Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bad Shampoo Alert

Good afternoon. I have emerged from blogging hibernation to shine a light on a very important matter. In brief, Nexxus Color Assure sulfate free shampoo and conditioner are terrible products. Do not buy them. After using them for several weeks, my hair has literally never looked worse (I am including the spiral perm episode and the time I accidentally dyed it purple). It's frizzy yet lifeless; at once greasy and dry.

I bought the Nexxus crap several weeks ago, because CVS was out of my preferred Salma Hayek products for color treated hair. As I am well into my dotage, I've been crankily coloring my hair for a few years; my stylist says the color lasts longer if one uses a special shampoo. So I obey.

The purchase of the offending items coincided with a visit to the salon, which had just switched to Aveda hair color from Goldwell. At first I suspected that my hair didn't like the Aveda. Or that this horrific winter we've been having has rendered it dull and dry, with random greasy areas.  So I carried on using the Nexxus every third day, which is how often I wash my hair.

Finally,  it dawned on me: the shampoo! It's "Sulfate Free." Apparently, sulfates, while bad for the environment or human health or whatever the problem (I was going to research it, but I can't take it on), are what make shampoo actually work.

Yesterday, I used some hotel shampoo and conditioner, and my hair looked immediately better. Not fantastic, mind you. It may take a while before the memory of the Nexxus has faded from my follicles. I don't like to waste things, but the shampoo and conditioner will be disposed of.

To recap, this stuff stinks.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Demented Product of the Day: The Power Nap Head Pillow

Clearly overwork has distorted the perspective of this poor man


Hi. Flipping through the detritus of the day's mail while Vi is doing her homework, I just spotted this item for sale in Hammacher Schlemmer. According to the copy, it "blocks out noise and light to create a private zone for catching a quick power nap...at a crowded airport or recharging between meetings at work." !!!!!! It costs $99.95.




Thursday, October 17, 2013

Further Proof That I Am Psychic

There was a strip of tape on my bicep. It looked like some sort of medical tape, and it had been there for longer than I could remember. I had tried to remove it over the years, but it was hard to get off, so there it stayed. Finally, one day, I yanked the tape hard. It gave way to reveal a raised scar, in a  straight Frankenstein line. Also, there was a bloody hole an inch deep. How had I gotten that? When?
I began calling and meeting up with friends to see if anyone could help me remember. No one knew.

Suddenly, the light switched on. My husband and kids were wishing me happy birthday. It was 6:21 am. It was so disorienting, being woken from this dream, so early on a Sunday morning. "Give me a minute," I said, and told them about the dream.


I wrote the above paragraphs back in September, a few days after my birthday, for a post I had titled "The Birthday Monster." It was to be about my birthday tears and joys, but I never got past those few words. Long story short: I was weepy and feeling sorry for myself, until my sweet daughter did everything she could to make my day special. Love her.

 I am sharing the writing now (I have not changed a letter) because it is proof that I am psychic. I have long believed this to be true. My husband rolls his eyes, and maybe you are, too. But listen to this: I now have a Frankenstein scar, acquired after this dream. A few weeks after my birthday, during a routine skin check, my dermatologist (I have had trouble but finally found a good one) discovered a suspicious growth on the back of my neck.

 This thing was not even on my radar. It was small, reddish, hard and pimple-esque and had shown up about 3 weeks before. Nothing like the brownish moles I worry about. The doctor removed it for biopsy,  and called me with the results a few days later.  It turned out to be squamous cell skin cancer.  Squamous cell skin cancer is not as deadly as melanoma, but a little more deadly than basal cell. If not caught early, it can spread throughout the body, or disfigure a person. This was caught early.

I was not terribly surprised by the diagnosis. Though I have been very careful about the sun for the past two decades, I grew up in a time before SPF and thus endured many sunburns. As a teenager and young adult I would sunbathe, trying to get tan, which I regret whenever I see the milky white skin on my unsunned abdomen. If only I had stayed out of the sun, my entire epidermis would look so good.

My mom has had a few squamous cell growths removed from her face. My grandmother had numerous large basal cell skin cancer moles. I mean, they were gigantic. I pray that nothing like that ever appears on my body. It motivates me to sunscreen up and regularly get checked at the dermatologist. I have had so many suspicious skin growths biopsied, but before this, they had all been benign.

The doctor said: "It's absolutely nothing to worry about." So I did not worry that much. I worry about all kinds of things you are not supposed to worry about; still, I was not THAT worried. She explained they would have to remove a little more skin to see if the cancer had spread, which I took to mean they would numb the area and scrape a little off. She did say I had to see a dermatologic surgeon for this procedure, called an excision.

So last Tuesday, I took the train into the city, and made plans to meet a friend for lunch. I did not look up "excision" on the internet. Or ask many questions. That is why I did not realize that a hole five millimeters from the outside of the growth would be cut into my neck. The train was 45 minutes late. Thus, I arrived that late at the fancy doctor's Fifth Avenue office, across from Central Park. I sat under a crystal chandelier on a white leather couch. The leather was buttery soft, unblemished, like the skin of an unsunned belly, if you will. The lillies on the coffee table were dead, which I found odd.

The doctor had beautiful red hair swept into an elegant chignon. She and her receptionist were looking at tile samples for the bathroom while I filled out my paperwork. Later, when I was in the room, "excision" was explained to me. A hole five millimeters from the edges of the growth would have to be cut. Honestly, it is probably better that I did not know too much beforehand. After a monster amount of local anesthetic was injected into me, the cutting began. Then the doctor cauterized the edges. Maybe to kill any stray squamous cells? I was not really listening.   I could smell my own flesh burning, and it was like chicken cooking. That was gnarly. Finally, she sewed the circle closed in a straight Frankenstein line. Ten stitches.  See! I am psychic.

They sent out my flesh for biopsy.  The nurse showed me how to change my bandage, then she stuck on a pressure bandage, which I guess was to impede any bleeding. I was told not to move my neck, carry anything heavy or travel for the next two weeks. When I emerged, my sweet friend SueAnne was there in the waiting room. I was walking with a stiff neck. I also had a bandaid under my eye because another growth that was bothering me had been removed. So I was looking pretty gorgeous.

We went to lunch, but I had no appetite and was finding it too much effort to eat without moving my neck. SueAnne paid, and insisted on taking me in a cab to Penn Station. Due to traffic we missed the train by one minute, so I had a one-hour wait. I spent the time thinking about my many loved ones who had had cancer-- those who had made it, and those who hadn't. Both parents, cousins, uncles, in-laws, grandparents, beloved friends. They had endured unspeakable treatments. I merely had a hole cut in my neck and a Frankenstein scar. I probably should have gotten someone to drive me instead of taking public transport, but my issue was so minor, hopefully. I reflexively turned my head to look at the board, and learned why I had been advised not to move my neck. Ouch.

That night was Back to School Night, my daughter's last at her elementary school. My husband Dalton thought I should stay home. But I did not want to miss it. He had to carry my purse. "You are walking like a robot, you have a bandaid on your face, and I am carrying your bag," he said. "You are raising a lot of questions." I laughed.

Long story short, my biopsy came back clear, which raises the question of why it was necessary to cut a hole in my neck. But, I am not a doctor. The stitches come out next week. I have nice friends who brought me lunch. I realized I wait on my family like a servant, and I taught them how to do chores I can't right now. Another silver lining: now that my daughter has seen the scar, I don't think she'll argue about the importance of sunscreen. I made up a hilarious song: "You say squamous (short a)/ and I say squamous (long a)."

Anyway. My point is, I am psychic. And also, you should wear sunscreen and get a skin check.

how it looked one week later





Friday, April 5, 2013

My daughter knows about sex and still wants the tooth fairy to come

 "Alana says they teach the reproductive system in 5th grade at her school," my 10-year-old daughter Violet told me earlier this week.

That got my attention. "Yes, at your school too," I said, mildly. She is in fourth grade. Our plan was for me to have a sex education talk with her right before the school curriculum was presented. I was waiting until then in order to "preserve her innocence," or avoid giving her information she would not be ready for. (I had explained menstruation when she was three, and asked about some tampons in our bathroom.)

Vi continued: "We are studying bodily systems in school, and (name redacted) says his favorite system is the reproductive system." (Name redacted) is a piece of work. During a field trip into New York City that I chaperoned,  he made sure to point out every "inappropriate" (sexualized) billboard we passed. "I can't wait until I am grown up, so I can kiss," he announced in the back of the bus. I raised an eyebrow. "Trust me," he said. "You've done it thousands of times." Must keep this child away from my daughter. But how? I fear they will end up attending some middle school dance together three years hence.

Now it seemed clear that Vi wanted to discuss the reproductive system, so I asked what she knew about it. "It's when a man and a woman have sex to make a baby." Okay. I asked her what sex was. She giggled when she replied, but had a pretty clear understanding of the mechanics and used the clinical terms, as we have always done.

Damn. I did not get to her first. I tried to act matter-of-fact, while imagining myself storming into the fourth grade classroom demanding: "Which one of you bitches told my daughter about sex?" Instead, I asked, "how long have you known about this, and how did you find out?" Vi told me that at a sleepover in December, this fifth grader had clued her in, describing a "sex book" that her older brother had. WHAT WHAT WHAT? I remember that sleepover. She was catatonic the next day, but I assumed it was because she hadn't gotten any sleep.

"You don't have sex with just anyone," I said. "Only someone very special." She said, "I know." I also pointed out this is something that occurs when she is much, much older.

I am not sure why I was surprised about what went down at the sleepover. I myself was schooled about sex when I was FIVE years old. The first time I was sent outside to play alone, a girl who lived down the hall in our apartment building, my same age, whispered in my ear. "Do you know what F-U-C-K means?" she asked. I shook my head. "It's when a boy sticks his"-- she pointed to her crotch--"into a girl's"-- again she pointed downward. I went inside, catatonic. I told no one. There was never any elaboration from my parents, naturally.

Vi, happily, seems less bothered by the knowledge than I was. Her innocence is pretty well intact. The day after our little talk, Violet lost a tooth that she had been wiggling for weeks. She offered a theory of how the tooth fairy operates: "She gives the parents the money, and then they put it under the pillow." I left that one alone. I'm not too invested in perpetuating the tooth fairy myth at this point, so my policy is to neither confirm nor deny.  And after her big revelation the day before, I have to be honest, I was not too focused on my tooth fairy duties.

Violet put the tooth under her pillow, but the fairy, she did not come. We all agreed the fairy must have been unusually busy. So she put it under her pillow last night as well, but the tooth fairy flaked again.

I am clearly just doing a bang-up job here at Fallen Princess HQ.

Signing off,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Feminist Housewife

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I am actually an actual feminist housewife

Jezebel sent out a tweet criticizing the recent New York magazine story about feminist housewives, which is how I found out about it. First I read Jezebel's elegantly titled "The Feminist Housewife is Such Bullshit." In peppery prose, the blogger discredited the New York writer,  deciding that the two women in the piece have no business calling themselves feminists, which kind of reminds me of back in the day when feminists--me included--collectively decreed that Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown wasn't allowed to say she was a feminist. Nowadays, I am inclined to welcome anyone who is willing to declare herself a feminist, especially when many prominent women, from Yahoo exec Marissa Mayer to any number of female musicians, won't identify as such. Then I read the New York magazine piece, which posits that there's an exploding new trend of feminist housewives. After that, I hit The Atlantic, Slate and Salon for their thoughts on the issue.  It was exhausting. And I thought, what can I possibly write about this topic that hasn't already been written? Yet here I am.

I've been ruminating about feminism and stay-at-home parenting since I read a New York Times review of Lean In, the book in which Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg advises women to persist in their career ambition. If you have gotten this far in this rambling post, you probably already know all about Lean In. Sandberg lays out what she calls women's "internal obstacles" to career success.

The mandate of Lean In makes me feel vaguely defensive and cranky. Not defensive and cranky enough to get and read the book, mind you. However, I've read most of the commentary online. There are those who feel Sandberg unfairly blames women for their own plight; others applaud her for the practical advice she offers women, such as speak up at meetings. And, don't be afraid to interrupt. Something I've noticed about people who come up with theories about the best way to raise children: these theories usually justify their own choices. I will try not to do that. And now I will explain my choices, without any theorizing.

Seven years ago, when my daughter was 3 and my son was 5, I ceased "leaning in" after a 23-year career in magazine publishing. It was not the career I set out to have, as I was hoping to become a Pulitzer-prize winning newspaper journalist, staff writer at The New Yorker, or, at the very least, reporter for Rolling Stone. Nonetheless, it was a fairly successful and fulfilling career, including 7 years writing and editing at Sassy, four at Jane, and editor-in-chief gigs at ym and ELLEgirl.

I did not exactly choose to leave my last job, editor-in-chief of ELLEgirl. The magazine folded. It was maybe the best job I ever had. I earned a nice salary, I liked the magazine and the editorial staff, and I worked well with the publisher and the business staff. The CEO was a decent boss. Because the company was French, I had the opportunity to travel to Paris twice. On most days, I left the office by 5:15, but because I commuted, I did not get home until nearly 7 pm, which meant I didn't get to spend as much time with my kids as I wanted to. It was basically dinner, baths, story, bed.

Before the kids were born, my husband and I had talked about different arrangements for child care. While I was pregnant it seemed more likely that he would become the stay-at-home parent. But, he liked his job, mine was okay, and we needed both salaries. So at first, we both continued working full-time; a nanny took care of our children. By the time I was at ELLEgirl we had an excellent nanny who is definitely better with small children than I am. Yet, I was sad to be missing so much of their childhood. The morning I had to return to work after a 3-month-maternity leave, I sobbed as I changed my daughter's diaper. My first day at ELLEgirl (I had been at home for a few months after quitting my job at ym, but that is another story) my son cried uncontrollably into the skirt of my white suit.

The pain of being separated from my children was a feeling I never expected to have. I wasn't even sure I wanted babies. Once I gave birth, of course, I wanted to be with them all the time. But I still had to work these stressful jobs in an industry that was imploding.  I was totally overwhelmed. I never felt like I was doing a good enough job at work or at home. I had no time to exercise or take care of myself. So when the magazine folded, I felt a sense of peace.

Before the company informed me that the magazine was going under, a reporter from The New York Post phoned my home to ask what I thought about ELLEgirl folding. I told him I had heard nothing of the sort. When I confirmed, the next day, that this was true, he called me on my cellphone as I rode the New Jersey Transit train home. "What are you going to do now?" he asked.

"I have no earthly idea," I said, and he published the quote. But I was lying. I knew that I wanted to be at home with my kids, I just wasn't ready to say it out loud. I wanted to pick them up after school, drop them off, take mommy and me music classes, make them food, play with them, spend summers with them. Read them stories without being distracted by pressures of newsstand sales and advertising and which starlet we could shoot for the cover. Complain that they were driving me bonkers. Your children's childhood is over so quickly, and I didn't want to miss any more of those precious years.

Also, I was burned out after five years of full-time employment, followed by commute with breast milk in tow, followed by nights comforting children who would not sleep. I couldn't think of any attainable jobs that I would want. My husband didn't understand why I hadn't left a forwarding message on my office email and voice mail. It was because I did not want any potential employers to call me. Some tracked me down. One job, executive editor at a top women's magazine, required hours at night and sometimes weekends. That was a definite no-go. When a headhunter talked me into interviewing for a job as the editor-in-chief of Organic Style, I  developed a migraine on the way there. I walked in and immediately asked the women who was interviewing me to lower the lights and give me an aspirin. Needless to say, I did not get that job. Organic Style later folded, despite the fact that I never worked there.

Soon after that, we helped our nanny find another job, and I officially became a stay-at-home mom. I did not worry that my personal decision would impact the history of feminism. My choice was not a feminist choice, nor was it an anti-feminist choice. I do not think I am a better mother than mothers who work. I just wanted to be with my kids, and YES I KNOW I AM A PRIVILEGED WHITE LADY. I don't even know for sure that it was the best choice, but it was the one that I made.

Right after Lean In was published, I was discussing the book with a writer friend at an elementary school fundraiser. A female advertising exec, when she found out my work history, asked, "Do you miss it?" I felt a lot of eyes on me. And I gave a non-specific reply. "I miss some things and not others."

That's really true. There is much that I have given up, such as status and income and keeping up with new technologies. Who knows what kind of full-time job I would be able to get now, after being out of it for so long? A few years ago, I went back to freelance writing, from which I earn a small income and a bit of intellectual stimulation. But what was once a career---writing--feels, for the moment, more like a hobby. Or a nervous tic.

But I am still a feminist. And, I guess, a housewife.

 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentime's Day

When my boy was little, he would say "valentime" instead of "valentine." Which really makes sense, with Valentine's Day coming right after Christmas time. I never corrected him for this, or for any of the words he mispronounced, because I found it so cute. Despite my best efforts, he eventually learned the proper way to say Valentine, as well as "lellow," "pillowdo" and every other word.

Anyway, I wish you and yours a Happy Valentime's Day.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

How to Look Younger Now!

1. Have a poorly lit bathroom mirror. When I peer into mine, it seems like I have no wrinkles! My hair always appears clean, too.

2. Remove all floor length mirrors from the house. Whatever you can't see, isn't there.

3. Under no circumstances are you to look into a mirror that happens to be lying flat on a table. I gave myself a real fright when I made this mistake, as harsh afternoon light streamed through a window.

4. Poor eyesight helps. I have always been nearsighted, but since I turned forty I can't see close up either! Awesome! Bad vision operates the way those BB Creams supposedly do, "blurring imperfections," and it's free!

5. Use eye cream. My mother started me on eye cream when I was 18, and I have applied it daily ever since, harassing those around me to do the same. I believe that it works, which is even better than it actually working.

6. Marry a man who is ten years younger than you. When people see you next to a strapping younger gent, they will get confused and assume you are the same age. Works even better if you have young kids in tow.


I am joking about aging, but I should clarify that I will never get botox or fillers or any of that crap, even if my above methods cease to be effective. While no one wants to look older, physical aging serves as an important reminder that your time on this planet is short, shorter every day.

However, I do plan to pluck my chin hairs, if I can see them.