Samara O'Shea

Archive for April, 2009

Sex and the Single Girl

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

There is a write-up in the NY Times today about publishing legend and avid letter writer Helen Gurley Brown. The first biography about Ms. Brown has been written—entitled Bad Girls Go Everywhere.

I LOVE Helen. She was a woman WAY ahead of her time—the prerequisite personality to Carrie Bradshaw. I used to see her all the time in the Hearst building when I worked there. She is retired but still loved coming into the office every day and advising the Cosmo International division. Just before For the Love of Letters came out, I wrote Helen a letter asking if she’d consider giving me a jacket quote for the book. She said no, but she said it in a letter, which made everything okay. I’ll have it framed one of these days!

Here’s a progressive bit from the article (FYI: Helen got married at the age of 37):

The early 1960s was not a cheerful time for single women in America; they were viewed with pity if not outright suspicion. As Ms. Brown put it, the prevailing attitude was: “If you were female and not married by age 30, you might as well go to the Grand Canyon and throw yourself in.” Ms. Brown knew, the author writes, that single women “wanted to feel good about rather than ashamed of the life choices they made or contemplated.” The single girl, she proclaimed, “is a giver, not a taker, a winner and not a loser.”

The Day the Internet Died

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

A random confession: I have premonitions. They happen occasionally and they’re nothing profound. As a matter of fact, they usually revolve around movies and television shows. It started with the movie Deep End of the Ocean (an easily forgotten Michelle Pfeiffer flick). A few years ago, scenes from that film would pop into my head for no apparent reason, and then I’d inevitably catch it on TV that same day or in the days that followed. This happened several times. It’s happened more recently with the movie Mermaids. The older the movie the more significant (I use the word significant loosely) the premonition—because why in the world would I be thinking of the movie Mermaids!? A few weekends ago I was on the bus heading toward NYC, and I thought of a specific episode of Sex and the City. It was the episode when the girls go to Atlantic City. Charlotte feels like an old maid. Miranda is feeling self conscious because she hasn’t lost the baby weight. Samantha is paranoid that Richard is going to cheat again. And Carrie is upset that there hasn’t been a new photograph taken of the four of them in years. About an hour later, I arrived at my friend Patrick’s apartment and turned on his TV. Guess which episode of Sex and the City was airing on TNT that very night? I once had a semi-serious premonition. In high school, I envisioned that my friend would get caught sleeping with her boyfriend (which her parents certainly did not want her doing) by a carelessly placed condom wrapper. And that’s exactly how it happened!

I don’t interpret this as ESP or anything quite so glorious—just random senses that I have (that I think we all have), and I feel a small (very small) sense of satisfaction when I realize my instinct was spot on.

Now, ready or not I’m about to share with you a much bigger premonition—one that some of you may have yourselves. I’m daring to predict The Day The Internet Goes Down. I won’t go so far as to say when it’s going to happen, but I feel like it has to happen at some point, yes? Like any black out that cripples a city of lights or Recession that puts the gods of greed back in their place (. . .ideally). The Universe has a way of yanking us humans out of our comfort zone just when we start to relax and think we don’t have a care in the world. And haven’t we become a little too reliant on the Internet? We shop on it. We do our banking on it. We communicate on it. We watch movies / music videos / TV clips on it. We use it to spy on each other! I can’t help but think this virtual carpet has to be pulled out from underneath use at some point. Truth be told, I’m looking forward to it. I don’t think it’ll last forever—maybe 24 – 48 hours. Just long enough for everyone to panic and then remember that we lived without this mechanism once, and we can do it again. Then they’ll get it back up and running.

As far as overusing the Internet, I’m guilty as charged. That’s why this piece in Salon “Stop the Internet, I Want to get Off” resonated with me before I began reading. Even when I don’t want to use the Internet, I inadvertently do. I log on to do one thing—such as check my e-mail. Then I spot a news story and it hyperlinks to another news story, and then I remember I wanted to see the new Britney Spears video so I watch that and then I remember I still have to get to my e-mail. But why don’t I stop by Facebook real quick first. When I arrive on the cyber-social scene, I find many of my friends have posted fascinating links that I simply must check out. Before I know it, I’ve lost two hours when I only wanted to sacrifice two minutes.

The Salon article introduces a new (free!) application for Macs only (sorry PC users) that allows you to turn your Internet off. It’s appropriately called Freedom. You tell the application not to let you online for an hour or two or five, and it’ll do that very thing. Only rebooting your computer will let you back online before the time is up. I’ve gladly downloaded Freedom but have yet to use it. I’ll test it out soon and let you know what I think. I already love the concept, and this is going to help me sharpen my “life without Internet” skills for the day it all goes down.

Freedom is an application that disables networking on an Apple computer for up to eight hours at a time. Freedom will free you from the distractions of the internet, allowing you time to code, write, or create. At the end of your selected offline period, Freedom re-enables your network, restoring everything as normal.

Download Freedom Here

Picking Letters for the President

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Hold everything! I have found my dream job: Director of the White House Office of Correspondence. There is an insightful piece in today’s NY Times about the current holder of this position, Mike Kelleher, and how he goes about sifting through thousands of letters and selects the few that President Obama will actually read (and sometimes write a response to!). Here’s a snippet from the article:

He [Kelleher] chooses 10 letters, which are slipped into a purple folder and put in the daily briefing book that is delivered to President Obama at the White House residence. Designed to offer a sampling of what Americans are thinking, the letters are read by the president, and he sometimes answers them by hand, in black ink on azure paper.

15th-Century E-mail

Monday, April 20th, 2009

A lovely woman named Jen came to my reading two weeks ago and found me on Facebook afterwards. She sent me this gem of a YouTube clip:

Weekend Letter-Writing Round Up

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Spring has sprung! It was a gorgeous, well-deserved weekend here in Philadelphia. I hope the same was true of every elsewhere in the country. It was a very productive weekend for me in many ways. Not the least of which were the three letters I wrote:

Friday – I wrote to my former boss and good friend Zazel. She was my first boss in a career job. We worked at Country Living Gardener together. She was the Lifestyle editor and I was her trusty assistant. When the magazine folded–a year and a half after I started working—she and I had lunch together every day until we found other jobs. We got along that well!

Saturday – Yesterday I wrote to my other cousin Kate. I have two! Kate lives in Minneapolis, and I don’t see her nearly as often as I’d like. We were very close when we were young. Kate showed me the book Are you There God, It’s me Margaret? as she had a copy, and she was the one who broke it to me that I was destine to have this thing called a period someday. I guess you are always somewhat indebted to the person who told you that . . .

Sunday – Today I wrote to my friend Erica. She moved a few months ago from Miami to Dallas, and we haven’t been able to catch each other since the big change. I’m dying to know the difference—of which there are many I’m sure—between the two cities.

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, and I’ve vowed to write one letter each day. Also, please check out the essay contest I’m hosting with

To Whom it May Concern

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Today I write the first of three Unsent letters I’ll be sending this month. Unsent letters are the ultimate in therapy for me. It’s when you’ve said as much as you can say to a person, but you still have more to say. After a while it’s best not to actually involve the person anymore either because they A) Don’t see things your way and compromise isn’t an option (sometimes it just isn’t) or B) They’ve been clear about how they feel and it is what it is.

Today I write to a man I dated a while back. In my book Note to Self I give him the pseudonym Jeremy and go into great detail about our brief but impactful relationship. A handful of things happened between us following the writing of that chapter, but they have since ended once and for all. There is no bitterness between us. It was a classic case of me wanting to be with him exclusively and him not wanting that. We were both very honest about how we felt, and that was refreshing. We welcomed each other to say whatever we had to. I’ve had the chance to see him since but have chosen not to because I find him—what’s the word—irresistible. I recently read that the non-textbook definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That resonated deep within me. And that’s exactly what I’d be doing if I saw him again. I would get all dressed up with the hope that Maybe this time he’ll change his mind.

So I’m writing (but not sending) a letter to tell him that very thing. I’m telling him that I miss him sometimes, and I wish I could snap my fingers and put a purely platonic air between us. In addition to being really good at making out we also had a very nice (and rare I think) conversational volley going. We got together for brunch once and it lasted five hours because we had so much to say. I’ve wanted to know how he is and hear his take on our new president and the recession madness for a while now. It’s still unwise for me though. My butterflies flutter uncontrollably at the mere though of him. I hope this isn’t always the case. I hope the universe puts me in his path for afternoon coffee and catch up with an old friend—on a day when there is no risk of pleasure inevitably followed by pain.

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, and I’ve vowed to write one letter each day. Also, please check out the essay contest I’m hosting with

Dear Mr. or Ms. Producer

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

I forgot to wish everyone a happy tax day in my earlier blog post. Happy tax day everyone! This day also marks the half-month mark. I’m gonna keep going with this letter-a-day thing. . .

Today I am writing a letter to—don’t laugh—the producer of a reality TV show. Yes, I’m sending in an audition tape. The person producing my tape suggested I write a letter, read it aloud, and he’ll provide the compelling visual. I love the idea of writing / reading a letter because it’s so—me! I’m not going to say which TV show it is because I don’t want to jinx my chances—even though I already know it’s unlikely to happen. This is not something I have my heart set on. It’s just a quirky idea that I’ve decided to go with. If the audition reel comes out in actuality the way I have it in my head then I’ll post it on YouTube. At least then it wouldn’t have been a complete waste of time.

Wish me luck!

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, and I’ve vowed to write one letter each day. Also, please check out the essay contest I’m hosting with