Archive for November, 2012

Ten-second rule; twenty-something kitchen floor

Remember the ten-second rule?

It doesn’t double with age.

Eating things that have fallen to the floor is a bad habit no matter the age or the number of seconds food has been on the ground.

Twenty-somethings aren’t immune, we’re as guilty as any. But I’ve found over the past year or so, that I’ve developed my own twist on the floor-food bad habit: Sure, I’ll eat things off the floor – especially if I happened to drop my last square of leftover pizza or a big scoop of an Italian orzo recipe I worked hard not to screw up. But now, I have some conscience about it. I’ll only eat things off the floor when I’m comfortable with how recently I cleaned the floor. Because in my head, cleaning makes all the difference.

If I can’t remember when I last Swiffered or swept the old wooden floorboards of my apartment kitchen, then the dropped food is a true casualty, even if a delicious scoop of ice cream or a plate of my mom’s leftover spaghetti somehow tumbled down.

But what if I remember cleaning the floor … two weeks ago? The fallen tidbits are garbage in that case, too. Two weeks allows far too many opportunities for dirt, bacteria and whatever other particles I don’t want on my food or in my stomach to congregate on the floor below my kitchen counters. A two-week-old clean floor simply doesn’t sound clean anymore. I can’t trust it.

I draw the line at a week. It’s a nice even amount of time. If I’m positive I washed the floor within a week at the most, that food scrap on the ground is mine! (GET IN MY BELLY!)

Intuitively, I know just as much bacteria and disgusting crap can find its way to my floors in a week as it can in two weeks. Intuitively, I know I should draw the line completely and never eat food off the floor (and at my office, I do – that carpet and plastic chair mat are never cleaned, so there’s no way any food that’s grazed that floor can be trusted).

Intuitively, I know following the ten-second rule, or even the five-second rule, is a bad habit.

That’s why continuing to eat things off the floor – when I’m comfortable with how recently I’ve cleaned said floor – is a bad habit, too. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I sure can’t deny it. So if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to wash the floor.


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A silly and serious Thanksgiving wish

This Thursday, my family will spend some time going around the table doing something quite predictable and ordinary. We’ll each take a turn, and some of us will struggle to think of something to say.

It’s the annual Thanksgiving “What are you thankful for” quiz. And my family’s putting a funny and serious twist on it this year.

Meaning we’ll have to have two answers to the “what are we thankful for” question. One that’s funny, silly, nonessential. And another that actually means something to us, a person or thing or circumstance or blessing in our lives that truly makes us feel like giving thanks.

As kids, most of our answers are silly, whether we mean them to be or not. But we’ve been past that phase of insta-cute for years now, so what do twenty-somethings say when it’s our turn to explain why we’re thankful?

As a writer and a words person, my family will expect me to go beyond the obvious for both the silly and serious categories. That means I can’t be jokingly thankful for beer or no longer having homework or that buy-one-get-one-free food my mom is always giving me. And I can’t say I’m seriously thankful for anything as basic as “my job” or “my family.”

That’s not to knock any of those things, especially family. I am thankful for my family’s love and support, and I’m sure many twenty-somethings are. I’m just lucky to know in advance that more is expected of my Thanksgiving answers – more reflection, more originality, more thought.

So here goes. Being 24, I can lightheartedly say I’m thankful for my credit card points, because they buy almost all of my Starbucks and Panera. In a way, I’m thankful for the backup camera on my car, because otherwise I might never find a parking spot. And I’ve got to give a silly, but thankful, shout-out to Craigslist, because I used it to find my affordable apartment in a historic building in a neighborhood I love, close to plenty of great restaurants.

But seriously, there are real reasons I’m thankful to be in my twenties. I’m thankful for the fact I’m still young, but I’ve now got a couple years experience at my job. I’m thankful for the freedom to explore Chicago at my own pace as I walk, run, bike, drive and take the CTA to my destinations. I’m thankful for my college friends who have moved away, to places like California, Colorado, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Minnesota, because they give me vacation destinations complete with tour guides and free places to stay.

Most of all (and I think I’ve finally come to my answer for “serious” thankful question) I’m thankful for all the chances I’ve still got to find and pursue my passions of promoting gender equality, telling stories and making people think.

I wish you all a week filled with whatever you’re thankful for, be it silly, serious or somewhere in between.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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You’ve officially reached adulthood when … you get excited about insurance

Happy open enrollment, 20-something nation!

Now is the time to find your company’s intranet, pretend you understand your benefits package, thank God if you won’t turn 26 during the next year or groan if you’re already there, click some buttons and prepare to watch your hard-earned pay fade into nothing – one deduction at a time.

It’s time to talk health insurance, and the second you get excited at the thought of saving a bunch of money on contact lenses or teeth cleaning, you’ve officially reached adulthood.

Not to knock saving money – it’s great and all. But there is nothing exciting about vision, dental or medical insurance. I repeat, nothing.

There’s also not much that more clearly signals the break from adolescence to adulthood than gaining the responsibility of keeping track of insurance benefits.

Having insurance means your health problems are now a cost you’ll have to deal with. So eat that apple a day and keep the doctor away, or else it’s you – not your parents – who’ll have to pay the price.

Having insurance also signals you’ve joined the career world and your employer values you enough to protect you from thousands of dollars in ambulance and emergency room bills if you’re hurt in some freak accident.

Not only that, but there’s something indisputably adult about paycheck deductions for health insurance. Sure, those checks from your summer job lifeguarding in high school, your work-study job washing dishes in the college cafeteria, and the one of your three internships that actually paid in money, not just “experience” had some things deducted from them. Taxes, certainly. Social security, probably.

But extra deductions for the security blanket that is health insurance weren’t a part of those checks. There’s an extra maturity that comes with the knowledge you won’t have to go flat broke if you get “hurt at work” as the Aflac duck would say, but also knowing you have to pay a little all the time, whether you’re sick or not, to get that privilege. Only a real, bonafide adult can handle that kind of possible delayed gratification.

So when you have insurance and you want to smile because you made it to a job real enough to provide benefits, look in the mirror, because you’ve officially reached adulthood. And when you do the math and realize that dental insurance will really pay off if you finally bite the bullet and get your wisdom teeth removed, don’t look so surprised – you, too, are officially an adult.

For better or worse, for richer or poorer, and especially in sickness or in health, hats off to you, my 20-something counterparts with insurance, you’ve officially reached adulthood.


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The politics of fiscal pessimism

Fiscal ____________, social ____________.

Fill in the blanks with conservative, moderate or liberal, and there you have it – the political views of pretty much anyone running for any office today, or in any election.

Summing up the views of twenty-something voters isn’t quite so simple.

Some of us would be just a tad predictable, and identify as liberals. Others are fiscal moderates and social liberals, or fiscal conservatives and social moderates. A bunch are truly undecided, some don’t see much reason to care, and another small group struggles to make sense of such macro-level issues (How to solve all of America’s problems in four years? Hell if I know!)

But there’s at least one other category, altogether, when it comes to the views informing our votes. And I fall into it.

I would best describe myself as a fiscal pessimist and a social optimist, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my fellow twenty-somethings feel the same way.

Think about this. Some of us went to college when the economy was great and finished before 2008 when everything really tanked, just to have a job for a year or two and watch it all go sour. Others were mid-college when the Great Recession (I think that’s a real term now, right?) swept across the nation, forcing us to work that much harder to differentiate ourselves from a job market that promised months of unemployment instead of a smooth transition to a career. And then there’s the newly minted twenty-somethings who are still in school, watching the economy slog along and their hopes of having an easy time finding a job fade away.

If others this age are pessimistic about economic issues from the GDP, the Dow Jones and the national debt, to our own rising rents and stagnant salaries, I’d say we have reason to be. Our negativity is justified by these times. And, politicians take note – it affects our votes.

Socially, though, today’s twenty-somethings have come of age in a time of growing acceptance of all things different – be it different sexual orientations, lifestyle choices, genders, races, accents or even clothing and music choices.

We’ve seen states begin to allow civil unions and gay marriages. We’ve realized the positive changes civil rights and gender rights laws have created in education, employment and all facets of life. All of this gives us hope.

Just as we have good reason to be negative about finances from the personal to the national level, twenty-somethings today have reason to believe the social inequalities our nation slowly has fought to end are diminishing even more. Employers are gradually becoming more accommodating of the “work-life balance,” glass ceilings for women and ethnic groups still are being shattered.

Perceptions about which age, race, gender or other type of person is “meant” or “best” to do certain tasks or pursue certain jobs/dreams/activities still exist. Our generation sometimes falls victim to these confining stereotypes and perceptions, but I truly believe we’re not the ones perpetuating them. Twenty-somethings today are an accepting bunch – we really just want the freedom to do our own thing, so we’re more than willing to give that freedom to everyone else.

Socially, the world of 2012 gives us reason to be optimistic, but fiscally, there’s still too much doom and gloom.

For better or for worse, these are the thoughts I’m bringing to the polls this election day, and I doubt I’m the only one thinking them.

May politicians prove us wrong, may our fiscal pessimism be reversed and may our social optimism be retained forevermore.

Happy Election Day.

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