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Bitter is the new black, p.33
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       Bitter is the New Black, p.33

           Jen Lancaster

  Perhaps this is why most people only have one wedding?

  In the 1997 thriller The Saint, Elizabeth Shue plays the character Emma Russell. Emma is an Oxford-based scientist who’s created the recipe for cold fusion. Naturally, dark forces want to take this formula for themselves, and the easiest way to do this is to kill her.

  In one scene Emma is wet and running for her life through the snowy streets of Moscow, being chased in a balls-out pursuit by the Russkies who want her dead. In the distance she spots the American embassy and dashes toward it, knowing her life is on the line, and yet hoping that the hypothermia and exertion from the escape don’t trigger her heart condition first. They show her hurtling toward her goal with the hot breath of the assassins virtually on her neck.

  Just when you see that she’s slowed to the point of the chasers being able to reach the hem of her coat, she gets to the gate, holds up her passport, and with her last breath screams, “I’m an American!” A couple of stern-looking soldiers allow her entry, slamming the door in the face of the evildoers. Emma is able to collapse in the arms of a sturdy Marine, knowing that FINALLY she is safe.


  That’s the exact same feeling of bittersweet relief that I experience when I enter the Molto Bene salon for the first time in six months and see the smiling countenance of the best colorist in the city, waiting to make me pretty again.

  “Jen! I thought you’d left me!” Rory picks at a half-black, half-gold strand. “But, um, I guess you’ve been too busy to come in.”

  I smile. Busy. I guess that’s one way to describe the past two years. “Something like that.”

  “The front desk idiots give you any trouble?”

  “Trouble? No, not at all.” You know what? Manning a reception desk and answering the phone concurrently isn’t quite as easy as it looks. Granted, I couldn’t concentrate because I was afraid a 747 was about to crash into the lobby, while the brain trusts here were aflutter about Justin Timberlake’s solo album, but still, the concept’s the same.

  “What are we doing today? Full highlights and a lift?” I glance at the other patrons in the salon, and I see row after row of girls with ash blond highlights and the modified Jennifer Aniston Friends cut. They’re wearing sweater sets and expensive shoes and flashy engagement rings. Half of them are attached to their cell phones and all are surrounded by shopping bags. They look like Generic Chicago Businesswomen and any one of them could substitute for another. For months I’ve dreamed of joining their ranks again, but suddenly, I’m hesitant.

  “Let’s do something different. I feel like going dark again.”

  “Ooh, bold! But do you want me to highlight a few pieces around your face for emphasis?”

  “Um…OK. But just a couple,” I acquiesce. Hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  “What other services are you having this afternoon? We have a new hot-stone reflexology massage that’s to die for. I got it done after work a couple of days ago, and I thought I’d melt right into the table.” Rory mixes a group of concoctions in black plastic bowls at the stand behind me.

  “Just the color.”

  “Really? I thought you always got the rose petal manicure.”

  “Nah, my nails are in good shape today. See? I did ’em myself.” I splay my hands out, displaying the fresh coat of Tropical Punch Pink. By manicuring them at home, I’m ahead of the game almost forty dollars.210

  “Wow, I’m impressed.” She drapes a plastic poncho around me and fastens the snaps at the back of my neck. In the mirror I can see her shaking her head while inspecting the damage. “Where’s all your stuff?”

  “I’ve got my purse on my lap under the cape. Why do you ask?”

  Rory starts to expertly section off my hair with the end of a rat-tail comb. “No, silly, your shopping bags. I practically didn’t recognize you in the lobby without being loaded down with a mass of glossy, cord-handled carriers. I even picked all the magazines off the chair next to you so you’d have some place to put them.” She paints the hair from my crown with peroxide and wraps each section with a small piece of foil.

  “Oh. I’m not really shopping anymore.”

  Rory pauses midstroke to gawp at me. “Are you kidding? Jen, Queen of Michigan Avenue? How come?”

  “I’m trying to save some money.”

  “Yeah? Well, I admire your willpower.” She brushes a coppery-colored toner on the strands in between each foil packet. I’m quiet while she parts and paints. “Look down for me, please. I need to get the back of your head. Anyway, I bet everyone at Nordstrom’s shoe department misses you.”

  “Totally. Their kids are probably going to have to go to college in state now that I’m on a spending hiatus.” We laugh.

  “Are you saving up for vacation? Or maybe something exciting?”

  I think about this question for a minute.

  “Actually, I am.”

  “Yeah, like what?”

  Our future.


  Weblog Entry, 12/14/03


  So they captured Saddam Hussein today. Frankly, I can’t blame him for hiding. I’m sure if I were a dictator, I wouldn’t want to give up all the palaces and my likeness on every wall if some foreign country demanded it. Really, I suspect that living like Saddam would involve some sweet perks.

  When Saddam was in power, he had all that lovely state-mandated control. I know that if I were a dictator, I’d also be a big fan of having unlimited power, especially as my own personal quest for domination came at a very young age. When I was three and tried to steal my brother’s new Christmas toys, he told my mother, “First she was a seed, and now she’s trouble.” Another telling incident occurred in third grade, when I declared, “I can make Stacey Coopersmith do anything I want.” (Fortunately for Stacey, her family moved to Arizona in fourth grade. Although I did not believe I was the impetus for this move, I could never be sure.)

  My policy of usurping control and violating borders followed me to college. Although my freshman roommate Joanna fought valiantly to hold on to her half of the dorm room, I eventually emerged victorious on my pursuit of additional sweater space. Upon move-out, I possessed approximately 75% of all available square footage.

  So, if I were to become dictator of America, now known as Jennsylvania, I believe my first conquest would be Canada. Seems like a nice place, so I’d like to bring it under The Umbrella That Is Jen. My army would invade clad entirely in pink, green, and khaki items from Ralph Lauren and Lacoste. (And who says you can’t march in Bass Weejuns? They are quite comfortable.) I wouldn’t hurt the Canadians—soon to be called Jenizens—as I would not embrace Saddam’s policies of violence. Rather, I’d wear them down until they were ready to surrender—much like Joanna—by constant verbal badgering.211

  Although I like America a whole lot now, some things would have to change in order to morph into Jennsylvania. The White House would be painted pink, Kate Spade would re-make the flag in florals and plaids, and the national bird would become duck with orange sauce.

  As the dictator, although formally addressed as Her Honor, The Governor, I would grab control of the media. Although I would still allow professional sports to exist, they could only be broadcast at times when I was asleep and could not be discussed in my presence. (Professional figure skating would be the exception to this rule, as it would become our national pastime.) Prime time would be filled with now-nightly episodes of Trading Spaces, and Fox’s program 24 would be changed to 24/365. I would allow cloning so that another Kiefer Sutherland could film while the real Kiefer accompanied me to state affairs. The only exception to my policy of non-violence would be that anyone involved in the making or playing of the Feelin’ Groovy Gap commercials would be put to death without trial.

  I feel that I would be a benevolent and beloved leader, as Jenizens would receive many perks. First, my government would subsidize pedicures and highlights, paid for by a 50% surcharge on health club memberships. Every corn
er would have a Borders or Barnes & Noble, where my people could get free coffee, paperbacks, and pistachio ice cream. Of course, obesity would be lauded and not shamed, because over-consumption would help spur our economy. Fashion magazines would boast articles such as “The Fat Ass Is The New Black!” and “More Is More!” I would also introduce a Flat Abs tax. And if I didn’t mention it, everyone would be entitled to three complimentary angioplasties.

  Jennsylvania would be a paradise, full of tulips and dessert carts and beautiful handbags, all set to a perpetual and pervasive soundtrack of New Wave music. In short, it would be Utopia.

  It just occurred to me that when a new regime is installed in Iraq, it will need a leader.

  So, I’d like to humbly nominate…


  * * *

  To: Landlord Bill

  From: [email protected]

  Date: April 16, 2004

  Subject: Good for you!


  Congrats on your new job! I’m sure you’ll be great, but I do have one bit of advice as you embark on the largest construction project in the country:




  * * *

  * * *

  To: [email protected]

  From: [email protected]

  Date: January 26, 2005

  Subject: Open Position


  I saw on that you guys are hiring a Strategic Account Manager to build your public policy vertical market. With my Political Science degree and successful track record within Corp Com, I’d be the ideal fit for this job.

  Too bad I can’t apply for it because I’ll be busy finishing the layoff memoir the Penguin Group just bought from me.

  Bitter Is the New Black, available March, 2006.



  * * *


  Gah, where to begin? Because I certainly didn’t get here alone. OK, first the big guns—a million thanks to Kate Garrick, Brian DeFiore and the rest of team DeFiore & Co. You guys have no idea how much you rock. (Kate, I still don’t understand how you could remain professional during even my most aggression-laced panic attacks.) (I mean, really, how?) (Perhaps you know I suck, but my innate charm makes up for it, yes?)

  I also have boatloads of gratitude for everyone at Penguin/NAL. From the book’s impeccable style and gorgeous cover (thanks, Art Dept. and Jaya Micelli!) to the fabulous promotion (yay, Sales and Publicity especially Mary Ann Zissimos, who has totally earned BFF bragging rights!) to my free rein over the content, your hard work made the process way too easy. I’d like to particularly acknowledge Rose Hilliard for her competence and my outstanding editor, Kara Cesare. Kara, from our very first conversation about The Bachelor, I knew you’d “get it”—thanks for far exceeding my expectations! I owe you a bathtub full of dirty martinis.

  I want to send major hugs and kisses (who am I kidding—I want to send Fendi bags) to Mary Pachnos at Gillon Aitken in the UK and Lisa Highton of Hachette Livre Australia for making Bitter bihemispheric. (Is that a real word?) Thank you big, screaming bunches!

  In addition, thanks to my parents, who with raised eyebrows continued to write me checks, never once breathing the words “bad debt” or “We can expect repayment when?” Love you guys and promise not to stick you in a discount nursing home when the time comes. Todd and the kids—thanks for the gentle (ha!) reminder that it’s not all about me and to Jean for being one hell of a sister-in-law.

  To my friends who continue to want to be around me despite the fact you’re obligated neither by blood nor business—you guys are the best. Particular thanks to Melissa Lovitt, Shayla Thiel, Carol Kohrs, Jen Draffen, Nick Dorado, Mark Salyers, Angie Felton, Amy Lamare, Martha Kimes, Joellen Meitl, Don Brockette, Bill “Hackman” Medley, Mike “Roadancer” Shoupe, Debby Dong, Jolene Siana, and Katerina Paulic. Drinks are on me.

  Finally, I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who visited and linked to my Web site over the past few years. (Bless you, Todd “Odd Todd” Rosenberg.) I’m perpetually delighted to hear from you guys, and your words of encouragement were a driving factor in bringing this book to fruition. Most of all, this book is for you. (And for the ass hats who sent me hate mail? Ditto.)

  Oh, wait…. Fletch? I’d marry you again even if my mother weren’t paying….


  Photo by Todd Lancaster

  Jen Lancaster, a former associate vice president at an investment research firm, is now the proprietor of the popular blog She lives in Chicago.

  1Seriously, if the basketball team kept their hands on the ball half as often as they tried on my ass, we’d have totally won the Big Ten Conference that year.

  2OK, exactly how did this idiot get hired here? We’re supposed to be the best and brightest in our industry (which is media and communications).

  3And why the hell is a VEGAN on a fishing trip in the first place?

  4Oh, relax. I gave a totally big donation to the local food bank as soon as I started making big commissions.

  5Your boss does NOT need to know if you possess an innie or an outie.

  6Seriously, look at all the jewelry pirates wear.

  7Mmm-hmm, work it, girl.

  8Smart boy, and precisely the reason I’ve never stabbed him with a wayward dessert fork.

  9Shhh—it’s clear mascara.

  10Extra foamy, one NutraSweet, and make it snappy.

  11Which I may have done once. Or possibly twice.

  12Share my roof deck? Never!

  13Fucking loser.

  14Somehow, my flat, slightly nasal, dandelion-and-Bud-Light Chicago accent is less inspiring.

  15I’m a bitch, not a tattletale.

  16Bowling, I’m also looking at you.

  17I mean another straight guy.

  18Being a bitch is fine. Being a cheater is not.

  19And I am all about looking good.

  20So I look prettier in comparison, of course.

  21Or Tad or Vlad or anyone else.

  22Granted, it generally was my fault, but it would have been nice to get the benefit of the doubt once in a while.

  23Seriously, you’d have thought she grew up on a dirt farm in Appalachia instead of a working-class duplex in Boston.

  24A lot like most of the guys I dated before I met Fletch.


  26If you have a better term for a ten-year-old who insists on shoving crayons up his nose, I’d certainly like to hear it.

  27And threaten bodily harm (when necessary).

  28I was Jeni for about five minutes back in high school because I liked to dot my i’s with a sunflower. But I’m a big-time professional and those days are long over, OK?

  29Honest to God, this is a direct quote.

  30OK, I honestly wondered if one would fit in my bag, but only for a second.

  31Not that I’ve ever seen a money shot. Or am familiar with the concept. Because I am a nice girl who is saving herself for marriage despite seven years of cohabitation. Hi, Mom!

  32The Ivy League–caliber ego and smug sense of superiority I developed are unfortunate side effects, but what are you going to do?

  33Shut up.


  35Lies! Lies, I tell you!

  36It was SO Dick Sargent.

  37It’s a museum, right?

  38Of course you did, sweetie! Now let’s see if you can make squirty in the potty like a big boy!

  39Yes, she FINALLY ended it last month. Whore.

  40No, it wasn’t me. But given the opportunity, I would have done the same thing.

  41Who can resist a set of fuchsia-and-orange-striped Kate Spade?

  42Surprise, surprise, Kathleen was pissed.

  43You think I’m shallow? I’m Maya-freaking-Angelou next to these girls.

  44PR girls never have normal names like Kim o
r Amy.


  46I am all about being telegenic.

  47OK, girdle. Again, shut up.

  48I canceled my interview on 9/11 and have since postponed my job search until I get my wits back.

  49Apparently Kathleen is the only one without a soul.

  50Thank God video phones aren’t mainstream yet. I’m famous for taking conference calls in my footie pajamas.

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