Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Yesterday, was my first day of my last semester of my last year in law school, which according to the current climate is a bigger waste of time than the summer I spent after college writing my novel when I never had time to write. Over the weekend, this NY Times piece came out and has been a topic of much discussion among my peers who mostly don’t have jobs. It certainly made my earlier blog on alternatives to being a lawyer seem very real. But essentially, the article insinuates it is not worth it to go to law school for most people because they will never work as lawyers and even if they do find jobs, the jobs will never pay enough to make the requisite 250k debt worth it.
But as someone who’s 5 out of 6 semesters in, with no legal job prospects, and only went to law school because she wanted to write for Law and Order, I’m here to tell you, that there is one thing that makes the whole experience worthwhile which the article doesn’t make one mention of: a legal education. The knowledge you gain from three years of law school is an incredible tool to have in life and I couldn’t be happier that I decided to stick with it.
I actually sort of love law school. I mean, I hate the exam part, and the first year truly was a brutal existing, but I love knowing what I know. Knowing about our laws affords you an incredible amount of power in this world. And I’m not talking about the whole thinking like a lawyer hogwash, people tell you. If you were analytical before, it doesn’t make you think any differently. If you struggled with analysis, you’ll be better at it and be able to apply it casually. But the real benefit, is this vast body of knowledge, hundreds and hundreds of years of case law on the rules that make up our society gets poured into your head. So by the end of it, you know so much more.
For the people that never end up working as lawyers, their law degrees are not merely serving them as a badge of prestige. They will forever make better decisions about contracts because they will have a general understanding of contract law. When their landlord threatens to charge them for something not in a lease, they will know their rights. And when a cop who pulls them over for speeding asks them to open the trunk, they will know they can refuse. The law touches every aspect of the world we live in, and just understanding how makes you better be prepared to live your life. I’ve seen how this is true even in a creative field where people are always telling you what’s illegal and what can’t go in your contract. Now, this may not be worth going 250k deep in debt for alone, but if your goal is an education, there’s something to be said for that, even if it no longer means you graduate with a 160k a year salary.
This applies even in dating too. This past fall, I took a negotiation class and loved it. I had no idea how useful skilled negotiating can be in the dating arena. In fact, I wrote my final paper for my negotiation class on relationships which I will happily post for you as soon as my grade goes up. In the meantime, fellow advocates, all I can say is buck up – you may have no job, terrible credit, and debtors calling you daily, but you’ll always be able to threaten to sue people who piss you off and you’re less likely to get screwed on a prenup. Beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam!
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January 7, 2011 | 10:30 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I was lunching with a gay friend of mine, Bentley, a few days ago at Lemonade on Abbot Kinney (if you haven’t had their watermelon-tarragon lemonade get over there asap!) and we were both complaining about a nettlesome girl, Kara, we know. I have a very short tolerance for certain types of people and socially challenged girls happen to be on my short list, so while I tend to steer clear of her, Bentley has really taken the brunt of Kara’s misguided invective. I mentioned that I hadn’t seen Kara in months and he said “I had to cut off all communication. She wanted me to be her gay best friend and I just couldn’t handle that.”
I don’t know why, but it had never occurred to me before how much a certain type of girl, must seek out the gay best friend but it made perfect sense. I have a great many amazing girlfriends in my life, some of whom, I’ve known literally since infancy, so I don’t put myself in that class of girls who always has problems with other women. Therefore, I happen to be very good friends with a few gay men because I adore their personalities and we’d be friends regardless of anyone’s gender or sexual orientation. But for girls like Kara, the gay best friend must seem like the perfect salvation from catty girls. But really, Kara’s problem isn’t other women, it’s her. She’s made lousy choices in her life – like always dating losers and then getting mad at her girlfriends when they criticize her boyfriends, or dressing provocatively at work and then feeling victimized by the women she works with. But for Kara, the ever-elusive Atlantis of the perfect girlfriend, is the gay man: someone she would never be intimidated by or jealous of and whom she could complain to about boys and girls.
But for my friend Bentley, this seemed to be a chronic problem the gay man in LA is exposed to. He is constantly swatting away annoying clingy girls that want to latch on and have a gay best friend. When I asked Bentley for more details, he seemed exasperated by the whole fad. He said he has to choose really carefully which girls he’ll get close to because otherwise, all these girls will harass him for friendship not because of a mutual interest in one another, but just so the girl can emotionally unload and blather on to her “best friend.” It seemed sad that Bentley would have such difficulty in perpetuating casual relationships with girls. These girls need to stop focusing on finding a gay best friend to fix their sorry lives. Gay men can’t even legally marry in this state. Torturing them with stories about your attempt to remarry your deadbeat ex-husband who said he doesn’t love you is just cruel.
January 5, 2011 | 10:21 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My mother and I were recently discussing the fascinating psychoanalysis A.O. Scott gives Natalie Portman in his recent New York Times article about Black Swan. When the subject turned to the actress herself, my mom rolled her eyes and scoffed as she said:
Now she’s marrying that guy and having his baby.
What’s wrong with him? I like that she’s marrying a ballet dancer.
Nothing I guess.
Mom, why are you making that face?
I don’t know. I thought she was better than that.
Better than what?
Nothing. (the subtitles were reading the girl gets knocked up by some dancer who she’s gotta marry now like she’s the Britney Spears of Harvard)
I don’t know.
Mom, he’s a dashing French and incredibly talented - probably one of the top five dancers in the world right now. And getting pregnant first is just what my generation does. My generation views marriage as something to consider when you’re having kids. Not the next step in the relationship.
But is this true? I don’t know why exactly but I felt myself getting very defensive about all of it. Maybe I thought she was better than this too and I was determined not to be disappointed? It got me thinking.
But my mom had a point. Why would even she, the Harvard educated Audrey Hepburn of our generation not wait to get pregnant till after marriage? Is that really so old fashioned? I know for some people, pregnancies arise unexpectedly and I certainly don’t believe that at that point a criterion for having a child would be marriage. But it just happens too often to too many celebrities to just be accidents. Penelope Cruz, Jessica Alba, Lily Allen, Halle Barry, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Richie, Jaimie Lynn Spears, Padma Lakshmi, Brooke Burke, Salma Hayek, Naomi Watts, Isla Fischer, Bridget Moynahan.
And this is just from one quick Google search. I have no problem with their decisions to be single and have a child. I can even imagine a scenario where I might chose to do the same. But my question is, why would you want to? Do so few people really care about getting married that it’s become obsolete. In Europe this is certainly true - almost no one my age gets married.
But doesn’t anyone want the romantic narrative of love, then marriage, then baby? I’m assuming that plenty of these women had the option for that and yet some chose a different path. Is part of this trend more a celebrity issue than a generational issue? Perhaps, if you’re that successful in your career, you figure that marriage would simply limit what you could do in life, and you prefer your freedom to romance.
I guess I’m still of the old fashioned ilk, that think giving up part of your freedom is what makes love so powerful. What greater gesture in life is there, than to give up a part of yourself to be in love? I’d like to think that no matter what, even on top of the world, I would happily give up part of my freedom for love. I’ll always believe that the love you get in return for the sacrifice is better than any reward the top of the world can give you. Plus, who says a few divorces has to be a bad thing?
December 30, 2010 | 10:47 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
1. To develop an eating disorder and stick with it.
2. To include some 7’s and under in my circle of friends.
3. To stop correcting other people’s grammar out loud.
4. To take a risk and every once in a while and answer a phone call from a private number.
5. To find a way to make money without getting a job.
6. To take trapeze classes at the Santa Monica pier.
7. To take another Mindful Awareness class at UCLA’s MARC center.
8. To stop making flirtatious eye contact during meditation in my Mindful Awareness class.
9. To begin lying about my age.
10. To give more money to public radio than the rapacious cable company.
11. To stop stealing my sister’s clothes from my parents house even though these designer pieces are just sitting there going to waste while she lives in Argentina.
12. To tweet at least once a day.
13. To never watch another episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta.
14. To stop doing yoga in the prayer room at my Christian Law School.
15. To stop referring to AA as a cultish Red Bull propaganda machine.
16. To stop expecting men to stand up when I enter a room.
17. To stop holding the LA Riots against the LAPD.
18. To stop posting inappropriate pictures on Facebook.
19. To develop credit card debt that is commensurate with the national average.
20. To stop lying to people when I tell them how long it’s going to take me to get there.
December 29, 2010 | 10:45 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I’ve had one of those amazing weeks with men where I feel like I’ve fallen in love ten times. Not in the romantic sense - more like I forgot how great the men in my life are and they’ve all contributed in a matter of days to restoring my faith in the opposite gender.
I was a bit low about a week ago, possibly fueled by a sleepless (post-finals) celebratory alcoholic binge which had startlingly reminded why alcohol is a depressant. I was behind on multiple writing deadlines, had ran into the first boy I’ve been excited about in months getting ice cream on Abbot Kinney with a girl with uneven cleavage, and my plans to head to New York for NYE had fallen through so the desultory ordeal of making last minute plans was surrounding me. And just when life was as bleak as it gets for a young over-privileged girl in Santa Monica, I found myself saved from cynicism by the men of LA. I usually subscribe to the theory my dad instilled in me over and over again when I was a fourteen year old girl, boys and girls cannot be friends. At the time, it made me very indignant and I listed off all the boys I was friends with to prove him wrong. But at some point years later, when I realized I had dated every single one of my male “friends” I saw his point. And yet still, it’s been my male friends who came through when I needed them.
I slept over at a male friend’s house last week. And literally, that’s all I did - sleep. He didn’t make a pass at me, he didn’t take advantage of me being too inebriated to drive home, he hasn’t been weird about it since. I had so much fun with him, he lifted me right out of my stupor and reminded me of how rewarding a life full of friendships is. Then he even says to me in the morning how much more our friendship means to him than temptation. I was really touched.
Then, I went to a stand-up show for some friends and met a gay man who wants me to perform stand-up at his next show. A gay man thinks I’m funny. This means he wasn’t saying I was funny because he wanted to sleep with me, he must have really thought it was true. And this, despite the fact that most men don’t think women can be funny. A pure compliment - not one whose motives I doubted because his eyes were downward when he said it.
Plus, this peripheral celebrity I know has been texting back and forth with me. Needless to say, I was completely turned off when he immediately asked for a pic. So I sent him back a picture of the view of the mountains from Mammoth. To my surprise, he thinks it’s hilarious and continues his pursuit. (I know to many of you this will be shockingly abhorrent, but honestly I’ve been in this situation a few times and no one has ever written back a text to my Mammoth picture - apparently there are enough Starf*@#ers in this town who reply with naked pics so that minor celebs don’t bother to ask me twice.)
So then a few nights ago, I had this conversation with another guy friend, and it just blew my mind. Here was an attractive accomplished man in his twenties who was convincingly describing how he knew he could be faithful to a wife forever. He wasn’t hemming and hawing about how hard it is to be monogamous for a man, or how unreasonable it is to only have sex with one person if we’re living till one hundred. He was talking like a zealous Romantic and making me sound like a cynic?!
To top this all off, on Christmas morning, I ran into a man I used to work for not that long ago, whom I probably loved a little. He was at Starbucks with his wife and kids. When we worked together we had spent an inordinate amount of time together and very quickly I fell hard for him. We quickly became too flirtatious and probably too familiar and perhaps if his wife was the jealous type she might have said he cheated emotionally. But nevertheless right at the time I was ready to cross the threshold of no return, consequences be damned, I got transferred. I don’t know if he wanted it that way, or it was divine intervention and he just took it as a sign or what, but regardless nothing physical ever happened between us. He cut off all communication and I was resentful and a tad heartbroken. But seeing him there, on Christmas morning, with his wife’s arms around him, picking out pastries with his kids, I felt weirdly blissful. I was looking at the rewards of a good man and I was just so happy with the world.
Who says LA makes you jaded?
December 27, 2010 | 4:40 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My family doesn’t celebrate Christmas. My mother is very clear about this. We don’t have a holiday party, we have a Hanukkah party where gentiles are invited. We don’t get a tree, a bush, or a plant of any kind or put up any lights. We put up Hanukkah decorations so everyone knows our house is a festive Hanukkah supporting house but not because of anything Christians do. We don’t get eight presents because Christian kids get Christmas presents. We get eight presents because we deserve it after we put up with our parents the rest of the year.
Yet despite our steadfast anti-celebration of Christmas, we do always get together as a family because there is literally nothing else to do and no one else to do it with. And as it turns, it happens to be my favorite holiday. Here’s why:
It’s the one day of the year my family always spends together where there are zero expectations.
Your family seems as neurotic as mine does the rest of the year.
We go to the movies. Where we don’t have to pray.
Nobody’s nagging me to just try the liver or just taste the kishka.
I don’t have to help out in the kitchen. We eat out. I have never seen my mom so calm.
There’s no traffic. I can get to my parents house in under twenty minutes. I didn’t realize there were so many Christians in LA.
We don’t entertain at our house. We are always shocked to run into all our Jewish friends at the Arclight. We can only visit with our family friends for about five minutes before the movie starts.
We ask each other where everyone’s going for Chinese. We don’t talk about how many Jews died or were enslaved or were brutalized or starved.
We don’t have to dress up. Jeans are totally acceptable and I don’t have to wear skirts long enough for Temple.
I don’t feel profane for getting wasted. I don’t have to pretend to enjoy kosher wine. People believe me when I tell them shots of chilled Grey Goose are Christmassy.
It’s a forced vacation from work. Even my dad has no emails on his Blackberry.
My mom lists off all the Jewish friends we have that get Christmas trees which aren’t religious and are just a fun tradition. My sister and I are suddenly more successful than all of them because we don’t.
We didn’t spend last week at the mall. We feel God has truly blessed us.
December 21, 2010 | 10:30 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Since my last blog post, I’ve received all sorts of responses about how and when and whom to dump. A male friend of mine challenged my opinion, saying that after one or two or dates, it wouldn’t be appropriate to have a formal “it’s over talk” and I had to concede this is true.
Personally, even if it’s just one or two dates, I will always recommend a lame excuse like things are complicated with my ex right now or I just need to focus on work and I can’t get together for the foreseeable future so that there’s clear closure, but I concede this isn’t mandatory.
But I’ve also had a number of girlfriends confirm to me that time and time again, they’ve found themselves in the position of dating much further than two dates and being dumped by absentee ballot. So I thought perhaps, instead of just complaining, I could offer up some suggestions about when and how to call it quits. This is by no means an exhaustive or strict list but I offer it as a start.
This is when you’re off the hook A.K.A. not returning even a text message is allowable
If you’ve been on two or less dates with no physical contact or
If you have had No sex or
If she has done something totally insane or
If you’ve never been out on formal dates or
If she walked out of the date.
If you’re set up by a common friend/boss/person you both will see or
If you’ve led her on or
If you’ve had sex or
If you’ve left something at her apartment or
If you’ve had three or four dates regardless of physical contact.
If she’s met any of your family or
If you’ve borrowed money from her or
If you’ve driven her car
If you’ve made out (really anything more than a goodnight kiss) or
If you’ve been dating for three months or longer or
If you were friends first.
This is when you have to do it face-to-face
If either party has ever called the other girlfriend/boyfriend in front of the other or
If you’ve had the DTR (define the relationship) talk and decided to be exclusive or
If you’ve had the DTR and decided to keep dating and not be exclusive (yes just the talk merits more)
If either party has ever side I love you.
December 13, 2010 | 10:30 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Here’s the scenario. You meet someone you think you could like. You’ve hung out three or four times, maybe a few dates and then meeting up with his friends for drinks. You start to think you do like him. You start opening up, talking about your family or dreams or whatever it is you think makes you special. He does the same. In fact, when you meet his friends, they already know about you. You think to yourself, ok this could be something. Then….
NOTHING. He doesn’t call back. That’s how he ends it. He doesn’t think he owes you a phone call or an explanation or even a text to say “no thanks, I’m not interested anymore.” He just doesn’t respond. In the last year, so many of my friends have had little flings end like this. What does it take for a guy to dump you properly? Now, I know girls do this too, but it seems to me that by and large, this is mainly perpetrated by men. I’ve talked many times with other girls about how to have these awkward conversations so I know some of them are doing it. I also know men want to say that it’s just easier for women to communicate and that this is how men deal with stuff. But that’s just total malarkey. I’m guessing some men are either to selfish to care or more likely just cowards.
First of all, if you’re a guy that doesn’t dump girls properly because you just don’t care enough to write a simple text message saying “I’m too busy with work to get together now. It was really nice getting to know you though,” then you’re just an inconsiderate rude bastard and I can only blame your mother for not telling you to grow up already.
Second of all, if you’re just a coward, no one’s going to want to date you anyway. Having enough guts to force yourself to deal with an uncomfortable situation for five minutes is just part of life. You don’t have to like it. But you do have to be able to deal with it.
But what concerns me more, is that maybe men don’t feel they owe it to these girls to say anything to them. Like there’s some magic cut-off mark at the six month period perhaps and only if you make it there do you owe a girl an official “it’s over” talk. But shouldn’t the standard relate to how much you both share with each other? I know one girl who found herself wishing for the it’s over talk after spending multiple evenings with a guy’s entire family. I know one girl who spent the whole weekend with a guy, sleeping over, spending the day together, walking around the neighborhood arm in arm for three months. I know another girl who listened to some boy sob about how lonely he had been till he met her. And then BAM. Like that. Just nothing. She calls once and leaves a voicemail checking in. She sends a follow up text. And there’s just no answer. Ever. The girl can’t call more or she looks like a psycho stalker. So that’s it. She waits out the days and usually after about two weeks says well I guess it’s over then.
Don’t these guys owe her more than that? It’s just so insulting to think that after getting to know someone like that, a man doesn’t owe a woman the courtesy of a simple let down conversation. You don’t even have to see her to do it. Is it really so hard to pick up the phone? How intimate do you have to get to earn the right to be broken up with? When I was in college, I very casually dated this guy (who I adored cause he lived in a co-op). We never got that intimate, emotionally or physically, but I think of him so fondly because of how he ended things with me. He took me out to dinner and we had a really nice time. I knew something was up when he insisted on paying the check because we had always been splitting things up till then. Then he walked me back to my dorm and honestly I can’t even remember what he said. Maybe he said he met someone else or that it was just over, but either way he told the truth and that was that. I still feel warmth towards him because of it and he’s been happily married for years now. He certainly didn’t owe me all that, but he was just the kind of stand-up guy that wanted to let a girl down gently.
Why are we evolving away from that? Why is it becoming more and more acceptable to break-up via the silent treatment? By today’s standards, it seems that if a guy sent me a text saying “not into you anymore. Have a nice life,” I’d be running through the streets yelling with glee “I just got dumped!” I mean really, what does a girl have to do these days to be told to take a hike?