Pink is for Girls

While I was home over Christmas, I had my yearly facial with the awesome esthetician I’ve been seeing since I was 15  (15, and then in the throes of dermatological unpleasantness).  She is the mistress of the art of extraction, and my first visit to her was as much a cultural touchstone of my entry into modern womanhood as my first trip to the gynecologist.  Though no less painful than my first pap, at least the esthetician rubbed my face and shoulders down with essential oils, and I had glowy skin a week later, once the zits she coaxed to the surface and the redness had subsided.  The gyno just poked me with a metal spatula and gave me the pill… which made me break out.  (Sudden stroke of brilliant idiocy – spas that also offer pap smears!  I am trademarking that business idea right now.  Whole Women’s Health & Beauty sees you inside and out!).

Sadly, after treating my skin for almost 15 years and my own mother’s for 30, our esthetician was hanging up her tweezers, imported creams, and bug zapper to retire.  This would be the last proper facial I will have in a while, as I’ve yet to find anyone half as good.

Lying back in the chair, listening to Enya, snuggled in my quilt, wholly safe in the hands of a professional, I was sad, and wanted to mark the occasion somehow.  What about… a lip wax?  I’d been annoyed at the downy hairs on my upper lip for some time.  Terri is the only person I would let wax and pluck my eyebrows, given her skill, and the only person I trusted to tell me if an upper-lip wax would be a terrible mistake, or a bold move forwards. (more…)

So, today was a big day for me.  I took some time out of work for a much-needed wardrobe replenish, and the logical place to go here in the UK for an office-appropriate, sartorial pick-me-up is the ever-tasteful Marks & Spencer.  After two hours of browsing and 20+ items in the dressing room, I walked out with a killer black, belted dress, a deep purple cardigan, and a fresh reminder of why, exactly, I hate shopping so very, very much.  It’s because I have to try on 20+ pieces of clothing to find two that even attempt to flatter me, and I generally walk out cursing my bizarre, awkward body and the fluorescent lighting that has highlighted its flaws in such loving detail.

But that wasn’t all.  I also arranged for an afternoon appointment in the lingerie section with one of those legendary Bra Whisperers.  You’ve heard tell of them, if you are a woman – you walk into an upscale lingerie store and, with the wink of a beady eye and a quick snap of a tape measure, they inform you that the bra-size you’ve called your own for the last ten years is, in fact, dreadfully mistaken and then, while you sputter protests, they conjure up a host of beautiful delicates in some combination you’ve never considered, and suddenly, magically, you are harnessed into the bra of your dreams.  Your tits are caressed by angels’ breath and the support is like flexible steel girders, and, “Ooh,” you breathe, “I never knew it could feel like this!”

So, yeah, my expectations were high.  After a lifetime of 34B (high B, low C!), I was ready to discover my true bra size.  I’ll admit, I was having fantasies that the Bra Whisperer would eye me up and proclaim me a 32C, although this was unlikely, as my 34Bs are normally straining at the last hook of the strap and runneth over my cups do not.  Still, while the grandmotherly Whisperer dispassionately assessed and measured me, I sent up my prayers.

My regular old Calvin Klein bra, with light padding - this is what I wear most days.


The Body Fortress Goliath to my standard hotsauce David.

Well, it’s finally happened.  My skinny, indie-band-guitarist-looking boyfriend has brought home a vitamin bottle full of powdered protein bigger than my head and announced his intention to Buff Up.  It’s been a while coming.  His best friend is a highlighted gym bunny, two of their good mates are professional football players with tree-trunk thighs, and another is elite Special Forces with a chest like the side of a barn and the alleged ability to maim with his big toe – not that any of this affects their collective smoking and drinking regime.  The rest of their boy gang are regular blokes with varying degrees of fitness, and Boyfriend has coasted comfortably as the Good-Looking and Sensitive One for years.  He’s got strong legs and more than held his own in the weekly five-a-side, but lost his niche a bit when he left everyone behind and relocated to London to move in with me.

I knew it would all change when we started partnering in hand-to-hand combat class and he discovered I could punch harder than him, as well as tote him across a gym in a fireman’s carry.  Actually, no, he likes these things about me, and since we found out I’m three pounds heavier, he will jokingly accuse me of throwing my weight around whenever I’m being bitchy.  Oh, the fun we have!  It just proves I could save him in a war zone or an emergency.  If I felt like it. (more…)

Right Arm and Hand

A few months ago I started taking weekly classes in hand-to-hand combat.  I needed some exercise, hate gyms, fantasize about being an action star, and “have a lot of aggression,” so it seemed pretty logical.  I’ve also been assaulted in real life and nurse an obsession with horror films and literary thrillers; I am fully alert to the presence of danger! walking down a city street and have a tendency to plot evacuation points whenever I am in a room for a prolonged period of time, so why not put all this occasionally justifiable paranoia to use and actually learn how to defend myself rather than just fantasizing about it?

The classes have been everything I hoped for and more.  I mix it up by attending beginner’s-level classes to work on my basic skills and advanced-level classes for variety.  While already outnumbered 10:1 in beginner’s, I am usually the only woman in advanced classes, and I thrive on it.  Aware that I may be regarded as weaker, more delicate, and less intense (and therefore an undesirable sparring partner) intensifies my aggression and need to prove myself.

I am not just a girl, I think, I am a threatI may be physically weaker, but I can be faster, smarter, and unexpected, and that is what makes me more dangerous.  It’s getting into a mindset that I think will serve me well in life in general.  Focus, train, emphasize your strengths, protect your weaknesses, and if ever cornered and in doubt, go for the balls.  Hard. (Note:  That’s not the playground tip – read on).

Particularly in the advanced sessions, I am often outclassed by people who have been training months and even years beyond my experience.  Almost all these guys are gracious partners and, while still challenging me, offer useful tips and assistance.  In turn, I do my very best to learn from them and give them the opportunity to get the training they are paying for by being a good partner (and it is a lot easier to attack than defend, so I think I do alright).

And sometimes I get the shit kicked out of me, if it’s a good class.  What follows are a lot of pictures of bruises, and a few thoughts on the nature of injury. (more…)

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since I did a post about a piece of advertising that irritates me!  Surely for someone as easily irritated as me, this should be ripe blog fodder and yet I haven’t touched that poisonous fruit in some time.  Wondering how that could be, I’ve come to the conclusion that a) my resistance to live television viewing is strong and b) like most folk in this day and age, I’m so generally bombarded by it as to become largely inured.  I don’t read magazines anymore, so most of my exposure comes from online ads (which barely register, with the exception of the ubiquitous ModCloth ads – cute dresses!) and product placement in films/shows (again, unless someone blatantly pops open and takes an Adam’s-apple-bobbing gulp of Pepsi or ostentatiously places their Apple Mac in the smack-dab center of the screen, I don’t so much notice).

The one place I do notice it is on the street.  Billboards on buses and cabs, posters on buildings, and above all else, the massive adverts along the walls of the tube.  The latter is the only situation in which I am forced to stare at an ad for a prolonged period of time, contemplate it, internalize it.  Nothing subliminal about staring at a Hennessy ad for two minutes while you wait for the train and avoid eye contact with your fellow commuters.  So while I’ve been waiting for the tube every morning for the last week and a half, I am annoyed afresh by this relentlessly stupid Google Chrome ad that’s directly in front of my preferred Stand for the Train Space (halfway down the platform to the right of the entrance, approximately six cars from the back – it’s an art form): (more…)

This morning a column was sent to me, reminding me that long time journalist and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Ellen Goodman was hanging it up.  As we all turn our sights to the new year and the prospects it might bring, it’s worth the time to think about what and who has come before us.


“BOSTON — It is one of those moments when I feel like a time traveler. I look out the airplane window and watch a young woman on the tarmac directing our jet to its gate. As she waves the signals, I fall into a silent, familiar reverie: “I remember when.”

What I remember, of course, is a time when no woman would have been hired for this “man’s job.” What I remember is when my generation opened the door for hers. If I talked to her about the old days, I wonder, would she listen as politely as if I were talking about walking four miles in the snow to school?

I am time traveling these days because on Jan. 1 I’ll be ending my tenure as a syndicated columnist. While my colleagues are busily sizing up the decade with lists—Twitter in; Tiger out—I’m quietly sizing up the last four decades.

Cleaning up the office, I found a clipping from 1969 when, as a young reporter, I was sent to cover this brand new phenomenon called the women’s movement. The next Sunday, I picked up the paper and was stunned to find a one-word banner headline over my byline: WOMEN.

The editor’s note explained: “Today’s Sunday Globe attempts to fathom this phenomenon of the female revolution.”

My own story said that “a female revolution is sweeping the land, in some cases subtle and unspoken, in others dramatic and defiant.” This brazen decision—on the day after the Manson killings no less—to lead The Boston Globe with WOMEN jeopardized the editor’s career but redirected my own. Ever since then, from my perch as an observer, I’ve tracked this story—WOMEN—more consistently than anything else.

How to sum up the time and distance we’ve traveled? Advance and backlash? Forward march and stall-out?

Today, half the law students and medical students are female. But only 15 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. We had the first serious woman candidate run for president—and lose. We had a mother of five, a governor and a Title IX baby run for vice president—as a conservative.

The Equal Rights Amendment was defeated because people were scared into believing that women could end up in combat. Now nearly a quarter-million women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 120 have died, 650 have been wounded. But still no ERA. (more…)

video_store470It is nearly Friday (FIST PUMP!), and I am, as usual, thinking about what movies I will watch this weekend.   I used to watch several a week, but no longer have that luxury as there is no video store within miles of me and I have thus far refused to subscribe to LoveFilm, the UK’s overpriced answer to America’s Netflix.  I think I’ll finally give in when the boy arrives and can share the monthy subscription fee, but for now, I tend to rely on my ever-growing film library.

Renting movies here is expensive.  So expensive, in fact, that it’s arguably the same price to just buy movies I like at the Computer Exchange or Tesco as it is to rent (new releases aside).  A big reason I’ve held out against LoveFilm is that I relish browsing.  I find the most interesting indie flicks, foreign films, and documentaries  that way.  I carry a handful of selections around the store before agonizing over my final decision.  I pick up movies I’ve never heard of and evaluate the cover art and the reviews.  I like that it’s tactile and there are always surprises.  This is my major objection to online shopping in general – so sterile, and so limited by your existing knowledge.  I far prefer to wander around a video store for 90 minutes, or spend a happy half-day at the bookstore.

But that is not the only topic of this post.  Oh, no, you see, the primary topic is actually Movies That Are Guaranteed to Cheer You Up, aka Pick-Me-Up Movies.  What I did is make what I like to call a “pun,” tying in two different ideas with a little “wordplay” – movies that uplift you, and my own side-rant about liking to physically pick up movies.  God, I swear my writing gets better with every post.  So, onwards! (more…)

Note: Not my eye

Note: Not my eye

In early August, I went to my third Scottish wedding (and I am now an expert, thanks in no small part to the wonderful advice offered from our friends before my first official British wedding earlier this year).  Yes, it was an entirely be-kilted affair and, yes, it was sexy.  So very, very sexy.

The Boy Person was actually the best man for this one, and besides my own friends and colleagues, his parents and a ton of his mates were there, so it was uber-important that I look smashing.  Alluring, but not slutty; festive, but respectful; insanely beautiful, but fun and approachable!  What to do?  Well, I had my hair cut and colored, or course, and I bought a new dress (on which the zipper broke, because I am sort of a walking natural disaster).  But I wanted to do something more, not least because I had a really shitty month and I felt I deserved some special pampering. 

Manicures, pedicures, facials, and massages are all once-a-year treats for me now, so I considered those options.  But one day, walking by a beauty salon near my flat, I was struck by inspiration (and the convincing before/after photos on display):  I needed, nay deserved, eyelash extensions!  All the stars have them!  They are amazing!  They last four to six weeks (actually only semi-true)!  So I walked in and booked my appointment for one week before the wedding.  Here is my eyelash extension experience. (more…)

boy car

Hi, there!  My name is Tailfeather, and if you were wondering how not to pick me up, I have some handy tips for you!  Sometimes making kissy-face at me while I try to fill up my car with gas isn’t enough; sometimes it’s not sufficient to insult my accent and then try to grab my ass ten minutes later at a bar.  Sometimes, you really need to pull out all the stops in order to really, really not pick me up.  If you have no interest in intimacy, conversation, or sexual relations with me, here are some ways to go about it!:

1)  You can successfully not pick me up at 3:45 am on a night bus when I am going home from a club.  While it is creepy enough to slide into the seat next to me on a nearly deserted bus, it is even creepier to try to engage me in conversation when I am actively wrapping my arms around my purse (and my personhood!) and actually feigning unconsciousness.  This is a legitimate sign that I am unreceptive and will not be proposing that you accompany me home for intercourse.  Well done, especially if I have to feign waking up so that I can go stand beside the bus driver with my keys in my fist and a mobile phone in the other hand, in case you try to follow me.  You have done very well in not picking me up. (more…)

boy-toys-girl-toysOkay, not the whole country, but the Swedes continue to kick the rest of the world’s ass in terms of making gender equality a central issue.  On the extreme edge of a wholly worthwhile effort comes news of a young Swedish couple who have raised their child, “Pop”, gender-free, refusing to reveal the sex of the two-and-a-half-year-old.  Pop is allowed to wear dresses or pants, play with whatever toys Pop chooses, and is not referred to by either masculine or feminine pronouns.  As AOL reports:

Back in March, the parents gave an interview to the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, saying they decided not to reveal their child’s sex because they believe gender is a social construction.
“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mold from the outset,” said the child’s mother, “Nora.” (The paper used fake names for the entire family to protect their privacy.)
“It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead,” the mother said.


 Predictably, a lot of people think this is a terrible idea and potentially long-term damaging to the child.  I’m not so sure.  First off, Pop’s well-meaning parents say that Pop’s sex will be revealed when Pop decides that it is time, and seem to accept that this will likely be at school-age when social pressures dictate.  They’re not enforcing a gender-free lifestyle on a kid going through puberty. (more…)

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