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  • Lauren Sauer

A few months ago I wrote a collection of poems. They were all much more serious than I intended them to be, and your comments were much nicer than I was expecting. I've written a few more, but please be warned they're...much less poignant, to say the least. But please enjoy nonetheless--hopefully these come at a time when you're looking for less to chew on, anyway!



spending money poem

Calling it a pandemic feels insincere at this point

Like it should warrant some panic instead of just

wearing a piece of fabric on your face when you go to Target.

I will say I am trying my best to follow the rules,

so instead of spending money on gin and tonics someone else made

I'm spending money on new artwork for my bedroom.

I'm calling it being a grownup and taking pride in my space.

But really if I have to look at the same wall for another day

I will absolutely go off the rails, for real this time.


moving poem

Not to make myself sound oppressed

But one time I went on a date with a guy

who told me he wanted to move back in

with his parents

And not to be dramatic but I’d rather die.

But turns out they have a pool

and didn’t vote for Trump

So I guess that’s fair.


bleak poem

Last night I fell asleep reading my own tweets

and this morning I did my every day routine

of hitting "ignore" on the reminder to take vitamins

and then grinding a few tablespoons of coffee beans


white poem

White woke culture

is telling your friends

"no it's pronounced Kamala, not Kamala"

and then immediately forgetting

which one is actually correct


pop music poem

Lorde should make new music, especially now.

I can only lie facedown in memory foam

listening to years-old haunted teen angst

so many times before it starts to feel too ironic.

And along the same vein I really need my peers

to stop recommending Billie Eilish to me

because even though she, like, just turned eighteen

she seems like the type of girl who would bully me in middle school.


bleak poem pt. 2

Do you ever tap something with the pad of your index finger

before you start using it?

Like a book or a notepad or the remote control

because our little chimp brains are wired

to think everything is an iPhone?

Nothing makes me feel stupider!

Except for maybe if you're reading this

and thinking to yourself,

"No, I've absolutely never done that."

A character trait I share with most of my white female cohort is my love of Sex and the City. Is it a television show that has aged particularly well? No...but it could be worse. At its core I still find it to be empowering and important for its time.


Carrie Bradshaw and co. taught a new generation of women to be unapologetic and to challenge gender norms. It also taught a ton of us to sit high and mighty behind our laptops, reigning down upon our peers with observations no one necessarily needed. Sprinkle in the instant gratification of social media and the isolation of 2020, and you have yourself the perfect storm that lead to this blog post.


I asked my Instagram followers to send in their questions and quandaries, and surprisingly they delivered! Leave it to social media to give me just enough gas for a one-way trek to Egoville. In any event, I think this would be a fun little series to do somewhat regularly on this blog, if anyone gives even a teeny tiny minuscule ounce of a shit. And with that, I couldn't help but wonder if it's time to get on with the advice.



Question 1: Why can't I be a rich influencer hmm????


Starting off strong with a question one of my close friends asked me as a joke. But joke's on you, because I'm actually going to attempt an answer! For those who don't know (aka my family members over 40 who lovingly read these posts), "influencer" is a job title usually reserved for the young, thin, and stylish. Influencers are self-employed independent contractors who have amassed a following on social media through a unique mix of prowess, personality, and striking while the iron is hot. With this following, these individuals are hired by major brands and corporations to create unique, personality-driven advertising, with a social media post acting as the theoretical billboard or print ad. In short, people get paid hundreds of thousands to post pictures of themselves holding up products on Instagram.


It's not hard to discern why this is an attractive career option, especially for those of us who are also under 30 and rack up mindless hours on our phones. It seems like a way to get paid for something we already do for free. But here's what I will say: I think this is one of those "grass is always greener" scenarios. Now, I will level with you: the grass looks pretty f--king green. Like, dreamy, vibrant, almost unearthly green. Still doesn't mean there's not the occasional patch of dead grass.


Working for yourself is its own special breed of hell, or so I've heard. Paying taxes quarterly is a headache, especially when the onus is on you to set aside the inevitable 25-30% of your income to pay those taxes. And do you really want to go through the stress of wondering if your one-woman detox tea ad campaign is going to be lucrative enough to keep your lights on?


Granted, I'm talking in hypotheticals, and I'm making things sound much more grim than they actually are. Being an influencer probably is pretty great, which is why so many people seek it out as a career. I would kill to have my to-do list for the day read: 1) Post picture 2) Go to Trader Joe's 3) Spin class 4) Nap. But in the meantime, with the social media marketing landscape changing, evolving, and unraveling right before our very eyes, it's its own type of luxury to know that your job will still be necessary next month, next year, and next decade. Plus, private employer-provided health insurance is pretty dope. God, I've turned into such an adult. Gross.


Question 2: I've been working from home since March, and I'm getting sick of using my couch as an office. Help!


Oh baby, do I feel this one. Admittedly, my situation is a little bit unique. When this started, I was working part-time hours every day. I would log on from my kitchen table or couch, cross a few things off my to-do list, and then before I knew it my four to five hour shift was done. In early August, I was promoted to a full-time role, which has been the biggest saving grace for a lot of reasons, but also around the time when I got real about my WFH situation.


I see this frustration in a lot of my friends. When we signed leases or retreated back to our childhood bedrooms, we didn't conceive a world in which we'd be factoring in a home office setup. Most of us have just enough square footage for our bare minimum belongings, and the thought of a giant desk is enough to inspire a laugh riot. But we are now forced to adapt.


For those working from home, I really strongly recommend a dedicated workspace. Constantly relocating and changing your surroundings was fun and cute at the beginning, but you can't honestly tell me you're at your most productive taking Zoom calls from bed. Plus, that muddies the waters a bit too much; after all, this is still your home first and foremost. Create a dedicated space that is your "work zone," that doesn't bleed over into leisure time. If you're working from the couch habitually, it's not inconceivable that you either take a lazier approach to work, or you start to feel on edge watching Netflix after hours. This is a separation of church and state issue...or rather, a separation of work and home.


A game changer for me was repurposing my desk. I've had a cute little Wayfair desk since I moved out over 3 years ago. For most of that time, it sat collecting dust and being yet another surface to dock pending bills, unread books, and random knick-knacks. I decided to make a real effort to turn it into a productive work zone, and since then I've felt much more motivated to get the job done. I bought a $30 10-drawer organizer to effectively stow away my personal belongings that were eating up precious surface area (not to mention hide some clutter, which helps my brain immeasurably), et viola! Not the most glamorous or ginormous workspace, but a reliable area for me and my to-dos. If you don't have a desk right now, this isn't necessarily advice to go out and buy one (although even a $40 Ikea table will suffice), but consider areas in your home that allow for you to sit upright and work off of a surface that's not your lap. Even if it means shelling out a few bucks to make some tiny changes, you'll be happy you did in the long run. And I dunno, maybe your employer will meet you halfway or cover costs of those expenses. This is a weird time that your HR department likely never made a plan for, so any question is a fair one.


Additionally, I really urge all my fellow work-from-homers to reflect inward and recall bits of your routine that in a normal, non-COVID life helped you be your best. For me, I really used to relish my time getting ready for work. I found I always was more productive on days when I would wake up with ample time, make a good pot of coffee, and not rush to get out the door. Now, I'm not putting on makeup or wearing cute clothes most days, but I do still try to give myself at least 30 minutes to an hour to drink my coffee, listen to some music or a podcast, change into something socially acceptable, and get in the zone.


If you used to rely on your Starbucks drive-thru on the way to the office, treat yourself to a grande PSL before logging on. If you used to be the king or queen of the mid-afternoon stroll, take 10 minutes to circle your neighborhood. I know I sound like the dullest dud of all time, but I really do notice a difference in my mental health on days when I've treated myself well versus when I stumble over to my laptop in my pajamas and don't leave the house all day. Revolutionary, I know.


Question 3: How do I reconcile feelings of anger or discomfort when I see good friends out at bars on social media/not taking the virus seriously?


Oof, this one's a doozy. In fact, I've had everything up 'til this question written for two days now, while I've grappled with my answer. Thing is, I'm also very much trying to reconcile those same feelings. The challenging thing about 2020 as a whole, I think, is how it's really showing everyone's true colors. And to put it plainly, it sucks when people you love unpleasantly surprise you.


The issue here is not one of FOMO. It's not the usual anger one might feel seeing their friends being social in years prior. Because, hey, I'm not mad you didn't invite me out, I'm mad that you're out period. But I'm also torn, because I know I'm not perfect. I've eaten outdoors at a restaurant. I've gotten a haircut. I've hung out with friends. I know I'm taking my own calculated risks, and I should afford others the same right. But something about going to an enclosed bar with no masks in sight just feels icky. I'll be straight up: If I know you and you've gone to a bar, a wedding, or another indoor germ-fest, I'm judging you. I think you're being selfish. I'm saddened to know you prioritize your happy hour over others' health. But I'm also not the patron saint of the Coronavirus, and I'm in no business of telling you how to live. I'm just in the business of doing what makes me feel most safe and courteous.


Festering in our own anger is not super productive. 2020 has proven to me at least that we're all pretty set in our ways, and there's not a whole lot of persuading one can do to get you to cross over to a different point of view. And I mean that from both sides. I can't imagine anyone being able to convince me to vote for Tr*mp or go into Target mask-less or turn a blind eye to science. To me, it's so nonsensical and so against my personal beliefs to do any of those things. But the thing is, I know people who want to go out as they please and want to vote Republican and want the government to leave them alone, and they feel the exact same way. They also don't foresee changing their mind, as much as I wish they would. But to be fair...same. At least that's one thing we have in common? A lack of desire to bend?


I'm not saying don't discuss politics or differing opinions with your loved ones, because I do think in small doses it can be productive, but I'm just saying maybe don't approach those discussions with the goal of changing anyone's mind. Use these important conversations as an opportunity to learn about where the other side is getting their data, let your views be challenged in ways you can't conceive, and attempt to offer a little window into your thought process. I think that's the best you can do.


Do I sound defeatist? Yeah, probably. Is my attitude shared by millions? For sure. Does this contribute to the division of our nation? Maybe. But in a way, this attitude keeps me afloat. I can't change your mind, but I can change how I respond.


So here's my advice: You unfortunately can't get your friends to see the error of their ways, no matter the research you've done. It sucks, because we select our "tribe" based on likemindedness and similar outlooks, and this year has challenged that. I'm not saying you can't be friends anymore, but I am saying that perhaps what's best is to set a boundary. Tell your friends, "you can go out to bars, but we won't be hanging out in person for the foreseeable future. I will not volunteer myself to contribute to the potential spread of this virus." They're allowed to think that's ridiculous, but you have to honor your best judgment.


This year is not one for the nightlife culture we're used to. Honestly, the last time I went to one of the more infamous bars up the street from my apartment, I saw several people I went to high school with and at least two pools of vomit on the floor. So, like...I'm fine missing out for now. That's kind of where you have to operate from, I think. Just a simple "Hey, do what you want, and I will, too. I'm not comfortable with the choices you've been making, so I unfortunately need to keep my distance for the foreseeable future. Catch you on FaceTime maybe!"


Put simply, there are consequences for reckless behavior, and not hanging out with some of your more cautious friends is the least disastrous of them.

Thank you for letting me play Carrie Bradshaw for a bit. If you'd like to see another installment of this unqualified advice series, I'm more than happy to write another one. Anyone who knows me in real life knows I love sticking my nose where it doesn't belong and giving advice no one asked for. So if anyone actually wants it? Well that's just a dream come true.

  • Lauren Sauer

I mean, why not, right? Poetry is not my thing, nor has it ever been. I took an Introduction to Poetry class in college to fulfill a degree requirement, during which time I spent a semester rolling my eyes at nineteen-year-old boys donning turtlenecks, round-framed glasses, and unkempt hair. I'm not claiming these are good, or impactful, or will make much sense to anyone other than me. But in month...whatever it is now...of this weird hellscape we're living in, why not try my hand at something unfamiliar and speak in vague metaphor. Back soon with the normal stuff.

longer

My hair is much longer than it has been in recent memory,

perhaps much longer than it's ever been.

It's to the point now where those I haven't seen in a while

will exclaim "Your hair!", devoid of compliment or criticism.

Just, like, general acknowledgement.

I guess that's nicer than "Your under-eye bags!"

or "You're wearing April's baked goods as a belt!"


setbacks

When this all started, we thought optimistically

in terms of mile markers and holidays.

"This'll be over by Easter" turned to "It's gonna be a weird spring,"

which careened into wishes that summer wouldn't be ruined.

And through virtual graduations

and prom dresses devoid of sweat stains,

we watched our children settle for missed milestones

and lackluster versions of the rights of passage we rolled our eyes through.

We waited in lines to enter the grocery store

while brides woefully retired their buttercream dreams,

and parents remembered how hard elementary school arithmetic actually is.

And now I recall emphatically telling my mother that a turtleneck

simply wouldn't do under my princess Halloween costume.

As I have no children to ask I cannot confirm,

but I imagine face mask trumps turtleneck in terms of unfairness.

And if we all got our shit together,

they could've thoughtlessly traded Tootsie Rolls for Twizzlers,

carpeted suburban enclaves serving as the confectionary trading floor.


bench

In phase one, I fabricated reasons to make phone calls

to hear voices belonging to faces I wouldn't see for a while.

Through teletransmission and pacing familiar sidewalks,

I could imagine a lack of miles.

Reach out and touch something

that in sunlight on park benches

isn't quite what I hoped it would be.


email etiquette

I got promoted on my 25th birthday

and to celebrate I wore makeup to a Zoom meeting for once.

My fingers have developed carpal memory

for the phrase "I hope this email finds you well,"

and it's almost genuine some of the time.

Not in a mean way, but in a "who cares" kind of way.

Because if an email has ever actually found you well,

let's figure out how we submit suggestions to the DSM.


red

To sit at a dinner table with my family

would be to sit among those whom I both love the most and vote against.

Not exclusively, because I have lineage in California,

but there would be enough shades of scarlet to make me squirm.

My penance for sobbing in the grass last July was mosquito bites on my thighs

and the desire to sprint down asphalt in an oceanfront neighborhood.

But it's seemingly strange to see your own DNA

posit questions you deem too mean to warrant a response.

I'll remember the words, "That's a nice idea, in a utopia,"

dripping with the same syrup that will never sweeten innocent blood,

though its many attempts trap many a housefly.


out to sea

The difference between love and convenience, I think,

is what happens when your world shrinks to the exact

square footage of your dwelling, and you share your pillow

with gnawing thoughts that usually can be pacified by blue light.

I'm learning more and more that daydreams are sailboats,

and the mere suggestion of a strong wind is enough to set off for the Orient.

An anchor is always good to have on board,

as is a captain who knows her astronomy.


calendar

Nature loves routine.

Without clocks, without email,

without circadian rhythm dictated by digital chime.

I know this, because the inevitability

of summer storms and longing

know nothing of minute hands.

Something as primal as displaced anger

arrives on one's doorstep like the first frost,

even if it's been the longest, hottest summer.


rewatch

I'm finding a resting place in the teen soaps I once consumed like starches,

only this go-around raise objection to boring logistics like real estate.

Life isn't as enchanted once you know the interior of a dorm room from experience,

and you wager your fleeting dollars on delivery that may cause indigestion.


invention

I have created the most wonderful tool.

You can borrow it, if you like, or I can help you build your own.

It is the greatest little gadget, soon to be adopted

by overzealous Boy Scouts and seamen with brute strength.

For when knots get so overwhelmingly tangled

that they more closely resemble masses of fibrous headache,

my invention swoops in to make upwards of the misery.

It can unmask hatred, to reveal her more meek and earnest sister, sadness.

It can aptly measure distances and translate any phrase.

With near perfect accuracy, it can identify idiosyncrasy

and create social gathering with nearly no effort.

It sounds damn near perfect, I know.

You may wonder why I haven't sold out to the hardware store

or cashed a fat check from an investor.

But the thing is, it doesn't feel quite morally apt to benefit.

All I've done is discovered something already there.

Did you know if you use those two weird looking holes

that jut out from the sides of your head without agenda,

you can actually get quite a lot accomplished?


in response to major key

Can you believe once upon a time I overanalyzed my music taste

for worry those just as qualified would think I was dumb?

For the record, the only ones who give any remote thought

to how much serotonin leaks from my brain in response to major key

are me, myself, and the Spotify algorithm.

I wouldn't wish insecurity on my worst enemy, if I had one.

The enemy part, I mean. That's the part I don't have.

That's refreshing to say, for once.

And for the record, if you're reading:

I can be not your enemy and also not want to grab coffee.

Different creatures can cohabitate in nature without squabble.

I believe they call it indifference, or ecosystem.

Whichever term you prefer works for me.

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© 2018 by Lauren M. Sauer