Friday, December 31, 2010

You Can Be Sexy at Any Size or Age!

"You Can Be Sexy at Any Size or Age!" by Nancy Hayssen with Jacquelyn Quinonez.

Nancy Hayssen is a plus-size model and pilot.  She has a website, looksexynow.com.  The back cover of the book says she's "now inspiring women worldwide to defy the media standards of beauty and is redefining sexiness for the everyday woman."

I can't decide whether this book should be "thrown with great force" in the words of the immortal Dorothy Parker, or just shrugged off as the "insane ramblings of a crazy woman" in the words of Kristina Hebner Akbar (not yet immortal, but she's working on it).

I guess if feminism hadn't gotten to me early and brainwashed me into thinking that I don't need a man to find fulfillment in life, and that finding a man is not my life's goal, I would find this book palatable.  I wasn't really offended by the book's conflicted premise, because I viewed it as being symptomatic of a schism in the author's psyche induced by her years modeling and representing a certain version of "femininity" or femaleness to the public at large.  As such, she puts forward that view in her book.

Whereas there are some positive statements made in this book, the author mitigates them by her other statements.  You're perfect just the way you are, she says, but she also recommends shaving every day, getting bikini waxes and Brazilian waxes, going down on your boyfriend to keep him happy, wearing false eyelashes, high heels and wearing thongs and dyeing your hair.  So be yourself, you're perfect as you are, so long as you sacrifice your comfort, pride, and natural beauty.

If you're a grown woman and you're doing these things because, well, you've thought about it and that's what you decided you want to do, that's fine, but from the cartoon picture on the cover and the presentation of the book, it's marketing is designed to cater to young women, and I just think it sends the wrong message.  It kind of reminds me of an ex-friend who was trying to sell me on the idea that porn was empowering and respectful of women.  I'm sure there's erotica out there that is empowering and respectful towards women, but I'm also pretty sure it's rare, and not what my friend had in mind.

I think women deserve better.  I think it's possible to be "sexy at any size or age" without selling yourself short or giving away your power or right to be comfortable.  And I will continue my search until I unearth such fashion advice!

This book will be given away.  It is not a keeper.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Introduction

I have to thank safetycomfort and my friend on LiveJournal, fibrowitch, for their advice regarding blogging and giving me the courage to go ahead and get this thing started.

I'd been thinking of doing reviews for the various style, beauty, fashion and interior decorating/design and organization books I read, since I'm now retired and need something to keep me occupied and connected to the world.  I need a reason to get out of bed, organize myself and my home and do something during the day.

A little background about me:  I have a work history going back to the age of 14, when I was a musician.  I played violin professionally.  I had some mental health issues, and that came to an end.  So I got training as an office worker, and did that for 20 years.  I worked in the fashion industry, and at The Strand Bookstore in NYC.  I worked as an administrative assistant in an accounting firm and in my last job, I was a peer advocate at a psychiatric center, serving the outpatient population.  In some ways, that was the most rewarding and the most difficult job, in terms of emotional demands.  I helped other people who have a diagnosis of a mental illness.  My diagnosis is bipolar disorder.  I think sometimes this gives me a unique outlook on life, but everybody has some challenge or challenges that they have to cope with in life, or something that makes them unique.

Anyway, as a peer advocate, I learned that everybody needs something to make them feel good, whether it's a compliment, or emotional support, or food when they're hungry, and something that makes me feel good is helping other people and taking care of myself.  Sometimes it's hard to get those two things going together!  We sometimes get so busy helping others that we forget to take care of ourselves.  Some of the ways I like to take care of myself (and sometimes it's hard) are keeping up with my Activities of Daily Living, or what other folks might call pampering:  showering or bathing, grooming and attending to matters of hygiene, whether it's a full-on beauty treatment (salt scrub, home facial, hair conditioning, shaving - the works!) or just a quick shower, brushing the teeth and making sure my hair is done and I smell good before leaving the house.

I really appreciate this stuff at this point in my life because I just went through a really difficult phase in my life, where I didn't have enough money to attend to basic needs like doing the laundry, buying hygiene items (friends helped me out), having enough food to eat and I certainly didn't have any money to buy clothes or get my hair cut, nails done or eyebrows threaded.  Needless to say, I was not looking my best.  Family and friends helped me out, and when I got money, I paid them back, and I'm grateful to them, but really, this is not a situation I want to be in again, nor would I wish it on anyone.  However, it did make me appreciate and value different things in life that I don't think I fully appreciated before:  Friends and family, the importance of a good support system and little things, like being able to buy good quality toothpaste and floss, not to mention new clothes (new bras!  New pants, just in time for the cold weather!) and my favorite material thing:  Books!  Well, one of my favorite material things.  The other would be chocolate, of course.  I learned I need some things to have a good life:  I need books to read (not that I'm likely to run out soon), food to eat, music to listen to, enough money to pay the bills, and ... style.  Even though I was low on funds, I would manage to buy a magazine once in a while:  Real Simple, People Stylewatch, Storage, and I have a subscription to Weight Watchers Magazine, which has some really good articles on style, fashion and beauty, especially for those of us who weigh a bit more, or are in the process of losing weight.  They also have great recipes.  Real Simple has wonderful practical advice for all women, People Stylewatch has pictures of celebrities with do's and don'ts and ways to get the looks for less and Storage helps feed my appetite for organization.  But please, don't look for me to be posting pictures of my elegantly appointed apartment anytime soon!  So while I was going through all this period of scarcity, I learned what mattered to me, and one of the most important things was visual stimulation and a sense of order and beauty.  Maybe it was a reaction to being in a really difficult spot, but I found that was important to me and helped keep me going.  So along with friends, family and a good support network, I need a sense of beauty to help keep me sane.