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.


I missed the memo about hope.

Here in Los Angeles, Hope is a one way street. I kinda like that.

Call me Pollyanna, call me Candide, just don’t call me late for dinner.  I’ll admit it…I’m a pretty hopeless optimist.  I’ll even go so far as to make the following statement: 

 There is no such thing as false hope; all hope is true.
President Obama and I have the same birthday and apparently the same ineptitude when it comes to cynicism. Perhaps it’s astrological.

When I say that all hope is true, what I mean is that even when your hopes are disappointed, hope in and of itself is still good.  Hope is creative and emotionally productive in ways that make it an end unto itself. 

Let’s consider an example…let’s say you’ve applied for your dream job.  There’s only so much you can do to influence the hiring decision, and once you’ve done what you can do, you’re left alone with your own heart and head to wait for a decision.  And while you wait, you can hope.  You can envision your happiness and fulfillment in your new job and contemplate all the tangible and intangible rewards that might come your way if you get the offer.  Or, you can choose not to hope.  You can operate under the assumption that you are not getting an offer and therefore not entertain any notions of how the new job might change your life for the better.
Some might say a bit pessimism in the job search scenario noted above is just self-preservation.  After all, if rejection does come, the pessimistic person is better prepared, right?  But flip that frown upside down and contemplate that the hopeful person, just by hoping, becomes more prepared for their success.  (And while just hoping for something to happen doesn’t magically make it happen, when you hope, you might be vibrating the molecules of the universe in a particular way which helps to shape a happy outcome, but what the bleep do I know…)
While I generally take the Andy Dufresne approach to the positive power of hope, I did learn one disclaimer this morning when I was (shockingly!) listening to NPR.  I heard this story about a young Libyan man, Hisham Matar, whose father was kidnapped in 1990 and has not been seen or heard from since.  In describing how he has coped with this awful thing that happened he said:
‘Living in hope is a really terrible thing,’ Matar says. ‘People speak about hope most of the time as a very positive thing. … [But] it’s a very dispossessing thing, it’s a very difficult thing to live with. When you’ve been living in hope for a long time as I have, suddenly you realize that certainty is far more desirable than hope.’ 
Damn.  Doesn’t that just break your heart? So hope is awesome when there is a knowable timeline for getting an answer to what you’re hoping about.  But when it’s possible that you’ll never get an answer, then hope can become a bit of a quagmire, I suppose. 
But nonetheless, I hope I never stop hoping. Memo received. 

Memes, Membership & Modern Friendship

I missed the memo about memes, membership and modern friendship.

This is the first post I’m writing which is inspired by a prompt from another blogger.  So Helen Redding at Crumbs and Pegs, thank you for the kick in the ass to put together a few thoughts.  Helen passed the torch of a simple exercise, which is to make a list of “10  Things You Don’t Know About Me.” 

I was tickled to be asked to participate because getting these little invitations feels good.  When I’m tagged in a Facebook note, or when I clue in on some viral video early rather than late, I feel like one of the cool kids, like I’m in the club and in on the joke.  It’s a small thing that feels like a big deal. 

And the “10 Things You Don’t Know About Me” prompt called to mind the fun Facebook meme that was really popular back in 2009. Did you write your list of “25 Random Things”? I did, and I’m going to poach from it (sorry, is that cheating?)  because between writing that list and telling you that I got bad Botox and I didn’t learn to drive until college, I’ve pretty much already spilled all my secrets.   Well, not really, but a lady needs to maintain at least a little mystery…

And just one more tangent before I get to my list…getting Helen’s tweet got me thinking of the nature of modern friendship.  Helen lives a continent and an ocean away from me, but because of social media, we’re very accessible to each other and we could, in theory, become very good friends.  And never meet.  Ever since I switched over from dial-up, I’ve wandered into various forums and chatrooms and eventually found my way into some really meaningful friendships with people I might not recognize on the street and whose voices I have never heard.  Trippy, huh?  Sadly, I think there’s a tendency to de-value these connections as somehow “unreal” or less important than one’s “friends in real life”. 

I think there’s a fair amount of justifiable cynicism surrounding online friendships, because people can portray themselves inauthentically online and that can lead to all sorts of dishonesty and confusion.  Typically what I find myself doing is trying to make the virtual me resemble the best version of the real me, which is no different from what I’d be doing if I were meeting new people at a cocktail party. I think that’s aspirational, not dishonest, but let’s discuss…

Anyway, I’ve prattled on, as I often do.  So, after much ado and unsolicited exposition, here are Ten Things You May Already Know Don’t Know About Me:

1.    I have been mistaken for both an albino and a foreign exchange student; I am/was neither.  I suppose being a fair-skinned girl with a fondness for Fisherman’s sweaters makes people in Virginia Beach think that you’re Icelandic. 

2.   My eyes are probably blue, but I like thinking that they’re green.   (A beautiful French boy once serenaded me with Elton John’s “Your Song“…”you see, I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue…” I nearly died from the romance.)

3.  I get a little depressed when I’m not super busy; I consider this a pretty serious personality problem.   And by busy, I mean frenetically starting new things and often not finishing them.  Seriously, it’s kinda effed up.

4.   I have a rare blood type.  (And I therefore give blood regularly; if you can, so should you!)

5.  I like hiding behind my glasses.  As my vision deteriorates with age and eye abuse, I really haven’t given any thought to wearing contacts.  To the extent that stereotypes about bespeckled people persist, I aim to fully live up to them by being the biggest nerd I can possibly be. 

6.  I am a fantastic dancer but a wretched singer.  In a Hip Hop dance class I once took, a fellow student, who happened to be about 13 years old, complimented me by telling me that I “really worked it” and that I was “the best of the moms”.  At the time, I had no children, but coming from a tween, this was high praise.  And seriously, I’ve got some moves.  But my singing…even my son, who loves me, says, “Stop Singing!”

7.  Becoming a lawyer has made me bitchier than I was before; I have mixed feelings about this.

8.  Even though I’ve never been there, I daydream about moving to New Zealand.   (See item No. 1 above; I think I might blend in nicely as a Kiwi.)

9.  My mom and I look a lot alike, but I’ve been asked by more than one person if I was adopted.  Never has a question been more hurtful and validating at the same time. 

10. The kid behind the counter at Long John Silver once told me that I had a great aura. Not sure what he meant by that.

So that’s it.  Except for the passing it along part…

1000 Reasons I’m A Crap Mom

The Chloe Chronicles

It’s Fitting

Le Musings of Moi

Tag, you’re it. Memo received.

Leaps of Faith

I missed the memo about leaps of faith.

The other day I watched a movie called Ira & Abby and boy, is it adorable and just chock full of memos. 

First things first, Jennifer Westfeldt is a freakin’ genius.   Seriously, all I need to know about life I’ve learned from watching “Kissing Jessica Stein” and “Ira & Abby”.  I hope she makes another movie, and soon.

In case you haven’t seen it, the premise of “Ira & Abby”  is that the titular characters meet cute and after about six hours, decide to get married.  Hyjinx ensue, of course.   Making a huge life decision like marriage should be carefully considered and undertaken only after serious reflection, right?  Well, sure.   Usually. 

But sometimes, there is something pretty amazing about leaping without looking.  Sometimes you can make a decision without having all the answers.    Sometimes you can start with certainty and work backwards.   Sometimes, you trust your guts and then just figure it out from there. 

I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty high-strung by nature, so the idea of taking any big step without a lot of careful preparation is fairly terrifying to me.   But here’s the thing…I think my need to control things is probably just ego.  Who the hell am I to think that I can plan everything out and then have everything go according to my plan?  Doesn’t the universe have some say?  In the words of Alanis Morrissette…”Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you…” No matter how I plot my course, there will always be some unforeseen detours, so once in a while, why not throw away the map all together?

There is actually something kind of  liberating about surrendering the pretense of control in some situations and just going with what feels right.  And there’s something almost intoxicating about the crazy confidence that comes from just trusting yourself.  But with that intoxication sometimes comes the hangover of working out the details.  But hey, once you’re emboldened by your own decisiveness, the logistics are cake. 

I’ll leave you with this Jason Mraz video…I dare you to watch it and not feel instantly happier and more optimistic.  Leap and the net will appear, indeed. 

Memo received.

Talking To Strangers

I missed the memo about talking to strangers.

My son is a natural-born party crasher.  He’ll toddle up to just about anyone and introduce himself and immediately begin mooching toys and food.  I’m simultaneously proud and alarmed at this behavior.  And I cringe with recognition, because I think he gets this from me.

It’s really lovely to see how my son has no fear of rejection.  To him, the world is full of friends and the default is set to share.  It simply doesn’t occur to him to be inhibited or shy, even around people he doesn’t know.  When it comes to outings, we’re still in the don’t-take-your-eyes-off-of-him-not-even-for-a-second phase of his childhood, so I’m always supervising these exchanges with strangers, and so far nothing bad has ever happened.  But I know he needs to start appreciating “stranger danger” and it breaks my heart that I’ll have to break his heart in this way.

To all the people in the world who prey upon kids…you suck.  You give me nightmares and it makes me furious that I have to explain to my kid that people like you exist.  I know there aren’t very many of you out there, but there are just enough to make the world really scary. Just stop, already. 

So yeah, as a parent, one of my responsibilities is to teach my son to appreciate the gift of fear, to understand that there are real dangers in the world, and that some of these dangers come in the form of other people who mean to do him harm.  It’s my desperate hope that my kid, and every kid, can learn this lesson, grow safely into adulthood, and then forget it just enough when they’re  older and a bit more resourceful.

For defenseless little kids, “don’t talk to strangers” is perfectly sound advice.  Avoiding strangers is their best chance for avoiding contact with someone who might want to hurt them.  But what about us grown-ups?  We’ve got our cell phones and pepper spray, and those killer self-defense  moves we learned from watching “Kill Bill“.  We’ve got years of life experience and  have clocked a gazillion hours of people watching which informs our discrimination between axe murderers and non-axe murders.  This doesn’t inoculate adults against predatory behavior by other adults, but we’ve got more of a fighting chance. 

As a grown up, I’m all for talking to strangers.  I’m that lady who’s always chatting up the cashiers at grocery stores and striking up conversations with airplane seatmates.  As I go through the endless series of transactions that seem to form my life, I do feel a need to connect, to make an impression, to interact.  Sometimes it’s just small talk, but once in a while, there’s a spark of friendship, or even just a little moment of genuine communication.  I think it’s nice and I’d like to think it’s a mutual day-brightener, but I sadly estimate that I annoy a minimum of 37% of the people I talk to.  I can definitely take a hint, though, so if you crack open your Kindle or plug in your ear buds, I’ll shut up, I promise.

So as it pertains to my little party crasher, for now I suppose it’s one of those “do as I say not as I do” situations.  But when he’s older, I hope he’ll talk to strangers, too.  Memo received.

The Paralysis of Perfectionism

 I missed the memo about the paralysis of perfectionism.

Hello, my name is Jamie and I’m a Zumbaholic.   A few weeks ago, I attempted my first Zumba class and it was love at first shimmy.  In case you’re not familiar, Zumba is a group exercise phenomenon which combines elements of Latin dances, Swing, Hip-Hop, and just about every other kind of high energy dancing you can think of.  When I was a teenager, I seriously considered ditching my college plans to go be a Fly Girl, so this is my kind of exercise. 

Even though I have a blast doing all the crazy Zumba moves, I can’t do them all perfectly.  Today especially, I was having a lot of trouble getting my feet to do what I wanted them to do.   For a few seconds, I was getting pretty frustrated and there was a tiny part of my brain that just wanted to quit.  I mean, if I couldn’t get the steps right, then what was the point?

Well, perfect isn’t always the point, is it? Ever hear the expression “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”?  That’s something to ponder.  If I were doing rocket surgery, maybe there would be no room for even tiny mistakes. But in most aspects of my life, there are no meaningful returns on the investment it takes to get from pretty good to perfect.

Pretty good is usually good enough, especially when the fear of not being perfect would keep me from even trying. 

If you’ve never seen it, you absolutely have to see Kissing Jessica Stein.  Lots of memos in that movie.  One of my favorites was this scene between Jessica and her mom…

Tovah Feldshuh and Jennifer Westfeldt crying very believable tears…don’t worry, there are also lots of laughs.

Judy: Sweetheart, I will never forget when you were in the fifth grade and you were so excited when you got the lead in the play…  Do you remember that? “Really Rosie”?

Jessica: “Really Rosie”, yeah. I remember.

Judy: And you came home after the first day of rehearsal and you turned to me and you said, “Mommy, I’m not gonna do it. I quit.” Just like that.   I turned to you and I said, “Jessie. Jessie, my love, why?” And you said, “Because my co-star isn’t good enough. And if my co-star isn’t good enough, then the play won’t be good enough. And I don’t wanna be part of any play that isn’t good enough.” And I thought to myself… “Oy. This child will suffer. How this child will suffer.” And then they gave it to the “mieskeit” with the glasses.

Jessica: Tess Greenblatt.

Judy: Right.

Jessica: God, she was terrible.

Judy: Right. And you would have been great!  And you didn’t get to do it. You had to sit there and watch terrible Tess do it… with that guy you thought wasn’t good enough, who was actually quite excellent, wasn’t he?

Jessica: He was. He was very good.

Judy: And you know? I always think that you would have been so much happier doing that play, even if it was just okay. Even if it was great, just not the best ever. And maybe, just maybe, it would have been the best ever. You never know.

Wow, right?  If my perfectionism keeps me from even attempting something, and then I get stuck just doing nothing, that’s kind of weird and pathetic, isn’t it?  Perfect nothing is not better than imperfect something.  So let me go practice my cha cha cha.  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.

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. 

The Immortality of Navy Brats

 I missed the memo about the immortality of Navy Brats. 

I went to four different elementary schools, three different junior highs, and mercifully, just one high school.  I’m a Navy brat, plus my mom had a bit of intra-city wanderlust, so we moved a lot.  I was a professional new kid and as a consequence, I learned to cope with change.  I am freakishly serene at the prospect of even cataclysmic upheaval.  I just…go with it.

And thanks to NPR, I recently learned that I may be immortal. See, I probably have what’s called “adaptive competence.”  Adaptive competence is the ability to bounce back when life throws you a curve ball, and it’s apparently a strong predictor of longevity.  When you roll with punches, you get to keep rolling for a long, long time.

Since “nothing is permanent except change” I suppose it’s good to accept or even embrace change.  I remember a couple of years ago when The Adam Carolla Show was signing off after it was announced that their radio home was going from a fun all talk format to really insufferably bad pop music  (and this is coming from me, the chic who loves Duran Duran and Katy Perry…)

As fans were calling to bitterly express their outrage, Adam Carolla said something that was really comforting and really great.  He challenged his listeners to think about some disappointment they had experienced…like losing a job, or getting dumped, and then to take the long view about it.  At the time, it seems like the world is coming to an end, but once you’ve moved on a bit, you can usually appreciate that what seemed like bad change at the time is usually the starting point to some other good change.  You get a new job, a better one.  You fall in love again, and this time, it’s the real thing.   It’s the old saw about closed doors and open windows.   And so it is for Adam Carolla and his crew…successful podcasts, book deals, and all sorts of good things have come to the talented people who were working on that show.

Whenever I encounter a person who lived in the same house from birth to graduation, who went to school with the same group of kids for a dozen years, I do feel a little pang of envy.  After all, stability is safe, change is always a little scary.  But then I’m mostly grateful that I’ve seen a lot of the country and developed lots and lots of adaptive competence…but who wants to live forever?

Memo received.


I missed the memo about giving compliments.

We’ve all heard the admonition, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  Good advice, usually.  But there’s a little known corollary to this:  If you do have something nice to say, you should say it. 

I got this memo from my dear friend, Paola.  I met Paola in college and she was preternaturally cheerful and friendly.  She gave hugs and compliments unapologetically.  Shyness and cynicism be damned, she was going to spread some sunshine. 

It seems to be an unfortunate quirk of human nature, or maybe it’s just me, but it’s sometimes harder to say nice things than to say critical things.  We’re encouraged to be assertive, and to speak our minds, but usually that advice arises in the context of defending  ourselves in confrontations or other unpleasantness.  But what about speaking your mind when you observe that the lady standing next to you in the elevator is wearing a super cute hat? 


(Spoiler alert…and then Janet sneezes and Cliff says “Bless You” and then they look at each other and kiss, knowing at last that they are really are in love…*sigh*)

When it comes to giving compliments, I think people get shy because they fear looking like a kiss-ass or a creeper.  I mean, if I say something nice to someone, they’re going to think I want something, right? 

That’s why my favorite kind of compliment is the drive-by…I once saw an enormously pregnant lady at Target who was wearing a cute, colorful dress, she had her hair done and make up on…she might not have felt fabulous, but she looked fabulous.  As I passed her in the aisle, I said,”You look gorgeous!”  And the look on her face was priceless.  She said an appreciative, “Thank you!” and neither of us lingered for more conversation.  It was a quick, surgical strike of gratuitous praise for a stranger.  I think it made her day and it definitely made mine.  Memo received.

© 2011 Jamie Walker Ball