Lena Dunham's Success Makes Me Feel Bad About Myself.

When you teach high school, you learn very quickly that you are not that special.  You are told on a regular basis that you are mean and boring.  You are asked, when you get a little bit too excited about The Crucible, whether you have cats and if so, how many.  Your outfits are scrutinized, critiqued, and dismissed.  You are given unsolicited hair and makeup advice.  You obsessively check to make sure your fly isn’t open.  You are mocked for being unfamiliar with the music of 2 Chainz. You are asked, “What do you, like, do on weekends?”  You are asked, “So, do you listen to, like, 101.9 ‘The Mix’?”  You photocopy handouts of “The Raven” with your own money, only to find these copies thrown on the ground after class, covered in dick illustrations.  You dread vocabulary unit 5, because that is the one that contains the word “masticate.”

So it is with a deep and abiding awareness of my own un-specialness that I start this blog today.

Why today?  Well,partially because I finally started watching “Girls,” which triggered a total existential crisis.  It has to do with my being significantly older and far less successful than Lena Dunham.  It has to do with receiving over 100 rejection letters for my short stories, with my MFA thesis gathering dust on the shelves of some Columbia College basement library, with my second novel halfway completed and already sinking under the pressure of my unfulfilled dreams, with my fear that I am going to become that evil English teacher in Finding Forrester who tries to undermine Jamal’s talent as a result of his own failed writing career.

finding forrester

Most of all, it has to do with the promise I made to myself that I would publish my first book by age 30, and then spending my 30th birthday, drunk and bookless, asleep in my backyard amidst a scattering of crushed Old Style cans, wearing a party dress and a pair of wrist guards to help ease the discomfort of the carpal tunnel syndrome I had acquired by writing thousands of words that, as far as I could tell, nobody wanted to publish.

Over the years, my friends have given me countless bad pieces of advice: Let’s get a ride to the taco place on the hood of this guy’s car, for example. Or: it would be really funny if you ripped your pants off and threw them into that tree.  Or: the bartender just squeezed his bar rag into this shot glass--now drink it.  And most recently: you’re a writer—you should start a blog!

So here it is, friends.  I'm a native to the Northwest Side of Chicago, where I still live and work, so  I'll be talking about people and places that are of particular interest to this specific nasal-talking, hot-dog eating corner of the world. But I'll also be covering topics of interest to women, people in their thirties, teachers, writers, readers, drinkers, daughters, wives, and nail-biters.  If any of these apply to you,  I hope you’ll come back soon and read some of my drivel.

And eventually, buy the book.


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  • what Valerie implied I'm taken by surprise that a person able to make $9303 in 4 weeks on the internet. did you look at this web page www.dot95.ℂom

  • Jessie, I love your honesty! I cannot wait to read more of what you write for ChicagoNow. Keep it up!

  • If it's any consolation to you, I can't stand that stupid show Girls whereas I really liked your blog.

  • Great, hilarious writing. I'm very excited about this column. I've long bemoaned the fact that Chicago lacked a contemporary, female Royko. Actually, that's not true. But I'm genuinely happy to see we have one now!

  • Hey, I went to Columbia for Fiction Writing too! I have a blog called, "Chicago Literati". I'd love to have you submit a short story to us.

    Visit here:

    I can't wait to read your book when it's published!

  • In reply to Abby Sheaffer:

    Thank you, Abby! I will!

  • Live your dream, Jessie Ann! I am a 44- year old mom of 5 (2 are teenage step- daughters who roll their eyes whenever I claim them, but hey, I pay for their tampons and run interference when their dad wants to "meet their boyfriends," so I am taking the f***ing credit). I watch Lena Dunham with an eerie mixture of joy and resentment because she reminds me that 1) times may have changed, but being in your 20s and worrying about your "future" (or all the skeevy boyfriends you have to endure) hasn't, and 2) like I said, My bod may be 44 but my mind is still 22 and I am STILL laying around in my t- shirt and trying to write my Great Book (I am actually writing this in bed on my 7- year- old's pink
    iPad Mini while my treadmill and laptop sit idle in my "studio" down the hall). I console myself with the fact that I did get a PhD and have a successful teaching career for several years before I decided that writing a book would be more "fulfilling." And I know I am a big fat whiner for not loving every minute of my relatively cushy middle-aged life. So good for you for getting started. Your post was really funny. It is going to inspire me today-- at least between the hours of 9 and 2:30, after the schoolbus has left and before I begin the 2:30 "after school activity run." Then I turn into the Evil (step) Mother who reads " moms who drink and swear."

  • In reply to Chickenbone:

    The great thing about this blog is that I know it's going to attract a very diverse audience representing a wide range of opinions--which will inevitably generate some really interesting discussions.

    For instance, I found your take on the show "Girls" to be really different from my own. When you wrote: "'all the skeevy boyfriends you have to endure..." I thought: "Is she talking about the same "Girls" show I'm thinking of?" What took my attention about the show was how basically well-meaning guys kept getting jerked around emotionally by self-centered, entitled young women--and an overall point-of-view that seemed to think things like a heartbroken guy getting run over by a truck is funny.

  • This was awesome - Smart, funny, a little sad, pretty much everything I have come to know about the Northwest Side of Chicago.

    If you keep writing, I'll keep reading.

    Great work

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