Saturday, March 30, 2013

Phone Calls, Anxiety, and Picking Your Battles

I hate the person who yells at waitstaff for a mistake the kitchen made. Or the person who yells at a cashier for upholding a storewide policy they didn't create. It's that whole "don't shoot the messenger" thing and it's incredibly rude and short-sighted.

It can be really hard not to immediately unload your frustrations on the person who is sending them your way; I get that. But it's not alright to do so.

This comes up because of something that happened (or, really, didn't happen) this week. I was running low on my prescription, and I called my doctor's office to get them to call a new set of refills into my pharmacy. I get really anxious when I make phone calls, and I have to psych myself up to do each one, so this wasn't easy. The first time I called was Wednesday, and I had two or three pills left, which I told the receptionist. My doctor wasn't in the office that day, but would be the next, so if she couldn't get someone else on staff to sign off, she'd call it in Thursday.

As of Friday morning the pharmacy had nothing. So I called back. Left a message. Waited a couple of hours, checked with my pharmacy and still, nope. So I called again. It was an answering service, who said maybe the doctor was just out to lunch, so I left another message. I took a shower, had lunch, read a little, and about two hours later I called again.

It was the answering service, who this time said maybe they had closed early for the holiday weekend. My frustrations bubbled up, and I came very close to unloading on this poor woman named Bambi who had answered the phone.

I started to, saying "yeah, well I've been trying to get this done since Wednesday." But I stopped myself, because there was no point in yelling at Bambi. She worked for an answering service; she has no control over what my doctor's office had been doing (or decidedly NOT doing) all week. So I just  said there was no point in leaving another message, thanked her, and hung up.

The merits of walking away (or hanging up) can be great. Beyond being concerned for others and general courtesy, when you yell at someone, you make them less likely to help you solve your problem. To use cliches, why burn a bridge or shoot a messenger when you don't have to? When something can't be fixed, excuse yourself, work on a new solution, and maybe just complain about it to your friends. That can go a long way.

By the way, my pharmacist was nice enough to give me four pills to get me through the next couple of days. The battle resumes Monday.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Polite Call-Outs

Sometimes people we know say terrible things. They may have a deep-seated prejudice they need to address, or they may simply be privileged enough that they don't realize certain things are hurtful.

There may be times when you cannot speak up (to your boss or the person who donates tons of money to your company, for example), and that's OK. You can't be expected to put your livelihood in jeopardy. But when it's a friend or family member, you may want to call them out.

First off, make sure you have some knowledge on the topic. If they challenge you, there's a chance you may need examples or arguments to back you up. You don't need to do a dissertation, but reading a few websites and learning some talking points can go a long way.

Next, you need to be sure to be polite and firm. People won't generally respond well if you are too argumentative (I realize there's a sort of double standard in making sure you're polite when the other person was offensive, but if you want them to listen it's for the best).

Clearly state what the problem is, preferable with "I" statements. "When you said X, I felt Y because Z." This may be where they push back and you need to have some more information in mind. But it's also perfectly acceptable to tell them to do their own research. You can't be expected to educate everyone, and it can be exhausting to try.

If the person accuses you of being the "PC police" just remember that there's nothing wrong with that. "PC" just means someone who prefers not to use language that can hurt and oppress groups of people, and that's a whole lot better than the alternative.

Monday, March 25, 2013

10 Things You Don't Have to Change or Apologize For

There are so many things you have to either change or suppress about yourself to get ahead (or just get by) in this world that it can be overwhelming. But there are many things you should never, ever apologize for, or change for anyone else.

10. Your hobbies. 
As long as you aren't hurting anyone, what you do in your free time is your own business.

9. Where you were born.
It's important to learn something from your home town, but you can't change where you come from.

8. Your taste in music.
It has no bearing on who you are as a person or employee.

7. Your accent.
Related to where you were born, it's a part of you, and people need to stop stereotyping based on speech.

6. Your socioeconomic status.
There are so many factors that contribute to that and it's cruel for anyone to hold it against you. Just make sure you stay aware of your privileges.

5. Your health.
Physical or mental. You have to take care of yourself, and do your best to demand your work and friends respect your needs.

4. Your marital or family status.
Whether you tied the knot at 19 or are still single at 45, it's your business alone. Same goes for kids. Whether or not you have or want them is none of anyone else's concern.

3. Your race.

2. Your gender identity or sexual orientation. 
Anyone who asks you to hide or change that is a bigot.

1. Your body.
Height, weight, shape, color, and so on. No one should be discriminating against how you look.

A Quick Break

I left for a week without warning, which really isn't great form in the blogging world. I know this site is relatively new, so there probably aren't many people anxiously waiting for my next post, but still, it's important to keep up. I'm back from a much-needed break, and new posts will start up later today.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Working for Free

Just get a job. Quit being lazy. Grow up, already and find some work. You leech.

Believe me, I've heard them all. I've probably thought about half of the negative things you can say about unemployment about myself.

You can barely open a newspaper (er, or open a website that used to be a newspaper) without seeing some article about the delayed adulthood of millenials and generation Y and how we're not buying houses or we're still living at home or whatever else is wrong with us this week.

I know. I should just get out there and get a job so I can move out and be an adult. Right. This is the first time I've ever been told that, and clearly that idea had never occurred to me before. Let me get on that now.

Except nothing is ever that simple. In case you haven't noticed, the job market sucks. Single posts on employment sites get hundreds of responses. It's even nearly impossible to get a job at McDonald's right now. And when you're a creative type, it gets even worse, since the people who show interest in hiring you still don't want to pay you.

Via The New Yorker.
Yes, I do a little free work. It's for places that are labors of love, plus I know they're hardly breaking even on server costs and aren't paying anyone. They aren't advertising on the media boards like they're a real job and then - surprise - either calling themselves "internships" or offering something insultingly low per piece.

So in a world where you practically need a doctorate to get retail work, but employers in your field want you to work for nothing, how are you supposed to get out and do all the things that are established markers of adulthood? I don't have answers to that. I'm still just trying to get by, and unfortunately right now that means I'm figuring things out from my parents' spare bedroom.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Swearing isn't Always Bad, Really

I'm writing this from the place of someone who is very rarely bothered by profanity. The only words that are upsetting to me are the ones that are designed to harm and oppress specific groups. But those are slurs, not swears. Your generic, run-of-the-mill four-letterers and f-bombs are really nothing.

So it always takes me by surprise when full-grown adults are appalled and shocked at the sound of other full-grown adults using curse words in non-hateful ways. I actually read a review on Goodreads saying the person had knocked a star off because the book in question had swearing in it (not even that much, by my standards). Come on. They are words, used for emphasis and conveying a certain point. They can add zest to a conversation. And no, they are not an indicator that you don't know how to express yourself.

(I don't know where this came from, other than someone screencapping Facebook.)
Some of the smartest people I know are also giant potty-mouths. Conversely, I've met some pretty puritanical people who were of, let's say limited intelligence. There is simply no connection (at least not anecdotally; maybe there are studies demonstrating otherwise).

Being an adult means being smart and responsible about your language. Of course you should be cautious about it if you're dealing with children, and use your best judgment when you're at work. But as long as you aren't using language to hurt and oppress others, there's nothing wrong with a few "bad" words. There's no need to clutch pearls and gasp at the sound of a curse, either. If you want to improve the language of others, start thinking about the parts of our speech that contain ingrained racism, sexism, ableism, and other hate, and work to reduce those instead.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pretend You Aren't an Introvert (Sometimes)

This is something I need to keep reminding myself. As a fairly extreme introvert, I'm perfectly happy spending an evening in. Or every evening in. But nothing ever changes if I always do the same thing.

I do need to meet people. The human experience includes friends, relationships, colleagues, and acquaintances. I can't advance my own life if I live in my little cell of a room.

So this is just me, saying I will get out more. I will go to concerts, or conferences, or little parties (I don't like the big ones). I will make an attempt to talk to people and not just stand in the corner (except maybe at the concerts where talking is nearly impossible).

I will not become a hermit.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thank You Cards

Thank you notes are one of those very adult, polite things that everyone should do. I know I need to be better about it. I write them sometimes, but often I forget or simply don't have time. But they're important, so I've compiled a few cute note cards that you can get to keep on hand. It might also be worthwhile to invest in some forever stamps to keep with them so there's no excuse not to send.

Papyrus, $14.95 for 16 cards with envelopes
Papyrus, $12.95 for 20 cards with envelopes
Papyrus, $14.95 for 12 cards with envelopes
Etsy, $8.00 for 4 cards with envelopes
Etsy, $10.00 for 8 cards with envelopes
Something I noticed while looking for these cards: often the simple designs are described as "masculine" and "for men." That's silly, of course. A simple, straightforward design without a lot of frill is going to be versatile to have on hand, good for responding to everything from gifts to job interviews, regardless of the recipient's gender.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Break...Sort Of

I'm on spring break this week. Unfortunately, in the adultish world of a Ph.D. student, that means very little.

Sure, I'm saved the two nights when I physically have to be in class. But other than that, everything is the same. I still have reading to do. I still have research papers to work on. And, most notably, I still have to get up at 6 a.m. and get to work on the same days.

What does this have to do with being adultish? It's just a reminder that while breaks are nice, responsibilities continue, so we need to find a balance between allowing for a little relaxation without abandoning the work that needs to be done.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Brightly-Colored Nails

Like with my hair, I've never been one to shy away from bright colors and wild combinations on my nails. And again, I've been fortunate to work at places that don't really care about the hues on my tips, so I've gotten to play around.

I joined Julep Maven* last year and have been loving it. You get 3 or so small bottles of polish (side note: has anyone ever finished a whole big bottle of polish before it dried up?) every month for $20, and you can skip any time without hassle. It's great for people like me who love to try lots of different colors.

But the point of this post isn't to advertise for Julep. It's to talk about nail polish colors that are more acceptable if you work in a conservative environment. I've compiled a few below, in a range of prices.


Though it's $15 a pop, Butter London has some great shades. For neutrals, I like Hen Party, Fash Pack, and Tea With the Queen.If you have a little more leeway to try a fun blue, Fish Wife is really pretty.

(Full disclosure: due to my own cheapness, I haven't personally tried these. I included them based on recommendations and feedback I've heard from friends.)


At $8 a bottle, Zoya isn't quite as expensive as Butter. Plus, they often do free bottle promos, and I can say honestly, I have 4 or 5 bottles of Zoya and I've never paid more than the shipping cost. To be honest, I was really unhappy with the way their social media/customer service team handled a problem last year, but the product is so stand-out that I forgave them.

I picked a couple of brighter colors here, but there are some softer choices in the middle if that's what you need. Left to right are Dita, Meadow, Pandora, and Gia.

This brand I can personally vouch for. In fact, I'm wearing Dita right now.

Cheap as You-Know-What**:

I'm certainly not going to tell you Mattese Elite is the best quality nail polish on Earth. It goes on smooth enough, but it chips off really fast. So don't use it if you need it to stay put for more than a day or two.

But the bottles are $5.99 at full price and frequently on sale, so if you need a new color to experiment or give you a pick-me-up, they're not bad. Naturally, I managed to pick nice professionally-acceptable adult colors with just about the least professional names ever. On the left you have Dead Punk Rocker, and in the middle you'll find Dirty Slut. The one on the left is Raspberry Star, which will be less awkward if someone asks you what color you're wearing.

For Funsies:

Not everything in the OPI Skyfall James Bond Collection will be work-appropriate, but by god they're pretty. You could probably get away with Moonraker, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and The World is Not Enough, and maybe even a few others. These are $8.50 a bottle, which isn't too bad for a little fun. Hey, they're cheaper than a ticket to see a Bond film in theaters.


I love the Flatte Matte Topcoat from KnockOut. It was actually given to me as a parting gift at the end of my internship at Bust a few years ago, but I hadn't used it much until lately. A matte topcoat is a nice way to tone down colors. Plus it's a cool look, and practically doubles your polish options. At $14 it's a little pricey, but there are cheaper brands out there. I just can't vouch for them myself.

*Yes that's a referral link. But no, they aren't paying me to gush about them.
** If you are looking for more cheap beauty ideas, a friend of mine writes her own blog about that very topic.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Blazers: Like Cardigans, But Adultish

When you go from walking in 20 degree weather to a heated train, back to 20 degree weather to a heated bus to the 20 degree weather then finally into an overly-heated library, you need to dress in layers. Usually a cardigan does the trick, but on days when I want to look a little more polished and mature, a blazer is a good thing to have on hand.

And what's even better is that blazers made from terry and ponte are seemingly all the rage, so they're just as comfortable as a sweater. Here I've selected a few*:

Old Navy's Knit Blazer is not plus sized, but is a bit roomy and stretchy in sizes XS-XXL. I personally bought it in my usual size for the brand and have since wondered if I should have tried it one smaller. It's $34.94, very comfortable, comes in four different colors, and can work over jeans or something dressier.

This French terry blazer from Target is plus sized and $29.99. There is a similar style in ponte available for $39.99 as well.

This plus-sized ponte jacket, also from Target, comes in a couple of colors and is $34.99. It's a little dressier than the previous choices, with that cool zipper detail.

I admit it: I'm a sucker for a peplum. I think they look especially great on plus sized and curvier women. This jacket from Target incorporates that detail, plus an asymmetric lapel. Oh, and again it's ponte which means stretch and comfort. At $49.99, this is the biggest splurge here.
*I am both poor and fat, so my clothing selections for this blog will likely be plus sizes (or straight sizes that fit a wider range) and cheap. If you are not plus sized, well chances are there's something similar out there that will fit you. After all, your size offers about ten thousand percent more options than mine.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Is Procrastination Always Bad?

My work ethic was fairly perfect for journalism. I thrive on pressure and looming deadlines, so knowing I had to write 1000 words in the next hour or else was a great way to crack the whip so I'd churn out some fantastic work.

Doctoral studies are a different animal. Of course there are deadlines and assignments to do, and a lot of my writing still happens close to due dates, but the nature of the work doesn't leave as much room.

In a way, my strict calendar-keeping offers me some constant self-imposed deadlines. Knowing I have to finish reading this chapter by noon makes me actually buckle down and read. But I still need a little leeway.

It seems like a little bit or procrastination can actually be a good thing, as long as you don't overdo it. Giving myself a day off to lounge around the house knitting and playing The Sims can seem like a lazy waste of time, but it also helps me recharge.

So while the prep work involved in my doctoral assignments means I can't leave as much to the last minute, there's something to be said for knowing how my own brain works. Often, procrastination and last-minute work gets a bad rep, like I don't understand how to budget my time. On the contrary, I am budgeting my time in such a way that I will actually work when I need to instead of staring blankly at a computer screen not doing anything. And if I am turning in work that meets the expectations of my school, it really shouldn't matter if I wrote it little by little over weeks or all at once the day before it was due.

Besides, really knowing yourself and being comfortable with that is a pretty Adultish thing.

Monday, March 4, 2013

An Ode to Google Calendar

I mentioned last week that I am relatively terrible at maintaining physical organization (there are already things starting to pile up on that desk again). But I am good at organizing my assignments and appointments. I use both a physical day planner and Google Calendar to do so.

My normal week, before I add any school work in, looks like this:

My work schedule and classes are there, but nothing else. As I start to add in my readings and assignments, we get this:

I do my best to stick to the times allotted there, especially when I am at work (yes, I can do school stuff at work, because I am a graduate assistant).

Like I said, I also like to keep a hard calendar with me. I get a different level of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment by checking off assignments and crossing off days than I do with digital. Sure, with the number of changes and holdover readings it can get messy, but I like it:

Organization is really important with the amount of work doctoral students have. And this is how I do my best to keep up with that.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Manic Panic, A Love Story

My hair has been basically every shade of the rainbow. This scalp has seen a lifetime of Manic Panic, Special Effects, and some other ill-advised coloring methods meant to bring Roy G. Biv a little closer to home.

See, this was me at 18:

Cute, right? And since I was at a public high school with essentially no dress code, I didn't have to worry about being work/school appropriate.

I always knew on some level that at some point I wouldn't be able to do this anymore. Fortunately, I became a writer, so that day didn't come as soon as I thought it would. For example, this is me in 2011:

And these are me last summer (yes, pink is my favorite hair color):

The point is, I got away with this much longer than I had any right to.

And now the day has come where I can't really use these bright, unnatural colors. There's nothing explicitly banning them in my library dress code, but they require we look professional, and unfortunately fuchsia locks don't fit that definition to most people.

Recently I tested the waters and used a bright red Manic Panic color. I don't know why. Boredom, probably. It wasn't too far outside the realm of work appropriate, but as it faded and grew out, it looked less and less OK. So I went from this:


To this:

It's not as unique or exciting a brand of dye (though the streaks are nice), but it had to be done. I certainly don't like or agree with the assumption that having a certain color hair (or piercings or tattoos, which we'll get to in another post) makes you less professional or capable, but unfortunately, right now that is the world we live in.

And that's not to say I can't still have fun with my appearance. I may try out hair chalk, which means I can put streaks of more exciting colors in my hair that will just wash right out before work. Or maybe over the summer, when I'm not going to school, I'll be able to play around a little. But part of being Adultish (even reluctantly so) means adapting to the professional world. So here I am.