Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Biggest Successes and Mistakes: Read This and Save Yourself Time

Biggest Successes:

1. I was 24 and had been a government reporter for three years. All my life, I'd dreamed of going to New York City. To jump from small-town reporting to financial writing in the city was one of the scariest moves of my life. At the time, I had a love interest who was looking for a woman who wanted to settle down, get married, and have kids. I chose my heart. I chose New York City and making my own way. Occasionally, I see him: He's married with kids. It's the life I could've had, but I would've always regretted pursuing my dream.

2. The workforce can be a tough place: Very few people in corporate America are transparent. In two instances, I've paid professionally for upholding something morally important to me. I won't climb at others' expenses or by neglecting my own sense of what's right. Has it cost me some rungs on the professional ladder? Possibly. But I sleep soundly at night.

3. My closest friends are people I trust infinitely: I know they are good, kind, caring, honest people to the core. They've seen me at my worst and still loved me as I am. My best definition of a good friendship (or relationship of any kind) is you're more of yourself with that person. If you don't feel that way - if you cloud your persona to impress or keep the other person happy - move on and find your tribe.

Biggest Failures:

1. I once listened to the suicidal tune "One Last Cry" endlessly over a guy I thought was the one for me. I wallowed in regret and a sense of the one that got away. Fast forward five years: I see him at a club and he has no idea who I am. Fast forward fifteen years and he's gone through one marriage (which ended in him cheating on his wife) and now has a horrible reputation for being an overgrown womanizer. I could've spared myself a ton of time and energy by not wallowing. Move on sooner. If it didn't happen, there was probably good reason.

2. I once read a quote by someone who had succeeded in every area pursued but felt like a failure anyway: The reason was she had never pursued her passion. Every success elsewhere inherently felt like a failure because it wasn't what she wanted. My true nature is creative: My truest passion is writing. I turned away from it for logical reasons: It wasn't "sure enough;" it wouldn't pay the bills; the economy was crashing and the arts are the first to go.. I've had successes in other pursuits, but that gnawing sense of failure lingers when I ignored what I really loved.

3. I stayed too long. If you're in any kind of an unhealthy situation, the only thing to do is figure out how to get yourself out. Years ago, we had a cat who adopted us. Her home was terrible (we later learned). So she just instinctively found the biggest pet lovers within a five mile radius and moved herself in. Well, it became an ugly fight with the original owner. To acquiesce, we refused to let the cat in, feed her, do anything. What did the cat do? She chose to be homeless: She refused to go home because she didn't feel safe there. One day, she approached me, emaciated and mangy. She stared at me and let out a cry demanding help. All I could think was, Wow, you're smart. Not smart in the intellectual sense; smart in the intuitive sense. She ran on instincts and trusted them. I helped her. Follow your own more.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Legacy of Helen Gurley Brown and Influence of Cosmopolitan

The late Gia Carangi, who epitomized Cosmo sexuality

When I was a kid, I once saw my father paging through Cosmopolitan magazine in a check-out line and asked him to stop looking at porn. He replied that it was actually a woman's magazine. It took me several minutes to process the information that women were looking sexy for other women.

This was the early 1990s, when models were celebrities (unlike today in which celebrities are models). This was the era of huge hair, cleavage, layers of makeup: Think Kim Alexis, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Stephanie Seymour. This was when models could refuse to "get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day" and still have jobs worth getting out of bed for.

Around the same time, I saw an episode of "Oprah" with Helen Gurley Brown, longtime editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan who was a figurehead for the magazine. During the episode, she coached women on the importance of looking sexy even when running errands, since Mr. Right might be fleshing them out while they were inspecting cantaloupe at the grocery store.

After Gurley-Brown's passing this year, there were tributes speculating whether her influence moved women forward or simply caused a lot of unintended pregnancies and fueled women's insecurity. After long speculation, I think the answer is both A and B. Cosmopolitan is a jagged little pill: It's complex, a guilty pleasure, a manual for men who want to know the opposing team's playbook.

My sister once told me, "Relationships are not how Cosmo portrays them." This is true: Relationships are far more complex than appearing sexy and seducing your man. If you get past the seduction and karma sutra, he'll eventually learn you're not sexy a lot and it takes effort - a ton of it  for most of us - to appear that way.

What is freeing about Gurley-Brown's legacy is the simple concept that women love sex for their own sake and enjoy their femininity. When I think about the ultimate sexy look, I think of a Cosmo cover and someone like Frederique on it. Gurley-Brown was a woman espousing this until her death, knowing that her age didn't negate her sexuality or femininity. That alone is a liberating message for women.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Revlon Colorstay Whipped Foundation

When the glass base is almost as thick as the product inside, it's an attempted optical illusion of more product.

I love Revlon Colorstay liquid foundation, so when a whipped formula came out with largely positive reviews, I was intrigued. The original formula's universal fault is that it sets quickly and can look so matte it appears flat.

The new consistency was quizzical and seemed a little gimmicky: I guessed it was Revlon's answer to the criticism by creating a version that seemed rich and creamy. It took a while, but when I had a coupon I caved and tried this formula.

Each time, I ask myself if it's the same product by the same brand: Everything I love about Revlon Colorstay liquid foundation is lacking in this whipped formula. Even in cooler Fall weather, the formula wears down in a matter of four or five hours. I wouldn't attempt it in any kind of heat. It appears more smooth and dewy than the original liquid version upon application, but it wears down very quickly and turns streaky. Colorstay is the gold standard for being budge-proof makeup, so this product has been a disappointment for me.

The product is pricey at about $13 per jar and is less fluid ounces than the liquid version. If you look at the jar, the weight is generated by the excess glass and not the product.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Defense of Cats

Whenever I hear a self-described "dog person" talk, there's an inevitable "I hate cats" thrown in. This is because cats and dogs love in very different ways. Dogs are stage 5 clingers: Think Taylor Swift, a typical Bachelor contestant. My parents' dog greets me like the President every time I come visit, but that enthusiastic love grates in a matter of hours when I can't go to the bathroom without her.

If I'm eating, the Oscar moment starts: She looks at me like she's never eaten before, and she will never eat again. Is this charming? If you did this to anyone, even once, you'd be banished.

I'm a self-described "cat person." Before the scoffing starts, let me explain why. I understand them. They want space; they don't need you constantly; their love is transparent (feed me and I love you). They also don't eat to the point of gluttony. I've always thought this was a marker of intelligence. Dogs will eat their weight if given the opportunity (Why do you think the Tumblr "Dog Shaming" is viral?). You can leave a cat for a couple days without it having a panic attack.

My cat is willful, independent, and makes clear that he will love on his terms. I've always been this way: give me space and I will come closer. As a kitten, he would wait for me to return home from work daily by sitting at the door. On nights I returned late, I'd find him sleeping at the door. They have a sense of loyalty and love, but it's a subtler kind.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

My Mother's Beauty Style

I don't know where my love for beauty products came from. I know for sure wasn't taught: My mother was my antithesis in this area (and in most others). Her only form of "putting on her face" was applying Revlon lipstick while backing out of the driveway. Twenty years later, it has the exact same smell - an olfactory trip down memory lane.

The other glaring discrepancy: She bought no more than $30/year in cosmetics. No no-buy intact. No self-restraint. No penny pinching (well, maybe a little of that).. She just wasn't interested. In the mid-80s, she hosted a Mary Kay party for a friend. Her purchases sat in our bathroom closet until somewhere around 2000. She didn't use them, but she didn't throw them away.

She never wore sunscreen until her 50s and her skin looks like that of a much younger woman's. She never had skin cancer. She never taught me any beauty mantra as I reached puberty: Perhaps because we didn't bond in that way, but mostly because she just wasn't interested.

When I rummage through her makeup collection - which fits in its entirety in a oval wooden container no bigger than a salad plate - it's dated, shimmery, and random: It's loaded with shimmery lipsticks, shadows, and nail polishes in colors that follow no logical thought pattern. When I ask her why she picked a certain shadow color, she shrugs and replies, "It looked pretty." This is the response of the uninitiated. The initiated will reply with a logarithm leading to their selection.

My mother still curls her hair almost daily with hot rollers she bought in the 1970s. She also perms it the way we did in the 80s. She is uninterested in updated information or products or that great invention called heat protectant. Once I came home  to a hopeless look in her eyes: Her hair had been overprocessed so badly, it looked like it break off. She literally didn't know what to do but stand there close to tears.. I took her to the drugstore and amazed her with the selection of deep conditioners. It was literally like showing the Amish the Internet.

I would be much richer woman if I followed my mother's lead, but I just can't.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I Think of Beauty

Brigitte Bardot in her youth
Brigitte Bardot today

 When I see a woman in her early 20s there's a running thought: You're beautiful; your skin bounces back; your weight resists a Big Mac; your hair grows fast and luscious. I'm not envious, but I'm 10 years out of that period in my life. And I wish I could give her a little lived-in advice: Things change, so don't count on your looks.

As many advances as there are in the beauty industry, the reality is none of them will truly stop time. When I was 24, I got into the best shape of my life. Just as I was savoring all the male attention suddenly thrown at me, something humbling happened. One night I yawned and dislocated my jaw. This led to a four year orthodontic journey in which I lived with a visibly crooked jaw. I had to slowly come to terms that my face had gone a few degrees against the definition of beauty as symmetry.

Our physicality is vulnerable to time, accidents, and countless things beyond on our control. As much as I love beauty products, makeup, and the transformative power of it all, this thought always resides in the back of my mind and keeps me a compassionate person with a sense of humor and self-reflection.

I've lived through all sorts of beauty assessments: All the way through high school, my dark and exotic looks were perceived as ugly to my largely white classmates. I was told this relentlessly. The boys who did like me were too embarrassed to out themselves to their friends. After high school, a few contacted me and told me after-the-fact.

In college and in the years that followed, I grew into my looks more and was in an environment where difference was embraced, not shunned. Suddenly, my looks were largely reviewed positively. Once, a man stopped me on the street and said, "You're the most beautiful girl I've seen today." I joked back, "It's only morning."

One very popular beauty magazine rhapsodizes on living actresses deemed as great beauties of their era. The catch? They only show photos of the actresses in their youth, even though a current photo is entirely possible. This perpetuates the idea that we're only valuable and worth a tribute when we're young and beautiful.

There are perceptions that one who's into makeup and beauty products doesn't understand the deeper meaning of things like character, personality, etc. The two aren't mutually exclusive. Embrace what makes you feel good about yourself. Just keep that enjoyment in check and know there is so much more to you.