i work as a nanny, so a lot of my days are spent hanging with a toddler. toddlers are awesome, imaginative, and completely full-of-shit. they lie. a lot. recently i was told that their lies are sometimes accidental- their imaginations are so vivid they can’t always tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
um. WELCOME TO MY BRAIN.
maybe i hold the gift of childlike wonder, maybe i’m just mentally ill-
here are seven recent thoughts i’ve had which reminded me i’m delusional-
1. my thought: this guy wants me to have all his babies
sad truth: this guy is a masseuse. you are PAYING him to touch you like that.
2. my thought: hitting “edit” and “clear all” erases all my problems.
sad truth: these buttons delete drunk texts on your end only. the boy who doesn’t love you will still receive them.
3. my thought: i’m really run down from this juice cleanse
sad truth: wine is not juice
4. my thought: i am broke because i am an artist and bohemian
sad truth: you are broke because you are bad with money, you are a blogger not an artist, and a comforter from urban outfitters does not qualify you as bohemian.
5. my thought: i’m so excited orlando bloom is back on the market.
sad truth: orlando bloom is back on the market. this effects you in zero ways.
6. my thought: i bet i’d feel better about my life if i got botox
sad truth: botox will not change the fact that you’re thirty-one and career-less. you will feel exactly the same about your life, you’ll just look weird when you cry in the mirror about it.
7. my thought: i’m going to lose ten pounds before my next birthday.
sad truth: i just ate pie for lunch
a special shout out to my subconscious for it’s brief moments of baby-making, bloom loving, skinny bohemian girl fantasies in which i have enough money to afford botox.
When I was a kid my great grandmother- GG as we called her- had a painting of a scene from a Korean Spa hanging in her home. Naked women were lounging about by tubs and wandering casually with their parts on display. SCANDELOUS. I would ask questions about the relation these women had to one another, trying to justify their behavior- were they family? Especially close friends? Was this what a doctor’s office in Korea looked like? My tiny brain couldn’t imagine a world in which this was even moderately appropriate.
As I grew older my vagina started venturing out into the world with minor appearances- a couple of awkward trips to the gynecologist… a horrifying first (and last) bikini wax… a drunken flash at a bachelorette party in a game of- please tell me yours looks like this too…
Each of these situations prepared my lady parts to exist in a land resembling GG’s painting- the land of Korean Spas in Los Angeles.
My first Korean Spa experience was at Wi Spa, which is for both men and women- the naked parts of the experience are separate. Wi Spa is massive and wildly busy and answered so many of my childhood questions. Watching little old ladies scrub themselves diligently while tiny pot-bellied children scurry in and out of hot tubs (at midnight on a Friday) gives you instant clarity. In my world a shower is often something I leap in and out of frantically in the morning five minutes before I’m meant to be at work- clumps of conditioner will be discovered in my ear hours later and my skin will look dingy and grey from poorly rinsed soap and lack of moisturizer. The Koreans know what’s up. Careful bathing, soaking, scrubbing and self-care seem to not so much be a ritual, but a requirement.
Another popular Korean Spa is Olympic Spa which is much more humble than Wi, and a tiny bit run down, but super cozy, quiet and ladies only throughout- there were no pot-bellied children, and no drunk twenty-year-olds sweating out their evening’s adventures.
At both places, whether surrounded by spectacle or calm, I found comfort in an unexpected place- the naked bodies of women.
Look, I know you’re not really supposed to look, but I can’t help it- women have big asses, and cellulite, and rolls and all different shaped nipples. None of them- ok there was one tiny chick with fake tits- but none of the rest of them look anything like women in magazines or anything like you’d expect them to under their clothes. They all look flawed, imperfect and human.
And then I remember that I too am human, and that being a human is kind of cool.
When I exit the Korean Spa I feel lighter- perhaps because I’ve relaxed away a few insecurities and worries, perhaps because I’ve just sweat off a few pounds, or perhaps because a sixty-year-old woman in black underwear just removed a good seven layers of my skin when she scrubbed every inch of my body sans labia.
On my thirteenth birthday my GG presented me with a gift of a loofah sponge and tropical body wash- ”I hope you like it,” she grunted- “I tried it and it made me itch.”
Thanks GG, but I think I’ll take my bathing cues from your painting instead.
When I walked into Kira Hesser’s Los Feliz apartment she immediately offered me pie- she had already plated me the three different types her boyfriend had baked for Thanksgiving. Pie at a pink table is pretty much my idea of the best greeting ever. Kira is delightful- she loves her dogs, her fella, strongly encouraged me to online date, and by the end of our meeting signed on to be a contributor to ordinary girl. This awesome woman busts ass and is constantly working to create new projects and opportunities for herself.
OG: Where are you from?
OG: How long have you been in LA?
KIRA: In February it’ll be five years -in response to my clearly being overwhelmed by the magical pie she hops up from the table in search of her phone- I need to get a picture of you eating the pie!!
OG: (mouth full of magic pie) Did you do comedy in Chicago?
KIRA: I lived in Chicago until the end of high school and then I went to college in Phoenix- I lived there for a year after I graduated and then I moved to London and got my masters in modern literature. I always wanted to be a writer- my mom’s a writer and a filmmaker. When I was in London my mom and I started doing this travel series called Islands Lost in Time and I’m the host. We go to these islands that don’t allow modern transport- so places that don’t have cars, trains, buses- people get around by bicycle or donkey or horse and that’s it and there are islands all over the world like this and it’s such a foreign concept so we thought- let’s go to these remote places and interview people about what it’s like. Once I started doing that I realized I missed acting- I acted as a kid. I came to LA for a week while I was living in London and I loved it so much and I was like- I have to come and give it a try before I’m too old- I have to go give this another shot. I moved here after I got my degree and have been here ever since.
OG: How’s it been going?
KIRA: I came here with the idea that I’d be acting all the time as an income because that’s how it was as a kid – I filmed Matilda and lived here when I was eleven- it’s just so different now. When I moved I started pursuing comedy right away- I pursued improv first because I was frightened of it- have you done it at all?
OG: No. I’m so scared of it.
KIRA: Yeah. I just figured- this is what I’m most frightened of so I did it first- I started seeing stand-up all the time and I made the switch, and I study at Leslie Kahn. I’m concentrating on writing and making my own films and you know- I’m sure you know, you do a million things- it’s how this city moves- I do voice over and I record auditions in my closet- I act, I write, I do stand-up, I drive lyft- the pink mustache car. It’s been great- but I realize I’m becoming the thing I was warned about as a kid- bringing strangers into my car… giving them candy… It’s such an odd thing- hope this guy doesn’t rape me- whatever- we’ll see- so far everyone has been awesome.
OG: Do you have to have the mustache on your car all the time?
KIRA: No. Thank God. But, it’s annoying to take off so I have it on about eighty percent of the time.
OG: Ha. Amazing.
KIRA: I’m turning thirty in a month and I definitely thought I’d be further in my career-
OG: I think everyone does…
KIRA: But I’ve never been so unbelievably fulfilled in so many areas with things I love to do. It finally feels like I’m not just picking up something and dropping in it. Stand-up served me in a great way. I write every single week. It’s made me meet so many comedians- people who I then want to work with for things I write and make in film. It just feels like here, everything serves something else. It’s so cool. I’m constantly reminded of how small this city is. I lived in London and I never felt that way. It’s (LA) a city of stories and I love that so much.
OG: I love that too. It’s what I’ve loved about doing these interviews.
KIRA: That’s what I love about Islands in Time – it’s just like, landing on an island and approaching anybody and it’s mostly populated by old people – who are my favorite generation. I was super close to my grandparents. Crazy love.
OG: How often do you shoot Island in Time?
KIRA: Once a year for six years. PBS just picked us up for a national series which is great. And I got nominated for a hosting emmy. Now we need to find a company to sponsor it. My mom is the director, producer and writer and it’s just the two of us, a camera guy and the executive producer. It’s my one big acting job I do every year.
OG: That’s amazing- You do a lot of stuff! Ok- now I have to ask my regular questions- What’s your favorite thing about LA?
KIRA: You know, I knew these questions were coming- like Inside the Actors Studio- they act like they’re pausing and thinking, but they know- but, I definitely didn’t think about this…
I didn’t care about tacos whatsoever before I came here and it’s fulfilled my life in a beautiful way. I’m grateful for Guisados. And, feeling like I actually have a sense of community- two of my best friends live a block that way, another best friend lives a block the other way. And the stand-up community- as weird as it is- is a group of people I know and consistently see in the city. Feeling like I’m able and excited about swimming in these different artistic communities that are very available- that’s my favorite thing. Tacos second.
OG: What did you expect LA to be when you came here and what has it become?
KIRA: I didn’t expect it to have the varied city within it that it does. I love that about driving lyft- I get to explore a new neighborhood all the time.
OG: Do you ever feel ordinary?
KIRA: Yes. I never felt it so much before I moved here. Just answering what my career is feels ordinary- in a way that I don’t mind, but it’s ordinary. Also, being a character actor- I lived with a super-model forever- this city lets you know specifically who you are and what type you are. Like (audition) breakdowns- I go out for these roles that are not how I think of myself- “real to very real looking”- what the fuck does that mean?
OG: What do you do when you feel ordinary?
KIRA: I do stand-up. If I didn’t have stand-up or writing- this town is no filter hard- I would be miserable. I’m able to constantly mock this town via my blog, twitter, or stand up.
It’s not something I do intentionally, just something I do idiotically. Waking from a nap to the smell of melting plastic – kitchen blinds up in flames, singeing the front of my hair over a stove- an impressive feat with a pixie cut, and maneuvering my way out of a quickly burning circle scarf are highlights in my career as an accidental pyromaniac.
This past week my special skill made another appearance. A lovely Aztec-inspired lavender candle holder that reflects a magical pattern of dancing light upon my wall was resting atop my recently repaired gas heater. The bits of wax that lingered from the linen scented candle responsible for the last dancing light display responded to the heaters efforts to warm my tiny abode to a pleasant seventy-three-degrees. The smell of fresh laundry filled the air as the wax dripped down into the large seventies eyesore that clings to my wall, meeting a tiny flame and sea of gas – WALA!- heater fire.
As my pug barked frantically, I disabled the gas, tossed some water on the situation and stood on my bed with a wooden spoon in hand, reaching it up to the smoke detector to stop the incessant beeping. It was a manageable situation and I felt completely calm- until it was over. My mind flashed to the what-ifs as I remembered the heater had been on most of the day- what if the wax had dripped a bit earlier when I wasn’t home? Tragic outcomes involving homelessness and a dead dog resulted in a decent amount of anxiety. I poured myself a glass of wine to self-medicate and vowed never to use the heater again. As my anxiety passed I looked at the situation differently. Instead of feeling haunted by what could have happened had I not been home, I felt grateful that I had been. I felt protected by the Whatever it is I hope might be out there that looks out for us from time to time.
Life ebbs and flows. I have seasons where I feel disconnected from everything- myself, others; the universe- but lately I’ve felt connected, grateful and supported- by candle wax that waited until after five to drip, by the cop who drove behind me on Thanksgiving and didn’t pull me over for expired tags, and by the tiny serendipitous moments that have popped in and out of my days. Beyond all this, I have recently felt the greatest amounts of support and connection from the women of Los Angeles.
About a month ago I wrote about my hang-ups with our city. I was tired, frustrated and burnt-out. I closed that post by making a loose promise to myself. I was going to try to be the LA I was longing for- I was going to try and be better. One of the ways I said I would do this was by seeking out LA people who make cool shit. Turns out- THIS IS AN AWESOME THING TO DO. The ordinary people interviews have led me into the homes of perfect strangers- women who are kicking-ass and surviving this city. My recent decision to bring contributors onto the blog has shown me how many amazing women there are in LA who are willing to jump onto a project. This city is filled with people who just wanna do their thing- write, photograph, shoot film, share their stories. They’ll do it for free, they’ll do it with enthusiasm; they’ll do it because they’re passionate about life, this city, and their work.
Last night I had the terrifying and amazing privilege of performing in my first storytelling show. I haven’t stood on a stage in seven years and although I sometimes write about my vagina and her experiences, standing in front of a room of strangers and talking about her is a very different thing. Sunday Night Sex Talks is the only all women storytelling show in LA and I can’t imagine a safer space to get up on stage, or a better way to be reminded that women are AMAZING. Between the vulnerability and passion I saw in the performances, the crazy amounts of love I felt from a few of my dearest gal-pals who sat front and center, and the ninety-year-old audience member- a fashionista in a sparkly hat- who told me I know how to command a stage and then reprimanded me for thanking her too many times (she preferred that I just own it), I felt like love was all around me. I left the evening burning with groovy goddess energy
I have spent seven years in Los Angeles. I have floundered, gotten lost in mazes of self-doubt and confused identity, buried my hopes under the shadows of bad boyfriends, and spent long spells of time accomplishing nothing more than the delivery of an uncountable number of vodka-tonics to the vacant and unappreciative. The past few months of working on Ordinary Girl LA have opened doors for me. Whether those doors lead into the living rooms of the ‘ordinary’ people who make LA survive, meetings filled with ideas for future projects, or a tiny stage in the back room of Bar Lubitsch, I exit the same way- with a greater sense of self and feelings of security and love.
And so I urge you sweet fellow floundering Angelinos, to make and seek. Start new projects- crappy or otherwise. To quote Miranda July, one of my LA faves- don’t wait to be sure. move, move, move. Move today and see where you land. See which doors open. Ask for help- from the people around you, from the Whatever it is that we hope might be out there looking out for us from time to time; from the parts of yourself you don’t yet know you have. Then let life surprise you. There might be fires along the way but if you’re lucky you’ll be there to put them out.
if you are a writer, photographer, or graphic designer in Los Angeles and interested in joining the ordinary girl LA team, please send a message to contact@ordinarygirlLA.com
Being a city kid can lead to a whole new take on holidays. Whether you’re headed back home to face old friends and family- answering questions about why you’ve yet to marry, or when you’re going to get a real job, or staying in town to eat overcooked turkey with friends, Thanksgiving may trigger a lot of feelings about the past or an unknown future.
One of the first Thanksgivings I spent in LA didn’t go as planned. My family was living a couple of hours outside the city, so I intended on making the obligatory drive out to the Inland Empire to eat, laugh, and probably cry over something shitty my dad said. Two days before the Thanks’, I got a message from my mom. She was canceling Thanksgiving. Not like, for the world, but, for herself. She couldn’t do it. She couldn’t spend hours in the kitchen cooking, cleaning and pretending she liked her life and her marriage.
It was sad, and a little jarring, and kind of awesome. It was my mom’s first step in taking control of her own life and being true to herself. It was kinda bad-ass.
I spent that Thanksgiving at my friend Seth Garfunkle’s. His apartment was FILLED with LA misfits. There was laughter, food and beer. Nobody made me cry. I can’t explain the amount of joy that was packed into that place. To date, it’s one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve had.
Since my folks split up I’ve spent holidays all over- sometimes with my biological family, and sometimes with family I’ve created. Both have had their highs and lows; both can make me long for past traditions, but traditions change- if they didn’t, we’d all spend tomorrow plumping up new friends with a meal and then murdering them for their land.
Change is important.
No matter how you’ll be spending Thanksgiving I hope you find time to breathe and be true to yourself. If you spend the day with family you love and miss, soak up the moments and your time together. If you’re surrounded by relatives that offer you spoonfuls of judgement, remind yourself that you’ve got nothing to prove- your life is your own- take ownership of it. If you can’t afford to travel home, or the home you came from no longer exists and you spend the day with friends and misfits, try and be thankful for the new, and for the unknown that lays ahead. Who knows what the next year will bring.
You got this.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.
And with that, this ordinary girl will be signing off until next week.
I was eager to meet Nicole Stetter. Twenty-five, darling, groovy, and mother to five-year-old twins, I knew she didn’t have a typical LA story. It turns out Nicole’s story was even less typical than I expected, the most unique element being her spirit. Miss Stetter is walking heart. Her honesty, outlook, and insight overwhelmed me. So many of us came to LA to escape something or follow a dream. Nicole was born here, and remains here to care for a whole team of people. When I walked into the Granada Hills home where she lives with her twins, parents, brother and pup, she immediately told me how nervous she was about our interview. Her stomach was in knots. The house was quiet- her kids were spending the weekend with their dad. When I came back a couple of weeks later for a few more photos I got a taste of what life normally looks like- the house was full. Her twins, plus a few friends from school and their mothers- mothers significantly older than Nicole- ran around the house creating noise and joyful chaos. Fingers smashed in sliding glass doors, cookies were offered as rewards for good behavior, tiny voices begged for their choice in movie. Nicole laughed, apologized for the mania and carried on. Carrying on with a laugh seems to be a theme in this young woman’s story.
OG: So did you grow up here? In this house?
NICOLE: Yeah- twenty-two years.
OG: You were born in LA?
OG: What do you do?
NICOLE: Well… I… blog for a porn site.
OG: You do?!
NICOLE: (she laughs) Yeah.
OG: I’m so glad we’re doing this interview.
NICOLE: I’m actually the CEO’s assistant. I have to like, grocery shop for him and stuff and then he found out about a lot of my interests so I get to blog about random stuff like, a porn star who has a blog about food and I report on like, the twenty-four layer chip dip he made. It’s ridiculous.
OG: How did you end up in that job?
NICOLE: I had a friend I was in a band with, and her boss needed an assistant. I had just graduated and I wasn’t looking for a job yet cus my kids weren’t yet in kindergarten. It was still the summer so I worked a couple days a week to start and when they went to school I started working five days a week.
OG: So you’re also a musician.
NICOLE: Yeah, sort of. I’m like a dabbler in all things. I don’t like to hold onto titles much cus you know they say a jack of all trades is a master of none so I would never be like- yeah I’m a musician cus a dabbler just feels much safer. It really covers your ass if you’re not exceptional at something.
OG: So what are your other trades?
NICOLE: Oh god, I don’t know. I like to make stuff. I like to collect things- whether they’re physical things or experiences. I’m really big on having stories to tell and experiences to look back on. I’ve painted twice. I try to alter clothes. I like the idea of buying things for really really cheap. We grew up going to the thrift stores. We never really had a very glamorous lifestyle. I was always kinda bratty and I just wanted things and was like, I gotta go get em. I wanted things to look a certain way so I was like- I gotta figure out this sewing machine cus this sweater doesn’t look right. It never looked great. It wasn’t a fantastic tailor job, but, like I said- I was like- I need this to look a certain way and I’ve only got four dollars so by golly- it’s gonna fit. It’s worked out. I’ve had a lot of short comings. You take the good with the bad.
OG: So, both your parents are physically disabled?
NICOLE: Yeah. It’s more of a mental thing than anything. And I was actually adopted.
OG: Oh. Wow.
NICOLE: Yeah. It makes for a really good story. My birth mom was eighteen when she had me. I was born downtown in Boyle Heights. She put me up for adoption. My parents had a bunch of miscarriages and they were trying to adopt for so long and no one wanted to give them kids. My adopted mom met my birth mom’s stepmom at a JCPenny. They got to talking and she was like- let me get your number, I might have a baby for you. It’s really ridiculous. Like a movie or something. I think that kind of sparked a lot- I’ve always been a storyteller.
At this point Nicole’s younger brother walked in. He had a mellow, lovely energy and carried a large iced Americano. We all chatted briefly about coffee addictions and trying to cut back on various vices. When he left we carried on.
NICOLE: He’s a whole ‘nother thing. He’s amazing. He’s also adopted. We got him when he was two so I was about three-and-a-half. It’s an interesting dynamic cus I had to step in a lot as a mom for the household.
OG: Did you have a desire to move into LA proper, or have you always wanted to stay in the suburbs?
NICOLE: I love the suburbs, but I also have two kids, so… There’s something about this area, like if someone bad mouths it- it was probably like a defense thing- I always had to love what was mine. I ended up by chance getting to own a thrift store with my old boss and it became a music venue because that’s what I was into. That lasted seven months. It closed a year ago. It was fun while it lasted. I got to have complete creative freedom. Super fun and disastrous. It didn’t do well. I had a strong desire to put the valley on the map- it was a phase. I’m very phase oriented. New information comes into your brain and changes the way you see things.
OG: I totally respect that.
NICOLE: There’s no way I wanna throw shows for twenty-one-year-olds now. A lot of things changed when my kids went to kindergarten. I work five days a week. That Monday through Friday thing is in play. I have to make those little changes to feel like I’m in the right place. There’s something about the groundedness that makes Monday morning that much easier. I like to be open to that so I can do what I need to do.
OG: So. Twins. You have twins.
OG: And you had them at twenty.
NICOLE: Yeah. I got pregnant at nineteen. I had been with their dad since I was twelve. We have absolutely nothing in common. He was the shy gorgeous boy all the girls were too scared to talk to. I dated him for eight years. We were broken up by the time we got pregnant. We tried to stay together for about a year after the kids. We’re cool though. It’s really nice. We have our jealousy still but we’re getting older. He has a girlfriend now and I’m like- she’s so much better for you. I can see it. It’s good.
OG: Do you mind if I ask you questions about being pregnant? Were you terrified?
NICOLE: Horrified. Sometimes I look back on it and I feel like I don’t even remember it. And I’m really good at being uncomfortable. My parents weren’t always super fit. I got really good at being uncomfortable and it’s been an issue for me and it’s been good too. When I found out initially I was going to get an abortion. I thought I was about six weeks pregnant- went in and they were like- you’re fourteen weeks pregnant and you’re having twins. So I just went home. I was like aright, I’m going to be a parent. I’m not a very sentimental person. I try to be practical. For some reason, I don’t know, I was like- yeah I’m going to do this. Six weeks and fourteen weeks is a big difference.
OG: Are your parents in a position where there’s a lot of caregiving- like, it’s equally important for you to be here not just for you but for them?
NICOLE: Absolutely. My brother too. He’s a saint. At twenty-four-years-old there are a lot of other things he could be doing with his time, but no. We run this household and I could not do it without him. I’ll cook stuff for my dad’s church parties- My mom’s really not there anymore (mentally).
OG: When did that happen?
NICOLE: I wanna say it happened when I went into middle school. We went to therapy for like ten years through the state and I remember she (the therapist) told us when we were little, she said, look- we’ve given all you guys IQ tests and here’s where your parents fall on the scale- borderline mentally retarded and here’s where you guys fall- don’t take advantage. It took me a little while to get that. I had crazy parties here when I was in eighth grade. I had to learn really young- are you gonna destroy your life and the lives of people around you? I just was lucky. Somehow in there my brain picked up on something and didn’t go that route.
OG: Do you have memories of being young and caring for your parents?
NICOLE: Absolutely. Like that feeling of being at Home Depot and my dad is getting so close to a guy’s face asking where something is in the store- people are so different and watching a guy react emotionally to my dad and not knowing how to handle him- or my dad having to ask a million questions at the bank and seeing them lose their patience. It really shaped who I am.
OG: What was your parent’s reaction to you having children?
NICOLE: They were terrified but I’ve been like that with them my whole life. I stir a lot up for them. It was just another thing.
OG: How has being a mom shifted things for you?
NICOLE: It’s huge. I had no structure growing up. Didn’t have to brush my teeth. Nothing. I liked that about my children’s dad. He would keep tabs on me. He was someone to answer to. Now my kids are that for me, but in a different way because I don’t resent them. It’s with love and care that I do those things to make our lives good. It’s the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me. I see them craving the things that I never got and I can use all of what I learned to now provide something for them. I still try and have the looseness because I learned so much. I try to still give them the freedom to learn but have that structure like – you do your homework before five and you brush your teeth every night.
OG: Did you feel struggle as a kid?
NICOLE: Yeah and it’s really stupid first-word stuff. But in a nice neighborhood- my grandparents helped us get this house- the kids around me at school had everything. I remember going on a field trip to the California Science Center and everyone was in line with their parents at McDonalds and we had like, really crappy packed sandwiches- grilled cheese wrapped in foil- don’t ever do that cus it gets really wet and gross- and I remember making eye contact with my brother and we were trying not to cry. Now of course I’ve come to terms- I’m like, you lucky bitch shut-up. You were at the California Science Center- you weren’t in the hood trying not to get shot!
OG: Have you always had an awareness that you had to stay here and help care for your parents?
NICOLE: It hit me in adulthood- especially after having the kids it hit me. And everyone benefits. We have the most flawed beautiful system here. I can’t imagine it any other way.
OG: What do you love about LA?
NICOLE: How many different stories there are. I like that it’s a melting pot. I live to hear all the different perspectives- see the bigger picture.
OG: What don’t you like about it?
NICOLE: Everyone wanting more. The media obsession. It makes me worried- the skewed perception.
OG: Do you ever feel ordinary?
NICOLE: Absolutely. Sometimes I’m embarrassed. I’m in LA with my electric guitar and paint and tattoos and I blog- fuck. It feels kind of silly sometimes. I think the key to that is- it’s yours. It’s my culture. I can’t deny that. I think it’s ok to be ordinary in a way. You’ve got a team. It’s like a family.
OG: What do you hope for your kids?
NICOLE: I want them to be able to accept things. I think that’s the biggest thing. If they could just learn to have a nice grasp and take things as they come- not be so quick to judge a situation. I hope that they can love themselves and take things as they come.
Thank you Nicole. For sharing your story, for inspiring me to be and do better, for working so hard to raise two good people, and working equally hard to be good yourself. You are truly extraordinary.
You can learn more about Nicole, her writing, and her variety of trades at nicolesetter.com
below- nicole in her backyard, in her bedroom with her pup, strolling the neighborhood, whispering a secret to her daughter revol (in an attempt to talk her into taking a photo) as her son dinan (totally game to be in a pic) watches and laughs, with a pile of the kids laundry, with dinan and revol (who finally agreed to be in a photo)
- Hamish Linklater listens to a talking moon in Miranda July’s The Future
I am a person of very large feelings and dramatic behaviors. Sometimes this combination gets me into trouble. As a child I would lay in bed when sent to my room, window slightly ajar, and through my tears call out to the neighbors, the world, anyone who might care- please. someone help me. they’re hurting me. Luckily for my parents, this never resulted in the authorities arriving at the front door. Unfortunately for me, the same didn’t hold true for my dramatic adulthood cries for help.
One of my lowest moments to date occurred on a Fourth of July in Los Angeles. I was in the midst of the world’s most lingering break-up from the world’s most toxic relationship (there’s that dramatic thing I was referring to), and had consumed more tequila infused with watermelon and pbr than my five foot frame could handle. The combination of alcohol and a west-side-story-style battle of the exes resulted in my leaving a party to find comfort on my apartment floor. I cried, and cried, and repeatedly called and texted my ex- as you do- while he continued to ignore- as they do.
As my big feelings spiraled, I closed out the night with a call threatening to end my life. I then put on a nightgown, and drunkenly passed out in bed.
I woke up to pounding on my door. When I opened it I found a cop. The ex had made a call. When I looked beyond the officer and down my front steps, I saw a yard filled with silent faces, all staring at my night-gowned mildly insane self. Did I mention that the party I had left was my neighbor’s and that it was occurring just outside my door? The cop asked if I’d threatened to kill myself and I mustered up every ounce of acting skill I’d developed in over-priced classes and answered, No.
I would love to say that the humiliation set me straight, but it did not. This was not the first, nor would it be the last time my big feelings sent me spiraling towards dramatic responses and a version of myself I didn’t care to recognize.
My thoughts about suicide were never pre-meditated and I never fully intended on acting out on them, however, feeling like you don’t want to live and announcing it to another person (even if mostly to get their attention) is certainly not a positive place to be.
I am not proud of these moments but they did teach me. Like a person who is sensitive to gluten learns to avoid pasta and beer, I am learning to be careful about what and who I bring into my life. An unhealthy and imbalanced relationship can set me off and lead me to feel like there is no point in carrying on.
Additionally, these moments, which once made me feel crazy and isolated, taught me empathy and provided connection. The more years I spend on the planet and the more people I talk to, the more I find that wishing life would end is a much more universal experience than I initially thought. Mark Twain wrote- But we are all insane, anyway… The suicides seem to be the only sane people.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I am in no way encouraging people to take their lives or spiral into a world of sadness. But I want to remove the shame surrounding these feelings.
My own mistakes have led to conversations with friends in which they quietly confess to having mornings they wished they wouldn’t wake up- wish it would all come to an end. My great-great-grandmother used to ask my mother to hit her over the head with a skillet- at ninety-two she had ‘earned’ the right to give up. When someone feels this way at twenty or thirty, we react with panic. I can’t explain the relief I hear in people’s voices when I tell them I think their feelings are normal. If we remove the shame, we can get help. We can move through our feelings and hopefully, move forward.
This leads me to a surprising conversation I had last week. I bumped into an acquaintance, someone I know from neighborhood strolls and coffee-shop run-ins only. I was grabbing a quick bite down the street and he sat to join me. As we chatted, he casually explained his lack of direction in life and some recent decisions he’d made that were fairly unconventional. When I asked what he planned to do next, he didn’t make a quiet confession and seemingly felt no shame as he explained that he was seriously considering ending his life before the new year.
I’m not a skilled enough writer to convey the directness, clarity, and intellect behind his argument. This was not a man crying for help or seeking understanding. It was a person who was no longer interested in living and felt very strongly that he need not wait until ninety-two to beg for a skillet- he believes he has earned the right at thirty-three.
As we calmly discussed the weight of his decision, the reasons he felt it was appropriate and the reasons I was concerned he may be making a mistake, I asked- what about the sky?
You see, in my lowest of lows, the stars, the moon, and most often the painted colors of an LA sunset have carried me through. Don’t get me wrong, the sky doesn’t erase my problems or take away my sadness, but when I take a moment to stare at its vastness and mystery, I become overwhelmed by its magic. For me, that is enough of a reason to get the help I need to carry on. I want as many days with that magic as I am given.
The kind acquaintance did not feel the same. In fact, he is quite different than me in that he doesn’t have big feelings at all. His emotions remain fairly neutral. Break-ups don’t send him into a lifeless panic. Sunsets do not elate him.
The acquaintance and I parted ways and I carried the conversation and concerns with me. A wrong turn and an unplanned freeway exit led me to a gorgeous sky somewhere in the deep valley. I took a photo- thinking I’d Facebook the man, naively hoping that an iPhone pic would will him to carry on. When I got home a few hours later the LA sky was giving one of it’s best shows- the kind that stops people in their tracks, makes passing strangers talk to one another in acknowledgement of beauty, and fills your instagram feed with colorful hues.
My heart raced a bit with manic hope. I grabbed my camera and stood on my car to capture an angle. I wandered down the block and stood in the middle of the street to get another, and then another. I walked quickly between shots. I had to show him.
I busted into the acquaintance’s place of business and urged him to come see. He followed me outside and I felt instant doubt. We were at a lower angle and the sun moves so quickly. The sky was pretty but not bust into someone’s business beautiful- and if it wasn’t worth busting into someone’s business, it certainly wouldn’t provide them with the will to live.
I found myself apologizing and flipping through photos on my borrowed cannon. It was… see… just a minute ago… if we just went a little further up the block…
But we didn’t. We stayed where we were. He was kind and gracious and laughed it off, and then we parted ways.
As I walked home, the sun set behind me and in front of me there was nothing but gray. People who were leaving work or finishing up their errands would never know what had happened just moments before. I realized I can’t make the sky enough for someone- it changes too quickly. One person may never see what another saw. The magic of a sunset is all in the timing.
I want as many days with that magic as I am given.
- While I do believe depression and the feeling of not wanting to live is not shameful or unique, I do not believe sunsets alone can fix things. If you are depressed or suicidal, please seek counsel, talk to loved ones, or call the suicide hotline- I have used each of these valuable resources.
I know it’s been nearly three years since her final episode, but sometimes I still I miss her voice filling my living room at three o’clock. I miss a good Oprah cry. I miss her life-lessons, her confidence, her seasonal hair changes and her weight fluctuations.
When someone is as powerful as Oprah, it’s easy to think of them as some sort of mythical creature. Oprah the unicorn. Then it hits me. Oprah is a human. How has one human done so much good shit?!
I say a lot that being a person is hard, and it most certainly is, but sometimes I get lost in this idea and spiral into self-pitty. I forget that in addition to being complicated, being a person is amazing. People are capable of so much.
Oprah Winfrey is clearly brilliant and talented, but she was also just an ordinary girl. She took power over her life, and has left a mark on the world, history, and the spirits of millions.
On this Follower Friday-
listen to the stories of people you meet, ask the universe to show you all you’re capable of, start to tap into your true potential, “live you best life,”
then get a new hairstyle, expand your shoe collection and buy some spanx,
IT’S FRIDAY- BE MORE LIKE OPRAH
the Oprah finale is filled with lots of mega sappy moments and epic inspiration. just play it in the background while you clean your house or something. you’ll feel all tingly and ready to take on the world. it’s way better than church
Jenna Brister is magical, hilarious, and has flowy mermaid hair. It comes as no surprise that she’s been asked out on way more dates that me. Being the babe many-a-dude fancies has it’s highs and lows. In today’s You’re Doing a Really Good Job, Jenna has ten dating tips for the Ordinary Dude.
1. Own a Pair of Sweats- When I’m leaping out of your bed in an early morning hangover panic, rushing to move my car to avoid a street sweeping ticket, I obviously don’t want to put on last night’s dress and heels. PRESSED KHAKIS are not what you should be offering me. Nor are they an appropriate style of leisure wear.
2. A Surprise Should Be Fun, Not Scary- When you tell me to get extra dressed up for a surprise date downtown, take me on an ACTUAL date, not an appointment in a sketchy highrise to exchange your gold bars for cash.
3. I’m Not Your Tutor- Your longboard is sexy, as is your desire to night swim in the pacific ocean, but when you come over after class and ask me to proofread your psych essay because I’m a “wise, older woman” I’m reminded that you’re twenty two. The fantasy dies immediately and I feel like a perv slash predator.
4. Hold Me for a Minute- Immediately after you finish. Hug me. Even if you’re all sweaty. Then wait at least a 60 seconds before whispering in my ear – “Do you like John Mayer?” If I don’t respond and have been searching your floor for my earrings- DON’T start playing one of his obscure ballads.
5. Utilize Goodwill- Donate any and all female clothing that turns up in your laundry. I have never owned a pale pink shirt with a horse on it. I wouldn’t dream of wearing orange socks. Do not ask if these are mine. I thought you said this was exclusive?
6. Pre-Plan Your Compliments- Telling a girl that her “lower body has the perfect female physique” is a bitch slap to her upper body and you will never be inside that lower body again. Asshole.
7. Calm The Fuck Down- You’re excited to be with a new lady. I appreciate that, but if you keep calling me “new vagina” before bringing me to climax I’m going to kick you out of my bed even if you are my first black man and it’s election night.
8. Train Your Pets- Dogs like panties. My once-lacy purple underwear are no more.”He must also like the way you taste” is not a training tactic. I’m barfing in my mouth.
9. Put Your Phone Away- A naked girl is in your bed! Who gives a fuck that you matched a row of 5 speckled bonus pieces in Candy Crush?
10. Some Fetishes Should Remain a Secret- I would LOVE that you’re into Asians… if I was Asian.
Jenna will be hosting her show The Chatterbox at The Improv in Hollywood this Sunday night, November 24th, at 9:30pm. Click HERE for more information and to purchase tickets. Use the coupon code HOLLER and tickets are only $5.
the holidays are just around the bend. soon you’ll head home to see your family. perhaps you’re eager to see your loved ones- perhaps you’re dreading it. either way, you already know there will be a moment when you’ll go crazy. perhaps it won’t be your family that leads you there- perhaps the moment will come when you’re running last minute errands for your mother at the local grocery, local meaning it’s the only grocery in town. sifting through bruised sweet potatoes, you’ll look up to see your high school lover. he ended up marrying one of your bitter rivals soon after you left him and your small town for bigger things. she clings to his arm possessively. thoughts of what might have been spin through your head as you join your family at the holiday table later that afternoon. your father is chugging bad beer and going on and on about obamacare and gun control. normally you would argue and possibly make a scene, but not today. today, you’ll take the high road. besides, you already know how this conversation will turn out and you’re not sure you have the energy to recover. your mother starts to argue with him and you let them talk as you reflekt. have you made the right choices? was there a better way? a feeling of sorrow washes over you as you sit trapped between two worlds. you wish you had a boyfriend with you, or friend, or your dog who’s spending his holiday in an over priced doggy-day-care on the east side. you need a comrade. defeated and full of the most fat and hydrogenated oil you’ve encountered in months, you head to your childhood bedroom and put in head phones. you listen to music that reminds you of home, your new home, and you remember what your guru taught you- you are your no.1 priority. maybe that’s a selfish way to live, but you don’t care. selfish or not, it’s yours. and just like that, the stress melts away, and things feel easy.
- i promise never to make up a cheesy story based off of the track titles from a play list ever again.