As Seen on TV

As Seen on TV

4.2 11
by Sarah Mlynowski

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When Sunny Langstein decides to pack up her Florida life and move in with her boyfriend in Manhattan, her big sister isn't thrilled. What modern-day twenty-four-year-old leaves her promising career, fabulous friends and perfect underground parking spot with accompanying convertible for…a guy?

Only, Sunny has an additional incentive: the chance to

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When Sunny Langstein decides to pack up her Florida life and move in with her boyfriend in Manhattan, her big sister isn't thrilled. What modern-day twenty-four-year-old leaves her promising career, fabulous friends and perfect underground parking spot with accompanying convertible for…a guy?

Only, Sunny has an additional incentive: the chance to star on Party Girls, the latest reality-television show. True, she might become a national laughingstock and it pays nothing, BUT it's a job—a job in Manhattan. She'll get to be with her boyfriend, Steve. Okay, so she can't tell anyone she isn't single—but with freebie designer clothes, alpha-beta peels and coconut-cream pedicures to make her transformation into a made-for-TV single girl complete…she can't lose!

But when the show's premiere plunges Sunny into a media frenzy of talk shows, tampon endorsements, TV heartthrobs and S&M toys, how long will it take for Sunny to lose track of where she ends and her alter ego, Sunny Lang the Über Fashionista Single Superstar, begins?

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Editorial Reviews

"Mlynowski is acutely aware of the plight of the 20-something single woman . . . she offers funny dialogue and several slices of reality." (Publishers Weekly)

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Red Dress Ink
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"Why are you calling?" the HR woman asks me, panic-stricken as if recess is over and she hasn't finished her Fruit Roll-up. "Didn't the ad say not to phone?"

"Yes, I understand that, thank you, but I'll only be in New York for a few days. I would really like to set up an interview." I need a new job. I attempt to shield myself behind the pay phone's plastic divider since this is the only nicotine-friendly cafeteria on the block and anyone from the office could sneak in for a smoke.

The smell of this stale smoke combined with the plates of shepherd's pie lined up on the counter make me wish long distance calls from my cell phone didn't make me sound as I though I'm calling from Zimbabwe. I also wish I knew how to make a calling-card call from my office without getting the IT department.

"Once the hundreds of resumes we've received for the Assistant Manager, New Business Development position are reviewed," the HR woman says, "the managing director will choose the candidates to be interviewed. If you're one of the fortunate ones selected, I assure you, you'll be called."

Obviously the first thing this woman does when she gets home is kick her dog. "Thank you very much for your time," I say.


I redial Soda Star's number.


"Florida Telephone Systems." Brrring.

 I dial my calling-card number.


"Soda Star, the shining light in beverages," the receptionist sings. "How may I help you?"


"May I please speak to the managing director?"


"Which managing director is that, miss?"


Which managing director? Shouldn't there only be one director who manages? Or maybe one manager who directs?


"The new business managing director, please." Please let that be right.


"Whom should I say is calling?"


A person he's never heard of before? "Sunny Langstein."


"One moment, please. I'll transfer your call."

Foiled again, HR.


I'm probably going to get his voice mail. Why would he be at his desk at 10:30 a.m.? He's probably out managing. Or directing. Or managing directors when it gets really crazy. I hunt through my recently started job-search notebook where I wrote possible messages to leave on prospective employers machines.


Ring, ring. Heart beating erratically.


"Ronald Newman speaking."


Good. Damn. He's there. It's a he. Concentrate confident, sexy, sweet voice. I flip back to the page of possible things to say to prospective employers. "Hi, Mr. Newman? This is Sunny Langstein calling. I'm presently manager of new business development for Panda in Fort Lauderdale, but I will be relocating to New York for personal reasons. I'm very impressed with your company's work and would like to continue my professional growth in the beverage industry. I'll be in New York next week, and I was wondering if you'd consider meeting with me to discuss any potential job openings in you department."


"How did you this number? Aren't you supposed to go HR?"


Sounds cranky. Must accent the sweet voice. "I'm so sorry to bother you, sir." Now confident. "I just assumed calling you would be more efficient."

He laughs. I picture him reclining in a brown leather reading chair, a pipe dangling from his lips. "Well, Sunny, you're probably right. Do you think you could handle working in the big leagues?"


Oooh. The big leagues.


"I'm quite confident I can, sir. I have excellent -- " this is where I exploit the many hackneyed and meaningless qualifications employers salivate over " -- communication and organizational skills. I multitask, prioritize, problem-solve and self-start. I pay strong attention to detail and work effectively with both creative and production staff. I have a proactive approach toward current products and new business, and I have a personable, team-player personality. Will you be able to meet with me for an informational interview?"


Pause. "Are you aware that I'm looking for an assistant manager right now? To report directly to me?"


No kidding. "Really? I'd love to come and talk to you about it. I'll be in New York next Monday. Do you have a free half hour?"


He laughs again. "You're a go-getter. I like that. Hmm. Let me check."


He's clicking on his keyboard. Clicking . . . clicking . . . more clicking.


"Did I mention I'm proficient in most computer programs including Windows, Macintosh, Microsoft Office and Photoshop?" I ask.


He whistles his approval. "How about right before my golf game? Four o'clock?"


Liza, my boss, strolls through the doors. Damn. Now why am I using a pay phone in the cafeteria across the street from my office in the middle of the morning? She knows I don't smoke. I ram my notepad and pen back into my bag. "Perfect. I'll see you then. 'Bye."


"Okay. Great . . . um . . . " Come on, Newman, spit it out. "Will You fax me your resume?"


Liza doesn't see me yet. She's ordering something. Is she sneaking a cup of coffee? Since she announced her pregnancy, she's been strutting her water bottle all Mormon-like around the office, boasting how effortlessly she gave up, caffeine, smokes and Chardonnay.


"No Problem" I say. "Thanks. 'Bye."

"Do you know where our offices are?"


"On Forty-third Street, right? It's on your Web site?"

"Yes and yes. I'm on the sixth floor. Just tell Heidi you're here to see me."

I assume Heidi is his receptionist. "Great. 'Bye."


"Don't you want my fax number?"


"Isn't it the one on the Web site?"

"No, I have a personal fax number. Do you want it?"


Of course I want it! Just tell it to me already! I crouch against the wall and a ketchup-stained table eclipses my face.! "Yes. Yes, I do. What is it?"

"Hmm. Good question. Let me check. Hold on, it should be on my business card, right?" Clunk. Did he just knock over his chair? Is he completely incompetent?


Liza pulls out her wallet.


"Okay, got it.

Two-one-two-five-five-five-nine-four-three-six." Uh-Oh, nothing to write on or with. Two-One-two-five-four-three-six. I'll remember it. No problem. I can remember one stupid fax number. Especially this one. Nine times four equals thirty-six. How can I forget? Two-one- five-nine-four-three-six. Or is it four-nine-three-six? This is a terrible plan.

It was a pleasure talking to you. I look forward to meeting you." Two-one-two-five-five-five-four-nine-six-three? I should take out my pen and notebook. Who cares? I could be writing something besides a fax number for a future employer down. Like a lunch special.

"I'm looking forward to meeting you, too," he says.


As quietly and quickly as possible -- two-one-two-five-five-five-three-six-nine-four -- I hang up the phone. One interview scheduled. A good start.


"Sunny?" Liza asks. Her hands leap to her rounded stomach She does this often, as though she's checking to ensure she's still pregnant.

Maybe she thinks I'm getting coffee. Not a ridiculous assumption. Office coffee is like the hot dog of the java industry. They get the leftover beans that don't quite, make the cut at Starbucks. Two-one-two-five-five-five-six-three-nine-four.

Liza isn't a horrible boss. Besides the fact that I do all her work and she takes all the credit. And that on staff birthdays she refuses to order "terribly fattening" chocolate cake and instead insists on serving celery sticks and low-fat tzatziki. And since she's gotten pregnant, she's become a walking bitch machine.


But the workload isn't atrocious and she always writes me nice reviews and pays me fat bonuses.


She glares at my cupless hands. "Is there a reason you snuck out of the office to use the phone here?"

A first-rate question. "My grandmother is sick, Liza. I needed to talk to her in private." It's a good thing both my grandmothers are already dead.


She looks doubtful.


"What did you get, Liza?" I ask, motioning to her small plastic cup. There was an article in the Miami Herald that said that people respond more positively to you if you frequently use their names in conversation. It hasn't worked for me yet.


Her face flushes a shit-you-caught-me red. "Hot chocolate."

Funny, it doesn't smell like hot chocolate. Smells like good old will-deform-your-baby caffeine. That's terrible. Doesn't she know that she's risking her baby's health?


She slides into a metal chair. "I'm going to stay here for a while and look over some notes."

Should I insist on sitting with her to make sure she doesn't try to sneak a smoke, too? Maybe I should get a better sniff of what's in that water bottle. Or maybe I've got to get somewhere and write down this number. "See you later, Liza."


Two-one-two-five-five-five-three . . . three times twelve . . . twelve? Damn.


During leftover pineapple pizza lunch, I respond to the first of my friend Millie's e-mails:

To: Millie

Subject: Re: Where The Hell Are You?


I just got back last night. He asked me to move in with him. I'm going. It's insane.

Her second e-mail, tagged with Fw: Purity Tampons Cause Cancer, is one of those health forwards. Millie, one of my closest friends knows that I love spreading these millions-of women-die-needlessly warnings. You never know, one day one of these e-mails could save someone's life.


I received this from a friend -- please read and pass along, Have you heard that Purity includes asbestos in their tampons? Why? Because asbestos makes you bleed more, if you bleed more, you are going to use more . . .


I tried a Purity tampon once, but it felt as if I was trying to shove a cement brick up my vagina. I forward the e-mail to Liza because she loves chain letters, especially those feel good chain letters that promise you instant death if you don't forward them immediately. I Forward Purity Tampons Cause Cancer e-mail to my older sister Dana, too. This way she knows that the reason I didn't call her when I got home late night was not because my plane crashed, or was hijacked by terrorists, but because I am an extremely busy career woman who is also very concerned with women's health. And who knows? Maybe she'll get a story idea out of it. Dana does the nine o'clock news for the radio station WCMG Miami. She's desperately trying to move to TV. She also sells feature articles to newspapers all over the country in an attempt to build up her portfolio.

Six seconds after I hit, Send, my extension rings.

As always, I contemplate answering the phone with, "What?" But I don't. "Sunny Langstein speaking. "

"Why didn't you call me when you got in? You know I worry about you."

"Sorry, Dana. I got in late and I didn't want to wake you."

My sister snorts. "I told you to wake me. Did I not tell you to wake me? Did you have a good trip?"

"Very nice trip, thanks." Do I tell her? I have to tell her. "Hold on one sec." I say. I Put the phone on: the desk and close my office door. I sit down in my swivel chair and take a deep breath. Liza hates when her staff's doors are closed; always asks us to please leave them open so that the other departments don't get the impression we're unfriendly.


Her door has been closed for about six months now.

"He asked me to move in with him.



"Hello? You still there?"

"I'm here," she says. "He wants you to move to New York?"

"Yes. What do you think?"

"Do you care what I think?"


"Are you going to go?"


"You're just going to quit your job and leave everything behind? Isn't that a bit irrational?"

And the guilt begins. Maybe I shouldn't have told her. Maybe I should have moved and called her from New York. "What's new?" I should have asked. She would have rambled on for hours, and when she finally stopped for a breath, I could have interjected, "Call me at this new number 'kay?" And that would have been it. I should have banked on Dana's tunnel vision -- her ability to only see and hear what she wants to see and hear. It would have taken her months, maybe even years, before she realized that 212 wasn't Fort Lauderdale's area code.

Case in point: after I graduated from college, she admitted she didn't know that I studied business at University of Florida.

"What did you think I was studying?"

She shrugged, straightening the neck of my gown. "Communications."

I laughed. "Why? Because you studied communications?"

"No," she answered, sounding insulted. "I thought that's what you said. That you wanted to study communications."

I did. When I was eleven. When Dana wanted to be a star reporter like Barbara Walters and decided to major in communications, I said I wanted to be Barbara Walters and study communications. What do they teach you in communications anyway? How to talk? But then I decided that business was a little more practical. That's what my father told me.

And journalism isn't the only way to make a difference in the world. I'm going to change the structure from within.

One day, armed with all types of theorems, my business degree and women's studies minor, I would break through the corporate glass ceiling.

One day.

Coming up with the next Snapple wasn't exactly what I had in mind. The problem is, I haven't found a ceiling really worth breaking. Panda recruited on campus and I dropped off my résumé, mostly because I didn't know what I wanted to do and then they called me in for an interview and then they offered me a job. I am quite talented at convincing people to do what I want, even when I'm not sure I want it.

But I'm only twenty-four, still building the resume. One day I'll do something . Change the world. And in the meantime, unlike Dana, since the day I started college, my father hasn't had to lend me a dime.


A piece of pineapple is trapped behind my bottom teeth, in the wire that my orthodontist glued on after I got my braces off. "It's not irrational," I say, while digging for the stray piece of fruit.


"I can't understand you. You're mumbling. Are you going to quit your job?"

Spit or swallow? I spit the de-wedged pineapple into a tissue "I thought of flying in every morning, but it'll be difficult.


"Don't be a smart-ass."

Dana breathes heavily in my ear, waiting. I don't breathe that loudly, do I? Now that Steve and I will be permanently sleeping in the same bed, I'll have to train myself to inhale and exhale through my nose so that I don't kill him with my morning breath.

I see Liza huff by through the two window panels by my door. They don't let us lowly assistant managers have blinds for fear we'll spend all day playing Tetris, downloading porn or write to the higher-ups that we're secretly doing their jobs.

"I'll find a new job."

"Isn't Panda considered one of the top five companies to work for in Florida? Aren't you on the fast track over there?" Of course, that she remembers.

"I won't be promoted for another year."

"Why? Don't you do all of your boss's work?"

True. "But I'm not ready to be a manager. I still have to have someone look over my stuff. And I'm only twenty-four. They don't let twenty-four year olds be managers."

"You're a mature twenty-four. You should have asked for a promotion by now. Don't be such a pushover."

I bite my tongue to keep from telling her to take her own advice. First she was a freelance journalist. And now she's been a radio reporter for over a year. When is she going to go after the job she wants?

She takes a breath. "Have you started looking for work?"

"I already have one interview," I say. Not that I expect to get a job right away. I know it takes time. I don't want to quit my job until I have a new one. But I have to give my landlord at least thirty days' notice before I move out, and I can only move out on the last day of the month. Which means that if I want to move out by October thirty-first I have to tell her by the end of September, next Tuesday. Otherwise I have to wait an entire month and Steve will end up paying for his entire apartment for all of November, since is roommate is moving out at the end of October.


This is all way too complicated.

"Don't you think you're a little young to move in with your boyfriend?" She sighs for effect.

"I thought I was a mature twenty-four?"

"Not that mature."

"Dana, by the time Mom was twenty-four, she had you."

"I can't believe you're going to quit your job, give up your apartment, sell you car -- you can't bring a car, never mind a convertible to Manhattan, you know -- to follow some guy across the country. Are you going to get married next? Take his name? Become a stay-at-home mom? Buy a bread-maker?"

I wish I had been offered some fabulous job in New York first and then met Steve while buying a hot pretzel from a street vendor. "I've always wanted a bread-maker."

"I worry about you."


"What if you can't find a job?"

"Then I won't move."

Dana snorts, "Don't think you can bullshit me the way you do everyone else. I know you. Do what you want. But don't come crying to me when you're forty, have five kids, no life."

Copyright © 2003 Sarah Mlynowski

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