That was my friend Andrew's response when I told him in August I'd decided to leave my position at ELLE and move back to DC.
Before you assume this, my final entry, is some kind of sanctimonious, "I've seen the light, and let me tell you" post-mortem of my 21 months working on the real-life set of that Meryl Streep movie, I promise you it's not....entirely.
But I did leave. After all I did to get there -- this blog, that show, those hours -- I ultimately decided to walk away. Because I won't trash specific people (publicly), it's not the juiciest story, but it may be revelatory for some, and it is one I want to share.
First, the positive stuff. My job at ELLE during the first year, as a junior editor, consisted of 2-3 month learn-the-ropes rotations with the fashion, fashion news, beauty, and features departments. On my first day, I was brought into the big corner office, asked what I enjoyed, what I thought I was good at, and where I saw myself "fitting in" at the magazine. Instead of being pooled with the interns, I was given every editorial first chance I wanted. And in that first year, I wanted.
Not knowing the proper protocol -- and only having held one previous job at an office where the director prided himself on running "a completely flat organization"-- I took my legal pad of ideas and walked into the offices of the editors who I thought were the right people for the pitch. Often, the right people, in my mind, were very senior people.
You see where this is going?
To my face, they were gracious. If they liked an idea they said so; if they didn't, they said so. I found it all very easy. Nothing like the stereotype.
The second year, Her Smizeness stopped paying my rent, but I was asked to stay on in relatively the same capacity. The only change was titular: I was now a contributing editor.
With the dumpster state of the economy, I knew how lucky I was to keep my tiny plot in that Broadway office. As one editor said to me in the elevator a couple of days after I'd gotten the offer: "Heard you got hired hired. Right now, that's like getting into Yale -- except harder."
This not-quite congratulations was followed by an eyebrow raise that communicated the one line from that one movie that by the end of my time at ELLE had replaced "This is all I'm capable of right now" as my least favorite eight-word movie line of all-time.
You know the one: "A million girls would kill for this job."
And judging from the hordes of unpaid interns logging full-time weeks every week, I knew it was true. We all did. It was like a storm cloud, always hovering above the rank and file, keeping us from dwelling on the ridiculously low pay, unforgiving schedule, and venomous middle-school antics.
Not that the work itself wasn't a major source of happiness.
Pretty much any idea I came up with, whether it had to do with fashion, film, books, pop culture, or the straight-up bizarre (to wit: a Q&A with The Human Centipede's director, Tom Six), I was given the green light to pursue, write, self-edit, and slap ELLE's slim Gothic font above it.
The hours were breakneck, but I was having fun for a living -- and becoming a better writer.
At the end of this summer, just under two years invested, I came to a hard realization: Regardless of how much I loved my work (and most of the people I worked with), my overall quality of life had deteriorated.
When you're 22, work is all about passion. Money is irrelevant -- more than that, it's vulgar. Be creatively fulfilled or bust! When you're 29 turning 30, however, living in Manhattan on a fashion magazine writer's salary goes from romantic to irresponsible to untenable pretty quickly.
The same goes for inter-office bitchery.
When you're new and unformed, there's a good chance you deserve to be spoken to in that tone about that mistake by that very senior person. That's how you learn and earn your thicker skin. Once you've been at the game for a while and you begin to recognize that the tone is never pleasant, the mistake wasn't yours, and that that senior person seems to spend most of their time undermining others, screaming at other people's children, and reminding the junior staff they're not allowed to sit in meetings when there are more than enough empty chairs, well, at that point, you have to make a decision.
So I did.
I love ELLE. I love the magazine, and I love that I had the chance to contribute to its history in a small way. It was there I learned how to report, edit, and find my voice as a journalist. It was there that I got my first byline, conducted my first real interview, and got my hands on copies of Milan Kundera's "Encounter" AND the Baby-sitters Club prequel four months in advance.
And, hello, I got to meet Carol Burnett and Amber Rose. At the same time. In a Beverly Hills bathroom.
So, for all the crying I did on my office floor, for all the shredded-cheese-on-Saltines pity dinners I endured, and for all the "Get me something cuntier!" directives I had to obey, there's nothing I would have done differently.
But it is mighty nice to be back in Washington.
13 October 2010
Posted by Johanna at 6:01 PM
14 February 2009
(blowing off the dust)
Please come visit me at my glossy new homebase in the blogosphere. Or, on my Twitter account, which I've recently started updating with annoying frequency.
What I've lost in the right to self-edit, I've gained in access to...well, you'll have to click on over to find out, now won't you?
Happy Romance Day,
Posted by Johanna at 1:10 AM
29 February 2008
A serious job is no excuse.
When I chose that name for this blog almost 15 months ago, I hadn't the slightest idea just how meaningful a mantra it would become for so many women.
Or for myself.
I started ASJiNE for two primary reasons, the first of which was to raise awareness among women, most notably those in the overachieving professional crowd, that placing daily priority on putting together a smart, figure flattering, venue appropriate look was a critical component in achieving their professional goals.
Not more critical than the graduate degree, not as critical as the gets-along-with-the-guys quick wit, but still, critical.
The second reason was a selfish one - to build up a body of writing in an area in which I had enormous passion but absolutely no rightful claim, no pedigree, no legitimacy; my writing here would serve as my entry into an industry everyone in my life knows is the one in which I was meant to make my most meaningful professional mark.
Over the past few weeks, I've grown increasingly sure that my value-added on the first front has run its course. As I wrote in a recent post, I can only write so many scathing reviews of block heels, French manicures (and pedicures) and be-tanktopped chunky upper-arms before my "shtick" becomes predictable and my persuasiveness loses its punch.
And on the second front, well, there are some big changes a comin' in your Editrix's life, and these are changes that will require a good deal more of her time than her current blogging schedule allows.
So this is a bit awkward and more than a bit unexpected, but I think today, a day we see only once every four years, is the perfect time for me to cap the lip balm on this venture and bid all of you adieu.
Thank you to everyone who read, commented, e-mailed, and especially to those whose public personal attacks taught me the difference between hateful words that matter and hateful words best used for e-mail fodder among girlfriends.
I'll miss this. I really will.
p.s. one more thing, the consignment event will definitely still move forward but under the sole guidance of the lovely Maria -- please check out her blog, Righteous (re)Style, for any and all updates pertaining thereto.
28 February 2008
How would I rock a pair of dramatic dress trousers at a black-tie event? You're lookin' at my answer right here. Minus the "Brian [Austin Green]" tattoo, of course.
To borrow a term from the ladies over at GFY, this ravishing redhead (Teen Vogue's Accessories Director, Taylor Tomasi Hill) at the Tuileries yesterday creates the ultimate in 'lady cum tramp' scroll-down chic. Holy legs, Batman!
I've always liked men's watches far more than women's, but this one -'The Motif'- from longtime favorite line Nixon, is making me reconsider that preference. So very pretty, no?
We all fawned over Penelope's feather-bedecked Chanel Haute Couture gown on the red carpet, but how many got to see the second dress in which she stepped out for the many Oscar after parties? Penny's always been a favorite of mine, because she's one of the few beauties who can pull off the smolder and the cute with a quick dress change and hair tousle.
I can finally die happy knowing a benevolent soul and not some horrid socialite earned the honor of wearing the $14,500 Proenza Schouler cocktail dress. You say serving food to the hungry, I say serving Vogue to the fashion hungry. It's all charity in God's eyes.
I get in this same exact 'J' position after crunches and before prison push-ups, but aside from the sultry look and feelin'-for-progress hand placement, the similarities end there. Oh Katie Moss, no matter how old or drugged up you get, you'll always be the most glamorous chick in the coop.
27 February 2008
Yours, my and everyone else's favorite fashion photog, Scott Schuman, will soon show his super successful 'Sartorialist' exhibit two blocks from where I'm currently sitting (!) at the Adamson Galleries, located at 1515 14th St., NW.
According to his own announcement, a selection of street-style prints will be on display in the Logan Circle space from 15 March through 26 April.
I'll keep you posted on any further developments...
It was seven years ago this past Sunday when a then more Angelina Angelina Jolie snubbed Oscar's evening gown tradition and stole one of the night's top style slots with her unexpected white Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo and slicked back chignon.
Now, I don't much remember the acrylic French tips or Uncle Eddie slip-ons, but I choose to chalk those egads up to a combination of just having left the '90s and Miss Thing probably kicking off her heels in the limo during her and Billy Bob's "good luck" ritual only to accidentally grab his albino eelskin kicks by mistake on her way out.
But anyway, back to that unorthodox red carpet selection we were discussing...
I loved it then, I love it now, and I really love that at an Oscar after-party this year, Sharon Stone took a day off from torturing the people at PETA (rat paw brooches don't count, right?) to honor a look we see far too infrequently on the red carpet.
As I've professed too many times to link you to, whether it be January or June, Tuesday afternoon or Saturday night, with my parents in Michigan or out with my ladies in the District, I am a skirt and dress only kinda girl. Aside from the three pairs of jeans in red, black and blue hanging neatly in the back of my closet that are liberated really only when the dry-cleaning schedule and my wardrobe rotation hit an unforeseen snag, the only two-legged items in my non-workout wardrobe are the many, many pairs of opaque tights clogging the top three drawers of my poor, dickered dresser.
You'll share in my surprise, then, when I discovered that the singular trend, color, collection, piece or person that has most influenced me this past month was none other than the dramatic dress trouser (DDT).
To be honest, the reason why I spent the majority of my shopping time in New York two weekends ago fruitlessly trying on pair after pair of high-waisted black tuxedo trousers is more rooted in my being attracted to the drama a DDT entrance offers its wearer than anything else.
I know, I know, many of you are probably reading this and thinking, "Wow, dress pants. That's exciting," but believe me when I tell you how rare it is to find a woman, celebrity or otherwise, who is willing to go this route in a formal situation. Rarer still is to find one who does so and executes it well. Designers and boutique owners recognize this reticence among women and design and stock accordingly each season. I didn't draw up metrics on this, but I'm confident in asserting that after clicking through nearly every designer's most recent RTW collection and squinting through every "Look of the Day" thumbnail from InStyle from today back through last July, there is at most one pair of black-tie worthy dress trousers for every 15-20 similarly formal gowns.
These odds don't mean, however, any woman wearing any ol' pair of black pants at a formal event is destined to make it into the ranks of the best-dressed simply by virtue of her having taken a risk. In fact, in my opinion, it is much more difficult to assemble a great outfit of this sort than it is to choose a great dress. With the former, one has to worry about the blouse and/or jacket, the super tall heel (don't even think about wearing flats here) and choosing an equally dramatic hair and makeup palette around which the final product will be tied. With a dress, really what it comes down to for most women is (1) is it pretty? (2) is it comfortable? and (3) will it make me look thinner?
After summoning the courage to set the skirt aside at the next social function on your calendar, the first challenge is to find the right pair of DDTs, a task I now know is a whole lot easier in theory than it is in practice. If you're an online shopper like I almost exclusively am, the process becomes frustrating fast. Typical mid-priced dress trouser haunts like J. Crew, Banana Republic and Club Monaco are much more often misses than hits because nothing in their inventories qualifies as anything dressier than office-wear. Your best bet to find the cuts and fabrics meant for fancy evenings out are in boutiques, department stores and high-end vintage stores. If money were no object, I'd shoo you over to Relish in Cady's Alley or Nordstrom in Tysons Galleria.
In my current recuperative state, I don't foresee any opportunity in the near future to debut the dress trousers of my (adjusted for financial situation) dreams, which is probably a good thing, considering I haven't cut enough budget corners in the past two months to appropriate them.
In the meantime, if I might tempt some of you into ditching the cocktail dress you planned to wear to your next best friend's wedding for something a bit more unconventional...