Germans but we’ve had a term for this state of mind for decades; it’s called “being a bitch.” Their word sounds more official, but ours is much easier to understand.

Nonetheless, the German definition sounds a little sadistic. I wouldn’t say I derive pleasure from other people’s suffering, like the kind of pleasure I get when I eat a cupcake or win on a slot machine. It’s more like a “reduction in anxiety.” I feel a little more comfortable when I know I’m not the only one out there with problems.

For most of us, these feelings stem from insecurity. It’s tough to see other people succeed in life because it makes us question our own abilities. When they screw up, we feel affirmed, like we’re not doing so badly after all. We struggle to get to that point where we no longer compare ourselves and our lives to the world around us, where we derive our self-worth from within.  But getting to that place is a long, tough journey. 

I know I am not there yet. Even though I want to be happy for the gorgeous, skinny woman who marries a hunk with a million dollars, I still have the urge to tie her down and force feed her donuts until her thighs look more like my own. I just can’t help it; I’m human, I’m insecure, and I want to share my love of baked goods with others.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

Just When You Thought Your Ex Was the Craziest Man Alive…

June 23, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Personal Growth

Iran-electionYou might not expect to see a political or news post on a blog like this one, but when something so big happens like what is going on in Iran, I have to write a thing or two about world events.

In case any of us were uncertain before, it’s pretty clear now that Ahmadinejad is a total psycho. You think you’ve known some crazy men in your life? He makes all of them look normal. Even my craziest exes look charming next to that guy. When he came to New York City in 2007 to speak, the NYPD should have dropped him off on Tremont Avenue in the Bronx and let him find his way to Columbia University on his own. That would have fixed his ass. Living under the current regime in Iran must be hell on earth for so many people to want it to end.

When I was watching the protestors on television, I felt so much admiration for them. Publically protesting a regime that is repressive and dangerous is the ultimate act of courage.  But I also couldn’t help but wonder, “If I were in their shoes, would I have the personal strength and will to fight for what I believe in? Would I scurry away and hide or would I stand up against a regime like that one?  If I can’t find the courage to tell my friend that I think her boyfriend is the Devil, how in the world would I tell an insane dictator that I want to see him gone?”

I hope that I would have it in me to fight that fight, but I don’t know if I would. I guess none of us really know what we are made of until life puts us to the test. But whether the tests you face are big or small, I commend you if you stand up for what you believe in, especially if your beliefs are unpopular. We all need to defend freedom and remember how lucky we are to have the right to express dissatisfaction with the actions and attitudes of our government.   No matter how annoying someone is, or how much we think their opinion sucks, we should be happy they have the right to express it freely.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

 

Cyber-Snooping: Our Favorite Lunchtime Pasttime

June 22, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Technology

These days, personal privacy is a thing of the past. With a few clicks of a mouse and some creative lunchtime cyber-stalking skills, we can learn all about other people’s lives. We can find out if our ex got married, what his trampy new wife looks like, and whether or not her parents have money. We can read about old coworkers, get dirt on new ones, and see satellite images of people’s houses. 

And if we have specific questions like “Will I really have bad luck for ten years if I don’t forward the latest spam email from my Mom to at least ten people?” or “Do I really have an Uncle in Nigeria who left me a million dollars?” or ”Does Shamwow really work?”  we can find those answers online as well.

But I have a double standard when it comes to search engine snooping. I can’t stand the fact that my own information is so accessible to other people even though I love looking at theirs. One day I put my name into Google and up came an Amazon Wish List I created ten years ago, probably in an attempt to get some guy I was dating at the time to buy me a birthday present I really like. Fortunately, the list only had on it “Songs of the 70s compilation” and a few other random items. But imagine if it listed personal lubricant, handcuffs, and a wrench.  Is that really public information?  My Dad is one of those old people who doesn’t use the internet, but his friends who do know more about my life than he does. 

Nevertheless, we don’t get to choose whether or not our life story is public information anymore. The end of privacy is a natural byproduct of the digital age and there isn’t much we can do about it. We just have to be a little more cautious, keep the bad photos out of the wrong hands, and make peace with the fact that some day someone might discover that we are a long-time member of imsohairyicouldscream.com.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

snooping

A Little Poetry: The 10 Women You’ll Be Before You’re 35

June 18, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Books by Alison James

I wrote this poem a few years ago to promote my book, The 10 Women You’ll Be Before You’re 35.  I forgot all about it until I found it today tucked away in a file.  Upon reading it, it is pretty clear to me that the insanity of our 20s and 30s is timeless.  Not much has changed since I first wrote it.  I’m sure many new women out there are going through these same experiences.  So, I think it is worth posting.  I hope you find it entertaining.

The 10 Women You’ll Be Before You’re 35

At 22 you’re a New Graduate, faxing and filing
While dating a guy who can’t stop drunk-dialing.
You begin to wonder if college was simply a waste,
Long gone are the idealistic dreams that you chased.
(…for now, anyway!)

Next you’re a Dollarless Diva with no cash in sight,
Eating peanuts off the bar when you go out at night.
You’re dating a guy just for the free meals,
And searching the clearance rack for any good deals.
(…that you buy on credit!)

By 25, you dive into your career and become the Worker Bee,
Taking on bigger projects and working overtime for free.
Your sights are set higher than the cubicle you’re in,
And you run yourself ragged, determined to win.
(Will showing some leg help?)

Your hard work pays off. You’ve proven your name,
And for a while your life becomes a fabulous game.
You’re the Party Girl, feather boa and all,
You can walk in heels after three martinis and not even fall.
(Okay, most of the time)

Around 28, you realize the alcohol is making you chubby,
You start feeling disgusting and tired and grubby.
You become the Body Conscious Babe and hit the gym hard,
Determined to lose every last inch of lard.
(Come on, it’s not that bad!)

Once you’re in shape, and you’re feeling great,
Around 30 you meet a guy you actually want to date.
He likes hiking, so you take it up too,
You’re a Chameleon, becoming like him to make him love you.
(…but not for long!)

A year or so later, you realize you feel a bit strange.
This guy just isn’t The One, but it’s so tough to change.
Your job gets you down and you’re not satisfied with your life
You’re in Crisis Chick mode and nothing at all seems quite right
(Bring on the chocolate and naps!)

Around 32, you pull through, and after a final good cry,
You switch jobs, change your wardrobe and ditch the lame guy.
You figure out a path in order to make it on your own
And become Miss Independence, forging ahead alone.
(Going it solo in style!)

But one day you’re putting on your makeup under bright lights in the loo,
And you notice a wrinkle staring right back at you.
It must be the lighting– it just can’t be real,
Or maybe, you realize, you’re not as young as you feel.

You’re a little confused—you’re no longer a girl,
But you’re not yet a women, and that makes you a “Wirl
You’re caught between the two with your age starting to show,
But you’re not old just yet! You’ve got many years left to go!
(At least sixty or so!)

You think back over your life, and all you’ve been through,
It seems like there’s been three or four or ten different yous.
You wonder how you survived each and every phase,
Enduring crazy-fun nights and exhausting work days.

But you’ve learned patience, and hard work, and walking in heels,
And turning 25 or 35 is not as bad as it feels,
You see that your life is a constantly changing commotion,
Full of challenges, fun times, and lots of emotion!

So the next time life sucks and your boyfriend’s an ass,
Remember that surely this stage too shall pass.
You’ll make it through the tough times and gracefully survive,
“The 10 Women You’ll Be Before You’re 35.”
(the new book by Alison James!).

The best days lie ahead, you’re now the True You!
Get busy living, there’s so much to do.
Make every new day what you want it to be.
The future is yours. Only you hold the key!

Make a wish for your future! Send this to ten women in your life who need a laugh today!

Copyright © 2009 Alison James 

Why Does Music Suck So Much Lately?

June 16, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Entertainment

What happened to music? Wasn’t it good at one point? Now, it honestly sucks, doesn’t it? The new songs coming out and the new artists just don’t do it for me.

I know I sound like my parents or grandparents saying “Kids these days listen to nothing but racket.” But my comments aren’t just part of the typical generational disconnect that keeps older people from appreciating novel, creative music teenagers listen to. I really believe that music is objectively worse than it used to be.

The turn of the Millennium brought with it what I call the “flash and trash” entertainment mentality in our culture. Whereas being a superstar used to be about raw talent, today it is all about using good looks and bright colors to disguise the fact that you can’t play an instrument or sing worth a damn. While there are a couple of solid musicians tossed into the mix, we can count on one hand artists that have had any staying power at all.

Meanwhile, in the decades before this one we were inundated with brilliant, diverse and fun talent from every part of the globe – Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, George Michael, the Go-Go’s, Blondie, Billy Joel, and Eric Clapton; Devo, REM, U2 and Nirvana; Queen, Van Halen, Journey and Poison, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, Run DMC and Public Enemy. Need I go on?

Whether you liked their music or not, you have to admit that these musicians were all talented and distinctive. They had highly developed musical and lyrical skills and their own sense of style and humor. Remember the Michael Jackson glove and Madonna’s punky headbands? Do you remember learning “We Are the World” in sign language at school and getting yelled at by your teacher for imitating the Cyndi Lauper line?

These artists were talented and memorable. They appealed to an enormous audience that included people of all different ages and backgrounds. Now, you can line up the Top-40 singers and they are like interchangeable bobble heads. The average person on the street can’t name more than two or three songs that have come out recently.

Where is the Cyndi Lauper of our generation? If she doesn’t appear soon, I’m going to dye my hair pink and start singing. As painful as that would be for everyone, it can’t be that much more painful than the crap we have to listen to all the time. “Kids these days, their music is nothing but racket.”  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

musicsucks

I’m Pretty Sure Male Shoe Designers Hate Us

June 15, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Beauty & Style, Fashion

Sometimes I feel like (a.) shoes must be designed exclusively by men and (b.) those men hate us.  I just can’t figure out why every pair of shoes I buy hurts like hell.  Even the shoes that cost a decent amount of money hurt my feet.  How hard can it be for designers, shoe companies, SOMEONE…ANYONE to create a shoe out of material that doesn’t cause excruciating pain?  It can’t be that hard, right?  So, I wrote this letter on behalf of all the women out there like me who spend their life limping around town.  If I don’t get a response, I think we should all start sending these guys photos of our messed up feet. 

Dear Mr. Shoe Designer (this means you Mr. Blahnik, Mr. Cole, Mr. Choo, Mr. Dior, Mr. Kors, Mr. Weitzman as well as both of you Mr. Dolce & Mr. Gabbana…and of course you, Mr. Payless),

You have probably already figured out that women love shoes of all sizes, shapes, colors, and persuasions.  But quite frankly, we don’t love you very much right now.   Because your shoes are ripping our feet to shreds!  By the end of each day, we are in so much foot pain that we feel like we need to take a trip to the emergency room.  We are keeping Johnson & Johnson in business, buying boxes of Band-Aids and cases of Neosporin. 

Your shoes keep us in an awkward limp for most of our adult lives.  And maybe that’s exactly where you want us.  Maybe you are a little sadistic, or you want to see us barefoot and pregnant again.  I don’t know what your motive is.  But if you are trying to create sexy shoes that sell, let me remind you that there is nothing sexy about toe paralysis, Mr. Shoe Designer.  Really, there’s not.

We aren’t asking you to ditch style for comfort and start making moon boots with heels or orthopedic shoes in a variety of shades of gray. We just want to wear something on our feet that doesn’t put us at risk for gangrene. Is that too much to ask?

We don’t see men hobbling up and down the street in their shoes, so we know you have it in you to make a product we can wear.  I have a novel idea: Why don’t you hire women to WALK in the shoes before you sell them?  If your testers don’t return and you find them lying in a heap on the sidewalk with their feet wrapped in gauze, that’s a little indication that you need to consider a redesign. 

That’s all I have to say for now, Mr. Shoe Designer.  But you will be hearing from me again, next time after I’ve been dancing for six hours at a wedding.  Because you deserve inspired letters that are written straight from the heart.      

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
United Sisterhood of Unbearable Crippling Killer shoes (U SUCK) 

Copyright © 2009 Alison James

 

shoemontage

How Too Many Choices (and Cheeses) Can Drive Us Insane

June 12, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Personal Growth, Reviews

It was the day of my first ever wine and cheese party and preparations were going great. I snuck out of work early, cleaned up my apartment, brought out a few candles that I had been saving for the perfect occasion for about a decade, and had the plates and stemware ready. My friends were bringing the wine and they were entrusting me to supply the cheese, snacks, and 80s music mix (a different type of “cheese”). My plan was to make a run to the grocery store about two hours before the party so everything would be fresh. I assumed that would be plenty of time to buy cheese for twelve guests. How hard can it be to buy cheese, right? I was about to find out.

When I arrived at the cheese section of the grocery store, I saw before me not just a few basic brands, but shelves upon shelves of cheese. Every type of waxy yellow ball you can think of piled up like a giant shrine to the Dairy God – Swiss, Pepper jack, Provolone, Brie and not just Cheddar but Vermont Cheddar, Wisconsin Cheddar, Grafton Cheddar, Canadian Cheddar, and Irish Cheddar. It looked like a cheese bomb exploded dropping cheese from every part of the globe into the Food Emporium. How the heck could I pick 6 or 7 different types of cheeses out of thousands? I stood there in awe, completely overcome with indecision. Even if I ruled out fifty percent of my options because of the price (I’m pretty cheap), I was still left with so many to choose from that I had no idea where to start.

How do you make a decision when you have a thousand options? Do you graph them out on a piece of paper? Do you close your eyes and just grab at them and hope you pick the right ones? Do you pick cheeses out of a hat? Or do you call your parents and ask them what they would buy (and end up with Kraft American Cheese slices)? Do you go for the ones with the most sophisticated sounding names or the ones that are packaged in the coolest looking colors? Or, has it really come to the point where you need to research cheeses on the Internet for ten hours before a party? The sheer number of options was paralyzing me. I wish I had done my cheese homework.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand that choice is good when it comes to cheeses, meats, and men. We are very fortunate because we are not limited by a lack of choices today. We have access to information, we know what products are out there, and we can make more informed decisions as a result. We can try different career paths, date lots of people, and select from hundreds, if not thousands of items at the store when we go shopping.

But what we often forget is that having too many choices can be just as limiting as having too few. And no, this is not some twisted way of rationalizing scarcity. Think about it – if we are plagued by indecision when we are doing something simple like picking out cheese, how the heck are we supposed to pick a spouse or a house or decide what our values and beliefs really are? Have you glanced on Ebay lately? There are about a billion things you can buy on there without even venturing into the store. You can search a database of men on some of these dating sites like you are looking for curtains.

Barry Schwartz has a really interesting book out right now about this very issue called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. He points out that we are far more satisfied with our pick when we’ve selected one out of a few options than we are when we have to pick one from a pool of hundreds or even thousands. And it makes sense because when we have too many cheeses to choose from we fall into the trap of questioning every choice we make. We ask “What if there is something better out there? What if I’m missing out on another option that would have been more appropriate for me?”

When we can’t find a way to compare and contrast every alternative so we feel chronically worried that we made a bad choice. Or worse yet, we don’t make any choice at all. But “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” (Yes, I just quoted lyrics from a Rush song) You have decided to remain stagnant.

We need to remember that though it is nice to have options, we can’t let them paralyze us. At some point we have to make decisions despite our anxiety. We have to close doors, leave options behind, and take our chances on the one we’ve picked. And of course we won’t always make the absolute best choice. In fact, sometimes we will make terrible choices. (Doesn’t that make you feel a lot better?) But any choice is better than none at all because at least you are moving in some direction. The real mistake is not in picking the wrong cheese; it’s in standing there staring at your options and ending up with no cheese in your life.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

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Why Men Like Booty

June 10, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Family & Parenting, Featured Posts

Do you remember dressing up as a princess as a little girl, donning the pink frilly dress and the jeweled tiara for Halloween or a birthday party? We all went through a “princess phase,” although it wasn’t really a phase because we never completely outgrew it. Even as adults, we dream about meeting a handsome prince, being rescued from the hellish dating scene, and living happily ever after in a modern castle with an in ground pool instead of a moat.

But, as you know, real life doesn’t always work out that way. Men don’t always exhibit the most prince-like behavior. Sometimes we have to fend off the dragon and clean the castle by ourselves, and find our own way out of the tower.  Men are kind of clueless when it comes to creating the perfect fairy tale romance and we often wonder why.

Well, I think I’ve discovered the origin of the problem. I went to the store over the weekend and this is what I found:

The suggested theme for a little girl’s party:

princessparty1

princessvaluepack

 

The suggested theme for a little boy’s party – not a “Prince” party as we might think – but instead we have this:

pirateparty

 

piratessword

We get a pretty lacy outfit, a magic wand, and a tiara.  The boys get rope, an eye patch, and an inflatable sword.  It sort of explains why we spend our lives in search of the perfect fairy tale romance and men spend theirs in an endless search for booty. Copyright © 2009 Alison James

I Would Like to Personally Apologize for Global Climate Change

June 9, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Beauty & Style, Favorite Posts

Scientists believe CFC-containing aerosol sprays damage the ozone layer and consequently, contribute to global climate change.   CFC production was phased out completely by 1996, but they were about 10 years too late.  1986 to 1996 were “The Aqua Net Years,” a time of big hair and “the wall of bangs.”  And when I review old photos of myself from those years, I realize that I might be solely responsible for the giant hole in the Ozone Layer that is causing this whacky weather all around the world.  Think I’m kidding?  You decide….mybighair1

weatherimpact

iloveaquanet

 

Copyright © 2009 Alison James

Surviving a Breakup Is Easier than Spending Your Life with a Jackass

survivingbreakupIf you are going through a breakup right now you probably feel like your life sucks and it will never get better. Your friends are giving you that sympathetic look that makes you want to slap them.  And you are monitoring your phone or blackberry by the minute in case a new message pops up from him (that you swear you are going to ignore this time).

Rest assured, as time passes, your ex will become a distant memory. Then, one day when you least expect it, he’ll contact you through Facebook just like the hundreds of other weirdos from high school who have managed to find you online. And you will say “Oh my gosh. I remember him. I can’t believe I dated him. Why didn’t someone stop me?”

Until that glorious day arrives, here are a few things you can do to help you get through the tough times:

* Turn off the sappy music…No 80s heartthrob CD, no light listening, no “The Best of Wilson Philips”…put them all away. For the next six weeks you are only allowed to listen to upbeat club tunes with a strong drum beat played by a hot drummer. If you want, you can imagine the drummer drumming on your ex’s head.

* Make a list of all the reasons why the relationship wasn’t working. Get out a couple of notebooks because once you get started you are going to need more than one. And begin with (a) he broke up with me (b) he is a jackass who will regret it and (c) I am too good for him anyway. Now you fill out the rest.

* Rebound men are good, especially if they are cute, fun, and willing to spend a little bit of cash. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need time to take time away from dating. Of course you need time to yourself but it doesn’t hurt to have a few guys around on weekends to take you out to dinner and build your ego. If you can’t meet a good selection of men at bars, parties, or through friends, try online dating. Sure, there are stalkers online but there are stalkers everywhere. If you use your common sense (don’t meet the guy on a back country road, avoid men with duct tape and ropes in their car) you’ll be fine.

* Stop your mind when it begins to wander and imagine crazy things. At some point you’ll imagine your ex riding on a white steed through a field with a hot woman on the back. Or you’ll imagine he’s dating your friend or the bartender or the woman who cuts his hair at Supercuts or…. you get the picture. Basically when we’re under stress, our brain invents all sorts of worst case scenarios. Recognize when you are torturing yourself this way and stop. Replace your vision of him on the steed with a vision of him getting tossed from the horse and landing on his ass.

* Get rid of everything that reminds you of him. You don’t have to throw it out if that idea is too painful right now, but put it all in a box and give it to your best friend to pack away for you. Down the road she’ll call you up and say “Do you want this box of stuff you left at my apartment?” and you won’t even remember what is in it. Then you’ll go over to her place and you’ll stand over the box, peer into it, and slowly peel back the tape, hoping that it doesn’t contain something that was edible once upon a time.

* Remember that things happen for a reason, even breakups. The Universe (God, Mother Nature, Zeus, whatever you call it in your life) knows a thing or two that you don’t know and definitely has better, bigger men in store for you.

Breaking up is painful but nowhere near as painful as staying with the wrong guy for a year or five years or 35 years. Be happy the relationship ended when it did and focus on finding someone new and better. The best revenge is living well (and making sure your ex finds out about it).  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

The Grass isn’t Greener in NYC – In Fact, We Don’t Have Grass At All

May 12, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Personal Growth

Some of my friends that live in smaller towns tell me that they are jealous that I live in New York City. They say their weekends are boring and there isn’t enough excitement in their life. In response to their dissatisfaction, I would like to say “I was born in a small town…and I can breathe in a small town.” (John Cougar Mellencamp)

In New York, there are so many people and cars and smells that I can’t breathe at all. I’ve lived here for 12 years and I think I’m going to die of the Black Lung from the pollution or at the very least, catch some kind of respiratory disease from the constant barrage of odors coming from the garbage room in the hallway of my building.

Imagine sitting in a cab for 40 minutes and going five blocks because some weirdo is lying in the middle of the street blocking traffic. Imagine waiting in line to buy coffee for 15 minutes in the morning because everyone in front of you is ordering a grande-sugar-free-mocha-soy-double-latte-no whip. Imagine living in an outrageously priced apartment the size of the crawl space where they hid the bodies on the last episode of 48 Hours Mystery. Those are just a few of the lovely experiences you have to look forward to if you are moving to New York City.

Now, don’t get me wrong, New York is worth visiting. I would even suggest you live here for a couple of years if you get the chance. There is truly no where else like it in the world – the high-rise buildings, the lights in Time Square, and the total freak show every single day all around you. In the past year I have seen (a) a guy running in a full leotard up and down Second Avenue; (b) a guy watching television on the sidewalk with his TV balanced on a garbage can; and, (c) several men who are prettier than I am. With entertainment like this, who needs Broadway?

The bottom line is that there are trade-offs to living anywhere and you give up part of your sanity to live in New York City (or maybe you have to be a little insane to move here in the first place). So, if you are living in a small town and you think the grass is greener in the Big Apple, remember we don’t even have any grass – unless you count the little tufts peeking up through the cracks in the sidewalk or the kind the shady guys sell in Tompkins Square Park.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James

 
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Tips for New Writers on How to Break Into the Business

May 12, 2009 by Alison  
Filed under Alison's Blog, Career

writer

People often ask me how they can break into the business and get their book or magazine article published. I say “What are you crazy? Go into finance where you’ll make some real money.” But they don’t listen. They still want to do it.

While I’m sure there are many ways to get started as a writer, some are better than others. For example, I do not recommend stealing anyone else’s material or dating an agent or an editor in an attempt to get your foot in the door (unless he’s really cute…just kidding of course…don’t mix business and pleasure. It gets far too messy). Hard work is your best bet. So, here are a few key tips based on my experience.

#1: Do not tell anyone you have plans to “break into” the business. You might get arrested.  Okay, that’ s a lame joke.  But I tried.  And trying is important if you want to be a writer.

#2: Go to the bookstore and buy a book on how to get published. I admit that I’m taking the easy way out by dishing out advice like “Go buy a book full of someone else’s advice.” But people have written volumes about this topic and the information they provide is right on target. I started out by reading Publishing for Dummies and then picked up a few others. These books take you through the process from start to finish, and give you an idea of the giant mess you are about to get yourself into.

#3: Ignore all of your friends, coworkers, and family members who tell you that you are wasting your time. Let their comments motivate you. Write something sarcastic about them and get it published just to prove them wrong.   

#4: Find people to evaluate your work and give you constructive feedback.  Make sure they have writing and publishing experience. Do not rely on friends and family members for feedback. Uncle Ray might be fantastic at fixing cars but that doesn’t mean he has an eye for good fiction. 

#5: Try to enjoy the writing process and don’t focus entirely on getting published. Even if, in the end, you never get anything published, at least you can say you tried. And you might discover along the way some piece of information that will help you in another area of your life.  (This piece of advice sounds like something your mother would say because it is something your mother would say!  But moms are right once in a while.)

#6: Remember that publishing is a business. In other words, the agents and editors want to make money. When you are writing something to submit for consideration, focus on topics that will sell and ideas that will reach a wide audience of readers. If no one wants to read your book about your deformed hermit crab or your trip to Cancun, no one is going to want to publish it.

#7: Write. Yes, unfortunately it is true. To be a writer you must write. It’s easy to talk about writing and think about writing, but doing it is excruciating at times. It takes a lot of dedication and patience to sit down and start writing. And it takes confidence to keep writing. In the beginning, you will judge every word you put down on the page. You will reread it, decide it sucks and give up. Then you’ll return to it and try again. You will get frustrated regularly but you have to keep writing.

#8: Do some positive self-talk. Recite a mantra like “I am a great writer! I can make this happen.” It’s easy to get discouraged but positive thinking will help you. Recite the mantra in public and then write down people’s reactions when they see you talking to yourself.  It will make a great first article. 

#9: Read a lot. People always tell writers to read a lot. I often wonder “Does reading smutty content online count? Does reading a Harlequin Romance novel count? How about reading my mother’s page long emails that she writes in all caps like she’s screaming at me? Does that type of reading do anything for my writing skills?” I’m sure reading a lot must help us write better but I can’t tell you how or why.

#10: Keep trying. Very few people succeed overnight. Most people submit many articles and proposals and get rejected several times before they succeed. Many people decide to blog for a while to get their fingers warmed up and then eventually they find a niche topic to write about that fits their personality and they turn it into a book proposal. If you’re serious about becoming a writer, you have to keep at it even when you’re feeling frustrated.

There is no short-cut to becoming a published writer as far as I know. It is a long, arduous process. Some say it is like giving birth. The pain is unbearable but when you hold the final product in your hands, you forget about everything you went through.  You stare lovingly at your little book baby and say “I want to do it again.” Then, your significant other looks at you in horror and runs like hell.  Copyright © 2009 Alison James