Archive for category So Right

Hair

Sclater St, East LondonI am obsessed with my hair. It’s long. There’s a lot of it. I spend entirely too much time worrying about how much more shiny it can be (Moroccan Oil, people – works wonders).

Men also love hair. Think of your last quality kiss? Bet he was up in your hair. I bet he even enjoys a bit of hair-pulling. You probably do, too. I’m not judging.

Hair is great. For me, it provides a few things, which the writer in me can’t help but to alliterate:

  • Comfort — If I’m writing, thinking or stewing, you can also bet I’m twirling.
  • Cheat — I feel like if my hair looks good, people don’t notice what doesn’t look so good. Result.
  • Cover — When all else fails, I just hide behind it. Usually in photos. Turns out, this is both obvious and unphotogenic.

Anyway.

Why hair? Bet you’ve already guessed that my concerns are not entirely cosmetic, nor superficial.

To me, Christmas, the end of a year, it’s all very thoughtful. I take a lot of stock, not only in the year that’s passed, but on the passage of the years that preceded it — the choices that comprise a lifetime, all thrown into focus by a holiday that forces family and friends together and elicits status updates (delivered personally rather than on Facebook). A holiday that causes you to look around the table and note who is there, who isn’t — and who could’ve been.

So back to hair.

In my day job, I recently met a trichologist, a ‘doctor of hair.’ (And yes, I did inquire as to how I might make my hair even shinier). She informed me that long hair can be years-old. My own carries the last six years with it, at least.

And then it hit me — why hair and loss go hand in hand, or scissors in hand, as the case may be. In a movie, you know a woman feels loss when she stares in front of a mirror, wet-eyed and holding comically oversized shears for a DIY haircut. We read about women in books, who after tragedy, head straight to the hairdresser. When my own father died, I rushed to lop off about eight effortfully cultivated inches. I didn’t even think about it; it was impulsive.

Hair is an immensely powerful symbol. Certain religions mandate its cover to contain its energy, often sexual. Some cultures cover the dead in it, as it is technically dead, but still grows and thrives. And in countless cultures, mourners shave their heads to sever ties with or to honour those who’ve died.

But all this shaving might not be about symbology. Maybe it’s about cutting pain out of your life. In fact, after talking to the trichologist, I was half tempted to run to my stylist immediately and demand that she eliminate the bad memories of those six years.

  • The end of a 10-year relationship.
  • The heartache of the one that came after it, so full of promise — and stacked odds.
  • The toxicity of certain nights out and the toxicity of the men I met on them.
  • A bad job, followed by an unchallenging job, followed by the horror of acquiring an addiction to Mafia Wars as a result of boredom at said job.

Cut it all off, I thought. Start fresh.

But I thought better of it. Firstly, I love my hair. It’s the longest — and shiniest — it’s ever been. Shot from behind (and waist-up), I’m pretty sure I could be mistaken for a Kardashian.

And of course long hair is incredibly feminine. And I love being a woman.

But more than anything, I earned those memories. I learned from them. While I don’t always act it, I should be smarter by now. Isn’t it better to carry that with you than to cut it off and bury it deep?

You may have figured it out: I’m no Christmas girl. I’ve lived too long and I can happily buy my own gifts. And I think we should work to conjure ‘our better angels’ all days of the year, instead of just the one. But like long hair, I like to carry the memories of past Christmases — good and bad — and all the learnings of all those year-ends with me. Because we do get smarter. And that’s almost as good as shiny hair.

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Your voice

Often times, attracting men starts with one of your most basic assets: your voice. We could speculate that men like smooth voices, velvety voices, sultry voices, but the truth is, we don’t have a lot of control over how we sound. We can try not to squeak and up-speak (asking questions at the end of all sentences) or stammering and being sheepish…

Oh who am I kidding? Did you think for one minute this post was going to be about your pipes? Of course I care more about what you say then how you sound saying it. Especially to men.

Voice came into sharp focus these past two weeks, with revelations about Jimmy Savile’s sexual harassment — and the various parties that helped facilitate his actions or to cover them up. Where were the voices, we ask? The halls of the BBC, the Stoke Mandeville hospital — they should have sounded like Greek Choruses. But they didn’t. People were mute. Women were mute. Victims? Many mute, or worse, unheard. Why?

The Savile debate has been heated and layered. We’ve heard people point out that, dead, he cannot defend himself. That stripping his knighthood now is largely perfunctory. Other voices counter by asking who defended his victims, and express a desire to ensure his ‘legacy’ is honest. Perhaps the most troubling topic is how people measure the severity of his abuse. Some qualify his actions as perverse and puerile, but ultimately, not as severe as the full-on abuse that others insist occurred. And that’s what got me thinking.

Women, for a long time, have been made to believe that our anatomy is fragile and something to be ashamed of. People have talked about the internal nature of our sex, the fact that we can be ‘penetrated’. There’s a new celebration of vaginas (more on this to come), so perhaps we’re making progress, but I can’t help to think that if we demystified our sex, toughened it up, so to speak, just regarded it simply as a part of our anatomy, then shame and disgust would not force us into silence. Society wouldn’t be so tempted into a metaphorical cover up.

Now, to be clear, it’s not just any piece of anatomy. I can do without my little toe. I cannot live without a system that gives life and pleasure and love. But bear with me — if Jimmy Savile approached you in his spangley sex pest trackie bottoms and whacked you in the arm, you’d say — loudly — ‘WTF?’ You’d probably ask other people if they saw. You might even instinctually whack him back in the same place. Harder.

But you wouldn’t hold onto that experience and let it shape you.

Too many of us have that lascivious relative who asks us when we’re small to sit on his stiffening lap. Too many of us have been groped in public. Too many of us have just swallowed it, felt like our insides are on display and let it ruin our day — if not a week, month, year or lifelong psychology.

Do not mistake me. Being pulled into a closet, tricked into a flat, being molested, entered and/or raped is a trespass beyond imagination. Sexual predators play psychological games that shame us into submission. So does a misogynistic system. I am not blaming any victims.

What I am saying is that regardless of scale, like being whacked in the arm, we know abuse when we feel it. Let’s hear that ‘WTF?’ And if some ignorant, saggy-bosomed nurse sits at your bedside and tells you to keep schtum when Uncle Jimmy comes to visit, rap her right in those institutional tits and tell her to do one.

Find your voice. There is nothing too fragile about us to fight back.

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Catwomen

If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet, I strongly recommend it. I’m no film critic, but what I can tell you is that Christopher Nolan is a god, the special effects are jaw-dropping (and yet not overdone), the story is intricate and reflects a lot of issues germane to our times, the female characters are immensely powerful, and that other than one fleeting moment of bogus acting, which would be a spoiler if I revealed it, I can’t fault a performance.

A stand-out? Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle, who is not overtly referred to but obviously known as the Catwoman.

I cannot imagine that men don’t love her, possibly because my vision is clouded by my own adoration. Other than a sketchy past that she’s trying to escape (who amongst us?), she’s everything you want to be: clever, wry, mechanical, supremely sexy, spandexed, shapely and super-fit. Plus, she has a great collection of little black dresses which are ladylike and vampy at once. And, she can work a string of pearls better than Jackie O on a good day.

But here’s what I love most about the superwoman that is Catwoman. She is literally a super woman. She is resolutely and unapologetically female. She purrs, she works her feminine wiles, she uses her typically female powers of nuanced and critical thinking and in the end, she still opens herself up to love… ultimately coming back to her man (again, I ask: who amongst us?).

And that’s my take on feminism — and the very point of this blog. We win when we do what we do best — and that is precisely what we were genetically programmed to do: Be. Women.

I am a proud feminist and because of that, I embrace what is feminine. What scares me is the notion that we must be bashful about our womanly ways in order to be taken seriously. So what do we get? ‘Professional’ women dressed in genderless suits, acting like poor imitations of their male counterparts and beating themselves up over the notion of having it all (a paradigm that has never, nor will ever, exist for men).

There are some damn good mimics out there, but an imitation is never as good as the real thing. Instead of trying to be something that we’re not — or worse, a new, androgynous category that never existed — why don’t we make the most of what we are? Proudly, strongly feminine.

Ladies, please… don’t neuter your Catwoman.

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Perfume

I was at a perfume counter with a friend when she recounted a story about how her husband loved Shalimar because his adored Aunt wore it when he was a kid, and it has since stuck in his consciousness as a symbol of femininity. The woman behind the counter listened intently and butted in with a thick New York accent – and opinion.

‘All men like Shalimar,’ she said. ‘It’s the scent of a real woman.’ She proceeded to envelop us both in a gas cloud of the stuff, continuing to proselytize about her perfume choices. She warned us that men don’t like ‘these new fragrances that make you smell like you just came from the shower.’ No, she said, they like it strong and musky. ‘They like to know you’ve made an effort.’

I can’t say whether she’s right about Shalimar or not, but the sales woman hit on something when it comes to making an effort.

So I recently attended a political meeting. The content was thought-provoking. The people were brilliant. They expressed themselves so passionately and articulately that I envied them like an agnostic who hungers to know what real faith feels like. But that’s substance, what about the style?

The fact is, that room smelled like sandals and dandruff. Gazing at the nodding heads, I spied grey roots, grease, a potential spiral perm and two (TWO!!) scrunchies. And the woolens?! How many llamas froze to death for that meeting?

Now let’s rewind to a less serious evening: date night. The pre-date prep was immense. I showered, I shaved, I scented; I used product in my hair (Kerastase for God’s sake, the good stuff!). By the time I showed up for that date, I wondered what it must be like to be a man and I envied them, too. I mean, I love a man – and the scruffier the better – but while we show up scrubbed and sweetly smelling, they, like my political friends, often reek of head.

Yes, it’s another double standard.  They can be sloppy and still score and we may not have that luxury. This is precisely where my political allegory clicks. It comes down to this: whether you’re a woman on the pull or a party out for polling results, it often doesn’t matter what you’re saying if your audience doesn’t think you look good saying it. Or if it all smells just a bit funny.

Should higher-minded issues to be cloaked by superficiality? No. But you wouldn’t hide your intellectual light under a bushel, so don’t hide it under a fusty smelling llama jumper either.

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Bras

So you know how men always make fun of women for their obsession with shoes and handbags? I can’t say I don’t relate, but when it comes to the ultimate indulgence, the one thing that makes me part with my cash most quickly is bras. As the good women at Fenwick will attest (especially during the summer sales), I can’t get enough of them.

I think it started early for me. Like a high heel, when you’re a little girl, you see certain things as a sign of latent womanhood. Not to sound creepy, but watching your mother dress for a night out in (at the risk of aging myself) a slip and a bra … and boom – you future gaze to (what you think and hope will be) your glamorous adult life.

So what is about bras? A lot. There’s the obvious fact that they boost the ultimate symbol of your femininity: your breasts. And they make them look really pretty. In fact, of all the things we get to wear, bras are one of the most flattering, whether your flat or full chested, skinny or ample.

And let’s face it, I can get girly, and bras are lacey and colourful.

Or, let’s face it, I can be a perve, and bras can be dark and kinky, like some of my favourites at Marlies Dekkers or Agent Provocateur (the Bubble collection is a good ‘un).

Or I can be playful, and I can shop nipple tassels and pasties from my very talented and gorgeous friend Gaby Kennedy.

The point is, there is a lot to say for bras because there is a lot to say for women — and like bras, we are certainly about more than our breasts. But the best part is that only the wearer knows what’s going on underneath until she decides to show it off.

I know I’ve been waxing poetic about bras, but there is a caution. When we parade around in our skivvies, we should feel beautiful and sexy. That’s great — it’s one of the best things about intimacy. But when we’re in our smalls, are we more aware of what we’re doing to him, or what he’s doing for us?

It’s a well-known fact that men punch above their weight and women accept a bigger differential on a 10 point scale. Anyone who has ever been to the gym observes this phenomenon. A fit woman walks by two beer-bellied men at the water cooler (note: they are not working out) and they comment, pejoratively, on her ass, or her thighs or some such thing they feel requires improvement. Meanwhile, those same men might be in relationships with women who internally recognise their partners are pregnant with carbs but instead beam with pride about their kindness, sensitivity and sense of humour.

Do I want women to be more shallow? No … but yes. Well, a little.

I want us to retain our substance and the complexity and the acceptance that comes with being female. But I also want us to feel we deserve the whole package. The way men do.

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Tramps

Not the homeless type. That kind of tramp.

If you don’t know the Eurovision Song Contest, get acquainted with it — not only because it will change your life immeasurably, but because then when I tell you I went to a Eurovision party as any given Eastern European contestant, you’ll be able to envisage my costume (the party was fancy dress). I knew I nailed the brief when a ponytailed party guest called Dmitri was able to place me immediately.  But what really struck me, was that bodacious, besequined and wearing enough slap to double as a Kardashian (oooh – maybe I was singing for Armenia?!), I was getting more male attention than most other nights this calendar year.

Hear me now: if men tell you they favour a natural look, they don’t even know what that means. They are programmed to like a tramp.

The thing about fancy dress is that you may know you’re in it, but if it doesn’t involve a mask, others may not. So when you leave your house looking like a $2 whore, you take a taxi. What I didn’t account for was having to wander the streets of a fairly upscale neighbourhood in search of a liquor store and gift for the host.  I present to you a conversation with an upright-looking proprietor:

Him: You look very nice tonight.

Me: (Rapid fire) I-don’t-normally-go-out-like-this-it’s-fancy-dress. Eurovision.

Him: I meant it as a compliment.

Me: (Even more rapidly) It’s-just-that-I-don’t-normally-wear-this-much-make-up.

Him: I gave you a discount on your champagne.

Me: (Imagine a Ron Burgundy-like reading of the question mark.) Thank you?

Let me give you another anecdote.

In my day job, I recently worked on set for a campaign that involved a voluptuous starlet displaying the wonders of PVC. (Women, you may not have considered it in the past, but let me tell you, it sucks in any problem areas and appears to render men speechless.)

Am I saying this celebrity is a tramp?  Not at all. She is positively lovely. But given the latex, abundant wavy hair, her God-given hourglass figure and cleavage that could serve as a runway — for an Airbus 380 — she played one on TV.

Why was she cast in this role? Because the sponsors know what appeals to men — and what makes them part with their cash. To put it kindly, despite what men say on the streets, casting didn’t call for a ‘natural’ woman.

Let me be clear. Under all that make-up and synthetic material, this spokesperson IS a natural beauty, with a ‘real’ woman’s body that happens to be the stuff of male fantasy. And key to her pulling any of this off with a sniff of decency is her control over her own image.

The woman knows what she has and she knows how to work it. She knows how to make her body beautiful and the crucial balance of sexy and coy. Most of all, she knows to surround herself with good people who ensure her approval over every image.

I can hear you now — you are about to hit me with that ‘not the marrying type’ thing.  Hey, I don’t disagree with you.  I am not suggesting that we head out in PVC and platform heels in search of a soul mate. That will only end badly.

All I’m saying is that men are simple, visual and base.  They respond to a tramp.

So IF this card suits you, play it as you like.  Just heed the lessons here: stay in control, have fun — and if men go stupid in your presence, graciously accept the discount.

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Stillness

When my personal style idol, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, bagged JFK, Jr., the world of woman’s gossip was awash with advice about how to pull off such a coup.

  • Read and abide be ‘The Rules’, they told us.
  • Withhold sex for [insert recommended number] dates, they speculated.
  • Don’t touch your face or hair, they said. Carolyn, apparently, did not.

And at an early and impressionable age, that’s the one that stuck: stillness is largely the trick (one that I have not mastered, incidentally, but aspire to).

Here’s the story about a fixed object. It forces the things in its sphere to do the approaching — not the other way around. So if your magnetism draws someone to you, you can be assured that the interaction is desired and authentic — and anything can happen from there.

In my post about the Smokey Eye, I spoke about the power of looking, and that holds true here. Sitting quietly and confidently composed allows you to survey a room and make measured choices about the people onto which your eyes lock. It’s that predatory and mysterious power, and the fact that stillness is not seeking or desperate, that makes it sexy in a man or a woman.

But wait, there’s more.

We live in a world increasingly driven by the power of image. With Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other forms of social share, we have all become publishers and controllers of our own depiction. Since no one wants to publish bad images, think about your best ones. Only a winning smile trumps the beauty of repose, wrote the woman who gesticulates so madly that the vast majority of her photos are botched.

Speaking of pictures, the one I chose for this post features a medallion that also advises quiet. From a blogger who has the word ‘Speaks’ in her handle, we can also guess that this is another skill I haven’t totally cracked. What I can say is that a lot of men probably think talking is overrated and should be reserved for commercial breaks. And of course, they want us to listen more. There’s power in listening, too, as it allows you to divine connections and departures from your true priorities and values.

All this to say, stillness and quiet, if taken too literally, are just plain boring. We need animation and clever conversation. We need jokes and clowns. We need to dance.

What I advocate here is a bit of pre-meditation and control of what, how and when we express ourselves. There are times when speaking is the most powerful thing in the world, and there are other times when keeping your counsel will give you the upper hand. Finding your level can make all the difference.

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