What I Want To Be When I Grow Up. And Justin Bieber.

If you had told me a year ago that I would reflect on my life while watching a Justin Bieber anything, I would have quickly answered "yeah, maybe to END IT."

A while back I saw a poster for the (then) upcoming Justin Bieber movie "Never Say Never" and made a crack to a friend that we should go. The irony was that, in the months to follow our setting of that plan, I would actually become a fan of his music. It started with an adorable 2 year old playing it and dancing for me when I Skyped with her family, and then grew into me sticking his CD on the bottom of a stack of albums bought at Target, putting it in my car, and keeping my guilty pleasure to myself. What can I say - it's light, it's poppy, he has a voice that reminds me of Jackson 5-era Michael (oh no she didn't. oh yes she did!).

Anyhow, when the day of the movie release drew closer, we decided to make a girls' day of it and shop, eat, and see it on the sly. We didn't expect other high-functioning adults to understand why we would put the time -- much less the money for 3D glasses -- into seeing this. I knew nothing about the movie- at all - and only heard the week we were going that it was a documentary. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I know that Bieber likes his mom, and that makes me like the Beebs.

What I did not expect, however, was to actually enjoy the movie. For those of you who don't get internet reception under your rock, it's about how he was discovered, how his career has progressed, and the network around him that puts things in motion and makes the machine run (in addition to his strong work ethic). On some level it's about how quickly fame comes, and how immense it can be when it does.

So when I left, why did I feel a sinking feeling? And no, it wasn't about me not being the right age for him. (Ick) It was the fact that this kid had such a clarity of purpose. He never (on camera, at least) debated being a basketball player, a fighter pilot, a banker. He banged away on a chair, using it as a drum as a toddler, and just went from there to playing on the streets (literally), playing in church events, playing anywhere he possibly could get noticed. And with that intention he become a young gazillionaire doing what he loves all day every day. He can't buy lotto, he can't buy a beer, but he could probably buy the companies that produce both.

I'm guilty of saying "I could do anything if I only knew what it was!" In fact, my mom once bought me a book by that title which I never bothered to read because it felt patronizing. I mean, who *doesn't* know what they want to be? What a freak! Oh yeah, that freak is me, I realized... ten years later.

I thought of the people around me who have that focus, and suddenly started to feel a bit alone. The examples within even my family are astounding. My sister debated two artistic paths but was drawn to illustration. I remember my mom giving her receipts and a pen to keep her busy in restaurants when we were little. My brother? We have footage of him banging away on the piano at one year old, he was born a musician and has the hair to prove it. My mom wrote a novel at age 12 -- and just published her first novel in English last year.

I have friends who chose their majors coming into college, sure they wanted to be doctors or lawyers. They knew at 18 what they would be 15 years later. That's insane- amazing - and nothing I can identify with. I went in wanting a double major in sociology and French, and came out with English. In between? I studied everything from statistics to Spanish to...Congolese dance. And then I went to law school because, well, that's what you do if you can do it. And then I went to business school because, well, 10 letters in my last name wasn't enough for me.

So here I am, twice the Biebs's age (gags, gasps, curls into a ball and weeps at how old writing that makes her feel). Shouldn't I know by now? Should I really be career and life purpose shopping around in my 30s? I mean, this is the age when cavemen's lives would *end*!

In my head, I run through the list of what I wanted to be at various stages of my life:

1) pop star
To be clear, I spent more of my time growing up listening to Madonna than any child should. So I wasn't aiming to be a necessarily talented musician so much as a singer/dancer/entertainer. I guess I should be glad this one didn't pan out, because most of them have ended up with shotgun weddings, kids with weird names, and rehab stints. I think my dad is also glad this didn't pan out, because there are only so many choreographed shows in a basement that a grown man should be subjected to.

2) dental office manager
Kids all play something up in their rooms. I played office manager. (yes, other kids played "doctor" with each other, and I focused on scheduling. Let's not call this prophectic, ok?) I worshipped my mom's office manager Paula. So I didn't want to be the dentist, I wanted to book the appointments for her! Socialize with the patients! Take the calls! I would spend hours organizing patients by half-hour "recall" time slots, or if they needed a bigger procedure, I'd block off more time. I liked organizing other people I guess, something I still do (and has earned me the not-quite-flattering nickname "Monica"...)

3) stock broker
I didn't want to sit at a desk. I wanted the job where you're on the floor at the Exchange, yelling and trading. I believe I thought this was a fit because I was good at yelling loudly when things so required. I had proven this talent time and time again at day camp, and I thought it made a natural jumping off point for my career. My dad pointed out that you don't see many women on the floor (or didn't back in the late 80s). He was kind enough not to note that I would not physically be visible on the floor of an exchange. Oh yeah, and I don't like math.

4) translator
I like learning languages and I tend to learn them quickly. My mom's friend was a translator and I thought that could be fun. I don't remember why I dropped this one but it probably had to do with the fact that I wouldn't be part of the conversations ;)

5) run an orphanage. or a day care.
I was inspired by the movie Annie, ok? I love kids and my mom and I discussed the possibility of getting licensed and having a day care. Actually, the one job I had in college was working at a day care just because I liked being around little kids since I didn't have my own. It wouldn't take long for that reasoning to sound really, really creepy on job interviews! My mom grew up without parents and it's always been a cause close to my heart. I will be like Angelina, with smaller lips and a Middle Eastern kid thrown in there for good mix! This is one I am intent on revisiting.

6) run a record label.
I have always loved sending people new music I thought they would enjoy, or promoting music that I was enjoying myself. To some friends this gets overbearing, I'm sure, but then they can say they listened to (Lady Gaga, D'Angelo, etc etc) years before the person became huge. You're welcome, people. Anyhow, long ago I thought running a record label would be interesting. To influence what artists the world is exposed to. I read Richard Branson's books, felt inspired, promised myself I'd apply to his company, and never did. When I lived in LA I worked at a music law firm and then realized that I didn't enjoy doing the contracts, I wanted to be closer to the music. Oh yeah, and the time I had to go after Special Olympics to pay us for using a certain multimillionaire artist's music was pretty much my sign to go.

Funny how things work. There were other jobs I entertained in my mind, but those are the six that I kept coming back to. Interesting that nowhere in that list was being a writer or working in publishing -- much less healthcare and alternative energy -- and yet that's exactly what I did. Maybe it's like how they say you never end up marrying someone who looks how you thought your "person" would. Maybe it's like that with jobs too. Don't get me wrong- I've enjoyed (and enjoy) my work, but I haven't been able to say "Oh yeah, I knew at age 10 that I wanted to write marketing plans and turn out a REALLY good press release from time to time." I guess that's how it is with most grownup jobs though.

But who says I'm a grownup?! Certainly not the hi tops and Silly Bandz that were worn for the viewing of said film. And maybe I need to put on my hi tops and gummy bracelets a bit more often is all I'm saying.

Singles' Guilt: Admitting is the First Step

Some people discover hidden planets. They give it a name, and they live on in whatever scientists' version of fame and fortune is.

I have discovered a phenomenon myself. And I named it. It's called "Singles' Guilt".

Maybe I should have been a sociologist- I like examining social phenomena and giving it a name, and then making people around me use it whenever they talk to me about an applicable situation (see also: Friend Poaching).

This weekend I was having fun hanging out with a friend and promised her I would finally set my latest theory/find to paper - so here it is: Singles' Guilt. The punctuation is intentional; it refers to the situation in which a single/singles make themselves feel guilty for being single.

The consequences of Singles' Guilt can be mild to severe, depending on the stage of affliction. It can begin with a poorly thought-out visit to an ex, or it can end with a tearful, sloppy rendition of Love is a Battlefield. By educating yourself, you can best protect yourself and those around you.

Singles' Guilt is endorsed and perpetuated by society. I think of this every time I get pushed onto the floor at a wedding to catch a bouquet -- which by the way, is pretty much a feminine gladiator ring (those girls throw 'bows!). And let's be honest- Singles' Guilt is visibly nurtured in society by the modern day tarring-and-feathering that is bridesmaid dresses. It's like a scarlet letter A, but scarlet at least goes with my skin tone.

Social mathematics is also at fault- by which I mean the simple equation: Single + Single = Couple! Many people believe this math (for example, a certain someone who mentioned a guy to me with the sole descriptors "over 30 and looking for a wife). But since the singles are too busy reading self-help books and being set up on awkward dates to take the time to disprove mathematic hypotheses, people around the world continue to believe said equation and throw singles together in the hopes they will spontaneously mate. It's like the "only two people left on the planet" theory in action. If two people are STILL single after so long, they must be drawn to one another, no?

I, for one, know that even if I was left on the planet with only one man and if that man was disgusting to me in some way (ex. Tea Party candidate, wearer of strappy man-sandals, racist, or a fan of Andie MacDowell- not in that order), that nothing could shake my vow to stay single in that situation. I could disprove the couple equation of social math, but we have more important work to do here, folks.

Lately I've noticed lots of girlfriends (in particular) going on dates because they feel like they're supposed to. Giving a guy a second shot because, again, they feel like they're supposed to. What is this "supposed to" business? Well, they're doing it because they feel Singles' Guilt (when you use it, remember to capitalize, 'kay?)

I'm not saying women shouldn't be open-minded- we ALL should-- Mr. Awesome may show up on date two or three, when the guy you've been dating drops his guard a little and stops talking about himself and making forced jokes. I definitely believe in staying open minded... but you owe it to yourself to have that *curiosity* about the person. If you take a deep breath of relief after you close your door and lock yourself into your house for the night, then methinks this isn't the match for you. If you force yourself to march forward, that's not dating, that's a modern-day form of arranged marriage, but instead of parents (or in some cases, including them), you're being nudged by your own "guilty" conscience.

Singles' Guilt is apparent to me in how so many people around me (and sometimes even myself) act like they did something *wrong* by not settling down yet. It's as if we are playing a game of musical chairs and we are really, really bad at it. Everyone else got a chair! You're still standing! LOSER! Maybe you're standing because you were still enjoying the music. If there was a chair, I would have taken it! we cry.

So then the single finds themselves self-flagellating (as soon as they look up what that means) -- they didn't "pick" someone in time, therefore they lose the lovely option of choice. They start forcing themselves to hurry up, like it's a romantic freakin clearance sale. That is just sad, people.

Let's be clear. In some cases they are. But a lot of times they aren't. Sometimes you're just single because it's not your time to be dating someone. Sometimes there is something else you should be doing. Sometimes there is someone coming your way and you won't meet them at 22 like your college roommate did.

On more than one Friday night I've talked to friends who almost whisper their whereabouts into the phone.

Me: "Where are you?"
Them: "...home?...I think I um... I might be getting sick?... or... I might have to work?"

What they have is a case of the Singles' Guilt. They FEEL like they should be out that night because they are not paired off. They are tired, they had a long week, they have family drama, maybe they are getting over a breakup. But in their Singles' Guilt-ridden minds, they (ahem, WE) are slacking...slacking on their part-time job of finding someone to propagate the species with by staying home with their ice cream and comfy blanket on the couch. You know Singles' Guilt because you really do start to feel like it's a part-time job to de-single yourself. You feel like you're playing hooky by staying in, cooking dinner, and having the nerve to enjoy your own company.

Singles' Guilt also manifests itself in what the lovely Carrie Bradshaw in one episode described as "singing for your supper" when around married friends. In that episode, Carrie talks about how couples almost expect singles to regale them with tales of dating. I confess I am one such storyteller (trust me, my stories are GOOD) but Singles' Guilt takes an angle on this. Sometimes you, oh victim of Singles' Guilt, find yourself rattling off your list of dates and stories just so that people will know you are TRYING, therefore "not guilty."

Believe it or not, I've found that my friends are just as interested to hear about my latest tour of the world, my stack of books, my hobbies, and my other adventures that don't center on dating. Try it, you might be surprised.

Well, as Miss Diana says (and later, Phil Collins, thereby violating my fatwa on his doing covers of other people's songs), You Can't Hurry Love.

So if you're gonna feel guilty about something, do me a favor and let it be about the fact that, deep down, you actually like his version of "True Colors".

Because that, my friend, is the only thing you should *really* lose sleep over.