Lux was the last to arrive, breezing in and saying, “Sorry I’m late! Did you guys start already?” Naturally, we hadn’t. She settled into her chair, looking chic in her skinny jeans and high-heeled boots. Her blonde hair was perfectly styled. I bit my lip. Since my trip to Venice, I’d slipped back into some old habits. Well, okay, yeah, all of them. I’d been so busy writing, I’d stopped working out, was eating pizza for every meal and, I’m sick to admit it, even having the occasional cigarette. Okay, maybe not so occasional. I was also back to wearing my old uniform of ill-fitting dresses, black leggings and knock-off Uggs, as these renewed habits were doing no favors for my waistline. I couldn’t fit into my Sheri-approved outfits anymore. I just was so tired of trying to keep it all together.
I looked around the conference room as everyone was involved with chatting and laughing and catching up on company news. “Okay, guys,” I said. No one paid any attention. I cleared my throat. “GUYS.” I may as well have been shouting into the wind. I sat there for a second and shook my head. What a collection of characters. The Fun Committee, Emily and Anna were there, of course. As well as our intern, Tara. Archie was to my right, with our graphic designer, Lux, to my left. There was also a newcomer today, Lainie, who now worked with Emily on her team.
This, was my Social Media Marketing Team.
The Team is a group of six twenty-somethings who work at my company, that I’d assembled because they knew far more than me about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, building websites, publicizing, acquiring readers – pretty much anything that has to do with a blog except for the actual writing part. That was really all, I myself, knew how to do. They’d initially helped me get the site going in its early stages but since it had been a few months, I’d thought we should regroup so they could guide me in next steps.
I paid the group for their time with chocolate chip cookies from a local café that everyone in my office is obsessed with. I took the brief opportunity while everyone seemed to be preoccupied with their cookies to say, “Okay, I don’t want to take up too much of your afternoon so let’s get started.” I turned to Lainie. “Thanks for joining today.”
“So, what is this blog about?” she asked as she gingerly broke off a piece of the chocolate heaven. She was new to the company and had no idea how her life would change once she took that first bite.
“Well, NotQuiteACougar.com is about my adventures living, working and dating in NYC.” I took a sip of water. I then added sheepishly, “As a 40-Something single.”
“Cool,” she said and she entered the title into her laptop search.
“It was supposed to be a light-hearted look at my life but um…it’s taken a sort of darker turn,” I murmured.
The group exploded in laughter. “Ha! Yeah you could say that!” “Waaay darker than we’d planned!” “Totally different direction!”
I looked around the table, stunned. “Yeah, but that’s what people like about it. They can relate to it. It’s just sort of…real life. You know…,”
“Right,” interjected someone. “And it’s good, but sometimes I read it and I’m like, ‘Awww, Tracey.’”
“Well, I don’t want people to feel sorry for me,” I breathed.
“No, it’s not that,” said someone else. “It’s just that everyone is rooting for you. We want you to have a happy ending.”
I bit my lip. “Then you’re going to hate what I’m posting tomorrow.”
“You should just get drunk and hook up with someone and write about it,” someone said between cookie bites.
“Okay, guys. My Dad reads this. Even if that happened, I wouldn’t write about it.”
“What’s going on with match.com?” Emily then asked.
“Well, see, that’s the thing,” I lamented. “I’ve been so busy writing I haven’t had time to answer any of my messages.”
“TIME MANAGEMENT,” Anna announced and banged her fist on the table. “That’s what you need to work on.”
“Maybe you need to do Tinder,” Tara offered. “That takes no time.”
“Oh my god, no. I’m too old for that.” Tinder is a site where you simply upload pictures of yourself, enter in your age criteria for a match and then look through people who might be a good fit. There’s no profile or lifestyle description. It’s basically if you think someone is hot and then they think you are – you message each other. I could already see myself drinking myself into oblivion night after night, as no one I thought was hot would respond to me.
“Oh my god. Stop. Tracey,” Archie dismissed my statement with a wave of his fork. He’d picked up a salad before the meeting and was having none of this cookie nonsense. “You’re fabulous.”
“Just do it for fun,” Tara said.
The meeting progressed and we came up with some ideas to overhaul the blog format. “I can work on this tonight,” said Lux. “Let’s set a time after Thanksgiving where we sit down and get even more specific. Oh!” she then cried. “Better yet, come over and we’ll do a photo shoot. You need more images anyway – and not just of you. I’ll show you how to pull free pictures from the web and we can insert them and then start marketing the blog on Pinterest and Instagram.”
“Okay, good,” Archie said, nodding. “And after you guys do that, I’ll pull together a profile for the types of people we want to market through Facebook and we’ll set up targeted ads.”
Anna added, “Let’s also start focusing on events we can host after the holidays, not only for the blog but for Tracey to get some dates. We can do the kind of thing where everyone brings a single guy friend or something.”
Emily raised her hand. “I have some ideas.”
“Let’s get a meeting on the calendar to discuss,” Anna said.
I shook my head again. I may as well have not been there at this point. They were off and running.
After the meeting, Tara put out her hand and I gave her my phone. She set up my Tinder account, choosing her favorite pictures of me from Facebook for the profile. She then handed the phone to Archie who scrolled through the initial matches and ‘Liked’ the guys he thought were worthy of me and discarded those he didn’t. I couldn’t be bothered with that, as I was working on Wade’s travel for the next week.
When I got home last night, I laughed to myself as I looked through Archie’s choices for me. They were so good-looking, so out of my league.
This made me think back to my original post for today. I’d already written it over the weekend. It was a follow up to the blog about the email I’d sent to my friends where I’d asked them to send me their five ‘Top of Their Head’ impressions of me. I’d asked them to do this because I was having a hard time writing my online dating profile without coming across as too intense, dark, and frankly, too goddamn boring. I was hoping they could help me ‘Fun It Up.’
It had been a sweet collection of descriptions I’d received: Funny. Kind. Creative. Loyal. Thoughtful. Ambitious. But what had struck me, was hands down, the #1 response had been:
Now, this came in a variety of ways but the gist of it was all the same.
You don’t recognize your accomplishments.
Too much self-flagellation!
You are not very nice to yourself.
You don’t give yourself a break. Ever.
Way too hard on yourself.
You don’t like yourself very much.
One friend had even gone as far to say, “You are self-loathing.”
So I was going to post today about how I didn’t get it. I didn’t think I was self-critical. Yeah, so if I didn’t make my bed, or I drank too much, ate too much bread or didn’t finish my ‘List of Things to Do’ I’d put up menacing post-its around the apartment saying, “You. Get it the Fuck Together!!” How I’d look in the mirror and point at myself and growl, “Stop Fucking Things Up, Stone.” And after writing these things, I was going to state that yeah, they might have had a point.
But when I’d gotten home last night, I’d realized I didn’t want to go on the path that that blog would lead me. I didn’t want to start exploring why I was so self-critical and what I should do about it. I could already see blog after self-indulgent blog going over, in agonizing detail, all the things I want to change about myself. It felt exhausting.
So I deleted it.
Yesterday, I had a group of six people who thought I was worth it enough to help me with a project that had no benefit for them – well, except maybe the cookies. But they had given their time, given their energy, given their ideas, and it was all because they were rooting for me. So for today, I’m just going to go hold onto that. Maybe I will revisit The List at another time. Maybe not. But for today, I’m just going to post this. And then get back to my phone. Because I have messages from two of the cute guys Archie picked out for me. Yay!