On Dating and Music

So my friend Ace Livingston brought up an interesting topic on Facebook: dating a musician. Pros and cons.

For one, I don’t date. Just getting that out of the way. And considering I have been in the music industry for about 7 years now, give or take,  I’m a bit leery of dating people who are, one way or another, my clients, or friends of my clients. Regardless of whether or not there’s anyone whom I wouldn’t mind going out with, I lack the time, the patience, and the opportunity for such a thing. Should I decide to go forward with it, though, it is a strictly an at-your-own-risk endeavor.

That’s effectively the best way to put it: when you are dating a musician, you are doing so completely at your own risk.

I’ve always been a fan of the saying look before you leap, and a better variant of the saying is know the person you’re getting involved with. Personalities don’t change. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time, with feeling: no one will change for anyone just because they’re in a relationship or in bed with that person. Tigers don’t change their stripes, and this is doubly true of relationships. Get to know the musician in your life as a person first. This will give you a solid idea of who they are, and based on that, will give you a solid idea of what to expect should you date them. Get to know them independent of your feelings: love will, without fail, make fools of people well before ever giving them their due.

So now, the pros and cons of dating someone in the music industry. This applies across the board, but for the purposes of the narrative, I will use the scenario of girl dating a male musician.

The Pros

- The music. If you love and thrive on music, you will never be left wanting for it if you’re dating someone who makes it for a living.

- The travel. Your guy will be touring. A lot. If you’re in the position to go with him, I encourage this strongly. You will see the world and it will be pretty spectacular. If you love to travel, you’re all the better for it.

- Perspective. Generally, if someone is in the business of making people feel something through music, trust me, they will make you feel something as well, and open your eyes to a very different way of looking at/thinking about/feeling things. Most of the musicians I met are some of the most insightful and intelligent people I’ve ever seen, and I am only glad for it. You will be a different person and you will take what you learn through the remainder of your life.

- Business. Musicians rely on their wits to make their living. This is a very people-oriented industry and you are only as successful as your networking. Dating a musician is a crash course in Networking 101, and if you are trying to step out on your own in the working world, and you will learn, thanks to your significant other, exactly how to talk to people successfully. You will build a network unlike anything in the world. And if you aren’t comfortable around people, this is one of the best teaching environments for it.

I say this a hundred times on a day: I’m a hermit. I don’t like crowds. I love my alone time, and I love my privacy. But working in the music business, I have to talk to people regardless of whether or not I like it, and believe me, I would’ve never been so comfortable holding court in a crowd if I didn’t work in this industry. This is something I’m glad for a hundred times on a day as well: I would not know how to network if not for the music world.

- Adventure. Spontaneity is something key to any relationship, but if you’re with a musician, the travel and the adventuring only adds to it. You won’t look at, “Hey, let’s go somewhere” the same way again.

Well, it sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. But this, like any other dating environment requires work, and it requires a lot more work than people may bargain for. Dating a musician has some serious pitfalls, and most of these root from the fact that the musician is, very much, a public figure.

The Cons

- Never enough time. This is something that I find to be a boon of even being friends with my musician clients. There is never enough time. Have a conversation? Take them out for a drink? Take them somewhere fun? Oh good grief, don’t make me laugh. I’ve been trying to take one of my best friends to the NY Transit Museum for years. I can tell you exactly how many times that happened: zip. It’s something that will likely never happen due to his schedule and mine, and that is something that I had to learn to accept. If you have a musician boyfriend, trust me when I say that you will encounter this sooner than later. The early-am wakeup calls to catch a flight right after a gig going past midnight are par for the course. Broken plans because a gig comes up are too. Can’t have a conversation because the guy you want to talk to is about to load in for a gig? Yep. Been there, done that. This is something that you have absolutely no choice but to accept. I can’t say this enough. You either roll with the punches or get out of the ring.

- Business. Like all people businesses, there will be a lot of situations that aren’t pleasant to deal with. Get used to dealing with them. You’ll be the mediator, the peacemaker, the sounding board, etc. as the situation demands it. And know that the business will likely always come first. Again, this is something you’d have to get used to.

- Other people. This is a YMMV (your mileage may vary) situation, but I have yet to encounter anyone who didn’t have an encounter with a wannabe groupie at least, or didn’t have groupies flock to them – and this is male and female musicians. There will be other people. There will be groupies. And this is a standard with nearly anyone who is a public person and a byproduct of our celebrity-worship culture.

There are three real ways to deal with the situation if you’re dating a musician: 1. Trust that he will say no and be secure enough in your relationship to trust in that, 2. Accept that he will do someone else while on the road, make sure he uses protection, and be secure enough in your relationship to allow that, or 3. don’t date him altogether. There’s zero room for insecurity. If you’re even the slightest bit not okay with the guy in your life being surrounded by strange women after each gig, don’t date him. If, however, you are secure in your relationship and you know your guy well, whether it’s option 1 or option 2 that arises when he’s touring, make sure to actually work on the relationship. No relationship is without effort, and this is no exception.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my musician friends (95% male) besieged by women, and equally how many female musicians I’ve seen who had been eyed as though they’re steaks. Hell, I’ve been eyed like that and I’m just the photog. And I’ve been equally accused of being a groupie (by other women, never by the musicians themselves). And mind you this: if you’re female, under a certain age, and look good, the assumption that you’re dating someone on stage or sleeping with someone on stage is par for the course. Unfortunate, and it makes me gnash my teeth quite a bit, but I have no illusions.

- Scrutiny by association. See above about insecurity. If you’re dating a musician and you’re touring with him, expect to become as much of a public figure as he is. You will be judged. You will have people pass their opinions on you and your relationship. You and your relationship will be under a microscope. If you value privacy, a VERY good way to start is to make sure that you and the guy you’re with both acknowledge that Time Alone will be a necessity.

No, dating musicians is no walk in the park. Hell, being friends with musicians is something that takes an inordinate amount of work. I will say this, though: to me, it is worth it. However, I know why: I am absolutely ass over teakettle in love with what I do and I wouldn’t trade the life that I built for the world. I love my friends like my own family and refer to them as such. The music is beyond words. To me, it is worth it for that reason.

But if you think that it’s easy – good grief, no. Never was, and never will be. But I soldier on – again, because I love what I do and love my friends.

Would I date a musician? Maybe. If I knew that I could navigate the relationship without it impacting my business too much, and if I could strike an appriopriate balance between my life and the relationship, I may be convinced into giving it a shot. Even then, though, my life – and my life’s responsibilities: work, apartment, health, business – will forever and a day come first, and I cannot abide by any man who is so insecure that he would need to be first in my life above my work, my health, and my friendships. The sort of security of self that a musician requires in his girlfriends, I require of all people in my life as a matter of course and that is non-negotiable.

K.G.

State of the Jazz Union

You may have read this in multiple parts in rant form, but a much more cohesive version of why I gnashed teeth over Yoshi’s and Jazz Fest West, and any festival apart from my beloved Capital Jazz that went more than 25% R&B, is live up at Detroit Jazz Magazine, where I’m an occasional journalist.

Link: http://detroitjazzmagazine.com/Articles/stateofjazz.html

You may be wondering why I’m rehashing this. And I will tell you in no uncertain terms: because someone has to say it. Someone has to say it and someone has to keep saying it. Until and unless we all come together – promoters, bookers, artists, photographers, fans, and journalists – then we will really not have very much in the realm of what the jazz scene has to offer.

And a genre that has been alive, evolving, and robust in every iteration for a hundred years deserves better than to be pushed by the wayside.

K.G.

On Events & Behind the Scenes

Or, better put, the viewer’s perspective on what makes events happen.

First things first, though, I’d like to thank everyone who read my epic rant on Jazz Fest West. It’s probably my most-read post in the entire five-year history of the blog, no joke. I have had plenty of excellent discussions all over social media on this topic. Thank you, one and all.

I am following up further on the topic and bringing it into a different vein, on account that there is something else that has come to mind.

As before, I won’t name names outright. If it’s you, then by all means, lace up the shoe and wear it. Also, please note that what I’m writing in this blog is simply no more and no less than my personal opinion. You’re free to disagree, but as an independent, I’m free to express it as I like it.

My biggest problem with a lot of jazz festivals, or “jazz” festivals, better put, is the over-dilution of R&B. Capital Jazz is the exception to this. Why exception? The two genres – jazz and soul/R&B – are largely sequestered throughout the festival on their own stages. Jazz is at the big Pavilion Stage, and the soul and R&B are at the Soul Stage (or Symphony Woods stage, as it was this year). And that is fine. People enjoy both genres equally across the board, and know what they want to see.

However, if you have only one stage, then the genre mix does not go over well. Not with the jazz fans, not with the R&B fans, and while I can’t speak for the artists, I can’t imagine either side of the divide is happy either.

But right now, I’m not going to wax ranty about the genre divide too much. I’m going to wax philosophical about event production, and what does and doesn’t contribute to event success. To many of you, this is basically preaching to the choir, but to some of you, this will be a quick Event Production 101.

The thing that any promoter needs to know is that artists always talk. They talk between themselves, and they talk to their friends. So when a festival promoter is getting a bad rap from the people behind the scenes, I tend to look askance at the event altogether. If people I know are getting mistreated by a promoter, then I will avoid the event. Why? I see it as unethical to give money to someone who doesn’t treat my people well. Likewise for working with such a production. I will give most people a chance, but you best believe that I won’t so much as put my camera battery into its charger unless my contract is ironclad and my deposit is in the bank.

And let this be a message to every event promoter or club owner: if the people you work with have something to say about you that is not a praise, this can, and inevitably will, affect your venue or event. People will not come to your event if they feel that their friends are mistreated in any way, and they will certainly tell other people to avoid it if they will get any sort of bad treatment.

To note, I know I’m not immune from this. If anyone is setting out to work in any enterprise that thrives on word of mouth for its survival, they too are subject to the same rule. I try my best to do right by my clients, but I know that there will be some people with whom it won’t go well. And I know that how I handle such a situation will very much affect how my business will continue. That’s the risk I run by working in music – and you know what, that’s the responsibility I have to take.

But from the event perspective, word of mouth is hugely important. Event production falls into the category of “spend money to make money”. For every festival event, the venue needs to be booked, insurance needs to be acquired, artist contracts written, deposits paid, and so on and so forth. Depending on your event, there’s a lot of outlay there. The event producer will make a profit by recouping the costs in a total amount greater than the initial investment.

So word of mouth, especially positive word of mouth, is the single best insurance for attendance, which in turn is a single best insurance for the promoter recouping costs.

The second and very important part of event production is how to price it.

Consider this: every production is an investment-first endeavor. Even the most basic of concert shows. When a producer wants to put on a show, they have to rent the venue, pay the performers, rent the backline, get the insurance – because few if any venues will ever allow a show without insurance – and then and only then set the prices at a rate enough that will break them even, or at least minimize the loss. Of course, the objective is to make a profit – keep that in mind, always.

Similarly with festivals. The difference is that there are more performers, higher venue costs, and therefore higher ticket price.

That explained, there’s one major, major thing to note: if your event is not priced to sell, it will not. This is especially true for any event that sees out-of-towners in attendance on a regular basis. If your ticket prices are not appealing, then you can trust that a chunk of the audience – usually the chunk where the event travel is longer than an hour by car or by subway – will not attend. If they can get the same or similar lineup elsewhere, for a lesser price, what motivation will they have for attending your event? The price has to be right.

I’ve encountered this with more than one festival, and it’s part of why I’ve gotten very choosy with the events that I attend. Some of the best jazz fests are, typically, out in CA. I always look at the performers, the price, and the promoter in charge, in that order. There are some performers for whom I will gladly hop on a plane for, and likewise some that I would not travel very far to see. The price is a major deciding factor: if I can get a cheaper ticket somewhere closer, that’s what I will do. And the promoter in charge: how does he or she or they treat the people they work with? I want to know that my people will be treated right. I want to know that I will be treated right if I’m working for the event in question or for someone affiliated with the event. I cannot tell you how important that part is for me, not as a viewer/audience member, but as someone who works behind the scenes of a lot of events.

When a promoter for a festival decides to do a charter cruise, all of the above plays into the event’s outcome.

Putting on a charter cruise is easily the single most expensive thing an event producer can ever do. I’ll certainly commend the producer in this case for being ambitious, because I know the accounting required in such an endeavor. It’s a lulu. What I will, however, ask, are three things:

1. What’s the lineup trying to accomplish?

2. Who’s in charge and what do I know about them?

and 3. How much?

Answering Question #1 is a mixed bag with a recent cruise endeavor that I’ve spotted rolling out. I don’t mind genre splits on a cruise, because that way, I can actually have a cruise. This is, again, why I love Capital Jazz very much: if I’m not a fan of an artist, that is perfectly okay – it means I can go for a massage, have a steakhouse dinner, or just plain relax and sleep in the meantime. It’s nothing against the artist, of course, but for myself, as a fan of jazz first, I have little interest in R&B. On the years where it’s less jazz and more soul/R&B, I actually got to have a vacation. But I’m looking at this recent cruise and I’m seeing major R&B/soul headliners…and what looks to be all major jazz headliners from the past 3 years’ recent fests and other cruises all thrown into the same bag. Okay..? Is the emphasis on the R&B or on the jazz, then? I’d probably love such a cruise, because the jazz event is wholly satisfying for one like myself, but the overall purpose of the event looks muddled, which in turn makes me ask how well it’s actually organized. With CapJazz, it’s clear that they want to present two sides of the genre divide that they built their brand on, and they make the day-to-day operations work. What’s the purpose with this event?

#2: Yes, I know who’s in charge. But I will ask references from people who had worked with them before. The references are important. My observations are one half of the puzzle. What people tell me is the other. And yes, if I don’t hear good things about Le Grande Fromage who’s putting the entire thing on, then you best believe that will play into my decision to go or not to go.

#3 is the most important of them all. How much does it all cost? I looked at the pricing and it was a case of sticker shock. Yes, I know charter cruises aren’t cheap. For me especially – because I travel alone. This is the thing: cruises don’t like people traveling alone. If I want my own cabin, I have to buy it out. Some productions have singles pricing, others allow me to pay 150% plus double the port taxes to buy it out. So already, I’m at a disadvantage. I expect a price disparity from one cruise production to another, but if I can get a single-price cabin and at whatever rate it is, it’s still less than the per-person price of a cabin elsewhere, then I will most certainly go where I keep more money in my pocket.

Just as an example: I can get a single cabin on one cruise, all to myself. Add in port-tax and gratuities, and it’s a grand total about $3K – yes, steep, but if you’re considering that in addition to cabin cost you’re also paying admission to no less than 40 shows/jam sessions/events, then you’re getting a pretty good deal. However: that same 3K on another cruise is just the per-person cost for the cheapest inside cabin on board – and if I want to go on that cruise, I’d have to pay double that to go alone. Of course, this means I’ll go with where I can get more bang for my buck – in this case, with the single cabin that costs less. Because, with the other production, if they’re generous and let me buy out at 150%, I’m still going to be paying no less than $4,500! That’s the cost of my entire trip with the other guys – including flight, hotel pre-cruise, and onboard spending! Yes, I will concur the lineup won’t be the same, however, I am not made of money, and I am going to go where it costs me less in pure out-of-pocket expenditure.

I wholly understand that prices have to be at a certain rate for the promoter to recoup initial investment costs, but if enough people say, “That’s too much money” and not go as a result, then the entire event is in jeopardy. Not enough ticket sales = significant loss = less money to the promoter to reinvest in future events = future of the entire production is…? This is how and why the All Star Cruises had closed their doors; I was lucky enough to have been on board the last sailing, and the price was rockbottom – lucky for me, but in retrospect, it’s a sign of desperation on the cruise line’s behalf if they gave me my cabin for the rate that they had. They were trying to fill the ship, and no, they didn’t fill it. So the line had closed its doors after that last one, and I understand why: the promoter must have taken a hell of a bath. It was an amazing ship, a fantastic all-jazz lineup, but if they couldn’t manage to pull off a full ship, then yes, I wholly expect them to shutter it.

Likewise for festivals. Doubly if the cruise and the fest are put on by the same person. Because whatever the festival reputation is, it carries into the cruises. This is why you see Michael Lazaroff’s production consistently sell out – whatever my opinion on Lazaroff is, Smooth Jazz Cruises are, last time I checked, a driving force behind Seabreeze Jazz Fest, which is one of the most sold-out East Coast events after Berks and Cap. It’s extremely likely that the Breeze attendees pack in en masse for the cruises: they know what to expect based on the fest. Same for CapJazz’s continued success: people know what to expect from the festivals, and go on the cruises – and vice versa.

To sum up, I will say this: we all look out for each other behind the scenes. I can’t count the number of times a fellow photog or musician had done me a solid, and I’m more than prepared to do the same for them in return. There are some promoters I will always work with, because I know that they will treat me with integrity, and that they will do right by the people they book. Likewise to contrary. And the number-one thing a promoter needs to keep in mind is exactly that: what references will he or she or they receive after the event is said and done? This is on all sides of the divide: performer, manager, booker, photographer, attendee, vendor… References come from everywhere, and a huge contributing factor to the continued success of a production is making sure that the positive outweighs the naysayers.

K.G.

Fifty Shades of WTF?

I couldn’t resist. So yeah, the Fifty Shades of Grey tripe is becoming a movie franchise, and it has a shiny new trailer.

Of course, people are going gaga over it.

I swear, I must be a pod person or something. Really. Because I just cannot see any of that as “sexy”. I cannot see anything about Christian Grey as a character that would make it noteworthy, except for the fact that he’s a fucking sociopath.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get this straight: abuse is not sexy. Not even if it’s written to try and be sexy. Abuse is abuse, and abuse should not be tolerated, whether physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, you name it.

I read some of the book, but I stopped in disgust. Can someone please tell me how any of that is different from Twilight? How is the dynamic between Christian and Ana any different than Edward and Bella? Both are incredibly unhealthy, and in both cases, the male half acts as a predator chasing prey. In Twilight, it was Bella for being human and having the blood scent that affected Edward like heroin. Not even kidding, look in the books – “You are like my personal brand of heroin” was the phrase used. And Christian targets Ana because she’s a virgin, ergo naive, ergo he can do with her as he feels like and “mold” her into his ideal partner.

And people think it’s sexy? That it’s a good portrayal of the BDSM scene? Good lord, folks, if that’s what you think is sexy, I truly wonder about how satisfied you are in your own sex lives and what your ideas are about men respecting women. Because that’s just some seriously unhealthy shit that I’ve skimmed through in that book, and by no means am I a prude.

One of my best friends is heavily in BDSM, and she’s a sub. I also chatted up a professional dominatrix at a bar – yes, I live in NYC, you never know whom you’ll meet where. From the opposite side of the submission divide, they both told me that in the BDSM world, no one in their right minds would treat anyone the way Christian treats Ana throughout the series. BDSM hinges very, very, very heavily on consent. Hell, 99% of all sexual relationships hinge on consent. What Christian does treads into the territory of rape; I do not recall Ana consent to much of what he was doing with her. And don’t let me hear the “if she doesn’t say no that means yes” crap – hell no. If you’re in bed with someone and you aren’t blind or deaf, you will know very well when someone wants you to continue.

Really. I can’t understand how this shit got this popular, in both series’ cases. I will not pay money to even a street bootlegger hocking DVDs to see this crap. I mean, really. I know Americans as a whole are still very Puritanic when it comes to sex, but…really, folks, give me a break. I have read all of Twilight on a lost bet, so I know how to get through shitty fiction. But if it fails the Random Page Test in about two paragraphs, then I can’t help you there.

I really, honestly cannot understand how people, especially women, think that this shit is sexy, romantic, etc. I can’t. Granted I’m not exactly a “romantic” in the strictest sense, but I have a certain standard of behavior I expect in a relationship, based on this little thing called respect and this other thing called common sense. Except I’m afraid it’s not so common.

Really? This is made into a movie?

Then I guess fiction really has gone to shit.

K.G.

On Hitting the Three-Oh and Milestones

In one of my “thinking” moods, I realized that yes, I’ll be celebrating a “milestone birthday” next year. Well, so people call it, in any case. I use quotations because, really, I’ve not put much emphasis on age or lack thereof in the past.

Considering that when I entered my twenties I was coming out of a convoluted and rather sheltered upbringing, the past ten years alone have been an eye-opener, start to finish. Not easy at the best of times, but necessary. Let no one say that the real world is not a worthwhile teacher; often, it is the best teacher one can have. Certainly, it was mine.

It’s all about how you apply the lessons you’re presented with.

One very, very major thing I learned is to adjust your goals, or the means to approach them, as you go. If you can’t get to your goal after repeated attempts, it’s perfectly fine to re-evaluate it and adjust it as it needs to be done. When I was 20, I wanted to be taken care of and comfortable. I learned that I shouldn’t necessarily have to rely on other people – parents, husband, etc. – for that. I still want to be taken care of – but this time, by myself, first and foremost. Did I accomplish that? Within reason, yes. Do I have more to go? Yes.

What I started thinking about is what “being 30″ actually means in today’s world. Just the larger spectrum of things.

When I was growing up and later, when I went to college, I was taught, as were most of my peers, that by thirty, you’re supposed to have “settled in and settled down”. What does that mean? It meant a career path that, after college, you now had about 7 or so years to get settled into, a career path that brings you enough income to have a place of your own. By 30, if you’re not married and have a kid or two, you’re usually told (if you’re female) that your “biological clock is ticking”, regardless of whether or not that’s true.

That’s what I kept seeing ahead for myself when I was in school. Then I actually had to ask myself: what of this do I want? And turned out that quite a lot of the expected script for being in one’s thirties did not at all appeal to me.

And, well, you know me. If I see an opportunity to do something the way I want, I will immediately go for it, doubly so if I know in advance that it will make me very happy.

So right now, with my age mark about to hit the three-oh, I realize that, apart from the fact that going your own way in life is truly the best thing any human being can do for themselves, that my peers have been lied to by the sheer virtue of being given a LifeScript(tm) to follow. By shoehorning themselves into a scripted, predictable, society-expectation-molded way of life, they have effectively given up any real freedom that they could’ve had. I mean, think about it: an average Joe USA will go to school, take a job to pay the bills, get married and have a kid, and then work work work because kids are expensive (which is one of those things no one tells you) and tries to pay off mortgage and student loans (because you can’t live without debt these days, which is another thing no one tells you). Yes, it’s what’s expected of him. This is how thousands of people across the country live. Not once do they question this script. Not once do they step back and see that they are roped into working longer and longer hours for the same pay to make payments on the house they almost never spend time in. Their time is invested into the job. They come home, exhausted, and then they come home to have to work again on their relationship – because it does require work – and their children.

Likewise for women. They’re told to go to school, get a job, get married, have kids. And then what? Exhaust themselves twice over being an employee and a mom? And face social guilt and everyone getting judgey on them because they aren’t doing X or Y per the script? Come on. Moms and non-moms get it all the time about how they’re not doing X enough when in reality, they’re running themselves ragged with X and Y, but no one mentions Y. Work, come home, parent, be a spouse. Where’s the “rest” aspect to this?

What sort of freedom is this? What sort of freedom does this script allow?

My twenties were marked by analyzing that script, and every other social directive my peers and I have been spoonfed, and realizing – harshly in some cases – that I am just not capable of doing that to myself. I felt most at home when I was traveling: to my friend’s up in Cape Cod, on a plane to my first cruise, on the railroad to explore a new city… Travel was where I felt most at home. Even though right now, at a bit older than 24 (when I started traveling for real), I grumble and grouse at the early wakeup calls to my flights, I can never deny that this is what I was born to do: gallivant, explore, photograph, tell stories of my adventures.

The other major realization that I feel coming with my thirties is the responsibility that we are all given, to take care of ourselves and ours.

My health has been a thorough misadventure. But it’s also been a great learning experience about what does and doesn’t work with my body. As it is, I have tried the whole “lose weight” rigmarole. Once my thyroid got its meds, the weight started coming off rapid-fire. When it stalled, I tried WeightWatchers, only to plateau and regain everything I lost when my body hit starvation mode: WW relies largely on fiber and vegetables as a filler, and completely disregards that lipids are an essential part of any diet (a half an avocado is how many points?!). It’s great for getting into healthier eating habits, but for long-term weight loss, it fails. I went back to WW after I regained the weight, only to yo-yo again. So I decided to scrap all “weight loss” plans and just enjoy my workouts for the endorphin rush, and eat as I please.

Know what happened? My health thrived. My blood tests kicked out their first “perfect score” in about a decade. I stopped feeling like my stomach is a bottomless pit waiting to be stuffed with food; I stayed with my habits but re-introduced avocados and the occasional potato. My appetite became a lot less “must eat everything” and a lot more “fuel up, stay full through day”.

We get only one body. Only one health. We can’t change bodies when this one has outgrown its usefulness. Our primary responsibility is to know when to focus on you. Your health, your well-being, your living. And if you’re in the position where you have to be a caregiver – then taking care of that person’s health is also on us.

I’m not talking about kids.Not just about kids, for my parent readers. I’m talking about the people who are around you. Parents, if you’re close to them. People who took care of you, who may be needing care in return. Myself, I had to come to close terms with my mother’s retirement, not just as the end of comfort – and let’s face it, so far I’ve been lucky enough to be comfortable while living with her – but as the beginning of my slow takeover as the household provider. I’ve seen it coming, but now’s the time to actually stop looking and start doing. My mother is looking forward to her retirement and not working, and maybe just possibly doing a little travel in her own right. And other things. And financially, I know that she and I need to start working together financially; this way I can sustain us, and she can enjoy some peace in her retirement without having to go broke.

That’s responsibility. That’s shared responsibility. And moving into my thirties knowing how to handle that, frankly, is something I feel very proud about.

All those milestones that people put into the standard LifeScript(tm), they are milestones only in the context of the people who set them. For people who graduated high school and then got married and had a couple of kids before they hit thirty, any other sort of life is unimaginable, especially if they see everyone around them doing the same. To them, that’s normal. That’s the script. So they will set the same milestones for their children, regardless of how their children feel. So many times I see stories online of X person being the first in their family to graduate college, and behind the stories of people supporting their goals, I find myself always asking, “And how many naysayers are around X right now saying behind their backs that they don’t see the point in college and X should’ve just gotten married and stayed in town?” Because for those people, X’s accomplishment, momentous on the scale that they’re the first ones to graduate in their family, just doesn’t make sense because it breaks the norm. It doesn’t fit the script. They don’t know what to do with it, and in all things human-natured, decry it.

Let them.

In my experience, the people who try to pull you down for your achievements are wholly incapable of doing what you’ve done. So let them bitch. Define what your milestones are for yourself.

Most people wouldn’t think that “taking care of their mother” is a milestone – for me, it is. My mother had pulled me out of a fair few sticky situations, and I see it as a return of debt to make sure that her retirement isn’t fraught with financial worries, and a point of pride that I have a plan to do so, and can follow through with it. Most of my peers don’t quite see contributing to an IRA as a milestone – and in that regard, I wholly understand them; there isn’t enough income to go around when you still have loans to pay. But the fact that I have saved my first thousand dollars for retirement despite my otherwise deplorable spending habits is a great thing. It’s a thousand dollars that I won’t have to bust my hump for after a certain age.

Right now, very safe to say that I look at fiscal responsibility as a major part of growing older. It took me a long time to get smart about my money, even more surprising the fact that I work in accounting. But that is also how I got smart about what’s mine: I worked on other people’s books, finances, companies, and looked at what they were doing, and began to see how to apply it to myself. I am not where I want to be, but I am a ways ahead of my peers at this moment, and if there’s anything I can do to help them out, then usually I do so. Knowledge is the thing that pays it forward.

As I gear up for being a “thirty-something” in New York, I’m also setting new goals for myself. First goal is to just relax – reasons obvious. Second goal: to not spend so much time working and/or being alone; like it as not, human contact is an essential thing, and my friendships do need cultivating. And third goal: get myself to where I can, in fact, think seriously about buying a house. If student loans are the only thing standing in my way, then I need to figure out a way to up the ante and get them paid off now.

I’m still not too sold on the idea of having a “personal life”. Maybe it’s because I am too busy, maybe I’m just not wired for it, but I just don’t see myself with long-term companionship at this stage in time. Still. I just don’t see it. If I think of a weekend, then inevitably, there’s my camera, there’s an event, and there’s a ticket to a bus/train/flight to get there. And the way I see it is thus: if over the next five years I do not meet anyone who is worth carving out the time for, anyone who will make me say, “This one is special, different, worth my time and efforts”, then I will resign myself to the single life for good. I don’t see myself ultimately staying alone – so my intuition says – but I certainly don’t see myself dating anyone with my adventurous, photography-chasing, music-indulging life being what it is, and I am a realist above all. I don’t believe in “the one”, I don’t believe in Prince Charmings, and I certainly don’t believe in settling down. But if in the first five years of my thirty-dom I don’t meet anyone – then, you know what? Works for me A-OK if I’m a solo flyer. I can build a hell of a life for myself by myself. After all, I’ve already gotten a good start on it.

Bring on the Thirties!

K.G.

Beware of false prophets (or, caveat emptor)

Warning for “post that will piss people off”. Warning completed.

In light of Joel Osteen’s exorbitant price tag for his “sermons”, I would like to say this:

A life coach or a televangelist is a salesman, nothing more and nothing less.

And, of course, the corollary to that is caveat emptor (let the buyer beware, Latin).

In fact, the more I go through life, the more I realize that pretty much all of these life coaches and philosophers and televangelists are just plain out there for money. They may have had difficult lives and triumphed, they feel that they may benefit people by passing on their message, and all of that may be good and true, but pretty much everything has a dollar tag attached. Moreover, considering that skeletons in closets tend to rattle louder if the closets are more public, the quality of the product is questionable as well.

In other words, be very careful of who comes in trying to sell you something, especially if it’s a philosophy.

The old saying goes that your therapist is probably the one with the most issues. From personal experience, the majority of people whom I encounter who work as shrinks have worse issues than some of their patients. The ones who don’t are usually the ones trying to fix their colleagues’ damage and are outnumbered by the shitty ones 4 to 1 at the very least. But life coaches are a special brand of individuals whom, as I find, should be avoided.

Let me explain why.

They have had difficult stretches in life. They got through on a combination of faith, philosophy, and reading inspirational Bible verses. Okay, great. They then continue to write a book about their experiences only because they know full well that people in similar situations will think, “They did this, so can I” and will buy their books. This is how they make their money; that and workshops and TV appearances. Think about it: self-help stories are a dime a dozen, and there are so many of them, all of whom are taking money for workshops on “how to build yourself up” and other things, that I am truly questioning the validity of some of their books. Those of you who are Law and Order: SVU fans will likely know what I mean when I will mention the possibility of more than one Erica Windemere instance in the self-help world.

I will never deny the benefit of such stories and workshops – sometimes, they do quite a bit of good. But to take the money that some people charge for them is just plain ridiculous, and it shows exactly what is at the forefront of putting them on in the first place. And it’s to build up something other than confidence.

In truth, it doesn’t matter, ultimately, how many workshops you go to or how many self-help books your will read: if you want to build up your confidence, if has to start from your inside, not someone else’s. Not a book. Not a workshop. But the actual honest-to-cheese person who needs the building. And maybe I’m going out on an unpopular limb here, but I severely doubt that paying $100 admission will go very far in confidence-building.

Worse, those “life coaches” tend to have at least one aspect of their own lives that is so horribly messed up that, if you knew about it, you wouldn’t give them one red cent to “build confidence” or “coach” anyone, because it will be plain and obvious that their entire qualification is baloney. They live in terror that their fucked-up personal situations will be exposed, because that in and of itself will discredit whatever they’re building up as their “life coaching” product. Because really, how can you possibly coach someone else when you yourself are messed up? How can you possibly teach someone to embrace their independence when in your personal life, you are so clingy and codependent that you scare people away? Can you really build up confidence in someone else when you’re clearly lacking it yourself? If tele-preacher Creflo Dollar, who spoke of confidence and forgiveness for abuse, got caught abusing his own daughter, then it’s really not that far a stretch to consider that pretty much everyone in the life-coaching/self-help industry has something to hide, and most of the time, that “something” will immediately discredit their entire message.

The words that come to mind are, “Doctor, heal thyself.”

Too many of these “life coaches” need to check themselves and their own lives before they go out there to pass their philosophy on to the world. People who are already down in the dumps really could find a better role model than someone who, for instance, preaches female confidence while at the same time being unbelievably clingy, codependent, and desperate when they think no one’s looking.

There’s a very crass saying, and unfortunately, it’s true: “shit floats to the top”. And trust me: it always does. If you’re trying to preach a message that you yourself don’t practice, you will find, very fast, that you won’t be able to keep that under wraps.

There’s a good reason that the self-help industry is a profitable and thriving industry: people are so desperate for an easy way, an easy approach, a lifeline of any kind, that they’re willing to pony up big bucks for anything that they feel will make life easier to handle. That is how people who purport themselves as life coaches thrive: because they are just a little bit more adept at marketing themselves and telling people what to do. In reality, they’re people, like any other person, and the only thing they’re selling is themselves. Philosophy, itself, is free, and can be acquired with a library book. Yes, their stories are inspirational, but for them, selling those stories and selling the mentality is a business. Make no mistake: Iyanla Vanzant makes a pretty penny. So does Michael Baisden. I may agree with what both of them have to say, but I also don’t lose sight of the fact that the money I’m paying for their books is money that they’re making by turning themselves and their experiences into a brand product.

They are salesmen. it’s just that their product is themselves. I will gladly buy a book if I think I will like it because I like to read, but if anyone thinks I will waste one red cent on any of their workshops, they’re mistaken. I am not of the sort of people who likes paying a complete stranger to tell me what to do with my life. I spent entirely too much time carving it into what I want out of it, and will be damned if anyone will disturb that harmony.

Philosophy is not supposed to be a business venture. Socrates had to swallow a cup of hemlock for his trouble, and he was by no means wealthy for his work in getting people to start asking the hard questions. Salvation is supposed to be free, why is Joel Osteen charging three figures for admissions to his megachurch sermons? And have you seen the lifestyle he has with that income? Have you seen the lifestyles of the megachurch Southern Baptist preachers in the South? I’m sure you’ve seen the stories of Ted Haggard, the infamous anti-gay televangelist who got exposed for – of course! – soliciting sex from a male prostitute. Here’s the thing: they are all like that. All of those conservative preachers, all those anti-gay anti-abortion reverends, they’re all no more than hypocrites with a cross and a Bible. The more they preach against something, the more likely it is that they themselves are guilty of the exact sin they decry. And they still will charge you $300 and up to listen to them run at the mouth.

This is why the verse about false prophets comes to mind, and this is also why I strongly urge caution whenever you meet someone trying to sell you something that is not supposed to have a price tag in the first place. Salvation is free, and even if you’re not a Roman Catholic or a Presbyterian, both of these church denominations can offer you the same comforts and the same verses for none of the cost of Joel Osteen. My own opinion of the Bible and its validity completely aside here, think about it like this: an average preacher of the Roman Catholic Church does not have Joel Osteen’s private jet or McMansion. And yeah, Osteen has both of the above. No recognized church – Church of England, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, just for example – has their preachers flying in private jets. Tell me, exactly, why you’d pay money for Joel Osteen, and I’ll be glad to show you how you got duped.

You may remember Miss Cleo, the tarot psychic of late-night 90s commercial fame. Know where she is now? In jail for fraud. Whatever your opinion on validity of psychics and tarot cards aside, again: her services at $5/min could be well acquired either on your own with a $15 tarot deck that you can teach yourself to read, or from a anyone else with a tarot deck for $10 a pop. No need for an exorbitant phone bill for someone with a fake accent to guesswork at your life. You may question that too, but I’m sure you can understand from this essay so far: take caution when someone offers you a price tag for something that has no business having a price tag that high in the first place, if at all..

Caveat Emptor, and consequently, Caveat Venditor (let the seller beware, Latin).

K.G.

Wow. It propagated. (On relationships – again – and why I won’t be in one)

Very interesting thing in my stats today: my old post on why I refuse to get into a relationship has been propagating. Long story short, Michael Baisden had dropped an excellent bit of food for thought on the topic, I sounded off…and apparently, y’all really like it. :)

Thanks for reading, first of all.

Now, in case you’re wondering, to a major extent, all of that still holds true.

I’m still busy. I changed jobs since I wrote that post, and my new job is giving me more and more tasks and responsibilities. Business is thriving. I’ve finally gotten one of the photo gigs on my photographic bucket list. I still don’t have the time to sleep properly or think straight, and trust me, I’m well aware of what that means for my health, but the hustle waits for no one.

And the same consideration, this leaves me in the exact same spot: where, exactly, does dating fit in? Even if I wanted to get into a relationship, I know exactly why I will not.

First of all, I’m hardly the marriage type. I’ve been married. It took me that experience to drive home that I am not the family type. I’m too much of an adventurer at heart to be tied down to any one place or person.

Second: my life, and all I do in it, will always take first priority. If there’s a man who’s expecting to become top priority in my life, he will be cruelly disappointed. Unless, of course, his life is as hectic and multifaceted as my own, because two busy people tend to always find a way to jive (in my experience). I’m a workaholic with a deep love of travel, music, and all that goes with it. Likely, the only man whom I’d date is someone within the music circle, except that I have this little bad habit known as integrity, which takes precedence over anything I might want, think about, consider, etc. In other words: business comes first, always, and forever.

Third: I refuse to compromise on my standards or on who I am. This is non-negotiable. Please spare me the whole “all relationships require compromise” schpeel – I’m well aware of that. But I also firmly believe that if I have to, in any way, change who I am and what my standards are just to have a relationship, it’s not a relationship worth having. I keep a high standard for people around me and for myself because I expect to be treated a certain way and expect to treat people likewise. I should not have to settle for less than what I feel that I deserve just because of a relationship, a hookup, etc. I know my worth and don’t offer discounts.

Four: I’m childfree. You’d be amazed at how quickly the words “I don’t like small children” make people scatter, or worse, pull out the bingo routine. (CF folks, you know what I mean).

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: love makes fools of people well before it’ll ever give them their dues. After my divorce, after a few attempts at dating, and the sheer great luck of having a couple of F.W.B.s with their brains straight over the past 7 years, I have come to view any sort of a romantic entanglement as just another form of a business arrangement. Would you hire a substandard employee? Of course not. I’d rather the men in my life have a life of their own, and be as okay with the convoluted busy craziness of mine as I am and expect to be with theirs. Because let’s face it: the hustle waits for no one. I don’t expect to put it on pause, and I certainly don’t expect someone else to put theirs on pause for my sake. But if the hustle overlaps and it works well when it does – then we have something that can work.

But right now, I’d rather my life and my work take top priority in my book. There’s still a long work in progress to finish. Until I feel that that’s done, I will foot it alone. Not the first year.

K.G.