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Melissa Toldy

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Find some of my most popular essays at EPISODIC.

Looking for a book to read? Check out my bookshop, Finding Context.

Because I’m obsessed with them lately

Scroll through the recent photos on my phone. Notice a theme. For the last three months, I have been capturing the flowers growing in my Brooklyn neighborhood.


How could I simply walk by this Digitalis purpurea? Foxglove, lady’s glove, fairy bells. Poisonous!

Zadie Smith reads while she writes; Rachel Cusk does not

I watched an interview with Rachel Cusk a few months ago. She said it was “quite a bad idea” to read anything while she was working on a novel.

Q: Are you able to read other authors while you’re writing?

A: That’s usually quite a bad idea … It would be much more tempting to enter a conversation in your head with something that you’re reading. And that might be okay in the writing. But then again, it might not.

Having just read Cusk’s Outline trilogy, I knew I was watching an interview with a skilled writer. …

Watch the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games on Criterion Channel

screenshot from criterion channel

Last year, thanks to Criterion Channel, I watched a stunning documentary called Tokyo Olympiad. The film is a work of art. I highly recommend it. You can read more about the 1964 Olympic Games and Criterion Channel by following the links below.

A (So-Called) Charming, Very Pretty Little Girl

Why was I watching old Olympics footage, in the first place? I went to the Criterion Channel, planning to resume a 1970 Italian film, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. Only, when I logged on, Criterion had added 41 editions of the Olympic Games, spanning 100 years.

I randomly selected Kon…

I thought about Electra’s pillows when I got my own apartment, when I was single again, after years of trying to be the woman I thought men wanted me to be

screenshot of the pillows in carmen electra’s “genie bottle” room

Maybe you missed it. The scene lasted 20 seconds. A Baywatch babe opened the front door to her Beverly Hills condo. She welcomed you inside. Then she pulled back a shimmery curtain. Behind the curtain, you saw an “exotic” room.

You probably don’t remember this relatively modest home. It’s not as impressive as the other MTV Cribs tours of the early aughts. Electra’s 2,100 square feet can’t compete with Mariah Carey’s TriBeCa penthouse at a dizzying 11,000.

Maybe you were like me. You saw this forgettable episode two decades ago, only you never forgot about it. …

Photo by Alexander Abero on Unsplash

By accident, I read a book on personal finance this week. The title, Broke Millennial, caught my attention for two reasons: I am broke; I am a millennial.

I’m currently working on a story about my broken millennialness, and I blame Google for this obvious search result.

The book is filled with sound, practical advice. A few chapters in, I thought this might be a book I recommend to people. Then I came across this troubling paragraph:

Do the investments align with my values? Be aware that buying into index funds can mean you’re purchasing shares in companies that may…

During my first year as an “artist” on the website, I sold three different designs

screenshot of susan lavender society6 page

My Society6 account is a secret. No one knows about it, except for the few people who find my products by browsing the website. I have never advertised my Society6 account. I use a made-up name, Susan Lavender.

A few months into the pandemic last year, I started making vector designs as a way to pass the time. I watched YouTube videos on how to use the basic functions of Inkscape. Soon after that, I began uploading my creations onto Society6.

Why Society6? I knew I wouldn’t make a lot of money. I was fine with that. I’m not a…

This was so beautifully written. I love the details of spackel and pantyhose and the line about coming home empty handed, perhaps to realize that you didn't really need anything after all.

"Errands" makes me think of my suburban childhood. My mother perpetually running to the store. I can't identify many "errands" in my own life, though.

Maybe the internet has changed the nature of errands? When I leave my apartment, I'm often just going for a walk. But when I'm out there, I might pick something up on the way home. It doesn't feel like an errand, though. Even if I'm buying toothpaste. It just feels like something that happened while I was on my walk.

Maybe if I lived in suburbia with a car, my outings would feel more purposeful. Or more directed toward a destination - one that resulted in spending money, no doubt.

Capital One will remind you of your generosity while trying to prevent servers from fudging the bill

Photo by Vincent Chan on Unsplash

Apparently, I left a 36% tip at a restaurant last weekend. My credit card company, Capital One, sent me an alert this morning, letting me know about the suspiciously generous amount. I was surprised by the notification, not because I thought the server had fudged the numbers, but because I thought I had left an even higher tip amount. I guess I forgot to round up.

A friend shared a handy shortcut for calculating tips a few years back. She told me that her father taught her to first calculate 10%. Then double it. Figuring out 10% is super easy…

Have you tested your company’s lax work policies?

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Three of us shared a cab ride home. We worked in Brooklyn, and we lived near the office in Brooklyn, but that night, we were coming back from a holiday party in another, distant part of Brooklyn, and we were all drunk. My colleague, a smart guy in his mid-20s, asked me, a smart woman in her mid-30s, the following question: How do you get away with coming in at 10 am?

My colleague was already thinking about the next morning. He had an early meeting, and he was dreading it. We worked for a company that gave us flexible…

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