Grls I Know - Ruth

Describe yourself without mentioning work.

I grew up in the midwest surrounded by awesome women but always marching to my own beat. I'm one of three girls - and a twin - but definitely a middle child (technically I am by 7 minutes). I was always the black sheep in a pretty conservative family. I was the one sneaking out to punk rock shows when my sisters were heading off to church. I shaved my head at 17 and got grounded for 6 months and sent to Christian counseling with our pastor. In college I was the girl that claimed “Exploratory” as my major until I landed on Socio-Cultural Anthropology. I thought I was going to live in the Amazon, filming and studying indigenous cultures and making no more than $30K per year. And I was fine with that. Then - my curiosity, ambition and drive took over and my ideas of living in the Amazon took the back seat. When I graduated college in 2003, I immediately moved to NYC with no job and $1200 in my bank account. Fast forward 13 years later - I founded a music festival (Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival), spent a handful of years being an influence in underground nightlife in NYC, made my way up the ladder in niche marketing agencies, owned my own event venue, got married and bought a home in the Catskills and I just left my job as a VP in branded experience marketing at a well known media company making a six-figure salary. Phew! Now I'm taking time off to figure out how I got here - and what's next for me. In the meantime, you'll likely find me on my Catskills patio with a cup of tea watching the sunset.

Where did you grow up?

Kokomo, Indiana. (The Beach Boys were wrong. There were no steel drums or tropical drinks)

How long have you lived in New York City?

I moved here in the summer of 2003, so over 13 years now. Whoa.

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

I feel like my answer will be heavily influenced by the political climate right now. It feels very empowering and liberating to live in New York right now, to be in such a melting pot. Getting to be immersed in so many cultures all at the same time. I had a moment on the train today where I looked around and realized that I was the only white person on the train and on top of that, realized I was surrounded by probably fifteen different ethnicities. I love it - and this is anywhere you go in NYC. Despite what some people think, it’s a very friendly place to live, where people are open to support one another, especially in times of tragedy. I've had some pretty remarkable "only in New York" moments in my life but I'll never forget the ways everyone came together during the Blackout of 2003 and during this recent election. But for those that are visiting and think we’re not friendly, just know that our Manhattan sidewalks are our highways. We don't smile or wave because if we stopped and said hi to everyone, just think of the traffic jams! So in Brooklyn, we stop and say hi to people but in Manhattan, it’s all highways. There’s no stopping. So don't mind us when we push past you on the sidewalk - and please - don't be the guy going 35mph in the 65mph sidewalk lane.

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

Day One it felt very uncomfortable. Frightening. Sad. Just very unsettling. But, a week later I was able to connect with over fifty women, whether in person or on the phone or online, and I now feel more empowered than I ever have.

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

For me I think it’s been easier, actually. Growing up, I had lots of small pockets of friend groups and lots of them were boys (I can’t call them ‘men’ because we were too young). But I think because of the environments I’ve found myself in - either the nightlife scene or my career path - I’ve been fortunate to find myself surrounded by really strong, creative women that I’ve been able to connect with.

 

Is there anything you wish women would talk about more with each other?

Money. Money. And, money. 

Did you have any strong female influences growing up?

Yeah, like I said, I grew up surrounded by women. In my adult life, my sisters have both been very strong influences for me. I've watched them both overcome some pretty amazingly hard circumstances. The strength and courage they both have is something I admire and strive for every day. But my biggest influences growing up were my Mom and my Grandma (who I'm named after). My Mother was heavily involved in every second of our lives. She never missed a single moment. She was at every game, every parent-teacher conference, and did anything and everything she could to support us growing up. My Grandma felt like a second mom to us. She lived just a couple miles away and we spent our childhood going to her house all the time. We even lived with her for a short period when we were between homes. Sadly, my Grandma died suddenly when I was 16 (and when I was angsty as hell). My parents also got divorced when I was 16. So that was a rough period of anger, disassociation, and hating the world. I think because she died close to the time my father left, it just made my Mom that much more of an omnipresent person in my life. My Grandma and Mom were best friends, and since I was old enough to realize how awesome that relationship can be, my Mom and I have been very close and she's definitely my rock and best friend.

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? Or, neither?

I think growing up, it didn’t. I felt like such a tomboy and I've always had boys and men that were close friends. I wanted to be a daddy’s girl even though I never really was. When I was young I always had a hard time feeling like I fit in with girls. I was always very muscular and felt like I was rough around the edges, and not soft and slender like a woman "should be". And growing up I always felt like I had this kinda masculine identity because of it. I was never a girly-girl. When I came to New York, that’s when I feel like I really grew into my femininity. I remember days I would show up at work and forget to wear makeup, and I suddenly realized I didn’t feel like a woman. Back then I thought that wearing makeup and earrings is what made me a woman. It wasn’t until my 30s that I started having a strong feminine identity. In some ways, sometimes living in New York makes you very aware that you're a woman. In my old neighborhood, I used to get catcalls on the street every damn day. It was uncomfortable and so hard to avoid. But I will say, in the wake of this election, I have never felt more like a woman than I do now - and I’m damn proud of it.

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. 

Growing up, I had one best friend that was friends with all the preppy kids and another best friend who was the punk rock kid that was hated by most people. I never had a big clique or group of girls, and I had a lot of close male friends. I even went to prom with my best male friend. I think since I’ve been in New York, for the first time in my life I’ve found this group of women that I feel comfortable and confident with. At my last job, it was the first time that I’ve had this big strong group of female friends - we’re not necessarily all best friends - but we have this wonderful sense of identity with one another, just this bond that is undeniable. I have two female friends that have been my best friends for decades, but they don’t have much of a relationship with each other. They don’t live here, they live in two separate states and have their own kids and own worlds - and I have this other subset of girlfriends from when I was heavily involved in the nightlife scene, who I’m still really close with. I used to hate not having a big clique of girls to hang with all the time, but over time I realized having such a strong bond with my two best girlfriends is better than a bunch of women that I'm just kind of close with (and way less gossipy). 

 

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Tell me about your first job.

My first job was working at a convenience store/gas station as a service attendant. It was actually a super fun job but not one that you normally saw young girls working in. I was 15 or 16. I remember while I was working there, someone gave me a list of ‘The Top 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America’ and one was working at a gas station. Oops! I ended up leaving that job because of a pretty scary situation with a stalker - a repeat customer that came in every day. He was always super friendly, but always made me feel a little uncomfortable. One day, I was the one to close the gas station around 10pm and he was waiting for me outside in his car. He tried to get me in the car with him. This was before the era of cell phones, so after some very awkward words, I jumped in my car and ran home. Luckily the gas station was across from the fire station, so they started watching him and he was eventually banned from the store. I left after that, too.

What is your job now?

I’m living la vida freelance. I recently left my job after 13 hard years of busting my ass in New York. I needed a break. I’m currently giving myself time for self-discovery, to figure out what I actually want. I think there’s a constant, everlasting pressure in New York to climb the ladder, work harder, be better, and I never took the time to actually figure out what I wanted to do. I just took what was available to me. So for the first time in 13 years, I’m doing that. So while I’m taking little tiny freelance jobs here and there, I’m figuring out what’s next. Ask me again in six months!

What motivates you to work hard?

That’s a wonderful question and a question I’ve been asking myself a lot since I left my job. I think I’m a passionate person in general and I care too much about success sometimes. I don’t want to fail. I pressure myself to be just as good as if not better than everyone else in a work environment. But now I’m learning that what motivates me is my own personal happiness and my health and serving other people - whether it be my friends, or family, or the people I’m working with. So I'm trying to lean into that more these days and not be driven by money, status, or power.

What advice would you give to young women starting out in your field (or any field) - or maybe even to your younger self?

Don’t rush everything. Take some time to figure out who you are and what intrinsically motivates you and not what you think you “should” be doing because of what’s happening around you or because of what someone else is telling you. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s okay to quit. It’s okay to say no and do what you have to do for yourself to have a good work-life balance. You do you. 

 

What (or who?) is your spirit animal?

Black Bears. They get to live in the mountains, sleep the winter away, and eat tons of food all summer.

What song have you been playing on loop lately?

'The Way I Feel' by Bob Sinclair

Dinner with any celebrity (living or dead)?

Aretha Franklin.

What was your first concert?

I hate this question because I have to tell the truth. My first concert was not my choice, this was in the era of Punk Rock Ruth. My mother bought our whole family tickets to go see Kenny G with Pebo Bryson and Vanessa Williams. They did the Lion King soundtrack. Yeah. I saw that live. Worst.

What was your most recent concert?

Läpsley, with you!

Guiltiest pleasure?

Watching 'Catfish' and 'Teen Mom'.

Where is your happy place?

In the Catskills at my house, on my back patio, in my adirondack chair on a Fall night with a blanket and cup of tea, staring at the stars.

Tell me three things I wouldn't guess about you.

My twin sister’s car was set on fire on our 17th birthday and it might be my fault. My first day working in NYC was the day of the Blackout. (Ask me that story later, it’s about 3 pages long) And, I once stole money out of a GoGo dancer’s underpants at a gay club while he was dancing. (Also another long story)

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?

My super power is to steer any ship that you give me, no matter how big or how small.

'GRLS I KNOW' IS AN INTERVIEW SERIES PUBLISHED WEEKLY ON MONDAY MORNINGS.

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