About Face

I bought a new fancy-ass concealer the other day, to hide my increasingly pronounced under eye circles. I came out of the womb with dark circles under my eyes, and I have fought them nearly as long, as has my mother before me. So with YSL Touche Eclat in hand, I go to battle each morning, slathering it on, hoping for the best.

I was in the middle of this ritual the other day when a thought popped into my head: how much time, energy, and money, do I, do most women, spend hiding things? Concealer and  foundation for our pimples and blemishes; Spanx, control top pantyhose, and built in shape wear for our bumpy butts and thighs, and our protruding tummies; bras to hike up less than perky boobs; colored contacts, hair dye, teeth whitening…. the list is literally endless.

Juxtapose all this hiding with the messaging we get everyday: Be yourself. Lean in. Speak your truth. Natural beauty. The right people will love you for you.

Bullshit.

How am I supposed to be open and vulnerable, when I’ve spent so long learning how to hide, diminish, flatten, and smooth? What could I have done with all the money and time and energy spent hiding my flaws and sucking in my gut? Literally compressing my gut so that it cannot feel for me, cannot be my guide, the source of my intuition.

How do I dress for myself when I’ve learned so well that being pleasing to others is the only way to feel worthy? When I don’t wear makeup, the men in my office ask if I’m sick, or why I look so tired. What I hear is: “why are you not pleasing to look at today?”

How do I make peace with aging, when I’ve learned so well that youth and beauty-and your associated ability to reproduce-are your main currencies, as a woman? Lately I’ve been thinking about preventative Botox, because the lines of my forehead are bothering me. They’re not going to get any better. I’m not going to stop making weird faces, faces so weird, in fact, that often my friends ask me if I’m ok, and my response is, “this is just my face.”

Now, I honestly believe every woman should do what makes her feel best, and I would never judge someone for wanting to use Botox. Hell, I want to. But my friend Brandy said something to me the other day about these lines, and it really hit home: “You earned them.” And I did. Every night spent studying in law school, I earned these lines. I actually like them, when I think about them in that light. Those lines not only give my face character, but they show my character, as a lawyer. I’m proud of them. But I’ve still been thinking about injecting my face with poison to hide them, because I want to be pretty more than I want to be proud of my accomplishments. One is definitely valued more.

It is this question of the value of my accomplishments that leads me away from the beauty aisle to ask, how am I supposed to know how to use my full voice, when I’ve spent so long learning how to talk softly, and obliquely, to ask questions instead of make declarations? See, I’m doing it even now.

I’ve been taught to believe that no one could withstand the full power of my intelligence, or God forbid, my emotions, my anger, rage, hurt, joy, excitement, love. Out of fear I have learned how to blunt my force to make myself more consumable, to make others more comfortable. What others? And why is their comfort so much more important than my own?

We talk about empowering our girls, but the truth is that we do not want them to be so powerful. Not too powerful. Not powerful like a man. Not as powerful as a man. Why do we feel the need to reign in their power? Is it that we know that a woman fully grown, standing in the throne of her power is a force unmatched? Yes: it is the force that sank a thousand ships, and birthed a Messiah, and carries half the sky.

Sweetness, docility, attractiveness, these are not inherently *feminine* characteristics. These are fetters that cabin true feminine power, the power that pulls the ocean into the shore, that moves the planet closer to the moon, that creates life, knitting it out of existing flesh and bone.

I’m going to keep wearing concealer, and I’m going to keep doing a lot of the other things, because I enjoy doing them for me. But maybe I’ll do them less, when I’m tired, or I’m feeling lazy, or I’m running late.  I’m going to declare things, not ask questions, when I know I’m in the right. I’m going to be honest, the next time someone asks me what’s wrong, when all I’ve done is not put on makeup. I will tell them, “This is just my face.”

Editors note: my friend Lindsay pointed out that this could be read as a contrast to my earlier piece, “I am My Beloved[s]”, and she’s not wrong. I like makeup, but I’m working on making it about what I like, not what I’m doing for others. Which, I hope, makes this more of a companion piece.

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Food for Thought

Kelly of And Then Blog and I have been talking a lot about food lately, which should come as a shock to exactly no one. But this series of conversations has been about Mediterranean food culture. For one thing, we were lamenting the lack of a cocktail hour culture. We’ve got happy hour, but it’s not like most sports bars see us sipping aperol spritzes or arak or ouzo while eating delicious olives and other nibbles, and discussing the events of the week with our friends. And certainly not every night, like clockwork. I would like us as a nation to work on that. I think it’s a very civilized way to live.

But she was also reading a Mediterranean diet (as in way of eating, not low-calorie, etc.) cookbook, and remarked to me that it was basically everything I ate: olive oil, labne, lots of fresh veggies, olives, marinated things, rice, lamb, fish. This why despite my …Rubenesque… physique, I’m still pretty healthy. All of my wobbly bits are made up of 100% monounsaturated fat, very low in bad cholesterol, and high in good. I feel best when I eat closest to that diet, light on meat (although I do love it), lots of veggies, lots of olive oil, some bread, some dairy, rice. I don’t think that’s necessarily true for everyone, but I think there’s a little bit of truth to the idea that it’s in my blood.

So I’m a little bit curious what might happen if I ate that way all the time. I’ve toyed with the idea of cooking exclusively out of Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem, or my own dog-earred copy of Sah’tain, a Palestinian cookbook that was the only one I ever witnessed my Teta use… and usually just for proportions. Most Arabic food I make from memory, but I could branch out a bit more, be a bit more conscious about it.

I’ve also toyed with the idea of never eating alone, but that seems next to impossible, although it would certainly be taking the concept of a Mediterranean diet to it’s logical extreme- it’s not just about what we eat, but the way in which we eat it. So many of our American meals are spent alone, or in front of screens, and no one is more guilty of this than I am. But it’s not healthy. I don’t binge eat a bag of potato chips when I’m sharing a meal with friends, but I’ve definitely done that when I’m eating alone, in front of the TV.

I think ultimately what I’ve been missing from my meals lately is nourishment- emotional and physical. With everyone living their separate and busy lives, how do we nourish ourselves? How do we turn mealtime, the cooking, the sharing, into a social, and perhaps spiritual, practice? I suggest we start with cocktail hour.

I am My Beloved[s]

Trying to return to my plan of thematic days (look, it’s a process, people), Fridays are about Fashion. Well, not fashion exactly, but like… stuff I wear. Or other people wear. Or both. Clothes/appearance/beauty/stuff.

Because I’ve been going on ALL THE DATES I’ve been more focused on my appearance than usual. Let’s not lie, I’m always focused on my appearance. I’ve been accused by more than one friend of having a particular “mirror face.” I don’t know, it’s just my face. But I can’t not look in a mirror. It’s not vanity. I’m not waiting, Evil Queen like, for the mirror to tell me how lovely I am. It’s hyper vigilance. I feel like if I’m not policing my appearance every minute of the g-damn day I’ll transform into Princess Fiona after sundown: More green troll than Cameron Diaz.

Now that I’m going out with the lads a lot more, I’ve been trying to dress more [traditionally] feminine, and be more [traditionally] feminine in general. Again, I think if you asked my friends they would be surprised to hear this, since I literally have a jewelry closet (in fairness, I also sell jewelry through Stella and Dot), I think going to the Laura Mercier counter for a makeover is a perfectly fine way to spend  $200 and a Tuesday evening, and I’m NEVER in pants. NEVER- because if you don’t want someone to know what the exact topography of your ass and thighs look like, wear a skirt or dress. #protip

What I’ve realized is I don’t luxuriate in being [traditionally] feminine. I put on a five minute face while speeding out the door, chugging a cold cup of coffee. Sometimes I just throw makeup in a bag and put it on around 1pm in the office bathroom when I finally get a break. But lately, because I’m hoping to find someone who wants to pay a great deal of attention to my face, and perhaps kiss it, I’ve been taking my time. Actually using that foundation primer I bought. Asking myself what would make me feel and look pretty.

My hair is a whole other story. I’m blessed with admittedly great hair- so great that I can usually get away with doing literally nothing to it (other than getting an excellent cut from Renee at Salon One80– go see her!), but lately, with the SWAMP that I live in (seriously, we’re on day 16 of gloomy rain), my hair looks like I just came from sticking my tongue in a light socket. So I’ve actually been working on it, twisting it up wet at night to in the morning I can unroll some semblance of beachy waves, and look a little bit more polished.

I’ve been taking more baths, using my favorite homemade scrubs (1) baking powder and lemon juice;  or 2) used coffee grounds, sugar, and olive oil -try them!) actually shaving my legs everyday, buffing, trimming and painting my nails. Doing all the little things that add up to make a big difference. This makes me sound like I was a ragged water buffalo before, but I realized I was relying on good products and decent clothes, rather than actually making an effort at the whole package.

I totally understand if these things don’t make you feel good, or you aren’t that sort of girl. I don’t think there’s one way to be a woman, and I don’t think there’s one way to feel feminine, if you like feeling feminine. But I do like to feel this particular brand of feminine, and I don’t know why I feel like I can only treat myself as special when it’s for someone else’s benefit, or someone else’s gaze. And so I had to ask myself- why am I only doing this when I think men are paying attention? While there’s definitely something enjoyable about dressing for a lover, why wouldn’t I do this just for myself, because it feels nice, because it makes me feel like I care about myself independent of anyone else? Aren’t I as worthy of attention as any present or future beau?

Self care is not only for special occasions. You, your life, is the special occasion. You alone are worth the good china. I’ve said it to others, I’m written about it, but living it is different matter all together. Especially when you live alone, it is so easy to spend days at a time just wandering around in your own lounge-wear funk. But what message is that sending to yourself? That you’re not enough. In almost everything I do, I telegraph to myself that I alone am not enough. It might be a chicken on the egg thing, I don’t know, but I’m trying to be conscious about it. I’m putting on lipstick, for me. I’m eating off the nice dishes, for me. I’m doing my hair and getting a pedicure and wearing a pretty nightgown, for me. If someone else wants to enjoy it too, good for him. But mostly, good for me.

Living with Ghosts

You know that song by Elle King, “Ex’s and Oh’s”? Other than being grammatically incomprehensible (I double-checked that spelling), that about sums up my latest romantic encounters.

Ghosting, or the infuriating practice of going completely dark on all methods of communication as an alternative to saying “I no longer wish to speak to you, best of luck in your future endeavors,” has become commonplace. Cut to every article about Tinder ever, and I’m not going to rehash it here. In short, it’s rude, shitty behavior because we don’t want to be confronted by the other person’s disappointment, and as much as I try to take the higher road, I too am guilty.

The funny thing is, for the most part, when I tell someone I’m not or no longer interested, I am met with respect. 9 times out of 10, I’d say. I’d like to think I offer that back to those who have said the same to me. But that 1 time is someone who overreacts so disproportionately, sometimes cruelly, sometimes terrifyingly, that it is enough to make you rethink your stance. I’ve had my mental health, weight, general appearance, color bias, heritage, and intelligence all maligned because I had the gall to not be charmed by “Hey, sexy.” So I do get it, and I try to be magnanimous about it, recognizing that ghosting shows either fear, or both a lack of interest and a lack of character, and I’m not looking for either.

But a more insidious thing has been going on lately, and perhaps it’s because I’ve been skewing older. It is a truth universally acknowledged that as people age, they collect baggage. Sometimes that baggage is light, and sometimes it requires a bellhop and three steamer trunks.  The shadow of exes, mine, theirs- those are the real ghosts to with which we must contend. I know that I’ve had conversations with men entirely in reaction to the shit my ex pulled. I know I’m not alone in this, nor is it remarkable, but I hate that I do it. I hate that those memories are keeping me at arms length from some perfectly nice men.

It’s happening on the other end as well. I had a perfectly great date this weekend, with a guy I really enjoyed spending time with. Good conversation, good chemistry, it was one of those dates that last into the morning, but not because of sex. As it came time for him to leave, I said that this was always the hard part, after such a good time, and I was sad to see him go. What I meant was that over the course of the last 8 hours, I’d had a nice time, and I’d like to see him again. Apparently this was a trigger, because we somehow got to “I feel like you want to get married, and I’m not sure I want to get married.” Did you get whiplash? Because I sure as hell did. When he said “I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s happiness” I knew this had nothing to do with me. Exes, and Ohhhhs…..

There’s a prevalence of that sort of statement, online, in real life, of not wanting to be responsible for someone’s happiness. Well, to a certain extent, you can’t be, because healthy people know that they’re responsible for their own happiness. But there’s a certain lack of generosity in that statement- what they’re really saying is: “I don’t want to try to please you, and I’m abdicating myself of that responsibility right off the bat. If you have needs that don’t get met, that’s on you.”

This sort of thing used to turn me on, or at least prompt me to act. It used to make me think if I was only pretty enough or good enough or whatever enough, I could get them to meet my needs. It was a personal failing on my part, not theirs. I’ve since realized that I wasn’t turned on, I was triggered. I could go on for days about Avoidant/Anxious attachment, but suffice it to say that my need for validation had found a challenge, and I was ready for the fight. It was-it is-exhausting.

I certainly get that relationships can be hard, and pleasing the people that you love, especially if they are battling their own demons, is even harder. But at the very least, as a starting principle, shouldn’t you want to try? I want to try. I’m always reminded of the lyrics to “Being Alive” from “Company”:

Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot….

Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care,
Someone to make you come through,
Who’ll always be there,
As frightened as you
Of being alive…

I guess at the end of the day, I’m choosing being alive, over living with ghosts.

 

ST[r]umped

It has happened. Trump is all but guaranteed the Republican presidential nomination, and the thing that many of us believed could never happen, myself included, happened.

How did we get here?

For that sort of political analysis, you can go to Slate, and HuffPo, and WashPo, and NYTimes, and your angry uncle. I’m not that interested in parsing the myriad ways the Republican party created their very own Frankenstein’s Monster out of pandering to an increasingly irrational, conservative, and frankly un-Republican base (I’m not that interested, but I’m still going to give credit where credit is due).  Instead, I’m much more interested in the psyche and personality of a Trump voter.

There have been many politicians who talk in sound bites, but most of them at least say something. My personal favorites have been:

“I know words, I have the best words.”

“Because I have a very good brain, and I’ve said a lot of things.”

Think about the rhetorical value of these statements (if you can do so without wanting to jam a pencil in your ear). The former is something you might imagine a toddler saying when learning to read Pat the Bunny. The latter is something I have said when drunk and trying to justify my existence, or convince my compatriots to go to Amsterdam Falafel for my world famous “no balls” french fry pita (get it).  I think we can all agree that neither a toddler nor me when drunk are what we hope for in a Presidential candidate, or God forbid, President.

So with whom do these sentiments resonate? It’s like the folksy charm of George W. Bush, but written by those AI robots Google is having to train to be conversational with romance novels (look it up). The words are English words, but the phrases don’t make any sense. W. was legitimately folksy, I have come to believe. Yes, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth (and other places), and yes he had the benefit of a world class education. But the more I studied him as a historical figure, the more I’ve come to see him as likely a well-meaning person that didn’t have either the confidence or the personal knowledge to reject the disastrous bullshit the people around him were peddling. But his activities since leaving office, the quiet way he sent Malaria nets and other aid to foreign countries because it was the right thing to do, the slack shouldered way in which he took on the slings and arrows of the commentary by the end of his presidency…. I take back some of the vitriol I once spewed at him freely. I see him as a tragic figure, now. In hindsight. Not his administration, and not his cabinet, but him.

So, in that light (a light in which I, a card-carrying member of the ACLU, a rampant feminist, a proud member of the liberal elite, I am using W as a favorable comparison), I’d like you to think about Trump. His is the worst sort of rhetorical abuse. He is smarter than this, and is using this very juvenile (literally, at like a 5th grade reading level), to appeal to our lowest common denominator. His language is vulgar, in the truest sense of the world. It appeals to that visceral, bitter, dangerous, dark place in all of us. There is someone, something, some group that every single one of us hates for some irrational, deeply personal, and usually ugly reason. And most of us try to fight it, because we know it is irrational, deeply personal, and ugly.  We fight the impulse to give into the simple explanation, that it’s someone else’s fault, that someone has done something bad to us and if we can only get back at them, we’ll feel better. Because this is, again, the logic of a child.

Trump’s campaign operates on the premise that we will resist our better angels. I think he’s wrong. I’m going to work tirelessly this campaign season to make sure of it. I hope you’ll join me.

 

Duty Dating

I was supposed to post it on Saturday, but I was too busy getting beautiful for a wedding. I realized in the middle of the shaving and plucking and hair washing and exfoliating that I should probably treat myself to the full home spa treatment every day, not just for big events, because I can clean up pretty good. But I like sleeping in. So.

As I’ve mentioned a few times (…) I’m dating in real life and online. And the pace of online dating is either a) interminably slow, where you keep volleying pleasantries back and forth with no hope of meeting until you both die of boredom, or b) one party (usually the dude in the heterosexual situations I can speak about) pushing for an IMMEDIATE meeting, usually over coffee. Maybe a drink.

I think you know this, but I am busy. Like, stuff every night busy. Because I’m aggressively extroverted, and I like a full life. If you’re in the rotation, it’s likely because you’re a very good friend, a particularly delicious eatery, or a very interesting activity.

Most dates don’t fit any of those criteria. And yet, I continue to say yes to coffee dates with strangers from the internet because…. you never know. And it’s a numbers game. And you should be open to possibilities. And you can’t be too picky at your age.

And any number of other mindless platitudes we hear.

This results in duty dating, dating for the sake of dating, to say that we’re “putting ourselves out there.” Ok, well, I’m out here, at a place I hate, with a person I don’t know AT ALL. I don’t want to be here. I want to be not here. Which does not make me a very interesting or attractive person, because I’m annoyed. It’s a shitty cycle of terrible dates.

My whole Fuck Yes/Fuck No mantra I espoused earlier this year is most tested when it comes to dating. At some point growing up my mother said to me that I should always say yes to whomever asks me to dance, because a) people might surprise you, and b) other potentially more interesting and attractive people will see that you’re out there on the dance floor, and think about asking next.

And then that thought embedded itself into the walls of my brain and made it almost impossible for me to say no when I am asked out on a date, even by someone who seems objectively awful.  I don’t blame my mom at all, it’s a perfectly lovely and logical sentiment. I blame my weirdo brain for turning that into “YOU HAVE NO AGENCY-YOU MUST ALWAYS SAY YES OR YOU WILL DIE ALONE.”

I’ve been on dates that definitely felt worse than having my body eaten by my 17 cats after dying in my squalid Grey Gardens-level apartment. So duty dating is a clear and unequivocal Fuck No for me. It’s scary to know I might be missing an opportunity, but I can’t imagine I won’t be happier only choosing things that make me truly excited. Perhaps that’s the criteria I should be using moving forward: does the idea of spending time with this person excite me on any level? Fuck Yes, or Fuck No.

Working Lunch

I’ve never been very good about bringing my lunch to work. Part of it has to do with the fact that I absolutely hate- to an irrational degree-leftovers. I am by no means a picky eater, I will eat almost anything. But once a week. I know a lot of people who cook a big batch of something- soup, rice and beans, etc. on Sunday, and then take it for lunch every day there after. I can’t. I get sooooo bored.

This, I realize, is the textbook definition of a #firstworldproblem.

The other thing that happens is that even when I pack a lunch, by the time it’s packed and sitting in the office fridge, I no longer want it. It is a known entity, a flavor I’m already familiar with. It holds no appeal. So it sits there, languishing, until I am eventually forced by HR to throw it away, having never fulfilled it’s lunchy destiny.

At heart I’m a hunter; I like fresh kills, even if it’s just a salad from Whole Foods. It would admittedly save me a ton of money, time, and calories, but I like to be surprised, not faced with the inevitability of the lentil soup I packed. I like the promise of the lunch hour, when I can venture away from the office and find new horizons.  I have chronic order envy and regret, as my friends can tell you, always wanting what’s on someone else’s plate, never fully satisfied with my own. My manner of placing a dinner order makes Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally look easy going. As Veruca Salt opined, “I want the world, I want the WHOLE world.”

I have other good qualities.

Erma Bombeck wrote, “I am not a glutton-I am an explorer of food,” and I agree. Eating is a pleasure, and one that not everyone gets. So why resign myself to a boring, sad desk salad, when the whole world awaits me? Yes sometimes I make mistakes, or get too hungry, and wolf down a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos in the neon light of the basement vending machine. Sometimes I fail to give myself adequate time and careen from meeting to meeting with the blood sugar levels of a garden slug. But for the most part I let my appetites take me where they will, examining my cravings, exploring something new in the form of a fruit or a flavor. A daily act of defiance when I’m answering to anyone but myself.

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