While I generally limit the amount of cursing and vulgarity on my blog, the use of the F word in this posting is purposeful. I am reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k” by Mark Manson and I am really enjoying it. I will admit it did take me about a chapter to adjust to his use of the F-word and other vulgarity, (because there is a bit), but I am trying to appreciate this in terms of his message. I choose to write about this today because where I am today, at this point in my life, it really is speaking to me.
So, let’s paint the picture, I am sitting in Panera Bread working on my freelance assignment, stressing over my interview later today with a company that didn’t pick me the first time, happy I finally got a job, (a part-time retail), but knowing it isn’t enough to live on and has no benefits, worrying about finances, bombarded by emails from every retailer I shop at about sales, new fall styles, markdowns, and everything else, and just wanting to give into consumerism and go crazy but understanding that doing that will leave me in a worse financial situation and more stressed out! Oh it’s a cruel world we live in! So, as all of this (and more) is weighing me down, I am also trying to remember what I read from Manson last night.
To this point in the text, I have been faced to think about how I am always wishing I had something that I don’t have. for instance, more money, more work, more clothes, a certain car, a different dwelling somewhere nicer, etc. All of these wants and wishes subconsciously tell us that we are not good enough, we have not achieved enough, and that we are failing. We train our brains to think this way, we come to believe this and we are unhappy, overworked, stressed out, and we suffer, EVERY SINGLE DAY. Manson implores us to turn that on its head and only “give a f**k” about certain things. We are constantly bombarded with these trigger things and generally we simply react, but he says we decide whether or not to let it bother us. He talks about how when we are having a bad day, we go to social media and we see all these pictures from people who have f’ing perfect/amazing lives and we are pushed even further into our bad mood because we are convinced that we are having a worse off day than we actually are. Instead of just having a bad day and looking forward to tomorrow, we look at other people’s lives today and are convinced that we can never have a life like that and therefore, all of our days are bad days in comparison.
Damn, I don’t know about you, but that is a depressing concept to me. Lately I have been trying to remind myself how blessed I am despite all of the crap I am dealing with. In reality, I am not in danger of starving or being homeless. Worse case, I can break my lease and move back home or to my grandparent’s house. But I don’t have to do that because my parents are able to help and provide what I can’t come up with right now. I had the ability to go to an amazing university despite FAFSA not covering much. I have a car to get around, I can walk, talk and see. My family loves me and isn’t abusive. They are generally supportive. I have a great number of friends through Junior League, I am able to attend Junior League Southwest Conference next month, and I am in good health. There are many more things to be thankful for that I could list, but I think you get the point. So why do I still worry about what I don’t have?
Manson says that not giving a f**k, as he encourages us to do, is not actually being indifferent about everything, it is about being indifferent to the things that don’t matter. Those new fall arrivals at LOFT that I am not buying, they don’t matter. The new markdowns at Kendra Scott, those won’t help me be happy with myself. These are difficult concepts for me because shopping and buying makes me happy. But when you can’t do that, but you do anyways, remorse hits you hard. It’s a self-depreciating cycle.
My goal for today is to just give a f**k about what actually matters. I give a f**k about my freelance assignment, my interview this evening, and my safety on the road. Otherwise, I will ignore the emails that aren’t from a specific person, commercials that want me to buy something, and other’s actions that are infuriating, (like the a-hole who will inevitably cut me off sometime today :D). I encourage you to do something similar. Even if all you can do is choose two things today to ignore, to not give a f**k about. Life can be an amazing experience, so let’s focus on our own lives and figure out how we can be content so we can spread that contented feeling!
It is not everyday that I get to sit down and have an open conversation with a woman who has admitted to posting suggestive pictures of herself on Craigslist. If you aren’t already aware, there is a page on Craigslist for Casual Encounters where posters can post about seeking any type of sexual experience. Requests vary from the most grotesque to the average three or foursome. There are swingers, transsexuals, homosexuals and others seeking a little bit of Fifty Shades.
The New York Times gives some statistics for the site in an article written a couple years back. The Casual Encounter section accounts for 2% of all posting on Craigslist. Despite this small percentage, the Personals section, (of which Casual Encounters is a part of), has a higher rate of traffic than any other online personals site, (eHarmony, Match and Yahoo! Personals included). One major draw is the ability to remain anonymous, at least initially, and therefore, be honest about what one’s true desire. Despite all of this, it remains a taboo that isn’t openly discussed.
Posters can attach pictures to their posts to attract a greater response. At first, it might be thought that posters are all social outcasts, 40-year old virgins, and prostitutes. But that is not the case. There are a great deal of everyday people posting, looking for the partner with which to fulfill their fantasies. Selena* chose to post on the site for another reason altogether. Yes, she wanted to fulfil the curiosity that the site naturally encourages, but she was primarily looking for a self-esteem boost.
My interview with her sheds light on an aspect of her personality that led her to need attention enough to result to this. While she did not pose nude or show any part of her you wouldn’t see in a bathing suit, she still felt dirty after receiving responses. Ultimately, her experience is not one she recommends. She reminds us the very real things that could happen if a woman did opt to follow through and meet with a responder.
My Interview with Selena* – A One-Time Craigslist Casual Encounter Poster
Q: Selena*, my first question, why would you want to post pictures of yourself online? And what kind of pictures did you post?
A: Well, honestly, I have always wondered about the people who post pictures of themselves in this casual encounter corner of Craigslist. Sometimes I just go through all the postings reading and wondering what drives a person to do this. And, of course, what kind of response they receive. Sometimes the posters will refer to the responses they received as being unwanted or different than what they asked for. I just really wanted to know. So, I took four pictures of myself from shoulders down in a deep-v lace body suit. I didn’t want my face to show and they weren’t overtly sexual. I don’t want to have those out there forever!
Me: I understand, everything is permanent online!
Selena*: (Laughing) Yes, it really is. And I do value my career and my future, I didn’t want this one experiment to label me. And worse, what if I did have my face in the picture and somebody on the street recognized me, that would be terrible!
Me: Indeed, it would be. But let me ask, interesting word choice. You saw this as an experiment?
Selena*: Yes, I really did. I am not going to say that sleeping around is bad, but it is not my personal choice. I prefer relations with men after a personal connection has been established. Even then, I am picky!
Me: So you weren’t actually attempting to solicit sex through this ad?
Selena*: Well, in regards to what I actually wrote, yes, I was. My post was short, just four sentences, but I made sure it reflected mainstream pornographic culture to garner a healthy response. But I didn’t personally want to solicit sex. I was trying to see what kind of responses I would receive.
Me: What else compelled you to do this experiment? You must have great self-esteem to post any part of you online in a suggestive way. Especially on a platform designed for hookups.
Selena*: Honestly, my self-esteem isn’t very good. I am often worrying about what others think of my body and whether men find me attractive sexually. I am of a curvy frame and I often feel that I am not what is generally considered attractive.
Me: So were you concerned about the responses then? Did you ever consider that you may receive rude responses from these men? How did you weigh this against possible positive responses?
Selena*: Yes, when I did this, I was worried that I would receive nasty responses from men calling me fat or undesirable. But I also needed the affirmation from the men that I was desirable. My need for someone to desire me, even a creepy man behind a computer, outweighed my fear of being ridiculed. I suppose I just wanted to know what it would feel like to get that kind of attention, the sexual kind, in a safe way.
Me: Well, I think you look fantastic today. I don’t know why anyone would find you unattractive.
Selena*: (blushing) Thank you, I am trying really hard to remind myself every day that I am beautiful. I think this experiment really opened my eyes to the despair I could fall into.
Me: Despair? Please elaborate.
Selena*: Well, I guess I mean that I now understand something key. I follow a lot of plus sized models on Instagram and they are always letting their bodies show, and I think that is beautiful, the confidence. But sometimes they let way more skin show than I would feel comfortable doing, and I am not plus sized. Then I go to bars with my friends and I see plus size girls dressing the same way and I wonder if there is something wrong with my thinking that keeps me from showing all that skin. I watch these girls throw themselves at these guys and the guys pay attention generally, but never to me. I can’t help but wonder if they are attracted to the confidence, the girl, or the fact that she is letting it all hang out.
Me: Interesting, this is something I have also wondered about. I am also curvy, not plus sized, and I often feel lost between the thin and the plus sized women. It is kind of a no man’s land.
Selena*: Seriously! And you are built much more athletically than I. I am totally envious of your muscle girl!
Me: (laughing) Thank you! Well, I think the main question now is, just what kind of responses did you get?! Where they like you expected?
Selena*: Oh my! (blushing) I received some interesting responses for sure. They were all positive though! That was the best part. It was actually funny, I posted it and then I opened my email. I had no responses for five minutes. I was so sad, so I closed my email and decided to take a shower. 15 minutes later, I checked my email again and I had 42 emails. All responses. After that, I was receiving about a response a minute. I was so overwhelmed!
Me: Wow! That’s a lot of responses. Any that were memorable?
Selena*: Yes, originally, I hadn’t intended to respond to anyone. However, as the responses started flooding in, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the responders said really nice things and seemed like really nice guys. I had to remind myself under what circumstances they were emailing me!
Me: So is the posting still up?
Selena*: No, I took it down after about 30 minutes. I got such a large response that it was too much for me. Plus, I ultimately wasn’t comfortable with the kind of talk that the posting elicited. I am very private about my sex life so the blunt responses were very overwhelming and kind of gross. I could just imagine the type of guy who trolls Casual Encounter postings on Craig’s List.
Me: I take it you weren’t imaging Prince Charming.
Selena*: Not at all! (laughs) I was expecting some creepy guys.
Me: What is the weirdest response you received?
Selena*: One guy said some nice things, beautiful body, that type of thing. And at the end of his email, he asked to be notified of any donations.
Me: Oh! Wow, I hadn’t considered that.
Selena*: Neither had I! Honestly, I didn’t understand that at first. Then I realized, he meant money most likely. Which opened up a whole new world of possibilities and I thought to myself, wow, suddenly the number of people posting on here is more understandable. Not assuming all are looking for money, but if you are already willing to have a random hookup, then the idea of donations would be a bonus, I assume.
Me: Going back to your self-esteem, after all this attention, how do you feel now?
Selena*: I felt a bit dirty at first. Especially when the responses started rolling in. But I did feel good too. It was so heartening to receive all that attention. Granted it was sexual attention and it was because I elicited it, but I still felt good to hear that all these guys wanted me. I understand that they might just respond to anything or that they are totally gross, but I felt good. I left this experience knowing that if I chose to be overtly sexual and dress provocatively, I would get a response.
Me: Is this something you intend to do again?
Selena*: Absolutely not! Once was enough! It wasn’t a bad experience by any means, but I defiantly realized how precious my body is and how much I value myself. I don’t want to receive attention just for the sake of attention, and that’s what I did with this. I want honest attention from guys interested in me, not my body. So, going back to the previous question, I suppose my self-esteem was affected because I am much more self-assured now.
Me: Is this something you would recommend other women do?
Selena*: Well, I suppose if you really want to, sure. But I would caution against it. You just never know with the internet. I realized afterwards that somebody could maybe trace my IP Address and find out my location or something like that. I am probably paranoid, but safety is important! And never actually respond or meet with these guys. The least worry is that they have a disease, the worst is that something terrible could happen.
*Name has been changed for confidentiality reasons.
I have always dreamed of writing a novel. And making the decision to be serious about this blog and follow my love of writing to where it can lead me is apart of that. That being said, I have been dreaming of a story and have seen it all play out in my mind and today I took the first step. I began putting it on paper.
I busted out several pages and am going to continue to build this book. I am also working on my blogging skills and knowledge. I am very excited for this journey and I hope you all will continue to follow and join me as I continue to build myself.
And I also want to say, it took me leaving a job I disliked to realize that I was a heart shaped person fueled by love and curiosity trying to fit myself into a square space. However, I wasn’t willing to minimize my abilities and my desire to learn and be successful in order to fit into the square they wanted me to be. And you shouldn’t either. I am happy to be dedicating myself to my blog, and now my book, while I look for a position that allows me to use my creativity and my love of words. You should also not be afraid to follow your heart and do what you love to do. It is never too late to change direction and try something different.
Let me be clear – I am a shopaholic. Confessions of a Shopaholic? Yes, that brilliant idea visited me in my sleep before it jumped the pond and landed in Sophie Kinsella’s brain to be developed into the Shopaholic franchise. (I will discuss this more when I review Big Magic… once I finish reading it) And to fuel this addiction, I spent many a year in specialty women’s retail (fancy name for LOFT & Chico’s) … mostly for the discounts.
But, because I have spent many years in retail, I understand the game they play with us. I understand the trickle down effect fashion has on the retail industry. Point in case, Fashion Week shows us the newest and hottest trends about a year in advance. By the time our local stores get on the trends, it is almost a year later. What’s worse, their marketing campaigns serve to make women feel as if they need a brand new wardrobe every season! I don’t know about you, but I sure cannot afford that (although I shop as if I can).
I follow A LOT of fashion bloggers on Instagram because I admire their style and their fearless fashion sense. But I also believe that many of them are sporting sponsored duds. I cannot believe anyone purchases new clothing that much and then just wears it to take pictures. I mean, why buy something if you don’t intend to wear it numerous times? Why spend the time to find items you truly love?
But as I write that, I am reminded that I spent a great deal of money in high school and my early years of college purchasing items because I loved them in the moment but then never actually wore them, or wore them only once. I understand and again – I don’t do this anymore. Instead, I have developed a returning issue. Meaning, I return probably 10% of what I purchase on a regular basis. Usually 15-45 days after I purchased it. Hey! I really liked it! I just realized I don’t a) have the proper additional items to pull of the look b) hadn’t eaten any food when I purchased it and now, after eating breakfast, it looks terrible on me or c) it no longer speaks to me.
This is the part that probably truly betrays the depth of my addiction to shopping and clothing… the items speak to me! They say to me “Buy me,” “I will make you happy,” or “I will emphasise all those squats you have been doing.” And I fall into it every time! However, I have found a compromise for myself. I only buy items I love, I don’t rush out and wear them right away, and I utilize the Cluise app, (no this isn’t sponsored, I actually really use the app). Basically the app is a digital closet. It can assemble outfits for you based on weather and event, but I rarely use this feature. Instead, I take pics of everything I purchase, (and am slowly adding everything I currently own), and add them to my digital closet. Then I construct outfits with what I have. Honestly, I don’t generally stick to these outfits, (because I am not an outfit girl, I am a separates girl), but it really helps me see what I have and how the new pieces with incorporate into my current wardrobe. Bonus: I can “see” my closet when I am in a store debating whether or not to buy that super trendy piece. And that is my coping secret.
I have also made an effort to limit my shopping at places like Forever 21, Hollister Co. and Tilly’s. I have realized that I purchase the items at seemingly cheaper prices, just to find the items don’t last and really don’t look good after you wear them once. Of course, it is quick fashion and is meant to only satisfy the season’s trends. And that is great for many women. However, I have found that I can find better fitting and higher quality pieces on sale for the same or less than the items sold by stores such as Forever 21. Such retailers? Madewell – they don’t always have a sale, but they do sometimes. And when they do, (such as an additional percentage off sale items), I shop heavy. I also use my student ID because they offer 15% off for teachers and students all the time, on everything, (don’t quote me, they may exclude third party merchandise). So, top was $68, marked down to $50, additional 50% off that AND THEN an additional 15%? That top is now about $21… And the top at Forever 21? $28.80? No return and may self destruct after first wear? No thank you!
Being a more full-figured woman, (a healthy 12/14, L/XL), fit and quality really matters to me. But I am also basically skating by financially so I really don’t have the room to purchase things at full price. So I try and do my due diligence and follow sales. For instance, Ann Taylor LOFT, (whom I worked for in the past), allows for price adjusting. When I began building my professional wardrobe, I did purchase some items at full or near full price. (Caveat, if you do shop there regularly, you really should have the credit card. Rewards system is fan-freaking-tastic!) So, I watched for when the items went on 40%. Sure enough, they did.I went and price adjusted. (My sister and her boyfriend went with me and had a cow… It was a process) In the end, I ended picking up double what I purchased initially AND I walked out with $1.25 in my pocket! I had a $300 budget and I ended up with nearly 1k in merchandise at ticket value. I should say, I used Cash Cards as well, and that helped quite a bit. But moral of the story, if you do your due diligence, you can really win and make out like a bandit.
Anyways, the point of all this. I think retailers put too much pressure on women to buy new things and to buy them immediately. Obviously, they have sales goals every single day that compound into month, quarterly and annual goals – I get that. But so do we. We have school, new tires, kid’s baseball fees, whatever it may be that we need to prepare for as well. And, I will admit that seeing women with their brand new Chanel, Louis Vuittons and Hermes bags on Instagram sometimes makes me feel inadequate. But, that is okay! I am so thrilled that those bloggers have reached that level of success. But I have reached my own level of success and you have to! So be proud of it and rock your new and old wardrobe staples and show the world that you are feeling good in your duds! And please, be smart about your shopping. The retailers give you the tools, you just need to use them!
In case you are curious, or follow my Instagram, I frequent Ann Taylor LOFT, Madewell, Free People (generally sale online), Banana Republic (by far the best credit rewards system I have seen) and JJill.