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SEP
20

Smell Like a Woman

A certain gentleman in my circle gave me Chanel No. 5 for my birthday a few months ago. For the record, I had never before owned Chanel No. 5. I had never before even smelled Chanel No. 5. It’s just out of my league; one of those perfumes I always figured I had no business wearing.

Anyway, it’s not about the perfume. That’s not what I’m stuck on. Rather the note this gentleman had written on the accompanying card. “Time to smell like a woman,” it said.

Time to smell like a woman.

It’s an age I’m not crazy about, so maybe you can read in these words a sweet and comforting message of encouragement about embracing my status as mature woman. But that’s not how I read it at the time. I, in fact, became rather internally panicked about what, exactly, I’d been smelling like up to that point. An adolescent? And what does that even smell like? Exclamation? Sunflower? The vanilla fragrance from Anthropologie I’ve been wearing for years?

The gift made me wax pensive over maturity, and over what life looks like before and after that point. This particular gentleman is the epitome of mature, in that he’s older, owns a sizable and expertly-furnished home, and fills it with art and sculptures and pictures from his world travels. Whereas the last time we were at my house (a small one-bedroom beach cottage with furnishings from IKEA), I had to scrounge through cupboards just to find a glass out of which to offer him a beverage. Do you see the difference? Do you see why his gift made me panic? Because now I’m convinced my whole life wreaks to him of adolescence. Except, isn’t this more minimalist-style life I live equally valid? Aren’t I still a legit adult woman even without the Chanel?

When I moved to Manhattan a few years ago, I downsized to probably only 10% of what I owned. I did this because I had to fit my large Midwestern home’s worth of goods into a 350 square foot studio apartment. And I’m not saying it wasn’t hard—seeing your costly possessions strewn about your yard and driveway being purchased for pennies can be depressing, as can realizing that you no longer really “own” anything even as a mature adult woman—but what I am saying is that I liked being so minimal. I liked only having what I needed. I liked the ease with which I could clean and pack. I liked knowing if I needed or wanted to up and move again, which, incidentally, I did a short time later, it would be a cinch. I liked being so transportable. I liked defying the Laws of Suburbia which state that possessions are what make us happy and determine our level of success.

Now that I’m in a (slightly) bigger home—one that actually has a bedroom—I’ve re-acquired some things, but for the most part I’m still pretty minimal. And it works for me. Now, would I be more attractive to this gentleman if I had stemware, artwork, and a bed and dresser I hadn’t assembled myself? I guarantee it. But if I’ve learned anything from his gift, it’s that being a woman doesn’t have to look—or smell—a certain way. Of course, I’ve also learned that Chanel No. 5 is divine, so let’s just call that a bonus.

MAR
30

Moving

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Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to move to New York. And so she sold everything she owned and found a darling studio on the Upper East Side. Everything was perfect until the girl's downstairs neighbor revealed herself to be of despicable, cat-hating character, and the girl was forced (OK, she could have stayed, but it would have been at the expense of her cat, who was not able to run around freely without getting both of them verbally harrassed by said evil neighbor) to move. And so she did.

Truth be told, having to move after only 6 months broke my heart a little. Partly because I really loved my apartment. I loved how it was furnished. Not particularly well, but it had everything I needed (down to things like pots and pans, extra sets of sheets, lamps and mirrors). I also loved how safe I felt. The Upper East Side, while an absolute pain to get to and from (this city *really* needs a crosstown train...or a subway line further east than Lex), is delightful, and I will miss it very much.

It's not that I feel unsafe here in my new apartment in West Harlem, it's just that safety is something I have to think about now, whereas before I really didn't. My first night here I don't think I slept a wink. It's much noisier, and from the hoots and hollers one hears, my writer mind is busy painting pictures of all the no-good these Harlemites are up to. And remember how I said I sold everything before moving to NY? Well, my new place isn't furnished, so I'm sitting here typing this on a writing desk in an otherwise empty apartment, and while I'm not exactly regretting having sold everything back at my garage sale in Cleveland (most of my things I didn't use and so didn't need), it's just that had I known I'd only be in the furnished UES studio for 6 months, I might not have sold quite so much.

But hindsight is 20/20, and so I'm focusing on the positive aspects of this move. 1: I got away from the evil, cat-hating neighbor who should seriously be committed. 2: It's so much easier (and faster) to get places now...chalk one up for the west side. 3: My rent is, like, SO much cheaper now. 4: I get to do lots of shopping in the near future. 5: New adventures surely await on this side of the park.

SEP
26

Less > More

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So, I'm reading a book right now called The Joy of Less. I'd lump it into a "tell me something I don't know" kind of book (full of principles such as "when one comes in, one goes out," and "narrow it down"...these are not earth-shattering concepts) if not for the fact that absolutely nobody is actually living this way. We get it; we can read a book like this and know we are the guilty ones for having so much crap we don't need--don't even use--yet what we cannot seem to do is get rid of it. The crap.

I'm using crap as a general term here, but the teensy bit of heartburn I feel as I sell, toss, or give away upwards of 90% of what I own is that my stuff is, in fact, not crap. My stuff is nice. So shouldn't I keep it? Don't I deserve to keep it? Haven't I worked hard to get to a point where my house is full of these nice things? While I'm sure there will be a moment after the move where I look around and say, "What happened to all my stuff?" and perhaps even shed a tear or two over being so stripped of belongings, my mantra through all of this is, "Something is only useful if it's being used." And most of my stuff is not. 

And let's also not forget that our stuff doesn't define us. Which can seem counter-intuitive. Because I can point to almost everything in my house and tell you a story about how it came to be mine. And there's a lot of life woven into these stories. Some of these stories are so significant to me that parting with the item will simply not be an option at this point, and that's OK. My point is simply that we must never get confused about what actually constitutes a life, and we must always remember that experiences trump possessions any day. And my hunch is that owning less actually facilitates more in terms of experiences. We have more room in our lives, in every sense of the word. That is what I'm looking forward to most.

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