spring is for your tight pants

Jordan put on his tight pants today. They’re his accidental version of whatever leftover item girls keep from their high school closet or the bikini that they buy in the winter that’s in style for the summer but only left in the size just one too small so they buy it anyway and pretend to be motivated enough to go to the gym every day. (Lame.) The only times this is successful for women, it is most definitely printed in a magazine. I call Jordan’s little-bit-tight and teensy bikini pants accidental because they’re really his brother’s jeans, and being just the one size small, it was easy to accidentally pick them out of the dryer and pack them for New York. Since we moved here in January, they’ve been on the bottom shelf of a teensy bookcase in our “bedroom.” Jordan stares at them. I dust around them. Our new dog, Rita June, tries to eat them when she wants attention.

Today was the first day of spring in New York, just about an entire month late. Things are blooming for real, everyone is sneezing, dogs are humping each other, and there’s no snow or temperatures below 50 in the forecast for the next 15 days. Not even the low temperatures reach the should-I-bother-with-this-giant-ass-coat 40s.

Never is spring more symbolic than when it’s right after Your First New York Winter and you’re from a place where most people don’t bother with the giant-ass coats ever because they never have owned them anyhow. Winter here is dark and cold and if you happen to commute to Connecticut and back every day for work you leave just after sunrise and arrive home just after sunset and miss the beautiful parts while asleep on the Metro North in some ambiguous commuter town unreachable by the affordable subway system you actually live near. Probably you’ll feel grateful you’re employed but sometimes dream on the train about living in your parents’ basement. Then you’ll feel guilty because you’ve actually got a sweet gig, then jolt awake, hoping you didn’t terrify all the kids coming into the city from Yale (kids?!). If You Give a Recent Southern-State-School Graduate a Metro North Monthly Pass.

So here we are, on this incredibly symbolic spring morning, here around 11a.m. Reese’s Puffs consumed on the couch. Coffee also consumed on the couch, only a teaspoon artfully splashed against the back pillow. Rita between us, crunching carrots, loudly and purposefully. She should never bring carrots to an open-office job in Connecticut. Jordan and I have decided we will go out today and try to finally (if not purchase) at least become inspired by some art at fancy-schmancy and expensive home décor stores in SoHo and proceed to make our walls less tan and more full of screws and nails and art.

Jordan doesn’t want to wear shorts. Jordan is inspired by the warm weather, chirping birds, and humping boy dogs that sent Rita kicking and screaming from the dog park on Thursday. He decides to wear jeans, and picks up the pair from the floor that Rita loves to drag into the bed by the too-large and stretched out belt. He has second thoughts, probably because they are covered with both black and white hair. He goes to the bottom shelf of the teensy bookshelf in the “bedroom” that I have failed to dust. He sneezes. Jordan unfurls the pants that have been folded there since January.

“I’m going to try on my tight pants,” he says.

“Mhm,” I reply, from my spot on the couch. If I move, Rita will abandon her purposeful crunching and propel another teaspoon of coffee out of my mug and onto the green IKEA couch.

We wait.

Jordan emerges from the “bedroom,” pants zipped all the way, acting like Will Ferrell but appearing to be a totally normal human in totally normal not-white-but-dark-wash-denim jeans.

“I’ve got my tights pants, I’ve got my tight pants on,” he sings.

Rita abandons the carrots. The couch absorbs another teaspoon of coffee. (We will learn, eventually.)

“Here’s to spring,” I say.

Here are some photos of sweet Rita June, whose exercise requirements slipped Jordan into the size just one too small, sans Crisco.

tale as old as time

By Laura D. Testino

I traded in the provincial life of suburbia for adventure in the great wide somewhere of New York City yesterday afternoon, so of course today was the day that the teaser trailer for Beauty and the Beast was released to the world.

I am Belle. Belle is me. (I mean actually Belle is going to be played by Emma Watson, but same rules apply, i.e. I am Emma Watson, Emma Watson is me.)

I would like to thank Mom and Dad, for not being like the parents of today and realizing that 94 minutes of screen time every afternoon devoted to the original Disney version of Beauty and the Beast would later shape me into the 21-year-old woman I am today. One who refuses to convert to reading books electronically and chronically makes the reckless economic decision to purchase words printed on paper, over and over again. I would also like to thank my very favorite baritenor in the whole world, my boyfriend Jordan DeWitt, for being great and having the perfect vocal range for singing all of the Beast songs. This has nothing to do with why we are still dating. And I would also like to thank East Village. I will gladly be your guest. A guest, that is, that pretends she hates living in a tiny space with no hot showers, but eventually falls in love with the giant room of books – I mean The Strand – right near her bedroom and then never moves out. You all are wonderful.

And now, a visual homage to my role in the teaser trailer I (okay, yeah, Emma Watson, same thing) am featured in. March 17 is only 297 days away.

 

 

it’s SPY. time, guys

By Laura D. Testino

Three soft notebook pages of fading pencil and block letters spelled wrong, a sliver of carefully removed pages, and a half-page titled “2001 OF The Day That I get Marriea Maryreud” in blue and then black pen, because there’s no erasing marriage but just adding on husbands (or “cute and Nice” preschool boyfriends with “Bulind Heair and green blue eye’s”). That’s it for the content in the pages of my first black composition book.

Most of what I talk about is how much I am a SPY., though the cover of the book is less inconspicuous and more inviting, with “PRIVATE” scratched out in blue pen, though originally written in blue marker between a bottom border of green grass and a top border of red and blue sky and yellow sun. I was at least aware enough to write over the spots for “Name” and “School” instead of filling them out.

“I Would PicK SPY. AND THAT IS / MY JOB foR live AS A SPY’S.”

The inspiration for filling these pages – sketching out my observations and brief thoughts via seven words to a wide-ruled line – was none other than Michelle Trachtenberg as a young Harriet M. Welsch in Harriet the Spy. I still haven’t read the book because I love the story of the movie so incredibly much. I liked my hair in a braid down the center of my back, furiously requested a yellow rain coat, and my personal grocery list included a pair of rubber gloves for when a SPY. time involved pulling the ropes of a dumbwaiter. After graduating from the fairytale of bibliophilic royalty Belle, I elected to instead watch Harriet the Spy every afternoon.

My relationship with the movie is one of those correlative-only ones, because I’m not sure whether I am the way I am at 21 years old because of this movie or whether I love the movie because of who I am. Either way, this notebook is my favorite token from childhood, and it’s always a treat when my Mom unearths it from various storage spaces when I am home.

Since packing up my apartment and moving home, I have not been moved to write, even though I’ve wanted to. Shoving my belongings into boxes and canvas totes didn’t do it, nor did finishing the hardest semester of my life, cleaning out my childhood room, or updating my business-casual wardrobe for a magazine internship in Manhattan. It was the Harriet-inspired “PRIVATE” composition book.

“We / Are GoING TO The PooL / AND WON’T THAT RocK / NoW We Are HOMe / FROM The PooL / AND NoW IT IS / SPY. TIMe”

My SPY. time included insightful observations, like that my dad was napping or that my 2-year-old brother was small. I also discussed the 8 miles of traffic that happens on I-85 heading out of Atlanta during weekday afternoon rush hour. Really riveting subjects for a 5-and-a-half-year-old.

Harriet’s nanny, Ole Golly (Rosie O’Donnell), instilled in her ideas like: “You’re an individual, and that makes people nervous. And it’s gonna keep making people nervous for the rest of your life.” and “There are as many ways to live in this world as there are people in this world, and each one deserves a closer look.” Reflecting on the latter clues me in to why I may love journalism and interviewing people and writing profiles so much. The former reminds me that I wore the quite fashionable homemade hair accessory of pony beads on a pipecleaner to preschool and kindergarten and that having thick skin and a resilience for who you are and what you love is an absolutely necessary life skill.

A line in Harriet’s notebook is my favorite.

“I want to learn everything I can, and I write down everything I see. Golly says if I want to be a write someday, I better start now, and that is why I am a spy.”

Keeping a journal is sort of like sleeping or exercising or cooking dinner and is one of those healthy habits – life skills – that are first to disappear when I’m running out of time to get things done. Attending classes or rehearsals and meetings, doing homework, writing – articles, essays, emails – and studying climb to the top of the list and the remaining few minutes are lost to phone calls – of fun, conversation (pleas for assistance in finding my sanity) back to Atlanta or to Brooklyn.

I want to keep a journal, I want to be a writer, I want to to learn – so maybe I want to be a sort of spy. The kind that eventually discloses selective thoughts, crafted much more clearly and prettily than my natural stream of consciousness.

So here’s to that, I guess. No better time than when you’re heading to Manhattan for the summer and have a clean slate. Harriet and her SPY. time hail from the Upper East Side, after all.

 

word count: 34 reams of copy paper

 

By Laura D. Testino

The number one rule my language arts teacher in the seventh and eighth grade told me to follow was to never, ever, say “Hello, I am Laura, and I’m going to tell you about insert topic here.”

She is the primary reason I can organize my thoughts, somewhat manage my time, understand Shakespeare, write confidently, and hopefully survive as a journalist.

To her, then, I am incredibly sorry.

Because I’m going to tell you that I am writing this to find some inspiration to write something else. And this sort of inspiration is much lower in caloric value than a bag of peanut M&Ms and an iced green tea, so, here we go.

A friend of mine was in Starbucks today, and as we were talking about our semesters, I told him where all I was writing, and who I had written for before, and he jokingly asked me who I didn’t write for, and my immediate response was

“for myself”

which prompted a casual crisis near the bar and a writer’s block larger and heavier than 34 reams of copy paper.

And in the realm of portfolio-augmenting purposes, I suppose that’s not a terrible thing, but, as I have learned from dancing, there’s no way to survive in a creative endeavor if you ever forget its value and importance beyond its academic or monetary weight.

This is not to say that the publications and classes I write for don’t allow me to choose topics to write about – that statement actually could not be further from the truth – but even when you’re writing about dance or pets or your school, you have to be much more of an analytical craftsman than when you’re cleansing your own heart and your own brain with an empty page and a keyboard.

I suppose that makes a two-source story when you have a disagreeable head and heart (my brain said), but much easier to write still, than when you’re the interpreter of the heads and hearts of other people, whose lives you are curious about and somewhat empathetic to, because hell, you’re a writer, and you didn’t sit through five hours of interviews because you enjoy the pay.

You enjoy the reward. Of making someone human, of presenting a variety of perspectives, of making a story tangible, hardening the thoughts and ideas that were once sound waves lost to time into ink stamped both delicately and firmly across a page, copied thousands of times over, and there to stay (my heart said).

I’m shitty at shutting up and not asking why, and I’m shitty at writing short stories, so since (I suppose, anyway) crime stories and hard news beats are not for me, I can throw complete objectivity out the window and practice a pragmatic truth, and keep my voice (if you’re lost, read my post here).

And if you want to have any sort of voice when you write, I believe you have to know how to write for yourself. Craft the words of your own head and your own heart into some organized form that’s worth staring at for the duration of the story.

Here, 500-something words later (much better than 34 reams of paper), now that I’m officially employed for myself again, I’ve got some writing to do.

 

 

so a cat sweater walks into a bar

By Laura D. Testino

Some days you feel inadequate. You’re excited about the future, so you look at your possibilities, and you see the successes of other people and you feel like you maybe could compete with the lint in their bellybutton (which probably doesn’t exist, because why would successful people not take care of that?).

But you do know that you at least exist so you begin to look back on how you’ve filled your spaces. And life becomes not so ominous.

Two years ago I revamped this blog from an introductory journalism course assignment into a place where I could write for myself and display for others all the ways I’ve filled my spaces – usually with words or pliés or puppies. To commemorate two years of this space, I looked back on my first post, where I talked about the Southern Snowpocalypse of 2014 and finding my first grey hair. At the time, I wrote that I was wearing my cat sweater.

I probably chose to bring the thing back to school with me after Christmas because how cool am I, at 19, if I’m too independent for any man (boy?) and also a cynical writer who wants to grow old all alone with all her cats and has a sweater to prove and advertise that sad, sad, bitter fact? (Ice cold.)

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But then I laughed, as you do when you remember that life is unpredictable and full of surprises, like a wonderful serious boyfriend who lives in New York. So maybe my deepest, inner soul wants to be a cynical writer one day, but living with cats just isn’t my scene any more.

Although, apparently, the cat sweater still is my scene, because I wore it to my first New York party at a whiskey bar near Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve.

And let me tell you, nothing is more liberating than wearing a cat sweater and jeans when everyone around you is Spanx’d into a 12-dollar pleather mini skirt from Forever 21 that they bought to wear once on New Year’s Eve before drunkenly cutting themselves out of it and hurrying to attend to their sequined-scratched armpits during the first dawn of the new year.

Try it once, then you can go back to the Spanx and pleather without any judgment (as I probably will do).

But I digress.

I wore my mother’s cat sweater and still felt independent. Independent and courageous enough, even, to introduce myself and schedule a tour at a magazine company for the next Monday.

Which was a grand ol’ time (although not a cat-sweater-wearing event) and motivating and full of real-life advice and many other opportunities.

So thank you, cat sweater, for sticking by me through and through. For giving me courage and independence. For always making me feel a little bit more adequate.

 

And last is a dirty four-letter word.

By Laura D. Testino

Today was my last first day of undergrad at Alabama during a spring semester.

This semester will be the last time I’ll be a UA student getting excited for little bits of snow and school cancellations.

The last time I’ll head to a party for Martin Luther King, Jr. on a Sunday night and wear black and white and celebrate equality the only way theatre and dance kids know how.

And the last time I’ll get to look forward to finishing a semester and heading to summer break.

Last is a dirty four-letter word.

Today was the last time I’ll ever come back to Alabama for class after being at home for Christmas.

That trip made me think about all of this. How it’s the last of everything. I’ll be graduating in December, and then hopefully heading to a little concrete island in a year from now.

And it made me that kind of nostalgic sad you get when you watch home videos or look at old picture albums and see a younger version of yourself staring back with a toothy grin that hasn’t seen a ton of corrective metal yet and maybe you’ve got your hand around your chocolate lab and maybe your face is painted to match her species even though she thinks she’s a human and maybe you’re next to one brother and hardly have a clue that your other is going to exist or what that would even be like. And you just look at it and laugh a little and also wonder what it would be like to meet that littler version of yourself and see what they have to say about you now.

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Now that you’re finally old and can do all the adult things like be tall enough to get your own jelly beans from the dispenser in the grocery store and see PG-13 movies alone.

Because if it’s the last time that I go back after Christmas, then I’ll have to start thinking about things like my own health insurance and a potential salaried job and whether or not I can buy those chocolate covered bananas because I’ll be a journalist who’s probably unemployed for a while and still has rent to pay. And then also things like why no one talks on the subway and how fast time is flying and how simultaneously young and old I feel, just at 22.

And I don’t especially want to think about those things.

So I vocalized my concerns to the beautiful people in my life who have a clue about the inner workings of my brain and still choose to stay around, and then I heard

            Laura, stop thinking in lasts, dammit.

and then I had to sort of do some reevaluating about the way I was thinking about my life and realize that hey maybe this is why you don’t feel up to returning to school even though your football team just won the National Championship (RTR!!!).

So that’s where I am now. Because here I am and I’ve just done all of these things for the last time.

Like going to class.

Picking up my spring semester books.

Unpacking all of my stuff after making three trips from my car.

And, worst of all, using the bathroom at 7:16p.m. in the bathroom in my apartment on Wednesday, January 13, 2016.

Yes. The last time I will ever go to the bathroom in my apartment on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 ever again for my whole life.

That was the last time.

It was hard to handle. Because right after that I ate white bean chicken chili out of a red bowl with corn bread on the side for the last time on January 13, 2016. And then I stood up from my seat and washed my dishes for the last time.

And sat down to write the last blog post that I’ll write on any January 13 from the black desk chair in my Tuscaloosa apartment.

And here you have it.

Shit.

 

 

 

 

I only swipe right for New York

I made a Tinder account once.

It was the summer after I graduated from high school. I was wary, first because it was connected to Facebook and it was before the nametest phenomenon, where you weren’t totally sure what extra app would end up plastered to your own wall (and who wants their older relatives seeing all of their dating business on their newsfeeds NO thank you not me).

But I fortunately got past that little hang up and went on to select the normal 18-25-year-old male category because I was 18 and a high school graduate and that’s the age frame new adult women used. A small issue arose, though, when I realized I would be swiping left or right for all of the guys I had just graduated with.

The nerdy little salutatorian who just spoke at their graduation was going to try to match with them on Tinder because once you graduate you are suddenly the hottest and partyingest student at the state school you haven’t actually moved to yet.

Right.

Another issue arose when I also realized that 18-25 also included young males who potentially had young children. Like young girls who were maybe really cute in tutus and who maybe went to the dance studio I grew up dancing at. The dance studio I taught toddler ballet at.

So I made a Tinder once.

And I also deleted a Tinder once, about two minutes later.

I swiped right for no one.

Except now I swipe right for New York.

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I am definitely interested. And exclusively interested. I only swipe right for New York.

I’ve found things to love about all five big personality traits, though I am most fond of Brooklyn and Manhattan. And all of the idiosyncrasies within those five traits.

New York takes you out at night and to brunch the next morning.

The -5 wind chills give you a really tough skin.

But New York is always alive and awake and sparkling.

Sometimes the relationship might be rough, but that only makes the successes sweeter.

I only swipe right for New York.

And I’d like to think it’s a match.