Slutever on the Man Repeller Podcast!

Yay! I’m on this week’s episode of the Man Repeller podcast, hosted by Jay Buim. Want to hear me talk for a long time about growing up (and not growing up) and being a writer and New York and sex and blacking out and a ton of other shit? Listen here! – Karley Sciortino

Dispatches from a Combat Zone: My 30s

By Cara Marsh Sheffler / photo by Jonas /

When I was ten, I wanted to be Murphy Brown, knocked up by a hot war correspondent. When I was a little older, I wanted to be Candice Bergen, with her stunning, strangely pointed nose and a lion of French cinema for a husband. It was 1992 when I turned ten, which means I am old enough to know I mustn’t wait to fuck, marry, or murder my role models. I now realize I may instead serve as a war correspondent myself, offering dispatches from the dark, indifferent heart of a different kind of combat zone: my 30s.

A bit about me, how I arrived at this moment on the barricades. Firstly, I was precocious. My parents, for reasons I fail to comprehend, had let me watch Sex, Lies, and Videotape as well as Goodfellas when I was in second grade, and James Spader and Ray Liotta became my first movie crushes. I’ve been inextricably drawn to unconventionally handsome, charismatic creeps ever since.

Between those premature viewings and my 30th birthday, I have endured a healthy smattering of clichés, ranging from the undergraduate summer in the Norman countryside spent as a hungover artist’s model rolling around in confectioner’s sugar to a fun romp through a long-term boyfriend’s psychotic break after his Brooklyn apartment building collapsed. I could give a TED talk on the differences between Italian and French men; I’ve been cheated on and I’ve been the other woman; I’ve been proposed to—formally and informally—and am happy, actually happy, to report it all came to nothing. I may be a degenerate, but one with a rigorous sense of ethics.

I was, in fact, relieved when I turned 30. I’d be lying if I didn’t say 29 was a rough birthday, but 30 was a huge relief. It almost felt as though my 20s were a tube of toothpaste I had squeezed to the point of being utterly crimped and flattened beyond recognition: there was nothing else to find therein. On the one hand, when I turned 30, I assumed a certain amount of gravitas would become me, that at least—perhaps in my better (worse?) moments—I’d be a bit less of a disgrace. On the other hand, I’d osmosed so many essays and advice columns about women feeling better about themselves, their bodies, and their faces at 30 and cattily thought to myself, “that’s because their vision is going…”

All of this was thankfully wrong: gravitas seems like a bore and I do, somewhat inexplicably but mostly explicably, feel a lot better about myself. Yet, what strikes me most is what hasn’t changed since turning 30. If a woman’s 20s are fraught with the stress of living up to an elusive physical prime that our profoundly misogynistic society equates with a chance at happiness, her 30s are crammed with equally misogynistic myths about the necessity of certain milestones (e.g., betrothal, breeding, property ownership) and attendant mythological creatures, such as The Silver Fox.

I understand women are biologically attracted to stability much as men are biologically attracted to fertility, but if you think I’d rather find some salt-and-pepper architect from Cobble Hill naked in my bedroom than the friendly surfer sales staff at Saturdays, you are out of your fucking mind. (Apologies to Richard Gere and Jeremy Irons.) Some may physically age better than others, but—strictly speaking on aesthetics—there’s a lot to be said for one’s 20s. Beyond aesthetics, I think it’s a sexist fallacy that men do it better than women. Of course this varies on a case-by-case basis.

I won’t go into the prevalence of this stereotype in America as opposed to other countries: I will simply speak for my own nationality, as a 32-year-old female New Yorker. My friend Kadi recently remarked that she doesn’t know a single male friend who doesn’t somehow wish he had his hairline, his waistline, his body, or his stamina from his 20s, but she also doesn’t have any female friends who aren’t so much more content in their 30s than they were in their 20s. This isn’t delusional. I’m not saying my face and body didn’t have their good points five to seven years ago, but I know a thing or two about corporeal husbandry now. For instance, vodka, I’ve learned, is a poor moisturizer.

The most straightforward way to put it is that turning 30 is a bit like receiving successful treatment for bipolar disorder: the highs aren’t as high and the lows aren’t as low, but that’s mostly because you realize both the mania and the depression were situational, chemical, and—ultimately—manageable. Yet, at the same time, I cannot shake things the way I used to, but this isn’t altogether bad: it’s the sure sign that I’ve managed to prioritize—triage in combat-ease—successfully and what’s left in my life is close to the bone and vital.

Furthermore, that need to prioritize has forced me to learn how to take care of myself in a way that pays dividends daily. (Somewhere, the 23-year-old version of myself is looking up from a bag of drugs and cackling as she reads this.) If in a woman’s 20s, vanity is thrust upon her by a culture that values her youth in direct proportion to her attractiveness, in her 30s—I’ve found—vanity to be a tool at my disposal. I’ve also learned to cut women a lot of slack on vanity because we each must carry around our faces and bodies like brand packaging.

Well-being is a bit of a blood sport these days, what with everything from underwater spin classes to all-lascinato-kale juice cleanses, but in your 30s, your body must be heeded. I don’t pretend to be an expert or even a success story, but a word of advice: SLEEP. I think it was Voltaire who once said that sleep is not happiness but not to sleep is unbearable. This isn’t a beauty tip, so much as it is a psychological one.

In my 30s, I’ve also found—if not yet mastered—the art of cutting my losses. A disclaimer: I have little faith in the human capacity for change. I do believe we, as individuals, are who we are on a fundamental level. While it is possible to redirect or find radically new channels for our energies and proclivities (e.g., your former coke fiend bestie who has morphed into a yogi), true change of character is a rare thing.

Recognize that most people in your life will probably not change. Recognize you will never “fix” the person whom you are dating. Recognize that anyone who hates himself or herself is a poor choice for a romantic partner. To quote Lauryn Hill: “How you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” Learn to understand when someone genuinely loves your company or doesn’t. Don’t force meaning onto romantic situations that have none, but also realize that sometimes a distraction is sometimes very necessary. Once you get what you need, leave, but know that you will always be balancing between the two extremes of total meaning and total distraction.

Socially, be tolerant, but don’t let fake friends waste your time. Though many friends of mine will laugh at this assertion, I have learned to be less confrontational in social settings, but I’ve also learned to cut off many altogether. This might mean ensuring two acquaintances of mine are never in the same room at once or cutting someone out of my life entirely, but I’m starting to understand every relationship—romantic and otherwise—must be enjoyed at a proper distance, which is perpetually in flux. I’ve also learned not to compare my problems to anyone else’s: we all carry things differently for different reasons.

This leads me to one of my mantras since turning 30 or thereabout: no one person is everything anymore. Even the most intense romantic relationship will have a backdrop that, even if it doesn’t include children, may include career demands beyond what existed in one’s 20s, dying parents, miscellaneous family crises, and a social fabric that is likely vast and vastly uneven in its intensity. My parents, who got together at 22, grew up together—and that won’t happen for me. In a sense, they are lucky they grew up into people who still get along and want the same things in their 60s; if I ever do settle down, it will be as someone far more entrenched in my habits and that is something to accommodate—to a point. I’m still looking for that point.

However, I do know that whenever I do find that point, my opinion of it will simply be a matter of perspective at any given moment in time. Perspective involves compartmentalizing.  One area of your life is on fire: find another to put your energies into until the flames die down. Of course, those others may also be engulfed in flames, but that’s why there is red wine.

You probably have your shit together a lot more than you give yourself credit for in some ways—and a lot less in others. And that’s normal. Your 30s may well be a more consequential time than your 20s, but that doesn’t mean they need to be more serious or somber. True, your face will change, but so will everything else. Your face might even change for the better, but it will change.  Mine has shifted from stress and the sun I refuse to give up, as well as from a workout regimen that might be mildly psychotic. And while that regimen works wonders to combat stress, it also enables me to enjoy time spent in the sun…but this isn’t the worst of vicious cycles. It’s the poison I pick and I’m old enough to know that simply having the chance to pick my poison means I’m hashtag blessed. 

Learn to take care of yourself, so you can be more comfortable with yourself and more confident than you ever imagined you’d be at 23. Create room to grow from experiences old and new and from friends and lovers old and new—older and younger. This is more of a tactical, intentional feat than it reads on paper, but one that also requires improvisation. As you soldier on, while doing your best to keep an open mind, know when to cut your losses, because—dammit—40 is just around the corner. And moisturize!

Cara Marsh Sheffler is a New York-based freelance writer, editor and translator. She co-founded Works & Days Quarterly.

Painting Flowers

“That thing you just did–yeah, that! Do that again!”

Recently, the comment section of this blog has been peppered with quite a bit of anger and criticism. This is nothing new, to be fair. Anyone who’s ever posted anything on the internet is familiar with the equation: Person + Internet = Rage. However, lately there’s been a lot of, “This blog has changed!” and “What happened to the old Karley?” I have to agree; this blog has changed. When I started writing it, over six years ago now, I was 21 years old, living in a squat in London, taking a large quantity of drugs almost daily, and–based on my own Google diagnosis–I’m pretty sure I was a sex addict. Back then I wrote about my daily life more often than I do now. That was for two reasons: 1) because I only worked about six hours a week (I was a flyer girl for nightclubs and lived on basically nothing), so I had a lot more free time to shout unsolicited rants about my feelings at the internet, and 2) because in certain ways my daily life back then was a lot more blog-worthy than it is now. For instance, back then I could honestly say things like, “Today a homeless Romanian family moved into our living room, after which I went to a party in an abandoned toilet factory and everyone took DMT and had an orgy.” Now, however, my daily life is much more like, “Today I woke up and made myself a protein shake, after which I swallowed a bunch of Ritalin and worked on my laptop for seven hours, and then I ate a taco with my friend, and then I was moved to tears while watching the Joan Rivers documentary on Netflix.” See what I mean? The latter just lacks a certain punchiness.

When my daily life became less punchy, I began to interview people with punchier lives than my own–porn stars, prostitutes, fetishists, quadriplegic dwarfs, etc.–and posted those on my blog instead, so that I could live vicariously through their punchiness. This was fun for me because I love interviewing people who have a lot to say–the sort of people who can just talk and talk, and every sentence that comes out of their mouth is more entertaining and extreme than the last. The people who have a lot to say are usually the people who do things, rather than the people who make things. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s true. When I first started working as a journalist for magazines, I interviewed a lot of people who make things–artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, etc.. They never had very much to say. I’d ask a band, “Why did you start your band? Why do you make music?” and they’d answer, “We don’t know. Because we like it, I guess.” I used to find this annoying. I was disappointed that the people whose art I loved, who I imagined to be some of the most interesting people in the world, actually didn’t have much to say about their work. Years later, though, I feel differently. It took me awhile to realize that just because a person creates an amazing thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the process or reason behind its creation is also amazing. I learned that actually, the creative process can be very long, solitary, mundane, and ultimately not worth talking about. I also learned that often, art is a form of communication. And if that’s true, doesn’t that make asking an artist to talk about his artwork sort of redundant and counterproductive? I’m not sure. But maybe we should all learn to just appreciate amazing things for what they are, and be satisfied that they exist, in order to save everybody a lot of stress and disappointment.

More recently I’m sometimes in the opposite position, and interviewers ask me questions. The other day someone literally asked me, “Who are you, really?” That question creeped me out. I challenge anyone to answer that without coming across like a total douche. And anyway, who even cares who anyone really is? More often than not the reality of person is either boring or depressing, and I’d rather have the fake version. But when put on the spot, the best answer to the question I could come up with was, “A busty blonde blogger. Wait, no… actually, just write whatever you think sounds good.”

I was talking to an artist friend of mine recently about the concept of change. He was saying that as an artist, once you gain recognition for creating a certain thing, people begin to expect that thing from you. For example, if you become famous for painting flowers, afterward people expect you to paint more flowers. When people like something, they want more of it. The people want more flowers, so you make more flowers. However, after a few years of making flowers, you get bored. Flowers don’t inspire you anymore and you want to try out something new, so you start experimenting with painting trees. This makes people angry. The people don’t like trees–they think the flowers were prettier–so they start to complain. They say, “You’ve gone downhill. We preferred your early stuff.” Then you start to panic, and all the pressure makes you think, “Maybe I should just give the people what they want.” So you start to paint flowers again. But this doesn’t make the people happy either. Now they’re saying, “You’re a one trick pony. We’re bored or flowers. We want something new.” And so you kill yourself. And then, forty years after your death, they hang your tree paintings at the MET and everyone agrees they were your real masterpieces.

You can’t give people what they want, because people don’t know what they want.

The worst sentence in the world, after “What kind of music do you like?” and “What’s your star sign?” is “I liked their early stuff.”

Maybe I should start re-blogging old posts. Maybe that would make everyone happy, because then I could stop stressing about needing to post more often, and everyone else could have the old, better, more ME version of me back again.

I’m currently trying to write a book and a movie. It’s awful, I want to shoot myself. But that’s another reason for my recent lack of lengthy personal posts. It’s unfortunate, actually, because I think blogging relieves a lot of my stress. (LOL) I don’t have the money to go to therapy, because I don’t have health insurance, so I sort of see the internet as my therapist–my neutral confidant. I talk to it about my trials, traumas and concerns, and afterward I feel relieved, less anxious. Although sometimes my therapist can actually be quite harsh, like when it sends me random emails saying things like, “You are a fat whore with no talent.” Tough love ;)

Late Twenties

Photo by Richard Kern

I turn 27 in a week, which is tragic. Well, not really. To be honest I gave up caring about getting older after I hit the quarter-century mark (which temporarily destroyed me), because I realized that as you age, you gain more than just some cellulite. You gain some positive things, too. For example: knowledge; confidence; the ability to tell what clothes and hairstyles actually suit you; Facebook friends; the will to work more and be a drunken slob less; success; the confidence to weed-out the shitty people in your life and surround yourself with people who actually care about you and act as a positive influence, be that friends, lovers or even family members (cheesy but true); and ultimately, you just gain the ability to think for yourself. Or, at least this is how aging should affect us. Sometimes it doesn’t work out this way, which is when getting older becomes #tragic and depressing. Thankfully, I think I’m doing reasonably well at most of the things I listed above, although now that I’m officially entering my LATE TWENTIES (aka almost 30 aka old) there are a few things I want to change about my life. First, I’ll tell you a story:

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my idols, the 91 year old style icon, Iris Apfel. As expected she was extremely nice, smart and funny, but there was one thing in particular that she said that really stuck with me. She said, “Darling, you really are a beautiful girl, but you could do with dressing a bit more more conservatively. You’d look a lot better. You really could be smashing, but you way you dress is, well… let’s put it this way: it’s not elegant.” This, as you can imagine, put me into a state of mild panic. I am not elegant?! I thought. I guess I’d never really thought about it, as I was always less concerned with looking elegant and more concerned with looking, like, “hot”. My response to her was, “But I like wearing tight clothes. It makes me feel sexy.” (I should probably mention that I was not even wearing my trashiest attire. I was dressed in a way I thought appropriate for a professional interview with a 91 year old woman, in a red leather shirt and turtleneck crop-top, which revealed about an inch, or slightly less, of my midriff.) To this Iris responded, “You can wear tight clothes, and you can be sexy, but being sexy is not about being trashy, because that comes across as desperate. I think a little mystery is sexy, and that dressing too revealing reveals something bad about a person.” At this moment, I had an epiphany: I don’t want to come across like a desperate, Kim Kardashian ho who’s constantly dying to be railed. I want to be an elegant person whose overall appearance says, “Hey or whatever, I don’t need your attention because I’m casually aloof about my natural sex appeal. And p.s. you could never sleep with me in a million years.” I’m almost 30, for fuck’s sake.

So… following this moment of revelation I immediately went home and manically threw out all of the trashiest clothes in my closet. This included all of my see-through tops (i.e. 50% of my wardrobe) and things like plastic stripper heels and the $19 mini-dress made of neon pink mock-lace that I wore almost every day this past summer. I then went to Beacons Closet and bought a variety of sweaters and modest blouses, as well as a pair of boots with a sensible, 2.5 inch heel.. Then, still in my state of ‘needing to feel elegant’ panic, I cut five inches off my hair with a pair of those giant Ikea scissors with the red handle, feeling like a shoulder-length bob somehow better exuded elegance than whatever Brigitte-Bardot-copied haircut I had before. The following day, when I asked my friend Ally what she thought of my new hair, she cocked her head sideways and said, “Well, before you had, like, sexy hair, but this is sort of, well… it’s like… I guess you could call it post-sexy?” And I was like, “Damn gurl, I like the sound of that!” Post-sexy: it’s more than just a hairstyle, it’s a way of life.

But moving on, there are some other things about my life that need improving. For one, I want an actual bed frame that stands up off the ground. I’m done with sleeping on the floor like a peasant. I want to sleep risen into the air like the superior being that I am. Also, I want to get a dresser so that I can store my clothes in a drawer, rather than in a giant trash pile next to my floor bed. And lastly, I think I want to start eating meat again, because I swear to god all the tofu I eat is making me fucking fat. I feel like I’ve been deceived into thinking that tofu and soy milk are lean forms of protein, but recently all I hear is people talking about how overly processed and unnatural tofu is, as well as these horror stories about how tofu suppresses thyroid function and turns people into fat fucks. GOD. And what even is tofu anyway? No one knows. It looks like it’s from space. Well, listen up, I’m not a fucking scientologist and I don’t want want any of your space tofu, thanks. And why did I even decide to become vegetarian in the first place? I literally hate animals. The only thing I like about being veggie is that in restaurants and at dinner parties I get to say things like, “Excuse me, is this vegetarian?” and “Oh no, I won’t have that hamburger, I don’t eat meat,” which immediately makes everyone around you understand that you’re better than them. Which is, clearly, the sole point of existing.

Being Tragic

So like yesterday I was giving a blow job in the fitting room of Rainbow, and after it was over, as I was swallowing to the soundtrack of Demi Lovato’s “Give Your Heart a Break”, I thought, “Wait… I need to figure out a way to make my life less tragic and more glamorous.”

I think a reevaluation of my existence is in order. For example: Why, at 26, do I still refill soy sauce bottles for a living? Why do I live behind a curtain? Why have I never had a phone that can go online? Why haven’t I changed my sheets since I moved into my apartment 13 months ago? Why do I shop at Rainbow?

Last week I drunkenly left my phone in a cab. It wasn’t a smartphone, obviously, but it sort of looked like it could be a smart phone–sort of like a square version of a Blackberry, or a more advanced Tamagotchi or something–which meant it was at least OK enough to use publicly without looking entirely pathetic. But now I’m stuck with this horrible vintage flip phone from hell, and I literally can’t take it out of my bag without everyone within a 20ft radius of me staring at the phone like it’s a bomb or a syringe filled with heroin that I’m preparing to jam into my arm in broad daylight in the middle of the street.

Is there even a point existing if you don’t have an Instagram?!

El marketing sensorial ha sido abordado por Lluis Torra o sentado junto a la directora general de Pfizer. Del que Lacruz espera que contribuyan a que todas estas acciones sean y a veces tambien han sido diagnosticados con uno.

Not to sound cringy, but I’ve been “recognized” at the Chinese restaurant where I work a few times recently, which you would think would be flattering but is actually awful, because it always happens the same way: I hand them a menu, they look at me sort of weird, they say something like, “Are you that girl from that thing?” and then I say, “Oh… uh, yeah,” and then they make a facial expression which basically says, “Wow, I used to think you were really glamorous and cool but now I just think you’re a tragic noodle slave.” And then I spend the next ten minutes wiping up the soy sauce they spilled everywhere.

Is it possible to be glamorous and poor? I recently had a dream where I was really rich and famous and living in a glitter palace, and then suddenly all of my friends stormed into the room and surrounded me Intervention-style, and they were chanting, “You are a glamor addict! We’re taking you away to glamor rehab!” And then they brought me to glamor rehab where all the walls were painted beige and there were no party photographers or street style bloggers anywhere and no guest lists or VIP areas to be found for miles. My dream-self was traumatized. And then I woke up sweating and couldn’t decide whether it had been a dream or a nightmare.

But moving on, please don’t forget that I’m selling Slutever T-shirts! You can see the shirt being worn by me in the photo above, and being modeled by the hot/brilliant Hamilton Morris below (who, by the way, someone yesterday Tweeted was “too cool” for me–fucking bitch can s my d).

p.s. If you relate to this post and are also on a downward spiral, please remember that a couple weeks ago I wrote a how-to guide of how to be tragic IN STYLE.


How to be a Disaster

Images via Happy 2 b Sad

Sometimes it’s OK to go on a six month downward spiral, as you long as you’re chic about it. Basically, there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a disaster. Like, you can’t just show up to your abortion wearing sweat pants. What if you ran into a street style photographer on the way there? Or the way back? Then what? And FYI, falling asleep on the L train with a half chewed piece of felafel in your mouth is not “rock n’ roll,” it’s downright unglamorous. There is an art to being tragic. Below is an A to Z list of things one must prioritize in order to spiral out of control IN STYLE. (Compiled with the help of Ally DeVellis and Adri Murguia)

Art school
Accidental blow-job

Blacking out
Honorary mention: Birth control

Carbs (the absence of)

Dopamine (receptors in the brain)
Desperate (looking/feeling/acting)

Eating your feelings
Eternal void

Honorary mention: Famous

Girls (the gender and the show)
Glamour addiction
Honorary mention: Going Out

Hangover (never-ending)
Honorary mention: human papillomavirus

Ingrown hairs
Internal bleeding

Judging strangers
Jerking off

Kill (myself)

Lesbian moment
Lost (the feeling not the show)

Menstrual cycle
Master Cleanse (Beyonce’s)

Negative (vibes)
Not caring

One night stand
Owing people money

Pregnant? :(
Peeing on people
Honorary mention: Party photography

Questions (so many)

Running (out of battery/away)
ROFL (coptor)

Serotonin (lack of)
Smiling (with your eyes)
Honorary mention: Slut

Text regret
Turning point (not being there)
Tying bitches up

UTI :(
Used (doing/feeling)
Honorary mention: Un-tag

Vodka soda with lime (#LowCal)
Very glamorous
Virginity (taking by force)

Women’s issues
Wondering (always & forever)

Xenon (girl of the 21st century)

Yesterday (not remembering)
Y not?
Yeast infection

Zack Morris
Z-list celebrities
Zombie apocalypse