You Are Not A Before

lucky-ad-2Are you a woman over the age of twelve? You should definitely be on a diet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or a size 20, there is always weight to lose or maintenance to be done. How will you ever find love and succeed in the world, if you don’t know your daily caloric intake? It’s not just about beauty, of course, it’s also about health. Everyone knows that health is a number on a scale. Today is the first step in a journey! You are a before now, but soon you will be an after!

We’ve all heard this message. As women, society expects us to be on a never-ending quest for perfection. If it’s not fat to vanquish, it’s wrinkles or cellulite. This message, this unyielding refrain of “Be prettier, already!”, makes me want to find the nearest dried up lake, fill it with full fat chocolate pudding, then wallow in its sugary goodness until I seize and/or drown. I am, it seems, alone in that. Lately, my Facebook feed has been overrun with women in their late twenties on a “journey.” Friends, of all shapes and sizes, are posting caloric counts and exercise logs and—worst of all—before and after photos.

You’ve all seen these pictures. On the left, there is a somewhat/slightly/vaguely chubby woman glowering into a mirror, while on the right is that same woman turned into a glowing, smiling health angel. The caption is, always, thus:

“I never thought I’d share this photo, friends, but it’s time for me to be brave. This was me three years ago: fat, depressed, and deeply out of touch with my health. Through hard work and hours of dedication, I’ve taken control of my life. If that girl can do it, so can you!”

Just last week, one of my old school friends posted an eerily similar photo-and-caption combination. When we were younger, she was always one of the chubbier girls in our class—not morbidly obese or anything, just somewhat out of the norm—which all changed when she went to college. She became a nutrition major, an avid runner, and is currently getting her physical training licence. That is all fantastic! She found her raison d’être and is super happy in life! What’s not fantastic, however, is that she completely disavowed the person she was before. By calling herself an after and raising up a picture of her teenage self as proof of what she had overcome, it turned that girl I loved into a negative. She’s now an after, not a before. 

girlancientprejudiceremovedLThere, right there! That’s my problem with before-and-after photos and the sensationalism of weight loss in this era. Losing weight doesn’t and shouldn’t make you a different person. More over, being overweight does not make you a before. A woman is not a butterfly, waiting to emerge from a cocoon of shame, with just a little diet and exercise. You are a real person, have always been a real person, and will continue to be a real person until you die…no matter what you weigh.

While I completely understand and support people wanting to lose weight, because of either happiness or health issues, a scale number shouldn’t be what defines someone as worthy. By framing our body image in terms of before-and-after shots, I worry that we internalize the narrative that after is always better. Weight loss doesn’t make you a better person and it certainly doesn’t make you a different one. You may be more confident, able to shrug off negativity more easily, or happier in your own skin, but you are still Odette. Losing weight is not a woman’s one great accomplishment. If we look at it as such, we are encouraging women who are not in perfect shape to hide away from the world, because conventional beauty is the sole characteristic of a successful woman. The message does not become one of inspiration, but one of shame.

I think it’s wonderful to share accomplishments, especially ones you’ve worked so hard for, but maybe we need to check which ones we’re assigning highest value to . It’s okay to be unhappy at a size 18, but it’s also alright to be happy as one. There are more important things to you than skinny or chubby or gaunt or fat. Are you kind to other people? Are you pursuing a long held dream? Do you make really awesome apple pie? All of these things make you more worthy than fitting into tiny pants. I wish there were more people posting before-and-after shots of academic success or pie baking attempts. If I’m going to be an after someday, I want to be the after of literary success and dressmaking skills.

In the end, however, I don’t want to be an after. I want to be Grace, living her life. I am not Before-Grace, just as you are not Before-Odette. This day, this person you are right now, is just as important as the one you will become. Neither one should be judged by the size of her pants.

-Grace

My Heart Is Dainty, My Hips Are Not

Audrey-Hepburn-audrey-hepburn-30174987-500-668I was born to wear a sheath dress. Ignore the abundant rear curve and my chest’s propensity for becoming—in strict geographical terms—mountainous. My soul longs to be twee.

It is, of course, never going to happen. The gods could curse me with an immortal tapeworm and my bones would still be Viking-esque, more suited to leading horn-wearing he-men into battle than ethereally floating into tea. Despite my love for all things delicate and feminine—lace, tiny cups, dogs named Claudette—pursuit of a different Grace is fruitless. In my mind, I may be Betty, but anyone with eyes can tell I’m a Joan. So, what do you do, when the outside is never going to match the inside?

Not give a damn.

This is a recent epiphany, kittens. For most of my life, I tried to pretend I wasn’t soultwee. The word “flattering” was my best wardrobe pal. People praised my sense of style, my knowledge of what worked with my generous hourglass shape. Which was all well and good, but have you ever noticed how subtly offensive “flattering” can sound? It intimates that you aren’t attractive, so much as benefited by the outfit you’ve donned. Flattering means that you’re wise to hide certain parts of you, lest someone suspect you don’t possess a perfectly flat stomach or appropriately pointy hip bones. Flattering is something we say all the time to women, as if the best thing she can do is camouflage her squishy parts—or flat parts or whatever it is that doesn’t measure up to our ideal—under yards of fabric or a strategically long cardigan.

Flattering has held me back. Y’all, I want to wear sheath dresses. Who gives a crap if Stacy and Clinton decree that they don’t work for my body type? Sure, I love a fit-and-flare dress like it’s clothing cake, but sometimes I want sartorial pie instead. In writing there is a delightful saying: “Learn the rules, so that you can break them.” That is how I have come to feel about wardrobe choices, as well. For a decade of my life, it’s been all waist-cinching, layering, bust-highlighting rules for hourglass Viking princesses. I know what looks good on me, so isn’t it time I got more comfortable with what supposedly doesn’t?

This summer, I pulled the trigger on my first sheath dress. One of my favorite independent pattern companies, Colette, came out with a lovely little column dress that I gleefully ordered. I tweaked the lines of the pattern a bit—scooping out a bit at the waist for a suggestion of curves—but at the end of the day, it’s a sheath dress. It is exactly the wrong thing for my body type and I adore it. The dress is absurdly comfortable, easy to throw on if I’m in a hurry, and dresses up beautifully. Initially, though, it made me uneasy. I’d pair it with a belt, cardigan, and heels, in an effort to remind the world that I understood my body type. Wear a sheath dress, Grace, but remember who you are! Slowly, however, the accessories disappeared.

Audrey-Hepburn-audrey-hepburn-30467816-500-664I don’t get as many compliments on this dress as my full-skirted, cinched pieces, but who cares? When I wear it, my inner 1960’s ingenue perks up, giving the camera her best Audrey Hepburn smirk. If no one else sees that, I don’t mind. Some days even the Swedish milkmaid wants to feel sweet and delicate. Why shouldn’t she? We are entirely too bound by all those supposed rules, when at the end of the day, our clothes should please only ourselves. I’m all for looking pulled together and stylish, but my style is my own, not one handed to me by society.

I propose we stop obsessing over the styles that work for us. Wear the skirt you love, but is made for the tiny-waisted. Buy that tiki dress you covet, despite the model’s larger chest bunnies. Don a swimsuit without a skirt, because cellulite should not hold you back.

Wear the things that scare you, darling. Society can go suck an egg, if it doesn’t think them flattering.

– Grace

Changing Stylists: A Tragedy in Three Follicles

tumblr_lt0ke11AEw1qefkuro1_400Our first time was like a dream, all rainbows and anthropomorphized raccoons in resort wear. I was in need of guidance, of someone to take things in hand and assure me it was all going to be okay, when she appeared. Chatty, covered in tattoos, and with hair the color of Tabasco, she was my soul mate. We bonded quickly, both lovers of Dr. Who and internet meme Halloween costumes, but it was more than a surface connection. Jordan really understood me, in a way no one else had. We were together for five years—the loveliest, most carefree years of my life—until it ended.

Kittens, my hair stylist left me.

To be fair, she left hair styling in general, not just my specific mane. Last month, Jordan was in a Vespa accident, which she walked away from mostly unscathed—thank God—other than a wrist injury. She took the requisite time off of work, rescheduled clients and thought about life. It turns out, in fact, that she thought herself right out of one career and into another. My dear stylist is now pursuing homeopathic medicine, something she’s always been passionate about, and is out of the hair business.

On one hand, the nice rational left one, I’m thrilled for my friend. She’s finally using her degree, which I saw her work her ass off for, and pursuing her life’s great passion. On the other hand, that selfish bitchy right one, who is going to do my hair now!?

Let’s be honest, a woman’s hair stylist is more than just a service provider. If you go to the same stylist for years upon years, it becomes a friendship, one that is based on shared confidences and the extreme trust required to encourage a cackling woman wielding scissors to chop away. Y’all, I once let Jordan dye my hair red. I, the girl who has only ever been blonde and idolizes Grace Kelly to an unhealthy extent, said to her friend “Let’s have some fun! Want to do red today?” That’s utmost faith, darling. That’s also, it must be said, a bad idea when the majority of your wardrobe features pink and red.

I fucking love Jordan. The prospect of finding someone else to build that kind of relationship with is daunting. It feels like I’ve started dating again, after a decades long marriage that didn’t end in divorce, but a tragic bread machine accident. I am without stylist, adrift in a sea of bad highlights and dull conversation. I am, also, getting married in three months, so time is a’wasting.

While Jordan was out, I had my hair done by a colleague of hers who actually did an amazing job, but with whom there was no spark. She commented with a skeptical tone on my thick hair—which, yeah okay, there’s a crap ton of fine blonde locks happening over here, but it’s not like I grew it specifically to mess up her schedule—and let the conversation fizzle out awkwardly. It was all totally fine, but it was four hours of discomfort and tedium, instead of laughter and camaraderie.

I don’t just want my hair done, kittens, I want witty repartee and discussions of world travel. I want a Whovian who knows her way around foil and has the best kooky mother-in-law stories. I WANT SOMEONE TO CLONE JORDAN, SO THAT MY HAIR CAN BE PRETTY FOREVER AND I DON’T HAVE TO CHAT WITH A STRANGER ABOUT HER CHILDHOOD PET WOMBAT. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?

Sigh. I might be taking this too hard.

– Grace

This Blog Post Represents Countless Research Hours and Human (Me) Testing. You’re Welcome.

As my wedding draws ever nigh (nigher? Is that a thing?) I am spending more and more time on beauty. I want to look gluminescent (yes, that is a word I just made up) at the wedding. Because, y’all, people are going to be looking at me the whole time. For like 12 hours, people will pretty must just be looking at me. So, you know, I don’t want to let them down by being less than gluminescent. So, because I’ve been spending countless hours researching (and spending lots of money) I thought I would share with y’all some tips that have definitely been working for me. Is this post vain? Superficial? Silly? Possible, but it’s also fun and informative so there.

1. Argan oil is all thing wonderful. Get thee to a Sephora and purchase some Josie Maran Argan Oil stat! I am completely enamored with it. And shocked a bit as well because my skin had always been on the oily side so using oil on it seemed absurd, but I decided to try it after reading countless stellar reviews and I am officially hooked. Hooked like a sea bass y’all. I Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil at night by itself and in the morning I mix about 4 drops of it in my SPF moisturizer. I’ve been doing this for about 3 weeks and can already see a huge difference in my skin. It’s softer, my pores are smaller, and there is a certain glow. Also, remember my search for the perfect lip balm? I found it. It’s Josie Maran’s Argan Balm and it’s magical.

2. Green tea all day everyday. I’ve always been a big green tea fan, but recently I’ve been drinking around 3-4 cups a day and not only do I think it’s helped contribute to my skin glow, I also think it’s helped me stave off my typical afternoon cravings. Which is good because I have a fabulous dress to fit into.

3. Vaseline. I read an article in Elle by a dermatologist that said vaseline is actually one of the best eye moisturizers out there. So, because I’m pretty easy to convince, I tried it one night. I woke up the next morning with very happy looking under-eyes. Usually, no matter how much sleep I’ve had, I wake up with under-eyes that look like I’ve joined a fight club (which I haven’t, but if I had I wouldn’t tell you about it because first rule guys….). Not so much anymore. I have tried all manner of eye brightening cream and nothing has worked for me as well as vaseline. Go figure.

4. Water water everywhere- you better drink every drop. So, I have to pee like all the time, but my skin is way clearer and smoother. Drink that water y’all.

5. Primer is a thing you should use. I always thought primer was just a way to make people like me spend more money but actually it’s a thing you should use. For everyday I use “That Gal” by Benefit and for special event when my makeup must be flawless, I use the Vitamin E Primer by Korres. Both are amazing. I get a special little glow from the Benefit primer that I like for everyday but the Korres primer is way better for my flawless glam face. Also, I don’t use it they way you’re supposed to because I’m a make-up rebel y’all. I actually mix the primer with my makeup or tinted moisturizer. It always looks better when I do that. I don’t know why, but it does.

I have loads more tips but I have to save something for the next post, right? Do you guys have any tips you want to share? I would love to hear them! (Or, you know, read them.)

You Can Keep The Pretty

I have been pretty all my life.

If you ignore that one dreadful experiment with blunt bangs in 7th grade, I never had a truly awkward phase. Mine was not an adolescence plagued by glasses or braces. It’s not like I was drop dead gorgeous or anything, but old women always greeted me with cries of “Oh, aren’t you a pretty thing!” and relatives declared I’d break hearts when I grew older.

All this is to say, I have a love/hate relationship with the word pretty. If you grow up being told you’re physically attractive, it becomes an expectation. Despite my zealous feminist views, I religiously wear make-up, get regular highlights, and dress with a strong retro, girly vibe. I love a good floral dress and red lipstick. I love leaving the house with a bounce in my step, because – damn! –  these shoes look awesome. However, I am starting to hate pretty.

There’s something those old women don’t warn you about and your well-meaning aunt doesn’t prepare you for. Pretty is a double-edged (s)word. As a woman in this country and in this age, my looks are constantly up for discussion. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this sentence starter: “Yeah, I guess she’s pretty, but…” Fill in the blank as you like. The specimen in question may have thighs just a bit too big or hair that curls when it should straighten. For every woman, there is someone, somewhere who thinks she’s just not pretty enough…and, worse, that it makes her less valuable as a person.

Despite the various children’s books and encouraging Mom maxims I grew up with, this hit me hard in high school. Suddenly, pretty became a debate prompt. The boy I’d laughed with in my TAG English classes now felt the need to inform others that he didn’t see what the big deal was about me, because my boobs were just fat that I pushed out too far. Now, of course, I find this somewhat hilarious because A – all boobs are fat and B – why, yes, I have always had excellent posture, thank you for noticing. But as a 14 year-old? I wanted to hide under a sumo-sized sweatshirt for the rest of my life, so that nobody could ever again notice that my boobs had somehow been deemed sub-par. All it took was one comment about my ranking on the great spectrum of pretty to completely change my relationship with what had, up until then, been two perfectly fine mammary lumps.

Over the years, I compensated. I wore a dress or skirt almost every day of high school and diligently curled my hair each morning. Since the age of 14, the number of times I’ve left the house without make-up can be counted on one hand. I shave my legs every other day. I rip extra hair out of my eyebrows. It’s all become part of the routine. I’d like to blame it on that one too-immature boy, but it’s not him at all. It’s society. Society expects me to do these things. To be a woman, one must primp, one must pluck, and never ever ever let on that she actually uses the restroom!

And now, at the ripe old age of 26, I’m fucking sick of it. Why do I have to do all this again? Why, when I have three degrees under my belt and the ability to save a human life, do I care if you think I could stand to lose 10 pounds? It’s just all too much. The amount of time spent on how I look is just exhausting and I’m not even doing all I supposedly should. If I prescribed to every beauty recommendation, whole hours of my day would be devoted to deep conditioning and matching my nail polish to my handbag. Here’s the thing: I just don’t give a crap about any of it.

I see the point in deodorant, regular showers, and well-fitting clothes. The rest of it seems like utter nonsense. Why was my makeupless face pretty at 12, but something so repulsive it must be hidden from society at 26? Why exactly do I have to remove all of my body hair? Last time I checked, we didn’t even start shaving our legs until the 1920s, so how can it now be A Mandatory Facet of Womanhood? Don’t even get me started on the Hair Down There. If you’re lucky enough to ever see Down There, what gives you the right to judge its trimmings?

I understand that physical attraction is a big deal in dating. I get that attractive people can get ahead, thanks to their looks. I’ve read the research. It makes the whole human race sound like the cast of Mean Girls. Because, let’s be honest, it doesn’t last. The picture of young Hollywood loveliness today is going to grow old. She’s going to get wrinkles, she’s going to fluctuate in weight, her magnificent breasts will someday – horror of horrors! – sag. Because that is what we humans do. It’s how Mother Nature rolls.

The older I get, the more pretty begins to seem worthless. I’m never going to win this game. There will forever be someone on the sidelines suggesting that I whiten my teeth or shrink a few inches or magically stop aging. No one is universally pretty. It’s unattainable, like passing the Kobayashi Maru without cheating. If my guy friends can seriously pro/con the attractiveness of Natalie Portman, then we’re all screwed. This ship is sinking, no matter how often I curl my eyelashes. Pretty isn’t a good adjective to identify with. It’s just too transient. Give me smart; give me funny. Give me excellent at board games.

You can keep the pretty. I don’t want it anymore.

– Grace

Sunglasses and Lipstick

sunglasses and lipstick

If you’re like me and you stayed up too late on a work night reading The Hunger Games for a second time just so it would be fresh in your memory for the midnight showing you’re going to on Thursday and then right when you finally go to sleep a giant thunderstorm hits and it sounds like Revolutionary War cannons are aimed right at your apartment and for a second you think it means the British are coming and then you remember it’s 2012 and people don’t really use cannons anymore but it doesn’t matter because it’s now 2am and you can’t sleep through this racket, what you really need the next morning is a good excuse to not go to work and sleep all day but because you’re responsible you go to work and in order to make yourself presentable you need two things:

1. Sunglasses. Wear them. They hide all manner of facial woes. Obviously you can’t wear them inside (unless you want rumors of your vampirism to start) so swap them out for a great pair of eyeglasses when you’re indoors. Sunglasses are best but I’ve found great success in using my eyeglasses to hide black as night under-eye circles.

2. A stellar lipstick. It’s like magic. A great shade of lipstick wakes up your entire face and makes you look way fresher than you feel. As my Grandmother always puts it “Lipstick makes you look alive even when you feel like death.”  True story, she has been wearing the same lipstick shade for like 40 years, so she obviously knows what she’s talking about.

Here’s another true story, despite looking like a zombie at work today I got two compliments on my lipstick and one on my glasses. It’s all about giving them a little razzle dazzle to distract them from the fizzle fazzle that is my face after no sleep. It’s like the bend and snap, it works every time. 😉

Coincidently, the sunglasses and lipstick trick also works if you’re hungover.