Monthly Archives: February 2013

Feck Spanx; or My Addiction to Work and Beauty

My associate editor at the paper, MJ, says she giggles every time she sees me, because she knows I’m wearing Spanx.  I love working at the paper, I love being “Libby Cudmore, Girl Reporter,” I love seeing my name in print* and I love getting the paper on Wednesdays and saying, “Wow, look what I did!”  Everyone in my office is grand and I’ve never had a better working environment.

That being said, the Spanx incident has really made my think.  In having a rubber slip squish me into loveliness, the realization that I could always be thinner was a tad horrifying.  I mean, as it is, I just sold a Hot Topic wiggle dress from high school because it didn’t fit anymore–as in it was too big.  The most I’ve ever weighed is 111, and that was for a very brief time.  I still fit in a bikini I bought (also from Hot Topic) in my freshman year of college.  I wear a size 1 juniors in jeans.

But I can always be thinner.

Subsequently, working for a newspaper means being ready to work every minute of every day.  “There are a million stories in the naked city,” my boss always chides when I struggle to come up with something notable to write about.  This is one of the few times in my life where I haven’t been working two/three jobs, but I work –in some form or another–seven days a week.  That’s not a complaint, that’s a fact.

A recent Forbes study showed that women work harder than men.  And we’ve all been told that the harder we work, the further ahead we’ll get in life.  Over a decade working multiple jobs and getting a MFA, and I’m still up to my ears in student loan debt and can’t afford an apartment

I can always work harder.  Anything else is failure.

I realized that this was a problem when on Tuesday night, I had nothing to do.  My stories were all written, my pages were all laid out, there weren’t any meetings to attend.  I had the whole evening free . . . and I had no idea what to do.  I hadn’t had a night off in so long that I had forgotten how to relax.


I Would Wear Triple-Spanx for That Man

So I asked my friend Mike, who works a normal job like normal people, and he was thrilled to be asked because relaxing is something he excels at.  Not in a lazy way, but in a way that he knows the boundaries between work and play.  He told me to watch bad TV or play video games.  Since the X-Box was at the Teen Center and our TV is hooked up yet, I peeled off my Spanx and sat on the couch, watched three episodes of Face/Off and then Justified, which I don’t even like, but, well, Goggins.

Last night, after working another full day doing tear sheets, I came home, made dinner, did some errands and watched Law & Order: Special “No, this isn’t Chris Brown/Rhianna, what gave you that idea?” Unit.  And finally, after days of having my smoothed and shaped butt up around my ears from tension, I relaxed.

And having relaxed, I think I’m finally able to get back to work.  In Spanx.


*And I’ve got a story coming out in the next issue of The Vestal Review!

Day 2 in Spanx

The worst part about this is that today wasn’t so bad.  I almost didn’t know they were there except that they kept riding up, which was okay, I guess, because my sweater dress was a little too short to properly hide them.  Luckily I was sitting all day, so no one noticed.

The thing is that they work. They narrow in my waist and lift up a backside that’s not much to write home about.  And the feminist part of me is really bothered by this.  I’m 5’3″ and weigh 104 lbs, but they can still make me thinner.  Because a woman can always be thinner. 

How awful is that?

Dinner Challenge–Not Getting Murdered By Dean Cain

I was watching SVU (“Starved”) with my F-i-L and noticed an eerie parallel between the episode and my Arlene Dahl-inspired Dinner Challenge: 


Yep. That’s the face of a creep.

Dean Cain plays Dr. Jergens, a control freak who rapes women who don’t like what he orders for them.  Mariska goes undercover at a speed dating event to try and catch him, and he orders her a dirty martini, which sounds disgusting and she says no (NO MEANS NO, SUPERMAN!) so he tries to follow her and the Stabler and Ice-T spout some cliches and haul him away and I assume he goes to jail although I didn’t finish the episode.  Maybe he kills himself and Ice-T shakes his head.  Maybe he gets away and Mariska makes that open-mouth fish face she makes when she realizes that Dick Wolf’s name is about to come up and she hasn’t finished her case.

Moral of the story–if you don’t like what your date orders for you, just be careful he’s not Dean Cain.  Go ahead and mace him, just in case. 

The List Part 2: “The Don Juans”

“It’s not only that he doesn’t want to get married–it’s that you know all the time he’s unworthy of you.” Helen Gurley Brown Sex and the Single Girl.

I call these guys cadsbut they’re also referred to, by themselves, as “nice guys” and they’re the absolute worst kind of man.  As soon as a guy says he’s a “nice guy,” run, run as fast as you can.  Also, he will probably either wear a fedora or a bowtie.

My first encounter with a “nice guy” was Joe at Binghamton University.  I was young and naive and still into musical theater, so I thought a guy in a fedora who sang Frank Sinatra tunes to me during fire drills must be absolutely in love with me . . . until he kept trying to dry-hump me–after I pushed him away–while we were watching Lord of the Rings.  Not okay.

Musical Theater guys are the absolute worst because they’re all cads.  I just met one during auditions for Little Shop of Horrors (he was reading for Seymour, I was reading for Audrey in the scene right after “Suddenly Seymour”) who almost kissed me in front of everyone, including Ian, who was auditioning (and landed) the part of The Dentist.  You’d think that the dumb cad would have noticed that I walked in and am sitting next to this guy I keep snuggling up to, hmm, maybe we’re dating.  But I, like the bimbo I can be, assumed he understood this arrangement and offered to meet him for coffee.

We hung out a few times and had some really great conversations, but he kept trying to grab my ass even though he was sitting on the couch in the home I shared with my boyfriend.  Apparently, he couldn’t stand the Friendzone he’d voluntarily placed himself in and ditched me for some other blonde.  My pride was more wounded than anything, because I hate that kind of garbage from men.  I make my position known right up front–you have no right to act like I went and broke your little heart.

But here’s the kicker, dear readers.  I didn’t get the part (it went to a 16 year old moron who managed to not go completely flat on at least 1/64th of her notes) but on opening night, I wore my Betsey Johnson booties, a belted black tunic and leggings, and when he saw me outside, he pushed his girlfriend out of the way to get to me.  Yeah, I’m that good.

I never saw him again and I’m fine with that.  I mean, really, who needs a cad?

But in all fairness, some of them can be very sweet.  Dan’s a good example of this–Dan is a good friend and a sweetheart, but he is an utter and devoted cad.  He loves women too much, I’m afraid, to keep his hands (or his lips) off a pretty one that drifts by.  He’s not mean spirited or dishonest . . . just a silly romantic still chasing that perfect love.

The List of Men

“You probably have quite a collection (of men) yourself, if you just count them” Helen Gurley Brown, Sex and the Single Girl.

Technically, I’m not married, so I guess I fit into HGB’s definition of a single girl, which means I’d better make my list of men I could, in theory, marry (just in case).  She divides them up into several categories, and I’ll address one each day for the weekend.

The Eligibles: (Men I could marry, maybe)

Ian:  My boyfriend of 8 years.  The first thing I noticed about him when my friend Anthony introduced us was that he looked like Ewan McGregor.  Ian is funny, tender and generous.  He likes adventures, works hard and celebrates all the wonderful beauty of life.  He also loves me, which isn’t always easy to do, spoils me (he built me a fully-functioning Tom Servo puppet!) and is an amazing artist who designs our award-winning Halloween costumes every year.


That’s The Man I’m Going to Marry

Mike:  Mike and I have been friends since senior year of college, almost a decade now.  Mike has good hair, a well-curved New Jersey mouth and really great eyes.   He’s funny, a straight-shooter and knows me probably better than anyone, even the parts of me that I can’t stand.  Mike is the ultimate example of “knows everything about me and loves me in spite of it.”  Also, he puts up with me talking about Walton Goggins.

Sterling:  Sterling is one if Ian’s closest friends, smart, well-spoken, nice looking.  We keep each other company and can talk for hours. The only downside is that he lives in Austin, and Austin is filled with dudes in cut-off jean shorts.

Geza: I dated Geza in high school and we’ve remained friends ever since.  He has silver eyes and jet black hair and has agreed to marry me if no one else will.

Chris: Chris was my stage manager on The Odd Couple.  He’s adorable, plays guitar and bought me Ryan Adams Heartbreaker on vinyl because he saw it in Nashville and knew I “had to have it.”  He could be, quite possibly, the sweetest person on earth.

Pete: Pete can reduce me to tears of laughter.  I knew Pete briefly in college and remembered him as being somewhere around 8′ tall.  He graduated well before I did, but we got better acquainted after my friend Eeon’s wedding.  An epic storyteller, Pete can tell the same story ten times and every time, it will have some new element to make it even more hysterical.  Pete has also signed to direct James Cameron’s Titanic 2: Dolphin Quest.


The first image from Sin City 2 were just released and while they’re really annoying me (Chris Meloni, really?  Josh Brolin as Dwight?  And do we really have to have Bruce Willis back again, Hartigan is in jail the entire run of the series, and then dead) it’s also reminding me of Boys, Binghamton and more bad hair.


In never knowing what to do with my hair, I always just pointed to someone prettier than me and said “I want that.” When I was living in NYC the year after graduation, “that” was Carla Gugino’s sleek Sin City bob.  I was working for MaxSpa, which was the worst, most-stressful job I ever had, where even the free manicures and haircuts couldn’t make up for the stress I endured from the insane people who ran it.

Sin City was my life for the better part of two years.  I saw it four times at the Lowes Theater in Binghamton, once with Ian, once with Catch, once with MDS and once with Anthony.  Two of those shows were in one weekend, which caused me to dream in black and white, which is the coolest thing in the world.  The only good thing about working a summer at the now-defunct Movie Gallery was that I got it before anyone else had it, and watched it twice the night it came out.  It was the first time I could imagine myself into the role of a glamorous dame, a femme fatale, a beautiful, deadly woman.  It was also right around the time I was getting into Tom Waits and Raymond Chandler, luring me into this world of gorgeous decay.


Movie buffs that Catch, Mike and I were, we inserted ourselves into that world.  Mike and I were Marv and Wendy, cool-headed partners in crime who would always back the other up in times of vengeance.  We still are, to a certain extent, although age, distance and circumstance have weathered most of our revenge-worthy causes.  But I know right now if I called Mike and said, “Grab a shovel and meet me out past the airport,” he’d be there AND remember to bring Hefty bags, because Mike is practical and always prepared.

But Catch and I were Dwight and Gail.  The Catch I knew could brood like nobody’s business, but he only did it in front of me.  Noble and dark-minded, Catch also had a spot-on Clive Owen inflection.  And I was sharp-tongued, mean to his girlfriends, loyal to a fault and could absolutely rock wedges and a black halter.

More importantly, the two of us had a fire.  A fire the world had no place for.  We were young and brash and terrified at the world that was open to us.  And when that world didn’t want us, we built our own.  We wrote a crime novel together.  You can still find pieces of it online and around, a couple issues of Hardboiled, some anthologies.  The character Jack was written for him (Roderick was written for Mike).  It was a fire that carried us through hunger, fatigue, long hours at crappy jobs, breakups, good movies, bad wine and the relentless crush of a world that just didn’t get us.

But as deeply as we felt the movie, the Carla Gugino haircut didn’t exactly work for me.  I have cocktail waitress hair that flips out unless it’s held down by a series of steamrollers and two left hands which usually ends in me stabbing myself with either the brush or the hot iron.

Bu I only had one picture of it in it’s perfectly curled glory.  Catch’s parents took it at JFK just moments before he got on a plane bound for London.  I’m wearing a Morbid Threads wiggle dress that doesn’t fit great and he’s got on a red v-neck tee-shirt.  We’re both smiling despite the fact that my heart is shattering like a Tiffany Lamp dropped from the top of the Library Tower.  He was gone for what seemed like an endless semester and every night for the first two weeks I watched “The Big Fat Kill” and cried myself to sleep in a shirt he had lent me just for that purpose.

I’ve since lost that photo.  And I haven’t watched Sin City since.

Catch and I lost touch a while later.  “Lost Touch” is kind of a nice way of saying we broke each other’s hearts in an act of violent emotional murder/suicide.  You know how in action movies there’s usually a scene where the hero and the villain wind up with their guns pressed against each other’s foreheads?  That was Catch and I, only the guns were aimed squarely at the other’s hearts.  It was an ugly, sordid thing and I regret it every *expletive deleted for Lent* day.

There really was no place in this world for our kind of fire.  But that didn’t mean it ever stopped burning.  And I hope that wherever he is in this world with whatever new face he’s wearing, he’s seeing that same Sin City 2 news and remembering me the same way I remember him.


Say Yes to The Dress #6

I’m going to agree with Arlene on this one–dresses are awesome.

I don’t think my pants put Ian on any sort of psychological guard, but I do have to agree that while wearing a dress, I felt more feminine.  I sat up straighter, I was more aware of my surroundings and how I spoke.  “I loved watching you move around the office,” he told me.  “You carried yourself differently.”

But what I discovered are that dresses are an amazing way to be lazy.  A sweater dress and leggings are just pajamas you can wear to work.  Throw on a dress, loop a scarf around your neck and BAM, work ready, party ready, whatever ready.  They’re an amazing garment, and men should be jealous that we get to wear them.

I stood out in the freezing cold in a dress.  I rummaged through a junkyard in a dress.  I’m not going to throw away all my jeans, but this week has made me rethink the dress as a piece of clothing.  Anything jeans can do, a dress can do better.

Say Yes to the Dress #5

Today would be the ultimate test of my dress-wearing stunt.  I already gave up on the nightgown, but only because it tore in the armpit and I think Arlene would rather I slept in matching pink pajamas than in a torn nightie.

But today I had to spend two hours out on a frozen lake, covering the Polar Bear Jump for the paper.  This is one of Ian and I’s big assignments every year; we plan part of our Christmas around getting warm clothes and accessories for the other just in preparation for these two hours. I didn’t even realize it was this weekend until I’d already committed to this stunt, but I had a plan . . . and better still, I had a dress.

Ice DressSilk undershirt, thermal shirt, black wool dress.  Under Armor tights, cashmere socks, felted wool socks, galoshes.  Hot Hands, Boot Warmers.  Scarf, coat, gloves, wool beret.  I couldn’t put my arms down, but at least I would be warm.

And for awhile, I was.  It’s impossible to stay toasty for two hours in 22 degree weather while standing on ice, but hey, at least I wasn’t jumping in freezing cold water . . . again.