So, Why the Change?

Those of you who have been on my page in the last day or two have probably noticed that my blog has had a pretty extreme makeover.
Yes, I changed my name. Goodbye Style & Other Complicated Things, hello The Starving Writer.
If I were a YouTuber, I’d probably go the dramatic route and make a tearful video talking about how I’ve lied to all of my subscribers and strayed away from my true identity in the process. Continue reading “So, Why the Change?”

Advertisements

Made of Money

For my entire life, I’ve lived in a city that many around the world cite as a launchpad for prosperous careers in entertainment, a city that is constantly glamorized in pop culture, a city that is angelic– by name, that is.

Sure, living in LA has its perks. Beautiful beaches await just over the mountains, just about every culture melds together (that means REALLY good food), and attractions that many travel miles to see and do offer discounts for residents. (LACMA’s free museum admission, anyone?)

Growing up here is also quite beneficial for starting a career. The stereotype that everyone in this city has a headshot is actually quite true. (I, myself, do not have one, but most of my friends and family do, and I know which headshot photographers are the créme de la créme)

But there is for sure a downside to living in such an enticing, notorious town: money.

Concretely, everything seems to cost more in such a large city.

Cupcakes are $5, cheaply made, “trendy” clothes are priced way higher than they have any right to be, and in some of the grimier parts of the city, using the bathroom can even cost a couple of coins.

Also, the myth that Angelenos pay handsome sums to secure a parking space is one hundred percent true. Believe everything you hear.

But my least favorite aspect of living in a city known for its wealth is, well, the fact that it is known for its wealth.

When it comes to money, my city is split into three simple categories: low-income, middle class, and rich.

My family falls into the central classification. We live in an adequate house with adequate income in a financially adequate neighborhood. Our lives are based on adequacy.

I enjoy living this way, to be honest. I’m usually a pretty no-frills person and I don’t demand very much material possessions. (except for black platform ankle boots from Vetements. MAKE A KNOCKOFF NOW.)

But what I don’t enjoy is the divide.

Nothing shows how split up our city is more than our neighborhoods.

I live on a lovely suburban block with one story houses and drought-friendly front yards. Some of the houses near me are a little extravagant, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

But if you drive for a few miles in another direction, you reach the filthy rich village of Calabasas, which has been put on the map by Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and, most notably, the Kardashian-Jenners.

This section is characterized by its mansions, its money, and its hot moms. Its residents sit at the top of the pyramid that is Los Angeles. If you’re from here, you’re royalty.

But in the other direction are the less presentable, less exciting, and less funded towns.

Most people try to avoid these places as much as possible. The concept of “less fortunate” people is too much for them to grasp.

At my high school, aristocrats hailing from these neighborhoods are everywhere. They have Maseratis, Rolexes, Yeezys, Grey Goose, world-class drugs, and a whole lot of popularity. They are living proof of the “rich LA kids” stereotype.

These girls and boys are worshipped. Many want to either be them, date them, at least know them, or, best of all, all three.

Lifestyles like this may seem intangible to most, but for anyone who lives simpler than these royal classes, they are right in front of us.

So close, yet so far.

Everything in the City of Angels seems to be a competition. Who has the most expensive car, who carries the most high-quality handbag, who retreats to the most extravagant houses.

In this competition, adequacy and stability are not enough to move you up the radar. As the aforementioned Kardashian-Jenner clan have demonstrated, all it takes is money.

Unfortunately, not being as lucky when it comes to finances places you on the bottom, no exceptions.

These social norms frequently test my security of where I am financially. How could they not?

When I see girls from my school flaunting their completely real Vetements ankle boots, it is difficult to not feel like my knockoffs (hint, hint, wink, wink) are pathetic.

These are the times I want to flee the city. Not too far, maybe somewhere in central California, where I can still enjoy the beaches and the balmy temperatures.

But when all is said and done, the bright lights and mass appeal lure me back into the land of opportunity, or the land of broken dreams and self-hatred.

It depends on how you look at it.

How Broad City Helped Me Come To Terms With My Faith

If you’re one of my good friends, or pretty much anyone who’s ever had a conversation with me, you have probably know that I am in love…
With a little Comedy Central show called Broad City.
I know I’m not the only one who loves this show. After all, it has been nominated for many awards and has received acclaim from audiences and critics alike.
Even Hillary Clinton is a fan–she guest starred on an episode last season. No matter what your opinion on that woman is, you’ve got to admit that that is impressive.
The show’s concept is simple, maybe even a little overdone: 2 twenty-something besties in New York City, Abbi and Ilana, navigate their lives through various misadventures.
Now I’m not a fan of TV. I’ve never been one to become hooked on a series or binge watch on Netflix. I know, I know, I’m weird.
But why am I so obsessed with Broad City? Why do I look forward to seeing new episodes of that show, but couldn’t care less about pretty much any other program?
The answer comes down to one thing. One thing that really shouldn’t matter, and is actually pretty superficial.
Abbi and Ilana are Jewish women, and they are not portrayed as being a joke.
For a long time, I never understood how it felt to be misrepresented, even as a Jewish girl.
Whenever my classmates would talk about their Christmas presents, I never felt left out. I just knew I was different.
When I would come across another Jewish person at my school, I would be pleasantly surprised. But I never wondered why I had to feel pleasantly surprised when I met someone like me. That’s just how I’ve always been: unfazed by things that could very well faze me.
But growing up, I noticed a common pattern in Jewish characters in popular culture: they were, 90 percent of the time, nerdy boys that would constantly get picked on.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who can say that she watched Victorious when I was younger. It was the only show I liked at that age, the Broad City of my young years, if you will.
But there was a serious problem. One character, Robbie, a Jewish boy, was constantly picked on and belittled by the other people on the show. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if his Jewish faith was a reason why.
It can be very easy to say I’m “triggered” after reading that statement. “It’s a TV show, calm down,” you’ll probably think to yourself.
But I can safely say that seeing that kind of portrayal made me feel down on myself. For a long time, I hated to be open about my religion, because I was scared that I would be looked at as inferior to other faiths.
So feel free to call me “triggered,” but keep in mind that I have my reasons.
Anyways, when I was around 15 years old, I discovered clips from Broad City online. I laughed out loud, and immediately set the series to record on my DVR.
As I watched more and more of the show, I got to know Abbi and Ilana even better. I eventually saw episodes in which their Jewish faith was highlighted.
Seeing that these two amazing and hysterical women and I had something in common ushered a change in me.
I realized that up until watching Broad City, I had indeed been misrepresented.
But I wasn’t too upset, because I had these fantastic ladies out there to assure my that I wasn’t alone.
Even though ugly stereotypes and antisemitism still permeate our society, they are not the only things out there. There are positive things, including Broad City.
And because of those positive things, I can now say that I’m proud to be Jewish.
After discovering that program, I became much more open about my faith. I joined a Jewish youth group, I worked at my temple, and I recently got my faith confirmed, all things that I would not be as quick to do if it weren’t for Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.
So, thank you guys for helping me love myself. Thank you for bringing me out of a hiding place. Thank you for doing the same for other girls like me.
Women like you and shows like yours are the reasons why representation truly is a beautiful thing.

The Man Who Shares Your Name: A Short Story

The sun was shining onto the glass buildings, even though it was after eight o’clock. My T-shirt stuck to my sweaty body. Uptight tourists in were inspecting me up and down, suspecting that I was going to jump them, or rape them, or both.

It was just another typical Seattle summer night.

Everyone around me had somewhere to go. Maybe it was to their hotels, to a hip new restaurant, or maybe to the airport, to escape this city.

But I had nowhere to go. I hadn’t had anywhere to go in years.

Suddenly, my junky piece of metal known as a cell phone echoed from the bottom of my ragged tote bag. I had no clue that thing was even working.

I picked up without hesitation, even though I had no idea who was calling. I guess that’s the thing about having nothing: you don’t have anyone to worry about.

“Tim.” A familiar voice greeted me.

“Hey, Connor!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t talked to you for a few weeks now, how is everything?”

“Janine’s in labor.”

I almost dropped my phone. “Wait, since when?”

“Like 25 minutes ago!” he exclaimed. “Come to the hospital!”

“Yeah, yeah, of course!” I said with happiness. “I’ll be at the hospital in 20 minutes!”

“Alright, see you!”

“I can’t believe I’m going to be an uncle!” With that, I hung up.

The formerly judgmental tourists were now grinning. I guess the miracle of life just does that to people.

I ran down the streets from excitement and fear of missing any moment of this occasion.

I finally reached the Swedish Hospital and Medical Center. But when I saw people parking their cars, my excitement dissipated.

I did not like going to normal people places. I stayed in the homeless places: alleys, parks, and church shelters. Everything else seemed off limits.

I also remembered that day four years ago, when Connor found me in our living room, passed out from an overdose. It was during his third date with Janine, and they had taken me here to this hospital.

After that near-death experience, Connor had drawn the line. He was tired of putting his life on hold to take me to the hospital and hide my ecstasy. He had banished me from his apartment and fired me from his law firm. My own brother had turned on me.

Since that incident, we hadn’t talked so much. When it got cold, he’d invite me to stay in his apartment, but I could always detect annoyance in his tone, as if he was being forced to, not that he wanted to.

Inside the large, modern lobby, there was an air of sadness and tension.

Children holding “Get Better, Mommy” signs mustered fake smiles. Nervous parents stood about, hoping their kid survived that car crash. Elderly people held bouquets of flowers, ready to savor their friendships before they had to relinquish them.

There is a common saying among optimists and privileged people: “it could be worse.”

I never found truth in that saying, because I had always had it the worst. But as I listened to the tears and whispers in the lobby, I started to understand what that phrase really meant.

I eventually made it to the hospital room. Connor was grasping Janine’s hand when I walked in.

“Hey, Tim,” he greeted me. “Thanks for coming.”

“Anytime!” I replied with excitement. “I want to see my nephew as soon as he pops out!”

“Gross,” my brother said with a sigh. “Even though you’re 26, you have the sense of humor of a 16 year old.”

“It’s the weed talking,” I said honestly, watching him and Janine exchange awkward glances.

As the night passed by, the baby was still not out. But Janine was in pain, so that had to mean something.

At around 2 a.m. I got bored, so I made my way to the 24-hour hospital gift shop.

While I was there, I noticed the most adorable stuffed dog. I checked the price tag, which read $15.

All of the sudden, I was faced with a dilemma. Should I spend the money on the E pills I was supposed to pick up the next day, or the toy for my nephew?

In that moment, I felt a catharsis within me. I was going to be an uncle. I was going to be an influence for a little boy. I couldn’t be a junkie and an influence simultaneously.

I brought the stuffed dog up to the cashier and put my damp fives on the desk. I knew that this moment was the end of my twisted life.

Right when I reached the room, I saw Connor’s familiar, anxious expression.

“The baby’s coming!” he exclaimed as he struggled to put on his scrubs.

My heart began to beat with excitement.

At 2:37 in the morning, my nephew, Timothy Matthew Denney, came into this world.

“Connor.” I approached my brother. “You named the baby after me.”

“Yeah.” A smile appeared on his tired face.

That was all I needed to know that he forgave me.

After the baby was cleaned up, I was able to see him and hold him.

He was beautiful, with his dark skin and his closed eyes.

“Hey, there!” I said, even though I did not expect him to respond. “We have the same name! Did you know that?”

He let out a couple of little noises, but his eyes were still shut.

“I have something to say to you, kid. Please do not make any wrong decisions. Stay with your family. Don’t turn on anyone, or yourself. Whatever you do, try your best not to be like the man who shares your name. Promise me?”

In that moment, his eyes opened up.