Category Archives: Wellesley

The Powder Room Refrain

As an aspiring somebody, I am constantly seeking advice from people who have “made it.” And as a senior in college, one such person I sought advice from was Secretary Madeleine Albright. A fellow in a her global leadership program, I had the privilege of soaking in her political wisdom for three short weeks.

However, most of my contact with her was limited to the classroom experience. She was the teacher, and I was one of 40 students fortunate enough to learn from her lifetime of foreign policy experiences.

At the end of a three week intensive,  I attended a gala where my brief but wondrous encounter with Secretary Albright transpired. Between courses I rushed to the powder room (as it is so labeled in Alumnae Hall), and while searching for the paper towels that did not exist, bumped into the woman who I had spent the last three weeks kvelling over.

Being the inquisitive lady that she was, Secretary Albright stopped to ask me about my future career plans. I told her I was uncertain– I had an offer for Teach For America in Texas and an opportunity to study journalism abroad, but that at this point I was all but undecided. Her advice: “Read five media sources every morning– and make sure you disagree with at least two.” In that moment, her advice hardly seemed relevant in choosing a career path, but I smiled politely and thanked her for her wisdom.

Fast forward three years, and I am departing my job at a major entertainment network in New York. With one foot nearly out the door, I ask the executive producer a question I had been pondering since the day she hired me, “Why me? Of all the kids in all the tv industry, why choose me? I wasn’t exactly entertainment material.”

She paused and said, “You were exactly what we were looking for. I knew it the minute I asked you what news sources you read, and you said five names– indicating that at least two of them you disagreed with.” At which point I choked on my Diet Coke. Had Madeleine Albright really been the reason I was working for a music channel, integrating Billboard Top 40 references into my daily scripts?

Perhaps not entirely, but she certainly had taught me a lesson. Sometimes the advice you want isn’t the advice you get. However, if you invoke a little patience and let life take its course, it might just turn out to be useful. And even if it’s not, you’ll have material to write about for years to come.

Advertisements

Just a spoon full of Britney makes the guacamole go down.

I live in two polar universes– one which embraces the new and another that cherishes the old. And since the days of my college essay writing I have marketed myself on this unusual trait, the daily dichotomy I so carefully and meticulously balance (please refrain from laughter).

However, there is a price to be paid for this perpetual state of juggling. Few people can understand me truly and deeply, and so I conceal many of my thoughts from my immediate social circles. I, as one British psychology student once phrased it, “selectively share certain aspects of my life, while maintaining a aura of secrecy around others.”

Fortunately there is a select group of young women with whom I am proud to say I am completely open and honest. It is with this group of biddies (largely Wellesley ones) that I shed my cloak of privacy and reveal my deepest darkest secrets, such as my affection for Britney Spears’ 2000 classic “Stronger” and my desire to begin a penpal exchange with death row inmates.

Yes, in the company of these particularly women, I shed all inhibitions and consume three baskets of tortilla chips in one sitting. In a crowded Mexican restaurant on a rainy Saturday night, I sip my 75-calorie margarita (made of tequila and agave nectar!) and vow to someday make them my bridesmaids. And then mid-vow, spontaneously break out into Backstreet Boys’ “Everybody”– fully aware that upon completion of my solo they will still willingly be sitting at the table beside me.

And in their presence, I recommend a weekend activity– a viewing of a musical improv’s group performance aptly titled: “Willy Wonka and the House of Horrors.” I make this recommendation aware that they are likely to nod in agreement; to think my rather sordid sense of humor and entertainment is worth the $7 tickets.

This ode to my favorite Wellesley women is a longwinded way of expressing my gratitude for their friendships and for a lovely sun and rain-filled weekend in their company. I  may be single and every so often (ok, more often than not) lament that reality, but on weekends such as these– when I find myself consuming my bodyweight in guacamole and with zero judgment from my friends– I realize 22 and single isn’t such a bad look for me.

The only living girl in New York

Sometimes I wish I was a life-sized latte. It’s true. I strive to find a warm balance between a sharp dose of espresso and a mild tempering of milk. And worse yet, I dream of propagating my caffeine love. In the few freaky pregnant dreams I’ve had, I’ve given to birth to grande skinny vanilla lattes and venti white mochas. I credit this fantastical leap of logic to my current job situation, which is to say the balancing of two jobs that each require more hours than there are in the day. And I suspect that these fantasies shall persist for the next two months, as I struggle to be the Wendy Wellesley I always knew I would be.

And the baton passes on.

It was a crisp Friday night in January of ’09, and I was intent on having some “me” time. Departing from the Wellesley Hillel, I ventured towards the lake, ready to partake in the magical midnight walk around the glistening waters.

In my haste, however, I neglected to mention to any of my fellow biddies that I was embarking on said journey. Fast forward two hours. It is approximately 2 am, and I return to my dorm ready to embrace my inner idealist once more. Upon entering my dorm room, I am greeted by a group of six girls– all apparently praying for my safety and contemplating whether to put in a call to campus police.

My roommate, the most concerned of all, is shocked to see I am in entirely one piece. I should note that this incident occurred around the time of the Wellesley town fondler, who had a propensity for appearing on Wellesley’s campus, dropping his pants, and giving himself a spiritual experience upon encountering a student. And yes, I somehow managed to forget or neglect that fact when I decided to frolic through the Wellesley wilderness.

Now while my roommate had thought the worst, another friend, Caroline, quickly chimed in that she knew I was all right; that I could survive in the desert for a week, so long as it had a local coffee ship; and that she completely understood and supported my need for personal space.

Tuning into the sense of urgency that had seemed to permeate the room, I replied, “Um, what are you all talking about? I just went for a walk, a thing I do every so often when the eat-less-challah bug strikes me.” But then it all began to sink in. This was my George Bailey moment (a la It’s a Wonderful Life), when I saw my life without me in it. And while I had been enduring a rather painful sophomore slump, in that instant I was reminded that I was significant. At least to six girls in that crowded dorm room.

While watching “The Mountaintop” on Broadway this evening, I recalled that night three years earlier. While I am no Martin Luther King, Jr, I have a reason to fight. To be “the best possible Yaffa I can be,” as Mama B would say. I may not move as many mountains as he did, but like him, I have and should fight to stay alive, to fight the good fight, and to leave the world slightly better than in the state I found it.

It’s a cliched goal– no doubt. But it’s one that every so often, when I endure the inevitable post-holiday depression, I gravitate towards. It’s my calorie-free soul food, which manages to give me an ounce of comfort when the temperatures are below freezing, I am facing the brink of July unemployment, and kittens are chasing after me like they know something about my future I don’t know.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Forget your personal tragedy. We are all bitched from the start and you especially have to be hurt like hell before you can write seriously. But when you get the damned hurt, use it-don’t cheat with it.” So here I am channeling that hurt away, all the while wishing I could head back to Wellesley for a midnight stroll. (FYI, avid readers, this is your warning should I disappear from cyberspace for more than two hours.)

“Some of the best, most interesting people I’ve met.”

Four years ago today, I began first-year (not to be confused with the gender insensitive term, “freshman”) orientation, and frankly it was a magical time in my life. I met several women who would alter the course of my Wellesley career. These women, more commonly referred to as my “biddies for life,” were and are my inspiration and strength in the midst of my 20something confusion.

Unfortunately, most of them do not live a one minute walk away from my dorm room anymore. They cannot drop their 500 page edition of Middlemarch or desert their tumor-filled mice in the science lab and run over to my room to reassure me that I am fully capable of composing a 100+ document on the trials and tribulations of African health policy implementation.

They are unable to make the requisite six AM Starbucks run with me each morning, as Portia, my favorite barista of all freaking time, assures me that I will not overdose on the trenta– despite its 31 oz. enormity. And they are incapable of telling me– face-to-face– that despite my obvious special snowflake status, I have potential to do great(ish) things if I set my mind and heart to it.

Perhaps this is why I take profound comfort in the Wellesley 2015 Class Orientation flash mob video, in which RAs, first-year mentors, and even a few deans, reassure the incoming class that they can and will be women who will make a difference in the world:

Though I am no Katy Perry fan, every so often a few cliche song lyrics is all I need to remind myself that despite the geographical distance, my Wellesley biddies are very much there in spirit– teleporting me lattes and love. They truly are, as one Yale boy phrased it today, “Some of the best, most interesting people I’ve met.”

(Hoop) Rolling in the deep.

Though I resent when outsiders compare me to characters in Mona Lisa Smile–  a film loosely based on Wellesley in the Fifties, there is one sequence in the film I value and identify with: hoop rolling. Wellesley, as a college steeped in tradition, takes pride in indulging in what may otherwise be deemed absurd.

One such absurdity is rolling a wooden hoop down a small hill near Lake Waban early Saturday morning. This tradition involves spending $15 on the aforementioned hoop and then decorating it accordingly.

I, myself, determined to cover my hoop in coffee quotes– including my personal favorite: “Behind every great woman is a substantial amount of coffee.” Others opt to keep it simple, decorating their hoops in their class colors.

Regardless of the extent to which we view our hoops as pieces of art, we all engage in the same process on the second to last Saturday of the academic year. Navigating our hoops down a winding road, we clamor to be the first to cross the finish line.

The logic is simple– the winner is guaranteed to succeed “in however she defines success.” Now I should note that when the infamous hoop rolling tradition began in 1899, the winner was guaranteed something entirely different. She would be the first to get married. (If my grandmother had gone to Wellesley, she would have loved playing that game.)

However, as Second Wave feminism and post-feminism began to influence the campus, the prize shifted from first to wed to first to become CEO to first to be successful. And while I appreciate the commitment to vernacular modernization, I would have been content to play the marriage game as well.

Call me old school, but the rather vague prize was not a motivating factor to speed ahead. I lost my competitive edge, and when the Beloved Roommate fell behind, I patiently waited for her to gather her hoop before continuing the less than mad dash to the finish line. Also, the winner gets thrown into the lake– an extraordinarily contaminated body of water– certain to curtail one’s life span by a year or two:

Friends don't let friends roll hoops before caffeinating.

Pre-rolling love.

And we're off.

Inching towards the finish line.

We're all about the venn diagrams.

{photos courtesy of the Awesomest Sophomore}

The sky is falling, or, the tale of the disappearing cupcakery.

I woke up the other day– under caffeinated and slightly delirious from the festivities of the previous night. Said festivities involved a marathon of Apples-to-Apples,  pint size versions of Sabra hummus, and a whole lot of estrogen-driven chit-chat– just another Friday night at a woman’s college.

But I digress, as I awoke, I texted the Beloved Roommate to inform her that I desperately needed a dosage of caffeine, should she care to accompany me on this necessary venture. While driving to Starbucks, we noted that Kick Ass Cupcakes, the cupcake store that had opened in Wellesley only a few months before, had suddenly and mysteriously vanished.

Now Kick Ass Cupcakes is not your ordinary New England cupcakery smack in the middle of an upper class, extraordinarily white suburban setting. It had alcoholic flavored cupcakes– such as the Mojito, as well as comfort food-esque baked goods– like the Peanut Butter and Jelly cupcake. And unlike a typical New York bakery, it served them for obscenely reasonable prices.

 

RIP: Berry Crumbly

 

While Slate may have portended the end of cupcakes over a year ago, I cannot accept that this artheroclerosis-inducing establishment is a bakery of the past. Bakeries, even in towns where the average woman strives to be the size of my right thumb, still seem to support caloric havens. Said woman purchase these products for their small, and usually rather athletic children, who burn off the calories almost as instantly as they intake them. (As an aside, I have always not so secretly despised those children.)

However, I think what truly bothers me is that a potentially wondrous place to study off-campus has disappeared. There are few places in the town of Wellesley that serve both quality food and outrageous ambiance. Kick Ass was one of those exceptions.

Now, in its absence, I must resign myself to Susu’s, a classy cafe that I suspect pays the $80 a jar price tag for Stumptown Roasters. Their prices, sadly, reflect that quality coffee bean endeavor. Also, I am the only brown eyed girl in the cafe. Somehow Kick Ass managed to attract what little diversity existed in the town into its shop. And frankly, I miss that.

All of this, of course, increases the possibility that I will actually venture into the city of Boston to discover a new study niche. If you have any thoughts or recommendations of places to caffeinate and converse in highly intellectual discourses on either obscure Italian cinema or women and economic development, do share.