I am creating a budget.

One of the greatest tools that I have learned from seeing a therapist over the last year (exceptionally helpful – I would highly recommend it!) is assessing, daily, the circumstances that I can and cannot control.  It’s a helpful practice that allows me to direct my energy towards actions that can actually affect some change and to expend little on the inconsequential and incontrollable.  So, I’ve been focusing on firming up my finances – more specifically reforming my budget using practices like the snowball method, the 50/20/30 model, and multiple banking accounts for my discretionary spending and specific savings objectives.

The results can be found below, as depicted in these 100% accurate and mathematically correct visual representations of my budget as a 20-something and my budget as a 30-something.  The graphics are color-colored, of course, according to “needs,” “debts and savings,” and “wants”.

 

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Jen’s 20-Something Budget:

  • Rent that probably (definitely) contributes to gentrification
  • Eating Out
  • Groceries that will inevitably go bad from eating out
  • Books
  • Fucking Student Loans
  • “Savings” (to be raided at the end of the month)
  • Alcohol – Fun
  • Alcohol – Existential Crisis
  • Alcohol – Ladies Night in the Gayborhood on Tuesday (??!!) nights filled with awkward, semi-passive aggressive dancing

Definitely Outside Budget, but YOLO:

  • Travel – Budget level accommodations that play techno versions of Adele songs
  • Alcohol – Potlucks and 20s Themed Parties
  • Brunch

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Jen’s 30-Something Budget:

  • Rent for an apartment that should have gone to a nice Latino family, but instead went to you, you God damn yuppie
  • Eating out
  • Groceries that will inevitably go bad from eating out because, you know, change is slow and hard
  • Books
  • Therapist (actual person, not alcohol)
  • Fucking student loans
  • Savings (for future wedding, children, parents and potential collapse of the USA)
  • Alcohol – single 8 PM drink on a Friday night with long-term lesbian partner
  • Not-So-Sketch Travel
  • MALM dresser from Ikea

I am (not) down with bcc. Yeah, you (don’t) know me (and anyone else on this invite list).

There have been many agitating decisions made in the dawn of Trump’s presidency, but one of the most alarming developments is the triumphant return of the Blind Carbon Copy e-mail – simply known as the bcc. If you’re one of those individuals who unnecessarily turn nouns into verbs and gerunds, I speak of being “bcc’d” or “bccing you.”

The bcc practice has been around for quite some time, but my disdain for it goes back as far as February of 2012, when I started writing this tirade. The history of the Carbon Copy (cc) supposedly begins in an era when memos were still written by typewriters and on carbon paper. Though the Blind Carbon Copy (bcc) existed pre-e-mail, it has become an e-mail-era phenomenon. Please note that the aforementioned sources for the previous historical and etymological explanation are Yahoo! Answers, Quora, Wikipedia, and StackExchange, so it is, by today’s standards, impenetrably factual and if you disagree, I will crush your feelings.

Somehow, the e-mail bcc extended beyond the realm of passive aggressive workplace practices and seeped into the world of social invitations. You’ve experienced it before – an e-mail appears in your inbox that serves as an invitation to a gathering, a wedding, a séance, a lesbian dance party that begins at 12 PM and ends at 3 PM, or, most recently, a protest. The e-mail is sent from the sender to the sender with your e-mail as the sole entry in the bcc field leaving you to wonder, “Who the hell is getting this e-mail other than me?”

To be clear, I believe bccing is an acceptable practice in most circumstances, especially for events that require a vigilant eye on privacy. However, I detest the bcc practice for intimate social gatherings like a non-political house party (do those exist anymore?), a non-political birthday picnic (do those exist anymore?), or a non-political dinner with girlfriends (do those exist anymore?).

Since I recently turned 30, I often play the cost-benefit analysis game for social appearances that require my being out past my 10 PM bedtime. I’d like to know in advance if my weekend viewing of “Chill with Bob Ross” on Netflix is worth nixing for an interesting mix of people. After all, Bob Ross and his landscapes are wonderful all of the time, but I can’t say the same for some people. How am I supposed to choose between a painting premised on a Van Dyke Brown color palette or, similarly, a gathering of dykes of color, if I can’t see the invite list?

I’d also like to know in advance what kind of social game I should bring. Will I find a friend? Will I have to familiarize myself with the Marxist-Leninist policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez? Will I need to know Joss Whedon’s entire filmography because it supposedly extends beyond Firefly? As of late, I’d like to anticipate if this crowd of people is a La La Land, Moonlight, and/or Hidden Figures crowd.

Most of all, I’d like to know the associations you make when you start compiling a list of people in your e-mail’s “to:” field. That lump of names, sequenced in a somewhat conscious order, is a fun source of over analysis and overthinking. A guest list is a stream of consciousness wherein the writing of one person automatically necessitates thinking of another person. At times, I understand why I am juxtaposed next to certain people: I’m lumped with all the Vietnamese people, all of the people who are most likely to bring a carbonated beverage to a potluck rather than something substantial, etc. However, at least once, I have thought to myself, “Why did she think of me after that fucking weirdo? Am I a fucking weirdo too?”

Finally, I miss the days of contemplating my standing in a social hierarchy based on my placement in the Gmail “to:” list, which is undoubtedly tiered like this:

  • First third of names: Indisputably the most important people invited. A few of these individuals may be beneficiaries of your workplace benefits and/or life insurance should you die. If these individuals fail to show up to your gathering without explanation, they will no longer be the beneficiaries of your workplace benefits and/or life insurance should you die.
  • Second third of names: Fun acquaintances that bring a lot of non-embarrassing joy to your social circles. These individuals have not thrown up in your bathroom sink yet, which is great.
  • Last third of names: Miscellaneous mix of people who are invited for reasons included, but not limited to: ex-boyfriend or girlfriend who you are trying with much failure to “just be friends with”; people you once loved as friends and/or family, but have since voted for the opposite political party; and individuals who bring a lot of joy to your social circles, but who have already thrown up in your bathroom sink twice.

Thus, in this difficult time of poor public policy and the gradual decay of civic dialogue, I’d like to swing back in the direction of just saying no the Blind Carbon Copy. If you don’t want your guests to frenetically ruminate their place in your/the universe, I would suggest the following:

Find an obvious locomotive (first person) and caboose (last person) for your invite list. By obvious, I mean your partner, your mother, your self-proclaimed best friend, hdr29@hrcoffice.com, etc. Then, in the middle part of the e-mail train/chain, alphabetize everyone else. Odds are, all the Vietnamese people will still end up lumped together and all your attendees have the appropriate amount of information to assess how quickly this non-political gathering of people will transform, inevitably, into a political one.

I am listening to pop music.

I love pop music.

I understand that the genre lacks almost all of the elements of so-called music – decent vocals, interesting musicality, lyricism intersecting with poetry, tact. But, the best thing about pop music is its ubiquity.

You heard it on the car radio driving to school, or droning through the Macy’s speaker system while sifting through the discount prom dress rack, or blaring at the middle school dance when you gave up on gyration and settled for melodic swaying, or whirring from a laptop in the adjacent dorm room as you tried to fight through school work and homesickness.

My favorite musical experiences consist of playing an old song – particularly songs rife with associations from my childhood – while walking through an unexplored part of a city or en route to meet new people or occasions. There’s a temporal blending of old and new – old memories converging with newly created ones, melding into a single track. I don’t see pop songs as just songs. They’re layered experiences – the times and landscapes of my memory.

Lately, I’ve been tuning into a lot of nostalgic music as a scientifically-backed source of joy, especially in these politically contentious times. Here are two songs that have been especially potent in memory:

Love Fool by the Cardigans

(From the Original Sound Track of Romeo + Juliet)

It’s the summer of 1996 in Houston, Texas. If you’re poor and don’t possess a vehicle with a functioning air conditioner, there’s only a few things you can do in the city: Watch a Real World: San Francisco marathon for the fifth time; schlep through the near-impenetrable wall of heat between your house and the local library; or convince your parents to drop you off at the dollar movie theater, where all the movies are as old as the theater is derelict.

It’s 1996 and today’s PG-13 movie – brought to you by a sister who is 5 years older – is Romeo + Juliet. You’re expecting another boring romantic “comedy” starring Marisa Tomei, only to witness a movie that feels like a visual aneurism – as if the entire script composed solely of exclamation points. You leave the movie theater convinced that everyone in southern California drives around in unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts of neon color palettes and that white people only make out in exceeding weird situations, like behind fish tanks or underwater in a pool or as they’re dying of poorly timed poisoned suicide.

From its opening disco infused chords of this Cardigans song, you think of Romeo’s first appearance in the film. He’s perched atop a rock along a shoreline. Someone in the move theater let’s out a loud whistle because it’s young, unblemished Leonardo DiCaprio. This is pre-mauled-by-a-bear Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s got the most beautiful, side-swept lesbian hair you’ve ever seen. He inhales the last drags of a cigarette while an awkward, pubescent voiceover reveals his first lines:

“Why then, O bawling love, O loving hate, O anything of nothing first create. Heavy lightness. Serious vanity. Misshapen chaos of well seeming form.”

Years and hundreds of miles later, it’s the perfect kind of song to play as you’re driving 75 miles per hour on the I-80, going east to west – Oakland to San Francisco – on the Bay Bridge. It’s the kind of song that mixes perfectly with a late night drive, crescendos with the first appearance of the San Francisco skyline. The buildings rise above the ocean like a vertical flip book, framed almost perfectly by the steel beams and rivets of the bridge.

It’s that kind of song.

Clocks by Coldplay

You can’t tell if you love or hate Coldplay, similar to how you can’t tell if Chris Martin is rugged attractive or scraggly ugly or if lyrics like “I discover that my castles stand/upon pillars of salt/pillars of sand” are illuminating or fucking stupid.

Perhaps the thing that hate most is that you never know the names of Coldplay songs, so you never know what to type into Napster or BearShare to steal whatever it is you’re looking for. A few of their early pop songs are lyrically chorus-less and named after the most obscure noun that appears once in the song (i.e. “Clocks”) or words that don’t even appear in the song at all (i.e. “The Scientist” or “Viva La Vida”). It’s conceivable that the moniker of the Coldplay hit you’re looking for is some preposition that appears in the song – “On,” “In,” “In Addition To,” “Regarding.”

But, you love Coldplay because every time that melodic piano rift from Clocks launches from your speaker system – those simple eighth notes saturating your surroundings until it explodes into a wall of synth 20 seconds in – it reminds you of a hopeful period of listening and driving. Driving to the Starbucks after school to indulge in conversations with friends about who you’ll be someday – a doctor for them, a journalist for you. Driving to postmark college applications, unsure if the precariously sealed packages will make it to Palo Alto, Providence, or Washington, DC in time. Driving to your high school graduation.

You also remember, in the Spring of 2009, a few weeks shy of your college graduation, taking a road trip with two friends to Hershey, Pennsylvania. The trip aligns with Coldplay’s Viva La Vida world tour and though you don’t have the money to attend, you and your two friends lie on a hill outside of HersheyPark Stadium. The grass is slightly damp, the air is fairly warm, everything sounds muffled, but it doesn’t matter because you’re about to graduate and you’re with your friends. The crowd noise and prelude music resonates like an undefined hum until Chris Martin – ugly, pretty Chris Martin – hits the first 8 notes of Clocks on his piano. The crowd noise and music rises to a fever pitch well above HersheyPark Stadium, escaping and dissolving into the night sky. For a moment, everything sounds clear and feels possible.