Throughout my adolescence, my mother never refrained from telling my my brain wasn’t developed until I turned 25. Then I turned 25 and she stopped telling me that. I am a few months away from 26, not even a year into my fully developed frontal cortex, and I now realize that 20-somethings are basically infants without parents. No one picks me up when I’m crying. Rarely does anyone coo when I look cute. The 20s are filled with perils and problems we must navigate alone.

And a woman in her 20, well, she roils in paradox — just trying to figure out who she is and what to be and where to go to be it. Do we cleanse or not cleanse or only cleanse sometimes? Do we do Bikram or CrossFit or road races? Do we do tinder or do we bet on chance?

Do we have girl swag?

My friend and I were having dinner the other night to celebrate the end of a grueling weekend of parent-teacher conferences. We enjoyed fat, overpriced glasses of wines and we felt exultant when our fatter, overpriced pastas arrived. Between bites, my coworker told me her friend was pursuing a college teammate of mine. I perked up in my seat because I always loved a game of “Who do you know?” She couldn’t remember the girl’s name, but knew she would recognize it. I thought of the all my potentially single teammates living in Boston.

I sat across the table, deeply focused, and tried out a name.

“No,” she shook her head, “he said that she had girl swag.”

Instinctively I blurted out a name and leaned forward — crouching above my pasta —waiting.

It was right.

“What the fuck is girl swag?!” I wailed, throwing my hands up for extra drama. I was aware that I had profaned the restaurant. I am sure the woman sitting near us was making a face. This wasn’t the time, I thought, to give a crap about appropriate dinner niceties. Girl swag was both terribly vague and terribly precise! I didn’t care if I upset everyone in the neighborhood!

My friend mentioned another girl who exemplified girl swag.

“Oh, come on! SHE has girl swag?” I wailed again, detesting this other girl with girl swag.

“She does, she totally does,” my friend confirmed. My friend was way more mature than I, despite being younger. She was a kinder and more reasonable human. She always had a good head on her shoulders.

Then, in a low voice, thick with deviance and envy and desire, she said, “I want girl swag.” She crouched low over her scallop risotto. We were monsters.

I have been stuck thinking about it since: this impossible paradox of perfection and attraction; of just the right blend of masculinity and femininity; of an androgyny typecast by J. Crew Jenna and Cara Delevigne; of Budweiser and a lowball of Maker’s Mark; of hiking Grand Teton and not showering for days but looking awesome; of the Dos Equis man’s “one who got away;” of simply being who you are.

I listened to a podcast about Christina of Sweden and thought of girl swag. She was a 17th Century queen who the midwives mistook for a boy (dim lighting?), and her father raised her like a prince. She was petite and fair and could string a bow like a bad ass. She was not a great queen and she didn’t want to be one. When she was crowned at 23, she had already laid the groundwork to abdicate the throne. She didn’t want to marry her cousin, so she didn’t. She converted to Catholicism and the Lutheran Swedes bade her farewell.

She wore pants!

She was the quintessential tomboy.

She had 17th century Swedish girl swag.

I investigated girl swag some more. I asked my friend, Pete, for his definition: “Shotgunning beer in throwback high top kicks. Also….ponytails.”

He then quickly added, “Knowledge of old school hip-hop jams and ability to groove to some nutritious jams. What is it to you? How did you guess correctly?”

I told him I thought a girl with girl swag is the epitome of cool, she’s super athletic and fit, never wears makeup because she is beautiful and doesn’t need it ever; she’s the life of the party, very funny, an ultra-winner at life, and probably wears a lot of cool flannel shirts.

“Yeah. Exactly. That’s what I was thinking.”

A female contributor wrote that a girl with girl swag had a (to quote her quoting Kanye West) “because my life is dope and I do dope shit” air about her.

To another woman, girl swag meant: “One is a whole number. I know, I know, my ethnic feminist mother repeated this into my brain, and it’s pretty dorky. But I do think it’s essential to the way you carry yourself — that a girl defines herself and depends on no man to define either her happiness or her sense of self.”

My friend asked her guy friend to clarify his original meaning of girl swag to define my teammate.

“My dream girl is dripping with girl swag,” he wrote. “She can eat burgers and drink beers with the boys one minute and can enjoy wine and cheese with the gals the next.

“She’s the girl who can crush the dance floor by herself to her favorite song, knows about the bands and brands that no one’s heard of yet, and wears all the right stuff. You can tell from a distance that her friends look up to her and she doesn’t really give a shit what you or your guy friends think.

“I think girl swag also includes intelligence and intellectual curiosity. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, correct you when you’re wrong, and holds you accountable for your words and actions. She does all of this without being better than anyone.”

There is a fine balance to girl swag, though. She bends the right rules just enough. It’s a science. It’s an art. If it’s too obvious or if it seems too forced, it is the opposite of cool. If she only has guy friends, she’s shit out of swag and luck.

“Some girls think it’s cool to just have guy friends. It’s not. Girls need girl friends,” Pete said.

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. How do you find or get or aspire to being a girl with girl swag? Can you? Is it all based upon how you were raised in your formative years?

Unearthing the mystery of the Roanoke settlement might be easier.

Girl swag appears to be a generational conundrum of just the 20s. At Starbucks, I bumped into a colleague and asked him what he thought it was. He, a white man in his 50s, said, “That.” He pointed to my purse. He didn’t get it.

Colleen, my 30-something best friend and colleague and mentor and quasi-sister etc., answered, “Clothes? Gear?” And then after more prodding said, “I guess 30 year-olds don’t think about it or it doesn’t matter. By that time, most people are married with kids. You’re just lucky to get a shower in.”

I asked her husband what he thought of girl swag and he had no clue what I was talking about.

Later, Colleen had an epiphany. “It’s Mary,” she texted, “Something about Mary. She has Miami girl swag. Add flannel shirts, a folk festival or two, and an outdoor activity, and it’s New England girl swag.”

It is something. Besides being elusive, girl swag is also regional.

What a disastrous, muddy thing this venture was turning out to be. Girl swag was Herculean and mythic and impossible and maddening. Even being yourself, or just the idea of trying to be yourself, in the end is not an inviolate endeavor. If you are the right you, and you happen to like wearing flannel shirts and sneakers and a scrubby ponytail, you actually slip right into another category, for better or for worse.

What if flannel and sneakers and Budweisers and cheeseburgers aren’t you? According to my research, your demographic is not a part of girl swag, ipso facto, no one will find you attractive. Buy a dog, or better yet, a cat, and learn to cook meals for one forever!

Or, don’t give a fuck at all and do what you want. Don’t be the queen if you don’t want to be the queen.

One day you might wear a ponytail because you were late to work and you were out of coffee, so you might feel a little deranged without your usual caffeine. And you might have the best comeback you have ever had in your life on that day, or the worst one, and you might kick ass on a business proposal, or it might kick yours. But you will laugh at yourself, and someone on the other side of the conference table or coffee shop or bar will hear you and think, “She’s got some serious girl swag.” TC mark

featured image – Ella Ceron

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Comedy videos on the internet are seventy four thousand dimes a dozen, but ever-rising NYC based comedian Matt Dennie has done something truly interesting here. The “Matt Dennie Character Project” is a video undertaking profiling 3 separate, very absurd characters, who, although don’t actually exist in NYC, may, in some aspects, be eerily reminiscent of characters you’ve encountered in your various realities.

My favorite of the series is T’woil The Vampire, who has some pretty elaborate reasons for why he needs to come into your apartment:

Also featured in the Matt Dennie Character Project is a Beef (a chef who has a very specific skill-set), and the next college sports superstar, if it were still 1987.

Hopefully there will be another installment of Beef with Beef — would love to see what he cooks up next. TC mark

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Trigger warning

My rapist,

It’s strange to use that possessive pronoun with a word like ‘rapist,’ but that’s what you are. Perhaps you’re someone else’s rapist, too, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have now come face to face with the truth.

Only weeks into our time together, you were pressuring me to have sex. I was not ready. However, your answer would always be “I’m not waiting forever.” Right then I should have left you. But, I was insecure and you seemed to show genuine interest in me. I was never impressed by your lack of commitment to things other than being a frat guy, your marijuana dependence, or the fact you had five or six previous sexual partners, but I tried my hardest to look past all of that.

It was a day that I wish I were able to change. Our favorite bar, .00 pitchers of Natty Light, and what I thought would be a normal day. I remember drinking three beers and a mere 12 hours later, waking up in your bed naked. I never sleep naked. Never. How did I get undressed? And why were you being completely unsympathetic to my confusion? Why was my inbox full of messages from concerned friends who had seen me that day?

“I was so blacked out too!” you kept repeating over and over. Just simply warming me up for your grand finale…

“Oh, and I didn’t use a condom.”

How convenient of you that you remembered such an important detail. Just one of the many things I did not (or never would) consent to. That morning as I walked home, I had never felt so alone with the knowledge that I had been raped — by you.

I knew it was wrong. I knew you were wrong. I knew sex without consent was never acceptable even if I was your “girlfriend.” You had no right under any circumstances. My body was not your property. Yet, my insecurity was at an all-time low and I thought it was just a one-time mistake, so I stayed hoping you would change. You didn’t.

I have lost sight of who I am. I have lost my sense of rational reasoning and thought. I have lost my faith and spirituality. I have lost friendships. Deny deny deny deny was my daily thought process. Maybe if I do this or this, then that feeling or nagging thought will go away. Yet, it never did. You have made sure that every action, every move, and every risk I take is met with a sense of panic.

What you did to me the State of Ohio defines as RAPE according to The Ohio Revised Code, Title 29, Chapter 2907.02. Being that you saw my inability to resist or consent because of my impairment due to intoxication, and that your actions resulted in extreme mental anguish, it was AND IS a felony.

But let’s face it. Even if had I filed a police report and sent it to my family attorney and even if I would have had the courage and physical ability to have gotten a rape kit, you still would have easily escaped punishment. In fact, your all-forgiving mother would have saved your incompetent, spoiled, immature self. Sadly, for you, it will be that way the rest of your insignificant life.

You are a violator and waste of space. You did things, which you can never take back. You disrespected the trust I had in you and forever tainted my belief in loving relationships and the true meaning of sex. However, many people expect me to hate you.  I don’t hate you.  I hate what you did. I will still hold onto the hope that you can become a new and improved person through all of this. That you can become more responsible and respectful of women. I will forever hold that hope because of the fear of you continuing to ruin the lives of your future partners.

Understand this though: I do not wish for your friendship. I do not wish for your response. I do wish, however, that you never hurt another woman the same way you hurt me. If you do, you best hope you never meet me on the street, or for I will greet you loudly and clearly with your most enduring title:


A survivor and your victim no more TC mark

featured image – Shutterstock

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Yesterday I had to buy Tylenol at CVS and it was six dollars. I wanted to punch myself in the face. Partly because I was mad that Tylenol cost six dollars, but mostly because I was distressed over six dollars. But that’s how things are when you’re broke. You question every purchase. You worry about every little penny. You feel like you’re never going to catch up. You wonder how people can spend money on things like eyebrow waxes and yoga memberships, when you’re just trying to figure out how many bananas you can buy at Trader Joe’s for under a dollar. (The answer is four.)

Having no money is tough. It’s a challenge. It can be mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. But it’s also an extremely important experience to go through. Having little to no money changes you, often in the best way possible. It opens your eyes to new ideas and new experiences you wouldn’t have had other wise. When you aren’t distracted with wealth, your life can become a lot more satisfying than you ever expected. And here’s why. 

You want less because you have less.

It’s common knowledge that the more things you acquire in life, the less satisfied you’re going to be. Buying a new pair of shoes is really fun and exciting in the moment, but the high always wears off. And then you’re left wanting another pair of shoes. And another. Suddenly you are spending 0 a month on Kim Kardashian’s ShoeDazzle website, wondering why you purchased a pair of high-heeled cheetah-print boots. No matter what material items you’re spending your money on, you’re never going to be satisfied. And that’s why sometimes it’s freeing to have no money. You start buying less and you start wanting less. You’re happier with what you have, and when you occasionally do treatyoself, you savor every moment of the experience.

You appreciate stuff that has no monetary value.

When you have an unlimited budget, sometimes it’s hard to remember to stop and appreciate the little things around you. If you’re constantly dropping money on plane tickets and concerts and shopping excursions and new cars, it can be easy to forget about all the everyday things you love, like the crisp smell of autumn or the amazing feeling of not having to set an alarm for the next day. There really are plenty of things that money can’t buy, like a cozy Friday night in with your friend or a long weekend with your family. These things are a wonderful reminder that you can still feel extremely happy from the simplest things in life. 

You learn to entertain yourself with more inexpensive hobbies. 

Going to the movies these days costs approximately 8, because if you’re like me, you’re not happy with just the ticket you purchase. You also have to buy a barrel of popcorn that could double as a bathtub for a newborn baby, along with a giant ICEE. Then you see Twizzlers and remember how fun it is to bite off either end of a Twizzler and drink out of it like a straw, so naturally so snatch up some of those bad boys as well. By the end of the experience you are in debt, and you’re wondering how many more movies they could possibly make about teenagers in a post-apocalyptic world. You might feel like you have to do things like this all the time in order to stay entertained, but that’s not the case. Going out to the movies and going to bars can be fun, but it’s just as exciting to have a Netflix marathon with a friend or to get a membership at the local library. Sometimes, out of sheer laziness, it’s just easier to entertain ourselves by paying for it, but if you look hard enough, there are plenty of ways to have fun without breaking the bank. 

You learn that all wine tastes the same. 

When you’re older and you have money, then sure, go to a wine tasting and experience what a world-class Merlot tastes like. Until then, buy the bottle at CVS. It all tastes the same as long as it’s making everyone around you more entertaining and good-looking. Trust me. I took a wine tasting class in college, and the only thing I learned was how to not sound like a douchebag when describing wine: No professor, this wine does not taste like “a fresh summer rainfall.” It tastes red. Bye. 

You appreciate money when you do have it. 

When you finally get to a place where you have a little bit of money again, the pleasure is not lost on you. Being able to treat yourself to a nice meal or a much-needed winter scarf is a great thing in and of itself, but you enjoy it a hell of a lot more if it’s something you were unable to afford in the past. Having money is great, but sometimes, it’s the experiences you had before you had money that are the most important. TC mark

image – bermuda

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1. Inviting friends to play Candy Crush

Listen up Candy Crushers, we are all very much aware of the inescapable presence of Candy Crush on Facebook. So if we don’t have it, it’s because we have no interest in playing it, and therefore made a conscious decision not to download it. Maybe you’re a first time offender and didn’t consider the aftermath that could potentially stem from you clicking the “invite all your friends” button. Fine, rookie mistake. But bare in mind, that multiple invites preceding this, will be viewed as a threat and necessary unfriending action will be taken. Play on playa.

2. Excessively updating your status / over-sharing

Twitter exists for a reason. A play by play of your painfully uneventful, daily routine is highly unnecessary. “Just woke up”…“Off to the gym”…“Just got back from the gym”… “Making a smoothie.” Thanks for the update, the anticipation was killing us! We were all really concerned how that last hour and a half was gonna pan out.

3. Selfies

My god, where do I begin? While guys too are guilty of contributing to this epidemic, girls are by far the worst. ‘Cause what would a selfie be without chuckin’ up the deuces along side that duckface? Not to mention the use of douchey and/or irrelevant hashtags- #IDGAF #girlswho_____(insert any verb here…literally any) #cantstopwontstop #sweatpantshairtiedchillinwithnomakeupon #lovetoallmyhaters #iwokeuplikethis. By the way, calling yourself out in the status of your selfie doesn’t make it ok. If you’re consistently flooding newsfeeds with selfie uploads, or your photo album looks like a selfie collage, consider this your intervention. A couple things come to mind when Facebook users are exposed to this “Kimye”-like behavior:

  • The amount of selfies you take is directly related to the amount of free time you have on your hands…way too much.
  • Who needs friends when you have you?
  • Your definition of #humble and #blessed (as mentioned in your caption) is probably far different from Webster’s.

4. Openly bashing your ex

This is a great way to make a bad situation worse. This is what we call a red flag. It leads us to believe that your ex wasn’t the problem, and that you may very well be a psycho. On the upside, you probably won’t have to endure the pain of another breakup since no one will want to date you. Know this, publicly exposing the details of your breakup on social media won’t get you sympathy, so quitcha bitchin.

5. Openly confessing your love to your significant other

You make it way too easy for people to hate you.

6. Constantly complaining about a relationship you’re never going to end

You can’t help a damsel who loves her distress. So if you’re not going to end the relationship, stop complaining about it. The not-so-subtle quotes and song lyrics you keep posting are a real eye-roller.

7. Political/Religious Ranting

The worst part of a nationally televised political speech is the inevitable string of political rants that follows. I’m all for people voicing their opinion, as long as they understand and accept that not everyone is going to agree with it. Unfortunately, this concept doesn’t resonate with radicals. You know, the ones who use Facebook as a digital soapbox to go off on a tangent- typically in a college essay-like format, as expected. I’d imagine these extremists are strangers to Twitter as the 140-character rule probably doesn’t sit well with them. I always scroll down to the comment section to see who’s crazy enough to disagree with these ranters- talk about adding fuel to a fire. Gotta love it though, nothin’ like an online riot to spice up the ol’ newsfeed. TC mark

This post originally appeared at Writtalin.

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