Friday, November 21, 2014

How do I refer to the man I love?

(This article was originally published in The Daily Beast.)
“I don’t want to see other people” he announced after our third date. “I want to see you exclusively”.
“Does this mean you are my boyfriend?” I asked.
He cringed.
When this dialogue took place I had been out of the dating scene for a bit. 20 years, to be exact. The world had become a different place and I found myself unequipped to interpret a whole new landmine-strewn nomenclature. An overwhelming amount of subtleties and implications were going over my head. I realized, a bit too late, that certain words I had always known were now loaded, and therefore off limits. Apparently, “boyfriend” was one of them.
To be clear, I was not treading anywhere near the even more incomprehensible realm of (gasp) relationship definition. Nothing even close to “where is this going? What do I mean to you? Before we go any further, will you love me forever?”
This was more about a dilemma about vocabulary. How am I supposed to refer to a person of the opposite sex whom I am not married to but who is, well, “special”? (I was going to say “mine”, but I now know better.)
And what do I call him now that we are living together but are not engaged or married?
I could refer to him as “my dude”, but I’m not that hipster. I find both “admirer” and “suitor” to be presumptuous and one-sided. “Betrothed”sounds too royal. “Beau” does have a je ne sais quoi, but isn’t homey. “Confidant” holds too many secrets. “Escort”sounds like I would need to look into service renewal. “Flame” is hot, but flickering. “Fellow” is affectionate, yet too casual. I could call him my “friend”,which he is, or my “companion”, which is technically accurate, but then, for the sake of precision, I’d have to mention the additional benefits our friendship comes with, which you’d rightfully consider TMI.
“Significant other” is stiff. “Lover” is too one-faceted, as is “object”. I could call him “cutsicle”; according to the urban dictionary it’s the word to use “when someone is so cute you can’t handle their cuteness”which certainly applies but doesn’t really suit his personality. Tragically, this is also the case with “stud muffin”.
I could call him my “boo”, but when I tried it out he rolled his eyes. Or “bae”, except I can’t really pull that off. I’m not even sure exactly how to pronounce it.
I could go for “fiancĂ©e”, but that would be misleading. “Partner”sounds like we work in a law firm or should be on horses and “roommate” leaves out one of my favorite parts, the one that hints at romantic entanglement and other shenanigans. As exuberant as I tend to be, I did feel “knight” would be too melodramatic.
After weighing all my options I decided that referring to him as Boyfriend gives him a solid title that clearly explains what he is in reference to me, is both socially appropriate and universally understood.
As an added bonus, Boyfriend subtly honors the fact that he makes me feel like a teenager, in an exciting, adventurous, I-really-wasn’t-expecting-this-to-happen-to-my-life-and-thank-you-for-being-so-wonderful sort of a way. It’s committed, yet fun. Exclusive, without being excessively possessive. Young, which we both are.

I’m going with it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Whenever I'm doing something I really enjoy, I fantasize about repeating the experience. I then realize that instead of living fully in the moment I am distracted by fervently yearning for what I am actually doing. Sigh. Humans.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Things I know about PR. But remind me anyway.

(This article was originally published in The Holmes Report.)

It's about the people.
I know you know. And I know everyone says it. And I know you are so very tired of hearing it. Still, you'll forget. One cloudy morning you will desperately need to make a hire, and will make an offer to someone you aren't sure about.
It's about the people: good people make everything work. With people not right for the job, nothing runs well.
Take your time to hire; and if someone doesn't work out, resolve it quickly.

Attitude is more important than experience.
You can’t change someone’s attitude. Everything else can be taught or learned.

It's about the client.
I don't care how magical your PR skills are. No one can do good PR for a mediocre product.

Networking events = waste of time.
Networking events are not a good way to network. Discover your own personal way to meet people relevant to you and stay in touch with them, preferably because you genuinely like them.
"Working a room" at a networking event is rarely going to be worth the time.

It's about what is happening out there. Not what we do in here.
The best PR people are curious. Go explore. Travel. Devour books. Develop a point of view. Every morning fall in love with the New York Times.
Within our industry (just like within every industry) we are trapped in an echo-chamber. Get away from the reverberation and go get something fresh.
On this note, put your devices down. Look up.

PR is a roller coaster.
You will be hailed as a hero one day, and as an incompetent disaster the next. Develop your own sense of what you are worth and don’t heed neither criticism nor praise. Let me know when you've successfully figured out how to do this.

It's not "a fire".
I have a friend in PR who is married to a chemist. He runs a lab with deadly pathogens. Late one night, his phone rang.
Voice on the line: “Sir, the lab is on fire. What do we do?”
The chemist: “Ummm, call the fire department?”
Voice on the line: “Sir. This is the fire department.”

You can call your PR "crisis" "a fire" the day the fire department calls you at 3:00 am and asks you what to do.

Please. This doesn't mean that what we do doesn't matter. It doesn't mean it's not important. It just means we could all use a little perspective.

Things will bounce back at you so fast you’ll get whiplash.

Your intern will be your boss (someday very very soon). And I hate to tell you this, but your boss will be someone you come to understand better as the years go by, regardless of what you think now.
Don't regard peers as competitors; don't concoct rivalries. We are all in this together. I believe this to the bottom of my heart and it’s one of the principles that regulate how I do business.

Your ego will get you every time.
Examine the reason - the real reason - behind the decisions that you are making and behind what’s affecting you at work. Your ego will get you every time. Make your ego an advisor, not your master. Then show me how.

Don't confuse your profession with your situation.
I have had good people quit PR over this common misconception. Separate what you do from the situation you are in. The situation is transitory. PR is fun.

Trust the people you work with.
Assume they will do a good job and they will rise to the occasion. Check everything they do and tell yourself that you and only you can do it right and they will second guess themselves constantly.

Say yes.
One of the most interesting things about life is that you don't really know what you like, and what you like is quite possibly going to change. Say yes to that assignment you think you are not interested in. At worst you will learn something you wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise.
Let life surprise you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Life lesson

A young guy and an old man are sitting beside me on the bus, speaking Spanish. 
"To be healthy" the old man says "your cells have to reproduce." He continues. "Cells are about 4.5 centimeters, at least the long ones, and look like veins. For them to reproduce you have to have sex. This is why old ladies get sick and die. They're no longer interested in sex so their cells can't reproduce".
The young guy is impassive.
"Life's nice" adds the old man. "But there's so much to learn to understand how to live it".

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Your name

I dream I lose you in a crowd. I try to keep up but you are walking too fast. I see the back of your head in the distance, then notice all around me things likely to have caused you to veer off in an unpredictable direction. I open my mouth to call out to you but I don't remember your name.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Believe it.

The man who just got on the bus is really drunk. Wasted. Trashed. Plus, you can't trust him. He's bad news. 
I know this not because he's stumbling and slurring but because he's yelling that he's drunk, wasted, trashed; that we shouldn't trust him, that he's bad news. 
You should pay close attention to what people choose to tell you about themselves, because it's usually true. Right?

Friday, October 10, 2014

No one loses to cancer

(This article was originally published in The Daily Beast.)

"You are the only person I've called" he says. “I have cancer".

I knew right then I would lose him. But I didn’t know I would lose him like I have, in installments. I was not prepared for the staggered, ruthless falling apart of one of the people I love most in the world.

The man with prodigious memory became forgetful. I don't mean he didn't know where he left his glasses. I mean he'd be angry for the fact we had not talked in weeks when in fact we had spoken that morning. He was always idiosyncratic but became contradictory, confessing he did not want to fight , did not want chemo; then scheduling appointments, then not showing up for them. He, never easy but frequently reasonable, became unwilling to adhere to any order by any doctor, refusing, for example, to take the antibiotics prescribed after a life-threatening surgery.

The man I knew as the most charismatic influencer became insatiably lonely. My superhero became afraid. Not just of death. Of life, of leaving his house, afraid of the dark. I could hear him pacing straight through the night. Ambition, diminished, gave way to restlessness. He lost all evidence of inner peace.

The strongest, frankly dictatorial authority figure I have known would look at me blankly, unable to make even simple decisions. "Tell me what to do" he would say to the person he once instructed. "I don't know what to do".

"I have trouble imagining what the world will be like without me" he told me one day. "I don't want to live in that world" I replied. I meant it.

I looked at him while he was sleeping - a ghost of him, see-through almost - and began to cry, I hoped quietly. He opened his eyes and held my hand with his so very frail one, veins showing blue through his skin. I saw a faint, sweet glimmer of the ferocious protector he once was. "Don't worry" he patted me. "This is nothing. I will recover".
A few days later I overheard someone say a person they knew had "lost the battle" against cancer.

Lost? How can you lose after so many years well lived, after spending yourself every day in your endeavors, after being so impossible, after forging relationships with people you will come to count on, after reading so many books, after making your mark in so many different unsuspected places, after so much success, so much failure, after being such an active participant in this thing we call life?

That’s when it hit me. Our vernacular is all wrong. I resent how cancer is represented. Just because something kills you cannot possibly mean it defeats you. If that were true, we would all - masters and poets and liars and sinners and dancers and writers and heroes - be destined in the end to be losers.

I believe that my human is a winner who will one day go, triumphant, to his own secular heaven, where he will survey the newspaper over freshly pressed coffee, eat delicious food, sip the best scotch, partake in really good sex, jog on a long beach, and spend a lot of time watching over the people he loved and left here, including me.

And cancer, deceiver, pretender, coward; it cannot even subsist without the vibrant people it depends on. It will end up shriveled up, dried up, dead; rolled up in dirty gauze and tossed into a wastebasket, quickly forgotten.

So suck it cancer. No one here will ever lose to you.