Notes to the wannabe Carrie Bradshaws – from the raggedy edge

Taylor Cotter, the author of this gem, is hurt and surprised by the amount of vitriol the Internet has now dumped on her. I’ve got no desire to join in a public pile-on at a time when someone is already upset by the negative attention, but I did feel serious secondhand embarrassment upon reading her lament that life is just not “adventurous” enough now that she has a full-time job, a car and a 401k – and all at the age of 22. I think it’s perfectly normal to bitch and moan about a general lack of adventure – even I do it sometimes – and it’s not that I find Cotter to be “ungrateful.” I don’t think she’s a bad person, she just wrote an unfortunate post that managed to combine just the right amount of popular misconceptions about the age we’re living in that felt like a slap in the face for a lot of people who are genuinely struggling – in the U.S. and beyond.

First of all, equating financial stability with adulthood is ridiculous in this day and age. There are plenty of people who are decades older than we are, who’ve lost their savings and/or their homes. Some have had spells of living out of their cars and “bathing” in rest area bathrooms. For some, those spells have become day-to-day reality. This isn’t happening because those people are immature and silly and spent too much time playing Xbox.

Second of all, we don’t choose financial stability – most of the time, it chooses us. I think it’s healthy to pat yourself on the back every once in a while, but guess what? Being able to do internships that translate into a well-paying job out of college is a mark of privilege for most people, as most internships tend to be unpaid. That’s just one example of how kids from poorer families tend to get screwed even before they enter the job market. I think it’s fine to say that “Hey, I worked my ass off to get where I’m at right now.” But not acknowledging the element of luck – and luck is a capricious thing, darlings – just perpetuates the same damn stereotype of some people being “good enough” to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and others “not good enough.”

Also, there’s nothing romantic or adventurous about financial instability – or downright poverty. Hey, I got a little adventure for ya – how about losing teeth in your 20’s due to lack of access to preventative care? Sexy, huh? How about people who pile on the pounds because they have no time or energy or money to be able to eat a balanced diet? Can you still be Carrie Bradshaw if the Dior don’t fit? That’s not the worst of it, really, some people, for example, blow their brains out when faced with a mountain of debt, unpaid medical bills and layoffs. I’m sure that those closed-casket funerals are awesome, character-building experiences for their friends and relatives to attend.

And what’s up with this ridiculous notion that adventures are easy? I live a life of intrigue and danger – mostly not by choice, I might add – and let me tell you, I shed copious amounts of sweat and tears (and blood too – like the time I cut myself while trying to eat at a movie festival, because I flew in after spending most of the night up with a fussy baby, was tired as balls, and had no one to hold my steak knife for me.). Just because something makes for a good story doesn’t make it a good experience. An adventure is not a shampoo commercial – though that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth having. It’s just also worth having it in perspective.

And while we’re at it, can we please recall that Carrie Bradshaw is a fictional fucking character? And while fairly admirable as far as fictional fucking characters go – nobody could afford those clothes on an average journalist’s salary.

I’m just sayin.

Thank God we can’t afford Burberry Baby

… I guess?

Then again, I can’t imagine most well-adjusted parents buying novachek booties. And by this I don’t mean that Alyosha and I are particularly well-adjusted. We just happen to find sanity an admirable quality.

I am amused, and slightly petrified, whenever I observe so-called helicopter parents from a distance. And by this I in no way mean stay-at-home moms and or dads (whom I envy sometimes). I don’t necessarily believe that I don’t fall into the same emotional traps with Lev. I miss him at work, for one thing, and constantly want to overcompensate. We just can’t afford to spoil him rotten. Maybe that’s a good thing? Because I do fret about it, I really do. You want what’s best for your child during the best of times – and you’re especially sensitive to such issues when the world economy falters.

Way down south

… From Kiev, that is – and Istanbul, as I always suspected, is just as glorious in May as Kiev is. It’s a different gloriousness – calmer, I think, less tragic (but tragedy is endemic to natives anyway – a foreign spring always feels gentler, it results in possibilities, as opposed to memories). Now I understand many of the things that Orhan Pamuk has written, I believe.

We’re in town for the 2012 TRT Documentary Awards. “Katya, Vitya, Dima” is in the international competition. It’s a very rare and wonderful experience, to have the lights go up, see the faces of the people, and realize that they have totally understood you.

Poster for “Katya, Vitya, Dima”

As designed by the lovely Elena Shalkina, who is an artist and filmmaker here in Moscow.

The movie is up for an award in Istanbul next month – in the international category at the TRT Documentary Awards. Alexey and I are really excited to be included in this competition. We’re planning on being in Istanbul in the first week of May for the festival.

Annnnnnd here’s a two-in-one trailer that festival organizers have made available on YouTube:

You know, I’ve been trying really hard to find the right words as to how this movie should be described – and then someone at a party one night just said the following film: “It’s an art house flick – Rural Russia-style.” And that’s a very good – and succinct – way of saying what I’ve wanted to say about it for a while. There’s a tremendous amount of beauty and sadness portrayed here, in very unexpected ways, I would argue, and I’m happy and proud that I’ve been a part of this project (although to be perfectly honest, when my husband says, “We are so doing this” – it’s impossible to say no).

Look homeward

I was in the U.S. Embassy applying for a new passport for Lyovka the other day.

If you’ve been in Moscow long enough, you’re struck by how efficient and friendly the staff at the U.S. Embassy tend to be (on a sidenote: when my Russian husband and I were getting our paperwork approved at the Foreign Ministry in order to get married on Russian soil, everyone was also really efficient and friendly as well – and that’s when it strikes you, the huge difference between the Foreign Ministry and the Federal Migration Service. The former is alright. The latter is Mordor). Nobody’s angry at you for showing up. If you couldn’t print the PDF form, they just provide you with one. There are comfy chairs in the waiting room. There’s a playroom too – where I nursed Lyovka last August.

At the security post. U.S. Marines watch you with their feet propped up. You wonder how they get on in the city. You want to go home. You remember that you no longer have one. “We’re women, our choices are never easy.”

I always knew that I would leave North Carolina one day, but not before it rewrote my DNA, made the arrow in my inner compass point ever westward. North Carolina is a chronic illness. The outbreaks are always inconvenient.

And there is so much death on the news. You want it to be meaningful – it is not. You want to mythologize death – it will not be mythologized. Planes fall out of the sky. Doctors kill infants through neglect – and grandly tell the mother frozen in the hospital corridor that “but you gave birth to a very sick child, we have all of the necessary paperwork – that we just made up to cover our asses.” People spend their days killing other people and go home to their families in the evening – talk shows scream from the windows of their apartments. The old are always burying the young.

You need permits to do anything, permits to live, permits to breathe – and yet no one needs a permit to stomp a bloody trail through someone else’s life. It just happens. These things happen. “We wanted what was best – it turned out like always.” Shrug.

When he sleeps in his mustard-colored pajamas, Lyovka looks a bit like a squash. After we put him to bed, we drink wine. If my husband is off working on a movie, I’ll write. Self-righteous middle-aged American women who may or may not drive SUV’s but tend to have “accepted Christ as their personal savior” send me nasty messages on Facebook – because I became a mother without asking Sallie Mae for permission. “I would have never had children if I were still in debt!” “Enjoy your rootless existence, watching your child grow up without a home!”

Lyovka’s concept of home is currently defined by me and his father. When he made his first trip to the Embassy, he spent most of it sleeping in his sling, tied tightly to my body like a baby kangaroo. “Can I see him?” The consular staff member asked. I came closer to the glass. This was official procedure. His birth was being recorded – we were notifying the government of his existence.

“Wow. What a peaceful sleeper.”

Two countries mingled within him, borders rearranged, and he slept on.