Tag Archives: beauty

How to Dress: Being a Beauty or Having Fun?

I recently listened to an interview with author Patricia Volk, who wrote a book comparing her mother, a stunning beauty, with Elsa Schiaparella, the famous fashion designer who was Coco Chanel’s biggest rival.

I love thinking about what makes someone beautiful. Is it symmetrical features? That elusive hip-to-waist-to-bust ratio that both Kate Moss and Marilyn Monroe had? Or is it something else? An unconventional look, like Anouk Aimee? Exquisite bone structure, like Kerry Washington? Crazy awesome cheekbones like Lucy Liu? Being thin? I find as I get older that thinness, sadly, has become more important than any other factor when someone judges attractiveness. More so than someone’s face. YMMV. I live in a body-obsessed area. I HATE it.

The Beautiful Kerry Washington


Volk’s mother’s currency was her looks: they were icy, unapproachable, like a statue. Her looks were so important to her that she got a facelift when she was 40. People routinely proclaimed her the world’s most beautiful woman. Heads turned wherever she went. Can you even imagine if that was your mother?! Volk looked instead to the woman who created her mother’s favorite perfume to create her own standard of beauty. Elsa Schiaparella was not a classic beauty by any of the standards I listed above. (Although she was thin.) She decided to use fashion as theater, and not as a way to enhance what you have. Outrageous clothes, like her famous lobster ballgown, became her signature. Fashion should be fun, and above all, artistic. Schiaparella often collaborated with giants in the art world, like Salvador Dali.


Beauty fades. We all know that. Women who are beautiful and don’t have anything else to back that up: well, that’s not a good place to be as you age.

The Way I Was


Can I say some stuff that may sound stuck-up? It won’t later, I promise. I felt a pang of recognition in Volk’s description of her mother. No one ever proclaimed me the most beautiful woman ever, but I used to have icy, off-putting looks. I didn’t have the girl-next-door appeal of a Mila Kunis or a Katie Holmes. The looks were acknowledged, and some heads turned. But I was judged before I ever opened my mouth, and many people years later told me that I *looked* like a bitch, so they thought I was one. Now, I think I look much more approachable. People smile more at me. They treat me more like they did my mother when I was young. No one ever thought my mom was anything but a nice person: she has a very open face.

I think about trying to decrease my daughter’s dependence on her looks. I think she’s stunning in an unusual way. She’s very interested in fashion, but it seems her interest veers more in the direction of Elsa Schiaparella. She’s not interested in creating clothes that look like anything she’s seen before. She’ll only wear “new” looks. She has her own style. I’d call it Boho Romantic, although she would probably not like that. Her favorite book is “Classic French Fashions of the Twenties.” She falls asleep clutching it in her arms.


Lately, I’ve felt the influence of my daughter more with my clothes. I’ve sought out more unique items of clothing, that are more whimsical or humorous. I enjoy wearing clothes that are FUN. Not necessarily beautiful, but fun.

60s Inspired Print Dress, Brooklyn Industries


Landscape Printed Dress, Anthropologie


Gatsby Dress, Vintage


Interestingly, the Met Ball’s theme this year was the influence of punk on fashion. Some of the looks were out there, and I really enjoyed looking at the photos. This was my favorite look. Why? January Jones is an icy classic beauty but she looks weird and different here. She looks…free.


Do you think of fashion as being something that would enhance what you have or do you prefer to have fun and use fashion to celebrate your personal style?



Filed under personal style

Pedicures and S’mores

Sometimes, it can be fun to focus on the shallow. The silly. The superficial.

I haven’t done that in a while.

I saw the prettiest manicure on Pinterest a while ago. I wanted to try it, except with my lifestyle I knew this mint glitter combo would chip and become a mess within an hour.

So I decided to turn it darker and put it on my toes, which don’t get as beat up by wear and tear. I actually went out and got a pedicure (I KNOW!) and asked for a kelly green, punctuated by emerald green sparkles. OPI provided both.

And now, every time I look at my feet I smile. And feel a secret happiness born of non-intellectual rigor and pure old-fashioned self-love.

We also made S’mores tonight.

And I got a report that the moles I had removed were benign. Today, I am reminded how lucky I really am. I am so thankful.

Summer is here.


Filed under Discovering joy, Perfect Moment

Can We Get Rid of the Beauty Olympics?

“But if you’re not part of the ‘Beauty Olympics’, you can still become a very interesting person.”

Sex and The City pilot episode

Esperanza tweeted this article yesterday, which I read with a sinking feeling. Because although I had vowed not to use the word “pretty” with my daughter too much, or compliment her on her appearance, I still do. I compliment her on the way she looks more than I compliment her on cleaning up, or reading a book, or building towers or reciting her numbers properly. It’s like I am fighting an ingrained instinct and it is a knee-jerk reaction to say, “You look beautiful” when she’s dressed in a gorgeous feminine outfit. It’s like I just blurt it out. And it’s not just me: it’s my husband too. And most of our peers, friends and relations.

I know the way you look is important, but where I live it might be more important than almost anywhere else. I live in a very outdoorsy place where women are expected to be “fit” and hike and work out a lot. It is rare to see anyone in my town who is overweight. In my early 30s, I worked out more than any other time in my history: I hiked, I ran, I worked out at the gym. I ate normally though. I didn’t overeat and I didn’t particularly indulge in high-calorie foods. But I was not pin-thin. No one told me, “You look great!”

Then I had a really bad episode of acid-reflux disease a year and a half ago, and had to cut out most foods. Eating almost anything was extremely painful. I lost 10 pounds in about 2 months. I looked awful: my skin tone was poor, I had dark circles under my eyes, I was extremely tired.

And I got about 50 comments from people saying they thought I looked “awesome” and a number of questions about my “new” working out habits.

That’s when I realized that most of the women I would see looking “fit” in their yoga pants didn’t eat much.

All of this is a preamble to what is really bothering me. A friend of mine from high school, who had a terrible, life-threatening battle with anorexia back then, passed away at the age of 38 a month ago. We lost touch, partially because she was mad at me for raising flags about her eating with friends and a family member. I wasn’t the only one who was concerned, but for some reason I took the blame. I have been feeling awful about her passing. She was a sweet and good person. And I feel badly that I didn’t try to get back in touch with her. I don’t know what caused her death, maybe the anorexia was not involved.

But obsession with appearance is not good for our girls. The truth that beauty fades, that you need to have other attributes to make it in life is NOT taught in mainstream media. Women are praised mostly for being “hot”: like Jessica Alba, who lost all her baby weight in a few months and admitted to eating 1200 calories a day and working out 2+ hours seven days a week. Tween shows teach girls that being pretty and famous is the best path to follow (“Hannah Montana”). Even pre-school girls are shown parading around in bikinis and spray tans in “Toddlers and Tiaras”.

And let’s get down to it: it’s men. Men of all ages crane their necks at nubile teen girls. The “Barely Legal” category of adult entertainment is always most popular.

I don’t think it’s ALL men. I always hear about the guys who went to the “Take Back the Night” anti-rape rallies in college, who sympathized with women over being “objectified”. You know, the guys Ayelet Waldman is always talking about. I have never met a guy like that in my life, but I THINK they exist. Probably across the bridge in that very liberal famous college town? Slowmamma, can you confirm or deny? 😉

Anyway, I want my son to be a guy like that.

What can we do about society’s obsession with beauty? Is it possible to sidestep it?


Filed under Parenting After IF