ASH AMBIRGE

Author, CEO & Founder

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I was at Pulse Orlando.

In: Business Pet Peeves

“Wait,” the stranger said, running his fingers through my freshly cropped ‘do.

He pulled a stray piece of hair from my face and carefully molded it back with his hands. “Now, girl, now, you’re ready to strut your stuff.”

His name was Juan. He was only one of the incredible people I met at Pulse Orlando that night.

That night, only a few months ago in February, when it was also a Latino themed dance party night. That night, only a few months ago in February, when I was randomly in Orlando on business. That night, only a few months ago in February, when R, an old girlfriend of mine from high school, insisted on taking me out on the town. That night, only a few months ago in February, when I stood exactly where the 49 people who were gunned down on June 12, 2016 stood.

My thoughts, one week after this brutal slaughter on humanity:

Not “it could have been me,” but: “How could it be them?

I had never gone to a gay club before. In fact, I hadn’t gone to any club for that matter, since my mid twenties—which was painfully obvious judging by my forest green Ralph Lauren wrap dress and sensible black slingbacks, which were the hippest clothes I had in my suitcase. But it was R’s best friend’s birthday, who was also the lead stylist at the hot tamale hair salon she owned downtown, and he went to Pulse every weekend, and, well, why not?

And so I entered, mouth agape, but not for the reason you might think: Everyone was just so free there. And in a place I wasn’t sure I’d fit in, I was instantly made to feel at home. A part of the gang. Welcome. Light. …Free.

“Come on, I’ll show you where the bathroom is,” Juan said that night, grabbing me by the hand and actually holding it all the way there. There was nothing sexual about it, but there was something about the intimacy; the sense that you were wanted and you were welcomed and you were embraced. Literally.

“Damn girl, damn!” another new friend yelled to me later, laughing as he spun me in salsa circles on the dance floor. “You are FABULOUS!”

“When are we going to talk about your calves?!” yet another new friend howled, wagging his finger and making me feel as if I weren’t wearing a matronly Ralph Lauren dress and sensible black slingbacks.

Everyone was so free there. Even me.

And that was the thing that struck me the most about my night at Pulse Orlando, only a few months ago in February: The humanness of the people inside.

These were some of the most human people I had ever met.

Open.
Sincere.
Real.
Actually fucking present.
Actually fucking seeing one another.
And so, so joyful.

There were no pretenses. No judgments. No snubby noses. It was as if you had put a giant room full of 300 friends together in a room, and all 300 stood there and laughed, and danced, and hollered at one another’s moves, and then shuffled one another into the bathroom to whisper giddily about the cute guy from Colombia that had just walked in.

That bathroom.

I was in that bathroom, only a few months ago in February.

I stood in a stall in that bathroom, so happy I had forgiven my wardrobe malfunction and just gone anyway. So glad I had said yes to meeting up with R, and to the uncertainty, and to the whole bit about feeling like a dastardly old matron in a place I wouldn’t belong. So glad that I let Juan lead me by the hand without awkwardly pulling away; so glad that I giggled about the Colombian and whispered in awe over the bartender’s tattoos—someone who I would come to find out was, in fact, a gunshot victim in this horrific massacre.

How could it be them?

Out of all the people in the world—the child abusers and the rapists and the serial killers and the psychopaths—how could it be them? This group of loving people I had the good fortune to spend an evening at Pulse Orlando with—how could it be them? These people, who were just so happy to have found a place where they felt natural—how could it be them? And these people, who had gone out of their way to make someone like me feel so, so welcome, and so wanted, and so appreciated for who I was—how could it be them?

It should not have been them.

It shouldn’t have been anyone.

But it was.

It was them.

It was someone I had brushed shoulders with, only a few months ago in February.

It may have even been someone I met.

It may have been someone I stood there and really saw, just as much as they saw me that night.

And, that’s the real reason I wanted to write this post. Not to make a statement about guns or religion or human sexuality. But for one reason, and one reason only:

To stand witness.

To say out loud: I saw you.

And to memorialize the joy that I saw on everyone's faces that night, only a few months ago in February; the joy that I experienced as a member of that family, even if only for a handful of hours.

I saw all of you.

And damn girl, damn—

—you were fabulous.

 

Aug 22

2014

36 Signs You’re an Internet Dick

Aug 22, 2014

1. You buy stuff online and then automatically file a chargeback with your credit card company. The internet is onto you, Kim Chow. 2. You play coy with the customer service rep you’re live chatting with. “Well I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me *your* email address?” 3. You send professional emails in all caps—and even throw in […]

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Feb 9

2015

Cowardly Business Owners: An Epidemic?

Feb 9, 2015

Yesterday, I got stood up. As you may know, I have my hands in a boating company, and yesterday, a brain surgeon from the Carolinas simply didn’t show up for a charter—despite having submitted a sizeable deposit, and despite the manager waiting for him at the marina, calling, emailing, iMessaging. One might be worried, if […]

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Dec 13

2017

“It’s Too Dangerous to Travel.” (And Other Hard Conversations I Had While Driving Through Rural America.)

Dec 13, 2017

“It’s too dangerous.” Three little words I kept hearing over and over again when I visited the United States this fall. At dinner tables from Boston to Philadelphia, and everywhere in between—specifically many rural towns, as I was in search of autumn—we would talk about where I live in Costa Rica. How I had spent […]

In: Business Pet Peeves

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Jan 12

2017

Most of the People I Grew Up With Voted for Trump—AND I HAD NO IDEA HOW TO REACT [A Story Through the Eyes of a “Scrappy Kid From Scranton”]

Jan 12, 2017

  For many people the election was a shock—but for me, it was a betrayal. There were things I thought I knew. I thought I knew, for example, that the smartest kid in my high school class—the one with the lightning fast wit and the ability to crush a calculus equation, who even held the […]

In: Business Pet Peeves

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Mar 27

2013

5 Business Rules for Pushovers

Mar 27, 2013

Sometimes it’s too easy. Too easy to say yes when you want to say no. Too easy to end up spending all of your time–maybe a lifetime–pleasing everybody who asks you to. Too easy to let people cross, squash, tap dance on, and bulldoze right the fuck over your boundaries. And too easy to lose […]

In: Business Pet Peeves

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Aug 14

2015

An HR Handbook for Dealing With Assholes

Aug 14, 2015

Here’s a pessimistic point of view: People are assholes. The older I get, the more I seem to notice them—which is either because the more time I’m alive the more I increase my odds, or because that god damn Certain Dri deodorant is actually some kind of dick magnet. Or, you know, maybe it’s the […]

In: Business Pet Peeves

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Aug 12

2015

A Meditation on Shit Talkers

Aug 12, 2015

I got mad yesterday—like ear steaming, red hot, high-pitched, erratic kind of yelling mad. And, you know, I don’t get mad often. I’m generally very level-headed, very calm. Unless, of course, I’m drinking wine, in which case, “level-headed” might not be the best choice of words. Just ask the guy who filed a bogus chargeback on his […]

In: Business Pet Peeves

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I'm a Bad Influence on Women

Hey, I’m Ash! Twenty years ago I was a small town girl growing up in a trailer park in rural Pennsylvania. Fifteen years ago, I lost my family and everything I knew right as I became the first to graduate college. Fourteen years ago, I found myself leaving everything behind for a new life in the city where I could be “normal.” Ten years ago I realized normal was the most disappointing thing that ever happened to me. Nine years ago I quit my job in advertising and pursued my dreams as a creative writer. Eight years ago, I built a 6-figure business doing what I love using nothing more than the Internet and my voice. And now, today, I’m the founder of The Middle Finger Project, an irreverent media co. that helps other women find their voice and teaches them to use it to build whatever the f*ck they want to. With a book coming out with Penguin Random House in February 2020 (YASSS, WE’RE A PRODUCT IN TARGET!) I’m proud to be a bad influence on women and guide them into doing something disobediently brave with their life and their career.

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But no serial killers. I promise I won’t send those.

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