reputation — an ode to ego

repuation

I was 19 when I first got suspended from a job. It was my summer gig cleaning the middle school. I remember yelling, “Fuck you, Larissa!” at my supervisor, my head too big for it all, and being sent home from the day.

At 24, I was suspended again. This time because I angstily unpublished an editor’s edits on my piece, and I was given the week off at MTV to think about my attitude. Honestly, they could’ve fired me on the spot.

There were other times where my ego got in the way of my work — like the time I stormed out of my cashier job at McDonald’s, face red with anger as my manager begged me not to leave during a busy hour. Or the time my college newspaper editor had to sit me down after I disparaged our publication in a blog post… while I was still working there.

I never blamed these clashes on myself — only the idiots that provoked me. I kept plowing through my career unapologetically, listening to only the people I wanted to — friends who nodded along to my rants eagerly, my parents who encouraged me to quit my first well-paying job during drama, and my boyfriend, who commiserated with me as if he were going through the same workplace bullshit. I knew subconsciously I was wrong. I knew I had a problem with professionalism. But I needed some cheerleaders to make me feel less guilty.

Taylor Swift has made me her cheerleader. Although far less loyal than some of her biggest Swifties, I defend her questionable missteps and stroke her ego and tell her it’s going to be OK. We’ll always love you, us Swifties coo at her — though it’s a struggle during her neo-Nazi silence, her anti-resistance, her Spotify pettiness, her attack on a tiny blog and her malicious timing of revealing her pen name, Nils Sjoberg. I still maintain that, while messy, Taylor wasn’t completely wrong about the Kimye drama of 2016, but that’s a separate convo.

I have to admit, when I first saw reputation’s album cover and heard its first single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” a bit of my chest dropped. For some reason, I was hoping she’d take the high road through all the media criticism. I think a lot of us hoped for that — especially during an era in U.S. politics that seems driven by revenge and power and spite. I wanted her to be the light. Instead, Swift was more like me at peak ego, lashing out and peeling away angrily. I got flashbacks to when I fed myself on my own toxic tweets, subtweeting my bosses as I counted my Twitter followers like a snickering cartoon robber inventories his loot. But reputation had more in store than just its first campy single.

“You know, you were wrong,” Pete told me a few years after my MTV suspension. It was fucking weird to hear, especially since he’d agreed with me every time I’d come home with another complaint. During those nights, we’d make dinner as I unloaded my latest grievances against my editor, him responding in a manner that mirrored my boisterous disgust until we moved on altogether, making our kitchen a place where my angst just melted away.

Reputation is about situations like that. There’s the angry denial, sure. Vengeful Taylor has always satiated our gross hunger to justify our own egos — there’s the self-righteous “Look What You Made Me Do” and the condescending “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” that do the trick. But it’s also about finding solace in someone who cools those fiery feelings. It’s about finding that person who handles you gently while you figure yourself out. He gives you space and makes you safe, so you can reflect on your own missteps. My favorite line that details this comes from “Call It What You Want”:

“All my flowers grew back as thorns
Windows boarded up after the storm
He built a fire just to keep me warm
All the drama queens taking swings
All the jokers dressing up as kings
They fade to nothing when I look at him”

It can dangerous to put yourself in that bubble. When the people around you agree more often than disagree, you’re not challenged. The result is an even bigger ego and a reckless drive to tackle those who dare to disagree. That explains a lot about Taylor’s narrative, why she would come after a small blogger who dared to dissent or why she would drop her entire discography on Spotify the same day as rival Katy Perry released her new album.

But it’s also incredibly human and natural to surround yourself with supporters. Our instincts tell us to find a safe refuge. So while half of reputation seems to be about her vindictive, hardened personality (a bit satirical with a hint of truth in each lyric), the other half sings with vulnerability. To grow, you have to recognize your faults and then move past them. Taylor may never speak plainly about her troubled 2016, but we can witness her internal struggle laid out in her music.

After you look past “Look What You Made Me Do” and the reclamation of the snake imagery (more of a marketing tactic than anything, I believe), there’s a lot of reflection on reputation. On four different songs, she references the word “mistake”: “And I know I make the same mistakes every time,” she sings on “Call It What You Want.” “Flashback to my mistakes / My rebounds, my earthquakes / Even in my worst light, you saw the truth in me,” she sings on “Dress.” “But I stay / When it’s hard or it’s wrong or we’re making mistakes,” she sings on “New Year’s Day.” Even Ed Sheeran grasps the theme on “End Game,” when he raps, “I’ve made mistakes and made some choices, that’s hard to deny.”

Reputation is the reactive and the reflective. It’s the “Fuck you, Larissa” and the journal entry, years later, when you’ve realized from your mistakes and you’ve calmed down.

It’s about being an imperfect egotistical human that still needs love. Like Taylor, who sings with a theatrical stubbornness “I’m perfectly fine, I live on my own,” I pride myself on independence and my ability to accomplish things without the help of others. However, the reputation era owes a lot to the people waiting at home, “high above the whole scene,” who come out on the other side with you, stronger than ever.

While Swift’s discography has been an open diary for fans, reputation is the beating heart. The beauty in reputation is that it exposes both what we want to be and what we really are — the defiant and the vulnerable. And when you peel back its crusty layers, it comes down to love.

It’s an ode to that person who sticks with you through the shit, even if you’re wrong.

“I’ll be there if you’re the toast of the town, babe
Or if you strike out and you’re crawling home”

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things i know about game of thrones

Here are things I know about Game of Thrones from being on the Internet, reading over Pete’s shoulder and playing the Game of Thrones pinball machine at the Rock Shop:

There is a queen with double processed hair, although it’s doubtful they have bleach in this strange land

The dragons are extinct I think?

Everyone has sex with each other, even brothers and sisters

The Tangerines! Those are the incestuous ones, right?

There is a guy called Grey Worm and he doesn’t have a worm anymore!

Someone picked off his scabs! Gross! But satisfying!

Everyone gets killed in the Red Wedding, but there are somehow still characters left

Jon Snow came back to life and there is only one available press shot of him where he’s trudging through snow

There is a tremendous amount of boobs

“Winter is coming!!!” (in pinball that means you get an extra ball)

Ed Sheeran was in it!

So was Lily Allen’s brother

The families — Martell, Barthanon and Tangerine — are always fighting and there is an evil guy with blond hair that sentences everyone to gruesome deaths

The poor people choose from apples or onions

It is like the Middle Ages and everyone is British

That’s all I know!

how to save money on home decor

I spend too much time on Instagram, dreaming about the ways I can make over my mold-infested, one-bedroom, fourth-floor walkup to make it look like the cutesy, refurbished Airstream I found on Instagram. Homemade oak shelving! Hammered copper cups! Green succulents huddled into mismatched trios!

We’ve all collected an inspiring curation of beautiful blogs, Youtube videos, Instagram accounts and aesthetically pleasing Tumblrs — like a multi-dimensional mood board we live and breathe whenever we explore the corners of the web.

Ew! I just saw a silverfish slithering across the floor. Don’t worry — I got it with a tissue. That was gross. Back to the post.

Morning vibes.

A post shared by Sugarhouse Homestead (@sugarhousehomestead) on

The point is, I’m starting to realize that these media are more aspirational than inspirational. At least, in this point in my life. I’m very much into the philosophy that you should save your money so you can enjoy the nice things later. That means that I’m a budget.

Have you guys ever been on “a budget”? It’s fun. It trains you not to over-indulge and to ponder capitalist-soaked retail trends while deodorizing hand-me-downs. Oh, the trends. How I’d love to participate! Yet, I watch from afar as they pass and I’m thankful yet again that I didn’t get those fringed capri pants with the artisan frays in the bum. Most of you will just throw those pants away… or donate them in a year. And don’t get me started about where they’ll go from there.

I look at A Beautiful Mess article about “cheap” housewares and get sucked in once again. I browse Apartment Therapy and see a crisp white subway-tiled kitchen. I swipe through Instagram and click on an article about “how to decorate on a budget.” I abandon it before it even loads because I should know better — it’s most likely just a list of items under $50. Their version of “budget” is not the same as my budget. Or your budget. It’s not their fault they’re touting new products — these posts get them advertising money. And, like I said, there’s no harm in watching trends.

Listen to how boring I’m being! No one wants to be sold on NOT buying things. People only want to be told what they WANT! Whatever — I’m almost done.

So here I am, sitting on a sun-faded IKEA futon, its left corner torn to shreds by a menacing cat, lil’ tufts of artificial cotton billowing out like a cumulus nimbus. I’m thinking about my dream couch. It’s grey. It’s structured, yet comfortable. It’s got a chaise, like this. It would probably take up one-half of my NYC apartment.

Anyway, here’s the secret on how to save money on home decor: don’t buy any. Sorry I’m making you read a whole article to reveal that to you, but welcome to the internet!!

It’s taken me so long to be happy with the things that I have. In fact, I’ll be honest: I’m not quite happy still (hence, my lusting for a couch). These feelings are deeply ingrained, and I may never shake them. Dark, I know.

But we’ve got to learn how to embrace the cool things we have. I have a yellow chair I got from my parents, who got it from a person named Granny Ann. (She was not my granny. Just a granny. A grumpy granny.) Either way, I kind of like that Granny Ann’s chair has its own storied timeline. No one told me I needed this chair because it was on trend. I just needed a chair so I took it.

As you go on the rest of your day, think “do I need this?” Most of the time, you already have everything you need. Ugh, I hate admitting that.

^ The track that inspired this post. Taking suggestions for an anti-materialism playlist in the comments or on social meeds.

I grieve out of self-pity

FullSizeRenderEvery November 5, my aunt texts me a heart emoji. One year it was blue. Another year it was the two pink hearts. This year it was the red breaking heart. “Thinking of you today,” she’ll write. And then I have to remember that November 5 is the day my dad would’ve turned 52, 53, or 54. November 5 comes out of nowhere. Each annual emoji freezes my brain and crumples my gut. They’re a reminder: Sorry for the momentary interruption, but your dad is gone. ❤

Every November 5, my dad would make it clear what he wanted, so there’d be no guessing game when it came to gifts. He wanted a new chainsaw blade. A new lunch box. Something that wasn’t too luxurious but made his life a little easier. New snips for vinyl siding. A nice pair of gloves to haul firewood around. We’d oblige. We’d make a nice dinner and a homemade card. And then it was November 6.

March 13 was when I woke up at 3 a.m., my mom calling me from the hospital, calm. Strangely calm. March 14 was the last time I saw him.

November 5 again. No gifts. No cake. There was nothing to be done. No one to give anything to.

But one heart emoji in my inbox. “Thinking of you.” Oh, it’s November 5, I remembered.

For months ahead of the next March 14, I’d planned. I’d drink Labatt Blue in his memory. I’d listen to his favorite Tragically Hip songs. I’d stay outside for 14 hours straight and contemplate the work ethic I’d inherited. I’d light a shrine candle and remember the day he died, as if that would celebrate his life. Each March 14, I want to write an ode to him. I want to grieve publicly. I want to show the world the good man he was.

It’s funny because they say you should commemorate birthdays instead of deathaversaries (how weird that we even have that coined term?). Birthdays celebrate life, another year older, joy, cake, vitality. And while there maybe no more birthdays, they say it’s better to celebrate what once was rather than what now isn’t.

We can’t help but remember deathaversaries more clearly, though. Death has more impact than birthdays ever will. A deathaversary reminds us of the the day our world changed. The day they left us broken and unwhole. The day that put a halt to our ingrained self-absorption. Birthdays go according to plan, death days do not.

This deathaversary, March 14, I don’t grieve my dad, although I may still toast to him with a Labatt Blue. In some fucked-up egotistical move, I grieve me. I grieve my life—the one I had with him. I grieve the old Emilee, the Emilee who had a dad, the Emilee who took him for granted. She’ll never be seen again.

Instead, I’m the girl with memories only—little images and flashbacks that give me small doses of my dad. When I’m watering my tomato plant, I think about the seedlings he’d propagate on the ping pong table in the basement. When someone says “hip,” I remember that “What Is Hip” song he’d always sing all goofy. When I see a Buffalo News, I’m taken back to weekend mornings watching my dad tuck his legs onto the couch and read the headlines to my mom.

Three years after I last saw him, the instant memories sometimes catch me off guard. They’re like emojis in my inbox, reminding me of what was there.

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cool things I did in 2016

Bianca and I started a podcast about ’90s kid nostalgia and we do it every week

I explored how Beyonce killed genre in an essay for Fuse

I appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered to talk about Bey’s Lemonade

Explored an East New York warehouse for a piece on secondhand clothing for Brooklyn Magazine’s December/January issue

Went behind the scenes of One Direction’s first music video with their costume designer, choreographer and director for Fuse.

Traveled upstate to interview Ra Ra Riot about their homecoming show for Brooklyn Magazine

Had a heart-to-heart with JoJo about our parents’ addictions for MTV

Rachel Platten and I talked about how she’s more than “empowerment girl” for MTV

Learned how to do the “Cha-ching” dance with Chairlift for MTV

Hung with Jamie Hince and Alison Mosshart for a Noisey piece on The Kills

Ate ice cream with Big Wild for Noisey

Hiked all over the Cloisters and talked friendship with Frankie Cosmos for Fuse

Talked about being an immigrant in Donald Trump’s America with Jai Wolf for Fuse

Went down to a racetrack in Austin for Taylor Swift’s only concert in 2016

Did a bunch of stuff at Firefly, including rummaging through their lost and found and getting blissed out with Gallant

Published the hardest thing I’ve ever written

You don’t care about my Best Songs of 2016 list

Since you don’t care, and no one is going to read this, here are my 16 picks for Best Songs of 2016.

16. “Youth” – Glass Animals

Honestly, you probably are already scrolling down my list to see if our tastes align. But the reason I listened to this song so much in 2016 is because I feel like there’s a thousand things rushing at me on the chorus. A controlled high, but an unfamiliar one.

15. “Dang!” – Mac Miller feat. Anderson .Paak

Whatever. You don’t care that this song has one of the best beats of 2016, that Anderson .Paak almost singlehandedly raised up this Mac Miller joint with some type of ’70s funky soul. The brass, the sax, the flow, the lowkey disco feel, dang! You don’t care that Mac “just eat pussy, other people need food.” You don’t care about the trippy breakdown or breezy outro.

14. “Fuck With Myself” – Banks

I know you’re not reading this, but if you were, you’d know that I’d listen to Banks’ “Fuck With Myself” whenever I needed a little ego boost. 2016 is the year where I truly stopping giving certain fucks. When I wasn’t feeling myself, I’d pop on this song and Banks would, ever-so darkly and moodily, remind me that “my love’s so good, so I fuck with myself more than anybody else.”

13. “Alaska” – Maggie Rogers

I’m pretty pissed that it took me most of the year to discover this song. It’s about hiking on a glacier in Alaska and leaving the past in the past, which I’ve done before. Not only do the lyrics apply so accurately to my life that it’s creepy, but the beat is so acoustic feeling that you almost forget that there’s electro elements. Not to mention the harmonies. Ah, the sweet, unconventional upper-register harmonies.

12. “Glowed Up” – Kaytranada feat. Anderson .Paak

Since you’re not reading this — you’re not even on my website, even — I might as well just put this out there that “Glowed Up” represented my entire April. There’s something otherworldly in the alien-esque voice swiveling underneath the heavy mechanical beat, something that comforted me as I adjusted to a new world in another corporate job. There’s also something comforting in the throbbing, brash synths and cooler-than-you feeling in Anderson .Paak’s raspy storytelling. April vibes, man.

11. “Be Alright” – Ariana Grande

This is that dance-in-your-kitchen-after-a-taxing-day jam. No matter how shitty you’re feeling, this song will get you out of it, if you let it. It’s the best song with a xylophone this year, and surprisingly, there’s been a lot of xylophone this year.

10. “We Don’t Talk Anymore” – Charlie Puth feat. Selena Gomez

You’re on a different website right now, pretending to read one of their articles, but just know that I get what people say about Charlie Puth. They call him Charlie Poop. Anyway, if you know me, you know that I’m a ride-or-die Selena Gomez fan, so I checked out this joint when I found out she was on it, and as soon as I heard the tricky acoustic guitar riff in the beginning, I was hooked. You try playing that!! From the tropical, bouncy chorus to the extremely genuine feel that Gomez gives the lyrics, it’s a bop.

9. “You Don’t Know My Heart” – Rachel Platten

This chorus goes hard! I wish everyone listened to Rachel Platten’s Wildfire album, but there’s nothing I can really do to change your mind. This song is about Rachel’s fight with her sister, which is so relatable *rubs elbow obnoxiously on your arm with a smirk*. I love the explosion of sounds, the sense of urgency and the tenor sax that honks up a storm. I kind of want to mosh to this song.

8. “The Greatest” – Sia

I should probably be spending my time writing something more constructive that I’m getting paid to do, but I like writing about these songs, so I’m gonna keep going. Sia knows how to write a hit with a dark, twisted edge. “The Greatest” is an upbeat, motivating anthem but there’s a little bit of desperation in there. When she’s saying “I’m free to be the greatest here tonight,” which, by the way, has great inner-phrase rhyming, she’s building ego off a pinch of hope.

7. “Crying in Public” – Chairlift

“Crying in Public” is about a love that so all-consuming that you can’t hide it, no matter where you are. It takes over and isolates you, so the next time it makes you cry on the train, you won’t even notice. Caroline from Chairlift sings so sweetly on this ballad, and I love the underwater distortion, the bright pulses and the warbled bass among it all.

6. “Aftergold” – Big Wild feat. Tove Stryke

Dance. Dance. Dance. This song is a symphony of tropical sounds. The instrumental stands on its own, but when he added Tove Stryke to the mix, I was happy I could finally sing along to one of my fave tracks of the year.

5. “Colour Sum” – Chelsea Jade

If you’ve been reading things I’ve written since 2011, which, like, why would you, you’d know that I’m a fangirl for Chelsea Jade. She just has no bad songs. “Colour Sum,” with its throbbing bass and her cave of layered vocals, makes my heart burst. Probably because it’s about sex.

4. “Everybody Wants to Love You” – Japanese Breakfast

The chorus is everything in this tune, which pulls some light-as-a-feather-stiff-as-a-board wackiness and makes me float every time I hear it. It’s the call and response. It’s the group-sung “Everybody want to love you.” It’s the lyrics: “Will you lend me your toothbrush? / Will you make me breakfast in bed? / Ask me to get married / And then make me breakfast again!”

3. “Easier Said” – Sunflower Bean

Ugh, I’m barely following myself, but Sunflower Bean is easily one of my most listened-to songs of 2016. I dig the easygoing synth that gushes out warmth like a hot-air vent. And the reverbed AF beach guitar going crazy all over it. I love the melancholic vocals and the depressing lyrics. “Easier said than done / I hear you right the first time.” Everything about this song will make it timeless for me.

2. “Same Ol’ Mistakes” – Rihanna

This Tame Impala cover was unexpected on Rihanna’s ANTI, but it quickly became my favorite. It’s six minutes and 37 seconds long, which is great, because I never want it to end. With a menacing Scarface-esque counter-melody, rubberband bass and a celestial vocal echo, “Same Ol’ Mistakes” takes me to a different place. The lyrics urge me to take risks, dare to be uncomfortable, not settle for how things are going. “Stop thinking you’re the only option.” There’s so much more out there.

1. “All Night” – Beyoncé

Sometimes I start crying as soon as I hear the Outkast trumpet samples. When I caught Bey’s Formation Tour in Queens this year, she revealed that “All Night” is her favorite song to perform, further solidifying it as my favorite track off Lemonade. After an album’s worth of internal struggle, fighting true love, battling with acceptance and finding forgiveness, “All Night” is all about redemption. “And my torturer became my remedy.”

 

Here’s a Spotify playlist of all the stuff I listened to this year on repeat.

 

I asked my friends to describe their cats as muffins

Sarah: “probably like gluten free vegan nutless carrot cake because he’s kind of an obnoxious pain in the ass but still sweet”

Katie: “Xena’s a bran muffin because she likes to be a part of the pooping process (sitting on a lap/watching from the shower.)”

Lauren: “hes prolly like lemon poppyseed cause hes good but hes a bitch”

Brenna: “hmmmm, cranberry, because she’s sweet but a littttttle sassy”

Gil: “Belgian double fudge chocolate chunky munky: because shes’s black, beautiful and has a big swinging belly that hangs downs and swings side to side”

Laurie: “Gilbert (who is my cat) would be a cappuccino muffin with walnuts, because he wakes me up and is a nut. And he has a dark side that is lovable. And he is alternately comforting and disruptive. TOASTED walnuts because he has flava”

Alanna: “Tink would be a double chocolate chip muffin because she is sweet and a taby. Grayson would be blueberry muffin because he can be tart and sour but is still sometimes sweet”

Rae: “she’d be a blueberry muffin because she’s sweet, just the right amount of tart, and beloved by many”

Zach: “Irie: peanut butter with…butterscotch chips…because of her swirly light colors. Rav: dark chocolate with marshmallow stripes

Mike: “Jalapeno corn muffin. Both sweet and fiery”

Ilana: “She’s brown and white. So cinnamon swirl

Stacy: “Banana nut. Because he’s kinda a classic cat aka banana but he’s a litttttle bit crazy. I guess banana nut chocolate chip. Because he is sweet too.”

Allison: “White Angel food cake! Cause she’s a white beautiful Angel! And she’s sweet!”