Amber and I both hail from Sacramento, California. It’s more or less kind of near where both of us grew up, it’s where we first bonded (at a fortuitous Chk Chk Chk show at Harlow’s in 2008), but even though we’ve also spent time together in LA, Baltimore, Atlantic City, New York and Chicago, as far as our friendship is concerned, our hometown is Tucson, Arizona.
There’s nothing that compares to a walk down the middle of a dimly lit Barrio Viejo street, past the glowing windows of familiar pastel adobes and onto the wax hardened earth that leads to the sweet flame flickering of the wishing shrine. My heart swells just to think of it.
As wanderlusters must stay true to their nature, we both eventually moved away, but the desert beckons us back so often that we have a designated Interstate 10 only playlist and favorite rest stops.
When Amber and I traversed that dusty desert highway for what seemed like the hundredth time last October, I was determined and a little nervous. I was showing my first work in over two years at Tucson Fashion Week. I had given up designing in late 2012 and spend the last two years missing it painfully. But here I was and luckily I had my best friend at my side backstage to keep me calm and hydrated as I frantically hand sewed in zippers and tried not to get stepped on.
Actually, had it not been for Amber, I wouldn’t have been there at all. On a balmy April night at The Coronet on our previous visit, she’d called up a good friend and together they talked me into it. I was a little drunk when I agreed, but I kept my word. I’d spent the last two years creatively floundering and wondering what I should make instead of clothes. I struggled with this question for far too long. Answer? Nothing. I should make clothes.
I showed my now retired line, Sapphire Cordial, at the very first Tucson Fashion Week in 2010, so it was only appropriate that I let the warmth of my desert city ease me back into the world I love, under a new nom de plume, Yearling. An animal in its second year.
May I present “Leilani”, designed by Jamaica Cole, unveiled in Tucson, shot in Sacramento, dedicated to Amber Flynn.
Model Leslie Hoffeditz. Photos by Nicholas Avey. Hair by Deeda Salon. Makeup by Leslie Hoffeditz.
When I first met Ryan, he told me didn’t really understand why anyone bothered with marriage. He didn’t need a party or a piece of paperwork to keep him loyal to the woman he loves. And he wanted me to feel “free” to leave or stay. I agreed wholeheartedly, but secretly I wanted to belong to his beautiful, beautiful
In our first year, there was bliss. But there were also tragedies, insomnia, insecurity, habits and complexes gnashing like dull knives. We reinvented the art of the pout. There were moments of ecstatic, twitterpated wonder intermixed with anxiety attacks and emotional shut-downs. But we just kept trying.
It takes time to figure things out.
And goddamnit, we got better at it. We forgave, we supported, we encouraged, we understood. We took long lingering baths together even when chaos charged in. Ryan was patient, loyal and forgiving. He loves me dizzy.
One day, Ryan sat me down ceremoniously on a park bench to announce, “You know what? I get it. I do see why people get married.” I smiled, taking it for a sweet romantic musing. But deeper down I knew what he really meant. My strengths are his weaknesses and my weaknesses are his strengths. We are only beginning to understand how best to love each other and marriage is just an official request for the patience required to keep getting better at it.
When he proposed another year later, I was definitely surprised. And after a lot of waffling, we decided to get married at our favorite place. Turns out we weren’t the only ones who thought throwing a wedding for 100+ cityslickers at our “rustic” family farm was just crazy enough to work.
There is no such thing as a DIY wedding. It’s DIO.
Our friends teamed up, drank beer and conquered. They carved our rugged, dusty, spiky, poisonous little farm into a gentle, lush garden with their bare hands. Andrew built a beautiful bench from locally sourced rocks, Casey spread gravel like a mad man, A pregnant Sonja helped babysit and declutter, Angie reorganized bookshelves, Phil worked the shovel and wheelbarrow like a boss. There was heavy lifting, acre after acre of weed whacking and bulldozing, all of us thoroughly dredged in sweat and red dust. To have a friend contribute his sweat and lower back comfort to the cause of your love was incredibly touching.
So if you want to have a lovely wedding on an impossible budget, all you have to do is put in years and years of fierce loyalty to a circle of friends and family who are amazing at everything. Show up to their weddings, their funerals, and especially their moving days. And if your nearest and dearest happen to live and love on a micro brewery/heritage pig farm with an Tolkienesque tree on a rolling hill overlooking a sunset-reflecting lake, you’re in luck.
Leading up to the date, my twin sister Eve and bro-in-law-of-my-dreams Danny (successful behaviorists/ Dragon Hour Farmers / armchair philosophers/parents of the most amazing kid / busiest couple in the land) grew us a 300 lb. sow from a piglet on a diet of organic veggies, raw milk and spent grain. I named her lovingly, Philipa Seymour Hoofman and Ryan fed her her first and final cupcake. Eve took note of my extensive wish list and Danny brewed a keg of pink saîson with a galaxy of stars as the secret ingredient (we named it after the cologne in Grand Budapest Hotel, “L’Air de Panåche”), made perfect playlists, freaking married us, and then went ahead and made sure every detail was perfect (down to personally editing our feature length wedding video – short version soon to come).
Jamaica, my bridesmaid and bestie (as you should very well know by now) weathered all my wildly fluctuating dream dress ideas and whittled them down to the perfect simplicity my heart craved. The pristine tiffany blue silk 1930s slip dress I bought at Desert Vintage was transformed, via $28 worth of vintage lingerie trim, art deco brooches and some meticulous hand-sewing by a love-filled human, into a zephyr of a gown perfect for a 100 degree day féte. Even my veil was vintage – a yard of pre-WWII lemon-hued millinery veiling.
Wearing that dress was like wearing a cool breeze.
My dear friend Lesli of La Curie, parfumier from Tucson with magically impeccable taste, handcrafted our wedding favors – little bottles of a botanical mosquito repellent Mosquito Non-Grata, which smells like heaven, camping and now, our wedding day.
My dad’s hard work was the grandest gesture of fatherly love I have ever seen from him. The man is a machine. He personally transformed the place with his feats of back-hoeing prowess and went about cutifying every last corner of farm. I get a little weepy just thinking about it.
By wedding time, my friends and family and I were all tan and ripped from manual labor, and our love had inspired the creation of a lovely garden, a legit fire pit, an outdoor kitchen with a huge roasting spit, a dance floor underneath a sheltering oak tree, 9 lbs of wedding cheese (Cypress Grove’s iconic Humbolt Fog cheese with a center layer of truffle chèvre) stacked like a 3 layer cake, four different styles of homebrew, and a whole pig butchered, trussed and guarded overnight by five of the very best men in my life. My friend Kelly died my hair and the kids decorated the “cake.”
A wedding can be a poignant occasion to pay homage to those we miss. The pair of star brooches adorning the back of my dress once belonged to my great grandmother, who has returned to the stars. My little brother Nik, who had died of brain cancer 6 months before the wedding, would have been proud to contribute his truck rack to the pork spit. My other brother Dell, my deceased father’s namesake, wore a vintage shirt with my father’s portrait embroidered on the back and walked me down the aisle.
In spite of a water shortage scare, mystery smells, and 100+ degree heat, July 5th 2014 is now a lush memory of friendly cooperation, pleasant surprises, comfortable comedy, creamy sunlight, and revelations of love from bosom friends. Not a cold nerve for miles. For about 6 hours, our disheveled little farm could almost pass for a schmancy winery party with Wes Anderson on the turntables.
There was an old rowboat filled with fairy lights, oddly colored chiffon hanging from trees like spanish moss, and the tables were decorated with sorbet-hued microscopes, vintage cameras, obscure antique books, California poppies, copper dinosaurs and napkins made from clashing vintage fabrics from the 60s.
Amanda and Joel, (Heroes of Hard Labor) our volunteer bartenders, mixed signature cocktails for our guests. “The Moonrise Kingsley” – rosemary, juniper and rose petal infused gin, made by my sister-friend Angie, with homemade grapefruit or raspberry soda made by Sonya, Andy, and Kim. We drank through paper straws resembling birch trunks.
The dance floor turned into a mini Burning Man for awhile there. People were crowd surfing, hoola-hooping. We were mad for love. To us, it was perfection. Absurd perfection.
It only cost us thrice what we hoped it would and as our bank account began to drain low, we fantasized about an easy elopement. But now we understand why people have weddings. Dear friends who would never have met otherwise now feel like one big curated family circle. Where else besides a wedding can you find your high school bestie and your favorite LA neighbor – strangers to each other, mutual support of our relationship their only bond – doing a running-man-off to your favorite William Onyeabar mash-up?
And for one day we are allowed to forget that life is not easy.
That love fades. That there is no happily ever after. That long term relationships require endless patience.
So far it’s true. Our relationship retains similar ratios of infuriating and blissful. I still have to bite my tongue every time Ryan leaves his beard pubes all over the sink, but he still tells me I look pretty even if I woke up on the wrong side of ugly. He kisses me passionately even when I’m wearing blood orange lipstick.
We know there will probably never come a disagreement-free day. But we have promised to keep trying, to stay true and in love, and to “always choose empathy over fairness” (as Ryan wrote in his vows). I accepted Ryan as my husband with unrepentant gusto because he is always learning, always getting really really good at everything he does. He is loyal because he is.
But something definitely feels different since the wedding.
Maybe we trust each other a little more. Maybe we have roles to fill now. Maybe it’s this:
Relationships are never easy, but now ours has its own little clan of believers.
Photos by Isaac Trumbo, Catherine Plein, Will Wells, and Ryan Flynn
Flowers by Rory Barlew
Hair by Aaron Clark
Makeup by Beck Trumbo
Dress from Desert Vintage
Bowtie from Zelma Rose
Ryan’s Walnut Inlay Ring from Tungsten Rings for Men
Kale Salad from Kale Cart
(not quite there yet!)
Continue reading Gratefully Wed: Our Own Little Clan of Believers
Expectations are a bitch.
And I can be a terrible girlfriend.
These two facts have become increasingly and more obviously linked for the past several years. On paper I think I am an awesome person all around. I have been described by others as resourceful, smart, creative, optimistic, adventurous, confident(?!), loving, patient, and turbo cute (cute lasts longer). I genuinely love beer, am inexplicably good at poker and sex, give great advice, and I can uphold intelligent conversation about any number of masculine subjects. I might even beat you at video games. Until recently, however, I SUCKED at being a girlfriend.
I have been known to:
-criticize the way you eat, do dishes or chop garlic.
-correct your grammar.
-openly mock your taste in music or lack thereof.
-be uncharacteristically clingy and demand you spoon me 4-5 times per night.
-be the very definition of a nag, whilst procrastinating just as badly as you.
-be weirdly anal about decorative hand towels.
Now nobody is perfect, but eventually you learn that most of the reasons you suck at being in an unconditionally loving relationship are a product of one thing. Deep-seeded expectations. Letting go of those is not easy, but it means being able to love someone for exactly who they are. Now, try doing that whilst both party’s daddy issues, childhood projections, past relationship baggage, vices, bad habits, and/or unwavering music taste are repeatedly colliding together in an enclosed space. It’s just not easy. It takes practice (and for some, therapy) but you do get better at it. But the most fortunate side effect of finding the right person to love is that it forces you to be more lovable. And after having had some of my most compulsive and trifling expectations systematically exploded by previous boyfriends, I think I was primed to love me some Ryan Flynn.
That is, as ready as a girl could be to meet a dinosaur.
I should explain.
Ryan is a living, breathing, farting phenomenon. He has an anatomically-correct T. Rex tattoo emblazoned across his chest and he doesn’t even know who Marc Bolan is. He is brilliant, obsessed with science, and likes to be called The Dinosaur. That said, he doesn’t really know any obscure dinosaur facts, but if you ask he will describe the universe to you in a such a way that proves our observable reality Beauty enough.
Ryan doesn’t so much “listen” to music as conquer every instrument he encounters like a force of nature. Impossibly talented, he can compose an I-dare-you-not-to-twerk gay dance anthem whilst growing the sexiest beard in the land. He makes the most fiercely loyal and honest friend, even though his dimples alone could negotiate their way out of a Thai prison. He is so face-blind that he can’t recognize an Elvis or JFK photo out of context, but he recently pointed out Sir Richard Dawkins at a hip Silverlake taco joint (granted, it was named “Diablo”). He can and will tell an hilarious pedophilia joke to your parents with a straight face, but instantly blushes if he’s ever forced to dance. Not at all what my 15 y/o naively mormon, matrimony-obsessed self was expecting, but it does help that I am now an atheist whose knees get wobbly at the sight of a well-farmed beard.
One random, rainy May morning by a lush green pond at the bottom of a valley on my family’s farm, he proposed. I would have had a resounding YES poised on my tongue like an olympic diver if it wasn’t the timidest thing I’d ever heard him say. “I was wondering if I could ask you to marry me.”
Instead I said, “Of course you could ask me!” I thought we were still being theoretical because there were no helicopters or pyrotechnics, the water was too low for a canoe, I was wearing muddy pajama bottoms, and still had morning breath.
He knows how much I love surprises.
Of course I said yes. We balance each other. Ryan is crazy skilled at everything I suck at, and I am getting better at not sucking at everything. He has probably already done all the crap I procrastinate on and I keep him healthy and organized. Together, we are unstoppable. So eventually we adapted to the lack of shared music taste (headphones! miracles!) and I got better at not being a total cunt. After some practice fights, we figured out that we could be each others’ one-and-every and still be good at life, so it was time to choose a ring. Ryan’s only request was that it be a diamond.
See now, I love refracted light as much as the next person, but tiny overworked chunks of compacted carbon generously doused in colonialism and blood and then marketed by a bunch of corporate Hallmark dickholes as the only way to prove one’s everlasting love are just not my thing, never have been. I wanted to love this object for its color, depth, and imperfections just like Ryan Flynn loves me for mine.
So we bought this fruity little pebble of petrified deep because it’s the only one like it. Because it’s weird, like us. Because it hasn’t been forced to be something it’s not. Because diamonds are the hardest form of carbon, just like Ryan Flynn. In that way, sure, but also in the way that he has been my rock through a couple of the hardest years of my life. I wanted to be reminded that this thing will outlast all of us.
Enter Jennifer Will of JW Metal Arts. Her minimal yet unapologetic designs killed all my expectations. We both fell in love with the color and shape of the stone -it’s a diamond, it is what it is- and started sending each other sonnets about our dreams and wishes for this oddly shaped gem. But to pull this crunchy lil nugget straight from the dirt and force it into some intricate art nouveau setting would be apologizing for it’s true nature. I wanted it to be itself! To shine like a Ryan in the rough. Rose gold to complement its stormy blue and clean lines to play up its awkwardness. She mocked up a few different designs for us, got to work and voila!
I would have Jennifer design my tattoo. She has an amazing eye and took my every bridezilla moment in stride. My engagement ring is a translucent shard of ocean caught in a molten copper orbit and it is now the most beautiful, chic, well-crafted object I own. The best part is that there is no other like it in the entire world and it was custom-designed for me.
Just like Ryan Flynn.
photos by Isaac Trumbo
Autumn always makes me nostalgic. And anytime I’m feeling that way, I take a few minutes to lingeringly peruse old photos, comparing my memories vs. level of sincerity of facial expression, the length of my perpetually-trying-to-grow-it-out hair, and my past personal trends.
I’ve noticed as I’ve moved to various cities that my style changes with me. A lot of it depends on climate of course, but my backdrop and mood seem to feed my sartorial choices the most.
In Tucson I rocked almost nothing but very (very) short floral dresses or flowy chiffon tops, cowboy boots and big earrings, all in romantic washed out desert shades of beige, pale blue and pink and sealed with a matte bright orange kiss.
In LA I was overcome with the urge for some classic pieces, and gravitated toward a basic palette with playful, colorful accessories.
After moving to Oakland in August, comfort has taken top priority, so I’m sticking with jewel tones and cozy layers.
But I still have all the othertownly stuff! My favorite pair of cowboy boots are perfect for a stroll in the desert, but in northern California they just don’t look right. Nor do I feel appropriately dressed here in pastel florals or carrying a bright handbag (and not just because it seems to be shouting “steal me!”). I need to match my city. And though no one ever said the Bay Area isn’t colorful, it takes a lot to get me into brights. It takes LA.
So what’s to become of my discarded loves in this new gray world? I’ll wear them in LA and in Tucson, because I can’t stand to stay put. I have visits planned for Christmas! And springtime! And those LA duds will transfer quite nicely when Amber and I find a couple of cheap flights to New York. I’ll just trade the stripes in for something less casual and add in my Oakland warmies. I think after purging my entire closet last August, I’ve actually built up enough variation to feel right at home in most towns.
One day, however, I will finally end up in New Orleans, and all the lace in the world won’t be enough.
Ok, yes. When Halloween decorations start appearing in stores right after the 4th of July and Christmas trees start strutting into malls in September, I am the first girl to start bitching about consumerism and greed…but it’s only October and I’m already dreaming about New Years Eve.
So I’m a hypocrite. Fine. But I have rationalizations!
This could be partially due to the fact that I now live near San Francisco, which has long been THE spot for (new) yearly old friend reunions. Last year I flew up from L.A. December 31st and drove back the next afternoon. Totally worth it.
Also, even though New Years Eve is cursed with never ever living up to expectations, I can’t help but have them. Which is why I always have to buy a new outfit for the occasion.
Incidentally, Proenza Schouler is killing me with inspiration. It took me an hour to peruse their Fall 2013 stuff because I kept digressing into fantasies of crashing a fancy gala with Ferris Bueller-esque panache and somehow ending up in a hot air balloon* floating over the city lights with Mark Ruffalo, Aaron Paul and a late 1970’s Tom Waits all vying for my affections. (Spoiler alert, Tom Waits wins).
Okay, so it’s preeeeetttty unlikely that my New Years 2014 will go as planned, but at least I’d be adequately prepared for it to in one of these numbers:
I accept that making out with a time traveling Tom Waits is a little far fetched. All I really want on New Years is to be surrounded by the ones I love, dancing to good music and eating good food with no feelings of self-doubt or fear, while having a good hair day. And I want to be rich. And artistically fulfilled. And to not have a beer belly.
Good thing I’ve still got three months.
*emphasis on the word “hot”
I started planning my 30th birthday months ago. All of my favorite people from three different cities I’ve lived in were to converge at a hacienda in Puerto Penasco, Sonora. They would meet and mingle and suddenly my disorderly 20’s would merge together into a single golden thread of continuity and harmony.
Well, that plan fell through.
My birthday this year happened to coincide with yet another big move: to Oakland with my boyfriend. It simply wasn’t feasible to travel from LA to Oakland to Mexico and back to Oakland in the same week. And between quitting my job in L.A. early (so as not to inconvenience them? What was I thinking?), and paying a much needed visit to Tucson, I was running out of money faster than you can say ballsupbingo.com.
The fella and I then lined up an Oakland residence unavailable until August 10th, and lo and behold: I was unemployed and homeless on my 30th birthday.
We had set aside just enough to rent a room for the night in the coastal redwoods near Bodega Bay. The place was equipped with a hot tub, and silent, save for the chirping of birds and a babbling creek obscured by bright green foliage fit for a rainforest. We arrived with a basket (okay, a paper bag) full of goodies we’d payed too much for at a fancy market in Petaluma: tortas, chèvre, several salads, a large bottle of Goose Island’s Matilda, an assortment of olives, and a tiny little dutch apple birthday cake, which doubled as an incendiary device when loaded with 30 candles, one to represent each of my different neuroses.
The evening should have been delightful, but unfortunately I’d been feeling off all day. Though I’d woken up that morning to a salmon quiche and coffee in bed in a surprisingly comfortable non-sleazy motel room, from there it was all downhill.
At lunch, not one, but two birds decided to use my good hair day as an outhouse. I’d wanted to show my boyfriend the Musee Mecanique in San Francisco, but the crowds were horrendous and everything was irritating me. I got caught in a feeling-sorry-for-myself feedback loop, which quickly morphed into a why-have-I-accomplished-nothing-in-life-so-far-and-omg-I’m-actually-thirty-years-old loop to go along with the uneasiness in my stomach.
When we arrived at the cabin, I briefly talked myself back to living in the moment. We feasted on the delicacies my sweet boyfriend had splurged on. We discussed our hopes and dreams for this new life in the Bay Area. We soaked in the hot tub, but I couldn’t get comfortable, or out of my own head. I made a half-drunk wish for mental clarity and blew out my fireball of candles, but couldn’t stomach a bite of cake. Exhausted, I dozed off on accident just after 9pm and awoke to an ominous gurgling from within the depths of my stomach.
I proceeded to spend the next six hours vomiting. Happy birthday to me.
Of course I had food poisoning, but I couldn’t help but think that my mental and emotional state had aggravated the issue. I’d had such high hopes for this seemingly arbitrary day. What difference does it make? Why is 30 such a big deal? Why did I feel the desire to try and “make sense”of my twenties anyway? That’s not really a thing you can do.
A quick google showed me that I apparently didn’t hit my quarter-life crisis at 26 like I thought I had, but that the time is now for all things whiny and what-does-it-all-mean-y. Or its a “pre-30 crisis”, which I guess could span four years? Whatever.
I could go into a list of problems and solutions, of “you’re-not-the-only-one”s, but not only is the internet full of those lists, I have an inkling that those lists aren’t helping. In the last thirty years or so, I’ve started to notice that the more I coddle these crises, the more crises I have to coddle.
Sure, I’m 30 and broke and have no job prospects or specialized skills. Sure, I’m socially awkward and sometimes say stupid things and I’m not famous like I thought I was going to be when I was 11 years old, and two birds shit on my head and I puked a bunch on my birthday. But I just moved into an awesome house with someone I love who constantly goes out of his way to make me happy and I have several friends trying to help me get a job and my mom loves me.
I’m making a decided effort to cheer up. And when my mind wants to interject negatives, I can calm it with a piece of brilliance from the effervescent Amber Mortensen: “Welcome to being human, ya pussy.”
I am a Sun Slut. Self-proclaimed. I would do anything for a hit of vitamin D. One year I stalked the Summer from NorCal to Hawaii to SoCal to Tucson and didn’t suffer a stitch of sun withdrawal for a 8 whole months. Them’s called Skills.
This year, I did what any well-versed sun-worshiper would do and stayed in SoCal for the winter. Right? Yet here we are, almost June, and my legs are as white as Justin Beiber.
And I had been saving this dress for a sunny day. I waited FOR SO LONG:
By the way, why in tarnation do we do that to ourselves?
“This is my favorite frock, I wear it once a year.”
“Naw, today’s not special enough for my favorite red lipstick.”
Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but YOU’RE ALL GOING TO DIE. Tomorrow? Today? In 5 minutes? I’m sorry, but since you eventually have to kick that pearly bucket anyway, wouldn’t you want to do it in style?
I know, I know, I’ve been such a downer lately. But you know what’s really a bummer? Not bringing every miraculous human life-minute you’ve got up to a Prince-like fever pitch when there are zillions of planets in the known universe who can’t even muster a goddamn paramecium! Here we are in all our cerebral, conscious, self-aware glory going, “Durr, let’s watch an entire season of Tosh.0 in one day! Now, please pass the corn syrup and BPA infused fat-free vodka.”
Why the rant? Last week I woke up to the 49th cloudy day in a row, got some horrible news about my little brother’s ever-encroaching brain tumor(s) and spent the entire day snotting into my boyfriend’s sweater. So on the 50th cloudy day I gathered myself together and proclaimed, “Suddenly, waiting for the right time for anything seems idiotic.”
Today is the day for lime green and scarlet to collide in a festive fucking pattern all over my torso and for the leather earrings made by my dear desert friend named Spring Rain to inexplicably and perfectly match said pattern. It is a day to wear rad sustainable sunglasses designed by a Beatle’s daughter and to manipulate my hair into not being an awkwardly-grown out bowl cut for 5 minutes.
Today is a day for raw oysters. For extra dog hugs and bubbly baths. For bike rides and beach naps. For macarons and manicures. For finally socially bragging about that one Indie Rock Star you made out with. For using too many adverbs to describe something you experienced fully and transcendently. Today is the day for one-way plane tickets.
For creating that masterpiece.
For loving hard.
For feeling lucky.
Today is for basking in the glow of whatever/whomever it is we love.
Your life, your call.
Stella McCartney 4040 Sunglasses from Sunglasses Shop
Recycled Leather Earrings by Spring Rain (Verbena Hex)
Tribal Print Mini Dress by Il-La-La
Vintage leather wedges from Barrio Vintage, Honolulu
Gold mesh waist belt, thrifted in Phoenix for $2
photos by Ryan Flynn
To be honest, I’ve spent the last couple of years feeling rather “meh” about getting dressed. In the past, the thing that has saved me most when I’m running late or feeling lazy is to just wear dresses. They’re simple and fast, and you can’t help but match. But while I love the ease and simplicity of not having to construct an outfit, I sometimes leave the house feeling a little like I didn’t try at all (cuz, well, I didn’t), and the rest of the day looking generic and unmemorable. I recently realized the solution to this while accidentally being forced to meditate in a room full of middle-aged-new-agers. Bear with me here.
The other night I attended a talk and reading given by Natalie Goldberg. If you don’t know: she is the author of several books on the the practice of writing, most notably her 1986 bestseller, Writing Down the Bones. My mom had the book and lent it to me at a pivotal point in my adolescence (which, wow, could have been literally any moment, I realized the second I typed those words).
To be honest, I didn’t remember much of Goldberg’s philosophy. I was informed by my friend Jessica on the drive over that the event was to be hosted at a Santa Monica mindfulness/yoga/meditation center. We predicted that there would be very few men present.
“I bet if there are any, they will be in their early 50’s, and have that permanent 5 o’clock shadow that manages to somehow look clean-cut.”
“And their hair will be in perfect shaggy waves that appear just-careless-enough to make you wonder how long they spent in front of a mirror.”
“But they are mostly humble and speak in soft, yet deep voices.”
“And wear cashmere sweaters.”
“And paisley scarves that still manage to look masculine.”
“These men are fascinating contradictions!”
“They are riddles wrapped in enigmas!”
Turns out we totally called it, excepting the prominent prayer beads we failed to mention.
A gong or something comparable sounded and a woman introduced Natalie Goldberg as her dharma sister or something and Jess and I, whispering, made another prediction that because our snarky sarcasm was exuding so thickly from our pores, we had maybe ten minutes before the entire room would be glaring at us. We would likely be asked to leave within the hour.
Then Natalie began to speak. Her instant charm made my judgmental mind quiet down and I reminded myself that I had payed to come here. This wasn’t some wealthy hippie school assembly I’d been forced to attend.
(Don’t worry, you guys. This post isn’t going to turn into “how I stopped being a sarcastic jerkface”. That is never going to happen. If I didn’t have my snide inner monologue, I wouldn’t have anything.)
Natalie spoke for a while, told stories, read from her latest book. She had us sit in silence, stare at our shoes, and focus on our breath for ten minutes. Twice. Which, as earlier, turned out to be actually quite lovely.
But the highlight of the night for me was two excerpts she read from William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!.
The first was this:
“There was a wisteria vine blooming for the second time that summer on a wooden trellis before one window, into which sparrows came now and then in random gusts, making a dry vivid dusty sound before going away”
She read the passage slowly, enunciating each word in her soothing mama hen voice. She noted that the words offered just enough detail. We have a picture of this scene, a description of the sound. But Faulkner was apparently not satisfied, for in the very next paragraph, he says it again, getting more specific, more intimate:
“There would be the dim coffin-smelling gloom, sweet and oversweet with the twice-bloomed wisteria against the outer wall by the savage quiet September sun, impacted distilled and hyperdistilled, into which came now and then the loud cloudy flutter of the sparrows like a flat limber stick whipped by an idle boy”
My god. So good. She read this apparent re-write and I had an almost physical reaction to the words. I had to remind myself to breathe. So much detail packed into a seemingly simple scene. You feel that brutal late sumer heat, you hear those sparrows in a deeper way than if you’d heard them in person. I tried to read Faulkner when I was younger. I found it too dense and barely made it through a third of the book. But if you slow it down and really listen? My god.
Her advice regarding this example was simply, “Get close”. I understood.
After this passage was read, she urged us into our second ten minute session of silence. We were not supposed to be thinking, but I couldn’t stop. How could I apply this philosophy to other areas of my life? Thinking of everything on a grand scale is for kids. This kind of patience and focus must be honed over time. It is a kind of reward for growing older that we usually don’t even realize we’ve received.
I thought of mine and Jessica’s earlier descriptions of the contradictory fashions of imaginary men. How could I focus in closer? The baby softness of the cashmere wool has a strange slickness that brings a nervous perspiration to the fingertips, a pang of heartache to the wrist. The pashmina wraps the man’s velcro throat loosely, its many shades of teardrops embracing each other with joy, bursting into exultant confetti like the sweat beads of reunited lovers in long-awaited afternoon bliss.
That was more like it. Why simply call something by its name? Why take the easy route? Abstraction and simplicity have long been praised in literature, art and fashion, and that’s all good, but why not deviate from that? Let’s embrace details. Let’s say exactly what we want to say. And let’s say it while getting dressed as quickly as possible.
Let’s talk about the infamous little black dress. Simple, classic, versatile. We think of it as a default. A staple. The only descriptors given to the LBD are “little” and “black”. Design wise, this seems stifling, especially to a girl with ever-changing tastes. But I always find that the capacity for great creativity exists within strict parameters. Think about it. There are so many more traits such a dress could possess!
The playful peekaboo of one shoulder, a sporty halter, a prim refined boatneck, a sexy strapless sweetheart. Velvet, silk, chiffon, lace, beaded, ruffled, body-con, flowy, structured, a-line, empire, vintage, modern. The list goes on, and it makes for endless combinations for accessorizing. Details are what make a dress unique. Try these on for size:
Oh, and a LBD doesn’t have to be all black, either. It doesn’t even have to be little. Its all up to you. What kind of dress do you want to wear? It could be a Lady Bird, a Lascivious Buckle, a Lusty Beast, a Leggy Bandit, a Lavender Ballet, a Lengthy Brushstroke, a Limber Butterfly, a Lost in Barcelona.
No matter how you slice it, your clothes speak for you. And I dont want my clothes to say things like “I just worked six days in a row”, or “I’m going to Walmart”. I’d rather they whispered sweet nothings and giggled and sung little songs. I’d rather they bloomed twice and gathered gusts of sparrows.
(photos courtesy of Debenhams)
Spring has arrived, my little giblets! And in the spirit of newness and pastels and chickens, I hereby challenge you to shake things up a little! Make some changes! Go wild! Cross the road! It’s been a while since I made a list of any sort that didn’t start with “make to do list” just so I could cross off something, so how’s about I give this post a little structure to match my new bra?
HERE IS A LIST OF VERY SPECIFIC CHANGES I HAVE RECENTLY MADE THAT YOU COULD ALSO POTENTIALLY MAKE:
1.) Change your look based on an old photo of an awesome genius.
After two years of obsessive chopping, my hair has finally grown long enough to channel the side-parted chin length curled brilliance of Connie Converse, who, lets face it, I probably was in a past life. If you don’t know who Connie Converse was (is?), first listen to this, then melt, and then spend hours scouring the internet for clues about her disappearance. Her sad and lovely story has inspired me to no end. I’ve never loved 1950’s silhouettes and horn rimmed glasses and mystery so much. For god’s sake, just look at her! What a babe!
2.) Change your built-in face frames.
In accordance with the self-imposed directive above, I have also grown out my bangs, bangs which I have worn at varying lengths for the last 10 years. My facial structure has always seemed sharp to me, which nicely compliments the daggers I’m always shooting from my eyes, but I’ve usually balanced it with the softness of a little fringe. Now that my perfect forehead is exposed, I look pretty intense. Don’t get me wrong, I am huge a fan of this. But on those days I want to exist in the realm of soft focus Easter romance, I simply leave my eyebrows alone, instead of coloring them in like Brooke Shields as a Bert from Sesame Street for Halloween like I usually do. With my eyebrows subtle and blondish, I seriously look like a completely different girl. Never color yours? Try it out. I actually like to go back and forth between the Whoopi Goldberg and the Martin Scorsese. Keeps people on their toes.
3.) Change your occupation.
Yep, I just did this too. Not necessarily an option for moms or you know, ‘career’ types, but for wanderlusty girls in their very late twenties who have not only dabbled in various fields, but also worked many types of jobs, it’s definitely doable. If you don’t like what you’re doing, you’re bored, or you aren’t making what you’re worth, shine up that resume! See what’s out there! It also doesn’t hurt to have a contact on the inside. I just got hired as a server at one of the most popular restaurants in Echo Park with very little serving experience by simply blackmailing one of the mangers for several months! Now I get to serve Ryan Gosling deep dish pizza by candlelight and I get to wear pretty dresses to work instead of a t-shirt, apron and baseball cap (don’t ask, please). Not only that, but I am finally making an adult wage! I can afford to wear comfy Clarks to work, so I don’t have to limp home afterward.
4.) Change out your zombie eyes.
So you like your job and style and you are perfectly happy with your beauty routine? What about your soul? I don’t mean is it clean and heaven-destined or any of that shit. What I want to know is, is it hungry? What have you been feeding it? Hours of facebook? The Bachelor? BRAINS? What are you doing in your free time? I’m lucky to have recently moved into a house with two amazing ladies and a huge backyard, where I drink my morning coffee and sunbathe and read actual books sometimes. It’s so tempting to want to zone out after a long day of serving Ryan Gosling pizza, but closing your laptop after three hours and not remembering a single thing you just read is soul-sucking. The internet is a glorious thing, but just do yourself a favor and pretend it’s the 80’s once in a while. It’s the 80’s and there’s nothing on TV and why would you want to be inside on a sunny day like this anyway? Also, um, you’re an adult! Remember back when you weren’t an adult and you were like, “oh man, one day when I’m grown up I’m gonna explore Brazil!” or, “One day, I’m gonna buy enough gummi bears to fill my room all the way to the ceiling and carve tunnels through them and live like that!”
You can seriously do anything you want as long as your landlord doesn’t find out. Also, you know what’s even more fun than zoning out the internet? Drinking.
5.) Change your definition of ‘self-control’.
So I took a non-religious vow to give up meat for Lent. Why? Partly because I have had access to free hot dogs for the last 4 months (doesn’t matter why, don’t worry about it) and was feeling sluggish and beef-witted, partly because my roommates are vegan and I don’t have my own cookware, and partly because I wanted to practice some self-control. I haven’t had the best self-control in the past, but saying “I couldn’t help myself” is such a cop-out.
“I ate your entire birthday cake. Sorry, I had to. I have, like, absolutely no self control.”
“Oh, I know promised I’d help you move, but a friend called at the last minute and asked me to drink Mimosas with her all day and I just couldn’t say no because it sounded like way more fun. Sorry! What else could I doooo?”
Looking back on some bad past decisions can make you see them as just that: decisions. Take responsibility for them. I decided to not practice self-control by eating hot dogs and tater-tots nearly every day for four months, and all it got me was bloated and lethargic. A month and minus five pounds later, I feel like a million (well, maybe 250 thousand) bucks! And what feels even better is the pride that comes with sticking to your guns! Great job! Now you can gloat instead of bloat, guilt free!
6.) Change your mode of communication with that babe in the mirror.
I’ve been making a serious effort lately to look inward. Okay, maybe ‘lately’ isn’t really accurate. It’s more of an every day of my life thing. Constant Psychological Self-Diagnosis is literally my middle name. Yes, literally. And while self-diagnosis isn’t necessarily the best method for physical issues (I decided I was allergic to gluten and have been depriving myself of all sorts of things for the last 8 months-turns out it’s just an allergy to baker’s yeast and I could have been eating burritos this WHOLE TIME), it makes a lot of sense to look within for answers in regards to your own psyche. Who on Earth knows you better than you? Has something been bothering you? Try and figure out why. Have you been making strange, irrational decisions and eating potting soil? There must be a reason. What are you feeling when you open that bag of peat moss and aged compost? Loss? Hope? The best way I’ve found to sort through these dirty feelings is journaling. Throw back a few brewskis and start journaling. I’m actually serious. Talk to yourself like you’re drunkenly rambling to an old friend whom you can trust with any secret, because that’s exactly who you are. You’ve always been there for you, even if you and yourself weren’t on speaking terms. Spend some time getting reacquainted with your best friend since birth and don’t just talk. Listen to what they have to contribute to the friendship.
7.) Change your stress level.
Last but not least, chill the fuck out. I know you know this, but stress is not your friend. It will not help you make good decisions or achieve quality results. It will not get you to work on time. It will not keep your friend who you were supposed to help move from finding out that the “appointment” you had was to drink poolside mimosas all day with that girl she doesn’t like who you swear you aren’t friends with anymore. Avoid potential stressors by leaving for work early and not making bad friend moves in the first place, Jamaica. You won’t have to be hard on yourself if you act like an adult.
7a.) On that note, don’t worry so much. Trust that your hunky boyfriend is an adult as well, and is not going to get stranded on his hiking trip with no food, nor is he going to fall to his death while ascending Mount Horrible (I’m not even remotely kidding. It is absolutely called that).
Make “To Do” List
I’m moving in two weeks! Usually in my world that means I’ve got a bad case of springtime wanderlust and I’m selling all my stuff to live out of suitcases for an unspecified amount of time before landing in an unspecified town. Flying by the seat of my newly-hemmed short shorts.
Well, I’m still selling all my stuff, but to move directly to a cute vintage loft in Downtown LA for some long overdue, believe-it-or-not, NESTING. It will be on a chic 9th floor right on the border of the Fashion and Art districts. My hand-me-down crap just ain’t gon’ cut it. It has SIX HUMONGOUS WINDOWS. I’ll need new EVERYTHING.
Now here’s where I know I’m finally turning into a grown-up. Last week, instead of my letting my inner teenager stop caring/cleaning my bedroom (because, why put it away if you’re just going to pack it soon anyway) and just pine the days away in my own filth until I move, I decided that every day should just be as cute as possible. Why not? I’ve had a rough year. I deserve a goddamn bedspread. And some cute floral twiggery. And an ochre batik lamp. Now. Life is too short for sheisty dormroom decor.
Should I even bother with The Before?:
No, because no one even sees the half-assed decor. My canine Otis Redding is stealing the show with his utter lugubriousness.
And, well, I was so excited to see this floral twig from Target in My Precious mint and coral Mum vase (from Eve!) that it made it into the before photos. Ewps.
Ewps, he did it again.
Threshold by Target:
8 Piece Batik Damask Bedding Set – $80
Teal Accent Table – $55
Ochre Batik Lamp – $73
Orange Blossom Stem – $13
Who doesn’t love clashing patterns and completely random color schemes?? Really, I’d like to know so I can stay away from them.
Continue reading Check Out My Place: Making Every Day Cuter.