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Manolo for the Big Girl | Archive | September, 2009
Archive - September, 2009

The most terrible poverty

Yesterday Francesca posted her thoughtful response to reader L’s letter on loneliness (the title of today’s post comes from Mother Teresa’s description of that condition)  Today I’m giving it a go.

Dearest L,

Let me tell you the little-known parable of the Volvo and the Cadillac:

Once upon a time there was a remarkably beautiful, witty, erudite goddess of a woman named, uh, Rumcake. She lived happily with a Volvo station wagon named Tilly. Tilly was a good car with lots of safety features, decent mileage and heated seats which were nice to have although not technically all that useful in Texas someplace that’s not Texas because this isn’t autobiographical.

Tilly ran  day in and day out, got her oil changed almost regularly and was well-loved.

Then one day, a classic Cadillac named Stella Blanche appeared. Blanche was big, beautiful and looked especially good topless, not unlike Rumcake herself. Now, Blanche required a lot more maintenance than Tilly.  Rumcake’s grandmother, who had never driven anything but Volvos in her life, was forever trying to convince our spectacularly-shod though WOEFULLY UNDERPAID heroine to sell Blanche because she was too much of a hassle to maintain.

Rumcake then sensibly inquired whether Grandma was smoking the crack.

You don’t just get rid of something you love because it needs special care. You take care of it. Blanche is beautiful, special and a lot more interesting than any late-model Volvo –which by the way needs maintenance from time to time, too– and although you might get your five-for-five-dollars undies in a budge at the idea of my car spending more than 20 minutes a year in the garage, I know that it’s just a part of making sure she’s getting what she needs.”

Rumcake was, right (as usual) her grandmother was wrong (again as usual) and everyone lived happily ever after. Especially her mechanics. The End.

Now, I know sometimes stories are too subtle for deep interpretation, so let me lay a little church on you:

Sugarlump, you need to get yourself some therapy.

The way I figure it, it’s all part of the Self-Care Package. I’ve got a gal who does my hair when it needs to be trimmed, someone who shapes my eyebrows when they’ve crawled together like a pair of star-crossed caterpillars, and I’ve got someone who helps me out during stormy emotional seas.

I wouldn’t want an amateur to cut my hair or wax my brows, and since emotional wellness is NEARLY as important as getting that perfect “arch of disapproval” etched into the wooly mammoths that are my natural eyebrows, you can bet your pants I’m going to see a professional there, too.

You might benefit from regular meetings, or you might just benefit from occasional shrinkage, like I do. Besides, there’s nothing more boring than someone who doesn’t need therapy.

As far as being lonely goes, well, I think sometimes you’re just going to be lonely, and that sucks. A lot.  Hell, I’m NOT shy (were you sitting down for that one?) my idea of heaven is being left alone for a week, but even then…sometimes I’m lonely. I even get a bone crusher from time to time.  The key is to have solid foundation under the loneliness that lets you ride it out. I can’t help you with that specifically –that’s something for you and your therapist– but I can say Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s Comfortable with Uncertainty” certainly opened things up for me.

I suspect, though, your loneliness isn’t just loneliness for the living. Let’s not kid ourselves, Loneliness is grief. When we are lonely, we are grieving our missing relationships.  Sounds a lot of like bereavement to me.

I’ve lost six family members this year, six, including my favorite person, my grandfather.  My little brother –my backup favorite person– has cancer (God punished him for having a stupid goatee). It’s been nothing but a cavalcade of suck since this time last year and L, I am grieved.

It’s been a year, almost to the day, since my grandfather went into hospice and I went to stay with him and although the initial shock and sadness is over, my grieving has only begun.  That’s the thing about grief: it may change forms –now it aches where it used to stab–  but it is there for as long as it pleases, and fighting it isn’t going to help anybody.

I very much suggest finding a grief therapy group or someone who specializes in bereavement counseling. I’m part of Walking the Mourner’s Path, a bereavement group through my church. If you don’t have any program in mind, contact your local hospice, tell them what you’re looking for –faith-based, secular, whatever– and they’ll provide you with information. You’ll find most bereavement therapists suggest starting no sooner than six months after the death, so you’re in prime position.

Seriously though, L, That’s the only rock-solid advice I can offer.

Everything else here is just the inklings of someone, as a therapist, makes an excellent fashion blogger: (BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE)

(more…)

Book Review: Hungry

One of two covers available for Crystal Renn's HungryFrancesca spent an afternoon reading the new memoir by Crystal Renn, a former “straight” size model (that is, size 00) who decided to stop starving herself and is now the most successful plus-size (12) model in the world. Entitled Hungry, the book (co-authored with Marjorie Ingall) describes Renn’s relatively happy childhood; her descent into anorexia and exercise bulimia beginning at age 14 after a scout told her she could be a supermodel; and her rise to fame after re-gaining dozens of pounds.

The book is a quick read, and Francesca enjoyed the peek into the brutal world of modeling and the many illustrative pictures of Renn, which show how much more animated and photogenic she is now that she is healthy. The writing isn’t high literary art, and the (sometimes excessive) references to contemporary pop culture will make the book obsolete in a few years, but still … it is an interesting story, certainly worth an afternoon. Francesca also appreciates that many of the statistics and observations which support the HAES movement have been published in one place.

The important aspect of this book is the messages it conveys about weight and popular media. One good one comes through strongly: that people in the fashion world have a dramatically skewed view of beauty and thinness. Another valuable message is that eating disorders are not only not healthy but also NOT WORTH IT. I’m glad that a beautiful model is getting out there and saying that even a modeling career isn’t worth the hunger, and exhaustion, and inability to focus she suffered when she was eating nothing but steamed vegetables and gum, and exercising for 8 hours a day.

Renn’s argument is somewhat weakened by the fact that she did not, in fact, give up her modeling career. Francesca thinks that what Ms. Renn wants to communicate – and obviously means sincerely – is that the best way to live is to give your body what it needs and take care of yourself, and that good things will follow. Indeed it is fascinating to read how Renn’s career skyrocketed after she went plus-size.

That message would be stronger –albeit less dramatic – if it were coming from someone who had actually given up her modeling dream in order to be healthy, and had found success and happiness some other way. As it is, the book is saying “look, I gained back the weight and now I’m a supermodel ANYHOW!” without acknowledging that it wouldn’t happen that way for most people. As Renn explains in the book, most plus-size models are forever limited to “catalogue” work, as opposed to the more artsy and more prestigious “editorial” work in the fashion magazines.

It is terrific and inspiring that Ms. Renn has broken through the plus-size/editorial barrier, but Francesca wishes that somewhere in the book she’d said that going from size 00 to 12 – and becoming healthier and more emotionally stable in the process — would have been worth it even if no one ever wanted to take her picture again.

The Daily Kick: Trilobite Chic

Yes we Cambrian! (get it? because the earliest trilobites existed during the Cambrian period? GOD I’m funny. You don’t get this sort of primo paleontology material at Kate Harding, do you? No. All this and an immaculate bosom, only here at Manolo for the Big Girl)

pennsylvania-trilobite

Totally cuter in a shoe, right?

plisse leather mid-heels by NDC Made by Hand
icon. On clearance at YOOX.

Thanks for your patience

during our somewhat hinky transfer to the new WordPress.  We seem to have gotten most of the bugs worked out,  although comments are still getting eaten on occasion.

We’re working on that, but just remember: We’re not mad at YOU, we’re mad at the dirt.

Saint Joan of Crawford

What Miss Plumcake is…

It’s Tuesday, it’s rainy and I still cannot find the bottle of ten year-old Talisker I last set on the organ console at church.  That being said, let’s find out What Miss Plumcake is…

Reading: Fishing for Amber. A dreamy, phantasmagorical alphabet of short intertwining stories full of Celtic fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Jack the Lad, the Dutch Golden Age, esoteric saints, curious historical incidents and a sentimental nod to his storytelling father.  Last night was D for Delphinium –retelling the tulipomania in Delft during the 17th century– and E for Ergot, the rye fungus related to LSD which was believed to cause St Anthony’s Dance, better known as Sydenham’s chorea, where scriveners tell of people literally dancing themselves to death.

Best consumed on rainy evenings next to a fire (p.s. you have to open the flue EVERY time. Whoops) with the single malt of your choice comfortably within reach of yourself, but out of reach of your surprisingly dipsomaniacal dog. You can pick it up at Amazon for essentially the cost of shipping, so get to it.

Watching: Green Wing. The second season is finally available on Hulu. Brilliant, howlingly obscene and very possibly the funniest show I’ve ever seen. Plus it features my secret ginger boyfriend, Julian Rhind-Tutt.  Not for the easily scandalized.

Hearing: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). What?  Can’t a fat white Episcopalian chick with an enviable collection of millinery occasionally bring the ruckus?

Smelling: Shalimar by Guerlain.  Sable coat luxury in perfume form but less likely to get you splashed with red paint. A big scent –especially the glorious original parfum version– this is one I apply liberally before hitting the hay so it’s not overpowering for day. Get the parfum if you can, but the edt is nothing to sniff at (get it? get it?!) either.

Loving: Mentoring. Not only do you get to be completely insufferable when people ask you what your lunch plans are “Oh me? I’m mentoring an at-risk youth. But no, you have fun getting your mani-pedi. I’ll just be here saving the world.” but it’s fun too.  Plus you can totally rip off their one-liners at cocktail parties because they’re too young to drink and can’t bust you on it. NOT THAT I WOULD EVER DO THAT.

Hating: DSquared2’s stupid redneck-themed show in Milan.

Wanting: Greenling Local Organic Delivery.  One of the things about wearing high-end shoes is knowing  I could probably meet the person who cobbled my shoes, look around and not feel bad about myself.  I can’t say the same thing about my groceries.

So when I discovered Greenling — a service delivering local, organic food and produce to your door (in super fuel-efficient vans, of course) once a week– I thought, “I’m having that!”  At $50 for both the local produce basket and the Farmstead basket of dairy/meat/bread goodies a week, it’s about the same as I’d regularly spend on groceries, plus I know if I really wanted to, I could get in my car and drive down to see where my food is produced.

Buying: The Breton Shirt. Shockingly versatile,  always chic and improves with age. Sound familiar (notice how I kept out the part about “found on top of French sailors?” That’s because I’m a LADY.) Accept no substitutes. It’s gotta come straight outta Brittany.  This company has the best prices and offers free worldwide airmail delivery.

So what’s turning your pages this week?

Lonely Hearts Club

Francesca, Plumcake and Twistie received a heartfelt letter from reader L:

I want to thank you for all your insight on fashion, books, art, and life. There have been many times I’ve taken courage and heart from something one of you has written.

I’m in my early 40’s, living alone, doing a demanding job that I love. In the last three years, I’ve ended a long-term relationship and lost a parent whom I dearly loved. At the same time I started eating healthier, became more physically active, and updated my wardrobe and hairstyle. I have loving friends, but they are all married, with families, and they don’t always have time to hang out and talk. I’m close with my siblings but they live overseas. 

Even though I’m shy, I’ve tried to step out of my comfort zone by taking classes, going on trips, volunteering. I’ve tried being outgoing and friendly and have even read books about how to talk to people. But I still feel lonely and disconnected. Don’t get me wrong. I’m an independent, some might even say tough, person. But there are days when I can’t face going to another movie alone, lunch alone, making dinner alone, going for a walk alone. I’ve been dating, but nothing much has come of it.

It’s not just a question of wanting to be partnered. It’s a general feeling of being cut off from life. The loneliness doesn’t occupy my thoughts all the time, but when it does it is bone-deep and crushing. I think about my own mortality and can’t help but think that if I went tomorrow, it would be as if I’d never been here.

Could you write something about how you cope, or have coped in the past, with loneliness? Do you have any strategies or advice? Will seeing a doctor help? Almost everyone who writes into your blog seems to have it all together, but I guess there are those like me who are not quite there yet, despite outward appearances.

Francesca answers:

It may help L to know that, while I cannot speak for Twistie or Plumcake or any of our commenters, Francesca herself (her non-virtual self, that is) is not always as “together” as she is on this blog. Much happens in life that does not make it onto the internets. Even the most superfantastic of us do not feel superfantastic all of the time.

For loneliness that feels “crushing” and “bone-deep,” especially after the death of a parent and the ending of an important relationship, seeing a doctor absolutely could help. It appears to Francesca that L may be suffering from clinical depression (yes, a person can be going to work every day with a great haircut and still be depressed), in which case a combination of medication and/or talk therapy could literally be a life-saver.

Depression has a stigma attached to it, but it shouldn’t. It is a medical condition, and just like diabetes or food allergies, it can be managed (or overcome). It does help, to lessen the feeling of stigma, to live for a while in New York City, where people speak openly about their therapists and their Zoloft (ah, Americans!)

Of course, loneliness does not have to be associated with depression. Anyone who is not “partnered,” when they want to be – such as Francesca– will feel lonely sometimes. Some people feel lonely because they are in bad relationships, or simply because they feel existential angst. Having busy friends, and family far away, as L does, does not help at all, as Francesca well knows.

In taking care of her body, treating herself, and expanding her social horizons, L has taken important, positive steps.  Here are some  additional things Francesca does, or has done, to manage loneliness, usually with success:

  • Staying relentlessly busy with work, courses and hobbies
  • Reading as much as possible
  • Being part of a religious community
  • Going to therapy when needed
  • Taking a course called “Understanding Yourself and Others” with Global Relationship Centers, and returning now and then as a course assistant whenever her travel schedule allows. (Francesca loves the warm atmosphere, personal tools, and new friends.)
  • Getting a pet
  • Keeping in close contact with my dear family and my friends who live overseas. For this, Francesca uses an American number which rings in her home abroad (get one through Packet8 or Vonage) but Skype works too.
  • Becoming part of various online communities (natch!)
  • Reaching out to married girlfriends and cultivating those relationships as much as possible.
  • Recognizing feelings of loneliness, allowing myself to feel them and let them pass without judging them, rather than trying to force myself to feel happier.
  • Meditation/breathing exercises
  • Entertaining friends at home

 YMMV, so consider all possibilities, and choose the ones that work best for you. And remember, you may feel lonely, but in this, you are not alone.

Francesca wishes to open up L’s letter to the love and support of our wonderful readers. How do YOU, in all your put-togetherness, manage loneliness? Please use the comments section to share/observe/advise.

The Daily Kick: Cruelty Free Flats

Exciting? Not especially.  Extremely flat as to elicit a ton of “I can’t wear perfectly flat shoes” comments to accompany the “I can’t wear mid heels/high heels/low heels/stacked heels/stiletto heels” cries that will someday truly drive me insane and then you’ll be sorry? Yes, indeed.

Veggie AND couture, thus allowing for almost unprecedented levels of smugness? Absobaconlutely.

Cruelty-free skimmer sandals from Stella McCartney. On final clearance  at YOOX.

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