You find your silhouette and then you celebrate it. It’s all about finding the silhouette you love, that makes you feel good and then, you know, rocking it as much as you can.
Designer Christian Siriano’s No. 1 fashion tip
“But madam, don’t you want any meal?”
I looked up at him, my eyes brimming with tears.
* * *
The tears of a wronged child.
I was nine years old, sitting at a tiny desk in Year Four Ochre. I was just goofing around with Alex Bunton, a sweet nappy-haired boy, at whom I had directed a pair of scissors, opening the blades in what was – to my young and imaginative mind – the perfect recreation of a crocodile.
Out of nowhere, like a tornado on a bright summer’s day, the portly figure of Mrs. Thompson materialised by my side, her voice raised in a teacher’s controlled rage.
“Don’t let me ever see you playing with scissors again, Jay!”
It was like an ice-cold shower on a body still warm from the bed. Like a dagger slicing through an innocently throbbing heart. I had never, ever been reprimanded in class before. Not in my life. I was a model student, diligent and enthusiastic, loving school and adored by teachers, of whom no one ever so much as raised an eyebrow at me. (Well, except for my piano teacher, who screamed her head off at my incompetence at all our private lessons, but she was Russian and emotional and she wasn’t a class teacher so she didn’t count, anyway.)
Not only was I shocked and humiliated. Worse, I felt betrayed.
Because I knew very well that one shouldn’t play with scissors. And I certainly wasn’t playing with scissors! Those things were nowhere near sweet Alex’s face, and in any case, I knew exactly what I was doing and was in full control of the situation.
My tiny nine-year-old chest constricted with pain and an angry heat swept over me. My eyes began to sting, and I realised that I was on the verge of very real – and very embarrassing – tears. Taking the only dignified escape route I could think of, I began pulling off my jumper over my head, hiding my face in it for as long as it took to compose myself, pretending to fumble with it. I emerged much calmed, though rather flushed from the effort and the lack of air inside the jumper, to the somewhat puzzled-looking face of Mrs. Thompson.
(Dear Mrs. Thompson, if you’re reading this, please know that you did the rightest thing. You were concerned about a situation in your class that could have escalated and you needed to prevent similar occurrences in the future. I stand by your actions, 100%. I was a tad sensitive as a child – goodness know I still am – and you were a fine teacher of whom I have very fond memories. Also, you were the first Gwyneth I ever knew, which for me was a bit like knowing Rapunzel. This was probably because I confused Gwyneth with Guinevere, but I digress.)
* * *
Fast-forward some twenty-five years, and I was overcome with the same feeling. A terrible injustice, a woeful wrong had been done to an innocent soul.
I had logged in at the airline’s website, found my booking, and altered my meal preferences well before my scheduled flight. Being the only person in the world to love aeroplane food, and in-flight meals being a rare a they are nowadays (we’re talking plebe class here), I took great pleasure in choosing among the variety of vegetarian options, and was immensely looking forward to devouring it up in the clouds.
And then, when the food trolley finally pulled up and I still hadn’t been brought my special tray, and when I was told, upon being given given a choice between beef, chicken, and fish and asking whether there was a vegetarian option, that there wasn’t, and handed a half-empty tray with just the compact salad and miniature dessert and a cold bun accompanied by butter and melty cheese, something just broke in me. I loved these trays, delighting in their practicality and efficiency – encompassing all the components of a meal, the main dish piping hot in its aluminium package – and now I was deprived of that joy!
I sipped on my apple juice, jealously eyeing the man next to me, who was wolfing down his beef on rice with satisfied slurping noises, when another flight attendant noticed my empty-ish tray (no doubt alerted by my aura of intense dejection).
Trying to sound cheerfully nonchalant, I shrugged my shoulders and answered his question.
“You don’t have anything that’s vegetarian,” I said, my voice just a half a tone too shrill.
He processed the answer. “I see. You requested a vegetarian meal, yes.” He seemed to know. He nodded, lifted a finger, and exited stage left.
I stared out of the window, sulking. The increased trouble was that I was actually really hungry. Since breakfast, I had been surviving on one (1) pain au chocolat and bottles of water, not having had any time to purchase so much as a bag of crisps during my layover. Resigning to my fate, I picked up the miniature salad and began nibbling at it halfheartedly. It was the crushed hopes that were most crushing.
“Excuse me. Madam, excuse me.”
An outstretched hand, a small porcelain plate bearing cooked rice, steamed vegetables, and fried cheese balls, proured from behind the magic curtain of Business Class. A kind smile. I almost cried for real this time. (Kindness in the face of obstacles always does that to me.)
Mortified by the knowledge that my emotional state over such a trifling matter must have been apparent, I accepted the plate and smiled in spite of my shame. It wasn’t perfect, and I was still hungry, but I was mollified.
That night, I made sure to write the politest, kindest complaint email. Because come on.
Add a tsp of paprika, and stir in. The stirring is key. It is soothing. It is mindless, not mindful. Sod mindful. My mind is full enough. It is a minefield. Tonight I want to stir some stuff and stare at my hands or into nothing.
Self-Love Stew, by Jack Monroe
- Her: Do I look like a raccoon?
- Him: Do you feel like a raccoon?
“A question for you, Mr. Perkins, if I might be so bold. What destroyed the cultures of your own native peoples, the Indians?”
I responded that I felt there had been many factors, including greed and superior weapons.
“Yes. True. All of that. But more than anything else, did it not come down to a destruction of the environment?” He went on to explain how, once forests and animals such as the buffalo are destroyed, and once people are moved onto reservations, the very foundations of cultures collapse.
“You see, it is the same here,” he said. “The desert is our environment. The Flowering Desert project threatens nothing less than the destruction of our entire fabric. How can we allow this to happen?”
“We – my people – are part of the desert. The people the shah claims to rule with that iron hand of his are not just of the desert. We are the desert.”
The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins
Last night I walked
to the sound of my sneakers,
The air smelled of honey
pecans, baked pears.
I swallowed my thoughts,
washed them down with feelings,
A night creature squawked
of longings and fears.
I don’t even know how it happened. With an abruptness verging on rude, it dawned on me very recently that I’m “one of those women”. Those that, ten years ago, I’d look at askance, whispering in scandalised tones inside my own head: “She’s not wearing any make-up! Gahh!”
And here I am: uneven complexion, under-eye circles, and freckles in the summertime – for all the world to see.
Be that as it may, strength lies in knowing your weaknesses. I learned the hard way that going sans make-up to events with photographers guarantees looking very much like the Corpse Bride, so when I recently received an invitation to a coworker’s wedding, I solicited a friend – with experience as a professional make-up artist – to make me look presentable.
And peeps, it was the best thing I could have done for myself. I cannot recommend it enough. If you’ve got an important event coming up – a wedding, a formal dinner, heck, even a business meeting where you want to look and feel your best – and especially if you don’t use make-up on a regular basis, get yourself in touch with a professional make-up artist. Want to know why? Here are five solid reasons.
1. You will look amazing
I’ll admit, when I my friend graciously agreed to do my make-up, I resigned myself to the sad fate of spending the evening looking like a drag queen. (That’s how antiquated my opinions of make-up are. I mean, really!) Instead, I rather reminded myself of Isabella Rossellini in her Lancôme ads. My friend did a perfect job, giving me just enough colour and glamour to make me smile radiantly every time I saw myself in the mirror, or facing a camera. She even managed to make my nonexistent lips look effortlessly fuller – without it being vulgar or obvious that they were “amplified”. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever looked that great.
2. You will not have to think about your make-up
This was probably my favourite thing about the whole affair: once my friend had finished her job, I never needed to think about my make-up again. Only on one occasion – throughout the entire 9+ hours that we were partying – she handed me a powder that I hastily applied to my face after a rather sweaty bout of dancing. That was it. Everything stayed in place, nothing crumbled, ran, or disappeared. Even the lipstick stayed on my lips and didn’t migrate to the wine glasses, which I still can’t get my head around.
3. You will save money
I don’t know about you, but I feel like the make-up has gotten awfully complicated lately. It’s not just about patting on some foundation and applying a trio of eye-shadow, lipstick, and rouge like our mums used to do. Today, there’s contouring. There are ten different brushes you need for each square centimetre of your face. There are priming creams that go on before the foundation, and fixing powders that go on after the foundation. There are bronzers to deepen the curves of your jaw and highlighters to pop the tips of your cheekbones. There are hour-long YouTube tutorials where women spend 20 minutes blending.
Of course, you don’t have to get ALL the products. You could just pat on some foundation and apply a trio of eye-shadow, lipstick, and rouge. But then you wouldn’t get the benefits of professional make-up, which looks effortless and stays put. So, instead of dishing out a fortune on brushes and products, pay a fraction of that sum (or even nothing at all) to get the work done by a professional.
4. You will learn cool things
Obviously, people who love their jobs love to talk about them, and it looks like make-up artists are among those people. While my friend was transforming me into a glamshell (like bombshell, but more glamorous), she commented on every product that she used – what it was, what it was for, why and how she was using it. “Now, I’m putting some highlighter in your inner eye to set your eyes further apart and open up the face.” I also got to inspect her awe-inspiring collection of products, ask her about anything, and get tips on where to get the best brushes, make-up removers, and powders. (Not that I’ll be buying them anytime soon, but you never know!)
5. You will feel pampered and gorgeous
This may sound like a silly non-reason, but it’s so important! Having your make-up done is a just like getting a gentle massage, a mani/pedi, or getting your hair done. When someone takes the time and care to make you look and feel your best, those good feelings project right into you and radiate from within, making you irresistible.
* * *
Convinced? Awesome! If you’re thinking of having professional make-up done, the most straightforward way would be to look up a make-up artist in your area. (Make sure they use quality products and take hygiene seriously.) You can also get your make-up done by appointment at boutiques – places such as Sephora or MAC – either for a small fee or for free. Not least, you could ask a friend to help you out – just make sure it’s someone who really knows their ropes. (Mine had worked for Estée Lauder for two years and had made-up dozens of women.)
There’s no reason not to look your best!