Friday, September 30, 2011

Day 189: I'm getting married tomorrow!

My "something blue"
Yep, it's finally that time.  I'm getting married.... TOMORROW!!  I'm writing this post when I probably should be packing up my stuff to leave for the hotel.  Things feel so hectic, even though I've been planning for this weekend for over 10 months.  I want to enjoy things in the moment that they come, rather than as I mentally check things off of a massive to-do list.   I need a minute to center my thoughts. How would I normally do this?  Probably ....  in front of a mirror.  In the past, a few minutes staring at myself in the mirror has felt calming.  A sort of "yep, here I am, the world really isn't spinning any faster than usual!" moment.  But I'm not doing that today. Instead, I'm journalling and making a list of all the things I don't want to miss this weekend.  Here it is:

1) Driving down to the rehearsal dinner with my sister, Hanna.  Sometimes she drives me crazy, but this weekend she's been my greatest source of calm.
2) Helping my bridesmaids figure out how the heck to tie the convertible straps on their dresses.
3) Feeling my dad's steady hand holding me steady as I walk down the isle.
4) My grandparents.  Both sets are still alive, healthy, and in high spirits.  I want to hold tight to EVERY SINGLE MOMENT with these awesome people who have shaped my life in so many ways.
5) Connecting with Michael during our ceremony.  I can't wait to hold his hands as we say our vows.  I hope I don't cry!
6) Hearing my little brother, Peter, give his reading during the ceremony.  We gave him a tough one but I know he can handle it!
7) My first dance with Michael.  We picked an amazing song.  Again... hope I don't cry!
8) Oh... and THE FOOD!!!  And WINE!!!

Is there anything else I need on that list?  Any suggestions for how I can make the most of the day?

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Day 181: Why Taking Mirrors Out Of Schools is FABULOUS.!

Several people have emailed to ask me what I think of the high school in the UK that has removed mirrors from the girls' restrooms to stop students from putting on makeup (which is against the rules for girls 16 and younger).  You can read more about it here.
These are some girls from the school.  They don't seem too miserable!
I DARE YOU to tell me they could use a little makeup....
I'd planned to write a well-crafted and highly balanced post on this topic, with a list of pros and cons.  I hoped to show myself to be perfectly, likeably, smack-dab in the middle.  But it's my birthday today (29!) so I feel entitled to write exactly what I think (not that this is usually a problem for me!).  I'm not balanced at all on this one: I think the mirror ban is an amazing, 100% productive idea, and I would love it if more schools would get on board.  Immediately.  Here's why:

1) Removing mirrors sends a clear message to girls that their bodies should be used for doing things (hugs! sports! thinking!), not just for being looked at.  When is the last time somebody told YOU this message so blatantly?  Did anybody tell you this as a young teen?  Okay, how about this: when was the last time you saw any form of popular media share this message, in any way or form?  Bottom line: this school is trying to fight the good fight.  They (and we!) are up against a powerful toxic cultural environment.  Yes, I realize that removing mirrors doesn't get rid of this larger environment, but every little bit helps.  Let's be supportive of positive change.

2) Some people have suggested that this ban prevents creative expression.  I call bullshit.  I agree wholeheartedly that makeup and fashion can be a form of self-expression.  I enjoy these things in my own life, though not without angst and expense.  That said, let's not forget that there's a powerful beauty industry that wants us to believe that we're "expressing ourselves" when we buy their products and then apply them exactly as directed by magazines.  This industry benefits even more when we decide we can't be "ourselves" without these products.  Here's a crazy idea: without makeup, without mirrors, and because of the strict dress code, these poor, poor girls will be forced to express themselves through things like: creative writing, drama class, music class, journaling, or by (gasp!) just being themselves.  

3) Finally: vanity makes us dumber.   Don't believe me?  Check out the research for yourself.  Numerous psychological studies find that worrying about appearance (called "self-objectifying" in the literature) leads to poorer performance on all sorts of mental tasks, from math tests to word recall, and even something wacky-cool called the Stroop Test.  Given this, if removing mirrors helps reduce the mental energy that students had been putting toward their looks, that mental energy can now be put toward helping them be more successful learners.  Since giving up mirrors. I can't claim to have become any smarter, per say, but I'm definitely better able to focus.  

In closing, I admit that I am biased about this topic.  But... I'm not biased because I'm avoiding mirrors; I'm biased because I had an eating disorder when I was in high school.  Now, I'd never suggest that getting rid of mirrors could ever cure a full-blown eating disorder.  But, creating a daily environment in which young women are valued for their minds and spirits instead of their looks just might help prevent one.  

Every little bit helps.

But now tell me what you think.  Am I a lone supporter?  Love it?  Hate it?  Feeling mixed?  How would this have impacted YOU as a teen?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day 180: Oops. Moved to San Francisco, Left My Wedding Dress in L.A.

Today was exhausting, and my brain was kind of not working very well.  I stayed up late last night working on a deadline, then put in a full day at work today, and finally packed my car up and left L.A. for San Francisco.

Overall it was a decent day, but I made two big mistakes:

First, I left L.A. at 5pm (in the peak of rush hour) which added 2 hours to my trip. I knew better, but wanted to do as much driving as possible during daylight.

My second big - okay, BIGGER - mistake was this: I LEFT MY WEDDING DRESS IN LOS ANGELES!  You'd think that this might have popped into my mind during the first 2 hours of my trip (when I drove about 30 miles), but no.  I didn't remember until I was 200 miles away.   I'm a moron.

My L.A. bridesmaid, Sarah, will be hand-delivering the dress next week.  (Whew!) Thank goodness my dress fitting went off without a hitch!

And with that, I've decided to sleep for a very long time tomorrow.  Brain re-charge, here we go!

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Day 178: Condo For Sale, Free Wedding Dress With Purhcase!

In a major step toward transitioning to a permanent life in Northern California, with Michael, we've decided to put my L.A. condo on the market.  We met each other for the first time in this condo, so it feels a bittersweet to leave it behind, even though we're moving toward a future together.  Alas, given my current under-employed status, we need the cash more than the (unpredictable) potential for long-term investment.

Sunday was the first open house, and - in preparation - I begrudgingly removed all the curtains covering my mirrors.  As a realtor aptly explained: "nobody wants to buy a house from a Vampire!"  True enough.  I get it.  But suddenly - filled with a multitude of uncovered mirrors - my home felt a bit hostile.  To avoid my reflection I spent most of Sunday in my office at UCLA.  Now back at home, I've adopted a slouching "stare-at-the-ground" posture, which doesn't feel very bridal.

Removing my contact lenses helped take the edge off. Whew!  Just two more days until I pack up and head North.  :)

BTW - If you know anybody looking for an ideally located Westwood condo, 2-bedrooms 2-baths, let me know!  If you buy it, I'll throw in that first wedding dress as part of the deal (yes, it still hasn't sold)!  Any takers???  For those of you who are feeling particularly voyeuristic, here's the "virtual tour"!  I am really going to miss this place...

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Day 174: How To Order the Perfect Burger (For Your Final Wedding Dress Fitting)

Someday when I'm famous, this menu
could be worth A LOT of money!
My final wedding dress fitting was yesterday, and I may have stumbled upon the most brilliant idea: eat a massive meal right before your dress fitting.  Seriously!  I didn't exactly plan to chow down on an epic cheeseburger 5 minutes before my final fitting, but ... well ... I was really hungry!  Here's what went down:

My good friend, Lisa, accompanied me to my fitting to act as my eyes for the occasion.  Lisa is probably my most fuss-free and practical friend.  She rarely wears makeup, and always has an easy smile. Anyway, I asked her to come with me because, when it comes to wedding dress alterations, the expenses can easily pile up.  I trusted her to let me once I'd reached the good-enough-is-good-enough standard.

So anyway, Lisa took the bus to my place, and arrived 40 magical minutes early.  We hung out for a few minutes and then realized we were both really, really, hungry.  At first, Lisa suggested that we wait until after the fitting to enjoy a proper meal together.  The unspoken assumption was that I'd want to be a little bit starving when I tried on my dress.  You know: empty stomach = littler stomach = tears of joy when said stomach looks less chubby in wedding gown.  Except something about that equation is totally dumb.  I mean, if a little food in my tummy would prevent my dress from fitting, wouldn't I want to know NOW, not on October 1st?  Secondly.... I'm planning to enjoy (a LOT of) the food on my wedding day.  If anything, my dress needs room to expand in the gut!

This picture makes the burger look smaller
than in real life!
With these things - and our grumbling stomachs - in mind, we ventured out to the nearest burger joint.  If you didn't know this already, Los Angeles is a burger city.  Best. Damn. Burgers. In. The. Country. I can name 3 to-die-for spots within walking distance of my place, and another half-dozen I'm willing to drive 45+ minutes to get to when I've got a particular craving.  On this day, we landed at Hole In The Wall Burger Joint, and I opted for the Burger of the Week, innocently described as a Cheesesteak Burger.  And sweet potato fries.

I don't know what I was expecting, but I didn't realize I'd ordered the innards of a huge Philly Cheesesteak piled on top of an already huge hamburger!  Woah!  Well, I won't bore you with the details of how amazingly delicious this was, but let's just say I managed to eat every bite.  Since it took two hands to eat my burger Lisa got a hefty share of the sweet potato fries.  Life goes on.  A girl has to prioritize, no?

And the dress fitting?  It went great.  Lisa and I were a little bit nervous about handling my dress with burger juice on our hands, but we cleaned up as best we could and persevered.  The newly sweethearted neckline looked lovely, and my gown zipped up without complaint.  In retrospect, I wouldn't have it any other way.  Now if only I could get Cheesesteak Burgers on the wedding menu....

Question: any tips for finding time to actually EAT at one's own wedding?  I hear this can be a challenge, but I'm really looking forward to the food!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 171: Who Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up? Me!

A lot of people ask me how I handle photos of myself that are taken during this project.  The quick answer: I don't look at them.  This is one of the main rules of the project.  If a friend takes a picture of me, I politely request that they hang onto it until my year is up, or - at the very least - just don't tag me on facebook!  No biggie. :)

That said, I DO like looking at photos of myself from before the project started.  Sometimes I peruse my iPhoto files just for kicks, but whenever I'm feeling blue, I look at this photo.  It was taken when I was almost 3 years old:
Me, at my best.
This photo hangs over my desk.  When I look at it I'm reminded that I was once a precocious, curious and adventurous little girl who imagined myself to be a writer.  I had loving parents, silly friends (some imaginary), and oodles of confidence.  I don't mean to suggest that life was all downhill after 3, but in my heart-of-hearts, I know that THIS is who I want to be when I grow up.  That little girl inspires me!

Do any of you remember a version of yourself you still admire?  How can we hang onto these precious selves while still growing into our best selves?

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Day 168: Fun Fact Friday - Mirrors, Chimps, and Kids!

Mirrors are invaluable tools for understanding the human mind.  In particular, the way that humans – and some animals – react in the presence of a mirror helps us measure psychological processes, ranging from basic self-awareness to the complexities of disordered body image. 

Although most animals react to their images as if confronted by another animal, chimpanzees and orangutans (but not gorillas) show evidence of self-recognition when placed in front of a mirror.  Similarly, 2-year-old humans (but not 1-year-old humans) develop what’s called “mirror-guided self-recognition” at around the same time that they begin to show other evidence of self-awareness, such as using personal pronouns or smiling after mastering a task.  For both chimps and young children, the “mirror-guided self-recognition test” involves secretly putting a dot of red paint (for chimps) or a huge sticker (for kids) on the forehead of the research subject in question.  If the chimp/child notices the change to her appearance in the mirror – by, say, touching the paint spot, or reaching for the sticker – she has passed the test.  Woohoo!  

(Learning this, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the kids who “passed” this test got to keep their stickers. That would have made me 'smile after mastering the task!')

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 166: Mis-Adventures with a New Hair-Dryer

Note peeling paint-job.  
I recently took a leap of faith and replaced my ancient-and-sputtering hair-dryer with a new model.  I knew it was time last weekend, when I found myself preferring a friend's travel-sized dryer over my own full-sized clunker.

Granted, as a shower-at-night kind of gal, I don't actually blow-dry my hair more than a few times per week.... but when I do it's nice to have a pleasant experience.  (Has anyone else ever had the misfortune of having their hair vacuum-sucked into the back of a poorly-designed hair-dryer?? "Fixing" the situation requires scissors.  Not fun!)

So on Monday I managed to find a really nice (name brand! oooh!) hair-dryer at Marshall's, for a stellar price.  
$15 = Stellar price.
This morning was it's debut.  Everything worked beautifully (I think... I haven't actually SEEN my hair, of course!), with the exception of one major issue.  This probably wouldn't have happened if I'd been looking in the mirror, but I ended up knocking my head with the dryer nozzle about a half-dozen times.  Hard
Stunning new hair-dryer!

Dryer: Smack! 
Me: Ow!Ow!Ow!Ow! 
Dryer: Smack! 
Me: Ow!Ow!Ow!Ow!

I had an immediate flash-back to a grade-school bullying experience when this kid somehow got me to put my hand in front of my face, and then promptly punched my face through my own hand.  "Why are you hitting yourself?!?!" she taunted.  Good question!

Well, my new hair-dryer has one of those nozzle attachments, making it about 3-inches longer than the prior model.  It seems that my arms have muscle-memory-memorized the appropriate distance at which to hold a hair-dryer.  Except now it's the wrong distance.  It probably doesn't help that I have short arms to begin with (remember that fateful day in the bike shop??)

Anyway, until today I had no idea how much force I'd been using to shake my blow-dryer through my hair.  I smacked my forehead particularly hard one time, and I can still feel a bit of a goose-egg at my hairline.  Hopefully there won't be a nasty bruise come October 1st! Ugh.

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Day 165: Bachelorette Bash, Part 1

My Labor Day / Bachelorette Party Weekend was epic and memorable.  I'm still recovering, so you'll get the whole story in two parts.  Here's part 1 (Thursday, Friday, Saturday):

Thursday: My cherished friend and bridesmaid, Laila, was scheduled to arrive at LAX around 9pm.  Her flight was an hour late, so I killed time shopping for cocktail dresses at Nordstrom Rack.  I had three upcoming cocktail dress-required events in mind, requiring three different dress aesthetics: (1) something mildly scandalous for my L.A. bachelorette bash, (2) something vintage-y and tropical for a 1950s-Cuba-themed engagement party, and (3) something casually elegant for a bridal shower.  I brought about a dozen deeply-discounted possibilities into the fitting room, and managed to cover the mirror with my sweater.  Based on what I could actually zip up, I left with one slinky bachelorette option, and - amazingly - a casually-elegant-vintage-y-tropical dress that would work for either the engagement party or the bridal shower.  Decisions, decisions... While purchasing said dresses, Laila texted to let me know she'd landed, so I picked her up and headed to Westside Tavern (my all-time favorite L.A. restaurant/bar) so we could catch up over gourmet cocktails.  What a treat!

Friday: Bachelorette insanity ensued.  Laila and I worked from home for the morning, but at 2:30 we headed in separate directions: I went to a hair & makeup appointment with Sarah, the bachelorette hostess + my grad school bosom buddy, while Laila braved traffic to pick up my sister, Hanna, at LAX.  While at the salon, I asked my hair stylist and makeup artist to go "Miss Piggy" on me, with bouncy curls and big lashes.  It felt weird to be so fully "styled" without mirrors, but I watched Sarah being beautified and figured, if I looked half as great, I was in pretty good shape.  Thanks for treating, Sarah!  You rock. :)
My eternal inspiration whenever aiming for a glamourous look...
From there, we headed over to Sarah's place to join the other women getting ready.  In true little-sis style, Hanna ended up wearing the slinky dress I'd found at Nordstrom.  I opted for an even slinkier one I'd found at Ross a few months ago - for over 90% off! Paired with sky-high leopard-print stilettos and a bright pink tiara I felt adequately coquettish.  See below:
Slinky dress + feather boa, sash, & tiara!
Once ready, we took cabs to Hamburger Mary's in West Hollywood, where we met up with more friends, and enjoyed a fantastic dinner while watching their famous "Drag Queen Burlesque Show".  I was determined to stay relatively sober, though I couldn't avoid a few celebratory toasts.

Scandalous detail: At Hamburger Mary's I was required by the bawdy MC to compete against a few other bachelorettes and birthday girls in a mildly embarrassing "booty-shaking" contest.  Guess what: I won!!!  (Note: the winner was declared based on vocal audience support, not talent. Several of my friends actually lost their voices cheering for me, which helps explain my coup.)  Interesting to observe a table full of highly-educated, avowed-feminist women screaming their lungs out to encourage their friend's booty-dance...  a musing fit for another day.

After the show, we headed to a nearby dance-club to bust a move to some Top-40 music. By 2am we were all safely in bed, asleep with wistful smiles on our faces.

Evening highlight: After last-call at the dance-club, I found myself loitering around outside of the club while we waited for our ride to show up.  Out of nowhere, this barely post-pubescent acoustic boy-band called "The Bro Code" started serenading us with the late-90s hits of my youth.  I was in heaven!  Here's a taste of what we heard:
Saturday: A day of recovery, or so I thought!  After an amazing breakfast of buttermilk biscuits, cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and fresh strawberries and watermelon (prepared with skill by Sarah and Hanna) we managed to get ourselves to the FYF Fest music festival in Downtown L.A..  Feeling sluggish, Hanna, Laila and I enjoyed the music for a few hours but headed home early.  We ate dinner at a mildly disappointing Japanese restaurant, and then went to see The Help at Westside Pavilion.  We all got misty-eyed during the film; bonding at it's best!

Closing note: On Saturday I was feeling a little worse-for-the-wear from the prior night's festivities, so I decided to fill up on food at dinner, and then again at the movie.  This "replenish nutrients" strategy has worked for me in the past, but it wasn't the right approach this time.  I'm guessing it was the combination of sub-par sushi followed by a bucket of buttered + cheese-dusted movie-theater popcorn.  Looking back, I don't know what I was thinking.... 


Do you have any special bachelorette memories?  Scandalous details?  Highlights?  Did I miss out on anything by forbidding all "penis paraphernalia" from the party?

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 160: "No Mirrors at My Nana's House"

I am so grateful to the reader who directed me to this beautiful youtube video, produced by Nickelodeon.  It manages to stay sweet and innocent while poignantly illustrating the more serious issue of how our beauty culture contributes to internalized racism.  The song was written by Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey and the Rock.

Note: for those of you receiving this post via email, you can view the video here:

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