Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Megan McArdle of The Atlantic Monthly has a really interesting response to the New York Times article on dating below your income that I discussed here.

Women's Wear Daily
declares that we're entering a golden age of female fashion designers.

Frank Bruni
, New York Times restaurant reviewer, takes on the etiquette issue of how to divide a restaurant check when dining in a group. First part is here, second is here.

Jezebel argues that teen magazines need to go back to putting models on the cover.

Ivygate debunks the myths about college students' sex lives that are fueled by the media.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Finds: Belts

One of my favorite fall trends is a move away from the infantalizing babydoll and trapeze dresses and a push toward more structured, tailored, grown-up outfits, as documented in this recent Wall Street Journal article. Designers seem to be recognizing that women want to embrace their adulthood, despite the cultural push toward rewarding women who look and act like teenagers (hello, Hollywood). Grown up dressing doesn't have to be boring or aging, and I find the emphasis on highlighting a woman's curves as opposed to shrouding them in yards of shapeless fabric is empowering as well as flattering.

Like most women my age, I won't be rushing to stores to invest in hats and full length gloves (glamorous as I find both of those pieces), but I like the idea of tailored dresses and coats, pencil skirts and just about anything that can be belted at the waist. It's amazing how much one small piece of leather can do to pull an outfit together and elevate it to a "look." Belts (particularly the skinny variety) were huge at New York Fashion Week this year, so expect to see them even more as spring rolls around.

I've seen a lot of fun, interesting belts in stores this season. Here are a few of my favorites:

Goldmine Belt, Urban Outfitters, $12.00

Shaped Leather Belt, The Gap, $24.99

Roma Skinny Belt with Covered Buckle, from Nordstrom, $48.00

Wide Herringbone Belt, Old Navy, $16.50

Shell Buckle Stretch Belt, from Urban Outfitters, $24.00

Wide Faux-Suede Belt, Old Navy, $16.50

Skinny Patent Leather Belt, Gap, $19.50

Where do you buy your belts?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Body Hair Blues

The first time I attempted shaving my legs, I emerged from the shower, legs covered in a checkerboard of band-aids, to find my mom standing with her arms crossed and shaking her head in disapproval. "If you think you're old enough to shave your legs, I'm not going to stop you. But just know that you're only punishing yourself, because now that you've started, you're basically enslaving yourself to razor for the rest of your life. Your leg hair will never be so smooth or soft again. Besides, no one can see your hair, it's blonde and barely noticeable."

I took her wise words and did what most 13 year olds would do. I weighed them against the thought of all my friends dishing at lunch and in the locker room about their shaving habits, and wanting to fit in, ignored everything my mom said.

I'm a long, long way from being a parent myself, and I don't spend a lot of time thinking about what is or isn't appropriate behavior for teenagers, but when I read this recent New York Times article on how the depilatory brand Nair is now marketing their products to girls between the ages of 10-15, I was a little disturbed. Not so much at the idea that girls this age would use hair removal products, but by the suggestion that mothers were encouraging their daughters to begin shaving or waxing at such a young age.

More importantly, marketing to teens and tweens inevitably creates a trickle-down effect. If a company says a product is cool and a must-have for high school girls, it's middle schoolers who will want it (the high schoolers are too busy emulating college students and 20-somethings). Aiming the product at 10-15 year olds, it seems certain that even younger girls will see the ads and will want to use the product, to the point where pre-pubescent girls associate hair removal not just with much older girls, but with girls within their own age group.

Trends in body hair come and go, with the pendulum swinging far from the "the more hair, the better" attitude of the 1970's toward our current dislike and fear of body hair that borders on the obsessive. The bikini wax has lost its shock value, while men's body grooming products are a booming market. Try to name a young, hot actor who has chest hair... it's difficult because they all wax, from their eyebrows to their backs, chests and stomachs. It's rare in America to see a woman with unshaved legs or armpits, and those who don't shave are labeled dirty hippies.

While I enjoy how my legs feel after shaving and appreciate a guy who takes care of his unibrow and back hair, I feel like our bias toward hairless bodies is bordering on a body hair phobia. There's a lot of pressure from society (even on children, as the Nair campaign suggests) to shave, trim and manicure our body hair as if it's our front lawn, because simply ignoring it would be offensive. I don't know if it's just an extension of our preference for cleanliness, but I think it's unhealthy to be spending so much time obsessing about what our body hair says about ourselves, and feeling compelled to remove or shave every last hair.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Product Review: Trish McEvoy Eye Definer

Is there another beauty product more intimidating than eyeliner? A subtle application is universally flattering, yet many of us fear we're going to end up looking like Amy Winehouse if we don't poke our eyes out in the process of applying. Getting the line straight, super close to the lash line and equally thick on both eyes is a challenge, but it's a challenge that's not impossible to overcome with the help of a foolproof liner technique and a few q-tips. Here's the story of how I learned to love liner and actually not look like a fool or injure myself in the process.

I've tried basic pencil liners, only to find that the twist-up variety tend to break off during application and smear on my shiny eyelids. I've used cream liners and gotten frustrated when I smudge it and am unable to remove the offending mark without taking all my eye makeup off (why these formulas have to dry so quickly and stay on so resolutely is beyond me). When all the bloggers were raving about Physician's Formula Eye Definer Felt-Tip Eye Marker, I ran to CVS and bought one for myself. The black shade came out gray and was barely visible, and 3 days after buying it I accidentally left the cap off for an hour and it dried up on me. And liquid liners? I won't come within 10 feet of those torture devices, at least while I continue to enjoy being able to see. With my clumsiness and heavy hand, I'll lose an eye in the process of application.

But eyeliner looks so good on me, especially since I have glasses and getting my eyes to pop is a challenge, so I was not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I went to Nordstrom (this was the same trip that I bought the Trish McEvoy concealer) and explained my eyeliner plight to a sympathetic saleswoman. She asked if I'd ever tried powder liner and I said yes, a long time ago, but that I could never get the application down and often ended up with bits of powder all over my eyes.

She brought over a small tin, Trish McEvoy Eye Definer, and an angled liner brush (I'd never used such a thing). Promising me that this was easy and painless enough for even me to master, she dropped a couple of drops of Trish McEvoy Finish Line (a waterproofing liquid) into the tin and applied the product (in Rich Brown) to the upper lids of both of my eyes. The process took about 5 seconds per eye, and when I picked up a mirror, I loved how it looked. It wasn't in-your-face, look-at-me eyeliner, but really defined my eyes, brought out the blue and made them appear larger. It's also very pigmented, so you really can see the color (it comes in 8 different shades).

I asked for a tutorial and she showed me how she took the brush, dipped it in a little bit of liquid (she said water works great, but if you really want waterproof, you can use a special formula like Finish Line of Benefit's She Laq) and then slid the brush across the product. She then took her finger and gently pulled the corner of my eye to make my lid straight, then lightly tapped the brush against the lash line, one after another until the line stretched from one corner of my eye to the other. She didn't run the brush across my eye as I would normally have done, and I found that this method creates a foolproof, straight and even line. And if you realize you've messed up a bit, just wipe off the excess with a q-tip, as it takes a minute to dry.

I've found that, unlike most of my makeup purchases, I was easily able to replicate the look when I got home, and the addition of eye liner has added mere seconds to my purposefully brief makeup routine. It looks great, is easy to use, and best of all, I never have to fear losing an eye.

What's your favorite eye liner? Got any application tips?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Money and Relationships- Part 2

We've all been in the situation. You've had a lovely (or maybe not so lovely) first date dinner and then the check arrives. You consider whether to offer, than whether to insist on paying, based on a number of factors, including what your mother taught you to do, how much money you have, how much your date presumably has, how enjoyable the experience was, how you want to be perceived by him for paying or not paying... what seems like a simple action can be a difficult decision fraught with issues of money, power and control.

In yesterday's post, I discussed Sunday's New York Times article on how the new wage gap (women earning more than men) has put women in new and uncomfortable positions in their relationships with less financially stable men. One question facing women was how to handle picking up the check. Most didn't want to rub in their spending power, while others felt used by men who always expected them to pay. And many women still hold on to the idea that a man should always pick up the check at the end of a date, regardless of how much money either person makes.

I think that before you even get to the point of paying, if you're going on a first (or second or third) date, you should be sure to pick a restaurant that's not particularly expensive, since it's likely that you're not sure of the other person's financial status. This way, neither of you has to bite the bullet and spend outside their budget just to give an impression that they're able to afford fancy dinners. In addition, at this early stage in the game, you never know if a date will be a disaster, and no one wants to spend a lot of money on a meal they can't enjoy.

Personally, I'm a big believer in splitting a check 50/50 on dates at every stage of a relationship. Unless it's a special occasion (a birthday, etc), I think the best way to avoid a sticky situation is to have each person pay for their portion of the meal. There's no denying that money is power, and feelings can get hurt if one person insists on paying when the implication is that they can afford it and the other cannot.

I'm also a big believer in the idea that if you give another person financial control (allowing them to pay for you), the expectation is that you will give something back to them in return. Paying for a meal is a gift, and if that gift comes regularly, unattached to special occasions, there are usually strings attached. The argument, "I paid for X and Y, so why can't we do what I want?" is not one that you never want to face. These situations can be avoided if each person covers their part of the check.

I know a lot of women are still tied to the idea that having a man pay on a date is chivalrous. But in my opinion, chivalry is tied to an era of female disempowerment. If you want to be viewed as an equal partner on all levels, you can't allow your partner to have the financial power. Paying for another person is not always the polite option, so let your date open doors for you, but pick up your half of the bill.

What's your opinion about who pays for what on a date? What do you take into consideration when deciding who should pay?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Money and Relationships- Part 1

In a number of major American cities, women are earning higher wages than men in the same age range. In New York City, women between the ages of 21-30 earn on average 17% more than comparable men. Can I get an "Amen!"?

When I first heard about these findings, I forwarded the article to all of my friends. We talked excitedly about a huge step forward this was for women, how lucky we felt that the women's power in the workplace was growing just as we were entering our first careers.

But as Alex Williams' article in Sunday's New York Times goes to show, the increase in women's wages can have a negative effect on our lives outside of work. For many women, the fact that they make more money than their significant others has led to problems when dating men with lower-paying jobs. Sometimes it's not the women who have the problem, but the men, who can't get over their insecurity in dating a more successful woman. But oftentimes, it's the women themselves who are frightened or embarrassed by their own achievements.

Some women reported avoiding talking about themselves on dates, to make the man feel more comfortable. Others avoid dating men of their age group altogether. One woman talked about clipping the price tags off of expensive purchases, so as not to make her boyfriends feel threatened by her spending power.

I found the attitude toward money that these women had, conscious or not, to be really unhealthy. While I don't think flaunting one's income or professional achievements is polite, I don't think it's ever okay for a woman to be ashamed of these things. Men certainly aren't ashamed, so why should we be? We should be able to discuss things like work and money honestly, feel proud of our accomplishments, and be considerate of the professional and financial situation of the other person. Being proud and being considerate don't have to be independent of one another.

While every relationship is unique, I think there are a number of issues to consider if you're dating someone who's in a different financial situation from your own. I think it's really important to be able to strike a balance between using your increased income to make your partner happy without making him uncomfortable. The issue of gift giving is a difficult one, and I think both people need to sit down and have an honest conversation about what they feel is acceptable in spending for each other. Honesty can be hard, but it can save a lot of pain later if you're both upfront about what you expect in the relationship.

Another thing to consider is to avoid giving the impression your money comes too easily. The question of who "deserves" things often arises in relationships with an income disparity, where one person feels that they're just as hardworking, smart and capable as the other and resents the fact that they're making far less money. Both partners should respect the other for what they do, regardless of income, and avoid focusing on deserves what. There are sacrifices that must be made in every job, and it's important to think about the other person's career in holistic terms, not just their paycheck.

One sad aspect of this trend is that you'd never see an article about men feeling guilty for making more than their girlfriends. As women, we're so conditioned to think about success in other terms (our happiness, our relationships, etc) and not give much weight to the amount of money we make. I don't believe we should ever feel guilty about our successes- financial and otherwise- and if a man is unable to appreciate and admire our professional achievements, he's not right for us.

Tomorrow I'm going to talk about spending on dates (the dreaded "who picks up the bill?" situation) so be sure to check back. I'd love to hear what you guys thought about the article and the issues that arise in relationships surrounding money, particularly when you're dating someone who makes less than you.