Some days I look through old posts, reminding myself of posts that I’ve written that I like and that I should link to. Often, this process serves to let me procrastinate writing while pretending to be engaged in writing. If I were a body builder, this would be me looking in the mirror instead of lifting weights.

Yesterday I was trolling for posts, and I remembered this one, about hiring a babysitter. I never link to it because I can’t read it. I get physically ill. It was a short, stinging moment during an absolutely terrible time in my life. But a part of me likes that sting. I’m the kind of girl that picks scabs off just to feel like I’m alive.

So you can imagine that a blog post about how to sell is not rocking my world. It’s true that I’ve been thinking a lot about creating more stability in my life. But it’s also true that in the recent post about what I learned from sales guys, I should have told you that when I met one of those sales guys on a plane, I went to a hotel and had sex with him. I had never had a one-night stand and I thought I should know what it’s like. And it was terrible. I like picking scabs, but it’s very controlled. It’s hard to control a one-night stand, and it was, actually, very scary and not fun at all.

I want this blog to be somewhere in between a one-night stand with a sales guy and a five-point list of sales tips. In fact, I want my life to be that way as well.

A few days ago I flew to LA to get my haircut. I know that sounds crazy, but remember that I live in the middle of Wisconsin. Also, my best friend, Sharon, is in LA, and she owns a hair salon, and she’s been cutting my hair for 15 years. Before I was her free-haircut-friend, a cut and color with her was about $300. So I feel like the plane ticket, together with the free haircut, is somehow still a bargain.

I go there on a day the salon is closed, and we do my hair and then spend the day hanging out in Santa Monica talking.

At lunch, outside, with cars driving by, I tell Sharon I need a break. I need a vacation. I have been working absolutely insane hours for the last five years. I traveled so much that when I get on a plane now, I have panic attacks.

She said, “What would you do on vacation?”

Me: “I’d probably wake up, take the kids to school, go to the gym, write a blog post, and then work on whatever company I was percolating. And then pick the kids up at school.”

So I don’t really want a vacation. I want breathing room. But not a vacation. To be honest, I still work at night. I am not sure why. I think because I’m interested in what people are doing. In what I’m doing. I don’t want to miss anything because everything is still fun.

I think working at night is like picking scabs. It feels lively to solve some problems before I go to bed. Or create some. (Same way with pulling a scab, right?)

After lunch, Sharon and I drove to Culver City, to get my eyebrows done. I usually go to NYC for eyebrows. But I don’t want to travel anymore, so I don’t want to have a hair person in LA and an eyebrow person in NY. So, as a step toward simplifying my life, I did my eyebrows in LA.

I liked the place immediately because there was a whole display of gray nail polish and I know gray is the it-color for fall, and I know no one is wearing it yet in Madison, so I had high hopes for my eyebrows.

But they are uneven. Sharon tried to tell me they were okay, but good friends, really, don’t do that. So in the end, she didn’t. And I’m going back to NY next time.

I know you’ll say, “Just find someone else in LA.” It’s not bad advice. In fact, this is what Sharon said.

But I’m upset about the eyebrows, about how it turned out. It’s hard to make changes, even if the changes could make my life more calm. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that the change is too difficult to make. For eyebrows, for a blog, for a career.

106 replies
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  1. Holly
    Holly says:

    Wow. I won’t even pretend to understand how flying to LA to get your haircut is not excessive and extremely self-centered. On so many levels. And adding the whole eyebrows in NY just made it laughable. I normally learn something valuable in most of your posts, but you lost me on this one, Penelope.

  2. Bill Brent
    Bill Brent says:

    Penelope, I have enjoyed your blog for the past couple of months. This is my first comment. Without fail, the reader comments are as revealing and enjoyable as your posts.

    What a striking collection of observations on change and pain. Pain is the price for leading a dynamic life. If human lives weren’t sloppy, awkward, excessive, and contradictory at times, I think we’d be dead inside … and probably extinct!

    BTW, Sharon sounds like a great friend. If you can afford to spend quality time on a regular basis with someone that important to you, then more power to you both. Who can really place a price on that, anyhow? There is so much more going on there than the free haircut.


  3. Modern Street
    Modern Street says:

    Enjoyed this post, although I thought it quite outlandish. About those “ho” comments though.. I think people are not being honest, when in actuality, most men dream there were more women like you out there.

  4. Lee
    Lee says:

    All you sheeeple that believe PT’s bullshit need to wake up and use your friggin’ brains. This is a woman who isn’t playing with a full deck and who will say anything to get traffic. She’s a legend in her own mind.

    For a woman who didn’t have enough money to pay her light bill a few months back, she sure has enough money now to jet around the country to get hair removed.

    Are the lives of you sheeple so pathetic and dismal that you’ll hang on to every word this “professional career guru” pulls out of her ass?

    If you guys are the next wave of this country’s future business professionals, then God help us all.

  5. Adam
    Adam says:

    “I think working at night is like picking scabs. It feels lively to solve some problems before I go to bed. Or create some. (Same way with pulling a scab, right?)”

    You might need to watch this one a bit. Sounds like a thinly veiled workaholics’ rationalization to me. Good for productivity but bad for the soul (and relationships).

  6. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I can’t resist this comment thanks to the beginning of the title of this post (This is what it looks like …) and ‘This is what it looks like’ when Penelope goes out on a limb – “Cat in a tree. I get a ladder. Grab my cat. Ladder falls. Neighbor finds me yelling help in the dark, hanging from a branch, cat on my back.”
    Also I like the line “If I were a body builder, this would be me looking in the mirror instead of lifting weights.” However I wouldn’t consider it procrastination. I think it’s necessary to make comparisons, notice trends and results, and learn by reflection what works and what doesn’t work.

  7. Pen
    Pen says:

    I’m all for “whatever works and is mutually agreed upon by all involved,” so I’m not writing this from a lock-step view of what should constitute a relationship or a marriage.

    But reading it the way it was written, it sounds like you had an impulsive, one-night stand with someone you don’t know, while at the same time being engaged to the farmer.

    If there is more back-story that wasn’t implied (you and the farmer discussed this ahead of time; health stuff was checked; all parties were comfortable and secure with what was going on), then my comment doesn’t apply. But if not, then it seems like very wrong cheating.


  8. Leftcoast
    Leftcoast says:

    Ok ….. I’m having problems with the “I live in Wisconsin and have to get my hair done in LA and my eyebrows done in New York” think. And so soon after a post on the need to simplify your life.

    Part of me thinks your joking with your readers and the other part thinks it’s this month’s sign that the apocalypse has hit Wisconsin.

    As one who lives with three women who manage to exist while getting their hair and brows done locally (albeit not in Wisconsin) I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that you live dangerously and seek out someone in Madison whose work you can live with or get just a tiny bit less obsessive about your looks and a whole lot more obsessed about your carbon footprint.

    But hey, I’m a guy, what do I know? I choose shoes based on how they feel rather than how they look and had no idea gray was the in color for nails this year.

  9. Ayelet
    Ayelet says:

    Wow lots of lively comments! Sabrina, you are not allowed to babysit. Penelope, my favorite old post of yours is the one about Sofia Coppola, I read it when I need to remind myself to think positively about my own future success. I think you should sell an ebook of all your posts and articles in date chrono order with an index by category. I’d pay $30 for that.

    • Sabrina
      Sabrina says:

      My point was: anybody with a language barrier, or actually, any ‘concrete thinker’ could have easily interpreted the message as this guy. I would not have left a baby alone,but it still doesn’t make sense to ask for bringing a sleeping baby to a coffeeshop.

      It was a valid question. Just dismissing it with a ‘you just don’t understand’ doesn’t help me, but thanks for acknowledge it anyways.

  10. Mkap
    Mkap says:

    Have you heard of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)? It is something I think about when I can’t say no or take a break because I don’t want to miss something. Vacations are important to recharge, so don’t worry about what you are missing out on.

  11. Neville
    Neville says:

    This Is What It Looks Like To Have A Hard Time Making A Change

    You’re slipping (even for you) Penelope. This headline doesn’t even make grammatical sense.

  12. jrandom42
    jrandom42 says:

    Okay, your week of posts on Asperger Syndrom in the workplace turned into only 2 posts. I know sometimes that events intervene, but is this all you got? Seems pretty incomplete and fragmentary to me.

    And another question: Who gave you your diagnosis? Your therapist, neurologist, or yourself?

  13. Grace
    Grace says:

    I think this IS a post about Asperger’s. Can’t deal with change so you fly all over the country for esthetics? Sounds logical to someone with Asperger’s. And when things are super stressful, there is an even greater need to hold on to that which is safe and familiar, no matter what the cost. I don’t think Penelope was looking for advice about where she could go in WI to get her eyebrows done. She’s already been burned once and that just reinforces her need to go back to her old stylist.

    On another note, this post was kind of all over the place and the connection to careers was a bit of a stretch.

    On yet another note, it is hilarious when people make comments saying that they don’t read this blog or care about Penelope and then they write a long criticism where they bring up every detail about her past (which they supposedly know nothing about!) Don’t kid yourself people – you’re hooked on this frenetic little blog, just like the rest of us.

    Get some sleep, Penelope.

  14. Marsha Keeffer
    Marsha Keeffer says:

    This hit such a nerve for me. I’ve got a test to take, am putting it off, and the fear just gets worse. I’ll set the date tomorrow and break the cycle. Change can be tough and it helps me to hear that from you.

  15. Frank
    Frank says:

    This post sums up what’s good about this blog: it’s a regular reminder that one can be “successful” while being an utterly detestable, self-absorbed human being.

  16. caller unknown
    caller unknown says:

    I know all about making major changes, and from what I’ve learned you just have to keep trying. In my experience I couldn’t stick with making changes, but each time I tried, it got a little better and easier.

    Unfortunately people make commitments like going on diets and so forth – they don’t meet their goals, and then they try less and less each time.

    If you make good on your intentions, who cares how long it takes you to do it – as long as you do one day? Every time I decide to correct something in my life I just say “I might not get it right the first ten times, but I’ll gain something with each effort, and learn more about how to make the change a reality – then it will stick”. Its the continuous effort that counts.

    Can’t remember where I read it, but someone gave the definition of character and it was something like “character is defined by someone who can make a plan of action, and a year later is still continuing with the plan of action”.

  17. chris
    chris says:

    I can’t believe you were in Santa Monica and didn’t call me. Just for that I’m not going to call you when I go to Madison to, um, visit the birthplace of “The Nation”.

  18. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    This is what it looks like when a blog reader comes across an article in the NY Times online yesterday and this blog comes to mind. So instead of just emailing the link to Penelope, I thought we should all be enlightened and have a good laugh. The article is a fun read.
    New research (pig cognition studies) shows pigs are smarter than we gave them credit. Who knew? A snippet/summary from the article ( ) – “In the current issue of Animal Behaviour, researchers present evidence that domestic pigs can quickly learn how mirrors work and will use their understanding of reflected images to scope out their surroundings and find their food. The researchers cannot yet say whether the animals realize that the eyes in the mirror are their own, or whether pigs might rank with apes, dolphins and other species that have passed the famed "mirror self-recognition test" thought to be a marker of self-awareness and advanced intelligence.”

  19. Susan Roberts
    Susan Roberts says:

    I love the idea of flying to LA to get my hair cut. In fact I did once myself (but also to see Prince in concert while in LA). My hairstylist moved to LA, then back to MPLS and now I can’t afford him. Period. I’ve found (finally) a good hairstylist here.

    Gray nail polish – love it! I have 3 bottles and I’m wearing one of the shades today!


  20. SMM
    SMM says:

    I really like and respect you Penelope, but quit bagging on Wisconsin. I don’t care that you get your hair done on Mars and your wax on Neptune- just don’t blame us that you CHOOSE to obsess about your appearance. Who are you really doing your hair, nails and waxing for? Your kids, the farmer? Or you.

    Another thing- Darlington is not the middle of Wisconsin. Madison maybe- but if you are going to be vain, just don’t. It’s a college town, so all the co-eds are stealing your thunder anyway. Oh wait, gray nail polish! Wow, how did I not see you…

    Come on, you’re better than that.

    I disagree with the other people here, DON’T stop being a coastal elitist. We have a nice little secret here in Wisconsin. We don’t need arrogant people from the coast moving here and telling us how unsophisticated we are. We are getting along nicely with our fresh air, nice people, and beautiful countryside.

    A Wisconsin hick who has a Masters Degree in Architecture, studied part time at Oxford Brookes University, and married to a young gorgeous social worker (who also has a Masters) that could care less if she has on gray nail polish.

    I still really do like and respect you, but kindly please stop insulting the people of Wisconsin. Have we not been nice to you?

  21. rennie
    rennie says:

    I seldom wear nailpolish. In fact, my hands usually look rough because I love gardening and animals. I also do my own eyebrows, when I think of it, that is.

    I resent the implication made above that this is a reflection of my work ethic. The fact is, I’m very good at what I do and my work is spot on. Maybe that’s because my focus is where it should be: what’s really important.

    When I’m ninety and looking back at my life, I’m not going to care whether my eyebrows were slightly crooked one week when I was 40-something. What will really matter will be the human relationships I established and the people I’ve loved.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Rennie, we all wish that the world were a perfect place and that we did not judge each other by looks. But, in fact, we do. And it matters less if you are good at your job than if you LOOK good at your job. Which is why you should have good eyebrows. At least that’s something you can control.

      To say looks do not matter is noble, but it’s delusional. Here’s a post on the topic:


      • rennie
        rennie says:

        Ah, I feel I’ve hit the big time! My comment has elicited a comment…from Penelope, no less:-)

        The truth is, I don’t dispute that we judge each other by our looks. I also agree that looking good on the job is important. However, I argue to what extent. For example, can I be fairly good looking, showered, well-groomed and wear up-to-date clothes? Which I am. Or do I have to be drop dead gorgeous, brows perfectly shaped and wear gray nail polish? Which few women are.

        We all hold admiration toward people who are confident enough to be less than perfect. I know several middle aged women who refuse to color their silver hair and several more who go sans makeup. All are beautiful, strong and well-respected women.

        Actually, I’m hoping your post is simply an allegorical expression of your fear of change and you don’t REALLY fly all the way to LA for a haircut. Or, hopefully, you’re already traveling there for business and figure you can hit the salon as well.

        Because, really, flying to LA just for hair and New York just for brows goes against the simplistic lifestyle you claim to seek from the farm. It also contradicts your desire to spend more time with your kids.

        Stop thinking so hard about life Penelope. Just live and enjoy it. We love you for who you are, not how well your brows are shaped.

  22. God Blogger
    God Blogger says:

    Seriously Penelope!

    I can’t believe that you go to LA to get your hair cut and NY to get your brows waxed! And I thought I was bad when I flew to NY from the West Coast to go shopping.

    I hope air travel stays affordable. It’d be so sad if prices rose — it would stifle our freedom.

  23. Elle
    Elle says:

    If you’re feeling inclined to give a Madison haircut a try, check out Cha Cha on East Mifflin. Go to Jason.

    I’ve been asked by people in New York, Seattle, and Austin where I get my hair cut. He’s wonderful.

  24. Kay Lorraine
    Kay Lorraine says:

    Penelope, you’re getting ready to get married. You met a saleman on a plane and had a one-night stand. And people are primarily concerned about your hair and eyebrows.

    Am I the only one who thinks that this is an odd set of priorities? How did the farmer react to the news of this one-night stand? Hopefully, it happened long ago rather than lately. It’s none of my business, but it might be his business. Or not. You’re right, however, one-night stands are always disappointing. Always. Bummer.

  25. Anne
    Anne says:

    Penelope, what is needed here for you are a few real problems; not just annoyances, but problems. Park the kids with the Farmer, take your blogging talents to Iraq or Afghanistan (or anyplace where daily survival is a full time job), and embed with the people who are getting shot at or burned by bombs. Or if that is a bit extreme, schedule several visits to a military burn unit that deals with the results of the bullets and bombs. Many of the people there would love to have eyebrows that were uneven; eyebrows of any kind would be welcome. These people are dealing with real change in their lives. Either experience should help put life in perspective.

  26. 911 Doc
    911 Doc says:

    If you want great brows in LA, go to BrauHaus in Pasadena, and have Zoe, the owner do them. Eyebrows are their specialty.

    Just an FYI :)

  27. Erica
    Erica says:

    I generally enjoy this blog and your candor and guts, Penelope, but I don’t have a clue how to reconcile this post with your usual intelligent and insightful fare. It hit rock bottom in terms of shallowness, but that’s not the worst part; it betrays an absolute lack of understanding about serious concerns — concerns much, much bigger than hairstyles and brow shapes. I’m stunned and appalled that it reflects not one bit of consciousness about what flying to LA or NY to have your hair done might be doing to our world, which may not be around for your kids because of CLIMATE CHANGE. Penelope this is required reading for you : Good grief: wake up ladies! Being Ugly Consumptive Americans is not cool — and definitely not surviveable.

    • Candace
      Candace says:

      Totally agree with Erica here.
      While people in Europe are at least aware of climate change and ways to alleviate it, Americans are, as usual, completely oblivious. Do you guys live on the moon? Which is where we’ll all have to flee to when this planet is shot to hell.
      And eyebrows, for Christ’s sake?! Ever hear of a tweezers?

  28. Anette
    Anette says:

    I was referred to your blog by a friend – €“ and I have to say I probably will not be back. I actually did enjoy your way of writing, very entertaining, but the content……
    I have to agree with Erica and Candice (the last two posts).
    It is not so much that you are writing these things, you seem to be an intelligent person, and my guess is that you go to LA for your friend more than for the haircut, and the NY trip with the eyebrows sounded more like getting your point across that you don’t like to travel anymore.
    But the really sad thing is, that based on all the comments you are getting, you very obviously have a large "fan-club" that you are influencing, and then you use it for this……
    The platform you have managed to create for yourself gives you a great opportunity to actually do something on bigger issues than just the normal day-to-day stuff. There are lots of more serious issues than a haircut – €“ for example climate change, which really should be on everybody’s mind right now, with the big conference coming up in Copenhagen in just a few days (I’m sure you have heard about it…..????) – €“ you could encourage all your readers to go sign up on and that’s just one example…….. there are many.

  29. Christine Pielenz
    Christine Pielenz says:

    In the day and age of global warming I feel it’s important that we all make an effort to cut down on inessential activities that cause CO2 emissions. Flying to LA to get hair done would, to me, fall into the category of “inessential”, as well as getting eye brows done in NYC. Please consider, for the health of others and this planet, seeking businesses or friends who can supply these types of services closer to your home.

  30. Lillian Goodman
    Lillian Goodman says:

    My dear friend, now living in Spain, suggested I write and remind you of the importance of being aware of CLIMATE CHANGE.
    However, it does not seem to be the most important thing to you at this time. Hopefully, just this mention, will make you think about it and the importance of doing what we all can do to SAVE OUR PLANET !!
    Your seem to be pretty clever. Do something to help ! Thanx !

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