21st Century Insomnia

April 1, 2011

I’ve always had trouble sleeping. Since I was little. I used to have this weird fear that I would swallowed up by beans–like mountains of kidney beans– trapped, surrounded by their slick surfaces. I’m not kidding.

To distract myself when I couldn’t sleep, I would just reread Roald Dahl. The BFG and Matilda over and over.

I don’t fear the beans anymore, but I still don’t go to bed at what my mother would call a “reasonable hour.”

Today these witching hours have the capacity to be so much more eventful. The vast world of the internet is at your disposal! Once you get beyond the obvious draws of Netflix, Facebook, maybe even a little Words With Friends, once you delve past these superficial distractions, the internet is a really weird and wonderful place.






Internet Adulthood

March 12, 2011

My first screen name was something like pigaboo13. Is that embarrassing to admit? Whatever, I was 11 and signing onto AOL sounded like a spaceship landing. Pigaboo13 was followed by some inane band reference. And then I finally settled, around seventh grade, on sueratda. My password, I decided, would be my crush’s name because THAT was SO secret. And I never thought to change it.

A few months ago I was freelancing as a Production Assistant and was asked to sign into my AIM account. They used it to communicate throughout the office. Oh god, I thought. I can’t even remember the time I had to do this: the 4 letters of my 7th grade crush’s name. More embarrassing was that I had to say it aloud to my supervisor when she was setting up my computer. I should have changed that.

When I got accepted to college, I was assigned my big girl email address. LKAELIN. Soon after it just started making sense to use your name to identify you; to ditch the numbered initials or not-so-subtle references because it was more professional.

This internet adulthood, all this professionalism, it’s kinda boring. Part of me wishes I was still writing emails to acronyms and ridiculous nicknames: bigsis132. OriginalScarlet. Magpie14@aol.com. That your resume was judged by how clever your email address was. It’d certainly make office communication a lot more interesting.

Where We End Up

February 16, 2011

My favorite part of my forty-minute NJTransit commute is between Seacaucus Junction and New York Penn Station– a post-apocalyptic landscape, a modern day Gotham. This time of year the frozen meadowlands seem to to stretch infinitely, the frost-covered reeds peak around the cellphone towers and construction sites, and the New York City skyline is just a distant haze.

There are about five minutes every morning when the train sounds like it’s losing power in this straight between Seacaucus and Manhattan: the fluorescent lights turn off and the train quiets; all you can hear is the gentle hum as the train coasts along the track and soft mumbling of the woman behind me talking on her cellphone.

(Photo by Jake Nussbaum, post college comrade.)

Then you arrive in New York, cram into an escalator and up into the dregs of Penn Station– up into the low-ceiling underbelly of midtown, where there is always the faint aroma of buttered popcorn, the potpourri of businessmen, teenagers, tourists and homeless, and Auntie Anne’s frosted pretzels. A.M. NEW YORK.

Apparently 80% of college graduates are moving back home. So I guess my experience, in that respect, has been pretty typical. My mom still cooks me dinner and asks me when I’ll be home to eat it. But, within these past four months, and partially inspired by them, my post college life has been pretty atypical. See: When Parents Text. The blog. The book. The sitcom. This post-collegiate twist has been all-consuming, and now, as I take deep breaths aboard the NJ rail between Seacaucus and Manhattan, I ask myself, again: where will I end up?

Should I bite the bullet– move to Brooklyn? Get a dog and a fix-speed bike? Embrace my New York neighbor and its melange of scents.

New York City. Mystic, CT. Los Angeles. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Boston. New Jersey. Staten Island. Switzerland. Chinatown. Portland, OR. San Diego, CA. The East Village. Mammoth, CA. Honduras.

What are important factors in deciding where to live?

Can I own a car? Do I know people there? Should I know people there? I don’t want to know anyone there. Is there a grocery store?  It is affordable? Is there good public transportation?  Is it expensive? Is it New York City? Will I have a job? Do I have to have a job? Can I start a band? Can I work part time? Do bars close at 12AM? Do gay people live there? Do artsy people live there? Do too many artsy people live there? Are there bed bugs? Is it close to my parents? Is it too close to my parents? Is it warm? Is there a place to get brunch on Saturdays? Do they have real bagels? Is it NOT where I grew up? Is it NOT Ohio? Blue state? Red state? Does it rain a lot?

My mom recently got a very sweet note from a relative I’ve never met. Second cousin once removed or something. I’m loosely quoting, “My mother always spoke so highly of you, when I was looking for a path to follow, and yours was the one I chose.”

And this woman did, to a certain extent, follow in my mother’s chosen career footsteps. She became a nurse and joined the army, worked in a hospital, and now I think, teaches. Just like my mommy.

I think there is something to be said for taking a well-established, well-worn path. My sister knew she wanted to be a teacher since she could conceive of a future. I’m not kidding. Most children play with dolls, trucks, but my sister brought a briefcase full of paper to school. Lined paper ledger pads. My sister taught me long division in her closet-shaped classroom. She rang a small golden bell to signal the start of the school day, she took my attendance, and gave me homework. She went to Smith, got a degree in Education. Now she’s is getting her Master’s while teaching 4th grade and she gift wraps young adult fiction that she buys with her pay check. She takes them on field trips to Sandy Hook and has succeeded, you know? Simply put, my sister has arrived at her career. Done. Best Teacher Ever.

I don’t really know how it works. I think some people consciously step onto a path—through an aunt they admired, or when they picked up a ledger pad at the age of five. But maybe you don’t realize some paths until you turn around. Look how I got here.

I guess I’m wondering how this all fits together, how it will fall into place. Baby steps up the corporate ladder. Tiny moves forward and small increments added to my bank balance. I’m wondering when I can recline in my comfy career couch and sip Mai Tais, figuratively speaking, and talk about how I got there.

This past Saturday my friend Margaret ’10 and I were enjoying cups of coffee and orange juice in her Brooklyn apartment. Margaret and I lived together over the summer– did some communal grocery shopping. We frequently got into debates in the toothpaste aisle over whether the $2 that separated CREST from the generic “America” brand really made THAT much of a difference in plaque-fighting, tartar control.

My friends from home used to call me Lauren Discount Kaelin, and I’ll admit, I was often arguing for the generic American Pride toothpaste, convinced I was being a wise consumer.

Margaret, in her new Brooklyn apartment, however, has chosen certain luxuries well.

The benefits of buying name brand orange juice, outweigh the dollar difference of “From Concentrate’s” watery pulp-less aftertaste.


What other purchases is it worth it to splurge on?

Orange Juice

Coffee–Chock Full of Whatever tastes like ash.

Toilet paper. Smith College does not splurge on toilet paper.

Alcohol, glass never plastic.



My advice? Save money on socks, and then spend it on orange juice.


Bon Appetit

November 18, 2010

God, part of me wishes I was in the Campus Center waiting for the unveiling of the towers of brie, the fountains of chocolate, and the triangles of pita.

Happy Julia Child Day! I’ll be in Chinatown.

I’m back from a quick sojourn in the Pioneer Valley. Not gonna lie, that was kind of rough and a little overwhelming. It’s hard to go back and see all those places and realize they aren’t really yours anymore.

But it was so beautiful.

Mums, mimosas, and my beautiful, beautiful house. New first years– the traditions continue and it feels so good to see that.

So, whether I’m qualified to give them or not. Here are my words of wisdom, advice for your remaining semesters, Smithies.

Wake up for breakfast. Go to class, but if you have to choose between getting sleep and reading a 45 page article on the Disneyfication of Urban Spaces– go to sleep. Audition for The Vagina Monologues. Go to the Summit House at Mt. Holyoke, the art museum, Salvation Army, and Goodwill. Get into trouble, but not TOO much trouble. Go out on weeknights. Go to a poetry reading. Celebrate, dance on tables, step outside your comfort zone. Write a strongly worded e-mail. Sit in the greenhouse and enjoy the fake bird sounds. Don’t get too stressed. Become friends with your professors. Thank your housekeeper. And above all, savor the time with your friends. After you graduate you’ll go to different places, different countries, and pursue your different dreams. So lie in bed on Saturday mornings and watch TV.

A special shout out to all those dancing, performing, shouting, and lighting a candle at Celebration tonight.

I’ve been doing this 9-5 thing for a few months now.

Sometimes it feels a little too conventional– all takin’ and no givin’. Inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of social networks, texts from last night, and of course, my mother– my friend Sophia (UVM ’10) and I have decided on a business venture of sorts.

Announcing whenparentstext.com.

Have you ever received a text with too many abbreviations to decipher?

Or one signed “love, Dad”?

Or been texted a funeral announcement?

When you get a text from your parents do you have to guess what they were trying to say? Their valuable parental wisdom lost in translation?

Do you have a relationship with your parents that has been complicated by T-9 and large thumbs?

We would like to celebrate that.

This website is dedicated to the trials and errors that come when a parent handles a cellphone.

Here is a sample from the website– a conversation between me and my mom.

Mom: Tacos or meat loaf for dinner?

Daughter: Tacos

Mom: Bring your appetite. When will you be home?

Mom: Eta?

Mom: ???

Daughter: Can you pick me up at 6:45? My phone is going to die.

Mom: Walnut St?

Daughter: Yes

Mom: How many tacos?

Daughter: Might be more like 7.

Mom: Tacos?

Daughter: No, my train gets in then.

Daughter: Tacos? 2?

Mom: How many tacos?

Daughter: Mom, chill with the tacos.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

To submit your own texts from your parents, please e-mail whenparentstexts@gmail.com

Tweet, text, repost– spread the word.



Earlier this week I met a mutual friend named Tess in a local New Jersey watering hole. (The above painting hangs on this bar’s wall- “McMillan’s Dream” I think it’s called.) Tess and I talked about our signs. November is my birthday month and Venus is in retrograde so things have been going crazy; I was eager to vent. Tess got excited when I guessed she was a Libra and turned toward me, “do you know about your other signs?” …No, I confessed. I didn’t. Apparently Scorpio is only my EGO sign and I’ve got a whole bunch of other stuff to worry about– EMOTIONAL signs and whatnot. I’m overwhelmed just thinking about it.

Tess had just graduated from Wesleyan in May and was feeling a bit lost. She said she was eager to step into “other people’s realities” rather than confront her own. That’s why she was in Montclair– prolonging the inevitable and enjoying some $2 PBR.

Tess had just left a friend’s barn, an unsuccessful jaunt at an “artist’s colony” of sorts, and was going to go back home and lick her wounds. She was disappointed the barn situation hadn’t worked out. She had brought posters, things to hang on the wall, she had tried to make it her new home and she admitted that she felt defeated to pack things up so early.

The migration of the twenty-somethings, a coming of age story.

You know, I have no idea if I’ll ever see Tess again, but we connected over a shared feeling of transitory uneasiness– both a desire to settle, but an impulse to do anything but. And that kind of commonality is comforting.