Grls I Know - Lydia

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Describe yourself without mentioning work.

Oh, that’s so easy. I don't even like work. I’m from the Midwest and I think that informs a lot of my personality, which is to say I like things to be happy and good. I like vibes to be light. I’m just gonna list random facts that come to mind. My parents are cool. We get along well. My dad is kind of a lovable jerk, but usually in a fun way. My parents are still married. I have two sisters. I’m in the middle. I went to college for two years at Marquette in Milwaukee and then I transferred to Northeastern in Boston where I studied music. I studied philosophy at Marquette, and then was like, “I need something more substantial!” so I studied music. Afterwards I moved home to Chicago, lived with my parents for eight months, then got a job and moved to New York.

Where did you grow up?

Outside of Chicago in Oak Park. It’s kind of like living in Sheepshead Bay or something, where you’re at the very end of a train line but you’re still on the subway. The city is very accessible but you’re not in the city.

How long have you lived in New York City?

For seven years, which is bananas. I feel like I moved here thinking, “I’m gonna try New York for a few years and see what happens” and then I remember approaching five years and thinking, “I’ll probably leave after five years. That seems like enough”. Then, when I was approaching 30 and it had already been five years, I thought, “I’ll leave when I’m 30 because I want to try something else”. Now I’m 31, and I’m like, “I’ll leave after ten years”. That’s what they say, 'you have to do a decade'. But it’s so great and fun and I’ve set up my life in a way that’s very manageable and enjoyable. I have groups of friends all over and this great guy and this amazing apartment that costs like a dollar, so it’s like, why wouldn’t I just stay? But I do sort of always feel like if some great opportunity came up, I would go. I’ve been ready to leave at any point for the past several years, but there’s no opportunity or person I want to follow or place I really want to be. There hasn’t been a reason to leave and there’s nothing pushing me away or pulling me anywhere else, so I’ll just stay here where my life is wonderful and full and great.

Tell me what it's like living in New York.

When I first moved here I lived in Sunset Park. I was off the R train and I worked in Williamsburg which meant the only way to get there was to go into Union Square, which made my commute over an hour each way. I was also 23 and had just moved here, so I was regularly staying out until 4am, taking the train and getting home by 5am, then getting tacos at this placed called Sunrise Tacos - it was actually called something else but that’s what I called it - and eating them on my roof while the sun came up. My bedroom opened onto the roof. I was in a little pitched ceiling lofted bedroom that had a door that opened onto the roof. I could see the Statue of Liberty. I would nap for forty-five minutes, take a shower, then get back on the train and go back to Williamsburg. I did this regularly. It sounds dreamy in my memory, but so unappealing now. I would never do that now. Now if you want me to stay out past 1am, I’m taking an Uber home and I have to be within 10 minutes of my front door/bed.

New York takes a lot of energy. When people come visit me from other places, I’m always like, “Bring your walking shoes and make sure you get enough rest”. There are lots of people to negotiate your space with and lots of running up and down subway stairs, which I think for a lot of people who visit, is exhausting, but I usually find it kind of invigorating. If you have a cold or something, it’s hella exhausting and you’re like, “I hate everything, why don’t I live in the country”. Because those are my options: I can live in New York City or live in my country estate.

[continued]  New York has just so much of what I consider to be exciting great stuff - so many people, so much food, so many options for where to have dinner. The only people who could find themselves being bored in New York are introverts - people who aren’t invigorated by all the stuff - the super crowded, active lifestyle. If that’s exhausting to you, I could see you staying inside and not doing anything and being like, “This place is kind of boring”. 

I have a friend who moved here a few years ago from North Carolina, and she really just wants to be in a farmhouse cooking beautiful stews and having five friends maximum come over and have a beautiful dinner with hand dip-dyed napkins, which is lovely and nice. I think she thought she could have that kind of life in Brooklyn, but the hubbub made her shut off and she wasn’t having any fun because this isn’t her idea of fun. But maybe because I’m a high-energy person, my idea of fun is a zillion people coming at me every second, having nine hundred places to go in one day, waking up at 8am and getting home at 4am. Not that my life is typically like that. Many days I just go to work and come home to watch Netflix and go to sleep. 

It’s all the things that people say. It’s magical. You have these moments of magic human interactions that only happen in New York. It’s also just a beautiful iconic city that makes you feel like you’re part of something even if you don’t know what you’re doing.

In light of the recent election, how does it feel to be a woman in the United States right now? 

The visceral feeling I had most intensely when I realized who had been elected was this feeling that we lost momentum. Things were really shifting. It’s become super trendy to be feminist you know? There was this global thing happening. I can talk to my dad about Pussy Riot, like, people know things. Now it feels like ‘shit, this is a roadblock. This is going to set us back.’ I know the ‘two steps forward, one step back’ thing has been part of all progress in history, but somehow particularly with women, it feels like going from having a national leader who was so woke and so tight with women (and still a dude who has various shortcomings but I can’t name any) to a national leader who not only is openly a horrible misogynist, but in subtle weird ways is going to fuck with the way regular dudes think about women and the way women think about themselves. It’s heart-wrenching. A feeling of hopelessness has been looming over me recently. In the two to three days following the election, I chewed a guy out for not treating a woman in a way that I found to be appropriate, I got another dude fired for saying something inappropriate to a co-worker. I just feel like the results of the election somehow give me a green light to be hella turnt and super pissed.

Of course, it starts conversations and nothing unites people like having a common enemy so there are silver linings. I don’t think of myself as a very political person. I have strong opinions and I keep up with things and I go to rallies, but I’m not that politically active and now I feel like we all have to be. Which is annoying, because I don’t want to. I don’t want to devote my life to politics. I’m not interested in politics. I don’t want to do that. I didn’t even really have any plans to devote my life to human rights, but now it’s like, I probably have to. And that’s a bummer. I’m pissed about that. Because I wanted to live a life full of art and travel, and now I have to split up my paycheck between donations for various organizations I believe in instead of going to Mexico. Which is such a selfish thing to say, but I think it’s the reality now for women. We have to be politically active. We have to read Op Eds instead of novels.

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Did you have any strong female influences growing up?

My mom was a boss. She’s not a boss in the “Boss Lady” kind of way. She was a boss in the ‘My dad was not super helpful with raising babies, so she raised three people mostly on her own and was loving and wonderful all the time’ kind of way. Another woman that has always been important in my life but passed away several years ago, is my great aunt Bo. Her actual name was Rosemary. She had two sisters, and when they were little kids they picked clown names. I think they were clowns in the Sunday paper? Their names were Bo, Peewee, and something else. My grandmother Pauline kept her real name because she was “cool”, but Bo and Peewee stuck with Bo and Peewee. Anyway, she was a self-made woman. She had two kids, was divorced, and made a ton of money as an Art Therapist. She was really generous of spirit. She would draw conclusions about people or things that were somehow connected to the magic of the universe. She was intuitive in a little bit of a joke-y way. She was just cool and rad and I loved her. She was strong and on her own. All the women in my family are pretty strong. They’re all boisterous, fully present women taking up space. In subtle ways they inspired me to be the same way. I wouldn’t really describe any woman in my family as ‘gentle’. They’re all great and sweet but not gentle, not delicate. Definitely salt of the earth, boot in the mud kind of people, which I like.

Does ‘being a woman’ feel like an active, always-present part of your life or is it not necessarily something that influences your day to day?

I would say 90% of the choices I make throughout a given day are somehow colored or informed by my gender. I’m very aware of being a woman – from waking up next to my partner (male), to getting dressed, taking the subway, conversations at work, comments and interactions on social networks, standing in line at the salad place – there are constant opportunities to reject, subvert, or cave to socially and self-imposed expectations about what it means to be a woman. I guess in all those examples I’m mostly reminding myself that it’s okay to take up space, that I deserve to be heard, that what I project doesn’t have to be beauty or grace or femininity if I don’t feel like it. And then of course there are times that that is what I want to project, and I then I have to do the balancing act of being feminine – fluid, sensual, observant – without assuming the socially prescribed characteristics of femininity – subservience, silence, passivity. But either way, especially now, I’m pretty much always thinking about how I approach situations as a woman, in keeping with my personal morals and values.

What is your experience with female friendships? I have some girlfriends who come from big girl gangs and others who have single close friends all over the place.

I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately because my boyfriend has a great group of dude friends. They’re from different parts of his life, but I could easily name his ‘groomsmen’ type guys. He’s got those ‘ride or dies’. I don’t really have that kind of a group. In high school I was part of a four-person friend group that was tight, but I always had friends outside of that group too. We ended up not being as close after college. I don’t have a core group. I have no idea who my bridesmaids would be. I have different friends for different things. I would call Julie for some things, I would call Tess for some things but not other things. I have a very scattered group of friends, which I do like. It’s always weird when my friends from different worlds come to the same place because I act differently with some friends. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it’s just how I am with my friends.

Does it feel easier or harder to make female friendships as you get older?

It’s easier to make the kind of female friendships like our friendship. We get along really well but we don’t necessarily hang out all the time. I think those are the ones that are easier to make because I’m more willing to be like, “I like you. Wanna hang out?” Whereas in college and even in my early twenties it was more like, “She’s cool. I hope we see each other.” But I wasn’t in that more vulnerable, adult place of just being like, “I don’t meet cool people all the time. Would you like to be my friend?” which is nice. It’s just a different way of relating to people - choosing someone as a friend or asking them on a friend date rather than growing up together. 

[continued]  I also have a friend who I see once or twice a year, but when we see each other we deep dive into our relationships with our friends and families and partners, what we want out of life, what we think the universe is trying to offer us, do we even want children, and what even is life? We go deep, but that’s just who she is. It’s not really a function of us being any deeper friends than I am with someone else. She just brings that out of me.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH WOMEN WOULD TALK ABOUT MORE WITH EACH OTHER? 

Money. That’s so important. But also, everything. Literally every single thing. I wish everyone felt more vulnerable and willing to admit what’s wrong with their job or relationship. Or just not be like, “Everything is great!” but be like, “I’m scared of this this and this and I walk around all day feeling stupid and ugly. How about you?” I try to be that way, to be straightforward with people about how my life is going and see how other people’s lives are going. Like, “How’s your experience of human life? How are you doing on this planet?”

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR FIRST JOB. 

There’s a Rhode Island company called Del’s Lemonade, which you can actually get at some carts in New York. It’s frozen lemonade, like Italian ice. It’s delicious. My friend is the niece of the founder and her mom and her uncle brought Dels to the great midwest. I worked there serving lemonade. We had penny candy and it was just this cute little store in Oak Park near my house, but it was really popular. I worked there when I was thirteen until I was fifteen. We had a push-cart mobile stand that we would bring to the zoo and the farmer’s market so I got to see the back-of-house at Lincoln Park Zoo, which was nice and disgusting. All my little gal pals worked at this place. There were a few fifteen-year old boys who worked there too. One I remember was John LaCoque who was fine as hell. It was great. Just cute boys and lemonade and summertime. 

WHAT IS YOUR JOB NOW? 

I’m a freelance copywriter and creative strategist. I write fun, flirty packaging script for Shiseido’s brands, BareMinerals and Buxom Cosmetics. I don’t know if it’s what I want to do forever, but it’s fun and it comes naturally to me. And I love freelancing. It’s great to have an end date. I’m only contracted until mid December, so I know that if I want to take a long vacation, I can. I love that.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO WORK HARD? 

Immediate reward is really helpful. I’ll do things if I know there’s a guaranteed payoff. I have a hard time getting motivated if it’s like, “This could be amazing or it could flop”. But if it’s like, “This will absolutely happen and will be incredible, you just need to give it your all” then I’m all in. I’m very risk averse. So if there’s a possibility that I could work really hard and get nothing for it, I’m not motivated. I don’t really know what I want to do right now, so I’m trying to look at what things in my life I’m excited about and working hard on. It’s a random smattering of things that I can’t really draw a line between. I do some backup singing. If I’m in the studio, I could be there for 72 hours straight and time would stop being a thing because I love it so much. But, it’s nearly impossible to make a living doing that and I don’t want it badly enough that I’m going to stop working, and not make money while singing. It’ll always be a fun side thing that I do, which means I can’t devote a ton of energy and effort to it. 

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNG WOMEN STARTING OUT IN YOUR FIELD (OR ANY FIELD) - OR MAYBE EVEN TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF? 

Say yes to opportunities. If someone is like, “Can you come in this weekend and do this weird thing?” Say yes and go do the weird thing. I got a lot of opportunities by just saying yes. Make friends with people. Every job I’ve ever gotten has been from someone being like, “You’re nice. Wanna work here?” It really just pays off to be friendly.

Who (or what?) IS YOUR SPIRIT ANIMAL? 

An oak dresser. Like, a very sturdy hardwood dresser with four drawers and maybe some fun knobs. Maybe a bevel on the top so things don’t roll off. I don’t know if that’s my answer, but that’s what came to mind immediately when I was like, “What am I?” I’m a sturdy, wooden dresser. I have compartments. You can put your sweaters in or on me. I’m very hard to break. See? Now it’s getting poetic. I’m functional, well designed but not over the top, gender neutral. Probably a rich oak color. Cedar lined. Nothing else is coming to mind. I feel like other people’s spirit animals are like, leaves. Or ferns. Or a sprig of lavender. But I’m just functional home goods. A blocky, not unattractive, very sturdy home goods item.

What song have you been playing on loop lately?

I’ve been listening to my “Free and Easy 31” playlist, which is the list I made for my 31st bday party in July. I sorta forgot about it since the summer, but man, it is full of hits. Can’t say I’ve been playing any one song on repeat, but through this playlist I have been enjoying some real good easy listening care of Paul Simon, The Lijadu Sisters, Luke Temple, Wings, The Mac (Fleetwood), The Dan (Steely), The Boss, and other light rock gems.

Dinner with any celebrity (living or dead)?

Probably someone psychic because selfishly I would want to get something out of it besides, “I met Beyonce”. Like, dinner with Abe Lincoln? Ruth Bader Ginsberg? What would I even say? Those would all be cool, I’d love to get a photo. But would I have a connection with them? Who knows. Maybe I’d pick the historical Jesus. Not in a God-y way, but the actual dude. I’d just wanna be like, “What is your deal? Give it to me straight, man.” Or maybe the historical mother of Jesus, Mary. Like, the actual woman. She was like fourteen, so I’d be like, “You can talk to me, I’m a friend.” I’d be a big sister figure. Like, “God put a baby in you? Do you wanna talk about that at all?”

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CONCERT?

My first rock concert that I went to with my parents was The Lovin’ Spoonful and Paul Revere & the Raiders in Chicago. My first concert that I went to without my parents in 8th grade was Cake. But, in the least cool move of her life, at the last minute my mom told me I couldn’t go without parents. I was going with two girlfriends and two boys so it was supposed to be this fun night of flirting and stuff. My mom bought a ticket to the show and stood in the back and kept an eye on us the whole time. I was enraged. I remember screaming at her on the phone and begging her to send my dad instead, because my dad is kind of cool and my mom is wonderful but not cool. It was so embarrassing. But at least I got to see Cake.

What was your most recent concert?

I went to a Sofar Sounds show in Chicago when I was home for Thanksgiving and saw Sun Jacket which is a band my boyfriend produced over the summer.

Guiltiest pleasure?

I don’t feel guilty about most things that bring me pleasure, but I do have one that I’m deeply ashamed of. There are a couple of songs on a record called ‘Continuum’ by sir Jonathan Mayer. They’re just sexy and groovy and I like them and I’m sorry. They’re just smooth. I’m sorry everyone. Actually, the first thing that came to mind when you said ‘guilty pleasure’, was frozen store-bought cake. Not ice cream cake. I really like store-bought, sheet cake. Frozen. With a Miller Highlife. But then I realized, I’m not ashamed of that at all.

I like to think of all my girlfriends as being part of a magical coven of strong, independent witches. As a witch, what would you say is your biggest power?

In terms of something I can do that a lot of other people can’t do, is generally keep my cool. So many people can’t do that. They really can’t. They can’t do it in the office, with their partners, around their family, if they get tired, or if they’re hungry. I can always keep my shit under control. I might be mad about something but I pretty much never lose a hold on my demeanor. And that feels oddly like a super power. My superpower is the ultimate chill.

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'Girls I Know' is a collections of conversations with some of the greatest women I know. 

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