Sunday, October 19

To my friends

I'm a strong believer in the wonders of the universe. It has a way of figuring things out. It rids our lives of bad vibes and fills it with good ones, if we let it of course.

Well, this year, as much as I tried to tell myself I was all good vibes, that wasn't the case. I was still stuck in a toxic back-and-forth with an ex-boyfriend. I was no longer in love with him, but it always felt right when we were together. We were explosive.

Fortunately for both of us, that ended abruptly and without explanation. And I tell ya, though his decision for sure, I thank the universe.

It was then that I started to really let go, open up and let other people in my life. And by other people I don't mean other men. I mean friends. Good friends. Old friends. New old friends.

This one goes out to those friends, you're getting a call out here:



  • Diana: The blondie to my brownie (or reddie, I should say). You are my rock. Our sporadic texts make my day. We're inextricably intertwined in so many ways. Thank God for Silver Knight. 
  • Nick: Forever and always. We can go days, months, I'd say years without talking and it's always the same. I got you, and you got me. Guava wine night soon!
  • Lizi: I love that you text me at 8 p.m. your time and I'm already sleeping, and then I respond at 5 a.m. your time. Forever wishing I was exploring Cali with you and Woward.  
  • Danitza: Man, we've had our ups and downs, but we make it work. You literally came through when I needed you most last year, and I'll always love you for that. Cowboy boots!
  • Shannen: Where do I even begin?! I can't get enough of your sass, your laugh and all your good times. I love you, boo. ;)
  • Mirtle: You make my days. I literally cannot not laugh around you, and I so love your brutal honesty. My dominicana favorita, hands down. 
  • Krysten: We may not be 'biffles' or whatever, but I love how real you are and how strong you are (literally and figuratively). And we always have a blast together, so heyyy.
  • Palmer: Palmskiiii just makes me happy. You can be super stressed, a little crazy, and still I just want to hug you. And your cosquillitas are the best.
  • Blair: This loving bitch disappears on me all the time, but she knows I'll always be there. Doesn't matter where or when. (Call me, maybe?)
  • Vero: Talk about old acquaintances becoming new friends. I'm so lucky to have you in my life. Some friendships just click at the right time. Todas las buenas vibras. 
  • Clau: I would have never thought we would be going out together post-college, but here we are. Because the world needs more people like you, who just see good in the world. 
  • Kengg: Girl, you are just fab. So glad Vero introduced us and that we have more in common than we even knew! Here's to all the fantastic times to come. 
  • The ladies at Boden: Las quiero tanto. You all help me grow and learn every day, and I can't complain about our happy hour outings either!
  • Kare: Lol, no one has more fights than sisters, and that's true of us. But I do love how we've grown together and how we now fit into each others' clothes (I need my pants back!). 

Thank you all for being there this year. From the oldest friendships to the newest, each and every one of you mean so much to me. Words don't even do it justice.

Los quiero,
Gnat/Nat/Naty/Natalie

Sunday, October 12

Last Night's Men: 6 Characters You'll Find on a Night Out

Last night! 
Last night, a group of friends and I made it out to Brickell to celebrate, well, Saturday. We had a fantastic time dancing, laughing and being ridiculously silly and sassy.

And while we were being fabulous, as Shannen says, I particularly noticed the kind of men who were at the bar. They were all sorts of characters. And while they were different men from the last time we’d gone out, I realized they were essentially the same. The men changed but the characters remained.

So it got me to thinking about the characters from last night – and every other night, too.


THE PERIMETER BOYS

These are the men who hang around and surround your girl group. They typically seem creepy – not because they’re not attractive but because they’re whispering and deciding amongst each other “who gets whom.” No one gets anyone, creeper. These boys prefer to oogle and stare you up and down without an ounce of shame than strike a conversation.

The thing about the perimeter boys is that sometimes they close in on your space. They creep closer and closer until you’re basically bumpin’ on their junk. Ew, see sly guy below.

Note to the perimeter boys: Rev up the courage and come up to us. Strike a conversation. What’s the worst that could happen? We say no? Take a chance.

SLY GUY

That perimeter boy who creeps up on you is also known as the sly guy.

He’s the one who will graze your waist as he’s walking past you because he obviously can’t just say, “Excuse me.” And he’ll do it repeatedly in hopes that he’ll catch your attention.

No, sir, that’s not OK. Next time you touch my waist I will turn around and slap you. Not really slap you but verbally slap you. It’s worse. So don’t touch me unless I let you. And don’t creep up on my ass. That’s quite possibly the biggest turn off.

Note to the sly guy: Don’t be so sly.  

THE PIGEON

Coined by Krysten Elektra (that’s basically her real name), the pigeon flocks to your group but nobody wants him. Because who likes pigeons? No one. Pigeons break through the perimeter boys and make their way to your inner circle. They’re typically over-the-top personalities with no shame in their game. You’ll mostly laugh at the ridiculousness but don’t forget: the pigeon will quickly get annoying. Why? Because pigeons expect you to like them and their ways.

When pigeons approach your group, they’ve typically had one beer too many, so when they come up to you, they feel like the can conquer you and the world.

Note to the pigeons: Fly away please.

MR. FRENCHIE

He’s similar to the pigeon but takes the “intellectual” approach. Mr. Frenchie is over confident, too, but in a pompous, cocky kind of way. He doesn’t know that he’s raining on your parade because he thinks he is your parade.

As much as we prefer a conversation to your harassment, this isn’t the time to impress me with your “culture” and believed “sophistication.” Please stop telling us you’re French. That doesn’t make you impressive… it makes you French.

Note to Mr. Frenchie: I have a beer in my hand and want to dance the night away. If you want to stick around, dance the night away with me.

BREAK-NECK CREW

These guys take breaking neck to a whole new level. It’s more like the turn-your-head-180-degrees crew. And it’s a crew because most guys break neck as if they were falling dominoes – one right after the other.  

(I’m not even going to mention the hissing, catcalling or biting their lips. Oh, and the break-neckers who have girlfriends… that’s low.)

But my biggest problem with these characters isn’t that they’re looking, it’s that they just stand there. Seriously, guys, if you’re gonna break neck when a girl walks by but not go after her, what’s the point? Here I was thinking men were mostly intimidated by intelligence, but apparently an attractive girl who makes him look twice is also too scary.

Note to the break-neck crew: Be subtler. No one likes to feel like a piece of meat when they’re walking to the bar for a drink. Then, make a move.

THE ONE

Not THE ONE I’m going to marry. Just The One I’m going to dance with tonight, maybe kiss tonight and maybe take home tonight.

The One is the little blessing in the midst of the craziness. He’s your type of attractive and the perfect mix of dance moves and conversation.

When he touches you, it’s only because you let him. And somehow, it’s sexy without being disrespectful.

He knows to pull you in to dance but also lets you do your thing with the girls. He’s not overwhelming.

You can’t always pinpoint what draws you to The One, but inevitably, he’s got your attention.

Note to The One: Keep on keepin’ on.

Sunday, September 28

ThinkCab: "Si ella tiene una meta diferente, voy a invertir en ella."

Let's face it: on a night out with friends, we all want to have a few drinks, dance and not have to worry about driving home safely at the the end of the night.

Add to that the hassle that is finding parking in Miami, PAYING for parking, etc etc etc, and the choice is pretty simple: Uber, Lyft, Taxi.

(Aside: Last night was my first night using Lyft, which I highly recommend. Of the three options above, it seems to be the cheapest and it was easy to use, too.)

And at the end of the night, we - Shannen, Krysten and I - hopped in the car with Jean Phanor. Phanor, originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, came to the States three years ago.

He's fluent in Creole, "se defiende" in Spanish and also speaks broken English. He learned Spanish while studying - get this - industrial engineering in the Dominican Republic. And he's currently learning English to better his chances at success in the U.S.

Shannen (being her journalist self!) and I asked Phanor about his life: happiest moments, biggest regrets, dreams.

We learned that he married his now ex wife against his mother's will. She left him and gave him custody of their daughter. I asked if his heart was broken.

"Yo soy un hombre adaptable. Cualquier situación, me acomodo."

Seeing that he'd had some troubles with love but was not going to let that bring him down, we asked Phanor what were the happiest moments in his life - what he valued most.

And he said God and his daughter. *Amen.*

"Tengo a Dios, eso es todo. Es lo que más vale. Tengo una niña. Ella se llama Angelie y tiene tres años."

Phanor was sweet and he was intelligent. His own dreams include opening an optics lab that operates in the States and services countries like Haiti and the DR. He knows what his goals are, but he doesn't impose those on his daughter.

For him, Angelie's future is hers to define.

"Ella va a tener su propio sueño. Si ella quiere seguir lo que yo quiero hacer, bien. Si ella tiene una meta diferente, voy a inventir en ella."

Translated, he said: "She will have her own dreams. If she wants to follow in my footsteps, great. If she has a different goal, I will invest in her."

Invest. Such a powerful word.

I can only hope Angelie grows up one day to realize the sacrifices her father made for her future, like driving three tipsy, overly enthusiastic girls back home at 4 a.m. on a Saturday night.


Tuesday, September 23

"For Hispanic Heritage Month, I choose the U.S."

It's Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., and given that I'm a proud Latina, I owed it a post. Little did I know, though, that the biggest insight wouldn't be my own, but my 7-year-old sister's.

For my little sister, Khaely, Hispanic Heritage Month is the time of year when she has a special school project. It's a "Hispanic Heritage Bag" filled with cultural pieces and memorabilia and decorated in typical colors. During the presentation, the students have to dress up in native garb -- or at least something resembling it.

Last year, Khaely chose Spain. Our grandfather was born in Galicia, so she packed the bag with Spanish pesetas, an abanico, a mini Spanish flag, a picture of an escudo, among other items. She decorated it in the traditional red and yellow, and she wore a flamenco-style dress.

But this year's a bit different.

Driving home the other night, she tells me,

"Naty, this year for my Hispanic Heritage project, I think I'm going to do the U.S." 

I'm officially confused, but interested to figure out what she's thinking.

"The U.S., Khaely? Are you sure?" I asked. 
"Yes, Naty. I already did Spain last year." 
"Well, what about Cuba? You know, Hispanic Heritage Month is meant to celebrate where we come from, and a lot of our family was born in Cuba."

But my logic wasn't cutting it for her.

"But Naty, I'm Hispanic and I wasn't born in any of those countries. I was born here. And you're Hispanic and you were born here. So I want to do the U.S.," she said. 

I couldn't argue with her. Because at 7 years old, she had a better grasp of the changing face of America than most people I know, myself included.

For Khaely, being Hispanic is intrinsically tied to being American because she was born here, and that doesn't make her any less Latina.

More importantly, though, the fact that she was born here and she's Hispanic, well, that automatically makes the U.S. a "Hispanic" country.

And doesn't that make sense? For her to link her culture to her home?

The rice and beans, the pastelitos, the Latin music, the lechón on Christmas Eve, the novelas: to Khaely, all of that is just as much Hispanic as it is American. She doesn't differentiate the two.

I can distinguish Latino from American, but her not so much. And that differentiation is just going to continue to blur.

For Latinos born in the U.S., being Hispanic will be one and the same as being American will be one and the same as being Hispanic. But it won't mean that we've lost our heritage, our culture, our roots. That we've forgotten about Cuba and Spain and Colombia and Mexico and Venezuela and Argentina.

It will mean that we've combined them into something even more beautiful.

So yes, Khaely, go ahead and do the U.S. for Hispanic Heritage Month. Let 'em know that U.S. Hispanic is the real deal.

She's Hispanic, American and bilingual.
And I'm a proud big sister.




Tuesday, September 16

ThinkCab: "Don't cut from your happiness to make them happy"

As many of you know, this year has been full of work travels. In an effort to make them more interesting (and I don't know why I didn't think of this before), I'm collecting anecdotes from the cab and Uber drivers along the way. The series is called ThinkCab. I hope you'll share it and let us know if you do. 


Sunday night on my way to the hotel from O'Hare, I came across a particularly chatty cab driver. I had waited in what seemed like an endless line to get in the cab, so I welcomed the conversation. 

Originally from Palestine, he had lived in Chicago for upwards of 35 years. He had arrived in the Windy City when he was 19 and he loved the cold weather. He was a Bears fan, had Sunday Night Football commentary going on the radio and asked if the Dolphins had won. 

We somehow got to talking about work and travels and per diems. He was wondering why I was going to Oak Park and not downtown ChiTown. He suggested I get some dinner nearby.

"Don't cut from your happiness to make them happy," he said, referring to spending while on business trips. He said you'll nickel-and-dime 'em when, in the great scheme of things, it doesn't matter to the corporation.

I took it with a grain of salt. There are budgets to watch, but I knew where he was headed with his thinking.

His sister who had worked arduously at a bank for years, earning employee of the month time and time again, was laid off after her pregnancy complications. He said it didn't matter how great you were - "you could be employee of the YEAR!" - but if you messed up once, they would remember that mess up and not all of your successes.

To some degree, he was right. But what I liked most was his general message of selfishness (even though he didn't quite use that word). 

We view selfishness negatively. But is it always such a bad thing? 

We have to look out for ourselves first and foremost, and part of that means looking out for our happiness. The "you first" concept is difficult for many of us, but it's the ground for healthy relationships. 

So if the only way to make "them" (whoever they are) happy is to drive yourself mad/sad/crazy, then screw it. They're not worth it. 

I'm much less eloquent than my cab driver friend. 

With happiness,
Natalie

Tuesday, August 12

Who's walking next to you?

When you find someone who's walking next to you - not behind you or in front of you, but next to you - you'll know. 


That was Mrs. Van Wyk's advice. It made sense then, and it makes sense now.

But I didn't realize until three years later that it doesn't just apply to love. What was meant as post-breakup advice was life advice - and damn good one at that.

See, three years later, this defines my relationships. My best friends, my colleagues, my sisters -- we walk next to each other.

We're a team.
We're dynamic duos and terrible trios.
We're the Boden familia.
We're the blondie to each other's brownie.
We're the partners in crime.
We're the day ones.
We're the Asoreys.

We know we're stronger together. We're better together. So we walk side by side and support each other.

But that doesn't mean we're complacent. It doesn't mean we're the same. It doesn't mean we don't push each other. Hell, sometimes it's more of a sprint than a walk.

But it does mean that we value each other. We're proud of each other.

And Mrs. Van Wyk was right: you'll just know.

Sunday, July 20

Just stopping by

Heyyyy. Hi there. Hope everything's going well!

I'm just stopping by to say a quick hello. It's been a while and I missed seeing your name pop up on my screen. I kinda miss hearing your voice, too, and seeing your face. But I'll keep it easy. Just wanted to say hey. Hope everything's going well. [Smiley face.]

Hey... you're living in New York now, right? I saw it somewhere on Instagram. Or maybe it was Facebook. Either way, now you're hundreds of miles away and I don't want you to forget I'm here. You can find me back home when you come visit. 

So I heard you landed that job. Congrats! Seems like everything's working out for you. But I want you to know everything's working out for me, too. I won't pick up the phone - no. I'll send you an essay (and halfway through I won't know if it's even worth it) just to show you I've grown. I'm the person you always wanted me to be. 

There's no one home, so, you can come over if you want... But only if you want, because I don't want you to think I want you to come. Plus, it's been a while. And it could be kinda weird. But come over, yeah, come over. 

;) It's 3 ammm. I want you. Fuck it, I miss you. Okay, maybe I've had a little too much to drink but I'm serious. What's that saying about drunk words are sober thoughts. Maybe I shouldn't be doing this. I really shouldn't be doing this. 

Hey! Just saw that friend of yours. Literally randomly bumped into him. This will be my excuse to say hey, because he'll probably tell you anyway. And I want to be on your mind when he does. 

I'm just stopping by here. To say a quick hello, to tell you that I care because something reminded me of you. It was that song and the stranger's cologne. 

I'm just stopping by here and I don't expect you to answer. It might be easier if you don't. I wanted to tell you that I miss you. Life's great, but I do miss you. Not all the time, but sometimes. And sometimes is enough...

To just stop by and say hello.