­

WhyDid Wisdom: Brand Identity, or Lack Thereof

By |December 7th, 2016|WhyDid Wisdom|

kirsten-smith-whydid

I spent most of yesterday asleep on my couch.  My sleep patterns have been less than stellar as of late.  Maybe I’m not used to having an actual bedroom to sleep in.  Maybe I’m not used to the simple yet priceless luxury of being able to see the sky from my bed rather than another building.  In any case, I rarely sleep through an entire night and even on a good streak, it’s not past the hour of 7am, which leaves me with lots of time to fight with myself, trying to force my body back into a slumber.  It’s the battle between the anxiety and the pressure of needing to get up and write and the yearning for just a little bit longer in the warmth and safety of my sheets.  In most instances, neither side wins and several hours of the early morning are wasted.

But yesterday, sleep won.  My body physically said, “Nope, not today.”  Minus a few menial tasks in the morning, returning emails, free therapy to friends, and making a breakfast bowl, progress into my grand future was not made.  I put on a guided meditation, placed my phone as far away from me as possible, and drifted into a soft sleep.  I woke up several hours later and considered continuing this rare hibernation well through the night and maybe into morning, but there were two black eyes staring at me and on came the shoes and off came the sleepy haze.

Now, here I am.  Sitting on the floor in front of my computer; candles lit, phone off, silence in my apartment, brain frozen.  Writing is a funny thing for me.  When I do it, I love it, but the trick is that in a subconscious way, I fear it- much like sleep.  It’s kind of like when you put your sneakers on to go for a run, but somehow find a million things to do in order to avoid going.  You know it’s good for you, yet you dread it.  You’re never disappointed when you’re done.

kirsten-smith-blog

A guy I went out with recently said to me within the first twenty minutes of meeting, “You don’t really like to be challenged.”  I hadn’t really ever thought about it, but he was right.  My whole life, I have gotten by simply by doing the status quo.  It’s not something that I’m proud of, but it’s a hard truth.  And if I can handle anything, it’s a hard truth.

I have always recalled telling myself stories in my head.  I’ve always had the best conversations with myself and just like we all wish we could “take pictures with our eyes,” I’ve always wished I could record the conversations in my head.  It seems I am never able to get them down on paper fast enough to recall them.  And so some of my best stories and revelations are lost just like dreams disappear in the early morning light.

The stories that ended up being written, the copy that was composed, therefore remained quite superficial; surface level.  Even when I read some of it back later, I roll my eyes at its immaturity.  You see, writing forces you to face your thoughts and arrange them into some sort of semblance and when you write something, you are putting yourself onto a silver platter for rejection and judgement.  Any therapist I’ve met, any intuitive who has “read me” has told me that writing will be what saves me, but still I eschew it.

So, why am I telling you any of this?  I wonder that sometimes too.  There are times I begin writing without any idea where it is going and sometimes I start somewhere and the path takes a detour from where I’d intended to go.

My objective was to wax poetic about the last nine years of WhyDid.  But I think, by now, we all know the story.  So, I started to think about why I have been having such a difficult time writing and where I am now, nine years later.  And that falls in line with me being unable to peel myself from my very uncomfortable couch yesterday.  While I am considered a “public persona,” and I do share quite a bit about my life whether through these posts or others on Instagram, I doubt most people know much about me at all.

The truth is I’ve spent a lot of my days in a place of not belonging.  I was never going to be the most popular Queen Bee, but I was captain of the cheerleading team and landed on Homecoming Court.  However, I didn’t have that cutthroat gene and could never really get into the social politics of it all.  On the other hand, I aced Economics, looked forward to French class, and relished sitting in the back of senior English reading all of the books that had been banned at other schools.  I was too “weird” for the cool kids.  Too “cool” for the weird kids.

Because I was never fully accepted by either side, my lunches were spent eating my sandwich in my guidance counselor/history teacher’s office, which is a whole other topic that will be discussed later, if ever, in a personal memoir.

kirsten-smith-whydid-com

This pattern followed me well beyond the highschool cafeteria.  I’ve never been without friends and have been truly fortunate to make some of the ones that I still have.  Even so, it was very rare that I truly felt a sense of belonging, a sense of understanding.  At times, I can come across as impatient or critical because I find it frustrating that the way my brain works doesn’t always mesh with those around me.  And so I withdraw.

I’ve disappointed and delighted people on many occasions when they are surprised to find that I am much more complex than what they see on Instagram or who I externalize upon initial introduction.  Some say, “You’re much sweeter than I thought you would be,” while others are let down to realize that I’m not always all “bad b*tch” and Beyonce.  Sometimes I’m Fiona Apple and I just want to spend some time crying,  Alone.  In the shower.

The world felt as if it was telling me, “Pick one!”  I can’t be sexy if I want to be taken seriously.  I can’t be wickedly sarcastic and deeply charitable.  I can’t stay out all night dancing then wake up and go to yoga.  I felt pushed. I felt pulled.  But I never felt at peace.

But why can’t I be all of those things? Why must I choose one? Why do any of us have to choose?  I was blessed to have parents who allowed my brothers and me to be who we were, chase what we wanted, and wear whatever we pleased. Okay, there may have been some fights over bra straps at some point in high school but I’ve eradicated that problem by ditching bras all together.  But sometimes the freedom to choose whoever I wanted to be became burdensome.  It seemed it wasn’t okay to take ballet and listen to Tupac.  Identity didn’t present itself like a buffet– choose a little from here, a little from there.  It was more like a wedding reception: chicken or beef?

whydid-blog

And then I became a “brand.”  I had no intention of this ever becoming something I did for a living.  When I started writing WhyDid (WhyDidYouWearThat for all my veterans), I did so anonymously.  It wasn’t until people took a serious interest in the person behind the blog that I began to personalize the posts.  It’s a funny thing that happens when you allow yourself to be public.  People begin to believe they have access to you.  People begin to believe they know you.  They believe they have a right to have opinions about your life.  And in some capacity, they do.  You’ve given them an entry into your life.  Post one thing that is slightly left of center and the entire internet falls into a frenzy.  Sure, Kim K may have blown up the internet, but before that happened, all of Instagram lost its sh*t when I posted a photo from a bathtub in Paris (don’t search for it, it’s since been deleted).

But here’s the thing.  Even if you haven’t chosen a career that placed you into the public eye, you are a brand.  You’ve been made into a brand because society has encouraged us to choose identities from religion to sexual orientation to social circles — even gender.  You have to pick something and identify with that.  It’s much like picking teams and even as adults we continue living our lives like a highschool cliques in the lunch room.

We keep preaching “authenticity” when in reality, that is the opposite of what is happening.  It is a curated authenticity, which may be even worse.  It’s like the “no makeup” makeup look for personalities.  Look like you aren’t trying.  Look like this is natural.  Look like you’re too cool to care.  And it’s because people like to be able to size each other up and put them in categories, boxes.  It makes them feel safe.  And maybe even it makes us feel safe to be in a box too.  How many times have you heard yourself say, “That’s so not me.”  Maybe that is you.  Maybe you prefer yellow mustard over brown and like black olives on your pizza (okay, that’s me).  Maybe you don’t like reading Fitzgerald.  Maybe you don’t want to work a nine to five.  Maybe you’re not all of those things you were told you had to choose.

I met a guy once who dressed only in a very specific style, listened to only very specific music.  I found it to be the most curious thing.  Almost as if he was frightened that if he stepped outside of his image, even for one second, he might “lose himself.”  That maybe he might realize all the time he’d spent building this persona would be wasted if he found that there were other things he loved as well.  He’d built a wall around himself in the form of a character.  And maybe that’s how we get stuck and attached to these personas that are really ever changing, or at least they should be.  To remain the same means that there is no growth.  And if there is no growth, is there really any life?

Having sense of self is important, but it can be a slippery slope if you hold on to it too tightly.  You may miss out on becoming who you really are if you’re afraid of losing who you were. Or you may just remain status quo, eating your sandwich alone in your guidance counselor’s office.

But if you ever felt you didn’t belong, know you belong with me.

 

Photos by Michael Stiegler

WhyDid Wisdom: Moving On

By |November 23rd, 2016|WhyDid Wisdom|

a-tree-grows-in-brooklyn

In the last decade, I have lived in ten apartments and homes, moving a grand total of eleven times.  Until recently, I hadn’t lived in a place for longer than a year.  Usually, not even making it a full year before some sort of dramatic uprooting and domestic chaos ensued.  Whether it be a breakup, the sale of a condo I was renting, or a rent increase enough to make Drake call his accountant, there was always a reason to hop on StreetEasy and search for a new home.  While the majority of my moves remained local, there was that one time I moved to California…

Most of my friends spent this summer vacationing and tanning in tropical locations, I spent my summer scouring the internet for an apartment.   And while I’m fairly certain it was equally hot and humid here, it was much less sexy and did not require a passport.  I can’t quite be certain the exact moment the seed was planted (and more than one person would like to take credit), but after I’d made my mind up that I’d be vacating my current apartment– a place I’d lived for the last four years, a record by any account– the unthinkable happened.

greenpoint-brooklyn-sunset

Once known to be a bit of a neighborhood snob, I’ve been quoted as saying, “I don’t do the east side,” no one would have ever thought that I’d consider moving above 23rd street, let alone another borough.  And I don’t think my highschool best friend will soon let me forget that I never once visited him in the seven years he lived in Windsor Terrace.  But alas, having ventured to look at apartments in Fort Greene with a good girlfriend, she’d swung me to the other side by the end of the afternoon.  Seeing that I could get a lot more for my money (a bedroom!!!) and a complete change of scenery was reason enough to consider swapping subway lines.  Either that or the copious amounts of rosé generously served to us at Madiba completed my conversion.

But Brooklyn was like a foreign country to me.  I had always lived in Manhattan and truth be told, I still get mixed up when exiting the train in the city.  And anything below Houston?  Forget about it.  I don’t know up from down and I’m the least desirable candidate for co-pilot, unless you’re willing to credit me for my skills as a DJ and ability to make a game out of anything to pass the time on a stretch of rural highway.  In any case, deciding to move to Brooklyn presented me with the process of exploring all of the neighborhoods to try and figure out which one felt most like me.  But who am I?

My entire New York life, I have been associated with the west side and was lumped into the West Village stereotype, which varies dependent upon who you ask.  Billy Joel never wrote a song to explain it.  I really didn’t know where I belonged.  I just knew that it was time to move on.  I was sick of the frat parties happening bi weekly down the hall, if you asked me where I wanted to eat I couldn’t name a place within a five block radius, there was a general feeling of unease and restlessness, and I just knew I no longer felt at home.

I spent my days wandering Brooklyn and even rented a bike one day with a friend who lived in Crown Heights so she could show me how the neighborhoods connected and I could get a feel for each of them, something that a man I was dating at the time could hardly believe as I’d stared at him open mouthed on our first date when he informed me he’d ridden his bike… from Brooklyn.

When I make decisions, which often takes me a while, I become fixated on them.  I like to pick something and put on the blinders.  Some would call that steadfastness others insouciance.  Just like I don’t like to say goodbye at airports or linger too long over multiple choice answers.  For someone as emotional as I, I can also be quite binary.  Once I have finally come to a verdict, that’s all there is, no turning back.  Unfortunately, this time wasn’t quite as cut and dry as most situations.  There were several times where the doubts began to creep in and the cold sweats consumed my sleep.  I wondered if my friends would ever come and see me.  Would I be cool enough to hang with the makeup free beauties and man bun babes?  Did I have to stop being so “city”?  What the hell is the G train?  Do I need another tattoo?  And why is everyone looking at my tiny hoodie wearing dog like a freak?  Almost up until the day I signed my lease, I was still scoping out apartments in NoLita and SoHo, wondering if it was too late to back out.  Did I really want to cross the East River to a land of unknowns?  I then pondered, why didn’t I just keep going east until I landed in Paris?

best-movers-nyc

Then came moving day.  My landlord had already allowed me begrudgingly to extend my lease by a couple of months.  My boxes were packed.  My keys in hand.  The movers came.  I watched them carry out boxes of books, piles of pillows, container after container of stuff.  And I wasn’t sad at all until I sat in my windowsill after the last box had been moved.  I was alone in this big rectangle of a room.  It looked so much smaller.  And I felt a bit nostalgic for all that had happened there.  This was my first apartment back in New York after a fairly dark period in my life.  I remember when I moved in, I thought that I was going to write my first book there.  My building manager assured me I’d meet my soulmate.  My friends were certain this is where Kirsten would get her groove back.  But none of those things happened.  And when I thought about what I was holding onto, I realized it was nothing that I needed.

Just like when we become attached to a perception of ourselves, we can become quite attached to physical things as well.  I never thought I had that much stuff.  I’d waited to pack completely until a few days before.  It wouldn’t take me that long.  Suddenly, what had fit comfortably in four closets, looked like an amassing of a hoarder of forty years.  I found a presidential Barbie doll from 2012 and a book by Trump given to me as a gift when I’d first started in real estate, a garage remote from our house in California, and a faux Christmas tree my mom had sent me several years ago.  How do we collect so much stuff?  At that moment, I wished I had taken my friends up on their offers to help, but my dad reminded me, “You don’t have any friends when you’re moving.”  There was a moment towards the end while packing my dishes that I just considered laying down on the tiled kitchen floor and giving up.  But that’s not my style.  I may come across as delicate at times, but I am from West by God Virginia afterall, and I know how to dig in and get things done.

And so then the sadness hit me again after the last box had been delivered to my new home.  A place that had felt far larger than my last when it was empty now seemed cluttered and cramped.  The crowning glory and probably what sealed the deal for me walk-in closet was completely full from top to bottom, side to side.  How had I not left more of this behind?  The melancholy feeling reminded me of a similar phenomenon when I’d moved to LA.  Having too much stuff makes me sad.   A space that was clearly large enough to be shared was completely crowded with all of my old stuff.  And it struck me that it was an analogy for life, namely mine.  I’d moved, but I’d brought the past with me.  How much can we fully make a change if we aren’t willing to really let go?

brooklyn-apt-greenpoint

The first couple of weeks in my new apartment and new neighborhood was like a honeymoon.  I was quite pleased with myself and my decision.  I’d get up every day excited to explore and generally just get shit done.  The people at the plant store know me by name, my coffee order can be recited on sight, I met my  handsome neighbor, and I was settling in quite nicely.  Then old habits started to reemerge.  Staying out a little too late, sleeping in a little bit longer, the laziness crept in… I’d convinced myself the “bad juju” in my old apartment and that brick wall most definitely covered in some sort of energy zapping dust were the culprits for all of my past problems.  Moving was the answer to all of my restlessness.

I was half right.  Letting go of my perceived persona and comfort zone was the right decision, but I hadn’t fully committed.  I’d physically moved, but not mentally.  Much like getting a new toy only to soon grow bored, the excitement will wear off anything superficial.  My pillows were perfectly arranged and my closet color coded, but my brain still looked like that of the hoarders.  Moving can be a great catalyst for change, but only if you are willing to truly leave things behind,  because moving old boxes of stuff from one place to another isn’t really moving at all.

 

 

WhyDid Wisdom: Overshare and Tell

By |October 15th, 2016|WhyDid Wisdom|

whydid-kirsten-smith-blog

“Ugh, Kirsten, shut the f*ck up!” I mutter to myself for the four hundred billionth time in my life.  Yet again, I have surprised myself with something that has passed between my lips- an internal musing that was never meant for public consumption has now taken its place right at center stage of conversation.   There are times I wish I could capture my own surprise, which no doubt, mirrors that of my listeners.  It’s really a wonder I didn’t go into PR as I have spent countless hours cleaning up my own messes.  Even BP would be impressed with my ability to casually diffuse an incredibly awkward situation.  Extra details from bad dates, physical ailments none would ever admit to, feelings most prefer to keep at bay.  When it comes to personal plight, my ability to keep quiet is reminiscent of the beating heart in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.   If backpedaling was a sport, I’d qualify for the Olympics.  But alas, I live by the mantra, “Mean what you say.  Say what you mean,” and for better or worse, one must own his words.

Like most people’s best qualities, my openness, and frankness, is also one of my worst.  I have no problem putting it out there– from my outfits to my emotions– and while some find that refreshing, others find it revolting.  To know me well is to know that nothing I say (for the most part) is out of malice.  I love hard and feel deeply.   Unfortunately, I keep a fairly close circle, so my average audience is likely to be experiencing this word vomit for the first time.  Hi, it’s nice to meet you, I snore when I sleep.

In many cultures, people share meals in order to relate to one another.  Other cultures wash and braid each other’s hair.  For me, telling stories, and sharing my own woes is the way in which I bond with others.  I see it as a way to say, “See, I have those scars too.” “I’m afraid of the same things.”  “Look how bad I messed up.”  “We’re all human, welcome to the sh*t show that we call life.”  And indirectly, it is probably a way for me to look to others and ask if what I’ve been through is “okay” too.

Throughout history from the Bible to Greek mythology all the way back to ancient hieroglyphics (the original emojis), storytelling has been an important way for history to be remembered, lessons to be taught, and used as a portal for people to connect to their roots.  And while it is a truly beautiful thing to be able to share pieces of yourself with others when they may need it, Hemingway said it best, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” there is such a thing as oversharing.  You can also be too rich and too thin.

In school, we are taught from an early age that sharing is the right thing to do.  Tommy can have all of our blocks if he’d like them.  Don’t be so selfish.  But when does sharing your stories out of genuine generosity and encouragement of enlightenment become uncomfortable oversharing and an introduction to indecision?

The problem with oversharing is two fold- beyond the obvious potential of offending the general population.  First, people begin to feel comfortable weighing in on your problems, solicited or not.  I’ve found myself frustrated, foiled, and sometimes even angry when I’m telling a story and others begin to pipe in with what I should do or where I made my biggest blunder.  I’m very self aware and already know the catastrophic state of my mistakes, but when you’ve made a habit of inviting everyone in to watch things unfold on the main stage, and unless your name is Kanye you can’t kick them out mid performance.  Take a bow, my, friend,  this is a little something people like to call “boundaries” and while we don’t want to build a wall in Mexico, we do need personal boundaries.

Next, you forget how to make your own decisions and/or you get lazy.  When you stop sharing out of acquired wisdom and instead share in order to gain acceptance, you begin to lose track of yourself and rely too heavily on others’ opinions.  This, again, opens you up to a public forum for your problems and while most are weighing in with hopes to help, more likely than not, despite the best of intentions, they’re bringing their own experiences into the mix and this can be a catalyst for confusion.  I’ve said it before, no one knows what the f*ck he is doing and one would hope we’re all doing the best we can.  No one is an actual expert on anything– except math.  You might be an expert in arithmetic. Much like a muscle can atrophy, when your intuition isn’t used, it becomes weak and all of a sudden you can’t distinguish your gut feelings from your inclination to react from past experiences, yours or otherwise.  It’s like a ship lost at sea with no land in sight.  You can no longer make your own judgement calls without weighing in first.

But stories are important and they will always be a noble way for humans to relate to one another.  There are times when I’ve been caught by a passage in a book I’m reading and finally feel understood.  Articles written by people who have conquered some of my same quandries have given me hope.  And let’s not forget that music is one of the greatest ways to tell a story.  There’s a reason there are so many songs about heartbreak and we all know I love a good cry in the shower (or at least now you do).  It is important to be open to others and to find ways wherein we can relate to everyone from the Queen of England to the man who hosed down the sidewalk this morning.  The key comes in finding the balance and distinguishing what you are sharing and your reasons for sharing it.  It is a matter of telling your story without asking for approval.  Jesus certainly wasn’t asking his disciples whether or not he should confront the Pharisees.  Sure, every day is a new chapter and you have the option to rewrite your ending in any way you choose, but masterpieces are printed in ink, not etched in pencil.  Your story is your own and you can share it whenever and with whomever you choose. Just remember, there will always be critics, ask the New York Times, and know that not everything is always a best seller.

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something– a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things– which you had thought special and particular to you.  Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead.  And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.”

Alan Bennett

 

 

It’s Been a Long Time… We Shouldn’t Have Left You

By |August 2nd, 2016|WhyDid Wisdom|

how old do i have to beSeven years ago, I was working in a cubicle in a buying office on Fifth Avenue. I had what most starry eyed college graduates would consider the “dream job.” In most minds I spent my days surrounded by beautiful clothing, fabulous designers, and relished in an all around glamorous lifestyle.

In reality, I was in a tiny grey cube with a PC from 1997 perched atop a chair that was most certainly acquired from a sidewalk fire sale, squinting at Excel sheets and entering purchase orders into an archaic system, which I attribute to my need for glasses today. Yes, I did get to go to beautiful showrooms like DVF, Dior, and Moschino, but that was a very small percentage of my day to day work life. I was also in my early twenties and hadn’t the slightest concept of just how fortunate I was.  Needless to say, I was never in the running for “employee of the month.” I’d actually gotten called into HR on more than one occasion for not “socializing” enough with the other employees. It wasn’t all boring busy work though, I could fix just about any copy or fax machine and this life skill has saved me a time or two at FedEx Kinkos faxing lease renewals and other obnoxious New York City rites of passage. My bosses used me as bait to chat up the suits who worked in the same area at local after work spots: The MoMa, what was once the Penn Top, and Monkey Bar.

I showed up because I knew I needed a job and this one, at the time, this was the job to have.  Finance was booming and there was good reason why people started hosting parties called “Fashion and Finance.”  The receptionist at the front desk of our floor at 666 Fifth Avenue (does the devil really wear Prada?) often received calls asking for the blonde lingerie buyer.  That was me.

It was all bankers and bucket bags until the day our entire buying office was called in like cashmere swaddled cattle for a meeting in the conference room where we were informed that post meeting, we’d be asked to turn in our security cards and gather our belongings because our positions no longer existed.  Not since a sorority slumber party had I seen so many fashion majors drunk in heels that sad afternoon.

Many of my colleagues managed to snag other positions within our competitor retailers and fashion houses, but that was just about the time I realized that I really didn’t enjoy the work I’d been doing.  Sure, I could predict without fail which colors would sell out and what styles to swap in order to increase sell through and avoid markdowns, but I hated the office politics and mundane day to day number crunching. I had already started writing for WhyDid and was living with my boyfriend in TriBeCa at the time.  I supplemented in the interim with my other New York love, real estate. I’d wanted to apply for a job at the ASPCA, but my boyfriend (a banker, but, of course) discouraged me, telling me that it would only depress me. I should have dumped him then.

Nearly seven years passed before I realized again that I had been sucked into work that was no longer fulfilling to me.  I also hadn’t really grasped the concept of how to fully monetize the hours and hours of work I’d spent slaving away on posts, photoshoots, and product placement.  Sure there had been two cross country moves, an extended stay in Florida, a few jobs at failed start ups, and finally a move back to my old West Village neighborhood to an apartment directly across from the one I’d started in, but it wasn’t until after a trip to Paris that I realized it all felt false.

When I began WhyDid, it was all about calling out bad fashion, celebrity faux pas, and snarky commentary on the overall state of style. In time, I started to include more personal pieces, trend forecasting, how to videos, and even photos of myself (which, to this day, still make me nervous). Traffic was up, I could churn out content without much effort- one eye on the TV, another hand texting back friends. Major publications had even approached me to helm their ships, but I had no interest. It all came quite easily to me, but it no longer felt natural. I didn’t really care what Kerry Washington wore, who Taylor Swift was dating, or why I should buy into the Birkenstock trend.

You see, my whole life I had been lauded as “Best Dressed” and “Most Likely To Be Famous.” You should have seen how disappointed my mother looked during parents’ weekend in college when I received the superlative of “Most Likely to Marry a Rockstar” over “Future Nobel Prize Winner.” It was as if I had been painted into a picture of myself and I’d just decided to live in it. I’d become my very own still life—of myself. I lived in a perfect West Village apartment with a cute white dog and a Soho House membership. My Instagram feed read like a perfectly curated (I despise that word) collection of moments with friends at beaches, birthday parties, and brunches.

And then one day I woke up. I could not write. I could not pretend anymore. There were words in my head, but I couldn’t get them out. I’d start sentences. I’d jot things down. Short thoughts. Brief phrases, but nothing ever fully formed. I had to stop. I had to take a step back. I had to start over.

I shortened WhyDidYouWearThat to WhyDid, several years ago to include more topics including everything from food to the LGBT lifestyle, but it became clear to me that the real reason was because we have become a society that reads headlines instead of stories. We consume “listicles” rather than research. We’ve become lazy and would rather be told what to think than form our own opinions. I have always been someone who wants to know, “Why?” There’s a reason Elmo was my favorite Sesame Street character. I’ve never felt comfortable using words I can’t spell or talking about topics I’m not informed about. We let people tell us what to wear whether it looks absurd or not. We are a country based on freedom, yet we’ve given up all of our rights—on our own. Why don’t we ask more questions?

I asked my mentor, my father, my best friend why would people listen to me when I’ve done so many things wrong? I have no idea what I’m doing. My passport expired before I could fill it. I can’t even order the right wine at a restaurant. People will criticize me and point out that I’m not perfect and, as he always does, he so eloquently stated, “The best teachers are those who have made their own mistakes.”

One of the scariest things I have ever had to do was to give up the image that was given to me. To scratch the paint from the canvas and begin anew. It’s easy to play into what people perceive. That’s the easy way. The simple route. And I suppose I could have kept on that path. But I knew if I never admitted I was wrong, I could never make it right.

I guess that’s just it. True intelligence, real wisdom comes from the ability to accept that one has no idea what she is talking about or what she is doing. The humility to concede that there is a lot more to learn. There will still be more outfit posts and style forecasts. To deny that would be to deny a part of me. I threw my first temper tantrum at the tender age of two over a pair of patent leather Mary-Janes, for Heaven’s sake. However, WhyDid.com will be a place to ask questions, to be open, to be honest. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but I’m happy to take you along with me while I try.

WhyDid Wisdom: A Beginner’s Guide to Paris

By |March 5th, 2015|WhyDid Wisdom|

sunset eiffel tower parisA little over a month ago, I boarded a plane headed to a city I had always dreamt about going.  I romanticized it in my mind.  I built a pedestal and placed it there.  I was in love with somewhere I’d never seen with my own eyes.  This type of fantasizing can be treacherous territory and upon takeoff, my stomach and mind were aflutter with mixed feelings and emotions.  Could it live up to my ideals?  Would I be disappointed?  Was my mental image better than the reality?  Was it going to be like your favorite book being slaughtered when made into a movie?  Would it be meeting your favorite movie star only to find out he/she is a grade A asshole?  Nothing a few mini bottles of wine couldn’t mask for the next six and some change hours.  Watching movies on an airplane provide iPad, a little light reading, a full meal, and a few naps later, we touched down in my dream destination.  If you kept up with my adventures in parts un, deux, et trois, you know where I was and how deeply in love I fell.  I’ve even threatened my beloved Manhattan of abandonment.  While, I touched on a few things I learned on my journey in my last installment, there were plenty of other helpful traveling tips that I meant to write down in the moment, but will have to do now. Full disclosure: this is by no means a list that Conde Nast is going to stumble upon and syndicate. This is simply an American amateur’s take away from her first (of many future) visit to Paris, the city of light.

paris sunset paris perfect

  • A tip I actually did pick up from Conde Nast Traveler, was to skip the ritzy (and very pricey) hotels and rent an authentic Parisian apartment.  You could go the Airbnb route or there are plenty of specifically dedicated vacation apartment rental companies in Paris.  I used Paris Perfect and they were a dream to work with (not to mention the view of the Eiffel Tower from our claw foot bathtub).
  • Learn this phrase, “Anglais, s’il vous plait.” (English, please).  Everyone speaks English in Paris for the most part, however, many will start speaking to you in French (probably praying that you do, in fact, speak French).  A lot of people will greet you in both French and English to see in which you respond.  Also learn “bonsoir” (good evening), “allo” (hello), “merci” (thank you), “oui” (yes), “non” (no), “excusez-moi” (excuse me).  Learning “poussez” (push) and “tirez” (pull) will also help you not look like an idiot when it comes to doors.
  • If you have a little bit of French in your language arsenal, use it the best you can. We asked a native Parisian friend if it was more rude to slaughter the language or to act like an entitled American and not even attempt it.  Her take was that it was charming when tourists tried to speak in foreign tongue.
  • Have the address handy.  You may think that you’ve pronounced the name correctly, but with an accent, Montague and Montaigne can quickly be confused by your driver and you’ll end up at the wrong destination.
  • Drink champagne.  The only decision you’ll need to make is rosé or brut.
  • Eat bread.  For whatever reason (though there are theories) many of my normally gluten sensitive friends have reported little to no issues carb loading abroad.
  • Don’t order a cheeseburger.  While the club sandwich seems to be on every menu at every brasserie in the city, slip out of your comfort zone and try something you can’t get in the U.S. or your own hometown.
  • On that note, don’t be an American cliche.  Try and dress the part.  Upside: the less makeup, the better.  Mascara, lipstick, messy hair, and good shoes.
  • Tips are included in the bill. There’s no need to tip unless your service was truly extraordinary.
  • BYOD (bring your own dog). My own dog is still throwing a temper tantrum about being left behind.
  • Take advantage of the January sales.  I didn’t shop the entire time I was there (don’t get me started), but you should.
  • Do the more touristy things on the weekdays.  Don’t forget that Europe is fairly small and many people from countries nearby, come in for the weekend to explore as well.
  • I didn’t learn this until after I returned home, but flirting is a form of pleasantry.  Be prepared to exchange banter with just any member or the opposite sex.  My energy tends to be a bit more closed off to this type of behavior, so if you’re anything like me, you’ll have to be a little more open to flattery.
  • Unlike New York, things close quite a bit earlier.  Take advantage of your evening and the extra couple of hours of sleep you’ll get in order to wake up early and do it all over again.