Dear Coffee Shop Guy: No, It’s Not Okay to “Talk to Me” When I’m Busy

Let me describe my morning to you today:

I woke up with Adam, lazily got out of bed as usual, showered and got ready to go to my usual coffee shop to work on this Tuesday morning.

Once there, I picked up my Earl Grey hot tea, extra cup of ice water and today I chose a bagel for breakfast. I sat down in my usual spot, opened up my laptop and browsed through Spotify until I decided on what to play as I got started on a VERY busy morning of writing.

Everything was going really, really well until some guy, upon entering the establishment, decided to chat with me.

I smiled, slightly nodded to acknowledge his statement, and then went back to my writing to let him know very clearly that I was busy and not really in the mood to chat. Thankfully, he got the message and went away.

The situation turned out in the best way possible because, thankfully, the man in question went away as soon as I both casually acknowledged him and ignored him at the same time.

The problem with this scenario, however, is that this is by far not the only time this has ever happened. Not by a long shot.

You see, as a woman, I’ve gotten quite used to strange men approaching me in coffee shops. Sometimes they’re nice looking, but most often not. Sometimes they’re younger, though typically I would say they’re at least 20 years my senior. And most of all, they are always doing it when I have an invisible but very clearly labeled “DO NOT DISTURB” sign plastered on my forehead.

This morning, I was happily typing away on my laptop and listening to music on my headphones when the incident occurred. In fact, that’s often what I am doing when some guy approaches me to talk about something. I often smile, make casual chitchat and count down the minutes until he leaves me alone.

It’s typically fairly innocent… Except for the very obvious fact that there is some very clear subtle sexism going on here.

Let me explain.

This happens to me EVERY SINGLE DAY that I frequent my local Starbucks. Not once in a while, not occasionally, but actually every single day. Sometimes more than once a day. And it is absolutely always me being approached by some man who decided to talk to me for whatever reason.

Here’s the thing: I understand that some people are just chatty. I understand that some people don’t register headphones as a “DO NOT DISTURB” sign. And I understand that this can happen to anyone at any time, man or woman. But… Then why does it only occasionally happen to my male friends and why is it that I’ve never been approached by another woman?

I know that I can only speak for myself in this instance, but to me it feels like some really subtle misogyny at play. When a man – ANY man – approaches me out of the blue, I am a little suspicious. But it’s not just me being an overly alert feminist. It’s me being well aware from the last 30 years of experience that, very likely, this man wants something.

I’m not necessarily saying that this man wants the V or that his approaching me is sexual harassment in nature… But it IS sexism. Because by approaching a woman who is very obviously busy, he is saying to the world that he deems his time and desire to talk to me as more important than my time working and otherwise not wanting to be talked to.

He ignores the very obvious headphones in my ears and the fact that I am clearly focused and typing away on my laptop. He just does what he wants because HE wants to. Because he is a man. And I am a woman. And therefore he believes that he has this power to exert over me.

Of course, this is my interpretation of what is happening here. But if I was wrong about the subtle sexism going on here, then why is it only men who approach me out of the blue? Why is it never a friendly woman who wants to compliment my glasses or ask me what I’m working on?

Because we women have been trained into this.

We have been trained to be weary of men who approach us in public because it happens ALL OF THE DAMN TIME. If I am wearing my DO NOT DISTURB sign, the typical woman knows not to approach me because she is very familiar with all of the signals that I am giving off. It’s all of the very same signals that she’s used to giving off, too.

But a man doesn’t know how to read these signals apparently.

No matter how busy I look, he just goes ahead and talks to me anyway. Because, again, he believes that he has some God-given right to do so because there’s something dangling between his legs and not between mine.

This has been happening to me for as long as I can remember… As well as for the several weeks that I have been working two mornings a week in my local coffee shop, where I have observed this behavior in full-force. And while some people defend these men as being simply clueless and chatty… I wonder why they’re absolutely never chatting up the guy sitting a few seats from me who is also on his laptop? Why is the man approaching ME of all people? It’s because SEXISM, that’s why.

It may be really subtle. It may be really hard to see or understand. But misogyny comes in all forms, and talking to a lady when she very obviously doesn’t want to be talked to is at the top of my list.

Besides… It’s also just freaking RUDE too.

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The One Thing People Forget To Tell You When You Grow Out Your Hair

Confession: I’ve been trying to grow out my hair for almost as long as I have been an adult.

It’s been a long journey, mostly marred by me also having a fondness for changing my hair color constantly. In college, I went from short and red to chocolate brown and back to red and got a perm and chopped it off and grew out my natural hair color.

Then I dyed it blonde, then back to red and brown and cut it again. Every time I would try to grow out my natural hair color, I would get to a point that I got bored and wanted to dye it again. Then sometimes I dyed it red, and wanted to go back to brown. And yet other times I would plead with myself to just CALM DOWN and keep growing it out.

In just the past five years, I’ve had super short and very blonde hair, shoulder length red hair, medium almost black hair and everything in between. I had bangs and pink peekaboo streaks and even did the Brazilian keratin treatment. Changing my hair became a Christmas tradition, and it was rare for me to keep the same hairstyle for more than a few months at a time.

But two Christmases ago, I decided to stop playing around and FINALLY grow my hair beyond the longish medium that I seemed to always stop at. It has been my dream for more years than I can count to have waist-length hair. But every single time I tried to grow it out, my hair would grow out to just a couple inches below my shoulder and… I would get bored yet again.

I’d cut it or dye it or, let’s face it, both. And then I would be pretty happy with my new shorter hair, and go back to dyeing it over and over again. It would be another couple of years, and then I would be back to square one and wanting some long hair again… So what now?

I decided to *finally* grow out my hair and not stop until it gets to the point that I have always wanted it. The last time I had truly long hair was as a freshman in high school, and that is many more years ago than I’d care to count. Okay, like exactly 15 years ago…

These days it seems to be going well.

The big change in my plan came when, the Christmas after I started to grow out my natural color, I decided to get ombre hair. But it was cute and I loved it. Then last summer, exactly a year ago and eight months after my ombre hair, I went back to red hair.

Somehow, and I do not know how, I found a boxed hair dye that was a really gorgeous and natural-looking hair color. I’ve done a lot of different hair colors over the years, in many different shades of brown and even more shades of red, but this was by FAR my favorite.

So here I am, growing out my hair, and I can honestly say that it’s officially reached my bikini line – and officially the longest it’s been in 15 years. WOO HOO!

But there’s one very major thing that I seem to have forgotten in all of my crazy adventures of cutting and dyeing and cutting some more… Long hair is a PAIN.

The one thing that nobody has mentioned to me ever since I got it into my head to grow my hair long is that it can be really annoying to have.

Since I’m currently living in Florida, and it’s the middle of August, the long hair sometimes adds to my daily stress. It makes the back of my neck sweaty and it frizzes like crazy at the sign of rain. Which, if you’ve ever been to Florida in the summer, is basically every day.

But much worse than that is sleep.

The long hair, while it looks cute and all, is an absolute NIGHTMARE when I try to go to sleep. It gets tangled on my boyfriend’s arm as we try to cuddle, it sticks to the back of my neck, and if I try to shift – forget it!

Falling asleep with long hair is basically the worst hair issue I’ve experienced ever since I became Crazy Hair Change Lady.

I’ve been priding myself for many years because I am brave when it comes to changing up my hair, but it seems that the biggest change – and the one I’ve been really wanting – is going to be tougher than I imagined.

So what’s my solution?

A couple nights ago, I decided to start sleeping with my hair in a braid. I don’t know how this solution came to my head but, well, I just knew I needed to do SOMETHING before I went all crazy and chopped it all off again.

I’ve been there and done that for the last decade and a half, and it was time to write a different kind of hair story.

Now, just before getting to bed, and just before I remove my contacts for the night, I grab my hair tie and put my hair in a braid. It looks kind of funny, and I honestly feel kind of silly, but it’s also been working.

When I turn over in bed, no longer is my hair getting snagged under my arm or getting in Adam’s face or, UGH, sticking into my mouth. The night braid has been working really well, even if I look weird at the end of the day.

But then I wake up, feeling rested and pretty good. My neck isn’t itchy, my head doesn’t hurt because I pulled out a few pieces of hair in the middle of the night, plus I can just take it all out and start the day new again.

I never imagined that growing out my hair would actually be this much of a pain, but I’m excited to find at least one solution to one long hair problem.

I know that this isn’t going to be the only problem I face, but for now I’m excited to keep going. For the past year, I’ve had hair that’s a shade of red that I’m absolutely in love with and hair that’s past my shoulders. So far, even when I’ve had the desire to cut it again, I’ve been able to hold off.

Let’s hope I can make the same claim this time next year.

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How My Boyfriend Got Me to Eat Healthy Again (And Visa Versa)

Sometimes it takes falling in love to remind you of some of the things that are important to you. For me, that something was healthy eating.

I have quite a complicated relationship with food. After a lifetime of being overweight, losing 90 pounds with Weight Watchers in college, regaining most of it shortly after and finally getting a gastric bypass in 2009, I’m finally settled at a weight that I am happy and comfortable in.

Unlike many people who have had weight loss surgery, I’ve been able to maintain (most of) my 100 pound weight loss. I did it largely thanks to embracing healthy eating and starting to exercise (kinda, sorta, sometimes, maybe… okay, I’m still working on this!). Mostly, I went back to the kitchen and taught myself how to cook healthier meals.

For a while, I was what I called a “flexitarian” – a part-time vegetarian while I focused primarily on trying to actually find vegetables that I enjoyed eating. It took many years but I’m now happy to report that I eat a varied diet full of leafy greens, healthy fats, whole grains and plenty more things that are typically found on the Good For You list.

But what also happened over the many years since I initially lost weight and forced myself to eat better is that I went from an 80/20 approach to healthy eating to… well, a lot less than that.

You see, as I gained more and more experience as a food writer and editor, my culinary tastes became fancier and a helluva lot more complicated. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy kale and quinoa anymore, but that now there was just SO MUCH variety and so many new dishes to explore that I kept on exploring – even if that dish wasn’t what anyone would call “healthy.”

I was mostly happy with my diet, but at the same time I also knew that it wasn’t my ideal. My weight is about 15 pounds higher than my Goal Weight (ugh) and I noticed that I was eating a lot of meat and animal products and, often, eating a LOT more of them than veggies.

That’s where my life was in April of this year: I had a vague goal to lose a little weight and to go back to focusing on eating much healthier, but I didn’t really have a huge push to do so.

Until I met Adam the vegetarian.

He told me about his food preference early on. In fact, we talked about food for at least half of our four hour first date, and I liked it that way. I discovered that he had become vegetarian just over a year ago, and that he was what I would call a “transitional vegetarian” (also: lazy vegetarian) who still largely depended on meat substitutes and tons of cheese pizza.

Not that there’s anything wrong with pizza, mind you, but part of my journey into the food world meant that I fell in love with clean eating – meaning I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Faux chicken and bacon is just NOT the way to go, in my opinion.

I know that many people who go vegetarian or vegan tend to depend on these meat substitutes for the majority of their protein needs, especially early on, but I immediately wanted to get Adam away from that mindset. Or at least steer him toward some other options as well.

And so it began!

Slowly but surely, exploring healthier eating with him made me go back to my healthier eating habits too.

I would estimate that, by the time we met, I almost never had an entirely vegetarian or vegan meal (unlike when I was eating at least one of those a day, about six years ago). These days, things are MUCH different.

As we got closer, fell in love (pause for “awwwwwww”) and moved in together shortly after, I realized that keeping my meat-heavy diet just wasn’t an option. The only solution? Going semi-vegetarian again.

After Adam chose to go pescatarian with me during our Whole30 experiment, our house became pretty much veggie-only. It never made much sense to me to cook one meal for him and another for me, so I don’t.

Instead, he’s remained pescatarian-ish (with a LOT less fish than during Whole30) and I’ve remained flexitarian-ish.

When we go out to dinner, I let myself off the hook and order chicken or steak or pork if that’s what I really want. But more often than not, especially in the last month, I find myself still sticking to our pescatarian way of life.

Just as we share our healthy meals at home, I’ve found pleasure in sharing our meals at restaurants too. If he orders the Thai tofu with broccoli dish, I might order the spicy scallops with brown rice. When he goes for the Buffalo shrimp appetizer, I opt for the mussels and French fries. We ask for a side Caesar salad to share, and dinner is set.

Now that he’s accidentally pushed me back into the healthier eating habits, I’ve been feeling much better. During Whole30 and before, I couldn’t resist a good chicken quesadilla or scrumptious carnitas tacos. These days, while I still sometimes indulge in those things, I don’t find myself going for meaty dishes quite as often.

And for Adam? Well, there’s no more “fake” chicken strips as a go-to lunch in his freezer. Instead, I make us a brown rice and lentil dish or veggie frittata. 

While I can’t exactly speak for someone else (even my life partner), I’m pretty happy with the way we have inspired each other to eat better. Sure, we still indulge in pizza once a week. And yes, brunch almost always consists of an ooey gooey French toast. But more often than not, our meals are on the healthy side. They include real ingredients, plenty of vegetables and definitely *lots* of love.

It still surprises me that falling in love is what reminded me how important it is to eat (mostly) healthy. But boy, am I glad it did! After all, I’d like to stick around for a LONG time to enjoy my life with him. And if that means a lot more veggies and a lot less meat, I’m cool with it.

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Why Is It So Hard for Us to Accept True Generosity When We Date?

I wrote this piece in a bout of excitement, elation, love, wonder, guilt and generally feeling both really happy and a little down on myself. It’s been a month and a half since that moment, but this still rings true. Enjoy!

Tonight, as I lay in his arms, I asked my boyfriend if it was okay for me to get out of bed because I was inspired to write – inspired by the love that we share, the special gift that he shared with me that evening and the constant flow of kindness I experience from him.

“Of course,” he immediately replied, and my heart fluttered with happiness even further. He’s the most loving, supportive and generous man I have ever met, and I knew he would practically kick me out of bed to ignite the creative spark that suddenly rose in me.

But behind the happiness that I so adore lies one very troubling question: Why is this man’s constant generosity something that I value so highly? Why is it that this is the first relationship where I value myself enough to accept it so willingly? And why did I not demand the same kind of treatment of former lovers?

It’s possible that I never before knew what true generosity meant.

Previous boyfriends treated me well enough. I’ve never been abused or neglected – much – and they were nice enough, sure. But there was always something missing, always some sort of withholding. And I was very much used to that.

My first love was a sweet buffoon and he was kind enough, but I wouldn’t call him generous.

At first, he withheld his time from me. He would show up constantly late for dates, avoid calling me his girlfriend and was perpetually afraid to introduce me to his friends and family. Even worse, he held back the one thing I really needed from him – verbal confirmation that he loved me. He was generous in his physical strength, in helping to take care of the house mostly, but his generosity was somehow never fully realized. And so it didn’t last.

My second serious relationship – with the person who I credit for helping me learn to be assertive about my needs – didn’t go much better. Although he taught me how to stand up for myself and demand what I want in a relationship (“After all,” he always reasoned, “I can’t read your mind”), he wasn’t truly generous either. A huge part of him was always holding back emotionally, and I knew it from day one. We weren’t going to last either, and I told myself it was all going to be okay somehow.

Up until I met this wonderful man who I know is going to be my husband one day, I never expected dates to be generous to me. Sure, they would be nice with flirty texts, taking me out for drinks, treating me generally well. But generosity wasn’t a word that I really ever thought about in the dating world. I expected men to devote their time or money to me, but I never felt overwhelmed by either – and certainly not the two of them together.

And now I find myself in a completely unpredictable situation.

Here I am, with a man who is generous in every way I could have imagined – and plenty of ways that never would have occurred to me. His time, his money (not that this is a good measure of anything), his love, his devotion, his empathy, his understanding, his support. All of it pours out of him as if it was nothing. And it’s unending.

It comes easily to him. He doesn’t even think of it. It’s just there for my taking, and my taking feels odd to me.

All kinds of weird thoughts creep into my mind. Why is he so generous to me? What have I actually done to deserve this? How can he keep this up when I am SO not worthy of all of this? When is he going to realize that I am not all that? And then, the worst: What is wrong with me that it’s so hard for me to understand this man’s generosity? Why is it so hard for me to accept that he loves me and would do anything for me? How is it that I’ve been so messed up about men in the past that I obsess over how generous Adam is and how great/guilty that makes me feel?

Ultimately, the question of generosity comes down to me: I’m the one who has trouble accepting it. And it’s because I am the one who allowed myself to be trained by former boyfriends to not expect it much.

Having so much of it makes me nervous. And what’s even worse, what now also makes me nervous is that someday it will go away. His generosity is quickly becoming something that I am getting used to and (even worse!) addicted to. I still don’t understand how he’s so generous, but every minute of it makes me love him even more, makes me crave it, makes me want to burst with the excitement of (finally) having it.

I never allowed myself to accept generosity before.

I never allowed myself to expect it or demand it or even think it’s okay for me to have it. But now that I do, I understand how difficult it is to date today. We have a serious generosity problem, and it begins when we settle for less than we are worth.

We allow men (and women) to ghost on us. We allow them to go on multiple dates with multiple other people. We allow them to never call us, to take forever to ask us on a second date, to keep us guessing about their affections. It’s never enough and both parties are left frustrated and unsatisfied. I know this because I’ve spoken to friends on both sides of the aisle – male and female, gay and straight.

And I think I understand why now. It’s because we have closed ourselves off from believing that true, honest generosity is something to want in another person. We spend our lives browsing through apps hoping to find the perfect mate, whether for the night or for a lifetime, but we never allow ourselves to be generous with our hearts.

It’s much easier to swipe right on a dozen people, strike up conversations with half that, and maybe get a coffee with a few of them, than to truly open up to a single person. Just as I trained myself not to expect my former boyfriends to be generous, I trained myself to not be generous with with my dates either. The truth is that I was part of the problem too.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t see a lot of generosity growing up. Or maybe it’s because I had a fondness for dating emotionally unavailable $&@!%!@&$@^$ (and not just those that I was in serious relationships with, but those fleeting, short ones as well). Or maybe it’s just that online dating makes it really easy to be closed off in many ways. But now that I have what feels like a real, genuinely generous partner in life, I simply can’t get enough – and I try to be just as generous with my love.

Still, I can’t help but to keep asking myself over and over and over again: Why was it SO EFFING HARD for me to accept this man’s generosity? And why did I never learn to demand it for myself before?

After all, don’t we *all* deserve someone who’s going to be incredibly kind and loving and GENEROUS to us? I’d like to think so…

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Why I’m Happy That I Failed at My July “Writing Every Day” Project

I have always been one of those people that is much better at ideas than the actual follow through.

You can probably ask any one of my friends about this. I can spend a morning coming up with 36 ideas to write about (as I recently did in a pitch to one of my regular publications) but when it comes to putting a solid pen-to-paper, I’m not quite as good.

Jokingly, I blame it on being an Aries. I’ve always read that we’re just like that: get really enthusiastic and passionate about a project… For about 2 days. And then we’re on to the next great thing, and have forgotten all about that last task we were just SO REALLY VERY excited about.

That’s always been me. And although I don’t actually believe in astrology, it’s still fun to think about it. But I know that it’s not good or healthy for me to be this kind of person. Instead, the more I grow and learn about myself in these last 30 years of life, the more I realize that it’s something I should work on. More importantly, though, I need to partner with people who can help me see things through.

So when it came to my July “Writing Every Day” Project, I was afraid that the same thing would happen. Again. And I was RIGHT!

I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo in order to track my progress and here is what I came away with at the end of the month:

Days of Writing: 13 out of 31

Average Per Day: 907 words

Total Word Count: 11,796

To be honest, I am actually kind of proud of the work that I did.

Okay, so 13 days isn’t exactly great. But that’s almost 2 weeks of writing! And beyond that, averaging almost 1000 words per day when I was only writing for an hour every day is mighty impressive in my opinion. Although I was just shy of 12,000 words, I am still proud.

After 13 days of writing… Well, things got a bit hectic. I had to spend long days at work to prepare for a week-long vacation and just didn’t have the mental energy to do any personal writing. Then I was on vacation, and then I had to catch up on work. A lot of excuses, I know, but for a minute I truly thought I would be able to do all of this *and* continue with my daily writing. I honestly did!

After that didn’t work, though, my plan was to write for two hours every day to make up for the time I didn’t have before. But then things kept being busy and, eventually, I gave it up.

To be honest, giving up on “writing every day” was REALLY difficult. I was starting to do what I always do – putting a ton of pressure on myself to do THE BEST JOB EVER and stressing myself out.

I joke about how nobody puts as much pressure on me as I myself do, but it’s honestly not really a joke. And, after a particularly stressful couple of days, I had a long talk with Adam and he encouraged me to chill the F out.

So I decided to quit early on my July “Writing Every Day” Project and, to be honest, I feel pretty darn good about it. The truth is that taking care of my mental health is at the top of my list this year. I need to learn to treat myself better, and being my own worst boss is simply NOT an option. I’ve been there and done that, and I still have trouble relaxing about my self-imposed work schedule.

But for now, for today, I am proud of the work I did writing every day for 13 days. Yes, it wasn’t 31 days. Yes, I gave up early. Yes, maybe this makes me the worst writer on the planet (or not)…

The point is, I still DID IT. I wrote consistently and I even had a pretty awesome average daily word count.

I’m proud of myself for that. And I am proud of myself for admitting that sometimes quitting early is the right thing to do. The lifelong overachiever in me is still having some serious trouble with that, but the girl trying to grow and be better is pretty happy with the results.

Plus, now that I know that I *can* do it, I’m planning to continue writing more. Sure, I won’t be doing it daily but I *will* be doing it regularly. And that’s what really matters in the end… With the caveat that I’m continuing to put less pressure on myself.

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