Lisa Kogan's reasons for hope
Illustration: John Ritter
It's probably good that I'm not rich. Money, it seems to me, sends people in one of three directions: It accelerates an innate inclination to be generous, or it accelerates a kamikaze inclination to party with the Olsen twins, or it sucks away your sense of purpose and produces a desperate need to eat nothing but those little white cheddar Cheez-It crackers while staring blankly at an endless cycle of Will & Grace reruns. I like to think that if I were rich, I'd be the kind of person who looks at the world and decides to fund cancer research and build schools and feed the hungry, and save whoever needs saving, but there's an excellent chance I'd be the kind of person who looks at the world and decides never to get out of bed again. In fact, despite my very real (and utterly inconvenient) need to earn a living, I'm still the kind of person who leans toward the whole Cheez-It thing.

To begin with, I have a slight tendency toward depression (think Sylvia Plath listening to a freshly downloaded acoustic set from Leonard Cohen). And when this particular brain chemistry is confronted with the incredibly unsettling knowledge that people no longer work like dogs to get ahead, they work like dogs just to stay where they are, well, a girl starts needing a few good reasons to get up, put on a little lipstick, and venture out. But it's no secret that it's not pretty out there. Food prices are soaring, the housing market is plummeting, the middle class is disappearing, the climate is changing, and Madonna is touring. This is all the more reason to keep a soothing thought or two close at hand. Someday soon, I promise, we can sit down together and come up with a breathtaking bucket list that finally commits us to skydiving with Morgan Freeman just as we've secretly prayed we would, but today I'm offering a different kind of list.

Good reasons to put on a little lipstick and venture out (or at least put on clean pajamas and raise your window shade a couple of inches):
  • Junior high is just one long daisy chain of nonstop mean, and you have officially survived it. That's right, my friend, you may have to face locusts, drought, and World War III, but you can now go forth secure in the understanding that seventh grade is over. You get to wake up each and every morning without worrying that Arleen Posner got the same Frye boots as you. You will never have to read Beowulf, be groped by a 13-year-old reeking of his father's Aqua Velva, or feather your bangs again. The enormity of this revelation must not be underestimated.
  • Javier Bardem walks among us.
  • My delightfully decadent friend Stephen Whitlock recently discovered a recipe for bacon ice cream (, and get this—the first step involves candying the bacon! Let's all take a moment of hushed reverence to contemplate this. First came the polio vaccine, then Neil Armstrong made a giant leap for mankind, and today we actually have the technology to combine pork fat with butter fat, salty with sweet, crunchy with creamy. I firmly believe that what chicken soup does for the common cold, bacon ice cream will one day do for the premenstrual woman. 
  • One word: Spanx. We can now have our scoop of bacon ice cream and wear a clingy Diane Von Furstenberg jersey wrap dress too.

Keep Reading: More reasons to get up and go out

  • Intelligent, witty, creative women appear to be on the rise. I like men. I like men so much that I even had a baby with one of 'em, but the baby is now 5, and it's nice to be able to show her some brilliantly talented females—Rachel Maddow (MSNBC host), Mindy Kaling (playwright, producer, actress, The Office), Janice Lee (her debut novel, The Piano Teacher, hits stores in January, and it's an absolute knockout)—who are very good at what they do. As role models go, Dora the Explorer only takes a mom so far. Besides, check out Dora's expressionless little brow—I'm pretty sure it's coursing with Botox.
  • Ordinarily, I would not include houseguests on my list of bright spots, but Mabel, the dog I am currently babysitting, is causing me to rethink my position. Mabel suffers from a chronic greeting disorder that manifests itself as follows: I leave the room for 10, maybe 12 seconds. Upon reentry, Mabel welcomes me with a level of enthusiasm usually reserved for soldiers returning from three years in a POW camp—a one-dog mariachi band of pure, unmitigated joy. Unless my boyfriend and our daughter sense that I'm carrying a pizza, my return from nine or 10 hours at the office rarely merits more than a mumbled "They never came to fix the dishwasher." There's something to be said for a bit of good old-fashioned, uncomplicated affection, even when it comes from a shedding, slightly incontinent 14-year-old beagle.
  • Tony Soprano is either dead or eating onion rings, but Don Draper is alive and mesmerizing every week on Mad Men.
  • You know those little stain remover pens that everybody keeps in their bags and desk drawers? I couldn't care less about them. Life is inherently messy, and I accept the odd spot of cranberry juice as part of God's great plan for me and the vast majority of my T-shirts. But the other night at our local diner when Julia accidently catapulted her chocolate milk shake across our booth, there was my pal Valerie, dry cleaner's pen, ice water, and paper napkins at the ready. Val is just one of those intuitive, insightful, ironic, wildly generous, deeply adorable women who, despite working two jobs, is quietly, unequivocally there for the people she loves. If you need a complex carbohydrate, she's got the whole grain pasta salad. If you need a sock puppet, she's got the glue gun. If you need a boost, she's got the ceramic vase brimming with sunflowers. The woman once went on vacation, and I was absolutely bereft. Two weeks without Valerie Soll feels like a house without books.
You see, Javier Bardem, bacon ice cream, and all the mad men in the world don't change the hard truth that plans frequently fail and dreams have been known to dim. But come the morning, there are your friends offering sweet salvation and good gossip and the occasional glass of Sauvignon Blanc with lunch. If ever there was a reason for hope, I think maybe that's it. 

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