The Monday after most award shows I like to email the members of my social media team at work with notes on what went down, funny moments, fugly dresses, etc, because they aren’t living for awards season on the same degree I am. Here’s a look at my 10 personal favorite highlights of the night in the email I just sent.
1) Leo DiCaprio won for The Wolf of Wall Street and was super gracious in his speech.
2) Emma Thompson was very drunk on stage and took off her heels and threw them somewhere behind her and did not spill any of the martini she was holding either.
3) Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Andy Samberg are now Golden Globe winners. I don’t know either.
4) So many shitty dresses.
5) Too many damn people hyping Gravity which won like, one award.
6) Jennifer Lawrence made some joke to Taylor Swift to her face about how she wanted to push her down the stairs. I feel like if other people did that, they would be in trouble, but Jennifer is so quirky you guys.
7) Jared Leto was sporting a “man bun” in his hair.
8) They still have that dumbass mani cam during the E! pre-show special.
9) Tina and Amy could have been much more funny and drunk.
10) But Bono gave Amy Poehler a back rub right before she won for Parks and Rec so it was cool.
Sometimes I get asked about my former work experience which in some ways is a question you probably shouldn’t ask me because my answer is very long and detailed. In age brackets, the breakdown looks a little like this:
ages 11-13: first job as an Avon assistant
ages 16-20: Panera Bread/Subway sandwich artist
ages 20-22: a slew of college internships and on campus part timers
age 23: copywriter at an advertising agency AKA the worst nine months of my professional career
ages 23-present (26): social media manager, freelance writer
Let’s bring it back to that 16-20 age bracket where I was working both Subway and Panera simultaneously when I was in high school and after high school. Subway is a story of its own for another time - working there was very coming of age for me, like a Cameron Crowe film. I entered a naive 16 year old and left a slightly less naive 20 year old. On the flip side, my memories of Panera all start with the fact that for the better part of my life I never even referred to it as Panera. I grew up in Saint Louis where the company was headquartered and known as Saint Louis Bread Company or, on a local nicknamed basis, Bread Co. When I was 16, I applied for a job at a store in my parent’s neighborhood. I went on two interviews and an orientation and for the next four years, I worked at Bread Co. and Subway simultaneously while in high school. (Panera on the weeknights and Subway on the weekends.) Since I didn’t think to blog or even keep a journal throughout it all, here are a handful of moments from my memory bank I can recall about my Panera experience.
1) It was never not insanely busy there, even in the summertime when the AC units barely worked. Our store was one of the busiest ones in the region and it showed - there would be lines out of the door some days. At one point, we actually had a person on hand to open and close the doors there. Almost like a doorman but minus a coat check room during the wintertime. But this wasn’t the most ridiculous job there. At one point my “job” was to collect the pagers from the customers when they buzzed and put them into the wire basket. I still got bitched at for talking too much no matter what I did or where I was at though - I s2g people back then had a radar alert out for me when I wasn’t 250% nose to the grindstone at all times and attempting to enjoy myself.
2) There were many moments in my life working there where I was certain that if I died tomorrow (in 2006), the last thing I would recall doing with my life was slicing a bagel or scrubbing the soup well. High schoolers across the world, I’m telling ya it does get better. This kind of restaurant life isn’t forever so just work hard while you’re with it in the present. Remember to keep your dreams in front of you and keep pushing towards those no matter how much you smell like a pile of frontega chicken paninis at the end of the day.
3) I started two (small and quickly contained) fires in the bakery, both of which involved the bagel toaster.
4) Let’s discuss the nickel raise bullshit incident, shall we? One year in the spring, we had our reviews and were to receive raises. For part time employees, the largest amount a person could receive was a quarter and I had no doubt in my mind that I would definitely be getting my quarter because the review and my work had been solid. The paychecks arrived, I get my check, I leave the building, I go out into the parking lot and get into my mom’s car to rip it open, and I have received a whopping 5 cents. A nickel. A NICKEL RAISE. I began seeing red and started yelling in the car, then jumped out, ran inside and slapped my check down on the counter and demanded to see one of the managers. We weren’t even in the back office before I started yelling again. I’m really not sure of everything I said (the important thing was that I refrained from swearing) but it was unfortunately a Sunday and also Mother’s Day that day, so many moms and their kids got to witness a level 5 Heather core meltdown.
This began a month long battle for my quarter. I did not give up or back down on it and reminded my managers regularly about that quarter and how I needed it. I put more effort and concern into that quarter than I did some of the classes I was enrolled in at school. Long story short, I got my quarter. And a few months later we had the VP of Panera visit our store and guess who got to take him on a tour? The 25 cent girl. He didn’t come empty handed though, oh no. For all of the hard working employees and managers, he brought along a cake and a container of fruits and candies for everyone and acted like we should have all been grateful for that gesture. This was the moment where my complete and total disgust for corporate higher ups who make an insanely bloated amount of money while those way, waaaaaay underneath the monetary totem pole struggle with nickel raises was born. When it happens in front of you, you don’t tend to forget it.
5) Here is another unpleasant story: our store had a mice problem. There was one mouse in particular that routinely ran around the back offices. For a moment, there was a concentrated effort to try to find and kill the mouse but then we all got wrapped up in work and everyone gave up on catching him and setting out the mouse traps so my managers named him Mickey and let him do his own thing.
6) Contrary to popular urban legend, the soup is not homemade. That would be literally impossible to do every single day. It was kept in big bags in the freezer and heated up over a soup well.
7) Ugh, remembering that nickel incident was the worst. Not to keep dwelling on it, but I can’t believe that was an actual occurrence in my life that happened and you’re talking to someone who once woke up in a wheelchair in a hotel she had never been to in her life after being blackout drunk one night. The year was 2007, not 1908 and this was a restaurant chain, not a bobbin factory. Don’t give your staff members a nickel raise for an annual review and expect them to love you for it and respect your establishment no matter how many hours a week they work. Don’t do it period, okay?
8) The most pleasant time I can recall working at Panera was during the Crispani launch. This was a line of pizzas that could be shared with two people and were actually really good. You got to wear a much nicer looking uniform and the work station to clean up was infinitely smaller than anywhere else in the cafe. A different summer one of my duties was to serve samples to everyone in the restaurant of whatever new drink or pastry we were promoting. I liked that because I got to walk around, go outside, and would only come in for two hours to do said sampling.
9) I was well versed in making sandwiches, salads and soups, doing the register, barista duties, the bakery life, the back of the house, the front of the house, and whatever odds and ends I was called on for. Since I was all over the place, the average workday for me included four or so drinks made and hidden in strategic places all throughout the store. (Technically employees were only allowed to have the soda for free but I had quite a few other things floating around.)
10) The uniform. Terrible then and terrible now, it consisted of khaki or black pants, a polo shirt, and this hideous spit pea soup green apron that covered almost all of your frame along with a hat to smush down the hair on your head and bring on the sweat in the summertime. I developed a strong hatred for the khaki pants after one day where I spilled scalding hot coffee everywhere on myself and all over the pants from one of the big coffee pots so most of the time, I wore a black skirt or black pants, polo shirt, and a pearl necklace into work. The first time I wore a white polo with the skirt and walked out to show my mother, she immediately told me I looked like a Jehovah’s witness. Thanksssssss!
11) It always cracked me up when people I knew who were clearly overweight opted to head there because they saw Panera as a healthy alternative to fast food. Oh my, no. There is a shitload of calories, sodium, sugar, trans fat, and basically everything wrong with most food ever in pretty much anything you order there. As the years went on, customers started to inquire about the calorie count in the foods and this called for a big white book to be brought out from hiding (underneath the registers) about the number of calories in each item since they weren’t really printed anywhere visible at the time. Once the book was out, everyone in line would look at it and they didn’t look too thrilled about what they saw despite the fact that they had to have some inkling that all this food wasn’t particularly healthy. Insert the Emma Roberts “surprise, bitch” gif here.
12) One of my coworkers in the morning was an older woman named Paula. I didn’t like her. I feel like at almost every job I’ve ever had or school I’ve gone to I’ve meet at least one person who I just didn’t gel with from the start. In the case of Paula, it was because as a teenager I didn’t care about or want to listen to her stories about her sons or grandkids or whatever mediocre life event she was up to that particular day. About a year after I left, I’d find out that she was fired for stealing money from the store. She had been working there for too many years to count and her stolen numbers amounted to the thousands. I might be wrong recollecting this but there might have been some legal stuff in the mix too. I thought this was hilarious because the woman had always put off this kindly old grandma vibe around everyone and I thought she was full of it. Karma’s a bitch, in an Emma Roberts gif kinda way amirite?
13) Theft, mice, nickel raises, and weird older men singing some song called “Heather Honey” and attempting to make a pass at me when I was 16 goddamn years old and they had a decade on me in age aside, I did work with some really amazing girls and guys which was what really made the experience worthwhile. For every bitchy manager or thirsty older male coworker, there were five cool people and two fun managers and that is not an easy ratio to pull off either. One of my managers, Elizabeth, and I went to the same grade school together and we shared a very unusual memory of the first time we met. I was in the 1st grade and she was in the 7th and she sat next to me at a chapel service because the custom then was to have the older kids sit in between the younger ones so we wouldn’t giggle or talk or make fart noises or whatever during the sermons. Maybe this would be less of a coincidence if I had grown up in the sticks, but this was Saint Louis. It was a cool reunion and a crazy one at that because we still remembered each other from that time. The good guys and gals made this place awesome during the Bread Bashes and holiday parties which in some ways feel close to me memory-wise and in many more feel infinitely further and further with every day that passes.
14) Oh, and when I was a senior in high school I filmed a part of my autobiography video assignment there. Or, as I fondly remember it, Heather’s Ridiculously Long Vanity Project because the end result was 13 minutes long for a 5 minute length and I refused to edit it down because I didn’t see the need to cut out portions of my life especially when I was the focus of it. (This is why I have always seen myself as more of a Jenna Maroney than a Liz Lemon.) Did my classmates really need an extended shot of me walking down the street in Clayton to watch? Probably not, but life is so wild and it happened and I stayed in the bathroom throughout the duration of the showing when we all watched each other’s videos so yeah.
There was a time where my dream job for many years was to write at Gothic Beauty Magazine. When I was in community college, I interviewed the publisher Steven Holiday for a project I needed to pull together where we had to chat with members of the media. It was very different from what everyone else was doing, but really special to me. Sometimes I wonder if he remembers me. I should look him up on Twitter. I know it’s cliche to say it, but that dream job feels like such a long time ago for me - my former ambitions and how they evolved over the years.
My inner interest in the macabre is going to be with me until I die. I feel it pique anytime I watch a horror movie. I think about the other career I could have pursued - forensics - sometimes. There’s no way of knowing where I would be today if I did go to school for that. I still like to read about serial killers and their traits and characteristics a lot. I remember that was how I introduced myself to my communications class on my first day at my alma mater. Tell us your name and one interesting fact about yourself. My name is Heather and I like to read about serial killers. I find them fascinating. (Bless my teacher for not being weirded out and kindly asking if I had a favorite I was intrigued by. He probably did it to be polite and definitely didn’t expect me to reply back that it was Albert Fish - grisly guy.)
I know that this all clashes with the girl that I am now and who I am seen as on the outside but I don’t believe in being everything you can outwardly appear to be. I believe in being as multi-faceted a person as possible. Like a diamond. If it grabs at my attention, I like it and I’m gonna make it my mission to know everything I can about it. Sometimes that can mean horror films, other times it’s fashion on the runways, still others it’s the Pillsbury Doughboy. A little pinch, cup, scoop, of everything that draws you in is really the spice of life.
When I went home last summer, it was the first time I had been home in two years. My old bedroom isn’t mine anymore - it was converted into a room for one of my brothers. But the closet was still 90% Heather based since it was filled with books and old journals and piles and piles and I do mean piles of magazines of mine from the early 2000s and ’90s. Closets tend to be my favorite room in any house. Maybe it’s because I place such an emphasis on clothing and very little to none on actual furniture anywhere else, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that a closet is the easiest room to fill up. When my parents first moved into that home, I filled my closet first, then stepped inside of it and shut the door behind me, breathing it all in. We had one, whole, space in that house that felt like it had been lived in. Then I filled up a cabinet underneath the sink in the bathroom with some bath products and we had one, whole, lived in cabinet in place. It was the only way the 14 year old version of me could stand the entire moving process which was exhausting and drawn out - to fill small spots here and there throughout the new home and make them feel comfortable to all of us until the new home was ready to go. Anyway, to tie in with the photo above, my parents asked me recently what magazines they could sell off and I told them everything but the copy of Vogue with Kirsten Dunst on the cover from the Marie Antoinette film release. It’s like looking a pre-social media relic of Vogue’s golden era and I want to hang onto it as long as I can. Also, there were several letters written to my future self in that closet. There was a time in my life where I was unbelievably dead set to move to New York and go to Columbia for journalism and I distinctly remember that feeling. But then one snowy afternoon I received a postcard in the mail for a private university in California and my entire course of action changed. I wrote these letters before I got that postcard, and I like how even though I had determination driving me toward that school and other life I could have had, I didn’t have the heart in it like I did with my now alma mater.
1) Christmas Eve, age 7 (I think), at church with the fam at the midnight service in a brand new dress that had a very itchy tulle built in it. I throw up all over the dress and my parents have to take me out of the room into the lobby to get cleaned up and go home. Anyway, I’m in the lobby with my parents and my dad realizes he left my brother behind so he runs back to get him and my brother (age 5) is running up and down the main aisle and the churchgoers are giving us salty looks which would continue to be a running theme with my family and that church for another decade in our lives.
2) Christmas Day, age 10. I receive an American Girl Samantha doll under the tree which makes me very excited and wins at the gift giving until I open my last gift which is a strangely shaped box. Inside the box? All of this Pillsbury Doughboy merchandise EVERYWHERE including a big plush stuffed puppet. Basically this is the defining moment in my life where there was the girl I once was and the girl I now am and this is it.
3) Company holiday party, age 23, aka the night I got very drunk and fell off the damn party bus at the Cheesecake Factory and blamed my shoes for being the reason why I fell and also that it rained outside. This was also the same night that I texted my brother when the party bus forgot to pick me and Kelsey up at work and wrote (jokingly) that I was living a real life version of Home Alone and he writes back all in caps ARE YOU OKAY DO I NEED TO CALL THE POLICE and I laughed. I woke up the next morning hungover but spent 30 minutes self-medicating with pills and water and arrived to work fresh as a daisy (or close enough to it anyway) it was fine holiday fun all around.
"She’s single, urban and loving it—but she’s no Carrie Bradshaw. Not necessarily looking for a husband, nor looking for just a good time, this leading-edge millennial woman, age 28 to 34, has a career to tend to and money to make."
At the Pillsbury Bake-Off last month, one of our speakers was Phil Lempert aka The Supermarket Guru who described one of the future trends in grocery shopping for 2014 and beyond to include the rise of “the indie woman.” I immediately liked the term and even introduced myself afterward to him as such, especially since I was one of the youngest people covering the Bake-Off.
The rise of the indie woman, as illustrated by AdWeek, looks a little something like this:
- Career first, marriage and kids later. (Perhaps not even in that order.)
- Fashionable, but also excels at window shopping even more than actual shopping.
- A fan of brand names.
- “They can work late or go out late, and they can bring home whoever they want.”
Muy bien. And now, here comes my personal anecdote.
When I started my NaNoWriMo story last month, it came out of a place deep inside of myself. I had been thinking about women in recent literature for a long time. Supposedly modern women and how unmodern they really were. It’s always the same story of the girl who was so very unique because she didn’t talk to other girls or licked her lips a lot or possessed a very “haunting” beauty with her pale skin but hey, that was okay because the boys liked her. Or, on the flip side, the very upset 22 year old who just graduated from college into a cold world where she didn’t immediately become the editor at a fashion magazine and bitched and complained about everything despite the fact that her parents paid her student loan and oh yeah, wailed on and on about boys.
Seriously? We’re still doing this? This is what still sells? Where were the girls who were playing by their rules and confident in the skin they were already in? When did it become acceptable to encourage a girl to settle because some rando guy had a thirst? How are you gonna bring girls into this world and build them up if there are no books around to encourage them to be their own woman?
So I had wanted to write something about a small cluster of girlfriends who were all cusping on the end of their twenties and were not even close to having made all of the so-called “right moves” with their lives, but also lived for themselves and valued the relationships they had that mattered. My girls (literally how I refer to them in my head) were all smart and independent and did not give a shit what anyone thought about them. They were also full of flaws, lest I started thinking they were too cool for school.
One of the first scenes I wrote up was one in which the protagonist Abby is sitting at a table for a dinner she was invited to with seven other people, six of which are married couples, and the seventh person is a single guy desperate to be like these married people (presumably Abby is invited to the dinner as someone he could potentially date but she’s not feeling how basic he is). The couples are all discussing their photos on Instagram and the monotonous ways they spent their weekends and Abby is bored. She is drinking the most out of anyone at the table, flirts with a married guy from across the room, and gets into an argument with one of the couples in which she begs them not to reproduce because she has a hard time figuring out whether the mom will pay more attention to her child over her MacBook.
Writing that was a lot of fun because I think every single girl who has ever been trapped at a table filled with nothing but couples could relate to it. The best part came from yanking myself open and letting everything fly out. No restraints, no limits, no cares as to who does like it or not. No biting the tongue, no polite smiling, just coming out and calling people out on their bullshit. There are no stories for twentysomethings that do that.
But the whole process for the NaNoWriMo story was never to write something that took itself too seriously or hit the bitter ground running either. This wasn’t going to be some thinly veiled version of any potential insecurities cropping up (“everybody’s getting married on Facebook but meeeeeeeee”) of mine you could read into. This was their story. Everyone was different and went through their own troubles and there wasn’t an ending. It’s a story, but doesn’t mean it can’t feel real, be self-deprecating, and sarcastic with heart.
These are the indie women. All the real girls. And that’s me telling a little bit about my own (fictional) story. That I’m proud of it and where it’s heading.
I’ll keep working on it, don’t worry.
Working on an article that I thought would not take me long to compile but it’s turning out to be much more lengthier, detailed, and all-around thoughtful than I thought it would. This is not a bad thing either. Just unexpected. I am also being picky on my selections for this piece too which makes it go slower than usual, but that’s because I want to be able to stand by my list with pride and know I had a good reason behind every choice I made.
Just another reminder to the world that good content is not built to be based on an assembly line model where you lather, rinse, and repeat it on an endless loop.
Numbers for listing purposes, not by rank of what I love the most or anything.
1. The Bake-Off Vegas trip. My expectations were that I was going to spend four days just having fun, fun, fun in Sin City but the reality of it was that while I had a very good time on the surface, beneath that was an entirely different story. It was a more somber time than I anticipated but also one where through the sadness, clarity and inner peace came through me. I knew, and know, what I had to do. I’d like to thank the bathtub I sat in sometime around 2 AM on Sunday morning in my hotel room for helping me answer the question I had had for some time, “You know some of those basic things you’ve been contemplating doing because they’re easy or the ones you’re already doing but don’t like? Let’s not do any of that.”
2. Knowing when to quit something I didn’t enjoy doing and walking away from it. That was hard. But I knew I was going to do it for awhile - I got asked about how I felt about this particular thing in October and all I could think was no, I really don’t like doing it at all. Just me realizing I want to do what fulfills me and not waste my time with things I feel don’t contribute to my personal growth.
3. Family and friends. I only surround myself with about two handfuls of people who really know the layers of who I am and that is all I need. Knowing that I have their unconditional love and they have mine is a real blessing.
4. Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” album. Shout outs to the following additional songs for making me extra happy - “Stars” by Ulrich Schnauss, “Ship Leaving” by Pieter Nooten, “Nida” by Stellamara, everything by The White Panda, that new Depeche Mode album, and the soundtrack for The Bling Ring.
5. Getting some extra encouragement from great people to do the one thing I’ve always wanted to do and feel at my most fulfilled with. (If this is ultra vague, then it’s just gotta be.)
6. Being made an honorary member of the Poppin’ Fresh family tree by General Mills. What started as me being a little girl who liked the Pillsbury Doughboy and thought he was cute turned into years of research and is now starting to become something bigger than what I thought it could.
7. Being made an honorary California bridesmaid for my dear friend Melissa’s wedding next year. We’ve come a long way since the high school days of working at Subway together!
8. I moved three times this year and I’m thankful it all wound up working out because the last move was far from planned.
9. My tight work team who have really been the best ever and get everything about me from how to get me a link to watch that Game of Thrones Red Wedding episode online and total understanding of what “yaaaaaasssss omg you look so good yaaaaasssss” means.
10. And a quick shout out to all of my limbs, eyesight, teeth, mind, heart, and assorted other body parts for all being intact. That’s something easy to take for granted. Luv u, boo.
Growing up, one of my absolute favorite things was to witness my little brother Earl get put into his place when he smarted off to my parents. The kid was cheeky and full of sass, but in a cute PG-ish way. (Well, that changed significantly when he got older but we’re only including the funny childhood gems for this one.) Whether in public or at home, my parents would get him alright, but with none of this time out in the corner bullshit or stupid yuppie parent at Starbucks whimpering “no… no… please… use your words… be kind… be kind.” Discipline and learning lessons went slightly differently in our household…
1) Here is a memory I’m not particularly fond of because this was something I also got saddled into when I got in trouble alongside Earl. We didn’t do time outs. Instead, my parents had a set of 10 Commandments nailed to our living room wall. You know, from the Bible. If you mouthed off, you went in front of those commandments and stood there for a prescribed amount of time. During said time, you needed to memorize each one from start to finish. Then my dad would call you over, state that he wanted to hear a commandment from you, and if you recited it perfectly to him, you were free to go. However, screw up any word or phrase, and back to the commandments with you (you could go back up to 3 times and then he’d toss you a bone with the easiest possible one). The trouble here was that this wasn’t your standard set of commandments either. You know how there are notoriously shorter commandments like “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy?” This particular set included a small paragraph after even the shortest commandments to include in the memorization process. Far worse, all of the 10 were marked in Roman numerals which could definitely throw a small child off on commandments 8 and 9 especially. So yeah, if you ever want to punish a child effectively while simultaneously helping to increase their memorization skills so they can win a books of the Bible recitation contest at the private school they went to, do this.
2) That one time Earl told my dad he didn’t feel like taking out the trash even though it was his turn and involved the arduous task of twist tying the bag and walking it all of 15 yards to the waste dumpster. In turn, my dad went into his bedroom bright and early that morning and dumped our trash can on him while he slept in bed. If it’s ever possible to almost black out while laughing, I got pretty close that day.
3) Another time Earl said, on a morning that was 15 degrees outside with frost on the ground, that he wasn’t going to wear a coat to school because it wasn’t cold. Guess who got locked outside in his PJs on our front porch for 15 minutes, screaming and crying and begging through the mailbox flap to come back inside and he’d put on the coat? N O T M E
4) At this point, you probably think my dad and I were nothing but big bullies to Earl and dug it in deep with him for our own amusement. That might be true, but only in that family teasing kinda way where you can do it as a joke but the moment someone else outside of the bloodline tries to do it, they gotta die. Anyway, we all used to go to open houses on Sunday mornings. This was all in an effort to move to a different neighborhood which would go into effect when I was 14 but everything up until that point was research. (The internet sucked back then, remember that.) One of the games at the houses we liked to play was called Earl’s New Bedroom. This was where we would find the tiniest possible space in the house and declare it was Earl’s new room if we moved in there. This could be anything from a cupboard to a dumpster to a cellar but a cellar is actually really roomy and nice and idk if that would fit the ENB aesthetic. Our favorites were tiny closets with no windows where we’d convince him to go inside and then close the door behind him, placing our weight against the door as he tried to get out, laughing hysterically as he yelled at us on the other end. Never failed to worry the other people roaming around on the open house visit. Also, now that I think of it, this may be the reason why I never want to physically own a house and do not understand why people in my age group think house hunting is some awesome adventure. It’s boring, exhausting, and filled with pushy real estate people. Also, there is no such thing thing as the perfect house that doesn’t come without 9000 extra repairs needed. The kitchen might have new appliances, but then you have a creaking stairwell or unfinished basement to deal with. I’m not kidding around here when I say that if I could, I would not only live out of a hotel for the rest of my life, but also build a chain of hotel-esque lodgings for post-grads and not interested in being a homeowner peeps throughout the country. All about that one room lyfe.