Questions from Quindlen

Questions that arose while reading Anna Quindlen’s “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake: A Memoir of a Woman’s Life,”on the morning of my 36th birthday, drinking a cup of hand-poured, Tanzanian dark roast with hints of oatmeal raisin cookie and tangerine, or so I was told. Context, like batteries, not included:

  1. Why are the older, wiser people in my life the ones who are focused on money and business card titles?
  2. How much will I think of who’s not there?
  3. What friends can I imagine being there, in this kind of way, in 30 years?
  4. What piece of furniture do you wish you had?
  5. What will really make you happy? Not what looks good to others, or what will please your parents, or what will let you keep up? Just you.
  6. What mistakes do I think my mother made? Where do I think she went right?
  7. And when you’re the daughter who prefers boyshorts and high waists, with the thong-wearing mother?
  8. What good thing would you give up to have another good thing?
  9. What if you worry, but are too tired to figure out how to fix it?
  10. What do people see when they look at my face?
  11. Where’s the cat?
  12. When do you stop trying to make the checklist, or how do you get beyond it when some of the most important people in your life tell you you haven’t done well enough at it?
  13. Do women find loss of fertility a relief?
  14. To whom are we obliged? Those closest to us or those looking in the proverbial windows? How much do we do because someone really needs it, and how much because of a desire to make a more certain impression?
  15. Why am I the one seeking job leads or advice from women younger than me?
  16. Shouldn’t I have more time?
  17. I’m so tired and I know exercise will help, but I’m too tired and I hurt too much — how to stop the cycle?
  18. What is my personal symbol of opposition to pernicious pessimism?
  19. At 36, struggling for strength feels pathetic; perhaps in 30 years it will feel noble?
  20. Does the “big is beautiful” culture celebrate unhealthiness?
  21. Will being physically strong make one feel more emotionally strong?
  22. What’s your headstand?
  23. Why wait?
  24. Who is stopping us?
  25. No, seriously. Who and what stops you from being happy?
  26. How can you define someone else’s happiness?
  27. How can women of 60 communicate this lesson to women of 30?
  28. What is old?
  29. Why do you choose to change or keep your name?
  30. How old do you feel?
  31. “Fine” is not five years away: Why bother?
  32.  This only addresses being beholden to your immediate sphere. What about the larger world?
  33. Even before kids, do women feel crazier than men? Perhaps in preparation?
  34. How do you balance independence and safety?
  35. How much did you keep to yourself? Did they know you disagreed with their choices?
  36. Is there that past-80 place where we can celebrate youthful optimism?
  37. What is “security” anyway?
  38. Would you rather settle down, settle in, or just settle?
  39. Are these really the cosmic questions? Will they be happy? Generous? Good?
  40. Do you enjoy being a parent? Did they enjoy it? Will I enjoy it?
  41. Do we make our parents laugh? Do our kids make us laugh?
  42. Do you want to be like your children? Is this the ultimate sign of parental success?
  43. Are you able to see the glass both ways?
  44. Who does the guilting?
  45. What examples of feminism were set for me in my family?
  46. Would you give up your place in the sun if it meant another critical mass of women were being recognized?
  47. How good or bad are the golden era, the good old days? What’s the tip of the scale from bad to better?
  48. Do women opt out? (Ally McBeal)
  49. Are older male partners not retiring?
  50. Why have I never been able to ask for a raise or promotion without feeling like an asshole?
  51. How is this need being communicated to men if women are far likelier to read this book?
  52. Is this really “normative”?
  53. But again, would you give up your success?
  54. Yes, women have to work harder to even get a chance to try, but the ones who succeed, who do earn a spot for themselves, would they give up their places if meant more women could be on the front page, in the boardroom, on the ballot?
  55. What does it mean to be of a faith?
  56. Because of what you learned, or because of rebelling against what you learned?
  57. How does Judaism foster a searching approach, or even a relationship, to spirituality?
  58. Ignorance is bliss, who whose?
  59. If you regularly attend religious services, why do you? If you did, but stopped, why did you stop?
  60. Can you substitute family, or culture, for church?
  61. What do you believe in?
  62. What about great women?
  63. Who has had great thoughts about you?
  64. What does it say that we see our usefulness primarily in our professions?
  65. Does equality mean women feeling less harried/oppressed and men feeling more?
  66. What’s better: To have a dream that never comes true or not to have a dream at all?
  67. Better question: What’s worse?
  68. Does it make someone less than if the “big things” haven’t happened yet?
  69. What is your plan B?
  70. If your career is your passion, aren’t you one of those people?
  71. Did I blink and miss my chance?
  72. How many old friends do you have who know you? How does friendship evolve over the years? How does age, marriage, family, moving, affect it?
  73. If someone is destined to die young, but is not yet on the way, do you ever speak of it?
  74. Not everyone wants to plan for the worst. Do I?
  75. How would you want the people you love most to die? Quickly, painlessly, and in their right mind, or slowly to give you time to do and say the things you want, even if there’s never really enough time?
  76. How well do we know our family members?
  77. Does my mother think I can be generous for its own sake?
  78. Do we need to have experienced loss in order to value something?
  79. Should we not take precautions?
  80. How do you stop someone being like me, choked and bruised by fear of what might happen?
  81. Living longer than your parents did — What perspective does that offer?
  82. “The human being is the only animal that thinks about the future” — Boon or curse?
  83. I always appreciate old people who exercise, but why do I wait?
  84. How far into your past can you truly feel?
  85. Is choice always a good thing?
  86. What can we still do? (Don’t say “anything.” That’s a lie)
  87. Do you want to die before or after your spouse?
  88. Which one of them will be harder to take care of?
  89. Do I still have the time and room in my life to become more before the spectre of my life narrows?
  90. Imagine yourself at 85. Who are you? What does your life look like?
  91. How do you want to die?
  92. When it’s not how you imagine, can you see what’s beautiful about it? Can you quiet the voices inside, shut out the ones outside, the ones saying shoulda, coulda, woulda, and appreciate the place you are, the day, the life you have?

 

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#pitchmyvagina

There are a lot of things I like about freelance writing, mostly the flexible schedule and the ability to do it in my underwear, but there’s one thing I really, really, really hate:

Pitching.

Pitching is The Worst, in title case. It’s not just the fact that you have to have the right idea and the right style, it’s that you have to tell the right person all about your right idea and right style in the right way.

So you spend your time crafting the perfect pitch, and then nine times out of 10, IF an editor gets back to you at all, the response is “thanks, but I’ll pass on this one.” I get it. Tons of pitches come in. An editor doesn’t have time to reply to everyone in detail.

But you know who else isn’t mired in time? People who are pitching stories. Which brings us to the right etiquette: I’ve heard editors say they would never run a story or work with a writer who pitches multiple outlets at once.

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When I’ve applied for jobs, I don’t wait until one company rejects me before I send my resume to another. I’m in a long-term relationship, but when people are dating, or whatever people do in the Tinder/Match/rightswipe age, they don’t wait until one potential connection fails miserably before texting the next one, do they?

I don’t think I could take trying to date on top of everything else. It would be like trying to pitch my vagina.

 

 

honesty isn’t the best policy?

I am currently seeking work, and as any of us who have ever looked for a job or assignment knows, it’s an incredibly time-consuming, tedious process. Nearly every book, article or expert I’ve consulted on networking, however, advocates for the “informational” conversation: “Dear So-and-So, I’m so interested in hearing about your career path…” Often the advice is to not even mention a job possibility in initial correspondence. As someone with a fondness for efficiency and a low tolerance for bullshit, I find this advice suspect.

Can anyone provide legitimate insight as to why a more direct approach is not generally advised? Not “Hi, we went to the same school, will you hire me?” of course (though that would be really nice), but “Dear So-and-So, I am interested in Position X at your company. Would you be willing to have a conversation with me about your experience and my background to determine if there might be a good mutual fit?” or some such.

Frankly, any time I say that I am interested in “learning about your experience” or “finding out more about your career path,” I, A) am certain the recipient can see right through that claptrap, and B) feel as if I’m representing myself as a wide-eyed “newbie,” rather than as the experienced professional I am.

We often talk about being straightforward and asking for what you want, especially “as women,” but there’s so much advice out there to beat around the bush. What’s wrong with saying “I would appreciate your help/advice/insight in service of a goal?” Isn’t a direct approach more efficient and productive for everyone involved?

studies are important

Just received an email with the subject line: “Study: Freelancers Are Undercompensated.” I would like to commission a series of equally worthy studies:

– Do Cats Like Shiny Things?
– Are Men Fond of Fellatio?
– Are Horsies Pretty?
– Is Drinking Water Good For Your Health?

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cover letters: a study in honesty

Dear Prospective Employer,

Greetings! I am copying and pasting this cover letter, with minor edits, in the hope that you will deign to pay me just enough money to keep a roof over my head for doing what used to be the job of 2.3 people.

Your advertised position makes me want to put my head through a brick wall only a little bit, and I feel confident in performing eight of the 11 tasks required. However, I have more than a decade of experience in tasks 1-6, which the attached work samples will demonstrate. I also hold an advanced degree.

Most likely, Prospective Employer, you will not look at the aforementioned work samples. Instead, you will most likely hire someone younger, with less experience and more followers on Instagram. Someone, perhaps, more like you. I would appreciate the opportunity to tell you to your face why that is, in fact, a load of hooey.

Should you have the courtesy to reply to this letter, I will look forward to a continued and productive correspondence. But I have my doubts.

Yours sincerely.

P.S. Neither a “beer fridge” nor a “pet-friendly” office is a legitimate work benefit.