Friday Five

The Weekend Five: Phrases We Need to Stop Saying

tyleroakley-cantevenThe more I read through my news feeds on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the more I need to consult Urban Dictionary to find out what people are actually trying to say. I’m only 23 years old, and yet I’m constantly struggling to figure out what “the kids these days” are talking about!

Last week, I read this fabulous post on Thought Catalog about the five phrases and words that we need to stop saying, but I felt like adding a few of my own conversational pet peeves to the mix. (For similar rants that make me sound way older and crankier than I am in real life, visit my grammar tips here and here.)

The Weekend Five: Phrases We Need to Stop Saying

1. “I can’t even.
You can’t even? You can’t even what? First of all, what a piss poor attitude to have. You should be saying “I can, and I will!” Variations of this phrase include, but are not limited to, “I can’t,” “I literally can’t” and “I just can’t,” and are rarely followed by a verb that actually describes what the person can or cannot do. Second of all, “I can’t even” rarely contributes anything to the discussion; instead, it is a conversational filler. What are you actually trying to say? Usually, the person follows up with the claim that he or she “can’t even” by claiming, “I’m dying” or “I’m literally dying.” Young people of America, “even” is not, nor will ever be, a verb (at least not in the way you mean it to be) — and when you tell others that “I’m literally dying” because of Beyonce’s recent performance, you are clearly a hypochondriac and need to calm down.

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au5244a3052. Replacing words like “feelings” with “feels” or “all the feels.”
This is grammatically incorrect and makes you sound like an infant. Does it really take that much more effort to say “feelings” instead of quoting some version of an Internet meme?

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3. Using “TL;DR” in real life.
“TL;DR” (“too long; didn’t read”) is bad enough in writing because it only encourages our short attention spans to remain short, but in the actual spoken language, it is even worse. If you really want to sum up your story, a simple “in conclusion” or beloved cliché “to make a long story short” will do. This is real life, not Reddit. We don’t need to talk like we are on a message board.

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433070794. “Turn down for what?”
Whether you’ve elected to “turn up,” “turn down for what” or “#turnup,” you should be ashamed of yourself. This phrase is a classic example of something I had to look up on Urban Dictionary. Being “turnt up” is not an attractive quality to brag about regardless, but for some reason, the words “turnt up” only make the situation trashier. Do what you want in your spare time, but please don’t scream “turn down for what” all over your social media pages.

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5. “That WOULD happen to you.”
This is often used to describe an awkward or humiliating situation that you’ve found yourself in… and it’s actually sort of insulting. After you tell friend about that time you stuck your foot in your mouth at work, she laughs and replies, “That WOULD happen to you,” even if such things don’t typically happen. People constantly say this about unflattering stories you tell about yourself, even if you have never told another unflattering story about yourself before, and it implies that you are prone to such situations. Whenever someone says this to me, I always want to ask, “Why? Why would this isolated situation describe my life as a whole?”

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What are some of the phrases you would like to see disappear from our daily conversations?

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned From ‘How I Met Your Mother’

One of the very sweet moments of the series finale, in which Ted and The Mother finally meet.

One of the very sweet moments of the series finale, in which Ted and The Mother finally meet.

On Monday night, many of us experienced the end of an era: the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. It was a highly anticipated evening, as we looked forward to seeing those first few moments between Ted and the eponymous Mother (finally revealed to be named Tracy McConnell), and learning what would happen among the other characters over the next 17 years. Although I only started watching the show a few years ago, I was quickly hooked, especially as protagonist Ted navigated his way through failed relationships and substantial life changes to which most viewers could relate.

 Watching the series finale, I loved the first 50-some odd minutes. It was those last few that completely ruined the episode for me – and my perception of the series as a whole. Without diving into the spoilers, I felt personally betrayed by the writers that I had put my trust in over the years (as did many fans), and I was heartbroken by the way the writers decided to end such a beautiful story. But then I took a step back, remembering how much I had loved the series and the impact it had on me, and realized that in spite of those last few moments, the series still taught a lot of valuable lessons when we needed them the most.

This week, in honor of a show so many of us fell in love with, I would like to share five of those lessons that How I Met Your Mother taught.

The Weekend Five: Lessons Learned From How I Met Your Mother

c5b3eddbde2fcccfa0eab606694c28454cbbe938ee1170a3af0d285801d0404c1. You can choose to express your anger, or you can choose to let it go.
Throughout the show’s nine season run, Ted endures more than his fair share of #singleguyproblems. He says “I love you” to a woman (later revealed to be “Aunt Robin,” future girlfriend) on the first date. He falls for a married activist whose latest protest interferes heavily with his work. He even gets left at the altar on his wedding day! Ted has plenty of reason to feel downtrodden and even angry. But in one episode, when he has the chance to approach Stella (the woman who left him at the altar) to give her a piece of his mind, he ultimately decides against it, and lets his anger go. It is a teachable moment for many of us (not just his children) when Ted tells us that we can only move forward from the difficult situations in our lives by giving up on our grudges.

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2. The ninth step to the Platinum Rule is coexistence.
In one episode, Ted’s friend Barney illustrates The Platinum Rule, which discourages people from dating coworkers, neighbors, etc. His eight “steps” to The Platinum Rule go through the different feelings the characters will encounter after engaging in one of these relationships, ending in awkwardness and negativity. But Ted creates a ninth step: coexistence. Sometimes, when a relationship ends, we are fortunate enough to separate ourselves from the other person, but sometimes, the circumstances require you to still cross paths on a regular basis. Ted’s ninth step teaches us to coexist – to smile and remember the good times, and much like the previous step, let go of any anger we once felt.

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images3. Suit up!
Ted’s friend Barney is well known for his catchphrases. One of his most famous? “Suit up!” While his catchphrases are generally silly, we can definitely all benefit from suiting up once in a while! I’ve always believed that it is important to present yourself well, and that includes investing in a good wardrobe.

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4. Life turns up.
There are times in the series when Ted feels pretty hopeless when it comes to love and life. He is convinced that The One is not waiting for him in New York City, and he nearly leaves his entire life behind because of that. Little does he realize that the future mother of his children and love of his life lives only a few blocks away, that they have crossed paths before, and that their first moments together are just around the corner. It teaches us that we mustn’t give up on the things we want, and that things will get better when we least expect it. Ted spends the entire series searching for that love, but he does find it, and it is more than he ever imagined.

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5. You may not appreciate the way something ends, but you can still learn from it.
This can be applied to many aspects of our lives: relationships, jobs, even series finales. :) After the HIMYM finale aired last week, my friend Rachel and I were discussing the ending, and came to that very conclusion. The show may not have ended the way we preferred, but we still enjoyed the series as a whole, and learned a lot of valuable lessons over the years. Similarly, you may experience a difficult breakup, but that doesn’t mean the relationship wasn’t worthwhile — after all, you may still have positive memories, and you likely learned what you don’t want in your next relationship.

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What are some of your favorite lessons/memories from How I Met Your Mother? Did you enjoy the finale? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

The Weekend Five: Worst Girlfriends on Television

marissa-cooper,-the-oc-129434

Last week’s edition of The Weekend Five focused on some of the worst boyfriends on television, so as someone who believes in gender equality, I think it is only fitting for this weekend’s post to focus on the worst girlfriends on television! (I’ve also written about the worst boyfriends and worst girlfriends in literature.) We may be huge fans of these characters, but I doubt that any of us would, in good conscience, introduce these ladies to the single males in our lives.

What TV character do you think would make a terrible girlfriend? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Worst Girlfriends on Television

1. Marissa Cooper (The O.C.)
Okay, this show has been off the air for quite a long time, but Marissa Cooper was a memorable teen soap character for so many reasons — mainly, the drama she often brought with her. From shoplifting to dating the lawn guy just to upset her mother, Marissa constantly needed to be rescued, and often dragged the men in her life (especially bad boy next door Ryan Atwood) down with her. While nice enough on her own, Marissa Cooper was always better off single.

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2. Catherine de’Medici (Reign).
I mentioned Catherine’s husband (King Henry of France) in last weekend’s post, but of course he didn’t get to be the way he was on his own. The fictional version of Catherine de’Medici is power-hungry and conniving, not to mention one of the worst mother-in-laws currently on TV. You wouldn’t date her for the same reasons you wouldn’t date Lady Macbeth.

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Jan3. Jan Levenson (The Office).
The Office may no longer be airing new episodes, but Jan still stands out as terrible girlfriend on TV. Once the love interest of Michael Scott, Jan revealed herself to be crazy and unpredictable over the course of the series. After losing her job and moving in with Michael, she even commands him to get a vasectomy, reverse vasectomy and another vasectomy at different points. Jan becomes even more insane and uncomfortable to watch over time… which means that she does not get better with age. Better avoid this one!

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4. Paige McCullers (Pretty Little Liars).
A lot of Pretty Little Liars fans enjoy Paige’s character and believe that she and Emily Fields (one of the Liars) make a great couple. However, what people fail to remember is that before the two high school swimmers ever dated, Paige tried to drown Emily in the pool during a fit of jealousy. Someone like that is not someone you should ever trust again in close quarters!

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ouat5. Emma Swan (Once Upon a Time).
Let me preface this by saying that Emma, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, is an awesome heroine and an interesting character to follow. I have nothing against her. But bad things seem to happen to the men who fall for her: the Huntsman has his heart literally crushed by the Evil Queen, Adult Pinocchio almost dies and is returned to childhood, her New York boyfriend turns into a flying monkey, and don’t get me started on Neal/Baelfire, the father of her son! While I am not-so-secretly rooting for Emma and Captain Hook to wind up together, I fear for his own safety in a relationship with Emma (a.k.a. The Savior). Besides, Emma is often too focused on breaking a curse or saving the town to even think about being in a relationship!

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Your turn! What TV characters do you think would make the worst girlfriends?

The Weekend Five: Worst Boyfriends on Television

dating-high_expectations-dating_agencies-man-unrealistic_expectations-the_dating_game-nsu0042lLet’s face it: even though fictional characters are not our soulmates, we all have our television crushes. From the dashing and brave to the brooding and sullen, there is a guy on TV who will make many women (and some men) swoon. Some of the men on TV are perfect gentlemen, while others aren’t exactly the kind you’d want to be in a long-term relationship with.

I’ve written about the worst boyfriends and worst girlfriends in literature, but what about the men who grace our television screens every week? Today, I’ve compiled a list of the worst boyfriends on television — the ones that you might find very attractive but should avoid at all costs if you ever find yourself in their TV universe.

The Weekend Five: Worst Boyfriends on Television

1. Ezra Fitz (Pretty Little Liars).
Many fans of Pretty Little Liars will defend the Ezra Fitz/Aria Montgomery pairing to the death, but I’ve never been an advocate for their relationship for a number of reasons. First of all, Ezra is Aria’s English teacher (several years her senior), and his taste tends to skew a bit young (we also learn that he previously dated Aria’s friend Allison before the series begins). Then (spoiler alert!) we learn that he has been spying on Aria and her friends for the past couple of years, and is only dating her so he can write a book about Allison’s murder. Some fans will argue that Ezra has redeemed himself, but in my eyes, no girl should have to endure a relationship with a guy who only wants her for the story.

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fitzgerald grant2. President Fitzgerald Grant (Scandal).
Unfortunately, it seems like if “Fitz” is anywhere in a guy’s name, then you are just asking for trouble. Scandal fans often ask me if I am Team Mellie Grant (Fitz’s wife/First Lady) or Team Olivia Pope (the woman with whom Fitz has engaged in a long-term affair), to which I say, “Neither. Both women deserve better.” Fitz stays in an unhappy marriage with his wife simply to keep up appearances as President of the United States, and strings along Olivia Pope, pulling her back in every time she decides to walk away. Fitzgerald Grant is manipulative and forceful, and doesn’t seem to treat any of the women in his life with the love and respect they deserve.

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3. King Henry (Reign).King Henry of France has a wife (the mother of three of his children), a mistress (the mother of one of his children) and a secret mistress (the best friend of his future daughter-in-law)… but somehow, he can’t manage to keep any of them happy. At one point, he even plans to behead his wife, Catherine de’Medici, simply so that his out-of-wedlock son can be legitimized and become the next king. Of course, none of this is historically accurate, but the fictional King Henry is a horrible significant other.

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Benedict_Cumberbatch_filming_Sherlock_cropped4. Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock).
Sherlock Holmes is a genius, but hardly boyfriend material. He is emotionally unavailable, honest to a fault (imagine if you asked him how you looked one day!) and often rude without trying to be. His observational skills would wear on you after a while, and you’d grow tired of constantly correcting him on how to behave among dinner guests. (Let’s not forget the fact that he actually entered a relationship with one woman only to gain the clearance he needed to solve a mystery!) While he ultimately has a good heart, Sherlock Holmes isn’t ready to settle down. When he is ready, Molly Hooper will be waiting.

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5. Almost all of the baby daddies on the Teen Mom series, except Corey.
I had to throw this one in here! As an unashamed reality TV junkie, I can say that the majority of the guys on Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2 are absolutely horrible to their baby mamas and children. From cheating on the girls to being absentee fathers, these young men are hardly the guys you would want in your life.

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Who would you consider the worst boyfriends on TV? What about the best boyfriends? Share yours in the comments section below!

The Weekend Five: Things Young Professionals Like

too-busy-people-workplace-ecard-someecardsEver since I graduated from college and entered the corporate world, I have noticed some of the behaviors found in young professionals, and have adopted a few of them myself! The transition has definitely been an interesting one, not without its office clichés and millennial stereotypes, but I love having a big girl job and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This week, we’ll take a few minutes to make fun of those clichés and laugh at ourselves along the way! Are you guilty of any of these?

The Weekend Five: Things Young Professionals Like

1. Hosting and attending meetings.
We have meetings. Then we have meetings to plan other meetings. We really love meeting with the same people several times per week to discuss strategy and our need to meet about other topics. The more meetings, the merrier!

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1332444063157_93352792. Using corporate buzzwords.
I’m not sure what class everyone else took in college that taught them to slip words like “synergy,” “leverage” and “paradigm” so easily in a sentence, but I clearly slept through that one. I am always amazed at the ability of many young professionals to use such important-sounding words at the drop of a hat, or their need to include some of this trendy vocabulary in place of a more direct word or two. Are you a young professional who wants to get a point across? Then business jargon is clearly the way to go!

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3. Networking.
This is a favorite hobby among many of the young working men and women in the bigger cities across our country. We love to network, and because of this, many events are prefaced with a networking cocktail hour or other opportunity to exchange business cards. We may never speak again, but at least we will add each other on LinkedIn and occasionally acknowledge each other via other social media.

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images4. Updating their social media profiles with everything relevant they have ever done.
Do you have a Twitter account? If so, it had better only focus on content related to your career of choice! Your LinkedIn profile should constantly be updated with industry-specific buzzwords (see #2), and your sole focus online should be the (ever so vague) concept of branding yourself. Because you are only in your twenties or thirties, it is likely that you are not yet an expert in your field, but your social media profiles should suggest otherwise.

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5. Talking about wine.
Among young professionals, wine is generally the drink of choice, and this is the time when everyone thinks they are a sommelier. Everyone has a very strong opinion, and it is generally a very classy one. Sadly, I missed the boat on sophisticated wine choices — as long as it is sweet and/or has the picture of a little German man on the bottle, I am a happy camper! :)

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What are some of the trends that you’ve noticed among yourself, friends or other young people in the workforce?

The Weekend Five: Fun Twitter Accounts to Follow

someecardAttention, social media enthusiasts: this post is for you! Too often we find ourselves posting industry-specific tweets and only following others in our line of work. This can lead to a very boring Twitter feed, devoid of any personality.

This week, let’s stop focusing on the industry standard and instead invite a few new Twitter personalities into our lives! Here are five accounts that I love to follow.

The Weekend Five: Fun Twitter Accounts to Follow

1. Very Short Story (@VeryShortStory).
This account consists of exactly what you’d expect it to consist of — very short stories. The author creates stories in 140 words or fewer, which are often surprising, thought-provoking, funny or chilling. One example I like: “Life felt like an uncomfortable sticky mess. Unsure how to change it, I eased into a bathtub full of syrup to get used to living.” The stories are very entertaining, and because they are 140 words or fewer, they are very quick to read! :)

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twitterecard2. Emergency Cute Stuff (@EmergencyPuppy).
Need your fix of cuteness for the day? Emergency Cute Stuff is constantly posting photos of adorable puppies, kittens and other sweet animals for your viewing pleasure. This one will definitely make you smile.

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3. Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson).
If you can’t figure out where you’ve heard of him before, just think of any documentary you watched in astronomy class. Neil deGrasse Tyson, my favorite astrophysicist, is definitely worth the follow on Twitter! His tweets about the universe are interesting and informative, and they will leave you feeling just a little bit smarter.

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flir_1814. Florida Man (@_floridaman).
Okay, so these tweets *won’t* leave you feeling any smarter, but they are definitely interesting in their own way. Florida Man is “the world’s worst superhero,” and his tweets consist of the crazy news headlines that include “Florida man” in them. If you live in the Sunshine State, you’ll be shaking your head as you read about some of the ridiculous things that happen here.

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5. The Dark Lord (@Lord_Voldemort7).
If you are even remotely a Harry Potter fan, you will enjoy this account. Voldemort tweets about current events in world news and pop culture – he has opinions about the Oscars, the Olympics and even Justin Bieber! Wouldn’t you want to hear The Dark Lord’s perspective on things?

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What are some of your favorite Twitter accounts to follow?

The Weekend Five: Romantic Comedy Plots That Don’t Work Out in Real Life

graduate2Valentine’s Day may be over, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop binge-watching our favorite romantic comedies! From Sabrina to You’ve Got Mail, I have my go-to films that I can’t help but love, flaws and all. Of course, sometimes these movies may shape our own beliefs about love and relationships in an unrealistic way. As a personal service to my lovely readers, I’ll share five romantic comedy plots that just don’t work out in real life. (Feel free to add your own in the comments section below!)

The Weekend Five: Romantic Comedy Plots That Don’t Work Out in Real Life

1. Person A stops the wedding of Person B, and the two ride off into the sunset together.
This romantic comedy staple has always bothered me! First of all, who waits until the day of their beloved’s wedding to declare their love for that person? Second of all, who would want to be with someone who would leave their betrothed at the altar? Here’s what really happens when Person A stops Person B’s wedding: The two “ride off into the sunset” and enjoy a few happy months together before Person A starts to question whether Person B would actually run out on their wedding. Person B realizes that the woman he almost married has gotten better looking and more successful, and wonders if he made a mistake. Person A and Person B become so resentful of one another that they break up after a year and never speak again.

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Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind-movie_image2. Guy falls in love with quirky commitment-phobe who has a few serious issues and tries to fix her.
Unfortunately in real life, this happens all too often, but with one catch: he can’t fix her. People are drawn to the manic pixie dream girl or manic pixie dream boy (see: Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer, etc.) but they don’t realize that they can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change.

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3. Two friends with benefits fall in love and live happily ever after.
In real life, these arrangements are usually much more complicated. Although attachments do occur, they are usually incredibly one-sided. Person A may be in love with Person B, but Person B doesn’t take Person A seriously as a potential love interest, and quickly brushes Person A aside once the stronger feelings have become more apparent. Hint: Do not start a “friends with benefits” situation with anyone you are even considering starting a relationship with in the future.

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movieimage4. A journalist lies about something important for an investigative piece, but winds up falling in love.
This goes against every ethics course you will ever take. No reputable newspaper or magazine will require their copy editor to pose as a high school student to run an exposé a la Never Been Kissed, and no self-respecting journalist would take such an absurd assignment. (Of course, it does make for an entertaining movie!)

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5. Person A lies to Person B about everything, but they still end up together.
Person B finds out in a horrible twist of events that Person A has been lying about something very important: his marital status, his identity, etc. In real life, this would lead to a lot of resentment later on. After all, how can you really trust a 25-year-old journalist who claimed to be a high school student in your English class? (Yes, I am still on Never Been Kissed!) Things might work out temporarily, but not very likely in the long run.

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Any other romantic comedy plots that you would argue would/would not work out in real life?

The Post-Weekend Five: Honest Relationship Statuses for Facebook

67469ce10f5ca882f88785d3642bb181Let’s face it – social media has a huge effect on how we talk about relationships. In today’s world, when a friend tells us about her latest love interest, we are quick to ask if and when they made things “Facebook official.” (Because obviously a relationship is not truly official until it has been declared so on Facebook!) However, when it comes to our real-life relationship statuses, there are shades of gray that cannot fit into the neat little single/in-a-relationship/married/divorced/domestic-partnership box that Facebook provides for us. Sometimes, life is a little messy, and while we may have a special someone on our minds, we may not be ready to classify it as a traditional relationship. (What is traditional, anyway?) This week, I present to you a list of honest relationship statuses that Facebook should enable to make the selection process a little easier when “it’s complicated” doesn’t even begin to cover it!

The Post-Weekend Five: Honest Relationship Statuses for Facebook

1. Talking.
I’m still not completely sure what it means to be “talking” to someone, other than having a spoken conversation, but among many teens and twenty-somethings, “talking” is all the rage. “He’s cute,” a friend might say in relation to a guy whose picture you showed her on your phone. “Are you guys together?” You smile and shrug. “We’ve been talking,” you reply, as if that answers everything. Readers, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times a friend told me that he or she was “talking” to someone. Obviously, talking isn’t serious enough to deem a full-fledged relationship, but at the same time, it implies at least some semblance of exclusivity and seriousness about the other person. Therefore, it should require its own status on Facebook!

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4dWzLh12. In a Platonic Relationship.
You and X are not actually dating, per se, but to everyone else, it certainly seems that way. You’re his date to every social event, you talk about yourselves in first-person plural (“thank you so much for inviting us,” “we were so happy you could make it,” “we LOVE the tortellini alfredo here”), you share desserts and you finish each other’s sentences. No one will bother to date either of you because: a) everyone is threatened by the friendship and afraid that it would affect a potential relationship, and b) the two of you are shaping up to be the greatest “will-they-won’t-they” story of all time. Even if you aren’t interested in one another, which is likely the case (these things tend to be one-sided, anyway), you might as well acknowledge the platonic relationship online.

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3. Hung Up On My Ex.
If you fit this description, you’re probably listed as “single” on Facebook (or you’ve elected not to include a relationship status at all), but “single” doesn’t really describe how you feel. You picture single people enjoying nights out at bars, dancing on tables and leaving their phone numbers scribbled on napkins. You hear single people claiming that they hate to be tied down, that they’re just down for a good time. But that doesn’t accurately describe you. You feel alone, and every movie, news article and billboard you see reminds you of your recent breakup. You aren’t ready to wear your singlehood proudly just yet. You may be technically single, but you are Hung Up On Your Ex, and that is a different breed of single altogether.

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tumblr_m9q9kmQVeh1qkpo94o1_5004. Emotionally Damaged.
You aren’t hung up on your ex, but the relationship was so dysfunctional that you have no plans to enter another relationship for a long time. Anyone who mentions “Valentine’s Day” to you clearly has a death wish.

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5. I Love My Pets.
You want to find a meaningful relationship someday, but right now, you’re perfectly happy snuggling with your cat or dog instead.

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What are some honest relationship statuses you would want to see?

The Weekend Five: Tips For Throwing Fabulous Theme Parties

Getting ready for a hipster-themed party, circa 2010. (Yes, I brought a Chuck Klosterman book.)

On my way to a hipster-themed party, circa 2010. Very amateur costume, but fun night!

Because my job requires a lot of event coordination, it may not come as a surprise to you that I love planning theme parties. Ever since I began inviting groups of friends to my college dorm, I found that I had a knack for hosting, and over the years, I fell in love with planning as well. I have hosted my fair share of theme parties (mainly in college, but I’m sure they will make a resurgence in my life someday), and I’ve enjoyed getting friends together to have fun while wearing ridiculous costumes.

Planning and hosting a theme party isn’t as challenging as it looks. This week, I’ll provide a little how-to guide for putting together your own soiree with as little stress as possible!

Oh, and whatever you do, avoid these five terrible party themes!

The Weekend Five: Tips For Throwing Fabulous Theme Parties

1. Create a twist on an old, worn-out theme.
So you’ve been to too many “decades” themed parties, filled solely with hippies and people from the ’80s? Base your party around a different time in history — the 1860s, perhaps, or even the future — or encourage party-goers to dress as their favorite celebrity from another decade. The first theme party I threw was a “random decades” party, which included a beatnik, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Jackson and Daisy Duke, among others, and I will never forget some of the great costumes that night. If you’re going to go traditional, give your guests ideas for interesting ways to avoid the usual clichés.

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2. Broaden your theme.
If you choose something too specific, your guests may not know what to expect, and you may become overwhelmed trying to plan for it all! For example, “extraterrestrials from France during the Revolution” might be too narrow a theme for anyone to follow, but “extraterrestrials,” “France” or “late 1700s” are much broader themes to select costumes, decorations and food for.

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Fishie cupcakes I made for a nautical-themed party, 2012.

Fishie cupcakes I made for a nautical-themed party, 2012.

3. Use Pinterest for inspiration.
The Internet is a fantastic place for party-planners in this day and age! When I decided to throw a nautical-themed birthday party, I turned to Pinterest to see what others had done for food and decorations, and this definitely took some of the stress away. Planning the party took up a lot of my (and my roommates’) creativity, but getting some inspiration online for cool cupcakes and decorations made it much easier to work because I was no longer planning from a completely blank canvas. Creating your own boards to pin the best ideas will help keep you organized and on top of things. (My fish cupcakes received a lot of positive feedback, by the way, and were a lot of fun to make!)

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4. Choose a theme that allows easy costume planning.
Yes, you can plan an “extraterrestrials from France during the Revolution” party, but how will your guests know what to wear? (Hint: They won’t.) I have found that the most successful theme parties I have planned or attended had easy-to-create costumes that wouldn’t break the guests’ budgets. For example, during my sophomore year, I attended a hipster party, where nearly everyone who attended already had part of the costume in their closets (and simply drew on ridiculous facial hair or bought a pair of non-prescription glasses for good measure). A lot of great theme parties allow guests to wear clothing they already own as the base of their costumes, with accessories to tie into the theme. This helps people get more excited about your party and encourages everyone to participate. (Because what is sadder than a theme party where nobody except the host dressed up?)

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1317774503269_76603315. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
It can be challenging – and expensive! – to throw an elaborately themed party without at least some assistance. Encourage guests to brink snacks or drinks of choice, as this not only helps you out but also brings more creativity to your party. If you know that your friend is already bringing cupcakes to the party, then you don’t have to worry about making/buying them yourself. Provide the staples but if friends offer to help you cook, bake or decorate, don’t be prideful. Say yes! :)

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What are some of the best theme parties you’ve held over the years? What tips do you have for throwing fabulous parties?

The Weekend Five: Travel Tips for the New Year

Wandering around a Kibbutz!

Wandering around a Kibbutz, 2011

As many of my readers know, I have always loved visiting new places. Whether I’m traveling across the Atlantic or simply a few miles to a local attraction I’ve never visited, I’m constantly looking for ways to broaden my horizons and see something new. Although I don’t foresee any far away trips in the near future, I do hope 2014 brings plenty of exciting adventures and opportunities to explore!

Over the years, I have been fortunate to visit the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and many of the wonderful states right here in the U.S. During that time, I’ve picked up a lot of tricks for having a better travel experience. Let’s kick off this weekend with a few of these tips to help you plan your vacations for 2014. :) Bon voyage!

 The Weekend Five: Travel Tips for the New Year

Dinner in West London, 2012.

Dinner in West London, 2012.

1. Do your homework.
Research and planning are two of the most important things you can do prior to any trip! If you can, talk to people you know who have been to the place you’re about to visit, and get their advice for the best sights to see. For most popular destinations, you can find guidebooks at your local bookstore, where you can flip through and learn more about some of the hidden gems. (This also allows you to avoid showing up at a museum on a weekday when it is closed!) Browse travel blogs as well – you can find a lot of good information and photos from those who have already been! (You can check out my blog for some suggested destinations in London, Paris and Rome.) Plan out a basic itinerary or list of must-see attractions for your trip, but allow for changes along the way as you make your own discoveries!

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2. Find a hotel slightly outside of the city.
If you’re visiting a city with good public transportation, your best bet is to stay in a hotel near the metro but slightly outside of the city. These hotels tend to be less expensive but still very accessible. I picked up on this trick through some of the organized trips I’d gone on, once I saw that there were still some exciting things to do and that a trip to the more bustling tourist areas was only ten minutes or so by train. Buy a temporary metro pass if you can to avoid long lines and travel with ease throughout the city!

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Sunburned at the Pantheon, 2012

Sunburned at the Pantheon, 2012

3. Keep your chargers handy.
My biggest regret when I went to Israel was not charging my camera enough. After spending the night in a Bedouin tent in the desert, we woke up at the break of dawn to climb a nearby mountain, and as the sun rose, the battery in my camera died. I was all set to take a beautiful sunrise photo at the top of the mountain, but because I hadn’t been charging my camera at the hotel in the days leading up to our desert trip, I had to settle for photo-bombing my friends’ pictures instead. Even if your camera dies, of course, you still have your memories – but the photos are definitely great to look back on once the trip has long since passed. Bring extra batteries just in case!

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4. Eat normally when possible.
For many people, food is one of the more exciting aspects of travel. However, when you’re adjusting to new time zones, it’s a good idea not to stray too far from your normal diet. In France, for example, many of my friends and I were tempted to start the day off with lots of pastries, but after a while, too much indulgence slowed everyone down. Because I eat a lot of scrambled or hard-boiled eggs when I’m at home, I tried to gear my breakfast toward those when possible, enjoying the occasional croissant here and there. Don’t be afraid to try new things and treat yourself every now and then, but don’t stray too much from your usual diet, either. You don’t want to let unhealthy food choices take away your energy to see the sights!

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Hanging out by the love padlocks near Notre Dame, 2012

Hanging out by the love padlocks near Notre Dame, 2012

5. Be kind and respectful.
This may sound simple enough, but you’d be surprised at how few people truly remember to say “please” and “thank you.” I’m always shocked to see how some people will behave in another country or when dealing with the staff at airports, hotels and attractions. Remember that you are in another person’s home state, country or city, and treat him or her with the same courtesy you would expect in return.

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Travelers, what are some of your tips? Where do you hope to visit in the new year?