Getting Married Is An Accomplishment

I disagree with Natalie Brooke’s recent piece in the Huffington Post. Beyond the hallucious writing style, I think she embodies exactly what makes most women feel horrible about themselves vis-à-vis romantic relationships, whether they’re in one or not. Let me start from the beginning. Brooke recently got engaged, and it’s clear that her views on marriage and her upcoming wedding is quite conventional in that she states although she does not think getting married is an accomplishment, it “is absolutely a huge event, and it’s so very exciting to find your ‘other half'” (just add a PSL).

What’s more, Brooke gets on her soap box and says that now she’s got the ring — lest she be called embittered — she feels at liberty to speak the gospel that “getting married should never be put in a higher regard than the academic and professional successes that women work hard to attain.” 

I think that getting married is an accomplishment. 

You win the game of life. The way I see it, I was going to succeed on my own, even if I died alone. What marriage means to me is that I get to build the world the way I want it to be by furthering my genes, propagating my values, and propelling them into the future long after I’m gone. I think that’s a hugely important responsibility that one should be proud of and that others should revere.

More importantly for this argument, getting married doesn’t have to not be an accomplishment. Even in the face of any academic or professional triumphs. The fact of the matter is, I’d like to say that there’s a lot more to me than either a ring or a brain. I’ve got both. Deal with it. I’m proud of each and I’m not going to apologize for any of it. I’m certainly not going to put anyone down for it. 

This is where Brooke really gets me. She’s made it clear that she finally “has it all” and considers getting engaged as an anointing of power and insight to dole out advice. “The built-in vapidity, the vagueness with which ‘having it all’ specifies everything and therefore nothing,” (Szalai, 2015, The New York Times) leaves just enough room for everyone to hate themselves, no matter what they actually have or where they actually stand. 

To me, getting married is a serious project, not a piece of jewelry and bragging rights. I treated my engagement like I do when I consult for early-stage startups and our wedding as our launch party. I continue to run my household accordingly with budgets, goal setting, and follow-up discussions. This might sound joyless to someone who mindlessly goes into a marriage and blithely believes it’s what they deserve, but I think that’s the most dangerous place to be and the reason why there are so many divorces. The notion that we’re just supposed to be happy, that life is meant to be fun, can be very disappointing and at least, much less rewarding. 


Career Chronicles (part 2: Putting the Start in Startups–Boston, MA)

This is the story of my first brush with the #startuplife (and how it almost put me off that cray shit forever…and how it actually didn’t).

Back in 2010, a month shy of finishing up my undergrad, I figured I should probably start thinking about the next step. Since September, everyone around me had been working on securing those few, coveted positions at those places or preparing to go to graduate schools. It was April, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

I knocked around the internet for a while, asking Google what it thought I should do with a Sociology major. It was terrifying–even the brightest, most ambitious students were having a tough time getting a job. That senior semester, I delighted heavily in distractions in attempts to mitigate the fear of moving on. I had coasted blissfully through my liberal arts experience, passing by departments and picking a fruit or two from the abundant trees. It was safe that nobody was going to accuse me of taking it all too seriously.

I came across a job posting for what sounded like a marketing position for what looked like a fun, “dynamic,” small company (I couldn’t quite understand why martial arts skills were listed under required). I clearly didn’t know a thing about startups. What I didn’t know then was: this startup had, a few months prior, raised a healthy round of Series B funding from Google, having clearly met with some success and was positioning to scale.

Well, that’s what 2015 Claire knows and knows how to find out. The me five years ago had never heard of CrunchBase and hardly considered even giving it a good Google search. I sent out my resume and recommendations and heard back a few days later for a phone call. I successfully convinced a perky woman on the other end of the call that I was articulate and energetic and sufficiently not psychotic, so they invited me in for an interview. It was a simple sales pitch. I spent a few minutes going over the materials they had sent me and collected some courage.

I drove over and waltzed into the spiffy office. I honestly didn’t realize that other candidates would be there when I arrived, but somehow I wasn’t thrown. There were some impressive people in the room: a handsome Harvard grad student, obviously a few ambitious, Asian Ivy Leaguers, a few guys from sturdy state schools, and little ol’ me. I don’t actually remember any other females, although I’m sure there ought to have been one or two from Tufts or somewhere like that.

There was also another person in the room. We were told to come comfortably as ourselves, but this chick was a bit too far out there, especially in a room full of kids who came in suits anyway. I think I was naive enough to actually take the advice and wore jeans, which probably inadvertently worked out well for me.

This girl had come running in after we had all arrived. She was late and frantic. She was wearing something that seemed like it was from Spencer’s at the mall, half toddler Halloween costume, half college geek. I didn’t buy it. It reeked of some kind of stunt. I watched as people reacted to her. She was chatty to the point of nails-on-the-chalkboard annoying, and it was equal parts funny and uncomfortable to watch the more anxious kids get agitated. Some even told her not-so-politely to leave them alone. They were trying to be serious.

Others simply ignored her, turning away. I opened to the opportunity. I kindly tried to help her calm down, asked some questions about where she was from and how she came to be late. I even asked where she got some of her unique articles of clothing. Most of the other kids were cramming or trying to calm themselves down. I didn’t get why everyone was so stressed. I had written and memorized a script and had the confidence to rely on the fact that I’m a quick study and could rattle off the factoids and numbers they had provided for me in the interview invite e-mail. I also knew my personality would help drive the sale.

The others looked at me like I was crazy. I knew what they were thinking, “What if someone is watching? Why would you want to be seen associating with the psycho?” I knew what they didn’t, somehow. They were already watching. In particular, she was the one watching. The interview started in the waiting room and I was winning this round.

The pitch went fine. I was adequately adorable and ambitious enough to win a second interview. (I also honestly didn’t know there were multiple rounds of interviews). I came back and the funny girl wasn’t there. I sized up the remaining candidates. Only one of the Asians, the Harvard grad student, and me. This time I hadn’t been given any instructions. I was set up for a “situation” which I considered to be an opportunity to show my “problem solving skills.”

I tanked it. They sat me down in a room and yelled at me for 20 minutes with a timer in front of me and everything–high pressure. I didn’t have the experience or poise to pull it off. Hey, it was my first “real” interview. I totally think I cried after. Who would want to be so mean and why would I ever want to work for a group of those kind of people?

I sometimes check to see what the startup has been up to. They’ve since repositioned. I think things are going well? Even if they aren’t, things are going well for me. It was not until later that I grasped the whole thing. I took me a while to learn what I had learned and to finally love startups, but I’m so glad I’m not one to be easily scared off from something, or anything.

After getting some travel miles in, coming back to NYC to dig my teeth into a few startups, despairing in that and joining the corporate struggle, despairing in that, and then coming back around again, I am so glad for my first experience with a startup.

Here’s a list of things I learned:

1. It’s totally OK and probably better not to take yourself too seriously, even if everyone else around you is freaking out. Be brave and do YOU, because it’s super boring and inauthentic to do anything else.

2. Know what it is, very seriously, what you do well. Be proud of those qualities and hone them like you’re training at the gym. Stay sharp. Remember that once you’ve leveled up, you can’t unlearn those skills.

3. Know what it is, very seriously, what you suck at. Own it. I did very well in the preparation and personality, and I had a hard time with the assignment involving the unknown. Work on it. You can push back against your weaknesses. If you let it, this exercise in accepting and overcoming your weaknesses can become a very safe and comfortable place. Sounds counterintuitive, I guess, but trust me here. Be Midas–turn your shit into gold. Seriously, it takes work, but once you’ve got it you can sit in a sea of your riches.

4. Be confident, kind, and actually care. Those three things, right there, won’t be everything, but they’ll get you a lot of places. Believe me.

Career Chronicles (part 1: Best Worst Boss–Nolita, NYC)

I love Nolita. I outlined the very basic reasons why I ended up here previously, but there’s another story to tell. One of my first internships in NYC as an ingenue (yes, I was intentionally wearing Tory Burch) was right around the corner from where I currently live. I worked–very briefly–for a fledgling all-girls ad agency, headed by an interesting woman with roots in robotics and a strong female-forward platform. It was not as horrible as it sounds; there were tensions and tears. Although the experience was short-lived, it was a wonderfully instructive stage in my career development.

The best days were when my boss decided to take the afternoon off with us. The internship was not necessarily directly consequential in terms of my career trajectory (it didn’t even go on my CV), but these outings almost made it worth being unpaid. Much of this education-of-sorts crafted my creativity in terms of a career, drove my interest in technology, and developed my identity as a female entrepreneur.

I had, up until then, only been a student of creativity. I’d never taken it out for a round in the “real world.” I wasn’t responsible for much at the ad agency, but I got to flex some of my writing skills, learn about design standards, and develop my digital aesthetic. I also got to experience a startup for the first time. Although I had no real place at the agency, I broadened my idea of what kind of boss I hoped to be one day.

My boss was, and I suspect still is, spunky and stylish. I remember one excursion very well. A girl had just quit, and she came to collect her last check (and cry). It quickly became clear that we would not get much work done that day. Once the dust had settled, my boss took me out for a walk. We grabbed a cupcake at The Little Cupcake Bakeshop (featured image), and meandered about Mulberry Street. We stepped into Qlosette, which has recently just closed its doors, and then she showed me around Spring Street.

Unfortunately, at the time, I did not see the value in this experience. Neither did many of the others, apparently. I cruised the Glassdoor reviews from previous employees, and it’s kind of a shitsmear. I hate to see this. A personal philosophy of mine, especially professionally, is that what happens in your experience and how you choose to feel about something should be private. Take ownership of it, process how you must (that can include sharing with a select confident), and move on. Nobody is being noble by calling someone out like that, especially on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I felt much of the same frustrations as the reviewers…at the time.

But you know what? I quit early and didn’t cry–two facts that I’m quite proud of. It didn’t take long for me to identify what was going wrong by knowing confidently what I actually wanted. Yes, it was tough to tolerate at times, but I took the obstacle as an opportunity, didn’t look back once, and moved to London and Paris soon after. C’est la vie. But if you complain, lash out, and consistently search for external validation, your version of that “vie” will suck and you will be more miserable for it. Trust me (or don’t), but it’s not worth it. Wallowing is not the way. Smile for the woman you are in that very moment, and for the one you will be when you walk out that door knowing yourself that much more.

On Being a “Writer” (part 6: “The Amateur” and Approval)

This is not my first foray into the blog world. I started a crusade blog last year and it nearly ate me alive. The blog lived a short life, and I extinguished it within the first two weeks. Today is a particularly important day for me because it marks two weeks together, and I feel very differently than I did last time.

I recently read, “The War of Art,” by Steven Pressfield. Without looking for it, this book became one of the first reasons I got back into all this. I suppose you could classify his short work as “self help.” I didn’t even know I needed it. Pressfield surprised me. I surprised myself. Not only did these words touch me, I willingly received them. For those who don’t know me well, I can be rather obstinate and oppositional.

Pressfield writes, “[an amateur] takes external criticism to heart, allowing it to trump his own belief and his work.” This is exactly where I went wrong. I couldn’t handle criticism…neither the negative nor the positive. I attribute this to a deep uncertainty in my own center. What was the root of this imbalance?

I wrote to impress, not to express.

It was true, I was struggling hard last year. I didn’t have a clue as to what to do with my career. Well, that’s not true. I knew, and therefore expected that others would simply be able to understand. However, I didn’t know how to command my actions and emotions, and I had no idea how to even begin. I lacked focus, structure, and certainly didn’t listen. I unraveled. I decided I would shove my “truth” down everyone’s throat. This is actually circling back to the age-old writing maxim, “show, don’t tell,” transformed to real-life realization.

Bottom line, I didn’t write from truth. I wrote for approval. I wanted my parents to be proud, for the man I adored to understand me, for my friends to know I was smart, for strangers’ adulation, and the list goes on. What was missing was my passion, my strength, my loyalty. I felt like I was screaming in a vacuum.


I can’t quite say exactly what I’m doing differently other than the fact that I am striving for self-study. So many of us are smart. I am very proud of who I am, what I am. This time, I am more excited about what’s to come. I want to continue to grow (acknowledging how much I have to learn). There will be always be critics. There will be completely crap times (like this unrelenting winter in NYC). This go around, I decided I will willingly turn my wheel into the skid when I hit those icy patches. Spring is coming, blossoms will bloom.