Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sex, Hooch, and Boardwalk Empire

I just started watching Boardwalk Empire, so I know I'm super-late to the party when it comes to realizing the genius of this show.

So, this show has been lauded for being sexy and dirty and violent.

It's all of that. The men swear and kill and beat. They work real jobs where they use their hands instead of talking on the phone and appeasing customers.

The sex isn't some ethereal, romanticized period piece Cinemax smut. This is hipbone to hipbone awkward, sticky sex. It's sex that leaves a room smelling like mushrooms and fish.

This isn't the F. Scott Fitzgerald's '20s. This isn't the roaring '20s. This is the growling, pissing, rolling in death '20s. This is the era that makes you want to fuck when you haven't showered in a week and there's alcohol burning out of your pores.

We have this image of men (and women) in our history being harder, almost sociopathic when compared to today's standards. Fights, death, and survival were much closer at hand than they are in our modern lives. Slowly, then all at once, we gentrified.

We sanded off our rough spots with cable television, followed by internet, with even more internet after that, with a side of internet. We're introspective (without development, often) and avoid conflict. We've all learned the language of customer service, stand-up comedy, and social media. We're all experts at marketing, and almost no one knows how to butcher their own meat or build a house. Instead of doing something useful, we've convinced ourselves that the only jobs worth doing are the ones that let us sit on our buts.

I don't pine for a simpler time. I want my times complicated, messy. I do pine for a time when people lived in their bodies instead of their heads. I pine for doing instead of thinking or talking.

Is this the evolution of our species?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What to Wear to an Interview When You're Fat

So, inspired from this XOJane article, I decided to do a how-to of interview do's and don'ts for the plus-sized corporate maven.
I spent most of my adult life working for large corporations, and mostly rebelling against the standard uniforms. It took years of not being taken seriously and turn-downs for positions to finally get me to give in and play the game. Granted, I'm retired from it at the moment, but that doesn't mean I didn't become an expert toward the end.
The biggest obstacle for corporate wear - especially interviewing - is how big I am. The typical fashion advice didn't work for me. I had a hard enough time finding clothes - let alone tailored clothes! - that would actually fit me. Tuck my shirt in? There's no way I'm going to look like a lollipop for your amusement!
Once I started getting the hang of dressing myself and mastering the politics, I was given the task of managing a development program for our employees. 
One of the classes in that program was about interviewing. We had an amazing expert-interviewer come in to demystify the interview process as well as discussing what to wear.
The speaker had great standard advice - keep it simple, tailored, blah blah blah - but once again, the world seemed to be oblivious to the fact that fat people can't just follow the simple rules that the thin-privileged put in place.
Multiple times, I had larger women coming to me after these classes asking for advice on what they could, "Get away with," wearing for their interviews (don't get me started on why we have to get away with clothing our bodies!).
Fat women already have a harder time landing a position. Time, as well as many other sources, have studied the effect of obesity on employment. The thin have a number of automatic assumptions about fat people - we're lazy, disorganized, unhealthy, unable to handle day-to-day stress without a steady supply of chocolate - whatever! We have to work way harder to overcome our coworkers' and managers' innate biases, and interviewing can be much more important to us as a way of proving our ability to fit the position we want, regardless of preconceived notions. The last thing a fat person needs is to have their ensemble disqualify them before they have a chance to be heard.
So, here are a list of typical interview outfit rules, and adaptations for the pudgy. Please remember that these are just from my experience, and in a corporate environment. For those interviewing in a more creative or relaxed field, alter appropriately.
1. Wear a dark-colored suit
This is the hardest one to work with for a plus-sized lady. Without the aid of a tailor, suits don't work for most of us. A fat lady is not just a thin woman scaled up! Our bodies distribute fat in such different ways. For example, I have the fattest arms ever! If a jacket fits my body, it still won't fit my arms. If it fits my arms, it will hang off my body.
If you can wear a suit as a fat woman, more power to you. If not, then go for a dark dress or a pair of nice, crisp slacks/below-knee-length fitted skirt and a dress shirt.

This top by Lane Bryant is understated and professional.
This skirt by Old Navy (shock!) is also a good choice.

You can also pair a nice cardigan (plain, no frills, clean lines!) or scarf with any of the above to help complete the outfit. Three pieces is automatically a little more pulled together.

2. Tuck in your shirt

Only you can decide if it works for your body and comfort level. Tucking in my shirt makes me look like a beach ball, but not all plus-sized ladies are created equal. If it's more flattering and creates a longer line, leave it untucked. Just make sure the hem isn't dropping and you've ironed it.

I like to keep it simple and go with a dress; then I don't have to make this decision.

3. Wear dark-colored pumps, no higher than a 3 inch heel

You will not catch me in pumps. If the corporate compound is large, you have to walk around in those heels, which causes back and leg aches for me. You also won't catch me in oxfords, athletic shoes, or sandals.

If you can wear pumps, awesome. Wear those heels. If not, then go with some plain, dark-colored flats.

4. Keep jewelry simple

This isn't size specific, but it's a good one to remember. Wear no more than one accent item - be it jewelry, a scarf, or a handbag. An interview isn't the time to look like a Macy's float, but one accent item can help them remember you - especially if they're interviewing a lot of candidates.

"I really liked that one girl... The one with the red scarf."

5. If you question whether you should wear it, don't

Again, not size specific. When in doubt, don't wear it out.

Here are the don'ts:

1. Don't wear anything too revealing

This should be a standard for anyone, but especially a larger person. It's not OK, but some people just aren't comfortable with a larger person's body. Once you're hired, you can challenge the status quo. You can't make them rethink things if you aren't around, though.

2. Make sure your clothing fits properly and is comfortable

Nothing says nervous like fidgeting. Your potential employer doesn't know you're putzing around because your pants are cutting off circulation to your feet, and not because you're trying to think of an answer about how you promoted diversity in your previous positions.

3. Don't wear anything faded, pilling, with holes, dropped hems, or just worn out

Don't wear a favorite pair of pants or shirt in the hopes they don't notice the oil stain that's only visible in certain light. It's an interview; they'll notice. This is, like, the only time it's completely socially acceptable to scrutinize someone else.

Basically, your clothing shouldn't speak for you in an interview. It should be an empty canvas, and your resume, personality, and answers should be the main event. Don't give the hiring manager an excuse to turn you away before you've even painted a picture.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Second Act

I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do with my for-real adulthood.

The job I have now is what I spent my pretend adulthood working toward: calculated steps and moving with a drive like a teenager playing chicken, unwilling to pull away before the other person does. Everything was a competition, and I was definitely not a loser. In my struggle to not be defeated, I still haven't won.

I've somehow become a corporate leader who specializes in career development. I've helped people figure out what they want to do with their lives and how to get there, been a trusted mentor and supervisor, and become a master manipulator.

And I hate it. It started creeping up like shower mold. Just a corner at first, but eventually you're embarrassed to let anyone use your bathroom and can't believe you actually try to get clean in that filth.

I realized I hated how much of my life was spent working toward someone else's goals in an industry I didn't believe in, so I changed jobs; the new one let me work fewer hours and got me out of privatized banking. It was OK for a while. The only problem was I still hated the standardized coaching and punishment/reward system that infantilized everyone involved in it. I hated thinking of what the company needed, as if it were a sentient being whose well-being was in my hands.

Things have come to a head. I'm done with my job and just biding time until I can escape, for real. My dear husband is working on getting some training so we're not relying primarily on my job, which will give me the freedom to take a risk.

I have no idea where to go or what to do. You'd think I could figure this out, considering that's what I do for other people - but I'm a blank. Follow your passion? Do what you're good at? The only thing I know I'm good at is this - what I've spent my twenties and early thirties building myself into. I'm a corporate machine, and I want to break out of my metal shell.

I can make my life in this business world last a while longer; I could get a different position like training or projects or something - something that gets me out of management. Ultimately, though... I need an actual exit strategy.

What am I good at? What am I passionate about? What should I work toward being when I finish growing up?

Crush - With Black Eyeliner

I have a tumultuous relationship with makeup. I've gone through periods where I had to get fully made up to leave my apartment (hello Goth, 2001) as well as spent several years not even wearing it (corporate living, 18 hour days!). However, I've struggled with what actually looked good on me and tended to try to wear whatever and however my friends were.

Nowadays, of course, my on-again/off-again with makeup is in the honeymoon period. I like creating new looks even when I'm sitting in pajamas at home (like yesterday with teal and black eyeliners with a long corner rather than turned up cat-eye that made me feel like a 1960's Barbie - minus the flawless beauty and unrealistically small waist while hanging out on the couch all day with my husband). My biggest beauty vice, of course, is eye makeup - specifically, eye liner. In fact, there are days where that's all the make-up I have on and I feel perfectly made up.

I love a good liner, and they just seem to have gotten better through the years.

When I was a little girl, I'd watch my mother put her makeup on. She'd start with her eyes - blue shadow to match her blue eyes, black liner, mascara, blush, and lipstick. She used a powder liner and licked the brush between dabs in the pot. I thought it was the most disgusting thing ever.

However, unlike my own initial forays into the world of makeup, her liner was smooth, unsmeared, and bold.

Fast forward several years, and several incarnations of eyeliner trials - pencil, twist-up pencil, liquid, marker/pen, cream, and finally (my new favorite) gel.

Just like my mother, I get to sit in front of the mirror and dab my brush in a little pot (me, sans spittle) and feel like a fancy lady with my little glass jar.

Currently, I'm using L'Oreal Infallible Gel Lacquer - 24 Hours. I'm using Blackest Black and Espresso - depending on my color scheme. It's super creamy and smooth. It goes on like a dream. The brush that comes with it, unlike most complimentary brushes, doesn't feel cheap (but, you know, I have better brushes).

And this stuff - it completely lives up to its promise. I slept in it (don't ever sleep in your makeup!!!), and it was still sitting there, right above my eyelashes where it was supposed to be. I'm greasy, and it still didn't migrate or disappear.

The only drawback seems to be it's promise; it doesn't move. If you want to smudge it, you better catch it within a minute (if you don't catch it, use a fine brush and top it with some matching eyeshadow).

While I'm sure higher-end products may have better results (although, I'm not really sure how), and may end up lasting longer in the jar (cream eyeliners tend to dry up in the pot within a few months with lots of product left over - which is what I'm expecting here), but drugstore doesn't always mean crap product, and L'Oreal has a strong record of quality. I feel like it's what my mom used, even though I have no idea why I feel that way - must be their marketing.

Anyway! I haven't completely rebuked other forms. I use a pencil for my blue liner, use liquid when I need bold precision, pens are always easier to handle (though seem to dry quickly), and cream gives you nice smokey eye (and I'm using the dried up brown cream on my brows when I feel like filling them in - my desire for fat brows is a story for another day). However, this gel sort of feels like the culmination of my own eyeliner evolution and what will become part of my makeup routine.

Who knows, maybe someday I'll have a kid who will remember me sitting at my vanity putting my eyeliner on out of a little pot.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Oil Cleansing Adventures for a Greasy Gal

So, while watching Pretty Little Liars on Hulu (don't judge - their false eyelash game is SICK and I can't stop watching until I know who A really is!), I decided to finally try this age-old blahblahblah - it fixes faces - oil cleansing method.

Basically, you take clean oil and rub it into your skin for 15 to 20 minutes. The premise is your skin is greasy because you keep disintegrating the natural oils with cleansers, so your skin is over-producing to fight back. Also, liquid oils cleanse your pores because like dissolves like (as in, like, your pores are filled with oily ick). You want the full story, go here.

I went to my kitchen to assess my oil situation. It was pretty sparse. Butter - nope. If it came from an animal, I'm not smearing it on my face. Plus, it's a solid. That just left olive oil and coconut oil (extra virgin in both cases).

Now, the coconut oil has the same problem butter does, in that it's a solid. However, it has a super-low melting point (basically, body temperature). Also, it's anti-biotic and fungal and has a billion other benefits.

Olive oil is classic. Romans used the oil cleansing method with it before it was even a yuppie-crunchy thing. It's clean, and Sophia Loren swears by using it on, basically, every part of your body to stay youthful-looking.

My solution? Mix them up in the palm of my hand. The coconut oil melted with my hand heat and the olive oil kept it liquid.

I pulled my hair back and schmeared it over my face and started working it in. I worked small circles all over my face for 15ish minutes, until my hands got tired.

Now, my pores are pretty clear on a normal basis because I drink apple cider vinegar and use it as a toner. Even still, I noticed a few plugs of disgustingness plopped out of my face. Gross, but better out than in (hur hur hur!).

Afterward, I got the water in the sink as hot as it would go and wet a wash cloth (always use a clean wash cloth unless you like wiping your body with mildew and bacteria!), laying it over my face until it cooled down (to steam my skin, natch). Then, just wipe, wipe, wipe the excess oil with the wash cloth until you're not slick.

So, here's what I immediately notice - soft skin! Not at all greasy. It was like I'd washed my face and used lotion without leaving a residue. Also, my baby-wrinkles near my eyes are gone. My pores? Smaller.

The next morning, I found my face less oily than usual after a night of sleep. That's right - less oily. No blemishes as a result of the oil. I washed my face with baby shampoo in the shower with an exfoliating facial sponge (BuffPuff's descendant) and moisturized without my apple cider vinegar toner (though, I still drank it, natch). My fine lines are still gone.

I'm going to try it for the rest of the week at night. This may be the best thing that's ever happened to my face since it was placed on my skull.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blue Hair? I Thought You Were In Your Thirties!

When my husband and I first got back together after our first attempt at dating (it's a long story, or a short one - regardless, we've been together ever since), I had pink hair. Lots of it. I'd been dying my hair various colors for years. Hair dye was just part of my life. He remembered pulling red and pink hairs off everything he owned.

Then, I worked at a bank and let it go natural - mostly because upkeep on pink hair sucks, but also because I worked at a bank.

Fast forward a few years, and I'm working at-home with a lot more disposable time. It was time. Jon made the demand.

"I miss your colored hair."

It took me almost a year to commit, but a few months ago I bleached out an ombre, then I covered it in Manic Panic Purple Haze. The first couple of days were great.

And, don't get me wrong - Manic Panic was my go-to color for-ev-er. Ferreal. But, the upkeep necessary was why I stopped dying my hair in the first place. I'm a greasy gal; skipping daily washes aren't an option for me, and spending a night a week in hair-dye-ville wasn't super appealing.

So, for the last couple of months, I've had a normal colored ombre. The purple washed out, and I couldn't be arsed to put it back. I mean, I did a few times, but when my tub of Purple Haze was gone, I chose not to replenish. I thought I was done with colored hair again.

Enter Pacific Rim.

The main character has a wedge-bob with blue peek-a-boos. Of course, that caught my eye (in the midst of the awesome robot-monster fight scenes (they had a fricking robot-sword!!!)).

During the movie, Jonathan said, "That's almost like your hair. You should put blue in."

After my haircut - especially because it was a little too short (which made me self-conscious) - I couldn't think of a reason why not.

At Sally's Beauty website, where I was searching for Manic Panic to find the right shade, it was suggested I look at Ion Color Brilliance Brights. The reviews were great, so I decided to try it. Plus, it was half the price of Manic Panic.

Some things about this brand - it's still considered a semi-permanent, so you need to pre-lighten your hair. Remember that pre-lightened hair still has a color (rust, yellow, whatever) that will mix with whatever color you put over it, so lighten to the correct shade.

I bought the Sky Blue - it's a really intense blue that stains anything it touches very quickly. Just be aware of that. This is some thick stuff. It comes in a tube (like toothpaste) and can be kind of hard to work through your hair. I used an old (clean) toothbrush.

Because it's a semi-permanent dye (which doesn't use developer), it's fine to leave on for hours (I like to wear my shower cap when I do this; it's classy!). However, I found 1 hour enough in most cases.

So, I started with some of the hair at the bottom, just to see how things went. I'd platinum'd it up already. I also had a tiny bit of ombre left at the ends, so I put some in there, too. The dye did not drip.

Two or so hours later, BAM! blue. But not enough, according to Mr. Sample.

So, I bleached out some more the next day (during work - I just took a couple of breaks for rinsing) and put some more blue in.

The second parts I bleached out had varying degrees of tone added. I have a strip on top and some in the middle. The one on top turned out the least toned, so it has some yellow left.

A note on the blue - I had some blue on the ends of my hair during bleaching. The bleach did not remove the blue. I have dark hair, so I know it wasn't wimpy bleach. Instead, this is some hardcore hair paint.

Everything is BLUE (not everything - highlights (low-lights? chunks)), and it's not fading. Granted, it's only been a few days - but it's had three hair washings in hot, hot water with clarifying shampoo (I don't play).

The streak near the top is more of a teal, but that's because of the yellowish hair below the dye. And I like that it looks sort of like seaweed through the rest of the dark hair. The rest are different shades of true blue. I'm actually pretty happy with my hair.

My coworkers and boss saw it on a conference the other day and complimented it. Score one for cool coworkers.

If this has even half the upkeep of Manic Panic, I'll keep it for a while (reviews say it does).

At least until I get bored. Then, maybe I'll see what the other colors of Ion are like.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My Hair Is Too Short

I finally did it. I cut my hair. Typical bob with bangs. The hairdresser was great - she asked a lot of questions to find out my hair goal (it's a thing) and made me really comfortable the entire time.

I wanted the ombre off my stupid head.

But it's slightly shorter than chin length! I feel like an ugly child with a bowl cut.

Then, I added a couple of blue peek-a-boos on the bottom (btw, Ion Brilliants is AWESOME for bold. I'll update on how well it lasts when we get there, but they have great reviews), but they're not really visible unless I pull my hair back WHICH I CAN'T DO.

I'm being a stupid baby, whining about my hair. Short hair grows.

Dammit if I'm not just going to add more blue until it looks purposely messed up.

I'm getting too old for this shit.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I'm Beautiful on the Inside - and That's Not a Platitude

Life has taken a bit of a hectic turn. My work expectations have increased, my brain got turned inside-out (my fault, and nothing I'll talk about in a public forum), and my post-work hours are filled with relaxing in a way I haven't needed them to in over a year.

But that's not what this post is about.

My name is Trudy Jane Smock-Sample, and I'm a hard person to like. It doesn't have to be that way; I can fix it. Put others' needs before my own and don't make anyone take care of you.

This is a mantra that went through my brain over and over again when I was in a very weak mental state. Brain-washing myself.

And, it's alright. It was good to do this. I needed to banish the last of my youthful cruelty from myself.

When I was younger, I acted like a nice person. I did nice things, and said the right things. However, I wasn't actually kind. I was a selfish asshole who thought only about myself.

I spent years and years selfishly searching for something to make me feel good, taking more than my share, and obsessing over whether and how other people were thinking about me.

I don't know when it started waning. Over the last few years I've felt less manic need. I've felt more true empathy for others.

I'm still nice, but now I know why I should be nice. I see the consequences of my actions and hate the idea of hurting someone. I don't want anyone to be in pain, and find myself more able to see how other people are feeling. More than not wanting to hurt people, I want to help them. I see the things they allow to happen to them or are doing to themselves and want to prevent it.

I went from being a self-serving sociopath to being an empathetic, kind person. I finally started liking who I was, because I was someone worth liking.

We constantly hear people talk about how they hate themselves. Of course they hate themselves; they're probably somewhat hate-able. But so is everyone until they change - and they probably will change. Time wears away at our edges so we stop cutting each other when we bump other people.

I dreaded getting older for most of my life. I hated the idea of being thirty and was certain I'd die before I got there. Now, I'm thirty-four. I've just learned how to be human.