Hey Google

….. you’re creeping me out with your helpful auto-responses to my email. Here, a friend and I were sharing job insecurity stories and Google picked up on what sounded like plan-making and offered three ways I might respond.

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Some suggestions for you, Google:

  • Please don’t assume we’ve gotten so lazy we can’t formulate responses on our own.
  • Please refrain from reading my emails—now not even pretending that you’re not.
  • Please stop getting your helpfulness all over everyone, as Anne Lamott would say.



A Girl’s Guide to Office Brocabulary

Go get it at TueNight ….

Take your own dang meeting notes, co-worker dude 



So goes the subtitle of a GirlBoss article helpfully pointing out all the helpful ways in which women help others at work—at their peril. I’ve written about being a young woman with a bad boss (The Boss of Me), a beleaguered commuter (Girl in the Gray Flannel Suit) and a woman trying to decode Broffice Brocabulary.

But this article made me laugh, wincingly, especially this part about being saddled with “girl” tasks:

If women had a dime every time they were asked by a man to take notes in a meeting, for no other reason than the fact that they’re women, we’d be making at least 84 cents to their dollar. 

Yesterday, a colleague I like quite a bit started mansplaining an editorial calendar to me—me being the editor, he being the marketing dude. He looked a bit hurt when I called him out for mansplaining so I apologized…a lot. He’s new to the organization, hasn’t worked a lot with editorial teams, was really just explaining his understanding of the edit calendar, not schooling me about it. But I was in a mood, I guess. I apologized again today. And now I should just stop apologizing.

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and the band played on

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Most of my dreams are about logistics—nightmares, in most ways, but of the most banal sort. Logistical nightmares, but not what most people mean when they use that phrase. Examples: I’m trying to catch a plane. I’m late and trying to get in touch to say so but can’t. I fear my alarm won’t go off which will make me late (this one actually wakes me up, acting as an alarm clock but not at the right time). And so forth.

But last night in my dreams, a song floated into my head, one my dad sang to us at bedtime.

“Casey would waltz with a strawberry blonde and the band played on…”

There was another song, “When Frances Dances with Me,” along the same lines: also Irish, also old-timey, also sentimental, also about dancing.

“He’d glide cross the floor with the girl he adored and the band played on…”

I suppose this was taught to him by his father, my grandfather, one Joseph Francis Lilly. There are so very many stories about the man—stout, of Irish descent, twice-married— that one doesn’t know what to believe. My mother has this one thing to say about her ex-father-in-law: “He was such a liar.”

“His brain was so loaded, it nearly exploded, the poor girl would shake with alarm!”

Funny: the string of comments under the YouTube clip are sentimental too. From Susan Copenhaver: “When I was a little girl—with strawberry curls—my Dad used to sing this and dance around the room with me. A rare good memory from my childhood.” From Aattura: “Ice Cream truck in the Bronx would play this with its bells—it was SO BEAUTIFUL!! You could hear it for BLOCKS!!!”

“He married the girl with the strawberry curls and the band played on.”

A final story about Grandpa Lilly. He died on the dance floor at someone’s wedding, his heart (not his brain) exploding, you could say.

Is this true, I wonder?

And if it is, did the band play on?







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I don’t like February much more than January. But I do love the way days earn one more minute of daylight, staving off the evening until just a little while longer, giving us a rose-grey-lavender sky, this one seen from the N train.


Say what’s in that drink

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Ricardo Montalban preys on Esther Williams, crooning the date-rape tune that won an Oscar for best song of the year in 1949.


At the gym this week, half-listening to a throwback workout playlist, it struck me how casually misogynist—or at the very least, patronizing—the lyrics I grew up on are. The song that stuck me was BTO’s “Taking Care of Business” which heralds the working man, while dismissing “the girls,” who were “just trying to look pretty.” Other hits, all anti-female anthems: “Some Girls” (Rolling Stones, who also gave us “Stupid Girl”), “California Girls” (Beach Boys) and “Fat Bottomed Girls” (Queen). By contrast, “American Woman” (The Who), lets the “girl” grow up only to turn her away with:

“Don’t come hangin’ around my door
I don’t wanna see your face no more
I got more important things to do
Than spend my time growin’ old with you.”

And there’s everybody’s favorite date-rape Christmas Carol, “Baby It’s Cold Out There,” just a tale of a girl trying to leave, only to get roofied by a guy who wonders, Weinstein-like, “What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?” while she wonders, woozily, “say what’s in that drink?”

It’s the Seventies in Iowa City and my sisters and friends, Mindy and Jocie, and I are putting on a variety show in the basement, which concludes with “You Are Sixteen…”—basically an Aryan youth mansplaining life to a girl just a year younger than he is. The big finish:

You need someone, older and wiser, telling you what to do-ooooo (sing it out). I am seventeen, going on eighteen, I-I-I-ll, take caaaaaare of you-oooooo!

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Women & money

In the past year—and at no point before this—I realized that women and money is an abiding interest of mine. I won’t go into my history of money: growing up with enough, but not feeling that way, my Dad’s (I now see) reckless relationship with money, especially paying taxes, and my prior attitude of money as a somehow distasteful topic. I won’t go into because I believe we have to forge our own adult attitudes about money, not blaming—or at the very least rely on—inherited feelings on the subject.

So I read with interest Stacy London’s essay on “going broke”—after having taken a year off from employment due to back surgery, time spent mostly online shopping. It made me remember an editor in chief for whom I worked at Self, Alexandra Penney, talking about her bag lady complex. Years later she would lose the money she had invested with Bernie Madoff and write a memoir about it, “The Bag Lady Papers: The Priceless Experience of Losing it All.” The reviews of her book were infused with the impatience I felt reading London’s article, a litany of bags and shoes purchased and a lengthy trip to Europe, for which she bought a new wardrobe, so as to take better selfies. From Booklist on Penney: “When the bags are emblazoned with gilt-edged logos from Prada and Gucci, it’s hard to muster up much sympathy for Penney’s woebegone tale of having to sell the Palm Beach and Long Island vacation homes, sleep on reduced thread-count sheets, and downsize her Starbucks order from venti to grande.”


Indeed, an interview with Penney had her answering questions about putting up for sale houses in Florida and the Hamptons, but keeping her Manhattan apartment, which is still cleaned by a maid, three hours every day. So I guess losing “it all” is relative. I will read on.



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Still January

I’m quoting Roz Chast’s bleak advent calendar for this darkest of all months: January 22, “Still January.” It is one of the few months that I want to pass quickly, though it never does. Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 4.33.05 PM.png

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Here’s a useful new word to describe that guilty feeling you harbor for, like, forever over some small, shitty thing you’ve done. It comes from a “Wait But Why” blog post about a guy who’s Grandpa bought his kids Clue, the board game, and was super excited about introducing it to them. They watched him set it up, listened to what was probably a boring recitation of the rules, then disappeared as fast as they could when they got a better offer from some neighborhood kids.

“He pictured his father sitting there at the table, now alone, with all the cards and pieces laid out. He pictured him waiting for a little while before accepting that it wasn’t gonna happen today, then collecting all the pieces and cards he had laid out, putting them back in the box, and putting the box back in the closet.” 

Here is where I would insert my own Cluey moment but I can’t come up with one. That’s OK., I’m just glad to have a word for this “weird kind of sad.”


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