The Beginner’s Guide to Surviving a Show Alone

Photo by Margaret Murphy

Photo by Margaret Murphy

You’re favorite artist is finally, finally coming to town. You buy your ticket, body pounding with excitement, and suddenly your heart sinks when you realize the show is on a Tuesday night; and absolutely none of your friends will want to go with you.

If you’re a huge live music fan, you’ve inevitably been faced with this situation. Your friends will offer a bevy of excuses for why they can’t go to the show with you: I have a HUGE meeting the next morning, I don’t like them enough to be tired at work the next day, I have a birthday party that night, I have to feed my neighbor’s cat, I hate your face and I just don’t want to go. All perfectly valid excuses.

So, what do you do? Going to a show alone must be so awkward, right?

Well, I’ve conducted that social experiment for you, and the answer is no, no it’s not awkward — actually, it’s quite enjoyable. I had always avoided going to shows by myself for fear of being preyed upon by boys in their mid- to late-twenties still acting like douchey frat stars who potentially have Rohypnol in their pocket. But I really wanted to see Milky Chance at the 9:30 Club on Wednesday night, so I decided to fly solo.

I learned many things during my two-hour date with myself, but most importantly, I figured out exactly how to go to a show alone and still have an awesome time:

1) Go get yourself a drink

Please note, ‘a drink’. As in, get yourself ONE drink. As you walk into the venue you’ll likely feel a little awkward and insecure. After all, you aren’t rolling up with a squad that affirms how awesome you are. So, proceed to the bar and get yourself a bevy. Having something in your hand will make you feel less fidgety and having booze in your system will make you feel more at ease with your solo situation. Treat yo-self.

2) Do not keep buying yourself drinks

This is very important. Don’t be that guy/girl in the back drunk all by yourself. You may think you’re just “doing you,” but you’re wrong.  It’s never a good look. Ever.

3) Put your phone away

I know, I know. Your phone is your security blanket. When it’s in your hand you feel warm and complete. Put it away. Bury it deep in your purse or pocket and don’t take it out again unless you want to take a sweet photo of the show. You may think that being on your phone constantly makes you look less awkward, but actually the opposite is true. If you’re at an amazing show and you’re just on your phone the entire time, you look like the lame person who came to a show and isn’t in the moment, which draws very negative attention to yourself.

4) Be friendly and social

This is one of those moments where basic lessons you learned in Kindergarten, like be nice and don’t judge people, are probably most applicable. If someone is kind enough to chat with you, don’t be dismissive or treat he/she like a creeper. You’re the one at a show by yourself. That being said, if as you speak to said person you realize that he/she may be a serial stalker, feel free to excuse yourself to “use the bathroom.”

5) Move around

One of the best parts about going to a show by yourself is that you have the ability to freely move about the venue without worrying about anybody else’s whereabouts. Everyone has that annoying friend who wants to be as close to the stage as possible or has to pee every 20 minutes (guilty), but when you’re on your own you can pretty much migrate as frequently, or infrequently, as you want. I watched Milky Chance from probably ten different vantage points in the 9:30 Club and it was AWESOME. Plus, the more you move, the more people you’ll interact with. Making it easier to make new friends.

6) Make concert buddies

That is, if you want to. If you’d rather hang out and enjoy the show all on your own, do you. I like making concert friends, even if the friendship only lasts an hour. Most people attending shows are very social and chatty. Remember, these are people who voluntarily paid to be inside a crowded room with other people’s sweat likely pressed up against their bodies — they are not recluses.

7) Remember that nobody cares

This is the single most important thing to keep in mind. I know this concept is difficult to absorb because in our own minds we are the center around which the universe revolves. But seriously, truly, really, nobody gives a shit about the fact that you’re at a show alone — because absolutely nobody is paying attention to you. So relax and dance as if nobody’s watching (because they aren’t).


If you aren’t familiar with Milky Chance, you should be! They’re an awesome German band comprised of Clemens Rehbein and Philipp Dausch, two friends who met in high school and have been making dope music together ever since. Their debut album “Sadnecessary” was released in October 2013 in Germany and one year later in the U.S. Their music fuses the singer-songwriter spirit with upbeat electronic sound — the result is deeply sentimental music that you can seriously groove to.

At one point in time during their show on Wednesday night, just before they played “Loveland,” Clemens and Philipp joyfully asked the crowd, “Is anyone in here tonight in love?” which incited an enthusiastic response from the crowd. Though I couldn’t myself scream and cheer in response, I loved that the band was so in touch with the subject they sing about with such emotion and conviction. That’s what makes them so special. The sincerity of sentiment wrapped in an upbeat package that makes you feel like you can dance through your troubles, until you finally find yourself dancing with the person you love.

The Most Important Lessons I Learned From Being Unemployed

Photo by Margaret Murphy

Photo by Margaret Murphy

As far back as I can remember, the people whose opinions I value most have always told me that life is filled with unexpected events we can’t anticipate. No matter how intently we plan for the future and build a strong sense of security, the safety net we create for ourselves can vanish — leaving us free falling through the unknown. That zone of unfamiliarity can be financial, emotional, spiritual, even all of the above, as we navigate an uncomfortable change in the state of our day to day lives.

Last November, I was called into an abrupt meeting on the first floor of our company’s headquarters. The Google Calendar invite simply read “meeting” and the guest list was hidden. None of it felt right, and my stomach started to churn with anxiety. I made my way into the conference room and looked around — at least 30 of my coworkers, some of them great friends, all sat patiently, nervously chatting and evaluating the scene. Once everyone was accounted for, our department head wasted no time with idle statements and simply said, “the company is undergoing a restructuring effort, and your positions have been eliminated.”

Ouch.

The company had been in a precarious state for quite some time, but I never imagined my position to be in danger. After all, I was a writer, the site couldn’t function without content, and our team was already stretched thin. The entire scenario felt so reminiscent of being dumped out of nowhere, for no reason by some ungrateful bro — I was nothing but nice to you and did everything right, how is this happening? I felt angry, betrayed, and, most annoyingly, duped. I woke up the next day and realized that for an indefinite period of time, my life was going to feel very unsettled.

One 15-minute meeting transformed my thriving lifestyle. Several years of living as a totally independent, self-sustaining woman vanished as I burned through my savings and turned to my mother (and the government) for financial support. This was my first experience falling through the foundation I had built for myself to stand on. It felt like a huge failure — and as I was living that sense of failure, it was impossible to objectively assess the positives of the situation.

Now that I’m once again employed, I was able to think back on those days spent floating through my apartment like a ghost. Some of these thoughts are helpful should you find yourself unemployed, and others are more universal in their applicability. I hope they’ll provide some guidance, if ever you feel like you need it.

Ignore the Peanut Gallery

A lot of people will have opinions on your situation, and because they care about you they’ll want to help by vocalizing their thoughts. Some of this advice will be fantastic, but most of it will just add to the noise already rumbling through your mind. It’s hard enough to make sense of your own thoughts when you’re in a vulnerable situation, you don’t need to absorb those of other people into the existing chaos. You’ll know a nugget of wisdom when you hear one — tune everything else out and focus inwards.

Do the Things You Love

Okay, if you love going to Neiman Marcus and spending a fortune on designer pieces, you should definitely stop doing so. But when you’re generally feeling a bit down, you shouldn’t let a little financial or emotional snafu keep you from doing things that make you smile. Love working up a sweat at the gym? Cancel that expensive membership and go for runs outside instead. Can’t get enough live music? Substitute expensive arena shows with performances at smaller venues. You don’t have to give up your hobbies now that you’re on a budget, you just need to find creative ways to continue doing the things you love.

Get Up and Get Dressed

Once your days just filter one into the next without any sense of structure, it’s easy to let yourself go. Don’t. At one point in time while I was unemployed, I realized I hadn’t put real pants on in three days. This was an eye opening moment. That magical feeling you get staying in your jammies until 2 in the afternoon on a Saturday is not at all the same as the lethargic sense of total laziness you will feel doing so on a Tuesday because you don’t have a job. Even if you have no plans for the day, put on some real clothes. It’ll put you in a better state of mind and ultimately motivate you to be more productive.

Lean On Your Loved Ones, Don’t Suffocate Them

In times of crisis, it’s completely encouraged to lean on friends and family for support. However, that does not give you the right to make your issues their issues. There is never an excuse for making every conversation all about you and wallowing to your loved ones to the point of bringing them down. When you start to sense that you may be transferring your negative emotions to those around you, it’s time to seclude yourself and work through the issues, on your own or with a professional. Your friends and family will always love and help you, but they aren’t your personal therapists. Don’t treat them as such.

Spend Time Outside

There’s a reason brilliant people like Henry David Thoreau looked for solace in the arms of nature — we have a strong connection to the lush environments that dwell beyond bright lights and concrete. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of an outdoorsy person, a simple stroll through a large, open park on a beautiful day can do wonders to clear your head. We’re often so distracted by the noise and vivacity of city life that we ignore our natural need to quiet the mind and soul. Nourish that need and you’ll reap its invigorating results.

Keep Your Chin Up

It’s so easy to let the frustration of a setback get the best of you, but it’s always important to remember that your situation isn’t permanent. Yes, in that moment, everything sucks. You feel like the world has unjustly sought you out and punished you for reasons you can’t fathom. But there will be plenty of small victories along the way, like landing a phone call, making an exciting contact, or nailing an interview. Be your own cheerleader! Ride the momentum of those small but meaningful successes, and keep your chin up. The next great thing WILL come, even though sometimes it feels like it’s not coming fast enough.

Like my mom always told me,this isn’t a failure, it’s a door waiting to be opened.

#FashionFriday: New Year’s Resolutions for Your Closet & the First Weekend Mini Mix of 2015

We may only be two weeks into the new year, but I already feel like 2015 is filled with prospects for growth and happiness. After spending three weeks basking in the glow of Miami’s delicious weather and vibrant atmosphere, I came back to DC excited for what’s to come over the next 11.5 months. There’s nothing like 85 degree weather to really brighten up your perception of the world – especially when cold winter days await for the next two to three months. I shiver at the very thought.

As is almost always the case this time of year, my social media feeds have been flooded with typical New Year’s resolution fodder. Everything from January detox diets to inspirational declarations to completely futile statements have made their way to my news feed in one way or another. It’s certainly the time of year that prompts us all to re-evaluate our typical behaviors and habits, in the hopes of identifying and modifying those least beneficial to our lives.

That being said, not all resolutions need to redefine the course of your existence. Sometimes the smallest changes end up contributing the most positive effects on our everyday lives. Which is why I think today’s segment will be particularly helpful for those of you who don’t want to make a grand declaration for 2015.

Any of my friends will testify to the fact that I am an obsessively organized human (to the point where it may even borderline qualify as OCD, as opposed to just attention to detail) ESPECIALLY when it comes to my closet. I don’t expect anyone to follow my lead in microfolding or organizing by color, cut, and style, but purging your closet and figuring out an organizing system that works for you personally can help you feel much happier about the state of your home. For that reason, here are my 2015 New Year’s resolutions for your closet:

1) Buy space-saving hangers

Hey, absolutely nobody is judging you. I’ve had periods of time in my life where every single one of my hangers was either from the dry cleaning business around the corner or found in some corner of my childhood home. But the truth is you’re wasting a lot of valuable space with bulky hangers and potentially ruining your clothes by leaving them wrapped in dry cleaning plastic for too long. So, head to Amazon or your local target where you can buy great, thin space-saving hangers in bulk. Your small closet and silk blouses will ultimately thank you.

2) Treat your nice things kindly

As soon as things get a little hectic with life and work, it’s normal to let simple tasks (like putting your clothes away) fade into a distant memory. So instead of driving yourself insane attempting to keep absolutely everything in its right place, try to take better care of your higher-end pieces. If you have a sequined dress snagging the fabric of the items on either side of it, place it in a garment bag. Those beautiful pumps and purses you spent a small fortune on? Store them in dust bags to keep them looking perfect. These small efforts will reward you in the long run by keeping your nicest items looking their best, extending the lifetime of your investments.

3) Stop buying things you don’t love

This is a lot easier said than done. Sometimes you really just feel like buying something for the sake of that little high you get every time you swipe your credit card and take home a new item. Don’t. Stop it right now. Wonderful as it may feel in the moment, you ultimately end up hoarding things you never really wanted or needed in the first place. As you’re analyzing an item you think you want, give some strong consideration to the following questions: Where will I wear this? How frequently will I wear this? Do I already own an item very similar to this? Will I feel the harsh pang of devastation if I walk away from this? If after answering those four questions you conclude that it’ll add significant value to your closet, go forth and purchase. But otherwise, leave that dead weight item behind!

4) Purge

Hoarding is bad. I don’t care how sentimental a piece of clothing is or how aggressively you cling to the notion that ONE DAY you’ll wear it. If something has been sitting in your closet for 6 months without ever being worn (gowns, interview suits, bikinis are exempt) there’s a 99% chance you’re always going to pass on wearing it — because you don’t really love it. I personally purge constantly. I like keeping my closet as minimal as possible! But if you don’t innately love to throw things away, start slow. Purge your closet every six months of those items you know deep, deep down you’re never going to wear. Donate them to Goodwill, consign them to a local re-sale boutique, or sell them yourself online. In the end, having a closet filled with carefully-chosen items you love is way better than holding on to tons of meh items taking up precious space.

5) Organize your clothes your own way

There is no one specific way to organize your clothes that’s better than the rest. Some people, like yours truly, create elaborate categories (and even sub-categories) within their closet. Long-sleeved dresses| Short sleeved dresses| Skirts| Formal pants| Dark jeans| Bright Jeans| Silk blouses| Party shirts| Etc.| Etc.It seems crazy to some people, but it works perfectly for me. The most important thing is to come up with a system that you think you’ll actually stick to. Even if that just means picking your stuff up off the floor and finally putting it away – that’s a great place to start.


 

Weekend Mini Mix 1/16/2015

#FashionFriday: Skin Essentials for the Cold Days Ahead & Weekend Mini Mix

Photo by Margaret Murphy

Photo by Margaret Murphy – Click to See More of Her Amazing Work!

There are so many wonderful things about this time of year – bright lights strung high above busy streets, holiday sales well under way, and plenty of excuses to pull the most dapper looks from your closet. But in this Floridian’s opinion, one thing consistently proves itself to be a huge nuisance. I’m not talking snow, sleet, or polar vortex temps, but rather their harsh effects on skin.

As a kid I struggled with a lot of different skin issues. Cystic acne, stubborn blackheads, and awful scarring defined my teen years. Having tried every product imaginable, including prescription grade, my dermatologist finally suggested the controversial Accutane treatment. It was, for lack of a more creative description, a miracle drug. My face and back cleared up completely, and I set sail for Georgetown feeling good about my skin for the first time in my life. This triumphant feeling was very short lived.

From freezing wind blasting my face to itchy sweaters aggravating the mild psoriasis on my arms, I realized that winter weather was going to kick my fair-feathered booty. I was hesitant to change my skincare routine, which had been working so well up until the cold descended upon DC, and clung to my habits obsessively. It wasn’t until I went to get a facial at Hela Spa in Georgetown two years ago that I was made to see the error of my ways. Caitlin, now affectionately referred to as my Skin Savior, explained that no matter how oily I believed my skin to be, consistent hydration is a must. I was terrified of breaking out again, images of my pimpled teenage face re-traumatizing me, but it didn’t turn out to be the case at all.

Now I’m frequently on the hunt for the best moisturizers to use during this frigid season. If you’re having trouble figuring out which ones would work best for you, these are my current favorites. Some of them are a bit expensive, but when you’re putting something on your face it should always be high quality. Click on the images and you’ll be redirected to the sites where you can snag these necessities!

As always, scroll to the bottom of the page for the Friday mini mix!

SkinMedica Ultra Sheer Moisturizer

SkinMedica Ultra Sheer Moisturizer

Perfect for: sensitive skin, combination skin

Best quality: lightweight, non-greasy formula can be applied multiple times a day

Clinique Moisture Surge

Clinique Moisture Surge

Perfect for: all skin types

Best Quality: soothing gel-cream formula replenishes skin with 24 hours of hydration

Fresh Seaberry Moisturizing Face Oil

Fresh Seaberry Moisturizing Face Oil

Perfect for: dry skin

Best quality: fast-absorbing oil treatment is packed with restorative omegas and Vitamin E

Kiehl's Creme D'Elegance

Kiehl’s Creme D’Elegance

Perfect for: dry skin

Best quality: nourishing treatment penetrates deep below the surface of the skin

Caudalie Premier Cru La Creme Riche

Caudalie Premier Cru La Creme Riche

Perfect for: all skin types

Best quality: high-performance active ingredients correct signs of aging, ultra-rich formula leaves the skin radiant and hydrated


 

Fashion Friday: The First Date (You too, Dudes!) & Weekend Mini Mix

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriends and I were talking about the simultaneous excitement and anxiety that accompanies the anticipation of a first date. Staring into her closet, Nicole contemplated outfit options as I sat on her bed eating pita chips supporting or vetoing the items. We couldn’t stop cracking each other up as we revisited tales of dating trial and tribulation, which got progressively more comical as the wine bottle diminished. She was hitting the town to meet up with a cutie and, as always, the question of “what do I wear?” was of utmost importance.

It was at this moment that I confessed the very point of this post to Nicole: I’ve worn the same outfit, with minor tweaks based on seasonality, on almost every single date I’ve had the honor or horror to attend. “You only need one!” I insisted, “It’s not like future suitors will be alerted.” She laughed at my explanation, but I stand by my philosophy! Either you’ll go out with someone again and change it up, or you’ll never hear from him/her again and the next guy/girl will have absolutely no way of knowing you’re in a first date uniform. Fact. So why drive yourself crazy planning or buying something new? Tried and true is always best.

There are many reasons I stand by this way of thinking. Primarily that it eliminates the stress associated with the question “what should I wear?” because you’ll know exactly what you’re going to sport and that you look amazing in it. But also because it eliminates the potential for Doing the Most. It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard thrown around a lot, but in this context it’s of extreme importance. Why? Because trying too hard (i.e. Doing the Most) is frowned upon on a first date. And if you don’t frown upon it, you may want to reconsider your point of view. Ideally, you want to convey a sense of  great personal style without the perception that it’s extensively crafted. Doing the Most propels an image of insecurity and overcompensation. Neither of which is attractive to a relative stranger. Refined simplicity will help you proudly present yourself to someone for the first time.

Whether you’re meeting the girl you met at your favorite bar last weekend or the guy who prompted you to “swipe right” and won you over with a clever pun, you want your clothes to convey who you are without becoming the focal point of your personality, because that’s what the art of conversation is for. Striking that balance can feel challenging, which is why I’m sharing my date uniform template as a great starting point for putting yours together.

Date Night: Women

                         
The beauty of this outfit is in its simplicity. From coffee dates to drinks to dinner, this ensemble is perfect for most first date occasions. You can’t go wrong with a sexy flowing blouse over a pair of jeans that fit just right. Give yourself a little height with a pair of booties, but try to stay away from an extreme stiletto heel unless you’re going somewhere upscale. Incorporate a statement piece like your favorite necklace, big earrings, or a fab scarf to inject your personal style into the look.  It’s effortlessly cool without sacrificing a fierce sense of style. Don’t forget to throw your favorite essentials into your bag — signature scent and lip color, mandatory!
Date Night: Gents
     
Men, there is no excuse for laziness! Especially since it’s so easy for you to look put together. Impress your date with a pair of perfectly-cut jeans like these from Rag & Bone. Don’t be afraid of a straight leg silhouette, they flatter your legs (and butt!) more than boot cut and look more dapper. There’s nothing more important than fit, so go the extra mile to find pants that are actually the correct size! Ditch sneakers or boat shoes for a pair of leather desert boots. Keep it simple up top with a button-down/sweater combo — but add some visual interest with a pattern, a plain sweater is a little too boring. Fun socks are always a plus in my book, so don’t be shy about adding a pop of color to the ensemble.

Got an exciting date planned for this weekend? Here’s a mini mix to rock out to:

First #FashionFriday Post: Dealing with a Bad Purchase (Plus a Weekend Mini Mix!)

As naturally flawed beings, it’s generally accepted that occasionally we’ll fail in spectacular fashion — whether it’s in life, love, work, or just about any other facet of our existence. Sometimes those experiences begin as something wonderful, making the slow decline into failure all the more difficult to stomach and accept. This is a situation I found myself in recently. When after fighting my feelings for weeks, insisting that my love could conquer any obstacle, I came to terms with the fact that I was in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with a pair of Chloé boots.

IMG_4225

Let’s backtrack a few weeks. I was casually perusing the racks of my favorite consignment store when suddenly, in what can only be described as a dreamlike sequence, a pair of leather thigh-high lace-up Chloé boots beckoned me over. “Please be my size, please be my size,” I chanted. And as divine intervention would so have it, they were indeed my size. I threw my shoes off with the enthusiasm of a teenager about to get laid for the first time and carefully slid into the boots. As fellow shoppers cooed at the fabulousness of these shoes I knew they had to be mine. They were, in my completely deluded mind, an absolute steal at $275 (retail tag two grand!). I pranced out of the store feeling elated and giddy, another successful high-end snag.

I was beyond excited to wear them to dinner and bar hopping a few nights later, I was smiling ear to ear as I put my outfit together. And just as I emerged from my building, pep in my step, feeling like Rihanna, things got weird. The boots had already started falling below my thighs, awkwardly lingering and drooping around my knees. Uh Oh. Things only got worse as the night progressed. I found myself hunched over, pulling them up every ten minutes. My friend Nicole joked that I looked like I was about to pop a squat in the middle of the sidewalk (sexy, eh?). By the time I got home, the boots were scrunched up around my ankles and I was cursing the runway gods. My new favorite purchase had betrayed me.

Though upset, I was still committed to making these boots work. A few days later I tried again. Using tape usually reserved for keeping risqué tops in place, I lined the insides of the boots and firmly pressed them into my pants. I triumphantly walked into the office, boots still in place. Mutual love finally existed! That bond was short lived and by 1 p.m. the tape had completely disintegrated, creating a sticky gum-like mess I didn’t even know how to clean up. I once again found myself with my boots around my ankles, growing even more frustrated. I went on to try all sorts of wacky tactics – safety pinning the boots to my jeans, using rubber bands to keep them up, tying them so tight they cut off my circulation, and even using metal rods to try to keep them in place. I once tied them so tightly around my legs that when I took them off a few hours later my legs were aggressively bruised at 4 inch intervals from my thighs to my ankles. These boots were kicking my ass.

At some point we’ve all experienced an epic retail fail like this. And if you’ve been fortunate enough to dodge this event, I promise it will happen eventually. It’s heartbreaking to realize you’ve made a mistake that cost you money, time, and a good chunk of sanity. The good news? I’ve come up with a five-step process for evaluating your retail boo boo and acting on it:

1) Evaluate the situation: Have things really escalated to the point where nothing can be done to salvage this purchase? If at any point in time dealing with this item you found yourself a) borderline screaming b) softly sobbing or c) incapable of talking to friends about anything else – the answer is yes, yes they have.

2) Accept that you made an egregious mistake: Much like someone with an addiction of some sort, this is the point in time where you stop making excuses and embrace the error of your actions. You had a Tiger Woods moment. You were swayed by the prospect of something beautiful that you probably should have just left alone. And now you have to pay for it.

3) Prep for separation: Having accepted your mistake, this is the period where you start to gather yourself and think like a businesswoman (or businessman, don’t pretend you’re immune from bad purchases). If you’ve worn the item, make sure you spruce it up and make it look as pristine as possible. If you still have tags, receipts, authentication cards, dust bags, or anything else the item came with, those will all be immensely helpful in assuring potential buyers that what you have is legit. Do a little online research to find out if the item is still being sold in stores, determine how much it’s selling for, and assess its popularity. Note: this is all assuming an item is non-returnable, obviously if you’ve never worn it just take it back.

4) Get rid of the item: Sure, you can let it sit around the house taunting you indefinitely with the prospect that maybe one day things will work out between the two of you. They won’t. If it’s a reasonably expensive item that someone else would want, try to sell it online yourself (most profitable outcome). Ebay is great, but finding sites that are more niche will yield a better financial outcome. Take high-quality photos in good light from a variety of angles and try to find a photo online of the item on a model. If that sounds like way too much effort, take your item to a consignment store, some will even give you cash upfront. You won’t make back all your money, but at least some of the financial guilt will dissipate.

5) Understand that this will happen again: see paragraph #1.

I still haven’t sold my boots, but I’m working on it! In the meantime, I’m just going to keep jamming out to this week’s mix and assuring myself that I’ll soon be rid of my most recent fashion mistake.