With Amanda’s story, I’m reminded of the women who came before us and how different the pursuit of economic security once looked. Many of our mothers and grandmothers weren’t expected to work outside the home, nor were there many opportunities. They were raised to lead domestic lives by getting married as soon as possible. Amanda is the descendant of 2 women whose pursuits of domestic life were upended by situations they couldn’t control and turned them unexpectedly into career women.
For her mom, it was a divorce. She had to figure out how to get a job and financially support herself and Amanda. She made it happen though, Amanda never felt like she went without anything. She got her clarinet lessons and many of her clothes were sewn by her mom. Looking back on her mom’s experience, she has a deeper appreciation for how hard she worked. It was never her mom’s goal to work full time and be the bread winner. She wanted to be a mom.
A generation earlier, Grandma Shirley’s husband died so she too had to figure out the economics, during an even tougher era for women being accepted in the workplace. Her Grandma did just fine, by the way, and ultimately became the head of her division. Both women had to figure out how to get money without men during a time when society didn’t offer many opportunities for women to be financially independent.
These 2 women are very important role models to Amanda and it’s easy to see how she learned to be driven and independent by growing up with them.
Amanda grew up in Southwest Missouri and spent her childhood just wanting to get the hell out of Southwest Missouri. While in high school, she took her first journalism classes and thought she would ultimately write for Rolling Stone. She was the editor of her school newspaper and like every good GenX’er started a ‘zine after she graduated. Starting the ‘zine was the first time she realized that she liked organizing the thing more than she liked the actual writing.
She attended college at Missouri State University, majoring in English Literature. In college, she was also the Editor in Chief of her college newspaper. Because she was Editor in Chief, she was personally liable for any libel that may be printed in the newspaper. Mistakenly, a defamatory article was printed about a college football player and he indeed decided to sue her. From October to May of her Senior year, in addition to her schoolwork, she spent 40 hours per week working at the newspaper and 20 hours per week fighting the lawsuit, which was dropped that May. After that, she never wanted to see the inside of a newsroom again.
She took her talents to the world of advertising at an agency in Kansas City. She was intrigued when she interviewed because the people were young and cool, there was a dog in the office and people were wearing jeans. There were still cubes, it was the’90’s after all, but she was seeing the beginning of the more relaxed work culture.
They hired Amanda as a PR writer and she moved to KC, where her first gig was ghostwriting for a pest control magazine. She was super curious about the company and the work and was quickly recruited into Creative Copywriting. Again, hitting on the theme she discovered after high school, she was more interested in “why” they were doing things, rather than the actual writing.
She transferred into media for 6 months and learned as much as she could. Meanwhile, on her own time, she was writing a book about internet communities. The book was a result of primary research she and her co-author conducted to create one of the first (if not the first) published ethnography of an internet community. Her book was published in 2004 and then CurrentTV called and hired her to consult with their on-air talent about the digital community.
They ultimately offered her a full time Director role. She had a “WTF” moment when she realized that by accepting this job, she just leapt off the career ladder within agencies. It worked out ok, she worked up to VP of Product and left after 4 years.
She moved on to another start-up in San Francisco and had just met a man who was based in Minnesota. They dated long distance for 3 years, and Amanda knew she had to think about relocating to Minnesota if she was to continue being with him.
She took a meeting with Zeus Jones. It was scheduled for 30 minutes and turned into 2 hours. She didn’t interview anywhere else because she knew Zeus Jones was the perfect fit. She accepted an offer in 2013 and in 2018 became one of the first female partners. She also married the guy she moved here for.
Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Patti Smith because of a million reasons. I’ve idolized her since my young goth punk phase. She seems like the coolest woman in the world and has an incredible sense of her own style.
I was super into music as a kid. The Regency Showcase Club was where I saw shows when I was a kid living in Missouri. Then, in college, I worked for an alternative rock station. I have over 3,000 CDs from that era!
Would you like to be famous? In what way?
Hmmm…I don’t think so. I’m pretty private and close to my friends. I don’t want all the things that come with fame. Sounds like a nightmare. I’m too much of an introvert. Reading books is how I relax.
When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I would never sing to someone else. I sang in choir and choir competitions. I sang opera. I was always part of a chorus, and not the person in front. I sing to Kelly Clarkson in the car like nobody is watching. When I moved here, my stepdaughter and I would have Taylor Swift dance parties in the kitchen.
Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I have a fear about how I’ll die. My Grandma died of Alzheimer’s, so I have a fear of that disease. When I forget something I feel like: “Oh, this is it!” Watching someone suffer through that disease is horrible.
Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
By appearance, it looks like Joel and I have a matching aesthetic and that we both like to dress up. Our house appears this way the most, but in reality we compromise a lot. He’s minimalist and I like patterns. When it comes to dressing up, I love it and he doesn’t. However, he’s very fastidious about his appearance. He’s not fancy, but he’s put together and will have 87 navy blue tee-shirts. We both work around marketing so people may think our jobs are close in common, but they couldn’t be more different. My job is broad, where Joel’s is specialized.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I met my stepdaughter. Spending time with her has unlocked something in me I didn’t know existed. It’s something I never thought I’d have because of my fertility issues. Claire’s mother is incredible. She calls me her “co-mom.”
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I never took school seriously. Now, I fully understand what I can accomplish when I apply myself. Looking back, I could have done more incredible things! I wish my mom had been more disciplined about applying myself in school, but it probably didn’t occur to her because she had totally different goals.
What do you value most in a friendship?
Honesty. That was easy. I have enough people around me who blow smoke up my ass. I want people to tell me the truth. I over-index on truth telling, which is sometimes off-putting to people.
What is your most treasured memory?
The night before my first wedding I spent at my Grandma Shirley’s house. She asked me: “Is the sex good? Cuz life is long and if it’s not good, don’t marry him.”
What is your most terrible memory?
Right before my Grandma Shirley died, my mother and I took her to the eye doctor. It was the first time I realized what the Alzheimer’s had done to her — she sat there with her hair unkempt, in a ratty sweater, the rings on her fingers filthy from who-knows-what. All her life she was very well put together. Not stuffy, but she liked to get dressed, if that makes sense? But sitting in that doctor’s office it was clear she had been undone and wasn’t herself at all. People were looking at her and frowning, and it was all too much. I ran out and cried in the parking lot.