Beauty, Baby Bumps & Beyonce


I missed the memo about beauty, baby bumps and Beyoncé.

The other day I was surfing the interwebs and came across this article about Beyoncé’s video for her new single, “Countdown”. If I’m at a party and a Beyoncé song comes on, I’ll shake my booty as much as the next person, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a huge fan.  But since Beyoncé is now pregnant, she has become a lot more interesting to me.  I’m a sucker for a celebrity baby bump, I’ll admit it. I have a freakish fascination with the fecundity of famous people. There should probably be a 12-step program for this. 

I was curious to see how Beyoncé’s pregnancy was worked into the concept of the video and how it might have affected her dancing and performance style.  My curiosity was transformed to awe and admiration when I watched the video…here check it out…

Artistically, I think this video is tremendous fun and I’m on a personal mission to learn that neck move she’s doing about 90 seconds in.  But what makes this video extra special, to me at least, is that Beyoncé seems so happy, comfortable, and confident.  It’s her business to look awesome anytime she leaves the house and she’s often insanely glamorous in her fashion choices.  But in simple oversized shirts and her Audrey Hepburn-esque basic black turtleneck and leggings, I think Beyoncé has never looked more beautiful. 

It’s ingenious that this video cuts together footage from early weeks of Beyoncé’s pregnancy (in the black outfit, her tummy’s still flat, but the boobs are a dead giveaway) with a few snippets of her looking unmistakably pregnant.  The video isn’t “about” her being pregnant, but I think the fact that she was pregnant probably made a huge difference to the finished product.  I say this because my own experience of being a deliriously happy pregnant woman was pretty transformative. 

It’s cliché to say that pregnant women are “glowing” and all that crap, but something special does happen when you are happily attached to a good partner, you know yourself pretty well, and then you say to the universe, “I think I’m ready for a baby.”  Then you have sex with no contraception, which is a big thrill, and by sheer good luck, a baby starts growing in your body.   Statistically, getting pregnant is not on par with winning the lottery or anything, but when you really want to be pregnant, and you get pregnant, you feel like the luckiest person on the earth. 

So maybe that’s what I’m seeing in Beyoncé’s video…that extra gleam in her eye, the ease of her smile…when you’re that happy, it just bubbles to the surface pretty constantly.  Check this out…

That’s me about seven months pregnant.  I wasn’t one of those really fabulous pregnant women who looks perfectly proportioned and just looks like she has a basketball under her shirt.  I got a little bit fat all over and my belly actually had corners.  Nonetheless, I was so freakin’ happy and grateful for what was happening that I couldn’t help but smile straight into the camera for these pictures.  Today, if you ask to take my picture I glare and cower, but there I was, about as round as I was tall, feeling beautiful. 

Thanks, Beyoncé, for reminding me that my beauty isn’t just a function of how I’m looking on the outside, but how I’m feeling on the inside.  I’m not pregnant and may never be again, so I may never recapture that glow. But maybe, if I focus on my blessings and just try to be happy, I might manage a glimmer now and again.  Memo received.

Vanity, Vulcans & Verbicide


I missed the memo about vanity, vulcans, and verbicide.

Let’s just cut to the chase here…I got some bad Botox, folks.  I’m not an habitual Botox-er, but I have a Botox “connection” and with my birthday coming up, I thought I’d indulge in a little facial freshening.  I’d had Botox once before with great results, so I thought, “What could go wrong?”

Wellllllllll….

Because of my freakishly blonde eyebrows, the effect is kind of hard to photograph, but trust me, I look wickety wack.
 
A day after my Botox treatment, I noticed that I was taking on a vaguely Vulcan appearance.  My eyebrows, once basically horizontally oriented on my face, are now more diagonal.  The expression is one of unpleasant surprise, which is appropriate, as this is how I feel.
 
I called up my Botox-er and inquired  about my predicament and she told me that what I am experiencing is called…wait for it…”Spocking”.  No lie…there’s a name for this and that name is awesomely descriptive.  Apparently, I have ridiculously strong forehead muscles which have not completely surrendered to the neurotoxins to which I have subjected them.  They may relent in a day or two, but if not, the “cure” is, you guessed it, more Botox. 
 
When I was researching this phenomenon, which is kind of common apparently, e.g., Nicole Kidman, a lot of the people posting on Botox message boards prefaced their comments by saying:
 
 “I can’t believe I did this to myself.”    
 
Yup.  While I do think I look a little ridiculous,  I’m keeping the hysteria in check by telling myself that this is both temporary and not that big of a deal.  But I am feeling pretty foolish.   I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to look good,  but I’m going to have to think a bit longer and harder about the price of my vanity.   Confronted with the prospect of “just another drop or two” of Botox to correct my extraterrestrial eyebrows, I’m now really conflicted.  If my brows do stay this way, part of me thinks I should just live with them for the next couple of months as a penance for my folly. Oh well, at least my frown lines are gone.
 
And incidentally, when I Googled “spocking”  I got a fantastically filthy surprise from urbandictionary.com. (I was comforted by knowing I was exhibiting an appropriate facial expression while reading this, however.)  Seriously, for any word you can think of,  someone has thought up a truly disgusting and/or hilarious meaning for it.  
 
So there you go.  I’ve learned a lesson in aging gracefully and lots of new dirty words.  Memo received.
 
 
 
 
 

Style


I missed the memo about style.

I live in L.A., but in a rustic suburb where clothing choices tend to be more function and less form. In my neck of the woods,  I see a lot of boots–hiking boots, cowboy boots (worn by unironic people who actually ride horses), etc.  When I venture into the tonier corners of La La Land, I do see people who are fabulously dressed, but there’s usually something very deliberate and vaguely plastic about these folks.  As style icons, they leave me cold.

But when I go to San Francisco, I always notice that the people of the Bay Area have style.  Dressing with style seems like it’s simultaneously purposeful and effortless, bold yet casual.  If I were stylish enough to be wearing a hat, I’d tip it to these people who just go about their lives looking…interesting (and I mean that in a good way). 

During my most recent visit to San Francisco, I observed some pretty outstanding ensembles.  Most notably:

  • Unapologetically acid-washed skin-tight jeans, worn with over-the-knee, high-heeled boots.  By pairing this with a simple black top, the young woman in this outfit managed to not look like a hooker.  It was amazing.
  • A gauzy floral mini-dress, worn with both flip-flops and several cozy scarves. It was spring time on her torso, the dead of winter from the neck up, and the dog days of summer from the knees down.  Somehow, this outfit looked adorable.
  • Black dress pants, worn ironically short with gym socks, a gray T-shirt (pajamas? me thinks yes) and an impeccably tailored silver sport coat.  The jacket was what really pulled this outfit together–it was like this guy just rolled out of bed, but he just rolled out of bed with style.

From these and many other people I ogled on BART, I observed a few key principles of personal style:

  1. Matching is for amateurs.  Mixing patterns, colors, and textures adds a lot of visual interest.  You might end up looking like a hobo, but you’ll look like an interesting hobo.
  2. Accessories, accessories, accessories.  Hats, scarves, and necklaces, especially.  More is more.  Bonus points for unusual shoes. 
  3. Attitude is everything.   Remember how the woman in the tight jeans and the boots didn’t look like a hooker? That’s ’cause she wasn’t acting like a hooker.  She was young, and had a cute figure, so she was showing off a little, but she wasn’t for sale, that was obvious. 

People who have style aren’t afraid to be noticed, and I really admire that.  They put on something that teeters on the border between funky and freaky and just go out into the world. Perhaps red fishnets are less remarkable in San Francisco than they are in other parts of the world, but I still think it takes balls to wear them (and I’m pretty sure the person I saw wearing them had both the literal and figurative kind of balls…)

Being noticed can be kind of scary.  If people notice you, they might…notice you.  Taking notice of another human being can be pretty fraught…when I notice someone, I’m making a million superficial calculations about who they are, I’m sizing them up, and trying to figure them out.  Why would I want to invite this kind of  attention?  Aren’t I better off in my anonymous black trousers and tasteful twinset?  I’m not sure I’ve got this figured out yet, but maybe I’ll wear the funky shoes next time…and a scarf.  Memo received.

Pretending To Be Tina Turner


I missed the memo about pretending to be Tina Turner.

A few years ago, Oprah did this thing where she lived out the dream of singing on stage with Tina Turner.  Oprah wore Tina Turner wigs and it was wonderfully goofy. I suppose when you’re Oprah, you can get away with this kind of stuff, but for an uptight white woman like me, pretending to be Tina Turner is a fairly ridiculous proposition.

But today in Zumba class, the instructor busted out “Proud Mary” for the grand finale.  And even though I was already an exhausted, sweaty heap, I enthusiastically shook what my mama gave me.   I channelled Tina and pretended that I was wearing some crazy sexy costume and that I had Tina’s wicked legs.  And for those few minutes, in my own mind at least,  I was a supernova of kinetic energy. 

So here’s what I think I’ve figured out…it’s not so ridiculous to pretend to be Tina Turner.  One of the reasons that we’ve made Tina Turner into Tina Turner is so we can put her in a white hot spotlight and then enjoy the glow.  The world needs accountants and electricians, doctors and street sweepers, and maybe even a few lawyers.  But as we go about doing all of our jobs which collectively keep the world humming along, we put aside that tiny part of ourselves that wants to be explosively creative, to be insanely fabulous and super sexy, to sing, to dance, to be adored and admired by everybody.  So Tina Turner exists so we can experience all of that vicariously for just a few minutes now and again.

Shaking a tail feather in Zumba class isn’t going to lengthen my legs or improve my dismal singing voice.  Reality is reality, after all.  Joan Cusack said it best:

But I can still pretend.  Memo received.

Unrequited Love


I missed the memo about unrequited love.

OK, I’ll admit it… I watched the royal wedding. I didn’t do anything daffy like throwing a tea and crumpets party in the middle of the night, but later that day, I watched a couple hours’ worth of  footage.  And unless Kate and Wills are fantastically good at fake smiling, they seemed genuinely happy.  Time will tell if theirs really is a fairy tale marriage, but I’d like to think it really is true love for them.  I think it’s interesting that we call happy, mutual love “true love” but what’s the opposite of true love?  Is there such a thing as “false love”?  I think unrequited love comes close.

While I have been happily attached for a long time, before I met my prince, I kissed some frogs.  And sometimes I wanted to kiss the frog, but he didn’t want to kiss me.  Making out with amphibians is an extremely hard way  to learn about love,  but since I learned well, I think, I’ll presume to impart some insight.

There are two forms of unrequited love:

“Thanks, but no thanks”

and

“Nevermind”

“Thanks, but no thanks” unrequited love is that situation where you’re falling for someone, but there’s a lot of ambiguity. You agonize, wondering if you should make a move.  I personally think there’s something really delicious about the uncertainty and anticipation in this situation, but this is coming from an old married woman who has probably forgotten the acute torture of playing the “he loves me, he loves me not” game.  

I think I also missed a memo about being coy and playing hard to get, as when I found myself in one of these situations, I was pretty quick to just lay my cards on the table.  Perhaps it wasn’t particularly ladylike, but I felt brave and honest, and that felt good.  And when I got a “thanks, but no thanks” response, it actually wasn’t that bad.   I think the object of my affection was genuinely flattered that I was trying to put the moves on him, and I just had to trust and appreciate that he knew himself better than I knew him, and he knew that we weren’t a good match.  I didn’t get the guy, but I was still pretty pleased with myself because I had the huevos to just ask him; I totally respected that he had the huevos to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Believe me folks, you’d much rather get a “thanks, but no thanks” response than to find yourself in a “nevermind” situation.   A “nevermind” situation results from really unfortunate asymmetry in the depth of feeling between two people.  In my case, I once fell inexplicably hard for a guy, and though he was fond of me, he did not love me.  However, since I was reasonably cute and willing to afford him all the benefits of boyfriendhood without actually requiring him to be my boyfriend, he understandably hung around.  That is, until he fell inexplicably hard for someone else.  Everything that he had ever said or done that made me hope he might really love me too?  Oh, nevermind.

Sometimes when two people are together, one of them is in love, and the other’s just killin’ time. 


Avenue Q…so good…It’s like Sesame Street with sex and curse words.

So let’s sum up:  If someone makes you feel kinda funny, like when you used to climb the rope in gym class, just tell ’em.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Just don’t get too pissed or bummed out if  the response is “thanks, but no thanks.”  They’re doing you a favor and sparing you the heartache of a “nevermind”.  Memo received.

Functional Delusions


I missed the memo about functional delusions.

OK, I admit it…I’m an aspiring crazy cat lady.
You know that thing your mom taught you about beauty being in the eye of the beholder?  Well, I’ll go ahead and tell you that I behold myself as beautiful.  Wait, wait, wait…I promise this isn’t going to devolve into a Christina Aguilera song, but seriously, thinking that you’re pretty even if you’re not isn’t the worst lie you could tell yourself.
 
I’m kinda short, a little chunky (but I’m working on it…), I have wrinkles and pimples (sometimes simultaneously, how effed up is that?), cellulite, frizzy hair, and my eyes are just a little bit too far apart.  I could go on, but that’s embarrassing enough.  Despite my many flaws, I usually walk around feeling like I am good-looking.  However, when I catch an unexpected glimpse in a reflective surface, I’m often a little horrified at what I see.   My mental image is sometimes very different from my actual image. 
 
Those little moments of incongruence are pretty painful, but they’re usually fleeting.  It’s like I’ve made up my mind that I’m totally hot and thus willfully ignore all evidence to the contrary.  This works for me.  When I walk around feeling pretty, even if I actually look like hell, I feel more confident.  And we all know, confidence is sexy…
 
Seriously, Steven Tyler is not handsome. But because he's got the cajones and charisma to get on stage, he gets more ass than a toilet seat.
Confidence is, of course, the ticket to so many good things in life.  Friendship, romance, good jobs…when you’re confident, these things come just a bit easier.  
 
There’s probably a fine line between the kind of functional delusions that give rise to a healthy bit of confidence and full-blown megalomania.  It’s probably enough just to feel like you’re awesome and gorgeous, telling everyone that you are is probably going a bit too far.  I talked before about dysfunctional modesty, and if you have to choose between pretending you’re less than what you are and pretending you’re more, why not choose more?  Perfect realism and objectivity probably aren’t possible…every mirror is a fun house mirror to some extent.  So I usually choose my happy delusions. 
 
And here’s the thing…when I act like I’m gorgeous, there’s a bit of a feedback loop which helps me to actually be gorgeous.  I make better decisions about taking care of myself, and this in turn creates an upward cycle of well-being.   Healthy and happy usually shows on your face, don’t you think?   Memo received. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Luck, Skill & Porn Star Lip Gloss


I missed the memo about luck, skill, and porn star lip gloss.

If there was ever a day I should have played the lottery, it was back in November of 2004.  On one crazy afternoon, I scored a spot as a contestant on Jeopardy! and then a couple of hours later, I learned that I had passed the California Bar Exam.  Winning the lottery would have been a nice little hat trick. 

My first stroke of luck was being chosen at random invited to audition for the show.  I got dressed up in my best suit and headed on down to Sony Studios where about 100 of us were ushered onto the actual Jeopardy! set, which was Nerd Nirvana.  The producers gave us a little pep talk and quickly disabused us of any notion that we’d actually be meeting Alex Trebek that day. 

Next, came the pencil and paper test which featured Jeopardy! style answers and questions.  There ain’t no two ways about, folks, this test was hard.  Luck was not enough, but I had paid my dues as a quiz bowl geek in high school and college, so I did actually think the test was kind of fun.  Then the tests were collected and we hopefuls sat and fidgeted with our souvenir Jeopardy! pens and waited to hear who had made the cut.  Mine was one of two names called  (I told you the test was hard!) and when I heard my name, it was like I had been coronated Queen of the Geeks.  I was, how you say…stoked.

My fellow test-passer and I were then asked to do a quick screen test which consisted of overly enthusiastic small talk and wrangling of signaling devices.  The producers thanked us both for coming and congratulated us for making it  into the contestant pool, but that didn’t mean I was assured a spot on the show.  As we were sent on our way, the producers asked if we had any questions, and luckily, I had to pee, so I asked,”Where’s the bathroom?”  (Classy, n’est ce pas?)

When I emerged from the facilities, one of the producers intercepted me and told me that they’d had a last-minute opening in the taping schedule and asked if I could come back in a few weeks to tape my appearance on the show.  I skipped off the lot, thanking my nervous bladder for affording me the chance to win a gazillion dollars. 

I came back a few weeks later and it was as glamorous as I’d hoped.  A Green Room full of bagels, Alex Trebek in the flesh, and best of all, gobs and gobs of make-up skillfully applied by a professional make-up artist. 

When the make-up artist was done with me, I think I was wearing all the hot pink lip gloss then available in the state of California.  I like wearing make-up, but usually try to use a light hand, so I was a little taken aback by this look.  But under the bright studio lights, it looked fantastic.  Later, in the regular light of day, it looked like I had been eating a pork chop without a knife and fork.

Despite my fabulous lip gloss, I’m sad to report that I got my clock cleaned by a 23-year-old graduate student.  I was around for Final Jeopardy and even bet it all, like a boss, but alas, my dreams of extinguishing my student loan debt with a few clicks of a buzzer came to an uncermonious end.  It was an absolute blast, though, and I wouldn’t mind a rematch…

Sometimes it’s about luck.  Sometimes it’s about skill.  And sometimes it’s about having to a take a fortuitous pee.  Memo received.