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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.


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….


Thank you!

Thank you to EVERYONE who submitted their “beauty tips” to the contest–good thing I picked at random or I would have NEVER been able to choose between all the wonderful entries I got by email, comment and Twitter.

I hope all of you who entered (and even those who didn’t!) are feeling GLAMOROUS today! 

The Winner!

Liz Ellis is the winner of an autographed copy of Jamie Cat Callan’s Ooh La La with this gem:

While I was pouring out my troubles to a complete stranger cutting my hair, she stopped and said to me, “Don’t you worry. Good things always come to people who have a good heart like you.” It struck me how amazing it was that someone who didn’t know me at all could say such a heartwarming thing, and really mean it. Not only did I get a great haircut, but a rejuvenated sense of self, and hope for the future. That made me feel beautiful, inside and out. 
We had so many great entries, and keep an eye out for more contests in the future!

Meat Mask

“Many Parisian ladies….bind their faces with thin slices of raw beef.  It may not be pleasant to contemplate, but it prevents and removes wrinkles as nothing else will.”  Amy Ayer, Facts For Ladies (1908)

Since we’re on a French and food kick, I thought I’d give this one a try, because it’s been awhile since I’ve done a really challenging, possibly disgusting stunt.  I used pub-style shaved steak, thinking it would be easier to mold into a mask.  It wasn’t, because it’s meat and it’s not supposed to go on your face.

Glad SOMEONE had fun

Glad SOMEONE had fun

But Ian did a lovely job of squishing and layering it onto the contours of my skin, it’s cold, clammy greasiness filling up every pore.  I immediately became an all-you-can-eat buffet for my cat, Bosco, and immediately regretted my choice.  When you begin to believe that seeing R.I.P.D. was the BEST decision you made all evening, there’s a problem. Honestly, I thought it would be a nice way to relax.

Unlike a clay masque, I wouldn’t be able to sit up and read or relax in a tub.  I would have no choice but to lay on my back, breathe deep and listen to some MST3K (episode choice: It Lives By Night) a luxury I don’t get very often.  But since I couldn’t speak (for fear of it falling off my chin and down my shirt) I ended up feeling very isolated and sad.

I lasted all of about 20 minutes with it on and then it started to get warm and gross and flake off down my neck.  I DID feel my skin tightening, maybe, but the creepy meat smell and the fear of salmonella was NOT worth it.  We have lovely clay masks now, or oatmeal, or I can just age and accept my wrinkles with Ponds heavy cream and grace, the way all three of my grandmothers have.

And all that grease must have gone into my pores, because I woke up with a big mystery mound forming on my chin, as well as some clogged spots and blotches on my cheeks.  THANKS FRANCE.

Guest Post and Book Giveaway: Win a Copy of “Ooh La La!” by Jamie Cat Callan

ImageMy friend and mentor Jamie Cat Callan has always been one of the most glamorous women I’ve ever known.  She walks into a room like she’s got her own cool breeze around her, and you’re just absolutely mesmerized.
It also helps that she’s an outstanding writer, creating The Writer’s Toolbox (which is a MUST for any writer; trust me, you’ll never have writer’s block AGAIN) and the author of French Women Don’t Sleep AloneBonjour, Happiness! and Ooh La La!  French Women’s Secrets To Feeling Beautiful Every Day.
I wanted to know her secret, and she told me it’s a French way of thinking:
French women are no more beautiful than any other women.  However, the difference is—French women believe that beauty comes from within.  French women will spend a lifetime refining their individual look and style, often enlisting the help of mentors, beauty experts, grandmothers and imaging experts.  They are not interested in looking like Angelina Jolie or the latest “It” Girl, but their very best, very unique selves. This is the secret to their timeless intrigue.  
In fact, many French women who are considered beautiful are also a little “off.”  Perhaps it’s a big nose or lots of freckles or eyes that are just a little too wide apart.  A French woman will embrace the very thing that makes her a bit different, and then she will accent it and make it her trademark.  This kind of confidence is bold and very, very attractive.
And Libby, you’ll be happy to know that French women often mix up the new with the old.  So, the idea of a Geek Girl Going Glam is very French!  They’ll carry a vintage parasol (like the one you own) with a pair of their grandmother’s lace gloves and then wear a gorgeous designer skirt and pair that with a fast-fashion top from some place like Zara or H&M.  So you see, they like to mix things up—and this makes them very glam, indeed. 
In terms of their relationships with men—French women are careful not to “give it all up.”  Even after being with someone for a long, long time, they always remain just a little bit mysterious, and just a little bit unpredictable.  This keeps things endlessly intriguing.  Think of it like this—a woman is a flower.  She can blossom, but she should always keep some secret part of herself hidden.  That’s ooh la la.
Jamie has lovingly offered an autographed copy of her recently-released Ooh La La: French Women’s Secrets To Feeling Beautiful Every Day to one of my lucky glamorous readers–tell me what makes you feel beautiful, either in the comments section, by email at or on Twitter, @libbycudmore, and “Like” Jamie’s Facebook page by Saturday, July 27.  I will randomly choose and announce a winner next Monday!
What makes YOU feel beautiful?

Cornflake Girl

“Mix one cup yellow cornmeal with two tablespoons salt, then take about three tablespoons in a dish and moisten slightly.  Part hair and work over the scalp, but don’t rub too hard and irritate scalp.  Then shake and work rest of the dry mixture through the hair.  Now bend over and shake out the loose corn meal, out in the sun if possible, or let dry ten minutes and brush out with a stiff brush to remove the rest.”  Hazel Theresa Gifford, Fundamentals of Beauty (1944).

I hate washing my hair.  For me, an awesome hair day is a rarity, an accidental surprise that I cannot replicate, so when one does come along, I don’t want to just rinse it out and will try to hold onto it as long as possible.

ImageSo while this is messy, but it WORKS.  Yesterday I put curling gel in my hair, then slept in a sauna-like bedroom all night, followed by YET ANOTHER sweltering upstate NY day, all of which are MURDER on hair.  But I gave this a shot (which also gave me an excuse to go to the air conditioned grocery store) and my hair looks completely fresh and new.  There’s cornmeal all over the deck, sure, but nothing a broom or a good rainstorm can’t fix.

I have short hair, so next time, I could probably halve this recipe.  Also, don’t do it in your work clothes, or anything black, or if you’re inside, any clothes at all, because it gets EVERYWHERE, making you look like you joined an asbestos removal team in your pajamas.  And careful when you stand up, because it will go RIGHT DOWN your back and wind up in your area.


Tick Tock Dinner Clock

“Make your husband’s homecoming in the evening an important event.  Don’t let him walk into a cold, dark house.  Make dinnertime a special occasion.” Arlene Dahl, Always Ask a Man

Ian works two jobs, one as a newspaper photographer and the other as the director at the local Teen Center.  But this means that he is home a lot, so there’s isn’t much of a “greeting” phase, since I’m the one that works outside the home, jezebel that I am*.

But Thursdays he works afternoons, so for today’s stunt, I wanted to have dinner ready to go on the table as soon as he got home just after 6.  Then he got a call that he had an assignment at 6:30, pushing dinner back to 7 or later.  And I STILL panicked about getting it done on time.  I was planning to fry the ham, but the instructions said to bake, and clearly, I’m a slave to instructions. The sauce I tried to cleverly whip up tasted like soap, so that had to go.  I even got the table set!

But the ham is baked, salads are done, with two minutes to spare . . . but where is the Honey?  He’s late, which isn’t exactly his fault, but is there some housewife time-science I’m not privvy to?  How did Arlene know when her man was coming home, especially without a cell phone?  Or did he just have to eat a cold dinner?

My ex, Aaron, used to freak the eff out if I even spoke to him when he got home from work.  He said he needed time to decompress, and since he wouldn’t let me cook, that meant waiting in front of ESPN while he ate cookie dough out of the tub (yes, tub) without offering me any until he was finally ready for the difficult task of getting a pizza.  But Ian’s not a jerk, so when he DID come home, he was happy that I stood up off the couch and let him know that dinner was ready.

Ian enjoyed having dinner on the table when he came home…now if I could just get him to come home on time!