Love In The Time Of COVID

Pandemic or not, dating isn’t easy. 

Movies and shows have made single-and-ready-to-mingle seem like an endless bout of fun, happy times, and funny stories to share over drinks with friends. The reality is it can be really disappointing, draining, and feel like mini breakups at times. 

You have to put yourself out there, give time to people who may or may not be worth it, guess what their intentions are, all the while you do the usual “dance” with each other. You’ve also got a whole host of dating behaviors (as well as the ever growing terminology to describe them): ghosting, zombie-ing, breadcrumbing, benching, haunting, catfishing, gaslighting, roaching, orbiting. It’s dizzying, really.

After a while, it can feel like a drag reciting your spiel over and over. It makes me think of those who work in theater and have to put on the same show every night. Even though they’re probably sick of regurgitating the same lines, they strive to put on a good show because they know it’s a different audience every time. A new set of eyes. A clean slate. 

That’s what we have to remember in dating – the audience is different each time and is unaware of your last performance. Fortunately, in dating, the lines don’t have to remain exactly the same either. We can come up with new ways of sharing things about ourselves, refine our story-telling ability, and play around with the energy we give off. Call it your own little experiment of human dynamics.

The pandemic has added a lot more nuance to this whole dating experience, though.

On top of the usual nerves, now you’ve got people who are recovering from loss, coming out of relationships, or who are in a transition phase in their life. With more jobs being shifted to a remote lifestyle, you can bet people are going to be more nomadic or in the middle of moving. 

During these unruly times, dating apps have been the most viable option of meeting people, which adds an extra layer of complication. This whole fast food dating culture already has our attention spans trending toward being minimal. Now, with pandemic fatigue at play, this translates into an even narrower window of time to spark one’s interest, otherwise BAM, it’s onto the next person. 

Maybe our intuition within the first few exchanges is correct and helps us find the right person more quickly to some extent. While having access to a wider pool of people is certainly convenient, I fear this whole what’s next? mentality is bringing us to a place of not giving enough attention to the few good catches that pop up. With all the “noise” you get on these apps, every time there’s a “hit”, you’ll constantly think someone better is still out there, and never really dive as deeply into said hit. Hence, the knee-jerk reaction people have to endlessly swipe. This endless abundance of options and the paradox of choice is a general issue with modern times, but that’s a topic of discussion for another day.

One silver lining with dating during the pandemic is that it has forced us to be more creative with date ideas. As we repeatedly see surges in cases, certain options and venues become less safe, which forces us to think outside of the box and expand our definitions of what a date can be. You can go stargazing, have a picnic on a cliff that overlooks the ocean, go to the zoo, go to outdoor Classical music concerts, go on a hike, do an online Escape Room, or visit spots that are meaningful to you. Even a walk through a scenic park can suffice for a first date and is probably less awkward than staring at each other across a dinner table for 2 hours anyway.

Life has been rough the last year and a half and I think a lot of us are still healing or processing all of this change. Let’s be kinder to one another. Let’s minimize the games and be upfront with what we want. Let’s be more mindful of each other’s time and feelings.

How You Should Approach Dating ~ A Fashion Analogy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to make sense of the dating world again. 

As it often does, my mind drifted toward analogies, which I find to be a massively underrated way of explaining things in life, by the way. 

Bear with me on this lengthy analogy for a moment.

In the Fashion world, there are a vast number of designer bags. You’ve got everything on the spectrum from $100 Coach bags to $5000 Chanel bags. 

Back in the day, the “lower end” designers like Michael Kors and Coach used to have a bigger market. However, somewhere along the way, they started to become too accessible. 

I remember there was a point in the past where I saw everyone donning Coach bags. This hurt the brand and lowered its value in the eyes of consumers. Of course, this is not to say that Coach doesn’t make high quality bags, it’s just that as the supply grew, the demand shrunk. 

On the other hand, look at Chanel. Classic styles like the Lambskin Square Mini Flap Bag have only increased in value and demand over time. 

I remember when I first laid eyes on this particular style, I fell in love with it. It’s classy, timeless, high quality, and well….not everyone has one. I frantically searched the Internet for where I could get my hands on one, only to find that it was not readily available anywhere. 

After extensive research and visits to the actual stores, I realized that my only way to obtain one was by means of joining a waitlist, and I was not about to wait 1-2 years for this… 

In the end, after a lot of contemplating, saving, and frustration, I took the calculated risk of buying a brand new one on eBay — my first ever designer bag purchase. 

I will never forget that rewarding feeling of not only earning something valuable by my own means, but also obtaining something that was so rare

So what’s my point with all of this bag talk? 

In the dating world, we need to make sure we don’t make ourselves too accessible. In the same way that a girl would often go crazy for a Chanel bag over a Coach bag, a potential partner would be much more interested in someone who is perceived to be high-value and not readily available. 

This is not to be confused with playing games and pretending to be hard-to-get. This is about conveying your standards, setting yourself apart from all the other eligible people out there, and giving more time to those who have earned it. 

Go out there and live your best life, pursue your passion projects and side hobbies, spend time reconnecting with old friends or family.

While you spend time on yourself and live that fabulous life you’ve always wanted, you will emanate that value and naturally be harder to get anyway (since you’ll be busy doing all those fabulous things with your time).

Buying Something Under The Influence

Remember the good old days when you walked into a store and bought something that caught your eye?

Maybe you walked in and saw a compelling outfit on a mannequin. Maybe you sifted through the racks until you found something that felt like “you”. The point is, you picked something out because you liked it. 

There was no precedent, no agenda.

In the age of Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, what have you, buying something because you happened to find it and like it is becoming increasingly rare. 

I seldom walk into a store anymore or browse online shopping sites “just because”. I usually have an agenda. I’ll see a pair of loose-fit Agolde jeans circulating Instagram, decide I like the style, and proceed to hunt it down across the different online shops. Somehow, that repeated exposure convinces me that I “need” those same jeans too.

Even more crazy is that I constantly find myself lusting after the exact clothes I see worn by my favorite Instagram or YouTube fashion bloggers. I’ll spend hours, sometimes days, trying to find the exact piece they have like a detective, which in itself has become a hobby for me. 

Oftentimes, the piece I’m looking for is sold out or from last year.

That doesn’t stop me.

I then resort to looking on all the secondhand clothing apps — Poshmark, eBay, Depop, Mercari, and thredUp.

Only then, when I’ve exhausted all those platforms, do I truly stop my search, which truthfully fills me with a great sense of defeat. 

Realizing this pattern of weird behavior, I started to question why we enjoy wearing the same clothes as others. I even started to feel a sense of guilt or shame for wanting to do that instead of picking out items that I see and that I like.

I bounced these troubled thoughts off of my friend, who wisely said back that there’s no need to feel guilty. Back in the day, before the influx of social media, people would still see things on the store mannequins, in magazines, on people on the street and want the same item. The only difference now is those mannequins are E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. 

Now, on the rare occasions when I do buy something I haven’t seen on anyone else and purely because I like it (thank you, personalized online ads), it feels like such an accomplishment, which is sad, because it goes to show how often my purchases are “tainted with influence”.

Don’t Be Afraid To Dribble The Ball

When I was in elementary school, I played basketball in my spare time. 

Let me rephrase that – I tried to play basketball.

A few years prior, I had broken my teeth in the pool and from then on became overly cautious about everything. In basketball, this translated into me running up and down the court well, but whenever I caught the ball, I was so afraid of breaking my teeth again, that I quickly passed it on to someone else like a hot potato.

I was nothing like James Harden. 

And what did this brilliant strategy get me, you may ask? Only a single basket during one of my weekend games in all the months I played…and it was a foul shot.

Now, over a decade later, I’m realizing that this same approach I had to basketball back then has become a metaphor for how I’ve approached other things in my life.

Let’s take conversing for example. 

When I converse with those I’m not super close to, I have this tendency to want the conversation to be over quickly because I’m nervous. Instead of dribbling the ball a little by talking, I quickly pass it by nodding my head a lot and not contributing more to the conversation. 

Maybe you do this kind of thing in other parts of your life. For whatever reason, you’re too afraid to have the spotlight on you for a little bit, so you quickly direct it to someone else. 

I remember in 3rd grade, I passed up on the opportunity to be the lead in our school drama production of Firebirds. I was the first approached for this role and by my favorite teacher, no less. As sassy and outspoken as I was back then, I still said no to this opportunity to be The Firebird, and opted instead for being a whistling tree in the background. 

Yes, a freaking tree.

For my reserved friends out there, I’m here to say: dribble the ball, let your voice be heard, be the Firebird instead of a tree in a vast forest of other non-actors (no offense).

The next time you fear certain actions remember this: those fears will pale in comparison to the regret you’ll feel when you look back one day and see all the opportunities you missed.

Picking The Perfect Gift

With the holidays coming up, I thought it would be relevant to discuss picking the perfect gift for someone. 

Some of you may not care about putting thought into a gift and instead will opt for the usual gift card, tie, perfume, or a bundle of cash. 

That’s fair.

But I am here to argue that gift-giving doesn’t have to be like a chore, and on the contrary, should be enjoyable…at least when it concerns your closer friends and family. 

There’s nothing wrong with the list of gifts above per se, it’s just that we can all afford to be a little more creative in our selection.

I don’t know about you, but I usually can’t wait to see the look on the recipient’s face when I give them their gift. This is because I’ve usually put thought into the process and know that they’ll like it.

When scouting for a gift, often people will focus on what they would like to receive, and just assume that the recipient would like it too. Or they think that because they’re a certain gender (let’s go with ladies for this example), they’d automatically love perfume. Try to tailor your gift more to the individual

You may not understand why your friend likes Mint In Box items so much, especially since the point of them is to stay in their original package, but it doesn’t matter. You know they’d like it deep down, and they’re the ones who have to enjoy the gift, not you!

Here’s a list of tips on picking the perfect gift for that special person:

1.    Think back to past hints

Was there ever a time when you were out with this person and something caught their eye? Like an item in a window shop or a scarf around someone’s neck as they passed by? Try to rack your brain for moments like this and if you succeed, that’s bonus points because your recipient will be extra thankful that you remembered!

2.    Collect some data

Think of it as your own little investigation. If you want to go the extra mile, ask their closest friends and family what they think your recipient would desire. Perhaps they just lost their favorite sweater, or their curling iron recently broke. That’s where you step in and offer them a replacement!

3.    Keep a running list of what people like

Something I’ve been doing lately is keeping a list of those closest to me and just randomly jotting down items I think they’d like and their current obsessions. That way, when the time eventually comes for you to give them a gift, you’ll already have this list of pre-meditated options. 

4.    Don’t have to spend money

A common misconception and often deterrent for people is that they have to spend a lot of money to give someone a quality gift. Money doesn’t always dictate quality. What’s more valuable is how much thought you’ve put into the gift. You honestly don’t even have to spend money if you really don’t want to. Instead, you can create something for the person. 

One of the most valuable gifts I’ve ever gotten is a montage video from my brother for my college graduation. This video montage consisted of hours’ worth of work in finding and converting old family videos of me to a compatible file format, as well as reaching out to my friends for video and written messages, all consolidated into a 10 minute video. This meant ten times more to me than if he had gone and bought me an expensive jacket. In fact, that video is priceless. The point is you can easily create sentimental things for people, like videos, scrapbooks, pieces of art, etc. Not only will it cost little to nothing, but it will also be much more precious. 

5.     When all else fails…

If you’ve really thought things through and still can’t come up with a decent gift, there’s still hope: gag gifts. These are often silly, non-functional gifts that symbolize some kind of inside joke between the two of you. This kind of gift again shows thoughtfulness and that you’ve tailored the gift to the person. For instance, I had a running inside joke with my college friends about a metaphorical “nerd jar”, where instead of being penalized every time you swear, it’s every time you say something super nerdy. Therefore, a potential gag gift I could give one of these friends is a jar full of pieces of paper containing nerdy quotes from them. You get the picture.

Above all, the key is to be creative and thoughtful in the process. Don’t go for the obvious gift or the gift everyone else is probably planning to give them. The more thought you put into the gift, the more the recipient will appreciate it, and trust me, they can tell.

Post-Election Vibes

The day after the 2016 Presidential Election was a day I’ll never forget.

Before the results came out the night of, I knew it was already over. Seeing the red spread across the United States like wildfire didn’t leave much room for hope.

I slapped my laptop shut, not wanting to go through the pain of seeing him win. I had seen enough.

Like the 2.8 million other defeated souls, I somehow forced myself to fall asleep that night, hoping I would wake up the next morning and it would all have just been a horrible, horrible dream. 

The first thing I did when I woke up was go to Google and check the election results, hoping that by some miracle Trump had lost. My heart sank when I officially saw him as the winner, something that a year ago I had never even dreamed of seeing. Hell, I was still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come out and say we’d all been Punk’d.

I lay in bed for a long time before I found the will to get up and face the music. It was going to be a long day.

When I finally set foot outside on the way to campus, the atmosphere was unlike anything I’d experienced. The overcast skies and strong winds painted an ominous picture. Hardly anyone walked in the streets, and the few that did kept a straight face, their reactions unfaltering, as if nothing had happened.

But once I got to campus, I could tell people were each coping with the results in their own way. Some opted for ignoring the subject completely, some sought comfort in being alone and drowning out all the noise, and others felt better venting about it.

All in all, the whole day just felt so surreal, like you’re suddenly a character amid the rising action of a novel or movie.

You know in Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince when Dumbledore dies and Voldemort rises to power? Remember how dark the successive movies were under his reign? Much like the termination of Obama’s presidency and the rise of Trump, Light had fallen, while Darkness took the lead.

That movie-like feeling of defeat, like the “bad guys” had won, was something I didn’t think I’d witness in real life, at least not at this scale.

But even in times of darkness, there’s still light, even if it’s only a flickering flame.

We always have each other. While the implications of this election are driving a wedge between certain populations, the rest of us can stay strong together. We can seek solace in our strength in numbers and the power of our voices.

All we can do now is wait and hope that America under his presidency won’t be as dark as the forecast on post-election day.

Brand Central Station

We live in a world full of brands. If you live in DC, you especially know what I mean.

Every day, people slap on their LL Bean boots, their J Crew scarves, their J Brand jeans, and walk around looking like models straight out of a winter catalog.

Do you ever stop to think about how many brands you’re wearing though? It’s really quite fascinating actually.

Just standing in line the other day, I took note of all the recognizable brands the girl in front of me was wearing: a North Face coat, Lululemon pants, and Nike shoes.

While a lot of us don’t consciously decide to sport certain brands every day, the unique combination that comes out in the end speaks for itself. In a way, we are all vehicles for brand advertisement, even if on a subliminal level.

Do you ever find yourself lusting after a certain article of clothing or outfit and not knowing where exactly the idea came from? Well, you most likely saw the equivalent on someone a while back and that image subconsciously stuck in your head.

Welcome to subliminal advertising.

When you think of it really, most of our fashion choices stem from some other idea. You know a green jacket would look great with brown boots because you’ve previously seen that on someone else and thought it looked good. So you didn’t exactly come up with that outfit choice yourself. In the age of Instagram especially, it’s hard to build your own style when you’re constantly exposed to and inspired by that of others.

And there’s nothing wrong with building off of others’ styles and making them better. It’s just worth mentioning that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to be original with our style.

Behind every brand is a story. How it was made, where it was made, what it stands for, and whom it’s meant for.

Let’s take a look at one of the most powerful, well-known brands in apparel: Nike. Many are familiar with the fact that Nike’s name came from the Greek Goddess of Victory. This etymology, combined with the swoosh symbol, and campaigns like “Just Do It” instantly communicates a certain standard to its audiences, namely athletes. It communicates power, strength, and performance enhancement.  Being sported by the top athletes across many different sports only adds to the brand’s reputation.

Despite this positive image and influence however, Nike wasn’t always the model for ethical labor practices.

A few years back, founders of Education for Justice Jim Keady and Leslie Kretzu set out to go behind the scenes of the Nike factories in Indonesia.  To really immerse themselves in the experience, they decided to live there for a few months, under the same wages and living conditions as the factory workers.

Jim and Leslie lived in a tiny cement box as shelter with no air-conditioning and 100% humidity outdoors. Waste from all the shelters’ toilets would accumulate on and often flood the streets after rain. Like the rest of the workers, they “lived” on $1.25 wages per day, which they had to divide between hygienic items, food, and (God forbid) medicine. By the end of this experience, the two had lost a significant amount of weight and barely had enough energy to get through the day.

Fortunately, Jim and Leslie got to go back to their regular lives at the end of that experience. For the Indonesian factory workers, that experience was their regular life, if you can call that living.

That’s capitalism for you.

Brands have the ability to create power, convey quality, and affect change. Yet, we often walk around not realizing what these brands stand for and what goes into creating them.

At the very least, we can all stand to be a little more conscious.

Everything Is A Photo Opp

I am in awe at our generation.

A few nights ago, I found myself at a Friendsgiving potluck.

By the time everyone arrived, the dining table was fully adorned with all sorts of appealing food — everything from chicken masala to Thai peanut sauce.

Everyone grew antsy, their mouths salivating as they waited to break into this multicultural palette.

But like the modern-day prayer before a meal, what does everyone do first? They take out their iPhones and take a Snapchat of the table.

I know this is nothing new, but how did we get to a point where we can’t even eat our meals anymore without snapping a picture first?

A few years back, people seldom took pictures of what they ate and projected it to the world. It’s such a mundane, common part of everyday life that, unless you’re eating something unusual, why would anyone care about what you’re eating?

Once everyone finished updating their stories on Snapchat, we finally treated the food as we were meant to and dug in. But as the night ensued, I was in for even more surprises.

As we indulged, about half us became engrossed in a heated debate about gender and sexuality.

People passionately shouted over one another, wanting to get their opinions across first. I mostly sat back and listened to what others had to share, intrigued by their ideas and well-crafted opinions.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed the other guests were engaging in a photo session on the side.

One of them scrambled around the room, interrupting the conversations (much to their dismay) just to take a selfie with practically every single guest. I expected these photos to be posted on social media within 24 hours.

Sure enough, the very next morning, the photos were posted all over Instagram and Facebook.

This night epitomizes the very problem with our generation.

We are so focused on trying to “capture the moment,” it’s keeping us from living in the moment itself.

This kind of picture-taking has far surpassed the tentative, awkward family pictures people took during the holidays to share through their email attachments and place in their photo albums.

Now we want to document every single little thing that happens as if it ceases to exist otherwise.

We’ve become hellbent on showing the rest of the world how happy we are on these occasions, when really, we’re just fishing for others’ approval and envy.

Doing this also makes us less mysterious. You don’t have to wonder what your friend is doing, because you can simply look at her Snapchat story and know: who she’s with, where she’s eating or what task she’s currently struggling with.

I’m not going to lie, I am guilty of doing all of these things as well.

However, by being more aware of it, I’m trying to keep my phone away and focus on soaking up these precious moments instead.

Cameras may be able to capture the aesthetics, but what they fail to capture is the authenticity of the moments and the emotions we are experiencing deep down.

Therefore, I challenge you Gen-Yers: Next time you’re at an event that’s Facebook-, Instagram- or Snapchat-worthy, try to keep your phone away and focus on being fully present in the moment.

You never know what important pieces of information or opportunities you’ll miss out on.

Had my friend ignored her itch to take excessive pictures during the potluck, she would have gotten meaningful insight into that controversial debate of gender allocation.

Musings on everything from fashion to traveling, relationships, health, and more!