Tag Archives: Jen Zarcone

Change: Love the noun. Hate the verb.

I suck at change. As much as I love everyone to think that I am this easy going, adventurous person, the truth is: I suck at it. I avoid it like gay men avoid carbs between April and September.

I was in a 12 year relationship with someone who I am pretty sure is a psychopath that would have been a nice memory and a learning experience if I left him after a year. When I graduated from college I stayed in Upstate New York for 5 years after to stay with my college boyfriend (and we all know how that turned out). When I finally did move to New York City, I threw up every day for 2 months (meanwhile, I have never been so thin).

Once I did settle in Brooklyn, I got an apartment and have been in it for 18 YEARS (in the neighborhood that my parents and grandparents are from). I have worked for the same company for 12. But I have been living under this delusion that because I don’t like to eat the same lunch every day that I am the great embracer of change. I am that annoying person who is always quoting the clichés, “Change is the only thing you can count on.” “You always regret the things you don’t do.” Hypocrite!

So now I am making anoverdue self induced change. I am moving out of the city (not too far, just an hour, let’s not get totally insane) and I am buying my first house. Of course as soon as the offer was accepted, my dream job at my company has become available. My reaction? Crippling depression. How would I possibly move my life, my way of life, fix up a house AND start a new job at the same time? Back of the hand to the forehand – woe is me.  A cute new house by the ocean AND dream job? What a nightmare.  

So I have made the decision to embrace change.

A very smart woman and inspired meditation teacher Sally Kempton tells a story that has always stuck with me, and I will try to visualize this as the next few months unfold. It is the story of a town in Switzerland where everyone would jump into the graceful green river Aare and ride the river down into the next town. She noticed that for those that got right into the flow of the current, the journey was easy and fun. Those who held back from the center of the river, maybe out of fear, maybe out of ignorance of the help the river offered, never got very far. They would bang into overhanging trees and rocks and reeds that jutted out from the shore, ending up tangled and stuck or bruised and worn out. I have tried tangled and bruised, I would like to try easy and fun. So I am trying to trust the current and let it take me where I want to go.  

Does anyone know where I can get a good lifejacket?



The Heartbeat At My Feet

Last week I got that dreaded email from a friend – the one with just his dog’s name in the subject line. I didn’t have to open it, I knew what it said. Chloe was gone.  And then I had to cry at my desk and my co-workers, who don’t need a lot of convincing think I’m crazy.

I have a dog named Lyle who is about to be 14. At least once a day I lean into his ear and whisper “Don’t die Lyle.”  So far it’s working.  But I know one day it will be my turn to send out that email with just “Lyle” in the subject line. My friends are torn between setting up a mobile unit outside my house for 24 hour surveillance and just putting me in a medically induced coma when it actually happens.

Me and Lyle

It has been just me and Lyle for a couple of years now. I wake up and he is the first thing I see (and since I live in NYC I immediately get dressed and take him for a walk before anything else). I walk in the door and he is waiting for me, always thrilled to see me. I fall asleep to the sound of his snoring.  In relationships over the years some men get it, some don’t. My longest one would every once in a while threaten – “We’re going to have to talk about that dog.” He knew better than to ever give me the “It’s me or the dog” speech because he knew he would in fact be dumped for a dog.

I know I get a lot of eye rolling and even pity because he is such a central part of my life. Many people think that I think he is my child. Believe me; I don’t think he is a child. I am quite positive he is a dog. I don’t dress him up, have him barking into the outgoing answering machine message or sit at the dinner table with me. I don’t want a kid. I have plenty of great kids in my life and I love being with them and I love when they go home.  I like dogs. And to treat them like they are human is to do them a disservice and would make you (and them) miserable. Dogs have different biological and emotional needs and they need to be treated like dogs. If your dog is bred to herd, he needs to herd; if he’s bred to hunt, he has to hunt something – not sit on a leopard print pillow eating chicken flavored cupcakes watching Animal Planet (Lyle prefers NPR anyway).

I could offer the pat explanations as to why my relationship with Lyle is so important. But to say that he is a good companion or that it he is loyal and faithful couldn’t do it justice. Something much deeper happens when you share your life with another creature when there are no words spoken. But how do you articulate the wordless comfort that only he could give when my oldest friend died and only Lyle was able to show me that there is still joy to be found in living in the moment? That a lick on the face and the feeling of the soft fur of his head can make me feel tethered to the world on days when I feel like a speck of dust in this giant city? When you live in 600 square feet with a dog it is one of the most private relationships you can have.  He is a witness to my life and I to his, and for now, we are a pack of two.

Does that make me pathetic? To some people I’m sure; but any love generated in this world is valuable even if there are not two humans involved.  Meanwhile, does anyone know if you need a permit to park a mobile unit on the street in New York?

Meet Ellis, My GPS Boyfriend

When you’re single and you love to travel, you pretty much have three options.

1) Wait:  to find people to travel with – usually going where they want to go or worse, go with a tour group of chatty, dull, fanny pack wearers.

2)  Never go anywhere.

 3) Travel alone. 

When presented with these options, I choose number 3. So I travel alone a lot. It took a while to get the nerve to travel alone. And though I still dread it a little, I have never gone on my own and regretted it.  

I dated a freshly divorced guy last year and I told him that I was driving across Utah by myself to hike all the awesome National Parks. He was amazed. He said, “What about when you see something totally cool? You have to have someone next to you to slap and say, ‘Isn’t that totally cool?” And I curse him every time I am traveling alone now and see something totally cool and think of that. 

But the truth is – you don’t. Is it nice to have someone to slap? Sure. Am I not going to go see totally cool things because of that? Hell no. Take a picture. Post it on Facebook and say, “Isn’t that totally cool?”

Sunset on the Big Island, Hawaii

Am I going to miss this because I don't have someone to slap?

But the reality is I am never truly alone. I love to drive.  So when driving around new places alone, it helps to have GPS.  The voice I have chosen on my GPS is a man with an Australian accent. His name is Ellis (I didn’t name him, Garmin did). I picture him as a cross between the rugged manliness of Russell Crowe with the sensitivity and dimples (and six pack) of Alex O’Loughlin from Hawaii 5-0. We vacation together often. He is an excellent travel companion. He never raises his voice or has to stop to pee. We like the same radio stations.  He always wants to go exactly where I am going.  

Not to say we don’t have our problems. We have had our arguments. Who can forget the trip from Durango to Santa Fe when he INSISTED that we take the main highway to Albuquerque and back track to Santa Fe? And no matter how many times I tried to go another way he kept bringing me back to the highway. He may not take a tone with me or use adult language, but we both know what he really means when he says, “Recalculating.” We almost went into couples counseling after that trip.

 Recently on a trip to Hawaii, I thought Ellis died. One night the device went off and would not turn back on. I was panicked. I felt lost and truly alone, my future as black as his screen.  It was dark and raining and I had just gotten to this part of the island had no idea where I was. And I thought, “How did I become so dependent on this invisible man?” I’ve had decade long relationships that were less co-dependent.

 But I held the “on” button for a long time and he came back to me. So we are together again. And until I have someone with me that I want to slap, Ellis and I do just fine.


I meditate. I drink green tea. I light candles. And I still want to smack someone.

Recently, I was at one of those trendy food trucks waiting to buy one (one!) chocolate chip cookie. I was behind one other woman in line and the cute, 20 year old, overly tattooed food truck chick stuck her head out the window and said “Who’s waiting for cookies?” And we both cried in unison “Me!” So she turned to the woman in front of me and said, “There are only three left, how many do you want?” The woman said, “I’ll take three.”

Seriously. Three. Not “Two – to leave one for the nice lady behind me.” Three!!  And then came that old familiar feeling. My face got hot, my chest got tight, my hands shook, I pulled my favorite tool from the snarky toolbox and said “Really?!” I stormed off, no doubt looking like a crazy person, but I wouldn’t have been responsible for my actions if I stood there (which in my mind involved grabbing the three cookies from her and shoving them all in my mouth at once ala the Cookie Monster).

It wasn’t because I wasn’t getting a cookie. Lord knows I don’t need a cookie. It’s because I am constantly amazed by people’s lack of awareness of the world around them; the lack of empathy; the self importance. And it pisses me off.

We are always talking about finding peace and tranquility, letting go of rage, and anger management techniques. I try all of the techniques; I am a huge fan of meditation and highly recommend it.  I’m not talking about getting angry out of impatience or jealousy. It is injustice that gets me going. But I think it’s justified. The greatest accomplishments of this world were achieved because people got angry enough to insist on a change – the American Revolution, equal rights, the Arab Spring – do you think any of these  important changes would ever have happened if people just sat around going, “Well now that is a just a darn shame.” No! People stood up! And yelled! And whether it is civil rights, or an unsafe street corner or the self involved jackoff knowingly taking the last cookie on the food truck line, people will remain deaf to injustice unless a few voices are raised.

Maybe you are reading this and thinking, “Jen is merely justifying her bad attitude with this social justice angle.”

And maybe I am – so what?! You want to make something of it??!! Intellectually I know that when I get angry, my heart rate increases, I have been known to yell and throw things and get in all kinds of trouble. But I do think there is another benefit to anger. It’s healthy. Let it out. Rid yourself of what is bothering you. If you don’t and you keep it bottled up inside, that bad energy has to go somewhere and it turns into migraines and ulcers and tumors.

Buddha, by most accounts the most laid back dude of all time once said, “Anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I am a big fan, Buddha. Love your work. But a girl can dream.

Oh and by the way, I was still hanging out in the food truck area for a while, and that cute food truck chick came over to me with a cookie sheet full of fresh out of the oven chocolate chip cookies and gave me one for free and told me she understood why I got so mad. That cookie tasted especially sweet. And think of the calories I burned storming off!


Want to start meditating? Join me for the Chopra Center August 21 Day Meditation Challenge! It’s a great way to learn how and get in the habit of a daily meditation.

I Would Trade All My Gays for Neil Patrick Harris.

As I watched the Tony Awards Sunday night, I said it again: I would trade all my gays to be friends with Neil Patrick Harris.

And I have a lot of gays.

It started in high school when every guy I fell for turned out to be gay and hasn’t really waned in the past 25 years or so. I used to think that I turned them, but later came to realize, that like a moth to a flame (pun intended) I just attract them.

Recently, I have tried to put a stop to it. When my motherly work friend grew tired of getting excited each time I mentioned my night out with “Steven” or “David” or “Morgan” only to be saddened to find out that they were gay men, she sat me down and said, “Darling, you’re shopping for milk at the hardware store.” It was then that I decided that I could not take on any new gays. So now, when I meet a new one, I politely tell them that I am not taking on any new gays at this time – but they are welcome to fill out an application and we will keep it on file and they will be notified in the event of an opening for an interview.

And they are all close, old friends who – as long as there isn’t a Jonathan Adler warehouse sale – are always there for me. And they like to go to shows, try new restaurants, help you pick out outfits, and motivate you to work out because “If you don’t, you’ll be fat and no one will ever love you.”

But I would trade them all for NPH. As completely hilarious as he is playing it totally straight on “How I Met Your Mother, “he played himself so well when he hosted the Tony’s. The opening number was Legen….. wait for it……dary.  But, the next night, I turned on my local PBS station to watch a documentary on service dogs and their physically challenged owners and I immediately knew the voice. That’s right. NPH.  And don’t even get me started on Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog  – he even works with Joss Whedon, (creator of the greatest TV show ever televised, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that’s another blog post).

So, I decided that I was going to stalk him (only online, I am far too lazy to actually stalk him in real life). Okay, I followed him on Twitter. He used the word “kudos” 3 times in a week; he has not one, but a matching set of gaybies; he isn’t even remotely sarcastic, ironic or funny. At one point, in all sincerity, he said that he was “super duper happy.” Really?

My gays are so much funnier than he is in real life. None of them have more than one child. I think I’ll keep ‘em. But don’t tell them; I want to keep them on their toes.