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A Letter to my Cat, Clark

2 Oct

Dear Clark,

I know that it has been hard for you recently, what with me working so many late nights and your feeding schedule being somewhat unpredictable. I also know that you have a lot of needs like head scratches, games of fetch, and the like. But right now your person is attempting to finish up an article on human rights and the water shutoff in Detroit and your constant meowing and knocking things off counter tops is proving rather distracting indeed. I understand that you like the sounds things make when they fall, but you must understand that sweeping up broken glass and picking up trash bag ties all over the house is not exactly my idea of fun. Also, I would very much appreciate it if you would stop chewing on things, such as the wicker basket on the kitchen table and my computer power cord. In fact, if you could stop going on the kitchen table entirely that would be greatly appreciated. I understand this is a lot to ask, but your sister does not seem to be having one bit of trouble with my requests as she has been sleeping contentedly on the sofa for the past 2 hours. You might argue that it is because of her ability to sleep for extended periods of time that she is a total fat ass, and you would have a point there, but I do not believe one day of catnaps would have any significant impact on your svelte physique. Any adherence to these requests would be greatly appreciated and subsequently rewarded with a catnip mouse.

Your frustrated person,

Rebekah

Today I Displaced My Rage Onto a Line of Hair Care Products

7 May

So my mom, knowing my tendency to get angry about things, saved me a super stupid advertisement for the got2be line of hair care products.  Due to recent events that I don’t feel like going into just at the moment, I felt the need to blow off some steam and so I wrote a letter.  Here it is:

To whom it may concern,

I am currently standing at my kitchen counter, looking at a two-page coupon/advertisement for your got2b line of hair products, a line I have used many times. On the left hand side, is the advertisement geared towards women; on the right is that for men. I would like to describe to you, in more detail, what I am seeing.

The advertisement for women is, of course, done in pink and features an overly made-up young woman in a low cut gold halter dress looking suggestively at the camera with her lips slightly parted. In the back, super imposed upon an imagine that I can only imagine is an attempt to associate your product with Hollywood and all of its glitz and glamour, is a dapper man standing in front of a parked limousine, looking at the girl. The tagline – “all eyes on you!” – is meant to promote the three products that hold down the bottom right hand corner of the ad. They are the “Body + Gloss” line of hair products and include the “glistening full blow dry cream,” the “radiance bounce whipped mousse,” and finally the “luminous lift hairspray.” That the bottles are also pink and adorned with stars and sparkles (what woman or girl doesn’t want that?!) is really just the icing on the cake.

On the right hand side of the page is the advertisement for the men’s products, done mostly in yellow. It features a young man with a tall mohawk, the sides of his head shaven, looking like he’s just gotten into some trouble, and indeed he has. The three photographs in the ad are in succession and show him doing a front flip off of a high, graffiti-covered stone wall, only to land on the ground of some east coast city smiling, not a hair out of place. He wears jeans and a grey t-shirt. What allows his hair to stay in place with all this hardcore fun he is having? It’s the “his” line of hair care products like “blasting freeze spray” and the “ultra glued invisible styling gel.” They have the power of, as you call it, “screaming hold.”

The problem with these two different advertisements goes beyond the color of the pages, the names of the products and the styling of the models. What you are selling to young men and women is the idea that men are active and independent and that women are passive and dependent on the approval of men. You are telling young people that men’s hair should be able to withstand a front flip and women’s should be able to impress and, more dangerously, still look good after what is inevitably going to happen once she gets inside that waiting car. You are playing, and not at all subtly, with deeply entrenched gender stereotypes that are not only damaging to the young women and girls that see them everyday but also to the men and boys. You are simultaneously telling women that they should wait for men but also men that they should expect to be waited for. You are telling women that their value comes from their level of sexual appeal but also men that they should only view women through that lens. On the other hand, you are telling men that they are should be more macho, more daring, more athletic and women that this is what they should be looking for in a prospective partner or, more in keeping with this ad, in a date to a party. You are telling impressionable young people that if they don’t fit within this narrow gender framework then they are unattractive and weird.

This might seem a strange bone to pick and, perhaps, if this advertisement was the only of its kind it would not be quite so alarming to me. The reality, however, is that this is only one example of the many ads and images put out by hundreds of companies annually that further reinforce our closed-minded and dangerous ideas of the correct roles of men and women. People don’t just look at these ads and move on, they internalize them and remember them and you know that, that is what you are counting on to sell your products. Don’t be another company that benefits off of the objectification of women and men.

Sincerely

Rebekah Frank

I then received the following lame ass response that made me even more annoyed.  Not only did this person spell the word “research” incorrectly, they also did not sign their note with an actual name which, had it not been for the obvious type-o, would have led me to believe the person responding to me was not a person at all but instead was a robot.  That being said, my well-argued message was clearly thrown in the email garbage.  Anyway, here is the response:

Dear Ms. Frank,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Your comments are appreciated because they help us to understand how we can better serve our consumers.

We appreciate your feedback. We will forward it to our Marketing and Reaserch & Development Team.

Again, thank you for contacting us.

Sincerely,

Henkel Consumer Affairs

I will not be buying anything from this company (not that I really did before anyway) but I will also mean mug their products as I ever-so-slowly pass them by in the aisle at the pharmacy.  Feel my rage, Henkel.

A Letter to a Smoker on Seventh Avenue

24 Mar

Dear Smoking Man,*

Hello, remember me?  I actually ate dinner at your house about 5 years ago with my then-boyfriend.  And about a month and a half ago I served you a drink.  I thought about reminding you of that long-past meal we shared but decided that perhaps that would be too much.  It was only that one time, after all, and I don’t even remember your name, your wife’s name, or the undoubtedly pleasant, yet slightly bizarre, dinner conversation.

Here we are now, another chance encounter.  You walking, in a light trench coat, me running up to the park.  You smoking your cigarette, me breathing in air too cold for mid-March.  The fact that you smoke doesn’t bother me, it’s your right and besides, it can’t be any worse for me than the exhaust fumes I suck into my lungs mile after mile.  You take one final drag and, as I approach, you fling your cigarette to the right using your thumb and forefinger as a sort of butt-launcher, missing my by inches.

I imagine you are someone who does not simply discard his empty coffee cups on the side of the road rather than wait for the appearance of a trash can.  I think it likely that you bring your own reusable bags to the supermarket.  Maybe I’ve got you all wrong but, I have to ask, why is it that people who are otherwise responsible inhabitants of an overly shared space feel it is okay to drop their cigarette butts on the ground?  Why is this one form of litter still acceptable?  But even more importantly than that, can you do us all a favor and at least look before you flick a still burning object through the air?  Because, you know, I don’t care if you smoke, I don’t mind breathing the smoke in, but I don’t really care to be burned by your cigarette.

I’m glad we had this little chat, Smoking Man.  And, honestly, it was lovely seeing you again.  Maybe next time I will even say hello.

To future encounters

Rebekah

*The one smoking on Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn, not the creepy one from The X-Files.  By the way did I ever tell you guys I have limited edition Mulder and Skully Barbie and Ken dolls?  Well, I do.  But I won’t tell you where they live for fear you will try and steal them.

A Letter to my Dad on his Birthday

9 Mar

Sorry my blog has been so quiet as of late. It’s been a stressful few weeks and also I just got back from a week long trip in Peru!  It was so fun.  Stay tuned for some adventure stories but for now, I have someone important to write about.  My dad.  Today is my dad’s birthday, AKA the second best day of the year (the first best obviously being my birthday which, in case you were wondering when to send gifts, is on July 19th), and so I figured I would write him a letter.  So, here goes.

Dear Daaaaad,

First thing first: happy, happy, happy birthday.  Since you are not having a big birthday party this year and I therefore don’t get the chance to bail you out of a botched speech with my own impromptu genius, I figured the next best thing would be to write you a letter.  You, Dad, are one of my favorite people in the world.  I’m sure there were times growing up when I was mad at you or when we got in fights or maybe when, in the heat of the moment, I told you that I hated you, something which all children do at some point I think, but sitting here at my computer right now I cannot conjure a single negative memory.  There are plenty of things that I do remember, however.  I remember us watching PeeWee together and am still sad I couldn’t get us tickets to his one man show on Broadway.  I remember us going to the car dealership to buy something moderately practical for a family of five and ending up returning home with a Mercedes convertible with only two seats.  I remember us, year after year, going shopping for mom’s presents at the last possible moment and always coming back with something awesome.  I remember watching that episode of Ren and Stimpy where there is a fire in the building and this woman is throwing all these things out of the window – an elephant, her huge baby, a walrus, herself – and laughing so hard that we cried.  I remember the countless pep talks you have given me over the years when I have had a hard time and doubted myself.  I remember sock puppet which, I believe, is still stuck in the pocket of one of your jackets, just waiting to make another appearance or brag about another trip to the Bahamas.  I remember us sneaking off in Disney World and going to eat sushi, coming up with the genius code word “the booths” so Mom and Lucy wouldn’t know where we were.  I remember your swordfish license plate.  I remember labeling all my leftovers “Dad: Do Not Eat!” so I wouldn’t come home with expectations of delicious food and find, well, nothing.  More than anything else, I just remember laughing.

I know that there are other dads in the world who are great, but I think Lucy, Aaron, Claire and I really got the best one.  There are so many people who didn’t have fathers, who didn’t or don’t have good relationships with theirs, and I really cannot imagine what that must have been like for them, what that continues to be like.  I just feel so god damn lucky.  When I think about the things that I have done and the person who I am, a person that I am proud to be, I really think that so much of the credit for all of that has to go to you and to Mom.  You guys created such a loving and supportive household, a place I am still so happy to return to.  You guys created an environment where, as long as I was trying and as long as I was kind, you would always be proud.  I know, no matter what I do in life I will always have the two of you in my corner cheering me on when things are great and cheering me up when they aren’t.

So, thank you, Dad. I know you know how much I love you, but sometimes it is just nice to have it in writing.  You are the best Dad, and one of the best people, in the entire world.  So happy birthday, Dad.  Here’s to so many more years of laughter.

Love always

Bekaaaaaah

PS  King Triton doesn’t have shit on you.

PPS  Where is that star tie I gave you for your birthday in the 2nd grade?  Best tie ever.

A Letter to the New President of the MTA

8 Oct

Dear Carmen Bianco,

Hello, sir, how are you? As the newly appointed president of the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority, I must say I have a few bones to pick with you.  I understand that your appointment is, officially at least, very new, occurring only on the 18th of September of this year.  However, after doing a small bit of research I found that you have actually been the acting president since this past April and, perhaps even more damning, you served as the Senior Vice President of the Department of Subways, overseeing the entire subway system since 2010.  My gripes, therefore, land squarely in your backyard.

I suppose I would like to start by disputing your predecessor Thomas F. Pendergast’s recent statement that you are an “advocate for the customer.”  How many times in my life have I heard different permutations of the idea that those in power should lead through action?  Too many to count, I suppose.  And yet your words, at least in my years of experience of utilizing the New York City public transportation system, the largest mass transit system in North America, have not been sufficiently proven through the actions of the MTA.  I don’t feel that, on a regular basis, you are much of an advocate for the customer at all.

Let’s talk about the monthly pass, shall we?  When I first moved here to New York City in June of 2005, the monthly pass cost $76, an increase of $6 from the price that had been most recently set in 2003.  I remember that, making barista wages, I balked at the price, and considered the option of walking everywhere.  But then my friend said to me that the investment was worth it.  That deciding not to purchase the card might make me less likely to try and experience all the things the city had to offer.  I took her advice and and never looked back.  As time has gone on, however, I have seen the price of the monthly pass rise again and again, to $81 in 2008, $103 in 2009, finally landing at the $112 that we New Yorkers pay today.  With a single ride costing $2.50, straphangers have to swipe their cards 45 times in 30 days to make it worthwhile.  For me, the cost just is not worth it.  But that isn’t even what I am here to write about.  What I am here to write about is that while the price of a ride has increased, the service we New Yorkers are provided seems to have gone downhill.  Let me give you a recent example.

I work on the weekends.  I understand that, percentage wise, more people work on weekdays than on the weekends and so if you are going to schedule your work during daylight hours, the weekends are simply a better option.  But sometimes I feel as though there is an MTA-wide campaign against getting me to work in a reasonable amount of time.  About a week ago, the F train that I waited 10 minutes for stopped at the Carroll stop due to a switch malfunction.  I sat in the train car for 10 minutes before I decided to give up and hoof it to work.  This past Sunday, I walked to my F/G stop to find, after I had already swiped my not unlimited card through the machine, that neither the F nor the G were stopping at my stop, and that I would have to take the train one stop in the other direction, transfer to a Manhattan/Queens bound train and get to work that way.  I bounded up the stairs to find the doors of the G train slamming shut in my face.  Normally I would have begrudgingly taken the R train but, wouldn’t you know it, the R was running express from Dekalb Avenue to lower Manhattan, effectively bypassing the stop I required to get to work on time.  I was already running behind, angry and sweating.  I called a cab.  Which, when added to the unused $2.50 swipe and the tip for the driver, ended up costing me $12.50.  I feel as though the MTA should be required to reimburse me that amount since you made it impossible for me to get to work in a timely fashion.  This is not the first time this has happened and I fear it is not even close to being the last.

Oh, and while I am at it, I have a few more gripes.  About a month ago I went to my subway stop, again en route to work, and put $10 on my card.  The machine did not give me a receipt.  When I then proceeded to swipe my card at the turnstile is said I had insufficient funds.  Due to the financial cutbacks of recent years, there is no subway attendant at that entrance.  I was forced to cross 4th Avenue to find the remaining attendant at the other entrance, and attempt to explain to him how the MTA machine had just stolen $10 from me.  He swiped my card and told me I had insufficient funds and asked for my receipt.  I told him the machine I used had refused to give me one.  He told me my card has insufficient funds.  This conversation went around in circles for about 5 minutes before he finally relented and allowed me to pass through the turnstile without paying.  It sort of added insult to injury because for years I have kind of felt as though the MTA has been stealing money from me, and then on that particular day it actually stole money from me.

Just to be clear, I want my $10 back and I also want more subway attendants at the entrances.  As a women who often rides the subway home alone at night, the presence of cameras at the subway stops does not make me feel safe.  Few if any of the remaining platform telephones work, leaving someone very few options if something bad is to befall her.

I get it, things cost money.  And I understand that you are trying to expand the subway system.  But why are you expanding the system when you can’t even seem to stay on top of the lines that are already in existence?  Some of the train cars, specifically the ones that stop in lower income areas, could use replacement before you go making some fancy-pants 2nd Avenue line.  And while I am at it, what took so damn long with the Smith and 9th Street station?

And in summation, I know that I am not an economics savant but an average of 7.5 million people ride the subway, bus, paratransit* and Staten Island Railway every day.  At $2.50 a swipe that’s a lot of coin. I understand that the MTA has some budgetary problems, that it is a huge system, that I don’t understand all the ins and outs.  And to be honest, although I would love it if the fares didn’t keep going up, I don’t really know enough about the specific financial situation to make a clear cut and well-argued point.  But what I would really appreciate is that if I am forced to continually pay more and more, that I pay more and more for the same or preferably better service.  It should not take me the better part of an hour to get from my house to work, a distance of less than 3 miles.

Thank you for reading and also, for saving those kittens.

Best

Rebekah, Frankly.

*Just for the record, our transit system is not terribly kind to the disabled.  I am an able-bodied person and I find a lot of the stairways rather treacherous.  Just saying.

Dear Restaurant Manager, Your Restaurant Sucks

13 May

I don’t like Yelp because I feel like people go on there and write bullshit about bullshit, like the time when I got a bad Yelp review for using the house vodka in our $5 Sunday Bloody Mary specials.  (I will give you a moment to digest that little nugget.)  But sometimes an experience is so bad that I feel the need to go back to the roots of this blog and write a letter to the manager about it.  So, that is what I have done.  Enjoy.  I’d be happy to tell you the name of the restaurant if you also want to have an awesome (read: horrific) dining experience.

To Whom It May Concern

This past Friday night, May 10, my boyfriend and I visited your restaurant for a glass of wine and some appetizers.  I had just finished writing my last paper for my graduate degree and was really in the mood to celebrate.  We decided, after a long amble north on Fifth Avenue, to try your spot out as we had discussed going in for a while but had never gotten the chance.  We were really impressed by the interior and I was excited that you had not one but three Gruners by the glass.  Perfect!  So we ordered a glass each, figuring if we enjoyed our snacks (which we did, very much — that tomato bruschetta situation was really fantastic) we would stick around for awhile.

Unfortunately, the tastiness of the food and wine was not enough to make up for the truly abysmal service we received.  Perhaps I made a gaffe by ordering the Gruner by the price, but I do not speak German so I figured it best not to try to pronounce the name.  Perhaps it was that my boyfriend informed the bartender that we were going to just have some appetizers and move on for dinner — I am a vegetarian and lactose intolerant so my food options are quite limited.  Or perhaps it’s just that the bartender is an asshole.  I have been in the service industry for 10 years — I am a bartender in the neighborhood — and understand that the job can be grating at times.  I understand when your customers are rude being cold is the only thing you can do to keep yourself from telling them what you really think about them.  The thing is that I am over-the-top friendly to industry people so when I am treated poorly it is really shocking to me.

The gentleman behind the bar did not seem as though he wanted to have a conversation with us or anyone else sitting at his bar, and would rather converse with his co-workers, that’s fine.  I certainly cannot fault him that.  But if you ask me how my food was without making eye contact and then walk away while I am in the middle of praising it, that is a problem, albeit one I could forgive.  What I could not forgive was when he snatched my and my boyfriend’s glasses, mine unfinished, and snapped “can I get you anything else?” without even stopping for a response which was, after our experience, a resounding no.  I felt as though I was being kicked out of the restaurant and I could not for the life of me figure out why.

So, we left him a bad tip that, even given the rude treatment, I still felt bad about.  Get what you give, I suppose.  We will not be returning to your Park Slope location, or any of the other ones, but hope you can iron out whatever staffing problems you have so you don’t lose any more customers.  Also, and normally I would not say this except the bartender was really awful, I don’t like to look at my bartender’s underwear or unwashed t-shirt while I am eating.  Tell him to buy a laundry card and a belt.

Sincerely,

Rebekah

PS  The woman with whom I spoke to get your email address was incredibly friendly.

An Open Letter to my Student Loan Provider

28 Mar

Dear Nelnet, (Or, as I affectionately call you, Numbnut),

I would like to begin this letter to you, Numbnut, by pointing out that I have in fact been making regular payments on my student loans despite the fact that I have yet to go into repayment — well, until last week and without proper warning.  I have been expecting some sort of appreciation, some sort of lowering of my monthly bill that at this point must be paid starting on January 1, 2014.  But do I get any recognition?  Any significant changes to my AutoPay amount?  No.  I get pointless and angering emails.  Which is why I am writing to you today.

Yesterday I received an email from you entitled “Questions about paying your student loans? We can help.”  It seemed promising.  I opened the email, hoping against hope for the message to reveal something like “Out of millions of indebted students in the United States, Warren Buffet has chosen you to be the recipient of a grant that will pay your loans off in full and allow you to travel the globe for the foreseeable future.”  In lieu of that news, I would have taken some advice on ways to scam the system and somehow lower my 6.8% interest rate or some tips on working my loan payments into my monthly budget without skimping on the things I love (books! wine! overpriced clothes from Made Well!).  But no.  What I got was a few phone numbers and the following statement of email intent:

“We wanted to check in to ensure you are having the best student loan experience possible.”

Well, since you are “checking in,” let me be honest with you.  No, Numbnut, I am not having the best student loan experience possible.  You know what would make it better?  The aforementioned note about Warren Buffet.  Or perhaps having someone explain to me why it is that I am paying 6.8% on the cost of borrowing money to go back to school (which you all said we should do because the job market was/is terrible and this will better prepare us for the future meanwhile the future is here and, um, where’s your half of the agreement?) while the interest rate on my savings account is at something like .7% AKA nothing.  Maybe you could tell me why I took money out with CitiGroup, had it bought up by the government, and then somehow had it sold to you, Numbnut, without my approval or consent.  Maybe rather than taking on systemic issues, you can explain to me why, although the people I talk to at your call center are unbelievably friendly, they have absolutely no idea what they are doing.  When I called last week to inquire as to why my interest payment, which had been hovering around $35-$45 every two weeks or so suddenly shot up to $150 after a mere 10 days I was put on hold for at least 5 minutes — a cost I was paying because you are not toll free — at which point the very friendly, though ill-informed, call center guy hemmed and hawed through an explanation that basically amounted to “I have no idea.”    Maybe you could use the exorbitant interest rates being paid by me and my co-students, the interest rates you are presumably making money on, and actually teach your call center people how to do their jobs.  It doesn’t help that they are available 24/7 if they are completely ignorant, like the rest of us, about what you do and how it works.

I could keep going, Numbnut, but I think you get the point.  I think you and your cohorts are hustlers taking advantage of millions of people who wanted to propel themselves forward by getting their BA, BFA, MA, MFA, PhD, JD, MD, DVM and whatever other combinations of letters people might want to acquire.  I think this whole system is going to blow up in your face and mine when countless students default on their ballooning student loan debts.  I think when that happens people are going to bemoan the fact that we are awash in bankrupted lawyers and doctors and librarians when what we really need are people with “real skills.”  Honestly, I think this whole thing is a racket that will only serve to increase income inequality and lower the quality of life, not only for people who can’t find jobs but for those that can — with student loan debt amounting into the hundreds of thousands for some people, job choices becomes less contingent on what you believe and more contingent on your ability to pay off your monthly loan bills.

So, no, I am not content.  I will grumble every single time I make a payment, as I have been doing for the past year, because I am fully aware that I am being hoodwinked and that there is nothing I can do about it.  So don’t insult my intelligence.  This system is rigged in your favor and you will benefit for as long as it continues to function.  Do your thing.  But don’t act like you give a shit about my “experience.”  All you care about is the money.  That’s called capitalism.  You can expect your next payment at the beginning of the month.

Sincerely,

Rebekah