Occupational Hazard

{Losing my hat; losing my mind}

{Losing my hat; losing my mind}

One of the hardest parts of getting pregnant and becoming a mother for me has been feeling like my brain has literally been poked full of holes. I first noticed the effects of “pregnancy brain” late in my first trimester when I started losing words.

I would go to say something or write something, and I would know the definition of the word I meant — I would even be able to recall another time I had used the word in conversation — but I could not for the life of me tell you what the word was. I started googling the definitions or looking up synonyms (that I could remember) on Thesaurus.com, following my own linguistic treasure map back to my own vocabulary.

For a writer, losing words is a very big deal.

My mom loves to tell me a story from my own babyhood about our babysitter, Irene. Apparently, Irene had a habit of looking me in my little baby eyes and telling me, “Words are power.” I don’t know if this infant inception was the direct cause of my becoming a writer, but it’s hard to deny the plausibility.

The point is, I’ve always believed the sentiment of the phrase. Even now, I make excuses to tell Vivi the same thing. She doesn’t have to be a writer (unless she wants to be), but I want her to be able to communicate and express herself the best way possible. It’s part of why I spend a few minutes each day reading to her, even though it’s hard to believe she’s really paying attention as she carries on with her regular baby antics.

Anyway, all of that is a long way of getting around to the fact that pregnancy brain was a little scary for this logophile. It’s gotten marginally better since actually pushing out the baby, but now I just find myself suffering the effects of “mom brain.” (Which, spoiler alert, is the same thing. Babies make you dumb, folks.)

I also feel like it has been affecting the quality of my posts on here. Granted, I’m usually just trying to fling a few words together in a somewhat coherent sentence in between naps, freelancing, and keeping a semblance of order in our apartment, but I can’t shake the feeling that the quality is slipping more than I feel comfortable with.

Of course, this little blog is hardly a priority in the grand scheme of things (sorry, blog; the baby wins this round), but I would be sad if I felt like I let my most consistent creative outlet completely lose its shine. Besides, I feel like I have so many stories in my head from this one-of-a-kind experience I’m going through, and I’d hate to lose those just because I can’t make the time to write.

So while I might not be blogging as often, I’m going to try to brush up the quality of my posts. I’m not going to worry about consistency because, frankly, I can’t promise there will be any, but when I do post, I promise to really have something to say or share.

And hopefully I’ll be able to find the words to do that.


Is there anything more awkward than trying to end a conference call?

The never-ending goodbyes always remind me of old-school AIM convos, where you spent roughly a calendar year telling your pals you loved them like a sister and would talk to them later and okbye4now. Or whatever we said back then.

The point is, conference call sign-offs can drag out through the rest of the millenium.

I think it has something to do with the lack of visual clues — no one can tell when Person A is looking to wrap things up because they can’t see them shutting their laptop and making eyes at the door. But I also blame corporate jargon.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows what I mean when I say that. God HELP you if you’ve worked in a tech or media office. Corporate jargon is like the social media of work-speak: It’s slowly depriving us of meaning and, let’s face it, humanity.

Here are a few examples of things you can say at almost ANY point of a meeting if you don’t know the answer to the question — without looking like an idiot. Don’t thank me; thank corporate jargon.

1. Let’s circle back on that offline.
2. I think that’s important to discuss, but I’d like to focus on the big picture.
3. We’ll regroup on that internally and get back to you.
4. Do the engagement metrics support that?
5. What can we do to replicate our past successes?

Just kidding about the last one. Mostly.

The really scary thing is that sometimes I hear these phrases in meetings, and I realize that I’m the one who said them. *shudder*

Do my fellow pencil-pushers hear me on this? Share YOUR favorite jargon-y phrase in a comment below.

Recently for work, I was selected (along with a bunch of other editors) to film 30-second videos for a client. We shot the videos in our office over two days, including an interview segment and a B-roll “real life action” portion.

The last time I experienced anything remotely like this was when I was in Glamour a zillion years ago, and before that when I would occasionally appear on camera for a wedding website I worked for.

So aside from that handful of times, I am not accustomed to anything even in the same realm as a life of fame. In all these cases, though, I can tell you immediately the best part: Having someone else do my hair and makeup.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone. But there’s something about being able to completely put the stress of looking a certain way in someone else’s hands that puts a girl at ease.

Here are three beauty lessons I learned whilst being a star*:


Let’s all take a minute to acknowledge how perfect my hair looks. That stylist was gooooood.

1. It is really nice having someone else fluff your hair for you.
I like big hair, and I cannot lie. Unfortunately, while I have enough hair to knit you a sweater with (what?), it is so painfully straight that volume is always a bit of a struggle.

BUT YOU WILL NEVER KNOW THAT IN THIS VIDEO. And do you know why? Because a professional hairstylist made a point of fluffing and smoothing between almost every take. So, basically, it looked perfect every second.

A girl could get used to that.

2. It is really nice having someone else do your ponytail.
I know what you’re thinking: “Justine, isn’t the ponytail like the easiest hairstyle to do ever?”

Uh, yeah, sure. If you want to look like an amateur. The angle of your pony combined with the proper combing and backcombing to get the required amount of height and bounce is anything but child’s play.

But when you have a pro armed with (what else?) a Mason Pearson Boar-Bristle Brush? Instant magic.

3. It is really nice having someone else monitor how shiny your face is and correct it regularly.
Real talk: I have an oily T-zone. This is something I am moderately insecure about, and by the end of the day, if I haven’t taken very careful precautions, you could borrow my forehead the next time your slip-and-slide tears on a hidden rock.

The point is, at least a couple times a day I’m either re-powdering may face or, at the very least, dabbing it with a napkin or piece of toilet paper to soak up any slickness. But when you have a professional makeup artist keeping watch? I get those seconds of my life BACK, you guys. And I don’t even need to think twice about shine.

So basically, yeah, I could get used to this.

And before you even ask (family), I MIGHT share the videos when they’re done. Unless I look/sound stupid. So, what I’m saying is, no promises.

*Bahahahahahaaaaaaa yeah right.

Obviously I couldn’t blog about this right when it happened, but I thought it would be fun to share an anecdote from my job hunting experience.

All in all, I probably went in about 9-10 interviews this time around. Many of those were at the same places — I actually made it to the third round of interviews at two different companies. (Though I didn’t get either of those jobs.)

One of those third-rounders was probably the worst interview I’ve ever been on.

The company was one that organizes sporting events (like dodgeball and softball games) for adults in the city to network and meet new people. I had already survived an initial meeting with their HR recruiter; it went well and we both seemed to get along. A good sign, in my book.

The second round, I was required to write an entire 3-month social media strategy, including a step-by-step list of the first three things I would do if I got the job.

Pause for a second (Zack Morris-style).

Can we just discuss how messed up that is? I mean, my ability to create a social strategy and help a brand define their digital voice is what I do for a living. That is my intellectual property. It’s what, you know, I get paid for.

And now I was forced to basically hand it over with zero promise of a return. (And since you already know I didn’t get this job, I’m not spoiling anything when I tell you this company ended up with my entire strategy, step-by-step tactics, and sample social posts. And I ended up with…well, you’ll see.)

The second interview went okay. The two guys I met with we’re a tiny bit bro-y, but nice enough. They kept up their poker faces the entire time, and, to be perfectly honest, I felt a little but judged for wearing heels and curling my hair. It could have been in my head, but it wasn’t in my head that this was not a girlie-girl setting.

Regardless, I thought I handled myself well. I was prepared for all of their questions, and my strategy even preemptively answered most of them. I felt I came across as capable, organized, and enthusiastic.

About a day later, I had an email setting up my final interview with the CEO and founder of the company. I assumed the second interview must have gone well.

When I arrived for my final interview, I was quickly ushered into a conference room with the CEO. He was an unassuming man from Long Island in his fifties, barely taller than me. He had a teasing sense of humor that I couldn’t quite get a handle on because it was a little, well, condescending.

I turned to face him, and he lifted a piece of paper that I assume had the questions he wanted to ask me on the side facing him. What he didn’t realize was that the side facing me had some writing on it too.

Notes. About me.

I know it was about me because it said Justine LoMonaco at the top.

And under that it said:

Not that into sports
Not funny or creative

There have only been a few moments in my life that I would describe as punches to the gut. This was one of them.

(Obviously, I’m talking about the second sentence. Anyone who knows me knows I make no pretenses about having a passion for sports.)(And this.)(And this.)(AND THIS.)

Let me be clear: I have no delusions that I’m the funniest or smartest person out there. But these are two specific adjectives that people use to describe me all the time. I mean, I’m a classic late-bloomer — sense of humor and personality carried me for years, folks. I work with people who literally will not schedule a brainstorming session unless I can attend. Funniness and creativity are just not things I am insecure about.

And then…suddenly everything changed.

I’m one of those people that if you really want to push my buttons, accuse of something that is just patently untrue. It’s like my brain can’t even process what you’re saying and I become simultaneously dumber and less eloquent. My cerebrum is all, “Wait…you mean…but the-what? SKY IS GREEN AND GRASS IS BLUE AND NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.”

Obviously, this is not a good mental state to be in for, oh, let’s say a job interview.

Suddenly I found myself incapable of coming up with a single intelligent thing to say. I was trying to be funnier, which everyone knows rarely works out. And, honestly, I was on the brink of tears for most of the half hour.

The interview wrapped up quickly (clearly I hadn’t impressed), and I hesitated for just a second, wondering if I should address these two accusations against me. In the end, I said nothing (though I did stand up for myself a bit in my “thank you” email). If I had known I wouldn’t get the job anyway, I would have been bolder. Hindsight, amiright?

Instead I shuffled dejectedly to the subway, still fighting back tears, and called my friend to unload what had happened. When I got home and started telling Joey about it, I broke down.

Remember when I wrote this? That was right around the time I found out I didn’t get that job. (Or the other job that I had made it to the third round of interviews for.) I was so frustrated, and my confidence was at a low. Now I was confronted with the possibility that maybe I was just stuck where I was — and not funny or creative on top of it.

That’s a lot for anyone to take.

But wait! This isn’t a sad story. Because, in the end, I realized that I probably didn’t want to work with people who don’t share my sense of humor anyway. I don’t want to work for people who judge me the moment I walk in. I don’t want to work for hypocritical people who claim their business model supports one thing while their actions prove they don’t.

And the job I ended up getting? I’m a million times more excited for it than I was for the other one anyway.

So things work out how they’re supposed to. And the experience also showed me what a great support system I have when I can’t pick myself back up right away. Ironically, when I got my new job, they told me the people I had interviewed loved how “funny and creative” I was. As if that coffin needed one more nail, right?

Anyone else have a job interview story to top mine? Leave it in a comment so we can commiserate together (and laugh about how, in the end, it was their loss).

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There are few things in life more awkward than job hunting whilst gainfully employed.

For one, job hunting is a veritable job in and of itself. It takes time to scour job boards, craft memorable cover letters, and go on interviews.

And those interviews? They are definitely the most awkward part. After all, you can only have so many doctor appointments, family emergencies, illnesses, burst pipes, etc. before people start to suspect. (Or at least think you are just a disaster of a human being.) And I’m a terrible liar. I hate doing it.

I tend to get stressed out by phony doctor appointments (the rushing to get there on time, the rushing to get back to the office at a reasonable time…it’s too much) and will often just take a day off, especially if I have more than one interview. The problem is, eventually you burn through 3-4 vacation days, which is fine if you get the job. Not so much if you don’t.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about job hunting while having a full-time job:

1. Timing is everything. Schedule interviews either first thing in the morning (ideal, because there are a myriad of excuses that can happen in the morning…late train, dishwasher overflowed, husband got sick and needs me to pick up a prescription, dog ran away, car broke down, etc.) or last thing in the afternoon (“I need to jet out of here a little early tomorrow evening, but I’ll be in early to make up for any missed work.”). If all else fails, lunchtime is doable. (“My cousin is in town just for the afternoon and asked if I could meet for lunch — is that okay?”)

2. Be cautious about dressing too professional if you have to go back to work. Unless you show up every day in a blazer and heels, wear an outfit you can dress up for the interview and down for your office. Nothing tips people off like you showing up late and in a suit.

3. Be respectful of your current employer’s time. 3 pm is not the right time to troll LinkedIn job boards. It’s also not the right time to update your resume. You are still an employee, and you want to leave on good terms regardless of the situation. (If possible.) Save your job hunting for after-hours (and answer emails/phone calls on your lunch break) to avoid leaving anyone with bad thoughts about you after you’re gone.

You’re probably wondering why I’m being so candid about my job hunting process. Well…you guessed it; I got a new job recently. My last day at my current company is next Wednesday. Then it’s off to Paris, and then I start the new gig when I get back.

The long-time readers among you will probably feel like you have déjà vu, but in my defense, I’ve been at my current job for almost two years. That’s a lifetime in the media world. Plus, I’m super excited about the new opportunity.

I’ve got a good feeling about 2014, you guys.

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I’m going to start this story at the end and work my way back. Everyone ready? Here’s how it ends:

I saw a 3-inch cockroach in the ladies’ room at work on Tuesday. On the sink.

Now, I know you’re probably busy and may have read that quickly without really think about it, so I’m going to need you to back up for a second and really dwell. A cockroach. The size of a deck of cards.

On the bathroom sink that you use multiple times a day and have done so for almost nine months.

Is your face contorted in disgust and horror? Ok, now we can proceed.

I’ve mentioned before that cockroaches are my greatest phobia, but I feel like you probably thought I was kidding around. I mean, sure, no one loves cockroaches or spiders or camel crickets or what have you. It’s not that big of a deal.

You guys. It’s a very big deal.

It had been a long time since I’d seen a roach, and I’d kind of started to think I was a little bit over it. I would mentally imagine what I would do when I found one, and I would genuinely think, “Ok, it would suck. But you would handle it. I mean, you handled the centipedes. You would figure it out.”

Well, if Tuesday’s experience taught me anything, it’s that I am not equipped to handle it.

I literally froze and gasped when I first saw the semi-sized bug crawling near the faucet. Then I simply fled. I may have blacked out for a second.

As I made my shaky way to two of my coworkers, one of them went, “You look really rattled, are you okay?”

Nope. No, I was not.

I explained what happened the best I could, but I could barely put the words together. They heard “cockroach that is three inches long,” though, and quickly jumped into action.

I kept trying to explain why I was freaking out so much, but then promptly burst into tears. While still laughing about it at the same time.

If I’d committed a crime right then, I’m pretty sure I could have gotten of with an insanity plea.

Anyway. My coworkers apparently got someone I take care of it. I left work partly because it was about time to go, and partly because there was no way I was getting anything accomplished at that point.

Now I just can’t use that bathroom without feeling deeply uncomfortable and trying to check every corner, surface, nook and cranny while simultaneously, you know, using the bathroom. (I tried yesterday…it didn’t go we’ll.)

When I got home from work, I told Joey the worst thing in the world had happened to me that day.

Without missing a beat, he went, “Oh, you saw a cockroach?”

That’s why I love him.

So there you have it. I am not over it. And I may actually have to burn my apartment to the ground if I ever find a cockroach in it.

Please tell me you also have bizarre phobias I make myself feel better?