Public Relations(3)

By: Katie Heaney


While most of my classmates were figuring out how to pronounce Hermione, I was asking the Internet what seminal meant, or when shoegaze started. When they began cryptically blogging on their LiveJournals about secret crushes, I was mimicking all of my favorite critics at heartofglass777.xanga.com. When I started dating Dave, my first (and, honestly, only real) boyfriend, at the end of ninth grade, we spent our first of six summers together dragging each other to any and every gig that would let under-eighteen kids in, as well as any basement show that didn’t pretend to care. How lucky am I? I’d think as we got closer to graduation, whenever my classmates and friends agonized over what the rest of their lives would be, and how they were going to get there. I knew exactly where I was going.

Here’s what the plan looked like: NYU, with a double major in music and journalism. First year dorm (Hayden Hall, ideally) to get the full college experience, until sophomore year, when Dave—who would be studying comparative literature at the New School—and I could get a sweet little studio in Greenwich Village. Or Soho. Honestly (I’d tell anyone who’d listen), I would happily live anywhere that would place us within walking distance of the Bowery. I’d get internships at any and every music publication: Village Voice, to start, then maybe Spin or something super indie like Paper, until I was ready for my holy grail, Rolling Stone. There I would prove myself so capable, and so precocious, that I’d be offered a position in my final semester. This would, of course, lead to bestselling anthologies of critical essays, not that I was getting ahead of myself or anything. And in any free time throughout these years, Dave and I would gallivant around every musical landmark in the big city and drink it all up, having already sucked our home scene dry.

Only about a quarter of the plan came to fruition, and that’s probably me being generous. I did get into NYU (early decision) and arrived at Weinstein Hall with two suitcases, no fewer than thirty magazine cutouts and CD covers to plaster over the prison-like cinder-block walls, and a canned answer ready for anyone who asked: Rose Reed from California, already declared, journalism major with a concentration in music. Of course, the last part hardly mattered. I hadn’t yet learned that unless a person was pre-med or pre-law, first-year curricula were pretty much indistinguishable among the students. Still, my conviction seemed important. Yes, I’d sit through the generic natural science class and statistics for beginners, but at least I knew what was coming after they were out of the way. I had the rest of my years blocked out in my head, and even went so far as to introduce myself to the professors I wanted to recognize me. I studied hard my freshman year; I did well. I made a few friends. I developed a friendship-esque concord with my roommate, which I took as pretty lucky, considering the horror stories of passive aggression (or outright aggression) I’d heard from other incoming freshmen. Life didn’t seem all that different from how it’d been in years prior; it was just unfolding in front of a different backdrop. I went to shows, I trawled through discount bins at record stores, and I did most of my socializing with Dave and his friends.

The first crack to weaken my plan came in the form of a sparse email from Pitchfork, which arrived in my inbox in mid-March of my freshman year. The letter informed me that despite my “obvious talents,” I hadn’t been accepted into their summer fellowship program, but I was urged to please try again next year. Soon after came similarly phrased rejections from Spin, the Village Voice, New York Magazine, and Rolling Stone. Each time, Dave arrived at my door with a pick-me-up in hand—flowers the first time around, then the boxed set of the third season (the best) of The X-Files, and then, eventually, just cartons of ice cream. He patted me on the back, assuring me this wasn’t the end of the world, while I wished I hadn’t broadcasted every aspect of my plan so widely. After the fourth rejection, he gingerly asked if I was pursuing other options, adopting that tone people use when they’ve decided your dream is a bust, but they’re trying to gauge whether or not you’ve figured that out yourself. Our favorite coffee shop was hiring baristas for the summer, he reminded me, and didn’t I make a mean cup of coffee? And, honestly, he said, he’d always thought waiting tables seemed kind of fun. All of this was easy for him to consider, because for him it was a distant hypothetical—he’d gotten his dream job on the first try, an editorial internship at Macmillan.

For my part, I wasn’t keen on giving up quite yet. By late April, I was back into the job listings, scouring the Internet for any outlets or publications that still had summer positions open. I applied for anything that would land me in the same room as working writers—internships or fellowships in social media, marketing, communications, copywriting, something called “social storytelling”—which, to be honest, I was hoping to get just so I could find out what the position entailed. Finally I was offered a position as an editorial intern at The Dish, a gossipy pop-culture site with a sizable following. It was technically unpaid but came with a stipend, and the man who would be my boss assured me it wasn’t like other internships where I’d ended up ordering lunches and doing grunt work. I’d be learning. I’d fact-check, take notes, and sit in on brainstorms. I wasn’t on the music team per se, but nightlife was within my purview—and what did people do in cities at night if not see live shows? I fantasized about casually dropping details regarding the concerts I was planning to attend that summer in the vicinity of some editor I hadn’t yet met, who would of course immediately suggest I write up a review. It was as if the offer wiped my mind clear of the rejections that led to it. I was thrilled.

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