Failures

Life

In starting this blog, my intention was to write weekly. It felt important to cement rules to this venture if I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment (hello Type-A). That goal has already collapsed. I’m not too broken up about it and instead, I’m working on embracing the failure that belies writing.

I’m not especially adept at accepting failure, though I am a highly accomplished quitter. My infamous quitting ability is analogous to my fear of failure – you can’t fail at something to which you’ve already said “no thanks”. 

I’ve always been aware of this character flaw. Over coffee, I casually mentioned to a close friend the different ratios of steamed milk to foam in a cappuccino versus a latte. “Why do you know that?” she asked. “Oh, I was a barista for a year,” I said. This, piled on top of all the other sojourns I peppered into conversations, and my friend had enough. “Honestly, what else have you done, Hannah?” In short: a lot and a little.

Off the top of my head, I’ve dabbled in – and promptly quit – the following:

  • Ballet
  • Horseback Riding
  • Brownies
  • Irish Step Dancing – but I’m easily convinced to revive my short-lived career every St. Patrick’s Day
  • Cello
  • Clarinet – twice
  • Basketball
  • Tennis – though I’ve picked up the racquet in adulthood
  • Piano
  • Voice Lessons and various choirs
  • Guitar
  • Track and Field
  • French National Honors Society
  • Sailing Club – at UW-Madison which I also sort of quit by transferring out
  • Book Clubs
  • A handful of part-time jobs
  • Sorority Life – but who am I kidding, I never really participated, to begin with
  • The Marathon – one accomplished attempt and two attempts that I quit. The jury is out for my 2019 attempt

In each case, when I felt the painful twinge of failure, I stopped. 

Now, I’m working on staying power. I most recently practiced facing failure last week while visiting Paris with my mom. I have studied French since my freshman year of high school (though, as noted, quit French National Honors Society). I minored in the language in college. I studied abroad in Paris. I listen to French podcasts and read French novellas.

Despite all that, my French is horrible. In the past, because I know it’s horrible, it has kept me from trying and failing. Most exchanges in my beloved second-language were brief, mumbled, or censored.

Maybe it’s a sign of maturity and acceptance of my own shortcomings, but on this trip, I just went for it. I had conversations with shop owners. I used verbs improperly, laughing and trying to correct myself (laughing or smiling are my other French hang-ups I avoided in the past. I felt that any time I acted too overtly happy they would peg me for the American dullard that I am). I worked with several shop girls to find my size in these adorable pajamas that I will link because they are very cute and very French and I am very proud that I used my middling conversation skills to locate a pair in a shop four arrondissements away. 

Buying a new pair of sunglasses in the glorious BHV (evidently, shopping was the main goal of this trip), I discussed different frames and became absolutely tongue-tied trying to say “polarisées”. The vendeuse politely corrected me so I could hear and repeat the native pronunciation.

When le crêpier refused to break my ten euro note, holding my warm crêpe à la cannelle hostage, my mom and I laughed as she dug change from the bottom of her bag. I asked for him to hold on for a moment while scrambled through the foreign coins, examining them on my palm. I stupidly threw in some French exclamations: “Donc“, “Alors“, and the tutting noise you hear mamans make at their children. He laughed with us, handed over my crêpe and bid us adieu. Or – more literally – bonne soirée, but you follow.

In each case, it would have been easier to shy away or ask if they spoke English. But by giving myself permission to try and fail, I interacted with more people and learned more (and now, with my rekindled love of the French language, Max has to entertain my dream to move to Paris once again). I’m going to give myself that same permission here on this blog. My made-up deadlines can be lax and I can fail to meet them. As long as I keep coming back to write then I have not yet quit. Which means I can continue to learn from my failures and love writing. Toujours et encore.

The Boss

Life

Preface: I am in no way an expert on the American historical figure, William M. Tweed. Nor am I really even a fanatic. The following mini-lesson is a loosely pieced together google search laced with my memory of junior year American History class.

William Tweed – nicknamed Boss Tweed – was the leader of Tammany Hall, a corrupt New York Democratic organization operating in the height of its power from the late 1860s to the early 1870s. For the DiCaprio fans, recall Gangs of New York and the politician trying to infiltrate his control within the Five Points – that was Tweed. Stuffing the ballot boxes with fraudulent votes, flagrant cronyism, bribery, embezzlement – Tweed was rife with ill-gotten power.  The man’s legacy has become the caricature of the nefarious politician. 

With the brief history lesson complete, let’s fast forward one hundred and twenty years later and move about eight hundred miles west. There, in the suburbs of Chicago, a couple was elated to finally have a little girl after a procession of three boys. They dressed her in lace and bows. They gave her dolls and lambs. Finally, a sweet little girl. 

Allegedly, she ripped the bows from her hair and toddled around the house, exacting her rule over the family. The lamb (stuffed with a metal music box) was allegedly used as the strong-arm man of the operation. Those who did not submit to her will would get whacked by the lamb. Allegedly. 

They nicknamed her Boss Tweed.

Anyone trying to name a blog knows its challenges. For starters, you have to grapple with the fact that if you want to write, the easiest way to do it is through the denigrated medium of “blog”. Then, you have to think of a name that encapsulates the message of the site. Now there is a whole slew of somewhat ridiculous – albeit popular – blog names. Especially for female writers. Cupcakes. Sequins. Everybody’s Girl. Wanderlust. Blonde. Goop. I love and subscribe to all of these sites – when Gwenyth tells me to take ashwagandha as a daily supplement, I take ashwagandha. Yet it felt inauthentic to model my writing after those creators or their chosen titles.

Instead, I chose something that made me laugh. My parents selected a manipulative, fat, infamous politician from the 1860s as a cute namesake for their long-awaited, towheaded daughter. Of all the nicknames to give to a bossy little girl, they picked Boss Tweed. That’s really funny and weird to me; it is indicative of my family and the way I was raised. It felt like a good title. Max will tell you little has changed; that I still am the Boss Tweed I was at age two. I’m not sure if he’s saying it lovingly, but if I’m concerned about authenticity I may as well embrace it. 

So here we are.  The domain was free and I needed a name.  The Boss Tweed. To those of you who are earnestly trying to research Boss Tweed and wound up here, I apologize.