Author Archives: Libby Cudmore

Let’s All Go to the Movies

“Don’t just admire…study beautifully-gowned women”  Helen Gurley Brown, Sex & The Single Girl.

Image

I, too, like to relax in my lemon costume

I never leave the house in just any old thing.  For me, fashion is such an art, a way of saying “This is who I am today.”  It’s a trait I share with Olivia, the fictional pig in Oliver Falconer’s children’s books. And much of my fashion inspiration comes from beautiful women (and occasionally, men) in movies.  It’s hard not to feel glam when you’re pretending to be, say, Geena Davis.

My first outfit for this stunt week of dressing in the study and style of others is inspired by the late, very beautiful and very darling Brittany Murphy in Sin City: The Big Fat Kill.  Now, putting aside the fact that I used to refer to one of Catch’s girlfriends as “The Barmaid” (as in “The one who never shuts up,” to which he would, with equal parts affection and irritation, reply “Damn it Gail, not now”) I have always liked Shelly and alwaysImage felt a little sorry for her, even if I liked Gail more.  However, I cannot go out dressed in a series of belts and assorted pieces of fishnet, so Shelly it is.  

The cowgirl shirt my dad bought me for Christmas is my essential white shirt, just barely covering the very tiny shorts underneath.  I am also wearing a Siouxsie and the Banshees tank top (rather than just a bra) and the fedora rounds it out with a little playfulness.  If you get a fedora, ladies, make sure it is a full fedora and not one of those weaslely little short-brimmed ones from Hot Topic that guys wear to announce the world, “I am a date-rapist & Reddit misogynist”

This is a specific variation on a uniform of mine; with dark eyeliner and pale lipstick it has a certain “Up All Night With a Man” vibe to it.  If you can borrow one of his shirts, well, all the better.  And if he won’t let you borrow his shirt, well, then, why are you even with him, what a jerk!

Shelly Outfit

Second Thoughts on Chivalry

I think I might have figured out part of the reason Chivalry is dead–because some men, (you can spot them because they’re usually wearing a fedora or a bow tie; the more romantic among them might sport a ruffled shirt or floor-length leather trench coat) use it as an excuse to lash out at women when they don’t bend over on the spot.  These guys (often referring to themselves as “gentlemen” or “nice guys”) believe that if they hold a door for a woman or pay for dinner, she “owes” them sex at the end of the night.  This is bunk, and women are sick of it. No wonder we get weirded out when people don’t hold doors!   There are men out there I wouldn’t let hold a door for me if it was leading into a room filled with bunnies where Walton Goggins and Clive Owen and Ewan McGregor were all there holding plates of tiny finger food to feed to me while I lounged on a soft couch watching 30 Rock.

So how about this, everyone.  How about we ALL hold the door for other people?  How about we pay for dinner if we know a friend is a little short on cash, and we help carry a pal’s luggage if it looks heavy or if the person is clearly burdened with packages.  If we get to the table first, we pull out the chair.

And everyone else, let’s try to say “hey, thanks” when other people perform nice tasks for us, hmm?  It’s 2013–let’s remove the gender politics from politeness.  And quit expecting things from other people.  Do good deeds from the heart, not because you think you might get something out of it.

 

At Your Service, M’lady

“Women complain that chivalry is dead.  Maybe we have helped kill it.  A little patience on our part can revive it.  If you want to be the woman men rush to pull up a chair for, give them time to get there.” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man.

My friend Ari & I were traveling to NYC over the weekend, meeting my friend Matthew & her husband, Pav.  I’ve known Ari & Pav since college; I attended their wedding last year and they’re both some of my dearest friends.  Ari is an actual genius and scathingly funny; Pav has a sweet face that is almost deceptive about his quick, wicked sense of humor.

When we got off the bus, Pav met us and immediately offered to carry my vintage red suitcase, which was sitting on the ground next to where we were waiting.  “How come you didn’t offer to carry my bags!” Ari joked.

Pav’s answer was priceless.  “I didn’t want to insult you,” he said.  “After that talk we had about gender roles.  I know you’re strong enough to carry your bag.”

It was a perfect example of both chivalry & love.  He respected her enough to know that his offering to carry her bags might be considered an act of disrespect for her strength and position as an independent woman.  But because I am their friend and in her company, it was a show of respect for me for him to offer to carry my bag, the same way a young man in love might offer to buy his girlfriend’s friends a round of drinks when he meets them for the first time.

I thanked him, but carried my own bag out of respect for their marriage.   But I do love it when a man carries my bag; Matthew does it whenever we’re together and Ian, who was raised by a fiercely independent mother who taught him that all parties carry what they packed, picked up my suitcase when I arrived at the train station at the end of the weekend, without me even clearing my throat and awkwardly pointing.

Scents and Sensibility

“Into my underthings…I tuck a cotton ball scented with my favorite perfume” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man (although Helen Gurley Brown recommends it too)

I approached this one with some trepidation–after all, it required me to wear a bra, which I hate doing and because I was worried about being that girl with the stink cloud of perfume, setting off allergies and smoke detectors wherever I went.  But I went ahead and doused a cotton ball with Love’s White Vanilla, crammed it into my bra, and went off smelling sweet.

And boy, did I smell sweet!  It was nice to have that little whiff of yummy just under my nose.  Especially because, in my race to get ready on time and smell lovely . . . and this is so embarrassing . . . I forgot to brush my teeth.

So it was gum and perfume all day, and I’m happy/disappointed to report that no one commented on either.  But hey, I liked smelling nice!

Here, Dear, Alone With All Your Letters

As you start to write, visualize the other person and talk to him, then write the words down.  Write the sort of letter you would like to receive.” Helen Valentine & Alice Thompson Better than Beauty

I have long been a letter writing advocate.  How I adored getting an envelope address to me, whether at camp or at home, a postcard from the shore or a card from my grandmother.  Oh, and the love letters!  My favorite.  Every man I’ve ever loved has sent me love letters, many of which I still have.  My boyfriend, Geza, who had silver eyes and jet-black hair, sent me a letter every single day when I was at the Silver Bay Young Writer’s Retreat, all full of the longing and poetry only a teenage boy can have.  Martin wrote his in gold gel ink with J-Pop song lyrics, Catch with green ink and Sin City quotes, Mike in spidery ballpoint pen on loose leaf paper.

In college, Ian wrote me twice a week, packing his envelopes (which he made out of ads, because he’s an artist) with clippings and postcards and all sorts of goodies.  My friend Liz and I primarily communicate with letters and have since we graduated.  Our whole lives are written down for each other, records of our changing careers and movie star crushes, highs and lows, new boyfriends and new apartments.   After all, you can’t send an Uglydoll in an email, like my friend Corey did to announce that, heck yeah, she was moving back to New York after five years working for NASA. (Yes, my friend is a rocket scientist).

A few years ago, I was at a conference in Bloomington and I met this guy, Jake.  We wrote each other a few weeks worth of long emails before I suggested that we start writing letters.  That was three years ago.  In that time, I’ve read about his grad work and graduation, job searches and play rehearsals, meeting Anne, getting engaged to her and marrying her.  We’ve never talked on the phone and only exchange emails when it’s something time-sensitive, but we know everything about each other’s lives just through words put on paper. We have this recorded history  of each other when I, for the longest time, only had a vague recollection of what he looked like.   

(Read his blog Video Game Underworld.  It’s awesome.  Somewhere I have the letter where he was asking me how he should do it.)

Find or make some awesome stationary (I made postcards out of CD liner notes with brown bag paper glued on the back) and write a letter to a friend. Ask them to write you back and get a pen-pal thing going.  Get some kooky postcards (I have some Onion front pages that always get a laugh) and mail them to everyone you know, just for fun.  

Kiss and Make Up

“Whenever we went shopping, we bought “on approval”–my father’s.  What he didn’t like went right back to the store immediately!”  Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man.

Image

I was also going to have big hair and fight crime, of course.

This is where two stunts collide.  When I was a kid, I swore that the minute I turned 18 and my mom couldn’t tell me what to do anymore, I was going to wear NOTHING but crop tops and hot pants, because the 90s were never going to end.

Well, I turned 18 and I got jobs and I really kinda never went back to the whole crop top/hot pants thing.  Until now, because the 90s actually kinda never went away.  Charlotte Russe had a TON of crop tops, all to be paired with high-waisted shorts, so I, feeling nostalgic, grabbed a whole bunch and tried them on.

When I came out of the dressing room in my striped crop top and my high-waisted shorts, everyone ooh’d and ahh’d.  Sales clerks, moms, everyone there stopped and stared.  One woman told me I looked like a pinup.  I felt pretty damn hot, especially since I was approximately 15 years older than all the other girls in the dressing room.

Everyone except Ian, that is.  He wasn’t rockin’ the high-waisted shorts, and told me so.  He said they made my area look “square.”  I tried to explain that they were sort of a necessity to prevent looking like a hooker with muffin top, but he wasn’t having it.  So back they went, and I was glum.  Not only had we argued (without raising our voices) but I felt like, as is a side effect of this whole project, that I wasn’t allowed to make my own decisions.  I resented having to ask his opinion on what was going on my body.  And I thought back to my ex-boyfriend, Aaron, who constantly told me he was “embarrassed” by how I dressed.  I worried that, had I bought the shorts I wanted, that Ian would have looked at them with his disappointed face (I hate that face) and whenever I wore them, I would know that he didn’t find me attractive in them.  I resented the 15 year old girls and their slim, sleek bodies, that they could wear crop tops whenever they wanted to because they never had to interview the mayor.  It all came crashing down, and we argued all the way home.

The next day, I went to church, and Rev. Mark, as he so often does, knew just what to say.  And I realized that, as with most arguments, I was bringing too much baggage to the table.  So Ian didn’t like the high-waisted shorts, no biggie.  If I had bought them, it wasn’t going to cause a divorce.  But his encouraging me not to buy them shouldn’t cause a fight either.   Too many arguments aren’t about what’s at stake–they’re about a thousand other things, past neglects, old hurts.  

I don’t believe Arlene is suggesting we be absolutely passive about everything.  But before we do fight, we need to figure out what it’s about and approach it with honesty and respect for the other person.  Ian apologized for hurting my feelings.  I apologized for hurting his.  And since then, we’ve made strides to communicate better and be sweeter to each other.

But next time, I’m buying the shorts.

(Non) Fight Club

Not picking fights with a man means not picking fights with ANY of the men in my life, which is harder to do than I thought.  Take, for instance, this morning.  My friend/writing partner Matthew’s first novel Nightlife debuts in October. This has caused a lot of contention between us, mostly because I think his agent got him a shoddy deal.  But yesterday, on Twitter, he posted the cover, and I was annoyed that he hadn’t shown it just to me first.

But because it’s the week that it is, I’m not going to say anything about it (also, he doesn’t read this blog, so this isn’t some passive-aggressive way of telling him my feelings are hurt).  Instead, I tried to figure out what it was that was bothering me about it and decided it was a combination of wanting to feel special (i.e. total entitlement) and the continuing fear that this means he’s in a different world than me, as a published novelist, and that he no longer needs me as a friend and a partner. He’s got the whole world to show off to, so my fear is that he no longer needs me.

These are small, petty things, I understand.  But if I were to tell him, he would freak out, probably snap at me, and then we’d have this hour-long argument.  So I’m taking Arlene’s advice to heart on this matter–just keep my lips zipped and try to be as supportive as possible.  He can’t read my mind, and I don’t blame him for wanting to tell as many people as possible.  It’s awesome news, and I’m proud of him.  He’s worked hard, and he’s earned this.  And when it debuts on Oct. 21st, I want all of you to buy a copy.

In not arguing with him, I found that I was able to 1) Sort out my own dumb feelings and 2) Remind myself that he really is important to me, and that instead of trying to drag him down to how lame I feel, I should be lifting him up in his moment of glory.  George Saunders preached kindness to the 2013 Syracuse University graduates at commencement earlier this year, and that’s what the world needs more off-not petty bitching over little things because we are each the centers of our own universe and everyone else’s lives revolve around us.

PS: This doesn’t just apply to men, BTW.

Zipped Lips

“Stop arguing with him.” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man.

Ian & I don’t fight much, but when we do, they can be knock-down, drag-out battles.  So this week, I’m not going to argue with him.  Not one word of disagreement.  Not even if he suddenly decided he wanted to go see Smurfs 2.

Today was a day that could have lead to lots of hurt feelings.  A late paper delivery, plus two assignments, one in a too-small room packed with tense women all hoping to win a free facial.  He even accidentally knocked me in the chin when I turned one way and he turned the other.  But I didn’t fuss, I didn’t cry out, and he immediately apologized and kissed me to make it feel better.  Since I tend to get overwhelmed and stressed out by even the slightest possibility of conflict, knowing that there were no arguments to be had was sort of a weight off my shoulders–as a result, Ian told me he loved me (and that he didn’t say it enough) and rubbed my shoulders and kissed me on the head and held my hand.  

Now let’s just see if we can keep this up for the rest of the week….