Throwback Edition: The Failed Date Experiment

Plus, the science of breaking bad habits, California dreaming, and a beautiful short film

Dearest Readers,

My mind and body needed a break this week, so I’m coming at you with a special throwback edition. This post was originally written in May of 2020, and it felt like a useful reminder of personal agency and the ability to make choices, especially as things open up again and I feel myself slipping right back into old habits (spending and otherwise). I’ll be back next week with a new edition, but enjoy this throwback in the meantime.

A Note From the Editor

It all started with an expensive cheeseburger. While stuck at home and cooking all my own meals, I've taken to scouring the listings on Caviar, seeing what slice of my "old life" I can obtain in the form of an overpriced dish. The moment I saw Minetta Tavern's infamous burger was now available for delivery, I decided to plan a date night for myself, with myself.

I washed my hair, put on a dress, lit all the candles in my apartment. I bought a split of champagne and ordered a pint of Van Leeuwen ice cream. I put on red lipstick, dimmed the lights, and waited. When the deliveryman finally rang my doorbell, an unfamiliar wave of buoyant anticipation flooded over me. Leon Bridges crooned softly in the background as I closed my eyes and took that coveted first bite, and that's where the disappointment began

The burger was bland, the meat so rich it made my stomach ache. When the ice cream showed up it wasn't the flavor I ordered, and I felt a flare of annoyance followed by a deep self-loathing for being annoyed at something so trivial. I tried to take my time and savor the unexpectedly small portion of food, but the longer I took, the more unappetizing it became, growing soggy and limp and cold. By the end of the night, I welcomed the familiar, empty feeling that comes after shelling out $60 for a mediocre meal.

It made me consider how expectations color our perceptions. After a week of anticipation culminating in spending an exorbitant amount of money, I was let down, and I recognized how familiar that feeling used to be. Trying a restaurant because "everyone" raves about it and being perplexed by its mediocrity, going out when you felt like staying in, visiting a foreign place you've seen so often in photographs and being just the slightest bit let down by the experience, but never admitting your disappointment aloud. Those instances were frequent in my "old life" and none of them felt good. And yet, I still participated, somewhat mindlessly and often numbly, because it's what was expected of me. Whether those expectations came from myself or from the collective social pressure of existing in today's world, I can't be sure.

Maybe the stripped-down expectations of this time are a magnifying glass, intensifying the otherwise ignored, minuscule moments in life that actually feel good. Maybe, a really good recipe cooked in solitude with Leon Bridges crooning in the background is better than an over-hyped, $33 burger. And maybe when this is all over, we'll have the emotional wherewithal to be more honest with ourselves about the things we enjoy, expectations be damned.

Cheers my dears. I’d love to hear about the ways in which you’ve reflected on your pre-quarantine existence, and whether any of your old habits seem more or less appealing in the afterglow of isolation.

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Three Pieces of Content Worth Consuming

  1. The Science of Breaking Bad Habits. At a time when we're all spending 95% of our days in dangerous proximity to the refrigerator, this topic feels particularly relevant. I initially rejected the idea that only brain science, not sheer willpower, can help us break bad habits, but lately I've been warming up it. The secret isn't negating bad habits, it's figuring out what in your environment is triggering those behaviors and making it less convenient to access said triggers.

  2. Who Has Enough Cash Saved for COVID-19? I was struck by the figures presented in this article, demonstrating how long (or how short) it would take for families at varying income levels to save the suggested six months of emergency expenses in the wake of COVID-19. Even more striking was the comment section, mostly older people touting how their frugal lifestyles earned them a hefty savings account (and thus, a sense of security), as though poverty is a result of a lifestyle choice rather than stagnant wages and lack of basic social services.

  3. A Mic Drop You Need to Read, Trust Me. I stumbled across this essay entirely by accident, and I'm so glad I did. The former editor-in-chin of a media website eloquently lays the smackdown on her new bosses on her last day of work-- for all readers to see. The age-old tale goes something like this: an indie media website produces great work but doesn't generate enough advertising revenue, gets "saved" (bought) by a hedge fund of investors who don't know anything about media, website quality goes down the drain, talented editors are forced out.

Perhaps You Should...
Plan For Your Dream Getaway

Even if you can't set a date quite yet. No one knows when we'll be traveling again, but I find solace in daydreaming about where I'll go next, revisiting charming Airbnb's I've bookmarked (like this one and this one), or the RV trip I want to take through California's National Parks. Or, best of all, reading up on the dream trip I've vowed to take for my 30th birthday, one that my mother swears no one will want to partake in.

**Bonus Content** (To Make You Ponder)

As a lover of dance and words, this short film was moving in so many ways. A breathtaking compilation of advice from the older generation, reflecting back on lessons learned, regrets, victories, and loss. I watched the entire eight minutes of it, and it left me feeling a curious mix of warmth and longing.

A Quote From a Book You Should Read:

"I realized what I felt . . . happy. It was such a strange, unusual feeling—light, calm, as though I’d swallowed sunshine."

-Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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.

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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.”