I’ve been a fan of ELLE magazine’s advice columnist and counselor to the forlorn, E. Jean Carroll, since I began reading the glossy in my teenage years. Her straightforward, no-holds-barred style is refreshingly appealing, not to mention hilarious (dear).
The online dating service HowAboutWe recently sat down with Ms. Carroll to gain her insight on what makes—and breaks—a first date. Aside from her saucy suggestion that women steer clear of wearing pants (for many reasons that I can’t list here—you can read why for yourselves if you’d like), E. Jean was adamant that dinner, at all costs, be avoided in the beginning stages of a relationship. In fact, she called it “death.”
“Death, death, death. Dinner is DEATH. DO NOT go to dinner on a first date. Shall I say it again? I’ll say it again.”FULL ENTRY
Earlier this year, I confessed my cab addiction to Boston.com readers—how honest, how humbling!—and assumed that placing my admission in public arena was just what the doctor ordered to kick my expensive (and not-so-environmentally-friendly) habit to the curb.
I certainly didn’t plan on the slew of blizzards we’ve experienced since then (and the mass of icy, knee-deep puddles that have emerged after the snow’s melted), nor did I know just how handy Uber could be in particularly time-crunched situations (like, say, when I’ve overslept and am running late for work). But I digress. Using a variety of ways to get around—cabs, the subway, and yes, walking—is far easier (and less expensive) than owning a car in the city, which I did up until two years ago.
Not all modes of transportation were created equal, though; I’ve certainly made a number of mistakes in my day, including the time I took a Zipcar out to the suburbs on the Fourth of July and found myself barricaded out of Cambridge when I tried to return it; or when I miscalculated the last run of the T and wound up stranded in Somerville after a night at a jazz bar. Here’s a breakdown of what to take and when—and feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below.FULL ENTRY
It’s 5:30 PM and you’re about to check out of the office when your phone chimes with an incoming text: a friend you haven’t seen in ages wants to know if you’re around for dinner. Ten minutes beforehand, you couldn’t wait to go home; now, you’re excited at the prospect of catching up—but a quick once-over in the bathroom mirror says there’s no way you’re going anywhere except your couch with a toaster-oven pizza in hand. Your skin is greasy, your hair is flat, and your outfit, which seemed so fresh and “Who Runs The World? (Girls)” this morning, is now sad and tired-looking from sitting behind a desk for eight-plus hours. (Or, as evidenced from my photo above, is blessed with an idea meant for a notebook.) It seems silly to forgo plans for the sake of vanity, yet looking less than your best has dampened your confidence. What’s a modern day Tess McGill to do?
If you follow the advice that appears in certain women’s glossies, there’s not much to do. Just swipe on a coat of red lipstick, swap your sensible flats for a pair of towering stilettos, add a festive accessory or two, and you’ll be good to go!
Unfortunately, chandelier earrings and a can-do spirit are no match for the unpredictable nature of New England weather, much less the disgruntled attitude of fellow T riders at rush hour who couldn’t care less about your shoes. (Plus, I know I’m not the only one who feels like red lipstick requires more than just a dab from the tube—its application is practically a science.) I’ve changed in my car, snuck into fitting rooms en route to my destination to reapply mascara, and diverted cabs around the block so that I can fasten into sexier footwear before arriving for a date. Yes, I'm that awkward friend who always seems to have a spare pair of tights in her purse and a makeup bag overflowing with blotting papers—and for good reason. Having gone through the desk-to-dinner motions so many times over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about the art of the impromptu revamp, which is why I'm here to share my tips. You don’t need much, except anticipation of the unknown. (And, perhaps, a stain stick.)
Start at the beginning. I’ve heard enough about shrugging off cardigans to show off lacy camisoles, thank you very much. I like fashion writer Jennifer Scott’s credo: “Look presentable always.” Your best bet is to pick an outfit that’s both work- and nighttime-appropriate. I like the all-in-one appeal of a wrap dress, which can be purchased on any budget (and, if you invest in a good one, it’ll last you for years) and give you the most bang for your buck. I work in a creative environment and have some flexibility with what I can wear to work; if you need more polish, keep a blazer at your desk and remove it before you dance your way out of the building.
A Tide pen: your BFF. I can’t be the only closet slob in Boston, right? You don’t have to raise your hand—you know who you are—but if you’re prone to knocking over mugs of coffee, dropping food into your lap, and leaning into things that are sticky or wet throughout the course of the day, it’s probably a good idea to add a stain stick into the mix. And if you’re one of those people who remains remarkably pristine throughout the day with nary a smudge or hair out of place: in theory, I dislike you, but I’m sure you’re a good person.
A scarf: your other BFF. A scarf is about as versatile of an accessory you can have. You can easily layer on a pop of color without having to change clothes, and if the temperature wanes (like when you’re in a crowded bar and rivulets of sweat begin to form at the back of your neck because why is it so hot in here?), it just as easily folds into a bag or coat sleeve. Presto!
The emergency kit. Think of this as a first-aid kit for your face—and hair, and underarms, and, well, you get the idea. The idea here is to include things that will beautify you in under five minutes, and includes grooming essentials. In mine (a nylon zip-top bag from LeSportsac), you’ll find mini replicas of my makeup staples (mascara, beloved eyebrow brush, lipstick or gloss and those aforementioned blotting papers, plus a thimble-sized amount of BB cream I’ve squeezed from the tube into a plastic paint well (you can find them at art supply stores)); collapsable hair brush and dry shampoo; a mini toothpaste and toothbrush; deodorant, nail file, and small bottle of clear nail polish (I prefer Nailtiques, which dries quickly and doubles as a nail strengthener). Most items can be purchased at Sephora or in the travel aisle at CVS. I keep this kit in my desk drawer, though it also travels just as well inside a tote bag. Seriously, though: nix the red lipstick here in favor of something neutral. The point is to get ready quickly, and with minimal effort.
Boots made for walking. In a city like Boston, boots—in which to walk when cabs are few and far between, and in which to wear on a grimy subway—are much more practical than pumps. In warmer months, I prefer flat, gladiator-style sandals to get me around town (don’t get me started on my disdain toward the commuter flip-flop), but since we’re still in the throes of winter, I lean toward a trusty pair of Frye boots, which are both stylish and comfortable, and won’t take too badly of a beating if the sunshine turns to rain (or snow).
These are just a few ways to simplify the transition of moving from weekday warrior to dancing (or dining) queen. What are your tips?
“My favorite part is when those little guys and gals head out to bars on the weekend like they’re experiencing real nightlife!” he added. “Gets me every time.”
So said Michael Goodman, The Onion’s faux interviewee who took faux stabs at every aspect of “Hub” living, from its public transportation, job market, culture and nightlife (natch) in an article published on Wednesday that’s set Boston abuzz. (Even this blog’s host had something to say about it.) The nightlife, it seems, was of particular focus; we corn-fed Bostonians sure love our theater and fancy dinners at Top of the Hub, by golly!
Satire aside, The Onion wasn’t completely off base: our nightlife is sleepy, even Puritanical, and despite the surge of recent openings and renovations conducted by hospitality heavyweights, it will never compare to places like New York and L.A. (and yes, even Chicago). Groups like Future Boston Alliance are aiming to change that; in the meantime, if we really wanted to stay out until 5 A.M. or pay thousands of dollars for bottle service, wouldn’t we enact a mass exodus to a place that has it?
No, we wouldn’t, because we’re not just Bostonians; we’re New Englanders. We gripe about early closing times and the lack of happy hours the same way we bemoan the heat at the height of summer, only to look back fondly on sweltering humidity in the dead of winter. Misery loves company, and we love playing martyrs as much as we love our Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. So what if the streets are practically empty past 10 P.M. on a Tuesday night (or even a Friday night, in some cases)? We like our cozy nook of the country just the way it is, thank you very much—and without the constant glare of flashing disco balls. They're awfully bright, you know.
Before I leave my apartment, my routine goes something like this: check electrical appliances to ensure they’re shut down. Slip into my coat. Drop keys into purse. Apply one last spritz of perfume. Place an earbud in each ear, close the door behind me—make sure it’s locked—and hit ‘Play’ on my iPod before strutting off to my destination.
In the case of last night, that destination was a parking lot a half a mile from my apartment, where I was set to retrieve a Zipcar for an excursion to my friends’ new home in the suburbs. My music was playing at a fairly reasonable level—loud enough to block out the boisterous noise of the Irish bars I passed en route, but not too loud to hear a car blasting its horn—and as I darted down the street, I thought I heard my name being called out. Yet, I kept going, certain I was hearing things.
Turns out, I wasn’t.
“J,” as shown in grey above, is a guy I briefly dated a few summers ago. Even though things didn’t take off beyond a brief flirtation at the time, we’ve stayed in touch, and given his recent relocation to the city, I wasn’t entirely surprised to have run into him.
But technically speaking, I didn’t run into him—I ran past him. Like so many other urbanites, I'm guilty of relying upon my various iWhatevers to keep myself occupied in public spaces, whether it’s scrolling through an app on the bus or plugging my eardrums with pop music while I browse the aisles at Trader Joe’s. Or, as far as last night went, while I sprinted toward a parking lot. While there’s certainly no lack of data proving that our gadgets are interfering with our lives, I always felt, perhaps wrongly, that I was above this technological interception.
“J” is right, I think. Whether we’re using our gadgets to stay entertained or to keep us preoccupied, they’re seriously limiting our ability to connect with other people. And for legions of single people who want to meet potential partners—and especially for those who aren’t interested in online dating, including me—that means putting our devices away (and in my case, removing the earbuds) and paying attention to what’s literally in front of us. At parks and concerts. In bars and nightclubs. And as last night proved, on the sidewalk, too.
Of course, there’s irony that I’m supplementing my argument to put away devices down with a trail of text message screenshots—and sometimes, we use those devices specifically to avoid people (I know I do, at least). But you can bet that I’ll be leaving my iPod at home when I meet "J" for a drink later this week.