Sometimes life can feel like a crowded market in Abu Dhabi. There are so many paths it’s easy to feel lost. And since you can’t know for sure where any of the streets lead, it’s hard to muster the courage to even make a turn. In this dizzying bazaar we call modern life, some of us feel stuck, standing still, thinking, simply: I know I want more, but I don’t know what more I want... I couldn’t help but wonder, do some of us just take longer to figure it out? To figure out what we want, where we want to go, who we want to become. Two roads diverged under a purple skirt, and I just stood there wondering: How do you become un-stuck? Maybe the secret is simple: Just move. Turn your wonder woman into an action figure, and take a first step even if you don’t know where the road will lead. Listen to that voice inside that wishes for more, but turn it into activity instead of anxiety. After all, maybe the art of living is a bit like science: you have to run a lot of experiments before you make a discovery. But you won’t learn anything if you don’t take your high heels to new highways. I had a thought: So many of us spend our entire lives getting ready to really live. The hardest change to make is the one you don’t need to, but the hardest life to live is the one you’re not proud of. Life is an open Dior. Step in and start shopping.
But as you’re exploring all the cobblestone streets of your potential, don’t let ambition destroy joy. After all, “success” is like a mountain that keeps growing the higher you climb. So maybe happiness is like a good skincare routine. Just like we use different moisturizers in the AM and PM, maybe we can apply different mindsets, too. In the morning, propel yourself with all you want to become. Make decisions the future you would be proud of. Have priorities and perseverance; one so you don’t feel overwhelmed, the other so your life doesn’t become one long unfinished novel. But then in the evening, take stock of everything you already are, and have. Travel both roads: action and gratitude. Because your miracles won’t matter if you don’t also count your blessings.
Your question got me thinking about miracles. Is there any greater miracle than friendship? Forget turning water into wine, I’ll take the simple miracle that can turn two strangers into true soulmates. I had a thought: It’s widely acknowledged that our girlfriends are just as important as any boyfriend, but when you stop and think about where we invest our mental, social, and even spiritual energy--can any of us really say we truly put “chicks” before “dicks”?
To find the right boyfriend, we download apps, take seminars, read books, flirt at bars, endure first dates, blind dates, and even Tinder dates. But to find the right girlfriends, we just sit still and wait for a miracle.
I couldn’t help but wonder: What if we chased friends like we chase men? What if we stopped the notion that romantic love was the only love worth prioritizing? What would a world of friend-dating look like?
Friendly Flirting. At New York social gatherings, the first thing any single woman does is scan the room for eligible bachelors. What if we started scanning the room for eligible friends: a fascinating gal with a laugh that lights up a room, or a kindred spirit with a book rec that lights up your soul. And then what if we pursued these fun gals with the same fever we pursue hot guys? If you meet a potential friend, get a friend date on the calendar that night--a gym class, a coffee, something. Because just like dating, “love at first sight” is pointless without proper follow up.
Friendly Bootycalls. Every single single in Manhattan has the same dirty secret: we’ve all sent and/or responded to a “U Up?” text. Indeed, one of the most surefire ways to end a sexual drought is to start scrolling through your past. I had a thought: We’re willing to put pride aside and mine our history for a hook up, but so often when we think of reaching back out to old friends, suddenly our phone gets very heavy. What would we say? Do we have anything in common anymore? It’s been so long… But one of the best ways to make new friends is to get back in touch with the old ones. So many friendships wilt for no reason other than lack of care, and it’s amazing what might blossom again if we bring out the watering can.
Friendly Orgies. Like most problems in life, finding friends is best solved with a fabulous party. Once, a friend and I found ourselves in your exact predicament. Our soulmates had relocated to other cities and we were two peas in an otherwise empty pod. So we started a monthly get together with a little rule: everyone invited had to bring a platonic +1….a fun person the rest of us had never met. The next month, those platonic +1s would be asked to bring their own platonic +1s, and very soon two became twenty and twenty became too many to fit in a tiny New York apartment. Most of my closest friends today dropped from the ripples of that expanding social circle.
A wise woman once said: Dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style. I wish you all the best in finding those friendly faces that one day might turn into true soulmates.
I couldn’t help but wonder: On the road to “we,” do you have let go of “me”? Do you have to let go of who you were as an individual to become who you’ll be as a couple? Or is it possible to hold onto your self even after you meet your match? Maybe in this Pop Quiz we call “Life,” the answer is “D. All of the above.” Maybe in the best relationships, you let go, hold on, and discover new all at the same time.
First of all, congratulations on doing all of that amazing self-work! I would start by making a list. It may seem silly now, but make a list of the things you love about yourself, and the activities that make them possible. Those things that are core to who you are. And communicate up-front with your partner. So often in relationships, we say something like, “I just want to spend a night with my girls,” and our partner hears something like, “I just want to spend a night away from you.” So, talk about what’s core to your identity, what you love about yourself, (what he probably loves about you, too), and what you don’t want to lose. Tell him about the girls’ nights or the Saturday book binges or the Tuesday spin classes.
And as your relationship evolves, keep trying new things that pique your interest, even things that your partner has no interest in.
And be as invested in his independence as you are in your own. Don’t let personal fulfillment slip into a one-sided conversation. Don’t let self-love become selfish.
And then be flexible with the rest. Define what’s core, and be flexible with the rest.
I’d like to tell you a cautionary tale. It’s a story about the truths we invent. We get so invested in these...these statements that need to be true in order for our lives to make sense. And with time, they harden, and we hold onto them harder.
As context, most of my adult life has been spent single. I don’t know why, maybe just bad luck, or maybe I’ve got to submit my own “Dear Carrie” to figure it out. Nonetheless, the truth I tell myself is the truth of my independence. The truth of my self-sufficiency. The dependence inherent in relationships is incompatible with my self-reliance, I say. I even corroborate this truth with stories from my youth. At 5 years old, I would declare “Me-Days,” when I would opt to play with no one but myself. At 6, I was sick of depending on my parents for money, so I snuck out of the house and started selling crayon drawings door-to-door. Baby, I was born this way. My independence: genetic.
If I believed in the truth of an “other half,” my life would feel like a failure. Every night out, every trip to the gym, every trip to the grocery store would feel like a failure because I didn’t find “Him.” Of course I can’t live like that. So I hold onto this truth, of my inherent independence. Alone, I conclude I’m happiest alone. I can’t let it go. And I think I hold on too hard.
Because there was a boy who loved me. He loved me very much. And I couldn’t let him in. Every compromise felt like a defeat for my independence. Something as simple as changing my morning routine felt like a symbol of a man surrendering his identity. Becoming one of them. At one point this boy who loved me wanted to start watching a new TV series together. Something for us to do, together, episode by episode, side by side. The show was fine, enjoyable, but not something I would have watched on my own. And in general, I’m more of a reader. So, after one episode, I made fun of the show and I said, No, I don’t want to watch that TV show anymore.
I don’t have many regrets in life. But I really wish I would have just watched that TV show.
Perhaps he wasn’t the one. Perhaps it’s as simple as that. He wasn’t the one. That’s another truth I tell myself. But I will never know for sure, because I never let him in.
What I’m saying is this: not every compromise is a sacrifice. Sometimes in a relationship, you do things for no reason other than to make the other person happy. And that’s a wonderful reason. I think by the tone of your letter that you are not, in fact, at risk of losing your identity. I don’t think you’re at risk of becoming one of those people who can’t grab a coffee without checking with their boyfriend.
One of the greatest joys in life is to be changed by the relationships we’re in. I’m inordinately blessed in the friendship department, and when I look at those relationships, I am a better person because I’ve let myself be changed by these amazing people. For us independent girls, sometimes we’re so scared of what we might lose that we don’t allow for what we might gain. Change is not synonymous with loss. Hold onto what’s true, but let yourself grow, and be delighted by what you become.
In the modern era, we’re constantly connected—to our devices, our office, our friends, and even our past. I couldn’t help but wonder: in the digital age, can you ever really disconnect from an ex? After all, nowadays, “the one who got away” never really goes away. From Snaps to Insta-Stories, from texts to Facebook Memories...we’re all just one Instagram refresh away from reliving the coulda-woulda-shouldas of our entire dating history.
Maybe ex-boyfriends are like cigarettes: the only way to stop thinking about them is to completely quit. No matter how good a quick hit might feel in the moment, it’s only making the inevitable more painful.
So maybe you need to treat your ex like airplane bathrooms treat cigarettes: Ban him. No texting. No stalking. No digital trips down memory lane. Strict boundaries. After all, if you’re trying to move forward while your eyes are still looking behind you, you’re destined to trip and fall.
And if you do get tempted to sneak a puff, channel your energy differently. Make a list of all the reasons why it ended, why he’s “not good” for you, as you say, and revisit that list any time you start to feel the urge to light back up. Identify your triggers. What prompts you to start thinking about him? And what are paths through those emotions that don’t involve going through the pain of your past?
If you’re feeling lonely, maybe you could text a friend. If you’re feeling broken, maybe you could re-visit a forgotten hobby that makes you feel fabulous. If you’re feeling flirty, maybe you could slip into something cute and say hi to someone new.
Because the heart can’t live with a hole. And if you don’t fill your heart with something healthy, you’re destined to fill it with something familiar...even if it is bad for you.
I have a boy that sounds a bit like yours. And I sometimes want to text him when I hear our song, or when I attend a wedding alone…when I go too long without a kiss, or when I wake up on what used to be his side of the bed…
But every day I don’t, it gets easier not to. Life is funny that way. It rewards good behavior. “Moving on” is not easy at all. I know that well. But it is simple. You just have to keep moving.
I couldn’t help but wonder: was the whole world hypnotized by the same lie? That you can look at someone and tell if they’re healthy. That skinny is pretty & weight gain is failure & you can judge a person’s discipline, willpower, and worth based on their weight.
I had a thought. Maybe health advice focused solely on weight loss is like a text message from a fuck-boy: it lures a lot of us in, but it’s probably full of shit. Maybe self-worth can’t be measured on a scale. Maybe beauty doesn’t boil down to a number. And maybe your body is not a problem to be solved.
It sounds like you know all this already, but I also know that comments about weight can sneak past the defenses and seep into the subconscious of even the most confident people, so before we talk about your parents, I just want to say it again and again: You are beautiful. Your body is beautiful and something to be proud of, celebrated, cared for, appreciated, and showered with love every single day. I have one wish for you, and it has nothing to do with your parents. It’s that, with regards to your body, you reach something better than “not that unhappy with it.”
In New York, you can’t park on the street on “street sweeping” days. The street needs to take a break from cars so it can cleanse itself of garbage. Maybe people need to do the same thing—take a break from anyone who’s making a mess of your head, and start sweeping out the junk. Because we’re all destined for fashion roadkill if our happiness is contingent on how close we are to Klum.
Taking a broom to your brain is extra important for you. When you have to combat other people’s negativity, your positivity needs to be doubly strong. Which brings us to your parents. Start by assuming the best. I know this has already been going on for a while, but they’re part of a culture that teaches women to feel bad about their bodies. First, try some empathetic education. Think of the journey you went through to get to a place where weight gain didn’t mean failure. Take your parents on that journey. Teach them about body positivity. They might be dealing with some of their own body shame. Have sympathy for their own struggle toward self-love. Teach them about the harms of celebrating some bodies and not others. They might not know that several studies find that parents’ comments about a child’s weight are often predictors of eating disorders and unhealthy dieting habits. If they care about your health, they will stop.
And tell them how much it hurts you. Tell them what it does to your self-esteem. Tell them how much you value their relationship, and how harmful it is that the people who love you are doing damage. Describe to them how you feel when you’re not around them. How happy and content you feel on “street sweep” days.
And if they don’t stop, then it’s time for boundaries. Tell them you take your physical & mental health seriously, and simply, politely but decisively leave the room when they make a negative comment. There’s no need to make a scene, or even have a conversation. When you return is totally up to you, and dependent on many more variables than are in your letter. But as adults, we get to determine the energy we bring into an environment and the energy we surround ourselves with.
Your parents are victims of a system that convinced them a person’s self-worth and health depends on how skinny they are. Empathize with that. But if empathy and education don’t result in change, it’s appropriate for you to walk away. And whatever you do, don’t listen to them. Victory does not come with a better body, it comes from a better mind. I promise you that.
I have one more thing to tell you, but I’m reluctant. I don’t want to make this about me (…a very Carrie thing to do), and I don’t want to come across as insensitive to the specifics of your situation. But I will tell you, because I think it’s relevant to the broader issue.
But if you’ll allow it, I’ll speak as me, Dan, not Carrie. Because you see, I have a body that your parents would probably be quite happy about. In fact, aside from one internet commenter who once called my abs “disgustingly asymmetrical,” I’ve never received anything but kind comments about my body. Andy Cohen has complimented my biceps, Kristin Davis has told me I have great legs, and the New York Post once ran a headline about me being jacked.
And every morning I look at myself in the mirror and take stock of all that’s wrong. Like a writer reviewing a rough draft that desperately needs editing, circling the problem areas in red pen and scripting out possible improvements. Pecs need to be firmer. Butt, rounder. Biceps, smaller. Abs, tighter. And every night, as I go to sleep, I give the day a grade. Did this day get me closer or further from my ideal body? And I go to sleep consumed by regret if the answer is “further.” It sounds exhausting but I’ve been doing it for so long it just feels like life. And long ago I decided it’d be easier to just have a good body than to deal with the insecurities that demanded it.
When magazines or newspapers ask to do a Carrie Dragshaw photoshoot for, I pick the latest possible date so I have the most time to get my body closer to perfect. I’ve tried every diet and for a few years experimented with a disorder. I’ve cleansed and crossfit’ed, gotten assists from cigarettes and diet pills. When my Midwest family tells me I look too skinny, inside I beam with pride.
I don’t know where it comes from. A consistent pursuit of perfection? An external response to internalized loathing? A simple pursuit to look like the superheroes I played with on Saturday mornings (can I blame all this on that time I got a boner watching He-Man and the Masters of the Universe)? I don’t know. But my question is not the one we’re answering today. I just bring this up to tell you this: True self-love only comes when love for your body is unqualified.
Do not listen to any of the voices that tell you how you should look. Because once those voices take hold in your head they are very, very hard to quiet down, and they don’t go away when your body gets “better.” They only go away when your body stops getting graded
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.
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.