Mirror, Mirror, Off The Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at it For a Year

Omg I can’t believe I read this so long ago but still haven’t written a word in review. Well, since my blog has been a big stagnant lately it’s worth a shot trying to remember this one.

I first heard about this book when the author was interviewed on The Daily Show. This is a sociologist who challenged herself to not look in a mirror – or any reflecting surfaces – for an entire year. A year which just so happened to include her wedding day. Now while this may come across as a nice fluffy little self-esteem booster book, the author is well-educated enough to take this subject deeper, and we’re not left without a good dose of accessibly written psychology and sociology. I can’t remember all of the points she made, but the most fascinating one to me was exploring how mirrors almost serve as a form of companionship when we’re alone. We know it’s only the illusion of another person sitting there, we’re not beta fish, but we get a small amount of satisfaction that there is either way. Mirrors also have a way of affirming our existence. It sounds silly, obviously we know we exist, but it was interesting to note how Kjerstin started to feel after some time, almost doubting that because she couldn’t see herself, she wasn’t really there. She could only see other people.

The biggest message I got out of this book though was not that she suddenly started feeling physically beautiful – she was forced to focus more on her emotions, deep within herself, and her loved ones around her, those outside of herself, as opposed to the body in between. She learned to trust those around her more because she relied on them to make sure that she didn’t, say, have a booger hanging out of her nose, and she learned to pay more attention to her emotional self-esteem rather than her appearance. She didn’t feel beautiful because she knew she looked beautiful – she felt beautiful because she felt loved by those around her, and that’s what really mattered. Her appearance still caused her anxiety, especially as she had no idea what she looked like, but she gradually learned not to care. It simply wasn’t important. I think that’s a very valuable thing to take away here. Some people are ugly. Yep. While it’s nice to want to make ugly people, or yourself, feel physically beautiful, I felt the most important thing here was to learn that it just plain doesn’t matter. It’s such a tiny part of life. What matters is your mind, and your soul, and your relationships. Looks are a thing, but they’re not anywhere near being the most important thing. We have so much more to get our validation and happiness from. And while learning these important lessons it was nice to hear about these soul-searching thoughts and every day experiences from a very educated, sympathetic, real-life person. This wasn’t philosophy, it was real. We get to read all of her insecurities, all her learning experiences, and how all her relationships evolve. It was enlightening and it was fun. This was a great book, but it was great in a way that I didn’t expect. I feel that it could easily prove to be an important book for a whole lot of us, women, men, or anybody else.

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How to Give Your Own Cheap Ass a Hair Cut

I have a confession to make. I have not seen my stylist in a year. Please know that it’s not because I’ve been disloyal. It’s because I’m a cheap fuck; I have engaged in the sin of self-hair-cutting, and sometimes sin feels good.

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This is for anyone with medium to long hair. Like many of my methods, this is the frankenstein combination of various others I’ve gathered from around the internet and put together to make my very own idiot-friendly creation. To do this is typically considered either brave or stupid, but considering that hair grows, and common sense tells us to cut a little less than we actually want to so we have room to go in case we panic and run to a salon for a fix, I would call this merely brave. Let’s begin.

I do this on dry hair. It moves around more easily and wet hair shrinks as it dries, so this way you get no nasty surprises. We are going to start by cutting the layers first. I know this is unusual but considering they’re the most daunting part I like to start here, go slow, and then make the length match up to where I want it. If you don’t want layers, skip the rest of this paragraph. First choose an area on your head where you want the layers to be shortest, from which they will progressively radiate outward, and put your hair in a perfectly smooth ponytail at that exact spot. I like layers around my face, which means I place my ponytail in the middle of my forehead, making me look like a demented unicorn. Now all you’re going to do is cut the ponytail. Go slowly here. Even if this means you didn’t cut enough and have to keep doing it again, it’s free so who cares, better safe than sorry. I tend to cut about one inch at a time. Because your hair gets progressively longer as it moves away from the ponytail, placing it here will result in a very vintage-friendly face-framing rounded shape, not to be confused with an authentic middy cut but which still totally does the job.

Warning #1: Do not judge the length until you’ve brushed it all out. After being in this crazy high ponytail it might want to still go up before it goes down, making you think you cut way more than you actually did. Do not panic. You did not magically cut one inch that turned into five, physics do not work that way.

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When the layers you want the shortest are about where you feel they belong, it’s time to move on to the next step, the overall length. It can be helpful here if you like to use the neckline of a shirt as a guide, from modest bateau to deep and plunging. Part your hair where you normally keep it and bring it all towards the front. Doing just one side at a time, lean your head wayyyy back, brush and gently clasp the ends of your hair between your fingers. Tilting your head like this ensures the angle will be right when it’s done. Again, cut less than you really want to. I am VERY conservative here, because we all know what happens when you have to keep evening it out and all of a sudden there’s half a head of hair on the floor, right? Right.

Finally, the last step is to check how even it is at the back. Grab a hand mirror and take a look. are there any pieces that are just too long? Make a low ponytail, perfectly centered, and slide the elastic gently down until you can pull the ends of the ponytail within view. Now you’re NOT cutting for length here in the least, you’re just grabbing all the bits that escaped. Check again. It should be all good!

Warning #2: If you hair is dirty, slept-on, previously styled or whatever, you might think it looks like crap. Before you decide to be disappointed, don’t cut one more hair. Just get in the shower and wash it. Once it’s all clean, dry, and lying where it should you’ll probably notice a huge difference. I absolutely love my hair cut this way.

It’s at this point that if you’re a bit obsessive like me, you can start grabbing random sections and tweaking them. I tend to play with it for days afterwards, even though it always comes out looking exactly the same. Whatever, it’s fun. It’s especially fun to be able to say you’ve cut this fabulous style all by yourself and enjoy the tons of money you’ll save. Lookin’ good!

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For more awesome hair-cutting tutorials go check out howtohairgirl.com. I love that site.

13 Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas

Shit. Halloween is coming up really damn quick and you still have no idea what to do. Well that’s scary. What are you going to do? Here are some pun-free ideas for men and women, boys and girls, individuals and families, sexy and non-sexy, all more clever than that dumbass “nudist on strike” idea you thought you’d have to resort to.

Paper Bag Princess. This one is empowering! Get a yard waste bag (there are a lot of those this time of year) and cut a hole in it for your head and arms. You can hem (i.e. tear) it to as long or short as you want. I also thought of tearing the bottom into strips up to the knees or thighs and curling them outward to be all stylistic about it. Use more paper bag or yellow construction paper for a crown. Works for people (mostly females) of any age.

– Alternate version – If you want a more fetish version, or if you want to make it into more of a couple’s/boy’s costume, you could be the garbage bag prince or princess. Make a duct tape crown. You can even use duct tape as a belt and/or harness. Somebody will have to cut you out of it at the end of the night 😉 Sexy! Seems like it would be slightly more wearable too.

The Mad Hatter. Just wear your strangest clothes and a pile of hats. I did this last year and put it together in about half an hour. This costume is suitable for anyone of any gender or age.

Charles Manson. This is best for men with beards. Basically just dress like a hobo, put a smiley face on your forehead (because swastikas are still bad, mmkay?) and walk around with a crazed look in your eye. If you have a lady partner she can dress up like a hippy. Add some blood. If she’s blonde or has a wig, you can have her put on a white dress and be Marilyn Monroe. You can be Marilyn Manson! Ok, so that’s kind of a pun. But you have to forgive me for that one because it’s awesome.

Zombie. Dress like a hobo again, tear your clothes up, and get it really dirty, and add some fake blood and deathly makeup. Works for any age/gender/sexiness level.

Photo credit: Mommyish

– Zombie Baby. Pregnant? Stick some doll limbs to your belly with fake blood around them. AHH IT’S BREAKING FREE! Although you can probably do this even if you’re not pregnant (or even a woman) too. Google image search “zombie pregnant halloween” for epicness.

Sheet ghost. This one is a classic, and I did this when I was 21. It was a huge hit. Get the ugliest sheet you can find and put eye holes in it. Only takes five minutes! Also works great as a couple’s/group/family costume, especially if you have a girl to go as Lydia Deetz. Oh, and make sure to walk around going “WOOOOOO!!!”

Sugar Skull. Wear a cute black dress, lots of hair flowers, and the rest is all makeup! Guys can do this too, but wear a suit instead of a dress, and no flowers. Unless you feel like it.

Rosie the Riveter. Jeans, work shirt, red bandanna around your hair. It’s almost not even a costume!

Doctor/Mad Scientist/butcher. Some of us took science in college. Others of us are just strange. People like us probably own a lab coat. Put it on, and the rest is up to you.

Lydia Deetz. I’ll admit I did a terrible job with this last year (which is Why I changed my mind and decided on The Mad Hatter at 3am the morning of work), because nobody got it at the party I wore it to. But basically you just put on a plaid skirt with a longer black skirt underneath, white shirt, and black sweater. Best if you have black hair or a black wig and make yourself pale. Awesome when combined with a sheet ghost. Can be a dark version of sexy school girl or just normal, but keep in mind for better or for worse the normal version is very warm.

Morticia Addams. Elegant black dress, black hair/wig, red lipstick. Fucking DONE.

– Teenage idiot, also known as “unlicensed even dumber Karen Smith.” This is for irony and it’s hilarious. Just put on lingerie and rabbit ears, and when someone asks you what you are, point to the ears and go “I’m a MOUSE, duh!” Oh shut up, it’s funny.

Excellent!

It’s Nice Not to Wear Makeup Sometimes

Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve me standing in the hallway outside the bathroom doorway, looking up at my mom as she did her makeup every day. It was the 80s, so the colors she used were bright; I distinctly remember fuschia and royal blue. I associate a lot about appearances with my mom. She has a very low self-esteem (I recently told her I liked her hair as it was growing longer, and she responded by saying she felt like a cow), was worried about how we made her look as kids, and threatened (probably not 100% seriously) to not let me walk in her wedding when I had a big zit when I was 11. I remember how deeply humiliating it was for her and her friend to spend so long fussing over it trying to pop it and make it go away. I didn’t think it should matter, I mean was it REALLY that big a deal? I’m your own family, Mom! But whether consciously or because she was just unknowingly perpetuating the pressures she felt growing up herself, one of the lessons she worked hard to teach me was that looks were Very Important.

School didn’t help either. I wore hand-me-downs and got made fun of constantly. I didn’t agree with their judgments  honestly, I think I was probably mentally healthier as a kid than I am now, but I was sick and tired of it enough that before 7th grade rolled around I was trying very hard to choose clothes that they couldn’t tease me for, and the All Black Era was ushered in. Then the teenage angst kicked in, and I specifically recall that unlike being an adult and sighing wistfully at a magazine ad thinking how nice it would be to look like that model, you wouldn’t just like to look that way, you think you NEED to look that way. These women are *everything* and you are *nothing.* Everything is a bigger deal when you’re younger.

But what happens when you grow up? You don’t take it quite as seriously – you at least become aware on a logical level that perfection isn’t even a thing, if not on an emotional one. But old habits die hard, especially when we’re surrounded by the same pressures we always were. And it’s that divide between logical and emotional that often needs to be addressed. I believe in taking pride in yourself and not being just gratuitously gross, but what’s all that gross about a natural face on an ordinary day? This sort of cultural assumption that it is is a big problem.

So I think it would be fantastic if every so often we could take a break from makeup to just plain get over ourselves. On days I’ve worn little enough that people at least thought I wasn’t wearing any, nobody died, or even insulted me. One day I even got a very nice and deliberate compliment from a coworker. Of course, I was not literally without makeup, I’m not there yet. But part of the reason for that is that I don’t like my skin, and one way to get better skin is to stop putting so much shit all over it. So stepping out of my comfort zone could have multiple benefits.

I think makeup is one really great method of artistic expression and some women really enjoy it. Sometimes I’m one of them. But when it becomes more of a chore than a joy, a feeling of obligation more than enhancement, then we need to take a step back a bit and put makeup in its place. We own it, it doesn’t own us. And the more we’re willing to let go the easier it will be for us to realize it.

And if anyone has any advice on helping my mom with her self-esteem, that would be great too.

All You Need to be Impossibly French

Short post today as I’m going through some writer’s block. I haven’t posted a book review in a while. I hope it’s not too boring…
This wasn’t a book on how to be French so much as a light-hearted social study of what makes French women the way they are. It goes in depth about many different aspects of their culture and environment. It was contradictory at times, and the author did acknowledge that, but all in all it was really interesting. I loved the whole “why” aspect of the book. Why are French women so fashionable, so sexy, so lazy, and so uptight? And are they really, or is it a stereotype? Most of the book does in fact prove the stereotype of the super glamorous seducer with fantastic explorations into the cultural reasons for this, but it also showed another side of things. Not only do French women try to be as sexy as possible at all times, but intelligence is also of huge importance, and they have many insecurities, probably more than we do. It was also great to read about how you can take away positive things from French culture and easily leave behind the less desirable parts to help you in forging your own identity and become closer to who you really want to be. It was a really enjoyable read, full of insight and more solid and deep than I thought it would be. I absolutely loved it.

Girl

I’ve read a few times in magazines and online articles lately how the word “girl” is unfeminist, that it implies we’re small, insignificant, and not actually women. That the word Girl is somehow demeaning.
I happen to strongly disagree.
I actually really like the word Girl. I like it a lot. You know why? Because it takes us back to a time when we could do anything. When you’re a girl, you have your whole life ahead of you, and nobody is going to stop you no matter how wild your aspirations are. When you grow up and become a woman, suddenly you’re living in the real world and you’re all business. You have to watch the news and go to the bank and buy gross healthy food. Fuck that. I want to hold on to Girl. I want to stay up way too late and play dress-up and eat giant ridiculous sundaes. I want to keep all my creativity and imagination. I want to keep all my options for the future open. And I want to glorify and appreciate adulthood like only a kid can. I want to be grown up without losing any of that fun and sparkle and all those dreams I had. Anything is possible. I’m living life to the fullest. That’s what being a girl is all about.

Petals: Vagina Diologues

 

I just saw a movie that was fascinating and awe-inspiring. And that movie was about vaginas. More specifically, about a book filled with simple artistic photos of vaginas, and its photographer Nick Karras, and the dialogue that ensues about it. I never really thought about the relationship women have with their vaginas until seeing this. Women have very complex relationships with the rest of their bodies, and it seems vaginas, all tucked under there away from sight, don’t get any attention except from doctors and sexual partners. This is a problem. Because so much of what corrupts women’s self-image about themselves “down there” is related to the fact that it gets so ignored. I was stunned to find out that since so many women base their image of what a vagina should look like on junior high puberty pamphlets and porn, that they go through life feeling deformed, because almost nobody actually looks like this, especially that simplistic little diagram.
Another problem is that so often women’s vaginas almost seem to be used as weapons against them. Considered only beautiful when a baby is coming out of them, something otherwise bad, dirty, and the reason for exploitation by men. In fact, something not even good enough to be talked about at all.
One of the most fascinating parts of the movie was when the people at Hustler got a hold of the book and wanted to do a feature. These men, used to seeing photos of vaginas all day, never really stopped to look at how different and beautiful they are. In fact, the one interviewed seemed so stunned that all he could do was repeat himself over and over. Even doctors commented on this new perspective.
To be honest, I didn’t want to write this review. It made me feel a little uncomfortable. But if I didn’t, wouldn’t I be kind of part of the problem? After seeing this, it’s come to my attention that a lot of you ladies would feel a LOT more fabulous if you had a more positive view of yourselves down there. It’s bad enough being concerned that you’re too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too dark, too pale… without worrying about that too. So I’m making it my duty to tell you that if you have these discomforts, or even if you just love vaginas, you should absolutely see this movie, and buy the book. You may come out of it feeling okay about your body for the first time, and gaining a new perspective on the beauty of women.
Also check out http://www.myvag.net, a site discussed in the film.