I’ve said many times that red is a power color, and that still holds true. But a long time ago, I started noticing a pattern. Whether it’s cinema or television, when it comes to strong women in film, they are in blue nearly every time.
And more specifically, these characters are usually not just strong. They’re heroes.
(This post will contain some spoilers).
I’ve written more than one post about Lagertha, my favorite character in Vikings. She’s arguably my favorite character ever, of all time, and she’s influenced my life in a major way.
She wears several different colors throughout the series, but blue is certainly primary, and moreover, her shield is blue. That shield design isn’t just for her; it designates her entire army. Carrying that shield meant you fought for Lagertha.
Wise and fierce. A protector of other women. Lagertha rose from farmer to queen. Who would not want to carry her shield?
Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games, is marked out at the very start. She’s just a teenager, barely keeping her small family fed, when she makes the brave choice to volunteer herself as a tribute to the Capitol–in her little sister’s place. Standing there in that moment, in her simple blue dress, she is already a hero.
She has only a fraction of a chance of surviving the Games she just volunteered for, but through sheer force of will…
Katniss not only survives, but becomes a key player in destroying the Capitol itself.
I don’t know if I could live through everything that she did, but as an older sister myself, I feel that I can understand her. She wouldn’t say that she made a “brave choice.”
She would say she made the only choice.
Brienne of Tarth is one of many inspiring female characters in Game of Thrones. She stands at 6’3″ and is one of the best fighters in the whole show. Considered her whole life to be ugly, and certainly not ladylike, she dedicated herself instead to the sword. And being the only woman in the land who fights like a knight means that she has to fight twice as hard.
Brienne is fearless, relentless, and she has a noble, golden heart. She believes in honor and virtue, fighting to defend the defenseless. She has the spirit of a true knight, in spite of a lifetime of being denied that title.
She’s only out of her armor like three times in the entire series, but guess what color her dress is.
There was no truer knight than she.
There’s a strangely common misconception that animated movies are “just kids’ movies,” and while it’s true that animation is usually aimed at children, the good ones often reach a level of quality that surpasses live action. One of Disney’s most underrated achievements is Atlantis: The Lost Empire. And one princess that deserves a lot more recognition is Kida.
Thousands of years old, she is curious, intelligent, open-minded, and capable of slaughtering you before you could blink. A true warrior princess who cares deeply for her people. Everything you could hope for in a role model.
Her whole design is fantastic, with a darker complexion and striking white hair; she wears all blue, and her tattoos are blue as well.
Captain Marvel was a super important movie. Not only is it one of Marvel’s best in terms of actual writing, it finally, finally shows us a stand-alone female superhero who is well-rounded, distinct, and not overtly sexualized.
Carol Danvers is strong, logical, and has a character arc that real women can relate to. Her costume isn’t entirely blue, but it still entirely counts–and it only seems appropriate that the blue is lined with red, which we know to be a serious power color itself.
Give me a dozen more movies like this, and maybe we’ll call it a start.
I know what you’re thinking, but for the moment, please put the last season of Game ofThrones out of your mind. Before the writers and directors so exquisitely botched this show, Daenerys Targaryen was nothing short of a messiah figure. Take a second to remember how brilliant and intricate the writing was for the first five or six seasons.
Remember when she wore almost nothing but blue? When she struck the chains off of slaves and gave mercy to the suffering? Daenerys was a hero. She was a survivor, and a great queen. And I’d rather remember her as what she really was.
Now let’s think of a show that didn’t let us down and was brilliant all the way through. Avatar: The Last Airbender. A series that, yes, was for children, yet still managed to address some very real subjects, like war and disability and death, all while still being fun to watch every single second.
Katara is easily one of the most powerful people in the ATLA universe, and she is also unwaveringly kind and compassionate. She’s only 14, and yet she has an inner strength that blows my mind.
She’s talented from the beginning, but just as her character grows and develops, so does her skill. Katara is a waterbender. Look at the comparison above: in Season 1 (left) making herself a little water umbrella to shield herself from the rain, and in Season 3 (right) full on stopping the rain.
I don’t care what age you are; you need to watch Avatar. It’s the show we deserve, with strong, consistent themes and dynamic, well-written characters. It just became available on Netflix, so start today!
Wonder Woman is more than just a hero. A very good case could be made that she is the most powerful individual in the DC universe. And her blue dress is easily one of the most iconic looks in cinema.
You remember. The stunning blue dress with the sword strapped down the back.
This captures Diana so especially well. She is elegant in every sense of the word, but made entirely of steel.
The movie was good, and I have high hopes for the upcoming sequel, but if you want to really see her fight, you should look into some of the animated movies–DC quietly puts out a lot of them. Diana is unbreakable, unstoppable, and I absolutely worship her.
As obvious of a pattern as this is, the truth is, I have no idea why blue is the color of choice for powerful women. Where did this trope come from? How did it become so ingrained in our storytelling? So widespread across so many fandoms? I bet somebody out there knows the history behind it.
I can only speculate.
Here’s the best theory I have: Mary.
It’s very likely, no matter what kind of background you have, that you’ve laid eyes on paintings or other depictions of the Virgin Mary, and you probably noticed that she’s in blue every time. There is a specific and ancient reason for this. Back in the day, blue pigment was the most expensive and rare, and so it was used only to paint especially holy figures. It became the defining color for Mary, the mother of Christ.
Considering that we live in a culture heavily saturated with Christian themes and archetypes, it makes sense to me that the color for Mary would ultimately become the color for heroic women. We associate blue so intrinsically with good that it’s only natural.
If I’m wrong, if you’re reading this and you know the answer to this question, feel free to leave a comment and tell me. I’d like to know. This pattern interests me very much. Strong women are everything to me.
I don’t know about you guys, but I really feel like I was on fire the last three weeks. My posts covered topics that meant a lot to me, and I hope you were able to take something meaningful away from them. I wish that I could put out content like that every single week, but the truth is that I barely generate ideas fast enough to keep up with my one-post-a-week schedule.
(If it wasn’t for this pandemic, I would probably be writing about the Met Gala right now. Just picture a single, dramatic tear rolling down my cheek).
So, while I continue to brainstorm, please enjoy this appreciation post for two very different, but very compatible colors.
Pink and black together make such a splendid contrast. I did a post (quite some time ago now) about the contrast of black and white, that eternal classic, and this is similar, but there’s definitely a different flavor going on.
Since our society at this current moment in history views pink as a naturally feminine color, I see its combination with black as a blending of feminine and masculine.
And it goes without saying that you can look stunning in this blend no matter where you fall on the gender spectrum.
It strikes a balance that, aesthetically speaking, looks like candy to me. My eyes tell my brain that pink and black together would be delicious. Like blackberries and cotton candy.
That delicious look was exactly what I was going for when I made my own cake for my 25th birthday. (It was easily one of the most beautiful baked goods I’ve ever created). The theme of my party was Quarter Life Crisis, and that was the centerpiece.
You can wear pink with an accent of black, black with an accent of pink, an even 50/50–literally all combos work in this case.
Take the picture above, for example; wearing an all-black outfit, and then a brightly colored statement coat, that’s a fail-proof choice. And I haven’t seen it done with a pink coat much at all (I don’t see many pink coats in general), so there’s an idea that’s still fresh and hasn’t been overdone, if you’re looking for a chic new thing to try.
If you saw my post on the Oscars a few months ago, you may remember this little Givenchy number that Gal Gadot wore. Any really great red carpet gown needs to have an element of the unusual; it needs to make you take a second glance. And there’s just something vaguely weird about this one–I think it’s because my eyes want the pink to be on top, black on the bottom. But it’s all lace, and that’s what got me. Pink and black, all in lace, it’s an aesthetic wonderland.
One of my favorite pink and black variants is the full goth look with pink hair. If dying my hair wasn’t so much trouble, I’m sure I would have done this myself at some point. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time, you know I have a thing for pink hair.
Dior actually went in that direction in 2018, and it remains one of my favorite runway shows to this day.
Maisie Williams is one of my beloved fashion icons, and she walks around looking like a punk princess basically 24/7. I love this photo of her; she’s got the tiara and everything.
Ugh, she’s stunning.
Think of Persephone, the Greek goddess of Spring…and Queen of the Underworld. That’s just the sort of contrast I’m talking about. Florals and pinks and gentle pastels on top of bone and iron and darkness. It’s a vibe that I personally relate to very strongly.
You can like black leather jackets and delicate spring blossoms at the same time, and better yet, you can wear them simultaneously–I think that’s more or less the thesis statement of this post.
This brings BABYMETAL to my mind. They are a Japanese kawaii metal band, and in case you didn’t know, “kawaii” means cute. They rock very hard, and as you can see, they’re very metal, but they are also adorable. My favorite performance ever is their song “Gimme Chocolate,” which you can watch if you click the link. I highly recommend; it will change your life.
Black and white is, in its essence, yin and yang, light and dark. But pink and black is soft and dark. (Much like “edgy florals,” another Spark of Inspiration post from long ago). It’s tender and metal all at once.
If you’ve been with me long, you know I do these Spark of Inspiration posts every so often, and they’re all pretty random. I’ll just see something, some element of style, and then I write about it in the hopes that more people will adopt that element–so that I can see more of it.
And I’d always be happy to see more pink and black.
As I write this, I’m on Day 55 of my personal quarantine. I’m doing alright, and I hope all of you are safe and well, also. And for what it’s worth, I hope my blog is a pleasant little diversion while you’re waiting things out.
I watch most of what Vogue puts on YouTube, especially the “Diary of a Model” videos and makeup tutorials. There’s something just really pleasant and relaxing about them. But if you wanna talk fascinating, then you should watch their “Extreme Beauty” series (which is relatively new). It’s very similar to the usual beauty routine format, except that the focus is on people who pursue an extreme aesthetic.
(As an aside, I’d like to recommend to my readers that you take a good look at the pictures I’m about to show you. For some of you, this isn’t going to be shocking, but if you do find it startling, then take a second, steel yourself, and look again. These are all just people, and it would be silly to let yourself be afraid).
Hannah Rose Dalton and Steven Raj Bhaskaran are a couple from Montreal who met in design school. Together, they developed a brand called Fecal Matter, a title that they describe as “the perfect name…as it reflects how we feel about the fashion business and its constant contribution to the cycle of waste.” They also DJ, which is very cool.
In this video for Vogue, they take you through the 3-hour makeup process that they do on a daily basis, because yes, they look extreme all the time. That’s their art, and they’ve dedicated themselves to it fully.
Here’s their finished look.
They made a point of saying that, although presenting yourself like this seems attention-seeking, that’s not really what they want. They’ve gotten harassed and spit on; they’ve been accused of doing drugs and all kinds of other bullshit. “It would be way easier not to look like this,” says Steven, “but there’s…a satisfying feeling knowing that you’re not ashamed of who you are.”
Juno Birch (from Manchester, England) describes herself as an alien queen who crash-landed on Earth in 1962, and has been trying to (somewhat clumsily) dress like a lady every since.
Her first words in the video are “Hello, I’m Juno Birch, and I’m stunning.” (A level of confidence I heartily approve of).
She’s also a sculptor, and says that she likes an exaggerated sense of artificial beauty. Besides helping pay the rent, her art is often a way for her to design looks that she will then use on herself. This was also the sort of style that she would draw as a kid, so the over-the-top vibes have been with her from the very beginning.
“Her name is Linda,” Birch says, “and she goes shopping in the supermarket for human groceries. She’s stunning. She’s an alien. She’s a stunning alien.”
Jazmin Bean is an Indie musician from the London area, and their inspiration comes from both the dolls they grew up with and “creatures.” They say that with humans (I’m paraphrasing this), the features are very limited, whereas with animals, there’s so much variety, e.g. reptiles, fish, mammals, etc. Which is why one of the first things they do with their makeup is to sort of disguise the human nose. Looking more or less like a hybrid monster is definitely the idea.
“I feel like people see me as something really dangerous and evil. A lot of mothers will put their hands over their kids’ eyes so that they don’t have to look at me…when really I’m just a lil’ baddie wanting to go and just buy some food.”
A pleasant surprise in this video is that Jazmin’s grandmother takes them out to pizza at the end, and it’s so nice to see an extreme person being loved unconditionally by their family. That’s not often the case, unfortunately.
“I’ve never been interested in doing looks purely for the internet or…for a creative project. I’ve always loved just looking like this for my day-to-day life.”
Salvia, who happens to be a good friend of Jazmin’s, is an artist from Wales who also lives in the London area. She pursues an aesthetic that she describes as not quite alien, but more like a human that’s been heavily modified. She likes tubes, for example, which she uses as prosthetics on her face–she likes the medical look of them.
“Sometimes just living and going out and interacting with the world can be its own performance…because it can be so theatrical…I think everybody’s doing that. I don’t think that’s something that’s exclusive to me; I think everybody does that in their own way.”
That’s a sentiment I, myself, have expressed on this very blog. I certainly agree. We all paint on our own masks every single day; we all want to be seen in a particular light. Part of being human is the need for self-expression, and the variety that the human imagination can produce is astounding.
“I definitely get frustrated by how limiting physics can be, and biology can be. I don’t think there should really be any limits.”
By the way, the look you see above, which she does in the Vogue video, is what she wears for a bike ride around the village.
Bavarian artist Hungry, who lives and works in Berlin, does something they call “distorted drag.” Fascinated by symmetry, they have created an insect-inspired aesthetic.
The eye-catching prosthetic they wear in the picture above is specially made and fits in the nose, easily removable when needed. It’s the cherry on top of a very specific vibe, and it’s certainly one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen.
They describe themselves as the “local bug lady,” and in the video, they put together a look inspired by a “successful 80s businesswoman.” This ensemble is what they wear to, as they say, “take myself out to a nice dinner.”
“One of the first words that I learned the meaning of in Berlin was ‘relevance.’ A lot of the reactions I get are just not relevant to my life; they’re just not relevant to who I am, to what I am, and to my story.”
This statement obviously implicates the negative or hateful reactions, which are sadly a part of every extreme person’s life. I wish that didn’t have to be the case, but it’s very common all over the world for people to have little minds. I do hope, though, that, through the exposure that Vogue is giving them (and that I’m giving them in a much smaller way), these fascinating creatives will gain more appreciation.
I’ll tell you one thing, if you like to watch movies, you have no business acting hateful to extreme beauty artists. They are all amateurs who practiced and practiced, and ultimately reached the skill-level of professional movie makeup artists.
Shapeshifting is possible! All it takes is hours and hours of art.
The vastness of the Star Wars universe, and all fantasy worlds like it, would not exist without the kind of imagination capable of looking beyond the typical human form. And when we see it on the big screen, we eat it up. We’re obsessed with this kind of uniqueness. We all want to see new things, to look at figures that we would not have ever dreamed of ourselves.
To put it at its most basic, it stimulates the brain.
The truth is, we already have all of that vastness right here on Earth, amidst the human race. It would be in our best interest all around to embrace the limitless ways that we express ourselves. It’s just like music. We have everything from Classical to Death Metal, and it’s because there’s a different kind of music inside each of us. We should all have the freedom to let our souls sing. At whatever frequency comes naturally.
At the very least, doesn’t this make you feel a bit more relaxed about your own self-imposed imperfections? Doesn’t it help to know that different people find different things pleasing to the eye? If there are individuals out there who are in love with the macabre, or fascinated by the symmetry of insects, or find beauty in the monstrous, then don’t you imagine there are people in this world who would think you’re stunning exactly as you are?
“I have a very strong vision of what I want and what I consider to be beautiful…” says Salvia.
And I believe we all do. We all know what pleases us. But how many of us have the guts to pursue those things? To take what we really want out of this life? To be truly, fully authentic?
For all their variety, these extreme people do share similar experiences. For one, they are all dedicated enough to make major aesthetic choices, like shaving their eyebrows off, and they are perfectly willing to wear uncomfortable or painful accessories. Every one of them said it was worth it to achieve the fantasy in their head.
All of them were naturally drawn to their chosen aesthetic from a young age, which really isn’t a surprise. All people are more or less their own selves from the moment they’re born. I had my personal likes and dislikes when I was a kid, like anyone else. It just goes to show you that what comes naturally goes well beyond what we call “normal.”
Most of them faced bullying and other traumas as they were growing up, which they overcame. Not one of them bent to the petty will of others. They didn’t suppress themselves for the approval of their peers. They stubbornly live their lives as they wish. This is something I greatly admire, but I do find it sad that they have to endure the abuse and harassment that they consistently get.
Stupid people shouldn’t be a hazard, but they are, in fact, the worst hazard in the world.
And as I’ve said in the past, bullies and bigots are not welcome on my page. If you have been filled with hate and disgust by this post, exit my site immediately, and don’t ever click on my link again.
“People in general need to be exposed to this type of thing,” says Jazmin Bean, and I agree.
Speaking for myself, the older I’ve gotten, the more bored I’ve become with people who try to all look basically the same, who all just repeat the same ideas and sentiments over and over. One thing I noticed about these extreme artists is that none of them live in America, and that doesn’t surprise me. This is not an especially tolerant country. Where I live, you can get harassed for having a nose piercing–I’d be legitimately scared for the safety of someone who showed up to the grocery store looking like an alien.
But that being said, the more people are exposed to differences, the more normalized those differences gradually become. Imagine a world free of bigotry. Imagine how much more we would get to see. If we would only let people feel safe, we would never be bored again.
“I think in order to live life in a way that’s as fulfilling as possible, it’s important to address your fears and…push yourself as far as possible, and never really stop.” –Salvia
Last week was very female-positive, and well, generally, that’s what I do. I’m a woman; I fall way on the feminine side of the spectrum–I write what I know.
But last week’s topic is not something that only women face, and I felt like I needed to address that. Men struggle with body image, too. And my message of self-love is not exclusive to any one set of people.
This is going to be fun, because I’ve decided to use fictional examples as I discuss this. I’m a huge fangirl, and my interests don’t usually intersect, so buckle up!
(FYI: This post will contain spoilers).
First, and most crucially, a statement:
Toxic masculinity hurts men.
Volumes have already been filled about how much it hurts (and kills) women, but people don’t talk about how horribly it distorts men.
Zuko, from Avatar: The Last Airbender, goes through one of the most perfectly written character arcs ever, and it begins with him as a young teenager, angry and torn up inside from being discarded by his abusive father. He’s obsessed with “regaining his honor,” and it takes him down a path of self-loathing and violence.
He’s a villain, but what he really is, is a boy growing into a man, whose father didn’t think he was strong or ruthless enough. Who wasn’t naturally cruel or dominating. Whose bright, youthful smile was snuffed out.
No one could ever say that Zuko wasn’t a great warrior. He proved himself throughout the series to be not only physically strong and skilled, but incredibly clever. He grows from a villain into the thoughtful and brave young man that he was born to be.
It all culminates into the big moment when he finally sees his father again, when he calls him out for being the hateful, power-hungry abuser that he really is. Calls him out for being a terrible father. Zuko is the perfect example of someone harmed by toxic masculinity, as well as the incredible redemption of overcoming it.
And let’s not forget the man who never gave up on him. Uncle Iroh was a real father to Zuko. Gentle, forgiving, patient. A calm and loving presence in his nephew’s life. The epitome of non-toxic masculinity.
And also known as The Dragon of the West, for his legendary prowess in battle.
Gentle doesn’t mean weak. It never has.
And now that I’ve gone over that, let’s get back to the main focus, which is male body image.
It definitely seems to have changed over the course of the last few decades, and sadly not for the better. Heroes on the big screen have gone from pretty natural-looking…
I’m here to tell you that this image of the bulging, hyper-muscular male form is neither healthy nor natural. Hugh Jackman, bless him, was put through some pretty dangerous stuff to make him look like that. (Stuff like being so dehydrated that he was flirting with organ failure).
And it’s a problem, because boys obviously want to be like their heroes. Everyone does. And Wolverine is one of the best. He is so compelling, and I’ve been in love with him since I was about 12 years old.
But it’s easy to mistake having a six-pack for being strong.
A case could be made that these bulging muscles are a form of objectification for the sake of female viewers, but that’s pretty easily debunked. Just look at the covers of these two magazines.
The one on the left is tailored to male readers, with Hugh in fully-jacked Wolverine-mode and headlines that are basically “You, too, can look like this!”. The magazine on the right is meant for women, with a headline about romance and Hugh standing there with his shirt on, looking like a pretty normal dude.
So let’s not pretend. Making comic book heroes look like they’re on steroids isn’t to please the female eye. It’s a design that is 100% a male power fantasy. And it’s a toxic one. Try to make yourself look like that, and there’s a huge chance you’ll get hurt.
If you want to talk about real strength, I mean actual, raw power, this is what it looks like. This is the build. No abs, a little bit of a tummy…he could pick up and throw your average bodybuilder like a softball.
That’s Hafthor Bjornsson, aka the official World’s Strongest Man. He played Gregor Clegane (also called The Mountain) in Game of Thrones. Meet the scariest villain in the whole GoT universe. Not Tywin Lannister, not Joffrey, not even Ramsey Bolton. Gregor might have been a minor character, but he chilled me to the bone on a primal level. Standing at 6’9″, not only was he a straight up giant, he was a thoughtless and cruel individual. A real, true monster. And if he wanted to kill you, you’d have about the same chance of fighting off a freight train.
All I can say is, thank God he’s a cool guy in real life.
The grizzly bear is not a lean animal. It’s actually one of the most hulking creatures on this earth. And it is unstoppably strong.
My point is, seeing the outline of every muscle on the body is purely aesthetic. Highly unnecessary. You can be strong as hell (and also healthy), and have some fat on you. Just like what I was saying last week, different bodies have different needs, and feeling all this pressure to look a certain way is bullshit.
I don’t like knowing that some very good actors are forced into extremes just to look like this for a shirtless scene. They shouldn’t have to go through that. What does anyone gain by Thor looking this way, if it’s harmful to Chris Hemsworth?
You know what I actually found more appealing? It may shock you…
Fat Thor was more interesting, more real, and more relatable than Beefcake Thor.
It was sort of played for laughs, which isn’t really fair, but this was a character who was experiencing actual depression. He had “let himself go,” but here’s the thing: it wasn’t his body that he needed to work on; it was his mind. And when he picks himself back up and steps forward as a warrior once more…
Don’t act like he lost an ounce of his physical power.
Thor was stronger than he’d ever been in the final battle (and he didn’t “miraculously” show up all lean and trim either). And damned if I didn’t find him sexy in that moment. He even braided his beard.
The insane, overly intense bodybuilder culture we’ve been perpetuating is harmful. The idea that you have to be hyper-muscular (or hyper-masculine) to be a “real man” accomplishes little more than lowering the self-esteem of men worldwide.
The original Star Trek series (which is so worth watching) showed us a wonderful variety of characters, and had an enjoyable amount of shirtlessness itself. And something I noticed right away was that Captain Kirk (the guy always portrayed as the sexy one), never had a six pack. He had an athletic, but entirely normal body.
It led me to believe that beauty standards had yet to get so outlandishly unrealistic in the 60s.
Spock (the cerebral one) got a few shirtless scenes, too, and that’s what I was there for. (Give me the smart one). He was the intellect in the group, and he had less of a reason to look like he was in the gym a lot. You’ll notice in the picture above that he’s skinnier, and he even has natural body hair–I really don’t know why Hollywood feels like it has to wax every chest in sight.
(The funny thing is that Spock is the designated nerd, and he could still kick Kirk’s ass).
No less hot.
Lord of the Rings accomplished a rare thing. Taking place in a world of high fantasy, with magic and epic sword-fights and a lot of men doing a lot of heroic deeds, toxic masculinity is nowhere to be seen.
Look at the variety in the picture above. The Fellowship was made up of men from all across the realm. They all have different perspectives, different strengths, different struggles–and they are so damn caring and supportive of one another. They are, each in their own way, incredibly tender and genuinely good people.
They don’t want war. But they’re stepping up, facing peril at great personal cost, because they want to protect their world from darkness.
And their muscles are never a focus at any point. Because that would be stupid. Muscles don’t make the man–if they did, I wouldn’t have wanted to marry Samwise Gamgee when I was a young teenager watching these movies.
And this isn’t solely about strong vs. not-strong.
Looking for a role model who’s a leader? A real alpha-male type with nerves of steel? Look no further than Captain Jean-Luc Picard, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’d marry him in a heartbeat, and so would millions of other women.
Big muscles and an excess of machismo don’t mean a damn thing in terms of who’s appealing. Pro-tip: As a woman who’s attracted to men, I can tell you that we would choose a calm, reasonable man over a brash one nine times out of ten.
I can’t make many generalizations beyond that, of course. Every individual has a completely unique sense of taste when it comes to what they find sexy. And personal taste can go all over the map. I myself, for example, have had a thing for Darth Maul since Phantom Menace first came out.
All of this to say, it’s time to forget about what shape you are and focus on what kind of person you want to be. What you want to add to this world. It will come naturally to you, because we’re all different, and the world needs all of our differences.
We fantasize about living in these massive realms like the Star Wars universe or the Lord of the Rings universe, with all this fascinating variety–aliens, elves, hobbits–but who are we kidding? We bully each other to death just for being slightly different shapes and colors. If we even thought the Zabrak or Mandalorian races were real, we’d declare war immediately.
Humankind already has all the variety we could ever need, and we ought to learn to appreciate it.
Men come in all forms, and they’re all still men. Some are like Kristofer Hivju (left). Some are like Sean Chong-Umeda (right). And there are a million sorts in between. It’s just as well, too, because everybody likes something different. If you’re worried about whether or not you’re attractive, I want you to know, there are people out there who would find you sexy exactly the way you are right now.
The important thing is that you’re not an asshole.
Men have emotional needs, inner struggles, and poignant vulnerabilities. Toxic masculinity tries to squash that all down. “Anger is the only emotion you can feel.” “Real men don’t cry.” “Real men don’t ask for help.” “If you don’t like violence, you’re weak.”
“Women will only like you if you have big muscles.” (Whoever says that has never spoken to an actual woman before).
Way too many men live their lives trying to pull off this false sense of stoicism, never feeling “allowed” to explore their full range of human emotions or interests–for fear that their manhood will be snatched away somehow.
There are real consequences to that shit. We already know how dangerous it makes things for women, but here’s what else toxic masculinity does: there are no baby changing stations in men’s bathrooms (Screw single dads, right? Childcare is for women). There is pretty much zero access to care for male victims of domestic abuse (because only women can be abused, right?). Men suffer from eating disorders (and yet, people believe that’s only a female problem).
Boys get mocked for showing emotional sensitivity, so they tamp that down. Men often grow up never even getting hugged by their loved ones, so they walk through life touch-starved and unsure of how to express affection. We teach our sons, “be tough” and nothing else. Having biceps is the same thing as having a personality.
Men commit suicide at four times the rate of women.
The thesis of my entire blog is to encourage women to take their places in this world as queens. To embrace their personal power, put on their crowns, and sit comfortably on their thrones.
I am the queen of my life. That’s my mantra. My home is my kingdom, and I decide how I will walk through this existence.
But just as I was once a little princess, our boys ought to grow up as princes. I’m not talking about spoiled brats; I’m talking about kids who are raised to understand responsibility and benevolence. And if you weren’t raised like that, then it’s time to teach yourself. Because just as women should be the queens in their lives, men must be their own kings.
Good and just kings. Bringers of peace. Supporters of love.
I am going to look after myself, and I am going to look after the people I care about. And if I were a man, nothing about that would change. And it certainly wouldn’t be changed by something as petty as my body fat percentage.
Today, I feel like telling you about my personal journey with weight, self-image, and being a woman in a highly judgmental world.
It’s not a sad story. I’m not about to tell you that I battled an eating disorder, or that I hated myself when I was a teenager. None of that happened. But there’s a good chance something like that crossed your mind when I said “my personal journey,” and that just goes to show you how prevalent those problems are.
First of all, what is the Body Positivity Movement? Well, in its essence, it’s a bunch of people saying that they deserve decency and respect no matter what their bodies look like. I’ve put a picture of Lizzo above because I think of her as the face of this movement in a lot of ways. She has more than earned the fame and adoration that she’s recently gained, and she has been completely unapologetic about how she looks–and how much she loves herself. Her biggest hits, “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell” are incredibly uplifting songs, and of course I’m a big fan of anyone who spreads self-love like that.
So, back to me. How do I fit into the movement?
The answer is: not especially.
My non-tragic backstory is this… Starting at puberty, I spent my formative years being very skinny. I didn’t exercise or eat any particular way; I didn’t even think about it. That was just the natural form I took. In fact, when I was a senior in high school, I actually lost a little weight when I was taking P.E, and my parents gently confronted me about it. I was sort of befuddled at their concern, because my weight was never on my mind. I was healthy, and nothing had changed except for the light exercise. It was just that they knew what I didn’t at the time (I was pretty oblivious at that age), which was that young girls are extremely vulnerable to eating disorders.
But I was fine, and life went on, and I still didn’t give my weight any thought. But I did like being thin. That’s worth pointing out. Thinness is the standard for beauty in the western world, without a doubt. I was also coasting on a lot of privilege, being white, Christian, and upper middle class. I was 5’6″ and about 118 lbs. Life was pretty sweet, and I was just a little bit vain.
You know who’s the same age as me? Demi Lovato. And there was a girl who didn’t have a happy wave to ride through her adolescence. As it turns out, society treats not-skinny people, especially women, and especially celebrities, like absolute shit. I didn’t know a thing about this, because it wasn’t happening to me. Demi has struggled and overcome more than I can imagine, including surviving an overdose in 2018.
Recently, on an episode of Ellen, she opened up about how much she had been “managed” by her former team, who had gone so far as to remove the phones in her hotel rooms to prevent her from ordering room service, as well as not allowing her to have a birthday cake for several years. Listening to her talk about overcoming an eating disorder that had been encouraged by her own people, listening to the pure joy in her voice when she said her new manager got her a real cake for her 27th birthday… I mean, what can I say to that? She suffered so unnecessarily.
Her newest song, “I Love Me,” was a beautiful triumph over a struggle that way too many women face every single day.
Back to me again. It wasn’t until I was about 25–by then already happily married and settled–that something changed. Gradually, almost unnoticeably, I gained ten pounds. At the time, I was dealing with a bout of depression (that I did eventually work through), so I figured stress was to blame. That was when I got on anxiety meds, which improved my mental state, but also made me gain more weight as a side effect.
And this was the first time in my life that I felt weird about my body. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I had never been self-conscious before; I had never had a self-esteem issue, ever. (And I’ve come to realize how incredibly uncommon that is. Believe me, from what I’ve learned, low self-esteem is actually the norm).
(A norm I want to change).
So I found myself with a brand new strain of anxiety that my meds were actually worsening. An anxiety tied to my weight. Here’s how I handled it: I kept taking my medication.
As uncertain as I was, I understood that my mental health was the priority, and my depression had nothing to do with my self-image. You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time, and the first elephant I needed to get through was getting my brain back on track. And being married to a pharmacist has its merits–the cardinal rule of taking any medication is youdon’t just stop.
Now, I did eventually make the decision to get off the medicine (about a year later), and it was the right choice for me, but I want you to understand, many people need to take meds for anxiety/depression indefinitely, and there is no shame in that. Everyone needs to do what’s best for themselves. It’s between you and your doctor.
But over the course of this whole experience–about two years from then to now–I gained approximately thirty pounds. You can see the difference in the pictures above, the left being from 2018, and the right being from a month ago. At my heaviest, I was about 150 lbs. I never changed the way I ate; I never changed anything, so I didn’t really understand why I was gaining. What it took me way too long to realize is that 150 is actually a completely normal weight for someone who’s 5’6″. But the way women are conditioned in this society, if the numbers on the scale are steadily rising, that means you are losing your beauty!
Supermodels are a good example. Some of them are so thin, it almost doesn’t look natural. (The industry is getting better about discouraging unhealthy/dangerous eating habits, but for a while there, it was pretty damn guilty of that sort of thing).
Now, one thing I love is to watch these videos that Vogue puts on Youtube about how models start their days and get ready for big runway shows. One thing that a lot of them have in common, I’ve noticed, is that they say they were often scouted at the age of 14-15 years old. That’s when they started their careers. So a lot of models you see on the runways are not grown women. They’re kids who are naturally thin, just like I was.
I’m not going to sit here and bash supermodels. They’re very hardworking and committed young men and women. But they are generally only that one body type, and it’s important to realize that.
I’ve adamantly practiced self-love my entire life, and the feeling that my sex appeal was somehow fading…that was a foreign and completely unwelcome feeling. It certainly didn’t feel like me. And I was constantly at war with myself for that reason. Was I out of control? I didn’t know. The cause was still an overall mystery, which was highly frustrating.
I made a mental pros and cons list of the changes I was experiencing–classic me. I do that with everything. And there were pros, mind you.
For one thing, I liked the way it filled out my face. I’d never realized it before, but looking back at pictures when I was super skinny, to me, I looked 13 years old. Which I can’t say I liked very much. I’m 27. I’d like to look grown. And I do now.
Another big pro was that I was healthy. Steadily healthy, all the way through. Even when I was walking around looking like a human stick-insect, I was never underfed, never sickly or malnourished. And nothing about that changed.
The cons were very mild, now that I have some perspective. I needed to go up a size or two in my jeans (not fitting into your jeans is such a shitty feeling). My boobs got bigger–you’d think that would be a silver lining, but I actually found it pretty annoying. I got stretch marks on my thighs (which bothered me a lot less than I might have expected; seriously, who cares? Who’s gonna stand there and judge my thighs?). The one I disliked most was having some squish on my once-flat tummy.
Charli Howard is a woman with a similar body type to mine. She was a model who ended up rebelling against the standards of the industry and instead embraced her natural curves. She empowered herself enough through it, in fact, that she started her own skincare line called Squish.
I belong in the Body Positivity Movement at about the same capacity as Charli. She’s not supermodel thin, but she’s not fat either. I mean, for all the 30 lbs I gained, I literally just transitioned from ‘small’ to ‘medium.’ And for all the inner turmoil I put myself through, I never had to face public disrespect or a restricted access to clothing, something legitimately fat people deal with all the time.
Note: I’m using the word ‘fat’ here, and it’s not by accident. It’s not a rude word. The fat community has made a point to reclaim the term. It is not synonymous with ‘ugly,’ and if you use it that way, it’s because fatphobia has been so ingrained into us as a culture.
(As you learn these things, it’s your job to unlearn the prejudices you’ve been trained to have).
Our world is very harsh to people who look more like Lizzo. It’s really downright abusive. Lizzo herself gets all kind of shit from people who say she’s “promoting obesity” and other such nonsense. It’s ridiculous. She’s literally an athlete–you basically have to be to go on tour, doing those physically demanding shows over and over. Lizzo is strong. Lizzo could kick your ass.
I admire her for being so confident and unbothered by the haters. (She posts pictures of herself eating junk food on Instagram just to anger them further, and good for her).
But Lizzo is sort of an outlier. The average person who classifies as obese gets dragged down more than they can handle, and for them, self-love and confidence are a genuine struggle. What’s more, although there are fat people who are perfectly healthy, there are plenty who are not–and they don’t owe anyone good health just to receive basic decency from others. Nothing about your physicality should dictate how people treat you. If someone’s sick, or mentally ill, or suffering from chronic illness, or anything at all, how is it acceptable to treat them badly? It shouldn’t be, but that’s where we’re at as a society.
Here are some fat positive Instagram accounts I recommend you follow:
I’ve learned a lot. A whole lot. We put people through too much. We act like they should jump through hoops to get our approval. Designers won’t make clothes in their sizes; healthcare professionals often don’t take them seriously; they walk through life dealing with people being assholes left and right. It’s bullying on a mass scale, and we just let it happen. It’s more than unkind. It’s cruel.
I don’t have a sad story. I’ve never been abused in any sense of the word. I grew up with a (rare) sense of self-esteem, and to this day, I live my life surrounded by people who love me unconditionally.
I still felt like shit when I was gaining weight.
And it really opened my eyes to how easily the self-image can be distorted. Suddenly, it made sense to me why many girls I knew–even girls who were thin, even girls who had beautiful features, even girls with incredible intelligence or big, loving hearts–found excuses to call themselves ugly. That used to confuse the hell out of me, but I get it now. Women and girls exist in a world that ties their beauty to their human worth.
And beauty, in this context, is a very narrow, exclusive construct.
You want to know why I gained weight?
It was because I had reached my mid-20s, and my metabolism naturally changed. I wasn’t a teenager anymore, and I had finally grown into my adult body.
I’m lucky that I made healthy choices as I went through this experience. Around last October, when I was about 150 lbs, I bought myself a planner, and I wrote down (in ink) which days I would go to the gym, which days I would do yoga, and which days I would do nothing at all. Next, I cut back on the Dr. Pepper (I didn’t cut it out; I didn’t cut anything out, because I’m not on this earth to live a life of deprivation). I also got rid of the scale in my house, and I haven’t weighed myself since–obsessing over numbers was only going to drive me towards insanity.
I had just wasted a whole lot of time feeling weird about myself, but geez, what if I had reacted drastically? What might I have done to myself if self-love wasn’t such a deeply rooted personal habit? Because women end up hurting themselves all the time for this exact reason.
I laid out this problem of mine, and I dissected it like I was performing an autopsy (because that’s how my anxiety works). I’m not afraid of research–you really have to do it if you want to learn anything practical. (Just like with sex ed. Our school system is basically worthless). It might have been useless to worry, but I don’t regret the knowledge I’ve gained.
For example, did you know that not only is cellulite normal, it’s kind of important? Women’s bodies store fat differently, which actually helps us survive shortages, or drains on the nutrients we take in, drains like, oh, a little thing known as pregnancy. I was floored when I learned that. And yet, we are desperate to get rid of it.
The general public doesn’t know jack shit about what makes a body healthy, and “normal” can be so drastically different for different people. There is no reason, no excuse for a person to look at another person and decide they don’t look “right.” And keep that in mind when you look in the mirror.
Self-talk is crucial. You’ve got to be as stubbornly kind and forgiving with yourself as you would be with anyone else. If someone, at any point, had walked up to me and said, “You looked better ten pounds ago,” I wouldn’t have hesitated to tell them to go fuck themselves.
So why on earth should I be allowed to talk to myself like that?
Here’s the end of my little story. In the midst of my anxiety, I examined those feelings of insecurity and doubt, and I said that’s not me. I chose self-love. And when it got hard, I chose self-love out of pure spite.
That’s who I am.
I’m 27 years old. I’m 5’6″, and I have reason to believe I weigh between 141-146 lbs. And I’m still just a little bit vain.
We are currently trying to get through a pandemic. I’m waiting it out in quarantine just like everybody else, and I haven’t been to the gym in a long time now. Whatever. It’ll be annoying to get back into an exercise routine when this is all over, but I will. ‘Til then, I’m grateful that I can stay safe at home, and that I can keep writing.
Give yourself permission to forget about weight during this difficult time. Drink coffee and wine. Eat carbs. Do things that you enjoy. We’ll deal with the future as it comes.
Quarantine or not, it’s still the 20s–calling it the Screaming 20s seems more appropriate now then ever, doesn’t it?–and since so many of us are already in our jammies at home, I figured there was no better time…
Let’s talk about nightwear.
This is definitely the vibe I’d personally like to achieve. A coordinated silk and lace ensemble, coffee cup in hand.
You can still buy sets like this, though I’ve usually found them to be sort of pricey. I may decide to treat myself someday, but I hesitate at the moment. The truth is, I have so many pajamas already (aka cute old t-shirts) that it always feels impractical to buy new ones.
And maybe I’m just fussy, but does it bother anyone else how easily wrinkled silk gets? Hardly anything is more gorgeous to me than these old pinup photos, but the prettier the lingerie, the more delicate and high-maintenance it seems to be. To me, that makes it a little less fun.
Then again, stuff like that is mostly meant to be taken off.
The good news is that you can still be cute and matchy-matchy. Just make a point to go in a more cotton/polyester direction when you do your shopping.
I chose to lump together pajamas and lingerie in this post because, in the end, there really is very little difference. And besides, anything can be lingerie if you’re in the right mood.
You can see in these illustrations that the same silhouettes were being used for pajamas as for day wear. Essentially a straight line down, with no emphasis on the waist.
I don’t know about you, but I think every one of those drawings looks, not only chic, but exceedingly comfortable (which should always be the bottom line when it comes to sleepwear).
The kimono is my favorite element in the 20s nightwear aesthetic, hands down. This is something I absolutely intend to give myself one day. Something that ties at the waist, and I want it to be at least knee-length. Like a robe, but extra.
Aren’t these pictures just divine?
Honestly, you could consider these 20s posts I do to be more like a mood board than anything else. Which one of these photos will inspire you? What will stick in your mind and influence your next purchase, or your next closet reorganization? The Screaming 20s will be different for everybody, but I like the idea that my blog could be an inspirational resource that we share in common.
Here’s my ultimate goal. What could be more stylish, more luxurious than this? A fully coordinating three-piece set. Soft pink with black lace trim. Entirely glamorous, yet designed simply for lounging. I can easily picture myself wearing this exact combo as I make breakfast, maybe do a little laundry, and play video games for an entire afternoon. It’s so me.
I like to keep things honest with you, my readers, and so I’ll tell you, if this post has seemed disjointed or maybe like it doesn’t have a real thesis, I agree. That’s how I see it anyway, reading it over now. The truth is, my desire to write is flickering in and out at the moment. Don’t misunderstand; I will continue putting something out every week. I refuse to stop. I just hope you’ll forgive the occasional slip in my focus. We’re living in strange times, and it affects us all in one way or another.
That being said, I have been inspired by the 20s aesthetic, not just this year, but for about six years. It’s a subject that has been brewing in the back of my mind all this time, and I waited. I waited until 2020 arrived. So that I could strike when the iron was hot.
2020 threw us a curveball that no one was expecting (though it certainly proves that history does repeat itself). When I said I wanted us to embrace the 20s vibe, I meant pearls and feminism, not plague and economic collapse. But here we are, and seeing as we are currently sitting in quarantine, here’s my thesis:
Pajamas, but make it fashion.
We could all be lying around the house like this for a few weeks. Who’s going to stop us?
Those of you who have been with me for awhile know that my usual office is my local coffee shop. Up until the last few weeks, that is where I wrote everything you’ve read so far. And it was ideal for me. It got me out of the house, for one thing, and I was exposed nearly every day to that calm, friendly café vibe that I’d gotten so addicted to.
Well, no one saw a plague coming, did they?
And so, for now, my office is my kitchen.
But let me take this opportunity to say how lucky I really am. In a time when staying home is the safest and most responsible thing we civilians can do, I don’t have a job that requires me to leave the house. We all know people who do, and we should give them their due appreciation (as in, they should be getting livable wages and appropriate protections from their employers).
Shoutout to my beloved husband, who is a pharmacist, and who is working extra hard right now to help people stay safe and well. And he says that people who thank him really brighten his day, so make sure to thank your pharmacists, everybody.
If you’re lucky like me and are currently in a stay-at-home situation, I know that it can feel like you’re cooped up. Trapped, even. People were getting cabin fever after Week 1, and we’ve still got some weeks to go. But don’t despair. That’s what this blog post is all about. Here are some tips for making this experience, not just bearable, but beneficial.
This might seem trivial at first glance, but oh no. You have to understand, first of all, the number one rule of skincare is moisturizer, always. But now, in a time when we are washing our hands and sanitizing everything a lot more often (which is just what we should be doing), our skin needs this more than ever.
We’re already stressed. Dry, irritated skin is the last thing we could possibly need. I recommend lotioning up right after you shower–that’s when you’ll get the most out of it. Before bed is a good time, too. In fact, I do my entire skincare routine just before bed. It helps me feel refreshed, especially after a long or stressful day.
Another fun thing about sitting in a coffee shop nearly every day was that it was such a great opportunity to dress up. People like to look cute when they go to a nice café, and I’m no exception. But social distancing isn’t exactly conducive to that sort of thing, and staying at home can often mean staying in your pajamas. Who is there to dress up for?
Well, ideally, the answer is…ourselves.
Even on just a psychological level, putting clothes on tells our brains, “Hey, we’re starting our day now.” And that alone can make a huge difference. It has for me. I’m not saying you have to do it every single day without fail, and I’m not saying you have to get fancy (unless you want to, in which case, you definitely should). My point is that you’ll feel much more awake with day-clothes on, and that will work in your favor if there are things you want to get done.
Find Your Makeup Balance
On the one hand, this is a golden opportunity to go makeup-free for awhile. And that could be just what you need. It would give your skin a break, and you wouldn’t have to hassle with it. One less thing to worry about.
But on the other hand, makeup can be awfully fun, and it can have the same effect on us as getting dressed. If it gives you pleasure to freshen up in the mirror, there’s no reason to stop. Some days, I just don’t feel ready until I’ve got some eyeliner on. And it would be a shame to let all my pretty lipsticks go to waste. You don’t have to be seen by the public to get cute. It’s just as pleasant to get cute for yourself.
In the end, clothes and makeup and everything else we decorate ourselves with, it’s all just a means to an end. That end being the enhancement of our confidence. That’s been the central theme of this entire blog. Confidence. Self-love. Authenticity.
Those things shouldn’t come to a halt just because we’re at home.
You Don’t Have to Exercise
It’s true that working out is pretty much the healthiest thing you can do, and I definitely recommend some kind of light exercise at least once or twice a week. Under normal circumstances.
Listen, I don’t have to tell you that exercising would be good for you right now. Plenty of people are saying that. But we’re currently in the middle of a crisis, and it just doesn’t make sense to put extra pressure or guilt on yourself at this time. Some of us will come out of this a little heavier or a little skinnier, but the important thing is that we get to the other side.
Besides, exercise shouldn’t be tied to our insecurities in the first place. It should be an activity we do purely out of the love we have for our bodies.
You Don’t Have to Be Hyper-Productive
If you’re dealing with an unprecedented level of free time, you may feel like you’re failing if you don’t fill that time. Allow me to release you from that obligation.
You don’t have to learn how to sew or take up bread-making. You don’t have to read a dozen books or start a DIY project. Those are all good things, but look, this isn’t a test or a competition. We’re living through a weird time, and you don’t have to “make the most of it.”
Postpone spring cleaning. Leave the laundry for tomorrow. If you don’t feel like doing something, just don’t. Let a day or two pass while you watch Netflix. It won’t make a big difference in the long run. You’re safe at home, and that’s all that really matters.
Listen to Music or ASMR
One of the biggest reasons I enjoyed sitting at the coffee shop with my laptop or journal or book was that it provided a sense of ambiance. Lattes being made, people talking, it was all a pleasant backdrop as I did my own thing. Noisy, but not distracting. So just sitting in a mostly silent house wasn’t really working.
And my dog, as it turns out, doesn’t like silence, either. He barks if it’s too quiet.
We both needed some noise.
Look up ASMR Rooms on YouTube. There are a bunch of ambient videos, all based in fantasy realms like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. They’re very soothing. My favorite one for blog-writing is The Green Dragon Inn–it’s quite similar to the usual noises of a coffee shop.
On that same note, I have a dozen or more playlists for whatever mood I’m in. And I learned something recently…
You can’t be sad or lonely if the volume is loud enough.
My birthday has come and gone in the middle of all this, and you might think that made for a pretty depressing time. WRONG. I simply don’t have unhappy birthdays, and I wasn’t going to start now. As soon as I woke up that morning, I blasted party music through the house, and I kept jamming the whole day through.
Music affects our brains like nothing else, so put on a song that makes your blood run hot and the vibes run high.
Dose Up on Nostalgia
Disney movies were the foundation of my entire childhood, and it’s almost uncanny how all those old feelings can come rushing back.
Nostalgia has been absolutely critical to my mental health lately. Disney+ really could not have happened at a better time. I have access to any movie or show, everything I grew up with, and I can nearly guarantee that I would have to be getting on anxiety meds right now if I didn’t have it.
Take yourself back to happier days. Simpler times. Find ways to laugh and to smile. It helps.
It helps more than I can express.
Nurture Your Spiritual Side
This isn’t so much about religion as it is about your own inner peace. Now is a good opportunity to explore your spiritual needs. Life often gets so busy that we don’t give our souls any attention. We have more time now. Time to reflect…maybe time to heal.
If prayer or study help you to feel fulfilled, you should make time for that. If meditation or daily rituals or anything in particular helps you find balance, don’t hesitate. Get started today.
Our personal needs are highly unique; every individual has their own struggles and their own path to happiness. This could be your chance to work things out.
Anxiety Will Happen…and That’s Okay
As I write this, I am on Day 20 of my social distancing journey, and so far I’ve had two days (not in a row) of total anxious stupor. And on those days, I felt hopeless. I lost my appetite; all I wanted to do was cry–because in my mind, the world was ending.
But I’ve learned some ways to help myself through days like that.
First of all, take naps if you feel like it. I’ve always tended to resist naps, but here’s the thing: stress is exhausting. We’re all feeling the fight or flight response, except we can neither fight nor fly. So our bodies turn to Option C, which is ‘play dead.’ It’s fine. Sleep is good for you, anyway.
Next, limit your media intake. A person can only take so much bad news, and that’s all that’s ever on TV. As for social media, it depends. Facebook is a toxic waste dump at this point (it was going downhill anyway), and I’ve all but stopped looking at it. But I’ve cultivated a much healthier, much more positive community on Instagram, so I still spend some time there. It’s all about creating boundaries.
Keeping in mind that it’s allergy season, I still heartily recommend stepping outside every so often. Sit out on your porch, your balcony; take a short walk, or even just open your windows. You need to stay away from other people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fresh air. Get a little sunshine. It’s Spring!
And finally, there’s no shame in responsibly used medication. On the really bad days, I would take a Xanax before bed, and it helped a lot. Sometimes, I eat one or two CBD gummy bears. That’s an effective way to relax, and it also helps with muscle tension. And in a somewhat less medical sense, two glasses of wine with dinner instead of one has also helped keep things pleasant. You can make things easier for yourself without becoming an addict. Just be pragmatic.
All of this falls under one blanket statement: self-care.
Self-care. Self-care. Self-care.
Those days when everything seemed to be crumbling around me were bad days. But then the sun would come up the next morning, and I would feel better. In fact, I’ve had a lot of good days during this quarantine.
Feel your feelings. Humans have them, good and bad. It’s normal. And I’ve realized…I’m not dead yet. So I’m determined to live until life actually ends.
Let Kindness Reign
There are plenty of things that are simply out of our control. Let those things go, and focus on what you can control. Namely, yourself. If you are quarantined with housemates (spouses, kids, roommates, parents, etc), please be understanding. We have to recognize that things are just weird right now, and nobody is handling it stress-free. But we are capable of supporting and encouraging one another. Now more than ever, we can extend our love outwards.
And if you wish you could help in this time when so many are in need, there are several ways. Staying home is a big one. You are helping just by laying low. Mass quarantine greatly reduces the spread of disease and keeps hospitals from being overwhelmed. You can also help small businesses stay afloat by purchasing from them online or buying gift cards. Donate money to local food banks and homeless shelters. If you’re privileged enough to have extra funds on hand, you could make a big difference to someone who doesn’t. Some people are even sewing medical masks for hospital staff (due to recent shortages). There are a million little opportunities for kindness right now.
(And of course, the obvious: don’t hoard food and supplies. That’s the absolute least you can do. It creates shortages that otherwise wouldn’t happen, placing terrible strain on low-income families. And it makes you a selfish, uncivilized asshole).
If all of us collectively choose empathy and kindness over fear right now, we can get through this, and we can minimize the damage for everyone. We might even realize that we need empathy and kindness all the time, not just in a crisis. It’s my hope that we’ll come out the other side of this as better people, with stronger bonds and more open hearts.
I got a lot of positive feedback last week for my Portland trip overview, and I thank you. It was a really fun, exciting adventure, and it was a pleasure to write about.
But that was just giving you a sense of what we did there–it was a look at Portland through a tourist’s eyes. Now, because this is a fashion blog, I want to apply a fashion lens to the experience.
So, starting with my flight/arrival look…
I don’t really like to fly, and I’ve never been interested in adding to the anxiety by trying to do “airport chic.” For me, it’s got to be comfortable. This was the closest I’ve ever come to going for a look. I went with all black, head to toe, including soft black shoes which you cannot see. Black stud earrings, my usual rings that I wear every day, and a little rose quartz necklace tucked into my shirt. I wore eyeliner, but that was basically useless, because my eyes watered, and it had mostly worn off by the time we landed. (Travel dehydrates your skin anyway, so I don’t believe in wearing makeup on a plane).
This was the longest trip Greg and I had ever taken, and I learned something: a neck pillow seriously makes all the difference. I borrowed one from my mom, and it truly made the flights 10x more comfortable. Obviously, I’ll have to buy one for myself sometime.
One stop I actually didn’t include in my last post was right after our first lunch. We had no clue yet how to navigate the city, and we just swung into the first place that said “coffee” as we walked back towards the hotel. I’ve actually had to look up what the shop was called, because we weren’t really paying attention, but it was Azar Indulgences. It turned out to be a small, Lebanese chocolate shop that also happened to offer coffee, as well as something called ‘sipping chocolate.’ The owner was very friendly, and she recommended that we try sipping chocolate with a shot of espresso.
I assumed it was going to be like hot chocolate, but no, this was bitter the way that very dark chocolate is bitter, and it certainly had an extra kick with the espresso. But sipping it slowly was enjoyable after a big meal, and we sat at the little bar by the window, people-watching. By then, with food and caffeine on my stomach, my head was much clearer (after the long trip), and that’s when I started noticing the fashion of Portland.
Most notably, an elderly lady who actually had a fall on the sidewalk right in front of us. I was just thinking as she passed by, what a personality she must have, with her big jewelry and little pigtails sticking up on top of her head, and then suddenly, down she went. (She tripped on a motorized scooter that was parked on the sidewalk). The good news is that several people stopped to help her, and after being stunned for a couple minutes, she was able to get up. She was coherent, and everything was okay. She sent away the ambulance that someone had called, and the chocolate shop owner brought her in and got her an ice pack. She sat down next to us, and we talked to her briefly–she did seem as eccentric as I’d assumed, but that’s very charming in an older woman. She spoke mostly, as she fixed her hair, of how indecent it is for ambulances to be so expensive (and therefore, mostly inaccessible), and thank goodness she didn’t need one.
It was a wild start to our adventure, that was for sure.
The hotel had actually upgraded our room (our stay seriously couldn’t have been nicer), and one of my favorite parts ended up being our bathroom. I mention this because just look at the lighting around that mirror! I had never had such an ideal place to put on makeup before. And that’s just what I did for dinner that night.
I had gotten this big, fluffy sweater for Christmas, as well as those huge earrings, and I packed them just in case, not knowing whether or not it would be cold enough to wear something so warm. It stayed in the 50s and was mostly sunny the whole time we were there, but the evenings were cold, so this was a perfect dinner ensemble.
And as you know, we dined at Jackrabbit, the hotel restaurant.
You can see this was an eventful trip, right from the very start.
For our first official day, I went with the classic black and white. You can’t see it very well, but my necklace is a little golden bee pendant. I can’t fully explain why–maybe because this look has a sort of sultry business woman vibe?–but this outfit is Greg’s absolute favorite on me.
That was our big museum day, so I feel like it was the right style.
Our favorite coffee shop (in the overall vibe department) was Case Study, where we had breakfast. Everything was so ideal: it was all just starting; we were in high spirits. We got this perfect little table by the window, and we did some more people-watching as we ate. That’s really the great thing about large cities. Observing the multitudes of different people as they all go about their business–it’s exactly why there are so many outdoor cafés in places like Paris; people-watching is a well-loved pastime.
It’s precisely how people like me can figure out what’s fashionable in a city like Portland.
Portlandian style is actually not a simple thing to pin down. Eclectic is the best word for it. There really didn’t seem to be any rules, and I saw everything from haute couture to grunge…to just plain weird.
But that was refreshing, honestly.
Since Portland is pretty famous for its weirdness, I brought along one of my more experimental outfits, and I wore it on the second day. A dark blue turtle neck tucked into my black pants, with my most unique crystal necklace as a statement piece. You can’t tell properly from this photo, but I’m wearing a navy blue stud in one ear, and a silver dangly earring in the other. I think I might have turned a few heads in this ensemble, but in a good way. I felt good anyhow.
I kept my makeup to a minimum during the day. Eyeliner and maybe a touch of lipstick. It just didn’t make sense to walk up and down the city every afternoon with a full face.
This was our bookstore and sushi day. Definitely our most extensive walk-through of downtown.
One aspect of the fashion I can certainly pin down for you is that tons of people had tattoos. Big, lovely, noticeable tattoos. And I don’t just mean hipsters and dive bar waitresses. Lots of professionals, too. Management position types. Clearly, the stigma against tattoos has faded significantly in that region.
And that could be said for more than just body art. Portland was, in many ways, a land of flamboyance. There was this sense of freedom in the air that was noticeable to us immediately–there was just more color, more expression. It made me realize how really, truly stifled we still are in the south. The people who live where I live aren’t less artful–there’s just a lot less tolerance.
On our last full day, I went with my bicycle sweater. This was also the day when at least two different people asked if I was from Portland, so I must have really nailed it with this look.
And it was this day when I properly noticed how much the city was “shrinking.” When we walked down a few blocks to get Blue Star donuts for breakfast, I was so surprised by how short a distance it was. The previous day, when we had walked the same distance, it had felt much, much longer. And in a way, that happened every day we were there. As we got our bearings and figured out where we were going, the city seemed to compress, becoming less daunting with every new morning.
That was more or less what we considered to be our shopping day, and we spent most of the afternoon exploring a different part of the city that we drove to. We walked the length of Mississippi Ave., which had actually been recommended to us by the owner of Azar Indulgences on our very first day. And I’m so glad, because otherwise we wouldn’t have known to check it out, and we might have missed the taxidermy shop and the delicious street food.
I won’t lie, I actually felt quite underdressed in this sweater when we went to the fancy steakhouse for dinner that night, but some makeup helped me feel polished enough to be passable. It’s amazing what the right eyeshadow can do.
One more distinct detail I observed was the prevalence of crop tops, as well as outfits with cut-outs or plunging necklines. I’ve said before how much I love looks that show more skin, and I’ve even warmed up to wearing crop tops myself. So this was an element that I definitely enjoyed.
People told us on multiple occasions that we timed our trip perfectly. It was ideal walking-around weather, and that’s not usually how it is in Portland (we were originally expecting a lot more rain). So I’m sure that’s why many people had their springtime ensembles on.
I decided to go with all the same elements as our arrival for our departure: a novelty T-shirt with a long-sleeved shirt underneath (white this time). Same comfortable shoes, same accessories. Still all about comfort, but I was trying to look a little bit cool.
Trips like this inspire me to pull myself together, to bring my best–it becomes all too easy to pretend I’m a model traveling to go to Fashion Week, or (perhaps closer to the truth) a style journalist investigating this season’s trends. It’s an awfully fun fantasy to play out, even if I don’t really like to fly. And I’ve always had the sense that if you’re going to a new place, you should be a good representation of where you come from.
Just about the best feeling I get from any vacation is coming home at the end, and with that being said…it was a little hard to leave this one behind.
It only took about a day of being there before I told Greg that if we ever felt like we needed to move to a big city, I wanted it to be Portland. Such a move is never going to be realistic for us–we’re both too deeply rooted in our home; I’m already too happy where I’m at–but I’d never fallen in love with a city the way I did with that one. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. Everything was so interesting and artsy. There was an endless variety of people, things to do, sights to see.
And, quite frankly, it felt like a place where my gay and trans friends would feel a lot safer.
I’ve learned that fashion and self-expression go hand in hand. One is merely the reflection of the other. Portland was a strange and happy place. Eclectic and diverse. People dressed in a limitless array of unique, unpredictable ways. You could never be bored there.
Disclaimer: Now is not the time to travel! Greg and I went on this trip before the phrase “social distancing” came into play, and there was a lot of luck involved. That being said, though it may take some time, our current global situation with COVID-19 (the coronavirus) will eventually subside. And when it does…
I’d like to personally recommend Portland as your next travel destination. Seriously, I think everyone should go to Portland. We had a grand adventure there together.
Let me tell you all about it.
Neither Greg nor myself had ever been farther West than Oklahoma, which is why I decided that our vacation should be in the Pacific Northwest. And once that decision was made, Portland seemed the obvious choice. It’s a city known for coffee, culture, and a general sense of being interesting. Exactly what we wanted.
As I began to research hotels, I came across The Duniway. The hotel’s namesake was Abigail Duniway, a woman who “braved the arduous trail to Oregon” (back in the pioneer days), and made a name for herself by fighting for social justice, including women’s right to vote. She also owned her own newspaper. A hotel named after a beacon of Feminism like that was clearly the hotel for us.
I could easily do a whole post on how beautiful The Duniway turned out to be. We were immediately welcomed in with this wonderful sense that we were going to be taken care of–and that set the tone for our entire stay.
As it turns out, our hotel was right in the middle of downtown, and almost every restaurant/activity we wanted to try was within walking distance. That was a huge convenience (and a simple way to get in some exercise).
We asked the concierge if there was a good place nearby to get lunch, and they swiftly sent us on our way to Picnic House. We were tired and hazy, just off the plane, and at that point, we’d barely had anything to eat that day–thankfully I still had the wherewithal to snap this picture. It doesn’t really capture the restaurant’s full charm, though.
The best thing besides the delicious food (which perked us right up) was how reasonable it was. Walking in, we assumed the place was going to be a little expensive, seeing how nice it was. But–and this will make sense to my local readers–it was actually pretty similar to eating out at Stoby’s. (And there was no sales tax. I really can’t tell you how enjoyable it is to see something priced, say, $13 and pay exactly $13).
As a cherry on top, they gave us our check in an old Nancy Drew book! I wasn’t kidding about the charm.
Taking the rest of the afternoon to relax, we decided that we’d stay in that night and dine in the hotel restaurant, Jackrabbit. Just imagine the room in the photo above much darker and ambient, with no sun coming in the windows. It was a truly gourmet experience, with an excellent selection from the bar.
Our adventure was just beginning, and we were so glad to be sharing it with one another.
One particular quest on this trip was to try as many coffee shops as possible, which meant a new café for breakfast every morning.
On our first official morning in Portland, we went to Case Study Coffee Roasters. For those of you who know about my relationship with coffee, you won’t be surprised that I got a mocha latte at each and every shop visited. Obviously, I had to compare them all to my beloved Round Mountain at home. The Case Study mocha was definitely different–lighter, less of that espresso taste, and with a honey-like finish.
It’s also worth noting that the bagels in Portland were actual, proper bagels. Quite dense, and not at all like the kind you get at Kroger and pop in your toaster.
The rest of the morning was spent in the Portland Art Museum. That was the big activity on my to-do list. I love art, and I don’t get very frequent exposure to it.
Then to Southpark Seafood for lunch. All of this was within walking distance of our hotel, mind you.
After swinging back to our room so that I could change shoes (comfort counts when you walk everywhere), it was a short drive to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). That was Greg’s big to-do.
And it was good fun, highly interesting, but…
The most extensive exhibit was called Body Worlds–all about the human body, as you can imagine. And all I can say is that it was probably for the best that I didn’t realize the figures on display were real human bodies until after we’d finished going through. (I’m notoriously squeamish about dead people).
It’s funny looking back, though, because as we were going along, Greg would occasionally ask me if I was okay. And I would be like, “Yeah, of course; why wouldn’t I be?” Little did I know…
That was our biggest, busiest day. Two huge museums with only lunch in between–more work than you’d think.
This one had an industrial, almost Steampunk aesthetic, which was very cool. Right up our alley. And as far as the coffee, I found the 40 LBS mocha to be fairly similar to the one at Case Study. There definitely seemed to be that same honey finish to it.
From there, we walked more or less across the length of downtown, looking around, swinging into little stores along the way. We weren’t just aimlessly meandering, though; we had an end-goal.
Right after a bite to eat…
Having asked our concierge about a good place to get sushi, we ended up at this marvelous place called Bamboo.
Greg is the sushi lover between us, and that’s what he got (I did try some). I got smoked mackerel, which was served to me, still smoking, in that cute little basket. And I want you to know that seafood in Portland makes all other seafood seem like garbage. This was the freshest, most delicious fish I’d ever had. It was as if I was tasting it for the first time.
I even liked the sushi.
Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore, was the big one on our mutual to-do list. Greg and I are both Ravenclaws, if that helps you understand our motivation.
To paint a little bit of a picture for you, Powell’s is the size of a city block, and three stories high, and it’s filled entirely with books. Imagine the library from Beauty and the Beast, except way bigger.
They even have a rare book room upstairs. Take a moment to soak that in.
We ended up spending around $60 there altogether, including the cute magnet and t-shirt, and we were congratulating ourselves on our self-control.
Feeling a little worn out at this point, we stopped at Never Coffee on the way back to the hotel. One of the owners of Round Mountain had actually recommended this place to me, so it was on our list of things to check out anyway. We got iced mochas–being pretty warm from our walking, and from the sun that happened to come out along the way.
We both felt mostly neutral about this coffee shop. It was still very good, but we were just using it as a quick refreshment, not paying that much attention to the nuance of the flavors. Not gonna to lie, after the bookstore, we were just plain tired.
But it was the perfect little spot to take a break.
Our final breakfast was a two-parter. And Part I took place at Blue Star Donuts.
We had been advised more than once that we were better off getting local donuts, rather than going to a big chain like Voodoo. Blue Star seemed to be a favorite, so that’s where we ended up.
We tried the maple bacon, the CBD Nutella, and the raspberry rosemary (which I got almost entirely for that beautiful color alone). They were all yummy, though I honestly couldn’t eat much more than a bite apiece. I’m used to small, non-sugary breakfasts, and anything this rich was really too much for me that early in the day.
Part II was at a coffee shop called Public Domain Coffee. All of the cafés we visited were pretty much at random (as long as they looked good), because–surprise–there are like 10 million places to get coffee in Portland. We decided on this one the day before when we happened to walk past it.
Since this was our last coffee shop of the trip, here’s our final verdict…
We judged all of these places by two different categories: best vibe/aesthetic and best coffee taste. For best coffee taste, Greg chose 40 LBS as his personal favorite. As for me, I chose this one. The Public Domain mocha was heavier on that espresso flavor than the others, and it didn’t have the honey finish I had come to expect.
And we both agreed that when it came to best vibe/aesthetic, Case Study was the winner.
But while I’m on the subject of coffee, I want to use this opportunity to say that my own Round Mountain Coffee remains the best of them all in my eyes. It’s fair to imagine that I’m biased, but well, the RMC mocha strikes a perfect balance between chocolate and espresso, and for me, that’s just what it should be. That’s what home tastes like.
That afternoon, we wanted to do some shopping, and we ended up exploring a different part of the city a short drive away. Our first stop was easily our favorite. Paxton Gate was a small store filled to the brim with taxidermy, fossils, crystals, and oddities–everything my husband and I happen to love.
Greg walked away with a small T-Rex tooth and a couple other little things (he’s always had the more expensive taste), and I chose some new crystals to add to my collection. It was all so interesting, and when we asked about a good place to grab lunch, they kindly pointed us in the direction of a cluster of food trucks down the street.
Street food is a mixed bag, depending on where you’re at. But I can tell you that in Portland, you can rely on it to be good (and quality).
I have always loved the idea of Raman, but I’d never had any that lived up to my expectations until I got some from this Japanese stand. And the rest of the food you see was from a Korean stand right next to it. Amid all the trucks were a bunch of picnic tables, and though it was a little chilly out, we sat in the sun, and it was perfect.
We walked up and down the avenue after we ate, ducking into whichever shops caught our eye. I bought this cool, minimalist ring (pictured above) in one of the boutiques. There was a plant shop, a comic book store, just a little bit of something for everyone.
And honestly speaking, I’m thankful we visited when we did, because parking anywhere was difficult enough, and it was the off-season for tourism.
That evening, I decided that for our last meal of the trip, we’d go to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, a restaurant we’d been passing on the street every day since we’d gotten there. It turned out to be bigger and much fancier than I had assumed from looking in the windows, but all the better. We had an exquisite dinner. Neither of us took any pictures; we could focus on nothing but the food and drink. But I will say this: Greg got a lobster tail with his steak, and he gave me a couple bites. And it further drove home what I was saying earlier about Portland seafood. Even the lobster that I had tasted in Maine last summer was trash compared to this. So apparently, it’s the Pacific Ocean that produces the good stuff.
Back at the hotel later on, after a drink together at the lobby bar, we had no choice but to start packing up; our flight home was the next morning. We agreed, however, that we both would have happily stayed a few more days if we could have. Speaking as two homebodies who will always love sleeping in our own bed the most, we adored our time in Portland. By our second day there, we had already decided that we want to go back.
And I know in my heart that we will someday.
I’m glad to be back and writing again. I hope you enjoyed the story of our Portland journey, because it’s not over yet! This post laid out the bones of the trip, so to speak, and next week, I want to put a little more meat on it.
In the meantime, stay safe out there. Stay at home if you can. Things have gotten a little weird, but we’ll get through it.
As we embrace the first glowing days of Spring, I figured this would be the perfect time to pause and appreciate these beautiful flowers.
I actually had the idea for this last summer, but I’ve been saving it for springtime, when it’s sure to be the most inspiring. At first, I imagined I would focus on Japan and Japanese style, because I associate these blooms with that country. However, it occurred to me that you can find cherry blossoms in many other places, and so I decided to take a different approach.
There is something incredibly artful to me about these flowers. Everything comes alive in the Spring; everything buds and blooms, and the world becomes a canvas. The lovely soft pink of cherry blossoms is the most delicate stroke of the paintbrush, a color that is so bright, yet so gentle–you can almost smell the floral perfume just by looking at it.
When I was a kid, I went through that phase where I didn’t want people to think I was “girly.” I avoided anything too frilly, and I avoided pink most of all. I think I just didn’t want to come off as “soft.” And tons of little girls go through that phase (the “I’m not like other girls” phase), so I’m sure plenty of people can relate to this.
(We figured out as adults, of course, that we were doing that because society used the word girly as a way of saying weak or shallow, and we didn’t want to identify with that. That’s on society, not us).
But as an adult, pink is one of my favorite colors. Cherry blossom pink perhaps most of all.
Being soft and feminine is just as much a part of who I am as anything else. And there’s nothing weak about it. Flowers and pastels and frilly things, they aren’t lesser than; they aren’t meant to be looked down upon.
If you’ve been reading my stuff for quite awhile, you know I will do these Spark of Inspiration posts once in a blue moon–just whenever I notice some kind of detail that I want to explore (and see more of in fashion). Cherry blossoms, the flower, the color, pretty much every aspect of them is what we would call traditionally feminine–and that’s probably why I think they’re so lovely to begin with. But there are still too many people out there who avoid things like that, for exactly the same reason I did as a child.
Listen, no matter who you are, if you’re reading this right now, I am giving you permission to explore your “girly” side. Having gentle feelings, enjoying cute things, doing or saying or liking feminine stuff, there is 100% nothing negative about that. And, seriously, if your eyes enjoy the sight of the color pink, you should be able to wear it without feeling weird.
It’s time to think pink. Lovely, floral, springtime pink.
I’m totally on board with just straight up wearing cherry blossoms. They make for a very attractive print.
But I, myself, lean more towards wearing the solid color.
Or you could go in the “pop of color” direction and wear pink accessories, like hats, shoes, socks. Hey, even underwear! Why not?
Bonus: Pink makeup looks cute on all skin tones, so that could be a fun place to start.
In case there was any question, I am speaking to my male readers just as much as my female ones right now. Perhaps even more so. Don’t forget, if Jason Momoa can wear a pink velvet suit (and be smoking hot), you’ve got nothing to be afraid of.
I often say, “I need more pink in my life,” and it’s true. I actually don’t own many pieces in this color, and it’s a shame. The only thing is, not every pink works on me, even if it’s divine on the hanger–the reason being that I have a very fair complexion, and with pink undertones, so sometimes a pink shirt will look great on me, and other times, it will make me look completely washed out.
C’est la vie.
It doesn’t make me want to wear it any less.
All I’m trying to say is that now’s the time.
It’s Spring. It’s Rebirth. Everything is blooming. We should bloom, too! Whether you wear pink all the time or have never worn it in your life, seize the moment! The flowers are out in all their full-blown radiance. It’s nothing new to want to copy them. Humans have been admiring and wearing flowers for all time. Men have been comparing women to flowers for thousands of years (all well and good, but men can be flowers, too).
This is an especially pleasant time to be alive. The sunshine is out, it’s warm without being hot, and Nature is wearing her finery again. Today could be your day to stop and smell the roses.
And to wear cherry blossom pink.
Just to let you guys know, I will be gone on vacation all this week, so there will not be another post next Monday. I’ll catch you up on everything the following week. I hope you’re all enjoying this Spring weather, and as always, I wish you the best.