Guilty Free

Whenever someone says that something is their “guilty pleasure”, I always ask why they feel guilty about it. If someone takes pleasure in killing animals or setting fires, then yes you probably should feel guilty about that, but if you’re talking about a tv show or song then save your guilt for shit that matters.

These guilty pleasures are usually things derided by society en masse, so it’s a “I should know better” kind of vibe. Like reality television or manufactured pop music, someone can acknowledge that it’s not “high concept” or “high art” and still enjoy it – but feels compelled to feel guilty about it. I know I shouldn’t, but I do! Don’t judge me as I would judge you if the roles were reversed. Why do we do this? Is it simply fear of what others might think, or is it because someone is not able to admit it to themselves for it might go against how they perceive themselves?

If a person, for example, loves rock music and defines themselves as a ‘rock music lover’ then they might describe their love for a Britney Spears song as a ‘guilty pleasure’. Is this because they want to downplay a sincere love for something in their peer group as to not lose respect, or is it because they are so narrowly defining themselves as a ‘rock music lover’ that to admit to themselves they like a pop song would mean potential soul searching?

As one of these reasons is external (appearances to others) and the other is internal (definition of self) then it might be worth looking at how the person presents this so-called guilty pleasure to themselves or how emphatically they might defend it. Do they begrudgingly like it against their better judgement, or embrace it as their ‘failing’? If the former, then maybe we need to question how we are judging things and if the latter then what else is counted among their character flaws.

Perhaps it is not as simple as one or the other but a tangled mess of how society is structured, tribalism, and classism. People are reluctant to venture beyond their self- or world- defined groups and express a passion in a vulnerable way for fear of retribution. This sounds like a dramatic reason behind calling “Real Housewives” your favourite show, but stop and think of what you believed the consequences would be if you did. Potentially, depending on your group, there is a risk of social shunning, being perceived as low-class or low-educated, or admitting to yourself that maybe you weren’t the person you thought you were. I’ve found people don’t like tugging on threads that would lead them down a path of self-evaluation, because there is a fear of what might be found.

I am probably only comfortable yanking on these threads because I’ve been unraveled several times during my brutal therapy sessions. There is enough guilt to go around without using it up on what’s on your playlist, and the world can be so horrible we shouldn’t downplay our pleasures. So fucking embrace what you love, love the person you are who loves it, and let yourself be happy.
There will always be something bigger to feel guilty about, so maybe enjoy what you can.

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Beauty Edition

There are a lot of “cult faves” and hyped products in the beauty world, and while sometimes you can be disappointed there are times when it actually does deserve all the praise. Of course, people are different and just because I love a product doesn’t mean it will work for you in the same way. This is just my personal list of makeup or beauty products that I will cry real tears if they ever get discontinued.

Beauty Essentials-2

 

  1. NYX is perhaps my favourite ‘drugstore’ brand because it’s got a great variety, is good quality, and very affordable. I love many of their products but their lip liner is fantastic, and you can usually find a corresponding lipstick to match. I mention it in particular as they have a shade that matches my natural lip colour per-fect-ly and makes it so I can fill in the scar on my upper lip so nobody can notice.
  2. As a natural blonde, I am well versed in mascara because if you don’t darken those natural blonde lashes people will ask you if you’re feeling faint. If it’s better than sex for real is up to you, but it’s better than any other mascara I’ve tried. The formula is quite thick so definitely one to stick in your bra or waistband to warm up before applying!
  3. Rihanna is not only out there being a talented, funny, sexy, sharp force of nature but she’s also out there bringing us beauty products. Her super inclusive line is friendly to us who lurk on the far ends of the spectrum – light or dark – and actually gets that all undertones are not created equal. My pale AF olive-undertone skin adores it. (Shout out to the Kat Von D line too, which was the first brand that I know of to cater to us Eastern Europeans).
  4. Eye crayons are fantastic because I’m lazy, but finding them that don’t have a sparkle to them is oddly hard. Sometimes I don’t want my eyes to glitter, and Julep (which I found on Amazon) understands that. The Putty shade is the perfect shade for smoothing my eyelids for a nude look.
  5. Oribe (which is pronounced “or-bay” apparently) smells like heaven and all the products of theirs that I’ve tried have been brilliant. This texturizing spray is the shit, and one of the few things that makes my fine hair look thicker and interesting.
  6. The packaging initially made me think it might be a bit gimmicky, and while I haven’t tried the makeup products (except the blur stick) I have found their skin products to be very good. I love the Matcha Toner for easy and smooth application, and how it hydrates my skin really effectively without clogging it up.
  7. Yeah, Glossier has a lot of fans so this recommendation is hardly groundbreaking. I love this moisturizer because it’s so thick and luxurious, applies really well and has a neutral scent.
  8. I get this from my dermatologist, so it’s the only thing on this list that isn’t easy to pick up although it’s not a prescribed product so it’s not hard to get either. SPF is important and this is a light formula that wears very well. It’s not scented and absorbs quickly. There is also a tinted version which I am rather eager to try out!

There were many other products I wanted to include, but wanted to keep the list streamlined for brevity! Sephora blotting papers, The Ordinary Retinols, Guerlain Pearls, La Labo Soap, Oribe Brightening Shampoo + Conditioner, Burts Bees Lipbalm, Lipstick Queen Hello Sailor, and the list goes on!

What are your beauty and makeup essentials?

Style Chameleon: Society Sorcerer

It’s a tea party at Miss Havisham’s manor and you’re all invited. Unpack your fingerless lace gloves, costume jewelry, and best ruffles because the dress code is your best gothic finery. It’s girlie and dark, a tinge of the Elegant Goth Lolita Harajuku look but more understated and wearable. Don’t shy away from jewels or hats, and more is more when it comes to tulle and lace.

Society Sorcerer

There’s a fine line between girl and woman, which the Society Sorcerer look tiptoes along. A debutante in her mother’s art deco finery, heirloom pieces and ruffles. I love the idea of a coven having a debutante ball, with innocent silhouettes in rich fabrics and gems. Look to Helena Bonham Carter, Vivienne Westwood, and Art Deco for inspiration – even some Tim Burton movies have that fancy darkness to them (especially Corpse Bride!) and even some old fairy tales too.

Nodding Blandly

Nostalgia is being peddled as currency, and no generation seems to be immune. Whether it’s the Boomers waxing poetic about a time that wasn’t really that great, or the 90s getting a reboot in the form of movies and fashion – we are all being sold a polished up memory.

As one of the kids born in the 80s, I am part of the generation to graduate into a recession and have Buzzfeed try to lure me with listicles of candy and television shows I should terribly miss. While I certainly share common experiences with those my age, there are some glaringly disjointed experiences I don’t share having grown up poor (by American standards) in another country.

Nodding blandly has become my go-to state when the conversation turns to reminiscing.  It tends to be the case that Americans think if something existed here, it existed everywhere but I can assure you that it is far from true. In all fairness, without having Sky or cable TV as a kid meant I was a little out of the loop in general because of the 4 channels our small TV (that was black and white until I was 6) received, none of them were MTV or Nickelodeon.

Due to the delay in pop culture reaching our shores, I found I had more common touch points with the Americans born 7-10 years before me so I often find myself straddling two generations in a peculiar manner. I don’t resent the American-centric nostalgia I’m sold because this is America and what else would I expect? Generations are generalizations, and I wouldn’t want to be put into a box in any case.

I just want to let other expats and foreign-born America-dwellers to know you are not alone. When a song comes on at a 80s/90s night and you have no idea what it is because despite the whoops around you, it had no success beyond the US: you are not alone. I’ve been there and I know how awkward as fuck it feels. Nod blandly unless you want to hear “oh my god don’t you know this?!” or “but this was such a big hit here!” or “come on, are you sure?”. When the talk turns to actors who were on that totally popular kids show, nod blandly because trust me you don’t really care and the explanation will just open a can of worms to more things you don’t need to know about.

Sometimes it’s worth asking about, because it can explain how and why things are the way they are. However, most of the time it is best to nod blandly and just look it up on the internet later. Nostalgia is a big emotional trigger and it is often easier to look it up without invoking a passionately intense explanation from someone which can sometimes leave you feeling stupid or vaguely unwelcome for asking.

Nod blandly now. Internet later.

Oh, make me over

Browse any drugstore and you will find several eyeshadow palettes that are curated specifically for an eye colour. This one will make your blue eyes pop! This one will bring out the rich tones in your brown eyes! You get the gist.

As someone who likes to take all the help she can get with makeup, I would always give these a once over and search for a palette dedicated to making my grey eyes… be the best grey they can be. However, never have I ever found one. I’ve seen several ones for green eyes which I thought were rarer than grey eyes, and the ones for blue eyes do not translate to grey. Are grey eyes not as common as I thought? Is there a secret vendetta against those of us with cloud-hued peepers? What do you want grey eyes to do in terms of popping or enriching?

Since the jury is still out on that secret vendetta, I decided to do some research and put together some colors that are either scientifically sound via a colour wheel, or are shades that I – a person with grey eyes – have had success with. Grey has so many shades, it was hard to try and encompass them all, so get ready for some trial and error. For what it’s worth, the shade of my eyes is dark grey but they do have the grey-specific ability to look different shades when I wear certain colors or during diverse weather.

gray eyes

The general consensus and advice from beauty and design blogs was as follows:

  1. Purples, blues and greens will bring out the blue tint to your grey eyes.
  2. Warm browns and peaches will highlight any flecks of hazel if you have any (I don’t, sadly. That sounds like a lovely combination!)
  3. Greys and smokey hues are also a winner so go and get that smokey eye! In my experience if you use a grey hue similar to your eye shade, it helps to have a bold eyeliner look to divide them up a bit.
  4. If you want a neutral shadow, but still want to emphasize a tint then use colored eyeliner. I love how just doing your bottom waterline with a tight green line can work wonders on grey eyes.
  5. If you have paler grey eyes, avoid red or pinks.
  6. Your ability to pull off bright shades is not affected by your eye colour but rather your skin tone. I shall leave you to discover what works there!

Of course, this all is nothing compared to needing foundation and skin makeup to be inclusive so I am happy to wait. Especially since I can create my own now! If only foundation shades were so easy and readily available!

Style Chameleon: Barbie Barbiturate

Barbie Barbiturate is not here to glamorize drug addiction like its inspiration source of Valley of the Dolls, but rather give a sad and tragic counterpart to the perky pinup look. 

A retro 60s housewife bored with life and tranquilized to hell, but her cat eye makeup is still flawless. She’s the kind of woman who can cry without ruining her makeup, and she does not ‘ugly cry’ but instead looks benignly tragic. 

You do not (and should not) develop a drug habit to emulate this look, but we shouldn’t ignore the missteps of the past by pretending that oppressing and overmedicating women didn’t happen. Doctors are trained to believe we are exaggerating our symptoms and need to be calmed from hysteria, which is tragic enough without you developing a habit. Lana del Rey, someone who embodies this style so well, medicates with weed and that is a much better alternative. 

Barbie

Tease your hair up high (pun intended) and setting spray is integral. Feminine clothes, layered to perfection but probably not quite in keeping with the season. Accessories are a distraction, and you can ignore Coco Chanel and let them overwhelm you. Costume jewelry because you’re acting your way through a sad life – are you a Neely or an Anne? – and don’t forget your signature scent. Something classic like Shamilar, perhaps? Wear sunglasses and a big hat to avoid the sunlight, and lots of silk to drown in. 

It seems too gauche to cite or show inspirations from the long list of women who died from barbiturate overdoses, but I recommend you learn about who they are and what led them down that path. Instead, watch Valley of the Dolls (or read the book because it’s better!) and lust after everything the gorgeous Sharon Tate wears. Watch Lana del Rey music videos, and channel any woman who made the mistake of falling in love with Don Draper on Mad Men because that’s her. 

“Just hair”

I’m not sure where my hair is in that supposed 7-year cycle, but I can only hope the next 7 bring better luck. Did I break a mirror or maybe piss of the Follicle Gods? I am sure most people have a ‘grass is always greener’ relationship with their hair. Wishing it were thicker, longer, darker, lighter, straighter, curlier, whatever, from what they already have. As with many of our other insecurities, it’s very probable that our hair worries are just not noticed by other people (who are also respectively fretting about their hair). Oh, it’s “just hair”! Just a silly thing only women preoccupy themselves with, right?

Maybe it’s more than that tho.

Society tells us that the ideal is that thick, shiny hair that can be pulled into a big messy bun, preferably blonde but immaculate highlights will do. If spending hours of time and money on your hair is something you want to do, then I will support you, but I can’t get on board with a society practically forcing women into treatments, bleaching, relaxing, and the nagging feeling the hair we were born with isn’t good enough. Is this us overly worrying about our ‘do’ or multimillion dollar industry dedicated to controlling the bodies of women?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the changes I want for my hair are decisions made by me or the culture I live in. Do I want thicker hair because I feel my fine hair is inadequate, or because I personally want more volume?
Yes, I would make my hair naturally thicker and longer if I could. I would give a wave to my strands that hang as straight as if I use a straightener. I freely admit to having emotional breakdowns when my hair just refuses to cooperate with what I want to do.

Hair is a self-expression, so it’s pretty important to work out why you want the hair you do. Nobody else should have a say in how you do your hair, and we should be free from the hair-related stereotypes (there are quite a lot when you stop to think about it!) to decide too. There is more toxicity surrounding hair than just sulphates, and we should be less quick to buy into past ideas or blindly follow what we’re told are beauty norms.

We should talk more about how pregnancy, illness or addiction can alter your hair forever but that it’s ok. We should talk more about how touching hair that does not belong to you is not ok – and why it’s not bloody ok. Some people will never be able to achieve that shiny, ‘rich girl’ hair but that it’s ok. It should be a generally accepted rule that “is that your own hair?” is always answered with “yes” because it’s either their own hair or hair they own. Instagram and Pinterest are not always real – there is a lot of Photoshop and wigs out there masquerading as hair that is attainable without such aids. If you have to wash your hair every day, then don’t let the blogs make you feel bad about it. If you only have to wash it once every fortnight, then that’s cool too. Some hair does not belong to you, and you need to respect that. The hair style someone has may not have been chosen by them (due to illness or abuse, for example). It is worth saying again: do not ask to touch or touch without asking unless that person is paying you to touch their hair. 

It’s your hair, and whether you’re male or female shouldn’t matter in what you decide to do with it. How it is styled should not affect how people view or treat you. It’s all very well to say these things, but we need to start individually following through. How many times do you make guesses about a person because of their hair? Maybe more than you think.

I can’t change the world, society at large, or the hair industry, but I can change myself. I can question why I hate my hair, and what influences my opinion to your hair. I can try to challenge stereotypes or assumptions when I see them being made. We all have bad hair days, but maybe we will have less of them when we challenge why we think it’s bad.

 

Style Mood: Swamp Witch / Romantic Witchcraft

Did you watch American Horror Story: Coven? Witches, Stevie Nicks, New Orleans, and voodoo are all obsessions for me, so squish them together and I am on board. The glam and impossibly talented Jessica Lange made goth look chic, with Stevie Nicks and Misty Day on board to bring some floating scarves to the mix too. In my mind, this is a classic look that never goes out of style!

romantic witchcraft

Like Glitter Trash, it’s harder for me to incorporate this type of lewk into my workwear. The most I can really get away with is a chiffon shawl or wearing all black (which was much more subtly in NYC compared to LA!).

You don’t need to be a witch or practice witchcraft to embrace either of these styles. As with most looks that are a bit ‘extra’, they do tend to work best when not worn as a costume. This isn’t Halloween, and I don’t recommend wearing a witchy-inspired outfit if you aren’t partially into the lifestyle. Nobody likes a poser.

swampwitch

That said, I think witchy women (and men!) are some of the most welcoming people out there, so do not feel daunted about going down that path. Each culture has their own slightly different take on witches, so why not do some investigating around if you’re interested? The witches and druids of the UK, the witch doctors of the Caribbean, the witches and their familiars of Eastern Europe, the voodoo witches of Haiti, (to name a few) all deserve individual attention if you’re intrigued!

Floaty shawls, burn out velvet, lace, headpieces, black, dark hues, ribbons, layers, dramatic swishes, pointy toe shoes, layered jewelry, inspired by nature (like spanish moss, thorns, storm clouds), unique pieces, natural materials, animal inspired jewelry (to represent your familiar!). Who are your style icons? Marie Laveau, Baba Yaga, Mortia Adams, Stevie Nicks, AHS: Coven, The Craft (obvs).

Please respect the culture, and do not treat this like a costume.

 

DIY Heaven

There is a common theme to articles about saving money: do shit yourself instead of paying others to do it when you can. Now, I am not suggesting you start cutting your own hair or doing your own dental work, but there are definitely things we can do to ease back on the reliance on others and start saving cash.

Manicures
It surprised me that getting your nails done was not classed as a luxury here. Coming from a country where nail salons aren’t as prevalent, having a manicure was a special occasion type of thing. If you have a special event or want something intricate, by all means go to a salon, but learning how to paint your own nails for the times in-between is a no-brainer. I loved nail polish as a kid so I’ve had many years of practice to get a professional result from my DIY efforts, and there is no reason you can’t either. Drug store brands like essie and OPI are affordable and used by salons, and you can even get the gel versions if you want. Practice makes perfect, and it’s a rather relaxing thing to do!

Coffee
It still boggles my mind that people consider daily trips to Starbucks as necessity. I understand that caffeine is a necessity, but c’mon y’all. Make it at home! Starbucks sells its coffee from stores and supermarkets for you to get the same taste in your travel mug, and you can also help cut down on disposable cups an straws. Start slow by going every other day and go from there.

Cooking
Ordering takeout is tempting, but it really adds up. We all know the advice to make a big batch of something and eat throughout the week, but this can get boring. Freezing some of your leftovers is a good alternative to quick meals that you haven’t been eating all week. It’s quick to defrost, and healthier too!

What are your DIY tricks and tips?