Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Little Sunday Rant

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Thanks everyone for your really nice comments on my last post. I have missed you all too! I'm glad to be back.

I'm sorry to say that right now I'm going to have a little Sunday rant.

So, here I am having a really tough time with the move back. And there I am out with some friends who were asking me about my dating life and I admitted that it was pretty lacking. That I really wasn't trying very hard to date but that I was having trouble meeting Boston men who were interesting to me or were interested in me. When pressed more as to what was wrong with Boston men and what was I looking for... I tried to honestly express how I feel.

I said that I'm not so interested in men who are really into JUST sports and local Boston culture. I don't see myself dating a guy who has lived in Boston (or the surrounding towns) his whole life and that's what he wants to do for the whole rest of his life. I just don't see that happening. I don't see myself dating someone who doesn't ever want to leave Boston and live abroad.

My friends then asked me if I realized that the things I was saying were highly offensive.

Offensive? What?

I was shocked. No. It had NEVER ever occurred to me that the things I was saying might be offensive because it has NEVER ever occurred to me to judge other people or criticize them for wanting different things than I do. While I don't particularly want to date someone who only wants to live in Boston for the rest of their life, I absolutely do not judge them for their decision. In fact, quite the opposite. I'm envious of them for having figured out where they want to live and what they want in life while I'm still searching.

The things I was saying should never have been taken as offensive because they were never meant to offend. They were words said with no judgement or criticism of anyone else but perhaps only with a inner sadness of knowing that most men do not want to date a girl who doesn't necessarily see herself living in this country for the rest of her life. And sadly, I don't want know what I want in life and also don't want to limit myself to living here when right now it's making me miserable.

I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that I absolutely do not judge people for living and staying in the US. And I do not judge the people on the street of Boston for being Bostonians and loving their sports, their country, their beer, their American life. I am absolutely not criticizing them or looking down on them. They are my parents, my friends, my co-workers. What kind of person would I be if I walked around judging them? But what kind of person would I be if I decided to date them just to feel trapped and then decide months later to jump on a plane and go live somewhere else.

I will admit that when I first started traveling, I felt a small level of superiority. I had escaped my small town, I was seeing the world, I was doing something different. I was taking the road less traveled, I was living my dream of being an international woman. But over the years I have revised that feeling and rather than feeling superior to those who settled down somewhere, I feel envious of them.

The change in feeling was fueled (as so many things are these days) by Facebook. I suddenly had a direct view into the lives of people who I went to high school and college with who made different decisions than me. I suddenly had a better peak into the life I didn't choose (but always secretly wished I did), the life I chose to leave behind and go searching for something else, something better? (for me) perhaps in different countries around the world. But what I found when I looked into their pictures and saw their status updates, was that they were HAPPY! Really and truly happy. And I realized that it's not about where you live or what you are doing that matters, it's about how happy you are with where you are and what you are doing. And I also realized that while flitting around the world has been extremely interesting and eye-opening, it hasn't necessarily contributed to my overall happiness or personal well-being. In fact, if I am honest with myself, I would bet that most of the people whose lives I was stalking on Facebook, are probably a lot happier than me. And it was with that realization that I dropped any last bit of superiority or judgement that I might have had towards other people who have made the choice not to dance around the world trying to find themselves.

If anything. I judge myself for being different. These days I'm full of quite a bit of self-hatred because most of all, I know that fact that I'm not fitting in here has everything to do with me, and nothing to do with anyone else. I hate myself for not knowing where I want to live or what I want to do in life. I hate myself for not coming back home and fitting back in. I hate myself for not knowing if I want the American dream, or the Swedish dream or even the London dream. I hate myself for being so torn as to what I want in life. I hate that I'm still searching for something or someone when everyone else is settling down, getting married and having kids. You see... I want those things too. But I realize that I can't really have them until I make some other decisions about my life - like what country I want to live in or where is "home" to me.

And by the way, I've also TRIED to date an All-American guy. When I graduated college I dated the All-American boy who lived down the street from my parents. He had been my high school crush. He was your typical All-American guy. He loved his micro-brews and his Bud Light equally. He listened to Dave Mathews and the Grateful Dead incessantly. He was passionate about sports and would never miss a Red Sox game. He loved BBQ's and hot summer nights. He wore a baseball cap and sports shirts. His dress up clothes (that I bought him) were khakis and a polo. He loved his country. He loved his town. He loved me. Until I decided that I wanted to move to Bali to work. And then he dumped me.

And this has been the story of my life. I wanted to stay with him. I thought we could work it out. I thought that I would come home for him after I had my adventure (I knew he would never move for me). But maybe he knew me better than I knew myself at the time. He thought it was best if he let me go. "You're never going to be happy here," he told me. "You've spent the last year that we've been dating trying to convince yourself of it. But this is not meant to be. You are meant to go out and explore the world. This is what you've always wanted to do. I'm not going to be the one to hold you back."

Okay, he was not a man of many words, so he didn't put it as eloquantely as that. But that's what he meant. Over many conversations, over many years (we remain in touch), he has basically said those things to me. And he was right. I did spend a lot of time trying to convince myself that this was my "destiny." That I was going to trade in my dreams of living abroad for the "American Dream" that that would be okay.

But fate intervened and sent me to Bali and then on to the rest of my travels. And I can't help but think that was really the "right" thing for me. It was.

And it's not just American men. I had the same problem with Swedish men and I used to express the same things to my Swedish friends. I do not want to date an American who only wants to live in the US, just the same as when I lived in Sweden, I didn't want to date a Swede who would never consider leaving Sweden. I knew it was over with the Beautiful Swede when he came home with me and I talked about possibly wanting to move home and build a house in the US and live the American Dream. He essentially freaked out and told me that he did not share that dream. The he couldn't ever see himself living in the US.

So, I'm not being criticical of American men or even Swedish men or in fact any men anywhere. I'm just realizing that at least at this point, I've decided that traveling and living abroad is very important to me and that if I meet a man who doesn't share that dream, who doesn't see himself living outside of where he is from or where he lives right now, then that man is probably not the right man for me.

I want someone to share an international adventure with me. I want someone who would be flexible enough to pack up our family and move to Asia for awhile if my job (or his) asked. I want someone who could see themselves living in Sweden or the US, or London, or Dubai for that matter. I'm not done traveling. I'm still hoping that someone will someday want to join me. But I also realize that is putting a lot of limitations on not even who I would date but on who would want to date me. If there is one thing I learned again and again over the years: men don't like women who are always leaving (nor do they particularly seem to like women who are always working, or even worse traveling for their jobs).

Right now, I've been spending a lot of time trying to convince myself that Boston is right for me. But I'm not feeling it at all. And that makes me so very sad. I really hoped that I would move home and everything would fall into place and I would have that amazing "Aha" moment where I felt like "YES! THIS IS IT! I'M SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!" But it hasn't happened.

And let me tell you... It's the worst feeling in the world to not feel at home in your own country. I have spent the last 9 years abroad feeling like a foreigner. And now I come home and I'm shocked and saddened to feel like that in my own country. I've never spent more time alone and sad and depressed. I've never cried myself to sleep so much.

Sometimes, I even find myself often wishing that I never lived abroad. That I had never made friends all over the world. That I had never left my home in so many places. A reader of this blog made a great comment on one of my posts. She said " I think that moving overseas is like opening Pandora's box. Once you have done it home is no longer one place but where ever you are a bit of home is where you last were." She is right. Home is everywhere that you have been and that makes it hard to really know where home is. I think that everywhere you go and live and love and learn, you leave a little peace of yourself behind. And right now I feel that I'm no longer a whole person because I have left so many pieces behind. And right now, I have no idea where I want to be or who I truly am.

Or to look at it another way,  a wise woman once told me that it's hard to live life when you have so many doors open. It's hard to know which one to go toward, which one to walk through. That to be really happy, you sometimes have to close some doors.

And that thought of closing doors scares me. I'm afraid if I close some doors I loose some part of myself. Right now I have three doors open with the words Boston, London, and Stockholm written above them.

Honestly, I would really like to meet the love of my life and fall head over heels. But as I've said before... how could anyone love me right now? How could anyone love me when I don't love myself? I don't think that falling in love can happen for me until I learn to love myself and be comfortable with where I am in my life. And part of loving myself has to be understanding myself enough to know where I want to live and what doors I'm ready to close.

And just to clarify I do not think I'm special because I've lived abroad. I do however think that I'm different from others who have not had this experience. And I do not think that is a good thing. I hate being different. All I want is to fit in. But 9 years abroad is a long time. It's my entire adult life. The influences in my life have been very international, very European and I'm struggling here in an environment that's less international with less people around me who've had a common experience. So no, I do not think I'm special. But I might feel different and I might react to things differently. I hope my friends can understand that and support me as I go through this. I hope that just as they ask that I don't judge them, that they will not judge me and that they will try to understand what I'm going through.

So, I truly apologize to my friends and to anyone else I may have unintentionally offended when I was talking about what I'm looking for in a life partner. I never meant to offend anyone. The type of person that I hold up as my "ideal" partner is not a reflection on anyone else - it's only a reflection of my own messed up self and this whole sad and confused internal battle I'm having as a result of repatriation after 9 years abroad.


Robin said...

Great post. I recently moved abroad for the first time (moving to Moscow from Florida). I have been here 7 months now and home one time in that time frame. This sense of not belonging home is something I already experienced during that trip home and it is scary! So I can imagine what you are going through after 9 years.

Good luck.

Claudy said...

How in earth could that be offensive? PC doesn't mean you can't have opinions. It means you shouldn't be rude to others.

In the past I've always been the guy who's flow between countries to be with my girlfriends. (For some reason I've had a lot of long distance affairs.) Now, I'd really really like to be the one who stays put for a while. (I need her to show me that she cares enough to do that.)

But moving together is completely different. I have almost the same expectations of my future partner as you. I hope we can move wherever we need to. I don't really have a huge craving for international adventures, but I wouldn't like to turn down great opportunities just because it requires relocating.

It's mostly a financial issue. I wouldn't move with you if it means I have to wash dishes in Bali. :) I might have done that earlier, moving somewhere just for love, but I think that time has passed. I'm too passionate about what I do that I couldn't go back to being a nobody.

If I can stay at home and do my research and writing there, then I can go anywhere. That works if:

a) We'll win the lottery.
c) I'll get a huge grant somewhere, which is almost like winning the lottery.
c) You'll earn enough for both of us and it doesn't bother you. In return I'll cook and clean, I'll massage you after a long day, and make crazy love to you! ;)

Otherwise I'm pretty tied to my job. So the place needs to have a suitable academic institution where I could work.

As for where's home... I've heard people saying that to them home is a certain language. And I can really appreciate that. I think to me it's the place where you can close the door and nobody bothers you. And that can be anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I've had people offended by almost identical comments I've made. I told my sister I generally am not interested in American guys (I've been living abroad for 7 years now) and she flipped out. I recognise it came out completely wrong- I meant your typical all-American guy who sees no fault with the US and who doesn't have a passport. I just don't have anything in common with those types.

I also find that people assume you think you're better than them because you've lived abroad, and I have to be careful when I tell stories because people think I'm being arrogant when I say "oh, this one time when I lived in Paris..." But I'm not trying to be like that, it's just my experience.

So I definitely hear where you're coming from on this point. x

Katie @ said...

Ok. You have GOT to stop beating yourself up so much! I'm going to say the hard thing: The bitch about depression is that sometimes, when you openly admit how you feel, the reaction of others is to get defensive (ie. "What did *I* do wrong to make you feel this way?"), which is a terrible reaction because it makes the depressed person feel like he/she has to make the friend feel better instead of working on him/herself.

So here is what you know: 1. Your friends overreacted. It's understandable - we've all seen it before. Hopefully they will come to understand that what you were saying had nothing to do with them - it was about YOU trying to explain a quality you think is necessary for you to have in a partner (the desire to travel and live internationally). 2. You're not happy in Boston. 3. You have some work to do with yourself before you can worry about finding "Mr. Right."

So girl, what are you waiting for? This post was your effort to take care of the first item. Now get going on the other two! Things WILL get better for you. I know this because you have perspective about what's happening. You want to feel better. So you WILL. Just keep your chin up, keep writing, and decide what door you want to go through. And remember that you could always close all 3 and move on to the next. :)

Well this is awkward... said...

I can't describe how much I enjoyed this post, and how much it echoes things I have said to myself, and to my few traveling friends who understand where I'm coming from. I have spent much shorter times abroad than you have, but then again I am only 22. And I can already tell that finding someone to date and REALLY fall in love with is going to be a bit difficult. I also agree that while traveling can be eye opening and you are often happy doing it, sometimes it can contribute to your overall sadness, especially when you move back "home." And it seems so ironic, and almost hurtful, when people who have done/seen/experienced so much less than you can be so genuinely happy with their lives.

The one thing I'd like to disagree with you on is wishing I had never done it/had never made friends around the world/etc. While doing these things has made my life difficult, and I pretty much agree with everything else you said throughout this post, I wouldn't be the person I am today without these things. And before I started traveling, I had a group of all-american friends. And to be honest, they kind of sucked as people. My friends from traveling are true, genuine friends. And while I don't see them as often as I'd like, and while that sometimes makes me depressed when I'm home and so far from them, they are much higher quality friends. That's not to say plenty of people who have never traveled can't be good friends, I just mean my particular group wasn't very nice people.

I don't really have any advice to give. If anyone does, I'd love to hear it. I just wanted to say thanks for this post.

I hold out hope that things are difficult for people like us right now, but in the long run of life things will work themselves out/we will figure things out. I hope that in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years when we look back on this time, it will seem laughable how unsure of ourselves and our future we were.

Well this is awkward... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pretty Young Thing said...

I'm not really sure where to begin with all this, partially because I don't have the experience you do (my first trip abroad was in November for 10 days and I was are much more worldly then I) and also partially because there is so much depth to everything you said..

...lets take a stab at it anyway, shall we...

First of all what you said is not offensive. Thats like telling someone that their preference not to date someone younger, older, taller/shorter, with long/short hair is offensive. People are attracted to different things and those things range from the physical to emotional to lifestyle choices. You cannot fault or find offense in a persons preference...its an opinion of sorts and you can not be wrong for that!!

Also, the comment someone made you to about going abroad being like Pandora's Box I can 100% see truth in. My trip to Ireland was like that for me. I just went to Mexico and I'm working on planning a trip to Greece now. I'm addicted to traveling now. I always wanted to but just never allowed myself the opportunity. I can only imagine that living abroad is 1000x worse then that. Although, I can't help but wonder if you found yourself in love and with the one if you'll actually be satisfied with making roots somewhere and escaping around the world when you can.

You just went through a tremendous life change. Yes, you moved "home" but Boston hasn't been home for 9 years, thats nearly a decade and thats a really long time. Its really not surprising that you don't feel quite right. Perhaps you can find something in Boston that can give you a taste of your overseas adventures to bring you some comfort and familiarity in the meantime? Perhaps you should come to NYC since we are an incredible melting pot of the wonders of the world?

There are so many options out there and I truly believe someone like you should not allow herself to feel so miserable. From reading your blog I can see what a 'grab the bull by the horns' kind of girl you are so I think you need to just take a deep breath, stop freaking yourself out and relax. It will all work out and I think once you can stop stressing about what your life is "supposed" to be and find at least one thing you can immerse yourself in which will make you feel like a million bucks (even if its a weekly massage) you'll start to feel a little better.

Now, I'm going to wrap up this comment bc its epically long but I want to leave you with this quote I saw on a wall at the Guiness Factory

"Home is not where you live but where they understand you"

Julianna said...

I read this last night and thought I'd wait to comment.

Here's the thing.

Some people just aren't meant to stay put. Some people NEED to experience new things, cultures, and different ways of thinking.

That doesn't mean that if you met a nice guy, who made your heart do all kinds of melty things, that you couldn't live here and travel. Or, who's to say that that guy who has his heart set on staying here won't suddenly find himself having to move abroad for HIS job.

I think what I'm getting at, is that once you're comfy in your own skin, and where you're at in your life (here or abroad) the rest falls into place. And then it all changes, and you'll have to adapt. Life's like that. Your needs change, your priorities, your health. And you have to change with it.

American men? European Men? Asian? Austrailian? They all suck. They're men. They think with two minds that don't communitate with others well. The trick is to find one that communicates with you.

Then the rest will fall into place.

OK. I'm done. So glad you're back. :) Although, you're probably sick of me.

Anonymous said...

I really don't think that you are dealing with enough!? Care to throw anything else on your plate, dear? I am so sorry that things are so difficult for you right now! You so deserve to be happy and feel content and fulfilled. I know that you are having a hard time finding that here in the US and how much you wished that you would.

I guess what it comes down to is that you still have a bit of wander lust in you and that may or may not go away with time. I don't see anything wrong with not wanting to date somebody who is against the posibility of leading the life of a gypsy and moving around the world together. There is something beautiful about traveling and discovering new places with a lover (or at least I imagine there would be).

I am proud of you for knowing what you do and don't want and for not letting yourself get sucked into doing what others expect of you. Being stuck in a situation that isn't right for you is a horrible place to be. Personally I do not want children but everyone seems to think that I'm just messing around. I wouldn't want to be with a man dead set on having a family. Why is it any different for you and your need to travel? It's a part of who you are and you can't love or be loved by somebody who doesn't share that passion!

You need to do you, make yourself happy and only then will you find the right person for you. When you are so unhappy it's hard to attract happiness. Trust me, I'm not judging, I have a lot of work to do on myself too. I'm just saying when you find peace in life you will be able to breathe, smile, and attract positivity and love your way. I hope that happens for you soon, sweetie.

Julianna said...

I feel like I need to add a bit of disclosure here (again).

Almost Hubs is American, sworn in in Fanuiel Hall. He is as "american guy" as they come. HOWEVER, he was born in Portugal and lived there until he was 10. He has been raised by a traditional Port. Mother (she would still pluck chickens in the kitchen if we let her AND she insists on feeding us...All. The. Time.) I believe that because of that, he appreciates all that we have here in this country. He works for everything and feels he's entiltled to nothing he hasn't earned. He also appreciates women of all sizes, and recognizes the beauty of her curves.

Is that because of his European background/upbringing? Maybe.

So maybe, once you're good with your life and your decisions, you'll meet a similar "transplanted" European/American man, who'll fit all your needs. :)

Ok. I'm really done now.

On My Soapbox said...

I don't think what you said was offensive. Maybe they took offense because you described what the townies were (i.e. wanted to stay in Bean Town), rather than what they weren't (i.e. "I'm looking for someone who would like to travel and live abroad"). Who knows? Some people are just easily offended.

tilden talks... said...

you think too much. that's your only problem.stop thinking and just live, for right now.
i dont see your comments in the opening paragraph as offensive. theyre just how you feel.

jules said...

WOW. I wish I had words of wisdom but all I can say is to be true to yourself and don't feel guilty or like a failure if you need to move on. I don't know a lot about Boston, but I do know that generally speaking they love their sports and they're proud of it. There's nothing wrong with that, but as someone who is not even remotely interested in sprots, I can see how it would be very hard to find some one who with a lot of similiar interests. I don't think what you said was offensive at all. Hang in there! You'll figure it out!

Sarah B said...

Listen to me.

First off, you DO know what you want. You said it. You want a partner that embodies a lot of your own qualities: embracing adventure, willingness to travel and experience the world in a different way, one that matches your passions. And you want to live a life that is experiential and full of exploration, travel and seeing the world with different eyes.

You need to hold onto that. Focus on those things and stop beating yourself up for wanting what you want -- even when it's different, even when it means that it makes you uncomfortable back in America, even when it's making you cry yourself to sleep at night.

Who you are, is who you are. You and I are *very* similar in a lot of ways. Never once did it occur to me in all my years of dating that I wouldn't ultimately love someone who was a) foreign b)thoroughly invested in living in other countries

(I mean, I know he's Canadian, but you know, it's still kind of another country... :)

And let me tell you. Your friends are happy because they wanted the American dream. But you would go crazy settling for Red Sox games and Sunday afternoon cookouts talking about the latest baby bouncer and vacationing in the Pokonos. I know because when I'm in that place I want to rip my eyes out. Not because I don't LOVE my friends, and LOVE them for the lives they have embraced, it's because it has no appeal for me.

I want to be on a bus in Uruguay or swimming in a volcanic lake in Nicaragua or on a train to Romania. So why would I try to fit myself somewhere that makes my skin crawl?

But seriously my dear. Feeling uncomfortable in Boston is a good thing. Why? Because if it doesn't feel right on your skin, then it doesn't fit, which means, you shouldn't wear it.

You know that feeling when you find that dress? The one that hugs you in all the right places, the one that just slides on? The one that when you walk out the door, you *know* that men are dropping their jaws and tripping over themselves to stare at you?

That one. That's the feeling you should feel when you live somewhere too. I felt that way when I arrived in Austin, despite living in Houston for over a decade growing up, and being raised there I NEVER felt comfortable there.

I've also felt that feeling in Paris, and Buenos Aires and I know you've felt that way in Sweden...

I want you to tell yourself that you accept who you are, that what you're going through right now is a major growing pain. That you are learning something about you, about yourself, about the life you are creating. That this is ok, and that you're just figuring out a few things and that don't worry, this will open up and become something beautiful soon.

I promise you, that if transitions were easy, we wouldn't appreciate what was on the other side nearly as much. Hang in there sister.

International Woman of Mystery said...

OMG! Thank you all for the REALLY awesome comments. I loved the thoughtfulness you put into your response. You all made me feel so much better. I'm writing a follow up post on this in order to address all the awesome comments.

Catherine said...

This was a great post, so open and honest. I imagine some of these things are hard to write out. First of all, I have to say that I think you are being too hard on yourself. You are going through an adjustment period, and it's tough. That doesn't make you weak and it certainly doesn't mean that you are doing the wrong things - you are just adjusting. I don't know you, but it seems like you are an honest and good person, so I think your friends should have given you more of the benefit of the doubt. They shouldn't jump to the conclusion that you are being condescending.
It also seems to me that you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself. I do this too. You know what? You don't need to know right now what kind of guy you'll end up with. You don't need to know where you'll live when you grow old. You need to focus on putting one foot in front of the other and going day by day. You need to make yourself happy and love yourself (because you are worth your love). I'm saying this from personal experience - for months I agonized over what my future would hold and what I wanted. But somehow, when I let it go, and said that what is supposed to happen will happen, I felt a lot better. Sure I still have days when I don't want to get out of bed, but I find comfort in knowing I don't have to have it all figured out this second. So many people have told me that you find love when you least expect it, that things work out for a reason ... I have decided to believe them. It won't kill me. So stop worrying about what kind of person you'll end up with. Or where you'll live. Maybe you'll meet someone who will want to change for you. Perhaps you'll meet someone you want to change for. Perhaps what you want will change - you never know. And maybe, just maybe, you'll meet the perfect person (within reason) that wants something very similar to you. There are so many options and paths you can go down. I hope you find the strength in yourself to let go and just focus on making yourself happy right now. It's helping me a lot, and I hope it'll help you. Sorry if I'm preachy - I just really think you deserve the best and want you to be happy.

Lifebeginsat30ty said...

So first of all, I apologize for taking so long to respond to this post! I read it when you first posted but it struck such a chord that I had to leave it for a bit and really think about it. And what I am going to tell you is not some platitudes about finding happiness in where you are, looking for the good in American men, bladdy blah blah blah. The thing is plain and simple: you are not American any more. You are only partly American. You are now Internation Woman of Mystery. Your experiences in going abroad have changed you as a person and changed what you want out of life. Or maybe you were always different than those around you and moving abroad just solidified that? Can you honestly tell me that you felt 'at home' in where you grew up? I know that a part of me always knew that my home town was not for me. I felt the exact way that you are last year when I was in Bethesda. Everyone kept saying to just give it time, but I didn't like it from the very beginning. I didn't really like Michigan either, although Ann Arbor was cool. I just couldn't see myself LIVING there, you know? Settling down and all that. If you are not happy where you are, I say move to where you will be happy. I've done it and was immediately gratified to discover that it was the right decision. It sounds like this may be an option for you and might be big and scary but could be wholly gratifying. Is there any way to get a short term assignement where you'd like to be? Sometimes it takes us moving to where we'd be happy rather than expecting to be happy where we are.

As for the boy, um okay so you want an international boy? Someone you have something in common with? Someone who has the same world view as you? No mystery there! American boys, or people in general who have never left their country, don't appeal to you because you are not like them. They say opposites attract but then what happens after the honeymoon when you have nothing in common? Don't apologize for being different. and don't apologize for what you want!

Jonas said...

As always an entertaining post, maybe you should get a job writing instead? :) I could so, see you a column in some fancy (or non-fancy) magazine.