WHy Hello, There.

Hi, Friends!

I hope this finds you all well and healthy. I’ve noticed a few new faces around here, and just wanted to remind everyone that while this site will remain up as a free WordPress account, I will no longer be posting regularly.

BUT, the good news is…

You can find all of my new blog posts over at the new Girl in Gotham City.

I publish a new post every Wednesday, and if you sign up, you’ll receive bonus content in the form of a weekly newsletter, which will land straight to your inbox! (Along with plenty of Charlie pictures…).

Some of my latest posts have included:

Unfortunately, unlike WordPress, my new hosting platform doesn’t let you, my lovely readers, know when I’ve published a new post. The only way to see fresh content is by checking the website manually…or by subscribing!

To subscribe, all you need to do is head to the blog, scroll down to where it says “subscribe,” fill out your name and email address (I don’t spam or sell!), and that’s it! Each Wednesday you’ll get a newsletter with a link to my latest post.

I may return here occasionally if the need arises, but for now…

You can find me over at the new Girl in Gotham City

xoxo

Lauren

The End of Girl in Gotham City As We Know It

Dear Friends and Readers,

Thank you so much for following along with me on my adventures in Girl in Gotham City these last four years. The years between 25 and 29 have been full of some of the best memories in my life….and also some of the worst. As I emerge from one of the most difficult times in my life just a few months shy of turning 30, it seemed fitting that Girl in Gotham City should also evolve to the next level as I leave my twenties behind and enter a new decade.

This site will remain active on WordPress as a free version – girlingothamcity.wordpress.com

However, to stay up to date with the new and improved version of Girl in Gotham City, click here.

Don’t forget to subscribe (fill in the form at the bottom of the site) so you can receive my weekly blog post, which will be published each Wednesday. You can learn all about the new Girl in Gotham City over on my new site’s first post.

Thank you again for following along these last several years, and I look forward to keeping in touch on the other side of 30 🙂

An Anxious Perfectionist Procrastinates

An Anxious Perfectionist Procrastinates

Put the kettle on, make some tea. Light a candle—you can’t write without a candle. You can’t smell the candle—in fact, the air smells stale. Open a window. Sit down to write. Open a blank page. “I need a new computer, how will I be able to blog or write or edit photos seriously if I don’t have a new computer with an actual battery life and better screen resolution? I can’t even properly online shop on this thing.”

Speaking of online shopping, you need to look for throw pillows for your spare bedroom. Oh wait, no, not throw pillows—hanging planters. Drilled-in-the-wall planters. No wait, both. All three? Simmer down, you don’t need to buy everything at once, you just spent a bunch of money on furnishing the guest room you don’t sleep in. But it’s nice to have a welcoming space for guests—your Aunt had a lovely guest room when you visited, and it felt so cozy. Look for some throw pillows. Open up Amazon. Oh wait—Amazon doesn’t have what you want, you looked there yesterday. Check out the Urban Outfitters Sale, they have the cutest pillows. And home décor, oh my gosh I want everything! Cute wall mirrors and velvet chairs and beaded phases of the moon. I don’t need a wire frame decoration of a woman’s torso to hang my jewelry on. I already have a jewelry hanger. But it’s so lovely and on sale! It’s also mass produced consumerism, faux-art. I studied art history, I can’t succumb to consumerism, I can’t buy mass-produced faux art masquerading as real art. UGH.

Real art! Now there’s an idea. Let’s look for prints instead, more affordable authenticity. Etsy probably has great prints. Hmm, all that’s being shown are international shops with expensive shipping. I wonder if I could get these Picasso line drawings as downloads, then send them to Walgreens for printing. Is it photo paper or matte paper that they print on? Can I get it framed there? Or do I need to buy frames? How much are frames?

Exit the browser. I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m supposed to be writing. This is what you planned to do today. For months you have felt this urge, every day, to pour your thoughts out on paper. But where do you start? What thoughts deserve to be expanded and put out into the world? Do you try to begin a novel? You don’t even know how to begin a novel, much less write a novel. Do you write a series of essays? On what? Maybe you should read more, read more to get ideas, read more to get ideas on ideas and ideas on structure and ideas on character development. That’s silly, you’ve been reading almost every day your whole life. Now you’re just making excuses. Open the Word document, hover your fingers over the keyboard.

Stand up, stretch, look at your dog, who is sleeping on the couch. Sit down and try to write again. Start a sentence. Hate that sentence. Add another sentence. Hate how it looks on the page next to the first sentence and how it sounds when you read it out loud. Delete. Stretch again. Stand up. You feel stiff, your neck is sore. Time for a workout, maybe that will get the juices flowing. Juice – like Lizzo! Ok something with less “Tempo,” if you catch my drift.

Put on a yoga video. Try to breathe-in-breathe-out-anjali-mudra. Think about feeling your body in movement. Realize that you shouldn’t be thinking about feeling your body in movement, just feeling your body in movement. Synchronize your breath. Practice. Look up at the clock and realize 30 minute have already gone by.

Sit back down at your computer, open it. Pull up a blank word document. Realize you’ve got no battery life left even though you’re computer’s been charging all day. Can’t look at the screen, either—it’s too dark, it hurts your eyes.

Decide you need some tea before you begin writing. Go to the kitchen. Your tea is cold. Turn the kettle on. Make another cup.

Only in New York

There’s a popular Instagram hashtag used by locals and tourists alike called #what_I_saw_in_nyc. For those who don’t use the socials (or who, like me, are off social media and don’t know if/when you’ll be back!), hashtags are a sort of image catalog system that allows users to search for specific visual content. As you can imagine, #what_i_saw_in_nyc usually features beautiful visions of Central Park at sunset, or the Statue of Liberty from a yacht, or even the latest Instagram-bait food trends like raw cookie dough and ramen burgers.

I myself have been prone to use the hashtag to document items like the rainbow bagel craze (this is so laughable to me now!) and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, but I think most New Yorkers can agree that there should also be a hashtag called #what_i_saw_in_nyc_but_wished_I_hadn’t

That would be much more interesting.

In the scant week since I’ve been back in the city after taking two weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s, I have already seen my fair share of can’t-unsee-them antics. And since you, dear readers, follow this blog, I’m going to share my favorite (anti-favorite?) one with you because I NEED SOMEONE TO SHARE THE BURDEN OF THIS MEMORY WITH. You most definitely wouldn’t find this anecdote on my once-upon-a-time series “New York Niceties,” and it is one that will surely be seared into my memory for years to come. For my rural readers, I may recommend not eating while reading. If you’re a New Yorker though, you might find yourself yawning – just another typical day in NYC.

A Trip to Jacob’s Pickle(s)

As most New York City horror stories goes, this one took place on our ‘beloved’ subway system.

Last weekend, I took my brother and my best friend to one of my favorite restaurants in the city – Jacob’s Pickles, located on the Upper West Side. Jacobs’s Pickles has the BEST poutine (french fries covered in gravy and cheese and bacon) ever, my favorite cocktail (the jam jar, which is strawberries and lemon and gin and omg-is-it-five-o’clock-yet?!), and the most delicious biscuits with fried chicken and sausage gravy that I’ve ever had. It’s worth saving your appetite for, because the portions are ridiculous and the food…well, let’s just say you’re not going to be eating any salads here.

The restaurant is located on the same parallel as Astoria and is theoretically only 3 miles as the crow flies. With the way the subways are configured, however, it takes roughly 40 minutes and two train lines to get there.

Last year, I got into a reallyyyyy bad Uber habit. If my destination required taking more than one train, I’d cut them both out and take an Uber. In fact, if my destination in the city was anywhere other than a quick few minutes walk from the N/W line, I would take an Uber. If I was going to Brooklyn, it was a question of which rideshare, not if I would ride share.

Anyways, as anyone who has ever taken an Uber or Lyft in the city knows, cars are now CRAZY expensive, so I’ve been trying (trying!) to take the subway more recently. I figured that going with friends and family would be the perfect way to ease back into the anxiety-inducing MTA after two weeks off.

We made it from my apartment to the Times Square subway station with relative ease for a weekend, so I was feeling pretty good about the commute. Only a couple of stops up on the 1 train, and we’d soon be eating flaky biscuity goodness!

Then, I had an idea.

“Hey guys,” I said to my non-New York brother and friend, who were visiting from out of state. “Why don’t we take the Express 2 or 3 train and get off a stop early? We’ll have to walk a few extra blocks, but it’s nice out and it’s less time on the train.”

I could have stopped there, but in my foolishness (foolishness!) I continued: “Plus riding the train is like playing Russian Roulette, ” I added. “Each time the doors open, you never know who’s going to get on or off…”

The Universe clearly decided to test this theory that day.

As the 2 train pulled into the station, apparently somebody was indeed getting off…in the train…stripped naked down to his shoes.

Now, as someone who has lived in the city for 4 and a half years, you learn a thing or two. Sure, I’m not exactly a veteran (yet), but I’m certainly not a “new(ish) New Yorker” anymore. So when I saw the 2 train roll up into the station, with one car almost entirely empty, that was my first hint that something was wrong–dreadfully wrong. You never, ever, EVER want to enter an empty car during rush hour. Ever.

Think about it: In a city where space is a commodity and you pay through the nose to rent your “cozy” storage cube of an apartment, the only reason a New Yorker would avoid a spacious, open-seat-filled subway car is because somebody has died, something smells like death, or somebody is doing something that makes you wish you actually were dead.

When I saw the open car roll by I immediately turned and started heading for a different train car, but my poor, unwitting brother (bless his heart!) turned to look (he actually LOOKED!) inside the car as if to get on, then turned around and immediately aged about two years. Fortunately, I’m told, the man’s large, bulbous belly was covering up *most* of “the goods” and “services.” He was doing exactly what you think he was doing, and the few people who were on the train car with him (poor, sad tourists) immediately bum rushed the platform in their hurry to get out. Thank God we were only going one stop…

The entire 3-minute train ride from 42nd street to 72nd, I kept praying that the man would stay put and not venture next door to our car. When the doors opened and we got off the train at 72nd Street, we walked by the open car again on our way out. I knew better than to breathe in a sigh of relief, though, because we were immediately hit with the putrid smell of death escaping the car and filling the entire platform. An older lady who gave off the air of having lived in this city a long time stopped by the train conductor’s car, and leaned in. “There’s a man in one of the cars back there who is completely naked,” she told the conductor. “Okay,” he responded, then turned around, shut the train car doors, and drove off.

The MTA in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen.

As we walked out of the station to breathe in the fresh (so fresh!) air, my friend whipped out her hand sanitizer, and we passed it around like liquid gold. “I though you were just being a stereotypical jaded New Yorker with your whole ‘subway Russian roulette’ spiel,” she said, squeezing out another dime-sized drop of sanitizer. “But that was…uh…certainly something to remember.”

As for my poor brother, whose eyes took the brunt of the beating and will likely never be the same? “I thought we were going to eat at Jacob’s Pickles, not see Jacob’s Pickle.”

He’ll be alright.

New Yorkers / tourists visiting New York: Do you have any favorite New York horror stories?! PLEASE share in the comments and commiserate with me!

One and Done

When I was younger, I used to think that more than anything in life, I wanted to be in love. I still want, more than anything in life, to love and be loved, so I suppose I should probably clarify: when I was younger, the thing I wanted more than anything else was to be in a relationship. Being in love and being in a relationship were in my mind synonymous.

For years I felt ignored, under-cherished, watching friends get into and out of relationships while I seemed to sit on the sidelines, unwanted, rejected. When I finally got into my first relationship at the age of 26, I thought finally, this is it—this is what I’ve been waiting for. Normalcy, love, acceptance—the things I’d been holding over my own head, the gods I’d erected who unknowingly kept my growth and creativity in a chokehold while I waited for my “real life” to start—were finally within my grasp. I could breathe a little. I could relax. I had finally arrived to the fabled Promised Land, an illusory inculcation passed down to little girls before they’re old enough to brush their hair.

Of course I used to believe so strongly in the fairytale that I didn’t think the nightmare was possible—at least not for me. In my years of waiting, like a Princess locked in a tower, I had somehow become the most worthy maiden of the Promised Land. How could I be anything but? I’d waited, I’d been patient, I put in my time, I had strong values. I was willing to give up everything to make this relationship with this man be The One. A friend in graduate school once told me, after I lamented my perpetually single status, that she saw me as being a “One and Done” type of dater—meaning I would likely date and marry the first person I got serious with. This was an idea that I clung to desperately, almost voraciously, after hearing it. More than anything, I wanted to be One and Done. As a jealous way to soothe my haughty soul, my fragile ego, as a way to seem virtuous and superior to those who had dated around (I know–I cringe even writing that), I believed in my fairytale, albeit delayed. Yes, I would be one and done—my waiting would be rewarded, for the first man that came along and said yes would surely be worthy of me, and all my sorrows would just melt away along with my singleness. More than anything I just wanted to be done.

But like most times when you have a lesson to learn, The Universe had other plans. It turns out that I was not, in fact, superior to others simply because I had lived my life in a waiting room. I was just single, and so desperately wanting to find love that I accepted whatever was offered.

As some of you may know, when you approach things from this state of wanting and desperation, you are like an anchor sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor. Until you get over your fear of leaving the ocean and lift yourself up and out, you are stuck in the murky underwater; what you attract are the bottom feeders, the barnacles that attach themselves to your once-shiny anchor-self and corrode your essence, your spirit. Until you lift yourself out of the deep, what you dredge up is usually ugly and slimy.

Needless to say, in my quest for a relationship I had managed to dredge up the nightmare instead of the fairytale—a nightmare that nearly cost me my health and my sanity. Life under the stress of a terrible relationship—and I mean truly terrible, with regular, days-long fighting and tears and emotional abuse and gaslighting—can do nothing else but take a heavy toll.

Under the conditions of my no-good-very-bad relationship, I completely neglected to take care of myself. I didn’t exercise or move my body….at all. I ate takeout or frozen pizza almost every night. I basically stopped cooking – which is something I love doing – and hopped on Seamless to order a variety of Indian, Chinese, or Greek. At one point in the summer, I literally ate a half a pint of ice cream every single night, for weeks on end—probably for a couple of months. It had stopped tasting good at that point, and I had stopped caring.

I also stopped doing my hair or wearing makeup. I hated to go out to events or leave the apartment. I developed acid reflux. I started getting severe neck pain. I got mono followed by strep followed by strep again followed by an infection. I got weekly migraines so bad that I would vomit, unable to get out of bed or even open the blinds. I wore only the baggiest, most comfortable clothes I could find. I stopped writing entirely. My once-thick hair, which had significantly thinned out, went from a few stray strands of grey to almost salt-and-pepper, and the bags under my eyes seemed to be a permanent fixture along with my artfully developed resting bitch face, a new feature. Everything irritated me—loud swallowing, cars blocking the crosswalk, puddles on the sidewalk, people’s elbows touching me on the subway. All of it contributed to my rage, fueled it like throwing bits of newspaper into a wood-burning furnace that angrily diffuses its heat throughout the whole house. I hated New York City. I hated my apartment. I hated my job. I hated my relationship. I didn’t care how I looked, if I had showered, or how I showed up in the world.

In short, I was living like a depressed person, because in all honesty I was completely and devastatingly depressed, for months.

But happily, there is a bright side—though it’s not the fairytale I had imagined.

In a way, it’s better.

The day after I got out of my no-good-very-bad relationship, life began to change—not in that slow, gradual way that people talk about; for me, it happened almost immediately. It was like after a night of intense, raging snowfall, I woke up to see a landscape transformed: everything covered in snow, calm and bright, a thick blanket of white perched on rooftops like stacks of freshly laundered sheets. Clean, calm, fresh, quiet and filled with potential. I remember being so ridiculously overjoyed the day after my breakup–I felt lighter and freer and happier than I had in over a YEAR AND A HALF. It was shocking, honestly, how good I felt. I never expected this amount of relief.

The first step was to admire the beauty that the storm had created, to take in the devastation and marvel at the beautiful result of nature’s fury. The second was to get out the shovel, and begin the hard work of digging myself out. None of this would have been possible without the countless hours of texting and phone calls with my closest friends and family; a trip out to Colorado that helped me see things from a new perspective; the works of Kara Loewentheil, Brene Brown, and Jen Sincero’s amazing book You Are A Badass; and therapy.

Besides that incredibly delicious feeling of relief, which still permeates even on days of loneliness, there are several other positive changes I’ve noticed since I finally woke up from the nightmare I was living.

1. My migraines have suddenly started to…disappear. It’s been about two months since I’ve had a migraine, and I used to get one nearly every week. The migraines were so bad that they would either take me out for the entire day, or require that I take a couple of sick hours in the morning, guiltily traipsing into the office at 11am. The last notable migraine I had was post-breakup but only by a week or so, the day after a very stressful conversation regarding “the splitting of the things,” including our shared apartment. Such a topic would normally put me in bed for the better half of a day, but this little baby migraine was remedied with peppermint oil, coffee, and Advil, and I went on my merry way to work.

2. I’ve started exercising regularly, and for the first time in my life, I am not exercising to lose weight or punish myself for eating pancakes, but rather to enjoy movement and to feel good. I began exercising as a way to expunge the nervous energy out of my body. Some days after the breakup I would just sit on my couch, anxious or antsy, but without an immediate reason as to why. I think my body was so used to devoting its energy to protecting my emotions, to being on high-alert, to recovering from all-night blowout fights, to trying to sustain my energy in a weakened state where I was constantly being berated and made to second guess myself, that it felt restless once this 24/7 vigil was lifted. I felt the need to get up and do something, but I didn’t know what. Exercise as an enjoyable activity to do in one’s free time had never really occurred to me, because it was something that I hated so much. I used to exercise as a system of punishment and reward, a sign of being either on or off the wagon. I would over-exercise and obsess and miss out on social events so I could squeeze in a second or third workout. I began to hate and resent exercise. If it didn’t leave me collapsed on the floor in a puddle, it didn’t count.

Lately though, it’s really nice to move and stretch and sweat, with absolutely no agenda attached. I am not trying to lose weight. I am not trying to achieve a certain aesthetic. I’m simply trying to feel good in my skin, to give the gift of movement to a body which gave me life and did its very best to protect me from the insanity of the last few years.

3. I have become more creative, in ways I never even imagined. I’ve learned how to crochet and taught myself to make an infinity scarf, something I’ve been half-heartedly attempting for several years now. I bought stuff to make homemade peppermint soap, an experiment which turned out quite lovely (but will also require some fine tuning, like how do you get the bubbles out and add color before the first layer solidifies so quickly?!). I’m hosting baking events with friends and learning how to make bagels. I found an old chair that someone in my building had discarded, so I sanded it down, primed it, and painted it a lovely mint julep green. I play the piano and write frequently. I decorated my apartment and keep filling it with new plants to water. I crushed my New Year’s Resolution of reading at least 15 books this year. I bake and cook and try new recipes and also just eat frozen veggies and rotisserie chicken and eggs and cheese on toast.

4. My general demeanor has become friendlier, more relaxed, more open. I no longer walk around with this heavy weight on my chest and a permanent case of RBF, and people seem to respond positively to the shift in countenance. I’ve had random conversations with people on the street, walking dogs, in the grocery store, in my building. My relationships with coworkers and friends have improved. The coworker that I’ve strongly disliked for over two years now has become friendly, to the point where she gave me a hug after our office Christmas party, we actually laugh and talk throughout the day, and we even exchanged little Christmas gifts this year (If you know any of my history with this woman, you know that this would have seemed like an impossibility just a year ago). I know that I’m more approachable, softer, more inviting, less harsh. Overall the positive spiritual change has resulted in more positive encounters.

5. For the first time in a long time, I have felt lucky to live in New York City. The other day while I was at home in my apartment, with white Christmas lights strung around the window, my big beautiful tree in the corner and colored lights framing my bedroom door, I felt so content and cozy. As candles burned and Christmas music played in the background, I went into my bedroom and looked out the window at the Triboro Bridge, red and white lights twinkling in the distance. Off to the left, if you got at the right angle, was the Midtown skyline, with the Empire State and Chrysler buildings lit up like Manhattan’s own version of a Nativity scene. Beneath my building and trailing out to the water was a smattering of twinkling apartment buildings. The whole scene felt just like a movie, like how I pictured New York would look and feel to someone who lived here before I actually lived here. I hadn’t felt this way in forever about New York—lucky and excited to be here. It’s like the ice is thawing on an entire area of my life and personality.

6. There’s nothing more glorious, more freeing, than being able to do what you want in any given moment. Before, my life was a series of “let’s just get through this fill-in-the-blank event, outing, movie, weekend activity, etc.” I didn’t often find myself excited about any of my plans, and even when I was looking forward to one-on-one plans with a girlfriend, I was wearing shit-colored glasses. Everything was brown and dismal. There was a humdrum depression and sadness to everything I did, a background noise I couldn’t quite tune out, an unwelcome companion poking me in the side during every fun interaction and going “Hey, I know you’re having fun now and trying to forget what’s going on at home, but remember how you and X got into a huge fight until 3AM last night, and how he’s still pissed and mad at you and you slept in separate beds and haven’t spoken since? Yeah, don’t talk to your friend about that. It’s too shameful to share and you shouldn’t badmouth your boyfriend anyways. And also you’re gonna have to deal with that when you get home, so keep thinking about it! But don’t say anything.”

Despite the fact that I was still ensconced in a melancholic ennui, these outings with friends were the highlight of my week. I started planning social activities without my boyfriend two to three times a week, just to be out of the house. That’s mostly because it got to the point where we could no longer attend fun outings or even be alone together without fighting. I remember spending Electric Zoo together two months into our new relationship; it was a magical and fun experience, unlike anything I’d ever done before. Three years later, X storms off in the middle of a set leaving me standing by an overflowing trash can, holding a half-melted ice cream topped waffle, while a bunch of strung out kids on molly lay together, half-naked, in the garbage. At a certain point, you stop caring, stop wanting to go out or plan things, because it’s not worth it. If you’re going to fight while you’re out or fight while you’re in, you might as well do it from the comfort of PJs and a couch and pint of ice cream waiting in the freezer. Half the time I didn’t even want to go to the event in the first place, having been exhausted after a long week at work and from trying to hold it together at home. The last thing I wanted to do was schlep around from Manhattan to Queens to Brooklyn, back to Queens to bed to do it all over again the next day. Now, my free time is exactly that – MY. FREE. TIME. I have the luxury of doing absolutely nothing when I want to, and only filling up my time with things that I genuinely want to enrich my life with.

As I rebuild my fairytale, I’m finding that the blueprint in my hand looks less like Rapunzel and more like Frozen. I’ve been dissecting the patriarchal cultural narrative that was built around me before I was born and which I’ve helped propagate as an unwitting but faithful disciple of boy-meets-girl.

What can we expect in the future? Lots more writing, as I now have the time and newfound joy to take on my own interesting projects. There will likely be some changes around here, so stay tuned for some developments on that end as I refocus my projects and regroup for 2020. I’ve also been off of social media for two months, and have been really enjoying all of the extra time that it frees up. It was only supposed to be a temporary but I now find myself contemplating not when, but if I’ll return. I haven’t felt this alive or this strong or this in control of my own destiny since I lived in Italy, and I am so excited to reclaim that amazing lady that I was before this whole no-good-very-bad relationship even started. Lady Liberty has loosed my shackles, and thought the marks around my wrists and feet are sore and tender, it feels so good to stretch out my arms and legs, take a deep breath, and savor the freedom. My freedom. I am bound to no one but myself. I am One and Done with settling.

Frosted Sugar Cookies for Christmas

A Christmas Tradition

Every Christmas, my mom fills up our kitchen with what seems like an endless supply of the most delectable homemade cookies. We each choose one type of cookie, and ever since I was a kid, she has lovingly rolled, cut, shaped, and baked each one as soon as the calendar flips from November to December. We usually end up with about six to eight different kinds – gingerbread, gingersnap, peanut butter blossoms, magic bars – and we don’t touch them until Christmas Eve. After Christmas Eve dinner (we celebrate with a variation on the Italian-style Feast of the Seven Fishes), we are finally able to dig in to the goods, enjoyed over cocoa, eggnog, and A Christmas Story. This is my favorite holiday tradition.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve contributed my own creations to the cookie cache, though it is certainly a bit more an undertaking to bake dozens of cookies in my small New York City apartment and schlep them back home to my parents’ house in the countryside. This year, to avoid some of the schlepping (and also because the holidays sprung up on us so quickly this year, am I right?!), my mom and I made my personal favorite cookie together once I got to PA: frosted sour cream sugar cookies.

A couple of years ago, I bought the sweetest little sweater-shaped cookie cutter at the Amish Country store, and I just love using the piping bags to create “ugly sweater” decorations. It’s a fun–and delicious–way to be creative, and of course, spend some time with my mom as we laugh over our designs. Some of my favorites this year? A Charlie Brown sweater, Santa Claus jackets, and sweaters with little Christmas tress piped on top.

Of course we won’t be eating any until Christmas Eve, so after we finished decorating them, in they went into their sealed container, and I know they’ll be the first cookie I bite into while we wait for Ralphie to shoot his eye out 🙂

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? I would love to know in the comments!

New York Niceties # 4

In like a lion, out like a lamb…I think that’s how the saying goes. In any case, that’s how the month of March was for me, as I spent the majority of the month–and to be honest, January/February, too–preparing for my upcoming move. My lease in my tenement apartment was up on March 31st, and since October, I knew I wasn’t going to renew if at all possible. Remember how excited I was two years ago at moving into my studio apartment and living on my own?

Well, 2 years, a boyfriend, and a dog later…and I was practically pulling my hair out at the thought of spending another year in a cube. Seriously…family members aka my brother literally STOPPED visiting me because my apartment was too cramped to comfortably house even one person, let alone a house guest, a boyfriend, and a chihuahua. I’ll probably do a whole post on what it’s like to move in NYC and how it’s a different animal from everywhere else I’ve ever lived, but the last few weeks I’ve experienced SO many New York Niceties that I had to share!

A Healing Gyro

Kyle had lunch at a Greek restaurant last week with a new friend and business contact of his…on the same day that I had a REALLY severe, bad reaction to a new migraine pill that my neurologist prescribed. I came home early from work and felt REALLY bad (like…almost called 911 bad…). Kyle was home for a little bit to force water down my throat take care of me, but then went out to meet this new friend. A few hours later, Kyle came back with a delicious gyro – his friend sent him home with one just for me as a “feel better” gift! And honestly…I felt SO.MUCH.BETTER after eating that gyro…it seriously gave me life.

A Helping Hand

I was walking home from the subway during rush hour, which as you all know is my favorite time to be alive [heavy sarcasm implied]. There was a woman struggling to get her heavy grocery cart up the stairs, and while a lot of people just passed her by, some guy in his thirties with headphones in came over, carried her stuff swiftly up the stairs, and then went along on his merry way. They only exchanged a few words but it was sweet to see that while people may seem to be increasingly rude these days, there ARE still good people out there.

FREE. DONUT.

My A*M*A*Z*I*N*G parents drove all the way up to NYC to help me move last weekend. Kyle and I wanted to thank them for all their help (seriously, guys! Couldn’t have done it without you!), so in addition to taking them to our favorite Mexican spot and newfound next-door pizza joint, I also treated everyone to Sunday morning Donuts from Sugar & Water, this new donut shop that opened up in Astoria last summer. I’d been itching to try it for a while, and as my mom is a fellow donut lover like me, I figured this was the perfect excuse. On our way back from picking up some more cleaning supplies and light bulbs, Kyle and I popped into the shop and were instantly charmed by the manager (presumably the owner?) and his employees, who were SO NICE and kind. With each donut I ordered, the lady helping us made a point of looking for the biggest, most delicious looking donut, pulling from the fresh tray that just came out. At the very end as we were paying, she silently threw in an extra blueberry cinnamon cake donut for good measure. We walked away with nothing but good vibes and a box of donuts, so we’ll definitely be back.

City Views for Days

My new apartment has views of the city! There are beautiful, wide windows in the bedroom that allow in a ton of natural light, and open up straight out onto the Triboro Bridge. Architecturally, the bridge is beautiful to look at, and even more so at night when it lights up. Off to the left of the bridge, you can see all the way from Times Square up to Harlem. You can’t see the Empire State Building, but that’s okay–you can see both the Empire State and the Chrysler Buildings from the bedroom. I’m pretty sure I could just sit on my bed and look at the view for hours!

It’s currently Friday evening as I write my New York Niceties for the week, and I’m getting ready to sign off the work computer and head out to see a Broadway musical tonight! With so much to be grateful for these days, this was an easy exercise to complete. That being said…it’s not all rainbows and sunshine all the time, which is why it’s SO important to try to find things to be grateful for each day. Kyle and I have made a practice of telling each other before we go to bed either three things we’re grateful for that day, three nice things that happened, or three things we like about each other. It’s a great way to purposefully cultivate gratitude and focus on the positive, no matter how crappy the day might have been.

So…what are YOU grateful for today? I’d love to know in the comments!

Why I’m Not Doing the Whole30 – or Any Other Diet – EVER Again

This post has probably been a long time in the making – ever since I put myself on my first diet in the fifth grade at the tender age of 11. I’ll never forget the homemade zucchini parmesean that my grandma made after Christmas – a recipe she and my mother developed after tasting something similar at the local Italian restaurant – and the pink butterfly sweatshirt I was wearing, a souvenir from Emerald Isle, North Carolina where my family went on a beach vacation every summer. Those details stuck out to me as I remember eating only a few bites of the zucchini parm, measuring out precisely in my head where the halfway mark was on the slice and how I would only eat until that invisible line – no matter how hungry I still was. I remember being proud of that accomplishment, my first meal of restriction, fueled by comments from “well-meaning” family members on my body a few months later. I was 11, and people were already commenting on my body.

That was the start of a difficult relationship with food, which culminates in the journey I’m on today to true food freedom and body positivity. No more restriction, no more diets, no more diet culture disguised as the “health and wellness” lifestyle. I’m saying goodbyes to Whole 30s, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, exercising for punishment. No more declining social events because there would be food I “couldn’t eat,” no more packing my own food to places, no more starving myself on a 500 calorie/day HCG protocol. I’m done with that shit. I’m going to love and accept my body, eat foods that nourish me from the inside out AND foods that I enjoy (which includes pizza and ice cream because YUM) without restrictions, ever. My mental, emotional, and social healthy is just as important as my physical health. I’m breaking up with the diet cycle–for good this time.

I just recently unsubscribed from a blog that I used to get bi-weekly updates from all the time. He was a dating advice columnist, and I always appreciated his honesty and insight. But there was one thing that always used to make me feel bad whenever I would read a post from him – his not-so-sublte judgment of people who he deemed were “unhealthy” or overweight. He would basically tell people that they needed to lose weight in order to find better romantic partners, and that if they didn’t, they were lazy and unattractive. Today, I took another step forward on this journey and unsubscribed – but not before sending him an email (which I know he reads) first. See below for the text of that email:

Hi Evan,
I’ve been a long time reader, but lately, have been put off by your messages about women’s bodies and the idea that “weight loss is so easy.” Your brash and sweeping assumptions show little compassion for people who struggle to conform to a culture so focused around diet and weight – though of course, being out in LA, I’m not surprised; I lived there myself for almost 10 years and see how the obsession with looks permeates every aspect of society. Even your “lush green manicured lawns” are fake!
Do you realize that there is such a thing as a genetic body type? Probably not, because you’ve been blessed to be born with thin, socially-acceptable proportions and a fast metabolism; because “thin is in” and there are more thin people represented in the media – and because it’s easy for you to be thin or lose a few pounds – you assume that everyone else can “easily” do it too. Your assumptions that people should lose weight in order to find a better pool of partners perpetuates a culture of shame that overweight people face on a daily basis – and not just from outsiders, either; it’s a struggle that’s been internalized into a form of self-loathing as well, which just perpetuates the shame cycle. And for no reason, other than the fact that since birth we’ve been socialized to view thin bodies as more conventionally attractive, especially  women. The preferential treatment of thinness is a social construct. 
You may know a lot about dating, and I give you credit for that – but you are not a health practitioner, nor are you aware of the concept that there is health at every size. You make it seem so easy – and maybe for someone with your genetic disposition, it is. But did you know that 
95% of diets FAIL? The statistics seem to suggest that, rather than having 95% of men and women who attempt to diet be classified as failures, perhaps it’s the diets that fail….because dieting doesn’t work, and because we’re not all supposed to look the same. That’s why there’s biodiversity just as much as there is ethnodiversity. When I go to the dog park with my chihuahua, I don’t look at all of the other dogs and go “why isn’t that dog fluffier? Why is that dog so big? That’s not a proper dog, his hair is too long, he needs to be shorter.” I recognize that all dogs are different and appreciate them for what they are. Their differences don’t make them any less of a dog. Sure, there are preferences (I like smaller dogs – my boyfriend likes big dogs), but your statements like “Everyone in the world knows how to lose weight – eat more vegetables and lean meats, cut out sugars and starches, consume smaller portions” are harmful and, at their core, wrong. If what you suggest everyone should do actually worked, then everyone would be the same size, and there would be no more need for the perpetuation of the diet culture we see all around us in every aspect of our life.
I have respected your dating advice for years, but am just now realizing how harmful it is to internalize the messages that you are promoting, so I will be unsubscribing.
With warmest wishes and much love, 
Your former reader,
Lauren

I never really talked about this struggle with anyone before because I was ashamed of it – why is this such a struggle for me? Why am I unable to fit into a smaller size? Why is my friend a size 6 and eats literal garbage (well…okay, not literal lol) all day long and I starve myself on lettuce for 6 weeks and am still the SAME size as when I started? To say it’s frustrating is an understatement. That’s why I’m letting it go. I’m not ashamed of it anymore – this is who I am, and the only way I’ll truly be able to live an aligned life of purpose is if I stand up for who I truly am at my core.

If you, too, are struggling with Body Image, society’s over-glorification of weight loss (seriously…you were NOT put on this earth to lose weight and make yourself smaller), and how to eat “normally” without disordered eating patterns and putting yourself through the binge/restrict cycle, here are some resources that I’ve found to be SO HELPFUL in my journey.

Resources:

Dana Monsees from Real Food with Dana

I actually discovered Dana while doing one of my Whole30’s because she has AMAZING recipes – she is seriously so talented in the kitchen and my go-to recipe blog! Interesting enough, Dana had a COMPLETE re-branding and has actually parted ways with Whole30 because she believes that elimination diets (or any diet, really) promotes – whether intentionally or not – disordered eating. She is now a Body Image coach and registered dietitian who helps people heal their relationship with food and their bodies. Her podcast is AMAZING and seriously life-changing. If you haven’t checked her out yet, make your way over stat!

Cristina Hoyt-Alvarez from Nourish: Mindful Body + Mindful Life

I discovered Cristina because she was a guest on one of Dana’s podcasts. Her compassion, empathy, and advocacy make a positive impact in my life every day. I love following her Instagram account and reading her blog – her IG stories especially are a daily reminder of what’s important in life (hint: it’s not weight loss or diet culture). I am actually a part of a beta test group for a new course that Dana and Cristina are running together called Break the Diet Cycle. I’m currently in week 4 of 8 so I could happily write a review of that course when I’m done if it’s something you guys would be interested in. Click HERE for link to a podcast that Dana/Cristina did together a couple of months ago that really acted as a catalyst for my journey:

Kara Loewentheil, Unf*ck Your Brain

Kara Loewentheil is a feminist former lawyer and Harvard Law graduate who teaches women how to work through social conditioning and self-critical talk so we can just “enjoy our damn lives.” Kara is body positive and teaches women how to genuinely be confident in their own skin by teaching them how to rewire their brains and manage their thoughts. As a life coach, Kara offers one on one coaching, but she also offers a TON of amazing free resources on her website, as well as an awesome podcast that works well in conjunction with all of the other resources.

Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School

I actually disagree with Brooke’s core thoughts on weight loss (she actually started out as a weight loss coach, but I discovered her through her other, non-weight-focused work), so I would actually advise you NOT to listen to her podcasts on weight as it might trigger thoughts of disordered eating. However, I believe that her insight on our thoughts, the workings of the mind, and how to literally retrain our brains to think new, constructive, empowering thoughts is ESSENTIAL to living a happy life. Her podcast The Life Coach School is one of the best resources I’ve found and it contains what I believe is truly the key to finding lasting success and happiness, if applied.

In a previous post I also mentioned The Power of Now as being one of the most impacting books I’ve read, and I believe a lot of the same thought work applies. And I’ve just picked up The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, which I can’t WAIT to dive into – more on thought once I finish it.

This is perhaps the most personal blog post I’ve ever written, so I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, stories, etc. in the comments. If you’ve struggled with Body Image and Diet Culture too and need someone to talk to, I’m there for you – you can shoot me an email at lauren@girlingothamcity.com if you’d rather not talk about it in public. Lots of love to y’all from this rainy Thursday in Gotham City! xx

New York Niceties #3

A little late to the game this week with my third post in this series, but I promise it’s for a good reason! I’ve been spending my weekends/Sunday evenings writing these posts as a way to reflect on the week that passed and start the new week off on the right foot. But this Sunday, I spent the day hanging out with my boyfriend before he went off to work, and then when I got home, I spent the evening meal prepping, scrubbing my entire apartment because it was in desperate need of some TLC, and then catching up with my dad on the phone for over an hour. It was really the perfect way to close out what ended up being a great weekend!

That being said, I did reflect on my week and wanted to share my New York Niceties before the weeks slips away…and this week, I found that I have a lot to be grateful for!

#1: A Co-Worker Gave Me a Valentine for Charlie

Looking all handsome in his new Valentine’s Day Bow Tie!

I don’t really talk about my corporate job much, but if you know me personally, you know that last year was a STRUGGLE. I had issues with some coworkers that honestly made going into the office a nightmare sometimes. The “Sunday Scaries” were SO real, and I actually started interviewing at some other places only 3 months in. Fast forward to almost a year later, and things have improved quite a bit. While my job is far from being a “dream job,” it is a good job, and I’m so grateful to have a job that allows me to afford to live in NYC. Things have even gotten better with the “Mean Girls,” and the Sunday Scaries – while still there – aren’t as bad as they used to be. To prove the point, last week one of my coworkers – one of the two with whom I struggled the most – gave me a Valentine’s Day bow tie for Charlie! Totally random and out of the blue – a true sign that things are SO. MUCH. BETTER. than they used to be.

#2: Charlie Came to Me for Help

Okay so this one is kind of weird but as a rescue dog, Charlie can sometimes have behavioral issues! He can be treat/food aggressive (especially when it comes to chicken bones he finds outside) and after a few scary experiences, I’ve adopted the mentality that my finger/hand/avoiding a hospital visit is worth more than getting whatever it is that shouldn’t be there out of his mouth (seriously, when I first got him he lunged after a cilantro leaf that I dropped on the floor – a CILANTRO LEAF). Anyways, the other day he got something in his mouth that he took out of the dust I was sweeping into a pile on the floor (*sigh*) and I saw that he was having a hard time with it – whatever it was had gotten stuck in his mouth and he kept chewing and chewing and licking and licking, like he just didn’t know what to do with it. He eventually come up to me, stood on my legs, put his face right up next to mine and just plopped down and stared at me while still attempting to chew. After 30 seconds of this, in which he followed me to the kitchen as I tried to give him some water (which he refused) and back to the bed, it dawned on me. Is he–is he trying to ask for my HELP? In pulling this thing out of his mouth? Because he keeps trying to mash his body on to mine all the while staring me down…while chewing. Nervously, I used my hand to pull back his lip and pulled out the item he was chewing on. I never would’ve been able to do something like normally, but this time, there was no growling, no aggression – he just seemed really happy I helped him out and came up to me for cuddles, wagging his tail, afterwards. It melted my heart to see that he finally trusts me. (I still wouldn’t try this with a chicken bone, though!)

#3: New Friends at “The Theatre”

On Saturday, Kyle and I went to see a one-woman comedy show called “Confessions of a Massage Parlor Madame” (review to come on Music & Mojitos) in the East Village. Besides the fact that it was a really impacting show, I was just blown away by how friendly everyone was! People would just randomly come up and introduce themselves, say hello, and genuinely want to connect – both audience members and those running the show. It was one of those unique moments where strangers were brought together by one shared moment where we were all just truly engaged in the moment and what was going on. I can’t wait to write up the review – I’ll link back to it here when it’s complete!

#4: A Blissfully Quiet Coffee Shop

As I mentioned, Kyle and I spent the day hanging out together on Sunday before he went off to work. We went to the movies, and then had a couple of hours to kill before he had to head into the office. We were walking around for a bit, trying to find a coffee shop to hang out in for a bit, but we were in the Times Square area – not exactly ideal for finding a quiet place to sit down in. After about 30 minutes of walking around hoping we’d run into something, I suddenly remembered a nearby gem of a place I had visited over a year ago – St. Kilda on 44th between 8th and 9th – and was ecstatic! I am almost hesitant to mention it because it’s so rare to find a good coffee shop with actual seating! You want to safeguard those places from laptop offices and Instagram gangs so you can actually return to it with some reliability…but I won’t tell anyone else if you won’t 😉 St. Kilda’s is low key, minimalist, understated, and SMALL. It’s also tucked away in a subterranean room with nothing but a simply designed steaming coffee mug over the entryway denoting its existence as a, quiet, warm, coffee shop serving up a decent cuppa joe. I’ve also found a seat both times that I went, and it never felt overly rushed or chaotic. If you know anything about NYC coffee shop culture, you know the above is an all-too-rare luxury. I’d definitely recommend it as a spot if you’re in the area and looking for a coffee spot to catch up with a friend or read a good book!

#5: Luxury Spa Experience…for Free!

For my birthday last year, my bosses bought me a gift certificate to The Red Door Salon and Spa which I FINALLY used over the weekend, and OMG it was amazing! I got a 50 minute massage and it was the complete package – luxury facilities, aromatherapy, infused teas and water, comfy robe and slippers…I was pampered AF. I would (rarely) pay for something like that myself, but when it’s a gift, it’s a little easier to enjoy. It was just the perfect way to end a stressful week and start the weekend on the right foot.

#6: Sharing a Moment with My Waiter on my Solo Lunch

La Pelua (beef and shredded cheddar) arepa, guac + chips, and this magical yellow sauce of deliciousness.

After my spa treatment, I decided to treat myself to a solo lunch before meeting up with Kyle later in the day to go to the comedy show/play. I know it’s silly, but eating in restaurants alone has always been so intimidating for me. I remember when I was younger (even now, still!) I would think about my dad eating out alone on business trips and for some reason, that image would make me SO SAD. But I decided that I am an independent woman, boyfriend or not, and I was not going to use him as my crutch or my excuse to do (or not do) the things that I want. So I marched myself over to Caracas in the East Village for some delicious arepas – you may remember this as my favorite arepa place in the Rockaways. When the host/server/possible owner asked me “table for one?” I felt a momentary stomach flip as I looked in the cramped space at tables full of couples and friends before taking the seat he offered to me. While that was a sort of empowering moment for me in itself (my past explore-the-world-by-herself-Lauren is shaking her damn head because she used to do stuff like that all the time), there were a couple of other moments that made me feel grateful and connected. The first being that my favorite arepa, La Pelua (shredded beef and cheese) were not on the menu but he made it for me anyway, and the second being the huge sigh of relief we both shared when an obnoxious and loud party of three (with one girl screaming at the top of her lungs about how she received two, $3,000 paychecks per month) paid their bill and GTFO. “You can feel the difference!” he said, looking at me, and I nodded enthusiastically right back at him, no other words needed.

This list was a little bit of a hodgepodge/stew of different moments I collected throughout the week that made me smile, feel grateful, feel connected to my fellow humans (and pooch!) and overall feel happy to be in NYC.

Did you have any moments like these this week? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

New York Niceties #2

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, everyone! Since I have absolutely zero (nay, NEGATIVE) desire to watch the Patriots in another Super Bowl, I decided to write my second article in a new series of weekly blog posts called “New York Niceties. Each week I will write a brief post highlighting at least one heartwarming thing or two that I experienced in my day-to-day, read about in the news, or saw in the streets of the city. The focus of this series will be things I observed that made feel grateful and inspired – kindness from a stranger, the words of children, gestures or acts of service between loved ones – nothing is off limits so long as it inspires one to see the goodness in New York and beyond. Because let’s face it – New Yorkers (and people in general) LOVE to complain. Our brains are literally wired to focus on the negative. So with a little extra effort, let’s see if we can find reasons to be grateful and see if practiced gratitude really can change our perspective.

So without further ado, my New York Niceties for the week:

#1: My Boss Let Me Take the Morning Off When I Had a Migraine

woman with migraine hunches over on bed, holds coffee cup
Photo Credit: @infectedluna

So for those of you who don’t know, I have been suffering with migraines a LOT in the last 9 months or so. I’ve had headaches my whole life, and the occasional migraine maybe once a year since I was in my late teens, but the frequency with which they’ve been occurring has increased drastically since last Spring. I’m at the point where I’ve been getting them at least once a month since April, and sometimes up to two and three times a month since then. They’ve interfered with many a weekend plan and even vacations. At first I thought perhaps it was a symptom of the dual case of mono and strep I had, but it now seems like it’s another issue entirely. They are completely debilitating and often require me to lay flat on my back in a dark room with a cool cloth on my head, sometimes for an entire day, just wishing the pain would go away. On Tuesday, I woke up with a “mini migraine” (after having one wake me up in the middle of the night on Saturday) where all the symptoms for a full blown migraine–nausea, light sensitivity, piercing pain over my right eye–were all lingering, ready to become full blown. I got ready for work, hoping that some coffee and willpower would wipe it away, but as soon as I finished putting on my mascara I sat on my bed and just…couldn’t. The last time I pushed myself to go to work with a migraine, I almost passed out on the subway and ended up leaving at noon. So I emailed my boss and said I needed to take a few hours off and would try to come in later, and he was really kind and understanding about it. I keep thinking that with all of the health issues I’ve been having the last year (mono, strep, strep again, migraines, an infection, pink eye) he’s going to think that he got a defect EA, or get fed up with it and think I’m just trying to get out of work, but instead, he just seems to feel really bad. And in a cutthroat city where one could easily be swapped out for another in a job like mine, I’m grateful that my boss is understanding!

#2: Subway Seat-Swap

new york city subway on cold, snow day, f train, with manhattan in the background
Photo Credit: @digitalunkown

So it’s no surprise to you all how I feel about the MTA and how it’s the reason behind a New Yorker’s love for happy hour. What makes it worse is that people’s rude behavior tends to get amplified as too many people try to squeeze into not enough space. This leads to passive aggressive (and even outright aggressive) fighting/scrambling/angling for seats, and not even the elderly/pregnant/disabled are safe. On my morning ride in to work on Thursday, a seat opened up in front of where I was standing, so I gratefully snagged this rare opportunity and sat down. As soon as I did, an older woman moved down a little closer to stand in front of me where I was previously standing . I felt a twinge of guilt – here I was, fully able-bodied, sitting down when I only had a few stops left, and nobody was offering their seat to this older woman. So I reached out to her and offered her my seat, to which she gratefully, but politely, refused, multiple times when I tried to insist. But then, at the next stop, someone sitting next to me exited the train, so the woman actually did sit down. She then proceeded to point out a free seat that opened up across from her to another old lady who was standing near her old spot. We were all passing our seats on to each other and looking out for one another – a rare occurrence on the subway in general, let alone on the morning commute. When I got off at the next stop, she thanked me again for offering my seat and wished me a pleasant day. It was a great start to the morning and a pleasant deterrence from the usual stress/chaos of the commute to work.

#3: Lyft Line Brings Us Together

Photo Credit: @thoughtcatalog

On evenings when I’m out late, or on weekends when the trains aren’t running, or I simply can’t face the MTA because of the recent subway claustrophobia that’s been developing, I’ve started taking Lyft Line/Uber Pool. No, I’m not one of those people that just blows money on cars a la Blair Waldorf; this is one of my work perks because my company allots a certain amount of money per month for public transportation – which includes ride shares like Lyft Line, where the car picks up/drops off multiple passengers on a (theoretically) similar route. Sometimes I’m lucky and end up being the only passenger, and sometimes I end up with a less-than-desirable co-passenger, or the matching algorithm has the car running circles that are totally out of the way of my destination to pick people up. It’s a bit like playing Russian roulette, but more often than not it ends up being better than the subway. In any event, Kyle and I went out to dinner and a movie last night to celebrate the end of his Whole30, and after the movie was over, we hopped in a Lyft to come back home to Astoria. We ended up with the nicest driver from Bangladesh, and got into conversations about movies (he made fun of us because we both admitted that we had fallen asleep at the theater!), Mission Impossible and James Bond (his favorite films), his experiences as a driver in NYC, and his wife and college-bound kids. We actually ended up picking up a passenger along the way, and the four of us had a nice conversation on the commute home about which Fyre Festival documentary we preferred. It was a fleeting moment where we were all connected for a few brief minutes, and we made the most of our short time together to just enjoy a stranger’s company, knowing full well we’d probably never see each other again.

And there we have it, this week’s installment of New York Niceties! If you missed last week’s installment, click here. I’d love to hear from you guys – what happened to you this week to make you feel grateful and inspired, or that warmed your heart a little bit? Please share below in the comments!