Pretty Woman & the Full Jackie O

I see ankle boots are a bit of a thing for fall. Frankly, I’m not thrilled. Aren’t they always in fashion?  I remember feeling vaguely unsatisfied with the boot styles last year as well. Every time the summer light starts to fade and the crispness of fall sets in, I venture out into the world to look for a classic knee high black boot to wear with oh, I don’t know, everything.  Either I can’t find what I’m looking for, can afford what I’m finding, or–it just doesn’t look as you imagine it. When I saw it on Jackie Kennedy, it looked a bit sleeker–a bit slimmer.

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When I go for the full Jackie O, I always feel more like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters.  The great gaping divide between how you want to look,  what you think you look like, and how you actually look can be quite alarming when that little Bermuda Triangle of expectation and reality collide.

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First of all. Why is the average changing room so drab? Audrey Hepburn wouldn’t look good in florescent lighting, so what hope is there for the average woman? Down to the socks and underwear–confronting our figures in a cramped, shadowy spaces bathed in unflattering light? The sounds of chatter, babies crying, toddlers sprinting through the racks, some upbeat non-descript pop song playing just a little too loudly in the background.  Cowering in the changing room at war with the fabric, the buttons, the zipper at it’s height of resistance.  Wedged into a dress/bathing suit/jeans–whatever it is that makes you feel like fat Elvis trying to fit into a little girl’s dress.

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Customer service is a dying art, and odds are, no one is coming to check on you. Put your own clothes back on and venture out into the store–avoiding the pictures of the models looking far better than you in the very clothes that you were wearing. Either buy nothing or something that you don’t really love. It can feel very, very grim.

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Shopping for a specific item can be such an annoyance. Like when you get a job at a place with a very specific dress code? Everyone must wear khaki pants! What better way to spend time and money: on clothes you hate as .for a job you need but possibly don’t want. Of course, khaki pants aren’t really a thing and now you have to roam from store to store searching for some vague equivalent. Worse yet, shopping for bigger clothes after a weight gain. Although, you didn’t really know that you gained weight, because you haven’t been paying attention. You head off to the change room with a size 8 and then require a 10, 12, 14. A most deliciously heinous feeling, trying to wedge one’s cheese filled sausage legs into fabric tubes, coming to quite the realization in a very public arena. Fuck it– I’ll have better luck with sizes at the food court, just going to wear ponchos and yoga pants for the rest of my life.

Image result for girl in a poncho vintageThough I love fashion, glamour, style, and elegance–shopping is not my favorite task. For that reason, I made an excellent personal shopper and was successful in retail.  I really tried to help a sister out–finding an outfit for a wedding, funeral, job interview, date, holiday, party, event with a lot of love, good humor and the occasional hug. Tears were a regular occurrence, as were self-deprecating remarks that usually start with “I hate my…” and end with “thighs, arms, belly, etc, etc, etc”. The key is to keep customers in the change room–bring them outfits that suit their body type and explain all the ways to mix and match. Make it fun, keep it light, and when necessary, a  generous dose of tough love.  Pull yourself together, god damn it–Leave your emotions at the door–and just find some fucking pants. 

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When I encouraged body confidence to others,  I avoided taking in my own reflection in the many mirrors around the store. The agony of a conflicted figure, feeling physically inconsistent with not only your sense of style, but your mental self image. Who is the real me? What do I really look like? How am I perceived by the outside world?  If the reflection is to your dissatisfaction, what is the option? Continue on with the self loathing or shift e gears? Along the way to weight loss, the thought of giving up will enter your mind a million times. If discouraged, frustrated, or exhausted-when you can’t do another stupid squat or count another calorie you need to reconnect with your “why”. Health and mental wellbeing is a noble motivation–but sometimes it’s not an accessible visual like: “Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey Hepburn in a summer dress. Audrey. Hepburn. in. a. summer. dress”.

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A year since I began the Herbal One program, I’ve lost 42 pounds and 52 inches. It’s been a time of enormous change, growth and grief. My three weekly visits with Beth and Elisha have whittled down to one, but the beat goes on. I know now that it’s an on-going, never ending process.  Like Sisyphus, the rock and that hill.  Keep pushing–forever and ever.

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Poking around Winners on Labour Day morning, picking up a few pieces to update the professional wardrobe. After three years of working with children in a preschool and gymnastics club, it’s been a lot of stretchy pants and loose layers.  With a new job ahead of me, it’s time for a few fresh touches to the ole closet. I haven’t really had any kind of post-weight loss Pretty Woman shopping montage moments. Mostly I’m shopping in my own closet, wearing items that have been collecting dust on the lowest shelf. Now, that they all fit, I’m really getting a sense of just how long it’s been since I wore them–one pair of jeans that had a whiskering effect  made it very clear that it was not to be matched with this year’s ankle boots.

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Interestingly enough, despite all the life-changing results- I still head straight to the plus sizes in the store. It’s like driving to your old house after you move across town. Taking clothes that are way too big to the change room or dismissing something as too small and it fitting perfectly.  Or the irrational fear of gaining aaaaall the weight back after eating too much bread or skipping exercise for one day.  Ultimately, it’s my brain catching up with my body amid breaking long standing habits, exorcising past pains, and discovering whiskered jeans buried deep in the closet.  I wonder if I would suit ankle boots after all? An option worth exploring I suppose–important to question everything.  It’s the eternal adjustment to the reflection’s metamorphic alteration. Forever seeking the perfect fit, when expectation and reality reconcile with one another once more.

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Images Courtesy of Google etc.

 

 

 

Mazel Tov Cocktail

My friend Sheanna was expressing a need to acquire a few pieces for her wardrobe, but sighed in the same way Sisyphus maybe does when he has to push that god-damn rock up the hill again.  Shopping can be a huge drag, I’ve touched on this subject before–it’s a molotov cocktail of factors: the pictures of tall, thin models wearing the exact clothes you are about to try on, the florescent lighting, and the mirrors, and the change room, my god the change room, might as well call them the “hate yourself” room.  That inevitable moment in the cramped space, staring at yourself in the mirror, under the harsh lighting looking at all your imperfections, those charming cellulite dimples, stretch marks, an unsightly bruise, it’s suddenly all you see.  And why is every time you go shopping, it also happens to be on the same day when you wear mismatched socks or a pair of underwear so big you could tuck it under your bra and make a make-shift one piece bathing suit?  None of this applies to me of course, ’cause my body is fucking amazing.  I actually leave the door open just in case someone wants to sneak a peek at perfection.

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Because I understand the anxiety of shopping, I’m actually quite adept at dressing people.  I offer my assistance, and a shopping date is made.  Sheanna huffs that she wishes she could make her own clothes (she’s learning to sew as we speak).  She expresses a desire for flowing, earthy garments that billowed all around, and would actually look quite good if you were anywhere near a wind machine.

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“So…you want to dress like Stevie Nicks“?

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Oh my goodness, though I was making a joke, we both paused, as if to consider how wonderful life would be if we could just dress like Stevie Nicks, everyday, all the time.

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“We should start our own Stevie Nicks fashion line.  With every outfit purchased, you’d get a free tambourine”

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There could be different lines, the ‘Leather and Lace‘ collection, the ‘Blue Denim‘ collection, we could do a collection for teens called “Edge of Seventeen“.

There would be a hat line for sure, and we’d call it “Stop Dragging My Hat Around”.

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But really, we want clothes that go from day to night.  These are clothes that you can snort copious amount of cocaine with your band in. You could be loving and leaving dudes like Don Henley or Lindsey Buckingham in these looks, and always feel comfortable and fabulous.

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There’s nothing I don’t like about this idea.  Sure, I might feel a little silly in the line up at the bank while wearing a giant, feathered top hat, my tambourine rattling whenever I shift weight on my feet. But at least I won’t feel bad in the change room.  Oh yes, and at our boutique,the ‘Nicks Knacks’, the change rooms are giant spaces with plush furniture, fabulous music and soft lighting.  But you won’t really need them, the items are so loose and flowing, that you can just try them on over your clothes.  And there will be a wind machine.  I’m looking forward to that.

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Me neither Stevie, me neither.

stevie last pictureAll Images Courtesy of Google

Beyond “Annie Hall”

My husband and I watched “Annie Hall” the other night, and I figured that I would follow the movie with a cute little review for the blog.  As Ben tinkered in the next room, preparing dinner–I was reading about the film, and about Diane Keaton and Woody Allen.  I just recently watched an epic two-part film “Woody Allen: A Documentary” on Netflix; it was endlessly fascinating. This is a man who basically writes one screenplay per year.  This is a man who has a lots of neurosis and issues, but writer’s block is not one of them.  Some movies are brilliant, some not as such.  But I don’t think that bothers Allen, he just wants to make movies and be left the hell alone.  As a fledgling writer, I love his attitude.  He is not concerned with reviews or statistics, he just gets a story in his head, and makes the kind of film he wants to see.  Of course, while Netflix has some interesting films, it is also an cinematic hospice-where bad movies come to die.  While you could find a handful of Allen’s recent films…(and I think we can all admit his later years have not been the most fruitful),  “Manhattan”, “Sleeper”, or “Annie Hall” is not available.  In order to revisit these films you have to get in the car and drive to the Movie Mart, pluck the DVD off the shelf, all before getting harassed for late changes accrued over Christmas.

“This is why people don’t rent anymore! This is why these businesses are dying–we drove all the way across town to rent these!” My husband fumes.  Yes, we did drive to the other side of town, and sometimes, it’s hard to make it back in time.  In my world, late fees are a god-damned reality.  Like Marvin Gaye once sang in his classic “Trouble Man” there are three things that’s “for sho, taxes, death and trouble”…but I would have to interrupt Mr Gaye, mid-song, “Don’t forget the late fees Marvin”.

Marvin+Gaye+marvin08Okay…calm down, no need to get upset–it was just a suggestion.  Sheesh.

Once home with our DVD’s–“Forrest Gump“, “This is 40” and “Annie Hall”,  we started with Gump and finished with the Apatow comedy.  And how these movies are almost the exact same length is beyond me–Forrest Gump kept stumbling upon moments in twentieth century American history, so the length is justifiable, but what those whiny sons-o’-bitches are going on about for well over two hours is beyond me.  After those two movies; we decided to save “Annie Hall” for the following night.

Annie Hall titlesAnd so there I am, researching before the film, ‘presearching’ if you will.  Woody Allen and Diane Keaton had been in a romantic relationship, made several movies together, broke up, and then two years later, Allen wrote a film that was steeped in references to their failed partnership.   I love this, I love the idea of friendly ex’s.  “Remember how we dated for all those years, and then things went to shit? Well I’ve written a delightful little screenplay that rehashes the whole thing…oh and could you act it out with me?”

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Though Allen would assert that ‘No, the film is not autobiographical’, Keaton would say that Annie Hall’s idiosyncrasies  were based on her.  Here’s a fun fact for you: Diane Keaton’s real last name is “Hall”, and privately, she goes by the name “Annie”, so you do the math.  (I’m just kidding, no one has to do math here).

As each scene takes place, I am flushed with fond memories for this picture.  I can not even begin to count how many times I have seen “Annie Hall”.  I used to own it on VHS, and nearly wore it out with all the watching, rewinding and rewatching.  This was one of the standard films that would be on in the background when I lived alone for all those years.  Each time I watch it, I find the older I get, the more educated I become, the more the movie reveals itself to me.  This movie is clever, creative, bittersweet, touching and brilliant.  Film critic Roger Ebert said that this film is “just about everyone’s favorite Woody Allen movie”.  It’s simply one of my favorites.

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More than anything, I simply cannot get enough of Diane Keaton in this film, and watching this 35 -year- old film makes me realize how truly timeless her style is.  I want those outfits.  Though I can’t imagine any good could come of me in full out men’s wear, but she does it well; she’s actually wearing her own clothes, which is so fabulous.  Imagine just showing up on set, and shooing away the costume team, that’s okay, I’m going to go ahead and start a fashion craze if you don’t mind.  This is also a woman who collected her Oscar for this very film looking like this:

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She’s also wearing two skirts, cigarette pants, socks and strappy heels in this ensemble.  If I wore this I’d look like a crazy hobo, she does it and it looks so quirky and effortless. Like why wouldn’t you wear all those layers to the Oscars? Why not skip the ball gown and hit up a blazer instead?

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As I’m reading about these topics, my research branches out beyond “Annie Hall”, and onto Keaton’s romances with Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, her eating disorder, and other films she did in her early years.  My interest peaked over “Looking for Mr Goodbar”, a film made in the same year as “Annie Hall”.

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I read the book in my early twenties and was properly traumatized; the book follows a popular young teacher who hangs out at dingy bars with a good book and a pack of cigarettes, sipping wine and keeping an eye out for sketchy men to bring home for one-night-stands.  The book ends with her rape and murder.  Like…the last line of the book is the last thought in her head.  I then watched the film, (because I’m a glutton for punishment) and it was equally disturbing. The film ends in the pretty much the same way, but of course, the visual is always harder to bear.  A very young Richard Gere is (unintentionally) funny as a spastic street hustler, and Keaton is lovely but ultimately doomed.  I had always imagined that this movie was thought up as some kind of cautionary tale for young single women, but I discovered that it was based on the real life murder of Roseann Quinn.  The story follows the case closely.  This special-needs schoolteacher, in the midst of her masters for teaching the deaf,  lived this secretive double life, and sought her kicks with rough and dangerous men that she found in dive bars.  Her ending is brutal and horrible, and I’m not going to get into it here; but suffice it to say, the exact moment I am reading the sentence with the words ‘vagina’ and ‘candle’, my husband thrusts a spaghetti sauce covered spoon in my face.  I jerk my head back, as if waking up from a nightmare.  Ben is smiling, and trying to entice me into tasting his slow-cooking sauce.

“This is not the right time”, I tell him.

His smile drops, “Just try it”.

“Trust me, I’d rather not follow what I just read with that red, red sauce”.

Ben puts the spoon down, and I tell him about poor Roseann Quinn and ‘Looking for Mr Goodbar”.  When the shock passes, settled in with a delicious pasta meal and “Annie Hall”, I think to myself–“This is how I like my Diane Keaton, safe and sound, and wrapped up in all those layers.

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Fat Elvis Blues

Boy oh boy do I not have it in me to write today.  It’s been a two-job-day, with a meeting in between, and now it is after dinner–butter chicken and red wine, and I’m warm and cozy…but I’ll persevere…for the next minute and a half.  Wore my chic new black dress today to work…of course, I always imagine how good an outfit would look on Kate Middleton, and then feel undoubtedly disappointed that it doesn’t have the same effect on me.  Feeling almost relieved that the weather is still cool.  I like the layers.  I’ll miss the layers.  Winter time, with all its comfort food, inactivity and booze has left me feeling a bit like Fat Elvis, and I’m just not sure I’d suit the sparky jumpsuit.

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The hot new looks in springtime fashion is Leather! Mint! Floral! Funky Pants!  You do not want to see me in ‘funky pants’…nor do you want to see me in shorts.  Especially those itty-bitty numbers you are seeing a lot of these days.  And that ain’t me babe…I’m like Diane Keaton, I like to be well-covered…happy in a turtleneck in the middle of a heat wave.

Image   I love black–I’m with Nora Ephron and Morticia Addams on this one…I have so much black in my closet, I’m like an Italian widow.  Though I’ve never been one to turn down a pattern or a frock, my standard day to day attire is: black, grey, jeans, leggings and scarves.  I don’t even wear jewelry, just plain gold hoops and my wedding band, and a watch that I wear on occasion.  I used to be such a flashy broad, now I like to keep it simple, easy, classic.

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Summertime is approaching and soon I will be wrenched from my layers.  This means more cardio and less carbs, and that all sounds very unpleasant.  But I have a plan.  I’m going to single-handedly bring back the 1920’s bathing suit.

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But then again, I’m not getting any younger, I really should “make an effort”.  Maybe I’ll start with three half-hearted jumping jacks, maybe a little jog around the block…tomorrow…or next week…as soon as I have finished this enormous loaf of bread.

Grave Digging to Hips Swinging

My work days are long and taxing, but the consolation is that my mind can occasionally wander without affecting the tasks at hand.  My mind is a loom, weaving a tapestry of crazy thoughts and pop culture references…I really should invent a machine that transcribes my thoughts into print, so when I come home after a long day–it’s all there, ready to be edited–or shit, while I’m out there inventing mind-reading machines, why not get this bitch to edit?  Cut through all the nonsensical imaginings which, believe me, there is an abundance.  But in reality, my husband just bought me a new cell phone and I’m totally intimidated by it.  So…I’m not really the inventing type.  And I really wish I could be, I am  looking for that ‘dare to be great’ situation.  I remember this childhood scrap book with space created for each school year.  At the bottom of the page where you put your yearly photo was a checklist–‘what I want to be when I grow up’: “Nurse” “Stewardess” “Actress”, check, check, check.  Why not?  To think of it now, the crippling indecisiveness of wanting to do ‘everything’ has lead to a whole lot of studying, traveling, and waitressing.  (PS, why does spell check have to hate-on the word waitressing? It’s a word dammit! I’ve lived it!)

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I was discussing this with Robin, a former professor, now dear friend.  I had just read a slew of Nora Ephron books, and felt mildly annoyed at her idea of her ‘before-success’ job, which was writing for the Post in New York City, which followed a Wellesley education, and a brief intern position at the White House for the Kennedy Administration.  Not too shabs indeed.  Robin says, “Well, she’s not going to write about the crappy jobs”, she’s going to skip that”.  “Well I won’t skip that”, straightening indignantly, “I will talk almost exclusively about all the degrading, low paying jobs I’ve had, because people need to know just how long that road can be”.  My shoulders slump slightly: “That’s if…you know, anything fabulous ever comes of me”, I think.  Hmm, what a dreadful thought.

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But anecdotes about Ephron’s early days as a journalist is not what I, the unpaid writer, wants to hear, I want to hear three things about life: that people can immigrate to their spouses’ country’s with ease, that women can have healthy children late into their thirties and that extremely successful people suffered before they found their niche.  I want Brad Pitt in the fast food chicken suit, before the rambling Chanel # 5 ads and the fifty children he acquired with Angelina Jolie. I want Madonna at Dunkin Donuts, before the Gollum arms and as many fashion incarnations as Brad Pitt has kids. I want Channing Tatum as a struggling stripper because…who wouldn’t be into that?

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And my personal favorite, tied with Whoopi Goldberg as a beautician in a mortuary, was Rod Stewart as a grave digger. Come on! How do you not feel better about your station in life after hearing that? Imagine Stewart, shovel in hand, feeling the indignity of such a shitty job…do you think he thought to himself: “One day, I’m going to have a string of gorgeous wives and make a ton of cash, be a easy listening radio staple and have children well into my seventies…and my hair will always be awesome”.  Probably not…he probably did it because he needed the work, needed the cash, and couldn’t see the bright lights of his super sexy future.  Take these thoughts as if they are a cozy blanket and wrap that around yourself.  It too could happen to you.  But it better happen to me first because I need to hire someone to teach me how to use my fancy new phone.

Jerry-Hall-Norman-ParkinsonImages Courtesy of Google