expat

The Doorman in My Bewbz

I spent my last full week in Madrid wearing yoga pants and singing Santana’s “María María” as I cared for a teenager of the same name.  I was having a blast but feeling pretty suburban so to welcome the weekend I wore an outfit that made me feel like a prostitute on her way to a high-school orchestra concert. It’s difficult to say whether wearing a push-up bra makes me feel sexy or if it’s just that I enjoy the feeling I get from tricking weird men into whooping at what are really just two well-sculpted pillows. Jose María, the doorman, had rung me before I went out to tell me he had a package waiting for me and that I’d better come get it since it was his last day.

Now, I’m five foot ten or eleven in heels and Jose María is five foot on a good day. He ushered me into his office where I explained that the package contained a tablecloth made by my great-grandmother. The top of his head ended right at my big fake cleavage and I tried really hard not to laugh as he told me about his retirement plans. I wished that someone were painting us. They could title it:

Jose María and an Awkward Glamazon or
Tiny Doorman Passes Parcel to Possible Prosti or
Could Franco Have Foreseen This?

No one painted us, as far as I know. I crouched down to give him the customary dos besos and then walked out, me and that century old tablecloth both marveling at where we’d ended up.

How To Pack in 24 Self-Reflective Steps

I’ve done a lot of market research on lifestyle blogs/listicles and I’ve noticed that a lot of people seek help when it comes to putting their things in bags and then traveling with them, so I thought I’d share my own method. I’ve been packing this way for years and its always worked for me.

  1. Take your suitcase out of the closet. Open it.
  2. Walk away from the suitcase.
  3. Put a wig on.
  4. Take a casual selfie:IMG_20170702_233124_817
  5. Think: I am lookin’ like a drowned, harassed rat (then wonder who wrote that line in “Let’s Have a Kiki” and envy them).
  6. Start playing one or two songs on repeat. This year I’m listening to Rihanna’s “Love on The Brain” and “Higher.” The best lines are “What do I gotta do to get in yo’ mothafuckin’ heart?” and “I just really need your ass with me,” respectively.
  7. Receive a message from a friend with a link to Tina Turner’s  1982 performance of “Proud Mary” and then spend between ten and thirty minutes freaking out about how amazing Tina Turner and her legs are.
  8. Clean out the pockets of your winter coats and wonder why it is always in the pockets of said coats that the most bittersweet of memories live.
  9. Read your old journals and feel mildly embarrassed. Destroy between twelve and fifteen pages after you deem them too dramatic and/or dirty for public consumption in the event that you suffer an untimely death and someone has to go through your things.
  10. Take the wig off and feel a little bit sad about it.
  11. Have a brief panic attack when you think you’re a year older than you actually are.
  12. Have lunch.
  13. Have a coffee.
  14. Have a tiny mental breakdown as you compare your life today to your life at this same moment last year. Entertain the possibility that you are making all of the wrong decisions, all of the time. Realize that you feel this same way when you compare your life two weeks ago to your life today and resolve to be more carpe diem because, seriously, who cares?
  15. Think for a good bit about the absurdity of being afraid.
  16. Repeat Step # 4.
  17. Start folding and stacking clothing. Find a slim journal among a pile of t-shirts, start reading it, and begin to suspect that your past self planted emotional bombs all over your room in some kind of sick plan to thwart your departure.
  18. Start taking your books off the shelf, smelling the pages, and remembering where and why you read each of them.
  19. Wish someone would bring you a snack and a proper iced coffee.
  20. Throw all of your clothing on top of your suitcase, reasoning that, while this does not qualify as packing, at least it has gotten closer to its final destination.
  21. Repeat Step # 6.
  22. Make and eat dinner.
  23. Call your sister to inquire about how many formal dresses you’ve left in the closet at home. Although you have no plans to attend any black tie events during your visit, this feels urgent. Chat for an hour with multiple family members about eyebrows, taxes, and “Ice Cream Jerks.”
  24.  Write a stupid list about everything you just did and promise yourself that you’ll make more progress tomorrow (cuz you’re responsible as eff and started this three days early).

Luv and pride,

Seo

Mysteries of the Mind, Part 2

Last week I saw In The Same Boat, a documentary about how technology and job automation have led to monstrous wealth inequality and how one might confront the problem moving forward. It was followed by an open forum debate with Rudy Gnutti (the director), Yayo Herrero (premier eco-feminist), Jorge Moruno (Podemos representative and “lover of gnocchi”), and Iñigo Errejón (Podemos’ poster-baby and serial gesticulator). I was interested in the subject matter, but it would be dishonest of me to say that my facetious goal of dancing a chotis with Errejón didn’t have just a little bit to do with my decision to buy tickets. At the time of writing that goal remains unrealized, but I can tell you that in person Errejón looks younger than most of my middle-school students. I can also tell you that, after telling said students about the documentary, a few of them informed me that if I was a Podemista, I should leave class. Others warned me that my “pants were turning purple” and one incredulous girl asked “so, what, you think everyone should have jobs?” More on this later. Or never.

Getting ready for bed I thought mostly about how I should study economy and take a public speaking class. I also thought about the Amazon executive from the documentary, whose interview included a really amusing line in which he talked about how truly awful he really felt about getting on his private jet after seeing poverty in the streets! Finally, head on my pillow, eyes closed, my thoughts drifted not to neo-liberalism nor to Spain’s new political party, but to… Nino friggin’ Bravo, Spanish crooner and eyebrow idol.

Musical insomnia, again.

What was the song this time? “Un Beso y Una Flor.”

And the lines that wouldn’t leave my mind?

De día viviré pensando en tus sonrisas
De noche las estrellas me acompañarán

A beautiful, romantic goodbye song.

Why? And for what?

Y’all didn’t think I was about to analyze economics, did you?

Gazing at Navels and Cherry Blossoms

In October I grew a thousand hands, danced like a coke-head, couldn’t stop shaking my feet, and forgot to eat.

I walked too far, too fast, met too many people and heard too many stories, almost none of which answered the questions I was interested in: what are you afraid of? Do you ever feel embarrassed for entire days  and for no good reason? When do you feel most alone, most loved? What is love? Why? Can we talk about the things that are right? Can we not talk at all?

I felt half-convinced that I wanted to be an ad-woman or an engineer or the sort of person who cared about keeping up with the Jones. Acknowledging this, embracing it, later hating it, I recognized that it was time to, as they say, “move on.”

So I “made time” to spend time alone. I walked just as much or more, with ears out and eyes up.

Conviction is important, of course it is, but we’re all so full of it that sometimes I forget who I am and I most certainly forget “what matters.” My conviction is that we are all gross and lonely, sometimes assholes (by choice and by accident), and often confused. I have other convictions, warmer ones about love and the little things, but I’m bad at writing about them.

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In November I felt like a visitor, avoided all questions, climbed Embajadores and five flights with a bag of butter and broth. Half  of my world was name-dropping Wagner and the other half had been born without maps. Somewhere across the Atlantic there were rest-stops in the middle of Pennsylvania and trash-pickers in Fishtown that no one I knew had ever seen.

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In December, in Albacete, in an Audi, my driver informed me “this is a chick’s car” and then, saving himself, “but I’ve had 15 or 20 BMWs.”  I said almost nothing. He turned up Birdy’s cover of “Skinny Love” and declared: “esto si que es un temazo.” Because the car was comfortable and because he had a voice like a radio host, I didn’t mind the music (all covers and Calvin Harris). When I arrived in Murcia  I was thinking about becoming a business-man. I was also wondering if he made love to techno and, if so, what it would be like to be that sort of person?

I taught the sons and daughters of executives and diplomats in their museum homes. I bought a lottery ticket (my first) and for twenty-six hours I believed I’d pay off my student loans on December 22nd.

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In January, I ran. I re-read A Room of One’s Own while drinking a can of San Miguel. A man I love prepared me huevos rotos con jamon. Virginia might have called it “a man’s meal.” I imagined she’d be happy for me. On a Tuesday afternoon I got off my metro five stops too early. The resident accordionist was playing–what else?–the Amelie soundtrackAs people say these days, I just couldn’t.

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In February, I began measuring my life out in Sundays. A Sunday suicide pact. A 7AM Sunday under a rain that might have been romantic were it not for the fact that I felt like falling down. A Sunday run after an all-night Saturday, burritos and Coronita and laughs and an evening walk that felt like spring. A burnt toast Sunday morning, old skull afternoon, a vibrant Retiro, a guitar or three I couldn’t see. A Sunday electric with what if and what the fuck and two porras at five am.

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So here we are, March. I’m feeling my feelings religiously and irresponsibly and in between bites of Swiss cheese. I’m feeling them on the metro and under spring skies on Tuesday afternoons. What is this blog? What is this life? I don’t know, but it sure is pretty.

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WebMD for The Middle-class Millenial Woman

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La Tabacalera, Madrid. December 2016. Photos by Juan Manual Castro Prieto.

Symptoms

Fatigue

  • You’re tired. You want to stop, but you can’t. Lattes and sunsets and quirky glassware flash before your eyes.

Existential Unease

  • If your breakfasts aren’t beautiful… do you exist?
  • If you don’t read poetry in sunbeams, do you actually understand it?
  • If you go on vacation and don’t document every moment of it, if you don’t spread your arms wide for a photo opp in front of the sea, did you really go?
  • Is the cure for depression and anxiety as easy as reading a Top 10 Reasons to Live list?

Generalized Embarrassment About Ultimately Inconsequential Bullshit:

  • You just washed your hair with shower gel for the third day in a row (lifehack: shower gel and shampoo are almost the same thing–you won’t die if you substitute one for the other on a poor or lazy day/week/month).
  • There are three empty water bottles under your bed and the only explanation you can offer is “pure, unadulterated laziness.”
  • You drank a can of Diet Coke and ate a slice of bread “for dinner.”
  • You’ve never had a manicure.
  • You went to sleep with your asymmetrical eyeliner still on last night.
  • The socks on your feet don’t match.
  • You’d rather spend an afternoon in an old man bar than at Kelsey’s new vegan venture.

Anger:

  • WHY ARE THESE PEOPLE DRINKING SO MANY LATTES?
  • Life doesn’t look like this! Life is gross! Life is that old guy at the dark convenience store (they’re trying to save on electricity) who walked in smoking a cigar, asking for change. Life is the waiter with gnarly body odor you had today. Life is Eileen Myles writing a poem called Peanut-butter that begins I am always hungry/ & wanting to have sex. Life is that lady laying on the ground at the Paseo de Prado. Life is watching a man change into his Quixote costume. Fine, whatever, it’s gorgeous, too. Life is gorgeous, but it’s not made of pastels or lists or aerial shots of eggs Benedict.

Possible Diagnosis

You fell into a scroll-hole on a lifestyle blogger’s Instagram, didn’t you? Whatta dummy.

Treatment

Go outside. Respect the lifestyle ladies and men, anyway, for working hard and making a living marketing lives that don’t look like yours does. They must wonder what the fuck? from time to time, too. But that doesn’t sell.