Throwback Edition: Dispatching From a Far-Off Saturday
Plus, the premium mediocre lifestyle, a test that guesses where you came from, and 100 happiness hacks
I write you this note from a hotel room balcony in Mexico. The sun is shining on my bare legs and the waves crashing on the shore is the music of the morning. It is as lovely as it sounds, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this trip before arriving, for I had been sick and unable to recover for the past two or so weeks.
It happened quickly—I returned to New York in September after three months of travel, only to dive head first into a level of chaos that I hadn’t experienced since before COVID. It was my birthday and then I needed to catch up with every single friend I had in the city, reciting the same draining stories of summer’s triumphs and tribulations over and over. I needed to go back to yoga at least four times a week, to say yes to every invitation, to have dinners and drinks and dates, to fly to Florida to see my family. And also, to get my freelance work done and to write this newsletter. I wore myself to the ground almost immediately, giving my body no chance to keep up with the unnecessary pace I had mindlessly slipped into.
When I wrote this piece in January of 2021, I had just returned to the city. I was living in an empty apartment and everything was still closed; it was a particularly bleak winter. I dreamt of full days of human contact, of touch, of no plans that unfolded into perfect plans. As I re-read todya’s edition—a fictional, dreamt-up Saturday—I can already see the propensity to overload myself manifesting in this imagined scenario like foreshadowing for what was to come. It feels bizarrely fitting for a time when many of us are fully back into the swing of normal life, needing to decide whether we want to continue to operate at the backbreaking pace of Before or slow things down in the After.
I’ll be slowing it way, way down in the coming weeks and even more so in the coming months with some shifting life circumstances. I’m excited to return to the slow pace I had only just learned to dwell in—it feels good to go slow. I hope you find small ways to slow down this season, too.
Until next time,
P.S., be sure to read article 2 in today’s Content Worth Consuming section—premium mediocre is a genius concept that still guts me!
A Note From the Editor
It's Saturday morning and I wake up without the aid of an alarm around 7:30 a.m., my under eyes free from their usual sleep-induced puffiness. From my bed, I spot the sun streaming through my windows, which are free of curtains and coverings, and it beckons me outside. I slip on something effortlessly chic—an oversized blazer over a crop top, loose-fitting pants, lots of gold necklaces, and a swipe of bright lipstick, strappy sandals. I don’t know what the day holds, so into my tote bag goes a giant Hydroflask, a book, a blanket, oil perfume, lipstick, and my wallet. Then out the door I go, no Airpods plugging my ears, no sunglasses shielding my corneas. Today I will not deny my body the simple pleasures of seeing and hearing everything it encounters.
The street is only just starting to wake up and it makes me feel like I’m in on a secret, like I am the responsible one who rises early and seizes the day. This is a feeling I admittedly enjoy, and I bask in it as I waltz into La Colombe on Lafayette. As I wait in line, I recall how this very coffee shop introduced me to oat milk and I giggle at the memory of the girl who was still pretending to enjoy the watery, burnt sunflower-seedy taste of steamed almond milk. The barista is handsome and wearing a beanie. He takes my order, a large oat latte with an extra shot, and his pointer finger glitters with a chunky silver ring as he takes my credit card. Our fingers brush. We exchange some light flirting, which compels me to select a 20% tip on the electric card reader. I survey the place as I wait for my coffee, amazed at how many patrons choose to sit inside even though there is no WiFi, a fact that seems to solidify the magic of the place. One woman has a fluffy white dog on her lap, one man is carrying an instrument case the size of a body bag. A pair of young lovers lean in close to each other, their knobby knees knocking together under the table. They are having a conversation far too intimate for such a public place and the girl looks like she might be crying. Happy tears or sad ones, I can’t tell. I could sit here and observe these strangers all day, but I do not. I take my coffee and I go.
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At Washington Square Park. I spread my blanket in the grass near the man who is serenading an under appreciative audience with concert-quality piano. I remove my shoes, let my toes sink into the damp grass. The park, like the city, is slowly waking up. Mothers pushing strollers, homeless people coaxing tourists into games of chess, college kids with oversized sunglasses and visible hangovers radiating from their bodies. I retrieve my book and try to read, but the world is too opulent and I don’t want to miss even a moment of it. I take out my notebook and begin to journal instead but am distracted by a tap on the shoulder. My friend is here, what a lovely coincidence! We double kiss on the cheek like a pair of pretty French women and, what do you know, she brought a bunch of pastries from Mah-Ze-Dahr. I sink my teeth into a sour cream doughnut and we discuss only the banalest of topics: what did you do last night? Remind me again where you are going next month for vacation, was it Brussels or Berlin? Should we go get massages?
We walk to that little underground spot in Nolita, the one that charges $40 for an hour, where the women dig their heels into your spine with a force that makes you think your ribs might crack. We agree to not tell anyone about this place because though its cleanliness is questionable, it is the greatest massage we’ve ever had and we don’t want it blowing it. We emerge from the darkened cave relaxed and a little tousled, and we decide to go check out that non-douchey rooftop bar downtown before the crowds start to pour in. On the way, we stop by Chinatown and order soup dumplings, steamy and perfectly salty. I love soup dumplings so much I could cry. I want to kiss whoever invented these little pockets of joy right on the mouth, or to write them a poem to express my gratitude.
The rooftop bar is full of strangers, a group of whom we are seated next to and begin to conversate with. We drink cocktails that are overpriced and sweaty on the outside. We laugh loudly at the joke one of our new friends just cracked. After a few rounds, we discover these strangers are in a band and they’re playing a set tonight, would we like to join? Of course, we would. We take note of the set time (9 pm). the remainder of the evening is taken on a whim; we decide to split a burger at a small sidewalk bistro, our bodies buzzing with sunshine and watered-down gin. We stroll through the streets of SoHo, Greenwich Village, Tribeca. My phone vibrates with an invitation: would I like to come to Brooklyn for an impromptu dinner party? Of course, I would. I hug my friend goodbye.
I smell the cracking garlic and onions from the hallway. Inside the dimly lit apartment are a handful of people, some of whom I know and others I do not. I’m greeted with hugs and more double-cheek kisses; someone hands me a glass of wine, someone plops a goat cheese-stuffed fig into my mouth, and isn’t it just divine? I forget to say that I don’t eat cheese because of an unfortunate intolerance, and then I think, “fuck it,” and move in for another fig. There are lit candles everywhere. Someone is reading palms, just for fun. I want to know what my future holds and am told I will live a very long life free of money troubles and full of minor secrets. I try to remember to write this down when I get back home.
I float from one conversation to the next; this person is a writer, too, that person is a lawyer. She just got back from a silent yoga retreat and he recently broke off his engagement. I try to look each person in the eye as they speak to me, I place my hand on their shoulder and on their forearm, lightly, to show that I’m listening. My glass is constantly being refilled and I am constantly refilling glasses. By the time dinner is served we are ravenous and bordering drunk. No one is precious about it, we acknowledge our hunger and dive right in; pita dipped in tahini and spoonfuls of oily, glistening olives and a beautiful roasted fish, whole, which seems like an ambitious feat for an impromptu dinner party, but no one is complaining.
Afterward, we consider the options. Should we do dancing? I remember the strangers on the roof, the ones in the band who are playing a set tonight. But our bellies are full and our shoulders relaxing down away from our ears. We are satiated, at least for today. The music will be there tomorrow and the next week and the week after that. If we want to dance, another time, we will dance.
Cheers, my dears, and thanks for reading about my fictional Saturday in a post-COVID future, inspired by the sentiment of this piece. Writing it made me feel really good. If you’re up for it, try writing one out for yourself, or feel free to give me an abridged version of your COVID-free Saturday in the comments below. You deserve something to look forward to.
Three Pieces of Content Worth Consuming
Justin Bieber Would like to Reintroduce Himself. Sometimes I like to go back and read profiles from a couple of years ago just to see whether they hold up or how much the person being profiled has “changed” over the subsequent years (read: whether or not they switched PR teams). I don’t have any vested interest in Justin Bieber, but I was curious to read about what the former bad boy turned pseudo-Christain star was like at the stage where he was said to be turning a corner. The beauty of this interview is that it paints a painfully clear picture of Bieber — the person he seems to think he is, the person the public thinks he is, and who he really is. I was surprised to hear he has a super soft voice, I was not surprised to hear he got his pet monkey taken away and is still indignant about it.
The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya the Millenial. Want a headache? Want to maybe feel seen and exposed in a way that makes you want to panic and laugh? Then read this brilliant, rambling piece, describing what the author calls "premium mediocre,' and others haplessly refer to as "bi-coastal elites" (spoiler alert: the bi-coastal elites are faking it and not very elite at all). Premium mediocre is partaking in the theatrics of a fancy lifestyle while mostly treading water, all while believing, if only a little, that meritocracy exists while waiting in the wings for your chance to jump ship into a more secure lifestyle (that may never come). This would be a good one for discussion.
How Transgender People Are Changing Their Voices. I was doing some research for a transgender character I wanted to write and came across this article. After noticing it was nearly six years old, I tried to find something newer to include here but was unable to find anything like it. I think that is part of the valley of understanding non-trans people have in learning about the unique challenges the trans community face. Regardless, I found this entire concept fascinating and something I’d never thought of before. Trans men can take testosterone to deepen their voices, but trans women have no such equivalent. I’d never thought of how imperative your voice is, how there are people who might be afraid to speak if their voice doesn’t match their outward appearance. I loved learning about the ways in which trans women can learn to feminize their voice, and about the things that go beyond tonality (like flowery language, for example).
Perhaps You Should…
Discover What Your Dialect Says About Where You’re From
Remember this infamous quiz from the New York Times? The premise is simple and satisfying: answer questions about what things were called and how certain words are pronounced where you grew up and discover what area of the country your dialect most closely identifies with. If I recall, the first time I took this test years ago they thought I got someplace in Alabama. This time I got Irving, Texas. Yee-haw.
**Bonus Content** (100 Happiness Hacks)
I’m all about anything that will increase happiness these days, so naturally, I was drawn to this list of 100 happiness hacks, most of which you’ve heard of already. I particularly liked how they were clustered into groups: dopamine(reward), oxytocin (love/bonding), serotonin (happiness/mood), endorphins (energy/pain).
A Quote From A Book You Should Read:
“I wept…for how deeply afraid I was that my life would never truly change, or worse, that true change would ask for of me than I could give.”
-Group by Christie Tate
This newsletter is best served with a side of conversation, so drop your opinions, reflections, and thoughts in the comments below and let’s get to talking.
Or, share the most thought-provoking piece from today’s edition with someone you love, then call them up to discuss, debate, and percolate. As a wise woman once said, “Great minds discuss ideas.”