Pixie Cut

I never showed you a picture of my new haircut, did I? Well. There’ve been two iterations so far, and I’m loving having short hair. I can’t be bothered to take, you know, well-lit and well-composed photos of it yet, though, so upfront apologies, etc., etc. But you’ll get the general idea.

So, let’s start with the Before, what my hair was like after air drying it without product. Channelling (book-version) Hermione.

Hermione

For the first cut, I went with a shortish shag, slightly longer on top, and left the salon feeling rather like Grease’s Rizzo, but less carefully coiffed. And without the heartfelt (but philosophically problematic, in my opinion) ballad.

And it was great. It felt strange the first few times I washed it; I had a few habitual ‘move your hair out from under your collar’ moments before remembering, oh, right, I don’t have to do that. I can wear lip gloss on the windiest of days. Hats no longer require strategic planning. Divine.


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And naturally, a dramatically new style needs a new routine — and product lineup.I tried Biosilk’s Rock Hard Styling Gum (because it was on clearance for $5, and that’s what my stylist picked up for me) and it just … it was too sticky, and stiff, and smelly. (It’s a nice smell, it’s just intense.) The stuff was pretty good for hard spikes, but that’s not really my thing right now. If I ever decide to try a faux-hawk, I’ll use that.

So, when I’d had enough of the glueyness, I picked up a couple of men’s products at Target, because they were a) cheaper and b) something new and different. Old Spice Forge Molding Putty, and Suave Heritage Edition Classic Styling Pomade. And I’m liking them both. They leave my hair softer and less sticky, and I like the smells a bit better. (IS there unscented styling putty? For under $10 a pot/jar/bucket? You can tell this isn’t really my field.)

I also picked up some of that Moroccan Argan Oil everyone was raving about a while back — it’s surprisingly great. I’d put a bit on before my hair dried, and most days I wouldn’t need anything else at all.

But for when I wanted more, the other two things worked great. The putty is great for making my hair looking comfortably tussled and played-with. (I, with great self-restraint, will not make the obvious Old Spice Guy joke here.) The pomade gives more shine and sleekness, and more defined waves, if I work it through it when my hair’s mostly dry. I haven’t yet had the courage to try a sleekly slicked-down style — the 90s weren’t my best era, and that look seems very 90s eveningwear — but when I do try it, I’ll use the pomade.

In other news, I discovered that any makeup suddenly looked like lots of makeup. Smokey eyes were almost comical — even just a red lip and toned-down eyeliner was a lot of look. My go-to routine became just bb cream, brow mascara, lash mascara, lipbalm, and sometimes highlighter. Okay, writing it out, that’s still a lot of things, isn’t it? Hm. Well, it’s faster to do than to describe, I guess. (Another Old Spice Guy joke, Melissa? Really?)

So, that was the shag. I liked the style a lot, but life’s too short not to try everything, right? Or almost everything. After about a month and a half, it was time for a trim anyway, so I went for more of a short classic pixie this time.

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And yep, I like it, too. And strangely, I didn’t feel as mismatched wearing my more familiar, more “done,” makeup. Maybe it had to do with the texture, or overall shape; the pixie is cleaner-lined than the shag, and most of my usual looks were also higher-contrast — winged eyeliner, blood-red lipstick, and so on. Perhaps the casual looseness of the shag was contrasting too much.

Anyway, there they are — my new haircuts.

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Movies, Fandoms, Pretension, Catsuits

Pretentious Sadsack Film Critic Snobbery. It’s just getting under my skin right now in a way that snobbery in general* has yet to do.

Sadsack Film Snobbery is where the critical acclaim of a movie or TV show is directly proportional to how emotionally brutalized you feel for watching it. It’s the entertainment industry version of clapping in someone’s face so you can despise them when they blink.

I do like unflinching, brave, disquieting movies — sometimes. I’m glad filmmakers are making them. I’m glad moviegoers are seeing them. But I’m not always up for them. And the idea that complex, unpleasant questions should be left alone unless they’re in a movie that’s painful to watch — what seems to be the functional result of incessantly crying up the brutal ones and panning the enjoyable — sucks. It disregards the legitimacy of the needs that send many people, including myself, to the fun movies. As a moviegoer, it often means you have to choose between relevance and enjoyability. And as a critic — or storyteller — it substitutes feeling smugly superior for doing much actual good. (This is my main quarrel with most snobbery — it’s a tacky way to feel better about doing very little.)

I, as you’ve probably gathered, can get worked up about more social issues than is, perhaps, strictly healthy. Not everyone does. That’s okay. As an aspirant storyteller, I want my work, someday, to make a dent in them. Some of them. A little dent, at least. Not everyone does, and that, too, is okay. In that pursuit, it’s not the handful of people who want to dive into thorny truths and find a way through them that I’m out to convince. (Or whose awareness I want to raise, or whose inertia I want to challenge, or however you want to put it.) It’s the people who — for real, significant, valid reasons — turn to stories purely to have a good time.

I have to remind myself, different people view movies differently. They watch for their own reasons, and respond to different things. Those who watch movies for a living often enjoy very different things than people who watch to escape their lives for a couple of hours. (Particularly when those lives contain real versions of the on-screen suckiness the Sadsack Snobs are so smugly brave enough to watch.) Or who just want to use a clean restroom and sit still in the air conditioning. Or to spend two non-combative hours with the people they care about but have very little in common with, or to see beautiful people fighting each other in catsuits. Whatever.

All of these people, with all their reasons and needs, have something to contribute to the giant looming problems that threaten our actual world. If enough of us get together and keep working at it, we really can do something about most, perhaps all, of them. (What? I like hero stories. The language resonates with me.) But pretending that movies that discuss those problems have to be brutally raw — to be unpleasant to experience — in order even to be worth watching widens the divide between People Who Give A Damn about them and People Who Don’t.

By elevating inaccessibility into a for-its-own-sake value, influential critics encourage filmmakers to make less accessible movies about more important things — but even that’s not the problem, exactly. Those movies are great, and important, and valuable, and so on. They should be made. They should be seen. The problem is, filmmakers are also making fewer accessible movies about those important things. Sadsack Snobbery’s functional result is to steer audiences — and thus studios and storytellers — away from taking on difficult ideas at all in the fun, light, comfortable movies.

The number of fun-to-see movies about difficult-to-think-about things is dwindling. And since those are the movies I most like to see, that … okay, it’s kind of anticlimactic, but it really makes me sad.

 

*I myself am a snob about some things. I won’t wear ugly shoes, for instance (… unless they’re for running or hiking. Or, you know, keeping your toes from getting mangled on a construction site…). I despise ketchup as a travesty of the exquisite (if unrefrigerated) tomato. I dislike cheap polyester. (But not all polyester. Some of it’s actually quite nice these days. I mean the scritchy, bouncy, rubbery stuff …)

I’m apparently a snob about qualifying my snobberies.

11 Unillustrated Reasons I’m Cutting My Hair Tomorrow

“It’s just — M’s hair was the only pretty thing about her. Why’d she cut it off?” my (ex-)friend P scoffed. I didn’t know M well (and of course she was not present); we’d hung out maybe twice before I left for my new school? Something like that. She had had gorgeous hair when I’d last seen her, though — long, loosely curled, creamy blonde, Victoria’s Secret kind of hair — but … so? It was her hair, after all. Why shouldn’t she cut it if she wanted?

It was a few years after P’s and my elementary school falling out — after I transferred schools largely because P and her new, improved friends were so (inexplicably, to my fourth-grade mind) painful to be around, and impossible to avoid, that I couldn’t do my schoolwork.

Which my parents were not having. Trouble with school kids was one thing; trouble with schoolwork was something else entirely.

After I found my feet elsewhere, P’d gotten back in touch and invited me to her birthday party. Sixteenth? Eighteenth? Disappointingly nondramatic, from a storytelling point of view. She and her newest crop of everyday friends — P & Co. — listened to the same Goo Goo Dolls song on repeat the entire night. There was probably cake. I chatted with her mom and younger siblings, whom I’d missed quite a lot more than P.

Of all the words — poisoned and not — that we traded over our friendship, the only ones I clearly remember were those she said about M’s hair at the birthday party.

It goes through my mind every time I change my own hair.

Because — I’m sure this comes as no surprise — M was, according to the infallible metrics of Seventeen-magazine-model-comparison, fat. Even more than I was. Not obese, not unhealthy, just outside of the ubiquitous silhouette of “normal” skinny prettiness with which we’re all inescapably familiar. Which was also interesting, in a more analytical way, because P’s mother was (according to the adult version of the Seventeen-metric) overweight, too. I’m sure there’s lots to delve into about reactionary body-shaming and familial patterns of self-hatred and whatever else, but that’s not my point right now. My point is that, for a disappointing number of people, having long, labor-intensive hair is often seen as a sort of recompense for one’s visual deviance from cultural norms of beauty.

And, anticlimactically,  that’s just crap.

And the trouble is, even knowing it’s crap, it’s very difficult crap to escape.

After my son was born and I found new depths of corporeal self-loathing amid my vivid new stretch marks and aching, swollen milk machines, I decided to grow it out. And took up running for a while, and ate a lot (a lot) of salad, and put some more effort into what I wore, and figured out how to do my makeup at long, long last, and could finally — for the first time, and at enough of a distance — pass for one of the pretty girls. The P & Co’s.

Then had my daughter, and am having to do it all again, but I kept my hair long that time. (Learning? Or more successfully assimilated?) I do look nice with long hair. With my compensatory long, labor-intensive hair. And even there, I’m luckier than many — it’s quite obliging, as hair goes. When I straighten it, it stays straight; if I do waves or curls, even no-heat ones, it holds its shape. It takes color well. It’s not particularly damaged. It’s … it’s inoffensive.

But I’ve always loved short styles better. On other people, and even (most of the time) on myself. The visual drama, the distinctness. The practicality. The constant changes as it grows and you adjust (and adjust and adjust) the shape. I’ve had long hair for three years, and I want to change it now. That, of course is the main reason — because I want to.

But there are a few other reasons, too, or perhaps reasons behind that reason. And I thought I’d share them, or at least record them, so that when I’m looking at myself in the mirror next week and missing my long, beautiful hair, I’ll remember why I did this. Reasons such as:

  1. The Acrobat has a habit of yanking my hair out, sometimes by the handful, when he’s stressed. He’d stopped for a while, but it’s coming back. He’s making some astounding progress in other areas, trying new foods, using the potty, enjoying messy-sensory activities like play-doh and slime … but he’s also seizing my hair whenever he’s upset and I’m in reach. And wrapping his hands in it, and twisting it as tightly as he can, and … it hurts. I know that short of buzzing it off (no) there’s no getting around all of that, but a little bit of relief sounds pretty nice.
  2. My hair’s really heavy and hot, especially when I sleep. Long, straight, thick, dark — I go out in the sun and suddenly have an electric blanket on my head. Not fun come August, it turns out.
  3. It clogs sink drains, shower drains, vacuums, etc. Perhaps I should sell it as a housekeeping sabotage kit. People buy stranger things.
  4. It takes upwards of 45 min. to style (more with washing time) when I wear it straight. And then on days I wear it wavy, I have to think ahead the previous morning and wash, braid, pin, keep from playing too rough all that day, sleep in it, and then take out the next morning — and then it will PROBABLY look okay. The waves might be well-placed, could be reasonably-sized, and probably won’t look too dry and unkempt. And then if not, into a messy bun it goes, never to be seen again.
  5. Speaking of which, messy buns are just getting kind of old. As are pinned-up braids. Not on other people, of course — Other People’s Updos are usually adorable. It’s just that I’m not enjoying my own much anymore. I wear my hair up more often than not, even when it’s cold out, mostly to keep it out of my way and safe from the Acrobat. And it’s just … boring. (And finicky. It’s a fine line between beautifully mussed and no, really, what is that on her head? About as thin a line as the one between sleekly smooth and Frau Blücher.)
  6. When I do wear it down, it looks dry, dull, & frizzy — straight or wavy — without a truly daunting number and quantity of products. All of which are heavily scented, of course, so I waft around all day craving mangoes or on constant guard against bees trying to pollinate me.
  7. Speaking of products, I blow through more expensive shampoo and conditioner than you can shake a stick at — I’ve tried cheap shampoos, and they invariably turn my hair into mouse-brown shag carpet. Which is weird, because my hair actually isn’t mouse brown. (I’ve tried the No Shampoo thing, too. In a word, no.)
  8. I don’t wear my many beloved hats because they’d ruin tomorrow’s hair. In fact, my hair schedule is influencing, to some degree, virtually all of my clothing and accessory choices, and even some activity choices. Boo to that. Boo.
  9. I hate going swimming because it messes it up, no matter how I’m wearing it, and then my hair reeks of chlorine and I feel ill the rest of the day.
  10. That’s also why I hate going to smoky bars, greasy-spoon diners, or onion burger joints. (Though health-and-wellness-wise that’s probably not a bad thing.) My hair catches the scent and then I have to wash it three times just to come up for air. Both drat and bother. Again, I know this will still be the case as long as I have any hair … but surely it’ll be less of a problem when it’s shorter. Surely?
  11. And finally — related to the above — because washing my hair easily triples my time in the shower.

So yeah, there you go. My appointment’s set for tomorrow. Wish me luck. (If you want, that is. I’m sure you have lots of other excellent things to wish for, and I probably don’t need that much luck for a haircut. Unless my stylist moves to Fleet Street and starts singing all the time. But that’s hardly likely.)

NBT: Biking

I love biking. We-ell … okay, I love the idea of biking. Especially commuting by bike — bikes as transportation, rather than solely for recreation. It’s the most energy-efficient form of transportation yet devised! ((Roughly every other article I’ve read about bikes, biking, bike baskets, commuting by bike, ebikes, biking in heels, the various competing schools of helmet usage thought — even things only tangentially related to biking — mentions this fact. I think it’s some kind of secret code within the cycle chic cartel.)

Because (of course) I love the aesthetic. Bicycles are so sleek and lovely! They come in pretty colors!

And you can have a basket! And put flowers in it! Or — even cuter — puppies! (Wait, why would you? That seems like a bad id– but who cares; it’s on Pinterest! So people must do it!)

I also love biking’s benefits. It’s environmentally sustainable! It strengthens your largest muscle groups! And lots of smaller ones, too! Cardiovascular health! Lots of Vitamin D!

Etc., etc.

But I don’t love the hassle and the in-crowd snobbery — the I-wouldn’t-be-caught-dead-on-a-Schwinn, big-box-store-bikes-are-the-scourge-of-humanity, I-hate-all-these-poser-hipster-fixie-brats (and so forth) bike forum snobbery. I’m too old for high school, guys. I was too old for that sh*t even in high school.

And to be honest, I don’t much love the sweat.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with sweat. I’d far rather be able to regulate my body’s temperature through automatic processes than not. But … it’s hot in the summer here. People-dying-of-heatstroke hot. Also, we live in a very sprawl-y iteration of suburban sprawl, so getting around without a car is a heck of a time commitment. Spending that much time outside doing nothing is bad enough; spending it pedaling furiously and dodging potholes is, of course, much worse. No matter where you’re commuting to, you’re going to show up looking and smelling a bit worse for wear than if you take an air-conditioned car.

So on the upside, biking is: pretty, responsible, healthy, pretty, economical (potentially — sure, you don’t pay gas, but it’s not like people just give you those basket puppies. And floaty floral dresses. And what about sunscreen? Oh, right, and the bike itself. Bikes are not cheap. Especially if you listen to the big-box-brands-are-the-scourge folks). And it’s also pretty. Did I mention that already?

On the downside, sweat, time, money — the basic downsides to most pursuits, really. But you already know I’m giving it a go. So the question is, how to actually bike more, now?

  1. Only bother taking the Cantankerous out in the blissfully perfect weather I apparently require; glance at her wistfully as I get into my car the other three hundred and fifty days of the year. It’d still be more than I’ve done thus far.
  2. Go full spandex. Padded undies, clipless (?) shoes, etc. Start giving unsolicited status updates of my bike miles for the week. In addition to my new lovely cruiser, I have a hand-me-down road bike from the early 90s that I must conclude was an Inquisitor in its last life, considering its glee in torturing me, wrists and back and unmentionables; maybe I’m just not riding her right, or she’s not adjusted correctly. Maybe it’s a thing that gets easier with time. Tough it out; this is the way grownups bike around here, after all. There must be something to it.
  3. Eat that elephant one bite at a time. Go for a short trip (on either the Inquisitor or the Cantankerous) as often as I can, but don’t sweat it if I can’t. Put the Empress on the back (I’ve done this twice so far; she thought it was the Best Thing Ever) and go for a spin around the neighborhood. Go as far as I want, then back, then go farther the next time. Try a milk run; the grocery store is only two and a half miles away, for crying out loud. Get used to the weather — it can’t be that bad. Can it? (Though judging by this week, YES. Yes, it can. But still.)

I mean look, people do it. If they can, I can.

But … they don’t often do it here. That’s the thing. And I think the reason is more than just sweat and snobbery.

I was watching a video about the infrastructural changes a Netherlands city I’d never heard of has made over the past forty-odd years, changes that have resulted in 50-60% of the trips taken within it being made on bicycles. Fascinating stuff. (Look, normal people use the internet to watch porn. I watch discussions of municipal policy. To each their own.) My daughter caught some of the Groningen video with me; her wide-eyed comment was, “We can use our bikes to GO places!”

It brought me up a little short. Yeah … we can. Sort of. Maybe. I mean, practically speaking, we’d both need a lot more practice and strength (and sunscreen) but it’s possible. But changing the idea from me biking on the road to actually get somewhere to her doing it — even when she’s riding a bike not a trike, and is covered in Kevlar, and has a security detail — makes an enormous difference to me … because people are kind of scary. Around here especially. And it seems that most of the 4x4s on our shoulderless roads bear serious grudges against any vehicle without a motor.

There’s a meme I found while I was trying to decide how to illustrate this point — which I’m not going to post, because I have (privileged-person, pompous-sounding) issues with sharing photos of others’ victimization, issues which I’m sure I’ll belabor at some point — that’s a photo of a car smashing into a group of bikers, with bodies and bikes and water bottles flying in all directions. The captions are things like “OMG SO MANY POINTS” and “PUT YOUR SEATBELT ON I WANT TO TRY SOMETHING.”

I’ve joked about that kind of thing too, especially in my angsty teenage days. Movie and video game violence is fun, and often really funny. Largely because it’s fake. Also, humor is one of our safest refuges from an inhospitable universe. If you can laugh at something scary, like death, it has a little less hold on you.

But that image — the bike crash in the meme — wasn’t photoshopped; the driver pictured was passed out drunk at the wheel and cannoned into an amateur bike race. He killed a man named Alejandro and hurt ten other people. And I had to go to the second page of Google to find anything for the image other than “Crash Hilarity” or “LOL I hate bikers!”

I’m trying really hard to find a way to conclude this post light-heartedly, but I’m not coming up with much. I guess what I’ll do for now is bike in my neighborhood with my daughter — on either her bike or the back of mine — or take our bikes to a paved trail when I get around to it. I’ll save the biking-as-transportation experiments for when I’m on my own, at least for the foreseeable future. And just hope nobody’s feeling homicidal those days.

Goals, Schmoals.

They say not to share your goals. I can see it, though I rather suspect that it has more to do with the advisors being sick of hearing others’ goals all the dang time, but … that’s fine. So I won’t tell you my goals for the year. Instead, I’ll share some of my current interests — and some related questions I hope to answer in the coming months.

Biking! I bought myself a bike for Christmas. Well … sort of — it was a cooperative effort and gifted money, and required not one, not two, but THREE trips to another city to actually acquire. She’s quite cantankerous that way. So that’s her name: Cantankerous. She still needs a cleanup, and … bike-smart people … to give her a once-over, but she’s mine. I love her already.

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  • Question: Can I make it to, and back from, the nearest grocery store (or the second-nearest, the one with the cashew milk the Empress drinks) for milk/diaper runs without:
    • a) getting run over, by accident or on purpose?
    • b) collapsing in a wheezing heap?
    • c) running into anything myself?
    • d) getting my beautiful Cantankerous stolen?
  • Bonus Question: Er … how do you raise the handlebars? And aren’t the brakes supposed to work?

Building and Making and Sewing, oh my!

  • Question: Can I actually build those nightstands I cooked up? Er, can I build even one? And if I can, can I then build the dining room table?And will the table’s waterfall edge really look as snazzy as I hope? And will having a counter bench (oh, right, can I build that, too?) make up for losing that end of seating?
  • More Important Question: If I can build the table, how will it perform vis-à-vis pop-tart goo?
  • Sewing Questions: How do you sew with jersey knits? Do I want to make a dress form? How much sewing would I need to be doing to make that worth the time, money, and space? WHERE THE HECK DO YOU BUY THE PRE-PLEATED KNIT FROM MY FAVORITE SKIRT?! I mean, they had to get it from somewhere.

Fitness! I’m closing in! Well … sort of. I was closing in, until the #%^&$! holidays. I can accept that my progress stalled over the past few weeks, but enough is enough.

  • Question: Is my current plan of soup/salad/soylent for one meal per day, </= 1600 cal. total per day, going to be workable for my whole timeline, which is from now until the start of Spring? Should I lower it (1500? 1400?) or if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it? Will there be anything — anything — in my closet that fits at that point?
  • Bonus question: Are those muddy 5Ks as fun as they look?

200 Staples — Because @!*% Minimalism

Remember my 100 Staples? Well … I decided I would rather have a more comprehensive wardrobe checklist. A more flexible and adaptable one.

A bigger one.

And then I’ve been playing around on Polyvore putting together examples of each category, and outfits (like, a bazillion of them) built with items from the 200 Staples … it’s been pretty fun. I’ve also created a Pinterest board for it, too, because @!*% minimalism.

100 Garments & Shoes

100 Intimates & Accessories

Unwearables

Something’s been bothering me. Why are there are so very many lovely people who believe that they cannot or should not wear things like shorts or leggings? That sleeveless shirts or non-maxi skirts aren’t for them, even if they love them?

Hogwash. (Respectfully.)

Whatever your body’s shape in this moment, there is no aesthetically unwearable garment. If you love a style and you don’t have a physical condition that makes wearing it painful or dangerous, then there is a way, and a place*, to wear it.

I don’t have a lethal allergy to gathered or pleated skirts, for example. Or above-the-knee shorts. I love them. They’re awesome and comfortable and practical. But I’ve spent years of my life believing that wearing them was just not for me, because they didn’t “work” on my shape. But … hang on. What does that mean, that it “works”? For what? For whom? 

“No one wants to see that.” That’s what I’d say about myself wearing shorts. Without a second thought. For years. (And I even call myself a feminist. For shame.)

But — seriously, why’s it always all about the hypothetical viewers, hm? Why is most fashion advice so very others-centric? Why is the baseline assumption that we dress to impress, protect, entice, or influence?

Blech. In my opinion, clothing “works” when it meets the needs and promotes the goals of the person wearing it. Yes, sometimes those goals do involve other people’s choices and opinions. And sometimes they don’t. Both are fine. Regardless, I should start with myself — with what I want. Because fashion — besides being a collection of things to want in themselves — is more importantly a tool to help you get what you want, and if you don’t know what that is it’s highly unlikely you’ll get it.

I think that what we want from others, if anything, comes from what we want for ourselves. But that is a surprisingly difficult — but important — thing to unearth, at least for me, because the desires we’re taught by our culture are okay to have are usually (like the advice we’re force-fed) totally others-centric.

When digging through the strata of my own wants, for example, I first come up with things like these: I want to matter, I want to be admired, heard, appreciated, respected … and every last one depends on the reactions or opinions of other people. So if these are really my goals, their accomplishment is actually out of my hands, because others’ choices belong to them, not to me. And a culture that coerces me to pin my hopes on such things removes the actual power I have over my own emotional (and physical, and social) wellbeing — while smarmily pretending to be useful or virtuous.

So that’s no good. Instead, I must delve further into those ideas and risk wanting wants that are not “okay” — wants for which I will be, inevitably, judged by someone. Am I willing to risk it?

I am. Yes. The only way not to be judged is not to exist. Some folks aren’t — willing to risk it, I mean. That’s okay, too. But I am. I want to be heard, because I want to speak. I want to be appreciated and admired … because I want to do, make, and say valuable things. Meaningful things.

I believe that what we each want matters — what we want for, and from, ourselves. What we want to do and say. The people we want to be. What we want from our life and experiences. It’s okay to want what we want — and to pursue it, as healthily and ethically as possible.

What does this have to do with unwearable things, though? Rather a lot, really.

I think those of us who care about what we wear can — should, must — trust our own taste. We should invest time and work into exploring and refining it. It’s okay to like, and follow, trends. When neon brights became the thing a little while ago, I discovered that I love the way chartreuse looks on me; I would never have tried it had it not been ubiquitous. It’s also okay not to care about, even to actively avoid, trends.

… It’s probably not the healthiest thing to stop liking things that you do like just because they become popular, but if that’s what gives you pleasure, awesome sauce.

I think we should do ourselves the favor of not appending every sentence that that begins “I like …” with “… but maybe …”

I like these moto leggings! … but maybe they’re just the thing right now.
What a great print! … but maybe it’d be too busy, all over like that. (Does it remind anyone else of the Eye of Sauron?)
I love that sweater dress! … but maybe (definitely!) it’d look better once I lost those last twenty pounds.

Puh-leez. Why do I feel like I have to qualify or equivocate so much? To get my self-doubt on record before someone else says it first? If I’m hanging out with people who pounce on everything I say I like with reasons I shouldn’t, maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong people. If I’m not hanging out with people like that (I’m not; life’s too short), whom am I trying to defend myself against with such things?

I think we should remember that of all the people who have designs on — er, who voice opinions on and have a stake in — what we wear and buy, we ourselves are the only ones inextricably involved in our own happiness. Our fashion choices should be driven by what we want from our lives, not by the whims and blather of opinionated strangers.

*A word about modesty. Lots of communities and organizations — and individuals — regard clothes as having moral value, usually based on how tightly it fits and how much of the (usually female) wearer’s skin it covers. Pffft. I mean, fine, if that’s your thing. Because there is value in understanding the expectations of communities to which you do or would like to belong (or visit). But there is nothing wrong with, or frightening about, your body. Everybody has one — that’s why we use the word.

Halloween 2015 — Agent Carter Prep

I don’t often dress up for Halloween. I like dressing up, it’s just that it’s become this hyper-competitive, overly complex ordeal these days. And who has time for that, really? Of course, the fact that I don’t’s probably implied by my saying “dressing up” rather than “cosplay” — seriously, even the vocabulary is unnecessarily involved.

Also, get off my lawn.

But I am, as the title suggests, dressing up as Agent Peggy Carter from Marvel’s Agent Carter, and also from the gloriously corny first Captain America … and anywhere else they feel marginally justified in putting a cameo, because she may be the most lovable, not to mention moving, vivid, and beautiful, character [besides Loki] they’ve recreated lately — but — AGENT CARTER ZOMG!!!

My husband’s Grandpa wore hats — lots of hats — hats all the time. My kind of human. When he passed away, my mother-in-law asked if I would like one of them, a beautiful red wool fedora with a white rope band. It’s a fabulous hat which I treasure. So, naturally, when I watched the premier of Agent Carter, it came immediately to mind. (Yes, you can buy the actual hat Hayley Atwell wears, but what’s the fun in that? Also, $83 would blow the entire costume budget.) And … in watching the rest of the show, I fell in love with the wardrobe, and decided to dress up this Halloween. Halloween, which is today. Eesh.

Watch out — I’m comin’ for your patriarchies.

My husband has graciously agreed to be Jarvis, which I’m sure I don’t need to tell you makes my little heart go pitter pat.

Three-piece suits … Le sigh. Also, the bookcases and wall moulding. So much pretty.

I’ve studied more pin curl and vintage makeup tutorials, scoured more thrift stores, and done more thinking about pocket squares and collar shapes than I have since I organized my wedding, from New Zealand, in the dark days (as I believe I’ve already mentioned) before Pinterest. (Long, but not very interesting, story.) I also feel vindicated, by now, in my impression that cosplay is far too involved of a thing.

On the other hand, fun! Pretties! Lipstick! Hats! So it evens out.

For Jarvis’s costume, I took the second picture as my guide and I decided to use the gray tweed suit my husband already has, despite its tragically modern lapels and un-pleated, un-high-waisted trousers. I’d just find a similar tweed, or possibly plaid, vest to pair with it, and a yellowish, vintage-ish tie. And a white dress shirt. Who doesn’t have a white dress shirt?! Well, we don’t. Or rather, we didn’t — now he has one, and I have … well. I’ll get to that. I also tried to find a brown fedora. Something with nice structure and a wide-enough brim, that wasn’t too expensive, and that I could buy in person to make sure it fit.

And tried. And tried.

I gave up on the grosgrain band and non-stitched brim after a while (that’s a seriously expensive hat there, folks). And all the brown ones were either too clumsy-looking or just too Indiana Jones. I eventually found a reasonable grey approximation instead at (of all places) Pacsun, which I haven’t been into since my angsty teenage days. It’s posher now, but still caters loyally to the angsty teen.

The vest was a similar story — I gave up, at length, on vintage — then on tweed — then almost altogether after about the eighth or tenth store. Oh, there certainly are vests available, but … for that much, I think I’d rather get something he would actually wear more than once.

Just before I gave up for good (as it usually happens) I found it — at Target, grocery shopping with my daughter and trying to convince her that she really has quite enough Froot Loops for the foreseeable future. A perfect, subtle gray plaid mens’ vest. For (a still-extortionate, but more justifiable) half the price of the others I’d seen during the previous days’ frustrating quest. I got the wrong size, though, then exchanged it for another wrong size because the hanger was a lying liar who lies. So at last I just dragged my longsuffering husband to the store in person to try it on already, and got the size I’d tried to buy the second go around — but for real this time.

I went a little overboard, predictably, shopping for my own costume. So now I have three new skirts: a khaki one, a deep navy one, and the lighter navy, below-the-knee one I’m actually going to wear (after taking it in a little, as it was comically baggy, as you’ll see) because it’s part of a suit. Well, actually a two-piece dress, but it looks enough like a suit. And suits are kind of Carter’s thing. I also snagged a bright blue nip-waist blazer, very 50s-inspired 80s, before I found the suit and couldn’t bear to take back. It’ll look good with skinny jeans and a modern blouse. I have three white blouses, now, too — two that I bought, and one I borrowed from my Mom because the collar shape was almost right, but I’m not going to actually wear because the sleeves are too full. And instead of any of them, I’m probably going to wear a sleeveless cowl-neck blouse I already had, because the 3/4 length sleeves of the jacket just don’t look right with sleeves rolled up inside. Like going with Jarvis’s regrettably modern existing suit, I feel the overall silhouette and color palette is rather more important than the particulars of collar shape …

Hmph.

I also got a green shawl-collar jacket because it looked like something she’d wear, and because it fit beautifully.

I took some (crappy) pictures of the in-process arrangements, trying to get a feel for how they’d look — hijacking my daughter’s door mirror and being completely okay with the reflection’s wonky, vertically-stretched distortion. Here are the preliminary ensembles:

Blue Separates
The bright jacket and dark skirt, with the silk notch-collar blouse. I wish this jacket had had a matching skirt, because it really is such a lovely color.
Hunter Jacket
The most abstract costume — more “inspired by Carter” than imitating her. Dark green is just so lovely, and I loved the notched hem on this jacket. The red hat — while fabulous — isn’t quite as wide-brimmed as the one Carter wears, so I thought I’d see how my Panama hat looked with it. While I like the shape, it’s really too late in the year for a straw hat, for me.
Blouse and Skirt
Vaguely reminiscent of an outfit she wore in Captain America; the belt is too wide and detailed, I know, but this skirt has a quite hideous elastic waist I wanted to make sure was covered.
Navy Suit
Ding-ding-ding! We have a winner. (And a Loki. Every winner needs a Loki.) See the baggy wrinkles on the skirt? I sewed up the sides a bit and it’s much better now. No, I’m not going to wear the bangles. Yes, I’ll be wearing my hair down and curled.

And then there’s the makeup. Do you know how many Agent Carter makeup tutorials there are out there? A gazillion. They’re all fabulous. Ditto pin-curls. I have nothing to add to them; just second the recommendation to get the duckbill clips. They’re great. And you can use them like robot puppets when you take them out to make your daughter laugh.

Below was my first trial run for the pin curls. They turned out okay, actually, but as you can see, after several games of chase and maybe a nap, they were a bit worse for wear. It was also my trial run for the makeup. I used NYX’s Matte Lipstick in Alabama (allegedly a good copycat for the Besame Red Velvet that Atwell wears) — I’m a fan. A bit darker than I normally wear, but I like the matte finish and I really like that it didn’t rub off on my teeth. It’s darker in person than in the picture.

ELF eye makeup, because that’s what I had, a sort of toned-down smokey eye with grey-brown nudes and a dark seal brown brow. I’ve been doing my eyeliner as a narrow penciled line, then with a bit of darker brown (or black, in this case) shadow over it to soften it, which I think works well enough here and saves me trying to poke my eyes out with that whole inside-the-lashes trick.

Carter-esque Makeup

Anyway, I hope to con someone into taking some pictures of us this evening, and if they turn out well, I’ll show you how it turned out.

Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone!

Allow myself to introduce … my family!

Family time! I don’t think I’ve really introduced my family yet. Let’s do it! I live with my husband, two kids, and a beautiful, oversized cat named Loki. (No, he isn’t named after the god or the heartthrob, though he’s as mischievous as both and [almost] as gorgeous as the latter. His name’s Lachlyn, actually, but we call him Loki, because I was in college when he adopted us and it –like majoring in English — made sense at the time.)

I’ll probably connive my brilliant, long-suffering husband into guest posting here at some point, assuming I can actually keep up with the blog this time (and he promises not to admit just how irritating it can be to live with someone this enamored with new projects) so I’ll let him introduce himself as he chooses then.

My son is a first grader with his dad’s vivid blue eyes and a truly daunting love of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. He’s also an expert climber … which is beginning to pose a problem, see, because he’s discovered that the back fence is totally climbable. He has mild to moderate autism and pretty severe sensory processing disorder (SPD, a disorder that makes your brain interpret your senses differently than most others do; I didn’t know, either). He is six, and doesn’t speak, though he’s beginning to make progress using his iPad as a communication device. (The app he uses is ProloquoToGo, which I’m sure I’ll post about at some point.)

He also hates wearing pants. Can’t say that I blame him, really.

My daughter is an extroverted, highly verbal three-year-old; she has a vocabulary of a much older child, and with an intuitive grasp of the nuances of expressive inflection that puts most adults to shame. She’s also really into play doh — not only, you know, playing with it, but also watching videos of people making things with it. It’s apparently a big thing these days. Who knew? She loves to paint and play hide and seek (though she’s fond of shouting, “HI! I’M IN MY ROOM!” whenever it’s her turn for hiding).

There’s something quite delightful in the way the two of them interact. They chase each other around the backyard — he looks behind him to make sure she’s following, she sometimes takes his hand and they walk around together. He turns on the sprinkler for them to run through. When he gets upset, she’s started looking through their toys and bringing him things to chew on or fidget with, or sitting with him and petting his hair (which may or may not be what he wants at the time, but hey).

We also have a part-time nanny who watches them during the weekday afternoons so I can write. She has been a godsend — for both of them. (And for us.) I’m sure there’s a lengthy and effusive post in my future about our childcare decisions, but for now I’ll just let you draw your own conclusions from the fact that I introduce her in the “this is our family” section.

So … yeah. This is our family.