Monday, July 15, 2013

I want you to experience this with me.

I am not the type of person who relishes the idea of going on vacation alone. When I have vacationed alone, I have gone to visit out of town friends. I consider an unshared experience a lesser experience. I prefer to see movies and plays with people so we can talk about it after the lights come up. I like the idea of book clubs so that when I finish, say, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, I have other people who know exactly how wonderful Mindy Kaling is.

And so, my dear readers, I give you the following recommendations with my full heart, hoping that you have already experienced the wonders of these things and can gush with me.

I guess the other thing I should tell you is that I get nervous about watching movies I haven't already seen because my brain works this way: if I don't like it, I will have wasted my time watching it. Some would argue that by rewatching movies a million times I'm wasting my time in a much more despicable way. I counter that at least I know I will have an enjoyable couple of hours. Potayto Potahto.  Because of this I am usually about 6 months or so behind pop culture. I know I am behind on Looper but now it's all I can talk about. Absolutely well done, fun, exciting, awesome. Have you seen Looper? Let's email about it and talk about time travel and how improbable it is that Bruce Willis is still a stone cold fox.

Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula by Lindsay Hunter
Go read this now. Just go. It's so so so wonderful. Did you finish reading it? Okay, let's go get some iced tea and talk about writers who make you hold your breath and how sometimes a short little snapshot of a piece can make you feel like sunlight is pouring out of your fingertips.

I've been pushing this fairly inexpensive red wine on friends ever since my friend Candace (who lives a double life as a wine snob and a pin up goddess) recommended it to me for my 30th birthday. Now I'm pushing it on you. The label is pretty, the wine is tasty, the price is right. Do you want to have some wine?  I'll be there. Just let me know. We can talk about Looper and how I never recognize Emily Blunt in any movie ever.

Water with fruit in it
Dudes. My roommate makes raspberry lime water. It's heaven. And pink. Pink heaven. I die. Want to come over and hang out with me and Liz and drink water? She's a delightful person and I will try to make you laugh.

Okay, now it's your turn to sell me on something you love and want to talk about. Go!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Short Lists of Literary Characters


Anne Shirley
She's the best. She's a writer with a stubborn will. She has the best best friend in the world. She has the awesomest adoptive parents. She never ever apologizes for dreaming. She makes her dreams come true. She's smart as hell. And then there's the whole Gilbert Blythe wonderfulness.

Jo March
Smart, talented, progressive, true to herself even if it means turning down the oh-so-wonderful Christian Bale Laurie. She's the coolest of the March sisters and got a sweet bob haircut before it was hip.

Minerva McGonagall
Head Bitch In Charge. The epitome of stoic affection.

Francie Nolan
Has anyone ever enjoyed a bag of peppermint candies more than Francie Nolan? Has anyone ever been as truthful about her own life? She made me want to read only Shakespeare and the Bible, which is saying something.

Daisy Buchanan
Just because I thought it would be ever so romantic to entrance someone to such a degree. Also, think of the clothes!

Buddy Glass
The entire family's favorite brother. Super smart, extremely wise, makes a wicked Tom Collins.

Dinah The Christmas Whore
So very much her own person and not a bit apologetic.


Clarissa Dalloway
As bad as I feel that she had not the option to be with Sally, go fuck yourself for being all holier than thou for picking up your own flowers for a party. I'm sorry you married the wrong guy.

Amy March
Oh my god, Amy March. She's the WORST. What kind of a woman marries the dude her sister turned down?! And this is AFTER she threw Jo's manuscript in the fire.

Mrs. Bennet
I know it's kind of the point, but she's the most meddlesome creature this side of Rachel Lynde. Every single thing she says makes me roll my eyes. And I just cannot figure out how Elizabeth could possibly be the least dear of all her children. I mean, Lydia exists.

Fucking Lydia Bennet
Fucking Lydia. THE WORST.

Dolores Umbridge
All I need is one "hem hem" and I'm in the AngerDome.

Holden Caulfield
Goddamn phony. Seriously, everything this kid does irritates me.

Shut up, Hamlet.


Mark Darcy
He's aloof, sure, but he's also amaaaaazing.

Sirius Black

Jo March
One of those want to be her/ want to be with her type things. Very confusing when I was 12. Also, I tend to be more and more confused with each reading (and as I get older) how Jo March was strictly dickly. Because, no.

Gilbert Blythe
The gold standard.

Christopher Robin
When I was 7 I was convinced I was in love with Christopher Robin. He's a pretty awesome guy.

Matilda Wormwood
Another early favorite. I thought for sure my soulmate was anyone who felt like I did about reading.

Let me be quite clear about the last two here: I was in love with these CHILDREN when I was myself a CHILD. Nothing untoward happening here.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Important Facts About Coloring Your Own Hair

My dear readers, I love to dye my hair. I love the slight burning tingling sensation on my scalp. I love the distinctive smell of the dye. I love to spend a full 10 minutes choosing between 3 boxes of pretty much exactly the same shade of red. I love to use the deep conditioner after I've rinsed out the dye. I'm being completely serious here - I love it.

Since I have been dying my hair for a million years (approximately), I thought I would impart some of the wisdom I've gained. Ready? Great, because this is ACTUAL ADVICE. But quick, important note: I pretty much only have experience coloring white girl hair and dying it darker. Please be advised, I am only an expert about my own head.

Choosing Hair Color

* Brands are important and differ from hair type to hair type in effectiveness. You might have to experiment a little to find what works for you. My baby fine hair loves Garnier Nutrisse and Feria. My roommate's baby fine hair loves ColorSilk. Play around. There are a TON of options.

* COUPONS. Look for coupons. Hair color can get pricey.

* Really look at the color on the box. Many boxes will have some sort of grid that shows what happens when you apply that color on brunette or blonde hair. It's not terribly accurate or helpful but it's a start.

* Remember that it will most definitely fade. That means that if you end up with a color you don't like, give it a week because it might settle into something you DO like.

* Really look at the color on the box, part 2. If you want to dye your hair black, make sure you know the difference between jet black and blue black. Turns out, blue black might dye your hair dark indigo if you have light hair. Just ask my friend Mike whose hair I once accidentally dyed dark indigo. Sorry, Mike.

* A word about dying your hair black: this is a commitment. It's like the unforgivable curses, you have to MEAN IT. Because I am here to tell you that if you get sick of your hair being dyed black, you only have two options: let it grow out or buzz your head. Once, when my dyed black hair was in the process of growing out, I decided I had had ENOUGH so I dyed it red. I thought that probably the red would meld with the black and I'd have a black cherry effect. Very wrong. The dye only took on my roots, so I looked like I was bleeding from the scalp.

* But! If you really hate it? Just dye it again something closer to your natural color. CAVEAT: If you have gone darker or redder than your natural blonde, you might not actually want to do this because you might end up with hair the color of processed cheese product.

* I'd give it three days before dying it for the second time, if you can handle the wait. And if you DO dye it twice in a short amount of time, get a really good deep conditioner and apply that every day for a week. Aussie makes a super nice 3 minute remedy.

* Look, sometimes you're going to use the same box, same brand, same color and it's going to come out slightly differently. That's just how it goes.

Prepping for Application

* Have a clear workspace/sink/counter.

* If you're doing your own, have a mirror available in addition to the bathroom mirror.

* Dress for success. I wash my hair dye out in the shower (nope, doesn't dye your body when you wash it out), but you can also rinse in a sink or in the tub if you have a tub. If you are planning to get in the shower, wear clothes that you don't mind ruining that can come off in a way that does not go over your head. I have dyed my hair shirtless before, but that's just asking for dye stains on your boobs.

* Before you even mix the ingredients together, apply vaseline or conditioner to your forehead, ears, behind the ears, just below your hairline all around. This helps keep the dye from staining your face, which it definitely will. Vaseline works best but I understand that it's a concern for people with oily skin to put petroleum jelly on their face. Conditioner works too.

* Don't use the conditioner that comes in the box to prep your face. That is precious and you need every bit of it.

* Have long hair? Have a plastic claw clip ready so you don't have to worry about the wet dyed hair flying into your face while you let it set.

* Follow the directions on how to mix the ingredients. Even if you've done this a hundred times, you never know - something might be different.

* So you're shaking up the bottle of stuff to get the color activated. Definitely shake away from your face. Also, I like to discard the first little spurt out of the bottle because it is never fully mixed.

And Then You Dye Your Hair

* Make sure all of your hair is saturated.

* Use your double mirrors to make sure you got the nape of your neck completely without also dying your entire neck and back.

* The clock starts as soon as you are finished, not as soon as you start.

* Once the dye is on and the clock has started go ahead and secure long hair on top of your head with that claw clip.

* Absolutely as soon as you have started the clock, take off those gloves and get rid of them. NOW take a cotton ball or similar, put some shampoo on it and clean up your face, neck, ears, etc. This is the time to wipe the vaseline or conditioner off your face. If you see some dye starting to stain your skin, scrub away with the shampoo.

But It's So Boring!

* UGH. Now you have to wait 25 minutes until you can do anything. You can't lean against anything because you have a head full of paint, and you can't do anything interesting because you have a head full of paint.

* Make a cup of tea or a pour a glass of wine.

* Since you HAVE to sit still for 25 minutes, now is a great time to paint your nails.

* Also, maybe pluck your eyebrows.

* Or watch an episode of Strangers With Candy.

* Or be like me and multi-task with a nose strip and nail polish.

and a muumuu without a bra

Let's Wash It Out!

* Rinse completely. For real, this is going to take way longer than you think.

* Slather as much of that glorious conditioner on your head as you can and leave it on as long as you can.

* Rinse the conditioner completely. 

* Make sure you clean up any dye splotches or spills as soon as possible, especially from tile. 

* If you dye your hair red and rinse it in the shower, it may or may not look like the end of Fatal Attraction in there when you're done. Be nice and rinse it off.

Congratulations! It's the new you!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Better Living Through Scarves

My dear readers, I had an amazing idea yesterday morning while getting ready for work. I put on a dress I usually wear with one of my many belts, but I really didn't feel like wearing the belt I usually wear. (This is because said belt necessitates a pair of shoes that are a bit annoying to wear.) So I decided to see what the dress would look like with a polka dot scarf I own.*

It looked better than normal AND I didn't have to endure the entire work day adjusting my belly fat above and below the belt while sitting at my desk. Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about.

That got me thinking about my closet and how I could re-imagine parts of my wardrobe. I'm a little bored with my clothes, to be honest, but I'm in a place where I don't want to buy new clothes. And I really don't want to go clothes shopping because it is THE WORST. I love shopping for other people but going shopping for myself is the most boring, annoying thing I'm "supposed" to like.

So anyway, I'm giving myself a couple of hours this weekend to go through my closet and try things out in different ways. Maybe I'll see what that pink dress looks like with my combat boots. Maybe I'll try out my Janet Livermore dress with some sandals and jewelry instead of the black tights and boots I always wear. I'll let you know how it goes.

* A quick word about scarves - I love scarves. I love big winter scarves and I love to use scarves as belts. I have never been able to make a jaunty scarf around the neck work for me, though. I have friends who pull this off beautifully, but I always just sort of look like I'm hiding a hickie. In fact, if you see me with a scarf around my neck, I probably AM trying to hide a hickie.

Best scarf-wearer of all time?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ways to Deal with Stress

I think leftover expectations from my school years coupled with the fact that, generally speaking, theatre seasons are Fall through late Spring have combined to make me always expect Summer to be easy-breezy. Vacations, day drinking, picnics and barbeques, flitting about like a woman who laughs alone with salad - I just sort of want to do nothing in the Summer months. But I'm here to tell you that this is not the case. For starters, my day career kicks into extremely high gear round about the middle of June and pummels away at my patience and tolerance until September. For enders, I think we all want to cram as many fun things into each Summer as possible, making every free moment an opportunity to "enjoy the weather."**

What I'm trying to tell you is that I'm a bit of a ball of stress. Not to mention I've been trying to avoid/deal with some low-grade depression, which makes all of this a lot more fun.

Mental Health America's first question to determine whether you are stressed or not is "Do you find yourself 'eating emotionally': eating unhealthy foods or eating when you’re not hungry, as a response to stress or difficult feelings?" I figured I was in deep trouble when my first thought was, "Is there another way to respond???"

So I looked up a few tips on "dealing with stress" and they are, well, kind of hilarious. Spoiler Alert: absolutely none of them recommend soothing oneself with pizza. Damn it. Here are some highlights:

from Mental Health America:
Connect with others
Stay positive
Get physically active
Help others
Get enough sleep
Create joy and satisfaction
Eat well
Take care of your spirit
Deal better with hard times
Get professional help if you need it

from WikiHow:
Work your body out
Get enough sleep
Eat properly
Learn to relax

from American Heart Association:
Count to 10 before you speak.
Take three to five deep breaths.
Walk away from the stressful situation, and say you'll handle it later.
Go for a walk.
Don't be afraid to say "I'm sorry" if you make a mistake.
Set your watch five to 10 minutes ahead to avoid the stress of being late.
Break down big problems into smaller parts. For example, answer one letter or phone call per day, instead of dealing with everything at once.
Drive in the slow lane or avoid busy roads to help you stay calm while driving.
Smell a rose, hug a loved one or smile at your neighbor.

OKAY. So some of these are helpful (breaking problems into smaller parts, sleep, eat actual food, go for a walk) but some of these are TOTAL BULLSHIT. Learn to relax?! Oh thank you, I will do that immediately. Take care of your spirit? What even! Smell a rose!? SHUT UP. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, and I used to regularly listen to morning shows on rock stations. I decided to make my own list of tried and true methods that I will be rolling out on the regular. Buckle up.

* Actually, yes, eat actual food that has vitamins and nutrients in it. You will feel better AND if you're eating kale or something like that you can feel all smug and fancy. All the better.

* Actually, yes, go to the gym or take a yoga class or zumba or something that will make you not just sit in front of the couch until you run out of episodes of Sherlock. You can use Sherlock as a motivator, as in  "After I do 20 mins of cardio, I am totally going to watch Sherlock." You guys have seen Sherlock, right? It's a wonderful motivator.

* Actually, yes, sleep. Sleep is good. I don't have a lot of time for people who think sleep is for the weak. I used to be one of those people. To my 22 year old self I say: Self, you are an idiot. Get more sleep. Your skin will look better.

* Two words: Dance. Party. This is the best stress buster I know. It can be a dance class, a night out at some club or something, an impromptu kitchen dance party with some friends, or an all-out, balls-to-the-wall, sweaty-as-you-can-be solo dance party in your room with the door closed. The advantage to the solo dance party is that no one will judge you when you bust out some Backstreet Boys. And maybe know all the moves. And maybe pretend you are a Backstreet Boy. It's fine. No one will know.

* There is a time and a place for this one, but one of the best stress relief techniques I know is, ahem, la petite mort. Helpful AND fun.

* Maybe this has to do with "taking care of your spirit" but I feel very strongly that little things that make you happy are worth the extra bit of time. Nothing makes me happier than looking down and seeing my nails nicely shaped and painted a pretty color. It takes me about 20 minutes to make this happen. It's worth it. (My nails are currently painted a color called "Mint." I had them painted this color for a date a few months ago and the dude I was out with commented in a disparaging way about 30 year old women wearing "teenage nail polish." I held out my hand and said, "Like this, you mean?" You should have seen his "OH CRAP" face. Still not sure if  the "OH CRAP" face was because he no longer wished to be seen with me or because he thought that was going to ruin his chance with me. The rest of his personality was so awful, the nail polish judgment was but a blip.)

* Fantasize about something nice. Whether that means trolling the real estate listings in Paris, or looking up the statistical possibilities of actually meeting and talking to Gloria Steinem, or planning what you would do with three million dollars... just do that for a few minutes. It sucks to come back to reality but it's nice to think about your alternate life where Michelle Obama calls you to see if you think she should grow out her bangs. (Eh, maybe?)

* When all of that fails, just keep this photo handy and know that you'll be okay.

** Not that Philadelphia has had weather to enjoy lately, unless you are like Shirley Manson and are only happy when it rains. PS you guys  - where did Shirley Manson go? I never mastered eyeliner quite the way she did.