Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

The New York Times has a fascinating article on Proactiv's history and marketing strategies.

Manolo for the Big Girl
echoes my own views on skanky Halloween costumes.

Beauty Addict
has a guide to perfecting the "clear red lip."

Contradicting popular stereotypes, scientists at Rutgers have found that feminists have better, longer romantic relationships and more sexual satisfaction than non-feminists.

The Jezebel girls
discuss the trend of striptease workout classes.

And if you're concerned by the recent reports about lead in lipstick, check out Paula Begoun's response on the controversy. Via Beauty Addict and Jack and Hill.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Reader Question: Flat and Low-Heel Boots

Dear Meg,

As a tall girl who does a lot of walking, I'm on the lookout for a pair of boots with a low or flat heel, in a classic style that won't go out of style anytime soon. I've seen a lot of cute boots in stores this season, but unfortunately, they're all very expensive. I'd love it if you could help me find a pair for less than $200 (preferably under $150 if possible). Got any suggestions?


Hey Aimee! You're in luck, because there are lots of great, reasonably priced boots available right now. I found a lot of great pairs on the Nordstrom BP site, at Zappo's and at Piper Lime (surprisingly, because I normally find their shoes to be very expensive). There's no question that boots as a whole are pricier than other shoe styles, but think of your purchase as an investment. If you go for a classic style, like an equestrian boot, and keep the styling simple and the height knee-high, it should last you many more seasons.

Of course, that requires a little TLC on your part. Keep them clean and polish the leather every few months (follow the directions that come with the shoe, or check the company's website for instructions). When the soles get worn down, take them into a cobbler for replacements. If you show your boots a little love, they'll stay looking beautiful for years.

Here are a few of my favorite flat and low-heel boots:

Etienne Aiger "Cailyn" Boot, from Piper Lime, $169

Steve Madden Riding Boot, from Nordstrom, $138.95

Mia "Johnny" Boot, from Piper Lime, $130

Jessica Simpson 'Bodey' Leather Boot, from Nordstrom, $178.95

Etienne Aiger "Jona" Boot, from Piper Lime, $159

rsvp "Bannon" Boot, from Zappo's, $129.95

Bandolino "Jordana" Boot, from Piper Lime, $145

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Office Romances- Good or Bad?

According to The New York Times there's an increasing trend in corporate America toward the acceptance of office romances. The NYT article tells the stories of couples who met through work and then went on to get married, with their boss's blessing, which is very sweet, but I have to wonder what happens to the other 96% of couples who end up in a messy breakup, forced to see and work with each other during a painful, awkward and uncomfortable time. Only 34% of workers are keeping office relationships a secret (source: Some human resource departments are even encouraging these kinds of relationships between employees, as it strengthens their commitment to the company and makes going to work more enjoyable.

The way I see it, office romances are almost always a bad idea. It changes the group dynamic to have two people who obviously have feelings for each other, and it can lead to charges of favoritism or bias when you're working together. It can also just make others uncomfortable, particularly if the couple in question is affectionate at the office. Even if the couple is hiding the relationship from others, it's very difficult to fully keep it a secret, and regardless of whether others know, you're going to treat your love interest differently than you treat others, and that's not fair to your co-workers.

But the real trouble arises during and after the breakup stage, which for the majority of office romances, is essentially inevitable. Being the subject of office gossip is never fun, but working with someone who's deeply hurt you is nearly impossible, and will most certainly hurt your job performance, in addition to making you miserable for most of the day. Even if the relationship ends on positive terms, you're still in a tricky position in trying to treat the other person as if the romance never happened, and convincing others of the same.

These are fairly mild problems, but what if during the relationship, you realize that the other person is a little crazy? They could report that you sexually harrassed them, sabotage your projects, or if they're your superior, try to get you fired or demoted. If you realize this while you're still together with the person, you might be put in the position of fearing for your job if the relationship ends. I think there are just too many risks to office romances to make them worthwhile. If you find the person you think you'll be together with for a long time, you could always wait until one of you switched jobs to take your relationship to the next level.

I think this growing acceptance of office romances follows the trend of increasingly blurring the lines between our home and work lives. Both men and women are working longer hours than ever, and companies are trying to keep their workers happy so they'll continue to work hard and not burn out. I see a lot of similarities between policies like this one and the increasing number of offices that have amenities like gyms, fancy cafeterias, inter-office parties and events and other features that have the dual intention of keeping employees happy and staying at the office longer. If your office has everything you need, you rarely have to leave. But keeping these two lives separate is healthy, and it's far better for individuals and their co-workers to keep their romances outside the office.

Do you think office romances are a good thing? Should they stay private or become public?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Product Review: Olay Total Effects Night Firming Cream

Do you ever find yourself staring at your cupboard in the beauty equivalent of "a full closet and nothing to wear" moment? This was me last week, as a dramatic shift in weather left my skin parched for moisture. As I examined my dry, flaking skin in the mirror, I racked my brain for a suitable moisturizer.

I'd been using Olay Total Effects Moisturizing Vitamin Complex, as always, which helped but didn't fully fix the problem, and I decided my Anthelios would probably break me out if I left it on overnight (not to mention that it's too irritating to apply to my eyes, the dryest part of my face). I'd run out of the heavy duty prescription creams my doctor had prescribed for me last winter during another dry spell and the rest of my shelf is filled with acne products (combination skin, so much fun).

Digging through my "junk drawer" of old or rarely used beauty products, I came across a travel size package of Olay Total Effects Night Firming Cream, a free sample that came with my last Olay purchase. It was clearly an anti-aging product, intended for night use, but with few other options, I decided to give it a try.

It only took a few drops to cover my eyes and the various dry spots around my face and the product sunk in quickly, leaving my skin primed for makeup. It's very moisturizing but feels light on the skin and I haven't noticed any additional breakouts or oily production since I began using it (my skin tends to react very well to all Olay products though). Also, it does have a scent, but after application, it's no longer noticeable.

I don't really believe that there's any difference between a night cream and a day cream (aside from the fact that no night creams have sunscreen) and I've been using this twice daily to keep the skin around my eyes from drying out under makeup and as protection from the wind and brisk air. Due to the lack of sunscreen, I've been applying it over the Moisturizing Vitamin Complex, which has SPF, so I can get the benefits of sun protection and deep moisturization at once. I'm only 21 and have yet to experience skin aging, so I can't really speak to how effective the product is as an anti-aging treatment, though reviews on Makeup Alley are quite positive in that area.

Because so little product is necessary for each application, the travel size package looks like it will last me a long time (at least 2-3 months), and I will consider buying the full size when I'm finished. One issue I have with the packaging is that it's not very hygenic in tub form, and it's a good idea to make sure your hands are clean before applying, or apply the moisturizer with a q-tip. I'll have to see how the Firming Cream holds up to dryer, colder weather than this, but for now, I'm very happy with its performance.

What's your favorite dry skin cream?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When it's Okay to be a Bitch

A few weeks back, a friend of mine went on a first date with a guy she met through a friend. She had met him before and had been talking to him on the phone for a few weeks before they decided to go out. She had a nice time, but realized that in person, they didn't have a lot of chemistry, and later told him she just wanted to be friends for the time being. He said he was sad, but that he understood, and hoped she would reconsider soon.

A couple days later, on a Tuesday night at 3 AM, she got a phone call from the guy, saying that he was standing outside her house and wanted to see her. He'd driven over 2 hours to "surprise" her (though there was obviously nothing romantic about this gesture). She was annoyed that he'd woken her up and driven all this way without telling her, but she felt bad about making him turn around and drive home, so she let him stay the night, and asked him to leave the next morning.

When she told me this story, I was shocked.

"After that creepy, stalker-ish gesture, you let him stay in your room?! Why were you even nice to him, that's one of the rudest, scariest things I've ever heard of!" It was all I could do not to scream at her for being so accommodating to someone who had refused to respect her wishes.

"But Meg, I didn't want to be a bitch to him. I have a hard time being mean to people, and I still like him as a friend."

My friend is not the first person to use this excuse for putting up with disrespectful, even alarming behavior. From a young age, society teaches us that girls are supposed to be kind and cooperative at all times. Anytime a woman stands up for herself, she runs the risk of being called a bitch, no matter how abhorrent the situation she's responding to. As a result, women are far more willing than men to put up with others treating them poorly, out of fear of offending someone or being labeled as a bitch.

But there are many situations, like my friend's, where being a "bitch" is unquestionably the right thing to do. Some situations are more extreme, while others happen often enough to become unremarkable.

Unhealthy relationships: If you're in a relationship (serious or not) and your partner isn't treating you with respect, physically, emotionally or sexually, you end the relationship and shut off contact with the person. If you think there's a chance that the person is dangerous to you, himself or others, let someone know and take steps to protect yourself.

Offensive jokes or comments: If someone you're talking to makes a remark that you find offensive, you shouldn't be considered a bitch for politely asking the person not to say that because it bothers you.

Financial negotiations: Studies show that most women are afraid to negotiate for their salary or on purchases, mainly because they're afraid of angering the other person or appearing too greedy or selfish. But asking for fair compensation for your work, or a fair price on an item or service, is never a selfish act.

I've read that women are far more likely to stand up for others than they are to stand up for themselves. They'll demand the best for their children, their clients and their friends, but are often too frightened of being a bitch to stand up for themselves. We've been socially conditioned to put everyone else's needs before our own, and to spend a lot of time worrying about what others think of us. But there's no reason why we shouldn't prioritize our own needs the same way we prioritize the needs of others, even if it means being called a bitch every once in a while.

Do you have suggestions for other situations when it's more than acceptable to act like a bitch? Leave a comment!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Reader Question: How to Help a Friend With Poor Fashion Sense

Hey Meg, I've got a question I was hoping you might be able to discuss--it seems like your area of expertise in more ways than one. I've got a good friend who dresses, well, trampy, and wears makeup to go along with it. She's in the process of applying for jobs, at pretty conservative places, and has made no effort to tone down her look. Is there any way I can gently let her know that the smoky eyes, miniskirts, and cleavage-bearing tops might be preventing her from getting hired? Thanks, Jen

This is definitely a tricky situation, as you don't want your friend to misconstrue your actions as a personal attack. I think it's best to start with a subtle approach. If she's got an interview coming up, ask her what she's planning on wearing, and if it's something inappropriate, gently suggest that she go with something more conservative. "I've heard that the X industry is really conservative, it's probably better to be safe than sorry and keep things conservative."

There are a lot of good articles online about dressing for interviews, and you could send some to her and let her know you found the advice really helpful. The Princeton Career Services website has a good guide, as does and your own college career development office probably has guidelines for students. If she isn't totally sure what to wear, suggest that she call the company she's interviewing at and ask what attire they prefer interviewees to wear. Hearing it from the mouth of her interviewer might be more effective in convincing her to dress up and tone down her look.

It's likely that she finds appropriate business attire to be boring, and like many people, takes on the attitude that "if they won't accept me for who I am, I don't want to work there." You can make a few counterarguments to this:

First, in most cases, you're expected to dress more formally for the interview than for the actual job. I've worn business suits to every interview I've ever had, but nearly all of my jobs and internships had casual or business casual attire. Still, that doesn't mean that low-cut tops, heavy makeup and tiny skirts were acceptable- they're not acceptable anywhere.

Second, you need to tell her that she can still keep her style, she just has to tone it down during office hours. Part of being an adult is realizing that you can't totally be you 24 hours a day, that you have to act and dress differently in different situations.

Third, she has to think hard about her priorities. If dressing as she currently does all day long is her first priority, then she has to face the fact that she's seriously limiting her career choices. But is keeping her style more important than snagging her dream job? Probably not.

I think it's really admirable that you care about your friend enough to want to help her succeed in her job interviews. But as with all things, there's only so much you can do to change another person if they're not interested in changing. You can talk to her about how you feel and make the suggestions I listed, but until she's ready to change, your words won't get too far. She'll learn these lessons on her own, perhaps the hard way, but hopefully she'll recognize what a good friend you are in the process, and will ask for your advice in the future.

Anyone else have suggestions for Jen?