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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Fashion Mistakes – They Can Be Lessened

One of the hallmarks of maturity is knowing what’s right for you.  My childhood (perhaps like yours) was peppered with “well, if everyone else was jumping off the George Washington bridge…” Which of course is code for “it’s not really you, dear.”  In theory, as we mature, our inner “it’s not really you, dear” voice becomes strong and clear.  Of course, many many mistakes must be made along the way.  Most of us are not born with the gift of clarity.  Some must slog through several academic majors, or colleges, before they find what suits them.  Some, must do this sorting and shifting with romantic partners.  And of course what suits us at one point in our lives is bound to feel ill-fitting at others.

Nowhere is this more visibly apparent than in fashion choices.  What suits us, physically and emotionally, changes over the years.  Ideally.  I won’t pretend that the world isn’t filled with people who are wearing acid washed jeans and shoulder pads; unironically.  I chalk that up to one of two things; 1) complete lack of (inner or outer) resources) 2) associating their decade of choice with a happier time in their lives.  The rest of us, for better or worse, are more susceptible to the siren song of marketing and retail.

Unless we are in possession of a coloratura inner critic’s voice or an indispensable insightful and candid friend, we need a little outside help in navigating the myriad of wildly inappropriate choices out there.  There are some simple (although perhaps, not easy) steps to take:

  • Know oneself – not necessarily in some meditating on a mountaintop, or involving a hand mirror way.   Know what you like about your body.  Have a realistic sense of your life (there’s nothing so sad as a closet full of gowns with price tags still attached.)
  • Own a full-length mirror and use it.  I bought my first one ten years ago after an unfortunate “patriotic clown” work outfit that just slipped by me (until I got to work that is.)
  • Unless you make a career of reinvention in the public eye; know the difference between costume and clothing.  If the item enjoys a prefix, that is your hint (ex. Running/Tennis/Athletic shoes, Yoga pants, Gardening clogs, Bathing suit, Cone bra, etc.)  These clothes will tell you where and when to wear them, you don’t even need to cultivate your inner voice.
  • Cut, Clarity and Color, it’s not just for diamonds.  The cut of the pant, dress, skirt, blouse, jacket, MUST flatter.  (The goal is always to look better in clothing than one does naked!) Please note: Flatter is NOT synonymous with Camouflage.  Nobody, and I mean nobody, is looking at someone in an oversize garment and thinking; “Wow, I bet she is really tiny under there!” Clarity: Is the piece/outfit you?  Does it make you feel fabulous?  Does it clearly express what you’d like to express about yourself?  Color; it’s not an abstraction.  Liking color is not the same thing as color liking you (think back to that elusive guy in high school.)  The color, like the cut and clarity, must do something for you.  Clothes must earn their keep.

Simply put, life is too short to not feel fabulous as often as one can.  If you have never experienced the bounce in your step a well-suited outfit can give you, get moving.  The most effective way to train your inner voice is to use it.  Try on new things.  Often.  No doubt, mistakes will be made along the way.  However, if I had never spent the day as a patriotic clown, I would not realize how important the cut of a pant really is.  Or that red, white and blue, should rarely be combined in the workplace, unless one is in the military, or circus.

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Style

 

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We Live Here – Review

We Live Here, by Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of Elia,) and directed by Sam Gold is in previews at The Manhattan Theatre Club.  Set in a beautifully designed (John Lee Beatty) New England home on the eve of a wedding celebration, family secrets and raw anguish are revealed.

The play opens with the mother (an almost unrecognizable Amy Irving) opening her daughter Ali’s wedding gifts.  To save her the trouble.  A brittle, insecure, youngest daughter Dinah (Betty Gilpin, daughter of Jack Gilpin) arrives to almost zero acknowledgment by her mother.  Supposedly, mommy is simply overwhelmed by the details of the small family wedding.  The bride Ali (Jessica Collins) arrives with her fiance Sandy (Jeremy Shamos) whom the parents suspect is gay.  He enters carrying lilacs.  There is a marked tension and dislike between the sisters, who are 11 years apart.  Daddy (Mark Blum) beloved peacemaker and Greek philosopher, rounds out the family.

While still in the throws of awkward family reunion and meeting the fiance, young Dinah’s older boyfriend Daniel (Oscar Isaac) arrives.  He is not exactly every parent’s ideal.  Daniel is faculty at Julliard, where Dinah studies piano.  He is also the ex-boyfriend of Ali’s deceased twin sister.  Small town, that New York City, eh?  This stretch of realism in the plot is barely noticeable however.  There are much more gaping distractions on hand.

The first act is definitely the stronger of the two, but the script could use (more?) time in workshop.  While there are exquisitely crafted moments (due in large part to the brilliance of Mr. Gold) and very believable dynamics, there are equal amounts of misses.  There are very lofty writing aspirations at play (pun intended.)  Bobbing and weaving around the mythology of Adromeda, is not interesting.  It should either of been fleshed out or dropped as a theme.  (My vote is for “dropped” as it’s an odd device in a play about identical twins.) The backdrop of the wedding, while utilitarian, is flawed in its execution.  This is a family of New England intellectuals preparing for a small wedding.  They would not be engaged in (last minute) handwritten, place cards, (last minute) dress fittings, (last minute) slide shows.  Slide shows?  The fiance is a Guggenheim winning portrait artist.  Slide shows also don’t particularly jive with the mother (last minute) selecting which flowers (from their own garden) they will use for the wedding.  All of these silly incongruities would not be so distracting if it weren’t for the fact that they are a warning.  The number one rule for any writer (particularly one in their 20s) is “go with what you know.”  Throughout the play, we have the distinct feeling that the playwright is only in passing acquaintance with her characters.

Dinah’s anorexia is considered “cured” yet, her bridesmaid dress (purchased very recently) no longer fits.  She also does not eat.  Yet, she talks about her “recovery” in a very (unintentionally) fictionalized manner.  It’s very hard to believe much about her, when her most defining characteristic is unconvincing.  Is she or isn’t she?  It’s not that she doesn’t know, it’s that the playwright never decided.  We believe she would want to be invisible and therefore develop anorexia, but the psychosocial accuracy is missing.

We discover that Althea’s twin sister Adromeda killed herself (it was implied earlier) after Ali slept with Daniel (back in high school.)  The means not entirely justifying the ends for you?  Well, it seems that Andromeda had stopped taking her Lithium and had been locked in the piano room for days, and her parents chose this exact time to leave all the girls alone for the weekend.  Still not convinced?  Well, it seems the family KNEW she had stopped taking her Lithium, but were pleased she was writing music again, particularly in time for the college application process.  Okay, maybe they are crazy enough to have a slide show at a small family wedding.

To think that I had thought it irresponsible to send a daughter off to Julliard in the throws of an eating disorder.

A flashback is used to tell us Daniel and Ali slept together.  It wasn’t needed, but it did add a wonderful haunting element; having the relentless piano playing of Andi (behind closed doors.)  The flashback device is used as the transition for a tipsy Ali and Daniel getting on his motorcycle together.  The inevitable accident occurs.  Ali is only banged up, but (very briefly) noted is that the cellist Daniel, has seriously damaged his hand.  The moments after Ali is brought home from the hospital are almost unbearably sad.  The writing and acting of the parents is simply excruciating.  My heart just broke for them and their pain.  Sobbing and sniffling, I thought “yes!, go with what you know!”  Clearly Ms. Kazan, has a true gift, demonstrated by those real, raw moments on the stage.  What she and the play need(ed) was some serious work-shopping, and a merciless editor.  Why does the fiance travel (on the eve of his wedding!) with his easel and paints?  Why are gifts being sent to the parents when the couple already lives together?

The ending to this play with real potential, was very disappointing.  Sandy leaves Ali.  Maybe.  Why?  Because she slept with her sister’s boyfriend in high school?  Because she rode on a motorcycle with him?  It’s not clear.  Why is the last scene, the sisters snuggling together promising to be there for each other forever?  We never find out why they had such a distant relationship.  We never find out why the family treats Dinah’s musical gifts (Julliard!) as a whim.  As we wait on the edge of our seats for these illuminations, the play actually ends with the line; “Look the sun is rising.”  Sigh.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Theatre

 

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Trick-or-Treat

This is a preemptive strike against the annual Halloweenphobia that is about to rear its ugly (non-masked) head. While the retail chains have been stockpiling orange and black merchandise the populace rumblings have begun to stir. It seems that every year yet a new way to safeguard children from self-directed Halloween fun is unearthed. First, trick-or-treating became chaperoned, then there were the full blown bans on trick-or-treating, with tragically depressing “parties” in their place, then costumes at school were banned (I ask you, how is a person supposed to trick-or-treat on their way home from school?!,) recently there was no trick-or-treating on Sundays (is that a Lent thing?) and my all-time, number 10 on the insanity Richter scale: Halloween pedophile alerts. I’m no criminologist, but I’m just gonna throw this out there: really?! Do people think the “strangers with candy” thing is Halloween on steroids?  ( A) children trick-or-treat with friends, not alone B) pedophiles prey on the vulnerable and the heinous crime involves befriending C) stop watching so much SVU.

What is so ridiculously ironic about the Halloween bogeyman paranoia (on a holiday that celebrates the bogeyman) is that the same adults who are wrapping their sainted cherubs in bubble wrap are dressing like working girls (or like children if they’re men) and drinking in excess. But I digress.

Halloween is a wonderful adventure and learning opportunity for children. Weeks are spent creating costumes and organizing trick-or-treating gangs and routes. Navigational skills are utilized while mapping out the greatest candy-per-footstep ratio. Learning to speak to adults (who, gasp, are strangers) is intimidating but a necessary skill. There’s nothing quite as awkward as that first “Trick-or Treat” of the evening. For all of you now shaking your head with smugness and muttering; “she just doesn’t get it.” I assure you I do. Learning to be confident and assertive with adult (strangers) is the BEST way to safeguard a child from victimization, be it peer-to-peer bullying or the unthinkable.

As far as candy tampering (rare as it is) no candy is eaten until the little goblins arrive home. Loose candy, apples and baked goods must be tossed, if the giver is not a family friend. We live in a world of terrifyingly real foodborne illness, manufacturer’s tainting, and flawed engineering of safety products. We don’t spend our lives in fear of these hazards, or in fear of asteroids for that matter. I don’t think we need to create some Willy Wonka’s evil twin fantasy and destroy a wonderful beneficial holiday designed for children.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Childhood, Cultural Critique

 

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Transatlantic Blight

The last time I flew across the country was four years ago, for half the price of today’s experience.  For that reduced rate, I received (in addition to transportation) a pillow, a blankie, unlimited adorable little bottles of water and my own personal mini-television.  I spent six hours snuggled up watching daytime television; a sick day without sickness or guilt.  Fast forward fours years.  What did I get for double the price?  A seat in a flying can.  Nothing but a seat back 8 inches from my face.  Not even a direct to dvd Adam Sandler or Jennifer Aniston movie (and, yes, I did feel a bit grateful for that.)  By the way, is it really that cost efficient to only have two restrooms for 200 people?  As an embarrassing aside, I have flown about 100 times in my life, and the force of the plane flush still scares the bejeezus out of me.

Prices have soared, amenities have been slashed but one thing has stayed the same: the passengers.  Bless their little lemming hearts.  Someone somewhere started the trend of dressing for travel as if one is having same-day surgery.  Sweat pants, velour track suits(!), cropped sweats(!), shower shoes (with socks!), plastic gardening shoes, have become de rigueur.  I suspect the “patient zero” of this abominable trend is somewhere cackling maniacally, clinking a glass of champagne with the chap who invented wearing pants six inches below one’s underpants.

Beyond the phenomenon of “same day surgery” dressing is the flat out counter-intuitive dressing.  Example A: a lovely young woman in a mini-sleeveless-white lace dress and 6 inch heels.  I could see her goose bumps from two gates away.  Example B: Non-military full body camouflage.  Huh?  Hoping to blend into your surroundings and sneak through security?  Example C: Athletic shoes and baseball caps.  Exactly what do you think is going to happen in that can?  A pick-up game of softball?  There’s no activity less taxing on the feet than sitting.  Wear shoes.  There is no glare in your eyes AND you are not a professional athlete at work.  Take the cap off.  Example D: (and for this I blame the travel apparel mail-order companies) Wearing one’s boarding pass as a necklace.  I’d elaborate more, but it just makes me want to cry.

To those handful of passengers who wore clothing with buttons and zippers, and seemed to acknowledge they were in public, I thank you.  For six hours in a can with nothing but a looming seat back in my face, at least I had you in my span of vision.

Beyond demanding our country redress the neglect of a national rail system, we can do our part to reinstate civility into travel.  Even as we the traveler are subjected to inhospitable treatment and care, we can demonstrate personal care.  Just a little attention to one’s appearance can go a long way.  Out of respect to those who must toil in airports and flying cans, and as a nod to one’s fellow travelers, leave the lounge wear in your carry-on please.  This is one of those times when it is best to follow the lead of the French.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Travel

 

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In Richness and In Poorness

I overheard a woman talking about the financial hardship she and her live-in boyfriend were experiencing.  She (verbally) underlined their budget restrictions by declaring that they couldn’t afford an engagement ring.  While I enjoy the quaintness of the recent practice of engagements and accompanying diamond jewelry, I don’t understand how or why it became mandatory.  It’s as confusing (to me) as people spending scads of money on a wedding that may or may not actually resonate for the couple (or be even remotely connected to the celebration and solemnity of marriage.)

I am trying to resist the conclusion that both engagement rings (and consequential public cooing) and queen-for-a-day weddings are all part of the same religious devotion to past Strawberry Shortcake, Cinderella, Hello Kitty birthday parties.  But I have to wonder, when I eavesdrop as I do, what IS the real reason one would put one’s life on hold for a fantasy?  I have also overheard (man, I’ve got to stop doing that!) couples with children, claim the expense of a wedding for explaining why they are all living together without benefit of marriage.  Does this mean that the couple (I’m being gender generous here) is really still harboring some sort of white foamy wedding fantasy?  Move on toots, that ship has sailed.  If you’re old enough to have children, you are old enough to let go of the pillowcase on the head fantasy.  Grown-up real life doesn’t involve still having a chance of making the varsity team/homecoming queen either.  Having financial goals is laudable.  However, it is rather unseemly to plan for one’s debutante ball when you have children to support.

But to that young woman concerned for the financial prospects of her and her boyfriend, I would say this: Good for you for acknowledging that not all acquisitions are within your reach right now.  If you and your young man want to marry and build a life together, I urge you to do so.  Have the wedding you can afford.  Pledge your love and commitment to each other before your family and friends.  Promise to love each other in good times and bad and consider yourself fortunate to have the opportunity to do so.  I wish you all the happiness in the world.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding

 

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