Adventure and an American Travesty

Last week I was invited to dinner with my dad, his girlfriend and two family friends, Alex and Mona. They met my parents in the 1970s, when the four of them were enjoying their 20s in San Francisco. One of the greatest parts of their visit was watching the interaction with my dad. After 30 years of friendship, the interaction is more like family members who haven’t seen you in a long time, but they know all the indiscretions of your youth.

Alex and Mona are jewelers; they were in the Seattle area for a local art fair, but still lived in the small town in California that I remembered from my childhood. I can still picture the lemon tree in their front yard, the jasmine climbing the railing on the front porch, and the arbor of old grape vines in the backyard. They lived and traveled through numerous European countries and Mona still has Norwegian citizenship.

While we enjoyed our steak, green salad, potato salad and various drinks, I was content to observe most of the conversation. The food was good; the conversation and the feeling I left with was better than the actual meal. Hearing Mona tell the story of how they got married in Denmark, when they went to inquire about a work visa. The official, who looked like an owl, peered down at them from his spot on the top of a ladder at a very tall bookshelf. “Well, do you love each other?” He asked. They said yes. “The wedding in English is on Monday.”  And so, they got married. And 35 years later, if my math is correct, they are still happily living and working together.

Hearing of their adventures in France, collecting eggs and building windows in exchange for rent, made me think a lot about my life. Granted, I don’t want to be penniless in France, but I would like some adventure in my life.

The conversation eventually turned to my work, friends and love life. It was then that I mentioned I was considering moving in with my significant other in about 6 months.

My dad’s girlfriend voiced the opinion that I’ve had, but have been reconsidering lately. She said “I still think it would be nice to live alone first.”

Alex replied, “That’s an American travesty! You love someone, you jump in.”

I smiled, expecting a reply like that from Alex. After all, it worked out well for them.

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Good Publicity

Last Saturday morning while sipping a large cup of coffee, I read an interesting article  in the Washington Post about Groupon. The company’s Groupawn, a 28-year-old who quit a job as a waiter in Chicago, is living for one year on nothing but Groupons. He’s not using cash; he’s bartered for clothing and food with Groupons. The spa deals are the most sought-after commodity, according to the article.

Although certainly not a plausible publicity stunt (or marketing strategy) for many companies, I think it’s a good idea for Groupon for several reasons:

  • They’re increasing awareness about their brand, and the Post article certainly didn’t hurt. The Groupawn is on Facebook, Twitter, has a blog and appeared on the Today Show.
  • Groupon is creating an exclusive member society. It’s like a secret club offering sales. Who doesn’t love a sale? And a secret sale? Even better.
  • The publicity stunt has taken advantage of a network already in place. This group of people is helping the Groupawn reach his goal: to use only Groupons, not touch money for a year and win $100,000. People around the country are offering to pick up the Groupawn, Josh, at various airports and give him a place to stay, in exchange for Groupons.
  • They know their audience and will save big. Instead of finding a celebrity spokesperson, Groupon found a normal guy from middle America. The $100,000 prize Josh might win is significantly less than a celebrity spokesperson would charge. And why pay a celebrity? Groupon is a service for the middle class, not celebrities. Oddly enough, the Groupawn will become a sort of celebrity, though he’s probably known better as the “Groupon guy” than by his actual name, or from a talent or hit song.

You can follow the Groupawn on Facebook and read about his adventures on his blog, “Live off Groupon.”

Does being an entrepreneur mean cutting your own hair?

While reading an article in the June Vogue magazine, I was struck by a quote from Net-A-Porter founder and millionaire Natalie Massenet in the interview:

“Choose the right husband and nanny, and then don’t worry about a social life. Everything but family and work has to go.”

This was alarming to me. And that surprised me a little.

Me, a self-proclaimed feminist who wants a successful career. Those words struck me because I realized I want success, but I want a life beyond work and a family (in the event that I have a husband and child at some point in the distant future.) I like standing on my own two feet, and being able to pay all my bills on time, without depending on someone else’s income.

I don’t usually read Vogue. The only reason I saw the June issue was that I’d arrived 45 minutes early to a pedicure, a luxury I enjoy once every few months. And since June in Seattle was in the 60s and mostly rainy, I have hope that in July, I’ll wear sandals more often.

I was reading about Massenet’s company, and how she recently made $76 million dollars by selling Net-A-Porter to Richemont, the company that also owns Cartier. Before reading this, I had never heard of Net-a-Porter. I’m not the demographic (I don’t buy $1,200 shoes.) But if I did, and I wanted them within 24 hours, NAP is the place to go.

I admire Massenet’s entrepreneurship. Ten years ago she had the idea for this business of selling high-end fashion online to women who were too busy to shop. So-called experts kept saying the business would fail. It didn’t. The Vogue interview revealed that Massenet cuts her own hair, does her own makeup, and has a husband and two kids.

I want a successful career. I want to be self-sufficient and to buy an expensive bottle of wine on occasion, or get a pedicure if I want one, and go on vacation once or twice a year. But I’m not willing to sacrifice my social life, at least at 25, for the almighty career. Maybe I’ll feel differently at 35 or 45. Then again, I don’t think I’ll ever be a millionaire. Regardless, I want a work-life balance that involves 40 or 50-hour work weeks. And haircuts by a professional.

Life’s a Beach Picnic

Golden Gardens Beach

Golden Gardens.

When I leave the office and it is moderately sunny, I’m prone to spontaneous picnics with the boyfriend. Part of the Seattle mentality of “The sun is out. Quick! Go do something outside before it gets cloudy and starts raining.”

Tonight’s destination was Alki Beach in West Seattle. The picturesque sandy beach, with the appropriate mid-week number of sand volleyball players, dogs and bicyclists, was sunny and not very crowded when we unfolded the bright blue blanket on the sand.

Our ready-made picnics involve Odwalla and deli purchases from PCC or Whole Foods. I’m no expert on whipping up potato salad – but I can buy a half pint of vegan potato salad pretty easily. Tonight I ate greek salad in a take-out box with a compostable fork (naturally) while we watched the sun descend into the cloud layer above the Olympic Mountains.

Smelling the fresh salt air, sitting on a blanket, wiggling my toes in the sand and watching the sunset was the perfect mid-week evening. Today was a good day.