I have to admit -- as I’m watching this episode for the first time in my living room (center stage for much of the season) with my roommate JP (she of the soon-to-be-classic facial reaction shots) and my small white shih-tzu, Lilly, (my better-looking, furrier half and the real star of the show), the entire thing feels…surreal. To say the least.
What, exactly, have I learned? Miss Advised Lesson #1: Never move across the country while on camera. Miss Advised Lesson #2: Never turn your back on anyone. Ever. Because I now know what I look like from behind while in sweatpants -- a bit of knowledge that I am quite certain I could have gotten through life happier without!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s navigate through this paragon of neuroses chronologically.
First off, I get a big kick out of the way they’ve chosen to launch each episode, with the producer asking us a question we, as “dating experts,” answer frequently.
Truthfully, I always feel a little silly calling myself an expert without first defining what I think “expert” means. Physicist Niels Bohr once said, “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” Given THAT definition, I consider myself an expert in many fields, dating and relationships being two of them. I’ve written a dating column on and off (mostly on) for ten years, since I was 21, a college junior with a Carrie Bradshaw complex. My thinking at the time? I would rather go to parties wielding a little notepad and pen, asking my classmates innocuous dating questions like, “Should guys pay on the first date?” than discuss how wasted they got last night. Of course, I never planned for it to turn into my CAREER. This brings up Miss Advised Lesson #3: Don’t let your daughters watch Sex & the City unless you first make them sign a binding legal agreement that they will not attempt to become Carrie! Trust me.
(And BTW, those TV clips they showed of me toward the beginning from my days as a commentator? Ignore those, particularly the last one, from MTV. Those are just ads for really bad hair color. Miss Advised Lesson #4: If you somehow feel compelled to dye your hair orange, do not, under ANY circumstances, allow your colorist to match your eyebrows to the shade formerly known as “Whole Foods Organic Carrot.” Sigh.)
A bit about my co-stars Emily and Amy. I love them. I love, love, love, love them. I knew both before the show, and while we don’t interact during filming, they are part of the reason I said yes to being on Miss Advised. Neither of them have a bitchy, catfighty bone in their bodies, and they are so loving and warm, I felt safe knowing that we wouldn’t be making “Jersey Shore: Dating Expert Edition.” (Although now I wonder if Snooki could teach me a thing or two, given that she’s pregnant and engaged. Damn.)
Actually, somewhat hysterically, I had tried out Amy’s matchmaking services for one of my Time Out New York dating columns back in 2009, and let’s put it this way: I made out with at least one of the matches. So girlfriend knows what she’s doing, although I have to say, she never went at me, boot camp instructor style, with a list of typed rules! Maybe she only gives that tough guy act to men. As for Emily, darling, sweet, evolved Emily. If you met her, you’d want her to be your sister, your roommate, your best friend. I love how she’s so open with her issues, she’ll happily admit to working through them in therapy, and then she’ll segue seamlessly into… cock rings. Ahh! I just want to wrap her up and stuff her in everyone’s stockings for Christmas.
BTW, if you want to see the complete Today Show segment, it’s here.
OK, OK, back to the recap. Sort of. First, my top three favorite quotes of Episode 1:
EMILY TO HER MOM: He’s bisexual.
EMILY’S MOM: Why are you dating him? EMILY: He’s Jewish?
AMY: So, should I go out with him [her ex who dumped her]?
LORENZO [genuinely perplexed]: Um... no? Because he broke your heart and he lives in Saudi Arabia? [Men are so logical sometimes.]
ME: He’s around 30. I am curious as to why he is single.
JP: We’re single!
ME: Uh... you’re 26. And I am rife with issues.
Now, the show!
Ah, so here we are, back in my hometown, Chicago! Oh, OK, I was raised in the ‘burbs, right next to Northwestern University in a town called Wilmette. But close enough. Brief geo-locational history: I attended Georgetown University in DC, then moved to New York for six years before having an Eat, Pray, Love-esque meltdown in August of 2010, putting all my stuff in storage, and heading back to “figure out my sh--” in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, I began writing an internationally syndicated social media column called “Social Studies” for Tribune Media Services. My editor’s offices were in the Tribune building, just blocks from my parents’ condo, where I was squatting.Oh, and about that squatting? My columnist gig paid practically nothing, so my parents were doing me a favor -- sort of -- letting me stay in their second home. I was probably there a week, maybe less, each month. The rest of the time I was traveling to NY, SF, LA, San Diego and various other cities for conferences, reporting, or meetings (or when I moved in with my ex-boyfriend in San Diego from March through May, which obviously didn’t work out). Of course, my parents, being my parents, still made me pay a nominal amount to stay there. They also threatened to charge me for storing my stuff in their basement. Let’s just put it this way: they aren’t exactly fans of the proverbial “free ride.”
So there I am walking across the Chicago River to see my friend, the Editor in Chief of Michigan Avenue magazine, Susanna Nevogan. (Here’s the story on the famous amateur matchmaker she assigned me that day.) I love how Susanna just comes out and says LA sucks for dating. Yeah, yeah, I say, because I am a dating expert and I know everything there is to know, I know this. (Please note sarcasm.) But I’m not greedy. I only need one husband! One husband who doesn’t know how to use the Google.
Speaking of which, why am I hated on the internet? Um... how long do you have? I’ll give you a cheat sheet so you don’t have to puzzle over it yourself, although this topic will come up again in later episodes, so we can get into it more then. I know, I know! I’m excited too! [Slams head into wall.]
Basically I had super low self-esteem and I tried to get people to think I was awesome and perfect (and look at all the fancy stuff I did and the fancy men I dated, blah blah), so I posted wayyy too many photos of myself, broke a lot of rules, and rubbed a ton of interneters the wrong way, resulting in them concluding that I was a rude, selfish, narcissistic, clueless self-promoter who is/was what was “wrong with journalism/our generation/women/the planet in general.” Yeah. Well, as with anything, there is always a grain of truth. Probably two or three grains in this case, although in my defense -- if I may be allowed to defend myself with clichés -- your greatest strength is always your greatest weakness.Right out of college as a baby journalist, columnist, or whatever you might want to call me, I just wanted to be able to write and pay my exorbitant New York City rent. I freelanced for Cosmo and finally a weekly column in the newspaper AM New York (for $50 an article!). That wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what to do (no trust fund, baby), except hustle for more and better paying gigs. So I was aggressive, I crashed parties (Like the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to cover it for the Huffington Post, the crashing of which was covered by the Wahsington Post, and I did an entire series on crashing media parties for New York Magazine), broke rules, pissed people off, and generally ignored social convention. Then I posted photos of myself doing it. Not everyone enjoyed my escapades.
As a result, I’ve been banned from the Time 100 Most Influential People dinner, Northwestern Debate Camp, and the FoxNews channel. I guess I did what I thought I had to do. We all have to learn our lessons in different ways, you know?
Many of the negative comments online now revolve around the (increasingly accurate) fact that I can’t seem to maintain a relationship. And of course (of course!), my physical appearance. I’ve read that I have stumpy, tree-like fat legs, fat sausage fingers, a fat bloated face, fat… well, fat everything. Just fat in general. And old. They say things like, “She looks 48!” But I’m sure that will seem young in a few years, so they’ll probably up it to 83 soon enough.
As I said in this episode, there are some days I would love to just push a giant delete button on everything I’ve ever written or posted on the internet so I could slink away into anonymity. It turns out that’s not an option, so I figured: why not go in the other direction? (Thus this show.) It can’t get any worse, can it? (Um, please don’t prove me wrong.)Truthfully, I’m a better person for all of the crap I had to do grasping toward what I thought was “the top.” (Of course “the top” is just an illusion too, but I didn’t realize it at the time. But that’s a blog for another day.)
OK, back to the show again, where you get an introduction to my ass (which you’ll be seeing throughout the show, much to my chagrin) and watch me answering the door of my parents’ downtown condo in -- wait for it -- Lulu Lemon sweats, a shapeless hot pink tee-shirt, and Uggs.
Um... About that...
Gays and Fashionistas: I hang my head in shame this episode. I am so sorry I have let you down. There is no excuse except I was actually, literally, moving. This was not staged. Moving sucks no matter what, but moving and attempting to be fashionable? Yeah. I just... I freaked. I wore sweats. I know. I know. But may I remind you, no one except maybe Heidi Klum or those hosts on HGTV look good while moving. I’ve covered New York Fashion Week for TEN seasons (See? http://vimeo.com/channels/julianyfw and http://www.nbcnewyork.com/station/as-seen-on/Fashion_Week_Designers_New_York.html), so I know how bad this was. Please, please, I beg of you -- give me a second chance! Just, uh, wait until I’m done unpacking. Er... thanks?
Next, I drive to Wilmette, the suburb in which I grew up, to say goodbye to my parents and my beloved grandmother.This scene was especially difficult for me to watch, because several weeks ago my grandmother passed away. She wasn’t just another relative to me -- she was everything. So much of who I am, I am because of her. She lived in the same little house, just a mile or so away from where I grew up, for 56 years. She helped rear me. She took me to ballet lessons and picked me up from school and taught me how to write thank you notes. She coached me at tennis (I was terrible, but she never complained), and on fashion (she loved Diane von Furstenberg and Lilly Pulitzer and gave me many of her vintage frocks from the 70s). She took me to operas and ballets and book fairs and imbued me with a deep love of learning.
Right up until she died, she and I would talk weekly, long rambling conversations about life and love and most of all, boys. We talked dating, always dating. “Does he make your heart go pitty-pat?” she would ask about my latest fellow. “No,” I’d admit. “Not really.” Or sometimes, rarely, “Yes!” And she’d smile with her heart and give me advice -- good advice, real advice. Advice from a woman who was married 48 years before she was widowed. Advice from a woman who was as mischievous as I am, who knew how to flirt, and who even watched Sex and the City, much to my amusement. (I wrote a column about our conversations on the topic.) Advice from a woman who knew love and loss and unselfish, unwavering commitment.
My grandmother always used to say to me, when I was frantically worrying about some idiot guy or what I was going to do with my career or where I would live or whether my life would EVER work out, "Julia, darling, you must simply let it unfold."
It wasn't her only wise aphorism, but it was the one that struck most deeply. For all the planning, all the anxiety, all of the nonsense, sometimes the only thing to do is just relax and let our lives unfold. So, despite the fact that she would have been horrified at the idea, a few years ago I tattooed the acronym on my wrist. LIU: Let it Unfold“Let It Unfold” is not exactly how my parents, so very fond of lists and plans, reared me. To be fair, I’m not sure why I said (in the show) my parents were “obsessed” with my love life. They’re not. They just want me to be happy, which in their mind involves a plan, which probably requires a few lists. Lists are famous in my family. We like lists. We are a list making family. (Read my column and you’ll get a better sense: “Thirteen Rules for Dealing with My Dad”)
And here is where we come to what I now see will be the defining touchstone for me on this season of Miss Advised: My 73-point checklist. Oh it’s real. It’s very real. I wrote it about two or three years ago, when I finally reached the point in my dating life when I was done with -- how shall I put this delicately? F---ing around.
The truth is, the checklist is quite thoughtful, although, through the magic of television, it does seem to be a bit shallow. I mean, a fast sexy car? Eh. I could probably compromise on that. We’ll see the checklist pop back up again... and again... and again throughout the season. So more on that later!
Enough of that. On to happier subjects, like my roommate JP. JP is short for Julia Price (yes, yes, we’re both Julias. Casa de J Squared is what I nicknamed our place). JP is both my best friend and my little sister (she’s 26). Sweet and smart and always so cheerful, she’s an incredibly talented singer/songwriter (check out her site here: JuliaPriceMusic.com). As she and I were both coming off of breakups when we moved to LA together, we became each other’s protector and confidante. I don’t know what I would have done without her this past year.
Now, my date: “Craigslist Justin.” To be fair, there are a few things that may explain my -- how shall I put it? -- somewhat boorish behavior. When I was trying to find a place to live in LA, I called up a few landlords for apartments I found on Craigslist. Justin was one of them. We hit it off on the phone, had a fantastic conversation, and determined that both of us were 30 and single. Then he asked me out. That was fine. But when he proceeded to contact me (and JP) constantly for the next three weeks, it was too much. That said, I also know that sometimes I can be too much (and really, isn’t “too much” sometimes NICE?), so I wanted to give it a shot in person.Yeah, well, I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t physically attracted to him. What kept running through my head throughout the date was that I was being shallow for desiring physical chemistry. In the past, I’ve just forged ahead with those relationships, only to be deeply disappointed a few months in when I felt unsatisfied sexually. The truth is that being attracted to your partner MATTERS.
I also believe you know whether you are or aren’t attracted right away. But because ignoring this has been my habit for years, I went against my better judgment and asked Justin out for a second date. Which happened to involve him moving my boxes. Now again, and perhaps the lady doth protest too much, but I think in reality this was slightly less manipulative than it looked on the screen. I really did want to see him again, just to make sure I wasn’t wrong about our chemistry, and what better way to tell if a guy with perfect abs could be attractive than to watch his butt in tight jeans while carrying heavy things?
But I still couldn’t get it up. So to speak.
And that seventh grade “break up” call? It was even more awkward if you heard the whole thing. Miss Advised Lesson #5: Keep Craigslist for finding apartments, not husbands!
So that’s all for this week. (That’s all, you say? Only that novel?! LOL.) OK, yes, this was a long entry. Lots to explain!SOCIAL MEDIA & ADDITIONAL WRITING
If you aren’t totally sick of me by now, I’ll also be live tweeting each episode at @JuliaAllison and on Facebook at Facebook.com/JuliaAllison. Lilly might even tweet (@Lillydog), if she can remember her password. You can also visit my website at xoJulia.com to read my old dating columns and other nonsense I’ve written throughout the years.
Let’s see, what else? Oh yes! Check out my inaugural ELLE.com dating column, Guinea Pig of Love, which you will hear more about on the next episode, and which I will be writing in conjunction with the series.
I’m a little nervous about the comments below, but I promise to read them all -- and even Tweet out the best ones -- if you promise not to say I’m fat. Trust me, anything negative about my physical appearance you’re thinking, I’ve already thought, and worse. No need to remind me. Thank you!