Category Archives: Geek Girl Goes Glam


“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.”


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.


“Drinking is not a social asset, like learning to dance well.  it is only a matter of personal preference.  Helen Valentine & Alice Thompson Better than Beauty.

I just read that Cat Marnell is getting paid five hundred large for her memoir about being rich and a drug addict because she’s TOTES INTERESTING, YOU GUYS.  I’ve read some of her stuff, and, like hanging out with your drunk/high friends, it’s utterly boring.  Because, newsflash, drugs make you insufferably dull.

But I’m not here to criticize Marnell’s boring, uninteresting, faux-edgy scraps of notebook garbage. No, rather, I’m here to write about yet another problem we women have to face, and that’s the pressure to be a “hot mess.”

I’m pretty straight-edge.  I drink tea and coffee, sure, and I have a glass of wine once in awhile (like, maybe once a month) I’ve never smoked or touched drugs, and I even hesitate to take prescriptions.  In the literary sense, that means I am boring.  I don’t know if it’s some sort of misguided attempt at feminism (GIRLS CAN DO DRUGS JUST AS WELL AS BOYS!!!) or what, but the rich-girl-on-party-drugs memoir seems to remain a trend long after the publication of Prozac Nation and Smashed (both of which were boring and made me want to hit the narrator).

At the risk of sounding old, doing drugs does not make you interesting.  Being rich and doing drugs makes you even less interesting.  The fact that you were strung out at Fashion Week, Ms. Marnell, does not a good story make.  Instead of making you seem fashionable, it merely makes you exactly what you are–a spoiled, selfish, rich whiny tramp.

But driving to go see Jurassic Park the other night, a bunch of drunk girls staggered out in front of our car, screaming in the face-melting banshee way only drunk girls can scream.  One of them, the fat friend of the group (in Oneonta, the ratio is 3 party girls to 1 fat friend), was wearing cutoff shorts crammed so far up her chubby cheeks they could be considered a g-string and a shapeless crop top with considerable flab hanging out over the acid-washed waistband of the aforementioned shorts.  And all I could wonder was did she look in the mirror and think damn, I look good!  And at the end of this night, when she’s puking her guts out in the garbage can of the dorm room of whatever guy drew the short straw to take her home, will she still be thinking damn, this is the best night of my life!

I don’t know.  I’m not one of those types of girls.  Maybe it’s because I never had the money or the glamour to get away with it.  Maybe D.A.R.E worked, I don’t know.  But one time I asked Matthew if he though I was boring because I’d never done drugs (or even been drunk, for that matter) and although he said “of course not,” I wish I could go back to that Me and tell her “Even if he (or anyone else) says yes, darling, he can go cook a radish, because you are more interesting than any angel-dusted trollop could ever be.”  

Bad Hair and a Broken Heart

“The essence of great hairdressing is a clearly stated, perfectly proportioned haircut.  One that is suited to the individual that with a little backcombing or setting, the hair will swing into it’s natural lines and keep those lines without artificial aid” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man.

I remember my mom having two hairstyles.  In early photos, just after we moved to Cobleskill, NY in 1984, she’s sporting an enormous poodle perm.  In later photos and up through today, her hair is very, very short.

My mother had a total of five kids, a full time job and, during part of that, was going to school full time.  She wanted “hair she could wash with a washrag” and sported a sort of k.d. Lang ‘do.  The most she ever did with it was let her friend Vicky frost the tips, (because it was the 90’s, and they were dark times) and ended up with green hair.

Geena Davis

The Pirate Ship Would Have Been Nice Too

My sister Shaun had long, beautiful dark hair which fell in waves and curls down her back, like Geena Davis in Cutthroat Island, my favorite movie at the time.  Sisters Hilary and Laura both had fine golden curls, wheras I had limp hair the color of wood paneling.

I never learned how to style my hair and was always a little afraid of it.  I, like most kids in the dark times of the 1990’s, sported some variation of a mullet at one time (mine was very Joan Jett-esq, for an eight year old) and therefor, just sort of let my hair do it’s thing.

Faye Valentine

The Big Boobs Might Have Been Nice Too

After my high school graduation, I cut off ten inches of hair and donated it to Locks for Love, but, in true geek fashion, got my hair cut like Faye Valentine (I brought in the action figure so they would know what to do.)  My hair was not purple, or straight, and I was not a space bounty hunter, so it didn’t quite work for me.

In college, I wore Bettie Page bangs, which, when fused with my being poor and not knowing what to ask for in a haircut, resulted in me often having little brown wings sporting off the sides of my face.  I grew them out eventually, and kept that long mess for years, finally cutting it all off after my stepdad left in some sort of expression of Girl Power/I Will Survive.

I never did anything with my hair because I was so, so terrified of getting a bad haircut.  A failed outfit can be stuck back in the closet or covered with a coat all day, but you’re stuck with your hair until it grows out.  I was not brave.  If I got a bad haircut, I was convinced that people would laugh at me in the streets, that I would never get a boyfriend/my boyfriend would leave me for my disobedience.   Even before this project began, I had this pathological need to make other people happy.

Worse, how the hell was I going to maintain a fancy haircut?  I was watering down my shampoo to make it last longer, how was I going to afford gel and a straightening iron and things of that nature?  And the time it might take?  Between three jobs, that wasn’t time I had to spare.

So my hair just sort of sat there.  Until now.


Pictured: Someone who is not me

My modern glam idol is Victoria Beckham.  I think she balances sophistication and utter fabulousness, whether she’s wearing jeans or a cocktail dress.  I flipped through the magazines until I found a cute, tousled look that I figured I could pull off, what with hating to do my hair and not having time and being totally clumsy in every way.

I did not come out looking like Victoria Beckham.  Instead, I came out looking like some unholy combination of GI Jane, sad hooker Fantine from Les Miserables, and Mark Hamill.

New Hair

Ian was very nice about the whole thing.  Mike said I looked like Paul Dano, but in his mind, that was a compliment.  Everyone at my church and in my office ooh’d and ahh’d over it.  Tara, the head of ad sales, said I looked “very sophisticated” and complimented me for two straight days.   And as I got used to it, played with it, figured it out, I realized that maybe it wasn’t as bad as all that.  With the right outfit, it had a little bit of an punk vibe to it.  I was going to have to dress a little more feminine to avoid looking like an urchin, but was that going to be a bad thing?

Will I get it again?  Probably not.  But did the world end because of one bad haircut?  Guess it wasn’t so bad after all…after all, I didn’t keep any photographic evidence of my Joan Jett mullet.

How To Watch TV With a Man

“Draw out his ideas to which you can gracefully add your footnotes from time to time.” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man

Bill, my father-in-law, is now one of the main men in my life.  Namely because he owns the house we’re staying in for the next six months.  So I decided to try this one out on him.


I will watch anything, literally anything, Walton Goggins is in.

Bill watches a lot of TV.  That’s not unusual for a 60 year old bachelor in the middle of an upstate New York winter (last year for Christmas, we made him a wool snuggie, which he boasts is one of his favorite gifts ever).  And the one thing he likes more than watching TV is talking about TV.  He would often regale us with something he heard on the news or a funny bit he saw on a sitcom or a particularly gruesome episode of Criminal Minds, which is normally too horrifying for me, even the episode with Walton Goggins.

Thursday night we watched  two episodes of Mystery at the Museum, and I asked him open-ended questions about other episodes, gracefully adding some notes about my own experiences with history (like the time Matthew and I visited the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre) when the opportunity present itself (they were showing a barber chair that Albert Anastasia of Murder, Inc was killed in).  But mostly I let him fill me in, because the man is an absolute history buff.

Last night he gave me the choice between Cold Case and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  I am a huge SVU fan and have been since college (even though it has been terrible the last four seasons, and I think they should have replaced Chris Meloni with Michael Chiklis) but I remembered my quest and gently said, “Whichever one you like best.”  His logic was that Cold Case is only on one a week, so we watched that.

It was kind of nice.  Since we’re living in his house, I want him to feel like we’re not just taking over his life, and I think letting him dictate what he wanted to watch was a good way to do that.  Plus, I had never seen Mysteries of the Museum or Cold Case, and both were pretty awesome.

Happy New Year!

It is important to be fresh and attractive in the morning as it is at bedtime–even if it means you have to get up 10 minutes earlier to wash your face, put on a little makeup, brush your hair and slip into a gay housecoat.”  Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man.

Up at 8a.m. from a dream that Ian bought us a really nice little house.  I don’t think he wanted me to go, but today’s the first day of my new, glam life!

Not sure what a “gay housecoat” is and too afraid to google it.  I hope my red kimono will suffice and not send Ian into the arms of his secretary.  If he had a secretary, I’m sure he would run to her now.  With my blue fleece “cozy” pajama pants, my tie-dyed fleece socks and my red wool “JOIKE” sweater (from MST3K Santa Claus) I look like a hungover clown.  Time for makeup!

Does having makeup on from the night before count?  The hot pink eye shadow I wore to cover the New Year’s Gala refuses to budge.  Two face-washings later, I can finally smudge on some eyeshadow.  I try out a few new ways of combing my hair, but within moments, it has fallen like Fort Sumter in the same slightly-right part. At least it’s combed.

I’m already wearing lots of red, so I try to find a lipstick that’s a little more neutral.  In my train case I find a copper lipstick I wore when I was going through my weird, androgynous Brooklyn phase, where my style icons were Tom Waits and Benicio del Toro in Sin City–lots of ugly button-down shirts, suit jackets and off-putting cosmetics.  Arlene would not approve.

The lipstick backfires the neutral test.  Two tissues later it’s left a faint, pretty trace.  I slap some gloss on it and declare victory.

Ian is still asleep, so I decide to tidy up so he wakes up to a pleasant household (except for my housecoat).  By 8:36 I have lit the furnace, finished the dishes, swept the kitchen and dining room, folded the clothes he left on the chair the night before and put away some stray things.  I feel a surprising sense of accomplishment.

When Ian does wake up, he doesn’t really seem to notice except to snicker at my kimono.