Monday, November 28, 2005

Is there anybody out there?

The semester is coming to a close and my enduring state of joblessness is beginning to irk me. I guess "irk" is a polite way of saying that it is beginning to drive me crazy, slowly but surely. Since being proactive is probably the only solution to this little problem, lately I've been hitting up anyone and everyone who's mother's cousin's uncle's friend is a partner at some firm and sending them cover letters that include phrases like, "Your second cousin twice removed So-and-So recommended that I write to you because I have always been interested in a career in X practice area and your firm has the preeminent X department."

Somehow, this never seems to work. Somehow, my bills get paid from the mailbox on my corner, but my cover letters go into the ether, into the great cover letter hole in the sky. I don't even get rejection letters from firms, it's as though the cover letters simply never reached their intended recipients. I have this theory that somewhere aliens are sitting in a parallel universe, casually slitting open my cover letters with alien letter knives, and they are laughing out loud at my resume. "Ha! Ha! Ha!" they say in their alien language, slapping their thighs with their green hands. "She thinks she can get a job with no GPA on her resume! Oh, name-dropping, that'll get you a job with MY firm! HAHAHA!"

I wonder what it would take for me to get a rejection letter. I know it's a gesture of politeness and that I shouldn't be so selfish as to expect that firms would really waste their $.37 on telling me to fuck off when silence does it just as effectively. But I need closure. I think next time some firm doesn't have the decency to let me down gently on their cheaper letterhead, I will start barraging them with more resumes, more cover letters, writing samples, phone calls, maybe a couple dead rats with cards tied around their necks reading "I write to inquire about the status of my application" delivered Federal Express. I just need to know that I'm even worth rejecting! Just say SOMETHING!!


Sunday, November 20, 2005

A New York State of Mind

Last night was my good friend R's birthday dinner. I love R - we have been friends since we were small children and somehow have always managed to find common ground upon which to reunite. One thing though...I hate her friends. I have always hated her friends. It is astonishing to me how she can have such horrible taste in people and yet still like me. It almost makes me wonder if I might secretly suck. But I don't, so moving on, I asked my boyfriend if he would be so good as to join me at her birthday dinner. I have been dating him for quite awhile, and he and R barely know one another, and he'd never even met R's boyfriend. He was kind enough to join me and thus last night we set off.

Strike one: Hell's Kitchen. We had another party to go to last night which was Union Square...thus, Hell's Kitchen was completely out of the way. Not to mention that the subway can't be bothered to run predictably on weekends. But hey, it's her birthday so she is entitled to require that her friends come to her neighborhood, and she came to my birthday dinner in my neighborhood. So no big deal.

Strike two: Ethiopian food. If I lived in Ethopia, I'd starve too. Seriously, those people don't know what the hell to do with food so when they get it, they just throw it all together in a big mess, season it with spices that don't mix, and then eat it with their hands. More specifically, they eat it with a porous, disgusting "pancake" that more closely resembles a mix between styrofoam and moldy mushrooms. If this pancake didn't taste like total shit, the food might be slightly more palatable. But probably not.

And strike three: the company. Did I mention I hate her friends? Of course, we showed up late at dinner and so the only seats left at the table were on the opposite end from the birthday girl. We had to spend two and a half hours talking to her friend J. I've known J since high school, and I remembered him somewhat fondly. I remember his parents' stunning Park Avenue apartment and his cute, floppy hair. I remembered that out of the overprivileged liberals R went to school with, he was one of the least offensive. I remembered wrong.

One of J's bright ideas is to go to law school. Clearly, this is an unoriginal plan prompted by disillusionment with his current altruistic job that requires him to actually mix with the elements whose rights he supposedly wants to protect. Unaware of the Daddy's-money cushion protecting young J's descent into law school, my boyfriend counseled that law school tends to be expensive and upon graduation, the loan bills tend to be debilitating. "Yeeaaah..." said J, unable to formulate a better reply.

That out of the way, J, quickly running out of areas to discuss with me, decided to focus on the sole thing we have in common: having grown up in Manhattan. Apparently, the most evil creature known to J is the Nebraskan who moves to New York to take part in our cultural dominance. How dare they. How dare anyone not originally from Manhattan live in New York! Oh, except for immigrants from foreign lands, "because they are honest and work hard" (or perhaps because that would excuse his own entrance into New York via his grandparents).

"I don't know," I said. "In my profession, New York is a sucker's game. Either you work for some big firm that makes you carry one of those things" - gesturing to my boyfriend's Blackberry - "and makes you give up your life, or you make no money and work for some thankless government agency or small firm. I don't really feel compelled to stick around in this market for the rest of my life just to prove some point."

"When our parents decided to raise us here in the eighties, when it was dangerous, they knew what was important. They valued culture over safety and security and we paid the price for what we got. It's not fair that people move here for five years and then move back to the . . . the . . . suburbs," J sniffed contemptuously.

At this point, my poor sweet non-native New Yorker boyfriend finally permitted himself to open his mouth. "I don't know," he objected politely. "I've spoken to a lot of people who grew up in New York and they mostly just feel trapped. Maybe New Yorkers want to leave but can't. They are stuck because they're from here and can't just leave when the burdens outweigh the benefits. Maybe they just wish they could."

I smiled. This was his way of reminding J that the crime on Park Avenue in the eighties was probably no worse than it is now and calling him a pretentious homo without actually doing so. And you know what? I do feel a bit stuck. I grew up here. Great. So what? I can't find a job I like here because this market is saturated with too many damn lawyers. If I could leave and go somewhere more laid back, I think I would. I have nothing left to prove. And getting away from politically correct liberals from nice apartments with trust funds might be nice.

I hope J goes to law school. I hope he only gets into my law school. And I hope he grows to appreciate what he has been given and someday is willing to really share it.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A tale of two resumes

Loafing about this weekend, after a typically stenuous week, I was reading a book called Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There by David Brooks, an editor of that nonpartisan beacon The Weekly Standard. I have always had some affection for The Weekly Standard, being that I am a recovering nerd and conservative sympathizer, plus I do like to laugh out loud at absurd political commentary (much the same reason I always enjoyed Nietzsche). This book sounded fantastic, especially when I learned that "bobos" are bourgeois bohemians. After a brief stint in a certain liberal arts college chock full of such creatures (who wouldn't buy jeans for less than $200 and drove Land Rovers - and crashed them regularly while driving under the influence, comfortable in the knowledge that Daddy would replace them instantaneously - yet vehemently opposed the very capitalist system that kept them in their Diesel), a book mocking such folks sounded right up my alley.

Except then it opened with a brief discussion of the New York Times' "Vows" section, or the "Mergers & Acquisitions" section as someone wittier than I once characterized it. I've been reading the wedding pages in the Times since I was but a wee misanthrope, and always envisioned my own smiling face next to that of a suitably handsome and successful groom. After all, I went to some good colleges and a high school that is certainly within the stringent requirements of that page. My own resume was never in doubt: I would grow to become a power broker, a lady, and a gracious hostess who could simultaneously put on a dinner for twelve with appropriate forks, negotiate international transactions by cell phone, and have a pedicure. I would have power suits, wear pearls and sweater sets (3-ply cashmere) and sleep soundly on monogrammed Egyptian cotton pillowcases.

Needless to say, my beautiful future was cast into some doubt when I didn't get into Columbia Law School and was forced to second-tier it. No problem, I would get good grades and transfer. But then I didn't, and I couldn't. Now, three years later, I don't even have a job and my chances of beaming with straight teeth from the "Vows" pages are dwindling.

It's funny, too, because as I have mentioned my dear boyfriend, who could not care less about "Vows" (and thinks it's narcissistic and stupid, instead of a great and triumphant tradition) is perfect for the page. His resume eats mine for lunch. In moments of despair, I have cried aloud to him that by virtue of his law firm alone, he could get on the page while I will likely be working for an Abogado's office in the Bronx providing bail bonds. Perhaps, as he argues, I need a better yardstick for measuring success and a WASPy, anachronistic monument to vanity like the "Vows" page shouldn't be it.

But now, the "Vows" page isn't just Mayflower descendents and presidential scions. Even Jews can be on it now (40%! Go us!). It's the ultimate reflection of the new meritocracy - all you need is a collision of beautiful resumes and you're golden. You don't even have to be good-looking anymore. Hell, you don't even have to be straight! All you need is The Resume. And this is why it's so damn important for me to get a good job!

Maybe I am a bit of a Bobo but all I need is a little validation. From the New York Times. Is that really too much to ask??

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I can't believe I'm even admitting this, but as I type these very words, I am doing something so horrible, so vile, so . . . disgusting that if both of you who actually read this quit after this disclosure, I won't blame you one bit. That's right, I'm watching Laguna Beach: the Real Orange County on MTV. File this under H, for one of the Horrible ways law school has changed me for the worse, but I love this show. Not so much for the plot - I couldn't summarize it if you paid me (one of the few things I won't do for money at this point, har har). I just love looking at what high school might have been like if I were blond, tan, rich, had really really white teeth, and couldn't enunciate.

Most people make the mistake of thinking that anything that is popular must be good. I grew up making the opposite mistake: anything popular must be for losers who can't think for themselves. After all, the popular kids at school liked nothing better than to make fun of me to my face, which clearly was wrong, so anything else popular must be wrong too, only suited for people with a herd mentality. As I grew up and suddenly found myself cool - or at least less dorky and thus no longer the most obvious target - I still resisted the popular. I never watched Friends and it took me until junior year of college to wear jeans. I only listened to music that could not be heard on the radio and called sorority girls "sorostitutes" and pitied them for having to buy their friends. I dyed my hair black in high school, partly for the perverse honor of being the only girl with light roots in my whole high school.

And now look at me. Disgraceful! Sitting on the couch with my trendy little iBook, admiring Kristin and LC's incoherent, disaffected ramblings and actually wishing I were blond! I chalk this up to the total absence of joy in my day. I get my jollies from three-minute IMs with my boyfriend, coffee from the corner deli that isn't stale, and not getting called on - not the stuff of a self-help book on the joys of the ordinary. When I get home, I have very limited patience for Neil Cavuto or something unpopular enough to have qualified as interesting to me in my former life. Now, it's just me, the cats, and the 9:00 showing of Uptown Girls.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Theory of the firm

I have always been into prestige. I say this by means of confession because I know that for all my shit-talking about people who waste their lives toiling away at big firms, it's probably pretty clear that at least 35% of my sniping comes from jealousy. I'm not so intellectually dishonest that I can't admit that the big-name firm has always appealed to me, even if only because I have had to explain pretty much every school I've ever gone to and it would just be so convenient to drop the "Skadden" bomb. No "it's a mid-size firm" or "it's a yadda-yadda boutique"; no no, people just know what you are talking about.

I love verbal efficiency. Walking around with my boyfriend while he was renting an apartment confirmed all my suspicions: he just dropped the bomb of his place of employment and brokers immediately smiled and said, "Oh, you'll be no problem." How do they know? For all they know, he ritually burns frogs in his apartment and smears their charred carcasses all over the fresh paint job and/or has a full-fledged whorehouse running out of the apartment. Maybe he listens to house music at obscene decibels and has driven each and every neighbor he's ever had to suicide. Maybe his face is in post offices nationwide as a landlord killer! But no, "Oh, you'll be no problem." Maybe it's because the firm name assures them that whatever his freakish personal habits might be, he doesn't have time to pursue them anymore. Either way, it was amazing how quickly he was approved everywhere and it led me to contemplate what would happen if I had to rent an apartment. Let's just say that on the strength of my current resume, I'd be submitting my parents' tax returns.

So yes, I love prestige. But based on a few recent experiences, plus a re-prioritization or two, I think I want to go government. I think that firms suck. I think that I want a predictable work schedule, no billing requirements, and people who aren't under pressure. Even more than that, I don't want to make money for assholes who bill me out at about twice what they pay me and still treat me like the dirt under their fingernails: unwelcome, unappetizing, and not worth an iota of respect. I am completely sick of the egos, the bullshit, and the patronizing attitudes. Is it possible to reconcile my love of private practice perks, such as free coffee, mail rooms, and secretaries, for an easier, more predictable, and above all, more honest life?

At this point, unbelievably, I think it might be!

Besides, my boyfriend can always sign the lease for me.
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