Saturday, December 30, 2006

Weekly Best Dressed Award- Tara Reid

Yes, you read that title right. Party girl extraordinaire (or trashy drunk, if you really want to be honest) Tara Reid has done just about everything in her power over the last few years to destroy her reputation as a pretty, up-and-coming young actress. Her first and last great role was as Bunny Lebowski, in one of my all time favorite films, The Big Lebowski (if you haven't seen it, rent it, it's strange and wonderful and you'll laugh all night).


But since then, she's been better known for a highly publicized "wardrobe malfunction", in which she, um, didn't notice that the left strap of her evening gown fell off, exposing one of her recently implanted breasts. How convenient! This was only the first of many unfortunate pictures, the majority of which featured a stumbling, highly intoxicated Tara wearing next to nothing, accessorized with a bottle of booze. If you thought that Britney invented the "left my panties at home" attention-getting strategy, you were wrong.


Then, earlier this year, complications from a botched boob job/liposuction (perhaps they were having a 2-for-1 sale at the plastic surgeon's?) landed Tara on the cover of US Weekly for a tell-all interview.

So Tara doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to celebrity classiness. But recently she has had quite a turnaround, such as when she appeared in November at the premiere of The Fountain in this drop-dead gorgeous outfit:


Whoa, where has this been all these years? Tara looks young, healthy and gorgeous (not to mention sober and well-rested!). I absolutely love the hair and makeup, which is glamorous but not stuffy or over-done and the dress is a classic little black number with pretty beaded details.

I saw this photo and was happy, but I remained skeptical. Was this a fluke? Had the fairy godmother of Hollywood fashionistas taken pity on poor Tara and granted her one night of beauty and class? I was anxiously awaiting a follow-up photo.

A couple of weeks ago, that photo came.


She looks just as happy and healthy from the back:


Everyone loves a good comeback story, but I'm wary about proclaiming that Tara's sincerely turned a new leaf. I think she'll need to avoid any photographed inebriation for a good 6 months if we're to truly believe she's given up her "every hour is a happy hour" ways. But let this be a lesson for our dear friend Britney: if it can happen to Tara, it could happen to you.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Inexpensive Party Jewelry

Late last week I received an e-mail from Anne, who wanted some recommendations on interesting, fun jewelry to wear to a New Year's Eve party. Jewelry is a very personal issue, and it seems that every woman has very specific preferences about what she does and does not like, but I've tried to find pieces that are young and versatile, perfect for parties year-round. While every woman should have a few classic pieces, it's great to have some funkier pieces to spice up an outfit. Nothing in this guide is over $200, so you won't have to worry about breaking the bank either.

Necklaces




















Be sure to check out your local thrift stores and hit up any estate sales, they're both great places to find cool, inexpensive jewelry that no one else will have.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Shield Your Skin - A Review of Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion

I'm usually skeptical of any beauty product that promises to do something no other product can. Cosmetics companies copy each other all the time, and there's often very little difference in the list of active ingredients from one product to another. So when I received a sample of Shielding Lotion from Skin MD Natural, I was doubtful of their claims that this product was, "far more effective than conventional moisturizers" and used "the latest developments in skin care technology" to create a lotion that shields the skin from chemicals and irritants that dry out skin. But I'm always up for an experiment, so I decided to give the shielding lotion a try.

The directions say to apply a small amount every 2-8 hours for the first few days, and then build up to reapplying every 12-24 hours. Except for hand lotion, who really has the time to apply something to their entire body every few hours, even for a couple of days? My skin is dry, but I'm not that desperate, so I applied it once or twice a day for the week.


My skin is sensitive and I'm prone to allergic reactions to fragrances and colorants in products, so I was happy to read that the product was fragrance and colorant free. This is not the kind of lotion you show off in your bathroom, as the packaging and product are not luxurious in the slightest. But if you're the kind of person who just wants a moisturizer that will keep their skin from itching and cracking, this stuff might be for you.

When I first applied it, I was a little surprised at the consistency. It's thin and a little runny, not at all like the thick, greasy stuff I'm used to slathering all over my legs and feet at night. It soaked in within 60 seconds and suddenly you couldn't tell that I had any product on my hands, except for the fact that they were smoother and softer than usual. This effect was so cool that I made my mom try it, and she couldn't figure it out either, neither of us had seen anything like it.

One of my biggest pet peeves is putting on clothes after applying lotion (even 30-60 minutes later) and getting the lotion on all over a nice tank top or (this is the worst) tights or hose. Because it soaks in super quickly and leaves no oily sheen on your skin after application, it's great under more fitted clothing.

The first couple of days I tried it, my skin still felt a little dry even after applying the lotion, so I layered it with other products. I know this stuff is supposed to keep irritants from entering and drying our you skin, but for some reason it helps other lotions soak and stay in skin. Whenever I applied the shielding lotion first, followed by another lotion, my skin was incredibly moisturized, and the effect lasted until my next shower, over a day later.

After a few days, I found that I didn't need to layer with other products, and during times when I'm normally super dry (after being outside, post-shower, etc), my skin was less resistant to dryness. It was really neat effect, and definitely had a positive effect on my skin.

Skin MD Natural says that the product is safe for use on your face, but I didn't want to run the risk of breaking out right before Christmas, so I stuck to using it on my body. The lotion is a bit pricey- $25 for a 4 oz bottle (which supposedly lasts 2-3 months, though it's probably more like one month's supply), but the company guarantees that if you don't like the product, they'll give you a full refund. I'd recommend the product for anyone with severely dry skin who's sick of thick, greasy creams. If you try it out, let me know what you think of it!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Online Etiquette - An Oxymoron?

For a long time, my boyfriend was a poster on a message board that had a fair share of "flamewars" (basically, huge pointless arguments). People would write the most horrible things to each other, curse each other out, and treat each other terribly. It really bothered me that he posted on the board at all, even though he refused to participate in the negativity, and he's since given up reading it altogether.

Initially, I figured that it was only on message boards like this one, which had a ton of type A aggressive types who seemed to enjoy one-upping each other and arguing, that people treated each other with such a lack of consideration. But based on the comments I've read on a lot of blogs and postings on some of the message boards that I read (like Makeup Alley) that appeal to a totally different demographic, it seems more and more like this is an Internet-wide problem.


Why is it that people are so, well, mean when they're online? Certainly, real-life manners are disappearing (see my post about common courtesies), but that can't explain everything, because people are acting in ways that they never would in real life. David Pogue of the New York Times recently discussed this in an excellent blog entry titled "Whatever Happened to Online Etiquette?", where he basically outlined the problems behind the breakdown of Internet courtesy. I'm going to discuss a few here, and add some of my own ideas:

Barriers make us a bit too brave. When you can hide behind an anonymous name, or even just a random Hotmail or Gmail address, it's very easy to abandon all sense of politeness or deference. In fact, why waste time being polite when you can word your argument as strongly as possible? It's pretty clear that message boards where people have to use their real name and register with a real e-mail address are far more civil and polite than most.

Spelling and grammar are out of style. I don't know if it's education, or just the widespread availability of spell check, that has made us such bad spellers and writers, but countless message board postings and blog comments are filled with obvious spelling and grammatical errors (don't even get me started on Myspace). I don't really mean to say that bad spelling is horrible in itself, but it's just another thing that has gone into decline as our forms of communication become more and more informal.

The Internet is taking its cue from real life. I don't mean to blame the Internet for the decline in etiquette- if anything, the Internet just reflects the way we behave in real life, but with the problems of anonymity and instant communication. More and more, people seem to care about making a quick point (just take a look at Fox News), or winning an argument at any cost, rather than respecting others and strengthening relationships.

In any case, it seems like just focusing on the decline in online etiquette might just be another outgrowth of how society is changing. Independence and having a strong will are great things, but more and more of us seem to be exclusively focused on ourselves (or a very small group of people), rather than on how we relate to others. Unless people begin to think more about how others will perceive their actions, it's likely that these problems will just continue to grow, and there will be no shortage of posts about the decline of online etiquette, and manners in general.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Makeup Return Policies

Like most people, I hate returning anything, because it means an extra trip to the store, or shipping a package back, and sales clerks (especially at this time of year) are often annoyed by return requests, as it requires paperwork and can be time-consuming. A recent NY Times article discussed a new trend in cosmetics and beauty companies relaxing their return rules, which is very exciting for all of us beauty addicts who have drawers full of products that didn't work, looked bad or broke (pencils, anyone?).


Because each company has a different policy on returns, I've compiled a list on the return policies of many of the most popular stores and companies, from online retailers to drug stores to department store counters. So next time you come home to find that the Clinique lipstick you spent $14 for looks awful in the light of day, or that the Cover Girl mascara from CVS dried up within a week, just refer to this list to figure out what you can return.

Sephora: Sephora is so nice about returns that I actually get excited about getting something I can return. I have returned products I received as gifts months before and USED, with no receipt or proof of purchase, and they gladly gave me a gift card worth the price of the product. It doesn't matter whether the product is defective or if you just decided you didn't like it. With products bought online, you can mail them back within 60 days for a full refund, and they pay for shipping and handling. After 60 days they will give you store credit, but won't pay for shipping costs. You can also return online purchases at their retail stores.

Beauty.com: Beauty.com will accept returns within 30 days for a full credit or refund, though they do not accept items that are opened or used. They do have a special policy called the "100% color guarantee" on many (but not all) of their color cosmetics in which if you don't like the color, you can return it for a full refund. For the holiday season, they're extending their return period until January 31.

Amazon.com: Partial refunds on used items and anything returned after 30 days.

CVS: For cosmetics and CVS brand products, they will accept opened or used products and will provide a full refund, as long as you bring them back within 30 days, with receipt. For other products, they only give full refunds on unopened, damaged or defective products, with receipt.

Bobbi Brown: If for any reason you're not satisfied, return the unused portion for a full refund. If you buy online, there's no refund for shipping fees.

MAC, Chanel and Estee Lauder: Each store has it's own return policy (though in my experience, I've been able to exchange used products). They'll refund used online purchases, but you have to pay the shipping fee.

Benefit: Accepts returns within 30 days, with receipt on unopened and "lightly used" products. If bought online, you have to pay the shipping fee.

Bath and Body Works: If for any reason you're unhappy with a product bought online or in a store, you can return it for an exchange or store credit. If you have a receipt, you can get a full refund.

The Body Shop: If for any reason, etc, you can return a product within 60 days of purchase for a full refund (receipt necessary). Without a receipt you can get store credit.

There were other popular stores and companies that I researched, but I didn't include those that were unclear or didn't mention a return policy. If you have a question about a brand I didn't mention, look up their customer service number on their website and call directly to find out if your product is returnable.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Lame Book, Good Tips: "Never Eat Alone"

Do you ever read a non-fiction book that teaches you something but is written by an author who is so annoying that you can't wait to finish it? Most self-help books tend to be this way, written by narcissistic authors who advertise their expertise and superiority, using cheesy metaphors, lame stories and inspirational quotations that make you cringe to expand a 5-10 basic concepts into a 300 page book. But I'm a cynical college kid, so what do you expect?

I recently picked up Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, which claims to teach you "how to build a lifelong community of colleagues, contacts, friends and mentors." In my search for jobs and internships, I've been teaching myself to network with alums, family friends and former employers, and was given this book by a friend. It has all the aspects of self-help books that I just listed, with lines like, "human ambitions are like Japanese carp; they grow proportional to the size of their environment" and requesting that the reader, "take a stroll through that relationship garden. What do you see?" My personal favorite quotation is, "The way you reach out to others is the way you eat an 800-pound gorilla: one small bite at a time." Um... eww?


But the most obnoxious aspect of the book is the raging ego of the author, Keith Ferrazzi, who manages to name drop his famous friends and associates, as well as the name of the company he founded. And when I say this, I mean literally, every single page. You'll hear plenty about Phil Knight (former Nike CEO, apparently a good friend of his), Arianna Huffington (political pundit quasi-celebrity), and, strangely, how the author has had Richard Branson's phone number in his Blackberry for nearly a decade and is looking for the perfect opportunity to strike up a conversation.

Ferrazzi basically admits early in the book that he is not particularly intelligent, talented or creative, and owes all of his success to his ability to network. So, who better to teach you how to connect with others to further your career?

As I said before, I believe that most self-help books can be reduced to a few basic points, with an additional 296 pages of filler. This one is the same, and to save you the time of reading so many unnecessary pages, here is a summary of the book's most essential points, which I found very helpful:

Get over your fears
. The toughest part of talking to someone you don't know (particularly someone who is very successful in your field) is gathering the courage to approach the person. But as Ferrazzi points out, it "often simply comes down to balancing the fear I have of embarrassment against the fear of failure and its repercussions." Even the small chance that this person could greatly help your career outweighs the possibility of an embarrassing situation with someone you're unlikely to see again. Be confident, be yourself, and don't be afraid to show your enthusiasm in meeting the person, you're far more likely to stand out.

The goal is always a relationship
. Once you've overcome your fears and struck up a conversation with someone, it's important to connect on some level. Everyone hates superficial small talk, so try to bond with them on a more meaningful level, by showing interest and admiration for what the person does as well as presenting yourself as an interesting person who the other person could benefit by knowing. If you're just starting out, you probably don't have much to offer the other person, but you can at least make it clear that you'd love to learn from this person, and everyone loves talking about themselves and their life. Do everything you can to make it clear that you're not just talking to this person because you want to use them, but that you're actually interested in who they are and what they do. Sincerity goes a long way.

Build it before you need it. This is one of the best lessons I learned from the book. You'll be far more successful if you start building relationships with people before you need their help. Building relationships with people who can give you advice and provide mentoring is wonderful, and if you need their help in finding a job, they're far more likely to want to help you once they have gotten to know you well.

No one is too big or too small
. The author makes the point that secretaries, assistants and receptionists often have incredible power, because they often serve as gatekeepers to very powerful people. While you should treat everyone with the respect they deserve as human beings, you should go out of your way to make a good impression with anyone working under an important person, as their opinion of you may decide whether you get a chance with their boss.

Do the research (when you can). Ferrazzi is a huge fan of scouting potential contacts ahead of time and being able to know their interests ahead of time. This is supposed to help you make a connection, though Ferrazzi's examples often tread a bit close to the line of creepiness (such as when he opens a conversation with, "so I hear you run the New York Marathon"). I think it's better to prepare a line of questioning that will lead the person to start talking about their interests. If you find that someone is very active with a charitable organization, for example, you could start off by asking them what they do in their free time, and if they answer that they work for such-and-such charity, you will have done your research about the group and can talk about your familiarity with their work, etc. Use Google, read the person's biography (if they have one) on the company website, check to see if they've written any articles for trade journals, etc, but just be sure that you have the right person.

Overall, Ferrazzi's advice is mostly spot on, but a little bit unsettling, as he seems to recommend a pretty Machiavellian way of approaching relationships in life. Even so, almost everyone would benefit from reading this book and at least considering his advice, so I would definitely recommend checking it out on Amazon.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Weekly Best Dressed Award- Gwen Stefani

Whether you like her style or not, Gwen Stefani is definitely a woman who has a unique personal style. She sets the trends, never following them. She definitely never dresses like anyone else, and you have to admire that, even if she sometimes chooses outfits that fall into the category of "kooky". Over the years, her style has evolved as she's grown older, but now that she's a mother and a successful businesswoman, she hasn't lost an ounce of rock star presence.


I'm not sure exactly where this picture was taken, but I think Gwen looks absolutely amazing. Her teased hair pulled back into a chignon is chic but still edgy, and her makeup is perfect. Her signature makeup style- bright red lips, flawless skin, well-defined brows and killer lashes, is perfect for special occasions, but Gwen is just so fabulous that she can pull it off anytime. If you want to recreate her makeup look, check out my previous reviews of Stila Lip Rouge and Lancome's Juicy Tubes Lipgloss. Keep the rest of your makeup minimal (except for some thickening/lengthening mascara, or if you really want to dress up, a pair of fake eyelashes) and you'll look incredible. Just remember though, you've got to wear this look with confidence, so if you don't have it, fake it!

On to her outfit... I wish I had a full-length picture of her, but I thought that her coat and accessories were so cool that it wasn't even necessary to know what's going on from the waist down. I think it's pretty obvious, but this coat is amazing. The black leopard print looks young and fresh (as so many animal prints fail to do) and the stark black/white contrast goes well with her dramatic hair and makeup.The 3/4 sleeves are very trendy this season, and dress up the coat. The semi-popped collar and v-neck draw attention to her face, and the leather belt gives her curves and shows off her waist.

Despite its dramatic print, this coat is actually very wearable. The key is to pair it with solids and not let other aspects of the outfit compete with the coat for attention.

Whenever I do a post about a celebrity's outfit, I like to link to inexpensive look-alike pieces. In this case, I spent a very long time searching for similar coats, but was only able to find two... at outrageous prices. The first is a to-die-for leopard print coat from Blumarine with feminine details like puff sleeves and 3/4 length sleeves...all for the reasonable price of $1,275. The second is from J. Crew and is almost twice as expensive, though in my opinion it lacks the charm and originality of the Blumarine coat.

This look also works very well with solid colored coats, though you do lose some of the drama of the crazy print. This Tulle coat is very affordable (<$100) and comes in a bright blue, with extra-large buttons and pockets. A classic double breasted coat in bright red, like this one would look modern and trendy with an extra-wide black belt and funky accessories. Also, this reasonably priced J.Crew coat comes in deep green and aubergine, with a universally flattering silhouette.

Finally, Gwen smartly keeps her accessories to a minimum, with stud earrings, a funky cuff bracelet and a gold chain necklace. But with a more basic solid coat, accessories are key for individualizing the outfit, just don't let your accessories and makeup/hair compete.

Be sure to check back next week for the best dressed celeb of the week! If you have any nominations, send a picture to fakinggoodbreeding@gmail.com and I'll post my favorite of the bunch.

Edit: I have been able to track down Gwen's coat, you can find it for $385 at Nordstrom.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Holiday Party Fashion Guide: Part 3- Accessories

Today's post is the final installment in my Holiday Party Fashion Guide, perfect for any holiday and New Years parties coming up. Now that you've got a gorgeous outfit, you're going to need some cute accessories to match. Here are a few guidelines for making the most of any outfit:

Shoes:

Black, always a good choice. Some people might think that black is a basic, unimaginative color, but it really doesn't need to be basic at all. You might want to look into these black shoes, many of which have very interesting details. Wedges are huge this season, and this black wedge is hot with a peep toe and gold and faux snake skin detailing, all for $25. This sexy strappy sandal would work for any season (just don't forget the hose, or your feet will freeze). Finally, here are two peep toe pumps, one in satin (very holiday appropriate) and one with a beautiful scalloped edge and pleated detail.

Have fun with metallics and sparkly details. Like most good things, metallics and sparkles are best in moderation, so don't overload on gold or silver accessories. One or two pieces will dress up your outfit, anymore and you'll look like a disco ball. Try to stick to one color, as gold and silver can clash, and don't forget to check that your jewelry matches your accessories. Another great thing about these styles is how well they dress up jeans or black pants, so don't just wear them on special occasions. These grecian-inspired gold sandals would look incredible with dark or jewel tones, while these gunmetal sparkle flats are perfect for dressing up tights and a mini. For a more formal outfit, these gold and rhinestone slides are a great option, and at 2 inches, you'll be able to mingle all night without foot pain. These sandals come in gold and pewter and have a rhinestone buckle.

Try festive colors. Is there a better time of year to wear red shoes? Have fun with red shoes in different shades and materials, but only wear one red piece at a time. You want to look festive, not elfin. These red silk sandals have beading and an ankle strap for support, while this red polka dot pair has a sweet 50's vibe. For a more elegant look, try these satin peep toes with a pretty bow. And if you want to go trendier, check out these suede closed-toe wedges with a scallop edge.

Bags:

Give smaller purses a try. As much as you might love an oversized, roomy bag for day, a special occasion calls for a daintier purse. Clutches are great because they're sophisticated and versatile (get one in black and you can wear it anytime you go out) and most have the option of a chain strap if you've got a drink in your hands. This pleated satin clutch is a classic, and comes in eight colors, while the quilted version comes in five. If you love lace, you should check out this clutch with a lace overlay, while this silk organza purse has a cool pouch shape. This beaded bag has an art deco vibe and would dress up any outfit. This black silk clutch has an elegant bow, while the black version has crystal detailing at the top. This metal mesh purse in gold or black is definitely less formal, so it'll look great for a more laid back party. And finally, this knit bag resembles the latest Marc Jacobs and Chanel bags, with a bubble pattern and chunky gold chain.


Don't forget to cover up! A light cashmere or pashmina wrap will keep your shoulders and arms warm (and don't be afraid to try brighter colors). A cardigan with pretty details, like ruffles, beading or sequins, is also a good option. Just avoid anything that's bulky or will hide too much of your outfit.

It's easy to forget about accessories when you have a dress you love, but a few interesting pieces can perfect any outfit. Don't be afraid to have fun with colors, materials and details that you might not normally wear; it's the holidays, and there's no better time to dress things up.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Trader Joe's: Not Just for Two Buck Chuck and Luna Bars

This may be a little too much information, but in the past I've always avoided shaving when it wasn't absolutely necessary. Sure, it's tough to avoid in the summer, when I'm wearing shorts and skirts most of the time, but this time of year I need a really hot date to motivate me to dig up the razor. Okay, this is a slight exaggeration, but I certainly hate shaving. The time and concentration required to get a perfect shave, the potential for nicks, the post-shave dry skin... who wants to deal with all the hassle?

In the last couple of weeks though, I've changed my tune. I was shopping at Trader Joe's a few weeks back when I passed their beauty products and soaps in my search for my favorite cereal. Now, I'm a big believer in organic, free-range, hormone-free, preservative-free, locally grown, all-natural, blah blah blah foods, but I'm wary of any of those terms applied to my beauty products. I don't doubt that a lot of natural ingredients are effective, but I'm paying for all the R&D cosmetics companies pour into turning the latest and greatest technology into products that show significant results. Better living through chemicals, my friends.

But I digress... while I was browsing the many bottles of hand soap, I came across a large, bright orange tube of shaving cream. The fun packaging and promise of honey mango scent (I'm sucker for exotic fruity scents) made me pick it up, and when I saw the price ($2.99!) I decided to take it home and test it out.


As if it wasn't already obvious, I should mention that I've never given much thought to my shaving cream. I buy the Aveeno Shave Gel, because I have sensitive skin and hate the scent of all the Skintimate products, but I'm pretty ambivalent about it. But a couple days later when I was getting ready for a special dinner with my boyfriend, I decided to try it.

I'm used to using gel and foam formulas, but the Trader Joe's Shave is a cream, which you squeeze out of a plastic flip top, which makes for convenient application. It's thick and creamy (duh) and smells FANTASTIC, a mix of mango and coconut that reminds me of my favorite mango sorbet. Yum.

It goes on fairly translucent, so it's not as easy to see where you've shaved, but this is my only complaint about the product. My razor seemed to glide on easier, and though it may be in my head, it certainly felt like a closer shave. But when I got out of the shower, my legs felt amazing, super soft and moisturized, not raw and sensitive as they often are after I shave. They also smelled like mango/coconut (though this didn't last long). I also still had to apply lotion, but with my dry skin, I really have no choice.

I'm not going to go as far as to say that I *like* shaving now, but I have to say that I actually kind of look forward to it. I really hope that Trader Joe's comes out with more products with this scent, because I'm kind of addicted (I sniffed the tube about 5 times while writing this post, all in the name of accurate reporting).

If you're looking to upgrade your shaving product and have a Trader Joe's in your area, you should definitely check out their Moisturizing Cream Shave. It's good enough that I plan on giving some tubes to friends for Christmas gifts. Oh, and it's for men and women, so if you know a guy who could use a smoother shave, you could offer to share your tube... then again, for $2.99, it might be better to just buy him his own. You'll want to keep your tube to yourself.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Look Back at 2006: Celeb Fashion, Beauty, and Etiquette

As the year comes to a close, I've grown a bit nostalgic for all the things that have happened in 2006, from my own personal successes and failures to the events that rocked the world (TomKat wedding, anyone?). In today's post, I'd like to look back on a few of the best and worst trends, people and events within the three categories I most discuss here on Faking Good Breeding: fashion, beauty and etiquette. And the awards go to...


Best Fashion Trend of 2006
: Pregnancy is the new black. Move over starving starlets! This year's best dressed group was without a doubt the many pregnant A-listers who made maternity sexy. From Heidi Klum to Gwen Stefani, Marcia Cross to Maggie Gyllenhaal, these women embraced their bulging bellies and expanding cleavage instead of hiding under muumuus, and ended up rocking the red carpet and many best-dressed lists.


Worst Fashion Trend of 2006: Failure to Wear Underwear. It's tough being a starlet. Just ask Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. First, people expect you to like, show up to work on time. Then they get all up in your face when you're caught with a teensy weensy bit of cocaine and forget to eat for 3 months. Next, they want you to sit around the house all day with your two obnoxious babies, when everyone knows a 25 year old hottie should be hitting the clubs every night! There are seriously like 10 gazillion things to worry about, so how can one person be expected to remember to wear panties EVERY SINGLE DAY. Jesus, people, can you try to be a bit more understanding?


Best Beauty Trend of 2006: Pale is the new tan. 2005 was all about the orange glow, where stars such as Paris Hilton, Victoria Beckham and Lindsay Lohan inspired the introduction of the term "tanorexic" into the English language. Luckily, like so many other disgusting trends, tanning has gone out of style, as stars recognized that oompa loompa skin was NOT hot and regular women woke up to the dangers of fake baking. Paris and Lindsay have since reformed their tanorexic ways (looking all the better for it) and breakout stars like Anne Hathaway and Bryce Dallas Howard are embracing the look that made Nicole Kidman and Marcia Cross famous. As a pasty girl myself, my fingers are crossed that this trend doesn't go out of style.


Worst Beauty Trend of 2006: Caked-On Makeup. Without a doubt, old Hollywood glamour is back, as stars of all styles are going for dramatic red lips, perfectly arched eyebrows, never-ending lashes and killer cheekbones. Yet for every star that rocked this look, 12 more forgot about the hollywood glamour part and just looked old, with caked-on, ugly makeup. Leading the pack is Christina Aguilera, who like a fine impressionist painting, looks uglier the closer you get, when you begin to notice her inch-thick foundation, clumpy fake eyelashes and painted-on brows. It may have been the release of pictures of Eva Longoria without makeup that led her to go way too far in the other direction, with matronly makeup last seen on the likes of Joan Crawford.


Best Etiquette Trend of 2006: Gay? No big deal. It's not like homosexuality just became acceptable in 2006, but the "outing" of celebs (with no major career ramifications) and the discussion of gay identity on popular television shows suggests that we've come a long way from Ellen Degeneres's infamous Time cover. Doogie Howser (I mean, Neil Patrick Harris) proudly announced to People that he is "a very content gay man", while Grey's Anatomy cutie T.R. Knight stated that "I hope the fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me." Former 'N Syncer Lance Bass is often photographed at red carpet events with his partner, Reichen Lehmkuhl. On America's Next Top Model, the announcement by contestant Michelle Babin that she was bisexual wasn't even given the reality tv drama treatment, and on Project Runway, gay and straight designers openly joked about their sexuality. While this certainly doesn't suggest that homophobia is no longer an issue, it's great to know that the media isn't treating homosexuality as such a big deal anymore.


Worst Etiquette Trend of 2006: The racist/anti-semitic tirade. As Michael Richards and Mel Gibson learned, few things can ruin your career and devastate your image more effectively than a long, alcohol and drug-fueled racist or anti-semitic rant (caught on tape, of course). Second only to Borat, these two guys did more than anyone to prove that bigotry is still alive and well in America, but also how socially unacceptable such views are.


Best Dressed Celebrity of 2006: Angelina Jolie. For a woman who once bragged about having sex in the limo on the way to the Oscars (with Billy Bob Thornton, no less), Angelina has definitely cleaned up her act in the past few years. Now in her role as super-mom, one-woman humanitarian machine and half of the hottest Hollywood power couple, Angelina has solidified a personal style that is classy and sophisticated, without losing an ounce of her sexiness. Whether she's running errands in jeans and a t-shirt or walking the red carpet, Angelina always looks fabulous.


Worst Dressed Celebrity of 2006: Britney Spears. Does this come as a shock to anyone? I catalogued her downfall in an earlier post, and I ended on an optimistic note, hoping that all the negative publicity would drive Britney into the arms of a gifted stylist, who could help her rebuild her image. Alas, things have only gone downhill in the few weeks since I wrote the post, and while I didn't know it was possible, Britney has managed to outdo herself with this Frederick's of Hollywood-esque lace number. All I have to say is, "thank god she remembered panties in this one."

So friends, there you have it, my picks for the best and worst in fashion, beauty and etiquette for the year 2006. So much has happened, and I think I can safely speak for all bloggers when I say that I hope that 2007 will have as much drama, excitement and flat-out ugliness as 2006 did. Then again, are celebrities ever boring?

Thanks to ProBlogger for the original idea of doing a trends/year in review post.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thoughtful Gift Guide: Charitable Gifts

2006 has been quite a year for philanthropy. Earlier this year, Warren Buffett announced his plan to donate over $30 billion of his fortune in shares of Berkshire Hathaway to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, breaking the record for the largest charitable donation in history. This summer, the Live 8 benefit concerts successfully pressured G8 leaders to double their planned levels of aid to Africa from $25 to $50 billion by the year 2010. And I'm sure you've seen the celebrity-fueled commercials for (Product) Red, in which consumers are encouraged to buy special products from top brands that donate a proceed of the profits to a charity founded by Bono to raise money to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Also, yesterday's New York Times Magazine featured a cover story by ethicist Peter Singer which made the case for increasing charitable donations by individuals.

The question of how much one is obligated to donate (in both time and money) is debatable, but I think that everyone can agree that we have a duty to give back and help society in some way. And during the holidays, a time of such crass consumerism, it's especially important to step back and be grateful for what you have, and consider whether your values match up with your actions. One way to address this is by donating to organizations that address issues that matter to you.


In addition to donating time and money directly, giving charitable donations in another person's name is a fantastic gift option. So often, people give and receive gifts they don't really want or need. Gift-giving becomes a chore, and people end up with a lot of stuff they don't even know what to do with. But by making a donation to a charity that you and the recipient support, you can be sure that people will be grateful. You'll both feel good about helping others and they'll admire you for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

Your best bet is finding out what organizations the other person already supports, and contacting the group about making a donation in your friend's name. Another option is deciding among your family or friends that you'll make charitable donations instead of exchanging gifts this year. And if someone asks you what you want for the holidays, responding with a request for a donation to your favorite charity is sure to please the gift giver.

One thing to remember is to be sensitive about asking others to donate to organizations that may come in conflict with their own religious or political views. If it's someone you know well, you probably already know where they stand on various issues, so this shouldn't be a problem. But you may offend a pro-life acquaintance by making a donation to Planned Parenthood, or an atheist with a gift to the National Christian Foundation.

Another issue that comes up when you're making a donation in another person's name is how much to give. With most gifts, the person only has a vague idea of how much you spent on them. With a donation, they'll know the exact amount. I think you shouldn't feel compelled to spend any more than you would have on a traditional gift. Of course, knowing that your money is going to help others might motivate you to spend more, but this is certainly not expected of you.

Before you give, be sure to do research on the organization you're interested in. One of the best sites for this is Charity Navigator, which independently evaluates thousands of charities in order to "advance a more efficient and responsive philanthropic marketplace." If you don't have any idea where you'd like your money to go, check out this reference guide to the highest and lowest rated charities, organized by type. You might be surprised at how certain charities spend their donations.

Based on my own experience, making charitable donations in other people's names is one of the most thoughtful and appreciated gifts you can give someone. Whether you're motivated by an ethical duty to give back or simply want to impress a friend with your generosity and selflessness, giving and requesting charitable gifts is a great idea for the holidays.

Also, as an additional bonus, your own charitable gifts are deductible if you itemize their tax deductions. The tax savings will vary depending on your income, but can be a sizable benefit in many cases. Here is an excellent article about the tax rules for charitable giving.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

J.Crew, What's Your Deal?

I've always had a strange relationship with J.Crew. Except for the hit-you-over-the-head-with-preppiness stuff, I like their clothes. I flip through the magazines and wish I was as effortlessly put together as their models, who all look like the pretty girl you can't hate because she's actually sweet and funny (ugh).


See what I mean?

But I've had 2 serious issues with J.Crew. First, their clothes never fit me. I'm convinced that all their fit models are 5'4", with no hips, short legs and big breasts. Sadly, this is not my body type. When J.Crew was all the rage from 6th-9th grade (at least in my school), I vehemently denied this fact and continued buying their clothes anyway, too-short pants and too-baggy shirts. They were cute, but not flattering in the least.

My second issue with J.Crew is that their prices were always set a little higher than what I was willing to pay for a given piece, but not so high that I'd never consider it. If I saw a shirt and decided it was worth $30, it was $42, sandals that should have been $12 were $20. It was like they were reading my mind, and were playing a sick joke called "Will Meg Cave?" This drove me nuts.

I hadn't spent much time at J.Crew in the last few years, but during a trip to the mall a couple of weeks ago, I saw a few cute things in their window and decided to check out what they've been up to. I really liked what they had- so many pretty clothes and fun accessories; I was impressed.

Then I looked down and started noticing price tags. Wool mini skirt for $98, fleece hoodie, $68, jeans for $115? Was I in the right store? These were basics! Back in the day (like 2000) I remember their prices usually ranging between $30-$80, with coats, suiting and boots in the $100-$200 range. Now they're selling cashmere coats for $2000, silk dresses for $300 and shearling totes for $595.

It's obvious that J.Crew has decided to go far more upscale than their somewhat mid-priced competitors like Banana Republic. They're trying to appeal to an older customer with so many luxury materials and fewer entry-level pieces (like the canvas totes, bikinis and flip flops my friends and I coveted in the 8th grade). I have no idea how successful this has been for the company, so I can't comment on whether it's a smart business move, but as a consumer, I have to say that I'm a little annoyed. There are a lot of women who want reliably well-designed, high quality clothes for reasonable prices, something between the Forever 21 or the Gap and a luxury brand like BCBG or Anthropologie. There are way too few stores that fall in this middle ground (and are available nation-wide).

I'd love to hear what you guys think about J.Crew's rising prices. Are you buying their new high-end stuff, going to other stores to pick up basics, or sticking with J.Crew, higher prices and all? I find it hard to stay away, so I think I'm going to hit up their sale racks or outlet stores if I need the J.Crew fix.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

To Regift Or Not To Regift?

A few weeks ago, the New York Times had an article about regifting (unfortunately it's no longer available online). Regifting is something almost everyone has done at one point (though we wouldn't want to admit it), but it's very risky. If you forget where you got the present, you might give it to a mutual friend or family member of the original giver, leading to a very uncomfortable situation when that person comes across your gift in someone else's house.


But, if you decide to regift something, there are a few guidelines to follow:

Make sure you're 100% sure who gave you the gift before you give it to someone else. Obviously the worst case scenario is that you give someone their present back, but it's just as bad if you give the gift to the original giver's best friend. The best way to avoid this situation is to only regift to someone who is in no way associated with the original giver. If you're not sure who gave you something, you shouldn't try regifting it.

Don't regift anything you've used. If regifting something is slightly disrespectful to the person who gave you the gift, giving a used gift is disrespectful to both people.

Check that there isn't a personalized note in or on the gift. Forgetting this step can be very dangerous, as someone will be far more offended that you were too lazy to notice this than they would be about the regifting.

Don't regift food or perfume (unless you check the expiration date). According to the article, perfume evaporates within 6 months. And no one wants stale food.

Don't regift "important" presents from the people who are closest to you. If someone makes a big deal about the gift, they're going to ask you about it in the future. You're best off storing it somewhere in the house and wearing/using it when the person comes over.

Just because you're regifting something doesn't mean you shouldn't follow the regular gifting rules. Only give people things you think they'd like. Make sure the gift is in good condition (iron clothing so it looks new). And don't give anything that's dated (like the signature piece from last year's collection).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Asking For Feedback from an Interviewer

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was recently rejected from an internship that I thought I was qualified for and wanted very badly. I was feeling really confident that I'd get the job because I felt like I aced the interview I had a few weeks earlier, but obviously I made a few big mistakes. Because I was curious about what I could have done, I e-mailed the my two interviewers (I remembered to ask for their business cards, so I didn't have to search around for their contact info) and politely asked them for some feedback.

It's totally acceptable to request feedback whether you're hired for a job or not (though obviously you're more likely to want it if you've been rejected). The key is phrasing it the right way so that you don't come off as bitter or angry (even if you are).


You want to start out by thanking the interviewer and then express disappointment (but not shock) at being rejected. Then you want to politely ask for feedback on your interview, for the purpose of improving your interviewing skills. Finally, you want to thank them again for considering you. Here is the e-mail I sent to my interviewers, it's not perfect but I felt that I at least got the point across without being rude:

Dear X and X,

I was very disappointed to hear that I wasn't accepted for the summer internship program, I had a very positive experience over the weekend and was so excited about the possibility of working for Company X. As my interviewers, I was wondering if either of you would be willing to give me some feedback on my performance. I would really like to improve my interviewing skills and would greatly appreciate any comments or advice you may have for me. Thank you again for even considering me for the internship program, and for putting on a fantastic weekend.

Sincerely,

Meg X

This company had paid for me to attend a recruitment weekend, so I had more to thank them for, but usually you can at least thank the interviewer for answering your questions and giving you a tour of the office (if they did this). As painful as it was, I tried to focus on the positive aspects of my time with them and my desire for self-improvement.

I have no idea if my e-mail had any effect on them, because one didn't respond and the other sent me a form letter saying how tough their decision was. A lot of companies have policies saying they don't give feedback on interviews, and those that do won't always care enough to respond to someone they rejected, so know that going in. But you never know if someone will respond, and you might get some very helpful constructive criticism. Getting rejected sucks, but at least you can try to improve from your mistakes- at worst, you'll get a brush-off form letter, but you might get some excellent advice.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hair Damage Help

Every woman wishes she had different hair. While millions of women dye their hair blonde, straighten it daily and get it cut so it doesn't look so thick, I've spent my life doing the opposite: I dyed it brown and red for a few years and permed it until it got fried and literally started falling out (luckily I grew out of this phase by the time I turned 17). Sick of the upkeep and the damage, I no longer process my hair, but I do spend time curling it before I go out, and I've spent what must be thousands of dollars on thickening and volumizing products that promise to give my hair tons of body (but never really do). I've thrown in the towel- my hair will never look like Catherine Zeta Jones's.


Oddly enough, my sister's hair actually looks a lot like Catherine's (she got Dad's genes, I got Mom's). She has dark, wavy, super thick hair. But she's also really damaged her hair from straightening it every day (as many of my friends also have). It's well known that heat styling can fry your hair, and hairstylists recommend that you don't use heat on it every day (hair dryers, curling irons and straightening irons all count), but on any day that you're not bumming around the house, who has the time to let their hair dry naturally before going off to class or work?

As a result, many companies are now producing hair styling tools that not only promise not to damage your hair, but to actually strengthen it. Sephora offers eight different products that feature fancy materials like Tourmaline and offer "ionic and infrared benefits" (whatever those are). Despite the fact that these straighteners, curlers and dryers are all in the $100-$200 price range, women are lining up to buy them, perhaps out of guilt for all the self-inflicted damage they've done to their hair. I even shelled out $30 for a cheapo version of the ionic blow dryer (it had me at "silky smooth shine").

I've always wondered whether this stuff actually works, but a couple of days ago I found out for sure. My favorite blogging scientists, The Beauty Brains, had a post on the scientific validation of these products. Apparently, there is no scientific proof that the composition of the plate material has any effect on your hair, and promises of ionic conditioning are just a lot of marketing BS.

My condolences to those of you who shelled out $200 for the T3 Tourmaline Professional Ionic Wet or Dry Iron.

So what can you do about hair damage? Well, if you're going to use heat styling, you should put product into your hair first, to serve as a barrier between the heat and your hair. A serum like Terax's Life Drops or Oscar Blandi's Jasmine Oil Serum should make a difference. Don't forget to use conditioner every day, and a deep conditioning treatment once every week or two should keep your hair looking healthy. When my hair was at it's worst, I really liked Phyto's Ultra Nourishing Oil Treatment and I've heard great things about products by Carol's Daughter.

But while conditioning will certainly make your hair look and feel better and help prevent future damage, no product is capable of changing the molecular structure of the hair, and previous damage will still be there. The best thing you can do is get you hair trimmed every couple of months, even if you're growing it out. And if you're really ready to help your hair, you can stop dyeing, bleaching, perming and chemically straightening your hair. Though I know I'll never have the thick, dark, curly hair I desire, I've learned to embrace my hair's natural color and type, and it feels good knowing that it's far healthier than it's ever been.

Anyone have tips for keeping hair healthy, or HG hair products they'd like to share? I'm always on the lookout.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bad Trend Gone Worse: Skinny Jeans on Guys

In one of my earliest posts I discussed my feelings about the ubiquitous skinny jeans, and the many reasons why I find the style unflattering and downright ugly. In the last couple of months I've found a variation of the skinny jean that offends me even more than the original: skinny jeans on MEN.


Yes, I know it's shocking. You may not have experienced this sartorial catastrophe firsthand, but as a visiting student at a co-ed (woo!) liberal arts college known for its trendy hipster population (and widespread drug use, which may be a contributing factor), I see this style on a daily basis. You may ask what kind of man chooses jeans last seen in George Michael's Faith music video (though I've seen much tighter around here), and I honestly can't tell you... if one of my male friends showed up in a pair, I'd make him change.

But I have to say, unlike women, men at least know when they don't have the body type to pull of the skinny jeans (if there is such a thing as pulling off a horrific style). You don't see football players walking around in them, that's for sure. But still, there are certain things are better left to the imagination (and the outline of a guy's leg from hip to heel is only secondary here).

I imagine that you'd find this style if you went to a Misshapes party or a concert by some indie cult band, and on other "hip" campuses around the country. But I don't expect to see this trend extending to the average American guy (if only because the average American guy is about 150 lbs heavier than the guys I see wearing skinny jeans).

But they're certainly present in high-end men's clothing stores. Lucky and Levi's both sell at least a few styles of "slim cut" or "skinny" jeans, and I counted over FORTY styles of skinny/slim cut jeans on the Barney's men's denim site. Incredible!

Anyone have any reports of seeing skinny jeans on guys in other cities? And does anyone find this attractive?

One final note about skinny jeans on girls: it appears as though I may have been right in predicting that skinny jeans would go out of style very soon. People Magazine's Off The Rack Blog posted that many trendsetting celebrities have abandoned the style. Does this mean skinny jeans are on their way out? One can only hope.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Thoughtful Gift Guide: DIY Gifts- Cards

Yesterday I posted about some of my favorite homemade gifts, but I did not include my absolute favorite gift to give: homemade cards. I am not artistically gifted (my drawing ability extended to stick figures and shapes) but I still really enjoy doodling and making collages, which I often turn into cards for my friends and family. One of the great things about homemade cards is that if you do it right, the person likes it so much that it's unnecessary to buy or make an additional present (unless you really wanted to).


For instance, one of the best presents I've ever gotten is a small card from my best friend. She sent it to me before I had an important job interview, when we hadn't seen each other for a while. It's a store-bought card that she decorated with funny pictures and sayings that reference our inside jokes, and she wrote the sweetest message inside. It wasn't sentimental or dramatic, she didn't tell me that I was the greatest person in the world, or anything like that. She just talked a bit about our friendship and said some really nice, encouraging things. I keep it on my desk and look at it every day. No matter how bad I'm feeling, or how many times I've read it, I always laugh and feel better after I see it.

The key to making a homemade card is not to try to emulate a store-bought card, it's about personalization. The best cards are really funny and sweet, and make reference to things you and the other person really enjoy, or inside jokes and stories. The artwork doesn't have to be good, it's usually funnier when it's awful.

If you don't have the time to make a homemade card, you can always modify a store-bought one, as my friend did. And, if you want to make something with a more serious message, or you think a silly homemade card won't go over very well with someone, buy a card and write a long, thoughtful message inside. Tell the person how much they mean to you and how much you appreciate having them in your life. Don't use hyperbole or say anything you don't really mean, just be truthful.

Whether you make a card yourself or just write a message in a store-bought one, people always appreciate being told that they're important and loved. And unlike most things, a fantastic card is something that people keep and appreciate for a long time. You might be surprised at how, for many people, a thoughtful card can mean much more than an expensive gift.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Thoughtful Gift Guide: DIY Gifts- Baked Goods/Candy

For the past few weeks I've been constructing a gift guide that is based on giving thoughtful, interesting presents to the people you care about. I've tried to find things that were available online, relatively inexpensive, and easy to get at even the last moment. But in my opinion, the best gifts are homemade gifts, presents that show great thoughtfulness, time and effort.

Just because homemade gifts generally aren't as flashy as store-bought ones, I find that they are the gifts people appreciate the most. People get so many presents that they could have bought themselves, or that they don't really need. Finding a unique gift is difficult, and often expensive. Because it's so rare that anyone gets something homemade, you can be sure that your gift will stand out.


As I've said before, I'm not very talented in the kitchen, but I like to cook and bake, so last Christmas I gave friends containers of homemade cookies. Over the course of 2 days, I made hundreds of cookies, using really simple recipes from Everyday Food Magazine (many of their dessert recipes are available here).
I didn't use any recipes that took more than 10 minutes of prep time, and while not every batch came out okay, my cookies were actually pretty good overall. For people who lived out of town, I mailed them (this was a bit pricey, but if you make the cookies the day you send them, you can get away with 3 day shipping, or even ground shipping if the person is close enough).

This year, with my confidence boosted from my successful bread baking experiment, I'm going to try something a little more ambitious, making a few different varieties of cupcakes using recipes from The Cupcake Blog.

Making homemade candies or chocolates (or chocolate-dipped pretzels and strawberries, my favorite) is also a great option. You just need to go to a baking or cooking supplies store to get the ingredients (melting chocolate is key) and decorations, but making chocolate and candy is really easy and fun.

Even if you know you're not the greatest baker in the world, if you stick to easy recipes and give yourself time to make a few bad batches before you get the hang of it, I promise you'll end up with some pretty tasty cookies/chocolates/whatever, and your family and friends will be impressed that you took the time to make them something homemade.

If you're making homemade gifts, it's important that you also include a nice card. Tomorrow I'll give some ideas for making your own cards and how to write a note that's easily as meaningful as any present.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Weekly Best Dressed Award- Marcia Cross

I've realized that I often trash celebrities and their poor fashion sense, and while I try to show why their look doesn't work and how it could be improved, I feel bad for being so negative. It also seems hypocritical of me, as a woman who resents the constant scrutiny of female celebrities based on superficial things like their weight, looks and fashion choices when they're just walking the dog.

So I've decided to add a new weekly (or semi-weekly, depending on the selection) post on a female celebrity who looks fantastic, and break down what she (or let's be honest, her stylists) did to flatter her body and make the most of her features. Then I'll try to find a similar outfit for reasonable price.

This week's featured celebrity is Marcia Cross, who, despite being very pregnant, looked absolutely fabulous recently.


Sure, Marcia Cross is beautiful, but it takes real skill to look as stunning during pregnancy. This outfit draws attention to all the right things: the v-neck and empire waist show off her fuller chest and adds a little sex appeal, the tighter fit of the skirt highlights her belly (a far better option than wearing a tent dress when you're showing) and the knee-length skirt shows off her shapely calves.

And, being pregnant, she's been able to hide areas of her body that she might not want to show off: the 3/4 sleeves hide upper arms, the flirty hem of the skirt draws keeps the skirt from being fitted to the thighs, and the jersey fabric and dark purple color is very slimming (it also compliments her skin and hair beautifully). She also hits the accessories right, going minimalist with a long, delicate necklace (also draws attention to her cleavage in a subtle way) and strappy gold sandals.

This look would look great on any woman, pregnant or not, because it's so effective in flattering certain body parts and hiding others. It's also a look that's very simple to replicate, and is easy to dress up or down.

You can find three similar, beautiful (and reasonably priced) dresses here, here and here. Also, here are some great strappy gold shoes from Ralph Lauren and BCBGirls that capture the look well.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Changes

As you may have noticed, I've changed the site's color scheme. I thought the old colors were pretty drab and boring, so I tried to make it a little more feminine and interesting. I think it looks pretty good, but I would like to get some feedback on whether other people feel this way, if I should change anything, or whether I should go back to the old color palette altogether. I'd love to hear what you think, so please comment and let me know what you prefer.

Also, I'm really excited about a new feature that I think will make finding things on the site much easier. I've labelled all of my posts and they're organized by category, on a list on the right side of the page. Thanks for bearing with me while I try out these new features.

Dealing With A Difficult Interviewer

A good friend of mine recently had a series of job interviews (seven in all) with a well-known company. One of these interviews was with a person whose job was to see how well my friend handled pressure. Basically, the interviewer spent an hour challenging everything my friend said. When he saw that my friend went to the University of Michigan, he said that he was an Ohio State fan, and asked him to convince him why Michigan had a better team. He suggested that he must have cheated on a test to get such a high score. And anytime my friend responded to a question with an answer that wasn't totally clear, there were tough follow-up questions until he clarified his point.

Luckily, my friend is fairly cool under pressure, so while he was agitated by the interrogation, he was able to keep it together for the interview. I know that I probably would have been a bumbling mess in the same situation, but his story got me thinking about how one could prepare if they knew in advance that an interview would be very tough.

Many companies are known for using this practice of bully interviewing, and if you do some research online in advance, you might be able to find out whether your company does this. A good source of information is The Vault which features employee surveys from thousands of companies, where people often comment on the interview process.

If you have no idea what to expect from the interview, it certainly doesn't hurt to do as much preparation as you can. If you're in college, check to see if your career development centers offers mock interviews, they're extremely helpful and will give you confidence going into the interview. If you don't have access to such a service, ask a friend or family member to ask you practice questions. Remember, the more confident you are, the better you'll handle any tough questions or awkward situations.

If you do get a difficult interviewer, there are a few things you can do to make the best of the situation. If an interviewer starts bullying you, recognize that they could be just playing games to see how you handle the situation. Do not take anything they say personally, and do not argue back, though you should defend yourself in a respectful manner. Stay calm and take your time answering each question fully and try your best not to show how nervous or uncomfortable you may be. Regardless of whether the interviewer has been told to act horrid or not, you are being evaluated at how you handle a one-on-one situation, and this is your opportunity to show your maturity and professionalism. In fact, a difficult interviewer might even present an excellent opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants, many of whom may torpedo their chances with a poor performance.

And as always, no matter how pissed off you are that someone put you through the interview from hell, you should always still send them a nice thank you note within a day or two of the interview. Good luck!