As I thought about your question, I got to thinking about words. What they can do, and what they can’t. How I wished words could hug. I wished words could reach through this screen and hold you, like a cast holds a bone, long enough for you to feel strong. Hold you, like a tree holds a nest, high enough so you can feel safe. But words cannot hold. I wondered, then, for someone like you, who’s been through so much, has lived to feel such loss, and has to live with permanent reminders of a painful past: What good are words?
You’re more beautiful than you’ve ever been. There is nothing in the world sexier than a strong woman, and you had the strength to beat a terrifying disease. You look at your scars and see all that you’re missing. I think of your scars and see all your power. And that’s hot. Sexy. I know very little for certain, but I know for certain this is true: You’re more beautiful than you’ve ever been. Different than Charlotte, certainly. Vibrant, Beautiful, Special, Powerful You.
My words, though, don’t matter. But your words can heal. Your question is pointed toward a romantic partner, but I want you to forget about other people for a minute. Maybe confidence is like the light from a star: it starts on the inside. After all, self-esteem starts with self, and to change our feelings we must change our thoughts.
I had a thought: How often do we think our survival depends on keeping our pain hidden? When in reality, it depends on setting it free. So first, cry. Perhaps you’ve already done this, but cry over all you’ve lost. Cry over what you just went through. Cry over the brutal randomness of life and cry over how you didn’t deserve it and cry over how long it took to heal and over how much you miss your old body. Cry.
To some people, scars imply strength. But that’s easy to say when the scars aren’t your own. How can we come to that perspective for our own battle wounds? Maybe it starts with viewing your body as more than just your scars. Now more than ever, your body needs love. It’s been through a lot, and it needs your love. I wondered: For a moment every morning, could you transform into a delivery-girl for love? Close your eyes and travel your body through your bloodstream, pausing on every single body part to give it a little love. From your nose to your toes, toss love like a newspaper on the front porch of every part of your body.
Then, pick a specific body part to love all day long. Right now, when you look at yourself, all you see is what’s missing. Devote the day to loving what’s left. Monday might be your right thumb. Tuesday might be your beautiful left ankle. Wednesday might be your breathtaking eyebrows. Love every part of yourself until you start to feel whole again.
And every morning, after you’ve pulsed with love, and picked a body part to adore, I want you to stare at your battle wounds and say Thank You. Thank You for sticking around to remind me of my strength. Thank You for healing. Thank You for keeping me together. Thank You for making me look like a beautiful bad-ass warrior queen. Thank You. You’ll be faking it at first, but say Thank You until it feels real.
And that brings us to our “perfect stranger.” It’s true, some romantic partners might be turned off. And for all, your scars will be like a fast-forward button on the intimacy machine--forcing you to discuss a big scary topic very early in the dating game. So your battle wounds may very well weed out a few superficial jerks and a few bad batters who aren’t ready for the emotional big leagues. But you know who that leaves? The ones who are worthy of your love. The ones who are worthy of love from a beautiful bad-ass warrior queen.
So often our body and our mind are in battle. But on this road trip we call life, the two are stuck together for the whole ride--so they might as well learn to get along. Cancer has taken something special and meaningful from you. But there’s one thing that can never be taken: your power to choose to feel beautiful.
Love your body, bit by hot & sexy bit. We may be perfect strangers, but I know you’re perfect.
I couldn’t help but wonder: Did some women need to tone down to settle down? Change their shape to find a man, change their soul to find a mate? Or could it be that the right guy will embrace all dimensions of your intensity, ferocity, and fabulosity. After all, I bet the man you’ll actually like will be really excited by your strength.
I had a thought: Maybe strong women only scare weak men. And just because a guy’s intimidated doesn’t mean you’re too intimidating. Maybe he’s just not worth dating.
I say, if the world says tone it down...turn it up. View your intimidation not as a liability, but as a filter: the ones who are intimidated are exactly the ones you shouldn’t date and wouldn’t like.
But there is one thing you might consider. Maybe the best way to come across as approachable…is for you to do the approaching. As I thought back on my own relationship expectations, I wondered: Did us modern gals still sometimes maintain romcom fantasies of white knights and waiting to be kissed? Maybe “the first move” is like most things in this world: better when taken care of by a woman.
How to make friends in adulthood
How to get your parents to stop making comments about your weight
I got to thinking about the difference between friends and lovers. If you get scorned by a lover, there are thousands of poems, hundreds of books, and dozens of Adele songs you can turn to. If you get scorned by a friend, it often feels like, in more ways than one, you’re on your own. It’s a commonly held belief that your friends are as important as your boyfriends. But where are the Shakespeare sonnets for lost friendship? I couldn’t help but wonder: How do you un-break a heart that’s been broken by the soulmates who had sworn to keep it safe?
Let yourself be sad. I think one of the hardest things in the world is finding out that you didn’t mean as much to someone as they meant to you.
Sadness is like an airport: necessary to go through if you want to get to where you need to go, but while you’re there it’s miserable, uncomfortable, and only bearable if you’ve got fun travel companions.
So surround yourself with love. Turn to the people who do love you. Plan a dinner with a close friend. Have a long phone call with someone you love but have lost touch with. Call your grandma and ask her what she did today. FaceTime with your nephew and ask him to show you his favorite toy. Surround yourself with love from the ones who love you. Too often we focus on the love we’ve lost, rather than the love that’ll last forever.
And be careful. Just like in a crowded airport, in the emotional chaos of our complicated minds, there are lots of departures that will take you to the wrong destination. Don’t blame yourself. That goes to insecurity. Don’t get jealous. That goes to inferiority. Don’t get angry. That flight just spins around and around in circles.
And don’t go into detective mode...don’t screenshot stories on social media and zoom in to figure out the guest list, or text other friends asking for explanations. There’s only one place to go to for explanations. After you let yourself feel, and surround yourself with love, and let enough time pass so you’re not interrupting a honeymoon--I would be transparent with your friend about how not being invited made you feel. It might be a difficult conversation. It might be awkward. But so often we live with a lifetime of spinning just to avoid ten minutes of awkwardness. It hurts to talk. But it hurts more not to.
Finally, be ready to reframe the relationship. Maybe you’ll “break up,” or maybe you’ll transition to acquaintances. But whatever you do, do it with dignity and love. Because this is where friends and lovers are completely the same: It’s better to have been friends and lost than never to have been friends at all. Just because something ended doesn’t mean it failed. Hold your head up high, and fly toward love.
When you first get off a rollercoaster, you can be a little dizzy - but there’s nothing more exciting (and nerve racking) than a first date. The giddy butterflies and eager anticipation. You know a bit about his background, but nothing of his baggage. You know his potential, but not yet his problems. You don’t know enough to know, but you know enough to hope: "He" could be my "We." And in the fertile soil of this optimism grows an anxious thought: “Don’t fuck it up.”
As I reached into my dating past to pull out some dating tips, I couldn't help but wonder: What if I'd been doing it wrong this whole time? For most of my life I thought first dates were like auditions. You performed the perfect version of yourself in order to get a call-back. And if you didn’t land the role of “Girlfriend #1,” you were a failure, and should probably reconsider what monologue you performed, or try a different costume next time. But what if dates were not like auditions at all?
I had a thought: The thing I’m most ashamed of in my entire life is how long it’s taken me to learn the only dating tip you should ever follow. It’s the world’s simplest advice. Life’s most straightforward lesson. And one that took me years of fear, doubt, and regret to finally understand.
Be yourself. My god, just be yourself.
Wear what you want to wear. Talk about what you want to talk about. If you talk a lot, then talk a lot. If you swear a lot, then swear a lot. If you have a habit of telling your deepest darkest secrets to strangers in the grocery line, then tell him those secrets, too. If you wear crazy clothes and never leave home without a bird on your head, then strap on the peacock and fly! Dates are just fun little get-togethers to test out a connection, simple rendezvous to explore the suspicion that you might be right for each other. Don’t try to be successful. Just try to be yourself.
In life, maybe we can learn from each other’s mistakes so we don’t always have to make our own. In the spirit of sisterhood, I submit the misstep I made too many times. The only mistake you can make on a first date is pretending to be something you’re not. And the only mistake you can make after a first date is blaming yourself if it didn’t go well. If there’s not a spark, it doesn’t mean you blew a fuse. Keep shining bright. It’ll make it easier for the right one to find you.
A wise poet once said, “All the world’s a stage.” Maybe that’s why there’s so much drama. As I strolled around the kingdom of Manhattan—a drag queen contemplating drama queens—I started thinking about royalty. In medieval times, rulers would wage war over petty jealousies and slight provocations. Were modern times really any different? Our screens exploded with screaming matches and Twitter clapbacks and backstabbing frenemies. Somewhere, it seemed, we decided that having a complicated life made you more interesting. Having “haters” made you important. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder: Were some fights better left unfought? Sure, mountains over mole hills makes for high-ratings reality TV, but maybe actual reality was better if you just flowed with it. Maybe the new kings in the court of emotions could be kindness and humility.
When you’re trying to make your body healthier, a lot of gurus recommend a “cleanse” to rid yourself of toxins. I had a thought: Maybe we could do the same for our minds. Was it possible to do a “negativity cleanse”? Go a week without toxins. Turn off the shows you think are contributing to your need for drama. Police yourself. Every time you say or even think something petty, counteract it with something positive. Retrain your brain.
And just like the health gurus advise, after a cleanse, be mindful about what you bring back in. They say, "You are what you eat." So maybe, "You are what you choose," too. After all, none of us is really above the choices we make. We are the choices we make. And if our identities are nothing more than the steady accumulation of our choices, then our entertainment choices reflect us and affect us in subtle but powerful ways.
Recently, I did my own negativity cleanse. I had begun to feel imprisoned by my guilty pleasures: fashion magazines made me feel poor, #Instastuds made me feel fat, and good sex with bad men made me feel lonelier than being alone. After my week long cleanse, I decided to stay free from the magazines and unfollow the #Instastuds. Maybe adulthood is recognizing when in-the-moment pleasure is doing lasting damage. (But I kept the good sex with bad men. Maybe happy adulthood is recognizing which pleasure is worth the consequences.) All this to say: I don’t judge your guilty pleasure. But judging by your question, I do think it’s worth really asking yourself if the experience is worth the effect.
No matter what you choose for your entertainment, make a choice for your life. In modern-day New York, one of the most insulting adjectives is “basic.” But maybe it's time go back to what’s basic: Don’t fight. Don’t call people names. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Love the people who love you. Don’t pay too much attention to the people who don’t. And when in doubt, be kind. You rarely regret kindness. Leave the drama to the costume department. Real Housewives might fight, but real queens fix each other’s crowns.
As I thought about your question, I started thinking about my own jealousy. I wondered: Why did someone else’s happiness so often make me sad? And how often had my good mood turned bad after seeing an Instagram post of a happy proposal or an impressive promotion or an impossibly big new house? My friends were getting married, and I was getting ghosted. My first love just had his second baby, and I can’t get a second date. My first kiss just sold a start-up to Google. Meanwhile across town, I still Google STD symptoms. I’m too old to get a sugar daddy and I’m too poor to be one, and the only time my gym crush ever said Hi to me was to ask for my best friend’s phone number. I couldn’t help but wonder: Why not me?
I got to thinking about success. Success isn’t a Magnolia cupcake (if one person has a bite, that means less for the rest of us). Success is more like bottomless brunch mimosas at Balthazar. The more my friends have, the more fun it is for all of us. I had a thought: Could I train myself to be happy for their happiness, even if they got one of my dreams?
After all, jealousy is like a broken down car. It gets you nowhere, and costs you a lot. And if you want to get back on the road, you’ve got to fix that awful noise in your engine. First, notice it. Anytime you hear that dreaded voice of jealousy, pay attention. Second, shut it off. Counteract it with a voice of love and support. It might seem fake at first, giving compliments to someone you’re jealous of, but I’ve learned something about life: sometimes it’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting. Third, find the source of the problem. Do you feel entitled to a certain type of success? Do you define success by money, fame, applause? Do you measure your worth in likes, or base your self-esteem on the ebbs and flows of men's attention? Ultimately, if you want to have any chance at this thing we call happiness, you need a source of joy that doesn’t depend on external validation to thrive.
And finally, once you’re back up and running, you just need to find your road and drive. In a car, you don’t set your destination based on where the other cars are going. You shouldn’t do that in life, either. Think about what really makes you happy. Not what should make you happy, or what makes your friend happy, or what would make your mom happy. Think about what makes you happy, and set that in your GPS. And if something still pops up that distracts you from your destination, or makes you feel like you’re not driving fast enough--well then, maybe it’s time to put down your phone and focus on the road.
A wise man once wrote: “Where do we begin? We begin by beginning, I guess.” Sometimes the deepest truths are hidden in the simplest statements. How do you trust again? You trust by trusting, I guess. As animals we’re wired to expect the worst. There’s nothing more dangerous to survival than betrayal. But as humans, maybe life’s better if we expect the best.
I couldn’t help but wonder: How often do we let past pain destroy potential joy? And what would happen if we went into new relationships imagining all the ways it might go right? Of course, we can’t be naive, or blind--but could we judge new men based on what they do to us, not what’s been done to us? Maybe love is like the theory of evolution: the struggles of our past make us a stronger species to handle the present, but only if we leave behind the traits that are holding us back. Learn from the past, but don’t live in it. You only dar-Win by evolving.
Your ex-boyfriend has taken so much from you already. Don’t let him steal your future, too.
In teen movies, the starlet always goes shopping before the big party. Even if she has a closet full of perfect clothes, there’s nothing quite like the rush of finding something new. Something that makes you feel sexy in a special way. But even if you are Clueless, life is not a teen movie. And sometimes the secret to happiness is knowing that it’s already hanging in your closet. And sometimes the secret to kindness is knowing that boyfriends are not old dresses--they’re human beings, as much deserving of love and trust and truth as you are.
In life, the answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask. And before we ask “what,” sometimes we need to ask “why”? Why did I cheat? Why did it make me feel alive? Why do I need attention from men who are wrong for me? You say you’re being a Carrie, so I think it’s time for you to “wonder.” Did lust distract you from love? Or was your love not strong enough to begin with? What are you missing, and are you paying more attention to what you’re missing than what you have? And maybe the most painful question of all: Do you really care about someone else getting hurt, or do you mainly care about protecting yourself from consequences?
I pose these questions with no judgment. I’ve been in your strappy sandals before, and I did the selfish thing. I can’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you two things I learned about truth, two things I learned the hard way: 1) The truth hurts for a little bit, but a lie hurts forever. Especially one you get away with. And 2) Every lie is told twice: once to others, but first to ourselves. That first is the most dangerous, especially if you start to believe it. My lie: I thought cheating made me a better boyfriend. The guilt made me more attentive.
When you’re writing the story of your life, it’s tempting to cast yourself as the “star.” The problem is, then you start to view other people as nothing more than your supporting cast. I had a thought: Maybe real life is more nuanced than an IMDB listing. Maybe we all deserve equal billing. The wild ones and quiet ones. The cheaters and the cheated-ons. The lovers and the left-behinds. Before you think about damage control, think about why you did the damage in the first place. Sometimes the most difficult questions are the ones we most need to ask, sometimes the hardest conversations are the ones we most need to have, and sometimes “blowing up” is the first painful step to growing up.
Welcome to the Age of Options. Playing the field is the new power suit and monogamy is like last season Prada: outdated and hard to find. I couldn’t help but wonder: in a world where the next best thing is just a right swipe away--was exclusivity left to die?
It’s true, in an open relationship, he may walk out the door. But in a closed relationship, he can still jump out through the window. So before opening your relationship, open your communication. Ask Why? What? Who? How? And then ask yourself: What do I want? After all, you don’t want to be closed-minded about open relationships, but you also don’t want to lose your self just to keep a man. Because relationships are like an afternoon at Bergdorf’s: There are a lot of choices, but not everything fits. Find the style that makes you feel fabulous.
They say life’s a journey, not a destination. I guess that’s why we all have so much baggage. We might try to dress it up in Louis Vuitton logos, but even the most perfect man probably has an overstuffed duffel hidden under his bed. I couldn't help but wonder: If you're looking for someone without any baggage, are you destined to be left alone at the carousel? Maybe when you really like someone, you don't judge their baggage--you help them carry it.
Don’t let his past get in the way of your future. Don't let your assumptions of how it might be get in the way of all it could be. Try it out. If you really like him, you’ll figure out a way to make sure your shoes always match his baggage. Who knows - you might fall in love in ways you never expected. And let's say you find out that the flight does indeed have too much turbulence...that's what emergency landings are for. But for me, I'd rather get airsick shooting for the stars, than live with the regret of never leaving the ground.
On the road to love, sometimes you're left out in the rain. As I thought about an achy-breaky-heart during a record-breaking storm, I couldn't help but wonder: What happens when the man you thought was your umbrella turns out to be your rain cloud? And if one love leaves you soaked, are you courageous or crazy to try again? If at first you don't succeed, cry, cry again. Charlotte says it takes half the total time of the relationship to get over a guy, but I say: deadlines are for cable bills and newspaper columns. Let yourself feel and let yourself heal and take the time your heart needs. And then remember: Maybe the best way to bounce back after a break up is to be fabulous.
A wise redhead once said, "The sun will come out tomorrow." But sometimes you have to part the clouds yourself. Given your four years, I'll offer four tips that have helped me when my heart got caught in a storm.
Let yourself be sad. They say a watched pot never boils. But a neglected heart never heals. Let yourself feel. Only the strong survive, but the strongest know the truth: sometimes the first step to conquering the world is crying in the shower.
Fall in love with yourself, all over again. Sometimes in a "we" we lose sight of "me," so take time to reconnect with a passion that makes you happy. Read. Write. Run. Dance. Rediscover what makes you "you."
Hold your friends close. Any time you think of him, send a text to them. Sometimes a "Hello" is all you need to stop thinking about that "Goodbye."
Remember why you're fabulous. Write it down. And remind yourself all the time that a broken heart doesn't mean you're broken.
After all, love hurts--but love, heals, too. And there's a light in everyone who's looking for love. Keep it bright. It's how the good ones find each other.
They say a leopard never changes his spots. But they also say, just like seasons, people change. Is there ever any way to know for sure which category he fits in? Some men are selfish and cheat again and again and again, and others have a momentary lapse of judgment that spurs them to be a better man. If you quiet his voice and listen to your heart, you might be able to find your answer.
But maybe more importantly: No matter whether you choose to stay or choose to go, you have to let go of the pain. It’s hard, it takes time, and there’s no pain quite like the pain of being betrayed. But carrying pain in your heart just crowds out the room for love. A grudge is like a cactus: It only hurts the person holding it. So let it go. Forgiveness doesn’t make you weak. It frees you up to be strong, with or without him
Look at you, ya little rule breaker. Well I'm touched. And while I'm not one to toot my own trumpet, I do get a lot done, and I do pay attention to where my time is going and what I'm bringing into my life. So with that, a few things that have really helped me "juggle."
Discover what makes you indispensable, and invest your time accordingly. This is basically a fancy way of saying "prioritize." This was huge for me, professionally. Take some time and think about: What is my unique contribution to this workplace (to this world, even)? What can I do that others have a hard time doing? What are my talents that my employer would have a hard time replacing? I have a list of three things that make me indispensable, and I make sure that I'm disproportionately devoting my time to developing those skills. Professional success isn't just about improving your "development areas," it's also about honing your strengths.
Single-Task. For me, multi-tasking is an illusion. I'm a big fan of good old-fashioned focus. When I'm writing a Carrie caption I do it on a piece of paper that's not connected to the internet. When I'm answering e-mails I don't explore the internet. When I am exploring the internet, I have a strict "no-tabs" policy. I find I am dramatically more productive when I just lazer-beam devote myself to doing whatever it is that I'm doing. Don't forget: the business models of the fastest growing companies in the modern economy are founded on stealing your attention. For me, I've got to set up strict barriers, or my focus won't stand a chance and suddenly it'll be 3:00 a.m. and I'll have missed a work deadline but gotten caught up on "17 Celebrities Who Have NOT Aged Well (You Won't Believe #9)!"
Stop what isn't serving you. I'm super messy and my closet's the worst of it, so I bought this book about de-cluttering by Marie Kondo. She advises you to pick up everything in your closet and ask yourself, "Does this bring me joy?" If the answer is no, you toss it out right then and there. OK well it turns out everything in my closet brings me joy and my apartment is still a minefield of wigs, tiaras and literary fiction, but I LOVED the philosophy, and I started applying it to my broader life. I took stock of everything in my life--from relationships to magazine subscriptions--and metaphorically held them up and asked, "Does this bring me joy?" Doing this resulted in me cutting out a bunch of things that were incredibly time-consuming and weren't bringing me any joy (for me, it was Netflix binges and online dating. I swear to you, after cancelling those I have time for a part-time job).
Make time for yourself. Life isn't an efficiency competition. I think, when you start to think about prioritizing and focusing, you can get in this space of maximizing every single second and then the things that go away are the things that actually bring you a lot of happiness and calm: waking up on Saturday without an alarm, staying out too late on Friday dancing with friends, a slow coffee chat with an old family member, a slow stroll with no destination. For me, if I'm feeling fulfilled on the "slower" parts of life, I actually do much better work in the "faster parts." All this to say, get enough sleep, do silly things that make you smile, don't skip the gym to send e-mails, don't skip family dinner to send e-mails, really don't skip anything to send e-mails.
Because THIS is life. What we're doing right now, this is it.