Observations, Self, Writing

on the single life.

Yesterday, I was sitting alone at a bar waiting for someone and wound up finishing the book I’d brought with me. The bar was in downtown Brooklyn, right off the train, large and bright and full of empty tables, but I preferred to sit at the counter where I could, despite being absorbed in reading, be around people. I’ve always liked that– being around people doing their own things, while doing my own thing. When I finished the book, which I did fast and greedily, I immediately texted my roommate.

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“Have you ever gotten that feeling after reading a really good book?” I continued. “Like: full, warm, maybe a little sad, and at the same time really open and clear?” It’s been such a long time since a book made me feel that way– probably years since I read a book I could both escape into and learn from.

The book, Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, is a memoir about author Kate Bolick’s love life, interlaced with anecdotes and biographical snippets of five woman writers from history who remained single– or maintained a “single spirit” while married– whom she positions as her “awakeners” to the possibility of an adult life sans marriage: Maeve Brennan, Edna St Vincent Millay, Edith Wharton, Neith Boyce, and Charlotte Perkins

It’s meandering, full of poetic musings about the pleasures of singledom and fears about rejecting convention, woven (occasionally clumsily) with biographical anecdotes about her court of authors, who chatter on in her head like derelict guardian angels. Bolick writes about walking and living alone in the city, eating greasy fast food in her bed, cobbling together freelance jobs that barely pay rent, going on boozy dates, chatting with a widow who drinks tea on her stoop: she paints a picture of life in New York City that reminds me of my own.
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Bolick’s desire to be single, which outlasts a rotating cast of boyfriends, seems to be inextricably connected with her desire for the financial independence and emotional detachment she feels is required to be a “real writer.” She enjoys her wide swath of “weak ties” afforded by city life and delights in reflecting on her world from the vantage point of an unattached person: that is, a person who doesn’t define herself by her relational roles. She seems to believe that she notices more as a single person than married women might: that she can observe and appreciate more of the color of city life by the lack of a relational commitment weighing on her mind. Her desire is urged on by the awakeners, whose marriages didn’t last even when happy, and who found living alone while being sexually and socially extroverted most conducive to their productivity. Still, she feels pulled towards marriage by abstract notions of conventionality and the real comfort of having a stable partner.

The book is less about her decision not to marry than it is a scrapbook of reflections of what it means to carve out a life on one’s own, which is increasingly the question I ask myself the longer I stay single: how to live independently and confidently while also in community, how to find meaningful work that pays, how to balance professional success with alignment to one’s values, how to be a feminist and enjoy going on dates, how to be an extrovert while also listening to one’s need for solitude. It provides no easy answers to these questions. But a book that asks them, and while giving me glimpses of the lives of fascinating literary women to boot, is a gem to me.

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Observations, Self

(Nice) things fall apart: a whinge break.

When I was a kid, I broke stuff. Like, all the time. My mother’s ceramic dough bowl (inexplicably kept on our living room floor). My American Girl doll’s leg. An entire row of wine glasses at the Brewster Inn in upstate New York, where my grandparents have never taken me since.

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not my doll. I had Samantha, the prettiest one, obv.

But you know what? I’m hereby absolving myself of guilt for breaking stuff. Well, the nice stuff. Because there’s an awful lot of expensive stuff that seems to be designed to be broken!

A bit of philosophical reasoning. If a thing is more expensive, it stands to reason that it should be designed to withstand the normal usage for that type of thing. No one is saying that an expensive wine glass should be unbreakable, because wine glasses aren’t supposed to be dropped. (Although sign me up to buy if an unbreakable wine glass is ever invented!) But an expensive suitcase, a sweater, a car, a pair of boots– these things ought to last years with normal use, with normal use entailing a certain amount of friction and wear.

BUT. There are some things whose flimsiness actually increases with their price, DESPITE the mandates of that thing’s normal usage. And that’s the stuff I’m done feeling bad about breaking.

Granted, I’m not referring to things that are intentionally fragile for cultural reasons. Really nice silk stockings, for instance, tear at the SLIGHTEST provocation. I was obsessed with finding high quality sheer tights a while back and after I bought a few (returnable) pairs, I realized that the better the denier (read: the higher quality the fabric), the more they ran! I finally gave up and just bought a buttload of cheap pairs I could replace without guilt.

There’s no conspiracy, though. Sheer silk tights are meant to be objects of luxury. They’re not intended to withstand bumping into corners or being snagged by the hands of a person with ragged cuticles. They are symbols of elitism and prestige– they’re made for the woman whose life doesn’t include roughness.

I mean the expensive stuff that’s just a racket. Like expensive nail polish. Ciate London, specifically, has a nice range of colors–though nothing to write home about– but tends to go on streaky and chips within a day. Normal usage of one’s digits dictates that nail polish should last longer than that. And jeans! The expensive jeans I bought a year ago in a great cut and color, hoping to save money in the long run by eliminating the need to buy a new pair every few years, has already ripped! And not just a little snag– a full two inches of fabric wore away in the inner leg. Yes, my thighs rub together (#chubrub). But I’ve had $15 jeans last me 4 years without a run, despite both pairs being made of similar fabric blends. A similar thing happened to a friend with a pair of jeans from J. Crew.

I’m done whining now. What gives, man? Have you experienced this?

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Observations, Self, Social Justice

on maybe just thinking casually about the possibility of considering going temporarily vegetarian.

Given the fact that my latest date– a guy I’d only been out with a few times but who I thought had some relationship potential– had been cancelled (he dumped me. It’s a trend these days; all the cool kids are doing it!), I found myself with a free evening.

I then remembered that my dear friend Nandita had invited me to see a movie. If you’ve read for a while, you may remember that Nandita is the angel who invited me to the Jam. She’s artistic, she’s gentle, she’s fierce, she’s loyal, she’s grace-full, and she’s super hippie.

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Isn’t she loooooooveleeeeey?

I worry about being one of those girls who forgets about her friends when a new boy comes along, so I was embarrassed that I had even planned a date for that night in the first place. I hurried straight to the theatre to meet Nandita after work.

The place was packed, and I could barely squeeze through the theatre doors. Nandita had promised to save me a seat, but when I got inside, I was surprised to see she was sitting in the middle of a row of people: her parents, her uncle, her boyfriend, and two other friends. Leave it to Dia to invite everyone she knew to a movie about climate change.

The saved seat was next to a friend of hers from college, so we chatted for a few minutes before the film began. Someone was passing around a sign-up sheet for email updates from the director.

Honestly? The movie wasn’t anything to write home about. The director seemed very into his own face and his own thoughts and feelings. Which I would’ve been okay with if he had been honest about his own lack of efficacy, his smallness in the grand scheme of these “climate change wars” he described, if he’d been less visible and less upheld in the stories he told about native activists from other cultures — if he’d been more humble. But instead, several of the storylines seemed only to aggrandize him, glorifying his small personal victories against anti-climate-change officials. There were also a lot– a lot– of shots of him playing the banjo.

I have a hard time getting past things I don’t like in movies. What was good about the film was the way the director highlighted how art, communal feeling and experience, and creative direct action can form a kind of protected(/ing) island in the midst of the sea of climate change (which we will literally all be swimming in by 2036, if the film’s scientists are correct.) Lots of climate change films seem to focus on science and fear and politics. This one focused on art, and love. That was good!

The section that really struck a nerve, though, was the part that talked about energy production and consumption: specifically, about how much energy is consumed in the production of meat energy for mah belly. I love meat. I love hamburgers. I was vegan for a hot sec and vegetarian for around 2 years in college, but DAMN all I wanted the ENTIRE time was a burger.

And before any of you vegetarian enthusiasts (yay you!) tell me I just wasn’t doing it right (eating enough protein, combining food properly, getting enough vitamins and minerals), I was. 😀 I strongly believe that some people’s bodies are just not suited to vegetarian diets, and that that’s okay as long  as those can source their food ethically.

Unfortunately, my neighborhood may technically qualify as a food desert; and if it doesn’t, it definitely doesn’t have access to fresh organic meats and produce.

But hearing how quickly we’re headed toward climate-change-induced oblivion is making me reconsider buying the highly processed, inhumanely raised, and energy-guzzling meat at my supermarket.

So this is a very long  post to announce that I’m kinda thinking about possibly going veg.

Any tips appreciated! Share them in the comments.

xoxo m.

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Observations, Self

my skincare routine: night version

Hi there!  A few days ago, I posted about my daytime skincare/ makeup routine for my very sensitive, acne-prone skin. My daytime products, honestly, are mostly designed just to not-bother my skin. It’s hard enough to find ones that do that, let alone actually help my skin! So I save my more treatment-oriented products for nighttime.

Here we go…

  1. Almost immediately after I get home from work, I take off my pants (duh) (anyone who says they don’t do that is lying) and my makeup. I try to use Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Cleanser, but if I’m super lazy, I use Simple Micellar Water. (That stuff is BOMB and leaves my skin feeling soft, healthy, and plump. Except it doesn’t fully remove makeup. Boo.
  2. Swipe on some more apple cider vinegar cut with mineral water. It’s a natural exfoliant and helps get rid of flakes.
  3. If I’m experiencing a breakout (ok, when am I not? This is for when my skin is especially broken out) I swipe a Noxema Acne Pad on my face– but gently. These pads are seriously abrasive. I let that soak in.
  4. Now here’s the holy grail. I wake up in the morning and my acne scars are diminished, flakes are brushed away, and zits are smaller. BodyMerry Retinol Surge Moisturizer is EVERYTHING. It’s relatively cheap for the amount you get and for the quality of ingredients: retinol (the most potent form of Vitamin A, which helps to fade scarring), jojoba oil, shea butter, green tea, and Vitamin E for soothing, and hyaluronic acid, for plumping. If my skin is especially dry or stressed out, though, I use Boots Sensitive Skin Moisturizer.
  5. For serious stubborn spots, I dot on Nelson’s Pure & Clear after everything is soaked in. It’s not particularly amazing, but it does diminish zit size without much drying.
  6. Occasionally, I use a Vitamin C and exfoliating peel from Ahava for scar fading benefits.

    And that’s all, folks!

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Design, Observations, Self

my skincare/makeup routine: day version: or, what i’ve been thinking about to avoid thinking about more important stuff.

What important stuff? Like why I keep going on dates with people I know I don’t want to be in a relationship with. Like how much $$ I’m spending on frivolous things and how I need to get back to a budget. Like all my feelings about what I learned at the Jam.

Which, speaking of, needs its own blog post soon. I’ll say for now, though, that one of the major takeaways was that I need to shut down my Inner Critic, who I’m pretty sure is the one layering on the extra guilt about not spending my time on the “right” kind of activities.

Anyway, I figured I’d give my latest obsession its due indulgence, and maybe then I’ll feel a bit more capable of easing my mind over to other subjects.

Let’s talk skin. I’m including my face makeup in this roundup because face makeup directly impacts skin–and vice versa.

 

 

My morning routine is undergoing some finessing, as I’m searching for a new, lighterweight makeup for the summer and find my skincare needs change as my makeup changes. But here’s how it stands currently.

  1. Cleanse/ tone with apple cider vinegar, or with Simple Micellar Water– the former’s got malic acid, which is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral, it balances my skin’s pH, and it contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to break down dead skin cells and leave my skin feeling new. The latter just makes my skin feel clean and soft.
  2. Moisturize with Dr. Lin’s Daily Hydrating Gel– I don’t love this as much as I thought I would. It contains hyaluronic acid, my favorite moisturizer, but the gel texture actually leaves my skin feeling a bit dry. 
  3. Protect with Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen– most sunscreens break me out, but not this one!
  4. Prime with Clinique Superprimer Universal Skin Primer– I’ve recently come around to the value of primers, but good god if it isn’t hard to find one that isn’t silicone-based! This is the first primer I’ve used that doesn’t clog my pores or break me out. The price, however, makes this one untenable as a staple. I’ll be trying the slightly cheaper Pixi Poreless & Flawless Primer out next to see if that works; that also has titanium dioxide, a mineral sunscreen, so I may not need the Neutrogena then. $$$$$.
  5. Perfect with Covergirl Clean Oil-Control Foundation– Buildable coverage that doesn’t make me break out is unbeatable at this price. When I feel like lighter coverage, I skip the sunscreen, primer, foundation, and concealer and sub in Pixi Illuminating Tint and Conceal.
  6. Conceal with Maybelline Master Conceal Camouflaging Concealer– I LOVE the texture of this: inky fluid that provides full coverage. But it oxides over the day 😦 I’m actually working towards trying not to need concealer– I usually only have to use it because I’ve irritated a blemish by picking at it. 
  7. Color with Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush– Every blush makes me break out except this. It’s crazy expensive for me at $28, but I think it might last me the next 3 years. 

PHEW. Then I do my eyes (brow powder, copper eyeliner, black mascara) and lips (clear primer and red lipstick). It takes 15 minutes and makes me feel like a grown woman.

Stay tuned for the evening rendition… things get WILD.

xoxo m.

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Nanny, Observations, Self, Writing

moving sucks.

You may remember that I mentioned I was moving a while back. In fact, if you’ve been reading for more than a few months, you may remember that I’ve mentioned it twice, separately, in two different contexts. That’s cause I’ve moved twice in the past year. I’ve moved at least once a year, actually, since I graduated college.

In this new place, which is just slightly too expensive, and just slightly too inconvenient, but damn if it isn’t beautiful, I’m trying to forge a home more than I have in the other places I’ve lived. As an experiment, kind of; I don’t plan on living in the city for more than another year/ 1.5 years. I feel strongly that my time here is limited. Which makes investing in furnishings feel frivolous. But I’ve gotten tired of living in other people’s spaces, of feeling like I don’t have control over my home. I want to see how it feels to live in a place I got to decorate, where I get to set the rules.

That feeling of ease/ownership is complicated, in a way, by the fact that I’m now living with one of my best friends. I care about how my actions affect her more than I did about previous roommates. Which means I’m trying to be especially careful about, say, making noise early in the morning, or leaving messes in the kitchen. I’m not tiptoeing exactly, but I haven’t yet figured out a good balance between being conscientious and being comfortable.

My new housing situation is soon to be matched with a new employment situation, too. The families I’ve been working with nannying are moving on. The little girls are going to school! I haven’t quite let myself feel the full—honestly—grief that I know should/will accompany this transition. Hannah, one of the moms, told me the other day that I’ve been a third parent to her daughter. While I might debate that, it’s true I’ve been working with her daughter for two years and have had a big role in shaping the small person she is. But my brain has been so caught up in anxiety about moving and finding new employment, in grasping at the fragments of newness and hints of what’s to come in order to establish some semblance of security that I haven’t allowed myself to mourn the shift/ loss of that precious relationship. My temporary situation is such that I am going to be working with another family for at least a month until I find out whether my office job can offer me a full time position beginning in April.

With all the transitions, too, finances are a concern. I was just offered a position at an Arts and Social Justice Jam in San Diego in April—with a significant scholarship and travel discount. The total cost is still over a week’s pay for me at this point, though. A friend of mine is facilitating the conference and attended it herself year; she called it life-changing and credits it with setting her on a path to healing after several years of trauma and trauma-fallout. I could use a creative kick-in-the-pants, but as always, money hounds me.

I’m going to accept the position and pray for the wisdom to make the best decision. If you’ve got it in you, would you mind joining me?

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Observations, Uncategorized

two neat programs to make you feel more centered.

Yesterday I thought a lot about how much I’ve been avoiding sitting with my thoughts (and praying/ turning them over to God). So before bed, I made myself meditate.

There are a lot of types of meditation and a million websites that offer guidance on how to do it easily, but I decided I wanted to try a phone app that would guide me through an audio. So I downloaded “Stop Breathe Think.” There’s been a lot of buzz about Headspace lately, but I have to say I loved this one– and it’s free!

I chose to do a meditation called Body Scan, which directs your attention to all the parts of your body and guides you to re-integrate them as your mind, promoting a sense of wholeness. The audio voice is neutral and calm, not cloying, and after completing it, I felt significantly calmer and more prepared for bed. There’s also an option to do a “self-scan” that dims the light on your phone for a few moments while you take stock of how your mind and body feel. You rate how you feel and record (up to) five emotions; the app then selects a short guided audio meditation that addresses your current situation. My favorite part, though, is that for every meditation you complete, you get a sticker! I’ve never been one for silly online rewards (and I don’t even know what happens once you get a certain amount of stickers on this thing) but it was a nice, small surprise. The app records all of your stickers as well as how many days you’ve meditated and how you rated your feelings.

Another program I wanted to let you know about is Yoga with Adriene’s Yoga Camp. For the month of January, Yoga with Adriene  is uploading a free 30-60 minute video as part of a series meant to refocus yoga on the connection between mind, body, and soul, rather than on weight loss or strength-building. Each video has a different mantra: “I Accept,” “I Embrace,” and “I Create” are just a few. I love Adriene because her videos are for all levels– truly, I promise–and she honors the fact that everyone’s body and experience of yoga is different, constantly viewers that they should “Find What Feels Good.” I highly recommend checking her out!

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