Monthly Archives: June 2013

Hat Trick

“Walk directly to the hat of your dreams and declare your love” Mr. John, The Charming Woman (Edited by Helen Fraser) (1950)

I have always loved hats, especially because they hide 30 years of hair I’ve never quite fully taken to liking.  I’ve had all sorts of hats–cabbie caps, Blossom brims, tiny pillboxes, enormous sunhats.

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I started with berets in the sixth grade, because my sister Shaun wore them with her long green Eponine-esq Army trenchcoat (Shaun was so cool), and then Monica Lewinsky ruined the beret until I was in 10th grade, where I have several photos of me rockin’ a beret with my sophomore year Daria uniform of a sweater, pleated skirt, patterned tights and combat boots (even though personality wise, I’m more Jane).

I do own a raspberry beret and yes, I got it in a second-hand store.  I want a leopard-skin pillbox hat too, just to continue my musical nerd-dom.

I started this week’s stunt with my black pillbox, complete with jeweled hatpin.  My hair was misbehaving today, which actually made hat wearing more difficult.  See, I have this thing with my ears–I don’t like stuff touching the tops/backs of them.  Glasses are torture enough (especially when they get loose, which they do surprisingly often), but I don’t like anything that could make them stick out any further than they already do.  

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Hats Are Fun!

The hat, combined with the limpness of my terrible hair, kept pushing out my ears, and I had to keep adjusting the whole thing, which almost ended up being more trouble than it’s worth.  It’s a very cute hat and I liked the little “bump” it gave me in the back, but even now, it’s still not one that I wear very often.  

 

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Happy Father’s Day

“If you are a schoolgirl, flatter your father”  Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man

I never really had one of those “Daddy’s Girl” relationships, which is fine because I find them just a tad creepy.  I like my family as a friend, thanks.

A couple quick words about my dad.  He’s responsible for just about everything I like except for Jethro Tull, Blondie and the Smiths.  He introduced my sisters and I to Star Wars, Back to the Future, Steely Dan, Rodney Dangerfield, SNL.  I watched MST3K on his TV.  He let Hilary and I put up outer space wallpaper that still stands to this day.  He never once said, “You are NOT leaving the house in that” (even in the full throes of my goth-girl phase) and never once punished me for ignoring my curfew, which I did all the time.

My dad is also responsible for showing me Arrested Development, which we have quoted at family gatherings every since.  The day my grandmother Cora died, we gathered at home and watched “Good Grief.”  We actually laughed, and I realized that everything was going to be all right.

So for my birthday, he got me an official Bluth Development tee-shirt, a substantial upgrade from the “Save Our Bluths” tee-shirt that Hilary and I made with fabric markers and, later, stencils (mine had a seal on it and it read “I Went Swimming in the Ocean”).  But one thing my dad has never been good at is guessing sizes.  The shirt, while awesome, was way too big.  It was comfy over leggings, though, which was fine because I rarely had time (or the weather) to actually wear a tee-shirt.

But my dad, who works for FEMA, was finally home from his deployment, and we were going to have a BBQ. I was going to flatter my father, damn it, by wearing the tee-shirt he gave me, and it was going to look NICE.

I got out Megan Nicolay’s Generation T*which is starting to fall apart, and tried to figure out what project to make.  I almost decided on a dress like I’d done with the XXL Shield tee-shirt Ian got me a while back (which earned me a half-drunk “your girlfriend looks so good in that dress” from a married friend of his), but then realized that I couldn’t find any black thread.  No-sew it was.  Enter Project #7, “Comfort Corset”

But in my haste, I misaligned the holes down the back.  It was all looking terrible.  I wanted to cry, fearing I’d ruined my awesome birthday Bluth tee-shirt.  It was bad enough I had to admit not really loving the new season, but I couldn’t show up for Father’s Day not wearing the shirt my dad bought me.  Arlene would be furious!

Pop Pop Approved

Pop Pop Approves!

 

I relaced it and tried again.  It had a bit of a Flashdance vibe, but it worked.  And my dad was happy to see me enjoying his gift.  And my niece Lucy put on a pair of 3D glasses she found, trying to imitate her Aunt Libby.  I mean, how much more flattered could a girl get?

 

 

 

 

 

*Seriously, buy this book.

Pinhead

“Men hate the sight of curlers” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask A Man

I’ve reached a critical juncture in this project–choosing between what I want and like and choosing between what Ian wants and likes.  Throughout all of these different books across various decades, they have one thing in common–a woman’s job is to please her man.

The other night he sat me down and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I think those pincurls and scarf make you look like a washerwoman and it makes me less attracted to you.”

Ouch.

I did everything Arlene told me to, and turns out . . . it didn’t work.  That Ian liked me better, thought I was more attractive, when I didn’t put my hair up.  Even when I hid all my implements, he could still see them, and it was a major turn-off.

But here’s the thing.  I LIKED putting my hair up.  I liked the act of doing so, and I felt like I was just on the cusp of getting it right (and if not, well, there’s always hats).  One of the things I’ve learned (and enjoyed) about makeup and hair is that it’s time for myself.  Just ten minutes or so in the early morning or late evening, not enough to really write or get into a book or anything like that, just ten minutes where I am alone, in front of my vanity, quietly reflecting.

My hair has always been a minor point of contention between Ian and I.  When I was living in NYC, I got it straightened, and while he loved it, I hated it.  I thought it made me look like everyone else, so I went home and cried and listened to Hole’s “Awful” to cheer myself up.  I want wild, curly, funky hair, and he wants something cute and flippy.  I don’t want to not be attractive to him, but I also want to feel like my hair is my own to do with whatever I please.  Now the next step is figuring out how to mesh both of our feelings on the subject and come up with something I like that also makes me attractive to him.

That’s the whole point of this project–to examine what vintage advice works and what doesn’t work.  Ian was just doing what I asked him to do–be honest about the status of each stunt I undertook.  He didn’t like this one, and that’s fine.   He’s not a bad person, it’s not a control issue, I’m not going to dump him because he doesn’t like pincurls.

I’m sure he’s relieved to hear that.

 

Porcupine Skull

“How is it possible …to put her hair in pincurls every night, to look attractive for me?”  Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man

ImageMy cute haircut has now fallen into a flippy mess, and so the other day, while watching Gypsy on Netflix, I decided to give pincurls a try.  Upon returning home from work, Ian said I looked like Miss Tiggywinkle, when she dresses up like a washerwoman.  

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The pincurls themselves?  Well, they were kind of a mess.  But thank HEAVENS for cloche hats!

 

U Jelly?

“The best massage oil for the face is good old Vaseline” Gloria Richards, A New You (1980)

I take this even further and recommend Smith’s Rosebud Salve.  I discovered this miracle while playing mini-golf in Austin, TX–someone had just left an unopened tin on the 3rd hole!  So I took it, and have sworn by it ever since as a night cream.  It’s petroleum jelly with cottonseed oil and it smells amazing–plus it’s light enough so that you don’t go to bed all greasy.

 

 

Saying No To New Clothes

“Don’t buy anything you don’t adore.  Yes, this could easily mean fewer clothes!” Helen Gurley Brown, Sex and The Single Girl 

I love clothes and always have.  My first apartment had a walk-in closet, so I used to buy, alter or make clothes on a whim.  I doubt that in my freshman year of college, I ever wore the same outfit twice!  

But my tastes are in the process of changing, and that means admitting that I will never wear that long black lace Lip Service dress from Hot Topic or that pleated skirt I’ve had since 9th grade (and still fits!)  So into the garage sale pile they go, to make me a little extra cash to spend on, say, a new Betsey Johnson dress.

The other side of that is that I’m less impulsive about what I buy.  I’m now buying less on what I think I “should” have or what “might” work.  It may look good in a magazine, but I am not a paper girl!

The other day, I was at TJ Maxx and I saw this beautiful blue peplum dress.  I thought “I bet I could wear that to work,” and, even better, it was only $16 …but when I tried it on, I didn’t gasp in wonder at what was looking back at me in the mirror. 

Would it have worked?  Yes.  And I would have gotten plenty of compliments on it too.  But I didn’t adore it, which meant it had NO PLACE in my closet.  I barely have time for the clothes I wear–why waste time on ones I don’t love?*

 

*If you have tee-shirts, don’t throw them out–instead, pick up Generation-T and make them into cool skirts and housewares!

 

Happy Six Months!

We’re six months into this project and already I’m seeing a real change.  I’m starting to take more pride in my appearance–learning to put on makeup, finally doing my hair (more or less; still learning) and updating my wardrobe.  

I had one of those backdoor brag moments the other day; I was at Target and realized I could no longer fit in a Jr. Size 1.  Totally bummed.  I’m a Jr. size 3 now, and at first, I panicked, because I want to be thin and pretty.  Then I tried on my size 3 shorts, and I felt GREAT.  I felt voluptuous.  I felt comfortable.  I felt really beautiful.

But most importantly, I’m learning the importance of making your partner feel special.  And that’s not just Ian, it’s Mike, it’s Matthew, it’s my sisters, it’s my father-in-law.  Everyone in every relationship likes to feel like their needs are being met.  I sure do.

I don’t think this a gendered issue and I’m not trying to make it one.  I’m not saying that women belong in the kitchen.  I’m saying people belong in the kitchen because food is awesome.  I’m learning that asking an opinion about a haircut or an outfit is important because we all crave feedback and validation.  I would want any of my friends–male or female–to say “Eh, that doesn’t really work for you” when I ask how a dress looks.  And I’m learning the value of choice.  Now if I want to put on leggings and my SVU hoodie and watch MST3K, I’m doing it because that’s what I feel like doing, not because it’s a lazy, default position, and that makes the experience something to look forward to.

And I’m revisiting things I used to love–wearing contact lenses, high heels, dark nail polish.  I’m reminding myself that I am worth the time and the energy these things require.  I like the way I look in my Betsey Johnson booties.  I like giving myself mani-pedis.  I like putting effort and energy into my outfits because just throwing on on something slopping makes me feel sloppy, and I don’t perform well unless I feel my best.  When I’m in my office in a pencil skirt and heels, I feel like working.  When I’m wearing my apron, I feel like cooking.  Maybe it’s my theater background.  Maybe it’s because I inherited my grandmother Cora’s vanity.  But whatever it is, I’m really feel like this project is teaching me.

We’ve come this far together–and I can’t wait to keep at it.