Top Ten Signs You’re A Farm Girl

DC Intern or not, there’s no way I can deny my roots. I grew up in a small, rural town outside of Albany, New York. My parents run a small family farm, raising grass-fed beef cows and growing hay. It’s a simple life, one I love to come home to, where the people are real, the grass is green, and the sky is filled with stars.
But let’s not romanticize too much. More often than not, I feel like I’m on some backwards sitcom like Beverly Hillbillies, or I’m getting Punk’d by Ashton.

So without further ado, here are ten unmistakable signs that you, or someone you love, is a farm girl.

10.) You can’t drive your dad’s pick up truck, because manual transmissions are way beyond your mental capacity. But somehow you are able to operate a Ford 2910 Tractor, complete with 13 gears and a modified H-pattern.

As you can see, my hair is not quite as good as it should be...9.) Here’s a true story for you: You get your hair done for the prom in eleventh grade, only to come home to a cow standing in the middle of your backyard, just waiting for you and your $50 ‘do to chase it back to its greener pasture… I hate cows.

8.) You don’t even know where your parents keep the key to your house. Do your doors even have locks? Doesn’t everyone leave their key in the ignition?

7.) You write out directions for your friends that include the phrases: “Take a right at the red barn.” “Turn right on County Route (insert number here).” “It’s the house with two barns.” “Drive slowly. There’s a lot of horse traffic on that road.”

6.) Another true story. Your home economics teacher was in the room when you were born… in your parents’ bathroom.

5.) Your next-door neighbor is a really nice old woman, but you don’t actually know what she looks like, since she lives approximately a mile away and your dad broke the binoculars while he was deer hunting last November.

4.) Pet shopping has nothing to do with whether a dog will be cuddly and cute, but instead you ask the breeder if there were champion herders in their bloodline. Do they respond to whistles, sign language and clapping? Are they equal-opportunity cow haters?

3.) You have, at one time or another, known the name of your dinner. Sorry! I know it’s gruesome, but don’t freak out. What the hell do you think Jane Austen ate? Yea…. That’s what I thought.

2.) Your dad bought an iPod so he could listen to music while he is driving his tractor.

1.) The driving age, while legally 16, actually depends on how old you are when your feet can finally reach the pedals.

I Love A Good Opinion, But…

Advice is a funny thing.  You ask for it because you happen to know the person dishing it out to you is likely to have a different perspective than you, probably has better knowledge of the topic at hand, and can help you make decisions, or center your thoughts better than you would be able to do without their help.

So then why is it that nine out of 10 times that I ask someone for advice, I completely ignore the wisdom they bestow on me.  Sometimes, I’m not even paying attention, other times I assume their input is completely useless.  After all, I am an expert on everything, right?

I’ve been in my new house for approximately 48 hours at this point, living as one of the three out of five roommates that has moved in so far.  And I have to say, I think I have asked for advice from my two roomies at least 15 times since I’ve been home.  I even asked Nick the dreaded, “Do you think this makes my butt look big question.”

Sure, he said no, but I wasn’t convinced.  I mean, the shirt I was wearing was black, a very slimming color, but my pants were straight-leggish, and that rarely does wonders for all the booty I’m carrying around.  I really wish he had just said yes, if that’s what he was thinking, but I know he would never do that.  As the only guy in a house with four other women, I think he likes to choose his battles.

But I asked him anyway, knowing that he would answer negatively whether that was the truth or just a way to escape a cry-fest.  Then why did I ask him?  Not to hear the truth, obviously.  Was it because I wanted to be told that I didn’t have a big butt?

Why do we really ever ask for advice?  I think more often that not, we like to hear someone back up our opinion, or help us toot our own horn.  Sure, you might not agree with this theory, because it’s great to hear that we really value each other’s opinions, and maybe I’m the only one selfish and vain enough to ask people’s opinions without really caring to hear any answer other than “Oh my God, your butt looks amazing!”  But this is my blog…

I’ve seen my friends ask me for advice, and the second I try giving them heartfelt wisdom their eyes glaze over and their minds drift off to something else, probably thinking about last night’s So You Think You Can Dance.  And I do the same thing — only I’m usually thinking about Gilmore Girls.

So here’s some advice for advice givers.  Stop.  Don’t even bother giving advice any more, or preface your never-ending expertise with, “Do you want me to tell you what will make you happy, or to tell you the truth?”

That will get people’s attention.  Because, to be honest, we’re really not helping each other out at this point.

Has it ever actually worked?

I’m going to preface this point with one simply stated fact. I am not a beautiful person. I’m not trying to be self-deprecating here. I’m just saying that I would be comfortable giving myself a five on a scale of one to ten.

So why, WHY, is it that I can’t go through my fitness routine without having to hear cat calls and lurid statements and questions? Why do I have to be subjected to delcery trucks slowing down, creepy whistles and men poking their heads out the windows of their crappy cars? And why the hell did someone BARK at me last night?

That’s right. I was out taking my nightly walk around the George Mason University Fairfax Campus loop at about 10:30 last night when a delivery truck slowed down, the driver thrust his head out the window and barked three times. Classy, huh?

I agree with some people who may say it was probably what I was wearing that caught his attention. I was rocking my favorite pair of workout shorts, blue cotton with the word CHEER written on my butt and a white spaghetti strap tank top. But before we get into the whole “you’re asking for it if you wear revealing clothing” thing — which I disagree with — let me point out that even though it was late at night, it was still more than 90 degrees out and humid as hell. And sure, this might not provide me with much cover, but I was still sweating bullets, and my hair looked less than attractive in a sweaty, messy heap at the top of my head.

So yes, we can say it was probably the fact that I was showing some skin that provoked this man. But that’s no excuse. Since when does that make it okay for a grown man — he had to be at least 40, in other words, old enough to be my father — to bark at an innocent woman just trying to burn off the burrito she chowed down with her friends a couple hours before? And what’s more, I was wearing clothes from high school. High school! For all this man knew, I was 16 years old. This just isn’t right.

So what was I supposed to do? I had two options: I could ignore him and keep walking, or think of a quick retort. I chose the first option, since the last thing I wanted was to piss of a big, burly delivery man while I was about a mile away from home and too exhausted to start a good cantor by that point in my routine. So I just kept walking, as if I didn’t even hear him.

That’s what all the sitcom moms always told their kids to do when there was a bully picking on them in school. The dads would then say their sons or daughters were wimps and needed to learn to defend themselves, ultimately getting in trouble with the school principal for beating the crap out of the local lunch money thief, or even getting pulverized themselves. The fable would end with the father admitting to the mother that he should have told their child to ignore the bully in the first place. Because if you ignore the bully, you are canceling out their assertion of power.

Oh. So that’s what they’re doing. The lonely men who have been making feel about a centimeter tall all summer long have been asserting their power. That’s just swell. I love being made to feel like a brainless piece of flesh so someone can feel better about himself when he gets home to his empty apartment. This type of behavior is completely ludicrous, and I would absolutely love the opportunity to go face to face with a catcaller when I am in a less compromising position, and have the ability to tell them what is really on my mind.

I refuse to work out in a turtleneck and sweatpants when it is 100 degrees outside, especially since most the male joggers I pass are not wearing shirts, and they are fine. And I also refuse to believe that the type of clothing I wear while exercising makes it okay for these men to shout obscene comments to me: I’ve had it happen while I was wearing a sweater and dress pants before. What can we do in that case, blame it on my high heels?

This world needs to start taking things like cat calls a little more seriously. It’s not a joke. Women are not laughing. We are blushing, hiding our embarrassment and our outrage only because it’s the only thing we are in a position to do most of the time. Catcalling is infringing upon my life at this point — I don’t feel safe walking around my campus! I second guess whether it’s a good idea to exercise when I get home from work. Call me crazy, but I think George Washington would have had a major problem with that… Or well, at least Martha Washington.

At least her Sims character didn’t croak.

Things are winding down, during the final week of my dream internship. I know my expiration date is about to hit, and so do the editors, so my once-full to-do list is now sporting highlighter stains and check marks, showing me there are few things I have left unfinished. It’s a weird feeling, sitting in front of this desk having just a couple things to do, and even weirder knowing that when I come in tomorrow, the desk to the right of me will not have Hannah behind it.

With a bit of time to kill, and a sudden urge to have as many questions answered as possible, I turned around and asked Connie (the Mother Hen of the interns) a few questions about the real world of journalism. It’s no secret that the interns here tend to stick together, and I think we’re much closer than any other group of interns this building has ever seen. So I asked Connie what it’s like to have friends in the journalism world, and have she and all the startup editors from USA TODAY stayed close over the years.

Her answer didn’t surprise me, after all grew up in the generation that begins preaching networking in kindergarten, but I was surprised to find out that most of our upper level editors here go back about 25 years, to when USAT first got off the ground. And other friends are everywhere: People, InStyle, you name it!

It was nice to hear that they all stay in touch, and that they provide references for each other when someone is looking for a new job, or looking to find someone to fill a spot. And it really made me feel a bit less sad about the fact that Hannah peaced out today, and the fact that I will be doing the same on Friday.

Goodbyes, for our generation, don’t really seem to exist. Sure, I’m kind of freaked out about graduating in less than a year — I mean, I’m going to go from seeing my roommates every day to praying we get together on birthdays (that is if we don’t turn into bicoastal jet-setters) — but at least I know that when it comes to my journalism buddies, we’ll be in touch for years to come.

I was thinking about applying for this newspaper, anyone know anybody there? Do any of you know of a good sports weekly in the Midwest — I’m thinking of changing my location?

And then, later on in life: I need to hire a new reporter, any of you have any good interns recently? Someone’s starting a magazine, anyone wanna jump on board?

And of course, when one of us is a jobless, homeless bum, another will gladly supply a guest room and three square meals a day until said bum can get back on her feet.

And we’ll keep in touch, through e-mails, cell phones, texting, and our blogs. Not to mention the fact that it’s so easy to keep up with someone’s writing, even if they are in Louisiana while you’re in Syracuse, all you need is their publication’s url. The world is flat. And I thank God for that, because if it weren’t, I would have cried a bit more when Hannah stood up from her black swivel chair for the last time.

Instead I cried a smidge, texted her, and started thinking of something clever to write on her Facebook wall. I know I will be calling her next semester, asking where she is thinking about applying for jobs, taking her suggestions for publications, and offering some of my own. Our paths are going to cross again one day — maybe not even that far down the road.

And maybe, just maybe in five years, we’ll be running our own newspaper in Alaska… shotty Life editor.

Fear of Commitment

I saw this really cute guy on the metro tonight. He looked like he was about 25, wearing a light gray suit, black loafers, and sunglasses (at 11:30 p.m.) perched on top of his dirty-blonde gelled ‘do. He was even carrying a Border’s shopping bag. In short, he fit all the qualifications my mother has outlined for me in the man hunt:
1.) hunky (her word, not mine)
2.) well-dressed, which usually means
3.) good job
4.) looked to be of Irish descent (a big crowd pleaser for Mary Ellen)
5.) literate

And as I peered at him over my steno pad, where I was jotting down a few ideas to pass the time on my hour-long metro ride home from Dupont Circle, I noticed him notice me. I blushed for a second, as I pictured our red-headed babies trotting through our front yard toward the white picket fence he built around our two-story Colonial. Then I quickly diverted my gaze back to my notepad, pretending the nanosecond I spent looking into our future was just a momentary pause as I searched for the perfect word.

I’ve had a few of these moments this summer — a few almosts. I’ve even had a couple of the brief, positive flirtations that would normally lead to an exchange of phone numbers, but instead leave me running away quicker than Cinderella at 11:58.

“Why, Maggie? How?” That’s what an assortment of friends have asked me, after I’ve told them about some of the almosts. “What is wrong with you?”

Well, to be honest, I have a fear of commitment. That’s what’s wrong with me. And yea. That might not be a desirable trait in a 21-year-old girl, but after this summer, I’ve got to say it seems pretty normal.

As most people know, girl cliques will gab about just about anything and everything after they’ve spent enough time together. The six-person USA TODAY intern clique I roll with spends five hours a week eating lunch, 10 drinking, 15 sightseeing, and 20 emailing each other. It took us less than a week to start talking about men.

And it turns out that I am not the only not-a-girl-not-yet-a-woman that feels this way. In fact, it seems completely normal to prioritize getting a good job and building a life for myself. Having a boyfriend, after all, at this stage in my life would only complicate things:

What happens after graduation? Will we move in together? Are we only going to look for jobs in markets that can accommodate both of us? What about grad school? Marriage? If we decide to have kids, which one of us is going to put our career on hold while the babies still need full time care?

It’s enough to make any young woman seriously consider buying a cat. I myself am buying a Scottish Terrier after graduation (along with a new Prius and a Blackberry… those are my only three goals for the first months after I receive my diploma… well, and employment, I guess).

But while for some reason it might seem a little socially unacceptable on college campuses to not only be perpetually single, but also have no desire to upgrade your relationship status, it’s completely fine. Many college women are addressing this same issue. And even though I have recently found out (through Facebook) that the valedictorian from my high school class recently ties the knot, and a few of my SU classmates are engaged, there’s no need to freak out.

Not to knock anyone who is involved in a long-term, committed relationship — my very best friend has been with her boyfriend for more than four years, and they are completely perfect for each other in every way — but it seems to be completely normal to focus on taking care of yourself at the age of twenty-one, instead of trying to balance your needs with someone else’s, and putting your individual hopes on the back burner.

So, okay, maybe I could have mustered up the courage to smile at the cute yuppy on the train tonight. It might have led to a five-minute conversation and a laugh or two. And it wouldn’t have killed me to be a bit nicer to the guys that bought my friends and I a round of drinks at McFadden’s. But the point is, that it’s important to know that all those lines men pour out about “it’s not you, it’s me,” or “I have a fear of commitment,” are really equal-opportunity excuses.

Women can be selfish too. And I plan on being selfish for a while. Unless Logan Huntzberger ever calls me back…