Autumn Has Finally Arrived!

I love autumn. It’s my favorite season. And even this year, when it is more stressful than any before, I am able to enjoy some of it. I love that the air gets crisp and the days get shorter. The artificial extra hour of sleep that comes with the end of Daylight Savings Time seems to benefit me for weeks. Twilight is full of jewel tones.

But the best part of autumn is the music. Well, there’s no widely accepted autumn sound, but I have my own. I like to listen to my favorites from Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, and Johnny Hartman. And among those, my favorite timely songs are … you guessed it: Billie’s rendition of “Autumn in New York” and Johnny singing “Autumn Serenade.”

Always Pleasant Little Things

When I’m feeling down, I turn to one or more of my always pleasant little things — stuff I can do or experience or get that cheers me up a bit. I’d like to share some of them with you.

  1. The perfectly scented new bar of soap, body butter, body spray, etc.
  2. A pair of fluffy socks for walking around the house
  3. A cashmere sweater that I got on sale
  4. Leisurely sit-down bath
  5. Listening to Billie Holiday while driving on an autumn afternoon
  6. Nail polish that doesn’t chip for five days and the free time to aply it
  7. The sound of rain rustling the leaves
  8. Looking at my closet after organizing the clothes by color
  9. Taking off my bra at the end of a long day
  10. True autumn and spring weather — neither cold nor hot
  11. Cheesecake Factory strawberry shortcake
  12. Young plants peeking out of the ground in spring
  13. Sliding into freshly changed linens after a warm shower
  14. Exfoliating gloves
  15. Moisturizing gloves
  16. The perfect-enough pair of jeans 
  17. Snuggling down under the covers when I’m really sleepy and don’t have to get up early the next morning
  18. The first four and a half minutes of Keith Jarrett’s “Solara March”
  19. Peeping out the window at my first car
  20. Almost anything consisting primarily of peanut butter

In the Land of the Unmarked Case

Cosmetics and beauty retailer, Ulta, is promoting a sweepstakes for which the grand prize is a $1,000 Ulta shopping spree.  Okay.  That’s fine.  But the tagline for this promotion is “The world of beauty is evolving.”  Okay.  That’s fine … or is it?  The tagline sounds so inclusive, so multicultural, so accepting of multiple conceptions of beauty.  In theory, at least.

But, in practice, not so much. 

The main promotional feature is a brief retrospective on styles from the 1920s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (obviously, ain’t nothing chic about the Great Depression), complemented by contemporary photographs of models with their hair and makeup styled to represent each decade.  I’d like to share them with you.

This first decade highlights what I find reprehensible about the entire layout: the assumption that white looks were and are the most important, and that women of color (be they African American or any other nationality, ethnicity, or race other than white American) mattered only as second thoughts and only during rare periods.  “Ghostly pale skin” not only does not work as a description for women of color, but it also excludes immigrant and second generation women of the period — from places such as Eastern and Southern Europe and the Far East.

“Skin was powdered and pink”?!  Whose skin was powdered and pink?  Does this look a pink woman to you?

Once, again, the assertion of pale skin as the marker of a decade’s beauty ideal excludes the most women.

Well, in any decade, I love my bronze skin.  Maybe that’s what they mean … right?  Nah.

I wasn’t blond in the 1990s.  And it wasn’t just because I was in my teens. 

So, apparently we are finally allowed to accept our face shapes, skin tones, and hair textures.  Thank goodness for progress, for this magnificent evolution of beauty. 

And thank you, Ulta, for once again proving that white privilege is deeply and horribly engrained in the American social landscape.

Tell me: am I off base?

I was having dessert at The Cheesecake Factory tonight and I couldn’t help but notice young dating couples.  They were everywhere, but that wasn’t the strange thing.  The thing was that the young women were all dressed up: hair styled fresh for the evening, full makeup, dresses and skirts clearly designated for going out.  Even if they didn’t seem completely comfortable doing up, they had tried hard to dress for what they felt was a very sophisticated evening out.  The men, however, looked like they were going to a backyard barbecue. 

Since when are khaki shorts proper attire for a date?  I don’t care if you’re wearing a button-up shirt (apparently unironed, at that).  There’s not a single thing dressy about shorts.  Or khakis, for that matter. 

The thing about it that bugged me the most was that the difference in women’s and men’s dress seemed in every situation to speak to an imbalance in their perceptions of the relationship.  Maybe I’m reading too much into attire, but it seems too widespread now not to mean anything.  Are the majority of women simply more involved in the relationship than men?  Do men no longer think their appearance matters?  (It would be really sad if the generally held belief is that men are just fine as they come while women are not. )

Maybe I’m wrong and men’s clothing standards have just changed.   If they have, dammit, they ought to change back!  Someone, please give me hope that there are sharply dressed men out there who will be as willing as I to show some well-dressed enthusiasm!

By the way, can you tell that I love love love a man who puts some thought into his attire?

“The Good ‘Ask'” from Lizzie Post

In tonight’s web crawling, I came across this bit of dating etiquette from Lizzie Post’s book, How Do You Work This Life Thing?  I’ve just excerpted a portion, but you can see the entire piece of advice at http://www.emilypost.com/lifething/tips/asking_out.htm.  Hopefully this will be helpful for all the still-singles out there.  We are a rare and wonderful breed!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Good “Ask”

A good “ask” would go something like this:

Tom: “Hi, Elise. How’s it going?”
Elise: “I’m great. How ’bout you?”
Tom: “I’m good, too. Listen, I was wondering if you’d like to go to dinner at that new Thai restaurant on Saturday. I know you’ve been wanting to try it ever since it opened.”

Regardless of whether Elise says yes or no, Tom has just executed a terrific ask. In two sentences, showing both consideration and confidence, he’s suggested a date and a place and indicated that he had considered Elise’s interests and tastes. Whether they’re just friends or he’s asking her out on a first date or they’ve been dating for some time, he did it right.

If the ask results in a “Yeah, sure,” this is the time to establish where and when you’re going to meet. Later, after Tom makes the dinner reservation, he’ll need to call Elise back and fill her in on other details, such as appropriate attire and whether he plans to take her to a movie or some other entertainment before or after dinner. (Tom can also send her the details by email, but a phone call is more personal—and isn’t that what dating is all about? Besides, with email, if the other person doesn’t check his or her in-box frequently, your message could go unread for some time.)

by Lizzie Post from emilypost.com

The Battle to Keep Skinny Pants Alive

I hear conflicting reports on whether skinny pants have enough life left in them to make it through Fall 2007, but the majority of sources seem to be making room in their hearts and closets for both wide-leg and skinny pants.  Personally, it’s a no-brainer.  I am not built for skinny pants.  But neither are a lot of people who wear them.

And this is where I’m torn, actually.  I’m all for wearing what you like and going with trends, if you so desire.  But I am also a staunch advocate of dressing for your body type – regardless of the whims of fashion.  So, should we pull the plug on skinny pants or continue to revive them simply because a fairly large portion of the American female pant-wearing population has embraced them and insists that it feels good in them? 

Okay, I’m sounding very judgmental about the skinny pants, and I don’t mean to. I should confess that I own some (boot cut, not tapered).  And I’m looking for some more to wear this fall with some short dresses I got over the summer (preferably boot cut, not tapered) and a fantastic tunic that I’ve had for about a year but never worn.  But I honestly don’t think I would wear them without something good and long over them.  (My legs would look like short inverted triangles, no matter how long the pants or how high the heels!)

I don’t know what the point of this post is, really … I want to be open to these pants.  I really do. 

Umm … So, let’s celebrate the life of skinny pants!  You can decide for yourself whether it’s a funeral or a birthday party, but let’s celebrate them!  Do you have any skinny pant stories you’d like to share?  Post them below!

Gray Days and Today’s Soundtrack

Saturdays are sometimes a drag. I always feel like I should be doing something other than whatever I happen to be doing. If I’m doing schoolwork, I want to be playing Hamlet; if I’m out window shopping, I think I should be in doing housework.

But today was not bad at all. And, although my day didn’t really have any kind of direction, I felt I was just where I needed to be, doing what I needed to do. I spent the morning in bed, reading and drifting in and out of sleep. Sweet. Then I got up around noon and by 1:30 or so I was out shopping for Muffy’s Mother’s Day present (and found a good one). The rest of the day I spent just doing whatever came up: going to the grocery store, going over a few exercises with Hamlet, washing dishes.

The best – albeit briefest – part of the day was spent sitting on the sofa looking at the gray day through the french doors. I love gray days. Overcast days have a certain visual quietness that makes sunny days feel harsh. Don’t get me wrong: sunshine is just splendid. But it seems to intrude on my thoughts. When the sun shines, I can go outside, bask in it, frolic under dogwood trees heavy with blossoms, blah blah blah; but I can’t really hear myself think. On a cloudy day, I can be anywhere, even in a huge crowd, and still hear myself. So I guess clouds help me know who I am. Go figure.

If I like an overcast day, I love a rainy night. what I really love is when it rains hard enough to hear inside my apartment. Tonight is just such a night, and I’m looking forward to falling asleep to the pitter pat outside my window.

So, what music do I like with my gray days? It varies. Today I’ve been listening to some favorites by Marisa Monte, Maria Rita, Mylene, Bebel Gilberto, and Ceu. The thing I like about all of their singing is that I can listen intently to every note or let them drift into the background, which is something I can’t say about a whole lot of vocalists. My favorite on this particular gray day? Marisa Monte’s “Universo ao meu Redor” (“Universe around Me”). Check this:

Graças a Deus um passarinho
vem me acompanhar cantando bem baixinho

e eu já não me sinto só

tão só, tão só
com o universo ao meu redor

(Thank God a little bird
accompanies me singing low
and I no longer feel alone
so alone, so alone
with the universe around me)

Don’t you just love that?