Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Is time on my side?

It's a well known fact that I have time on my hands. Yes, for the first time in my life I have endless stretches of unaccounted for seconds, minutes and even hours. (I certainly hope none of my editors are reading this or they'll know what's truly at the root of my missed deadlines.) But by virtue of the fact that freelance writing allows for very flexible hours, I can do things like meet friends for lunch, sit by the pool or take a long afternoon run without compromising my job.

But apparently I'm not dedicating enough of my free time to my skincare regime. The lovely folks at Dermalogica recently invited me to a media event where we were given a personalized step-by-step beauty routine. It was very informative and opened me up to a few new offerings from Dermalogica, which is a brand I really love and believe in. It even taught me, a seasoned beauty vet, a new few tricks. But like a best friend on the road to her wedding day, it simply demands too much of my free time. To follow the Dermalogica philosophy, I would be expected to: pre-cleanse, cleanse, exfoliate, tone, moisturize, re-moisturize with SPF and apply eye cream. And do it all over again at night.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm very religious with my skincare, just like I am with flossing. It's very important to me that I continue to be carded at the liquor store, asked what grade I'm going into, when my mommy will be home, where the Hello Kitty section is or barring any of those, hit on by men six to ten years my junior. In short, I don't wanna look old. But tacking an extra ten minutes onto my pre- and post-bed skincare routine? Oh sure, now that I've written it down, "ten minutes" hardly seems unreasonable. Kind of like when I was a youngster in Catholic school being admonished for not attending church every week. Once my teacher pointed out that at the end of the day, "God is really only asking for one hour out of my week" for some good ol' worshipping, it seemed perfectly doable to me. But I still never went to church.

The good news, dear reader(s), is that I've matured since then and I've started to incorporate some of the Dermalogica steps into my daily skincare routine. For one thing, I'm using a special night cream and a whitening solution and a weekly facial mask. I'm exfoliating every other day and being really careful to make sure there's SPF on my face at all times. The flip side is I've also become even more obsessed with looking for wrinkles and pulling my skin back from my temples and tapping the underneath of my chin with the back of my hand. I am, in essence, acting out the same scene that thirtysomething women have been acting out on screen since the dawn of talkies. I'm one of them now.

So I no longer look at those extra ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes at night as cutting into my busy schedule of lunching, lounging and writing. If anything, they're buying me even more time.

Monday, 20 July 2009

So SATC I am not!

I think it's time to clear the air. I'm not really a girl. Although anatomically-speaking I have all the correct software and I do enjoy many girl-related activities like acquiring pretty and expensive accessories, going to the ballet and judging people solely based on their footwear, I'm not what one would deem a girly-girl. For one thing I'm not that keen on pink, I do not have a dizzying puffy white fantasy about my wedding day that I've been clinging to since I was six and I think Justin Timberlake is a loser. Also, I never refer to my best friend as my "bestie", I don't watch Gossip Girl, I swear like a sailor, my gay friends are not screaming queens and I rarely hold my tongue.

Most importantly, however, I do not enjoy Sex and the City. And I especially hate being told that I am "so Sex and the City." Yes, I lived in New York. Yes, I am a writer. Yes, I have curly hair. And yes, I've been known to recklessly dabble in designer goods. But I am not a cliche of a television show that served only to set women back four decades causing our sisters of the female revolution to sink to their knees and wail for our salvation, and allowed men to engage in "sport fucking" all the while convincing us that we, the women, were in control. No, I refuse to be lumped in with that.

Don't be mistaken, I've seen the show. I've seen the movie. If there is in fact a sequel, I will see that too. Why? 'Cause it's pretty. I watch it for the same reason I watch Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies: the colours are brilliant, the clothing is smart and the men are dashing. But it is neither groundbreaking nor brain teasing. It's eye candy.

I beg of people to stop pigeonholing every female foursome out for an evening that includes martini glasses as "so Sex and the City." A few years ago I was involved in what could have been the makings of a "so Sex and the City" summer. We were four single gals out almost every night, at almost every party and everyone knew who we were. Except there was nothing cute or coy or polished about us. We were, as the now live-in boyfriend of one of us termed, the demolition crew. More Nancy Spungen than Carrie Bradshaw, for sure. Not that we betrayed our vaginal heritage: there were trysts and one-night-stands and post-party gossip sessions and loads of boy talk. But we never once ordered a Cosmpolitan in our Manolos; it was more like Jaggerbombs in our Alexander McQueen Pumas. We were not Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte. We were four girls with lax office hours and lots of party invites.

I should also mention that many years ago, when I was a graduate student at NYU, I interviewed Candace Bushnell, the writer and creator of Sex and the City. I asked her about the individual characters and if she had used pseudonyms for them. I could practically hear her roll her eyes as she told me that every character was an amalgamation of several people she knew or came across in her halcyon days of the lower Manhattan party scene. A few months later, as I was sitting in a Toronto spa getting my hair done, I flipped through a Canadian magazine and found an interview with Ms. Bushnell. The same question was posed and the same vaguely irritated response followed. I closed the magazine and smiled, relieved to learn that even the creator of Carrie Bradshaw is reluctant to pigeonhole anyone as so Sex and the City.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Love me, love my psychic reading

A famous arthropodan-themed band once claimed: All you need is love. Is this true? Hell no. You need food and shelter, a steady income, clean water, indoor plumbing, a solid belief system, morals, principles, faith and if you're me, those brown leather studded Manolo Blahnik sandals that are currently on sale at Holts. Then love. But first familial love and friendship, then romantic love.

I have most of those things, except for the Manolos (but I'm devising a plan!) and the romantic love. (And honestly, even the familial love is spotty depending on the day and where I am in my PMS cycle.) But according to Robin Cleland, the Toronto-based psychic counselor and energy clairvoyant I paid a visit to last week, I have "a lot of friends who really love and care about me." Now I'm sure you're asking yoursel(ves)f, reader(s), why I'm seeking out the services of a psychic. And being the textbook cynic that I am, I understand your confusion. But sometimes when we are struggling for answers and all our other traditional sources have been proded, explored and exhausted, we stretch one tentative arm outside of our comfort zone and try our hand at something completely different albeit unorthodox and maybe even questionable, in our quest for guidance.

That, and it was free (thanks DDB PR!).

It must be said that Mr. Cleland didn't divulge this information about all the love my friends have for me until we had almost reached the end of our 30-minute session. And I gotta say, it was worth going through a half-hour of improbable predictions on my career and love life just to hear that. I'm not saying that I'm writing off everything else he said as bunk, I just have a tendency to take things like this with a big fat grain of coarse Mediterranean Sea salt. I admit we had a couple of no-shit-Sherlock moments, like when he boldly declared: "You are grossly underpaid for what you do." Naturally, I deadpanned, "I didn't need to come to a psychic to know that." But the power of suggestion is a, well, powerful thing. I'd be lying if I said some predictions he shared about my career haven't shaped how I'm approaching things today. He gave me a lot of positive professional reinforcement that is currently acting as the kick in the pants that I needed. Bullshit or not, it's working. As for the love stuff, well, let's just say it's going to take a lot more than visions of a smart guy with intense eyes and lots of emotion for my phone to ring, if you catch my drift.

What we didn't talk about was how much love I have for my friends. And yes, there are a lot of them. I've lived in different cities and I've lived different lives in those cities. And in each case, I've had a cast of pals who have left an indelible mark. They stretch from the Americas to Europe and even Africa, and I love each and every one of them. They are my peeps, always and forever. Or as long as Mr. Cleland says so.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Emperor's Clothes

I scare men. I don't just mean first thing in the morning when my curls look like Medusa's snakes, my eyes look like a boxer's after a fight and my breath can melt plastic. No, I mean all the time. Without fail. Apparently I'm intimidatingly smart (read: ball-bustingly annoying), frighteningly intuitive (a.k.a. judgmental), and fiercely independent (shamelessly selfish). It seems some men are intrigued by these qualities at first but rapidly come to realize I'm too much of a pain in the ass to put up with. Oh well, nuts to them.

Obviously they have no idea what it means to deal with a difficult character. Which is why I think all men should be made to watch Valentino The Last Emperor (valentinomovie.com). And ladies, it would behoove you to drag them to it kicking and screaming, if necessary. (I normally don't endorse that sort of conjugal behaviour. I have never, for example, taken a boyfriend shopping with me against his will, forcing him to join the legions of emasculated men who are made to seek out the sporadic chairs strewn about any given department store, handbag in tow and sit for hours as their ladyfriend tries on sixteen different pairs of jeans in sixteen different washes and sixteen different cuts, each time asking "do these make my ass look fat?") Because watching the legendary couturier and all around genius Valentino Garavani in action, chewing out his partner Giancarlo Giammetti and generally causing everyone around him quake in their bespoke boots is sure to make even the most dour woman seem like Little Miss Sunshine.

That said, however, it's magic to watch this man in action. Just like the old belief that it's acceptable for a girl to be bitchy as long as she's really pretty*, Valentino's diva is forgiven once those awe inspiring dresses come down the runway. (*It should be noted that I've only ever heard that belief espoused by my friends in Italy. So, you know, consider the source.) His genius with a ruffle, his eye for a paillette, his intuition with colour is, sadly, something that will die with him. Oh sure, we've all thought this before. Who could ever carry on the legacy of Coco Chanel? No one will ever hold a candle to Hubert de Givenchy. Christian Dior cannot be replaced! And yet those houses carry on, with new and groundbreaking talents at the helm. But couture is a dying art. Or at least the brand of classic couture that makes princesses out of chambermaids is. And if anyone can make a Jackie O out of a hot mess it is Valentino. As Matt Tyrnauer, the movie's director, said to a theatre of fashion lovers last night, Valentino learned his craft in the 1940s from Jean Desses who learned his craft in the 1920s. As this generation starts to take their last bows, a stitch of that authenticity, that art, that passion and that belief that beauty conquers all will unravel and so too will some of the magic.

And ladies, even if all the promises of foot rubs and fellatio can't get you to drag your man to this flick, go alone. Like I said, nuts to them. The Emperor calls the shots.

Friday, 3 July 2009

The last gym to take money from me moved to Florida

Have you ever noticed how one of the key cures to every ailment save for an actual broken limb is exercise? Cancer prevention: exercise. Menstrual cramps: exercise. Headache: exercise. Heart ache: exercise. Depression: exercise. I'm waiting for the day that some maverick doctor — perhaps the same blessed soul who deemed red wine "Good! For! You!" — announces that exercise is not in fact all that and a bag of low cal gluten-free granola.

Of course, I exercise regularly despite my intense disdain for it. Sadly, I was blessed with neither a fast metabolism nor a bird-like appetite. And despite myself, I admit that most days taking a long run along a wooded trail is enough to help me swallow the daily pill of humility that encapsulates unemployment, poverty, singledom and the crushing inability to buy Chloe shoes. I've tried to make myself feel better about working out by trying to look better while working out. But something about the way Stella McCartney for adidas clothes are cut make them only attractive on models and already-toned bodies. Go figure. Besides, I'm not the type who looks sexy when flushed or for whom sweat pools in all the right places. There are those women whose perspiration shows through in the suggestive area between the breasts or on the small of the back. Mine is in the pits.

I've also never understood women who put on makeup before going to the gym. While sure, it's probably the last bastion of meat markets left where you get face-to-face with a potential date without the use of a computer mouse, it just involves too much strategic face blotting once the treadmill starts to get the better of you. Although, and here comes my token embarrassing admission, I would routinely apply undereye concealer and blush before attending my Pilates classes in London. I never thought I would stoop so low, but age is not being kind to me and yes, the ex-footballer Aussie instructors were that hot. And I guess I was kidding myself into thinking that there was something sexy about them coming over to my reformer machine and spreading my legs wide for an inner thigh stretch when in fact it was more likely incredibly awkward for those poor blokes. I suspect most of the Notting Hill clientele, married or otherwise, was doing a lot more than apply makeup in their attempt to bed one of them.

But even as I sit here writing this post in my sloppy running gear, procrastinating hitting the trail, I acknowledge that exercise has cured me, albeit temporarily, from the dark demons that inhabit the back of my mind and from having to go up a size in jeans this season. I've seen my future, my friends, and it is fat. And for that reason alone, I will continue to slug it out on the mean streets of Forest Hill. No matter what the good doctor says.